DTK/FRF: Dragons

Dragons of Tarkir has more Dragons than most sets. But does it have enough to merit drafting either Dragon Tempest or Dragonlord’s Servant? And do the tribal abilities on some of the Dragons in the set affect their value? Probably not, but let’s double check.

All the Dragons in Dragons of Tarkir and Fate Reforged are either monocolor or in an allied color pair.

  • Common: Fate Reforged has Lightning Shrieker, which is usually only played as a Lava Axe in very aggressive decks.
  • Uncommon: Dragons of Tarkir has a cycle of monocolored 3/3 Dragons for 5C (they can also be played face down and have a megamorph cost of 5CC), and a cycle of 4/4 allied color Dragons that costs 4CD. There’s the colorless Scion of Ugin, which rarely sees play but might be playable in a Dragons tribal deck. And Fate Reforged has a cycle of monocolored 4/4 Dragons for 4CC.
  • Rare: Dragons of Tarkir has a cycle of monocolored Dragons, and another cycle of allied color Dragons. Fate Reforged has a cycle of allied color legendary Dragons.
  • Mythic: Dragons of Tarkir has the allied color Elder Dragon cycle.

If we exclude the mostly unplayable Lightning Shrieker, all colors have access to the same number of Dragons as each other, and all allied color pairs have access to the same number of Dragons as each other. There are an average of 0.9 allied color Dragons in each allied color pair, 1.6 monocolored Dragons in each color, and 0.6 Scions of Ugin in an 8-person draft. Consequently, a monocolor deck has access to 2.2 Dragons, an enemy color deck has access to 3.8 Dragons, and an allied color deck has access to 4.7 Dragons. However, you’re unlikely to be passed a mythic or rare Dragon in the first pack of Dragons of Tarkir, and even the uncommon allied color Dragons won’t make it very far, so in practice you’re unlikely to see more than 2-3 Dragons in your colors if you draft an allied color deck.

That’s enough to make it worth playing Dragonlord’s Servant in a slower R/X deck (U/R control or R/G ramp), since it’s still a 1/3 for 2 mana and so can also help you survive until you can start casting Dragons. However, it’s difficult to justify playing Dragon Tempest if you only have 2-3 Dragons, so you probably shouldn’t bother drafting it, even on the wheel. And the Dragon tribal effects will rarely be relevant, so you don’t want to value those cards any higher than usual.

Are any of these cards more valuable in a 3+ color deck? A 3-color shard deck has access to an average of 7.2 Dragons, a 4-color deck has access to an average of 9.7 Dragons, and a 5-color deck has access to all 13 Dragons in a typical 8-person draft. Most decks wouldn’t want to run more than a few, but you’re drafting a 3+ color control deck that runs red, Dragonlord’s Servant should go up in your pick order. However, so much needs to go right for Dragon Tempest to be even somewhat decent that you’re still better off passing under most circumstances.

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DTK/FRF: Warriors

Warriors was a viable archetype in KTK/KTK/KTK and FRF/KTK/KTK. Dragons of Tarkir has a few Warrior tribal cards, but are they good enough, and are they supported by enough good Warriors, that the archetype remains viable in DTK/DTK/FRF?

Let’s start by looking at the Warrior tribal cards in Dragons of Tarkir:

  • White: Herald of Dromoka (common), Arashin Foremost (rare)
  • Black: Blood-Chin Rager (uncommon), Blood-Chin Fanatic (rare)

Fate Reforged also has Mardu Woe-Reaper and Diplomacy of the Wastes, but neither provides strong incentive to play additional Warriors. This means that a DTK/DTK/FRF draft has 1.8 white and 0.9 black Warrior tribal cards that might cause you to draft a Warriors tribal deck, so such decks are likely to be rare in this format. When you do draft them, they are likely to still be W/B.

Next, let’s look at the expected number of Warriors by color in an 8-person draft, how many of them are playable, and which color pairs could potentially support the archetype (assuming your tribal cards are either only in white or only in black). Bold indicates the cards I think are playable on their own merits.

