Draconic Destruction - Precon Primer

Draconic Destruction
(Atarka, World Render | Art by Camille Alquier)

Double Your Fun

Hey friends! It’s precon time again, and the Scrap Trawlers are back with your primers and upgrade guides. This time we’re turning our attention to the new Starter Commander Decks that Wizards released on December 2nd. These 5 two-color decks are marketed as a way to get your friends and family into playing the best format of Magic. And just in time for the holidays! I’m Andy, and today we’re taking to the skies with damage so nice we’re dealing it twice. It’s the Draconic Destruction deck led by Atarka, World Render.

Dragon Me Down

Atarka is a 6/4 Dragon with flying and trample that gives all of your attacking Dragons double strike. Simple, yet highly effective. This deck wants to slam Dragons on the table and turn them sideways. A perfect strategy for a deck to teach your Nana Commander after Christmas dinner when she’s two eggnogs deep.

Here’s the full decklist:

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

Combat-focused decks are, typically, an easy sell for new players, and that’s exactly what we have with Draconic Destruction. The main drawback to this deck, from a beginner’s standpoint, is the high mana value on Atarka. The 7 mana cost ensures that your Commander won’t be hitting the board until turn 5 or 6. Maybe 4 if you’re lucky and drop extra ramp in the first couple of turns. Thankfully the deck is packing a lot of ramp, with 14 pieces. The ramp comes in many forms, from Dragon cost reduction in Dragonlord’s Servant and Dragonspeaker Shaman, to rocks like Arcane Signet and Atarka Monument, to land fetchers like Cultivate and Sakura-Tribe Elder

What’s it Do?

This deck’s theme couldn’t be more straightforward. Unfortunately it is just a tad light on the Dragon cards, with only 21 included in the deck, plus a few token makers like Dragonmaster Outcast and Dragonkin Berserker. I would prefer at least 30 in a creature type-themed deck, but we’ll make do with what we have here. 

Creature type decks function best when you’re able to play the creatures that can serve multiple functions. So we want Dragons that not only attack, but also draw us cards, remove threats and pesky blockers, or even ramp us. The deck has all of these, with Dragon Mage and Dream Pillager getting us more cards to play, Drakuseth, Maw of Flames, Hoard-Smelter Dragon, and Tyrant’s Familiar handling the removal, and Savage Ventmaw and Rapacious Dragon giving us some extra mana.

While the heavy ramp suite is good for the deck since it allows us to play Atarka early, the deck suffers from an imbalance in two other important categories: card draw/advantage and removal. It’s immensely overstuffed with removal spells, with an eye-popping 22 spells included. The decks I brew only run half that much! Now, I could forgive this gluttony of removal if it were thematic and included a large number of dragons. But of the 22 cards, only 9 are actual Dragons. A few more are dragon-related, such as Spit Flame, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, and Dragon Tempest. And a few of the removal spells are meant to take out small or non-flying creatures, like Sweltering Suns, Magmaquake, and Clan Defiance. While a lot of removal can be strategically good, as it makes sure to clear blockers out of the way, it’s also an unfriendly playstyle, as it doesn’t allow your opponents a chance to play with their own creatures.

Where the deck is light is on card draw/advantage spells, with only 10 cards counted. This isn’t terribly far from my preferred number, as I usually like to run 11 or 12 myself, but it’s crucial to keep the cards coming in decks like these that are so vulnerable to board wipes. And it would’ve been easy for the deck's designers to cut 5 removal spells and assign those slots to the deck’s other needs.

How to Play it

A big problem I noticed with playtesting is that, even with the 14 ramps spells and 40 lands in the deck, it still struggles in the early game. The average mana value is 3.82, which isn’t terrible (and surprisingly not the worst of these starter decks), but it’s still high enough to give the deck a rocky start. Also, 30 of the 40 lands are basics, with only 12 of those being Forests, so the mana-fixing isn’t great. Make sure your opening hand has green mana production in it, because you will need it. The other problem, mana-wise, is that a combat-focused deck wants to start getting creatures out quickly, but that’s very challenging in a Dragon deck. In general, most Dragons cost 5 to 7 mana, which holds true with this deck, where only 3 Dragons cost less than 5 mana, and none of them cost less than 4.

I had a hard time getting a good opening hand in playtesting. Either the hand had no green mana, or all the non-land cards were over 4 mana, or, frequently, I had both of these problems. The mana base is poorly designed, so just be open with your playgroup and tell them you may need a few extra free mulligans.

Once you’ve got your mana sorted out, the deck is pretty much just “drop Dragons and swing.” Don’t over-commit to the board. Just because you can play another Dragon, doesn’t mean you should play another dragon. If you’ve got a few out already and they’re doing what they’re supposed to, think about holding onto Dragons in your hand so you can recover from board wipes.

The double strike provided by Atarka is certainly enough of a win-con, and will usually get the job done as long as your opponents aren’t also running flyers; double strike doesn’t do a whole lot to life totals if there are blockers. Thankfully the deck has one secret weapon against opposing forces in the air: Thundermaw Hellkite. Drop this monster when you have a cadre of toothy beasts ready to swing, and your opponents’ flyers will get pushed aside so you can reclaim your territorial dominance of the skies.

Final Thoughts

Despite the problem in the mana, and a less-than-optimal number of Dragons for a Dragon deck, it is still a decent display of the kind of power that Dragons can have, and a great way to lure fantasy lovers into the game.

Verdict: Buy it (for beginners only)

There is nothing quite like the feeling a beginning Magic player gets than when they drop their first huge creature on the board and smash it into someone’s face for a lot of damage. This deck encapsulates that joy fairly well, and would make an excellent stocking stuffer.

For veterans, there’s not much here to get excited about. If you’ve been playing a while, you probably already own most of the singles. There are a few decent value cards in the deck: Dragon Tempest, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Elemental Bond (when did this uncommon get so pricey?), as well as a large handful of $1 to $2 cards. So probably not worth the cost, unless you find it under $20.

We’re not done yet! If your Nana had a blast smashing dragons into your least favorite cousin’s smarmy face and you wanna help her upgrade it on the cheap, then make sure to check out my upgrade guide! And don’t forget to catch the other budget content from Scrap Trawlers over on YouTube and Twitch. Until next time, remember to budget…before you buy it.

Scrap Trawlers is a Magic: The Gathering budget EDH streaming and video group, with gameplay, deck techs, chats, and more. Catch our videos at youtube.com/scraptrawlers. Andy, Lenny, and Bert.

EDHREC Code of Conduct

Your opinions are welcome. We love hearing what you think about Magic! We ask that you are always respectful when commenting. Please keep in mind how your comments could be interpreted by others. Personal attacks on our writers or other commenters will not be tolerated. Your comments may be removed if your language could be interpreted as aggressive or disrespectful. You may also be banned from writing further comments.