Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Mar 23 2015 11:00am
0
Login or register to post comments
2514 views


I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player.

> summary <

 Here we are: Dragons of Tarkir ends the Tarkir saga, with Sarkhan returning to a modified timeline where Ugin and all the Dragons are alive, and the now 2-colored clans and their khans (as previously seen in Khans of Tarkir) changed face considerably. For instance, Zurgo is not the hulking behemoth of an Orc he once was anymore: that's what happens when you neglect the gym for an entire timeline.

 Truth be told, Dragons of Tarkir is not as enthralling a set as Fate Reforged was; it's mostly a Dragon parade (there's more Dragons here than anywhere else in Magic history), but as the Dragonpedia (that will need some serious updating now) already proved, there's not a lot of meaningful design space for Dragons to go. And we didn't even get a new Bolas card! So disappointing.

 Anyway, as always, we've got tons of new creatures to look at in order to discern what's good and what's bad, and tribes to reconsider in light of their new additions. Remember the focus of these evaluations is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are listed alphabetically, and you'll find a hyperlinked list at the end.

 And since this is the very last set of the old 3-set-per-block system, I've decided to rework the structure of these evaluations too, trying not to waste too many words on the meaningless filler, to more clearly highlight where the real good stuff is located, and how much of an impact the new creatures make on established tribal groups (remember this isn't useful just for the Tribal Wars format, as you can take the tribal approach within every format, even in Limited; besides, it might also be useful to be aware of the subtype of that strong creature you want to play as a lone finisher in your Modern control deck, or something).

 Infodump

  • Cards: 254 (plus 10 duplicated basic lands)
  • New cards: 233
  • New creatures: 134
  • Reprinted cards: 16
  • Reprinted creatures: 1 Summit Prowler
  • Creature types affected: 42
  • Tribes with 5 or more additions: Human (+41), Dragon (+26), Warrior (+23), Shaman (+11), Wizard (+10), Monk (+9), Soldier (+8), Berserker (+7), Bird (+7), Orc (+7), Zombie (+7), Elemental (+6), Hound (+6), Naga (+6), Elder (+5)

Archer: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 62 (online: 58)

 Related Tribes: Hound

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: None


Assassin: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 41 (online: 38)

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: This one Assassin is nothing to sneeze at. Its overall mechanic is kind of conflictual (you want to activate the killing trigger, but maybe you'd like better for this to stay an unblockable 2-powered guy rather than megamorph it), but anything that kills stuff by just entering the board is always worth noting. By the way, that huge lance doesn't look like something you can use to successfully sneak up on someone, but what do I know about murder techniques on Tarkir.


Avatar: +2

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 60 (online: 58)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Avatar of the Resolute is a nice enough guy even with its basic stats, what with being a 3/2 trampler with reach for 2. In the right deck, if not played as a 2-drop, it could even aim to be a couple points bigger. Of course, it's not Tarmogoyf, but it's decent. Unfortunately, Avatars don't have a single other member that use +1/+1 counters (they use -1/-1 counters, age counters, time counters, level counters), so it's best used off-tribe in a Tribal Wars environment. As for Living Lore, it's a cute design, but outside of Commander, it's going to be no more than a 3/3 for 4 in most occasions, and it's generally a very clunky way to do the Snapcaster Mage dance.


Bear: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 21 (online: 15)

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: None


Beast: +4

    

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 323 (online: 318)

 Related Tribes: Cat, Lizard

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Amidst the typical filler, the Beasts get one Mythic Rare member, and it's a good one. Deathmist Raptor is not quite Vengevine, but it's even more tactical than the hasty Elemental, since you can use it to chumpblock anything, due to its deathtouch, then wait for it to come back. Of course you'll need other morph or manifest guys, but the tribe itself has a large number of those, some of which are even good, like Hystrodon or Sagu Mauler.


