Welcome to the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Commander Draconic Rage Review, brought to you by Commander’s Herald. I’m Michael Celani, author of How They Brew It and We Card Hard (Ranking Every Non-Liquid Card In Magic: the Gathering). I swear I’m not dragon my feet with this review. Stop roasting me. Is Draconic Rage a treasure hoard of value? Find out below!
Vrondiss, Rage of Ancients
Buckle up, because there’s plenty to Vrondisscuss.
The statline of this scaly slugger isn’t spectacular, so let’s see if his enrage trigger saves him. Every time Vrondiss, Rage of Ancients takes damage, you’re gifted a 5/4 Spirit Dragon
with flying that disappears as soon as it deals damage. Note that this is any damage, so if you decide to play that Warstorm Surge included in the deck, it’s still going to evaporate like my hopes of ever seeing my ex again after I took her to see Sonic the Hedgehog in theaters.
All in all, I’m not too impressed with the reward you get for poking the dragon; it’s comparable to Omnath, Locus of Rage, who makes a permanent 5/5 Elemental on landfall. Of course, it’s much easier to trigger Omnath repeatedly than Vrondiss, not to mention you’ll need to suit the dragon up with some sort of invulnerability-granting equipment to get the most out of him. Admittedly, Vrondiss has a built-in way to hit itself, but it’s based on a parasitic mechanic unlikely to reappear on relevant cards in the future.
All and all, if you wanted a commander with enrage to helm your enrage-tribal deck, well… here it is.
Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient
Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient is a hulking beast that cashes in on the total power of your creatures in combat. It’s comparable, or perhaps even rivaled by, Grand Warlord Radha, who cares more about the number of attacking creatures instead of their power. Fielding fewer yet larger threats is easier to accomplish — Gruul loves playing an even bigger man — but it leaves you more susceptible to single target removal blowouts. If you’re capable of defending against that, then Klauth can power spells that Rosheen Meanderer could only dream of.
Incidentally, one difference between Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient and Grand Warlord Radha is that you’re allowed to add the mana in any combination of colors instead of red and green. While this may seem like a meaningless distinction, might I recommend the following?
Wulfgar of Icewind Dale
Wizards, you have a problem.
Wizards, since 2018, you have printed fourteen commanders that double triggers, double spells, or double counters when they’re on the field. If we don’t limit ourselves to just commanders, you have printed at least thirty permanent cards that do so, and it’s a worrying trend. It signals a creative drought, if not laziness.
These decks build themselves. For Wulfgar of Icewind Dale, just do a basic Scryfall search and you’ll have almost everything you need to construct a competent deck. Percentage-wise, I would assume that nearly one-hundred percent of Wulfgar decks will include Etali, Primal Storm, Savage Ventmaw, and Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin. If you want to appease the Timmies in the crowd, it’s time to come up with something more original than “cards so nice they happen twice.” Don’t be Hollywood: you’re better than rereleasing the same things over and over again.
Bag of Tricks
This is a one-in-eight chance of tutoring your Craterhoof Behemoth to the field with a consolation prize for the other seven, which is not nothing. You’re averaging around four and a half mana worth of value per pull, but you’ll need to ensure you don’t whiff, so it comes with the deckbuilding cost of including the full gamut of mana values. I like that you can reach into the Bag of Tricks whenever you get in a fix, not just at sorcery speed. I’d use this as a hilarious way to skip the line in Birthing Pod decks.
Don’t let your intuition fool you. Out of the 400 possible outcomes from rolling two d20, only 196 of them end with both dice being fourteen or lower, meaning you actually have a 51% chance of getting a Brutal Hordechief activation for two less with Berserker’s Frenzy. Even in the failure case, you can force your opponent to block with creatures they don’t want to; just be aware that they can still add additional blockers to the mix afterward. The best way to play this is on an opponent’s turn if they’re attacking someone other than yourself.
It’s a 4/4 flying haste dragon for three mana! If you cast Chaos Dragon on curve, the downsides won’t be relevant until you’ve gotten more than enough value out of him. Even if you only connect twice, that’s still stronger than your typical Lava Axe, and if you’re playing Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, you’re laughing. This card does get much worse the longer the game drags on, so be prepared to pitch it if it gets to that point.
