The Moore Report - So Many Dragons
So many Dragons
Well, it’s that time again, dragon fans. Wizards have knocked it out of the park again with a sweet new set, and I’m here today to go through a few of my favourite cards; the ones that stand out to me for constructed play. That’s all of the preamble we need, so let’s get to it!
Go ahead, take a read of this fellow, I’ll wait. Good card yeah? I don’t think you read him well enough, try that again…That’s correct friends. Slimjim, with the infinite power of his Tasigur-bone swag, can take planeswalkers, which you can then use. Your midrange opponent just cast their Sarkhan Unbroken and made a dragon token? No worries, have yourself a go at that ability, and send their Sarkhan packing to the graveyard. Nice Ugin, I’ll take that and bin all of your coloured permanents that cost less than six.
The ability to take a planeswalker is huge. Not only does it make Silumgar relevant in more match-ups it allows you to get value out of his ability right away, just in case your wiley opponent has a removal spell up their sleeve. Some might argue that his stats leave a little to be desired. Let me present a counter argument. Silumgar not only survives Elspeth’s attempts to dethrone him, he also conveniently survives when you steal your opponent’s Elspeth and destroy all their Siege Rhino.
I expect great things from Tasigur’s biggest fan, and if any card was going to put blue/black control back on the map as a tier one deck, he’s the dragon for the job.
Speaking of dragons (I promise I’ll only use this segue once this article, as hard as that’s going to be), let’s check out their favourite place to hang out. Haven of the Spirit Dragon doesn’t look like much, but it has a homely charm. Let yourself imagine coming home here after a long day at work. Put the flat-screen over there, the Nespresso machine in that little corner, maybe bring back Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and draw some tears from your opponent while you’re at it.
The Haven is a key addition to blue/black control. Historically, control decks have done the best when extra lands mattered. One of my favourite times to play control was when Tectonic Edge and Celestial Colonnade were both legal in Standard. They’re very important to the strategy, because you need to play enough lands that you never miss a land-drop, but you also need to play a certain number of win-conditions to close out games. When those two things cross over, you’ve got something very potent. Anyone else remember losing to Nephalia Drownyard not that long ago? Haven isn’t quite on the same power level, but it still allows you to skimp on win conditions and play more mana.
Yet another tool in blue/black’s arsenal, which has to get you worried if your favourite strategy in Magic involves having permanents in play.
The Command Cycle
I actually really like all of the new Commands, so I wanted to touch on all of them. As people have been saying, Ojutai’s Command is not Cryptic Command, but I don’t really understand the comparison. Cryptic Command was obscenely powerful, to the point that people were warping their Jund decks to play it in Standard, which is crazy, first that it was possible and second that it actually happened. My point is that it’s an unfair comparison. To say Ojutai’s Command isn’t good because it isn’t Cryptic Command is like saying Ghostfire Blade isn’t good because it’s not Skullclamp. What I’m saying is that Cryptic was probably too good, so I can handle a bit of a knock in power level, I think. This card kind of reminds me of a big Azorius Charm, in that it’s always at least good. Would I play 2 colourless mana extra on my cycle to gain four life? Probably, yeah. And that’s possibly the worst choice of modes. I don’t think I’ll use the Unearth mode often, but people have already begun pointing at Snapcaster Mage as a good target. I’m not sold, because you need a lot of mana for that to do anything, and in Modern you don’t often have that luxury, but I’m happy to be proven wrong. I always say that options are only good if the options are good, and in this case I think they are.
I already hate Atarka’s Command. This is exactly the type of card that beats me in games of Magic. When they get to put an extra land into play at instant speed there just isn’t much that I can do, you know? Explore was good enough, Wizards, did you really need to make it an instant?! Seriously though, this card is clearly great. Aggro mages and control mages alike don’t need me to tell them how fun/depressing having this card on the stack will be, so I think we can move on.
Kolaghan’s Command looks very good. It’s as clear-cut as two-for-ones get, and I expect this to appear quite a lot if black/red aggressive decks become a thing. I expect it won’t get much further than Standard, but it will definitely be good there.
