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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Tribal Theme – Day of the Dragons

December 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Deck Ideas, FAQ

Hi and welcome to yet another Tribal theme in EDH. Today we would like to talk about a classic fantasy Creature type – Dragons. Feared and respected over all sorts of cultures, Dragons are fearsome Creatures in all folk tales and stories. Slaying one is considered to be a brave feat; controlling one is an even more fearful feat. Due to their huge power levels, a lot of players employ them for the final kill in normal variants, sometimes even as early as mid game too. Thus moving into EDH, let’s us explore the powerhouse Creature type and see the possibilities they could provide for us.


Back History:

It maybe just beginning today, but it would eventually be the end of many tomorrows.

There were only two Dragons when it all begins; Dragon Whelp & Shivan Dragon. Though different in sizes, common between these two were the abilities to Fly and Firebreathing, with the Whelp’s Firebreathing having a cap. These two abilities would go on to be the common abilities among all Dragons to come later. A very notable Dragon with this ability is the Moltensteel Dragon who came with a twist on the mana activation, using Phyrexian Red mana to pump its power. That way you could kill faster since you could pump with both Red mana and your life easily able to off an opponent with one attack. Chronologically, after the Big Creature Type Update, Legends set was the next set to introduce more Dragons in the form of the Elder Dragons. Before the Big Creature Type Update though, the real set to really expand the Creature type was Mirage, where in this set, the Dragon type was spread over the color pie giving each color, even Artifact, at least one Dragon. Although they were all over the color pie, Red was the major color for most Dragons. Most Dragons are splashed Red; mono color of non-Red Dragons are very rare. There is at least one or two Dragons in each block with the exception of Lorwyn block which does not have any. Being mid and late games powerhouses, it boils down to what power level you are looking for in the Dragons when choosing which to play in your EDH decks usually using them as game enders.

Once a Legend of its Own League


Stuff of Legends:

Every now and then there will be a cycle of Legendary Dragons which are the de facto leaders during their timeline for the Dragons. Being a Legendary Dragon each is also a possible General itself if you so choose.

Ruling the Skys and Lands


Elder Dragons:

Victors of the Dragon War

Arcades Sabboth Chromium Nicol Bolas Vaevictis Asmadi Palladia-Mors

Coming from the Legends set are these five Elder Dragons. They had fought and survived the Elder Dragon Wars, four siblings of Arcades Sabboth; Chromium; Nicol Bolas & Palladia-Mors with their cousin Vaevictis Asmadi. That war shook the planes and killed most of their kind, with winners becoming the ancestors of all Dragons and Drakes; and the losers stripped of their wings, limbs and most of their powers, becoming the ancestors of the Wurms. Among them only Nicol Bolas still lives on as the Ancient Evil and the most dangerous threat to the multiverse. Each of them is essentially representing one color and its two allied color. As cards designed back will not so well defined in color pie, some of their abilities don’t fits into their color; like Chromium who represents Blue was given Rampage 2, a more beatdown ability instead some control ability. They all received the types Elder & Dragon after the Big Creature Type Update and were the first cycle of Legendary Dragons. They do not make good Commanders because of their hefty and demanding cc and also partly of their upkeep costs. Of all them only Bolas is worth playing, the rest have rather low power level for play.


Primeval Dragons:

“We are the Ur-Dragons, Ruler of All.”

Name Colors Name Special Meaning Characteristic
Darigaaz, the Igniter BRG Conception Breathe of Ur-dragon. Burning away the burdens of morality.
Rith, the Awakener RGW Childhood Claw of Ur-dragon. Scattering the seeds of devastation.
Treva, the Renewer GWU Youth Voice of Ur-dragon. Demanding the cries of worship.
Dromar, the Banisher WUB Adult Wings of Ur-dragon. Sweeping away all opposistion.
Crosis, the Purger UBR Death Eye of Ur-dragon. Piercing illusion and darkness.

