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Return Of The Ur-Dragon: A Budget Dragon Primer

Commander / EDH Battlecruiser Budget Casual Midrange Primer



Future Considerations

"I am the blood of the Ur-Dragon, coursing through all dragonkind" [1].

My interest in Commander (and Magic the Gathering, really) began with dragons, headed by the mighty The Ur-Dragon. The deck was very enjoyable, and won quite a few games, but I realized it was lacking. Among other qualities, it lacked the speed, consistency, and intricacy that opposing commanders tended to field. It didn't take long before I realized my success was primarily due to commander politics, without which my deck was doomed to lose, especially against decks with combo potential and consistent removal.

So I sought power. And my quest for power transformed my original deck into my main deck headed by Scion of the Ur-Dragon. My upgraded deck was potent indeed, but my newfound power was cursed [2]. I was so powerful that my first game scarred my playgroup with the dreaded "30 Damage" combo (Rite of Replication + Scion of the Ur-Dragon + Scourge of Valkas ). Stunned by the power spike, I refused to play my deck until my friends had upgraded theirs. I didn't think the wait would be bad, until it was. Until I couldn't resist playing dragons and released Scion of the Ur-Dragon against my unprepared significant other and her kin. After having their life totals reduced by 1 damage increments an essentially infinite number of times (Scion of the Ur-Dragon + Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind + Curiosity) over a game or two or several, my significant other now has an irrational hatred of dragons regardless of whether they be aligned with or against her. Needless to say, I seldom get to play Scion the Win Button.

I had alternative decks, but they paled in comparison to my dragons; and more importantly, I missed playing them. Realizing my Scion the Win Button deck now had little resemblance to the original Draconic Domination precon it began as, and realizing a desire to return to my roots, I used the dilapidated shell of my original The Ur-Dragon deck to create WAsitOra, NekOru QuEEEN! [3]. I enjoyed using Wasitora, Nekoru Queen and her adorable dragon-kittens, but I noticed the deck was polarizing in the 1v1 matches I frequently found myself limited to. Furthermore, the deck was inferior to my original The Ur-Dragon deck in every aspect... It was missing something, and I sought to capture the original joy I felt when playing commander. As I sipped upon a fruity boba green tea, I experienced an epiphany, recalling a conversation with a student of mine that revolved around the following quote:

“I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.” - Andy Bernard

My good old days were spent with me turning a wide yet tall variety of mighty dragons sideways. My good old days were characterized with me casting cost reduced dragons. My good old days were spent creating storms that spawned dragons [4]! I took out The Ur-Dragon from my haphazardly reused matte black Dragon Shield sleeve, I stared at the the primordial essence of all dragonkind... and The Ur-Dragon stared back. Seemingly blind yet penetrative, it pierced through illusion and darkness to reveal a deep truth concealed in a well of infinite time [4]. A faint yet bellowing roar transcended entire planes to echo:

"Burn away the burdens of mortality. Scatter the seeds of devastation and sweep away all opposition! FOR YOU ARE THE BLOOD OF THE UR-DRAGON, COURSING THROUGH ALL DRAGONKIND! [1, 5-7]"

And so I sat down, deconstructed a deck or two, and began shaping a relatively budget deck that would embody the Return Of The Ur-Dragon.

In all seriousness, I forget what adaptations I made to the original precon, but I just wanted to make a good, casual dragon deck within the upper limit of my playgroup's budget. I've come across several lists that seem reputable, but are also far outside of my budget [9-10]. This deck is an attempt to reconcile budget and efficacy.

"The fear of dragons is as old and powerful as the fear of death itself" [11].

I do not consider anything I write here to be novel, rather they are common strategies that work in my playgroup that I have accumulated over many games of watching and playing Magic, Hearthstone, and Starcraft.

I see each game as having three broad phases: the early game, the mid game, and the late game. The early game consists of land drops and mana acceleration. The mid game consists of sparring between players as they strive to either win or set up for the late game. And the late game is the stage where each turn can be the game's fiery culmination.

