April 06, 2015

Uncommonly Good Dragons

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What's up, laboratorians? It's Dragon Week here on DailyMTG.com, which means I get to take a closer look at some of the terrible tyrants of Tarkir. Dragons of Tarkir was true to its name in providing us with a wide array of new Dragon cards, but the real stars of the set are the five powerful Dragonlords.


Yeah, I won't be using those.


Don't get me wrong, the Dragonlords are great and all, but when building a Johnny deck you don't always want the biggest, baddest creature. In fact, it's often the overlooked cards that have the most combo potential. Instead of looking at the mythic rare Dragonlords, I'll be looking at two members a different cycle of Dragons. An uncommon cycle.


Aaarrrggg!


The first Dragon to grab my attention was Savage Ventmaw. At 4/4 it might seem a bit lacking in power, but it's the triggered ability I'm most interested in. Whenever this Dragon attacks, you get a total of six mana added to your mana pool, and you'll get to keep that mana until the end of your turn.


As it happens, six mana is more than enough to activate Aggravated Assault. You'll untap your creatures and get an extra combat phase, allowing you to attack with Savage Ventmaw again. That will give you another six mana, which lets you activate Aggravated Assault a second time. Keep the pattern going, and you can keep attacking with your flying 4/4 until your opponent is dead.



Although Savage Ventmaw is a welcome addition to the crew, this sort of combo isn't exactly new. When I first learned of the idea, Nature's Will was the method of choice for getting extra mana each combat phase. Since then, even more cards have been printed to fill that function. Bear Umbra is notable for its ability to protect your creature from death. Although the Aura will be destroyed in the process, that's a far better fate than losing both. Bear Umbra also untaps your lands as soon as the creature attacks, so you don't have to rely on getting through for damage.


A more recent version is Sword of Feast and Famine. While it costs one more mana total than Bear Umbra does, giving the creature protection from two colors is a tradeoff I'm more than willing to make. It's no fluke that this card was an absolute powerhouse during its time in Standard, but even then it rarely won the game in such spectacular fashion as this.



Of course, Aggravated Assault could use a bit of backup as well. Fortunately, Hellkite Charger is here to help with that. It asks a heavier price for its extra combat phases, but since you already need six mana to cast it, getting a seventh shouldn't be too difficult. Sadly, Savage Ventmaw is one short of giving you infinite combat phases with the Hellkite, but since it covers all but one mana, you should still be able to get six or seven extra attacks out of the deal.


Since two of the key cards in the deck are Dragons, adding in Sarkhan's Triumph seemed like a no-brainer. The ability to search your library for the Dragon you need should make the deck far more consistent. Since the deck requires six or seven mana to get going, I also figured a bit of mana acceleration wouldn't be out of place. Farseek is a good way to grab an extra land early in the game, while Cultivate can grab an extra one for your hand as well, albeit at the cost of one more mana. Last on the list is Explosive Vegetation. While you won't be able to run it out early in the game, it does jump you straight from four to six mana in one shot.




Tipping the Scales


Savage Ventmaw isn't the only combo-licious Dragon in its cycle, although this next one might be a bit harder to spot. Enduring Scalelord by itself is a creature that can quickly grow out of control given Dromoka's affinity for +1/+1 counters. However, the real fun begins when you cast a second copy of the card. Put a +1/+1 counter on one of the Dragons and the other will trigger, giving itself a counter as well. Now the first Scalelord will trigger, giving itself another +1/+1 counter, which triggers the second again. You can keep this going as long as you want, then attack with a pair of absurdly large Dragons.



Getting the initial +1/+1 counter seemed easy enough. I immediately thought of Llanowar Reborn, which comes with a counter that can be grafted onto any creature you cast. Put it on the second Enduring Scalelord and you'll get the party started. Oran-Rief, the Vastwood also works, although you'll need to tap it to get the effect.


The harder part was getting two copies of Enduring Scalelord onto the battlefield. Playing something like Clone would be one way to do it, but I was pretty sure I could make it work without needing to add a third color into the mix. A quick Gatherer search brought me to Bifurcate, which is essentially just a green Clone in this deck. That should make it easy to a get a second copy of Enduring Scalelord, but you'll still need one to get started.


Since the deck is already green and white, Eladamri's Call seemed like a perfect fit. Just for a bit of extra insurance, I also threw in two copies of Worldly Tutor. Since the deck is now fairly adept at searching for creature cards, I decided to throw in a few silver bullets as well. Banisher Priest can get rid of a creature, while Leonin Relic-Warder can deal with artifacts and enchantments. Spike Weaver can hold off your opponent's army for a few turns while you get things set up, and it can also be used to trigger Enduring Scalelord.


I added in Path to Exile as a way to helps stave off death, but, like the last one, this deck needs to get to six mana to work. Since we're playing green, that means ramp. Fertile Ground and Nature's Lore both have a net cost of one mana if you can use the land right away, making it easy to cast them and still do other things with your turn. Meanwhile, Wild Growth actually does cost just one mana, which can help you start the game off right by giving you three mana to work with on turn two. Sakura-Tribe Elder isn't as mana efficient, but it does have the ability to block and soak up a bit of damage.




Twofer...Monday


Well, that's all the dragon-y goodness I have for you today, but join me next week when I'll be doubling down on some devastating decks. A bit vague, I know, but I guess that means you'll just have to wait and see what I have up my sleeve. See ya!






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