Last updated on November 26, 2021
Niv-Mizzet Reborn | Illustration by Raymond Swanland
Dragons have been a staple of the fantasy genre ever since its inception. Winged serpents are depicted in works ever all the way back to the times of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s no surprise that they’ve made their way into the world’s most popular card game.
Dragons in Magic tend to be high-cost, impactful creatures that dominate the board. Their aesthetics coupled with their iconic designs are what makes them so attractive to players, from the times of Shivan Dragon all the way to the newest releases.
Today I’ll be looking at the vast history of this tribe and unraveling the best dragons in Magic. I’ll mostly look at dragons from a Commander standpoint as few make their way to formats like Standard or Modern.
Dragons in MTG
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
In Magic, dragons are always four-limbed winged serpents. Red is usually in their color identity and they’re mostly large, flying creatures.
People love dragons because they’re iconic. They’re widespread both across traditional fantasy and in Magic’s lore. They also appeal to more casual players for the simple reason that they let you swing with massive flying beaters at your opponent’s face.
While not the best color for dragons, white dragons tend to vary wildly in theme and aesthetic. There’s only a few of them, but some can be incredibly impactful.
First Place: Sunscorch Regent
Sunscorch Regent provides both +1/+1 counters and lifegain incredibly easily since your opponents are unlikely to simply stop casting spells when you play it. It’s especially effective in Commander where a longer game and the fact that you’ve got three opponents makes it easy to get 10 or 15 life and +1/+1 counters from this 5-drop.
It makes triggering Dawn of Hope and the like on your opponent’s turns a breeze. Sunscorch is also a great for dragon tribal strategies since it can help grow your other dragons and comes in relatively early in the game.
Second Place: Scalelord Reckoner
Scalelord Reckoner is only really run in one kind of deck: dragon tribal. It discourages you opponents from using removal on your dragons since they might have a permanent of their own destroyed in retaliation.
Third Place: Timeless Dragon
Timeless Dragon is a great recurring threat for casual and Commander decks alike. It provides a way to prevent flooding with lands in its plainscycling ability while also being able to eternalize and come back from the graveyard.
Blue hasn’t had many impactful dragons over the years with many of them being nothing but large beaters, a play style the color doesn’t usually go with. But there are some diamonds that shine through the rough.
First Place: Murktide Regent
This entry is more motivated by Modern and Legacy play than casual or Commander. Murktide Regent has made a massive impact on Modern as it revived delver archetypes and pushed Izzet Delver to the top of the format.
This Regent is an evasive threat that’s easy to cast for and can come down as early as turn 2 or 3 supported by the likes of Dragon’s Rage Channeler. That being said, the card isn’t half bad in Commander decks with spellslinger decks like Niv-Mizzet, Parun able to grow it to ridiculous proportions.
Second Place: Shimmer Dragon
Shimmer Dragon can be an incredible asset to any artifact-centric deck. This 6-drop provides you with easy card advantage the turn you play it. It’s a great way to take advantage of artifacts without tap abilities or to get out from your stax pieces like Winter Orb.
Shimmer can be quite difficult to get rid of with its protection effect not to mention it provides you with card advantage every turn. Coupled with an artifact un-tapper you can get ridiculous amounts of cards out of your deck with this dragon.
Third Place: Iymrith, Desert Doom
Iymrith, Desert Doom is an interesting one. Ward is usually enough to make your opponent think twice before targeting it and it works great as a beater or voltron target.
But one of the most interesting ways to play it is as a tempo commander. It can draw you three cards every time it hits one of your opponents and it becomes easy enough to get your hand size to 0 when taking advantage of blue’s cheaper counterspells and removal.
Black has some of the most interesting dragons in Magic. Although black dragons don’t have a cohesive theme, they all make a large impact on the board when played or, more interestingly, when they’re removed.
First Place: Kokusho, the Evening Star
Kokusho, the Evening Star lends itself to a variety of different play styles ranging from aristocrats to lifegain. It’ll drain all of your opponents for 5 when it dies, taking a quarter of your opponent’s life in 2-player formats and draining a total of 15 in Commander.
If you have an easy way to recur or even copy it, Kokusho can easily to finish your opponent off with just a couple uses of Ashnod’s Altar.
Second Place: Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon is possibly one of the most hated dragons in all of Magic. It’s a 4/4 flying infect creature that can easily regenerate and give itself haste. Skithiryx can kill an opponent with one swing after just a few boosts.
It’s part of quite a few dragon-centric combos in Commander and works especially well with Scion of the Ur-Dragon. You can transform Scion into Skithiryx before damage is dealt to get that sweet, sweet infect damage.
Third Place: Deathbringer Regent
Deathbringer Regent usually serves as a board wipe on a stick for Commander. There will almost always be at least five creatures on the battlefield which leaves you with a large beater when the dust settles.
Red is the color with the most dragons by far, sitting at an eye-popping 162 in total at the time of writing. It’s no surprise that the most fiery color wields the most of our favorite fire-breathing serpents.
