Commander Deck Tech: How to Train Your Dragon

This week, considering you guys enjoyed my Lyra Dawnbringer deck tech, I thought I’d showcase another one of my decks. I’ll be using the tool to display the deck below – let me know if you guys are finding it useful. You can use the little drop down filters to change how it displays.

The Foundations

Boros is my favourite colour pair, and so when I found Sylvia Brightspear and Khorvath Brightflame existed, I snapped up some cheap foils and went to town. Knights and dragons are really deep tribes, and previously in my deckbuilding I’d only skimmed the surface of each in a variety of Red and White decks. This new partner Commander allowed me to dive deeper, but boy there were still some cuts to be made.

With so many sweet cards with the Dragon subtype, there were a lot of cool dragons that didn’t make it into the final iteration of the deck. They include Forgestoker Dragon, which is actually really good at allowing me to attack through my opponent’s defenses, but it just didn’t have the same ‘wow factor’ the other dragons did. When I’m paying a lot of mana for a card, I want it to have an immediate impact. Scourge of the Throne was on the chopping block too, as dethrone is only useful if our opponents have more life than us, and the deck’s overall strategy lends itself to whittling down life totals with speed and precision. Hellkite Charger wasn’t a good fit either – we frequently end up tapping out with this deck, especially as our late game knights have haste, leaving us unable to activate the admittedly solid ability if we want to be playing spells at in the same turn. You really can’t fit too many 5-7 Mana cards in a deck, so picking the most impactful is key.

As we’re a tribal deck, I also edged away from ‘staple’ cards like Sun Titan and Karmic Guide – in fact, I decided that for once I’d eschew recursion more or less completely and play more graveyard hate to hose opposing recursive strategies.


The Synergy

Our deck contains some very obvious synergies. First up, our Commanders – yep, that’s plural. Sylvia and Khorvath have the mechanic Partner, so we’re allowed to have them both in the Command Zone from the beginning of the game. What’s key here is that they are each separate sources of Commander damage and each accrue Commander tax separately. This has pros and cons, but for me, having access to two great cards and being able to judge when to play each is really strong. Sylvia can come down early, and so I’ve included some of the usual suspects – Mask of Memory and Sword of the Animist – to take advantage of and apply early pressure. Khorvath tends to come down later in the game, so the fact that he himself has haste as well as providing all of our knights haste as well is a real bonus. Both of our Commanders are very flexible, and if one is priced out of the game we can still play the other. I tend to only play Khorvath when I need to take out some Planeswalkers or when I go for a lethal attack, as Commander tax hurts him that much more.

Other than our tribal synergies, there isn’t too much more we can fit into the deck, especially when we are accomodating two tribes instead of just one. There is a light ‘first strike’ synergy throughout the deck, which means we are usually good at blocking and attacking. For this reason I’m a little lighter on boardwipes and have placed a higher priority on single target removal. We also have a light ‘wheel’ theme, so aside from the fact that Smothering Tithe is amazing in general, it can do some real work here too. I’d really love to afford a paper copy of Wheel of Fortune on that note – maybe one day!

The Deck


The deck’s main aim is to win through creative combat phases. I say creative, because one of your main win conditions is actually Commander damage. Getting Sylvia down early can really start to build up towards that perilous 21 points, and when you have ways to buff her in the deck or make her unblockable (or hard to block), she can provide a really fast clock. One of the ways I like to play the early game is to use her to put pressure on one opponent while using my other creatures to deal with another. Ultimately, we want to either play a super aggressive game or play more conservatively. This deck struggles to play a very long game, but it can have some controlling starts with the right hand. Our ‘finisher’ is True Conviction, but honestly? It’s not always needed. Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion, Rogue’s Passage, and Hanweir Battlements put in a lot of work toward closing out a game, too. Oh and yes, there’s a reason I included one of my favourite cards in the deck, Bloodsworn Steward, in the feature image. Granting my Commanders +2/+2 and Haste is ridiculous. It’s the secret third Commander, Khorvath’s stable-boy.


We’re running a nice fifteen-knight package, including Sylvia. Of those, around half have some form of evasion or First Strike. Early game this is important, as we are more likely to be able to attack profitably and use Sword of the Animist and Mask of Memory to get our engine going. Dauntless Bodyguard provides some nice insurance while Knight of the White Orchid, Puresteel Paladin, and Thalia’s Lancers provide some consistency. We have three lords with some nice additional bonuses – Knight Exemplar grants Indestructible to our other knights (get those Swiftfoot Boots or Darksteel Plate equipped pronto!), Valiant Knight grants our knights double strike when we want to go really batter our enemies, and Riders of Gavony can give our knights pseudo-unblockable against some tribes. I once used this to walk right through the front door of an oppressive Arcades, the Strategist walls deck, which was met with raucous laughter from the table. Along the same road, Gustcloak Cavalier gives us a way to get around immovable bodies.

