Welcome back to The Modern Perspective! This is Dragon Week on PureMTGO.com! My contribution is three casually competitive Modern legal decks featuring various Dragon themes as win conditions. What kind of Dragon escapades are we going for? Do large, instantaneous scourges of dragons sound good? How about a dragon flavored infinite combo? Or if those don't light your fire, isn't swinging with Dragons always acceptable? All types of Dragons for everyone!
If this is your first time reading The Modern Perspective, be sure to check out the weekly Modern Land Prices section to see just how much building the Modern Dragon deck of your dreams will cost (in Lands that is)!
Part I. Niv-Mizzet Combo
Part II. Dragon Warp
Part III. Crucible Aggro
Part IV. The Modern Land Prices
Part I. Niv-Mizzet Combo
This two card combo has been around since Niv-Mizzet was printed. It's great to see this Legendary Dragon as the centerpiece of the deck! Draw cards, burn face, it's as easy as that!
What's the plan?
Suit up Niv-Mizzet with one of the Enchantments and win! Of course, this is easier said than done. While Niv does have the magic toughness of 4 (can't be killed by a single Lightning Bolt) he is still a sitting duck for a turn while you wait to tap him. There's not much to be done about it other than wait until you get enough mana to cast him with some kind of counter backup.
I included several other creatures that can deal damage straight to the face for those times where all of your Nivs are hiding at the bottom of the deck but you have a "Curiosity" burning a hole in your hand. I also tossed in the Basilisk Collar to make any of these pinging creatures into a powerful menace. Seriously, an Inferno Titan with a Collar is silly good. Spellbound Dragon was so I could put another U/R Dragon in there; it IS Dragon Week! Psychosis Crawler rounds out the heavy card drawing theme.
All of your spells are either drawing extra cards or burning, or in the case of Electrolyze, both. It shouldn't take you long to find any of the pieces you need. Mind Spring is a super Fireball if Niv is out. Heck, everything is better if Niv is out!
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
Niv is an extremely popular character, really for no reason other than being a big red dragon! Seriously, if you suffered through the original Ravnica novels, Niv does so little it's laughable. You can tell that he was popular because they gave the character a huge presence in the new Ravnica block. Box art, promotional videos, lunch boxes, fine leather goods - Niv is everywhere.
As for the Niv-Mizzet card, Firemind has always been a very cool card, I'll give it that. Even outside of the infinite combo, the extreme synergy of the abilities is flavorful and mechanically what Blue and Red should be doing together. It really felt appropriate as a 6-mana Legend (even when the 5/5 Kamigawa Dragons were still around). Of course, that wasn't the era that 6cc cards were playable in Standard, so Niv never really shined in his day.
Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius faces the same challenges old Niv did. Stat-wise he is even bigger than Firemind. His ability is costly, but with enough mana is devastating. The current environment is even more friendly to high casting cost creatures. Sadly, Niv still doesn't have enough going on to make the cut.
Niv-Mizzet - loved by casuals, played by casuals, keepin' it casual.
How to spice it up?
There are tons of options for this deck. If you have Scalding Tarn, Snapcaster Mage or Cryptic Command, toss them in! Snapcaster makes all of the Instants better, even if you toss them in the yard with Thirst. Cryptic has the all important phrase "Draw a card" along with a bunch of other text that does good things. Consecrated Sphinx could also get out of hand if Niv is already chilling on the battlefield.
Part II. DRAGON WARP
Ramp, ramp, ramp - and then the real fun beings. Warp World is a huge fan favorite that creates a story every time it is cast.
"I remember once, back in the old days, during 'Jund Octoberfest', when my opponent hit me with 40 points of Dragon damage off a Warp World".
That legendary opponent? It could be you!
What's the plan?
Deploy your early game mana ramp, conveniently comprised of permanents, to hit 7 mana as quickly as possible. The Defender sub-theme lets you produce clumps of mana from Overgrown Battlement while keeping you alive against Aggro rushes. The non-Defender rampers thin your deck as you try to draw Warp World.
The Dragon suite, if you get lucky enough, should instantly end the game if you hit the right combination of Dragons. Karthus helps speed things up by a massive degree. Predator Dragon is hastey and doesn't mind eating up a bunch of walls to grow into a huge threat.
The other creatures all enter play and provide various benefits. Ramping into Acidic Slime can really put some decks on the back foot. Not going to lie, I want to live the dream of casting a Zealous Conscripts to steal a Karn Liberated and make it exile itself. Redcap tosses Goblin damage in with Hellkite damage to end the game.
Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund
Karrthus is one heck of a Dragon. A 7/7 for 7 that has flying and haste is a terror in the skies. Grabbing control of every other Dragon on the board is pretty ambitious, even for a Tyrant. Last, giving all of your dragons Haste is a big game changer.
I don't play much Commander, but I have to imagine that back in the early EDH days of the format, this was probably an insanely good card.
Once, there was Dragonstorm and the poor peasants hid in terror. Several chains of fire would be followed by a large crack in the sky. Out would pour a scourge of Bogardan Hellkite - containing somewhere in the number of 3-4 dragons. (Sometimes a 5th Dragon would show up being chased by some Knights, but not always.) Soon after, the charred remains of peasant and wizards alike would litter the countryside.
In its day, Dragonstorm was a brutal deck to compete against. Bogardan Hellkite was THE reason the deck even worked in the first place. Hellkite wasn't exclusive to Dragonstorm either. Later in its Standard life, Hellkite found a spot in the UWR Aethermage's Touch deck. Dropping it into play on your opponent's End Step often let you demolish their board and then go in for a nice chunk of damage. Eventually you would build up to 8 mana and recast the Dragon for repeated fun!
These days, I'd imagine people would choose Inferno Titan in the "large creature that can burn when it comes into play spot" (kind of like I did above....aww), but the Hellkite will always have a special place in the hearts of those who played, both with and against, those old Dragonstorm decks.
How to spice it up?
This deck is all about the balance between good ramp and powerful finishers. Try mixing and matching all of your favorite creatures with 'Enter the Battlefield' triggers, or toss whichever Dragons tickle your fancy in there. Also, cards like Siege-Gang Commander that produce a lot of permanents with a good way to use them so that your second Warp World is even better than your first!
Trying to drop 4 Kokusho, the Evening Star into play at once is still impressive, even with the new Legendary Rule.
Part III. Crucible Aggro
Sometimes, you need to think outside the box. Sure, nothing beats casting a huge flying Dragon to rain down misery on your foe. But what if you want to swing with a ton of Dragons? How are you going to live long enough to get all of these Dragons into play? Easy, by expanding your definition of "Dragon".
How does it work?
Why cast a 6 mana Dragon when you can cast one for 2? Behold the ever elusive Lorywn-era Changelings! They count as every creature type in the game including Dragon! Casting Crucible of Fire when you haven't even cast a Dragon yet? Wouldn't it be better to have 2-3 "Dragons" on the table and then drop your huge P/T boosting enchantment? Swinging with two 5/5 Dragons on T4 is more like it.
While we are at it, why not play a creature that is a mini-Anthem all by itself? Mayor of Avabruck boosts all of the "Humans" in the deck. Or he boosts all of the "Wolves". Changelings aren't picky, they don't care which side is up! The only other Human in the deck only takes 1 mana to cast, but won't do much unless you are unlucky enough see the "late game". Then he just starts inviting Dragons to the party every turn. That should end the "late game" pretty quickly.
Your other spells are basically burn and some flexible removal. Sure, the one of Sarkhan should probably be a 3rd Crucible for the sake of consistency, but come on, what other deck has the chance of dropping a Sarkhan into play and doing upwards of 10+ damage?! That is too cool! Plus, where else is poor Sarkhan going to see use?
Oh yeah, and Cavern of Souls is a wonder card in the deck. Be sure to name "Human" though, despite the urge to yell "Fish!", "Advisor!", "Goat!" or "Monkey!". (Besides, you should only yell "Monkey!" in a true time of need.) Mutavault also lives up to its full potential in a deck like this.
Sarkhan the Mad
In a deck full of wannabe Dragon pretenders, Sarkhan is still the biggest poser of the bunch. The guy just really wants to be a Dragon soooooo bad. Look at most of his other art - Dragon this, Dragon that. He even has an arm that transforms into a Dragon and shoots fire, like some kind of fantasy version of Vash the Stampede!
Sarkhan could be an interesting character...if they get past this "Mindless half-crazed Bolas minion" phase. Let him grow a little already, Wizards. At the very least, give us a block where he shows up and totally owns some good guys. Seriously, make him SCARY crazy. Take him right off the deep end. Make "Return to Kamigawa" where his goal is HUNTING Legendary Spirit Dragons.
As for this version of his card, the Dark Confidant ability was a cool idea. I wish they tried more unique ideas on Planewalkers. It makes them kooky but fun.
How to spice it up?
It's possible that White should actually be the 3rd color of choice. Naya gives you access to Avian Changeling who is a bit more exciting than the Black three drops. Most importantly it gives you Mirror Entity, who is just nuts with a Mayor and a Crucible on the table. Suddenly even that mild-mannered, uh, part werewolf guy turns into a scaled doom bringer...while still also being a werewolf. The Mayor of Avabruck lives a more interesting life than most people...
If you stick to Jund colors, Deathrite Shaman is always good in Modern. It would help you ramp to the higher end "Dragons" and provides all of the other bonuses that come with it as well. For once it has a downside, since it isn't a human, a wolf or a Dragon. Still, it's Deathrite Shaman. You could also try something silly, but efficient, by running Scroll of Griselbrand. You are running a bunch of "Demons" and 2 colorless to sap 3 Life and Discard a card is pretty nice.
Part IV. The Modern Land Prices
All prices are from MTGOtrader.com. The version linked was the cheapest when the land was added, but be sure to check for the best available price!
The Zendikar Fetch Lands
The Fetch Lands are the lynchpin of most mana bases in Modern. Being able to fix your colors by finding a Ravnica Shock Land is critical to the various top tier multi-color decks. The Fetchlands also have great synergy with the best one drop creature in the format, Deathrite Shaman. The price of Fetchlands is often considered the defining cost barrier of Modern, however, on MTGO, they are usually cheaper than many high demand Mythics.
Some of the Fetches are heading back up while some are going even lower. If you want to pick up Fetches, the next few weeks seem like the time to do it.
The Ravnica Shock Lands
The Shock Lands, with their dual basic land types, are very important pillars of the Modern format. The nickname is derived from the 2 life paid to put the land into play untapped compared to the 2 damage from the card Shock. After being reprinted in the Return to Ravnica block, the prices dropped dramatically and it is now much easier for players to acquire these lands with a modest budget.
Another week of Devotion decks winning in Standard is really wreaking havoc on the Shock prices. This is a gift to Modern players since cheap Shocks are good news for us. Even if Mono-Colored is the way of the future for Standard, Modern is a multi-color format for the foreseeable future.
The Scars of Mirrodin Fast Lands
The Fast Lands are a great way to ensure two colors of mana in the first few turns of the game. Only available in allied color pairings, they see the most use for colors that have strong aggressive themes that are not affected by the drawback. The Fast Lands have a relatively low price threshold and are an inexpensive way to add mana consistency to a deck.
I didn't expect Copperline Gorge to stay that low for very long. Other than that "surge", there is little else to report.
The Worldwake Man-Lands
The ability to produce two colors and provide a creature with an ability makes these lands rather attractive. More useful in mid-range and control oriented decks that don't mind the drawback as much. Currently only one of these lands appears as a '4-of' in a deck; so while they have a moderate price threshold, keep in mind that you usually only need about 1-2 copies of each per a deck.
Pretty much as expected for this table too. Colonnade is a given in almost all U/W/x decks for Modern, it couldn't be low for long. Tar Pit rebounded a teeny tiny bit, but I wouldn't get too excited yet.
The Core Set/Innistrad Check Lands
While they do not provide mana on the first turn of the game, the Check Lands still have enough potential to see use in Modern. When combined with the Ravnica Shock Lands, the Checks are an inexpensive way to create reliable 2 color mana bases. Now that the Check Lands have rotated out of Standard, their prices are extremely low. Newer players to Modern, as well as those with very tight budgets, may want to start with these extremely cheap lands.
What's up with that 100% gain for Clifftop Retreat? What treachery is this!? I'm still surprised that Cemetery is below 0.50.
The Utility and Deck Specific Lands
This section covers Utility Lands, off cycle mana fixers and Deck specific lands that you might need if you want to build a Modern deck. Whether it's the Urza Tron Cycle, Affinity or you just want to know how much the most used lands that blow up other lands cost, this should give you some idea of what you are working with.
Never let anybody tell you that Pauper can't shift prices of cards. Darksteel Citadel takes a big leap this week. Other Affinity lands saw a little bump as well. Time to start packing some SB Creeping Corrosion? Grove of the Burnwillows is down 1/3 of its price since I first started watching these lands a little over 3 weeks ago. Did people lose interest in R/G Tron again?
That brings us to the end of my Dragon Week article! I hope you enjoyed the decks and the Dragon Spotlights. There were plenty of other ideas in my head, including decks with Yosei, Kokusho, Doubling Season and more! I'll tuck those away for Dragon Week 2014.
Originally I wasn't planning on making a Dragon Week article. Heck, I didn't even know Dragon Week was happening until sometime Saturday. Once I found out, I was having too much fun coming up with Dragon inspired decks to miss out on the fun. I can't stress this enough, but it's always important that you enjoy life and the things you choose to do during it. Whether it's playing Magic, writing about Magic, or even non-Magic related activities, make sure you are having fun. That's what really matters.
Tune in next week when I get back to that pet card I was talking about and discuss the joys of playtesting.
Until next time,