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By: gwyned, gwyned
Apr 06 2015 12:00pm
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I. Introduction

Dragons of Tarkir has at last been released on Magic Online, returning us to the world of ambitious warlords and cunning clans, now transformed by the rebirth of ancient dragons. If you're looking for superb analysis of this set's impact on Limited and Standard, I'm afraid you've clicked the wrong link. Instead, it is the purpose of this article to break down this unique set from the perspective of the Standard Pauper player. In Part One, I reviewed the creatures and spells that make use of the six mechanics in the set. Last time, in Part Two, I analyzed all of the reprints as well as the non-mechanic White and Blue Commons. Today, I will finish up with the rest of the Commons and review my best picks from the set.

If you've read my previous set reviews, you should be familiar with my methodology. Rather than assigning a particular letter grade, I will instead note each card as a "hit or myth" and discuss why I believe this card will or will not be relevant. My reasoning is simple: unlike in Limited, you will never have an instance where you have to prioritize one card over another in any meaningful way, and thus a letter grade is not that helpful in actual practice. I also make use of a third category - borderline - for those cards that aren't great, but might see some play in the right deck. Without further ado, here are the remaining Commons from Dragons of Tarkir!

II. The Rest of the Commons
A. Black

1. Butcher's Glee is quite similar to Necrobite, sharing the same mana cost, protecting the targeted creature from dying, and ensuring that the other creature won't survive combat, since in most spots adding 3 to Power is roughly equivalent to granting Deathtouch. But in this case, you also get the added bonus of gaining Lifelink as well, giving you a three point Life boost as well. 2B is a lot to pay for a combat trick, but you're getting quite a lot of value out of a single card. With Black primarily taking on a Control strategy in Standard Pauper, this doesn't have an immediate home. However, in a more aggressive Rakdos-style archetype, this could certainly see some play.

Verdict: Borderline - I'm not gleeful about this card, but playing it won't butcher your deck either.


2. Coat with Venom is another Black combat trick, and once again you get pretty decent value considering you're only paying a single Black mana. Getting two points of Toughness as well as Deathtouch means the creature should kill whatever it's up against and live to fight another day. This would be particularly lethal paired with a Green creature with Trample, since the combination of Deathtouch and Trample means you can deal just a single point of damage to the blocking creature and then deal the rest directly to your opponent. I would still rather have removal than this card, even as cheap as it is, but again in an aggressive Rakdos archetype I could see this making the cut.

Verdict: Borderline - I don't think I'm sugar-coating my feelings for this card.


3. It pains me to see just how low Black removal has fallen. Not that long ago, for 1B, you could cast Doom Blade, an Instant speed removal spell that killed all non-Black creatures. But today, you end up with Defeat, which for the same mana cost gives you Sorcery speed removal that does nothing against creatures with Power three or greater. With cards like Gods Willing and Glint in the format, managed to kill opposing creatures is hard enough without having to also worry about whether your opponent might also have the ability to temporarily pump Power. This is about as bad as removal gets, and as such this is not a card that should ever see play in the format.

Verdict: Myth - Playing this will only ensure your defeat.


4. Speaking of former Black Common all-stars, Dutiful Attendant is as close as we get nowadays to Gravedigger, which for only an additional colorless mana gave you another point of Power and returned a creature from your Graveyard when it entered the battlefield rather than making you wait until it died. A 1/2 is about as mediocre as a creature gets in Standard Pauper, and most of the time you're better off simply playing Gravepurge or the like if you want this type of effect. The only time you should play this card would be in a strategy that is built around the use of sacrifice effects like Exploit. But even then, playing a bad card to enable a good card isn't usually a successful way forward.

Verdict: Borderline - It's my duty to pay attention to cards like this, but I'm not optimistic.


5. Black gets a surprising amount of combat tricks and removal in Dragons of Tarkir, and Flatten is probably the best of the lot at Common. -4 / -4 is enough to kill just about any creature in the format, and getting this effect at Instant speed for 3B is a great deal when compared to recent cards like Lash of the Whip and Throttle. It's certainly no Grasp of Darkness, but four mana should still be cheap enough to make this worth playing. Of course, for only one extra mana, you do get unconditional removal like Flesh to Dust that also sidesteps Regeneration. So while Flatten is a pretty good deal, I'm uncertain how much Black decks want access to this sort of effect.

Verdict: Borderline - The slim margin between this and similar cards definitely flattens out its value.


6. Foul-Tongue Shriek looks like a really strong card. It's cheap, Instant speed, and even with only 3 creatures, you're getting a six point life swing, which certainly is significant in almost any game state. But the real problem with this card is that it has no actual effect on the board itself, and does absolutely nothing unless you have creatures with good attacks in the first place. This obviously seems tailored perfectly for a tokens strategy, but would have to be paired with either Red or White to generate such tokens in the first place. In the right scenario, this card could be amazing. But most of the time, I don't think this will have a powerful enough effect to be worth a card in your deck.

Verdict: Myth - Don't shriek foul words at me if you think this card is actually amazing.


7. Apparently Black still does not have enough early drops with Deathtouch, as Hand of Silumgar joins Baleful Eidolon, Pharika's Chosen, and Typhoid Rats in this role. There is a surprisingly difference between one and two Power, and this means that your opponent won't be able to simply ignore its attacks each round. Both Mono Black Devotion and Dimir Control have been playing quite a lot of this type of creature, and at this stage I am unsure whether Hand of Silumgar is an upgrade to Typhoid Rats or actually worse due to the extra mana cost. At this point I'm tempted to simply split the difference and rate this as functionally equivalent and leave it at that.

Verdict: Borderline - It's as weak as a rat and yet more deadly than a snake.


8. Shambling Goblin is almost a strict upgrade from Festering Goblin, since it's unable to kill your own creatures when it dies. This can trade with any 2 Power creature, and makes a decent sacrifice target as well. But it's a mediocre card with a mediocre ability, and neither will earn you much value in a typical game. Most of the time playing one the Typhoid Rats variants or Black Cat would be a better choice for this role, since there really aren't that many 1 Toughness creatures that you could destroy when this dies. Even as a pseudo-combat trick to finish off another creature weakened in combat, this just doesn't give you enough to be worth a card. So you probably don't want to play this in your deck.

Verdict: Myth - Your deck will be in shambles if you play a lot of this type of card.


9. Black has a pronounced Discard theme going, and Sibsig Icebreakers certainly would be a role-player in that kind of strategy. A 2/3 for 2B is pretty typical at Common, and while not great, it's certainly not the worst either. Most of the time, having to discard a card from your own hand is a pretty big downside, but this effect does have some marginal synergy with Delve. Still, unless you're going all in on either Discard or Delve, I don't think this card is what you're looking for. And even in that slot, it's quite possible that Rakshasa's Secret is just a better choice. On the other hand, Black doesn't have much going on at the three-drop spot, so perhaps this is worth a second look.

Verdict: Borderline - I don't think this will break new ground, but it might be passable.


10. What do you get when you bring Horned Turtle back to life as a zombie? A Wandering Tombshell, apparently. For your one additional mana, you get two more points of Toughness, but nothing else to show for it. Typically Blue or White wants access to this sort of high Toughness creature to help stem the bleeding from an aggressive deck, so the fact that this comes down a full turn later is not a point in its favor. Yes, you get a creature that will clog up the ground and be very difficult for your opponent to get past. But with only a single Power, it's not likely to make much of an impact on the game long-term. If this had some sort of enters the battlefield ability, it might be worth consideration. But as a vanilla creature for 3B, it's not worth playing.

Verdict: Myth - Don't be slow to move on from this card.


B. Red

1. Red has been getting a variety of different affects that reduce the cost of other spells, including this one on Hardened Berserker. You get a 3/2 for 2R, which is about on par but not exciting. However, the 1 point mana reduction goes into effect as soon as this card is declared an attacker, immediately making combat tricks and removal spells cheaper. Alternatively, the reduction can be used to cast a creature after you make the attack, potentially allowing you to squeeze in an extra card or get one down a turn earlier than normal. This is a decent effect on a decent creature, but there's nothing here that lifts this to the category of very good. It's worth testing, but I don't think it will make a major impact.

Verdict: Borderline - I am hardened against getting too excited about cards like these.


