Rebuilding tribal Dragons: Switching Zirilan to The Ur-Dragon


Welcome to another edition of the article series where I go over changes to my different EDH decks in detail (and where I trash them and rebuild them into something better).

There have been a number of my decks over the last few years that have been on the chopping block after disappointing performances and poor games, and many have been culled or changed. Much as I have done before, I rebuilt decks that just aren’t working; this may involve either changing some cards around deck to deck, changing who the general of the deck is, or completely overhauling the entire deck.

Now, with Rivals of Ixalan long since released and Dominaria out as well, I’ve been going over each set of changes and additions to my EDH decks, and man, have there ever a lot of them!

Today, we’ll be looking at what I’ve done with one of our tribal lists: changing from Zirilan of the Claw mono-red tribal Dragons, to Commander 2017’s 5-color The Ur-Dragon. Let’s take a look!


Years ago, I started a series of Random Friday articles dedicated to rebuilding my EDH decks, with the ultimate goal of making them all fun to play, and fun to play against. The plan is always to rebuild any decks that aren’t performing the way I wanted them to.

Thus far, I’ve built, retooled, and rebuilt several of my EDH decks in this series.

In 2012:
• I put together Arcum Dagsson, a dangerous general who could Tinker up win conditions at will here.
• The original incarnation of Karona, False God and her Allies, here and here.
• I looked at my initial attempt to build a Rakdos deck here, here, and here.

In 2013:
• Our Abzan deck was transformed from Ghave, Guru of Spores into Doran, the Siege Tower‘s “toughness matters” deck here.
• I’d changed my Boros list, from Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer into Brion Stoutarm‘s sacrifice-based deck here.
• The lovely Angela had changed our Dimir deck from Vela the Night-Clad to the milling-based Lazav, Dimir Mastermind here and here.
• I changed our Rakdos deck to Rakdos, Lord of Riots after the release of RTR here.
• I rebuilt the powerful Bruna, Light of Alabaster‘s combo-control deck here.
• I rebuilt the Planechase 2012 duo, Thromok the Insatiable and Krond the Dawn-Clad here.
Nekusar, the Mindrazer‘s Painful Wheel was built here.

In 2014:
• The Jeskai deck that finished off The EDH Project, Zedruu the Greathearted, was built here.
• Angela’s tribal Soldier build helmed by Coldsnap’s Darien, King of Kjeldor here.
• I went over my brainstorming and the final list I looked at for Khans newcomer Narset, Enlightened Master (who is just ultra-powerful), here.
• The first rebuild of our Izzet deck, from Nin, the Pain Artist to Melek, Izzet Paragon, was done here.
• I rebuilt our Clone and Shapeshifter “tribal” deck, Sakashima the Impostor, which is chock-full of copy effects, here.
• I went over the changes to our Equipment-friendly mono-white deck, Kemba, Kha Regent here.
• I looked at the changes to the budget-friendly Nath of the Gilt-Leaf here.

In 2015:
• I went over the changes to Commander 2014’s Titania, Protector of Argoth, my favourite of last year’s Commander generals, here.
• I rebuilt our U/R control deck, from Melek, Izzet Paragon into Keranos, God of Storms, here.
• I rebuilt the very first EDH deck that I’d ever put together, our Jund deck helmed by Adun Oakenshield, into one led by Kresh the Bloodbraided from Shards block here.
• I rebuilt our Boros deck again, this time changing it from Brion Stoutarm to Tajic, Blade of the Legion, a R/W control deck, here.
• I looked at a huge culling of my decks, where I disassembled Kemba, Kha Regent, Volrath the Fallen, Zedruu the Greathearted, and more here.
• I retooled two artifact-based decks: Karn, Silver Golem changed into creatureless artifact-based control, and our Esper deck Halfdane turned into Sharuum the Hegemon artifact aggro, here.
• I went over my first new Rakdos build of the year, building around Innistrad’s Olivia Voldaren here.
• After Olivia failed to be any good, I built a ‘new’ Rakdos deck (again), this time using Malfegor the Demon Dragon as general, and a hellbent theme here.