In my playgroup, this deck excels just as the late game begins, before true control decks can take the reign, so my key to success is to persevere until then. It's challenging to survive against targeted removal or concentrated attacks, so I strive to not be perceived as the most powerful player at the table. Yes, I try to be as efficient as possible, and at least have blockers so as not to be the early game punching bag, but I would hesitate to, for example, use a turn 1 Sol Ring unless it could clearly lead into long term and relatively low threat advantages (e.g. ramp that would lead into cards I could play the next turn).

People have a natural albeit justified fear of dragons, and my playgroup has learned to respect it. Although well earned, this fear of dragons frequently leads to poor threat assessment, so I hesitate to play as many dragons as I can each turn (even if it's mana efficient to do so), unless I can see a short path to victory. Not playing dragons each turn is also useful, because it is too greedy to over commit to a board state where each player can be expected to have board clears and answers. Two exceptions are when I need to summon dragons for card draw (e.g. The Ur-Dragon, Elemental Bond, or Temur Ascendancy) or have negotiated an attempt to defeat an archenemy.

Despite my attempts not to be perceived as the #1 most dangerous player at the table, becoming #1 in both name and reality is inevitable. Ideally this happens just after a group effort to dethrone an archenemy, after which I can cinch a win by out-valuing my opponents through card advantage and high yield spells (i.e. Dragons!). Furthermore, I can rely on using one of the particularly powerful synergies listed in the Deck Synergies section to rebuild a board or win through indirect damage. It's important to prioritize knocking out players at this point over spreading out damage.

"If it comes for you, die boldly or die swiftly--for die you will" [12].

My primary means of attaining victory in the late game are to, simply put, beat down my opponent life totals down to zero with massive dragons. Summoning dragons and turning them sideways with a beaming smile is why I made this deck. Yes, I could fit in more efficient win conditions, but I've walked down that path before in my original dragon deck [2]. That said, there are some notable synergies that are highlighted below, many of which I encouraged to be combined.

  1. Making combat damage more efficient by giving dragons double strike with Atarka, World Render or Sylvia Brightspear. Although I may prioritize more mana efficient spells by the time we can do this, summoning Sylvia Brightspear with a The Ur-Dragon trigger can surprise opponents with double strike'd dragons when they least expect it [13].

  2. Attacking with Hellkite Charger and Savage Ventmaw allows for an additional number of combat phases equivalent to the amount of available mana we have. This works by having Savage Ventmaw generate upon declaring attack, which we can use with one additional mana to fuel Hellkite Charger's ability to create additional combat phases at the cost of . This synergy can be even more powerful if we have enough dragons with haste on the battlefield to deal lethal damage, especially if we capitalize on the attrack triggers of dragons like Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury, Dromoka, the Eternal, or The Ur-Dragon. The primary problem is the mana investment and the lack of haste on Savage Ventmaw, which can be circumvented by summoning Savage Ventmaw the turn prior.

  3. Attacking with Utvara Hellkite while Scourge of Valkas and/or Dragon Tempest is on the battlefield can establish a board full of dragons that can grow exponentially. Left unchecked, Utvara Hellkite can get out of hand quickly. More importantly, Scourge of Valkas and/or Dragon Tempest can deal an amount of indirect damage to opponents proportional to the number of dragons we can generate with Utvara Hellkite.

  4. Using Living Death while Dragon Tempest is in in play and/or Scourge of Valkas is in the graveyard, while many of dragons are also in the graveyard, can generate a surprising amount of indirect damage. The damage this synergy can deal can be overwhelming in the late game, making it our most powerful win condition if we can set it up.
    If only Scourge of Valkas or Dragon Tempest is available, then we can calculate the amount of indirect damage we can deal through the equation P = D x D where P is the amount of indirect damage possible and D is the number of dragons in our graveyard. For example, resurrecting 7 dragons (D = 7) can deal 49 damage (P = 49) indirectly, enough to KO an opponent from 40 to 0 with extra damage to spare. If both Scourge of Valkas and Dragon Tempest can be online, then we can calculate the amount of damage possible through the equation P = D x D x 2. Using our second equation, we need only 5 dragons (D = 5) to deal 50 damage (P = 50) indirectly with extra damage to spare. In the late stage of the game, I can easily have >5 dragons in the graveyard, and life totals are low enough that ~50 damage can end games on the spot if optimally distributed.

