Dragons are some of the most popular creatures in Magic, but it’s been some time since Dragons of Tarkir rotated out of Standard and we no longer see Dragon-themed decks at the top of the standings. With Esper Dragons and Mardu Dragons no longer around, we’ve had to rely on Glorybringer to get our Dragon fix, while the occasional Stormbreath Dragon would show up in Modern. Enter Sarkhan, Fireblood.
It’s no secret that 3-mana planeswalkers are quite powerful. We’ve seen what cards like Liliana of the Veil and Liliana, the Last Hope have done in formats like Modern, and while Sarkhan isn’t on that raw power level, he has a lot to offer here.
Sarkhan is a rummager, meaning you can use him to filter your draws. While not as good as a looter that lets you draw a card before deciding what to discard, it does help to make sure that you’re hitting your land drops and prevent flood once you do. In a deck that’s going to play a reasonable number of Dragons, it’s more likely you’ll have a clunky hand and may need to discard an extra expensive card for more interaction.
Sarkhan is also mana ramp for your Dragons, and luckily for us, red has plenty of powerful ones available in Modern. Many of them have haste and do a great job at evading Modern’s most played and powerful removal spells. Glorybringer can do serious work to take over a game and this format isn’t flooded with cards like Vraska’s Contempts. When Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push are among the best and most played removal spells, a bunch of 4-power Dragons can be untouchable.
Path to Exile is perhaps the best removal spell in Modern, but ramping into Stormbreath Dragon gives Sarkhan a threat that’s immune to the instant. When hitting your other Dragons with Path, it just adds more mana to the board to play the bigger and better Dragons, or to use kicker and monstrosity in the middle stages of the game.
For Sarkhan, Fireblood to be great, it’s going to need some support, and Modern provides it. While I touched on some of the best removal spells in Magic that are all heavily played in Modern, I perhaps left off the most powerful of them all in Skred. By playing a Sarkhan-centric deck and mono-red, you can play a ton of Snow-Covered Mountains. The ability to clear out big threats on the cheap is huge, and having Sarkhan to rummage away excess Skreds in matchups where creatures aren’t the name of the game is even more important.
Sarkhan comes down early and can start ticking up by getting rid of the cards least beneficial to your game plan. As a 3-mana planeswalker, you’re going to be threatening the ultimate really quickly. If you’ve watched any Legacy coverage recently, then you’ve seen how quickly a Liliana, the Last Hope emblem comes online and how hard it is to beat. With lots of removal spells, sweepers, and ways to lock out the opponent’s spells in Blood Moon, Sarkhan will do all he can to help make sure that you’re getting to that emblem to end the game. While creating 20-power in flyers doesn’t give quite the same late-game inevitability a Liliana emblem often would, it will end most games on the following turn.
Sarkhan, Fireblood is strong enough that committing to mono-red and getting all of the added snow benefits is worth it. While I wouldn’t consider any Skred Red variant to necessarily be the best deck in Modern, Sarkhan adds another level of power that’s really exciting for mono-red and Dragon players alike!