In 2016:
• I had reworked our five-color Ally deck, and changed the deck from Karona, False God to a more token- and combo-based General Tazri here.
• I finally sat down to build around Captain Sisay, a deck where “legends matter”, here.
• Two decks were merged into one as I merged the +1/+1 counter-based Skullbriar, the Walking Grave and our Abzan deck, Doran, the Siege Tower, into new +1/+1 counter deck Anafenza, the Foremost, here.
• I redesigned the five-color manabases for each of my five-color generals here.
• Our Jeskai deck, Zedruu the Greathearted, and our mono-white token swarm deck, Kongming, “Sleeping Dragon”, were merged together to form Narset, Enlightened Master, here.
• I rebuilt our Golgari deck, Skullbriar, the Walking Grave, and took pieces from Titania, Protector of Argoth, to form our new Golgari deck The Gitrog Monster here.
• I went over big changes to our Izzet control deck, Keranos, God of Storms, here.
• I went over some big changes to our Jund deck, Kresh the Bloodbraided, here.
• Our Temur deck was changed, from fun-loving Maelstrom Wanderer, to Khans bear-puncher Surrak Dragonclaw here.
• I looked at what our five-color Superfriends planeswalker deck, Progenitus, would look like after dropping the red cards and switching to four-color general Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice here.
• I went over the changes to our artifact aggro deck, as I added red to Sharuum the Hegemon, changing it into Breya, Etherium Shaper here.
• Our “copycat tribal” deck, Sakashima the Impostor, gained the use of white and black cards, and became our new Esper deck with the same theme, Halfdane, as shown here.
• I looked at the third of our four-color decks, led by partner generals Vial Smasher the Fierce and Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix (who were a surprise entrant in The EDH Battle Royale V), here.
• I went over the hostile takeover of our Mardu deck, instigated by Conspiracy II’s Queen Marchesa and the monarch mechanic, here.

In 2017:
• I looked at my build for my favorite general from Commander 2017, the highly-aggressive Saskia the Unyielding here.
• I went over our build for the difficult-to-brainstorm WURG color combination (which was our final four-color deck) based on partner generals Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa and Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist here.
• I rebuilt our BUWG deck, Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, from a planeswalker deck, to “+1/+1 counters matter” here.
• I went over major changes to Saskia (over 20 new cards!) here.
• I rebuilt another of our four-color decks, Vial Smasher the Fierce/Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix by changing one of the partners; the new deck is Vial Smasher the Fierce/Thrasios, Triton Hero, as seen here.
• Taking advantage of Ixalan’s new “planeswalkers are legendary” rule, I retooled Captain Sisay with a host of new cards here.
• I rebuilt the Vampire tribal Commander 2017 precon around Edgar Markov here.

In 2018:
• I took my first look at rebuilding our Esper deck, from Halfdane copycat ‘tribal’, to Dakkon Blackblade, here.
• In my followup piece, I went over the new decklist for our new Esper deck, Dakkon Blackblade here.


Years ago, I’d built mono-red tribal Dragons on a whim after acquiring a copy of classic Mirage legend Zirilan of the Claw, who could Tutor your various Dragons into play. Building around Zirilan was both fun and very strange, since you had to take into account that even though he gave you access to a powerful toolbox of Dragons (and their effects), he has a very large drawback — he would exile the Dragon you search for at end of turn. This was a huge drawback, and the major reason I ran so many ways to Flicker and save my Dragons.

One cool thing about the Dragon tribe was that I could always count on Wizards to print me more and more support for the tribe as the years went on. The Dragons of Tarkir set added lots of Dragon support, and every set since has always had at least one token Dragon to choose from which I could add to the deck.

The deck ended up being pretty fun, and could win games here and there (turns out that cheating giant creatures into play is always a strong strategy, especially when you back it up with one-sided Wraths like Earthquake). I did like that the deck gave me a use for two classic rare Dragons, Thunder Dragon from Starter and Fire Dragon from Portal, and each were pretty good Tutor targets.

With the release of Commander 2017 and a five-color Dragon general, however, I knew that Zirilan’s time in the sun had passed, and he was about to pass the torch on to another Dragon general.

This was my final list for Zirilan going into Commander 2017:

Zirilan of the Claw - Final decklist:

General (1)
Zirilan of the Claw

Creatures (30)
Dragonlord’s Servant
Dragonspeaker Shaman
Lightning Dragon
Thunderbreak Regent
Skyship Stalker
Rakdos Pit Dragon
Thundermaw Hellkite
Stormbreath Dragon
Hoarding Dragon
Scourge of Valkas
Steel Hellkite
Flameblast Dragon
Mordant Dragon
Hellkite Tyrant
Freejam Regent
Hellkite Charger
Hoard-Smelter Dragon
Balefire Dragon
Hellkite Igniter
Imperial Hellkite
Knollspine Dragon
Thunder Dragon
Tyrant’s Familiar
Spawn of Thraxes
Utvara Hellkite
Bogardan Hellkite
Scourge of Kher Ridges
Fire Dragon
Dragon Tyrant

