Nothing is as pure as Sarkhan's love for dragons, nothing as fiery and bright, nothing as ferocious and roaring. Sarkhan is the first among dragon fanboys. His inner fire can burst out in fiery breath. His enthusiasm can help summon dragons, and he can convince his whole Planeswalker crew to cosplay as them.
I hesitated to build around Sarkhan, Fireblood. After the prismatic power of my Commander The Ur-Dragon, I worried I wouldn't find enough Mono-Red dragons for a singleton deck. Luckily, the Oathbreaker format requires only fifty-eight cards, plus a Planeswalker and their signature spell in the command zone. I laughed a deep-throated dragon laugh when I discovered more than enough cards to fill my deck. Even better, evasive threats that pressure opposing Planeswalkers and enemy life totals are more valuable in Oathbreaker. Everyone starts out at twenty, and everyone needs their Planeswalker to live to cast their signature spell from the command zone (taxed two more each time). The decklist below includes my old flame in Thundermaw Hellkite, the new hotness in Drakuseth, Maw of Flames, and even a few pet cards such as the adorable Slumbering Dragon.
Sarkhan's Flight | Oathbreaker | AE Marling
- Creatures (17)
- 1 Dragonlord's Servant
- 1 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
- 1 Glorybringer
- 1 Hunted Dragon
- 1 Lathliss, Dragon Queen
- 1 Opportunistic Dragon
- 1 Sarkhan's Whelp
- 1 Scourge of Valkas
- 1 Slumbering Dragon
- 1 Steel Hellkite
- 1 Taurean Mauler
- 1 Thunder Dragon
- 1 Thunderbreak Regent
- 1 Thundermaw Hellkite
- 1 Tyrant's Familiar
- 1 Utvara Hellkite
- 1 Verix Bladewing
- Planeswalkers (1)
- 1 Sarkhan the Masterless
Now that's a caldera full of molten-hot dragons. Though I included many favorites, I hated cutting Stormbreath Dragon. I would expect to rotate that card in, and you must include the dragons that most light your fire. Did you win an important Limited event with a bomb dragon? Include it. For myself I've added some whimsical ones. Slumbering Dragon isn't a good card, except maybe if you play it on turn one. Otherwise, you can discard it to Sarkhan, Fireblood. Hunted Dragon is another silly one, unless you consider the knights as a bonus you can give a political ally to pressure an archenemy like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. That's twelve power for five mana, half of which has haste.
Many of the best dragons already have haste, so I included only two haste enablers, Dragon Tempest and Dragon Breath. The latter is a great one to discard with Sarkhan, and the same is true of Anger. I would include the incarnation if Sarkhan's Triumph were my signature spell and tutoring up Drakuseth, Maw of Flames my most common game plan. I prefer more variance in my casual decks and felt no need to play with those cards, but it is a popular option.
Instead I chose Pyrokinesis as a fiery way to keep Sarkhan alive. A face-up removal spell will discourage players from attacking you. If they swing at each other instead, your signature spell will have done double duty, and you never even had to cast it. Though I prefer a more politic signature spell, I appreciate Sarkhan's Triumph as the most flavorful choice. What a thrill to have helped restore Tarkir to draconic rule, to have the sun eclipsed by an ancient being, to feel the hot rush of displaced air, the ground vibrating with its roar, the daylight returning brighter than before with a burst of flame. For Sarkhan, meeting a dragon is a spiritual experience, a scaly spectacle, a winged wonder. It sets his blood on fire.
Sarkhan, Fireblood rewards you for discard synergies and playing high-variance cards like Blood Moon. If you don't want to BM all over a game, simply discard it. Or if your playgroup tends toward lower power levels you don't have to include it at all. Speaking of discarding cards, Spit Flame is great to recur. It serves as a draw engine with Sarkhan, and if worse comes to worst, you could even use it to toast a creature. A less flavorful option would be Squee, Goblin Nabob.
Other draw engines in the deck include Bag of Holding, Dragon's Hoard, and to a lesser extent Herald's Horn. Another good way to not run out of cards is lose fewer of them to board sweepers. Don't over-commit your dragons to the battlefield. Instead make the dragons you play individually more powerful with cards like Crucible of Fire, Dragon Breath, and Sarkhan's Unsealing. If you want another card along those lines you could include Mirror of the Forebears, but be aware you shouldn't copy legendary dragons.
Some of my favorite dragons from Commander play worse in Oathbreaker. That's good in the sense I can come to appreciate new dragons. The difference is in Oathbreaker half the time you're attacking players' Planeswalkers rather than their life totals. Dragon abilities that key off attacking players lead to feel-bad moments. For that reason I'm leaving in my Commander deck Balefire Dragon, Scourge of the Throne, and Hellkite Tyrant.
One flavorful card I excluded was Banefire. I opted for less expensive burn spells in a deck full of dragons. If you still want effects like it, also consider Avacyn's Judgment. It doesn't feature Sarkhan, but madness and Sarkhan go hand in hand.
Sarkhan went mad upon seeing the dragon he revered, Nicol Bolas, defeated in the Alara Conflux. Bolas likely further clawed at his sanity, batting it around like a kitten at a piece of fraying yarn. The elder dragon maneuvered the delirious Sarkhan to the Eye of Ugin along with Jace and Chandra. Bolas tricked them into casting Ghostfire and unlocking the prison of the Eldrazi created by Ugin, Sorin, and Nahiri.
Realizing what he had done, Sarkhan Vol flailed across the Blind Eternities to his home plane of Tarkir. There, he tried to remember the joy he had once felt for dragons, the happiness that Bolas had poisoned. As a young fanboy in the Mardu clans, he had dreamt of these mythical creatures, long since extinct. Even now he thought he could hear dragons speaking to him.
He encountered Narset, who was a more meditative version of Dr. Emmett Brown. She sent Sarkhan back to the time of dragons and also helped him dampen the fires of his madness. Sarkhan Vol found further support in Yasova Dragonclaw, and confiding in her about Ugin's murmurs helped him realized the Spirit Dragon would soon fight his baneful master, Bolas. Sarkhan flew to the battle but only manage to find Ugin dying in the Haven of the Spirit Dragon. Sarkhan couldn't save him, but he could preserve him using a hedron from Zendikar. In doing so he played an instrumental part in Bolas's later defeat. And he wouldn't soon tire of the tune of vengeance.
In the War of the Spark, Sarkhan the Masterless guided Ugin through Bolas's Meditation Realm. Before, Sarkhan had been tricked to break free a threat to the Multiverse. Now he helped imprison another. He even had a hand in the resurrection of Niv-Mizzet.
Sarkhan has felt the magnificent heat of the great dragons of the Multiverse. His childhood dreams have come true. Ever since his days as a nameless warrior in the Mardu clan, he envisioned flight, he longed for fire, and he sang Disney-princess songs about scaly beauties. His love for dragons is hot enough to melt adamantium, and who are we to judge him? Or his children.