I question the usefulness of this card, seeing as if you’re in a position to repeatedly dome your opponents for five or more, you’re in a position to end the game. Ruric Thar, the Unbowed loves it, though, since it turns all your noncreature spells into cantrips.
Druid of Purification
This is just Reclamation Sage on steroids. You already know it’s good.
This is actually great for Voltron-style decks. Indomitable Might grants a substantial power boost and nullifies enemy blockers without an expensive Rogue’s Passage activation. If your commander has first strike, you can even kill your opponent before their blockers crack back! Watch out for Gabriel Angelfire, who is already preparing where to stash your corpse.
Heliod’s Intervention stapled to the aftermath of Heaven // Earth is spectacular and worth the extra mana for the convenience, especially if you’re fielding a deck full of flying creatures. Even if you’re not, Klauth’s Will is still more cost effective removal than Pest Infestation was, not to mention it’s instant speed.
Maddening Hex has the envious position of being a pesky card that nobody wants to remove. If an opponent casts an instant or sorcery to get rid of it, they’re deciding to lose life to destroy a curse that’s attached to someone else. Nobody wants to be the person who takes one for the team, especially considering it’s not as infuriating to fight against as Ruric Thar, the Unbowed. I suspect some players will be happy to let this slowly eat away at their life total, which is right where you want to be.
To fully explore whether this is worth the mana you’re spending, let’s take a look at this mathematical formula:
Then, let’s throw that in the trash because it has nothing to do with the card. The long and short of it is that Neverwinter Hydra is incredibly swingy, but your expected value is always going to end up being less than a doubled-up Voracious Hydra, which has removal as a secondary mode instead of the ward. It’s not worth the tradeoff.
I’m not sure basic lands and 3/3 beast tokens is what you want to be spending six mana on. That’s Rishkar’s Expertise or Rampaging Baloths territory, both of which are far more impactful than Wild Endeavor. Even if you’re looking to ramp, for six mana you can cast an Ulvenwald Hydra, which fetches you any land. For five mana, Hour of Promise fetches you two lands, and you can theoretically get two zombies if you have the required deserts. I am underwhelmed.
This is more-or-less a sidegrade to Coalition Relic. While the relic makes you one mana per turn with the option to take a turn off for a two-mana turn later, Component Pouch forces you to use up both mana, but it’ll occur more often thanks to the two-counter coin flip.
Sword of Hours
I already didn’t like Fractal Harness, and Sword of Hours has the exact same problem in that Hydra’s Growth exists. At least it grants you a counter when you attack, so it’s better than Armory of Iroas.
Interestingly, the counter doubling trigger occurs when combat damage is dealt, and the trigger depends on the amount of damage dealt. Unfortunately, all the ways I could think of to break this don’t work. Combat damage doesn’t occur if you Fog, and combat damage is only dealt once for the total amount regardless of if it’s split between creatures or players. If a creature like Master of Cruelties would assign no combat damage, which is different than preventing it, it still won’t work because it’s treated as if there was no combat damage at all, similar to attacking with a 0-power creature. You can’t assign less damage than dealt, even with banding, and all the Forcefield-type effects in existence only work if the damage is incoming. The only theoretical way I could guarantee doubling the counters on each hit is if you have a trampling attacker that can and must be blocked by only one creature and you cast Terrifying Presence targeting the blocker. Then, you could prevent all the damage except 1 by assigning it directly to the protected creature but trampling over the last point, and even then you have a one in twelve chance of whiffing.
Just play Hydra’s Growth.
Six mana is pricey for a temporary removal spell, but it’s on a colorless land that enters untapped and it’s unconditional. I wish it didn’t exile itself, but it’s fine in a colorless or mono-colored deck.
The new cards available in Draconic Rage are interesting, but not especially powerful. Most of them have analogues that are easier to obtain or just flat-out better. If you’re looking to jump-start a dragon-themed deck, Draconic Rage does contain a few useful pieces like Kindred Summons and Klauth, Unrivaled Ancient, but it’s marred by terrible trash like Demanding Dragon and Shivan Hellkite. Buy singles, folks.