Dragons of Tarkir has had a much bigger impact on Modern than many people may realize, introducing no less than a dozen cards that have seen play, half of which have already become staples of the format! Today I will go over 22 archetypes that have adopted cards from the new set, focusing primarily on the six new format staples.
These are the six established format staples:
1. Rending Volley2. Collected Company3. Anticipate4. Kolaghan's Command5. Atarka's Command6. Narset Transcendent
These are six other cards that have seen play:
RoastSecure the WastesAvatar of the ResoluteAnafenza, Kin-Tree SpiritDragonlord OjutaiSilumgar's Scorn
Now let's look at each of these cards more closely, including the winning lists that play them.
1. Rending Volley
Rending Volley has seen play in more decks than any other card from DTK, but it's been exclusively in sideboards. It's a very powerful card that has replaced Combust in a lot of decks, though not in all of them. Decks like Jund that are less concerned with tempo still tend to prefer Combust, but decks like Delver prefer the more cost-efficient spell. The main appeal of Rending Volley is that it disrupts the Splinter Twin combo as it is able to kill Deceiver Exarch, Pestermite, or Restoration Angel. It also has splash uses such as killing half the creatures in GW Hate Bears, Delver of Secrets, and cards like Linvala, Keeper of Silence that could be especially good against certain decks. It doesn't kill Siege Rhino though, and that is the main reason some decks still prefer Combust. Nevertheless Rending Volley has seen play in just about every deck running Red. There are too many decks to list here, but you'll see it incidentally pop up in some of the other decks in this article.
While Rending Volley has seen the most overall play across archetypes, Collected Company has seen the most play in maindecks.
2. Collected Company
Abzan Collected Company
Collected Company and Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit are seeing play in Abzan Collected Company decks. Some versions are just value decks whereas others contain an infinite three-card combo borrowed from Melira Pod decks of old: (1) Viscera Seer or Varolz, the Scar-Striped combined with (2) Melira, Sylvok Outcast or Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit plus (3) Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap. Some versions also run the Spike Feeder + Archangel of Thune combo. The decks use Chord of Calling and Collected Company to set up the combo or to find one of various utility creatures based on the board state. Is Collected Company the new Birthing Pod? Early signs point to yes.
Naya Collected Company
Naya Aggro decks are typically burn-heavy, utilizing powerful spells such as Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, Path to Exile, and sometimes the Boros Charm + Ghor-Clan Rampager combo. This version of Naya eschews the extra burn spells and pump spells in order to run enough creatures to support Collected Company. The deck has some very fast and potent draws and can really utilize the power of Noble Hierarch by curving out into a third turn Collected Company in a deck full of high impact threats.
GW Hate Bears
Hate Bears offers a much more disruptive support package for Collected Company: Aven Mindcensor, Leonin Arbiter, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and even Flickerwisp. Between Aether Vial, Restoration Angel, Path to Exile, and Collected Company, it has a lot of interaction at instant speed. Hitting Eternal Witness off Collected Company to get back Collected Company just feels really dirty.
Another Collected Company value deck with a "combo" finish is Elves! It utilizes the same search engines as Abzan (Chord of Calling and Collected Company) but its way to "go off" is by dumping a bunch of elves onto the board and using them to generate a bunch of mana to pump into Ezuri, Renegade Leader to Overrun the opponent. It's been one of the most successful Collected Company decks so far.
Like Elves, Slivers are another tribe that really wants to play all creatures and no spells, making it a perfect fit for Collected Company. Like Hate Bears, it also runs Aether Vial as a way to efficiently dump all its creatures onto the battlefield. The deck utilizes four Sinew Sliver and four Predatory Sliver to pump the team and also four Galerider Sliver to make them all flying. Manaweft Sliver fixes the mana and allows the deck to cast its bombs: Sliver Hivelord and Sliver Legion while Homing Sliver plays a similar role to Chord of Calling by searching out whatever sliver is best for the situation.
While no other cards from Dragons of Tarkir have had quite the impact on Modern that Rending Volley or Collected Company have had, four other cards have proven their worth as upgrades in existing decks, the most popular of which is Anticipate.
Anticipate won't find Scapeshift as frequently as Peer Through Depths, but sometimes you whiff with the arcane spell and other times you really just want a land instead of a spell. Anticipate can find a land, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Batterskull, or sideboarded Relic of Progenitus that Peer Through Depths cannot find. Given the redundancy of the cards in the deck, the only real cost of running Anticipate over Peer is not being able to dig as deep to find Scapeshift in spots where all you need is to find that one card. Otherwise the flexibility of Anticipate is better. Only time will tell which proves better, but recent results indicate that Anticipate has the edge.