Next we have the Primeval Dragons from the Invastion set. Self-proclaimed gods who once ruled Dominaria until the Numena imprison them and stole their power. They were all ordinary Dragons until all of them were awakened, which with their combined magic would unlock their magnificent powers. Darigaaz, also known as Rhammidarigaaz, who was also a reincarnated Primeval, was tricked by Tevesh Szat during the Dominaria Phyrexian Invasion into releasing and awakening the rest of the Primevals. After their awakening, they went on a rampage on both Dominarians and Phyrexians forces until Karn convinced Darigaaz of his misconception. In a fit of guilt, Darigaaz committed suicide by plunging into a volcano, rendering the remaining Primevals vulnerable and defeated. Their names all had a special meaning in Old Draconic describing the stages of a Dragon’s life. Each Primeval also has a characteristic associated with belonging to the Ur-Dragon, Spirit of all Dragonkind.


Like the Elder Dragons, the Primeval Dragons are also representing one color and its two allied color, each having a trigger ability playing into their respective representing color which could be trigger when they connect with a player. How big of an effect the trigger ability is depends on the chosen color; as the effect would count the number of cards or permanents of the chosen color or affecting only Creatures of the chosen color. They were considered the second cycle of Legendary Dragons; and by power level wise better Generals than the Elder Dragons, with easier casting costs and much more powerful abilities.

“For Once We Ruled, Today We Shall Again.”


Kamigawa Spirit Dragons:

Protectors till the End

Name Color Pledged Protector
Yosei, the Morning Star W Guardian of Elganjo and the surrounding Towabara Plains.
Keiga, the Tide Star U Guardian of Minamo and the Kamitaki Falls.
Kokusho, the Evening Star B Guardian of Takenuma Swamps.
Ryusei, the Falling Star R Guardian of Sokenzan Mountains.
Jugan, the Rising Star G Guardian of Jukai Forest.

The third set of Legendary Dragons is the powerful Dragon Kami of Kamigawa set. They did not side with O-Kagachi during the Spirit War but instead stayed true to their pledge to protect several important places of the mortals. Unlike the Invasion Primeval Dragons, they have trigger abilities which triggers upon their death (from battlefield to graveyard). If they will to be used as Commanders, ways to sacrifice them have to be included in the deck in order to ensure their death trigger could happen at will, making them sort of like solution. For their trigger to happen they have to hit the graveyard thus these Dragon Kamis are more suited as normal Creatures than Commanders if you really want to abuse their death triggers.

Serving the Greater Good in Death


Timeshifted “Elder” Dragons:

Ruler of an Alternate Timeline

Oros, the Avenger Intet, the Dreamer Teneb, the Harvester Numot, the Devastator Vorosh, the Hunter

Printed in Planar Chaos set, they are not really Elder Dragons but closely resembles them with the tri-color casting cost. Each was a Legendary Dragons created to represent a color with its two enemy colors. Called a color wedge, they were included in the Commander Decks to promote and encourage more opposing color decks. Like the Primeval Dragons, they also have trigger ability which could be trigger when they connect with a player. As Generals, they give access to players who like to build enemy colors EDH decks. They make good non-Tribal EDH decks as well. Eg. Teneb is a good Reanimator Style General; Numot is Land-D; Intet can cheat cards in from library top. 

It’s End of the World when you are the Prey of a Dragon.


How to Train your Own Dragon:

To Train a Dragon, You Have to First Find One.

Being the mid and late game play they are; Dragons casting are not low. 4cc or less Dragons are very few and rare. Most of them are above 4cc and more. Getting them onto the battlefield can be difficult if you will to hard cast them. It is not totally impossible as there are many cost reducer cards in MtG. Some of the cards below can be use out of Tribal list too.

Cost Reducers Cost Reduced
Cloud Key Your spells of the chosen type cost 1 less to cast (Artifact, Creature, Enchantment, Instant, Sorcery)
Dragonspeaker Shaman Your Dragon spells cost 2 less to cast.
Helm of Awakening All spells cost 1 less to cast. Political tool.
Heartless Summoning Your Creature spells cost 2 less to cast but your Creatures get -1/-1. No problem, Dragons are BIG.
Medallions Your spells of the respective color cost 1 less. All round spells reducers for the appropriate colors.
Semblance Anvil Your spells that share a card type with the card imprinted on it cost 2 less to cast.
Urza’s Filter Multicolored spells cost 2 less to cast. Political tool, multicolored spells anyone?
Urza’s Incubator Your Creature spells of the chosen type cost 2 less to cast.


