I’ve been drafting Dragons of Tarkir. It has made me happy. I’ve drafted almost exclusively two-color decks. The cards do what they say, and they say what the do in a simple, direct way. The morphs are good, but few of them can ruin you by unmorphing on turn five. It feels like a base-set draft plus. It’s kind of a relief.

Today, I want to talk about five cards for DTK limited that I have had experiences with, and how the simple isn’t always so simple.

1. Vulturous Aven

This card looks really good for a common, and it is. A 2/3 flyer for four is a great rate for an evasion creature, and the ability to toss away a useless early drop for a Sign in Blood is an excellent option. This will prove to be one of the premier commons in the set. Here’s how to screw up with this card:

I drafted a great Rakdos Aggro deck last night with a bunch of removal, and one of these. In game three of round one, I had an opening hand with three pieces of removal, a Kalaghan Aspirant, and three lands. I deployed my 2/1 and commenced removal my opponent’s plays. I drew lands and my Vulturous Aven over the next few turns. When I cast the Aven, I had one piece of removal left and a lot of land. I chose to sacrifice my 2/1 to draw two cards, which were a Goblin Heelcutter and a land.

I flooded out that game, and my opponent stabilized at two life. I was so excited to draw two cards that I ignored the flow of the game: my removal was all doing extra damage, but I was running out and I was too flooded already to win a game where we traded cards. If I had simple ignored Vulturous Aven‘s Exploit ability, I would have won.

You don’t have to exploit!

2. Sprinting Warbrute

The same deck contained this monster. I passed a couple of copies in the draft, then picked one up late and almost cut it. This guy is nicely costed for his size, but I’m just not a big fan of “must attack” creatures.

My mistake: this guy only has to attack when he’s in play! As the game goes late, you can use Dash as a way to avoid throwing the brute into combat when your opponent has a good block. Dash is great for mitigating the “must attack” disadvantage.

Also, we aren’t talking about Valley Dasher here: this guy is a 5/4: finding an advantageous block against the Warbrute is not easy.

3. Dromoka Warrior

My buddy Ryan Bemrose was on the play, and elected to cast this guy over a 2/2 vigilance on turn two. His opponent countered with Palace Familiar. I’m not suggesting that this 3/1 is bad, but it’s not nearly as exciting as it would have been in Khans of Tarkir limited. The format is ripe with two-drops, good mana, and disposable cards that deal with a one-toughness creature.

On the other hand, there is a healthy dose of bolster running around, and this guy is ready to make the most of a few extra points of toughness.

4. Servant of the Scale

This little jerk is better than he looks. Don’t be shy about trading off a two- or three- drop with this, especially if your opponent hasn’t found a second creature yet. At his size, the servant is a natural receptacle for Bolstering, and it doesn’t take a lot of counters to turn a 1/1 into a card that must be dealt with, or can deal with a relevant attacker of yours.

Once you deal with him, he’ll drop two or three counters on to some otherwise trivial extra creature and turn it into a real monster. Also, note that his triggered ability is not Bolster, meaning he can drop his counters on the most preferable target regardless of toughness, Arcbound Ravager-style. Was that card every good?

5. Profaner of the Dead

The intention was to discuss a common in every color, but blue has foiled me for a couple of reasons: the first is that I haven’t actually drafted a blue deck yet, despite leaning in early a few times. The second is that the blue cards at common just haven’t shown me any surprises.

I did, however, splash blue in one of my draft decks which already contained some black exploit, in order to run an uncommon gold dragon and a Profaner of the Dead that came to me third pick before the blue dried up.

Third seemed too late for this card, but it’s a strange card and I was curious to see how it played: if the format offered too many high-toughness creatures it might be hard to find ways to use it, or require sacrificing the most significant board presence you had.

It turns out that this card is just really, really good. There are tokens to bounce. The mechanic lines up well against Bolster because the weakest creatures pick up the counters, so they are still within reach of the Profaner’s trigger. When sacrificing the creature to its own ability, you are at the right number to bounce morphs and manifests and all sorts of other things.


All in all, Dragons feels like a clean format after all the Khans chaos, but not so clean as to be boring. Happy drafting!

Gabe Carleton-Barnes has been playing Magic for over 20 years, mostly as a PTQ grinder and intermittently as a Pro Tour competitor. Currently based in Portland, Oregon, where he is an Open Source web developer by day, Gabe lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for three years. While there, he failed to make a documentary about competitive Magic but succeeded in deepening his obsession with the game. Gabe is now a ringleader and community-builder for the competitive Magic scene in Portland, wielding old-timey slang and tired cliches to motivate kids half his age to drive with him to tournaments.

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