With the Pro Tour behind us, we’re still in the throes of deciphering the new Limited format. I believe the following:

  • Red is best color in Dragons draft
  • Atarka (RG) is the best color combination.
  • Blue is the worst color.
  • Ojutai (WU) and Silumgar (UB) are the weakest color combinations (excluding enemy color pairs).

Many folks in my local metagame seem to share these beliefs, and unsurprisingly, red and green tend to be overdrafted and blue tends to be underdrafted. This past weekend, I was in a Team Draft League match in which red and green were clearly not open in pack 1, but Silumgar (UB) was. So, I went in. Here’s what I drafted:

TDL S6W1 Silumgar Control

UB Silumgar... Monument

Lands (17)

Creature (16)
Shambling Goblin
Sidisi’s faithful
Palace Familiar
Jeskai Sage
Hand of Silumgar
Ojutai Interceptor
Merciless Executioner
Silumgar Sorcerer
Zephyr Scribe
Vulturous Aven
Orc Sureshot
Gurmag Angler
Sibsig Muckdraggers

Spells (7)
Coat with Venom
Reduce in Stature
Silumgar Monument
Enhanced Awareness
Dragonlord’s Prerogative

This deck was very strong. Its highlights include winning a game after an opponent resolved Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury three times (it died and was then brought back with Foul Renewal and Dutiful Attendant) and winning another game in which an opponent stuck a Citadel Siege (with two creatures out) on Khans while I was stuck on three lands and had no board presence.

Here’s why I think this deck was successful and what drafting a good UB deck requires:

Shambling Goblin

Cheap Creatures are hugely important. You need to commit to the board by turn 2 or you risk getting overwhelmed by aggro. Creatures like Shambling Goblin, Palace Familiar, and Jeskai Sage are excellent—they all trade for an X/1 and give you value (the goblin even trades for an X/2). Sidisi’s Faithful does what Kraken Hatchling did in Zendikar; buy you lots of time and life.

I drafted cheap creatures like these over more expensive cards like Silumgar Butcher. It might have been wrong, but it felt great to always have things to do with my mana on early turns and rarely fall behind on board presence.

Vulturous Aven

The opportunity cost of cheap creatures is low. Normally, putting a bad creature like Renowned Weaponsmith in your deck has a real cost—you could instead be playing a good creature or spell. However, the exploit mechanic lets you upgrade your worst creature into a decent-to-great spell. Sure, a 1/3 for 2 is weak, but Night’s Whisper and Last Gasp (er, Vulturous Aven and Silumgar Butcher) are great—plus, there’s the life you might gain from your 1/3 or 0/4 blocking 2/2s and 3/3s before it’s sacrificed for the greater good.

Cheap creatures, of whatever quality, are also ideal because they come down early; you want to have exploitable creatures on the board by turn 4 or 5 so that you can sacrifice them to your exploit creatures on time.

Learn from the Past

When the deck works, it’s awesome. You draw cards, keep your life total high, and kill or negate all of your opponent’s threats. It’s control! In Limited! …the problem is, you draw so many cards and run so few threats that you run the risk of decking yourself. I forced Silumgar on MODO right after my league match and kept decking myself because I couldn’t win in time.

You need a few good win conditionsVulturous Aven is a decent flier, but it gets stonewalled by Aerie Bowmasters and even Updraft Elemental—that ain’t good enough. You need some cards with late game utility. Most UB megamorphs (particularly Marsh Hulk, Ojutai Interceptor, Belltoll Dragon, and Acid-Spewer Dragon) are ideal, since they can block early on and can close out the long game. Gurmag Angler is another strong choice and Silumgar Monument is a decent addition. Obviously, a bomb like Silumgar (either one) or a splashable bomb like an Ojutai or Kolaghan is great, but we can’t all be so lucky as to see one of those.

If you don’t have at least a couple cards to close out the game, your deck will be great at forcing a stalemate with a thin library (also known as a loss). If you end up with few ways to win the game, you really ought to protect them. Sure, that Belltoll Dragon is great at trading with Atarka Beastbreaker now, but will you be desperately wishing you still had it when your opponent is at 16 with nothing that can block fliers and you have seven cards left in your deck? I’m not saying to not make that trade, I’m just reminding you to keep your win conditions in mind—when playing Silumgar, you may both have few of them and frequently draw your entire deck.

Sidisi's Faithful

That’s it for this time. I’m convinced that UB can be a pretty sweet color combination. Whether that’s true or not is divisive; some at the Pro Tour insisted that it’s the best color combination while other derided it as unplayable. Frankly, I think Silumgar’s a lot like Dimir was in Gatecrash or Sultai was in triple Khans of Tarkir—it’s harder to draft and play well, but accordingly, it’s underdrafted, and consequently, it’s the best, always-open archetype.

I’m going to try and experiment with Ojutai this week, but I’d like to hear what you think. Does Silumgar sadly suck severely? Is good? The best? Only you, and time can tell. And as ever, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and improviser, creating entire musicals from scratch every week. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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