The Mechanics of Dragons of Tarkir

The full set is here, and we can get a better sense of how the new mechanics will impact Standard.

Exploit

When this creature enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice a creature.

When you choose to sacrifice a creature, you trigger a sweet ability. Already this is one of my favorite abilities from a flavor perspective alone. I love black’s way of paying alternative costs for an effect, like life for cards or in this case sacrificing creatures. It’s more flavorful, and it forces you to evaluate costs differently.

With exploit in particular, the main questions to ask are:

  1. How often am I sacrificing this creature vs. sacrificing some dork or value creature?
  2. If I have to sacrifice this creature, is the effect worth the cost on its own? Is it close?
  3. How good is the body on its own? Am I fine with not exploiting some % of the time?

Since we have some playable exploit cards, they should buff recursive creatures (Bloodsoaked Champion) and value dorks (Sultai Emissary, Black Cat).

While not as powerful as Orzhov Pontiff, Minister of Pain only takes one color and comes with a larger body.

Some RW lists were already splashing black for removal, and now they have a one-sided sweeper for Hordeling Outburst tokens in the mirror.

I expect it’ll end up as a 1-2 of in some sideboards, but it is a potentially maindeckable card in Mono-Black Aggro. Imagine sacrificing Bloodsoaked Champion to get value against cards like Elvish Mystic or—be still my heart—Master of Waves.

Undead Vizier passes all of the tests, and even without a dork to sacrifice the solid stats on the body/ability make for a reasonable split card. If you do have a spare mana dork or something, it goes from solid to very, very good.

This is the big one, clearly costed to be Constructed playable. It also fits the same types of decks as Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, as both cards benefit from value creatures and mana dorks. Vizier and Satyr Wayfinder will be best friends, and being able to tutor up a Whip of Erebos, or even an answer to an opposing Whip, seems quite strong.

The Vizier might’ve made the cut in Pod, if it were still legal. Even still, it’s almost good enough for Modern. Some weird part of me wants to sacrifice a Solemn Simulacrum to go search for a Tron piece.

On its own, Profaner doesn’t quite cut the mustard since it doesn’t do anything against format-defining cards like Courser or Sylvan Caryatid, but since the ability scales with the creature you sacrifice it has the potential to be excellent.

The big downside to this guy is that you have to sacrifice a big creature to get a big effect, so if you’re behind on board he doesn’t actually help you stabilize.

The real strength is converting material into tempo, and if you’re ahead he’ll be very good at pushing through for the win, especially if the opponent planned on blocking.

Profaner seems particularly good against token and devotion strategies.

Formidable

If creatures you control have total power 8 or greater, ___

This is a keyword that covers several activated and triggered abilities that only work if you have 8 power. Unless you have quite the brew, this is almost exclusively for Limited. Perhaps the power level could’ve been pushed to make a Constructed playable card, but the precondition is so win-more that it hardly seems worth it.

A formidable Constructed card would encourage players to overcommit to the board, creating a punishing, unfun decision between forgoing formidable or risk losing to a sweeper. Similarly, battalion also rewarded players for committing multiple creatures to the board, but many of the creatures were small and efficient so they could go under sweepers.

The good news is that it’s a pretty great Limited mechanic, where board stalls are common and sweepers are rare. In the early game, when your guys are more likely to be trading, they’re vanilla and you don’t really care that they’re vanilla. In the late-game, they gain powerful effects that help break up board stalls. It’s sort of like morph but fills more diverse spots on the curve.

Megamorph

You may cast this card face down as a 2/2 creature for 3. Turn it face up any time for its megamorph cost and put a +1+1 counter on it.

The name reminds me of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and I groaned when I first saw it. Of course, by the time the prerelease comes around I won’t even notice.

The ability itself works fine, just another tweak on flipping creatures up. A few cards were pushed to be Constructed playable.

I’ve heard a few players get excited about this guy, but I’m going to reserve judgment until I get a chance to play with him. Yes it’s good against control and good in multiples, but we already had Whisperwood Elemental for a more powerful and less conditional version of that effect. On base stats alone, a three-mana 3/3 deathoucher is not interesting.

The reason Vengevine and Bloodghast were good is because both of their triggers (playing lands and creatures) are things you want your deck to do anyway. Flipping a card up is a more restrictive condition to build around, and Deathmist will always be limited by the other morph/manifest cards.

I see Deathmist being good if an aggro deck wants it to help grind against midrange. Unfortunately, the current manifest lists are mostly high-powered ramp affairs.

Sidisi, Undead Vizier, sacrifice Deathmist, tutor up a second Deathmist is a sweet line though.

There’s some tension between the value-centric Eternal Witness ability and the aggressive evasion, but overall this card works. Five mana would be too much for a 3/2 Eternal Witness, but the versatility being able to play it as a bear to trade against aggro or split the cost up among several turns or even get sicko value off of a random manifest (I’m looking at you, Whisperwood Elemental) pushes the Protector into the realm of playable.

It won’t be as widely played as Eternal Witness, but come on that card is ridiculous.

A cheap lifelinker has some value, but white is oversaturated on them at the moment. Of the rare megamorphs, Hidden Dragonslayer has one of the less versatile abilities and will likely see the least play.

Speaking of one of the less versatile abilities. Hitting Courser is nice, but if I’m going to invest this much time and mana into something it needs to be able to kill creatures that matter.

I appreciate what Wizards is doing with these two, with passive abilities that are good against the types of creatures that avoid the megamorph, but it’s not enough to make up for weak stats and they aren’t realistically playable.

This is my favorite of the rare megamorphs. Two-mana 2/1 fliers are already good enough for blue devotion, and Dancer’s ability is quite the upside.

Even if you set aside how sick it is to have a maindeck counter against control (sideboard tech for the control mirrors?), there are tons of great targets floating around like Stoke the Flames and delve draw spells.

The only downside is that it isn’t a true Negate and doesn’t hit planeswalkers or enchantments.

This card is screaming at me.

“Hey, HEYYYYY! Put me in Blue Devotion!”

Aside from that, the stats are strong, and I wonder if it’ll find a home once Master of Waves rotates.

And we save the best for last. A two-mana 2/1 with pseudo evasion is already playable in red, and being able to gain value by drawing a card off of a cheap megamorph cost is great.

It’s kind of a reverse Silvergill Adept, which draws a card immediately and then maybe picks up evasion later on. It’s not as powerful as Silvergill, but as with Den Protector and Eternal Witness that doesn’t mean that Ire Shaman isn’t a great card. Also, having to build around Merfolk is a pretty glaring downside that this card doesn’t have.

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