Last updated on October 1, 2021
Galazeth Prismari | Illustration by Raymond Swanland
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s superman! Wait… no it’s not.
When you think about big flying stuff in the sky, the only creature you should think of is a dragon. With Dungeon & Dragons finally featuring in its own set, these mighty creatures have returned in earnest. But make no mistake, dragons have been part of Magic lore since its beginning.
As you may have guessed, today is all about dragons. But are they popular enough to conquer the competitive scene? Let’s find out!
Goldspan Dragon | Illustrated by Andrew Mar
Since rotation just hit us, it only makes sense to highlight a deck from new Standard. Let’s take a look at the mighty Izzet Dragons. This deck is insane. Not only are all its creatures dragons, but it also has powerful spells that aim to interact during each phase of the game. Take a look:
In a format dominated by Orzhov and green decks featuring Esika’s Chariot, you want to make sure to keep up with both at the same time. This is why this deck runs a combination of removal and tempo spells that aim to control the game depending on the situation.
With that in mind, look at this as a control deck where its finishers are giant destructive creatures flying across the sky.
Let’s start with the stars of the deck: the dragons!
The first creature of the deck is a baby dragon in the form of an egg that’s very good to stop aggro strategies. A few instants and sorceries later and Smoldering Egg becomes a massive threat that aims to dominate the board while you protect it. The main synergy is getting to play Alrund’s Epiphany and untap with a transformed or almost transformed dragon.
Now, is being dragon tribal worth it? I’d say so. There are only a few removal spells that can kill 4 toughness creatures and one of them is Power Word Kill.
The primary removal spell you have in this build is Dragon’s Fire. It deals three damage to any target in a vacuum but with eight dragons with 4 or more power in your deck it may as well say, “kill any creature that bothers you.”
Next we have Shatterskull Smashing playing a dual role as removal and land. Control decks struggle the most when they flood or get mana screwed. You’re basically running a deck with 26 lands which is just a bit more than what an ideal control deck runs. Modal double-faced cards lands are excellent examples of outstanding card design.
Counterspells are without a doubt the most annoying spells in Magic, but they’re an excellent addition if you want to interact throughout all the game’s phases. Saw It Coming is available in this format. It covers most of your angles especially since you don’t care about cheap spells since most of them will be creatures that you can burn.
Strixhaven delivered one of the most potent card advantage engines we’ve had in a while with Expressive Iteration. You’ll be looking to play this 2-drop from turn 3+ in this deck. You can hit land and play it on the same turn which is very similar to drawing two out of three cards for two mana. This card is so powerful that it sees play in older formats as well and even in Vintage, which is a very exclusive club these days.
That being said, Iteration isn’t the only way this deck generates card advantage. A single copy of Behold the Multiverse has a very similar effect, especially if you cast it for its foretell cost.
Finally we have Alrund’s Epiphany. It isn’t card advantage by itself but your opponent probably won’t survive if you chain a couple Epiphanies with a dragon in play. Time Warp effects are potent and work best in decks that can exploit them like this one.
I already talked about the MDFCs lands that we run but those aren’t the only non-basic lands you have.
Fixing is critical so you need to run Riverglide Pathway to help. Prismari Campus is an excellent addition as well, not only because it helps you cast your spells on a curve but also because it helps smooth your draws a bit in the late game.
Finally, Den of the Bugbear and Hall of Storm Giants fill the last few slots. Both fulfill very similar roles in which they can threaten activation anytime. I must say that they shine the most on empty boards along with Alrund’s Epiphany.
Saw It Coming | Illustrated by Randy Vargas
Some interactions may be very intuitive, but some are a bit more difficult to spot if you haven’t played with the deck before or haven’t seen it in action. But don’t worry, I’ve got you!
- Behold the Multiverse, Saw It Coming, Alrund’s Epiphany, and Crush the Weak all have foretell, so you can trick your opponent into thinking you have foretell cards you’ve already shown, especially in games 2 and 3. For example, if you cast Saw It Coming in game 1, your opponent may assume you foretold that card and are holding a counterspell when in reality you have something else up your sleeve, leading them to play more conservatively than they usually would.
- Remember to always play Expressive Iteration from turn 3 onwards. That way you can exploit it the most if you’re looking for land. Also remember not to play a land before casting Iteration.
- Foretell and Expressive Iteration don’t mix well together so don’t mistake exiting a card to foretell it later. You’ll most likely just be losing your card.
- It’s always a good idea to lead with your MDFCs cards as lands in the early turns rather than holding them. Unless you feel like you’re drawing more lands than needed, consider playing them on their land side rather than having them in your hand before making basic land drops. You could end up behind on tempo or just lose three life for no reason otherwise.
- As I’ve already mentioned, Dragon’s Fire can kill creatures based on the power of your mighty dragons, but it’s not worth revealing your plans to your opponent if you’re killing small creatures. Also keep in mind that it says “you choose,” meaning the spell won’t fizzle if your opponent kills your dragon in response.