Honorable mention goes to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar – whilst not a knight himself, he does create knights, which can be pretty sweet when they have Flying and Haste from Khorvath. At worst, you can ultimate him straight away, giving your creatures a permanent +1/+1 buff. This is criminally good in a deck focused on creatures with double strike and dealing Commander damage.

Glorybringer by Sam Burley


We have eight dragons outside of Khorvath, and they’ve all been specially selected for certain roles. Scalelord Reckoner gives us some Karmic Justice whenever someone wants to take out Khorvath or another scaley threat. Our larger threats tend to be expensive and powerful, so any way to prevent them from being removed is incredibly valuable. Knollspine Dragon can draw us a lot of cards, and we also have some token generation in the form of Skyline Despot, Lathliss, Dragon Queen – who can also pump our dragons (think of that sweet, sweet double strike) – and Dragonmaster Outcast.

Our other dragons provide us with extra removal – Balefire Dragon and Steel Hellkite can remove threats en mass, and Glorybringer and Hoard-Smelter Dragon provide repeatable single target removal stapled onto evasive flyers.


Outside the Tribes

Or are they? We play a couple of non-tribal cards in the deck, partly because we’re playing Boros and we don’t hate ourselves, and partly for value. Solemn Simulacrum and Direfleet Daredevil are fairly self explanatory – the latter at least fits our first strike theme! We’re also playing two Changelings. Changelings are pretty great in tribal decks, but when you have two tribes working together, they can be pretty nuts. Taurean Mauler gets bigger and bigger, but Mirror Entity is the real star, allowing us to fuse all of our knights and dragons into knights and dragons. So let’s just get that straight – we can have X/X Dragon Knights with Flying, Haste, and Double Strike for X Mana? Sign me up.

Card Draw & Ramp

We’re a deck that wants to ramp toward 5+ mana fairly quickly, so we’re running a sizeable artifact-based ramp package. The deck works best with explosive starts, and most ramp effects available in Red and White are kinda slow, so artifacts are definitely the way to go. We have Land Tax, Sword of the Animist, Coalition Relic and Smothering Tithe that all help to fix our mana. Sol Ring can give us a little boost too. We’re also running Dragon’s Hoard, which can eventually draw us some cards and provides much-needed acceleration.

As for card draw, we have the ever-present Mask of Memory, which puts in a valiant effort in this deck, often drawing us four cards per combat. We’re running a full complement of six cycling lands, including two deserts, to turn late game dead draws into spells; plus we’ve included Inventor’s Fair to go and grab something spicy when we need it – usually Steel Hellkite or Darksteel Plate. We can also search our deck for answers with Open the Armory and Thalia’s Lancers.

We can cycle our hand or refill it completely with cards like Reforge the Soul, Chandra, Flamecaller, and Khorvath’s Fury, the latter of which can give us the reach we need on clustered boards to finish off opponents. We’re also playing Faithless Looting to keep digging for what we need, and the enchantment engines Sunbird’s Invocation and Stolen Strategy also make a more than welcome appearance. Nahiri, the Harbinger rounds out our suite of card advantage effects, allowing us to both draw cards, exile problematic permanents, and if all goes well grab a big dragon from a deck and give it haste.


We do need to run some answers in the deck, too, and outside of the flexibility our threats like Steel Hellkite provide us, we run a strong suite of removal. Staples like Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, and Chaos Warp are joined by Collective Effort, which provides a way to generate some additional bodies, remove enchantments, and to permanently buff our team with +1/+1 counters. We also run Lava Coil and, along a similar vein, we have Burn Away, which also exiles an opponent’s graveyard.

Whilst we’re on the axis of exiling and graveyards, we’re also running Rest in Peace, Scavenger Grounds, and Relic of Progenitus, the latter of which can also draw us a card in a pinch. I toyed with running Honor the Fallen, as it would have been a flavour win that also gains us some life in the late game, but ultimately it didn’t make the cut.

Crush Contraband, By Force, and Volcanic Offering round out our targeted removal. Considering our lack of recursion, I really like By Force in this deck. We don’t want to be wiping the board if we can help it, so being able to target only our opponent’s artifacts is a boon. I went for Crush Contraband over Return to Dust because sometimes we will only have one white mana to spare as opposed to two – our casting costs often include double red or white.