2. Impact Tremors is another card designed to synergize well with token strategies, but does absolutely nothing on its own. If you take Lightning Strike as a baseline, it takes a minimum of three activations to at least get an equivalent amount of damage. Worse though, the damage can only be used on your opponent, not on opposing creatures. Boros does have a decent number of cards that generate multiple tokens, but it remains to be seen whether it's enough to really get enough value out of this card to make it worthwhile. There's a ton of value to be had in the right deck in the right circumstances; but outside of that one archetype, this is a card that you should not be playing.

Verdict: Myth - I am not trembling at the impact this card will make.


3. Kolaghan Aspirant would be a mediocre 2/1 for 1R without its secondary ability, which allows it to trade up with more expensive creatures and is the perfect answer against Typhoid Rats and their ilk. But it's important to remember that this ability only activates on offense, and only against creatures, and gives your opponent also has the choice on whether or not the block is advantageous or not. While this may catch a new player unaware, most others will recognize how this ability interacts in combat and make their choices accordingly. So while this is better than a simple 2/1, it's actually not that much better, and as such I don't believe that this deserves a spot in your deck.

Verdict: Myth - This one has set its aspirations too high.


4. Lose Calm is our Act of Treason variant for Dragons of Tarkir. For your extra one Red mana, you make it that much harder for your opponent to block the creature that you borrowed. Assuming you cast this when your opponent has no choice but to block, that's a nice upgrade, as it increases the chances that the targeted creature will die along with at least one other of your opponent's creatures. In that scenario, this is a two-for-one, but a lot has to go right to get you that far. Act of Treason has seen some play out of the Sideboard in an aggressive Red archetype, and while this costs one additional mana, the upside seems good enough to warrant playing Lose Calm in its place.

Verdict: Borderline - Don't get too excited or lose your cool


5. The biggest problem with Lava Axe has always been its inability to target creatures. But now Sarkhan's Rage provides a significant upgrade. As an Instant that can targets either a creature or player, this would be strictly better than Lava Axe were it not for the two damage that this deals in return (and given that there is exactly one Dragon at Common, you're going to get hit with this every time). But assuming the damage doesn't make the difference between staying alive and dying, this is actually a pretty good card for a more midrange Red archetype, or even in a Control deck looking to play a fair amount of burn. It may be expensive, but I believe it will prove itself quite effective in the right spot.

Verdict: Borderline - If only my rage could look so cool.


6. Tail Slash is strictly worse than Fall of the Hammer. Not only does it cost an additional mana, but it also forces you to deal the damage to a creature you don't control (although I admit there are very few scenarios where the latter difference would matter). Of course, Fall of the Hammer is very good removal. A one-sided Prey Upon would be premium removal if not for the requirement that you have a sizable creature in play. That said, I don't think it's good enough that you would want to play 8 copies of it if you could. Once Theros block rotates out of Standard, it's nice to see that this type of effect will still be available. But until that time comes, I don't anticipate that this will see much play.

Verdict: Myth - Slash this from your card list until after we leave Theros behind.


7. It's been a long time since Red had a multi-target burn spell at Common, and that fact alone suggests that Twin Bolt is a card you should pay attention to. Its base damage is 2 points for 1R, which is clearly worse than Lightning Strike. But it's the flexibility, not raw power, that makes this card worth playing. Against multiple creatures with 1 Toughness, it's a straight up 2-for-1. More realistically, it also gives you the ability to change combat math, allowing two of your weaker creatures to trade up or even finish off a low Power but high Toughness blocker. You'll have to be mindful about when to play this, but there's certainly enough utility to get a full card's worth of value.

Verdict: Hit - It's no Arc Lightning, but two bolts are still pretty good.


8. Vandalize is a significant upgrade from the mediocre card Demolish. For only one extra mana, you get the ability to destroy both an Artifact and a Land; even better, the card still works even when your opponent doesn't actually have an Artifact for you to target. The problem is, even though it's a big upgrade, it's still not very good. Even with all the multicolor decks in the format, destroying one Land is rarely good enough on Turn 5 to cut your opponent off from a color. Worse still, there really aren't any relevant Artifacts in the format right now to target. Land destruction can be such a demoralizing strategy to play against anyway, so I'm happy to see this never leave your virtual binder.

Verdict: Myth - Vandalism should never be encouraged.


9. How much would you pay to give all your creatures Trample? According to Volcanic Rush, the answer is 2 mana, since this card is otherwise identical to Trumpet Blast. Most of the time, decks that are running Trumpet Blast aren't worried about blocking, since the whole strategy revolves around creating more attackers than your opponent could ever block, then alpha striking in for the win. 5 mana is also an extraordinary amount to pay for a card designed for such an aggressive deck. It also does absolutely nothing on an empty board, which is a pretty major downside on a card that costs 5. For all these reasons, it should be clear that this is not a card you should play.

Verdict: Myth - No need to rush out and buy this one.


C. Green

1. Ainok Artillerist is a color-shifted Gore Swine that can also be used defensively against Flying creatures if you can manage to get a +1 / +1 counter on it. Given its single point of Toughness, any Bolster activation will be suffice, which certainly is a nice touch. On the whole though, this is really designed to go on the offensive, as Green simply has much better ways to deal with Flyers than going through all steps to get the counter and then block. It's fairly marginal even then, since it trades with anything than blocks it. About the only role I could see for this card would be to pair it with Ainok Bond-Kin, where the counter would make it a hefty 5/2 with First Strike and Reach.

Verdict: Myth - Calling this dog playable is really reaching.


2. This card's name immediately made me think of Cerodon Yearling, which would be an amazing card in this format given the strength of the Boros Archetype. Colossodon Yearling, on the other hand, is a vanilla 2/4 for 2G, which is a reasonable cost to pay considering you can get a 3/3 for 2G or a 2/4 with an ability for 3G. This will be able to kill most of your opponent's 2 drops and survive to tell the tale, and even be able to survive on blocking duty most of the other creatures in the format. In Limited, this is a very middle-of-the-road but playable creature; in Constructed, however, vanilla creatures almost never make the cut. I would gladly pay an extra mana to get a solid ability, but since that isn't an option, this is doomed to never make the grade.

Verdict: Myth - Even in a year it would be a colossal mistake to play this.


3. If there's one card I really wish hadn't seen print in Dragons of Tarkir, it's Conifer Strider. High Power Hexproof creatures have been the grief of many a Standard Pauper metagame, and despite its low Toughness, pairing this with an Aura that gives this Flying or Unblockable, and you've got a two-card combination that will be very difficult to interact with outside of drawing Enchantment removal at just the right time. Even worse, this pairs well with Bolster, where its 1 Toughness is actually a benefit, since you can guarantee it will be a legal target for the counter. I don't think the Hexproof deck will be a major player, but it will certainly steal some games. And without any "edict" effects in the format, it will be difficult to do much about that.

Verdict: Borderline - I'm not looking forward to seeing this make strides in the format.


4. Savage Punch lives on in this new time continuum as Epic Confrontation. It no longer has the Ferocious requirement in order to get the bonus prior to the fight, but in the process loses a single point of Power in the bargain. But it's the boost of Toughness that's important when it comes to using this as true removal, and as such this card is probably better than Savage Punch in most situations. Furthermore, even though the increase is only temporary, the fact that this card costs half as much as Hunt the Weak is also a pretty big improvement. On the whole I would rate this as the best Fight card in Standard Pauper at this point, and that should be good enough for this to see some play.

Verdict: Hit - It's not as epic as Lightning Strike but this is premium removal for Green.


5. Revealing Wind is our Fog variant of the set, and there is nothing here to make it worth playing. At least Fog only costs a single Green mana; Revealed Wind instead asks you to pay 2G, all for the meager bonus of getting to look at some of your opponent's face down creatures. Not all of them; just the ones that are attacking or blocking, since getting to look at all of them would apparently be way too good. I'm delighted to say that Turbo Fog hasn't been a viable archetype in Standard Pauper for a long while, and no matter how many different variations of this effect get printed, I don't believe we will need to worry about it coming back into favor within the metagame for a long time to come.

Verdict: Myth - This is where I reveal that this is nothing but hot air.