  5. Using Living Death while Dragonlord Kolaghan is in the graveyard or another haste enabler (e.g. Temur Ascendancy) is on the battlefield, while a large number of dragons are in the graveyard, can revitalize our board with hasted dragons that can deal a nontrivial amount of combat damage.

  6. Summoning Bladewing the Risen while Lathliss, Dragon Queen is in play can rebuild a board state very quickly. Assuming Bladewing the Risen can resurrect another dragon, we can create a board of 5 dragons from just 2.

  7. Using Sarkhan the Mad's -4 ability with enough dragons on the battlefield to KO an opponent with indirect damage.

  8. Having Dragon Broodmother create dragon tokens to serve as blockers or synergize with Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury, Dromoka, the Eternal, or The Ur-Dragon attack triggers.

  9. Having Dragonlord Dromoka out on the battlefield can protect any of these synergies from spells your opponents may be preserving.

  10. Having Scion of the Ur-Dragon tutor for any dragon can expedite any of the above synergies.

  11. With Sneak Attack out, we can summon any dragon in our hand for only one mana. This can be extremely synergistic considering the amount of combat based dragon triggers the above synergies rely on. While losing our board presence and card advantage for short term gain can be detrimental over the long run, it would be worthwhile if we have a way to draw cards (e.g. Garruk's Uprising, Elemental Bond, Temur Ascendancy, The Ur-Dragon) or want to quickly fill our graveyard for reanimation shenanigans (e.g. Living Death, Patriarch's Bidding). More notably, Sneak Attack can overperform if we have Greater Good on the board; we can sacrifice sneak attack'd creatures that are as good as dead to Greater Good, we can fill our graveyard with key dragons and search our deck for key reanimation cards and key protection spells (e.g. Heroic Intervention, Stubborn Denial).

"The bane of countless shattered weapons, each a failure to slay her" - Daghatar, the Adamant [14].

Attacking with The Ur-Dragon out on the battlefield is advantageous for obvious reasons, but I consider it important enough to highlight. The ideal hand consists of a healthy amount of ramp that seamlessly transitions into summoning relatively cheap 5 CMC dragons (e.g. Glorybringer, Sunscorch Regent, Dromoka, the Eternal) to serve as blockers and disincentivize attacks. After using most of my cards to ramp from the early game to mid game, however, I usually only have a few cards in hand to enter the mid game with. At this stage, my priority is card draw so that we can set up for our time to shine: the late game. If I have Temur Ascendancy or Elemental Bond then I continue enjoying the game. At times that I unfortunately lack card draw, however, I must rely on The Ur-Dragon to compensate in what I call The Ur-Dragon Turn.

The Ur-Dragon Turn is the turn where I summon The Ur-Dragon with the primary purpose being to draw cards and the secondary purpose being to deal damage with it. The high cost of The Ur-Dragon means it will likely be the only significant spell you can cast this turn, so it is critical to make the most of this turn by spending the prior turn setting up at least 2 dragons on the board to capitalize on The Ur-Dragon's effect. Setting up for The Ur-Dragon Turn to maximize the likelihood that The Ur-Dragon can draw a respectable number of cards (at least 2) is why I attempt to preserve the number of dragons in my hand or board. Summoning The Ur-Dragon onto an empty board just to have it die to single target removal is one of the worst feelings in the world. The Ur-Dragon is an understandably non-discreet target, however, so I am willing to rely on a reasonable amount of commander politics to preserve its presence so that I can maintain some means of card draw (e.g. promising not to attack with it or letting other players "control" what my dragon(s) do next). That said, I seldom expect The Ur-Dragon to survive a turn, so I am content drawing at least a couple cards to occupy me while I set up for the next The Ur-Dragon Turn, which ideally includes some form of reanimation (e.g. Whip of Erebos).

