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Last updated on July 25, 2022

Nicol Bolas, the Arisen - Illustration by Svetlin Velinov

Nicol Bolas, the Arisen | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov

Magic’s lore is always expanding and being built upon, but where it starts is as important as where it ends. The early lore revolves around the plane of Dominaria which was ruled by (and a constant battleground of) the surviving Elder Dragons. The dragons gained their “elder” status by surviving the great Dragon War and spawning the offspring that would later become all other dragons in the multiverse.

Today I’d like to present you with a swath of information about the specific origins of the Elder Dragons, their individual stories, and rank their cards against one another.

Let’s get into it!

How Many Elder Dragons Are There in MTG?

Galazeth Prismari - Illustration by Raymond Swanland

Galazeth Prismari | Illustration by Raymond Swanland

There are currently 21 Elder Dragons in Magic. They’re all multicolored legendary creatures with varying combat stats, unique abilities, and they usually revolve around themes from their color pairings. New Elder Dragons are periodically released when it’s within the theme for the set, with the most recent being the dragons from Strixhaven.

The Lore and History of Elder Dragons

The Elder Dragons were the most powerful and ancient beings in the multiverse and were as powerful as (if not more than) planeswalkers. Some of them even were planeswalkers!

Their lore begins with an ancient Dragon War on Dominaria where the winners became the last remaining Elder Dragons. These are the ancestors of all other dragons while the losers were cast down and became wurms instead. Former Elder Dragons became cards like Elderscale Wurm and Massacre Wurm.

The seven original Elder Dragons (Chromium, Arcades Sabboth, Palladia-Mors, Nicol Bolas, Ugin, Vaevictis Asmadi, and Piru, the Volatile) were the only survivors of the ancient war. These final survivors dispersed their spawn across the multiverse and are the ultimate ancestor to every other drake and dragon.

The Elder Dragons were known to having extreme anger, wrath, and lust for power. Vaevictis Asmadi tried to gain power over Dominaria by manipulating the mortals but was ultimately killed by one of the other surviving Elders. Chromium tried to be the peacekeeper between the surviving Elder Dragons and trapped both Vaevictis Asmadi and Palladia-Mors for many generations.

The Original Legends/Chronicles Elder Dragons

Five of the original eleven surviving Elder Dragons saw print for the very first time in 1994’s Legends. Ugin didn’t get a creature card since he was dead, Lividus, Ravus, and Rubra never saw print, and Piru didn’t see print until Strixhaven. This leaves Arcades, Chromium, Nicol Bolas, Palladia-Mors, and Vaevictis, who were all minted for the first time in Legends.

Arcades Sabboth

Arcades Sabboth

Arcades Sabboth was the brother to Nicol Bolas and Chromium, the Dragonlord to the humans of Dominaria, and he was worshipped in return for guidance. Arcades became the ruler of Dominaria after the war thanks to Nicol Bolas leaving following his discovery of his spark and becoming a planeswalker.

Arcades was unfortunately killed by the planeswalker Kristina of the Woods, who hasn’t seen print and is only mentioned in the Wayfarer comic series by Jeff Gomez.

Chromium Rhuell

Chromium

The Esper Elder Dragon, Chromium Rhuell was the brother to Nicol Bolas, Ugin, Arcades Sabboth, and Palladia-Mors. He had a noticeably sleek structure and polished metallic scales.

Chromium survived the war by hiding among the humans and carefully avoiding the combat. He was killed by Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools at the end of the Ice Age period following the Brother’s War.

Nicol Bolas

Nicol Bolas

Nicol Bolas, the most infamous of the surviving Elder Dragons, was also the prime victor of the Dragon War and the only one besides Ugin to ignite his spark and become a planeswalker. When Ugin eventually dueled Nicol Bolas in the meditation realm, Bolas succeeded in killing him.

But their fight moved from the meditation realm into various planes. When Bolas was eventually able to finish Ugin off, he was cast back through over a hundred planes and eventually crashed into Dominaria again.

Bolas’ end came at the end of War of the Spark thousands of years after killing Ugin. He was permanently imprisoned within Ugin’s meditation realm to prevent him from being resurrected or resummoned. With this imprisonment Bolas became mortal again and he’ll die in a few thousand years as Ugin watches over him.

Palladia-Mors

Palladia-Mors

Palladia-Mors was one of the most vicious and aggressive of the Elder Dragons and focused mostly on hunting and violence in her youth. Little is known on Mors or her lore, but she was known for burning down a large town after humans mistakenly charged her with kidnapping a child. Her death is also not completely accounted for, but she was eventually put to sleep forever by Chromium sometime before the Brothers’ War.

Vaevictis Asmadi

Vaevictis Asmadi

Despite the mostly tame and curious nature of the surviving Elder Dragons, Vaevictis Asmadi was incredibly ugly, aggressive, and an expert manipulator. It was his descendants that started the original Dragon War by raiding and defeating Bolas in his own lands.

Unfortunately for Asmadi he was eventually transformed into a measly welp by Faralyn and was killed by Chromium when he tried to awaken his sleeping sister, Palladia-Mors.

The Dragons of Tarkir Elder Dragons

The Elder Dragons of Tarkir were the dragons born by the storms when Ugin was killed by Nicol Bolas. They were completely killed off by the human clans in the original Khans timeline. But Sarkhan successfully traveled back in time and saved Ugin from Bolas’ wrath.

During Ugin’s recovery period, storms still travelled across Tarkir and spawned the Elder Dragons of Tarkir. These new alternative-timeline dragons became the new leaders of the previously Khan-led clans.

Atarka

Dragonlord Atarka

Dragonlord Atarka is the Gruul Elder Dragon of Tarkir who was notably covered in antlers and horns. She eventually won over the favor of the Temur clan and led a comfortable life being fed mammoth carcasses in her den.

There’s limited information about her death in the alternative timeline. All we know is that she reached Elder Dragon status by having successful offspring.

Dromoka

Dragonlord Dromoka

Dragonlord Dromoka is Tarkir’s Selesnya Elder Dragon who had a much more peaceful temperament than that of Atarka. She’s described as being peaceful and patient and she eventually led the Abzan clan, which was later renamed the Clan of Dromoka.

Dromoka would separate children from parents, doing all she could to deter the kin-tree traditions that were abolished after her birth.

Ojutai

Dragonlord Ojutai

Dragonlord Ojutai was considered the wisest of the five Elder Dragons of Tarkir and was the leader of Clan Ojutai, formerly the Jeskai Way. Upon taking power he had every Jeskai warrior executed as a term of their surrender. Despite his vastly anti-human nature, Ojutai took in Narset as his student and allowed her to continue her life and studies after learning of the original Khans and the time before the Ojutai rule.

If you’re looking for a unique take on a dragon tribal deck, we’ve got a Commander deck guide for you featuring this Elder Dragon right here.

Silumgar

Dragonlord Silumgar

Dragonlord Silumgar is the opposite of Atarka: murderous and vile as opposed to patient and merciful. He led Clan Silumgar after taking over the Sultai Brood in the alternative timeline.

He originally failed his quest and was killed by Tasigur, the Golden Fang, who declared the ground where he died as a holy worshipping site. Silumgar ruled as you might expect from his Dimir color pairing: through extortion, blackmail, murder, and betrayal.

Kolaghan

Dragonlord Kolaghan

Finally we have Dragonlord Kolaghan, the Rakdos Elder Dragon of Tarkir who took over the Mardu Horde and transformed it into Clan Kolaghan. Her leadership was a straightforward combination of violence and cruelty. This differs from the original Mardu way that included rules and honor. Clan Kolaghan wanted to raze and burn every other Clan they could find and left no room for peace or honor.

The M19 Elder Dragons

With the release of Core Set 2019 came new versions of the five original Elder Dragons from Legends. The story for the set revolved around the ongoing conflict between Nicol Bolas and his brother Ugin.

