With the imminent release of the new D&D: Forgotten Realms set, we’re meeting in a grimy tavern for some ale and to review the set’s new cards. In this article we’ll examine one of the companion Commander decks released with the set, talk about the unique new cards in it, and recommend some ways it can be upgraded and improved. Let’s take a look at the brutal Barbarian leading the charge of Draconic Rage, the Red and Green Commander Preconstructed deck from the set.
This deck seems super fun and pretty unique. For the most part your build is going to be fairly linear if you want to lean in to the dice rolling mechanic, if only because there just aren’t that many cards that do that currently. That being said I think there is another direction we can go with this deck other than roll dice and double tokens which we will explore later.
Vrondiss has an interesting set of abilities. We’ve seen the Enrage mechanic before, primarily with Ixalan Dinosaurs, and this is a pretty good payoff. The tokens are beefy though they do suffer somewhat from having no flying or trample built in which can be unfortunate for something that has to sacrifice itself if it gets chump blocked. We can trigger this with his second ability, gaining us some additional value whenever we roll dice. Not all of the dice rolling in the new set is Gruul, but some of the better payoffs certainly are, and on some level this is on of those straightforward decks that basically builds itself. Did you draft a sweet rare that says roll a d20 on it? Pull something out of the precon and slot it in. In the interest of doing something a little different, my deck is going to be leaning much more heavily into the first ability rather than the second.
The New Cards
A kind of repeatable, chaotic cascade which is cool in theory. In practice I think this is a little bit too much uncertainty for me in an average deck. More often than not you are going to be getting a creature of lesser CMV than you spent unless you deliberately build with getting max value in mind with something like a Mayael the Anima list, and even then you’re relying on rolling high to get your huge threats. In the all in dice rolling version of this deck it’s worth it because of all the synergies though.
This is reasonably costed for picking off a bunch of utility creatures, with the potential bonus of letting us sneak our burly 5/4’s through unblocked.
As someone who plays a ton of Dragon decks, I really like this. Yes, there will be times where the dice roll keeps you from getting an attack in where you want, but 3 mana for a 4/4 flyer with haste is totally worth it. Most of the time you’re going to be perfectly happy to start chunking people on turn 3 regardless of who you end up actually hitting.
Within this deck I like the design of this card. The mechanic is interesting and it triggers a bunch of stuff you want to trigger. If you don’t care about dice rolling this is just bad though. 3 mana rocks are already being supplanted at casual tables, and this is 3 mana to definitely not have a further mana available in the same turn. The main exceptions I can think of offhand are decks where getting the burst of mana to make sure you can play your 6 drop Commander on turn 4 is super important, or decks like Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice where you can keep proliferating the component counters so this can be a more reliable 2 mana per turn.
Not a bad effect but if you are reliably connecting for 5 your game is already going according to plan so it’s a bit win-more. Still, when you can crash in with your tokens on someone with an empty board or live the dream and assemble the combo with Warstorm Surge or a similar effect it’s going to feel pretty sweet. There are more reliable ways to draw consistent cards for most decks.
Outstanding. Cards like Reclamation Sage already see a ton of play, and this is 1 extra mana to destroy 3 extra artifacts or enchantments, and it’s on a more survivable body to boot. This also offers the upside of having your opponents make the choice so you can deflect some of the heat from blowing up people’s stuff because hey I didn’t pick for your Sol Ring to get destroyed, Steve picked it! The only real downsides are that if you’re currently the archenemy at the table your opponents can elect not to hurt each other and possibly that it’s not an Elf, and if that’s the worst thing I have to say I’m all in.
This isn’t a bad effect per se, I mainly think we would prefer to give it to our entire team with Siege Behemoth rather than only a single creature.
This is pretty sweet, we don’t really have many instant speed board wipes or mass artifact and enchantment removal. The X cost can be a little unfortunate at times, but we’re in green, we can handle making bunches of mana. Being able to get both effects if our commander is out makes it even better.
