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Dragons of Tarkir Limited Primer: GP Atlantic City

I’ve been drafting a lot lately and feel like I have a good grasp of the format. Just like everyone else, I had my pick orders for the Pro Tour, but the more people draft the better they get so the format always slightly evolves with time. I’ll list all the colors in order from best to worst. Black and red are by far the best colors because they have a lot of removal spells and black especially is very deep.

Pick Orders by Color

Black

The best thing about black is all the removal. At uncommon or better you will find Ultimate PriceDeathwind, Deathbringer Regent, Foul Renewal, and Silumgar Assassin. Ukud Cobra and Rakshasa Gravecaller (a.k.a. Grave Titan) are probably the second and third best uncommons in the set. The first? Ultimate Price. Black is the best color by a wide margin.

Obviously rankings can change a lot based on the cards you already have. If you have a lot of exploit creatures and you just need some fodder then Shambling Goblin can easily move higher. If you have a lot of removal and only need a finisher, then you would much rather have Marsh Hulk than Reckless Imp, which is mostly just good in aggressive decks and decks with a lot of flyers.

Some people like Coat with Venom because there are multiple fight spells and it also combos nicely with Atarka Efreet, but I prefer an aggressive creature or a removal spell.

It’s also important to know which cards are in your colors in the third set. When you are looking for some exploit fodder or a deathtouch guy to hold the ground before your flyers can do the work, it’s good to know that Sultai Emissary and Typhoid Rats are available in the 3rd pack, so you don’t need to take those cards that aggressively.

Important black commons from FRF: Typhoid Rats, Sultai Emissary, Hooded Assassin (in combination with Atarka Efreet or Twin Bolt you can kill any creature), Alesha’s Vanguard (another dash guy if you are wondering how good that Ambuscade Shaman can get), Gurmag Angler (finisher), Douse in Gloom, Reach of Shadows.

Red

Red is the second-best color with three and a half good common removal spells and a lot of other solid cards.

Atarka Efreet is just so good. There are a lot of early drops with 1 toughness, and 3 mana to unmorph is so unique compared to all the other morphs in the set that it’s not uncommon to have your morph blocked on turn 3 by something like Updraft Elemental or even Crater Elemental for the blowout.

Summit Prowler is not as good as it used to be in triple-Khans because the first four turns aren’t just spent playing morphs any more. It’s still a fine card, but unlike in Khans, it trades for cheaper cards like Dromoka Warrior or Glade Watcher.

Dragon Fodder is bad because it doesn’t trade for much and it will be almost impossible to make your tokens be able to attack through your opponent’s creatures. Volcanic Rush (and War Flare) is also mediocre because that means your deck has cards like Dragon Fodder in it and pairing bad cards together to make them work is not a good strategy.

Important red commons from FRF: Mardu Scout, Smoldering Efreet (not great, but it’s a 2-drop), Gore Swine (Formidable), Goblin Heelcutter, Fierce Invocation, Bathe in Dragonfire, Temur Battle Rage.

Temur Battle Rage has gotten a lot better with DTK, especially in RG decks with cards like Stampeding Elk Herd or even Conifer Strider.

Green

Green has a lot of solid cards but nothing really stands out. Epic Confrontation is the only removal spell and obviously needs to be taken highly. The rest are just big fat creatures and one unexciting pump spell.

I like Pinion Feast as a maindeck card because it’s a good answer for the bomb Dragons and there are a lot of flyers in general.

Conifer Strider (and to some degree Ainok Artillerist) works well with bolster cards like Dromoka’s Gift, but it’s pretty bad just by itself. Stampeding Elk Herd might actually be better than Bowmasters, but 5 mana is a lot and you can easily pick up a similar card later in the draft.

The problem with green is that you have a very weak third pack. The only good cards are Whisperer of the Wilds and Hunt the Weak, although there are a lot of bombs like Whisperwood Elemental or Sandsteppe Mastodon. One card that has gotten worse with DTK is Temur Sabertooth because there are now 2 black commons (plus Death Wind) that kill it even if you have mana up for indestructible.

Important green commons from FRF: Whisperer of the Wilds, Ainok Guide, Feral Krushok, Formless Nurturing, Frontier Mastodon, Hunt the Weak, Return to the Earth.

Return to the Earth is also a very maindeckable card right now, it doesn’t have bolster but you can kill Pacifism and Reduce in Stature with it mid-combat for a blowout and it’s also an insurance card against the bomb Sieges. Another card that got better because of formidable and high-power creatures is Winds of Qal Sisma, although it’s still probably just a sideboard card.

Blue

As you can see, blue is quite mediocre and is more of a support color. Custodian of the Trove might actually be in the top 10 here over something like Anticipate because it’s a solid blocker that holds the ground while you are beating down with flyers.

I like Ojutai Interceptor and Palace Familiar more than Ojutai’s Summons because I prefer aggressive decks and synergy over the slightly more powerful 5-mana card that creates value.

The power of Ojutai’s Breath depends entirely on your deck and it’s a fine card if you have a lot of flyers. Similarly, Taigam’s Strike is a fine card in UG and UR where you have a lot of big fat creatures and need a way to deal the last couple points of damage.

Reduce in Stature is pretty bad because of bolster and exploit. Mystic Meditation gets better in a bad deck because there will always be something to discard, but I wouldn’t usually want that card in a good deck.

Important blue commons from FRF: Jeskai Sage (exploit), Sultai Skullkeeper, Write into Being, Lotus Path Djinn, Aven Surveyor, Whisk Away, Enhanced Awareness, Will of the Naga.

White

White is the worst color by far, highlighted by the fact that Pacifism, your best common, isn’t even that good because of exploit. You will still happily play it, but I’ve had matches where I had to side out 3 Pacifism against my UB opponent because he would always sacrifice the guy for an exploit effect.

Enduring Victory kills any creature no matter how big it is but it still has to be attacking or blocking so you can play around it. Cards like Lightwalker and Champion of Arashin become higher picks if you have a lot of cards that bolster.

The problem with Dromoka Warrior is that exploit strategies are very popular and it matches up pretty poorly against Shambling Goblin or Jeskai Sage.

Important white commons from FRF: Soul Summons, Sandsteppe Outcast, Abzan Skycaptain, Sandblast, Pressure Point, Dragon Bell Monk, Harsh Sustenance.

Sandsteppe Outcast is great but the best thing about white in Fate Reforged is all the broken cards you get if there aren’t other white drafters around you. It’s not uncommon to be passed bombs like Elite Scaleguard, Citadel Siege, Dragonscale General, or Mastery of the Unseen 3rd-pick or later because there are usually only 2 or 3 white drafters. Also if you are white/black you will very likely get all the Harsh Sustenances that are opened.

Notes

• One card I find to be very underrated is Dragonloft Idol, there are a lot of Dragons in both sets and you can also do some cool tricks with Dance of the Skywise.

• When drafting, focus on 2-color decks. Splashing is easy, but only do it for the most powerful cards like Hidden Dragonslayer, Outpost Siege, or the Dragonlords, and not for cards like Pacifism.

• Make sure you know all the morphs, it takes just a couple minutes to go through the set and memorize them.

• One thing I learned in Khans is to always announce your combat, especially in complicated situations and even if your plan is to just pass the turn. With so many cards like Pressure Point, Will of the Naga, and Ojutai’s Breath, by saying go you are basically giving your opponent a freeroll because you skip the phase where your opponent has to make a decision.

• Because this is a 2-color format with morphs, you will pretty much always have more than enough playables, so pick sideboard cards highly. Cards like Rending Volley, Pinion Feast, or Encase in Ice are very powerful and will improve your chances after sideboard.

Color Combinations

Here is how I would rate the 2-color combinations you can draft.

Great: UB → RB → RG
Good: BW
Average: WG → UR → UG
Bad: RW → UW
Unplayable: BG

At this point everybody knows that a good UB exploit deck is the best you can do, followed closely by RB with access to all the removal spells. RG has a lot of good big bodies that utilize formidable and ferocious and it also helps that green has 2 common removal spells (Epic Confrontation, Hunt the Weak).

If you can position yourself into BW then you will likely get rewarded with a good third pack, where cards like Sandsteppe Outcast, Harsh Sustenance, and Reach of Shadows will improve your deck a lot.

With WG you need to prioritize removal and synergy, otherwise your deck will be just a bunch of random creatures and pump spells, which never works.

The rest of the archetypes I’m actively trying to avoid, especially BG which is just a collection of cards that don’t work together. It is a bit different in Sealed, where you are usually forced to play whatever colors your bombs are in, but I’ve yet to see a good BG deck in this draft format, so make sure you stay away from it.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading and good luck in Atlantic City!

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