"The dragon has no false pretense of compassion, no false mask of civilization--just hunger, heat, and need" - Sarkhan Vol [15].

"No Machinations, no puppet strings. Just pure, sweeping death" - Tasigur, the Golden Fang [16].

A list of cards that I realized were integral to the deck, or regretted cutting at one point, and/or over performed follow. My eyes light up whenever I draw these cards.

  • Glorybringer - I only included Glorybringer because I needed dragons to fill my list initially. I knew Glorybringer was good when it was in standard, but I was skeptical about how powerful it would be in commander. I didn't think 4 damage on a body would be sufficient, but I was always happy to draw Glorybringer, because this decklist lacks targeted removal in a format where there are a plethora of good targets to take out. Yes, we could always add more removal, but we want as many of our our cards to advance our game plan as possible, and Glorybringer does just that while simultaneously being a form of removal.

  • Dragonlord Atarka - Dragonlord Atarka, similar to Glorybringer, is a removal spell on a large dragon. There's almost always something to ping with Atarka, and Atarka's ability to distribute damage makes it even more potent. I'm always happy to draw Atarka due to its ability to impact the board state with surgical precision.

  • Utvara Hellkite - Utvara Hellkite is a straight up win condition if it can remain on the board uncontested due to its ability to increase the number of dragons we have exponentially. Depending on the stage of the game, drawing Utvara Hellkite makes me instantly change my mindset and short term strategy from survival to victory.

  • Keiga, the Tide Star - Keiga's ability is conditional which can make him seem too situational to justify. But what I've found is that his ability becomes relevant far more often than expected in the outrageous and unique commander games I enjoy. Keiga doubles as a deterrent, which we desperately need, and serves as an out to board states which may be too stacked to conventionally dismantle. For example, we can use Keiga to steal a problematic and/or low CMC commander (e.g. Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, Najeela, the Blade-Blossom) when that player is poised to win through a combo. Furthermore, Keiga's conditional ability to steal any creature can make commander politics a necessity to kill Keiga, which is thoroughly enjoyable for me to negotiate when rallying players against an archenemy. Keiga is also a dragon we can tutor for with Scion of the Ur-Dragon when our opponents least expect it.

  • Austere Command - Austere Command is critical in games with artifact heavy decks and it can be a clutch board wipe. The versatility of Austere Command makes me always happy to have it just in case things go south for us.

  • Dragon Tempest - Dragon Tempest is probably the best card in our deck, because it provides our dragons haste for a low CMC, and it enables our dragons to gain powerful ETB removal effects. In the right situations, it can also become our win condition. There's so many things going for Dragon Tempest, that I begin to think of my path to victory as soon as I draw it.

  • Temur Ascendancy - Temur Ascendancy is repeatable card draw and haste in one low CMC card. It's an ideal card for our deck.

  • Rishkar's Expertise - Our deck lacks card draw and ways to cheat things into the field. Rishkar's Expertise does both at the late stage of the game when we need it most.

  • Scion of the Ur-Dragon - Scion of the Ur-Dragon is so powerful that it can replace The Ur-Dragon as our commander, and make the deck more powerful as a result [2]. Scion of the Ur-Dragon can become any of our best dragons and simultaneously entomb them for reanimation shenanigans later down the road.

  • Living Death - This card allows us to return all our dragons back to the board. Being a tribal deck, Living Death usually benefits us more than our opponents. More importantly, Living Death can become our win con, if the right dragons are in the graveyard. And to top it off, Living Death can be an emergency board wipe when all else fails.

  • Crux of Fate - Crux of Fate is a low CMC, one sided board wipe. There isn't much not to like about this card, especially when our deck needs board wipes to persevere through the early stages of the game and set up for our dragon's triumphant arrivals in the mid to late game.

"The justice of dragons demands more than just an eye for an eye" [17].

