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Author Topic: So Dragon has survived the Dec. 1 B/R update. Therefore, ...  (Read 3445 times)
« on: December 01, 2003, 11:27:58 pm »

So Dragon has survived the Dec. 1 B/R update. Therefore, here is the next and final installation of the primer as promised. It's not completely finished, as I still need to work out a few more match-ups. I will add them at a later date.

What I have so far:

Dragon (mirror)

I plan to still include:

Vengeur Masque

There is no need to go through every single match-up, as the ideas become repetitive. For instance,the ideas behind the Keeper match-up apply to other forms of blue-based control, such as U/W/x Scepter, mono-U, Trenches, and U/R-Phid.

I will also update Part 1 to include a speed-build that I have been toying with on occasion for quite some time. Phantom Tape Worm sort of let the cat out of the bag with his T1.5 build of Speed-Dragon, so I will likewise release the T1 version and include both T1 and T1.5 builds in the primer.

Again, all feedback, comments, and criticisms are appreciated.

Dragon Primer part II Ė Match-ups

For this section, the primary focus will be on what is considered to be the strongest T1 build: the B/U/g Bazaar-Squee version. I will not restrict myself to specific decklist however, especially where the SB is concerned. Instead, I will list all of the top-level SB choices even if it takes us beyond 15 cards. I will also list possible alterations to the main deck. When discussing match-ups, I will try to identify which cards are key players. The idea is to allow Dragon players to either customize their main-deck/sideboard for their metagame, or choose a configuration that will maintain the maximum flexibility and allow you to deal with a wide array of threats.

Here is a starting list plus the extended sideboard:

Vintage Dragon (build by ShockWave and Dicemanx)

Combo pieces:

4x Worldgorger Dragon
1x Ambassador Laquatus
4x Squee

3x Animate Dead
2x Dance of the Dead
3x Necromancy

4x Intuition
4x Bazaar of Baghdad
3x Compulsion


4x Force of Will
3x Duress
1x Ancestral Recall
1x Time Walk
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Vampiric Tutor


1x Black Lotus
1x Mox Jet
1x Mox Sapphire
1x Mox Pearl
1x Mox Emerald
1x Mox Ruby
1x Sol Ring
1x Mana Crypt
4x Underground Sea
4x Polluted Delta
2x Bayou
1x Tropical Island
1x Gemstone Mine
1x Swamp

While the decklist is fairly tight, there is still a little room to maneuver here. It is possible to include main-deck removal either directly in the form of cards like Rushing River or Chains of Vapor, or indirectly through slower but more flexible options like Cunning Wish (while having removal, counterspells, hate cards like Coffin Purge, or Stroke of Genius in the sideboard). Alternately, Lim Dulís Vault is another powerful choice here. The Vault is usually a full turn slower than tutors like Vampiric or Demonic because of its casting cost, but its effect is very synergistic with Bazaar. The ability to stack your next five cards fits very well with the card drawer, especially since you can attempt to Vault up multiple Squees to get your draw engine going as soon as possible. And since Bazaar is such a key component in the deck, any additional tutoring power that can fetch Bazaar in the first place is always a welcome addition, especially in light of many recent decks packing a full complement of Wastelands. The problem with Wastelands also slightly diminishes the power of Intuitionís tutoring ability, as it is quite risky to tutor up a Bazaar while putting two others in the graveyard.

In order to make room for removal or for Vaults, the following cards are usually the first to go:

-1 Animate Dead
-1 Compulsion
-1 Intuition
-1 Demonic Tutor

It is relatively safe to cut some of these cards, as Vaults replace the loss of tutoring ability of Demonic Tutor and Intuition, and the fact that they can fetch multiple components of the Squee-Bazaar draw engine all at once diminishes the importance of running too many Compulsions. So why arenít there 4 copies of Vault to begin with? This is because Vault still has non-negligible drawbacks. The casting cost is one of them, and in fact it is difficult to get UB if youíre planning to play a Bazaar early. The other drawback is that, like Vampiric Tutor, you lose a card for the tutoring effect. Over time, it is possible to find Vaults to be fantastic at times, and other times to be too slow and costly in terms of tempo and cards.

