It is time to get ready for Dragons of Tarkir! It doesn't seem like Fate Reforged has been out for that long, but regardless, that won't stop Dragons of Tarkir from coming. After looking over the spoiler I have to say that I am super excited for this set. Dragons of Tarkir truly seems like a one of a kind set and I have always wanted for dragons to be a legitimate thing in Standard. While some archetypes do get upgrades with cards from Dragons of Tarkir, there are also going to be plenty of brand new strategies that will be competitive with the current decks of Standard. I am going to go over five decks that include some of the new cards, but are not far enough along in their development to contain sideboards.
To kick things off here is a look at Monored Aggro:
The first thing I noticed about Dragons of Tarkir is the existence of one of the most powerful one-drops ever printed. That card is Zurgo Bellstriker. I remember going back to Champions of Kamigawa when Isamaru, Hound of Konda was printed and how it seemed absurd that a straight up 2/2 for one mana was really a thing. Now Wizards has decided to take this a step further, and throw dash onto the card too. Giving Zurgo Bellstriker dash is very relevant, as it helps the red deck work around sweepers from Drown in Sorrow, to End Hostilities. Later in the game he is a haste threat, that an opponent may just die to if they haven't left any blockers back. Yes, Zurgo Bellstriker is legendary which means you may not want all four, so there are three in this list.
The expectation is that there will be a shift in the one mana creatures in Monored Aggro. Previously this deck often would be relying on cards like Akroan Crusader, which while nice with pump effects, would oftentimes just be a vanilla 1/1. Now, not only has Zurgo Bellstriker been printed, but so has Lightning Berserker. Lightning Berserker isn't as obviously good as Zurgo Bellstriker, but there are many situations where he will actually be better. A one mana 1/1 with Firebreathing is already strong enough to see play, but Lightning Berserker also has dash. To me it is pretty insane that Wizards would print two one-drops that are this powerful in the same set. Monored doesn't need pump effects like Dragon Mantle and Titan's Strength when your creatures already have Firebreathing.
Speaking of Firebreathing there is yet another creature from Dragons of Tarkir in the deck that also can pump itself! Monored has been looking for a two mana creature, and has been trying cards from Valley Dasher to War-Name Aspirant, but these options are pretty unexciting. Now the deck has Dragon Whisperer. Dragon Whisperer is another early drop that also has a lot of utility later. While it is rare to activate his formidable, that is not why he is in the deck. The fact that for only a single mana Dragon Whisperer can fly means he can just jump over most of the creatures that are popular in Standard.
Overall the game plan remains to Overload on a bunch of one-drops early in the game and then in the midgame have Dragon Whisper and Goblin Rabblemaster, as well as Dash creatures to clean up. There are a couple Arc Lightning in the main because it is a versatile burn spell that can also trade with a Hordeling Outburst which is one of the scariest cards against this deck. The new burn spell from Dragons of Tarkir here is Roast; this is an exciting new way to deal with Siege Rhino which red didn't previously have access to. Monored Aggro has gained a lot of tools from Dragons of Tarkir and I expect it to gain a lot of popularity.
Okay, enough about Monored Aggro. I know that no matter how good this type of deck is there will always be people who prefer the slower more controlling style decks. Here is a Temur Control list that makes use of Sarkhan Unbroken:
Sarkhan Unbroken is one of the most obviously powerful cards to come out of Dragons of Tarkir, but it is hard to say exactly what shell it fits best in. Should Sarkhan Unbroken simply be added to the pre-existing versions of Temur Aggro or Temur Midrange? Or does the existence of this new planeswalker allow the door to open for Temur Control to be an option. I have a feeling that you can go both directions with Sarkhan Unbroken, and we will have to just wait and see where he ends up finding a home. This is a controlling build of the deck that plays a host of very powerful creatures.
A lot of Temur Aggro builds opt not to run Courser of Kruphix or even Sylvan Caryatid, but this deck certainly wants both. These cards are both great at holding the ground versus opposing aggression and the advantage Courser of Kruphix can generate over a game is undeniable. The other three-drop here of course is Savage Knuckleblade which can be virtually un-killable later in the game. Versus control decks like, say, Sultai Control Savage Knuckleblade can single handedly win the game for the Temur deck. The idea of having threats that are difficult to answer continues with Ashcloud Phoenix, which is why I would rather have Ashcloud Phoenix than say Polukranos, World Eater, which can now simply be Roasted. The last creature is a new one, and that is Dragonlord Atarka. This Dragon is so obviously powerful, it is essentially Bogardan Hellkite for one less mana (though you can't target players), and that card saw a reasonable amount of play! There aren't too many decks Dragonlord Atarka actually fits in, which is the issue, but this is definitely one of them.
As far as the spells go Anger of the Gods is going to be extremely important to deal with decks like Monored Aggro. It is true that Anger of the Gods and Sylvan Caryatid don't work well together, but most of the time, if the plan is to Anger of the Gods on three, it's fine; you just don't play Sylvan Caryatid on turn two. There is usually a card which isn't great in a certain matchup which you can discard to Tormenting Voice, and that helps fuel the Dig Though Times. The other cantrip to go along with Tormenting Voice is Anticipate. This is one of the most hyped control cards of the set, and while I don't think is a crazy good card, it does fill an important role for the control decks. Card selection is key when later in the game you are looking for very specific cards. Rounding out the deck there are a couple Counterspells in Disdainful Stroke, as well as two copies of Draconic Roar. Draconic Roar is better than Lightning Strike here because it goes along with Dragonlord Atarka and the tokens provided by Sarkhan Unbroken are dragons, which allows this to be the occasional Searing Blaze.
Overall, with Sarkhan Unbroken, Temur Control can generate a lot of card advantage, and may become a legitimate control deck now. The next deck I want to talk about is White/Green Aggro, a deck that has gained a number of tools from Dragons of Tarkir. Here is the deck:
White Aggro has been noticeably absent from Standard since the release of Khans of Tarkir. The printing of Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit has given this style deck new life. This list is essentially monowhite splashing Fleecemane Lion and Dromoka's Command. The creatures here are all very solid on their own, as there are now a full 12 one mana, two power creatures in white. It is easy to say that because they all have one toughness it means that they are easy to trade with. This isn't altogether true. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit will make them into 3/2's a lot of the time which are much better than 2/1's. Also Citadel Siege is usually set to khans, which is another way to pump up the small creatures.
Traditionally white/green decks have access to strong under-costed creatures, and this deck is no different. Fleecemane Lion and Brimaz, King of Oreskos have already proven to be format staples. While this is an aggro deck, it is not an all-in aggressive strategy, as there is a top end too. Wingmate Roc can still pack a punch, and this is one of the best decks to create two large flyers to close out a game. Besides Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit the other new card here is Dromoka's Command. This is yet another way to pump up your creatures, so don't expect them to be 2/1s for very long. Dromoka's Command is one of the best commands in Dragons of Tarkir, and that is saying something. Each mode on this Command is very relevant. Oftentimes it will be a removal spell for two mana that adds a counter to one of your creatures, but then other times the opponent will sacrifice an enchantment, which is also a very big deal. Dromoka's Command may turn white/green from being barely played, into one of the top decks in the format.
Let the hits continue...
These decks are no joke, and I expect the next one to be a top tier deck. Here is Red/Green Dragon Aggro:
Green/Red Aggro is not a new deck, but this build is a little different from the current versions of the deck. When looking at the spoiler I was wondering if a low cost dragon would be printed below five mana. I thought there might be one, but I didn't expect it to be as good as Thunderbreak Regent. I mean is a 4/4 flyer for four mana not good enough already? The opponent really needs to take three when trying to kill him? Now this deck has a full eight dragons in it, which should be more than any other Standard deck. This allows Draconic Roar to be included as perhaps the best burn spell in the deck, as a lot of the time it is simply Searing Blaze, without the prohibitive mana cost and landfall.
The dragon synergies are certainly present, but that's not all this deck has going for it. There are the typical mana accelerators into Goblin Rabblemaster and other four power threats, which is what we have become accustomed to in this sort of deck. The burn package though is why this version of the deck is better than previous versions. Even if Thunderbreak Regent is dealt with by a removal spell it still Lightning Bolts the opponent. Then of course there are Crater's Claws and Stoke the Flames, which are just as good as ever. In addition, there are three copies of Atarka's Command. To start off the opponent will generally be taking three from this card, then you can stop the opponent gaining life from a Siege Rhino, play your Dragon a turn earlier by putting a land into play, or simply pump your team. It is very possible there should be four copies of Atarka's Command as the card is great.
Had enough decks yet? Well, if not there is one more list I will share, though I won't be going into too great detail on this one. I have already heard buzz on this deck, and it is Monoblue Devotion. Here is a list:
Shorecrasher Elemental is obviously a very powerful card, and it only will fit into a Monoblue deck. This may be the time to pick up Thassa, God of the Sea as it is looking to make a comeback. Just imagine manifesting a Thassa, God of the Sea with Cloudform. It is true that Mindreaver isn't great, but this deck wants to have a high devotion count. Stratus Dancer is another big pickup from Dragons of Tarkir, and another creature that loves being manifested by Cloudform. Unlike the old Monoblue Devotion deck this one can play more copies of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which helps enable Hypnotic Siren being bestowed later in the game. Overall I'm not sure if this version is quite as good as the old version of Monoblue Devotion but that shouldn't stop people from trying it, as the format has changed a lot since then.
Thanks for reading,