5 Dragons You Might Meet on the Battlefield
- Gianluca Aicardi
Dracarys! Despite their typical casting cost being midrange and beyond, Dragons always find a way to show up in decks of all kinds. Their current situation across the formats is not too shabby, and not just in red-based builds. Here’s a selection of the flying terrors all the cool kids are playing.
Since Shivan Dragon came to be part of Limited Edition Alpha, Dragon has arguably been the most popular creature type in the game, one of those that more explicitly speak to the fantasy roots of Magic: The Gathering. This has resulted over the years in 172 different creature cards bearing the Dragon subtype, and an entire set devoted to and named after them. In fact, there’s been at least one Dragon in every single block since Mirage, at least until Ixalan was too busy with a whole other kind of reptilian monster.
The tribe saw a lot of powerful members, some of them getting their moment in the sun at specific times, like Bogardan Hellkite (the old centerpiece of that marvelous oddity that are Dragonstorm decks) or Yosei, the Morning Star (the finishing move of the World Champion’s winner in 2005, still occasionally seen in some Modern Gifts Ungiven builds). But what’s more likely to fly around and breathe fire (or other deadly stuff) throughout today’s battlefields?
1. Stormbreath Dragon
First Appearance: September 2013, Theros.
Printed little more than one year after the similarly designed Thundermaw Hellkite, Stormbreath Dragon would end up obscuring its more direct cousin, despite a smaller body and no ETB trigger. All it took was “protection from Path to Exile” in Modern. The fact that it can turn into a 7/7 in the late game, while dealing some direct damage in the process, is just gravy. The First Rule of Fatties states: When you commit mana to your prospective finisher, you better make sure it’ll stick around. And Stormbreath Dragon sticks around more than most of its brethren. This makes it a good candidate for a prime finisher in Modern midrange decks that can afford double red, which admittedly aren’t that many at the moment. But Blood Moon lists like Ponza are among those, as seen in the following example, where Stormbreath is accompanied by its larger, even more intimidating sibling Dragonlord Atarka (which in turn makes for a great Natural Order target in Legacy).
G/R Land Destruction
|7Forest||4Arbor Elf||1Nissa, Voice of Zendikar|
|1Kessig Wolf Run||2Birds of Paradise||1Chandra, Torch of Defiance|
|2Misty Rainforest||1Courser of Kruphix||2Lightning Bolt|
|1Mountain||4Tireless Tracker||3Molten Rain|
|3Stomping Ground||4Bloodbraid Elf||4Stone Rain|
|3Windswept Heath||2Pia and Kiran Nalaar||4Utopia Sprawl|
|4Wooded Foothills||3Inferno Titan||4Blood Moon|
|2Ancient Grudge||2Scavenging Ooze||3Anger of the Gods|
|2Kitchen Finks||2Trinisphere||1Chandra, Torch of Defiance|
|1Obstinate Baloth||1Shatterstorm||1Thrun, the Last Troll|
First Appearance: April 2017, Amonkhet.
The exert posterboy Glorybringer has been a steady presence in Standard for the past year and a star in Temur Energy builds. We’re bound to see it shine until the next rotation, when it will have to contend with the Modern haste Dragons for a niche. So far, its removal capability every other turn wasn’t deemed Eternal material, though.
Grixis Energy by Fastfake
|4Aether Hub||3Walking Ballista||4Harnessed Lightning|
|4Canyon Slough||2Dire Fleet Daredevil||4Vraska's Contempt|
|4Dragonskull Summit||4Glint-Sleeve Siphoner|
|2Drowned Catacomb||3Pia Nalaar|
|4Fetid Pools||4Whirler Virtuoso|
|1Swamp||2The Scarab God|
|1Walking Ballista||2Chandra's Defeat||1Deadeye Tracker|
|4Duress||2Dire Fleet Daredevil||4Doomfall|
3. Steel Hellkite
First Appearance: October 2010, Scars of Mirrodin.
Steel Hellkite’s greatest defeat has been to come into existence at the same time as Wurmcoil Engine i.e., the best 6-mana colorless creature ever printed. Our mecha-dragon can’t compete with the Wurm’s lifegain and virtual resilience, but it has some tricks of its own, chief being the fact that it can destroy any permanent, even hexproof/shroud ones, and potentially more than one per turn. Combine this with evasion and the ability to dump excess mana into pumping, and it’ll start to look like the formidable killing machine that it is, even while being entirely contingent on successfully connecting with the opponent, which of course is never a given. There are decks that took notice of its great potential though, even some noble ones like Stax in Vintage.
|4Ancient Tomb||2Walking Ballista||1Chalice of the Void|
|1Inventors' Fair||4Phyrexian Revoker||1Mana Crypt|
|4Mishra's Factory||1Lodestone Golem||1Mox Emerald|
|4Mishra's Workshop||2Phyrexian Metamorph||1Mox Jet|
|1Mutavault||2Karn, Silver Golem||1Mox Pearl|
|1Strip Mine||1Steel Hellkite||1Mox Ruby|
|1Tolarian Academy||1Sundering Titan||1Mox Sapphire|
|4Sphere of Resistance|
|1Thorn of Amethyst|
|3Crucible of Worlds|
|1Ghost Quarter||3The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale||1Walking Ballista|
|4Grafdigger's Cage||3Null Rod||1Precursor Golem|
4. Dragonlord Ojutai
First Appearance: March 2015, Dragons of Tarkir.
The Dragonlord cycle of Dragons of Tarkir was generally strong, but Dragonlord Ojutai was always going to be the easiest to find a home for, what with the (partial) hexproof and the Anticipate upon connecting. Several UW Control decks love to include him among their starting 60.
U/W Control by Curryvore
|1Engineered Explosives||1Dispel||2Celestial Purge|
|2Disdainful Stroke||1Negate||3Rest in Peace|
|2Stony Silence||2Leyline of Sanctity||1Wrath of God|
5. Dragonlord Kolaghan
First Appearance: March 2015, Dragons of Tarkir.
This is sort of a surprise: Dragonlord Kolaghan in Vintage Dredge! At least she was spotted there for a while, as a replacement to Flame-Kin Zealot. The latter’s advantage, however, is to be able to provide the alpha strike-fueling universal haste even if it gets removed right away, whereas Kolaghan has to remain on the board for her first ability to apply to her teammates. While her second ability can situationally be a headache for the opponent, it’s not guaranteed to affect the game. Still, Kolaghan is more or less a strictly better Rorix Bladewing, and her relevance shouldn’t be underestimated.
|4Bazaar of Baghdad||4Stinkweed Imp||1Darkblast|
|2Bojuka Bog||4Golgari Grave-Troll||2Mental Misstep|
|1Cabal Pit||1Dragonlord Kolaghan||1Ancient Grudge|
|1Dakmor Salvage||1Griselbrand||1Life from the Loam|
|4Bridge from Below|
|4Nature's Claim||3Ancient Grudge||2Mindbreak Trap|
|4Hollow One||2Gurmag Angler|
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