“Come Fore~!!!! And Bring my Doom~!!!!!”

Besides reducing their costs, you could also sneak them in. This method is famous for cheating in Creatures with high cc and some of the methods could be used for other Creatures too. The method is also effective as it dodges counterspells.

AEther Vial Put a Creature with cc equals to the number of charge counters on AEther Vial from hand to battlefield. Takes time to grow charge counters till it reaches the Dragon cc.
AEtherplasm Exchange it with a Creature from your hand when it blocks.
Belbe’s Portal Put a Creature of chosen type from hand to battlefield.
Call of the Wild / Guild Feud / Killer Instinct / Lurking Predators / Zoologist Reveal top card or cards of library and put Creature card from library top onto battlefield. Library manipulation needed to set up. Some of the cards in this group cost the same as a Dragon but wins over due to its instant activation and trigger.
Deathrender Put a Creature from hand to battlefield when equipped Creature dies.
Dragon Arch Put multicolored Creature from hand to battlefield.
Dragon’s Herald 2R, T, Sacrifice a Black Creature, a Red Creature, and a Green Creature: Tutor for Hellkite Overlord from the library directly onto the battlefield.
Elvish Piper / Quicksilver Amulet Put a Creature from hand to battlefield.
Hunting Grounds Threshold – Put a Creature from hand to battlefield whenever an opponent casts a spell.
Kaalia of the Vast Attack along with a Dragon in your hand.
Kyscu Drake + Spitting Drake Kyscu Drake has the ability to sacrifice itself and Spitting Drake to tutor for Viashivan Dragon from the library directly onto the battlefield.
Mercadian Lift Stores winch counters slowly and use them to put Creature with cc equals to winch counters used from hand to battlefield.
Mimic Vat Repetitive summoning of dead Dragon imprinted on it.
Mindwrack Liege Put a Blue or Red Creature from hand to battlefield.
Shifty Doppelganger Exile it and put a Creature from hand to battlefield. Creature is sacrifice at end of turn. Doppelganger returns to battlefield after this. Set up for reanimation.
Sneak Attack Put a Creature from hand to battlefield. Creature gains Haste but is sacrifice at end of turn. Again set up for reanimation.
Soul Foundry Repetitive summoning of Dragon imprinted on it. This method is costly as the casting cost is not really reduced but wins at its instant speed activation.
Summoner’s Egg Cheats the imprinted card on it onto the battlefield if it is a Creature when it dies.
Zirilan of the Claw Tutor for Dragon permanent card and put it onto battlefield. Permanent gains Haste but is exile at end of turn.


“It’s Easy to Sneak up on One… The Problem is Surviving the Attack….”


Size does Matters:

Mean Flying Beatdown Machine

Dragons come in all sizes. The common power of most Dragons is placed at 4 or 5. Dragons with power 2 or lower are considered the baby Dragons. Those with power 6 or above are like the adult or older Dragons. Below are some examples of Dragons in those power ranges. As you probably noticed that the Dragons cc increases relatively with the power, the higher the power the higher the cc.

Power Dragons
< 2 Nalathni Dragon; Dragon Whelp; Fledgling Dragon; Furnace Whelp; Hellkite Hatchling; Tek
3 Henge Guardian; Rakdos Pit Dragon; Slumbering Dragon; Spellbound Dragon
4 Alabaster Dragon; Archwing Dragon; Broodmate Dragon; Canopy Dragon; Catacomb Dragon; Lightning Dragon; Lotus Guardian; Mist Dragon; Pardic Dragon; Pearl Dragon; Predator Dragon; Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon; Two-Headed Dragon; Volcanic Dragon
5 Cloud Dragon; Ebon Dragon; Elder Land Wurm; Eternal Dragon; Hellkite Charger; Mana-Charged Dragon; Quicksilver Dragon; Rimescale Dragon; Shivan Dragon; Spirit DragonsSteel Hellkite; Teeka’s Dragon; Vampiric Dragon
6 Brimstone Dragon; Firestorm Hellkite; Hunted Dragon; Imperial Hellkite; Malfegor; Primeval Dragons; Rorix Bladewing; Timeshifted “Elder” Dragons
7 Elder Dragons; Knollspine Dragon; Worldgorger Dragon
8 Hellkite Overlord; Zodiac Dragon
9 Draco



