Eversince my brother-in-law Mike started playing Magic around the time Khans of Tarkir was released, I kept trying to dissuade him from running Mardu decks (even in limited). I would jokingly say: “Mardu? more like Mardon’t!” It’s also funny that in French (one of the other languages we speak up here in Montreal, Mardu closely resembles a not so flattering word.
Needless to say, I try to avoid playing this combination of those colors myself (outside of drafts). I just really can’t stand those random Crackling Dooms that people cast just because they can’t stand keeping them in their hands to cast them at a more opportune time. You play a bigger creature (aka. an actual threath) later on and well, you know…hindsight is 20/20.
When Dragons of Tarkir was released, I actually kind of liked Dragonlord Kolaghan and was pondering on playing him in a Grixis Dragons build. I quickly relinquished the idea when I realized that the colors would really be all over the place and you probably don’t want to play a Mana Confluence in what would be a more control-oriented deck. I was also saddened to realize that you couldn’t zap their in play creature in response to them casting another copy in order to make your opponent take 10 damage. Still, the flying Hammer of Purphoros amused me. One thing I found sad is that you probably wouldn’t want to pack more than one copy of this particular Dragonlord in your deck.
I played in the finals of the Dragons of Tarkir Game Day against someone running Mardu Dragons. Eventhough I emerged the victor while the Patrick Dickmann version of Jeskai Dragons, I was intrigued with the Mardu build. It did after all run one of the most criminally underplayed cards in Standard….
Yep! Still Crackling Doom …
Despite my utter dislike of the card, I quickly realized how much better it had become in this dragon-dominated world. Having your opponent hesitate on casting a Dragonlord Ojutai early on is great. Wether he is playing Esper Dragons of Bant Aggro. Same goes for the ever-annoying Silumgar, the Drifting Death. Non-targeted removal is so good right now. The funny thing is that it’s just as good early versus a Atarka Red deck’s Goblin Rabblemaster as well. Just like that, Crackling Doom quickly became one of my favorite Standard cards.
Another card that I hadn’t played for a while is also in this deck: Anger of the Gods. Most of the decks with Red are not playing it because they are more aggressive and/or can’t afford to kill their mana dorks early before they have ramped into their Dragonlord Atarka,etc. It can also prevent the recursion of a certain Raptor that’s been on the rise as of late …
I saw my friend play in a very rogue Temur build back a few weeks ago when we went to the Starcitygames Standard Open at Syracuse. He made day 2 and almost Top 16. The fact that Courser of Kruphix was staying in play while everything else gets wiped away by Anger of the Gods caused me to instantly approve of his deck choice. He didn’t run mana dorks and instead opted for 4 x Savage Knuckleblades as well as 4x Satyr Wayfinders instead. I know that the original decklist of Mardu Dragons didn’t have this kind of cool 3 drop that survives Anger of the Gods,so I forcefully found some place for a certain 3/4 Mythic: Brimaz, King of Oreskos in the 60 cards.The deck is mainly Red/White with Black being very much a splash color.Without even modifying the manabase, I removed an Orator of Ojutai as well as a Stormbreath Dragon to fit in the two copies Brimaz. Another card I wasn’t too crazy about as a 4-of was : Draconic Roar. It’s just so dead versus Esper Dragons (a deck that is overplayed at the moment). Instead, I opted to try a card I have been wanted to play since tryingto assemble a Modern Jund list (something I put on hold for now) : Kolaghan’s Command. The card is just seems too good to me to want to give it a shot. It’s the most obvious 2 for 1 card, but just how good is it really? Well, so far against Esper Dragons its best value has been to make them discard on upkeep and bring back one of my dragons from the graveyard. Oftentimes, against more aggressive deck, you can zap one of their dudes and make them discard a card. I am not sure how often the Shatter part will be relevant but Whip of Erebos is still a card, so..
You angry bro?
The dragons aren’t really surprising here, only that I opted to play 1 of each Kolaghan instead of 2 Dragonlord Kolaghan. Kolghan, the Storm’s Fury costs 1 less than his Dragonlord counterpart.This is especially relevant since we are running taplands and Scry lands. He is extremely good versus Esper Dragons due to being able to Dash and then not die to Crux of Fate on their turn. There’s also the little attack bonus he grants to whatever other creatures you may have lying around, such as Cat Soldier tokens generated by Brimaz. The other great thing about diversifying your Kolaghan threats is that things don’t get awkward if you draw them both in the same game. It also has 5 toughness for when you might want to block Siege Rhinos or opposing Stormbreath Dragons.
On another note: since I lowered the number of dragons from 10 to 9, I figured that 1 less Orator of Ojutai was probably more reasonable. He’s always been great and even against the Epser decks, he gives you an early play that can ‘protect’ one of your later threats from Foul-Tongue Invocation. Needles to say, he’s one of the best
value blockers in the format. Flying sometimes-Wall of Omens is good. Block everything early, survive to Anger of the Gods….seems like a great team player. I also find that late game, he can be great after your have Scryed something you immediately want to draw right away (sound familiar?), such as a spot removal,Crackling Doom or hasty dragon for the win.
The sideboard is something I didn’t really like at first, but quickly realize that the 2 x Duress and 4 x Thoughtseizes are staying right where they are. I’m not a fan of the 4 x Rabblemaster builds or 4 x Flamewake Phoenix lists right now and replaced them with 1 x Stormbreath Dragon, 2 x Flamewake Phoenix and Ashcloud Phoenix. The later, a card that I found reallly effective versus opposing dragons and especially Bant Aggro decks that can
only really deal with it via Dromoka’s Command. The control decks also have to kill it twice. The main con, is that it doesn’t interact well with our own Anger of the Gods.
Another card that can’t really be ignored is Soulfire Grandmaster. He’s sometimes going to gain you just soooo much life, especially with a decent-sized board and an Anger of the Gods. Other times he will lock out the opponent with recurring Crackling Dooms, but one of the best ones is recurring a Kolaghan’s Command on your opponent’s draw step when he’s in top deck mode. Hit them for 2 and make them discard a card, over and over. Unless they drew an instant, that card is gone.That’s not really the aim of the deck,but it’s very sweet if you ever get in that situation. Don’t forget that if you get the dragon bonus on Draconic Roar, he gains you 6 life instead of 3!
I adapted the rest of the side with a few one of’s like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion in case some games got really grindy. Althought, I have yet to actually cast it, I’m pretty sure it’s fairly safe, just that as a few people have pointed out before: it’s not that great versus Esper Dragons since either version of Silumgar just overshadows it. I do think it’s excellent against Bant Aggro and Abzan though.
Mardu Charm is something I mulled over trying to sideboard but didn’t make the cut. Same goes for a singleton Utter End. Outpost Siege was also very close to making the cut and might end up in future iterations of the deck should I continue running it.
Lastly, let’s not forget the glue that keeps this dragon deck together:
4 Battlefield Forge
4 Nomad Outpost
4 Bloodstained Mire
3 Temple of Silence
4 Temple of Triumph
1 Temple of Malice
1 Caves of Koilos
1 Read the Bones
1 Anger of the Gods
2 Flamewake Phoenix
1 Ashcloud Phoenix
1 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Murderous Cut
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion