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Dragonfall

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So, last week, we saw the rise of what most were heralding as the control shell they had been looking for all year. Given Esper Dragons’s results last week, I can understand why people were a little hesitant to approach the format from any other angle than behind a Dragonlord Silumgar and Dragonlord Ojutai. Luckily, this week weaves a different tale as the metagame continues to shift to adjust for the sudden rise in control since Dragons of Tarkir released.

Den Protector
Last week, I talked about a few decks I felt were well-enough positioned against the field, and though we did see some of these strategies come to fruition, it was ultimately Den Protector that seemed to be the major breakout this weekend. The Eternal Witness variant has been on the radar for a few weeks, but it really had a dominating performance this weekend—certainly so if you look at the day’s field as a whole and not just the Top 8. I am not sure Den Protector has much more potential growth available given the impending Modern Masters 2015 Edition release next month, but I certainly would not mind digging into some copies if you feel you can acquire them for a reasonable trade. I have touched on this before, but as we approach rotation, it becomes a larger part of our thought process when evaluating cards, and now is the time to be trading out anything rotating; finding places to stash the value through the summer becomes essential if you are looking to keep your Magic collection self-sustaining.

Now that we have had some time to approach the format from a less sky-is-falling approach, it is time to look not at what can beat control, but instead focus on the big picture once again. I, of course, am obligated once again to mention Heroic was victorious—if this keeps happening, I may just have to dust that seventy-five back off, but for now, I think we have a great chance looking forward to find out where this cycle is headed next.

I expected Whip of Erebos to be a larger player in the field, but it seems people opted to kill the control decks before they could set up rather than fight attrition battles. This means we may have a golden opportunity these next few weeks to find a midrange build that can still compete with control. I want to start on Abzan, as the aggro variant typically had a rough matchup against the midrange decks, but I feel there may be a possible splash for Ojutai or Silumgar as well. The mana is taxed less now that we have a more diverse set of removal spells, meaning the splash—between a few Temples and Sylvan Caryatids—may not be unreasonable. I am not sure the best way to beat control at this point for the midrange deck—though I imagine that is a reason we are not currently seeing results—but the decks that beat control will have a tough time against this shell.

Dragonlord Dromoka
This is clearly a rough sketch, but I really like the idea of a utility land also allowing for easy splashes. The added benefit of finding targets with Satyr Wayfinder is clearly value in its own right, but the fact that a late-game Wayfinder now can in some way find you a threat is relevant. I am not sure exactly what the Dragon package actually looks like, but I have already been wanting to splash for Treasure Cruise in Abzan from day one, and this may finally be enough of a reason to do so.

While I am on the topic of Dragons—which seems to be the theme of my deck-building this week—I do want to talk about, in particular, Dragonlord Dromoka. While this card may not actually be Baneslayer Angel, I feel it has a great deal of play against the field right now. Against control, it can set up some pivotal turns with no response and successfully block both Silumgar and Ojutai if need be. It certainly is not a card that will break the game wide open, but it does put pressure on the opponent to remove it right away else rendering his or her counters useless. Combined with a number of other threats, I really like Dromoka’s position in the format. Even at the current price, I don’t mind picking up a set of these now—the cat is already out of the bag, so it is unlikely to drop any more.

Of course, the Dragon theme can kind of be contagious when you start thinking about all the options, and after seeing the Mono-Blue Dragons list that has been floating around with the eight Dragon lands, I started thinking about what other colors may be able to take that shell and work with it. I am not sold that the deck needs to be mono-colored even if you do have eight colorless lands, but I do also believe there is the possibility for some very cool transformational ’boards if you can keep it as close to a single color as possible.

Haven of the Spirit Dragon
The nice part about working with this shell—mind you, this is mostly for entertainment value, though there may be something here—is that your creature base is set on a creature type, not the color of mana they require, and that’s something we have not seen in years. With little direction in the way of a creature base, we really have to decide if we are looking to be aggressive, midrange, or control and base our color or colors on what can cover all of the bases for that week. In other words, if this shell proves viable, you may have a week when you are a mono-green deck to ramp into Dragons and overwhelm the midrange and aggro decks, while another week, you may turn to black for Diabolic Edict effects and discard against control.

For this week, I want to look what primary color provides the most protection from both fast aggro and, at the same time, does not roll over to control. The Dragons-matter cards, such as Silumgar's Scorn, certainly make the pull toward those colors even more appealing, but as I am attempting to stray away from blue as the primary color and the other two are splashable, I believe it does not need to be the main focus.

I am a huge fan of Foul-Tongue Invocation right now. Some decks have been spotted with these in the deck and no Dragons just because of how good an Edict is right now, so it seems crazy not to jam them into a deck that will probably be packed with Dragons.

I am also a huge fan of having green as the base as that allows us to both ramp early and provide additional fixing while also bringing in some heavy hitters, such as Genesis Hydra or Nissa, Worldwaker, if we need to support the control matchup a little more.

At first, I was just playing around with this shell, but after doing some thinking on the idea, I really like the potential this Dragon theme can offer. After ’board, I believe you can transition into a deck that can provide more threats than control as well as outpacing the opponent with small interactions such as Voyaging Satyr and Crucible of the Spirit Dragon. Speaking of Crucible, if you do not have a set, it may not be a bad idea to snag them now—even if this does nothing now, rotation may tell another story. I don’t foresee these ever being very expensive, but even a few dollars hurt when you can pick up a whole set for that now.

Frontier Siege
Another selling point for me is the possibility to turn the other side of Frontier Siege on—one side was already good enough to play, and this deck can make use of both at various points in the game, thus making a second copy fine to draw in the midgame even if your mana is shored up.

I have not had a chance to do any testing with this deck, but if I can snag some copies of Ojutai this week, I may try to cobble something together. I am certain there are a ton of builds for this deck, and each new color offers a plethora of ways to go when you can also freely change your Dragon package. For this build in the current meta, I would probably have a board that started something like this:

2 Aetherspouts This is probably your best answer to aggro, and it allows you to aggressively commit to the board without losing your position when you need a reset. It might be too slow, but without a heavier black splash, it may be among the better options.

1 Dragonlord Silumgar, 1 Dragonlord's Prerogative, 2 Disdainful Stroke, 4 Dissolve, 1 Dig Through Time, and 1 Mana ConfluenceHere are more threats against control with additional counters; these should swing the matchup in your favor. The Caryatids and Satyrs come out along with Aetherspouts, I imagine. Though it deals with Silumgar in some situations, it is rare that it both comes up and resolves. The extra land goes a step toward helping the base after removing the fixing. I am not sure how much of an issue this will be in the middle stages of the game, but some testing should answer that.

Silumgar, the Drifting Death
1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death and 2 Feed the Clan It seems that red can certainly cause problems on the play and even on the draw if we cannot find an Aetherspouts or Dromoka in time. Even on the draw, we need to assemble a quick army to fight Atarka's Command. Feed the Clan is by no means a good card, but you sometimes have to settle for playable when you are focusing on one matchup.




I am sure this may all be a little ambitious and unlikely to make waves, but the fact that a build along theme is so heavily dominant in not just one color combination, but instead across the board, is a real win for Magic. I am excited to see if anyone else has any eight-Ugin-land lists they concoct in the coming weeks. As always, thank you for reading, and feel free to share any comments or suggestions below.

Ryan Bushard

@CryppleCommand


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