  • Intet, the Dreamer - I had Intet in my deck originally when I didn't have any better dragons, and what I found was that Intet often just became a big 6/6 beater. I may have used his ability once out of all my games. More often than not, most of our mana is spent during our main phase summoning dragons so we seldom have leftover mana to pay for effects like Intet's, which isn't even guaranteed to trigger. Furthermore, any mana we do have leftover is usually better saved for any instant removal, protection, or counterspells that we may have drawn. Getting Intet's ability to trigger through combat damage is another complication that makes this card not as appealing as our current roster of dragons.

  • Crosis, the Purger - Crosis suffers from the same problem as Intet, the Dreamer. Discarding cards with Crosis' ability also feels bad and can draw the ire of the inflicted player.

  • Steel Hellkite - I initially thought Steel Hellkite was an autoinclude in every deck, but I came to realize that this card suffers from the same problems as Intet, the Dreamer in that his ability only gains traction when you have leftover mana, which we seldom have. While I like Steel Hellkite, I seldom got to use his ability except as a way to remove tokens, and that simply wasn't good enough as I gained access to more powerful dragons.

  • Wasitora, Nekoru Queen - I wanted Wasitora to work, I really did. I wanted Wasitora to work so much that I created an entire deck revolving around her [3]. However, Wasitora also suffers from the same problem as Intet. Furthermore, giving opponents the choice of what to sacrifice diminishes her value, and she almost never gets to create cute tokens (which, to be clear, is the main reason to play Wasitora), because our opponents almost always has something to sacrifice.

  • Boneyard Scourge - I thought Boneyard Scourge was a powerful addition, because it was a low CMC dragon that we could play early which also had the potential to stay relevant in the late game. In practice, however, I seldom drew Boneyard Scourge early enough for it to be useful when it mattered, and I seldom had the leftover mana to make use of its situational abilities in the late game. Whenever I did draw Boneyard Scourge, moreoften than not in the latter half of the game, I wished I had drawn another more impactful dragon instead.

  • Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund - This card seems powerful, and it is especially because haste is so powerful in our deck, but I refuse to play Karrthus for two reason: (1) it is financially expensive and (2) Karrthus makes our deck needlessly susceptible to cloning effects which would hard counter our deck.

  • Ryusei, the Falling Star - The only thing Ryusei brings to our deck is his ability to clear the board which sounds good. The problem is that his board clear is conditional, predictable, and at times insufficient. I would gladly remove this card for more consistently powerful board clears or dragons.

  • Crucible of Fire - I consider this to be a "win more" card that relies on dragons being on the board when our deck really just needs more ways to get dragons onto the board in the first place. Larger dragons are helpful, yes, but our deck seldom gets the opportunity to go wide in ways that make this card excel. Furthermore, +3/+3 seldom gets our dragons large enough to compete against decks dedicated toward pumping individual creatures very tall.

  • Dragonlord's Servant - I thought this card was powerful at first, but I soon realized that this card is an inferior mana dork which is vulnerable to the many board wipes present in our casual metas. The benefits provided by a mana discount plateaus too, because our dragons only require so much colorless mana.

  • Dragonspeaker Shaman - This card suffers from the same problems as Dragonlord's Servants, but to an even greater extent.

  • Kaalia of the Vast - This card can be very potent, but it's also very vulnerable to removal, and Kaalia is a removal magnet. The high cost, in both cash and CMC, also makes me hesitant to use Kaalia.

  • Thunderbreak Regent - I see Thunderbreak Regent in many decklists, but I just don't see how it earns its spot. It has a low CMC, yes, but its effect also seems lackluster to me in a format where health is just a resource that people have in abundance.

  • Sarkhan Unbroken - Even though Sarkhan, Unbroken's ultimate is potentially game winning, we will never get to reliably use it enough to justify Sarkhan exclusively for his ultimate. Instead, we would use Sarkhan primarily for its +1 and -2 abilities, which are fair for Sarkhan's high cost. Unfortunately, most players tend to look straight at Sarkhan's ultimate and decide to kill it. Sarkhan draws a disproportionate amount of hate/attention towards us and we seldom have a board state powerful enough to protect it.

