Thursday, September 08, 2016

Dragons of Tarkir - Junior Varsity

Wanna check out the rest of the Tarkir block JV posts? Click here for Khans, or click here for Fate Reforged!

I'm sure he'll see play one day, right?
HEY, it's Dan. It's definitely spoiler season guys. The symptoms are all there - I've been checking my bank account balance so I can excessively pre-order shit, and I refresh the MTG subreddit regularly around noon. Each night I gently weep as I tuck away old Standard cards, and sometimes I get thoroughly aroused when I remember Collected Company won't be cast against me anymore. Mmm, delicious. My favorite weeks.

Tarkir was the shiny new block when I started playing MTG seriously, so with this upcoming rotation making me say goodbye to the last set from the block, I'm extra sad. Though Khans itself is most remembered from that block, Dragons of Tarkir was the tail end of it, and the set threw a whole bunch of sexy playables at us. I mean, check it:
  • The five Dragonlords, each awesome characters, saw play in a variety of decks and strategies.
  • We got the command cycle, and all of those were big on the scene, though some clans had it a bit better than others.
  • There's the value-packed Den Protector/Deathmist Raptor combo that terrorized Standard for a while
  • As much as I hate it, Collected Company showed up here, and that's made a splash in every format it touched.
  • Wandering Tombshell made us shed a tear for everyone's favorite durdler #NeverForget #MeanderIntoMyHeart
And there's way more than that. Secure the Wastes, Anafenza, Foul-Tongue Invocation, Thunderbreak Regent, Lightning Beserker, and who knows how many more cards that I'm just forgetting or have mentally blocked out due to trauma from repeated losses. The set, though initially not received too well in comparison to Khans of Tarkir and the insane bombs in Fate Reforged, ended up having a ton of goodies in it.

But not every sweet card in DTK ended up under the spotlight. You know what they say - if nobody is ugly, than nobody is beautiful. Magic cards sort of work like that, I guess. We need some shitty cards to offset the not-shitty cards. Then there's some cards that look like they aren't covered in shit but then you get closer and you can tell that something is up and maybe they're a little poopy. You know what I mean, right? Sure you do. Well, these cards are the Junior Varsity of Dragons of Tarkir.

These are the cards that were spoiled long ago, and the comments on each of them are so adorably optimistic. 

Clearly this is the card that Seige Rhino needed in order to be playable.
Yet sadly, they bailed off the hype wave. So much potential, but it all went so wrong.

We're going to take a look at the worst offenders from Dragons of Tarkir. All of these stinkers are cards that had a fair bit of hype, everyone was wicked stoked to play them, and here we are like a year or so later still waiting for them to be good. Some of these cards I've forced into decks, and it went just as poorly as you'd expect. So without further ado, let's wave goodbye to our old friends, and check out the Dragons of Tarkir cards that didn't quite make it.

In last amongst losers:

Literally a wave of hype.
After playing against it once or twice, I didn't think Shorecrasher seemed that good when he first came out, and... well, turns out he's still not good. When he was first spoiled, many people naturally assumed he would put Mono-blue Devotion back on the map. Three blue blips in his casting cost gives you plenty of devotion, and he was a great turn three play to set up for an asston of Master of Waves tokens. Even beyond that, look at all the text up on this bitch. He dodges removal, he can get pumped... what can't he do?

Win games, it turns out. He's not great at that. The cards in Khans were just so powerful that Esper Dragons and Abzan... anything, I guess, were able to handle any resurgence that mono blue happened to have. Shorecrasher ended up doing a bunch of nothing, and then once Theros rotated out, blue-based control took a nosedive for five color nonsense, so Shorecrasher never found himself a home.

But there's good news! Elementals are actually a fairly well supported tribe. If you're looking for a fun casual deck to have on hand, Shorecrasher is only $1.50 at most right now, and after rotation he will almost certainly flatline to become a $1 mythic. Pick up a few and get to crashin'!

Slightly better, but still should be ashamed of herself:

Even she couldn't tutor up a playable desklist.
Sidisi is objectively a strong card. A 4/6 deathtouch for five isn't easy to fight through, and her exploit ability had some crazy value attached. Sacrificing a token - or ideally something that wanted to explode like a Hangarback Walker - was just excellent, and she let you grab anything you desired. Well, except for game wins. Sidisi was Sidecent, but ended up not making it into many decks. Why did this fat butt naga not see any play?

In Magic Origins, right after Sidisi was printed, they also gave us Dank Petition. It doesn't have a huge deathtouch body attached to it, sure, but not needing another creature to get max value from the card was a big deal, and then Spell Mastery allowed you to actually play some spells the turn you tutored for them. In a format with two tutors, why not just play the better one?

Sidisi is, as you'd expect, fairly cheap. She's only $2.50 or so right now, and will more than likely drop to bulk status after rotation. For the few weeks we have left, she can still do some work in Standard, but after that she fits nicely into any casual deck that is interested in sacrificing things without sacrificing your wallet.

Resolutely holding the middle of the shitty pack:

I just now realized that in his art he is really, really big.
Ok, so to start, a 3/2 for only two mana is dope. Limited allstar, baby. Having the cost be double green is fuckin' whatever, cause green is one of the best colors for poopin' counters onto everything, which Avatar is all about. Even without counters, a 3/2 trample and reach, despite being a weird combo of keywords, is quite strong. When this card was first spoiled I remember definitive talk about its modern implications due to the strength of the multiple keywords, high power, and low cost.

Though back here in real life, Avatar did... nothing? Yeah. Nothing. Why even bother with a 3/2 that can maybe be stronger in a world of 2/3's that accidentally get gigantic and also just give you random buffs as you play a normal game of Magic?

This card is fun, balanced, and interesting.
Avatar seems like he could have been a very strong card in the right world. Sadly in this glum real world, there was always a better option. When he was first in Standard, we had cards like Elvish Mystic (RIP) turn one, so turn two we were often doing broken things like playing Anafenza the Foremost or whatever the most busted three-cost green card was, and then later in his career there were just straight up better two-drops.

Oddly enough, Avatar is still an insanely strong card if you can set it up. Play any sort of casual token deck with plenty of +1/+1 counters and you'll see that quickly enough. Dropping a two mana 7/6 trample reach feels pretty fuckin' good, and I highly recommend trying it on for size at some point, especially when this baller costs only $0.50.

Not even close to living up to her pre-release hype:

A four drop walker that starts at six? Pack it up kids, best card ever has been printed. We can retire all the other ones, nothing will top Narset.

Or, as we all know now, she's fairly mediocre. Narset would thrive in a creatureless control deck, where her +1 is basically "Flip a coin. If heads, draw a card." Her minus is great in a lot of decks, but the problem was that she was quite bad in any deck with more than just a handful of dudes. And what was the control deck of choice at the time? Why, Esper Dragons of course. Or I guess Abzan, cause it could agro, midrange, or control better than everything cause fuck Abzan.

Uh, anyways, Esper Dragons. It was a control deck, but it did run creatures, such as... Dragons. Surprise! Then once Origins came out, Jace and sometimes Hangarback Walker found their way into the list, further diluting the non-creature count, and making Narset super sad.

With Shadows over Innistrad, Esper saw a bit of a resurgence in Pro Tour Shadows of Innistrad, and one of the lists in the top 8 was essentially creatureless, and used Narset. Hooray! But, sadly, the deck never really caught on.

Narset's whopping $50  pre-order dropped all the way down to a measly $6. Once rotation happens, I'd expect that to drop even more, and then you'll be able to pick up copies on the cheap for whatever creatureless shenanigans your heart desires.

And in First out of the Worst:

Man, Temur just can't get a break.
Sarkhan is pricey in the mana department, and has a lot of colors in his cost, but oh boy does he deliver. Drawing a card and then  adding a mana both ramps and fixes you for whatever card you happen to draw, his minus gets a huge blocker/attacker that's on theme with any dragon deck, and then his ult who cares cause planeswalker ults don't really matter. Surely the combination of the lot is enough to make a reasonable planeswalker. But nope, Sarkhan's name rings true, he most definitely is not broken.

Keeping with the Tarkir block tradition, the only Temur card (and the only three-color card) printed in Dragons of Tarkir was hot garbage. Throughout his entire Standard lifetime, Sarkhan hardly saw play even in fringe decks. For a short while, a few people tried him out in four or five color decks that were jamming a ton of Dragonlords and Thunderbreak Regents, but he was still not the best. I've been playing a janky Temur midrange list for the past few weeks, and I can indeed confirm, Sarkhan is shit.

He started off fairly pricey, but rapidly dropped off once people actually played with him. Nowadays you can find him for less than the cost of a McDonald's happy meal. He tastes about the same, too. I'd expect him to drop another few bucks at rotation, and then you can pick up a copy for all your casual dragon-y needs.


That's it, folks. With this last set leaving, we can say goodbye to the world of Tarkir, and start looking forward to the sexy machines of Kaladesh. And look forward to it I shall. If you play against me this next Standard, expect me to put a pile of thopters in a car and beat your face in with it.

Be sure to keep an eye on the Bloggo the next week as well. Of course we have the Magic Origins Junior Varsity article coming up, but also expect us to talk about Kaladesh a whole  lot. The set looks like a bucket of fun, it has spiffy colorful art that's a nice change from Innistrad's doom and gloom, and several cards already seem outrageously powerful. Incidentally, I'm willing to trade for any Chandra, the Mind Sculptors you guys open at Pre-release.

Think there were cards that deserved these rewards more? Think one of the cards on this list was actually good? Wanna talk about how awesome vehicles are? Whatever the case, leave a comment or send us a message! And as always, you can find us on Twitter @Heavy_Salami, and on MTGO and like everything else Magic related as some sort of Heavy Salami name.


  1. I'm mostly a limited player, but I always felt I wanted more out of Quarsi Deceiver (the blue uncommon 0/4 that provides mana for morph & manifest costs only). A build around that literally provided no payout for building around. Am disappoint.

    As for rares, Living Lore. It has a bunch of words on it so that means it's super good!

    Unrelated note: anyone else remember the all-carrier vs. all-battlecruiser grudge match, only to notice that Yamato Cannon makes it hilariously one-sided? Good times, good times. #terran4life

  2. Bruh Living Lore is so much fun. You haven't lived until you've strapped a Temporal Trespass to it.

    1. (pushes up glasses) Temporal Trespass is exiled after casting thus cannot be pulled from the graveyard for Living Lore.

    2. Self-mill/Discard works though, so you can get it into your GY without casting.