Updated: Apr 27, 2019
Behold! Leathery wings of doom, fire, calamity, and a little bit of love.
War of the Spark is 9 days away, and I will be honest with all of you, I am very excited. I feel like the brewing potential created by adding this set to the Standard pool is outstanding.
If I were a betting man, and I am, I would bet you that we are going to see all manners of new brews, new decks, new winners emerge from this expansion of the Standard card pool. It's going to be an exciting time to be a Magic player when War of the Spark drops. Let's revisit an old favorite made better through the addition of some cards before we get too far off in the deep end?
God-Pharaoh? Dragon-God? Whatever!
So here he is: Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God. The new and improved version. Although, if you ask me he pales in comparison to the flipped version of Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. This version is the omnipotent kind - the one with all Planeswalker abilities, the one with minus 8 ability so powerful it wins you the game. This Nicol Bolas is so good, and so powerful, that we have to blow the dust off of Grixis and build a deck to help him cast The Elderspell. Unfortunately, this deck is merely conjecture at this point, we have no idea where the meta is going to shake out, but dammit, I'm going to try and have my hand in shaping it. So, while this Planeswalker is just a piece of the larger whole, I want you to know that he is critical in our game plan for success.
I LOVE THIS PLANESWALKER. Sarkhan the Masterless was one that DBoe got a chance to see before I did, and he knew I would go wild over it. I know, I know, trying to pull off a mono-red Dragons list in Standard isn't smart. So I won't, even though I really really want to. So I've compromised with all of you and generated list that has been remarkably successful in testing. It's crushing meta decks. Sarkhan turns our on-field Dragons into Caltrops. The bigger our force the more damage we deal to attacking creatures. His +1 let's us attack with our Planeswalkers - we are running 4 - and he can generate tokens to add to our offense and defense. This version of Sarkhan is awesome, and I expect this is only the first of a few decks I brew with him.
Sarkhan, Fireblood can make a Dragon deck scream. We need mana acceleration in a Dragon deck, even if it was mono-colored, which this one is not, and I feel we get exactly that with this Planeswalker. Generally, this version of Sarkhan drops and immediately becomes a target. He has the ability to +1 and fix our hand (or ruin it - it's a gamble), and if he survives until the next turn he can drop out a big nasty Dragon and demand responses from our opponent. Dragons, in general, are a class above other creatures in Magic. Frankly, being able to add two different mana of different colors makes Sarkhan, Fireblood our ideal play on turn three, and in the eventuality we get to activate his -7 ability and create 4 5/5 Dragons. Well. It's never pretty. Sarkhan, Sarkhan, Sarkhan.
Angrath, the Flame-Chained is not a Dragon, but since the spoiler season for War of the Spark has concluded I have been feeling like Angrath is a worthwhile addition to any deck with a mana base built to support Rakdos. The idea of being able to impact the hand on the +1 ability at turn 5 (or sooner with a Dragon Hoard in play) is fantastic. Strategic placement of the discard mechanic is an art, and since we are needing 5 mana to resolve Angrath we often catch the best of what our opponent is holding for the mid-game. His -3 gives us the ability to alpha-strike, slow the opponents board, and generally wreck havoc. The -8 ability is seldom used unless it's a win-con. Honestly, another copy of Verix Bladewing, or Lathliss, or a single Demanding Dragon might do better here, but MEH.
Blot Out the Sun
What is a Dragon deck without Dragons? Answer: not a Dragon deck. This is not an aggro deck, rather it presents itself cleanly as a control deck with top-end finishers. But, it is versatile and dynamic; just because our deck leans on control-esque elements does not mean that it cannot get off to the races quickly and win in the creature spaces of MTG.
I struggled long and hard with this card. Dragon's Egg is another totally viable choice, and gives us Firebreathing. The idea is to get maximum benefit from Sarkhan the Masterless by increasing the number of Dragons on the battlefield. Since we are running two versions of Sarkhan, I have found the Whelp to be excellent in tamping down token strategies, being a nuisance to life totals, and keeping Planeswalkers in check. Multiple copies of this little turkey can prove to be outstanding by not only adding targeted direct damage to our arsenal, but by also creating a more restrictive combat step. You can plus a Sarkhan, Fireblood and tap one land for 2/2 flyer. Thief of Sanity is another strong contender for the 3-drop slot. But that's not fun - who wants to win every game they play?
Verix and Karox are excellent additions to the deck. We get two 4/4 Dragons for seven mana. Our mana base and additional resources are tailored specifically to ensure we are not missing land drops and have the ability to cast our cards. Again, 8 power flying for seven mana is nothing to scoff at. Our additional layers of draw synergy and defense through Sarkhan the Masterless are greatly bolstered by including these two legendary Dragon brothers.
As far as Dragons go, Skarrgan Hellkite is right among the best we have in Standard. It can ETB as a 4/4 with haste or a 5/5 with the ability to Shock any target for 4 mana. It's nice having this additional mana sink mid-to-late game and can be the final points of damage we need during a combat step. We may not be getting the best value out of Skarrgan Hellkite - no, the best use would likely be in a deck that allowed us to resolve it with haste and then place a counter on it from another source for the activated ability later. For our purposes though, this Dragon will do nicely. Again, we are leaning on resolving him early with Sarkhan, Fireblood or using him later with Sarkhan the Masterless for all manners of nasty creature control. 3 copies is the way to go.
Our Planeswalker presence during our matches is what matters most; it just so happens that a majority of our Planeswalkers are Dragons or Masters of Dragons. So, you see, we need Dragons. Lathliss, Dragon Queen at a single copy is good for us, she can produce huge sums of damage within the right scenario by buffing our already massive flyers. She also triggers and creates a 5/5 Dragon token for us each time we resolve another Dragon creature. My favorite part of Lathliss is that she immediately draws targeted removal. She is the peanut butter on your catfish lure. There may be no reason to run this dollar bin rare at all. If we are trying to be super competitive we likely have better includes. "Includes" that are better tuned to the meta.