Rolebuilding – The Evil Dragon Queen

(Rapacious Dragon | Art by Johan Grenier)

Five Heads is More Evil Than One

Welcome to Rolebuilding, where I blend my fraternal twin hobbies of tabletop roleplaying games and Magic: The Gathering for your delight and amusement! In this series we choose a role or character from the realms of Dungeons & Dragons and embark on a deck construction quest based on their motivations. Today, we’re exploring a well-known character from D&D lore: Tiamat, the Dragon Queen.

Tiamat has five heads, one for each color of the Chromatic Dragons: black, blue, green, red, and white. She’s tailor-made for a crossover exercise like this, so I owe a special shoutout to Gary Gygax. Each of her heads has its own personality that reflects that color’s brand of corruption. Chromatic dragons are her evil offspring, and it is these dragons that player characters of Dungeons & Dragons tend to clash with most frequently, likely because they hoard the most loot. As the OG mother of dragons, Tiamat has gone by many names since her creation in Greyhawk, the very first D&D supplement book, published by Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz in 1975. Here are a few of her aliases through the years:

  • The Great Dragon
  • The Progenitor of Hell
  • The Embodiment of All Evil
  • The Dragon Queen
  • The Ultimate Prime Evil

Tiamat doesn’t have a sparkling reputation. What makes her so bad? We’ll need to explore that to understand how to build a deck to suit her.


How to Be Bad: Family Style

In the first edition Monster Manual (1977), Tiamat rules “the first plane of the Nine Hells where she spawns all of evil dragonkind”. She’s one of the first deities to use aspects, or lesser avatars that appear as her children, to perform nefarious deeds. These deeds are driven by chromatic dragons’ primary motivator: greed. According to the 5th Edition Monster Manual, “Chromatic dragons lust after treasure, and this greed colors their every scheme and plot. They believe that the world’s wealth belongs to them by right, and a chromatic dragon seizes that wealth without regard for the humanoids and other creatures that have ‘stolen’ it.”

The Monster Manual also tells us that dragons are “united by their sense of superiority, believing themselves the most powerful and worthy of all mortal creatures.” Vain, greedy, murderous creatures with no regard for person or property can accurately be called evil. But I think this belies what makes Tiamat truly deplorable.

Tiamat is a leader, giving both life and direction to her spawn, so that her vile agenda can be evangelized throughout the multiverse. Monster Manual declares, “[S]he epitomizes the avarice of evil dragons, believing that the multiverse and all its treasures will one day be hers and hers alone.” Leading her spawn and aspects to commit increasingly evil acts is elevated evil that spreads like a plague, and I want to capture that particularly distasteful nature as we build this deck.

Our goal is set out before us: conquer the multiverse with our dragons and amass all of its treasures. We want to use as many of our dragon children as possible, since evil is an intimate family affair for Tiamat.


Extremely Colorful and Vile

It’s serendipitous that Tiamat is a five-headed dragon and that her colors match perfectly with the colors of Magic: The Gathering. We know we’re building a five-color Dragon deck, currently clocking in at 2817 lists on EDHREC. Dragons are the most popular tribe, so we have lots of options to choose from, but we need our strategy to be focused. Let’s take a look at a few of our Commander options.

The Ur-Dragon is by far the most popular choice for five-color Dragon tribal, gobbling up over 2,000 decks. This would be a flavorful choice for the deck, but coming in at 9 CMC, our commander would rarely see the battlefield, which doesn’t seem true to our Queen. There’s another choice that will empower us to conquer the multiverse with Maximum Flavor™.

Scion of the Ur-Dragon can be tuned to enable our go-wide Dragon strategy. It also fits like a glove with our lore: Tiamat uses her aspects, or avatars, to bring extra destruction and despair to unsuspecting innocents when she can’t be present. The Scion is the perfect vessel to lead our super evil plot to conquer the multiverse.


Start With the End in Mind

There are two primary ways for us to accomplish our goal, and both involve amassing critically high numbers of Dragons on the battlefield. We should win outright by the splendid virtue of Dragon domination, but if need be we can also win through combat.

Scourge of Valkas and Dragon Tempest slot in as our primary win cons. Our commander can reliably put the Scourge in our graveyard with his brothers and sisters, then use mass recursion spells like Living Death and Patriarch’s Bidding to nuke the table for 100+ damage in a single go. If a few opponents are still hanging around after we drop those bombs, our Dragons aren’t shy about getting close for combat.

Shared Animosity is well-known to Krenko, Mob Boss and Edgar Markov players, but it doesn’t even appear on Scion’s Commander page. Dragon decks tend to push creature quality over quantity, but we’re skewing towards high Dragon volume in this Rolebuild, so Shared Animosity will prove formidable. We want creatures like Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury and Atarka, World Render that our commander can tutor-copy and finish off the game in one fell swoop.

With a supercharged version of firebreathing at its command, Moonveil Dragon seems criminally underplayed at 1,095 decks. Surprisingly, this Dragon is also absent from the Scion’s commander page. It feels great to drop a Mana Geyser with just a handful of Dragons and Moonveil Dragon (or our commander copying it) on the battlefield. Braid of Fire also turns Moonveil Dragon into a quick clock with any sort of board presence. Your opponents will begin to understand the meaning of evil (and appreciate some really beautiful art!).


Family Reunion

Though Dragons support a variety of diverse strategies, going wide doesn’t come naturally to them. Combining their territorial nature with an inflated sense of superiority, it’s not surprising that they prefer to work in isolation. If we’re going to bring all of our kids together for universal domination, we need to get creative.

Dragonmaster Outcast and Utvara Hellkite are some of our best Dragon producers. We’ll rarely hardcast the Hellkite, instead using our Commander to capitalize on its ability for one turn, then recur it later for additional value. Dragon Whisperer works as a great mana sink with the aforementioned big red mana sources.

Motherly influences will be strong in this portion of our deck since we’re Rolebuilding the Dragon Queen, after all.

Dragon Broodmother is one of the few Dragons in the deck that we’d prefer not to copy with the Scion; better to cast or cheat her out for maximum value. Remember, she makes a Dragon on each upkeep, so one round of play yields 3-4 Dragons. Lathliss, Dragon Queen and Nesting Dragon are a little less powerful, but still contribute to multiplying our brood.


Evil Twins

No, not that Evil Twin. We need to reliably proliferate our dragons if we’re going to satisfy our quest, and making twins are an efficient, repeatable way to do this.

Bramble Sovereign is undeniably powerful, and it works extremely well with most of our Dragons. It’s particularly strong with the token-producers like Utvara Hellkite or Broodmate Dragon. We’ll add token staples like Parallel Lives and Anointed Procession for additional propagation.

Flameshadow Conjuring is an even cheaper version of the Sovereign’s ability, albeit the tokens don’t stick around. One of our nuclear late game combos will couple a Mana Geyser with this enchantment, and then resolve Living Death or Patriarch’s Bidding on our graveyard stuffed full of Dragons by our commander. Put all 16 of our Dragons on the battlefield and make copies of them, and you’ll deal something like 1,280 damage with your Scourges of Valkas. Someone better at math may need to confirm that number. I just know it’s really high.


All the Treasure Belongs to Us

To capture the treasure-loving nature of Tiamat and her children, we’re theming our ramp and draw packages appropriately.

Rapacious Dragon is an auto-include, being the only actual Dragon that includes Treasure in its rules text. Trove of Temptation is a subtle control piece, and Greed‘s flavor is right on the money (pun intended). We’re including new Commander staples Smothering Tithe and Dockside Extortionist, as well as a host of other mana-fixing creatures and artifacts like Dragon’s Hoard.


The Multiverse is Ours

Descent of the Dragons is a sneaky way for us to steal a win with either Scourge or Tempest on board. After dropping The Ur-Dragon or another massive Dragon into our graveyard with our Commander, it’s easy to recur them by tutor-copying Teneb, the Harvester next turn. Sometimes we’ll get stuck with these beefy Dragons in our hand, so I’ve included Geier Reach Sanitarium and Desolate Lighthouse to help us get them where we want them.

There are notable exclusions in this list, particularly around the tribal support you’d normally see for an expensive tribe like Dragons. No Urza’s Incubator or Dragonspeaker Shaman, because most of the time we don’t want to be hardcasting our Dragons. I’ve excluded some Dragons built around ETB abilities like Bladewing the Risen, as we can’t effectively copy them with our commander. We’re light on removal and protection because we’re trying to conquer the multiverse, not run a kiddie dragoncare. Scion can be left to its own devices, protecting itself by tutor-copying for Dragonlord Ojutai or Silumgar, the Drifting Death.

This decklist reflects Tiamat’s greed and wanton lust for domination, take a look:

All That Was Yours is Mine

Commander (1)
Creatures (25)
Artifacts (8)
Enchantments (14)
Sorceries (8)
Instants (5)
Planeswalkers (2)
Land (37)


Does this list represent the megalomania and raw power of Tiamat and her chromatic dragons? Have we captured the spirit of all five of her heads? Can we blast our way to victory with pure ego and greed? Let me know in the comments, and please check out the poll to help guide future installments of Rolebuilding. Thanks for reading!

Grant is a father, writer, and digital marketer who lives in the frozen tundra of the northland. He enjoys playing with his kids, all flavors of Dungeons & Dragons, and thinking about going outside. He’s been playing Magic: The Gathering since 2013 and enjoys Commander, Standard, and Limited formats.