Number One Rule to Being a Dragon

Traditionally when referring to Firebreathing it means the ability given to the first two Dragons, Dragon Whelp & Shivan Dragon. Function wise the ability simply means pumping mana into the Creature to pump the power. Then along came Crimson Hellkite which took the word Firebreathing with a whole meaning. This Dragon literally breathes fire into the face of others in the form of dealing damage but only to Creatures. Soon after came Shivan Hellkite which could deal the damage to either Creatures or players. From then on some Dragons will be given the ability with a bit of twist here and there. These Dragons are good in a way that they help you to control the board of Creatures and also takes out the opponents slowly and eventually if not swiftly and immediately.

Ancient Hellkite R: Deals 1 damage to target Creature controlled by the player it is attacking.
Crimson Hellkite X, T: Deals X damage to target Creature. Only Red Mana to be spend for X.
Kilnmouth Dragon T: Deals damage equals to number of +1/+1 counters on it to a target.
Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius UR: Deals 1 damage to a target.
Scourge of Kher Ridges 1R: Deals 2 damage to each non-Flying Creature.
5R: Deals 6 damage to each other Flying Creature.
Shivan Hellkite 1R: Deals 1 damage to a target.
Vampiric Dragon 1R: Deals 1 damage to a target Creature.


Enters the Dragon:

Spreading its Love as it Enters

Expanding on the Firebreathing, some Dragons do it when they enter the battlefield instead of activation. The ability though one shot is usually damage capable of taking out multiple Creatures at once or life points off an opponent.

Bogardan Hellkite Deals 5 damage divided as you choose among targets. Comes with Flash.
Fire Dragon Deals damage equals to number of Mountains you control to target Creature.
Knollspine Dragon Discard hand when it enters and draws cards equal to damage dealt to target opponent this turn. Reaping the reward for all those damage you had dished out.
Thunder Dragon Deals 3 damage to each non-Flying Creature.
Thundermaw Hellkite Deals 1 damage to each Flying Creature your opponents control and tap those Creatures.
Voracious Dragon Deals damage equals to twice the number of Goblins it devoured to a target.


Dragon Punch:

“The Fun Doesn’t Start Till I Hit You.”

Not really a speciality to the Dragons but these are some of the Dragons with an ability which triggers on its attack or when it connects with a player. The Primeval Dragons and Timeshifted “Elder” Dragons all fall under this category.

Balefire Dragon On contact, it deals that much damage to each Creature that player controls.
Crosis, the Purger On contact, pay 2B and choose a color. Contacted player then reveals hand and discards all cards of chosen color.
Darigaaz, the Igniter On contact, pay 2R and choose a color. Contacted player then reveals hand and Darigazz deals damage to player equal number cards of chosen color revealed this way.
Dragon Mage On contact each player discards hand and draws seven cards.
Dromar, the Banisher On contact, pay 2U and choose a color. Bounce all Creatures of chosen color.
Flameblast Dragon When it attacks, pay XR. It deals X damage to a target.
Intet, the Dreamer On contact, pay 2U. Exile top card of your library. You may play that card as long as Intet remains on battlefield.
Mordant Dragon On contact, you may have it deals that much damage to target Creature that player controls.
Nicol Bolas When Bolas deals damage to an opponent, that player discards his or her hand.
Numot, the Devastator On contact, pay 2R. Destroy up to two target Lands.
Oros, the Avenger On contact, pay 2W. Oros deals 3 damage to each non-White Creature.
Rith, the Awakener On contact, pay 2G and choose a color. For each permanent of chosen color, put a 1/1 Green Saproling token onto battlefield.
Steel Hellkite X: Destroy each nonLand permanent with cc of X which Steel Hellkite connects to this turn. Activate ability only once each turn.
Teneb, the Harvester On contact, pay 2B. Return target Creature from graveyard to battlefield.
Treva, the Renewer On contact, pay 2W and choose a color. Gain 1 life for each permanent of chosen color.
Vorosh, the Hunter On contact, pay 2G. Put six +1/+1 counters on it.