6. Servant of the Scale has a lot of words to describe what is effectively a 1/1 for 1. Yes, when it dies you can add a +1 / +1 counter to any of your creatures; yes, if you build a deck around granting this card multiple such counters and then move them to another creature once it dies. And if we're living the dream, why don't we imagine having four of these in play at once, and each time one dies, you just shift the counters over to the next one and keep swinging in for an unstoppable amount of damage. But for all intents and purposes, this is only marginally better than a 1/1 for 1, and as such, this is not a card that deserves a spot in any Standard Pauper deck.

Verdict: Myth - Let me serve you by putting this at the bottom of the scale.


7. I've written extensively about how the removal in Black and Red has gotten worse recently. Shape the Sands indicates something similar might be happening with Green's arsenal against Flying creatures. Plummet, for a mere 1G, immediately kills any such creature. But this card, while a single mana cheaper, does nothing to boost Power, and simply allows you to block a Flying creature when this is played. Granted, this does have wider application, since you could use this simply as a defensive measure to keep one of your creatures alive in combat. But the effect is so marginal that I would argue that it isn't worth a card, no matter how cheap it is. Hopefully by the time Plummet rotates out, we'll have a better alternative than this.

Verdict: Myth - This is in no shape to take on opposing flyers.


8. On first glance Sheltered Aerie might look like some serious mana ramp and color fixing. But the Aura doesn't add two mana to what the Land already produces; instead, it simply gives it an alternative effect when you tap it, producing two mana of the same color. The closest analog to this card is actually Harrow, since you give up the ability to use the original Land when you want to tap this for a different color. It's clearly more flexible than that, as you're not locked in to using the same color turn after turn. However, with all of the Common Dual Lands and Evolving Wilds still in the format, the need for this kind of clunky color-fixing is fairly low. I don't think this card will see much play.

Verdict: Myth - It's a shame this card will probably never get out and see the world.


D. Artifacts

1. Ancestral Statue is a very respectable 3/4 for 4, which even as a vanilla creature is borderline playable since it's colorless. But it's the requirement to returning a non-land permanent that makes this more interesting. Our nearest analogue is Invasive Species, which costs one less mana but has one less Toughness as well. But of course the biggest difference is that you can play this card in any color deck. And if you have several solid 'enters-the-battlefield' type effects on your creatures, this can be an easy way to enable some potentially abusive combinations. So while I am unsure whether or not this will prove to be better than Invasive Species, it's certainly worth further investigation.

Verdict: Borderline - Interesting to see this type of effect outside of Green ancestry.


2. Would you pay 3 mana for a 2/5? What if it entered the battlefield tapped? If that was all the text on Custodian of the Trove, this would at the very least be a viable Sideboard card against aggressive decks, and might even be pretty good even as a vanilla creature. But apparently that would be too good, as sadly this also has Defender, reducing its utility dramatically. In almost every scenario, you would rather have a 1/4 for 3 that will sometimes attack than a 2/5 that never will. This still might occasionally be worth including in your Sideboard if you expect a lot of aggression and don't have any better options, but I still don't think this is a card that will see much play.

Verdict: Myth - Cleaning after the battle is about all this is good for.


3. Apparently we now know where the mediocre Lens of Clarity was found, or perhaps stolen from Keeper of the Lens. At least this time the ability to look at face-down creatures is supplemented by a 1/2 body for the exact same mana cost as before. But that doesn't mean this is any good. First of all, Morph creatures and their variants have seen almost no play in the format at all, so there isn't exactly a lot of targets for this ability. Second, a 1/2 for 1 isn't actually any more relevant than a 1/1 in almost any board state. Neither of these effects is worth a card, and even combination with each other, it's still just too mediocre. No matter how good Morph creatures might become, this is not a card you should ever play.

Verdict: Myth - Please keep this out of your deck.


III. Summary

Dragons of Tarkir looks to be one of the better sets we've had come into Standard Pauper in some time. While I don't see any cards that are absolute all-stars as far as power-level is concerned, there are a number of excellent value cards that will either slot into existing archetypes or even create new ones. For reference, here are my top cards from the set, in no particular order:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


IV. Conclusion

So that concludes my review of Dragons of Tarkir for Standard Pauper. In closing, let me remind you that you can check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at any of my videos before they go live here at PureMTGO.com over on YouTube.com. Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. You can keep up with everything I'm doing on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Finally, I am the host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, which is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to PDCMagic.com for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 7:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room.