  • White has an average of 11.5 Warriors in an 8-person draft, 6.6 of which are playable on their own merits:
    • Common: Champion of Arashin, Dromoka Warrior, Herald of Dromoka, Lightwalker, Aven Skirmisher (filler without raid or Raiders’ Spoils), Sandsteppe Outcast
    • Uncommon: Aven Sunstriker, Dragon Hunter, Mardu Woe-Reaper (downgraded to filler because there are more 2-drops)
    • Rare: Arashin Foremost, Hidden Dragonslayer, Dragonscale General, Daghatar the Adamant
  • Blue has no Warriors in either Dragons of Tarkir or Fate Reforged.
  • Black has an average of 9.9 Warriors, 5.3 of which are playable on their own merits:
    • Common: Dutiful Attendant, Hand of Silumgar, Kolaghan Skirmisher, Alesha’s Vanguard, Sultai Emissary (less impressive in an aggressive deck)
    • Uncommon: Blood-Chin Rager, Battle Brawler, Mardu Shadowspear, Merciless Executioner
    • Rare: Blood-Chin Fanatic, Mardu Strike Leader
    • Mythic: Risen Executioner, Brutal Hordechief
  • Red has an average of 6.4 Warriors, 5 of which are playable on their own merits:
    • Common: Kolaghan Aspirant, Sabertooth Outrider, Defiant Ogre
    • Uncommon: Atarka Pummeler, Qal Sisma Behemoth
    • Rare: Zurgo Bellstriker, Alesha Who Smiles at Death, Flamerush Rider
  • Green has an average of 3.3 Warriors, 2.9 of which are playable on their own merits:
    • Common: Atarka Beastbreaker
    • Uncommon: Salt Road Ambushers, Abzan Kin-Guard
    • Rare: Den Protector, Surrak the Hunt Caller, Yasova Dragonclaw

White and black have the most number of Warriors but only about half of them are playable on their own merits. Surprisingly, red has about as many playable Warriors as black, so if all your Warrior tribal cards are in a single color and you are cut off from the other one, you could attempt to draft a R/W or B/R Warriors deck, which would also give you access to Volcanic Rush and/or War Flare. (You probably don’t want to try for a 3-color Warriors deck since DTK/DTK/FRF doesn’t have enough mana fixing to support that, and since aggressive decks don’t do well when they stumble on colors.)

It’s also worth noting that most of the playable Warriors are in Dragons of Tarkir and that even a W/B deck only has access to about 12 playable Warriors. If you want to ensure you have enough Warriors for a focused tribal deck, you might need to take playable Warriors somewhat higher in your first 2 packs, and use the last pack to round out your tricks and mana fixing.

DTK/FRF: The +1/+1 counters deck

In a recent draft, I took a Gleam of Authority first pick, followed by Scale Blessing, Epic Confrontation, Inspiring Call, Enduring Victory, and Enduring Scalelord. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up with many cheap sources of +1/+1 counters to maximize the value of my early picks. (Sandsteppe Outcast always made a flier, I never triggered the ferocious on Frontier Mastodon, and Shieldhide Dragon doesn’t give counters until you have 7 mana, so my main sources of counters were Gleam of Authority, Abzan Advantage, Scale Blessing, and Enduring Victory.) I still won both matches I played, but much of that was on the strength of a good curve and Gleam of Authority. Here’s the deck I played:

Creatures (14):
– 2cc: Lightwalker, Soul Summons, Dromoka Warrior, Atarka Beastbreaker
– 3cc: 2 Sandsteppe Outcast, 2 Shieldhide Dragon, Salt Road Quartermaster, Frontier Mastodon
– 4cc: Abzan Skycaptain, Champion of Arashin
– 5cc+: Enduring Scalelord, Wardscale Dragon

Non-creatures (9):
– 2cc: Gleam of Authority, Abzan Advantage, Center Soul, Epic Confrontation
– 3cc: Inspiring Call
– 4cc: Scale Blessing, Great Teacher’s Decree
– 5cc: 2 Enduring Victory

Land (17): Blossoming Sands, 9 Plains, 7 Forests

Here are the cards in the format that care about +1/+1 counters. I had 4 out of the 6 non-rare cards in this list.