  • Dragonlord Ojutai - Ojutai is good, but its ability is contingent on its ability to deal combat damage. We cannot reliably deal combat damage, so combat damage reliant effects have to be powerful enough to justify its relatively rare occurrence. Drawing one card, although we can be somewhat selective about it, just isn't good enough compared to all the other dragons we have access to.

  • Birds of Paradise - Birds of Paradise is powerful in more competitive decks that aim for relatively early wins, but our deck is a battlecruiser deck. We want the game to last long enough that we get to summon dragons in bulk, and mana dorks like Birds of Paradise, despite its versatility, usually don't persevere long enough to make long term impacts.

  • Darigaaz Reincarnated - Darigaaz looks good because of its built in recursion, but out of all my games I have only been able to take advantage of it twice. And both times Darigaaz came back too late to make a notable difference. Darigaaz is so expensive, and his ability is so delayed, that it comes out too close to the conclusion of the game for its reincarnation to make a meaningful enough impact.

  • Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire - Vaevictis Asmadi is a card I really wanted to include when it was leaked, but I was always hesitant to play him, due to his chaotic nature. It never felt good summoning him, because of his inherent ability to inadvertently compromise my board state or undermine my game plan.

Special thanks to multimedia who helped introduced me to pain lands and contributed to the first major revisions of this deck list.

"We trust in the scalelords, bringers of justice, that none can escape" - Urdnan, Dromoka Warrior [18].

I purchased the original cards in the Draconic Domination pre-con for approximately $100 and I originally intended to upgrade it with about $100 worth of cards over time. The deck's price has clearly exceeded my original budget, and while I do not regret doing so, I do want to offer my insights on making this deck more affordable for those interested in soaring with dragons on a budget. I highlight the more expensive items in this deck and cheaper alternatives to replace them with. Super Budget Return Of The Ur-Dragon is an example of a deck that that has incorporated the following budget cuts.

Any Decent Dragon are hyper budget dragons that are mediocre compared to their recommended counterparts, but useful enough to earn a spot if we simply need to field more dragons. I recommend including any of the following, in order of preference:

"The tools of the past will help us forge the future" [19].

[1] https://scryfall.com/card/c17/192/scion-of-the-ur-dragon?utm_source=mw_MTGWiki

[2] http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/scion-the-win-button/

[3] http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/11-02-19-fFa-wasitora-nekoru-queen/

[4] https://mtg.gamepedia.com/The_Ur-Dragon#cite_note-1

[5] https://scryfall.com/card/inv/301/darigaazs-attendant?utm_source=mw_MTGWiki

[6] https://scryfall.com/card/inv/300/crosiss-attendant?utm_source=mw_MTGWiki

[7] https://scryfall.com/card/inv/310/riths-attendant?utm_source=mw_MTGWiki

[8] https://scryfall.com/card/inv/303/dromars-attendant?utm_source=mw_MTGWiki

[9] http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/the-ur-dragon-initiative/

[10] http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/ur-dragons-multiverse-onslaught-primer/

[11] https://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/details.aspx?name=Utvara%20Hellkite

[12] https://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/details.aspx?multiverseid=230774

[13] http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/the-dragur-1/

[14] https://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/details.aspx?multiverseid=391825

[15] https://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/details.aspx?multiverseid=175057

[16] https://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=433126

[17] https://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/details.aspx?multiverseid=394719

[18] https://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=433247

[19] http://tappedout.net/mtg-card/trophy-mage/

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Top Ranked
Date added 2 years
Last updated 5 days
Key combos

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

15 - 0 Mythic Rares

40 - 0 Rares

23 - 0 Uncommons

6 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 4.66
Tokens 3/3 G Token Creature Beast, 1/1 Dragon, 5/5 R Token Creature Dragon, 6/6 R Token Creature Dragon
Folders Uncategorized, Cool Commander Decks, Inspiration, Dragones, dragon commander, Budget EDH, EDH Decks, Decks, Cool decks, EDH Brain Food, See all 29
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