DTK: Compact FAQ

This is a compact version of the Dragons of Tarkir FAQ (13 pages vs. 34 pages for the original).

DTK: List of instant-speed tricks

This is a list of all the instant-speed tricks in Dragons of Tarkir. The first table has the spell names while the second one has abbreviated spell descriptions in case you don’t remember what the spell does. Note that the latter table may not accurately represent all uses of the spell and often leaves out certain details. Also, I sometimes make mistakes while filling out these tables; please let me know if you spot any issues.

Both tables categorize the tricks by converted mana cost, color, and rarity. Unless specified otherwise, each colored spell has one colored mana in its mana cost with the rest being generic mana, so a 3-mana white spell with no explicit cost listed has a mana cost of 2W. I also specify mana costs if the spell has X in its mana cost, is multicolored, or costs more than the column it is specified in. Spells in bold can leave a creature in play, e.g., flash creatures, spells that create token creatures, or spells that allow you to cast creatures at instant speed.

Here’s how to interpret the second table:

  • Abbreviations used: A (artifact), attkr (attacker), blkr (blocker), bounce (return to owner’s hand), bury (destroy & it cannot be regenerated), C (creature), CMC (converted mana cost), counter when used as a verb (counter a spell), dmg (damage), draw X (draw X cards), E (enchantment), ETB (enters the battlefield), flyer (creature with flying), freeze X (tap X and it doesn’t untap next turn), gain X (gain X life), GY (graveyard), I (instant), L (land), loot X (draw X cards, then discard X cards), lose X (lose X life), mill (put cards from a library into a graveyard), opp (opponent), opp’s X (X controlled by opponent), P (player or power, depending on context), prot (protection), PW (planeswalker), raise (return card from your graveyard to your hand), reanimate (return card from the graveyard to the battlefield), redirect X dmg from A to B (next X dmg that would be dealt to A is dealt to B instead), regen (regenerate), S (sorcery), sac (sacrifice), T (toughness), your X (X you control).
  • Spells that confer an effect (+X/+Y, -X/-Y, hexproof, first strike, prot from a color, etc.) last until end of turn unless specified otherwise.
  • Spells can target any legal permanent or player unless otherwise specified, e.g., X dmg without any qualifiers means that the spell does X damage to any creature or player.
  • Spell descriptions sometimes mention other spells as a way to describe their effects, e.g., Revealing Wind is described as “Fog; look at face-down attkrs/blkrs”.

DTK: Compact spoiler

This is an 8-page version of the full Dragon of Tarkir spoiler. The card image gallery at DailyMTG is 67 pages so I’m hoping this saves a couple of trees. This spoiler is also text instead of images, so it’s easier to search for card types or keywords before the set is available on Gatherer, and it’s also easier to carry around in your pocket for reference.

FRF: Lotus-Eye Mystics and Abzan Advantage

Lotus-Eye Mystics and Abzan Advantage both get better if the format has good enchantments, although for different reasons. Khans of Tarkir had very few good enchantments, so neither of these cards would have been strong in a triple Khans of Tarkir draft deck. While Fate Reforged brought more enchantments to the format, including some excellent uncommon, I’ve often ended up with just a 3/2 prowess creature or a +1/+1 counter and am not sure whether my experience is representative. Let’s try to get a better sense of how many playable enchantments exist in the format, and in which colors. (I’ve left out the enchantments whose quality is still TBD — Ancestral Vengeance, Molting Snakeskin, and Frontier Siege — as I suspect they are unplayable in most decks.)