  • White: Lightwalker, Scale Blessing (uncommon), Gleam of Authority (rare)
  • Green: Ainok Artillerist, Battlefront Krushok (uncommon), Inspiring Call (uncommon), Avatar of the Resolute (rare), Sunbringer’s Touch (rare)
  • Multicolor: Enduring Scalelord (uncommon)

Let’s take a look at the sources of +1/+1 counters in DTK/DTK/FRF, to see whether there are enough options available to justify taking Scale Blessing and Inspiring Call early next time. Bold indicates the cards I think fit particularly well in this archetype, usually because they’re playable on their own merits and/or provide counters before you get to 5 mana.

  • White:
    • Common: Aven Tactician, Enduring Victory, Misthoof Kirin, Sandcrafter Mage, Sandstorm Charger, Abzan Advantage, Abzan Skycaptain, Sandsteppe Outcast
    • Uncommon: Aven Sunstriker, Dromoka Captain, Echoes of the Kin Tree, Scale Blessing, Shieldhide Dragon, Elite Scaleguard, Honor’s Reward
    • Rare: Anafenza Kin-Tree Spirit, Gleam of Authority, Hidden Dragonslayer, Sunscorch Regent, Citadel Siege, Daghatar the Adamant, Dragonscale General
  • Blue:
    • Common: Dirgur Nemesis, Ojutai Interceptor, Aven Surveyor
    • Uncommon: Belltoll Dragon, Gudul Lurker, Monastery Loremaster, Silumgar Spell-Eater
    • Rare: Stratus Dancer
    • Mythic: Shorecrasher Elemental
  • Black:
    • Common: Marsh Hulk, Ancestral Vengeance, Hooded Assassin
    • Uncommon: Acid-Spewer Dragon, Marang River Skeleton, Fearsome Awakening, Grave Strength
    • Rare: Silumgar Assassin
  • Red:
    • Common: Atarka Efreet, Kolaghan Stormsinger, Defiant Ogre, Fierce Invocation
    • Uncommon: Stormcrag Elemental, Stormwing Dragon
    • Rare: Ire Shaman
    • Mythic: Shaman of the Great Hunt
  • Green:
    • Common: Aerie Bowmasters, Guardian Shield-Bearer, Pinion Feast, Sandsteppe Scavenger, Segmented Krotiq, Servant of the Scale, Ainok Guide, Formless Nurturing, Frontier Mastodon, Hunt the Weak, Map the Wastes
    • Uncommon: Ainok Survivalist, Dromoka’s Gift, Herdchaser Dragon, Salt Road Ambushers, Salt Road Quartermasters, Scaleguard Sentinels, Cached Defenses, Wildcall
    • Rare: Den Protector, Foe-Razer Regent, Sunbringer’s Touch, Sandsteppe Mastodon
    • Mythic: Deathmist Raptor, Warden of the First Tree
  • Multicolor:
    • Rare: Dromoka’s Command, Dromoka the Eternal

Here are the expected number of cards of each color from the list above in an 8-person draft, as well as the expected number of bolded cards.

E(bolded) E(all)
White 8.3 17.3
Blue 3.8 7.3
Black 3.5 6.5
Red 1.9 7.4
Green 7.7 21.7
G/W 0.5 0.5

G/W, which has all the +1/+1 counters matter cards, also has the most number of playable cards that provide +1/+1 counters. An 8-person draft will have an average of 16.5 such white, green, or G/W cards (and 39.5 if you’re willing to play filler or wait for your counters), which means you have a reasonable chance of assembling a deck with a critical mass of such cards if you stay on task. It’s much more difficult to get that in any other color pair; W/U has the second highest number of playables at 12.1, and also doesn’t have access to the 6 green or G/W cards that care about +1/+1 counters.

DTK: Evaluations

This is an initial set of evaluations of the cards in Dragons of Tarkir. The main purpose is not to share deep insights into the new cards, but to figure out which cards need further analysis and to help determine how many relevant cards there are when trying to evaluate the cards that I don’t have a good sense of yet. For instance, artifact removal spells were very good in Mirrodin block, but are almost useless in Khans block.

