Conditions Allow - Form of the Dragon EDH

Ben Doolittle • September 27, 2022

(Form of the Dragon | Art by Daarken)

Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities

Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, the series where I take a card with a drawback and build a Commander deck to turn it into a strength. This week, I finally sat down and resolved to make Form of the Dragon work in EDH, thanks in no small part to the fantastic piece by Daarken you can see just above.

In 1v1 formats, there's a lot to love about Form of the Dragon. Flying creatures are much less common, and five a turn is a significant clock. Standard decks during original Kamigawa block that played Enduring Ideal included it as their primary win condition.

For Commander, however, Form of the Dragon is much less advantageous. Many decks include ways to reduce your life total without attacking, and five damage a turn just isn't enough to keep up with what other decks are doing with seven mana, which isn't to say that five "free" damage a turn isn't impactful, and there are several ways to turn up the pressure. Damage multipliers are obviously powerful, but so are cards that generate additional upkeep steps, and if Form of the Dragon isn't around in the end step, then your life total will remain unaffected.

Weaving Between the Dragons

My first thought for this deck was to use Ghen, Arcanum Weaver to bring Form of the Dragon into play just before your turn. Even though Form of the Dragon sets your life total to five during each end step, it only triggers at the beginning of the end step. Bringing it back during the end step avoids that ability. Then, it'll be in play to throw five damage during your upkeep, and Ghen can sacrifice it to bring back another impactful enchantment. My first pick would be Baneful Omen, to take advantage of the expensive enchantments you'd be playing.

This plan requires using Ghen's effect twice each turn cycle, so untapping them is a necessity. There are plenty of instants that can do the job, but Drumbellower and White Plume Adventurer are steady engines to let you activate Ghen, Arcanum Weaver as many times as you want. Ghen can even protect these creatures with Auras like Spectra Ward, or bring them back from death with a little Necromancy.

Mardu has also gotten a lot of new toys since Ghen, Arcanum Weaver's original printing. Sagas are particularly effective, since they put themselves back in the graveyard. Or you can wait until their second stage and then sacrifice them to bring back another. Elspeth Conquers Death and Showdown of the Skalds are most useful for their first tale, while you'll usually want to wait for The Elder Dragon War's third step. Thanks to Read Ahead, though, you can jump straight there, or to the second effect to dump big spells into your graveyard and refill your hand.

Embracing the Full Spectrum

Putting Ghen, Arcanum Weaver in the command zone does stop you from playing certain cards, however. While you can multiply Form of the Dragon's damage with Fiery Emancipation and Furnace of Rath, you need access to blue mana for Paradox Haze and Sphinx of the Second Sun. In this case, I prefer having additional triggers rather than just more damage too. Being able to destroy multiple troublesome creatures plays to the strengths of Form of the Dragon.

Many of the biggest creatures you commonly see, and most token swarms, don't have flying. Letting Form of the Dragon sit in play and prevent them from attacking could be the best decision fairly often. In that case, you'll want to be able to pick off any fliers that do sneak through. Luckily, there's another commander with a similar effect to Ghen, Arcanum Weaver with access to a few more colors.

Nearly all Go-Shintai of Life's Origin decks are going to be Shrine decks, but I'm most interested in their activated ability. Bringing back Form of the Dragon from the graveyard is exactly what I want to be doing. Go-Shintai can also bring back Sandwurm Convergence, to stop fliers from attacking you too, or Archetype of Imagination to make sure opposing creatures can't fly in the first place. It can also keep Paradox Haze around, giving you an extra instance of five damage every turn.

The real prize for branching out of Mardu, however, is Sphinx of the Second Sun. Having a whole extra beginning phase not only gives you an extra upkeep, but it lets you untap all your permanents, so you can activate Go-Shintai of Life's Origin's ability multiple times a turn. Sphinx of the Second Sun also interacts interestingly if you can somehow gain additional main phases after combat. Each of them will count as a post-combat main phase, so you'll also get an additional untap and upkeep. Other than extra turns, the best source of additional main phases are cards that give you additional combat phases.

Many effects that grant extra combat steps also give you an extra main phase afterwards. Aggravated Assault is a particularly potent example because of its potential to create infinite combat steps with Sphinx of the Second Sun. But in order to do this, you'll need to do more than activate Aggravated Assault. When multiple extra steps are added, they resolve in order from most recently created backwards, similar to the stack, so if you enter your normal post-combat main phase, Sphinx will trigger and give you an additional beginning phase at the end of that main phase.

Then you activate Aggravated Assault, adding another combat step and main phase. You'll move through those in reverse order, additional combat phase followed by third main phase. At the start of that main phase, Sphinx creates another untap, upkeep, and draw, which will be followed by the beginning phase created during your normal post-combat main phase, and then all of that is followed by your normal end step.

This all changes, however, if you activated Aggravated Assault twice during your second main phase. Doing so adds an extra beginning phase between the two main phases created by Aggravated Assault. You can then untap your lands and activate the enchantment twice more, continuing the loop until you run out of cards. Normally, you'd be attacking with Sphinx of the Second Sun during all those extra combats, but I'm here to win with Form of the Dragon. That also comes with the added bonus of not needing haste on the Sphinx, and winning with infinite combats without ever attacking.

A Tale Worth Telling

Branching out into other colors also gives you access to a few more Sagas to complement this graveyard-focused enchantment deck. Kiora Bests the Sea God makes a big body to block or attack with, and she helps keep the scariest opponent under control by tapping all their creatures. To play more into the graveyard theme of the deck, The Mending of Dominaria can recycle any creatures that get stuck in your graveyard. Meanwhile, reanimating an early World Spell can give you significant advantage by dropping Sphinx of the Second Sun, Sandwurm Convergence, or Debtors' Knell early.

I'm also rounding out the creature package for the deck here. Two is slightly fewer than I'd like, but this isn't really a reanimator deck. I just happen to be including a few enchantments that can bring back creatures. Combustible Gearhulk is actually reasonable to cast, though, and synergizes nicely with the many high-mana-value enchantments in the deck. Most of the time, you'll be milling those cards, which still works nicely with Go-Shintai of Life's Origin.

Vilis, Broker of Blood is much more explosive, and he can sometimes disincentivize players from attacking you. Additionally, if your life total is set to a lower value, that counts as loss of life, so if Form of the Dragon sets your life total to five with Vilis in play, you'll get to draw a lot of cards at once.

Round all that out with some ramp and draw spells, and this is what I ended up with.

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

I never expected to build a Go-Shintai of Life's Origin deck, but reanimating enchantments from the graveyard is a powerful ability that works with more than just Shrines. Especially as more high-impact Sagas get printed, Go-Shintai can be a powerful toolbox deck from the graveyard. I didn't make space for cards like Binding the Old Gods, but expanding on the Saga subtheme would be an interesting direction to take this commander.

The focus today, however, was on Form of the Dragon. I think this deck plays enough defense to be able to win without relying on the Aggravated Assault combo, but I do enjoy using it in a deck that doesn't attack. I've also left Ghen, Arcanum Weaver in the deck to shuffle enchantments into and out of the graveyard. You could include other ways to sacrifice enchantments and mimic Ghen's effect with Go-Shintai of Life's Origin, but I prefer to lean into the downside and work with it.

What do you think though? Let me know how you'd build around Form of the Dragon in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.