Boy Savage Ventmaw certainly hasn’t been skipping…wing day? This card is fantastic. The haste means you’re almost certainly getting 4 of your 7 mana investment back right away, and that’s if you have no other board presence. In a deck like this, having cast a few creatures or made a few tokens before dropping Klauth means this could easily be adding 20+ if you successfully attack.
This is another one I like. It’s a great way to get enrage triggers when it’s not your turn which is incredibly useful, and it’s not a bad little group slug card on top of that.
Solid in hydra decks or this dice rolling focused one. Trample is always a huge bonus on big dumb beaters like this, and while ward 4 isn’t a huge deal it’s not a bad ability to have.
In the precon this is a decent way to keep your commander alive as well as make it into a one or two shot threat, in the format as a whole there’s a lot better ways to do this, even if it does have a dice roll attached to it.
I think this is interesting removal stapled onto a land but it’s quite expensive to only temporarily deal with a single threat. The one upside is that green has a lot of unconditional land searching so you can tutor for this in a pinch.
This is is an outstanding card for Grenzo, Havoc Raiser, Karazikar, the Eye Tyrant, and Marisi, Breaker of the Coil, but it doesn’t fit well with what this deck is trying to do in any of its iterations.
No. Just no. In the current commander meta, you really want a 6 drop to be pretty darn threatening, even if it’s magical Chrsitmas-land thinking, and this just ain’t it. This is in to the territory where people can easily be dying and absolute best case you’re getting 4 3/3’s and 4 lands. Generally you aren’t looking to take an entire turn off to ramp at this point in the game, and if you are it’s with a lands matter commander trying to slam something like a Boundless Realms for a huge number of guaranteed triggers.
The other backup commander in the precon build is Wulfgar, and unlike Klauth he’s more of a plant for you to build another deck around than a piece of the deck itself going forward. There are a few attack triggers in the deck, but not enough to justify his inclusion in the upgraded version. If you build around his ability though you will find it to be very powerful to trigger cards like Etali, Primal Storm and Pathbreaker Ibex a second time.
Improving the deck
With all that said, how are we going about upgrading this deck? As mentioned, we are going to be leaning heavily on the token making aspect of Vrondiss and ideally pulling off something you don’t see every day in commander: a Gruul combo-kill.
In a nod to Ixalan Standard we’re starting off with Polyraptor and Vrondiss as our main combo engines. Both make a useful token for us when they are dealt damage by cards like Forerunner of the Empire, Marauding Raptor, or Aether Flash. Once the damage is dealt and the tokens enter, we will trigger damage effects such as Purphoros, God of the Forge and Warstorm Surge in order to kill our opponents. In addition we have Phyrexian Altar, Ashond’s Altar, and Goblin Bombardment to take advantage of our tokens as mana sources or as a way to point damage back at Vrondiss to continue the loop, as well as giving us a way to stop our combo since some of the Polyraptor combos will actually result in a draw if we don’t have a damage dealer on the field already since it creates tokens infinitely with no way to stop. When we sacrifice those tokens we’re also triggering the Dragons mode of Outpost Siege or making mana to spend on Pyrohemia to deal damage in order to keep the engine running
Speaking of keeping the whole thing running, since Polyraptor keeps making token copies of itself we don’t really care if the original dies, but Vrondiss dying is a real problem. To solve this we have several ways to protect him, from making him indestructible such as with Withstand Death to keeping pace with our triggers if we are pinging for 1 with Rite of Passage. In addition, we have ways to protect the whole combo like Deflecting Swat, Vexing Shusher, Red Elemental Blast, and Veil of Summer. We also have ways to tutor for the creatures needed with Shared Summons and Worldly Tutor.
On top of the combo we have upgraded the ramp package to be mostly 2 mana or less and added Elemental Bond for some further card draw as making tokens churns us through our deck. A large chunk of the dragons have been left in because they’re fun and a very solid, more grind-y game plan while we assemble our pieces. There’s also plenty of room for tweaks depending on your preferences and your playgroup, but this feels like a good starting point to me to start doing some playtesting and seeing what feels good and what doesn’t.
That wraps up our look at the new Draconic Rage deck. Next time we’ll take a look at the Dungeons of Death deck, another Forgotten Realms precon. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.