When considering which cards to cut, it is recommended that the disruption remain untouched, as it is important to have some balance in the number of combo pieces, tutors, and disruption that the deck runs. If you go too light on disruption, you might not have enough resources to push your combo through the opponentís hate or disruption cards, regardless of how many cards you end up drawing with your draw engines. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to tinker with the disruption base itself without diminishing the total number of disruption cards. This is usually metagame dependent. The list presented above is designed for a general metagame; FoW and Duress are useful regardless of what decks you face. However, there are stronger choices against specific deck types. For instance, it is advisable to maindeck Xantid Swarms against a control-heavy field, while main-deck Pernicious Deeds are excellent if you face decks with many problematic permanents. Not only will such a plan strengthen certain match-ups, it will also possibly free up important SB space.

Apart from metagaming with your disruption, you might want to alter the disruption base regardless. For instance, you might cut down FoWs to 3 and go with 4 Duress. FoW, while being the ultimate stopper, is not as good in this deck as a regular control deck when used defensively to meddle with the opponentís own game plans. This is because you have few blue spells to begin with to pitch to Force of Will; secondly, anything you pitch will be of some major importance. If you use FoW against control, you will most likely pitch must-counter spells like Intuition or Compulsion. While FoW was of paramount importance when the much faster Long.dec was a threat, it is no longer absolutely mandatory to run this card. It still deserves major consideration given the fact that there arenít too many better options. Mana Leak is, however, another decent option, as is Cabal Therapy. Leaks are better against permanent-based hate (like Null Rod, Ankh of Mishra, Sphere of Resistance, Chalice of the Void etc). Therapies are better against instants like counterspells, Swords to Plowshares, Stifles etc. Why? Because hand disruption is poor against permanents as it cannot stop a top-decked permanent from being cast; on the other hand reactive disruption such as Mana Leak is not as effective against Instants, because you need to keep mana open in addition to the mana you use to combo off. Hand destruction spells are cheaper and can be used ahead of time (pro-actively), helping you to budget your mana. In conclusion, you must decide what disruption base is best for your own meta.

And now the sideboard:

3-4x Xantid Swarm
3-4x Pernicious Deed
3-4 Verdant Force
Xx Stifle
Xx Tormodís Crypt
Xx Chalice of the Void

Other possibilities:

Coffin Purge
Plated Slagwurm
Powder Keg
Hurkylís Recall
Magus of the Unseen

The SB cards will be discussed when dealing with specific match-ups.

Before I discuss the match-ups, I just want to say a couple of things. First of all, Dragon doesnít crush the field and its not the undisputed ďbest deckĒ in the format now that long.dec is gone. It can still be either hated out, and it can lose to other decksí primary strategies. It can succumb to Keeperís disruption and Wastelands, to Fishís heavy mana denial, to Staxís and wMUDís lock pieces, and even to Slighís combination of hate cards and fast aggro beatdown. However, Dragon has the tools to compete against all deck types, and probably doesnít have a single bad match-up as long as there isnít too much hate being played against it specifically. This makes it a very fine choice for a tournament. Because Dragon is so versatile and can beat anything, I will refrain from including win percentages or comments as far as which match-ups are favourable or unfavourable.  

I. Aggro
1. Goblin-Sligh

Sligh doesnít normally present too much of a challenge pre-SB, unless they elect to pack some main deck hate. This match-up is just a race to the finish line. You will combo off faster than the time it takes for them to kill you. Be careful though; modern Sligh is so fast that they can kill you inside of three turns on occasion. Otherwise, they could use their Wastelands to either deny you mana or prevent you from going off with Bazaar. This match-up depends heavily on your starting hand. Lots of mana acceleration is very important, plus combo pieces or tutoring to allow you to combo off under four turns. You might have to mulligan aggressively here, as keeping slow hands is unacceptable in this match-up. Also, refrain from expending resources in establishing your draw engines. Card advantage is of minimum importance here. If you have to, drop Bazaar early and use it to search for combo parts. Itís OK to lose cards in the process, as long as you have enough in the end to combo out. Some Sligh decks might pack main-deck hate in Ankh of Mishra (as did the Ankh-Sligh decks from a while back) which might present some problems. The upside is that such decks are usually to slow for the environment, so it is doubtful you will see a lot of them. Because they are slow, this might give you enough time to get around Ankh if you failed to nab one with your Duress or FoW it. You can play Compulsion and go off with Necromancy on their turn, using Compulsion to find an Ancestral Recall and deck them with damage on the stack. Alternately you can just use Necromancy to draw the game on their turn if there are no other animate targets in either graveyard. Just be careful that they donít have a way of getting a creature into the grave via a burn spell or sacrificing a Fanatic.

