I had a great time at the Dragons of Tarkir prerelease last weekend at Twenty Sided Store in Brooklyn—and I needed it. I’d been on a bad Fate Reforged skid, which culminated in my worst Grand Prix performance in a few years, a couple of weeks ago in Cleveland.

But after choosing the U/B brood—I really wanted to play with the new Mind Control version of Silumgar—I was lucky enough to crack a nutso exploit pool, including 2X Palace Familiar, Young Scholar, Sultai Emissary, Silumgar Butcher, Vulturous Aven, Rakshasa Gravecaller—the whole nine yards—plus Deathbringer Regent *and* Icefall Regent. Yeah, the deck was the balls, and a hell of a lot of fun to play, to boot.

I’m not going to dwell much on the prerelease, because it’s not a “real” sealed format, but a couple quick notes on disgusting stuff the archetype was able to do:

  • Once I sac’d Sultai Emissary to Rakshasa Gravecaller, producing *three* 2/2s in addition to the Gravecaller’s 3/6 body, aka nine power and 12 toughness across four bodies for 4B.
  • Another time I sac’d Young Scholar to Vulturous Aven, drawing *four* cards. “Jesus,” I think my opponent said when I cast the spell. Build-your-own Opportunity is good.
  • You gotta know the tricks of the format. A couple times I had two different opponents on the ropes, but I was also at a low life total and was trying to play carefully. Once my opponent had up GW, and another time he had up just G. “What kills me?” I thought. I was wracking my brain to try to think, but—this being early in the format, and me not having dutifully studied my TDL teammate Monique’s super-helpful list of instants in the set—I just had no idea what he could have. The one time he had up G, with a (tapped) four-power flier on the board, I declined to swing in with my whole team (including six power in the air) and another four or so on the ground, into his board of two ground blockers. Instead I just swung in with my two ground guys and Icefall Regent, figuring that even if he did have a trick to stay alive, I’d have my 2/1 flier back to keep me alive next turn—but then he cast Shape the Sands for one goddamn G on his Dragon-Scarred Bear, blocked my Icefall Regent, killing it, and dropping to just one life. Next turn he cracked back FTW. Crazy.

That was G2 of the fourth round, and I was thus far undefeated. I managed to get the win in G3 to go 4-0 on the day, netting myself six packs of Dragons of Tarkir (my opponent and I split before the match) to draft with before the set’s official release today—which is exactly what I did on Sunday and Tuesday of this week.

One of those drafts went amazing—I 3-0’d—and another, not so much; I 0-3’d. I thought it might be interesting to list each of the decks below, and poll you guys as to which is which. Here’s the first (I unsleeved my lands, but it was a very clean 9/8 manabase, or some such):

GW Beats

Creatures (16)
Herald of Dromoka
Atarka Beastbreaker
Glade Watcher
Dragon Bell Monk
 Frontier Mastodon
Sandcrafter Mage
Dragon-Scarred Bear
Dromoka Captain
Salt Road Ambushers
Sandsteppe Outcast
Sandstorm Charger
Herdchaser Dragon
Feral Krushok
Aven Tactician
Abzan Skycaptain

Spells (7)
Tread Upon
Epic Confrontation
Center Soul
Artful Maneuver
Glaring Aegis
Hunt the Weak
Ruthless Instincts
Sideboard (7)
Arashin Sovereign
Student of Ojutai
Return to the Earth
Shape the Sands
Servant of the Scale
Pressure Point
Great-Horn Krushok

RG Beats

Creatures (14)
Temur War Shaman
Frontier Mastodon
Sandsteppe Scavenger
Dragon-Scarred Bear
Circle of Elders
Ainok Survivalist
Shockmaw Dragon
Colossodon Yearling
Conifer Strider
Ainok Artillerist
Qal Sisma Behemoth
Feral Krushok

Spells (9)
Vial of Dragonfire
Tormenting Voice
Twin Bolt
Temur Battle Rage
Tail Slash
Tread Upon
Kindled Fury
Formless Nurturing
Lands (17)

Sideboard (13)
Seismic Rupture
Rending Volley
Defiant Ogre
Temur Runemark
Sudden Reclamation
Sandsteppe Scavenger
Lightning Shreiker
Archers of Qarsi
Collected Company
Jungle Hollow
Evolving Wilds

So, what do you think? Have you made your decision?

The GW deck is the 3-0. Granted, a couple of my opponents had some rough mana-screw issues in a couple of games, but I felt like the deck was very strong, with a lot of ways to punch through damage.

The RG deck was clearly more fragile, with fewer pump spells and too many creatures with low toughness. I got beat, in succession, by Hugh “Grade 8” Kramer playing a sick UW build, with a billion Ojutai’s Breaths; Bert Phillips playing RW in a close set of games; and Jon Sieber playing a build with multiple multicolored rare dragons and Monuments which, when it got out ahead, stayed ahead.

The GW deck was almost ideal, though I think I should have played the Arashin Sovereign instead of the Herdchaser Dragon. I had about a billion three-drops, so I didn’t need to play Herdchaser out as a morph, and—once you get to seven mana—the Sovereign is just infinitely more powerful.

Thanks for reading! I’m going to be off next week, as my wife and I are leaving for Europe tonight, but in the meantime I wish you the best of luck in your Dragons drafts. Collect some intel for me while I’m away, willya?

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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