Crush the Weak | Illustrated by Lucas Graciano
You have the upper hand in game 1 against aggro matchups since the format isn’t fast enough to pressure you to the point where you want to run more removal than needed. Four copies of Burning Hands are perfect against green decks. Counterspells are bad against these strategies so those should be the first to get cut unless you see Esika’s Chariot on the other side of the field in game 1. In that case, your sideboard should be a little different.
Don’t feel bad cutting a couple of dragons if needed, but I wouldn’t remove any copies of Goldspan Dragon. It’s by far is the best of them all.
Other Aggro/Midrange Decks
You should burn your opponent’s ramp guys and counter their big spells like Esika’s Chariot and Wrenn and Seven against these kinds of decks. Then you can bring in some copies of Into the Roil for the tempo plays and bounce their big treefolk tokens post-sideboard.
Speaking of snow, Volatile Fjord is an auto-include to fix your mana base if you do end up running Frost Bite.
Another card that benefits from snow lands and Graven Lore is great when it comes to card advantage. I wouldn’t run a complete set but I’d feel very comfortable with a couple copies.
You can switch your copies of Spikefield Hazard for Jwari Disruption if you feel like you need more counterspells in your deck. This should do the trick and catch your opponent off-guard, even if it’s not a great card.
Divide by Zero is an excellent card to set up the tempo, plus it gives you access to your lesson board, and it also bounces spells that can’t be countered.
Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration
It’s not a dragon but Delver of Secrets can flip as early as turn 2 and start beating your opponent for cheap. Games are almost always over with two of these transformed on the field.
Burn Down the House
Burn Down the House comes in handy if you’re behind on the board and when you’re ahead or don’t want to kill your dragons. It can create three devils that are annoying for your opponent to deal with at the very least.
Terror of the Peaks | Illustration by Andrey Kuzinskiy
Although this deck is best in BO1, it can also be a fine BO3 deck if you don’t expect to run into tons of graveyard hate since your gameplan relies on reanimating your dragons or casting Dragonstorm.
It all starts with Bladewing the Risen and Dragonstorm in the graveyard. Cast Dragonstorm with Mizzix’s Mastery to find Terror of the Peaks and another Bladewing. Bring your dead Bladewing back from the graveyard and sacrifice the other to the legend rule. Your fresh Bladewing ability goes to the stack and you target the one you just sacrificed. This creates an infinite loop that you can stop at any time.
What’s the point of doing all this? Well, your Terror triggers stack every time a Bladewing enters the battlefield, so you can deal as much damage as you want to your opponent’s face if everything goes according to plan.
Scourge of Valkas | Illustration by Lucas Graciano
Pact of Negation
Chain of Vapor
Peer Through Depths
Fact or Fiction
Force of Will
Wheel of Fortune
Past in Flames
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Speaking of Dragonstorm. This deck is very near and dear to my heart as it’s one of the most fun to maneuver. At least for me. It’s a bit more complicated than the Historic version, but it is faster.
You run a bunch of tutors and cheap spells to create little synergies, most of them relying on High Tide and untapping lands to cast multiple spells in a single turn. When all of that is done, boom! Throw down a big Dragonstorm to win on the spot. The idea here is to order your triggers correctly since Worldgorger Dragon is its core.
You’ll need to stack everything in a way that it resolves like this:
- Exile all permanents as Worldgorger enters the battlefield.
- Deal five damage to Worldgorger.
- Play Scourge of Valkas and deal the remaining 2 damage to Worldgorger using Valkas’ ability.
After Valkas’ ability resolves Worldgorger will die, bringing back every other dragon including Bladewing the Risen. Bladewing brings back Worldgorger which triggers Valkas’ and Worldgorger’s abilities.
Have Valkas’ ability resolve last and then deal six damage to Worldgorger with the help of Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind or Shivan Dragon. Worldgorger’s exile ability will resolve and exile all your dragons, and then bring them back again when Valkas’ damage kills Worldgorger again. Rinse and repeat until you get bored or finally decide to deal the final blow to your opponent.
Tiamat | Illustrated by Chris Rahn
Valki, God of Lies
Nadaar, Selfless Paladin
Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
Esika, God of the Tree
Icingdeath, Frost Tyrant
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
Kenrith, the Returned King
Iymrith, Desert Doom
Adult Gold Dragon
Terror of the Peaks
Inferno of the Star Mounts
Lathliss, Dragon Queen
Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner
Bladewing the Risen
Terror of Mount Velus
Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
Temple of Malady
Temple of the Dragon Queen
The World Tree
Finally, a deck that’s a bit fairer than the ones we just saw! This is a pseudo-control deck with a bunch of dragons in it. Having five colors means you have access to the most powerful spells available on the format, so that’s a plus.
Iymrith, Desert Doom | Illustrated by Antonio José Manzanedo
Hopefully this journey across formats showcased what I think will be one of the most powerful decks post-rotation. I also didn’t want to miss this opportunity to show how potent dragons are in other formats.
What do you think? Do you like dragons as much as I do, or would you rather be a dragon slayer? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to grab Arena Tutor if you’re playing on MTGA a lot and want a free app to track your matches.
As always, take care and have a good one!