This past weekend was the first weekend where Dragons of Tarkir was Standard legal, and I was lucky enough to be able to start playing with my favorite Standard deck right now: Red/Green Dragons. There were several big tournaments this past weekend as many players are aware of, and I was able to pilot the deck to a 6-2 record at the StarCityGames Invitational. I actually feel like in the two matches I did lose I ran pretty bad and could easily have 8-0'd with the deck.
There are definitely different build of Red/Green Dragons floating around, but I have put a lot of work into mine, and of course prefer it to other lists. Here is the deck:
The first thing worth mentioning is that I thought about playing Surrak, the Hunt Caller but chose not to and believe that choice is correct. All weekend I have heard: wait, you aren't playing Surrak, the Hunt Caller? You must have mis-built the deck. Surrak, the Hunt Caller is certainly a powerful Magic card from Dragons of Tarkir, but it definitely doesn't fit in this particular version, as compared to another version I will talk about later. This deck doesn't play a lot of early creatures with high power so most of the time when you would be casting Surrak, the Hunt Caller on turn four it wouldn't have haste, and the deck's five mana creature ( Stormbreath Dragon) already has haste, making the formidable on Surrak, the Hunt Caller hard to take full advantage of.
Enough about what's not in the deck, how about what is? There are plenty of new cards from Dragons of Tarkir here, and this deck is all about dragons. There are ten total dragons in the deck, which is more than just about any other deck I have seen. In order to play this many Dragons you need to be playing red because the two best dragons that you can play four copies of, are red. Which are the two best dragons in the format is debatable, but the other ones in the conversation are mostly legendary which means you don't want to be playing more than two or three copies. Thunderbreak Regent and Stormbreath Dragon also seem to be the most aggressive Dragons, and of course by playing a lot of dragons it allows you to add cards that are synergistic with the dragon creature type.
It is definitely wrong to add dragons to a deck just to try to make use of the new synergy cards, but the dragons in this deck are already good on their own. The majority of the builds of this deck stop at eight dragons, but this one goes further with Dragonlord Atarka. This guy is an absolute gamebreaker, and gives you an advantage in the mirror, along with most other midrange decks. It is true that seven mana is a lot and there will be some games you don't get to seven, but with both Elvish Mystic and Rattleclaw Mystic, there will also be games when you can cast Dragonlord Atarka on turn four. Remember that Dragonlord Atarka doesn't just deal with creatures, it can also say take out an Elspeth, Sun's Champion or another planeswalker.
Perhaps the most innovative card in the deck is Haven of the Spirit Dragon. By playing three copies of this land it is almost like going up to thirteen dragons! One of the main issues with the Red/Green Midrange decks before was that they can flood out pretty easily. This is why it is so important to play a land like Haven of the Spirit Dragon which can act as a spell, or is more than just an ordinary mana source. You would think that Haven of the Spirit Dragon would hurt the mana, but it doesn't too much. Mostly you are cutting mountains, and the Haven of the Spirit Dragon acts as the second red source to cast the dragons. This land makes any of the control decks that want to destroy your creatures much better matchups.
The mana creatures in Elvish Mystic and Rattleclaw Mystic were already touched on, but to Reiterate the point, I think it is correct, especially in this build to have all eight mana creatures. We aren't messing around with early drops like Heir of the Wilds, because we just want to be getting the dragons online as quickly as possible. The only early drop that doesn't help us accelerate is Goblin Rabblemaster, and while Goblin Rabblemaster isn't the best threat in the deck, it will give you free wins sometimes, and this is the only deck that can play it on turn two. Generally though four mana is where the big payoff cards start to come online. To complement Thunderbreak Regent there are also two copies of both Xenagos, the Reveler and Ashcloud Phoenix. Both of these cards are very good against any type of slower midrange or control decks, as they are hard to answer with just a single removal spell. It may seem a bit weird to play Ashcloud Phoenix here, but the deck wants to be fighting in the air and have enough four power creatures to consistently trigger Crater's Claws.
