For every new set release I like to list ten of the cards I don't think are getting enough attention, cards that I think should be getting a little more attention, and cards that I, personally, am really excited to brew with. The more I write these with every set, the more it feels like we're specifically talking about cards I'm excited to try out, that haven't reached their full potential, rather than cards that are "sleepers" per se. That being the case, let's try not to nitpick the word "sleepers" in the comments; don't be that guy.
As I often mention, sometimes I'm way off and sometimes I'm right on the nose with these articles, but the thing I try hardest to accomplish is to provide you guys with a perspective on some cards that you might not have initially had. Maybe you'll see a card in a new light, or discover an application you might not have thought of, and if so, then I consider my work a success.
If you're looking for a list of the Top 10 Dragons of Tarkir cards you're in the wrong place. You will find no Sarkhan Unbroken or Dragonlord Ojutai here. Only some of the unsung heroes of the set that I would personally like to build around based on the merit I see them possessing.
Without further ado...let's begin!
10. Dragon Tempest and Descent of the Dragons
Okay, I'm kind of cheating here by listing two cards, but I think these are both cards that look underwhelming but work incredibly well together. We can play a mana creature on turn one, followed by a Dragon Tempest on turn two. We can then play another mana creature or two on turn three and cast Descent of the Dragons on Turn four. Even if we only target three creatures, we have three 4/4 hasty flies (12 damage) that each deal three damage when they come into play from seeing two other dragons (nine total damage/three damage each). This is 21 damage on turn four and good enough for a kill. Even if our opponent can deal with a dragon or two, we'll still have some number of 4/4s. And I see three as a pretty low number for potential dragon targets. All I'm saying is that this is a very strong two-card combination that deserves some looking into.
9. Deathmist Raptor
As with every list, I put some cards at the bottom that were overlooked at first but have begun to gain steam as the article is being published. Deathmist Raptor is such a card. While a 3/3 for three isn't even the best value nowadays, the fact that this guy also has deathtouch, can become a 4/4, and can return to play simply by flipping something like an Ashcloud Phoenix or a Rattleclaw Mystic is big game. This creature is an utter headache against cards like Savage Knuckleblade, Siege Rhino, and especially Courser of Kruphix which can basically never block it. I look forward to the games where I have three Deathmist Raptors in the graveyard, and I flip my Hidden Dragonslayer face up to kill my opponent's Siege Rhino and have an unbeatable army. My biggest criticism of this card it that it isn't a "Creature - Dinosaur." Get it together Forsythe!
8. Assault Formation
Just like Deathmist Raptor, Assault Formation has a ton of things going for it. First, unlike Doran, the Siege Tower it only affects our creatures. Second, it allows our defenders (which often have the highest toughness) to actually attack, which is huge. Hello, Sylvan Caryatid and Wall of Omens! Finally, it can pump our entire team! This is great even outside of the "toughness matters" strategy as it lets creatures like Courser of Kruphix survive things like Siege Rhino...and kill it, I suppose. While this seems like a cute Commander-type card, I would actually be surprised if a legitimate strategy wasn't built around this card. The only thing I would wager that holds it back is the sheer number of cards that deal with enchantments currently (specifically Dromoka's Command).
7. Foul Renewal
I'm not sure about Foul Renewal, but I like it a lot. It's an instant speed removal spell that has the potential to two-for-one our opponent. Being able to recur our Siege Rhino at the end of our opponent's turn while simultaneously killing theirs is just awesome. While this doesn't work very well with low toughness creatures like Ashcloud Phoenix, as indicated by our last card Standard has sort of a toughness matters theme currently which ends up making this card even better. We're not above using four mana removal like Utter End or Silence the Believers, and this is often a straight-up two-for-one. It reminds me of the Dismiss of removal spells: kill a thing and draw a card.
6. Icefall Regent
Well if it isn't the love child of Dungeon Geists and Frost Titan. If you remember correctly both of those creatures ended up seeing Constructed play and neither of them had sweet cards that benefited from their inclusion in a deck the way that cards like Haven of the Spirit Dragon or Silumgar's Scorn do. My biggest problem with this card is that it competes with Dragonlord Ojutai at the same casting cost, but when I brought that up to Melissa she made a good point: "sure, but what if you want to play it in UR or UB?" Well, that's a great point, and I could see this going perfectly in a UR Burn deck alongside things like Silumgar's Scorn or Draconic Roar. Sure, spend five mana for your Hero's Downfall, or even four mana for your Bile Blight. No sweat off my back.
5. Living Lore
This card is super sweet and it reminds me a lot of my first card on the list. (Or rather my number one card; no peeking!) A card that has stats based on the converted mana cost of an instant or sorcery when cards like Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are in the format? Even if we're simply exiling a Stoke the Flames, a 4/4 for four mana in blue that can attack, then deal another four damage is worth noticing. One of the best parts about Living Lore is that it doesn't have to deal combat damage to the player to trigger its ability; any combat damage will do! While there will always be situations where Living Lore might not have a target to exile, with things like Silumgar's Command, Ojutai's Command, the delve spells, etc., there are plenty of ways to make sure this is a sizable threat with upside for not a lot of mana.
4. Myth Realized
The more I look at this card, the more I wonder how much higher it should be on the list. At first I worried that this card had potential, but had too high of a risk of being a dead topdeck in the late game. But really, due to its three mana ability, it never will be since you can simply add counters manually as often as you have mana. In fact this might be the perfect finisher for control decks or Jeskai Tokens decks. You're constantly casting noncreature spells, and for the control deck, you can pave the way, building up your Monk Avatar until the coast is clear to simply win. You can even make it a creature, then cast more spells or activate its ability while a creature to alter the power and toughness. This card seems incredibly strong for a mere one mana investment, and the biggest problem I see it having is the fact that cards like the next one can deal with it...
3. Dromoka's Command
Most of the time, the way I use to determine whether a card is a sleeper or not is the amount people are talking about it on things like social media. Surprisingly it seemed like people weren't that impressed with Dromoka's Command when they first saw it. I think they're beginning to open up to it a little more now that they've let the abilities sink in, but I'm still not sure they understand how good this card is for a mere two mana. This is the same card as Hunt the Weak, except at instant speed for two mana. This is the same card as Abzan Advantage, only you get to choose where the counter goes. This card does the same things are multiple other cards, only it does them better, cheaper, and is miles more versatile. There is basically no combination of modes on here that will not be an incredible Bargain at only two mana.
2. Secure the Wastes
Secure the Wastes is one of the cards I'm most exciting to play with, and at the same time, one of the cards of which I have no idea how it saw print. This card is so powerful at any step on the curve and in conjunction with so many other cards in the format. Instantspeed? A mere one white mana to cast? This is good when X is two and this is good when X is ten. This is good in control decks, midrange decks, aggro decks, token decks...you name it. This is good with a card like Jeskai Ascendancy, or a card like Sorin, Solemn Visitor, or a card like Brutal Hordechief. This is such a plainly good card that it actually frightens me a little at how easy it is to play it in basically any deck. I could see control decks using this card as their sole finisher, and you know what? They wouldn't even be wrong to do so. Because not only is it good in conjunction with so many other cards and strategies in Standard, but it also makes so many removal spells look so bad. Get your Frank Lepore tokens ready; you're gonna need 'em.
1. Volcanic Vision
I'm sure this is actually somewhat surprising. I chose a seven mana red card for my biggest sleeper in the set. But the fact is, I think this card does a number of amazing things, all of which are very, very good. Seven mana is not very much for two kinds of decks: ramp decks and control decks, and I think Volcanic Vision could easily fit into either. The primary thing that's making me see this card in a pretty unique light is the same thing that made me see Living Lore in that light: the inclusion of delve cards in the format, specifically Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time. Not only do you get to draw a ton of cards before casting your Volcanic Vision (or perhaps we find our Volcanic Vision off of the aforementioned draw spells), we also get to return the card to our hand as part of Volcanic Vision's effect.
The other sweet option is if we somehow end up discarding alternate copies of Volcanic Vision, we can actually get them back from our graveyard to deal seven to all of our opponent's creatures while basically reloading the ability for the next time we need it. This card will basically kill everything on the board that we don't control, which is a hugely beneficial caveat. Personally I cannot wait to brew with this card, as it feels like something that will turn entire games around.
And that's that! Large sets are always so much easier to pull from than small sets. With small sets I feel like I'm going to run out of options, but never with large sets. Dragons of Tarkir in particular seemed to have an abundance of good cards. I barely scratched the surface of the Commands and I didn't dare touch any of the Dragonlords!
I know some of you are going to assuredly disagree with some of these picks, and maybe some of you are going to think a few of my choices aren't sleepers. Like I said in the beginning, these articles have basically become cards I'm excited to build decks around rather than cards that are "sleepers." This is why I suggest looking at this as more of a "Cards I Want to Brew With" article if you must.
Anyway, I hope I've given you some things to think about and maybe you've seen some of these cards in a new light. Maybe comparing them to older cards might have helped, or maybe you just think they're all junk!
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