Esper Mentor is a deck that's been showing up quite a bit lately and Anticipate has played a big role in the deck's success. The goal is to play spells to trigger Monastery Mentor while also filling up the graveyard for Snapcaster Mage and to delve Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Serum Visions and Anticipate accomplish both these objectives while also adding consistency to the deck, enabling it to hit its third land on time or to find the needed answer at the right time. Prior to Anticipate, Telling Time tried to fill this role. Anticipate is pretty much a strict upgrade in this case.
Ad Nauseam Unlife
Another deck where Anticipate is a strict upgrade is Ad Nauseam Unlife. Unlike in Scapeshift, Peer Through Depths is not an option since so many key cards in this deck are not instants or sorceries. Anticipate added a level of consistency to the deck that makes it a much more viable combo deck in Modern than it had previously been.
A lot of UW Control decks are running a single copy of Dragonlord Ojutai in the sideboard and no other cards from Dragons of Tarkir. This version takes the opposite approach and loads up with main deck Anticipate, Dragonlord Ojutai, and even Silumgar's Scorn! The creatures in this deck are all very powerful and the spells are also not too shabby. If you're looking for a Modern deck to run Dragonlord Ojutai in, this is the one. Just remember that an activated Mutavault counts as a Dragon for Silumgar's Scorn in addition to counting as a faerie for Spellstutter Sprite.
While it is unsurprising that Rending Volley, Collected Company, and Anticipate see play in Modern, one card that many overlooked but has quietly been popping up in decks is Kolaghan's Command.
4. Kolaghan's Command
This version of Grixis Twin runs one copy of Kolaghan's Command main and two more in the sideboard. Other versions sometimes run two copies main. The Command plays a versatile role in this deck. Destroying an artifact is generically good against Affinity but specifically good against Spellskite, a card that disrupts the Twin combo. Two damage to a creature can take out a Qasali Pridemage waiting around to blow up a Splinter Twin or a Grim Lavamancer keeping Pestermite from entering the battlefield safely. The Raise Dead ability is also especially good in this deck because it can get back a combo piece (Exarch or Pestermite) or a Snapcaster Mage which can then flashback the command for even more value. The discard mode will often come up as an added throw in bonus. Kolaghan's Command not only fits in this deck but is the reason to play black!
While the Command played various important roles in protecting and/or rebuilding the combo in Grixis Twin, it is purely a value card in Grixis Control, largely taking the spot previously occupied by Electrolyze. The most common Raise Dead target is Snapcaster Mage, enabling the extra value play of then flashing back the Command with the risen wizard. Just as Kolaghan's Command is the reason to play black in Grixis Twin, it is the reason to splash black (along with Tasigur) in this otherwise Blue Moon deck.
Jund with Kolaghan's Command has been growing quite a bit in popularity lately. There are no combo pieces to assemble or protect, nor are there Snapcaster Mages, but the card still proves powerful enough at face value. Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant play an important part in the deck and often die on the spot, which gives Kolaghan's Command a great target to retrieve from the graveyard in addition to whatever second mode is most valuable to the situation. I would like to see at least one Eternal Witness in Jund decks to be able to go crazy with the Command like you can with Snapcaster Mage in Grixis, but maybe that's getting too value hungry.
This is a rather new innovation, replacing blue with black in Scapeshift. In this deck you can use Kolaghan's Command to get back Sakura-Tribe Elder while also killing an opposing Spellskite or two-toughness threat. The deck also has a much more robust Backup Plan than Temur Scapeshift lists, relying on Huntmaster of the Fells and Inferno Titan not only for defense but also as threats than can turn the corner and win the game on their own in just a few turns. Kolaghan's Command makes this plan more reliable by getting either creature back if it dies. You also get significant removal upgrades in Abrupt Decay, Murderous Cut, Maelstrom Pulse, Terminate, and Go for the Throat, making the game much less about racing and more about controlling the board with the option to "combo kill" with Scapeshift. It is very difficult to sideboard against this deck since it can take on such very different roles.
Kolaghan's Command is not the only new command seeing play in Modern. Atarka's Command has also already proven itself a permanent fixture of the format.
5. Atarka's Command
This is basically a burn deck with just enough creatures to gain extra value from the +1/+1 mode of Atarka's Command. Burn decks were already on the fence about whether it was better to splash black for Bump in the Night or green for sideboard Destructive Revelry (mostly to kill Leyline of Sanctity). With the printing of Atarka's Command, that question has been decisively answered. With this Skullcrack upgrade, Burn decks now double splash for Boros Charm (and Lightning Helix) and Atarka's Command (and SB Destructive Revelry).