Plays to avoid:

1) Although you might have to play a Bazaar early for its search capabilities, avoid playing it at all if you donít have to. Donít present a Wasteland target, especially if you need Bazaar to win the game. On the other hand, if you have two Bazaars in hand, or are short on mana and donít require Bazaar to win, you might want to play it to re-direct a Wasteland away from your other lands.

2) Avoid playing too many lands, or fetching out a Dual Land where a basic land would suffice. Always worry about a game-ending Price of Progress.

3) Avoid using an Animate Dead or Necromancy on a Dragon unless you have no choice or have disruption as back-up. Donít forget about their Lightning Bolt + Fireblast combo that can kill the Worldgorger.


Key-cards Ė Dragon: Anything that helps you to combo off as quickly as possible; Intuition and Bazaar are often most important here

Key-cards - Sligh: Wasteland/Strip Mine, 1st turn Goblin Lackey and enough burn/creatures to win quickly


-4 Squee
-3 Duress/FoW

+3-4 Verdant Force
+3-4 Pernicious Deed

Also possible SB choices: Powder Keg, Chalice of the Void

Post SB, your plan is similar except that Verdants give you additional win conditions. Incidentally, Verdants are usually better with Animate Dead instead of Dance of the Dead, as it can help to have an extra blocker when animating a Verdant. If using Verdants, it becomes even more important to ensure that you donít get burned out by Price of Progress, as it will take more time to crash through for enough damage. The Forces are also a great way of getting around Ankhs, and can be used to bait Tormodís Crypt if necessary. The Pernicious Deeds are excellent all-purpose sweepers, either destroying their hate cards or wiping out their aggressive starts, or both. Squees are typically cut because the draw engine is rarely critical here, while Duress usually gets the boot to make room for the ĒupgradeĒ to Deeds unless you suspect that the opponent is SBing in Red Elemental Blasts. In that case, it might be better to remove FoWs instead. Kegs are an excellent supplement to Deeds as they are easier to cast and they take out Crypts quickly, but it might be a SB luxury you cannot afford to devote space to. Chalice of the Void is another possibility, but it can be pointless or too slow if your opponent manages to get his business into play (particularly the Lackey or Shaman). This match-up turns from bad to worse post SB for Sligh.

II. Aggro-control

1. Suicide

This match-up depends on the sheer quantity of disruption cards in coming from Suicideís first few turns, and whether they can disrupt you sufficiently to stop you from going off. If their Hymns hit your drawn creatures and Duresses donít nail enough combo components, they can do little to stop you. They might instead try to stunt your mana development with Wasteland, Chalice for 0, Null Rod, and Sinkhole. Alternately, they could include nasty main-deck hate, such as Withered Wretch, Blood Moon (if red is splashed), or to a lesser extent Chains of Mephistopheles. The difficulty of this match up for Dragon depends on the quantity of hate cards Suicide runs, and how many of those cards it draws early enough. The first game might come down to luck, although Dragon gets a slight pull because it doesnít need much, especially in terms of mana, to pull off the combo.


Key-cards Ė Dragon: Anything that helps you to combo off as quickly as possible; Intuition and Bazaar are often most important here

Key-cards - Suicide: Wasteland/Strip Mine, large quantity of early disruption cards


-2 Squee
-3 Duress
-1 FoW
-1 Demonic Tutor
-1 Compulsion

+3-4 Verdant Force
+4 Pernicious Deed

Also possible SB choices: Powder Keg

Post SB, Deeds come in against all of Suicideís permanent-based hate. If a Deed resolves, your board position is strengthened considerably, and you can accumulate cards to combo off as Suicide tends to be slow with putting on a clock at times. Duresses are removed because they tend to be weak against cheap permanent hate cards; Squees are also trimmed down as the draw engines are not very critical here, especially with so many ways to destroy Bazaar plus the anticipated Planar Voids and maybe even Chains of Mephistopheles from the SB. Verdant Forces are game enders, so they are an automatic inclusion. Dragon has a lot of hate to fight through pre- and post-SB, but with a Pernicious Deed or a quick Verdant in the graveyard it can catch Suicide with its pants down.