  • White: Lightform (uncommon), Sage’s Reverie (uncommon), Suspension Field (uncommon), Citadel Siege (rare), Mastery of the Unseen (rare) = 1.8 copies in an average 8-person draft
  • Blue: Jeskai Runemark, Singing Bell Strike, Cloudform (uncommon) = 3.3 copies
  • Black: Debilitating Injury, Raiders’ Spoils (uncommon), Retribution of the Ancients (rare) = 2.5 copies
  • Red: Dragon Grip (uncommon), Rageform (uncommon), Outpost Siege (rare) = 1.3 copies
  • Green: Trail of Mystery (rare) = 0.3 copies
  • Multicolor: Secret Plans (uncommon), Abzan Ascendancy (rare), Mardu Ascendancy (rare), Sultai Ascendancy (rare), Temur Ascendancy (rare) = 1.6 copies

So an 8-person draft has only 11 playable enchantments on average. Of the clans, Jeskai is expected to have most number of playable enchantments available in a draft (6.5), so I would expect a typical Jeskai deck to have no more than a couple of enchantments. This means that while Abzan Advantage is a reasonable card for your sideboard, it is probably not worth playing maindeck unless the +1/+1 counter is particularly relevant to your deck. Similarly, if you already have a couple of enchantments, it makes sense to draft Lotus-Eye Mystics more highly, but it’s probably not worth drafting early with the expectation of picking up enchantments to go with it. If you do draft it, keep an eye out for Debilitating Injury.

EDIT: I somehow missed the Khans of Tarkir auras in the list above. Singing Bell Strike, Debilitating Injury, and Dragon Grip (uncommon), are all quite playable, so I’ve added them to the analysis above.

KTK/FRF: Act of Treason and sacrifice effects

I still don’t have a good handle on how good Act of Treason is in this format. I don’t mind running one copy as a finisher in aggressive R/X decks, but I often prefer Barrage of Boulders; in a recent draft deck, I played 3 copies of the latter and left both copies of Act of Treason in my sideboard (I had 8 creatures that could trigger ferocious). I have played Act of Treason in other decks, although it has been a little inconsistent for me, ranging from underwhelming to amazing, depending on the board state.

Act of Treason does get better if you can sacrifice the borrowed creature or if the format has a lot of creatures with relevant combat triggers. This format does have multiple ways to borrow creatures (there’s also Jeering Instigator, Mob Rule, and Yasova Dragonclaw at rare), so it’s worth examining how many effects are available in both categories.

Here’s a list of all the sacrifice effects in the format, along with their costs and rarities. One-time effects allow you to sacrifice a single creature for the specified cost, while recurring effects allow you to sacrifice a creature for the specified cost if you already have the permanent in play.

Recurring One-time
Artifact 4: Ugin’s Construct (uncommon)
Black 1B, {T}: Qarsi High Priest (uncommon)
2B: Kheru Bloodsucker (uncommon)
2B: Merciless Executioner (uncommon)
Red R: Collateral Damage
Green 1G: Kheru Dreadmaw
Multicolor 0: Butcher of the Horde (rare)

There are only 2 sacrifice effects at common, both of which are unplayable in most decks. The uncommons are much better, although the one-time effects require 6+ mana if you want to play them on the same turn as Act of Treason, and many aggressive decks may not want to run a Qarsi High Priest since it’s a 0/2. To this list, I will also add Rite of Undoing, since it allows you to bounce 2 of your opponent’s creatures if you use it on a stolen creature. That gives us a rare and 5 uncommons, an average of 2.4 cards in a 8-person draft. Even if you are willing to play Collateral Damage, this only goes up to 3.8 cards, and Collateral Damage and 4 of the 5 uncommons are in Fate Reforged, so you can’t wait until you have a couple of copies of Act of Treason before you draft them. Given this, you probably shouldn’t draft Act of Treason with the expectation that you’ll be able to draft sacrifice effects to go with it.

The other reason to run Act of Treason is because you can profit from stealing a creature with a combat trigger. I enumerated the list of such creatures in my last post. To that list, I will also add Dromoka the Eternal, Kolaghan the Storm’s Fury, Ojutai Soul of Winter, Silumgar the Drifting Death, and Yasova Dragonclaw. That’s a total of 20 creatures, but most of them are rares, and the expected number of such creatures in an 8-person draft is only about 7. So that is not a reason to draft Act of Treason either.

So you should draft Act of Treason on its own merits, and not in the hopes that you will either be able to steal a creature with a useful combat trigger, or that you will later be able to draft a way to sacrifice the creature.

FRF: Reusing enters-the-battlefield effects

Fate Reforged brings 4 creatures that allow you to profitably reuse enters-the-battlefield (ETB) effects:

  • Temur Sabertooth is a near bomb, being a 4/3 for 4 mana and making most of your creatures unkillable if you have 1G open.
  • Flamerush Rider is exceptional, especially in an aggressive deck.
  • Jeskai Barricade is situational, since it doesn’t fit in any of the aggressive white decks, but may have a home in a controlling Abzan or 5-color deck.
  • Ambush Krotiq is usually unplayable, both because it costs 6 mana and because returning a creature to your hand is not optional.

In addition to these, there are also several blue bounce spells that let you reuse ETB abilities. While they usually target your opponent’s creatures, some of them can be profitably aimed at your own creatures, for instance, Rite of Undoing, Sage-Eye Avengers, and Supplant Form.

My evaluation of these 4 cards could be affected if the format has an usually low or high number of ETB effects. In addition to ETB effects, I am also interested in abilities that trigger when a creature is turned face up, creatures that you might want to recast later in a game (e.g., Clever Impersonator and Hooded Hydra), and a small number of other cards that cause you to want to return creatures to your hand (e.g., Lightning Shrieker and Outpost Siege), or to its owner’s hand in the case of Act of Treason. Let’s look at what’s available, to get an idea of what colors/clan we should prefer once we have 1 or more of these creatures. (Cards in italics are only really worth reusing with Temur Sabertooth since a single reuse doesn’t provide much gain.)

  • White: Arashin Cleric, Mardu Hordechief, Sandsteppe Outcast, Elite Scaleguard (uncommon), Lotus-Eye Mystics (uncommon), Mardu Woe-Reaper (uncommon), Watcher of the Roost (uncommon), Timely Hordemate (uncommon), Daghatar the Adamant (rare), Master of Pearls (rare), Mastery of the Unseen (rare), Wingmate Roc (mythic)
  • Blue: Aven Surveyor, Mistfire Weaver (uncommon), Kheru Spellsnatcher (rare), Thousand Winds (rare), Clever Impersonator (rare)
  • Black: Mardu Skullhunter, Merciless Executioner (uncommon), Orc Sureshot (uncommon), Ruthless Ripper (uncommon), Sibsig Muckdraggers (uncommon)
  • Red: Act of Treason, Lightning Shrieker, Horde Ambusher (uncommon), Mardu Heart-Piercer (uncommon), Jeering Instigator (rare), Outpost Siege (rare)
  • Green: Frontier Siege (rare), Sandsteppe Mastodon (rare), Temur War Shaman (rare), Trail of Mystery (rare), Hooded Hydra (mythic)
  • Multicolor: Efreet Weaponmaster, Ponyback Brigade, Armament Corps (uncommon), Bear’s Companion (uncommon), Icefeather Aven (uncommon), Secret Plans (uncommon), Sultai Soothsayer (uncommon), Warden of the Eye (uncommon), Siege Rhino (rare), Temur Ascendancy (rare), Sidisi Brood Tyrant (mythic)

In addition, Temur Sabertooth and Jeskai Barricade allow you to return a creature to your hand at instant speed, so you can also use them to save a creature from removal or a disadvantageous block (especially if you attacked to trigger an ability). Let’s take a look at the cards in this format that you might attack with to trigger an ability. (I won’t list the multicolor dragons here since they can rarely be blocked advantageously.)

  • Artifact: Heart-Piercer Bow (uncommon)
  • White: Wardscale Dragon (uncommon)
  • Blue: Sage-Eye Avengers (rare)
  • Black: Mardu Shadowspear (uncommon), Mardu Strike Leader (rare)
  • Red: Goblin Heelcutter, Mardu Blazebringer (uncommon), Vaultbreaker (uncommon), Alesha Who Smiles at Death (rare)
  • Multicolor: Mardu Roughrider (uncommon), Ankle Shanker (rare), Avalanche Tusker (rare), Anafenza the Foremost (mythic), Mardu Ascendancy, Narset Enlightened Master (mythic)

These 2 lists have a lot of rares/mythics, as well as a lot of cards in italics. We’re unlikely to take 1 of the 4 cards above in the hopes of opening or being passed a specific rare, and we already know to draft Temur Sabertooth if we can play him, so let’s strip out those 2 categories. That leaves us with the following cards:

  • Artifact: Heart-Piercer Bow (uncommon) = 0.6 copies in an average 8-person draft
  • White: Sandsteppe Outcast, Elite Scaleguard (uncommon), Lotus-Eye Mystics (uncommon), Timely Hordemate (uncommon), Wardscale Dragon (uncommon) = 3.1 copies
  • Blue: Aven Surveyor, Mistfire Weaver (uncommon) = 1.9 copies
  • Black: Mardu Skullhunter, Merciless Executioner (uncommon), Orc Sureshot (uncommon), Sibsig Muckdraggers (uncommon) = 2.8 copies
  • Red: Act of Treason, Goblin Heelcutter, Lightning Shrieker, Mardu Blazebringer (uncommon), Mardu Heart-Piercer (uncommon), Vaultbreaker (uncommon) = 5.8 copies
  • Multicolor: Efreet Weaponmaster, Ponyback Brigade, Armament Corps (uncommon), Bear’s Companion (uncommon), Icefeather Aven (uncommon), Secret Plans (uncommon), Sultai Soothsayer (uncommon), Warden of the Eye (uncommon) = Abzan has 0.6 copies, Jeskai has 2.2, Mardu has 1.6, Sultai and Temur have 1.8 each (I’m counting the 2 U/G uncommons in both Sultai and Temur)

Red has by far the most cards that combo with the 4 creatures, although a number of them are not ETB effects but finishers like Act of Treason and Lightning Shrieker. Those don’t pair well with the already expensive Ambush Krotiq, and while they might pair better with Jeskai Barricade in a R/W, Jeskai, or Mardu deck, those decks are too aggressive to want to play a 0/4 creature. On the other hand, while green has both Temur Sabertooth and Ambush Krotiq, it has no good ETB effects to pair with them at common/uncommon. This probably means that Ambush Krotiq is just as unplayable as we initially anticipated. There’s no clear color combination that maximizes Temur Sabertooth, but you probably shouldn’t be trying to build your deck around 1, or even 2, copies of the card. I think the main outcome of this exercise is that we now have a fairly comprehensive list of all the cards in the format that combo with Temur Sabertooth and Flamerush Rider.

Finally, let’s take a brief look at the artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers you might want to return to your hand, since Rite of Undoing lets you return any nonland permanent. The playable ones are Singing Bell Strike, Cloudform (uncommon), Lightform (uncommon), Rageform (uncommon), Sage’s Reverie (uncommon), Suspension Field (uncommon), Abzan Ascendancy (rare), and planeswalkers (mythics) after using their -N abilities.

KTK/FRF: Mnemonics for tricks

I’d posted a spreadsheet of the combined instant-speed removal/tricks in Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged a few weeks ago. However, I found it less useful than I’d expected. Even though it gets rid of the chaff and several categories of effects that are less relevant to limited, there are still 72 effects left (although some spells appear in the list more than once if they have multiple effects). Not only is that a lot to memorize, it’s nearly impossible to recall all the possibilities in the middle of a game, especially if you’re playing under time constraints.

However, while I was studying the list in preparation for GP San Jose, I noticed there were several patterns that, taken together, cover almost all the different effects. The cards will sometimes appear in more than one place in this list if they have more than 1 effect or the effect falls into more than 1 category; if the same mode of a modal spell appears more than once, each instance will be in italics. I will list rarities in parentheses after the number of spells in the category to get a sense of how common each of these effects is, with C meaning common, U meaning uncommon, R meaning rare, and M meaning mythic, so CCU means that there are 2 commons and 1 uncommon that provide this type of effect. These are listed in order of increasing rarity, and are not in the same order as the spell summaries that follows. All descriptions are very approximate. Let’s break down the tricks by categories:

  • 12 pump (7 commons, 5 uncommons): Assuming X is the converted mana cost of the spell,
    • 3 (CUU), all green, give +X/+X to 1 creature: +2/+2 & trample (1G), +3/+3 & trample (2G), +6/+6 (5G – delve)
    • 3 (CCU) give X/2 (rounded up) +1/+1 counters to 1 creature: 1 counter & protection (1W), 2 counters distributed across 1-2 creatures (WBG), 2 counters & untap (3G)
    • 2 (CU), all white, give X-1 +1/+1 counters to the creature with the lowest toughness: bolster 1 & opponent sacs an enchantment (1W), bolster 2 & gain 4 life (2W)
    • 3 (CCU), all with red in their casting cost, give all your creatures +M/+N, where M+N = X-1: +1/+1 & lifelink (URW), +2/+0 to attacking (2R), +2/+1 & untap (2RW)
    • 1 (C) gives +1/+0 & draw a card (W )
  • 9 flash creatures (mostly uncommons, with only one common):
    • 4 have a combined power (and usually also a combined toughness) 1 less than the converted mana cost (CUUM): 2 1/1 Warriors with first strike until EOT (RWB), manifest 2 (3UG), 4/4 (4R), 6/7 with prowess (5UU)
    • 5 remaining (UUURM): 0/4 wall that may bounce your creature (1W), exile your own creature and manifest the top card (1U), 3 1/1 Warriors (4W), 6/6 (2GUR), bounce creature and copy it (4UU)
  • 5 untap effects (CCCUR), most of which have G or RW in their casting cost: untap & draw a card (1U), untap & reach + deathtouch (1G), 2 +1/+1 counters & untap (3G), untap all & +2/+1 (2RW), untap & flying + double strike (3URW)
  • 3 fog (UUU): Fog, only opponents’ creatures if ferocious (1G), redirect all damage from you and your permanents to a creature (5W), -4/-0 to opponents’ creatures & draw a card (4U)
  • 2 falter (UR): creatures with power <= 3 can't block, untap & flying + double strike

A number of other effects require a particular color:

  • White:
    • 3 save a creature for 1W (CUU): +1/+1 counter & protection, indestructible, 0/4 wall that may bounce your creature
    • 2 kill attackers/blockers for 2W (CC): destroy attacker, 5 damage to attacker/blocker
    • 3 power/toughness-based removal (CUU): power >= 3 (WBG), power >= 4 (3W), toughness >= 4 (1W)
  • Blue:
    • 6 bounce/Repel (CCUUUR): bounce creature (1U), Repel attacker/blocker (2U), Repel creature (URW), bounce your nonland and opponent’s nonland (4U – delve), bounce 1-2 creatures (4UU), bounce creature and copy it (4UU)
    • 3 freeze (CCR): freeze & draw a card (2U), freeze 1-2 (4UU – delve), tap X, or freeze X if ferocious (XU)
  • Black: 7 removal (CCCUUUR): 2 damage & gain 2 life (2B), kill creature with 4 toughness (4 damage for RWB, -4/-4 for 4B), kill creature (kill permanent for 2WB, 4B – delve, colored for 4B, monocolored for BGU)
  • Red: 7 removal (CCCUUUU): 2 damage (R, also tap another creature for 1UR, also draw a card for 3UR), 3 damage (R + sacrifice creature), 3-5 damage (3R), 4 damage (RWB), 6 damage (4R)
  • Green:
    • 2 fight (CU): toughness-based fight (1BG), +1/+1 & fight (GUR)
    • 3 flyer removal (CUU): untap & reach + deathtouch (1G), kill flyer (3G), X damage to all flyers (XG)

That leaves only 10 tricks that aren’t covered above (or with an effect that isn’t the focus of one of the categories above):

  • 2 white (CU): tap creature & draw a card (1W), damage to creature equal to damage that would be dealt to you and your permanents (5W)
  • 1 blue (U): exile creature & manifest card (1U)
  • 3 red (CUU): double strike, and trample if ferocious (1R), +2/+0 and first strike, at instant speed if ferocious (2R), add R to your mana pool for each attacker you control & attackers get Firebreathing (2R)
  • 4 multicolor (CURR): damage equal to # of creatures you control & gain that much life (1WB), destroy blocker & trample (RW), redirect damage from source to its controller (RW), 2 damage to each opponent and they sacrifice a creature with the highest power among creatures they control (RWB)