Tiny Leaders and Great Big Fun - Here, there be (no) Dragons! [Russell Rosales]
It is rare to find new cards printed these days that are powerful enough to see play in eternal formats. However, they certainly do appear from time to time. Also, due to the singleton nature of Tiny Leaders, there is an increased chance of finding a card that may be worthy of inclusion as opposed to a format like Legacy where it is much more difficult for a card to make an impact as a one of or a four of. Below is a list of cards that I feel are at least interesting considerations for the format, and may find a place in either competitive or casual Tiny Leaders decks. Only new cards will be discussed as reprints have already been legal in the format since a previous printing.
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit: Anafenza has of course seen prior play in the format in her previous WBG form where she has been utilized as both a commander option and a solid creature within Junk (Abzan) decks. This card could also see play in both capacities. People are fond of pointing out how unfortunate it is that she doesn’t trigger when tokens enter the battlefield. That’s sort of like working in the retail industry and acknowledging that the job would be great if it wasn’t for the customers. Since we’re already somewhat abandoning reality and playing an awesome game with cards featuring mythical creatures and characters, let’s face the reality of this specific card and the situation. She won’t trigger from tokens, but she could be at home in a white weenie deck with plenty of cheap creatures which will steadily grow as the game progresses. Anafenza can also bolster herself if your deck happens to feature a few larger creatures.
Zurgo Bellstriker: We know two things for certain: Red mages always appreciate a one mana two powered creature, and blocking is for suckers. Zurgo is all about that life. Being able to dash in and out is a nice option for avoiding sorcery speed removal, and it is worth noting that dash can be used from the command zone, though applicable taxes still apply. Poor guy though…he went from running his own clan to being the bell ringer? At least his new job is probably less stressful.
Arashin Foremost: Silverblade Paladin is a card that sees some play in the format and this card certainly invites comparisons to it. Aside from the differences between the Soulbond mechanic and AF’s triggered ability, there are a couple of other key differences. The foremost always has double strike, while the paladin has to be bonded in order to be a double striker. Another big difference is that SP can give double strike to any of your creatures, while AF can only grant the gift of striking twice to other warriors. While both cards could see play in white aggro decks, the foremost is likely to only find a home in a dedicated warrior deck.
Dragon Hunter: In my opinion, a two-powered creature for one mana always deserves at least a quick glance. It is also worth noting that as a warrior, he would pair nicely with the aforementioned Arashin Foremost. And let’s face it, Protection from Dragons is just cool. Not to mention that a one mana 2/1 creature gets to do an impression of a creature with reach when a dragon flies over. “Oh no you don’t!” Of course that and pro-dragon don’t seem relevant in the TL format at all…but very cool flavor.
Gleam of Authority: An interesting card but likely too narrow and not impactful enough to find a home in TL. If it does see play it would likely be in a different format.
Graceblade Artisan: While not quite as strong as a Kor Spiritdancer (costs one more and doesn’t draw you a card for each aura you play) it does have a bigger body and could see play in those types of decks. It is another nice target for anyone looking to throw a bunch of auras on creatures and attack for ridiculous amounts of damage. The card also has strong art so I could see foil versions of the uncommon being sought after.
Myth Realized: Normally I would avoid anything that involves something like lore counters. And truthfully, I don’t see myself personally jamming this in a TL deck any time soon. But it is an interesting card. It could potentially go into an aggressive deck as another one drop, or as a finisher in a control deck acting as sort of another man land that can become a considerable creature for a small investment and avoids sorcery speed creature removal and board wipes. Definitely an intriguing card, but the fact that it can be slow and underwhelming at times, combined with the fact that it dies to both creature and enchantment removal makes it a somewhat dubious proposition.
Radiant Purge: This is an effect similar to what we’ve seen before on cards like Renounce the Guilds, but the purge is generally better than that card. It could be useful as potential removal for gold commanders or troublesome enchantments like Pernicious Deed. Having said that, it is almost certainly too narrow to see use in TL outside of an occasional sideboard appearance.
