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Dragons of Tarkir Cube Review


Welcome to another Cube review! Like my Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged reviews, I'll discuss the set via mechanics:



During development, Sam Stoddard noted that 2/2s for 3 were a tough sell in 2002 and there was an (unsuccessful) push to have them as 2-mana 2/2s. The megamorph rare cycle seems to be a compromise to allow for the flexibility of casting a smaller creature “unkicked” while being able to use them for larger effects. Their low costs and evasion/lifelink provide some incentives to correctly casting them early for curving out. This makes me think of the story that Mark Rosewater told about Kavu Titan:

Randy Buehler was running the FFL at the time, and he gave me a red-green deck to play. In it were four Grizzly Bears. I didn't think anything of it at the time. I then went on to go 4–0 that week. I was the only person with an undefeated record.

During my last match, Randy watched. At some point late in one of the games, I played my Grizzly Bears. After the match was over, Randy informed me that the Grizzly Bears weren't actually Grizzly Bears. They were proxies for Kavu Titan. Armed with this information, the next week I went 2–2. Suffice to say that the R&D guys thought this was the funniest thing ever. The lesson I learned was the importance of using the Kavu Titans as 2/2s. When I was aggressive with Kavu Titan, my deck performed much better. When I waited to maximize the Kavu Titans as 5/5 creatures, I lost much of the aggression of my deck and thus some of its power. Week 3, I went 4–0 again.

Hidden Dragonslayer is the worst due to the uncertainty of targets, but I've found that it isn't hard to have targets for it, and even in matchups where it is, it's a 2/1 with lifelink. Den Protector's Regrowth and power-matters evasion makes it the best, and Stratus Dancer is close due to the quality of the 3/2 flying body, but they're all solid. These morphs also allow for having narrow abilities like Muddle the Mixture and Reprisal while not diluting decks.

Other Morphs Include:

Ainok Survivalist was previewed by the excellent podcast Joy of Cubing. It's an upgrade to Nantuko Vigilante, and despite its Goblin Piker mode not having evasion, I'm happy to give it a try.

Shorecrasher Elemental looks difficult to cast but not oppressively so, as seen through cards like Geralf's Messenger. Shorecrasher has protection from spot removal and can switch gears from offense to defense easily. That said, it may be a difficult inclusion, as it competes with attacking 3-drops like Wake Thrasher and Serendib Efreet.

With these morphs, it's easy to now have one morph in each color, and even running two morphs per color doesn't require running weak ones to fill a cycle.


Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, despite her ww cost, is very good card for white aggressive decks. There's an argument that it doesn't have a high impact for her ww cost, but in decks that use it, I've found its impact to be worth it, as it typically is able to toss several +1/+1 counters after being cast, accelerating a clock and working well with white aggro's game plan.


Ojutai Exemplars is an interesting card since, while white 4-drops are stacked, not many are creatures aside from Restoration Angel and Hero of Bladehold. It works well in aggressive decks as a curve-topper (it taps threats and can avoid spot removal), but it's also a strong threat to close out games in other archetypes. While it isn't the biggest attacker and isn't as powerful as a universally-playable card such as Restoration Angel, its raw power means that it should replace white cards higher on the curve rather than replacing an existing white 4-drop.

Myth Realized is a card that plays similarly to the New Phyrexia Shrines that grow larger just by playing Magic. The lore counter ability makes it so that it isn't a late game dead draw, and while it doesn't have evasion, it plays well with Wraths. Since it's mainly a control finisher, its competition is with others like Angel of Serenity. Therefore, compare accordingly.


We've learned through cards like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Recurring Nightmare that there tend to be small creatures hanging around in the later stages of the game, and exploit cards like Sidisi, Undead Vizier help to make use of those cards as resources (and this isn't even counting recursive cards like Bloodghast.) Its 4/6 deathtouch body is no slouch if she needs to hold the fort, and the worst-case of sacrificing herself to Diabolic Tutor doesn't tend to happen that often. Black 5-drops are slim, and she works well to bolster that spot in the mana curve.

Profaner of the Dead is at a very competitive mana cost, and its effect is merely good in an area of outstanding costs. Silumgar Sorcerer, while solid, provides a bit too low impact for the costs involved.


Pitiless Horde comes at an odd time with black 3-drops—historically weak, being improved a lot lately. Its dash mode is its best, but it isn't as one-dimensional as Goblin Heelcutter, and attacking for 5, even with its drawback, hits very hard. It can become blanked by token-generators and freeze effects, so sideboard accordingly. It isn't quite as good as Ophiomancer or Flesh Carver, but it represents the aggressive side of black 3-drops well.

Lightning Berserker is a nice way to make use of mana in the later stages of the game, even in two-color aggro red decks, but it suffers from only having 1 power and thus being the last 1-drop you'll want to play if your opener has 2-power creatures, causing Lightning Berserker to end up riding the pine.

Zurgo Bellstriker and Dragon Hunter augment aggressive cards, not replace them. They beg the question of how many aggressive creatures are too many, and I generally prefer the metric that if aggro decks are cutting 2-power 1-drops from their decks, that's the time to cut Jackal Pups.