The storyline for the set primarily focuses on the origin story of the five dragons and the ongoing battle between the brothers. Here are the five new versions of those previously mentioned Elders:

The Strixhaven Elder Dragons

There are five elite magical schools on the plane of Strixhaven, each founded by one of the Elder Dragons of Arcavios. These colleges are Lorehold, Prismari, Quandrix, Silverquill, and Witherbloom. They’re each named after their founding Dragon.

There’s very little lore on the Elder Dragons of Arcavios other than their role in founding their unique colleges, and their birth from the magical combination of two planes.

Lorehold

Velomachus Lorehold

Velomachus Lorehold is the founder of the Boros college Lorehold. The only direct lore regarding Velomachus is her role in founding the Lorehold college and her being saved by Witherbloom’s Lisette, Dean of the Root.

Prismari

Galazeth Prismari

Galazeth Prismari is the founder of the Prismari college. Again, there’s very limited lore about the Elder Dragon other than his “flair for the dramatic.”

Quandrix

Tanazir Quandrix

The founder of the Quandrix College is none other than Tanazir Quandrix, the Simic Elder Dragon of the plane.

Silverquill

Shadrix Silverquill

The ultra-competitive and elite college of Silverquill traces its roots back to the famous Orzhov-colored Elder Dragon Shadrix Silverquill.

Witherbloom

Beledros Witherbloom

Finally there’s the Witherbloom college, which of course was founded by the Golgari Elder Dragon Beledros Witherbloom.

The Other Elder Dragon: Piru, the Volatile

Piru, the Volatile MH2

The only Elder Dragon I haven’t mentioned so far is Piru, the Volatile. Despite being one of the oldest Elder Dragons and life partner to Chromium, Piru didn’t see print until Modern Horizons 2.

Piru and Chromium are the birth parents to the Primeval Dragon Crosis, the Purger, who was eventually defeated and imprisoned by Captain Sisay of the Weatherlight Saga. Piru was eventually killed by Dakkon Blackblade, an ancient planeswalker who served Geyadrone Dihada.

Ranking All of the Elder Dragons

It wouldn’t be a proper Elder Dragons tell-all if it didn’t have a list ranking of all the dragons mentioned here! I’m going to rank these based on general power level and their use in a format like Commander. All of the Elder Dragons are legal in Commander and, while the same can be said for Vintage, that power level is obviously leagues ahead.

#21. Palladia-Mors

Palladia-Mors

Starting off our list is the original Elder Dragon from Legends, Palladia-Mors. The first section of our list has a few of these OG flyers, mostly because of what power creep has done to the game and their overall huge mana costs.

Palladia-Mors just doesn’t have anything going for it. 7/7 flying trample is barely good enough to justify the eight-mana cost, especially when it’s . The upkeep cost turns this card from below-average to downright garbage and definitely not something you should try and build around in Commander.

#20. Chromium

Chromium

Unfortunately, my personal favorite Elder Dragon is second to last in these rankings. Chromium just doesn’t do enough for its mana cost. To just have a decent combat ability that can be played around in exchange for isn’t acceptable, at least not nowadays. On the bright side it’s a beautiful card and the art is stunning.

#19. Arcades Sabboth

Arcades Sabboth

Next up on the list is Arcades Sabboth, another original Legends Elder Dragon. The upkeep costs really kill this creature for me, especially when you already pay an arm and a leg to get it into play in the first place.

Being able to pump defense for isn’t great and can be easily played around. If Arcades gave your entire team +2/+2 and flying then maybe we’d have something to write home about.

#18. Vaevictis Asmadi

Vaevictis Asmadi

Next up is, you guessed it, the fourth Legends Elder Dragon on this list: Vaevictis Asmadi. Vaevictis at least has a threatening ability that lets you sink mana into it to pump the attack.

I’d play this card if each of its abilities gave some other kind of bonus. Like if green gave trample, red gave haste, and black gave deathtouch or spawned a 2/2 dragon. That would turn it from pretty low tier to pretty great and a combo piece or infinite mana outlet in the command zone.