Dragon Steroids:

Ruling From the Grave

There are not many “Lords” for Dragons but those available can pump the already big Dragons into humongous sizes. Though limited, it is still good to include all if possible when playing Dragon Tribal.

Bladewing the Risen BR: +1/+1 until end of turn to all Dragons.
Crucible of Fire Your Dragons all get +3/+3.
Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund Steals and untaps all Dragons when entering the battlefield. Give all your other Dragons Haste.
Moonveil Dragon R: +1/+0 until end of turn to each of your Creature.


Dragon Roost:

Where it all Begins

Where there is nest, there will be offspring. Here we are referring to ways of produce Dragon tokens. There are not many available but all provide ways to get many of these Dragons onto the battlefield for a cheaper cost.

Broodmate Dragon 6cc for two 4/4 Flying bodies.
Day of the Dragons Converts all your Creatures into 5/5 Dragon tokens. Great use for the tokens that a Token Style can produce.
Dragon Broodmother A growing army by itself. Especially powerful in multiplayer.
Dragon Roost Hefty activation cost but good way to recover from board sweep.
Dragonmaster Outcast Although the number of Lands needed for its trigger to happen is equivalent to casting a Dragon, it helps to free up the “six or more Lands” mana for other spells.
Sarkhan the Mad Converts your little Creatures into Dragons.
Sarkhan Vol 20 power in five Flying bodies.
Utvara Hellkite Get a Flying 6/6 Dragon token for each Dragon you attack with.


“Come, my children. We shall hunt!!!”



Treasure Guardians:

“My Precious….. My Precious……..”

Dragons are usually guarding some treasure caves, castles, or towers in fantasy stories. They are always doing their lifelong guard duties to guarding some magical or valuable treasures. It is quite the same in MtG in that the treasures are translated as Artifacts. These Dragons all have some link to Artifacts, be it their upkeep costs or abilities. The link is a bit different for the Dragons from Mirrodin though as the Dragons there use Artifacts as fuel instead of guarding it.

Covetous Dragon 5cc 6/5 flier who needs Artifacts to stay on the battlefield.
Furnace Dragon Affinity for Artifacts. Exile all Artifacts if casted from hand.
Hellkite Igniter 1R: +X/+0 where X is number of Artifact you control.
Hoarding Dragon When it enters the battlefield, search and exile an Artifact. When it dies, put exiled Artifact into owner’s hand.
Hoard-Smelter Dragon 3R: Destroy target Artifact, Dragon gets +X/+0 where X is Artifact’s cc.



“What if we tell you that we will return from the grave as long as one of us is alive…”