Outside of the dragons which have boardwipes stapled onto them, we are running Deafening Clarion, which helps us gain life in a pinch as well as providing a way to clear away smaller creatures; Magmaquake, which tends to leave most of our board intact; and Blasphemous Act, which has a cute interaction with Trueheart Captain – burning someone for thirteen is always fun!

Path to Exile by Rebecca Guay

Strengths & Weaknesses

First off – the deck is potent, particularly in the meta it wants to slot into. I’d probably say we’re aiming for a 6-7 with this deck in terms of power level; we run no graveyard synergies, instead opting to control our opponents’ graveyards, and we are combat focused, preventing us from overcoming stronger control builds – eventually, we will run out of spells. The deck tries to overcome this shortcoming by ramming as much card draw as possible into the deck and using haste enablers like Khorvath, Lightning Greaves and Hanweir Battlements. Combats are usually fairly straightforward. Unlike in limited, we don’t have to worry about combat tricks so much as straight-up removal, so we can attack and block pretty freely.

We are pretty weak to board wipes, so we need to be careful about how many resources to commit to the board. We can generally move the game along quite quickly with 3-4 creatures on the table, and often we will be aiming to be using Sylvia to mark some early Commander damage on our opponents before issuing out sweeping attacks in the mid to late game. Boros Charm can definitely help on that front, as can Darksteel Plate.

Potential Upgrades

Boros Charm definitely helps us stay in the game, so I’d say Teferi’s Protection isn’t a bad shout here. I also think we can probably ditch the Open the Armory in favour of an Enlightened Tutor now that Smothering Tithe is a card – it also lets us grab Rest in Peace when we need it too, which can be critical.

If we’re adding more instants, and liking the idea of a Commander damage-centric game plan, then Sunforger merits a mention – being able to hit for 12 with Sylvia is relevant. I’m not sure how I’d manage to fit a bigger Sunforger suite into this deck, and I’m not convinced running it for 5-6 cards is worth the inclusion, but I think I might test it anyway to see how good it can be. My biggest reservation is how threatening we can look playing this card; although we are a damage-focused deck, there is a line which, when crossed, often earns us ire from our opponents, often to our detriment. I think Sunforger might tip us over that line, so this is something worth thinking about, especially as we’re aiming for a moderately-powered deck.

Whilst we aren’t using our graveyard, I do think having some light recursion might be a plan – cards like Mistveil Plains and Elixir of Immortality allow us to re-draw into some of our expended cards. This is especially relevant when discarding cards or wheeling our hand away.

I really like the anthem effects in this deck, as they contribute massively toward Commander damage and lethal attacks. It might be good to consider another one – Gleam of Battle is expensive, but Stensia Masquerade would work pretty well too (shame it’s a flavour fail though!). Along similar lines, Legion’s Initiative might be quite nice too, giving us the ability to ignore board wipes in similar fashion to Boros Charm and Teferi’s protection.

It’s another flavour fail, but Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice would actually fit really nicely into this deck: at four mana she fits our curve, and being able to buff Sylvia or Khorvath and give them additional keywords is honestly pretty great. She also blocks like a champ.

Looking ahead to War of the Spark, I can see Ravnica at War (Exile all multicoloured permanents) being a solid and cheap boardwipe – Trueheart Captain and Nahiri, the Harbinger are our only multicoloured permanents currently. We love to simplify the board in this deck, and Ravnica at War does just that. I also like the idea of testing Bond of Discipline (Tap all opponent’s creatures. Creatures you control gain lifelink until end of turn.) as it provides us a win condition and another way to gain life through our aggression.


Closing Thoughts

If you hadn’t guessed by now, I really enjoy playing Vorthos-heavy decks. Knights and Dragons tribal is a super fun build, and can have some really explosive turns. The value of Commander damage cannot be understated, and just recently I went into the final turns of a game with one opponent requiring only one hit from Sylvia to be eliminated and the other one hit from either of my Commanders away.

I hope you enjoyed my second deck tech, and I hope you found the format I relay the information in to be useful. Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @TheKristenEmily – do you enjoy Boros? Have you tried these, or any other of the new Partner Commanders? Should I just play that Sunforger?

If you enjoyed this deck tech and want to read another, you can check out my Lyra Dawnbringer Mono-White Reanimator article.

It’s not long now until MagicFest London – if you want to say hi, I’ll be there all weekend with the rest of the Master of Magics team, jamming War of the Spark Sealed and Casual Commander games. You can spot me and the rest of the team in our team apparel!

Until next week, take care!


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