Berserker: +7

    

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 56 (online: 53)

 Related Tribes: Human, Ogre, Orc

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Nothing transcendental among the new Berserkers, but a few that could see some play. As a tribe, and in the type of decks where they go in general, the Berserkers aim to hit hard and fast, and here we have a 3-drop accelerator in Hardened Berserker, a nice 1-drop that in late game could hit out of nowhere for your full amount of mountains in Lightning Berserker, and a Juzam Djinn/Grinning Demon type in Pitiless Horde. The dash accelerator, Warbringer, is probably not that good, considering it's kind of a midrange card itself (unless you go and pay its dash cost every turn, which kind of defy the purpose), and Berserkers don't like those.


Bird: +7

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 192 (online: 184)

 Related Tribes: Monk, Shaman, Soldier, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Nothing particularly exciting among the new Birds (and Birdmen). Orator of Ojutai is a wannabe Wall of Omens for decks that feature Dragons, which, eh. And Vulturous Aven doubles as a midrange card-drawing sorcery, and can be really good if you have creatures you want to send to the graveyard. But that's pretty much it.


Cat: +2

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 131 (online: 126)

 Related Tribes: Beast, Demon

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The new Cat Beast is just an extremely clunky Lure dude. The new Rakshasa can be nice the moment you get to turn a 1/1 token into two 2/2 tokens, but for 5 mana is sort of meh.


Cleric: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 282 (online: 260)

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Exploit is an interesting mechanic because it's a one-time sac outlet that leaves a body behind and gives you further advantages. But just a Drain Life for 2 is not further advantage enough, I guess, albeit the CMC and boy are pretty decent. And Academy Rector is in the same tribe.


Demon: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 81 (online: 79)

 Related Tribes: Cat

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Djinn: +3

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 41 (online: 40)

 Related Tribes: Monk, Wizard, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: A small Djinn that gives you a Negate is going to be important within the tribe, and it's a very good card in general, considering it ends up being a 3/2 flyer. The Exploit Zombie is a bit slow and leaves an underwhelming body behind, but it's a limited Fleshbag Marauder effect, so not completely useless.


Dragon: +26

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 154

 Related Tribes: Elder

 Impact of the New Additions: High to Severe

 Highlights: The unprecedented number of Dragons that the new Tarkir timeline brought into the game needs to be accurately sorted to be evaluated properly. First, there are the five Legendary Mythic Elders, which we'll deal with in their own section. Then there are two rare 5-card cycles, one dual-colored and one monocolored, and two uncommon 5-card cycles, one dual-colored and one monocolored as well. And finally, the colorless one up there, which, despite the Ugin's relation, is just bad.

 Now, let's see: the monocolored uncommon Dragons are all Titan-mana 3/3 flyers with one color-linked secondary keyword and an even more expensive megamorph option that triggers a +1/+1 permanent boost for all the other Dragons. Like this:

 

 Unsurprisingly, the black one has deathtouch, the red one has first strike, and the green one has trample (so the white and blue ones are the best ones). In short, they're all irrelevant.

 The uncommon dual-colored Dragons are all 4/4s, feature only allied colors pairings, and do a variety of things for, again, Titan-mana:

  

 

 The Azorius one has double-prowess; the Dimir one has a built-in quasi-Grave Pact; the Rakdos one is maybe the more interesting of the lot, as it temporarily cheats into play a small creature from your hand or graveyard, gives it haste and ultimately puts it into your hand; the Gruul one provides 6 mana per attack; and the Selesnya one grows when your other creatures grow. Admittedly, they're all nice enough, but none of them works as a serious finisher, which is to be expected from 6-mana uncommons.

 Enter the rare Dragons. The monocolored cycle, aka "the Regent cycle", brings the CMC down to 4-5, which is the first requisite for utter playability.

