The SCG Invitational, SCG Open, and TCGplayer 5K event all happened this weekend and the breakout card from Dragons of Tarkir was Dromoka's Command. By the numbers, it was the most played card from the new set among all the decks that did well across the three events. So today I would like to focus on various ways to utilize this great new card. It fits into existing Tier 1 decks (GW Devotion and Abzan Aggro) but is also powerful enough to enable a few archetypes that are currently under the radar. I have six decks I want to talk about today, four of which will likely catch your opponents off guard.
Let's start with GW Dragons.
(Decklist has been removed by creator.)
Moose102 built a really sweet Selesyna deck with a number of subtle synergies.
The thing I like most is his choice of two-drop creatures:
4 Avatar of the Resolute4 Fleecemane Lion3 Scaleguard Sentinels
That's a lot of three power two-drops, each of which remains relevant later in the game. The cost of running the Scaleguard Sentinels, however, is that you need to play with some dragons to get full value from them. Fortunately green and white have some pretty sweet dragons!
3 Dromoka, the Eternal3 Sunscorch Regent1 Dragonlord Dromoka
Seven is slightly more than is probably necessary, considering we don't want too many high cost cards stuck in hand. Six dragons should be enough to adequately support the Scaleguard Sentinels.
Surrak, the Hunt Caller is a natural fit with all the two-mana three power threats in the deck, especially when we also have four Elvish Mystic as a potential opening play. It sets up the following sequence:
Turn 1: Elvish MysticTurn 2: Fleecemane Lion, Avatar of the Resolute, or Scaleguard SentinelsTurn 3: Surrak, the Hunt Caller, attack for eightTurn 4: Dromoka, the Eternal or Sunscorch Regent, attack for at least 12
That's a lot of interchangeable pieces that allow for a fourth turn kill! The only two that are not interchangeable are Elvish Mystic and Surrak, the Hunt Caller.
The deck has a powerful curve of creatures but also has some powerful spells.
Dromoka's Command is the most important one, offering efficient removal with added upside and the potential for a huge two-for-one in cases where the opponent has a creature and an enchantment. Valorous Stance is also fairly versatile in that it plays the role of a removal spell against creatures big enough to trade with our giant monsters or it can also protect our monsters from removal spells.
The part about the deck I think is pushed too hard is the subtheme of +1/+1 counters. I get that Avatar of the Resolute gets bigger when we have other creatures with counters, but I think this is best accepted as an incidental bonus instead of trying to have the deck do too much. The things it is doing are already powerful enough! So the first card I would cut is High Sentinels of Arashin. It's much worse than Surrak, the Hunt Caller in this deck and is much less important than Scaleguard Sentinels or Dromoka's Command. So I would go up to four copies of each of those spells and cut the three High Sentinels of Arashin entirely.
Next I would consider the mana base. 23 lands and four Elvish Mystics would be fine if our curve mostly tops out at four mana, but this deck wants to get to five mana on curve each game for its SIX (!!) five-drop dragons (three Sunscorch Regent, three Dromoka, the Eternal). I would cut the one Dragonlord Dromoka for a fourth Plains, going up to 24 total lands.
I'm unsure how good Inspiring Call is in this deck. There will be lots of scenarios where we have creatures in play with counters on them, so there will certainly be times where it's a blowout. The question is how often will it be a do-nothing? My guess is it's likely worse than two more copies of Valorous Stance but it's entirely possible I'm underestimating the card. If anyone understands the power of Rootborn Defenses, it is me. And this is the newest iteration of that card. Rootborn Defenses was good enough for Block Constructed but inadequate for Standard. Will this one prove to be good enough? The verdict is currently still out, but Valorous Stance certainly is good enough if you would rather go with the safer option.
To recap, here are the changes I would make:
OUT1 Dragonlord Dromoka3 High Sentinels of Arashin2 Inspiring Call (not certain on this)
IN1 Plains (4th)1 Surrak, the Hunt Caller (4th)1 Dromoka's Command (4th)1 Scaleguard Sentinels (4th)
2 Valorous Stance (3rd and 4th, unsure if better than Inspiring Call)
Next let's talk about a deck Seth Manfield posted here.
Seth Manfield's take on GW is pretty straightforward. He runs a fast curve of creatures backed by Citadel Siege and Wingmate Roc.
The curve starts low with 12 one-drops and 18 ways to cast them on turn one:
4 Dragon Hunter4 Mardu Woe-Reaper4 Soldier of the Pantheon
In addition to being able to play a pair of one-drops again on the second turn, he also runs eight really strong two-drop creatures:
4 Fleecemane Lion4 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Anafenza is particularly good in this style of deck because it keeps all the one-drops relevant in the later turns when they would otherwise be outclassed by opposing three-drops like Deathmist Raptor.
In addition to Anafenza making the weenies relevant in the later turns, Citadel Siege is another great way to keep them matching up well against opposing Siege Rhinos and such. And Wingmate Roc does Wingmate Roc stuff, flying over the Abzan or Green Devotion defenses.
I like most of what this deck is doing, but I think I would like to see Valorous Stance over Banishing Light because it kills a lot of the same things for one less mana while also protecting whatever creature you place counters on with Citadel Siege.
The other small thing I would change is the mana. The only green spells in the deck are four Fleecemane Lion and four Dromoka's Command and yet he runs 14 green sources, including four very painful copies of Mana Confluence. I think you could easily get away with only 12 sources, cutting two Mana Confluences for two more Plains.
To recap, here are the changes I would make:
OUT2 Mana Confluence2 Banishing Light
IN2 Plains (12 total)2 Valorous Stance
Straight Green/White isn't the only deck that is interested in Dromoka's Command. Aalistor built a Bant Tempo deck that makes good use of Dromoka's Command.
Aalistor has a knack for building sweet off the radar decks (with sideboards!) and this deck certainly caught my eye.
Fleecemane Lion and Seeker of the Way are about as good as it gets for two-drops as long as you can support both. Aalistor's list certainly has enough noncreature spells to support Seeker of the Way, so many that he can also run Monastery Mentor and Ojutai Exemplars.
The spells are where things really get interesting. Four Anticipate is the most important one because it's a way to "cycle" to find another spell to trigger all the creatures. Most importantly, it's a spell you can cast regardless of the board state in order to save Ojutai Exemplars from a removal spell. Many of the other spells in the deck require the opponent to have a creature worth killing in order to net value from the Ojutai Exemplar's blink ability.
Beyond Anticipate we see a number of different ways to handle permanents, especially creatures. Disdainful Stroke counters the important cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Stormbreath Dragon. Ojutai's Command is another way to stop the Dragon with the added value option to get a Fleecemane Lion or Seeker of the Way back from the graveyard or just draw a card. Getting Lion back on turn four and then untapping and going monstrous on turn five seems pretty strong. Also against any kind of red deck getting back a Seeker of the Way and gaining four life is a legit plan to avoid getting burnt out.
In addition to countering the creatures, the deck runs two Valorous Stance, four Dromoka's Command, and four Devouring Light to deal with creatures already on the board. Dromoka's Command is the most versatile of the three spells because it also takes care of opposing enchantments, but Valorous Stance can also save our Monastery Mentor in a pinch.
The only change I would like to see is more late game card advantage, most notably Dig Through Time. It's unclear to me whether Ojutai's Command or Devouring Light is better, but I would cut from one or both of those places to add a pair of Dig Through Time. Another possibility is adding Dragonlord Ojutai to top off the curve.
There's another three-color deck that is very much interested in Dromoka's Command. Jason Coleman made it to the Top 4 of the SCG Invitational with Abzan Aggro utilizing Dromoka's Command.
We should all be fairly familiar by now with this archetype and what it does. The mana is a bit more painful and a bit slower than that of a two-color deck, but the power level is generally a bit higher. Black already has access to efficient removal spells, so Dromoka's Command is not as indispensable in this archetype as it is in some of the others. Nevertheless it's still good enough and is the only maindeck worthy enchantment kill spell available to the archetype outside of maybe Utter End. It frees the deck up to be more tempo-oriented with its Thoughtseizes instead of having to always take the Outpost Siege that it would otherwise have no way of handling. Dromoka's Command is so good that it shares space alongside Abzan Charm, Bile Blight, and Hero's Downfall. That's saying a lot, especially when the deck in question is one of the longest standing Tier 1 decks in the format!
Speaking of Tier 1 decks, Abzan Aggro isn't the only tournament powerhouse that is interested in Dromoka's Command. GW Devotion also wants a cup of that sweet Dromoka Latte!
Adam Yurchick went undefeated on Day 1 of Grand Prix Miami with GW Devotion and then wrote about his updated version of the deck here where Dromoka's Command is the newest addition from Dragons of Tarkir. Chris Anderson also made it to the Top 4 of the SCG Invitational with a very similar list, which also included Dromoka's Command.
Pre-Dragons versions of GW Devotion ran a pair of Banishing Lights as their all-purpose removal spell of choice that they could find with Genesis Hydra. Dromoka's Command is a slight upgrade because it answers the enchantments or creatures that Banishing Light was primarily needed for but without the added risk of getting blown up by a kill spell. It's not a huge upgrade but an upgrade nonetheless.
Most Green Devotion decks utilize Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Voyaging Satyr to produce a ton of mana to do all sorts of degenerate things. This next version by –Swill- is a bit different. Instead of acting as a ramp deck, it's an aggro deck that uses its devotion to pump Reverent Hunter.
Unlike the ramp style version of Green Devotion, this one is very much interested in running the full four copies of Dromoka's Command. The primary reason is because it looks to tempo out the opponent, which means getting through Siege Rhinos and such in combat. The secondary reason is because it can't just produce 20 mana and kill the opponent's board all at once with a Polukranos, World Eater.
It starts out with likely the most powerful first turn play in Standard:
4 Elvish Mystic
And then it continues up the curve:
4 Avatar of the Resolute4 Den Protector (sometimes)
Or if it has the Elvish Mystic it curves straight to three mana:
4 Deathmist Raptor4 Boon Satyr4 Reverent Hunter
And then it tops off with:
4 Surrak, the Hunt Caller4 Whisperwood Elemental
The deck has a fast curve, nearly perfect mana, and internal synergy (Whisperwood Elemental and Den Protector to get back Deathmist Raptor from the graveyard). The one place I think it lacks is in the late game. Bestowing Boon Satyr onto a creature is a strong play, as is casting Whisperwood Elemental, but this deck really doesn't want to have to recover from an End Hostilities or fight an attrition fight against Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Dig Through Time. Instead I think the deck should increase its midgame presence and just try to close the door before ever getting to the late game. In order to do this, I would suggest replacing four Den Protector with four Aspect of Hydra.
Aspect of Hydra works great alongside Reverent Hunter, offering a way to "burn the opponent out" a turn sooner than expected while also acting as a pseudo removal spell for just one mana. It's possible that Whisperwood Elemental is the more appropriate place to cut, given the synergy between Den Protector and Aspect of Hydra, but Whisperwood Elemental just seems too good to cut.
In the sideboard Nylea's Disciple improves the aggro matchups (not that they were especially bad before). I might also want to add some copies of Hunt the Hunter to combat opposing Green Devotion and Abzan Aggro strategies. Other than those few changes, I like what this deck is doing and it really gains a lot from Dromoka's Command.Conclusion
Based on the data from Week One, Dromoka's Command appears to be the most powerful card in Dragons of Tarkir. It fits nicely into multiple Tier 1 decks (Abzan Aggro, GW Devotion) while making several other fringe decks possible. It's too early to predict what will happen at the Pro Tour next week, but as of now Dromoka's Command is the most likely card from the new set to find its way into the Top 8. Will it be in one or more of the decks discussed in this article or will it be in an altogether new and innovative deck? If you have any thoughts about how best to utilize Dromoka's Command, I'm interested to see your list in the comments section below!