2. Fish

This match-up revolves around Fishís ability to control Dragonís mana base, or otherwise have enough disruption to slow Dragon long enough to win via beatdown. The card drawing in Fish might seem scary (Standstill, Curiosity), but despite it all they might still find themselves on the losing end because they donít draw enough stoppers (FoW, Stifle). This match-up totally depends on the quality and quantity of Fishís early disruption. The presence or absence of Stifle also influences the match heavily; without Stifle, Dragon has a free hand at attempting to animate a Dragon. Fish only has a meager 4 FoWs to stop you unless they can get mana open for their Voidmage Prodigy or otherwise control your mana to make their Dazes and Spiketail Hatchlings effective. Stifleís strength against Dragon doesnít mean that it will be an automatic inclusion in Fish, as it is a bit weak otherwise against other decks.

Apart from its counter base, Null Rod can be quite fearsome, especially coupled with Wastelands/Strip-Mine. Dragon only runs 21 mana sources, 8 of which are artifact based. However, if you get lucky and run into a streak of lands, their Rods and Hatchlings/Dazes could be rendered irrelevant. Your goal is to try and establish your card drawing engine while trying to go off at opportune moments if Stifle isnít a possibility for them. You are racing against their clock, which can be surprisingly fast.

Plays to avoid:

1) Donít play your artifact mana if you donít need to. A quick Null Rod might render them all useless. Save them to pitch to Bazaar. Having said that, avoid pitching your lands to Bazaar early on. You might be in for a long tough fight, and you might need all the lands you can get.

2) Donít automatically use your fetchland if they have one mana open, as you might walk straight into a Stifle. Do this only if you have plenty of mana and wish to bait the Stifle.

3) Duresses are precious Ė donít squander them unless you are ready to go off or unless you fear Null Rod. They have few cards you need to Duress, so you might not catch anything important and they might later draw into something later with all of their card drawing.


Key-cards Ė Dragon: Lands, Duress, draw engine components

Key-cards Ė Fish: Stifle, Null Rod + Strip Mine


-4 FoW
-1 Mana Crypt
-1 Animate Dead
-1 Demonic Tutor
-1 Compulsion
-1 Intuition

+3 Verdant Force
+4 Pernicious Deed
+3 Xantid Swarm

Also possible SB choices: Chalice of the Void

Fish depends on many permanents to fulfill the roles of proactive disruption (Null Rod, Wasteland) and reactive disruption (Voidmage Prodigy, Spiketail Hatchling). Post SB, they will even bring in Tormodís Crypt, or possibly Blood Moon. All this makes Pernicious Deed quite powerful, if you manage to cast it and get it past their Stifle. They also have instant based disruption Ė FoW and Stifle, and possibly even Blue Elemental Blast as a Dragon kill card. This makes Xantid Swarm an important card, but watch out for their active Grim Lavamancers. Xantids incidentally stop their instants even though they might be blocked Ė it is only their attacking that is relevant. Verdants also come in as they are near auto-wins against Fish, and because they are safer to try to animate compared to WGD because of Stifles. Post SB you have effectively beefed up your disruption and introduced better win conditions, so the match-up improves slightly in your favor, but not by much. Chalice of the Void improves this match-up for Dragon if space can be made in the SB, as a Chalice set for 1 stops Curiosity, Blasts, and Stifle. Include it instead of the weaker Xantids when SBing.

III. Control

1. Keeper

This match-up is very difficult for both sides. Chances are very good that Dragon will not be comboing off early too often, because as soon as a white source of mana (or a fetchland) appears on Keeperís side there is always the danger of StP with FoW protection. You then have two choices: either throw caution to the wind and try to combo off as soon as possible (and risk losing all your permanents to StP), or slow play it by trying to establish your draw engine(s) and work towards going off all in one turn with a lot of disruption as back-up. Since a number of Dragonís spells are instants, you might save them for the most opportune moments to cast them. For instance, if they tap out for end-of-turn effects, or maybe to use their fetchland ability, you can try to cast your spells in response. This is why Necromancy is a really good weapon against control. Not only does it get around Chalice of the Void set at 2, but you can combo off at instant speed, which limits your opponentís options. A good control player will refrain from tapping out at any time against Dragon if there is a potential danger of instant speed effects.

If you choose to slow-play it, the game will usually revolve around your draw engines. Keeperís draw ďenginesĒ are not as critical for two reasons: they are usually not as powerful as Dragonís draw engines, and card parity is irrelevant to you. If they draw 2-3 cards a turn, that is not too bothersome as long as you can keep up in the card drawing department. They cannot hold more than 7 cards at a time anyways. This means that when you go off, you will likely hold 8-10 cards to their 7 even if theyíve drawn more cards over the course of the game. Since they need to stop you from drawing cards, their Wastelands are very critical cards. If they donít see them once you play a Bazaar, they could be in major trouble. Furthermore, any tutoring effects are a great way to win the Bazaar vs Wasteland war, and are typically must-counter spells. This means that extra tutoring power in the form of Lim Dulís Vault is potentially key in this match-up. Beware of using Intuition to fetch Bazaars though; if they manage to destroy it, youíve lost access to 3 Bazaars.

Bazaars by themselves arenít always enough, as you might have trouble finding your Squees. This is why tutoring is very important in this deck, particularly Intuition and to a lesser extent Lim Dulís Vault; itís also why it can be very important for Keeper to counter these spells. You might have to fall back on Compulsion. Compulsion is mana intensive, but itís a more efficient card drawer as it doesnít rely on more than one Squee to generate card advantage.

Keeper might have additional tools to fight the combo and card drawing through main deck Chalice of the Void. Chalice is usually set for two, and stops not only most of the animate spells, but also the Compulsions and tutors. This can be a huge blow for Dragon, but the good news is that it doesnít stop the combo completely. Plus, they neuter 4 of their disruption spells (Drains) while leaving your disruption untouched. Another potential problem is Isochron Scepter. If they imprint Mana Drain you might have quite a bit of trouble getting past it unless you can somehow amass enough spells and mana to go off in one turn. Alternately, if they imprint StP, it is annoying but less problematic. This is because you can still FoW the StP, or work around it with multiple animates and Dragons in the graveyard. Just save a mana source in your hand, and try to go off with one animate. If they Plow, put the rest of the mana into your mana pool, play a mana source, and try to go off again with another animate and the other Dragon in the graveyard.

Plays to avoid:

1) If you need to use Bazaar to find your Laquatus, be warned that Keeper can hold off until you have milled yourself and lost all of your cards in hand in the process. This means that Keeper could hold off casting its StP (or Cunning Wish for a hate spell) until you have nothing left in hand.

2) Donít be quick to throw the Ambassador into the graveyard when Intuitioning or activating your Bazaar/Compulsion. Keeper runs Cunning Wish which can be used to fetch a Coffin Purge. This will prevent you from winning; you will have to try to draw the game instead.


Key cards Ė Dragon: Bazaar, Compulsion, Squee, Tutors (Intuition, Lim Dulís Vault, Vampiric/Demonic Tutor), Necromancy

Key cards Ė Keeper: Wasteland/Strip Mine, StP, Chalice of the Void (if included, and if set at 2), Isochron Scepter (depends on what gets imprinted)


-4 FoW
-1 Animate Dead
-1-2 Compulsion/Intuition/Demonic Tutor

+3-4 Xantid Swarm
+2-3 Verdant Force

Also possible SB choices: Stifle, Pernicious Deed, Magus of the Unseen, Plated Slagwurm.

Post SB, Dragon bring in Xantid Swarms to deal with all of the instant based hate. Swarms not only stop countermagic, StP, Stifle, Coffin Purge, or Disenchant effects, they also stop Isochron Scepter. If you can resolve and maintain a Swarm in play, you are almost free to do whatever you wish without being impeded. Even if they deal with the Xantid, youíve either soaked up a valuable StP, or you can reanimate it if it was dealt with in any other way (via counterspelling, Balance, or Fire and Ice). The Verdants come in for a couple of reasons: they soak up creature removal effectively, and they allow you to otherwise bait counterspells with your excess animate spells. Slagwurms are even better if you find room for them, as they shrug off any removal completely. Animate spells are normally very poor counter-bait with Worldgorger Dragons versus any decks that have removal, as any creature/enchantment removal will result in heavy losses for you. Not so with Verdants. Since youíre running more win conditions and more powerful disruption post-SB, you can cut back a little on the tutoring effects or card drawing components.  Also, FoWs are usually cut over Duresses, because, as explained above, FoWs make for poor defensive disruption spells and you would otherwise be forced to pitch must-counter spells to them. On the other hand, Duress is amazing against any control deck that has removal, because seeing their hand allows you to assess whether they have critical creature removal in hand. After SBing, the Keeper-Dragon match-up doesnít change very much, except that youíve upgraded your disruption and now have a way to utilize your Animates early. Verdants allow you to not be so reliant on your draw engine, as you can end games early through Force beatdown instead before they can find their answers. Your SB plan is balanced by the fact that they will bring in more removal and graveyard hate, although the edge is with Dragon post SB.

It is also possible to consider Pernicious Deed as a SB option. This card is especially good if they have many problematic permanents, such as Scepters, Chalices, and Tormodís Crypt. Itís unlikely that they will have Crypts over Coffin Purges, but there are exceptions. Another option is to include Stifles to stop Wastelands, Chalice, Scepter or Tormodís Crypt activations, but itís debatable if the cards that would be cut for Stifles would be too much of a loss of power or consistency in the deck. You cannot cut too many combo parts to include heavy disruption as that will diminish consistency, while cutting other disruption for Stifle might be a bad idea, as Stifle cannot deal with counters or StP. Finally, you might like to consider Magus of the Unseen if you are facing Keeper that has up to 4 Scepters and/or uses Tormodís Crypt over Coffin Purge. This is a completely untested idea as Scepter Keeper isnít too popular yet, but itís worth it to keep this in mind for the future.  

If you face a lot of Keeper and other blue based control in your meta, running Xantids main deck to begin with is a very good idea.

2. Hulk

The Hulk match-up is almost identical to the Keeper match-up, except for a few minor differences. The major one is their lack of targeted removal. Since you donít have to worry about Swords to Plowshares, you are free to cast your Animate Spells to bait counterspells without fear of reprisal. However, watch out. If Hulk starts main-decking Stifle then this will change, as Stifle is just as bad as StP for you. Hulk has some alternate tools that can cause you grief. If they manage to get a Pernicious Deed in play and have two mana open, they can effectively stop you from going off. If they manage to do this, you will have to fight against it in similar fashion as described above against Keeperís StP. Getting a Deed into play is a bit problematic, as it might tap them out if played too early or cut into Mana Drain mana. Hulk also plays Cunning Wishes and multiple Coffin Purges in the SB, so it has access to more powerful graveyard hate game 1. Having enough time and mana to Wish up that hate might be also problematic, but it might put Dragon on a bit of a ďclockĒ because of this dangerous possibility. Finally, Hulk can play the role of the combo deck; always be wary of the possibility of them comboing you out. You do not have as much time against Hulk as you do versus Keeper.

Your strategy is again to try to establish your draw engine(s), but you are more free to try to go off with an Animate effect without too much fear. With a combination of disruption and lots of animate effects, you might crash through without relying on outdrawing them. The battle will revolve around Wastelands and Bazaars as with the Keeper match-up, but there is that extra layer of complexity because Hulk always has to worry about you going off at any time, and likewise the Dragon player has to ensure that they donít die to a Berserked Psychatog. If Hulk chooses to forego the full complement of Wastelands, then the struggle becomes much easier for Dragon. On the other hand, since Hulk is partially a combo deck, its explosive draw engine (Intuition+Accumulated Knowledge) is something to fear if it leads to a quick combo.

Plays to avoid:

1) If Hulk has four mana open, this presents a considerable threat to you if you want to test the waters and go off with an animate effect. Four mana is just the right amount to use Cunning Wish and have mana left over for Stifle or Coffin Purge.


Key-cards Ė Wasteland/Strip Mine, Cunning Wish, possibly Pernicious Deed

Key-cards Ė Dragon: Bazaar/Compulsion, tutors

Post SB:

-4 FoW
-1 Animate Dead
-1-2 Compulsion/Intuition/Demonic Tutor

+3-4 Xantid Swarm
+3-4 Tormodís Crypt

Also possible SB choices: Stifle, Pernicious Deed, Verdant Force

As with any control deck, Xantids are absolutely key here. Xantids are a big problem for Hulk, because they have no good way to get rid of them once they enter play outside of the slow Pernicious Deed. No StP means that Xantids can be reanimated if they are countered early. Verdant Forces are eschewed in favour of Tormodís Crypt. While Verdants are strong, they are not necessarily game winning Ė a Berserked Psychatog might still trample over a Force and any tokens in play, or at least hold a Verdant off and buy the Tog player some time. Crypts are effective because they minimize the damage from Coffin Purges, and they seriously hamper Hulkís win condition. Stifles also deserve serious consideration as they stop Deeds and Wastelands, while Deeds can stop opposing Deeds and Psychatogs. Itís impossible to say what SB strategy is best, as each SB card is advantageous in its own unique way.

3. Stax/wMUD

This match-up is completely dependent on the prison deckís starting hand. They have to either lock you quickly or deny you mana via Wasteland and Spheres, or stop your animates with Chalice. They have approximately 2-3 turns to do this. Even if they get certain lock components in place, it wonít always be sufficient enough to stop you. Even with starts like 2x Sphere, 1x Chalice, 1x Wasteland, you can recover if they donít have any more gas to follow up their initial early-game lock. If they donít have a good start, will be completely unimpeded when going off, and it only takes two mana for you to end the game. Plus, you still have FoW and Duress as ways to stop their spells, which makes their life even more difficult. So, pre-SB just sit back, relax, and see if the artifact-prison is lucky enough to draw exactly what it needs to stop you. Itís almost completely out of your hands apart from the disruption spells you might be holding in your hand. If you are not very much impeded, donít bother setting up your draw engine, as itís almost irrelevant  - go for the immediate kill. Youíll most likely want to Intuition for Dragon and Ambassador instead of three Squees to go with your Bazaar. Also, donít be afraid of losing cards to Bazaar if you donít have Squees in hand. You can frequently play Bazaar early and use it to hunt down the cards you need, as you donít have a lot of time before they lock you eventually.


Key-cards Ė Artifact Prison: early multiple lock cards, Wasteland/Strip Mine, Chalice set for 2 to slow you down, or 0 if part of a lock strategy

Key-cards Ė Dragon: Anything that helps you to combo off as quickly as possible; Intuition and Bazaar are often most important here

Post SB:

-4 Squee
-3 Duress
-1 FoW

+3-4 Verdant Force
+4 Pernicious Deed

Also possible SB choice: Reanimate.

The SB brings in two nightmare cards against artifact-prison Ė the nigh unstoppable Verdant Force, and the ultimate sweeper in Pernicious Deed. The match-up doesnít change very much (it still depends on their opening hand luck), except you now have a way to destroy their whole board if you squeeze a Deed into play early on. Deed is also important because they will bring in permanent-based hate against you, including Tormodís Crypt, Blood Moon, and possibly Null Brooch. Verdants gives you up to eight creatures in your deck that you can animate for the win compared to just 4 pre-SB. On rare occasions Prison decks can contend with Verdants via recurring Powder Kegs and Smokestack, but those situations will be rare. Squees are cut because, as stated above, the draw engine is largely irrelevant. If they lock you, it wonít matter how many cards you draw. Duress is also cut because it is weak against top-decked permanents. Artifact prison often plays out its hand quickly, so Duress is rarely something you want to draw into unless itís present in your opening hand. If artifact prison is prevalent in your area, then Reanimates are interesting SB options, as they get around Chalice set at 2 and reduce the mana requirement down to 1. This means itís even easier to animate up a Verdant for the win. Still, Reanimate in the SB is a definite luxury, and the space it takes up might not warrant its inclusion. You might be better off considering cards like Hurkylís Recall or Magus of the Unseen. Magus stops Smokestack which buys you a ton of time, and itís also a good way of dealing with Tormodís Crypt and Null Brooch.

IV. Combo

1. Dragon Mirror
Not much to say here. Itís a pure race, plain and simple. Whoever draws more cards and has more disruption is usually the winner, both pre- and post-SB. This means that establishing your card drawing engine is important, but donít lose sight of the fact that the opponent can combo you out quickly if left unimpeded. Necromancy is especially important in this match-up, as it can snatch away Dragons in the opponentís graveyard at instant speed.

Plays to avoid:

1) Donít be too hasty to bury your Dragon in your graveyard unless you can win right away. The opponent can use it to go off himself.

2) Having three mana open is key. It represents a possible Necromancy. Donít needlessly risk going off if you donít have to if you see three mana untapped on the opponentís side.


Key-cards Ė Dragon: Bazaar+Squee engine, Duress+FoW, Necromancy

Post SB:

-2 Worldgorger Dragon
-3 Compulsion
-1-2 Animate Dead
-1 Swamp

+ up to 4 Tormodís Crypt
+ up to 4 Stifle

Also possible SB choices: Xantid Swarm, Pernicious Deed, Verdant Force

The Compulsions are way too weak and too slow, especially since the Bazaars cannot be destroyed in this match-up. Itís also unnecessary to run so many Animate spells. All tutors must stay (to fetch the draw engine components, particularly Bazaar), along with all of the disruption. The Dragons are cut down to 2 (not 0), because you still want to leave yourself with an ability to combo out if you gain card advantage and have enough disruption to get past his disruption. This turns into a vicious battle of hate cards and card drawing Ė a war of attrition, where the victor will be the one that has the most hate cards and can draw most of them.

An additional plan that you can adopt in the mirror is to try and hate-out their hate. This can be done mainly by SBing in Xantids to stop their instant-based hate (and Necromancy). The risk in this plan is that Xantids do not interfere with the opponentís combo-aspirations, so you are wasting main-deck slots for cards that donít disrupt his attempts at winning or otherwise donít help you with your card drawing. Xantids also donít stop Crypts unless you have Stifle back-up. Alternately you can try SBing in Deeds. Deeds can stop them from comboing out and are a good way of dealing with Crypts, but they are hard to cast and involve tapping out early to maximize their effectiveness. If you can get away with sneaking a Deed into play, youíve established good control over the board. Still, donít get too confident, because Stifle can stop Deed in its tracks.

One final possibility is to ditch the Worldgorger plan (-4 WGD, maybe even Ė1 Ambassador, but then you cannot use opponentís dragons to go off and win) and go for Verdant Force beat down. This will allow you to cast animates almost haphazardly without fear, but donít forget that if you donít succeed (because of the opponentís Stifle on the animate or FoW),your opponent might reap the benefits and animate the Force himself.

Which of these strategies is best? Itís hard to tell, as each plan involves some risk. It might also depend on how many Stifles and Crypts you run in the first place, as not all Dragon builds will run 4 of each. This might leave you with enough room to try Xantids and/or Deeds.\n\n

« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2003, 12:07:56 am »

I think Gro should have a section as that's a particularly tough matchup with 7-8 counters, 1-3 StP, 0-2 Seal of cleansing maindeck (possibly 3-4 meddling mage as well) plus sideboard.

« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2003, 03:46:12 am »

Nice Work Peter.

Dr. Sylvan
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2003, 03:56:29 am »

Magus of the Unseen t3ch. Amazing how Type 1 brings out the weirdest stuff.

If you wanted to include a Sliver Queen or other win condition to add resilience against things like Extract or Rootwater Thief, what would be the first card to cut? Compulsion #3?

« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2003, 07:32:40 am »

Amazing work dice, thank you for this kickass primer as I am bought to make Dragon.
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2003, 10:09:32 pm »

Peter... I'm quite impressed. Good work!
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