  

 

 So, two of these, the white and blue ones, are in Thundermaw Hellkite mana, and we all know Thundermaw Hellkite (along with Stormbreath Dragon) is the true paradigm for Dragon goodness. Both of these don't really compare, because they lack haste and have smaller, boltable bodies. The blue one is a slightly enhanced Dungeon Geists, while the white one's growing ability, a la Taurean Mauler, paired with a little lifegaining, nicely counterbalances the low toughness (as Lightning Bolt won't actually kill it) and makes it probably the best one of its group, albeit still far from cards of the same cost like Baneslayer Angel or Archangel of Thune. The red one is the cheaper, which makes it solid, but the ability isn't particularly interesting and a 4/4 evasive for 4 is in that weird midrange area where a card like Obstinate Baloth is probably more desirable in almost all the situations. Both the bigger ones don't do enough to warrant a 7-mana investment: the black one offers a strictly worse Magister of Worth effect (poor Dragons, always comparing negatively to Angels), the green one is somewhat removal and has an interesting "fight lord" ability, but none of these is really worth 7 mana, especially since the body is sort of underwhelming for the cost and purpose.

 Which brings us to the allied-colored rare cycle.

  

 

 And let's be honest: this cycle, considering it should be the crème de la crème among the non-Mythic Dragons of Tarkir (after all, it requires two colors), is seriously underwhelming. The Azorius one has "it might get semi-hexproof". I'll say, that's strictly worse than Sphinx of Jwar Isle. The Dimir one creates Zombies, but it has to connect first and you even have to pay mana for it. The Rakdos one is often strictly worse than Nobilis of War, and that's a card that nobody plays. The Gruul one gives you EarthquakeHurricane-type of abilities, but they cost a lot of mana and its body is terribly fragile. Finally, the Selesnya one tries to be sort of a new Eternal Dragon, but it was plainscycling that makes its predecessor playable; as it is, this one will just weigh on your hand, and then you'll have to decide the very moment it dies if you want to trade a draw for the chance of casting it again: not very resource-conscious.

 All in all, the great variety of DTK Dragons mostly means you're now fully able to build a Dragon deck in colors that don't include red. Which is something, I guess, although I'm not sure we really needed it.


Efreet: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 20 (online: 19)

 Related Tribes: Shaman

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: None


Elder: +5

  

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 10

 Related Tribes: Dragon

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Now, these are the real noteworthy Dragons of Tarkir, the old Legendary ones from Khans reworked in more powerful ways due to the rewritten timeline. And not even all of them are actually that great, since the Azorius-colored one is a hexproof defender that can draw you a card if connects (exposing itself to removal), which is not exactly Mythic material; and the Dimir one is a 6-mana Sower of Temptation that also affects planeswalkers, which is interesting but not crucial. Dragonlord Atarka, the Gruul one, would be a better Bogardan Hellkite if it were able to hit players; as it is, I'd rather play the old monocolored one (and it certainly will remain the main staple of Dragonstorm decks). My favorite ones are the Dragonlord version of Kolaghan, since universal haste is always welcome, the body/cost ratio is neat, and punishing the opponent for playing multiples is a pretty good deal; and even more so the Selesnya-colored Dragonlord Dromoka, a pretty great answer to permission heavy builds, which also comes with a serious body and lifelink.


Elemental: +6

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 343 (online: 339)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: After the two from Fate Reforged, here's another Mythic Elemental from the plane of Tarkir. Unfortunately, Shorecrasher Elemental is not as good as Whisperwood Elemental, as it tries to be a cheaper Aetherling, but mostly fails. True, it costs half the mana, but blinking it puts it face-down, which means you'll have to pay 5 mana to turn it back into itself, and it'll be vulnerable in the meantime. The rare Crater Elemental is cute, but nothing more: Formidable is not that easy to achieve, but if you do, our Crater will be able to turn into an 8/6 for 3, doubling as a somewhat clunky limited removal.


Elk: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 12

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: You know, it's an Elk. A 5/5 probably trampler/universal trample-provider for 5 is kinda big for an Elk!


Fish: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 24 (online: 20)

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Gargoyle: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 22

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Goblin: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 283 (online: 272)

 Related Tribes: Shaman, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Well, as a Goblin (or Shaman), Dragonlord's Servant doesn't do anything, but in a Dragon deck, it's certainly a nice 2-drop that accelerates its flying lizard overlords, and also provides a modicum of defense from fast aggro assaults.


Golem: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 93

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The Golem tribe could use some faster member, although these three don't look like very useful stuff, either in a Golem deck or elsewhere. Custodian of the Trove can provide some defense while waiting for the Colossi to come, I guess. And Keeper of the Lens is notable in that it's the much anticipated card that can counteract the mystery of the morph/megamorh/manifest armies.


Hound: +6

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 64 (online: 59)

 Related Tribes: Archer, Scout, Shaman, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: There's just Ainok Survivalist as a megamorphed Naturalize, and Salt Road Ambushers that can provide some boost in a morph/manifest-heavy deck.


Human: +41 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 1680 (online: 1512)

 Related Tribes: Assassin, Berserker, Cleric, Monk, Shaman, Soldier, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: As always, the Human are all over the map, so to get what's good new stuff the tribe gets, one has to check all the other shared types.


Imp: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 32 (online: 30)

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Insect: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 135 (online: 131)

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Kirin: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 7

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The fact that this little dude here impacts the Kirin tribe significantly is the measure of how sad the Kirin tribe is.


Lizard: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 45 (online: 43)

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: This nice new Mythic Beast is also a Lizard, and the Lizard tribe is even more thankful for it.


Monk: +9

  

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 77 (online: 74)

 Related Tribes: Bird, Djinn, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Aside from the Negate-on-a-stick Djinn, and maybe the "noncreature matters" lifegaining of Student of Ojutai, the true highlight of the DTK Monks is certainly Ojutai Exemplars, which is a white Aetherling also based (as it's fully expected of the Jeskai clan, now known as the followers of the Dragonlord Ojutai) on the "noncreature matters" mechanic. Of course that means it's just a 4/4 for 4 when you don't have enablers in hand, which is a similar issue of the heroic ability; but in the right deck, you can protect it from targeted removal, or give it lifelink, or remove a blocker from the equation. Far from broken, but Dragons of Tarkir is kind of a underpowered set all in all so this one is what actually passes for pretty great around here.


Naga: +6

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 13

 Related Tribes: Wizard, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: With their final turnout (for now, hopefully), the Naga almost doubled their members, so the impact of this DTK lot is certainly high. The Sultai clan, now turned into the Dimir-colored followers of Silumgar, has adopted the exploit mechanic, and a few of the Naga exploiters do useful things like the bouncer Sidisi's Faithful and the mass bouncer Profaner of the Dead. And then, there's the new incarnation of Sidisi himself, which is now a Diabolic Tutor that, for 1 mana more, may leave behind a 4/6 deathtouch body, provided you have something else to sacrifice. It might be too midrange for his health, but it's certainly a good option, both for the tribe and in general.


Ogre: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 75 (online: 71)

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Warrior, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: None


Orc: +7

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 40

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Shaman, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: So, in the end, the Orc tribe more than doubled its members over the course of the Tarkir block. It didn't become a major tribe or anything, but it's definitely more playable now. This last group has a few nice Berserkers, then there's the new, slim Zurgo who's a fast 1-drop, not quite Goblin Guide worthy, but still swift enough; and two other rares, Blood-Chin Fanatic, who cares for the Warriors more, and especially Ire Shaman, who's a hard-to-block 2- or 3-powered dude for 2, with a megamorph trigger that gives you a nice Chandra, Pyromaster's activation.


Salamander: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 9

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: There's just 9 Salamanders in the game, so this 1- or 2-powered unblockable one is actually quite relevant in the tribe. And nowhere else.