Another deck that has benefited from Atarka's Command is Domain Zoo. Domain has more creatures than the Burn deck and so it will utilize the +1/+1 mode to a much greater effect, though both decks are heavily in the market for three damage and also the prevent life gain mode, especially in post-board games when opponents bring in all their important life gain cards. Between all the aggro creatures, Lightning Bolts, Tribal Flames, Atarka's Commands, and sideboard Crackling Dooms and Destructive Revelry, this deck can generate a lot of damage each turn while also being highly interactive.
This deck is basically RG Aggro splashing for Wild Nacatl. Like in Domain Zoo, there is no shortage of creatures to pump with the Command. The aggressive nature of the deck will force the opponent to block (or die), which plays right into Rancor, Ghor-Clan Rampager, and Atarka's Command to take out their blocker while also trampling over to keep the pressure on. If you own Tarmogoyfs, those are likely better than Vexing Devil, but the Devil is admittedly better in here than anywhere else.
One last card to make it into the 'Modern Staples' category is the card that started out as the highest demand card in the set: Narset Transcendent.
6. Narset Transcendent
Jeskai Control has been among the few successful control decks in Modern and this version splashes black in order to flashback Lingering Souls. Narset has 28 cards it can draw with her +1 ability and certainly no shortage of spells to Rebound with her -2 ability. While only a one-of, Narset has proven herself a better card advantage engine in this deck than even Sphinx's Revelation! That's some pretty stiff competition, but evidently Narset has what it takes to hold her own.
In Esper Superfriends, Narset is run as a two-of alongside fellow female planeswalkers Liliana of the Veil and Elspeth, Knight-Errant. If it weren't for the one copy of Sorin, Solemn Visitor the deck could be called "Snapcaster Magician and His Three Lovely Assistants." Even without such a cool name, this deck still has a pretty cool plan. It has ample hits for Narset's +1 ability as well as lots of great cards to Rebound with the -2 ability.
Turbo Time Walk
While Narset is more of a role player in the previous two lists, it plays a much more central role in Turbo Fog, or should I say Turbo Time Walk. The goal of this deck is to play out a few planeswalkers and then start casting Time Walks (Time Warp and Savor the Moment) and using Eternal Witness to regrow the Time Walks. Narset's +1 ability helps to find all the walkers and Time Walks, which is useful, but it's the -2 ability that is irreplaceable, giving the Time Walks Rebound! If you've ever wanted to take several turns in a row and then ultimate a bunch of planeswalkers all at once, this deck may be just the dream you've been longing to experience!
While the above six cards have proven to be staples across multiple archetypes, the next three cards have only shown up in one archetype, though each has played a prominent role in that archetype.
7. One-Trick Ponies
Roast in Skred Red
Skred Red is unlike most other Red decks in that it aims to control the board rather than just burn the opponent out. Therefore it is more interested in spells with a higher damage output than it is in spells with the versatility of being able to also target the opponent (e.g. Skred). Roast is a clear upgrade from Flame Slash because it's able to kill Siege Rhino and Tasigur, the Golden Fang, two popular creatures that otherwise give Skred Red a problem.
Avatar of the Resolute in Monogreen Aggro
Proponents of Monogreen Aggro have insisted on the deck's power and strong positioning in the metagame and Avatar of the Resolute has been a big boost to the deck. In addition to being cost efficient on its own, the Avatar combos extremely well with Experiment One, Young Wolf, Strangleroot Geist, and Scavenging Ooze. Some lists also run Dungrove Elder or Kalonian Tusker.
Secure the Wastes in BW Tokens
Sorin, Solemn Visitor was a big upgrade for BW Tokens because it gave the deck a way to beat the burn decks much more consistently, though it still lacked a third high impact token producer to go alongside Lingering Souls and Spectral Procession. Hero of Bladehold made opposing Terminates good when they otherwise wouldn't be and Raise the Alarm was just too low impact beyond the second turn. Secure the Wastes might not be quite as good as the spirit-makers, but it can be just as impactful late in the game and is really only worse than Raise the Alarm on the second turn. Hence the 2-2 split between Raise and Secure is a strong upgrade. I can attest from firsthand experience that this archetype is among the most underrated decks in Modern.
Which DTK Card is Your Favorite for Modern?
Dragons of Tarkir has had a much bigger impact on Modern than anyone expected, with six cards establishing themselves as staples of the format (Rending Volley, Collected Company, Anticipate, Kolaghan's Command, Atarka's Command, and Narset Transcendent). Several other cards have also shown up in winning lists: Roast, Secure the Wastes, Avatar of the Resolute, Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, Dragonlord Ojutai, and even Silumgar's Scorn. Which card from Dragons of Tarkir do you like the best in Modern and why?
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