Card drawing (8)
Reforge the Soul
Chandra Ablaze
Temporal Aperture
Tormenting Voice
Wild Guess
Cathartic Reunion
Dreamstone Hedron
Hedron Archive

Wraths (5)
Molten Disaster
Fault Line
Disaster Radius

More mana (5)
Hazoret’s Monument
Gilded Lotus
Fire Diamond
Ruby Medallion
Caged Sun

Ways to save your Dragons (7)
Cold Storage
Synod Sanctum
Tel-Jilad Stylus
Sundial of the Infinite
Conjurer’s Closet
Rishadan Pawnshop

Other spells (4)
Crucible of Fire
Dragon Tempest
Where Ancients Tread
Warstorm Surge

Land (40)
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Dormant Volcano
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
37 Mountain

Although I did like this list and it was fun enough to play, it was time for a change.

The release of the mighty new general, The Ur-Dragon, gave the Dragon tribe access to something that it had wanted for a while — access to all of the multicolor Dragons that have been printed over the years, like Teneb, the Harvester, Dragonlord Dromoka, and Rith, the Awakener.

Basically, by going five-color, I finally had access to all of the best Dragons ever printed (not just the best that mono-red had to offer). The Time Spiral Dragon general Scion of the Ur-Dragon did offer this access to all five colors as well (and I did look at building him at one point years ago); I concluded in the end that he was too prone to becoming a degenerate combo deck, and so I left him alone.

I really liked what The Ur-Dragon gave the Dragon tribe access to. A giant source of card-drawing, a way to cheat Dragons into play, and a cost-reduction for each Dragon’s casting cost… these are very potent abilities, especially when stapled to an enormouse 10/10 flying general!

So we were all set to change over to the mighty and powerful new general, The Ur-Dragon. What did my rebuild look like?

I knew I wanted to do a few things with the new Dragons list going into the rebuild. I knew that I wanted to add a ton of Dragons that cost six mana plus, just to take advantage of the discount that Ur-Dragon would give me off their casting costs. I knew that I wanted to keep all of the Earthquake effects, which are one-sided Wraths when I’m playing all flying creatures. And I knew that I wanted to include as many cool Dragons with unique effects as possible.

This is my starting list:

The Ur-Dragon - Starting decklist:

General (1)
The Ur-Dragon

Creatures (32)
Dragonlord’s Servant
Dragonspeaker Shaman
Boneyard Scourge
Thunderbreak Regent
Stormbreath Dragon
Dromoka, the Eternal
Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury
Scalelord Recluse
Scion of the Ur-Dragon
Scourge of Valkas
Thundermaw Hellkite
Ramos, Dragon Engine
Quicksilver Dragon
Steel Hellkite
Teneb, the Harvester
Ryusei, the Falling Star
Hellkite Tyrant
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Broodmate Dragon
Silumgar, the Drifting Death
Dragonlord Silumgar
Dragonlord Dromoka
Dragonlord Atarka
Atarka, World Render
Ojutai, Soul of Winter
Deathbringer Regent
Bladewing the Risen
Imperial Hellkite
Balefire Dragon
Utvara Hellkite
Bogardan Hellkite
Hellkite Overlord

Card drawing spells (6)
Monastery Siege
Fact or Fiction
Fortune’s Favor
Elemental Bond
Herald’s Horn
Painful Truths

Wraths (5)
Fault Line
Crux of Fate
Disaster Radius

Disenchants (1)
Relic Crush

Planeswalkers (4)
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Sarkhan the Mad
Sarkhan Unbroken

Mana-fixing (4)
Pillar of Origins
Commander’s Sphere
Coalition Relic
Chromatic Lantern

Recursion (2)
Living Death
Fearsome Awakening

Other spells (5)
Crucible of Fire
Dragon Tempest
Frontier Siege
Mirror of the Forebears
Rite of Replication

Land (40)
40 land

As a first draft, there are a number of things I like here. I was able to fit in all of the Khans Dragons and Dragonlords (except for Dragonlord Ojutai, whom I still don’t own a copy of… yet). I’ve fit a bunch of Wrath effects that are all one-sided, a metric ton of card drawing, and some sweet planeswalkers.

So that’s a quick look at my upgraded Dragon tribal list. I’ll be looking to add a copy of Verix Bladewing and Ojutai over the next while, and I’ll likely be looking at the spells and editing them, but I do really like this initial list. It has a ton of giant flying monsters to bash people with, and really, what more does anyone need out of life?

Lots more edits to come, thanks to Dominaria! Thanks for reading!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *