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Commander Starter Decks – Draconic Destiny

On October 20th, Wizards of the Coast finally gave us the full decklists for the much-anticipated Commander Starter decks.  Officially released on December 2, these five decks provide an inexpensive entry point for new and returning players to get into Magic’s (arguably) most popular format.  The commanders themselves have been spoiled for a while, but we finally know what the 99 looks like.  At about $24 each, these aren’t decks to make the collectors go wild, but they do represent strong deck cores that can be upgraded around for long-term growth within the Commander format.  Even better, these decklists can easily take cards from recent sets or inexpensive older cards for quick powerups.

Wizards chose decent commanders for these precons.  Some of them are on the expensive end of the mana value spectrum, but the commanders show very clearly what the deck is built around.  In my first article on the Commander Starter decks, I said that I planned to write about each of them over the course of a week or two… which clearly hasn’t happened.

Like zombies, dragons are a classic tribe in Magic: the Gathering.  After all, these big scaly boys are staples of fantasy literature.  They’re big, they’re powerful, and they’re just downright awesome.  It only stands to reason that Wizards of the Coast would make one of the Commander Starter precons a smorgasbord of draconic goodness.  You might almost say it was destiny.

I will not apologize for that joke.

Headlining the Draconic Destiny deck is Atarka, World Render, from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.  Like most dragons in Magic, he’s expensive, with a whopping seven mana value.  But, for five colorless, a Red and a Green you get a 6/4 flying trampler that also gives dragons you control double strike when they attack.  Atarka isn’t a commander you’ll be in a rush to get out, but it is one your opponents will be sweating over as soon as it resolves.  Dragons pack enough of a punch at base, and giving them double strike means pain for anyone without a fast answer.

Draconic Destiny is everything a Gruul Stompy list should be: big, flashy, and filled with cool creatures.  The support package in Draconic Destiny is a little narrow, for my taste.  There is some card draw and a bit of removal, but mostly it focuses on making your creatures bigger and stompier.  It’s also lacking for mana ramp to help you get those big scary dragons out faster.  A big angry dragon is scary, but if he’s not out until turn seven and can’t swing until turn eight, he’s not much of a threat.  More than the other decks that I’ve looked at so far, this precon is begging for upgrades.

How to make it better

To help with mana acceleration, it’s important to look for cards like Rampant Growth and Kodama’s Reach.  These help you build up the mana you need to play your big boys faster.  You’ll also want to look for mana rocks.  Draconic Destiny comes with some, but the Gruul Signet, Orb of Dragonkind, and Jade Orb of Dragonkind will help the process of getting your dragons onto the field along and provide some nice upsides along with.  Keep an eye out for cards that let you “cheat” in your heavy hitters, like Sneak Attack and Monster Manual.  And don’t forget that haste makes waste – of your opponents.  Cards like Rhythm of the Wild and Hammer of Purphoros really amplify the power level of stompy decks.

Ballpark $0.25
Ballpark $4
Ballpark $3

Dragons have been in Magic since its very beginning, so there are a lot of options out there to choose from if you’re looking to upgrade the creatures in your deck.  Just from recent sets, Shivan Devastator, Old Gnawbone and Goldspan Dragon offer a huge amount of power.  They also come with a pretty hefty price tag, unfortunately.  Dragons are a popular tribe, and the best dragon cards are always highly sought-after.  Draconic Destiny provides a great foundation for a Gruul dragon tribal deck, but upgrading it has the potential to get very expensive very quickly.  You’ll definitely have a fun time with the end product, though!

Ballpark $5
Ballpark $23
Ballpark $13

Helpful words and phrases:

  • Gruul: One of the guilds of Ravnica.  Often used as shorthand by players for the Red/Green color combination.
  • Stompy: A deck archetype using big creatures to hit really hard.
  • Tribal/in tribe: Generally, having to do with creatures of the same type.
  • Ramp: Mana acceleration.  It takes its name from the card Rampant Growth
  • Lord: A card which gives a bonus to power and toughness to creatures of the same type.
  • Rawr: The sound you make when you turn several big-bodied tramplers sideways
About the Author
Silver has been playing Magic: The Gathering and other trading card games off and on since 1999, and is a lifelong roleplayer. They believe in Rule 0 and The Rule of Cool, and that the gaming table should be a safe space for everyone.

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