There is a burn package which allows us to finish games quickly and abruptly. First of all the best burn spell in the deck is the new Searing Blaze: Draconic Roar. You will almost always either have a dragon in play or in hand to reveal, to make sure your opponent gets dealt three. I have seen lists that are playing eight dragons, but yet don't have four copies of this card in the deck, let me just say that is completely wrong! Just about every deck in the format will have juicy targets for Draconic Roar, and in this deck it is a straight upgrade from Lightning Strike. It is true that control decks may not have three toughness creatures but you can still target their Pearl Lake Ancient or another creature (without hexproof) to at least deal three.
As already mentioned this deck does of course have Crater's Claws, and I think three is the right number. There will be times where drawing two isn't great, and be aware that Dromoka's Command can be a blowout if your opponent has access to green and white mana, and you attempt to Fireball them out. The Roasts are split between the main and sideboard because, while great in some matchups, Roast is also a dead card or pretty bad in other matchups, so there can't be four in the main. The reason there is an Arc Lightning in the main is the rising popularity of not only monored, but also tokens and other small creature decks. The burn suite means that there will be games you only need to get in one or two attacks because of all the damage the opponent can take from the burn spells.
The Atarka's Command was put in the deck in order to try it out, but it far exceeded my expectations, as all of the modes can be very important in different situations. Most of the time you will want to deal three but the other mode varies. I'm not sure if you want to add too many Atarka's Commands though because the more burn spells in the deck, the more it becomes more of a burn deck rather than a deck that wins by attacking. Right now the burn is more of a supplement to the creatures rather than the primary gameplan.
As far as the sideboard goes, monored is definitely a deck you need to be aware of so there are a couple of Hornet Nest to go along with Arc Lightning and Scouring Sands. It is important to have a bunch of ways to kill one toughness creatures after board, against a variety of archetypes. Versus more controlling decks the Boon Satyr and Outpost Siege come in. Boon Satyr isn't a great maindeck card because you don't normally get a chance to bestow it in most matchups, and it can just die to a Wild Slash or Dromoka's Command, and you lose a lot of tempo. However the fact that it is a four power flash creature for three mana is why it's great versus control. The Destructive Revelry is fantastic and I would run three again in a heartbeat. There are so many decks that run enchantments, and the two damage is far from irrelevant. The Roasts primarily just come in versus some variations of Red/Green decks and Abzan strategies.
Personally this is the way I would go for players looking to play a Red/Green deck with Dragons in it. However this isn't to say there aren't other viable options. Here is the deck Ross Merriam made top eight at the Invitational with:
This seems to be the most popular version of Red/Green right now, as it is the version Ross Merriam and Matt Costa advocate for. This is a faster and leaner version of Red/Green that sacrifices a bit in the late game. Since there are four Boon Satyrs, Surrak, the Hunt Caller is much more likely to have haste on turn four. With the Boon Satyrs it then makes more sense to include a card like Heir of the Wilds, though the deck is sort of trapped between being a ramp deck and an aggro deck, because there are also Rattleclaw Mystics. On turn two would you rather be casting Heir of the Wilds or Rattleclaw Mystic? Either way the one you aren't casting gets much worse when cast later in the game.
This deck still plays eight dragons so I'm not sure why there aren't four Draconic Roars, and I would also like to see Haven of the Spirit Dragon. Draconic Roar can be considered a two-drop so I would like to see it added over one of the two-drop creatures. In general this version isn't too different from the version I played, and it could be that taking elements from both versions to create a new list could be the way to go, though I'm still not completely sure how to go about that. This version emphasizes ferocious and formidable a bit more while the other one emphasizes dragons and fliers. The consensus seems to be that Red/Green has gained a lot of new cards from Dragons of Tarkir, and Red/Green has now gone from a deck that wasn't played a ton, to one of the best decks in the format.
Thanks for reading,