Nope, this isn’t a movie review but I think the movie’s title is apt in post-rotation standard thanks to Nicol Bolas’ family joining the crew and Sarkhan coming back.
In the recent MTGO 5-0 league results, we can see Nicol Bolas getting splashed in RB decks, UB TSG decks, and Grixis Energy lists. A 4-mana 4/4 flier with a Ravenous Rats ETB ability is a pretty good Magic card on its own but having the ability to come back as a game-ending Planeswalker is effin’ strong.
Now I understand Planeswalkers are usually staples in mid-range decks and control lists but I personally think Nicol is meant to attack, get frisky in the red zone, and come back just to survey the scene and win with a tick down to kill something and tick down to get what you killed back on your side of the table.
Because Nicol demands you to commit to his colors to bring him down consistently on turn 4, you may need to sacrifice early interactions to make sure your lands come to play untap by turn 4. Ixalan’s checklands do help in this department if you run the Amonkhet duals which all the decks in MTGO do. Aether Hub serves as a 1-time-fix to get that missing Red or Blue mana most of the time.
But what if I told you that you can run Bolas in your deck by investing mostly in Red and not worry about your lands coming in sideways. Sulfur Falls makes it easy together with Dragonskull Summit to produce the non-red colors needed to cast Nicol Bolas and running an abundance of mountains make sure these lands come in untapped.
Wily Goblin is also another reliable 2-drop we have no problems casting since most of our lands produce Red, and incidentally ramps us to 4 mana on turn 3, providing that 1 missing color to bring out Bolas. Pillar of Origins is Wily Goblin #5 and 6 to make it consistent. Dragon’s Hoard is another mana fixer but it’s more for card draw than anything else.
We’ll be running 14 dragons in total and 4 Wily Goblins who sort of serves as the dragonlord’s servant (I wish they reprinted this guy too – survives Chainwhirlers, blocks Bomats and Khenras and Monkeys all day).
First off, let’s play the Dragon couple Verix and Karox. For 7 mana, you have 8 power in the air, two triggers from Dragon’s Hoard and essentially have a 2-1 for card advantage by having two threats that your opponent has to deal with.
Next we have Demanding Dragon. I can rephrase his textbox as Flying, Haste, has Vigilance when it enters the battlefield. On an empty board, playing Demanding Dragon is a sure 5-damage to the dome. On a cluttered board, he basically took down something just by entering the battlefield. I would say it’s the weakest dragon because it’s a choice-based card but its a 5-mana 5/5 flying body so we’ll play it.
Lastly on the red dragon squad we have our favorite glory bringing dragon, Glorybringer. I would say he’s the best dragon we have maybe next to Nicol Bolas and we got to play all 4 copies.
We will play 1 other multicolored dragon and that’s Darigaaz Reincarnated. We’ll only play one because we technically do not have any reliable means to produce green mana apart from Pillar and Dragon’s Hoard but essentially, casting this dragon once should be enough since he can always come back by itself if it isn’t exiled. It re-triggers Dragon’s Hoard as well when you’re done popping all the eggs.
It would be a sin not to play Sarkhan, Fireblood in a dragon tribal deck. Before you guys start with the “he can’t protect himself” argument, hear me out first. Firstly, he’s in the color of Shivan Fire, Lightning Strike, Spit Flame and Sweltering Suns. I don’t think we have problems keeping the board safe for him. Second of all, he helps us cast Verix on turn 4 and still have 2 mana free to cast a Lightning Strike. He may not have the protection built into him, but he sure makes it easy for us to protect him from would-be offenders.
Speaking of early interaction, we have all the burn in the early turns to deal with any sized creature. Shivan Fire scales pretty good to kill off small critters in the first 2 turns and goes up to kill anything from a turn 5 to 7 bomb. Lightning Strike deals with what Shivan Fire couldn’t. Then we have Spit Flame which is a great recursive spell to kill most creatures that see standard play except for Gods. You don’t have to worry casting multiple copies of Spit Flame early in the game since you can always get all of the back when you play a dragon or when Darigaaz comes back (synergy is oozing, oh my god).
4 Wily Goblin
4 Verix Bladewing
3 Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
2 Demanding Dragon
1 Darigaaz Reincarnated
3 Pillar of Origins
2 Dragon’s Hoard
3 Sarkhan, Fireblood
3 Shivan Fire
4 Lightning Strike
4 Spit Flame
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Dragonskull Summit
3 Canyon Slough
4 Sovereign’s Bite
3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Jaya Ballard
The maindeck is positioned to beat aggressive decks for the most part but will struggle heavily against the control deck. This is why I designed the deck to be transformative post board against UW and UB builds. We take out most of our creatures and swap our Planeswalker package and become a Burn deck. Why not? Dragons do breathe fire, right?
Coming out are Shivan Fires and Spit Flame and these bad boys come in. Sovereign’s Bite is Lightning Strike 5 through 8. The gain life is not important but the 3-damage will make them pay for keeping Essence Scatters in. Shock for that end-step-2 damage turning their Irrigated Farmlands into shock-lands (lol). Then of course the grand daddy of all x-spells, Banefire. Try to hide behind Disallow when Sarkhan slaps you with 6-10 damage later.
Speaking of Sarkhan, we won’t be having as much Dragons after sideboard so some copies step out to give way for Chandra, Torch of Defiance and grand momma Jaya. Both of these ladies love fire and I’m sure they can appreciate being surrounded by fire breathing reptiles. They go pretty good under creature removal like Settle and Fumigate. They both help us cast our large instances and gives us great card advantage to keep the burn flowing.
So what comes in and out against Control?
OUT: 2 Sarkhan, 3 Shivan Fire, 4 Spit Flame, 1 Darigaaz, 3 Pillar, 2 Nicol Bolas
We will keep Verix against control because it’s essentially 2 cards that the control player has to deal with late game. Demanding Dragon also stays inside the mainboard because control players hardly play creatures so that’s almost a guaranteed 5 damage to the dome if it resolves. The play style is threaten the control player by chipping away at his life total in teh first turns. A Shock on turn 1, Bite or Strike on 2, then another on 3 should deal 8 damage before the control player can get a Glimmer of Genius out. Once his life total starts dwindling to single digits, the pressure of casting dragon spells and Chandra’s would keep him on the defensive while you draw into your Banefires to close the game.
I hope you like this quick deck tech. There are tons of new cards in M19 I am very excited for, I hope you are too!