For the first EDH analysis on this blog, the honor will go to Atarka, World Render. Atarka, World Render is a 6/4 dragon for 5 generic, 1 red, and 1 green mana, with flying and trample. Not too bad, but it’s her second ability that really makes her shine: “Whenever a Dragon you control attacks, it gains double strike until end of turn.” Atarka was definitely meant to be a Dragon tribal commander. Dragons are already on the big side of the creature scale, plus most of them have the ability to be a late game mana sink that you can dump leftover mana into to pump up their power, now add double strike on top of that and the creatures in this deck get even more powerful! The problem with Dragons in 60 card formats like standard and modern is that they are so expensive manawise. Running green can help to remedy this and we will certainly take advantage of green’s ramp ability for this deck to get dragons into play as fast as possible. Dragons are predominately red creatures but I don’t think the deck needs all of it’s big creatures to be red, especially when green has access to wurms and hydras, which can be considered a type of dragon depending on the fantasy world. Of course they won’t get double strike from Atarka, but that’s okay because they will still be another threat for your opponents to deal with. With that said, let’s get into it.
First let’s go over the ramp. Elves are the best early game creatures that can produce mana. You want to get as much mana as possible as fast as possible and there are multiple elves that can help with that. Apart from the typical Llanowar Elves and other commonly played mana dorks, the deck can run Gyre Sage, Priest of Titania, Joraga Treespeaker, Radha, Heir to Keld and/or Grand Warlord Radha, all of which are capable of generating more than 1 mana. We also want Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, and Journey of Discovery, cards that can pull more than one land out of the deck, and of course staples like Rampant Growth are also welcome, along with some artifact ramp like Sol Ring, Thran Dynamo, and the like. Reducing the cost of dragons also helps which is why we run Dragonlord’s Servant and Dragonspeaker Shaman; they are the only two cards that do this currently.
There are a few cheap dragons we can include in the deck and, since they have the fire breathing ability, they can be just as good late game as early game: Dragon Whelp, Dragon Hatchling, and Dragon Egg. I also like Managorger Hydra and Soul Swallower for some green threats, just make sure it’s possible to get Soul Swallower’s delirium activated, if not there are plenty of other Hydras and Wurms to choose from. Slumbering Dragon is a great early game deterrent; a 3/3 for 1 red mana and although it cant attack or block, whenever you are attacked, it gets a +1/+1 counter. Then when it has 5 or more counters, it can attack. I love the flavor of this card.
Dragons don’t have as many token producers as other token decks, but they do have some efficient ones. Utvara Hellkite is certainly worth a copy since it makes dragon tokens whenever a dragon attacks. Most Sarkhan Planeswalkers can make dragon tokens, but almost all of them would be welcome additions either way. Dragonmaster Outcast can make dragons as long as you have at least 6 lands, and Lathliss, Dragon Queen doubles the fun by making a dragon token for each nontoken dragon you play and can take any leftover mana for her anthem fire breathing ability which is bonkers when you have a dragon horde.
For the actual big threat dragons in this deck, you can run Scourge of Valkas, Savage Ventmaw, Hellkite Charger, Tyrant’s Familiar, Two-Headed Dragon, Thundermaw Hellkite, Glorybringer, Demanding Dragon, Verix Bladewing, Scourge of the Throne, and Skyline Despot; all amazingly powerful dragons and these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to red dragons.
It’s worth pointing out here that this deck does have an infinite combo. You’ll need 7 untapped lands/mana sources, Hellkite Charger, Savage Ventmaw and either version of Radha (Radha Heir to Keld or Grand Warlord Radha) on the battlefield. The Charger allows you to pay 7 mana when it attacks for an additional combat phase, this is first done with the lands/other sources. When the Ventmaw attacks, you add 6 mana to your mana pool, that’s almost enough to pay for the Charger’s ability again. Radha helps to get the additional mana needed to do this. You can then pay the 7 mana from the Ventmaw and Radha during the second combat phase to get a third combat phase. You can do this over and over again for infinite combat phases and infinite flying double strike shenanigans.
I want to mention a few cards that can boost and strengthen your dragons: Crucible of Fire, Beastmaster Ascension, and Craterhoof Behemoth. Just do the math and you’ll see how powerful these cards are for a tribe that has an average power/toughness of 5/5. There are also some great tribal cards out there that can work with any tribe such as Metallic Mimic, Adaptive Automaton, Vanquisher’s Banner, Urza’s Incubator, Obelisk of Urd, Unclaimed Territory… there’s all kinds of stuff.
Once the deck gets two or three dragons onto the battlefield and Atarka, World Render, you’re almost certain to have the high ground against most decks. Heck, it’s such a powerful deck that I’ve won games without even casting Atarka. With her, I’ve seen a single dragon attack for nearly 20 damage. Since so many of the creatures in this deck have flying, it makes for a lot of damage that is almost impossible to block. Eat your heart out Ur-Dragon! (post about Ur-Dragon coming later)
The only issue this deck could potentially have is card draw. Red’s idea of card draw is mostly rummage and loot effects. Green has some better options for decks like this. Beast Whisperer, Colossal Majesty, Elemental Bond, and Primordial Sage are great. Maybe not all four, but two or three would be just fine.
In my experience, there are two types of deck-commander relationships. Either the deck supports the commander, or the commander supports the deck. In the case of Atarka, World Render, she obviously supports the deck by making the dragons more threatening. I’ll probably restate that bit about deck-commander relationships regularly as this series goes on because I think understanding that dynamic is crucial to building a good commander deck. As with my Modern deck analysis series, this is not meant to be a deck list that you copy and paste and follow to the letter. This is just meant to give you some ideas about how to play with certain commanders and since there are over 25 years of cards to choose from, you should feel free to customize your commander decks the way you want to. Is there a commander you want me to analyze next? Let me know in the comments.