#17. Shadrix Silverquill

Shadrix Silverquill

Finally a non-OG Elder Dragon, Shadrix Silverquill takes the 17th spot in these rankings. This is a fun card but it can be hard to bend the combat ability to your advantage and a 2/5 for is poor.

I think this card is kind of a let-down since having the abilities be always-negative and using it as a double-edged sword would be just as cool and possibly more on-theme with the Orzhov color pairing.

#16. Beledros Witherbloom

Beledros Witherbloom

16th place goes to Beledros Witherbloom, the founder of Witherbloom college and the second Strixhaven Elder Dragon to appear on the list so far. I think Witherbloom is a pretty cool design and the constant 1/1s is definitely an annoying mechanic for your opponent to deal with.

But this card just sucks considering the price tag. The 10-life ability is neat and can pop off, but I’d rather just have Lathril, Blade of the Elves instead. It’s a great elf commander, after all.

#15. Chromium, the Mutable

Chromium, the Mutable

Woohoo, my man Chromium, the Mutable is back! Sadly he’s not in first place, just 15th. This card’s ability to become an unblockable hexproof 1/1 human is kind of sneaky and can be great to kill your opponent with commander damage.

Don’t forget that Chromium doesn’t have any passive effects from auras or enchantments and loses them until the ability resolves if you activate its ability. This activated ability is more of an “uh oh” button that helps deter him from things like Path to Exile.

#14. Dragonlord Silumgar

Dragonlord Silumgar

The first of the Tarkir Dragons to appear on this list is Dragonlord Silumgar who comes in at #14. I think this card is pretty pathetic overall for an Elder Dragon, but being able to steal an even larger creature gives it some weight. It doesn’t have the best stats for a Dragon. That enter the battlefield ability kind of carries it.

#13. Nicol Bolas

Nicol Bolas

The last of the OG Elder Dragons is Nicol Bolas, who’s awarded 13th in these rankings. This version of Nicol Bolas is still the weakest but isn’t a bad card overall.

Discarding an entire hand is akin to death, especially if your opponent has 3+ cards in hand. The upkeep cost is still a pain, but the fact that you win if this card resolves and your opponent has no legal blockers is a testament to the strength of the Elder Dragon himself.

#12. Dragonlord Atarka

Dragonlord Atarka

Dragonlord Atarka is where this list starts to really ramp up. This dragon actually has good baseline stats for the mana cost and also has an ETB ability that carries serious weight. Five damaged split however you want is great, even if it’s a 5-damage fireball to the face.

#11. Dragonlord Kolaghan

Dragonlord Kolaghan

Following Atarka is Dragonlord Kolaghan in 11th place. The widespread haste mechanic is really the attraction here, not the 10-damage ability. This card only really sees play in Commander where that ability is never going to trigger.

Having widespread haste is completely on theme with the Rakdos gameplan, which allows this Elder Dragon to not stress about having to find a spot in mid-level Rakdos EDH decks.

#10. Dragonlord Ojutai

Dragonlord Ojutai

Yet another Tarkir Elder Dragon is up next, and this time it’s Dragonlord Ojutai starting off the top ten. This dragon is a value engine that generates card advantage. It also has a low casting cost relative to the other creatures on this list at , which can carry a lot of weight.

#9. Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner

Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner

Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner finally gets revenge for being ranked last and swings in at 9th place. This renewed version is more powerful than the OG.

A 6/6 with flying, hexproof, trample, and vigilance is an absolute limited bomb and a decent midrange pick for Commander. This has a home in any deck where you can ramp it out early and potentially buff it up before swinging in for a ridiculous amount of damage.

#8. Piru, the Volatile

Piru, the Volatile MH2

8th place goes to Piru, the Volatile, the last OG Elder Dragon on this list (minus the fact that she wasn’t printed until MH2)! Volatile is the perfect adjective for this Dragon since killing it means near-certain death for every other creature on the battlefield.

#7. Tanazir Quandrix

Tanazir Quandrix

The 7th place spot goes to the Simic Elder Dragon, Tanazir Quandrix. This card is sweet in practically any Simic EDH deck that generates a lot of mana to create a wide board presence. Turning a million Saplings or small tokens into 4/4s is great, and it’s exactly what you want from a big-mana Simic deck.

#6. Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire

Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire

Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire comes in at 6th place and has a lot of power behind it. Choosing enemy permanents to destroy with the only downside being your opponent getting whatever is on top of their library is a great trade off. You’ll usually see them pull a land or some instant/sorcery that can’t be played. At worst this hits a dual land, but at best it hits some combo piece.

#5. Velomachus Lorehold

Velomachus Lorehold

The founder of Lorehold, Velomachus Lorehold is an aggressive 5/5 flyer that starts off the top five of this list. I really like this card’s ability, and the thought of ripping something like a Boros Charm or Waves of Aggression rubs me the right way. I want it.

#4. Arcades, the Strategist

Arcades, the Strategist

4th place goes to Arcades, the Strategist, who I’m personally considering making a Commander deck with. Defenders are balanced around the fact that they won’t be attacking, and turning these creatures into attackers with power equal to their usually high toughness is insane. Four mana is also an appropriate mana cost especially when you’re getting an entire 3/5 flying vigilance creature for that.

#3. Galazeth Prismari

Galazeth Prismari

Third place is owed to Galazeth Prismari, the founder of the elite Prismari School. I like Prismari because at worst Galazeth is a 4-mana 3/4 flyer that makes a Treasure token. It’s sort of a nerfed Goldspan Dragon. It has huge upside in an Izzet artifact or Storm deck and could very easily pop off if you have enough cheap artifacts.

#2. Dragonlord Dromoka

Dragonlord Dromoka

2nd place goes to the ever-strong stax piece, Dragonlord Dromoka. Essentially just a Grand Abolisher on a dragon, Dromoka still brings strong stats for its 6-mana value cost. A 5/7 flying lifelinker is no joke, especially if you’re low on removal.

#1. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager / Nicol Bolas, the Arisen

In 1st place we have Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. This Elder Dragon is miles ahead of any others on this list. A 4/4 flyer for four is pretty good, and this card goes from good to great with the upside of making your opponent discard and later coming back as the planeswalker Nicol Bolas, the Arisen.

Is Ugin an Elder Dragon?

Despite only ever having been printed as a planeswalker, Ugin is still an Elder Dragon. He was a survivor of the original Dragon War that left the few surviving Elder Dragons, he was killed by Nicol Bolas, and he eventually resummoned as a spirit planeswalker. Ugin is an essential part to most of the Magic lore and is one of the most powerful beings to exist.

Is Elder a Creature Type?

Elder is a subtype of its own. It’s not a combination with Dragon to form “Elder Dragon,” it’s its own separate type. This means that you could name Elder instead of Dragon on cards like Cavern of Souls and still have effect work as intended.

What Happened to the Elder Dragons?

The story of each of the Elder Dragons usually ends in some form of betrayal or tragic death. The original Dragons of Tarkir were all killed off before reaching Elder status. The surviving Elder Dragons of the Dragon War were killed by one another in power struggles or resurrected as spirits, like Ugin. The Dragons of Strixhaven are the only ones that are untainted by tragedy since they’re still alive and lay in their dens in Arcavios.

Elder Dragon isn’t a common creature subtype. It’s reserved for legitimate Elder Dragons in the story. This means that you won’t get randomly sprinkled Elder Dragon cards in any given set. You’ll only see them in sets where the Dragons are being resurrected, new Dragons are being introduced, or there are reprints.

Wrap Up

Dragonlord Dromoka - Illustration by Eric Deschamps

Dragonlord Dromoka | Illustration by Eric Deschamps

That is just about everything there is to know about the Elder Dragons in the world of Magic. Did I miss anything? Is there any lore you’d like me to expanded on? Maybe the origins of The Ur-Dragon and how this whole thing started before it was started? Let me know down in the comments or over in our Draftsim Discord.

Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!

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