I’ve always liked Temur and played it twice in KTK standard, once in a more midrangey-planeswalker style which did well, and once in an aggro build that was a disaster. Based on the disaster I stayed away from that wedge, but then I saw Brian Dolan’s list at the SCG Open and I just loved it.
I had been on a travel-related MTG hiatus for a while and didn’t have any Thunderbreak Regents when I returned, so the first MTG I played since the DTK pre-release couldn’t be this deck. I played an Abzan Reanimator list that was OK but I didn’t love it. But my Regents arrived in time for this last FNM and I was excited to play it.
The Deck: Temur Dragons
I made a few small changes to Dolan’s list and this is what I sleeved up:
Basically, I cut a Whisperwood for a Sarkhan, cut a Lightning Strike and a Wild Slash for two Draconic Roars, and fiddled with the sideboard a little (I refuse to play Feed the Clan). Tweaks, but nothing major.
Round 1: Ron, Jeskai Prowess
Sometmes at FNM you get a new player playing a substandard deck. It’s great, people have to start somewhere, but it’s kind of a bye when you’re playing a serious deck. These are, of course, also the matches where you least need great draws to win, and of course that’s always when I get the best draws. I won the die roll, went T1 tapland, T2 tapland, leave up a tapland and then Wild Slash the opposing Swiftspear, T3 Knuckleblade, T4 Thunderbreak, T5 Stormbreath. Many real decks would have issues with that draw. Game 2 I had turn 2 Carytid into T3 Thunderbreak and T4 Stormbreath. Silly.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games
Round 2: Tyler, playing BW Warriors
Tyler’s deck is very similar to the BW Warriors deck recently Deck Tech’d on SCG Live. Tyler’s build played a few copies of Secure the Wastes, a slightly different set of warriors, and at least one Rush of Battle but it’s the same basic idea. Game 1 I had a slower start but with a Courser to smooth things out, but Tyler got off a Secure for 4 at the end of my turn with a followup Rush of Battle that put him up to 29 life and me down to 13. But from there I got a Sarkhan and then a Stormbreath, and Stormbreath is a real problem for his deck. Turns out Courser plus Sarkhan’s +1 is very good. I eventually killed him with a 7/7 Stormbreath. I boarded in the Nests and the red small sweepers. Game 2 was less interesting because of my turn 3 Hornet Nest, which just locked out the ground way too well.
2-0 matches, 4-0 games
Round 3: Zac, playing GR Aggro
This was mostly a pre-DTK list featuring Heir of the Wilds, Rabblemaster, Fanatic of Xenagos, Flamewake Phoenix, Ashcloud Phoenix, Boon Satyr, and burn spells—but no dragons. I think the only DTK card was Surrak. My draw in the opener was a little slow and his wasn’t. I had to take 4 from a Fanatic before I could Roar it and just could not keep up with the followups, including a Yasova that let him take my Courser. I again boarded in the Nests and the red sweepers plus the Xenagos. Game 2 he had a turn 2 Heir and a turn 3 Rabblemaster to my turn 3 Courser, but my turn 4 play was Anger to wipe his board and get in for 2 with Courser. I got Xenagos and used his plus to generate extra mana and cast a Stormbreath on the same turn. Next turn I used his plus again to generate a Thunderbreak and something else and my air force carried it home. Game 3 he had Heir on turns 2 and 3 and followed with a Boon Satyr to make them 3/3s. However, I dropped a Hornet Nest and that gummed things up. He decided he had to swing, which got me down to 7 but then got me three insects. I followed with a Stormbreath and let the insects hold the ground. He eventually swung into he insects and committed another low-toughness creature to the board, and that played right into the Anger I had just drawn into.
3-0 matches, 6-1 games
Round 4: Evan, playing UB Control
Sometimes at 3-0 it’s possible to double-draw in, but Evan was 2-1 so he couldn’t. I knew what Evan was on I was interested in exactly how big a deal the Stubborn Denials would really be. Turns out they were huge. He of course had no early pressure and I managed to stick a Knuckleblade with a Denial in hand and blue up on turn 4. I followed up with a Courser and he tried to play a Perilous Vault but I Denied that. I got in for 8 the next turn by pumping Knuckleblade, and Courser was letting me play lands and just draw all gas, I hit something else with a Denial, and so we went to game 2. I boarded in the Strokes, the Xenagos, the Revelry, and the Ashclouds. Game 2 was just about me getting a good mix of threats (including an Ashcloud) and him not being able to kill everything fast enough. I’m pretty sure something got Denied or Disdainful Stroked along the way, but I don’t remember the details.
4-0 matches, 8-1 games
Round 5: Mac, RG Dragons
We were the only 4-0s so we ID’d.
4-0-1 matches, 8-1 games
Quarterfinals: Evan, playing UB Control
Evan won his 5th round match and squeaked in, so we got a rematch. Game 1 I had a mediocre draw with double Lightning Strike (a card I side out in this matchup), but it had lands and a Courser, too, so I kept it. It was a good keep. I got the Courser and a hasty Knuckleblade and hit him down to 14, he tapped out for Crux and I double Struck him down to 8, then drew other hasty threats to close it out without a single Denial. Game 2 I started on a slow hand, but it did have a Revelry in it. He tapped out for a turn 3 Ashiok and my followup was… a Courser. I hit the Ashiok with it once and got down a Regent next, and he tapped down to 1 for a Vault. I untapped and blew up the Vault with Revelry, directed the two 2 Ashiok, and finished off the planeswalker. There was some back and forth with me casting a couple things and him killing them, but when I got to seven mana I had both a Stormbreath and two untapped blue. I cast Stormbreath, he tried to Encase it, I Denied, he Negated, and I Denied again. My next draw was a Stroke and he never drew a sub-four-mana answer, so that was it.
5-0-1 matches, 10-1 games
Semifinals: Patrick, playing Abzan Aggro
Game 1 I kept a 3-land, 4-spell hand with two Wild Slash, a Lightning Strike, and a Knuckleblade (the lands were such that I would be able to cast the Knuck on turn 3). I was the better seed, so I was on the play, dropped my Frontier Bivouac, and passed. He Thoughtsiezed me his turn 1 and took the Strike, I drew land so had nothing on turn 2, he Thoughtsiezed me again and took the Knuck. Ugh. I drew a Courser and played that, he came back with Fleecemane Lion, I drew more land, he dropped another creature (can’t remember what, though), and I had to double-Slash the Lion, and I just never got there. I probably mis-boarded here, as I had him on a more midrange build and brought in Strokes, but he was running Death Dealers and Wardens, which I didn’t see in game 1. Game 2 was very, very close. I had a Stubborn Denial he knew about from an early Thoughtseize but was a little choked on mana. We had traded a lot of blows (including me blocking a Death Dealer with Knuckleblade, he pumped, I pumped in response, and he pumped again to make it a trade and him playing a Rhino and me top decking a Roast immediately after) and got to this state: I had a Thunderbreak on the board but he had an Anafenza and something else (I think a non-monstrous Lion). I had a Stormbreath and another Regent in hand and him at 10, me at 7. I had only five lands, so I could cast either one of them, but if I cast the Stormbreath I couldn’t cast Denial. I cast the Regent and hit him down to 6 with the other Regent, so any removal in his hand was dead, and I didn’t think he could get in for 7 since I could block Anafenza with the untapped Regent, and next turn I could come with Stormbreath. Unfortunately, what he had in hand was… Surrak. Dang, haste got there—I did not see that coming at all. Really great game, though. In hindsight I should have not boarded in all 4 Strokes since this was a low-to-the-ground aggro list, and I should have brought in the Hornet Nests. Oh well.
5-1-1 matches, 10-3 games
Well, 3rd/4th isn’t too bad—cashing is always good. Got a second copy of Sarkhan Unbroken with my store credit with a little left over credit for next time.
Comments on the Deck
There’s a certain elegance in the design of this deck that I really appreciate. In particular, the lack of Elvish Mystics and Temur Charms and a lot of other baggage while still maintaining Savage Knuckleblade. I’ve played the Knuckleblade with Elvish Mystics before, and while Knuck is actually a very good card, it’s really awful with the Mystic, because the only way you actually get a turn 2 Knuckleblade is turn 1 Yavimaya Coast into mystic, turn 2 Mountain/Shivan Reef. It just never works out—Mystic just doesn’t do enough. However, with Sylvan you much more often get Knuckleblade on turn 4, but because Carytid gives any color, you can often hit haste on that turn, or cast it without haste and leave up Stubborn Denial. This is actually OK because this is not an aggro deck, it’s a midrange deck with a lot of reach. It’s very fun to play, because you get to be both proactive and reactive, but it lacks the raw power of cars like Siege Rhino or Ojutai.
Some other thoughts:
- I really liked the manabase. I had almost no color problems, and it was great to not take constant damage off of Mana Confluence. This is really a red-green deck with a light splash of blue, which eases the mana issues. (If double blue were tenable I’d love to try some Icefall Regents in the 5-spot but it seems like a stretch).
- Abzan Aggro seems like a generally tough matchup, which given the current meta is less than ideal. It’s not unwinnable but it’s not easy. Maybe the sideboard Encase in Ice would help, but I don’t like that card against decks where Dromoko’s Command is usually run.
- On the flip side, playing against UB Control felt like playing on easy mode. Probably in no small part because of the next point.
- 4 main deck Stubborn Denial was amazing. I feel like between that and the 4 sideboard Strokes, the more control-ish builds of Abzan are probably a much better matchup, but those are less common in the meta now.
- I think I only cast Whisperwood once at a point in a game where it wouldn’t have mattered much. I’d like to try it without the Whisperwoods and include a second Sarkhan and a 1-of Atarka.
- Double red isn’t that hard to hit. I’d change the sideboard Seismic Rupture for another Anger for sure.