Unstable Mutation: Draconic Dissent

In our Unstable Mutation series we look at the prerelease decks of various sets, talk about their contents, and talk about how to improve them taking them from an off-the-shelf disaster into something that’s worth bringing to the table on a Friday night. This week we’re looking at the Draconic Dissent deck from Battle for Baldur’s Gate.

Goad is a great, political mechanic. Wizards has really woken up to the fact that the most popular format in Magic is Commander. It’s a bit strange for them, because Commander is fundamentally in a sense – not Magic. Magic is a 2 player, zero sum game. One player wins, and one player loses. Card “value” and card “advantage” are extremely relevant concepts for Magic, and one versus one traditional games are very much played out against a backdrop of trading. If you can trade up, you are ahead. Traditionally, many decks are trading time for card advantage – if you can kill your opponent before the card disadvantage you are generating matters, then it doesn’t matter that you’re trading 1.3 : 1 or some other ratio. The margin of error for this kind of play is essentially your starting hand. If games of Magic started with a hand of zero cards, then card advantage would absolutely be king, as it is it’s a race against time and card play.

Commander throws these concepts more or less out the window. If you can expect to see a random wheel on turn 4, card advantage goes out the window. Similarly, what is essentially a Vintage-level format has some extremely powerful cards, like one of the Power Nine – Timetwister. And to come out on top of card trading you’d need to trade in excess of 3:1.

Goad and vote cards, the initiative, and the monarch; all play off the multiplayer nature of the format, so it’s nice to see Wizards increasingly leaning into mechanics that can encourage your opponents to fight each other, and benefit from them doing so. Historically, some of the most powerful cards in Commander are cards that unintentionally benefit from the multiplayer format like Rhystic Study which is basically unplayable in a normal game, are suddenly core, overpowered, $30+ commons in a multiplayer format.

Goad is a fairly balanced mechanic, creatures are forced to attack, but if they aren’t able to attack, they aren’t punished. They have to preferably not attack you. Old goad-style cards destroyed the target if they failed to attack (i.e. mana dorks tapping for mana just get destroyed after being “not goaded”).


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Firkraag, Cunning Instigator has a fairly basic set of linked mechanics (I’ve reversed the order.)

Whenever a creature deals combat damage to one of your opponents, if that creature had to attack this combat, put a +1/+1 counter on Firkaag, Cunning Instigator and draw a card.

Whenever one or more Dragons you control attack an opponent, goad target creature that player controls.

This is a pretty subtly written – it means other Dragons can trigger it via attacking, so you don’t have to deal combat damage, just attack someone and you’ll be able to goad one of their creatures. This way your opponents have to decide whether to blow up your Dragons and or Firkraag, Cunning Instigator before you hit combat, since they don’t know who will be attacked, and even if they can block and kill the Dragon, their creature will still be goaded. Imperfect information like this is an important piece of political multi-player games.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Dragons are in a weird spot in Commander. Some are solid. Some few are amazing (does Ugin, The Spirit Dragon count as a Dragon? It says Dragon in the name, on the other hand, he’s not a Dragon-type Planeswalker or anything) but most of them are medium to expensive, big, fat flyers, that are generally over costed, and not efficient ways to deal 120 damage.

Out of the box Draconic Dissent is not a terrible deck. Too many lands, not enough ramp, a bunch of big, over costed weird cards (11 creatures that cost 6 or more, wtf). The deck essentially consists of getting out Firgraag, Cunning Instigator as fast as possible, and then protecting him as he keeps getting free draw and bigger so he can just kill your opponents.

In a weird twist, if Firkraag, Cunning Instigator gets … instigated, that actually helps you. He’ll trigger off his own forced attack. Netting you card draw and he’ll keep getting bigger.


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

If you’re playing the deck unmodified, just get out Firkraag and protect him if you can. The deck lacks enough instants, (3 total) and enough protection (where are the Greaves and Boots and other hexproof and shroud artifacts). It also lacks cheap Dragons – there’s a couple, but since your Commander triggers off Dragons, you want Dragons. If you have 3 Dragons you can goad 3 creatures each turn. You also might want to force your opponents to have creatures – there are a number of creatures that create token creatures under your opponent’s control. If you run into the odd creature-less deck this can be useful.

Here’s the deck, au natural as it were:


Rebuilding the deck requires focusing away from big splashy spells so much, getting cheaper Dragons into the deck, more ramp, and more focus on interaction. There’s starting to be some quite decent mid-range Dragons, like Chaos Dragon or Territorial Hellkite and their randomness largely won’t matter as they are just cheap evasive hitters that generate goad triggers and draw triggers. Getting the deck with enough cheap dragons will let you force your opponents to damage each other, and then attempting to protect Firkaag. Thankfully your goad effects should be disrupting your opponents game plans, and getting their utility creatures tapped down or destroyed.

This is the cut list:
1 Thunder Dragon
1 Ryusei, the Falling Star
1 Keiga, the Tide Star
1 Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Angler Turtle
1 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
1 Agitator Ant
1 Pursued Whale
1 Geode Rager
1 Rowan Kenrith
1 Will Kenrith
1 Temple of the False God
1 Kher Keep
1 Temple of Epiphany
1 Wandering Fumarole
1 Prismari Campus
1 Propaganda
1 Compulsive Research
1 Chain Reaction
1 Dissipation Field
1 Blasphemous Act
1 Aether Gale
1 Disrupt Decorum
1 The Akroan War
1 Artificer Class
1 Loot Dispute
1 Clan Crafter
1 Death Kiss
1 Astral Dragon

And this should give you room to add these cards:
1 Fractured Powerstone
1 Liquimetal Torque
1 Prismatic Lens
1 Thought Vessel
1 Everflowing Chalice
1 Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge
1 Public Enemy
1 Swashbuckler Extraordinaire
1 Fumiko the Lowblood
1 Abrade
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Mana Drain
1 Counterspell
1 Galazeth Prismari
1 Patron of the Arts
1 Mutavault
1 Faceless Haven
1 Glasspool Mimic // Glasspool Shore
1 Maskwood Nexus
1 Mothdust Changeling
1 Taurean Mauler
1 An Offer You Can’t Refuse
1 Swan Song
1 Hunted Dragon
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Mirror Shield
1 Champion’s Helm
1 Pseudodragon Familiar
1 Terror of the Peaks

For this deck:


Just for fun I made a couple of other versions of the deck:


Credit: Wizards of the Coast

This one is all about playing pre-goaded creatures, such as the eponymous Juggernaut from back in they day. There’s a whole slew of artifacts that cost about 4 mana and all have to attack every turn. Just getting them out and having a chaotic game, largely ignoring your “dragon goad” trigger in favor of just buffing Firkaag from your juggernauts running over your opponents.


This version is a bit meaner, and is focused on turning Firkaag, the Instigator into the juggernaut itself. Because Firkaag triggers whenever a creature that is forced to attack deals combat damage, you can simply goad Firkaag with spells like Martial Impetus. Once goaded, he’ll net you card draw and +1/+1 counters for each time he deals combat damage to an opponent. So give him double strike, and with the availability of extra combats and extra turns from red and blue respectively, you can just kill off your opponents with commander damage.



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