First Place: Hellkite Tyrant
Hellkite Tyrant finds its place in almost any red Commander deck. Not only does it steal all of your opponent’s artifacts when it hits them (which can be rather devastating by itself – goodbye mana rocks!) but it also presents an alternate win condition.
Getting up to 20 artifacts in red is extremely easy by the time you cast Tyrant, with cards like Dockside Extortionist able to provide them extremely quickly. Remember that Treasures are artifacts. Because of this, Tyrant is a slam-dunk in most red Commander decks.
Second Place: Hellkite Charger
What’s the best thing besides attacking with a bunch of dragons? Attacking multiple times with a bunch of dragons! Hellkite Charger enables this tactic extremely well.
With enough mana you can swing with your creatures as many times as you want. This makes it a great outlet for infinite (or just large amounts of) mana. Using Bear Umbra on your Charger while you have lands that tap for seven or more mana leads to you taking infinite combat steps, just as an example.
Third Place: Goldspan Dragon
Goldspan Dragon is a menace in Standard and can be quite the powerhouse in Commander, especially with the likes of Magda, Brazen Outlaw. Part of its appeal is its relatively low cost combined with a flying haste body.
Its ability to make your Treasure sacrifice for two mana makes it easy to keep instants at the ready after swinging with Goldspan. Even if your opponent removes it, you still get a Treasure out of the deal if they used targeted removal.
Mono green is actually quite underwhelming when it comes to dragons. Few of them are efficient at what they do and they tend to be rather simple designs that do what green usually does.
First Place: Old Gnawbone
One of the few mono green dragons exploring relatively new design space is Old Gnawbone from the dragon-centric set Forgotten Realms. Although it’s a bit expensive, green lets you ramp into it quickly and you can generate massive amounts of Treasure simply by hitting your opponents from there.
Second Place: Jugan, the Rising Star
Jugan, the Rising Star is interesting in that it’s a death trigger in green. It’s usually played in multicolor decks that can get something out of sacrifice effects or a large number of +1/+1 counters.
Third Place: Foe-Razer Regent
Foe-Razer Regent is mostly held back by its high cost and relatively small stat line. Its ETB trigger can often be quite unimpactful when your opponents don’t have a low-toughness threat. It can however serve as a payoff in fight-themed Commander decks.
Although there are just 10 colorless dragons, some of them are actually pretty good. The most played dragon in Commander according to EDHRec is actually colorless.
First Place: Steel Hellkite
Steel Hellkite is a great card. It’s a colorless piece of repeatable removal attached to a creature with a useful type. Its fire-breathing effect can also be really useful for closing out games and can even take advantage of infinite mana to take out an opponent in a pinch.
Second Place: Draco
The original Draco is a weird Magic card. The biggest reason it gets played is that it’s the highest mana value card in black-border Magic. Only Gleemax tops it in silver-border. This means commanders like Yuriko, The Tiger’s Shadow and Volrath The Fallen can take advantage of it.
Third Place: Scion of Draco
Scion of Draco is amazing in Commander decks with a lot of colors and high creature-density. Granting keywords to your whole board is an amazing effect and Scion can cost as little as two mana to cast. This makes it amazing for dragon-tribal commanders.
There’s a lot of multicolor dragons out there. I’ll avoid the ones that make for great commanders as I’m going to focus on them in just a bit.
First Place: Nicol Bolas, the Ravager / Nicol Bolas, the Arisen
The only dragon capable of turning into a planeswalker, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager is a great addition to most Grixis decks. It’s pretty cheap at just four mana and has an impactful ETB effect that forces all your opponents to discard a card.
Although Nicol Bolas is the best of the “Elder Dragons,” it really shines in its planeswalker form. Here it acts as card advantage, removal, and even a way to remove a problematic player from the game. This Nicol Bolas is a great addition to any dragon-themed deck.
Second Place: Atarka, World Render
Speaking of dragon-themed decks, Atarka, World Render provides all of your dragons with even more punching power. Double strike is an incredibly powerful keyword and giving it to all your dragons in a dragon tribal Commander deck can easily spell doom for your opponents.
Third Place: Dragonlord Dromoka
On the other end of the spectrum, Dragonlord Dromoka is great at giving you much-needed protection. It can also serve as a way to prevent your opponents from interacting with a combo you’re about to pull off. This makes Dromoka incredibly versatile while it still shines in dragon decks.
Dragons are one of the most popular tribes in Magic. Because of this there’s an abundance of commanders you can use to helm a deck based around them.
First Place: The Ur-Dragon
The quintessential dragon commander, The Ur-Dragon helps alleviate one of dragon tribal’s biggest issues: dragons are expensive. Having all of your dragons cost less even while Ur-Dragon is in the command zone is massive.
This is the ideal commander for your dragon tribal deck if you’re just looking to slam down some big dragons and have them go to town. Sure, it doesn’t have the combo potential of Scion of the Ur-Dragon or the versatility of something like Ramos, Dragon Engine, but Ur-Dragon gives you more than enough in return.
Being a 5-color commander is also great since it lets you run all of the best dragons in one deck in addition to the best support suite.
Second Place: Ramos, Dragon Engine
If you’re looking for versatility, Ramos, Dragon Engine has you covered. Ramos can helm pretty much any kind of deck and be good at it.
You want to play an aggressive, low-curve deck? Ramos gives you 10 mana every time you cast 5-color spells.
What about a slow, durdly control gameplan? Ramos helps you get ahead on mana and can even serve as a finisher in longer games. Plus you can remove them on your opponent’s turns to play some surprise counters with enough counters.
Superfriends is easy with Ramos. Most planeswalkers are multicolored, meaning you just need to cast a few to get the mana to cast more.
Ramos isn’t even bad as a voltron commander despite being six mana. Pretty much every spell you cast makes it bigger.
Third Place: Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Although Niv-Mizzet, Parun isn’t the most creative Magic card ever (it draws cards and burns in Izzet, how novel), it makes for incredibly fun games. Playing this iteration of Niv-Mizzet is super fun. Every instant or sorcery is suddenly both card draw and a small ping. If you’re a fan of spellslinger decks, you won’t regret giving Parun a shot.
Although dragons are great on paper, they don’t tend to perform well as a cohesive tribe in 60-card formats. There is some hope for Standard 2022 to have a competitive dragon tribal deck, though.
Dragons are a great tribe in Commander, though. They’re usually fairly simple, playing either combo with Scion of the Ur-Dragon or employing a beatdown plan, but they have a lot of ways to accomplish that. There are a bunch of different commanders that can helm dragon decks at different power levels.
All in all, dragons are one of the better tribes in Magic. They might not be elves or goblins but they do just fine by themselves.
What Color Has the Most Dragons?
The color with the most dragons right now is red by far, with 162 dragons that have red in their color identity. Second place is black with 51, blue and green are tied at 49, and white is last with 45.
The title of “best dragon” is difficult to give. There’s an abundance of dragons in Magic and the decision will always depend on the format. That being said, I do have a winner.
With the number of 2-color dragons available it can make for a great dragon tribal commander and can also helm a deck completely unrelated to the tribe. This versatility means that you can’t really go wrong when building with this iteration of Niv-Mizzet.
The set with the most dragons is Dragons of Tarkir, sitting at 26 different dragons. The second set in terms of dragon-count is Forgotten Realms with 16 different dragons. The third best set for number of dragons is Fate Reforged with 11.
In Magic, a drake is like a dragon except that they don’t have any front legs. They’re also a different creature type which unfortunately means that cards like Peregrine Drake are a no-go for dragon tribal decks.
“Elder dragon” was initially a creature type separate from both “elder” and “dragon.” It appeared exclusively on the original Elder Dragons in Legends. Back then the only Elder Dragons were the oldest dragons on Dominaria. They rivaled the power of planeswalkers which were quite a bit more powerful back in those days. They were even aware of their name the moment they hatched.
Afterwards the “elder” and “dragon” types were separated which made Elder Dragons mechanically dragons. Today, Elder Dragons are dragons that are simply ancient and usually sapient. They appeared in the Khans block as well as Strixhaven.
The original Elder Dragons are the most ancient dragon race in Dominaria. But Dominaria was struck by war in their age and only seven of them made it through. There were other dragons within the war like Merrevia Sal, Rubra, Ravus, and Lividus that haven’t been printed on any cards yet, so we’ll just skip them.
Elder Dragons that can claim printings in Magic sets are:
- Nicol Bolas
- Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
- Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
- Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
- Nicol Bolas, the Deceiver
- Nicol Bolas, the Ravager / Nicol Bolas, the Arisen
On Tarkir, each clan has a dragon ruler called a Dragonlord. These received the “elder” type because of their age and power.
The founders of the five colleges on Strixhaven were all given the title of Elder Dragon.
What’s the Best Elder Dragon?
In terms of aesthetics or lore, the question of the best Elder Dragon is pretty open. But in actual gameplay there’s no doubt that Nicol Bolas, the Ravager takes the top spot. Its ETB effect is impactful and once it’s transformed it becomes an incredible planeswalking threat.
The only planeswalker capable of turning into a dragon is Sarkhan Vol. His ability to do so is represented on the following cards:
- Sarkhan the Masterless turns all of your planeswalkers into dragons with its +1 ability.
- Sarkhan, The Dragonspeaker turns into a dragon with its +1 ability.
Steel Hellkite | Illustration by James Paick
Dragons are one of Magic’s premiere tribes and they offer a variety of different playstyles. Whether you want to make a dragon-only EDH deck or play a top-tier deck in Pioneer, you can make it work with dragons.
Red is the color you should use if you’re looking to pack your deck full of dragons. There are some commanders out there that can be a huge help with getting your dragons out nice and early so you can hit some faces.
Did I miss your favorite dragon? What commander does your dragon tribal deck use? Let me know in the comments below or head over to our Discord if that’s more your thing.