Here are some combos worth including in a Dragon Tribal deck: –

Cards Combo
Scion of the Ur-Dragon + Patriarch’s Bidding / Living Death / Living End + Conspiracy(optional) Although the Scion is made more famous with another EDH combo deck, this combo is more gear towards to the Tribal side of it. Though lacking the sacrifice part of Living Death & Living End, Patriarch’s Bidding is much more recommended for its tie in with Tribal. Gain some political Tribal allies too. If you throw in Conspiracy into the mix, Scion becomes your tutor for any Creature you want in your deck.
Nicol Bolas + Arcane Teachings / Fire Whip / Hermetic Study / Hypervolt Grasp / Power of Fire / Psionic Gift / Thornbite Staff / Viridian Longbow The combo is the same with all the Auras and Equipments. Enchant or equip Bolas with them to allow him to deal direct damage to player and force the player to discard his or her hand. The combo becomes sicker when you find ways to untap Bolas in the same turn, eg. Thornbite Staff, which then allows you to discard multiple players’ hands.
Intet, the Dreamer + Sensei’s Divining Top / Soothsaying Skip the cost of the top card of your library with Intet’s trigger. Either is good for early setup at opponent’s turn for Intet. But for last minute change of plans, the Top will work better as it is effectively equals to play one of the top three cards of your library for 3U while Soothsaying is much more mana intensive for top X cards at X2U.
Bladewing the Risen + Conspiracy + Bladewing’s Thrall (optional) Bladewing by itself is a Tribal powerhouse with its reanimating ability. Combo with Conspiracy to reanimate any Creature. Throw in the Thrall for more body to beat.
Vorosh, the Hunter + Doubling Season Straight forward combo. Vorosh just becomes 18/18 after it connects with a player.
Primeval Dragons / Timeshifted “Elder” Dragons + Whispersilk Cloak Since those Dragons have to connect with the player to trigger their awesome abilities, having the Cloak on them would be a good thing for you but bad for your opponents.
Spirit Dragons + Lifeline As long as there is at least one Creature left standing when the Spirit Dragons died, Lifeline will bring them back for more death triggers.
Spellbound Dragon+ Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre / Kozilek, Butcher of Truth If you are going for more power, you can replace either of the Eldrazi with It That Betrays. Both the Eldrazi help you to refill your library at the same time you bash your opponents with the Dragon.
Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius / Shivan Hellkite + Charisma / Basilisk Collar Steals all the big Creatures or just kills all of them. Draw cards as well when combo with Niv.
Vampiric Dragon + Basilisk Collar Kills every Creature that the Dragon can touch and make it bigger with each kill.
6cc and above Dragons + Dragon Auras (Dragon Breath; Dragon Fangs; Dragon Scales; Dragon Shadow; Dragon Wings) Dragon Auras do not just work well with Dragons but any Creatures with 6cc and above, it’s a good add if the color is right, especially when your General is high cc. A lot of high power Dragons meet the 6cc and above requirement so the Auras are good add; especially Breath & Shadow. One sets the offensive immediately while the other allows the attacker to get through defenses.


Recommended Generals: –

Scion of the Ur-Dragon – There is a combo deck out there which already features Scion (Hermit Druid Combo EDH), but as a Tribal Commander, it plays a different game. First off since it’s a 5c Commander, that would means you would have access to all colors. Its ability is best suited to Reanimator style, kind of like a tutor for reanimating targets, best friend to mass reanimates like Living Death.


Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund – Jund is a place where Dragons are at the top of its food chain, so playing Karrthus gives you access to a lot of Dragon related stuff. Its color identity also provides good disruption, ramp and removals too.


Bladewing the Risen – Playing a more Aggro theme with its color identity, this undead Bladewing has a bit of Graveyard style in-built. Its Dragons pumping ability also makes it more “Lordly”.


Primeval & Timeshifted “Elder” Dragons – Any of them will make a good General, some are even standing out as non-Tribal Generals. If one was to chosen for Tribal Dragon, Crosis stands out for its color identity being able to house some of the few annoying combos it had with the Dragons, like the combos with both Niv or the mass tokens producing combine with Day of the Dragons. Also the color identity allows for the most annoying EDH planeswalker, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, to be included in the deck. Not to forget also the control, tutors and removals in the colors.


Kaalia of the Vast – The legendary Cleric from the Commander set made it easier to play with Dragons in EDH.


Power of the Dragon-Born

“I am Awesome….”

Dragons come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Casting cost is relative to their power, the bigger they are the higher their casting cost. As with all expensive Creatures, ways available depending on the color identity to cheat them could be used. As most of them are Flying and/or Firebreathing, it will not take long to take out opponents with them. A good Dragon Tribal EDH, as with any Creature heavy decks, would include a balance of ramp, ways to cheat them as their cc is high and choosing the right Dragons. The last thing you want would be stuck with all those Dragons in the hand and not be able to cast them out. Tribal Dragon may not be viable in normal variant but in EDH it is pretty powerful when played right, since almost every Dragon is a game ender. So next time you feel like building a Tribal EDH, try the Dragons. Till our next article, shall the power of the Dragon-Born be with you.


This is yours truly, Edward “Reaper King” Leong, signing off.


12 Responses to “Tribal Theme – Day of the Dragons”
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  4. Chavdar says:

    Amazing! Try including the new Khans of Tarkir ones and it would be boomer! 🙂

    • Edward says:

      Thank you Chavdar for your comment. 🙂

      Definitely now with the new Dragons of Tarkir, the Tribe shall thrive. As you can see this article was written way back. So there are definitely a lot of updates now. More powerful ones at that.

      Cheers 😀


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