Dragon Whisperer somewhat compares to Stromgald Crusader—with a few knobs turned on costs and toughness—and Kargan Dragonlord; they’re both 2-drops that attack for 2 but help to shore up the later stages of the game. Seventeen-land aggro decks that lean a bit higher on the mana curve on their 3- to 5-drops may be a natural home for Dragon Whisperer. It also can have a home in more midrange red decks since it can become formidable with a single Titan. It may be a harder inclusion with so many 3/2s for 1r, but it can earn its keep for diversifying red's threats and role.

Surrak, the Hunt Caller falls into a similar category with Dragon Whisperer—it shouldn't necessarily be hard to reach 8 power, as he has 5 (usually requiring only an additional creature or two.) Of course, he isn't as good as Polukranos, World Eater (few things are), but he's a solid middle-of-the-pack 4-drop to bolster big ramp decks, especially those with creatures that can make use of haste, such as Titans or Eldrazi.


Dragons and Commands

The winners of the Command cycle are the red ones. Both of them work well by being riffs on powerful, but narrow cards. Commands are the perfect places for a narrow abilities such as the life-gain hosing ability on Atarka's and the instant-speed discard ability on Kolaghan's Command—while they aren't used primarily for those narrow modes, they are very useful for when those circumstances arise. Kolaghan's Command looks “fair,” as the modes are all 1-mana abilities, but they're all good enough to make for a good Rakdos card. Both Kolaghan's and Atarka's Command have “primary modes,” a la Cryptic Command, (Lava Spike plus Break of Day and reach or Smelt plus Shock) but they offer a lot of play with their other five combinations.

Dromoka's Command is a difficult add, as it's a good card in a section of excellent cards such as Qasali Pridemage. Ojutai's Command is powerful Command that can be used in all W/U decks, as even drawing a card and reanimating a 2-drop works well even in the W/U tempo decks that I find myself drafting a lot, and that can compete with the best of Azorius decks. Silumgar's Command suffers by being a bit too expensive to cast despite some powerful combinations.

The Dragonlord winners are Atarka and Silumgar. Silumgar's stealing of a Planeswalker may not happen that often, but with it essentially gaining haste, it works very well. Its closest analog is Sower of Temptation, and while 6 is a lot more than 4 mana, its high-toughness body makes it easier to stabilize with once he resolves—unlike the 2/2 body on Sower. Granted, the 2-mana difference can make all the difference given the matchup. Dimir is similar to Izzet years ago—it has solid cards such as Baleful Strix, but there’s nothing absurd; and Dragonlord Silumgar fits alongside the Dimir stalwarts.

Dragonlord Atarka's inclusion depends mainly on how you want to tailor Gruul, as the only real staple is Bloodbraid Elf. Dragonlord Atarka is a very good cheating-out option in that it’s huge, has a high impact on the board, and deals 5 damage, and there isn't much (even Griselbrand) that can deal with a flying and trampling 8/8.

Dragonlords Kolaghan and Ojutai pale in comparison to their Commands, and Dromoka pales in comparison to just about everything in G/W.

Everything Else

I like Dungeon Geists more than many, and Icefall Regent's extra mana doesn't make up for the extra power, and the Frost Titan–like ability and compares poorly to seldom-played 5-drops like Prognostic Sphinx.

Damnable Pact and Commune with Lava work as draw machines in colors that lack them, with some applications in aggressive decks (to kill opponents via Pact) or in combo decks like Commune. Both work by diversifying linear strategies in the colors, but they may be tough sells due to their relative inefficiencies.

Secure the Wastes, however, looks to be a solid addition to white Anthem and token decks as a Tempt with Vengeance that trades haste for “blue haste” (a.k.a. flash), and it works well when being cast for 5 or more.

Foe-Razer Regent is a big, green Flametongue Kavu in a color that doesn't see many of them and isn't hampered by being unable to kill Titans as much as it costs 7. That said, 7 in green is closer to 6 in other colors, and it's a decent (but not outstanding) reanimation or ramp target. Due to the shallowness for green 7-drops, it's a respectable add, but don't be surprised if it doesn't last long.

Narset Transcendent is in a narrow, archetypal role of Azorius control (unlike Ojutai's Command or Detention Sphere, which are solid in non-control decks also), and it works similarly to Domri Rade in midrange decks. Her impact on turn four is small, as she may draw a card, but after that, provided she survives, she provides a ton of value by being able to rebound spells through surviving activations.

Sarkhan Unbroken works like Sorin, Solemn Visitor by offering strong lines by either minusing twice or alternating plus and minusing for value (and like Sorin, the -2 protects him) and by putting a fast clock on an opponent. Due to him being three-colored, he can be a hard inclusion—while it doesn't offer the big body of Maelstrom Wanderer or the raw efficiency of Savage Knuckleblade, it's a card that rewards you well enough to justify its slot in a Cube.

Finally, Monuments pale to the unplayed the Keyrune cycle.

I hope you enjoyed this overview of what this powerful set brings for Cube!

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