Scout: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 92 (online: 86)

 Related Tribes: Hound

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Serpent: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 26 (online: 25)

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Shaman: +11

  

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 307 (online: 303)

 Related Tribes: Bird, Efreet, Goblin, Hound, Human, Orc

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: There's two Mythic Rare Shamans in DTK, both of the Human sort, and both sporting bombastic applications of the formidable mechanic. Dragon Whisperer is a red bear that can fly and firebreath, but once formidable is achieved (and it can even do it on its own, except that would cost A LOT of mana), it becomes a Dragon factory (again, with A LOT of mana involved). Shaman of the Forgotten Ways is a double mana producer for 3, which is an old standard (yet the Shaman tribe didn't have one yet). It gets you any color of mana, but at the same time it restricts you to creature spells only. And then it comes that crazy formidable activation for a 11-mana Biorhythm. I guess there's an Elfball-style combo deck in the making right there, but it doesn't seem either a set or a tribe highlight. I might be wrong about that, though, and maybe Standard will actually turn such a deck into reality.


Skeleton: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 42 (online: 40)

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: None


Snake: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 66 (online: 59)

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Soldier: +8

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 512 (online: 456)

 Related Tribes: Bird, Human, Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Spirit Anafenza aside, there's not a lot to say about the DTK Soldiers (then again, we know Tarkir is a World of Warriors). Almost all of the Humans ones are kinda useful in a "counters matter" deck, but none of these are especially crucial even there.


Spirit: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 393 (online: 389)

 Related Tribes: Dragon, Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: So, in the new timeline Anafenza is a g-g-g-ghost. But she's a nice one, perfectly suitable for any white weenie deck, the type where at each new creature drop, your team wants to get stronger. As for the other Spirit, the less it's said about Scion of Ugin, the better. Real wasted opportunity there.


Turtle: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 8 (online: 7)

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The eighth Turtle ever! And it's... eh, this thing.


Warrior: +23

   

   

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 487 (online: 472)

 Related Tribes: Bird, Hound, Human, Ogre, Orc, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: As one might well imagine, there's a lot of common filler fluff in the Warrior tribe, since Warrior is pretty much the basic state of anybody on Tarkir. Still, the Human Warrior variety offers some good specimens, too, especially in white, with the double striker (and double strike provider) Arashin Foremost, and the lifelinker+conditional removal Hidden Dragonslayer, both rare. Green also features two rare Human Warriors: Den Protector, which is a more belligerent (but slower and harder to abuse) Eternal Witness, and the old khan in new clothes Surrak, the Hunt Caller, who's just an above the curve body with a good chance of getting haste/giving haste to others.  What calls for the most attention, however, is the Orc Warrior Blood-Chin Fanatic, which provides the tribe with a linear mechanic that allows for winning without attacking – or more likely, allows to deal the last few points of damage through sacrifice, or else to swing back the balance in your favor due to the Drain Life effect, a la Gray Merchant of Asphodel.


Wizard: +10

    

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 552 (online: 540)

 Related Tribes: Djinn, Human, Naga

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The majority of the new Wizards are Naga. The Humans don't even get a rare one, which is why they're all more or less irrelevant. I mean, do we really need a Essence Scatter for 3 that also asks for a sacrifice, all to leave a body on the board? Granted, it's a 2/1 flyer, so it could actually see play in some fringe format or something, but still...


Zombie: +7

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 326 (online: 320)

 Related Tribes: Djinn, Goblin, Naga, Ogre, Turtle, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to Low

 Highlights: Aside from Sidisi Reforged, Zombies get one Mythic, and it's a lord, Risen Executioner, a 4/3 for 4 that can come back from the grave. Only, it costs more if you cast it from the graveyard, namely 1 mana more per each creature that's in the graveyard with him. I can't really wrap my head around what this flavor is supposed to convey. Shouldn't a Zombie lord be glad there's other corpses to reanimate? Is he upset that those potential Zombies aren't actuality yet? Regardless, he doesn't strike me as a very essential Mythic, it's slow and the Zombies have better lords and better "revenants" (Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, anyone?), but I guess a Zombie deck could play one copy for kicks.


SUMMARY

> top <

 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here. The new quantities will be added only after the set will be released online.


BEST IN SHOW

  

  

> top <


THE FATE OF THE KHANS

  

 

> top <


KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS