5.0: The best of the best. (Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. Wingmate Roc.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Butcher of the Horde. Savage Knuckleblade. Crater’s Claws.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Triplicate Spirits. End Hostilities. Necropolis Fiend.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Lightning Strike. Suspension Field.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Debilitating Injury. Mardu Hordechief. Flesh to Dust.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Glacial Stalker. Bitter Revelation. Hunt the Weak.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Dragonscale Boon. Defiant Strike. Cancel.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Scout the Borders. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Ranger’s Guile.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Tusked Colossodon. Bronze Sable. Oppressive Rays.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Naturalize. Feed the Clan. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Search the City. Pyxis of Pandemonium.)
Other Dragons of Tarkir Set Reviews
That Arashin Sovereign is unkillable is not quite as impressive as it may seem. Don’t get me wrong, the card is good, but the games where you get to cast your 7-drop usually hinge on it staying in play, and a kill spell still gets this off the board for a turn. As far as finishers go, it’s not a bad one, it’s just behind all the other options at a similar mana cost.
Atarka’s Command is much more a Constructed card than a Limited one. Preventing life gain, dealing 3 to a player, and putting a land into play are all not worth a card, and even the combination of two doesn’t quite get there. The last ability, +1/+1 and reach to your team, is what sells the card, and that alone makes it a worthy inclusion if you are both of these colors. The other abilities are a nice bonus, but there’s no combination here that really blows me away.
Now we are talking. At 5/4 flying for 5, this is a huge threat in its own right, and dealing 2 extra damage per creature cast adds up quickly. The only thing that could have made this better is if it were called Shocking Marauder instead of Boltwing Marauder.
This whole cycle is passable, though I’ll need a little more than just a 6-mana 4/4 before I am happy. Cunning Breezedancer delivers on that front, and will often attack for 6-8 damage a turn, which is impressive. I see this more as a creature that fits well into a rebound/prowess deck than an engine to draft around, because it is vulnerable to removal spells and does a good job closing games without much help.
When I talk about game-ending 7-drops, this is exactly what I mean. Atarka comes down, wipes out the biggest threat (or maybe even two medium threats), and is a gigantic 8/8 monster. Ramping out Atarka is a very reasonable plan, and if you are lucky enough to start with her, it is not hard to draft a deck that can reliably cast her (at which point the game should be well under control).
Even if Dromoka didn’t hose countermagic, she would be a must-kill threat. With these stats and lifelink, Dromoka is hard to beat in a fight and impossible to race, though not very resilient to non-damaging removal. I’m happy starting with Dromoka, and if she gets even one hit in, you have a good amount of life to play with.
Smashing for 6 the turn she gets cast is huge, as is Kolaghan herself, and if she lives I don’t see how the game doesn’t just end. Giving the rest of your team haste is a nice touch, and further pushes the aggressive nature of this Dragonlord. If the last ability ever comes up, you really did it, but I don’t expect to ever see that happen.
There’s nothing better than tapping out for your huge finisher and being confident that your opponent can’t do a single thing about it. That feeling is even better when your huge finisher comes at the very low cost of five mana, and grabs you extra cards if he does connect. If you play Ojutai on 5 and your opponent passes the turn back without casting anything, feel free to pass on attacking and develop your board instead. There’s no reason to walk (fly?) into a removal spell if you don’t have to, and your opponent will often have to telegraph their play in order to stop Ojutai.
If your opponent doesn’t deal with Silumgar, I don’t see how they can win. He takes their best creature, and is a sizable threat himself, so the board would have to be incredibly lopsided for the game to even be close after Silumgar comes down. At 3/5, Silumgar isn’t easy to kill, and given you have at least two threats out, the opponent doesn’t have a long time to try and find an answer.
This will be cast as an instant-speed Hunt the Weak more often than anything else, which is fine but not absurd. The other modes will come up every now and then, but the option of casting them doesn’t push this much past the high-tier removal in the set.
The ability here is not going to come up all that often, so this is not a card you have to include in your deck. It’s never a terrible option, but rarely will be an amazing one either.
Harbinger of the Hunt
A 5/3 flier is a lot worse than a 5/4 flier, but is still quite large for the cost. When you hit six mana, being able to ping the board twice a turn is very annoying for your opponent, and you shouldn’t have to hunt too hard for opportunities to get free cards out of it.
Shock + Raise Dead in one card is well worth 3 mana, and is a powerful midgame option. Early in the game, killing their megamorph and making them discard a card is great value, and every now and then you will get to blow up an artifact. This is a great card, offering removal and card advantage at a very low cost.
I love the idea of drafting around Narset, but I can also look at the odds that she draws me extra cards, and it’s not nearly as high as in Constructed. She will draw an extra card maybe 1/3 of the time at most, which really leaves the rebound ability to carry the weight. If you have some good removal spells to rebound, Narset can set up some awesome turns, but that’s asking a lot in these colors. Her loyalty is high enough that it’s a little safer to try all this than with most planeswalkers, but don’t assume that because she is awesome in Constructed she will show similar levels of prowess in Limited.
An Air Elemental that makes a 2/2 every time you hit them is no joke, even if you have to spend two mana to cast said Zombie. Necromaster Dragon is very difficult to race on the ground, and is a 2-for-1 at the very least if it gets through even once. Value-generating creatures that you would be happy to play already are few and far between, and so are the times when you will pass this.
This can get you a 2-for-1, but it’s not a freebie. You either have to leave mana up and risk your opponent not playing a creature or you have to use it to put a 2-drop back into play, which isn’t the most exciting by the time it’s an option. All the different permutations on this add up to a good card, but any given combination is not super exciting.
Going from 5 mana to 6 mana is a big jump, and that’s why I tend to rank the 5-drop Dragons higher than similar-looking 6-drops. That being said, this is a great card and you will be happy to run it. Any spell is a protection spell, and even sorceries can give it vigilance if need be. The stats are large enough that you don’t need an abundance of spells for this to be playable, though it would be wise to try and pick up a few 1- or 2-mana spells to really make this great.
Getting free edicts is never something I’m going to turn down, but edict effects do trail off a bit as the game goes long, and it isn’t that realistic to save your exploit creatures and hope this survives. It’s a solid endgame card as long as you don’t treat it like an engine to build around. If a 4/4 flier survives, things are usually looking decent already.
Sarkhan is an incredible card… if you can cast him. This is the only 3-color card in the set, and as such Sarkhan breaks the mold of what decks are “supposed” to look like. The rating assumes that three colors isn’t a huge stretch, so keep in mind that Sarkhan will be less good than indicated if you don’t prioritize getting a few ways to splash a third color. Because not that many other people are going to be doing that, I don’t think it will be a big problem, and the reward for doing so is great. Even just making two Dragons is awesome, and the Dragons should do a good enough job defending that you will be able to afford to +1 Sarkhan and keep the train going. Sarkhan is good when ahead or behind, and that’s one of the best qualities you can ask for in your powerful card.
Mana, mana everywhere! Going from 6 to 12 mana is not the most useful jump, and even if you can use the mana this provides it’s unlikely to be a critical addition to your game plan. Play this if you want a big flier, but don’t make elaborate plans past that.
Killing one of their creatures and bouncing another is a big swing, and will account for the vast majority of what this card ends up doing. Tacking Negate onto that is pure free value, and that’s ignoring the planeswalker mode, which may as well not exist. This is an easy 2-for-1, an easy tempo swing, and very powerful however you end up playing it.
I like this the most of this cycle, as it often will draw you a card when you cast it. Getting back a dead 3-drop and smashing for damage (or not, if they have blockers) nets you a card at the end of the turn, and that’s a lot better than having to hope you untap with this.
Scion of Ugin
There isn’t a lot going on here, and if you want a 4/4 flier, you now have one at a very fair cost.
Unless you end up with a ton of enters-the-battlefield triggers, you are best off saving this to sideboard in against Pacifism and Reduce in Stature. It just isn’t big enough to jump through hoops, and if it’s the only creature you have when you play it, the hoop it jumps through is its own.
Given that these all activate for the same effect, they are all pretty much the same. It’s true that Atarka is more likely to want ramp than Kolaghan, but any of these combinations could find themselves in the market for a Monument. If you want to hit six or seven mana, this is not a bad way to do it, and provides a little color fixing on the way. Turning into a 4/4 Dragon when you run out of gas is a solid plan B, and I like playing these a lot more than I did the Banners.
Custodian of the Trove
Coming in tapped is about the worst line of text I can think of on a defender, besides maybe “can’t block.” It makes it so Custodian of the Trove fails at the only thing it can do, and I think the only time I’m playing this is if I’m paired against a deck chock full of 3/2s and 2/1s.
If you have lots of Dragons, this does become playable, but I’m not too worried about that scenario. I wouldn’t draft this highly, and if it ends up being good, it’s a nice bonus. It’s just not good enough without a Dragon in play, and I don’t want to draft cards with that stipulation.
A bad equipment that has a heavy restriction on what you can equip it to? Smashing.
Keeper of the Lens
Lens of Clarity was printed to soften us up, so when we saw this for the first time we’d think “well, at least it’s better than Lens of Clarity.” That may be true, but this is still too weak to play, so please do not do so.
The only purpose I’ve found for this card (a reprint from Zendikar) is as a sideboard card against fliers, and a weak one at that.
Getting a free equip of a weak equipment is about exactly as thrilling as it sounds, so I’m understandably not interested. +1/+1 just isn’t worth a card, much less a card and a couple mana.
Tapestry of the Ages
Given enough cheap removal, this becomes a legitimate way to get ahead. Picking up cheap removal is the hard part, so make sure do to that before making too many plans involving this card. I like Skywise Teachings a little more for this type of engine, though it is nice that Tapestry can go in to any color of deck.
Vial of Dragonfire
I guess my prediction of Vial of Dragonfire being some sort of Divination effect didn’t pan out, though I did not actually expect a card with this name to do anything but deal damage. Deal damage it does, at a very modest rate, and I am not particularly looking to play this card. If you do pick two of these up, Renowned Weaponsmith becomes quite a real card, so keep that in mind (as I’m sure everyone already is).
This is perfectly playable and not a high priority unless you are three colors. I like it in 2-color decks, but I won’t go out of my way to pick it up.
Haven of the Spirit Dragon
If you have good mana and two Dragons, why not?
Top 10 Commons
Red aside, the best commons are a good mix between each color. Efficient removal, card advantage, and good creatures make up the list, with Coat with Venom being the lone combat trick to sneak on. These commons are at a higher power level than the previous two sets, with actual 2-3 mana removal spells, a common Looter, and cards like 3/4 reach and 4/2 flying for not very much mana at all. I like the sound of this, and am looking forward to seeing which of these cards end up staying this high in my pick order, because like any battle plan, pick orders don’t usually survive first contact with the enemy.
Top 7 Rares/Mythics
These are my picks for the absolute best cards in the set. I decided to do 7 because that was the number of cards I rated 4.5 or higher, and at least in my initial pass, form a tier above the rest of the cards. Atarka is the queen, as she is both the biggest and the highest impact, even if she costs a full mana more than anything else on the list. If you look at these cards, you see that they share many qualities:
• Hard to kill
• Impactful when behind
• Provide card advantage
• Can kill the opponent rapidly
• Efficiently costed
Those are the qualities you should be looking for when deciding whether a card is a bomb, and being good enough in a couple excuses being weak in some of the others. The Raptor, for example, gets there solely on its efficiency and card draw potential, as it isn’t a super fast clock or the most impactful when behind on board.
I like the look of this set. These rares are awesome, but they aren’t Citadel Siege or Ugin, so I anticipate much more counterplay even when your opponent does play a bomb. The commons are also much stronger, and I like the change from 5-mana removal to 2-mana removal.
I hope everyone enjoys the prerelease, and picks whichever brood speaks to them most (in my case, that’s Silumgar).