Well it is safe to say that Dragons of Tarkir has changed Standard in a big way, and this means that many decks have started to add dragons. This doesn't mean completely new archetypes though; it could just mean adding or splashing a Dragonlord Ojutai. But in the case of the deck I played it meant adding a fourth color! Most decks in the format don't dare stretch beyond three colors because of not wanting to hurt the manabase. Dragonlord Atarka is one of the most powerful cards in Standard, and the deck I played incorporates it into a traditional Abzan Control shell, here is my list from the Pro Tour:
Once upon a time Sylvan Caryatid was a staple in the Abzan Control decks but it fell out of favor to make the deck more spell dense, and able to maindeck wrath effects. However, that does not mean that Sylvan Caryatid is bad in the deck, in fact it is great in the format right now. Sylvan Caryatid makes aggressive matchups like Monored Aggro much better as you can cast your threats a turn earlier, and block on the second turn if necessary. It was pretty early in testing that I knew I wanted to be playing Sylvan Caryatid in the deck, and at that point splashing a fourth color became a legitimate option. Team TCGplayer was testing other decks with Dragonlord Atarka and realizing how powerful the card is, so we decided to throw it in the Abzan Control deck.
The big question is can the deck support Dragonloard Atarka? As far as the mana goes we didn't want to play a lot of red lands, as we were relying heavily on Sylvan Caryatid. It was decided that one Haven of the Spirit Dragon to go along with two Nomad Outposts would suffice. This seems like very few red sources, and to be honest it is. However, when looking further Dragonlord Atarka is a seven drop which means it isn't necessary to have red early in the game. In addition to Sylvan Caryatid the deck plays Satyr Wayfinder to help find red lands. I never had a problem with casting Dragonlord Atarka in the tournament. Besides the mana the other question is by adding Dragonlord Atarka is the deck too top heavy? The answer is that on paper yes, but when actually testing the deck there are not too many threats. However, I would make one change to the deck and that is to cut one copy of Elspeth, Sun's Champion for one Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Since there are three Elspeth, Sun's Champions and two Dragonlord Atarka, for the Pro Tour Ugin, the Spirit Dragon did end up in the sideboard.
Dragonlord Atarka works especially well with Whip of Erebos but the idea wasn't to make this deck into a combo deck, that strayed away too much from original Abzan Control shell. The removal spells were necessary in matchups like Red/Green Monsters. We didn't want cards that sort of don't do a lot other than filling up the graveyard like Commune with the Gods, though the deck does want some extra ways of putting creatures in the yard. The deck started with four copies of Satyr Wayfinder but we eventually settled on three. Satyr Wayfinder works very well with both Whip of Erebos and Sidisi, Undead Vizier, but you also would almost always rather be casting Sylvan Caryatid on turn two, and can get flooded pretty easily by playing too many mana sources. This is why there are three and some can be boarded out at times. Satyr Wayfinder also works nicely with Haven of the Spirit Dragon as it not only helps you mill Dragonlord Atarka into your graveyard, but you can find the Haven of the Spirit Dragon with Satyr Wayfinder.
There is only one copy of Sidisi, Undead Vizier and Whip of Erebos, as while both are strong, there will be spots when they can be underwhelming, and you rarely want to draw multiples. This idea applies to the other singletons, in Utter End and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. There were many games over the course of the Pro Tour where I went through more than half the deck, so having one-ofs that can be tutored for with Sidisi, Undead Vizier is important. With that being said the core creatures from Abzan Control remain the same. There are four of both Courser of Kruphix and Siege Rhino, which are just a given, and these cards are even better when you can whip them back.
The other cards in the deck don't differ too much from the traditional Abzan Control deck. Some of the numbers on certain cards like Thoughtseize did get shaved a bit to make room for other things. This deck has moved a little bit more towards being a threat deck, rather than a deck that relies on Thoughtseize as an answer card. The game also evolves into topdecking a good portion of the time, so you don't want more Thoughtseizes. One thing of note is that this version is not really meant for Bile Blight, but I feel like Ultimate Price is also better in a lot of situations. Bile Blight versus Ultimate Price is a give and take, one is better versus tokens, the other is better versus large green and red creatures. In the end I played the removal spell that is easier on the mana base. There are also two Murderous Cuts because this deck really does want three delve spells. Sideboarding
The maindeck is great, but the sideboard is what you rely on in tight game three situations. Sideboarding may very well be more important than choosing the right sixty cards for your maindeck. With that being said don't be afraid of sideboarding with a bunch of one and two-ofs.
Versus Control (with Dragons): The best deck based on the numbers to come out of the Pro Tour may very well have been the Dragon Control decks. With that said this does not mean that Dragon Control is the best deck, as the deck obviously has some poor matchups. I went 2-2 against control over the course of the tournament and I think that is about right. The maindeck isn't set up for control, but after board more threats can be exchanged for situational removal. Here is the plan:
Out: 2 Murderous Cut, 2 Hero's Downfall, 2 Sylvan Caryatid, 1 Satyr Wayfinder, 2 Ultimate Price, 1 Dragonlord AtarkaIn: 1 Thoughtseize, 1 Risen Executioner, 1 Merciless Executioner, 1 Crux of Fate, 1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, 1 Self-Inflicted Wound (for Dragonlord Ojutai), 1 Arbor Colossus, 1 Archfiend of Depravity, 2 Fleecemane Lion.
This is definitely a lot of cards, many of which can actually answer a Dragonlord Ojutai. The biggest issues for Abzan Control are Dragonlord Ojutai and Silumgar, the Drifting Death. Edict effects and Crux of Fate are some of the best ways of answering these dragons after the opponent has tapped out. Many of these cards have implications in other matchups but can still come in here like Arbor Colossus and Archfiend of Depravity. Since we are cutting a couple Sylvan Caryatids and Satyr Wayfinders after game one there are less red sources in the deck, so it makes sense to shave a Dragonlord Atarka as well. The deck wants to be taking out removal spells and bringing in creatures that can pressure the opponent so there isn't time to use all the card drawing the control player has access to. The Risen Executioner is specifically for this matchup, as a threat that isn't answered by Counterspells or one-for-one removal.
Versus Monored Aggro: This is a good matchup because of Sylvan Caryatid. The third Drown in Sorrow could be added to the board if you expect a lot of monored though. Here is the sideboard plan:
Out: 2 Thoughtseize, 3 Abzan CharmIn: 2 Drown in Sorrow, 2 Fleecemane Lion, 1 Crux of Fate
After game one we basically just have all good cards against them, though monored always can have draws when on the play that you just can't do anything about. Still, once advancing to the late game it is easy to win with a Dragonlord Atarka or Elspeth, Sun's Champion. The additional sweepers after sideboard also make you less vulnerable to tokens from Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst.
Versus Abzan Aggro: This is one of your best matchups. Many players should already be familiar with Abzan Control versus Abzan Aggro though I think this version is even more of a favorite against Abzan Aggro. Here's the plan:
Out: 1 Satyr Wayfinder, 1 Thoughtseize, 2 Ultimate PriceIn: 2 Glare of Heresy, 1 Self-Inflicted Wound, 1 Merciless Executioner
Some versions of Abzan Aggro barely play any mono-colored creatures, making Ultimate Price vulnerable to just becoming a dead card. The Crux of Fate can come in when expecting Wingmate Roc though you would rather just be on the plan of trying to deal with the early threats, and preventing the raid. Lots of the time the game can come down to topdecking, which is where the finishers like Dragonlord Atarka and Elspeth, Sun's Champion really shine.
Versus Red/Green Decks: At the moment there are a wide range of red/green archetypes but I am lumping them into a single category. The most obvious archetype is Red/Green Dragons but also new decks like Red/Green Bees and Green Devotion with Dragonlord Atarka are emerging. Most green decks are decent matchups, because of how good the black removal spells are. I am not going into specifically how to sideboard here because you don't need to sideboard very much in any of these matchups. I would look at potentially bringing in Fleecemane Lion on the play, the Crux of Fate, and the additional Thoughtseize can come in. The card that does almost always come in versus opposing dragon decks is the Arbor Colossus. It is fine to swap just a couple cards versus these deck. Trimming a Satyr Wayfinder and an Utter End is generally reasonable.
Versus Abzan Control: Over the course of the Pro Tour I was 3-0 against other Abzan Control decks. Dragonlord Atarka gives you the ability to be able to go over the top most of the time, though the games are still close. The key to Dragonlord Atarka is that it is usually correct to wait until your opponent plays Elspeth, Sun's Champion before playing Dragonlord Atarka to take out their planeswalker. This is the plan:
Out: 1 Satyr Wayfinder, 1 Sylvan Caryatid, 1 Utter End, 1 Hero's Downfall, 1 Ultimate PriceIn: 1 Glare of Heresy, 1 Self-Inflicted Wound, 1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, 2 Fleecemane Lion
After game one the idea is to just position your removal spells in the best possible way, and be prepared for a topdeck war or an early assault. Don't be too afraid of opposing Read the Bones as generally it feels like having more threats is better than more card drawing.
So I won't be going over every matchup for sideboarding, but this does cover some of the top decks. This deck isn't too different from Abzan Control and Abzan Whip decks before Dragons of Tarkir. The deck is super powerful, and it ended up putting me into the Top 16 of the Pro Tour, and very close to the Top 8. I recommend trying it out!
Thanks for reading,Seth Manfield