Secure the Wastes: X spells are always worth at least a look as they are somewhat able to bend the rules of the Tiny Leaders format. I can definitely see people wanting to play this card. I don’t know if a warrior deck could really have potential in the format, but it’s likely something that at least casual players are likely to try out at some point. The price is right at XW and any weenie type decks seeking to take advantage of anthem effects should enjoy something like this. It could even pop up in other strategies as a way to hold down the fort or even a potential win condition. There may be better options available for that though.
Silkwrap: Anyone in the market for an additional Journey to Nowhere will find a functional equivalent for the format here. Should definitely see a little play in some decks.
Anticipate: This will certainly see play in standard and possibly elsewhere. But with so much quality card drawing and library manipulation available in the TL format already, this has a lot to compete with. This will obviously draw comparisons to Impulse, as it is essentially Impulse Lite. Is it good enough to find a slot alongside Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain, Serum Visions, actual Impulse, and others? It is very possible there is a deck looking for one more card of this type or that especially appreciates shifting more cards to the bottom.
Encase in Ice: It’s possible a mono-blue deck will appreciate having a card like this in the sideboard, but it feels unlikely to me. Though another blue answer to something scary like a Tarmogoyf or something annoying like a Grim Lavamancer could be a welcome sight to some blue mages out there.
Mirror Mockery: This is a strange and intriguing card due to the timing of the token coming into play. It seems like something that could be part of an abusive combo in the right deck but it’s hard to see that happening in a singleton format.
Shorecrasher Elemental: Feels like a powerful card but I don’t know if there’s a home for it in TL. Mono-blue devotion is missing the huge game swinging strength of Master of Waves even though many of the deck’s other pals are available. This could also just be used as a finisher in other blue strategies though it may be a little too fragile and just not good enough overall. I’m not sure if megamorphing in an eternal format is where anyone wants to be.
Silumgar Sorcerer: I wish this card could counter any spell. You are already paying the exploit cost if you want to counter after all. I know…it would be too good then as a Cancel that has the option to be a 2/1 flash creature at times, or even to be both and ditch another creature. I also realize that earlier I said something about not talking about what the cards can’t do. Like most of us, I can occasionally be hypocritical. But if it did do that, it could possibly show up in some kind of UB or Sultai recursion deck. As is, I don’t see it being played in TL. And I’ve probably spent too much time talking about it.
Stratus Dancer: I really think this card will see play…just not necessarily in this format. I just don’t think morphing and megamorping are where we want to be. But for anyone in the market for a 2/1 flyer for two, this is your man…er…woman. Is that a blue person wearing a blue sports bra?
Updraft Elemental: YES! No…just kidding.
Zephyr Scribe: Probably not. But maybe. But most likely not. His potential to untap is cool but the mana it costs to activate him is not. Better options available if you’re looking for looting.
Blood-Chin Fanatic: Wipe that blood off your chin, jeeze! Potentially has a home in that warrior deck that seems to keep getting mentioned in this article, but double black mana cost and the fact that he can’t sac himself makes it uninspiring. What kind of fanatic isn’t willing to do a little self-sacrificing?
Corpseweft: Dig out those zombie decks! My guess is that people will either love this card or couldn’t care less about it. No lingering around in the middle. Even a non-zombie focused brew could offer a home for this card to help give some late game staying power after a bunch of your little black beaters have gotten bolted or hit the bin after mass removal.
Damnable Pact: Interesting option for some decks. Yes, it is kind of a reversed Sphinx’s Revelation for one less CMC. But come on, us black mages don’t expect to gain life to draw cards, we have to lose it! Could come in handy in black based control decks or in a mill strategy. And sick art.
Pitiless Horde: Good rate with 5 power for 3 mana and could give black aggro decks a little extra oomph. It’s a shame that three toughness makes it a bit on the easy to deal with side, but having dash gives it a some extra maneuverability and playability.
Silumgar Assassin: I know, this card probably isn’t good enough for the format but it does have some interesting stuff going on. Limited evasion, the ability to kill many creatures in the format, and the mighty megamorph?! Hard to imagine it seeing play in a format like TL but it seemed worth at least a mention.
Virulent Plague: This could show up in a sideboard now and then in some metagames but it’s probably too narrow overall compared to similar options.
Commune with Lava: I really like this card as it is an interesting and unique effect that red rarely has access to. I could definitely see this doing damage in standard if red devotion decks are able to muster a comeback and get Nykthos rockin’ and rollin’. It’s more difficult to imagine it finding success in this format. I haven’t seen anyone find a formula yet for red devotion here. Sorry Fanatic of Mogis, you are disallowed. = ( However, the card could also go in a somewhat slower red based deck like a ponza LD brew. Also, let’s not ignore the possibility of a more traditional aggressive deck being able to use something like this to refill their hands with goblins after a board wipe, or to get a few burn spells in the grip to do that last 8-10 points of damage.
Dragon Whisperer: Man do I love that art. This is one of those strong yet unexciting cards from the set. It will likely see a lot of play, potentially in multiple formats, but at the end of the day it’s a double red two drop. But all the aggro red mages are happy to see it. Gaining flying is nice, as this type of evasion is something red decks often don’t see much of (shout out to Goblin Balloon Brigade). Tack on a little fire-breathing and you’ve got yourself a solid red creature. The formidable ability is a win-more type of thing as usual and will be completely irrelevant most of the time. If your TL red aggro deck has 8 power worth of creatures and six mana sources in play, that game is already over, or your opponent went to the bathroom mid-game and you’ve been cheating. Or you should go buy a lottery ticket.
Lightning Berserker: We get actual fire-breathing this time, and a solid one drop. The dash cost is nice and allows it to play around all sorcery speed removal.
Qal Sisma Behemoth: Whoa, a 5/5 for 3! Sign me up! Just ignore all other text on this card. Trust me. Yes, even the flavor text. Otherwise you might be giving your opponent a free Propaganda type effect and there are few things worse than ultimately spending five mana on your big bargain behemoth and watching it eat a removal spell.
Roast: This is solid removal for a lot of creatures in the format. It’s nice to at least have the option of dealing with some of those guys that are usually out of red’s range. This will even get the mighty T-Mo a lot of the time.
Assault Formation: A fun card for sure. Time to break out those Doran decks? Just the idea of some 0/8s beating down is going to put smiles on people’s faces.
Avatar of the Resolute: A solid rate with a lot going on for two mana. A 3/2 for GG is already going to interest some people, and the fact that the avatar has trample and can get huge in certain decks will definitely turn a few heads.
Shaman of Forgotten Ways: The shaman could possibly find a home in ramp decks but it’s unfortunate that he isn’t able to fuel things like Chord of Calling or Genesis Wave. Probably better options available. My favorite thing about this card is the name.
Gold (Image – Atarka’s Command)
Atarka’s Command: The versatility of this card assures it a home in multiple formats. It will of course primarily be considered as an additional Skullcrack but the +1+1 can also help deal substantial damage for 2 mana and the ramping will be an occasional boon as well. Having all of these options and the ability to do two of them for only two mana seems great. I want a foil one.
Dromoka’s Command: What Dromoka is trying to do here doesn’t excite me as much as what Atarka has going on. We have versatility and some useful effects once again for two mana. But the abilities here don’t seem as useful overall and it feels like there are a lot of other options to achieve similar or better effects. Of course it is nice to have all of these options available for two mana and it could definitely see some play.
Kolaghan’s Command costs one more than the other two we’ve looked at, and that is a big strike against it. I just don’t know if I could see this making the cut in my Jund deck for instance. However, all of the abilities are nice and it will never be a dead card. There are plenty of scary artifacts running around in the format and added discard is always nice. Looking at it as sort of a smaller Blightning with the ability to target creatures, with the alternate options of taking out a sword, or returning a Tarmogoyf from the graveyard makes me reconsider its usefulness. I am uncertain about this card’s future but it could certainly have one and the idea here is to provoke thought and consideration.
None of the artifacts or lands struck me as noteworthy Tiny Leaders options. So that’s about it for this roundup. Any other cards from Dragons of Tarkir that you’re excited about or considering trying out in your casual or competitive Tiny Leaders decks? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next time…
May your mulligans be few and your victories be plentiful!