by Francis Jodoin
This week i’m going to share my most infamous Commander deck. It is my oldest deck and I never got tired of playing it. The deck’s goal is to either win by beating face with dragons, Timmy-style or set up a combo win, Johnny-style.
Zirilan of the Claw
1 Balefire Dragon
1 Caged Sun
1 Champion’s Helm
1 Coalition Relic
1 Conjurer’s Closet
1 Everflowing Chalice
1 Expedition Map
1 Extraplanar Lens
1 Gauntlet of Power
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Illusionist’s Bracers
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Mind Stone
1 Mycosynth Lattice
1 Quicksilver Amulet
1 Rings of Brightheart
1 Scroll Rack
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Sol Ring
1 Strionic Resonator
1 Sundial of the Infinite
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Synod Sanctum
1 Tawnos’ Coffin
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
1 Worn Powerstone
The first thing i want to say about this deck is that it may seem strange. You must ignore Zirilan’s actual text on the card. Wait, what… ? That’s right! Magic is a game that evolved through its history and some old way of phrasing things don’t make sense in modern MTG language. That’s why we must always look at the “Oracle” text, the official text that is enforced by DCI rulings. So when you read Zirilan’s text, you should read:
1RR Tap: Search your library for a Dragon permanent card and put that card onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library. That Dragon gains haste until end of turn. Exile it at the beginning of the next end step.
That changes everything!
This means that you can summon a dragon during your opponent’s end step (in multiplayer, you do this at the end step of the opponent who is last to play before your turn) and have it stick around until YOUR end step because the trigger happens “at the beginning of the next end step”. This allows you to have 2 dragons on the field on your turn, the one you summoned the turn before and the one you summon on your turn. This also allows you to save the 3 mana activation cost so you can use all your mana on your chosen dragon. As you play the deck you will learn to appreciate the options this most recent wording of the card allows.
The beatstick dragons
Shivan Dragon your whole team
Not much to say about them as they are simply pure raw power. You’ll want to summon Utvara Hellkite at the end of your opponent’s turn so you can summon another dragon on your turn, making 2 dragon tokens. If you can search for and activate Hellkite Charger on your turn you’ll end up with quite a few tokens! And then with all these tokens you can finish the job with Moonveil Dragon. Dragon Tyrant is used for one-shoting a single player. With all the mana available to you this should be easy to do mid-late game.
The removal dragons
Engineered Explosives Dragon!
Being able to tutor for removal is pretty powerful. With these dragons you can get rid of most mid-sized creatures your opponents can put on the battlefield. Fire Dragon can kill most things late game (again, ignore the text and look at the Oracle wording, the “from your hand” clause has been dismissed). If you get Scourge of Kher Ridges to stick around you’ll likely control the board. Steel Hellkite can destroy problematic permanents while Hoard-Smelter Dragon simply eats artifacts, which as we all know are super popular in Commander.
Combo dragons and combo pieces
Weird to see this without Animate Dead
This is where things get interesting… and degenerate ! The most powerful combo this deck can pull out involves Worldgorger Dragon. Just cast Apocalypse or Jokulhaups and in response sneak in Worldgorger Dragon via Zirilan. The Worldgorger Dragon will exile all of your permanents, afterwards the mass destruction will resolve killing everything including Worldgorger Dragon . The dragon will leave the battlefield, bringing back all of your permanent while your opponents will lose all of theirs ! From there it will be very difficult to lose the game since most players will just scoop up their cards at that point. Worldgorger Dragon can also be used to save your permanents from an opposing sweeper but just make sure it’s worth it as you can use each dragon only once.
The second combo you can use involves Mycosynth Lattice. With it on the battlefield, just simply summon Hellkite Tyrant and swing at someone you want to eliminate. You’ll gain control of all of that player’s permanents (not for long though, people usually scoop when this happens…). Lattice also comboes with Shattering Spree/Vandalblast ! The best thing is you can tutor for Mycosynth Lattice with Hoarding Dragon, just send the dragon crashing into any attacking fatty and you’ll get your artifact. Also, Hoarding Dragon can search up any of the deck’s powerful artifacts or another combo piece: Sword of Feast and Famine …
I love/hate this card
With Sword of Feast and Famine on the battlefield, cheat Hellkite Charger into play (ideally on your opponent’s end step). Equip the Sword to the Hellkite Charger, attack and activate the Dragon’s extra attack step ability. Your opponent will take 7 damage, you then untap all your lands, rinse and repeat… You can then proceed to kill every player on the table who hasn’t got a a non-green/black flying blocker with infinite attack steps!
The last “combo” piece is Repercussion. I’ve killed people with this and Blasphemous Act/Chain Reaction quite a few times. It also makes blocking irrelevant. All our burn spells become free damage in addition to the removal ! To top it off, it’s not really a very commonly played Commander card in general so most people won’t see it coming.
All those combos recquire lots of mana and this is why we have so many mana rocks. We also want to be able to cast dragons that end up in stuck in our hands. Sometimes we can’t make Zirilan stick or he gets shuffled into our deck (Oblation). Some of our dragon’s abilities also benefit from having access to tons of mana. Massive amounts of mana is key in the Commander/EDH format!
The non-dragon removal
Because we don’t always have Zirilan in play, we need other ways to interact with the board. Not much else to say about the board sweepers expect that they are good in Commander. The ones in this deck are among the best options we have in a mono red deck.
The ability copying artifacts
What’s better than summoning a dragon each turn with Zirilan of the Claw? Summoning two dragons each turn! Those work so well with our Commander General, but there are also quite a few other triggered/activated abilities generated from our other dragons that are worth copying.
The dragon preservers
What’s better than cheating a dragon into play each turn? Summoning a dragon that sticks around forever each turn! Some of the deck’s artifacts allow us to abuse the stack and make our dragon stick around much longer. I don’t think I need much explaining on how powerful that can be.
You mean people found a use for these?
We also pack a couple of really useful Commander cards of course. Scroll Rack and Sensei’s Divining Top are pretty crazy with a general that has a shuffling effect tacked on ! Scroll Rack can also put dragons we want to put into play via our general back into our library. Glacial Crevasses makes its worth playing snow-covered lands. This useful enchantment has saved my life countless times.
Scrying Sheets is another reason to play snow lands, as is Mouth of Ronom. The last snow card is Rimescale Dragon, probably the only dragon you want to draw and not put into play through Zirilan. Thawing Glaciers ensures we never miss a land drop, something very important in this deck. It also work well with Valakut. Homeward Path is just randomly useful at the very low cost of having one more colorless mana source in the deck and not messing with our mana too much.
Making sure you hit your land drops every turn
In the End …
This is a deck you can play if you like doing nasty things in Commander and I know we all do. Beating face with dragons is fun. Also, Wizards of the Coast seems like they are obliged to print at least one red dragon in every set. This always gives us new cards to work with!