I heard a rumor that dragons had returned to the plane of Tarkir. Dragons are awesome, so I sauntered over to my local Dragons of Tarkir prerelease to investigate.

My choice brood was the Silumgar, because when blue-black is an option to pick, I pick it. Exploit seems like a fun mechanic, full of value and death. Silumgar happens to have access to some awesome dragons, too. The dragonlord himself would be nice, along with his past incarnation, but [casthaven]Icefall Regent[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Deathbringer Regent[/casthaven] seem incredible. So do [casthaven]Ruthless Deathfang[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Necromaster Dragon[/casthaven]. I would be happy to play with any of them.

Opening my six packs, I found a grand total of three dragons: [casthaven]Thunderbreak Regent[/casthaven], [casthaven]Stormwing Dragon[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Lightning Shrieker[/casthaven]. I briefly considered playing red, but my blue and black cards looked too sweet to pass up, even with no dragons. Instead, I had four sweet rares that fit nicely into a beatdown strategy and a number of tempo cards to complement them. My pool had basically no hard removal, and not much to deal with opposing bombs other than bounce, so I decided to try to win quickly. I could have used a few more two drops, but I liked what I had. Here’s the deck I built:

Dimir No Dragon

Creatures (16)
Sidisi’s Faithful
Shambling Goblin
Palace Familiar
Blood-Chin Rager
Gudul Lurker
Minister of Pain
Merciless Executioner
Silumgar Sorcerer
Pitiless Horde
Ojutai Interceptor
Vulturous Aven
Risen Executioner
Profaner of the Dead
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Silumgar Butcher

Spells (7)
Write into Being
Mind Rot
Douse in Gloom
Coat with Venom
Defeat
Ojutai’s Breath
Will of the Naga
Lands (17)
Swamp
Island

Sideboard (26)
Foul-Tongue Invocation
Vulturous Aven
Qarsi Sadist
Dutiful Attendant
Sibsig Icebreakers
Duress
Foul-Tongue Shriek
Encase in Ice
Reduce in Stature
Anticipate
Ojutai’s Summons
Sidisi’s Faithful
Enhanced Awareness
Updraft Elemental
Dirgur Nemesis
Glint
Refocus
Dance of the Skywise
Fascination
Spidersilk Net
Ancestral Statue
Thunderbreak Regent
Wildcall

[casthaven]Pitiless Horde[/casthaven] is a beating! Back that up with Sidisi’s Faithful and [casthaven]Ojutai’s Breath[/casthaven] and you have a quick victory incoming. [casthaven]Profaner of the Dead[/casthaven] does amazing work getting rid of blockers or slowing down the opponent’s clock while you win with whatever creatures you have left on board. Sidisi, Undead Vizier is a great finisher than can also tutor up whatever else you need to close out the game. And [casthaven]Risen Executioner[/casthaven] attacks all day long while also pumping a few of my other creatures.

If you listened to this week’s Doomed Travelers podcast (and you should) then you know I think Wizards wanted to make beatdown decks viable in Dragons of Tarkir limited. I assume there are two main strategies: play dragons or win before your opponent plays dragons. Well it turns out “win before your opponent plays dragons” is an effective strategy.

I chose not to play [casthaven]Anticipate[/casthaven] or Ojutai’s Summons, because they didn’t seem like what my deck wanted to do. Maybe that was wrong. I probably shouldn’t have played Mind Rot either, but discarding two is usually strong in sealed even in a beatdown deck. I had enough bounce that I probably wanted Foul-Tongue Invocation instead.

dagron

Why have you forsaken me?

In the first round of the prerelease, I don’t even know what my opponent was trying to do. I drew [casthaven]Pitiless Horde[/casthaven], backed it up with tempo, and won easily. I think he managed to get one dragon on board in game two, but I was able to play Sidisi, fetch [casthaven]Profaner of the Dead[/casthaven], and then next turn exploit Sidisi to bounce the dragon (and all his other creatures) to get in the last few points of damage.

Round two I had to overcome Sarkhan, Unbroken, but I didn’t even both attacking the planeswalker. Get rid of the dragon token, bash face, and flip a [casthaven]Gudul Lurker[/casthaven] threatening lethal in addition to my blockable creatures. I don’t think my deck was an especially good version of a beatdown deck, but a few efficient threats matched with fliers and a lot of tempo is good enough in this format.

In round three I found out what a powerful beatdown deck actually looks like. All dash creatures and removal spells, it turns out. My sorcery-speed bounce/removal looked silly when my opponent got to six mana and dashed out Ambuscade Shaman and Reckless Imp. I really wished I could draw my [casthaven]Defeat[/casthaven] or [casthaven]Douse in Gloom[/casthaven]. The two games were fun and interactive, but I was outclassed at the beatdown game.

After that, I headed home because it was a late-night prerelease and I needed to get some sleep. I would have had to play three more rounds, into the wee hours of the morning, and it just wasn’t worth it to maybe win four to six packs. I had seen what I needed to see, and the prerelease sealed format is not as fun as real sealed.

pretties

I send you forth as sheep amidst the wolves.

The actual Dragons of Tarkir release is this weekend. Apparently Denver is celebrating by hosting two sealed PPTQs on Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be putting my “beat them don’t join them” theory to the test. Unless, of course, I get [casthaven]Dragonlord Silumgar[/casthaven] and feel compelled to build a control deck. Eh, even then it will be more of a midrange finisher. Dragons is a faster set than Khans and attacking is the name of the game.

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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