Here’re what my various evaluations mean:

  • Bomb (B): Will usually win the game if not dealt with and also difficult to deal with or play around, e.g., large flyers or mass removal.
  • Exceptional (+): A superior card that will turn the tide in your favor, e.g., cheap unconditional removal or a 3/3 flyer for 4 mana.
  • Good (/): The bread and butter of most decks, e.g., a 2/2 flyer or a vanilla 3/3 for 3 mana.
  • Situational/Filler (~): Good in the right deck, filler in most others, e.g., a vanilla 2/2.
  • Sideboard (S): Useful to have in your sideboard, but not usually playable maindeck, e.g., artifact/enchantment removal or color hosers.
  • Unplayable (x): Should not be played except in the right deck or under exceptional circumstances, e.g., a vanilla 1/1. Some unplayable creatures can be sided in against the right deck, e.g., a vanilla 1/3 for 3 mana might still be sided in against an aggressive deck.
  • TBD (?): Requires more analysis or more experience with the format to evaluate, e.g., a card that depends on how many +1/+1 counters there are in the format.

The spreadsheet also has explanations for many of my evaluations in the Notes column. Here are some evaluations that might not be obvious at first glance.

  • Dromoka Captain (/): strong on the play and esp. good with either of the white rebound spells
  • Scale Blessing (/): even with no +1/+1 counters, this is a little like Dragonscale Boon, but with less choice of target and no untap
  • Sight Beyond Sight (~): weaker version of Bitter Revelation
  • Skywise Teachings (~): 6 mana + 2 noncreature spells = 1 2/2 flyer; 8 mana + 3 noncreature spells = 2 2/2 flyers
  • Butcher’s Glee (/): improved Necrobite
  • Dragon Tempest (?): anti-synergy with the uncommon Dragons in this format, since you usually want to play them face down
  • Ainok Artillerist (~), Conifer Strider (~): formidable enablers
  • Atarka’s Command (~), Dromoka’s Command (+), Kolaghan’s Command (/), Ojutai’s Command (~), Silumgar’s Command (+): the Commands are not as good as they initially seem because usually only 2 of the 4 choices are relevant in Limited formats, so you don’t have as much flexibility as it may seem

Here are the cards that need additional analysis to fully evaluate, and what the evaluation will depend on. Some of these cards have an initial assessment based on a standalone evaluation, but that may change after further analysis.

  • Arashin Foremost (B), Herald of Dromoka (/), Blood-Chin Fanatic (+), Blood-Chin Rager (+): #/quality of Warriors
  • Lightwalker (/), Scale Blessing (/), Avatar of the Resolute (+), Inspiring Call (+), Enduring Scalelord (/): #/quality of +1/+1 counters
  • Salt Road Quartermasters (+), Servant of the Scale: #/quality of effects that care about +1/+1 counters
  • Ambuscade Shaman (/), Warbringer (+): #/quality of dash creatures (and haste creatures, for Ambuscade Shaman)
  • Magmatic Chasm, Roast (+), Seismic Rupture (/), Pinion Feast (S): #/quality of flyers
  • Impact Tremors, Virulent Plague (S): #/quality of tokens
  • Obscuring Aether: #/quality of megamorphs
  • Dragon Tempest, Dragonlord’s Servant: #/quality of Dragons
  • Risen Executioner (+): #/quality of Zombies
  • Glaring Aegis: speed of format & #/quality of cards that benefit from enchantment/Aura
  • Graceblade Artisan: #/quality of Auras
  • Deadly Wanderings: how often exploit decks have only 1 creature in play
  • Dutiful Attendant: #/quality of exploit cards
  • Ancestral Statue: #/quality of ETB effects
  • Sight of the Scalelords, Gate Smasher: #/quality of creatures with toughness >= 4
  • Assault Formation: #/quality of creatures with toughness >= power and #/quality of defenders

There are also a couple of cards whose evaluation depends on how fast the format turns out to be.

  • Glaring Aegis
  • Foul-Tongue Shriek
  • Lose Calm
  • Magmatic Chasm
  • Volcanic Rush (+)