Well, ok, I might have lied when I said I like all of these commands. I was excited for Silumgar’s Command, but it doesn’t really do enough for five mana, in my opinion. I think all of the modes are great, but I just don’t think I want to be paying five mana for two of them. I wonder how good this card would be at four mana, though. I guess countering a spell and dealing with a permanent for four mana is too good? I’m not sure, I haven’t played with it yet. It’s possible I’m underestimating the power level. I will say that I hope this one turns out to be good.
Finally we have Dromoka’s Command. This one is probably one of the best in terms of making a deck relevant. We will definitely see some of this card in Standard, but where it really shines for me is in Modern. We don’t really have damage-wraths in Standard, but Modern has Firespout, Pyroclasm and Volcanic Fallout floating around, among others. Being able to just say no to spells like that is very powerful for a green/white deck. This card also conveniently deals with Splinter Twin, even if your opponent happens to have a Spellskite in play or a Mizzium Skin in hand. Green/white players, get in while the getting’s good and pick up a set for your collection, you won’t regret it. These spells will definitely command respect in constructed, so don’t underestimate them. Sorry, sorry, I won’t do that again.
This raptor is the latest in a long line of cards that makes manifest very good. What scares me the most is how good that green/white Mastery of the Unseen deck is already – and this card fits perfectly in there. It even has two green mana symbols to help with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx activations. What I really like about the card is that it has deathtouch, which means that it’s going to be relevant at all stages of the game against any kind of creature deck, and later in the game when you have a whole bunch of mana you can start turning it into a 4/4 when you bring it back. Overall it’s just a really solid, relevant green creature for fighting the fair fight.
I wonder if Wizards of the Coast called Travis Woo and asked for his permission before they printed this card. It’s not so much that it looks like him, but everything about it screams random green brew, which is his forte. I think this card is great, and I hope someone breaks it. I’m not even certain it really needs much breaking. This card in the Temur combo deck gives you a way to get your opponent without needing to go infinite while also being a handy little mana accelerator. I’m sure it goes in green/white too, and it seems quite good in the mirror to be able to reset life totals that have climbed into the hundreds. One thing that might not be so apparent about the ability is that it lets you gain life every turn against red decks. Often when you’re playing the style of deck that this card fits into against red, your opponent is forced to ignore what you’re doing and just throw burn spells at your face. I like that you have the ability to stop that plan in its tracks – provided you have enough going on already to do so.
I told you mono-blue was still a thing. I knew this card was getting printed, obviously.
The fanatic is a very interesting card. It reminds me of Kalastria Highborn, which, along with Bloodghast, made vampire tribal a very good deck for a little while in Standard. It should be noted that we have Bloodsoaked Champion, which is sort of a Bloodghast. You’re asked to pay more mana overall for a similar interaction, and that might make it a bit too weak, but the ability to cash in your aggressive creatures for a life-drain effect should not be overlooked lightly. If you manage to combine this with Flamerush Rider you have yourself a nice little engine.
So, this card exists. You need to do a little bit of work to have it be good, but once you do this card becomes great. I can see it in mono-blue, but I’m more interested in fitting this into some kind of Sidisi, Brood Tyrant/Whip of Erebos shell. You often have a lot of spare creatures running around in that deck, the most promising friend of this card being Sylvan Caryatid. If you end up flooding out a bit, being able to cash in an otherwise useless mana creature to set your opponent back a few turns definitely has to look attractive. You can also spend a bunch of mana to get value out of a creature that you’ve whipped back, which is pretty nice. I expect to see this card blow out a bunch of creature mirrors, so pick these up while they’re cheap (which they are right now).
The ‘Hate’ Cycle
I’m referring here to the cycle of uncommons that specifically mention certain colours. It has been a little while since we’ve had a cycle of these in Standard, so I’m interested to see how they shake things up. I’m honestly only really excited about the white and red ones, however. The others are all fine, but not exciting in my opinion. The white one is excellent against red decks, which should be fairly obvious, since you not only get an unconditional removal spell (they’re clearly attacking, come on), but you get to gain some life too which is super relevant. The red one looks good because it’s so efficient. Immediately the mind turns to Modern, where this card gets Deceiver Exarch pretty well, but there will be applications in other formats too. It might even make its way to Legacy.
That does it from me today readers. This set has a huge amount of great role-players and straight up power-houses, so I’m looking forward to seeing the decks that appear after this set’s release. I have a spicy brew myself which I’m looking to unleash on some unsuspecting victims, so look out for me on release weekend!