Wincon Dragons (6)
Setup dragons (6)
Answer dragons (9)
Zirilan Combo Setup (Plan A) (10)
Dragon Beatdown (Plan B) (4)
I've been playing Zirilan of the Claw since my early days in the format - I believe early 2011 was my first build.
Unfortunately, I'm pretty bad at actually updating my decks. This current version in my backpack has only seen small changes since 2012 (usually for things too insane to ignore, like scourge of the throne and hellkite tyrant). Every time I pull it out I think...oh god, this deck REALLY needs an update.
I did do some deep-diving a couple years ago (pulling cards from my collection) to create my unofficial primer HERE, so I have tried some things out, but I didn't actually get around to buying singles to update my perm list. So I'm mostly using this list HERE, plus a small number of really obvious inclusions as mentioned.
My current deck looks like this (plz don't laugh):
The Dragons (9)
Sac Outlets (11)
As far as what changes I want to make...
My testing revealed a few things. One thing was that, back in 2011, there were a lot fewer great dragons to pull. So the sac/recur plan was a lot more necessary than it is now. These days, when I pull out hoarding dragon, I'm more likely to go for something like gauntlet of might than reito lantern, because it's just not necessary to pull out a half-dozen artifacts before going for a big alpha strike anymore. Between hellkite tyrant and utvara hellkite, the rules have really changed - and terror of mount velus looks like it could change the rules all over again. You don't need six dragons and twenty mana to kill the table anymore.
And by the same token, there's more powerful answers to artifacts, making it more and more fragile to try to build some big complicated "machine". I'd much rather take a gamble that my opponents have an answer to a few massive dragons coming out of nowhere, than that they have an answer to a bunch of artifacts being put into play over multiple turns. So hoarding dragon has become less and less crucial, and as such, sac outlets are less crucial. They're a major burden on the deck, and result in a lot of dead draws. Back when the tuck rule existed, they were more important for keeping the deck afloat, but at this point, the extreme density is just too much.
reito lantern is probably staying in the deck, and certainly tel-jilad stylus is. But I'm planning to significantly cut down on do-not-enough cards like:
elixir of immortality
Partly because of that, I'm going to probably cut all the theft effects in the deck. In 2011 the allure of stealing a fatty, blocking a fatty, and sacking that fatty was pretty enticing. These days, it seems like people are pretty unlikely to attack with their most valuable creatures, and oftentimes if you're getting attacked, it's either pretty meaningless or you're dead. And on alpha strike turns, often my mana is better spent on dragons. So theft is usually just overpriced removal IF you have a sac outlet. The exception being insurrection, but that's also sort of a boring out-of-nowhere win that I'm not sure I want to keep in the deck. Doing it after an EOT scourge of the throne is pretty hilarious, though.
Voltaic key, Goblin Welder, and Comet storm just don't pull their weight. I want this deck lean and focused, with no extraneous junk.
flameshadow conjuring and gauntlet of might before playing Zirilan on turn 4, and also be easier to weave into later turns without skipping Zirilan activations. So I'm cutting:
To make up for the loss of much of the recursion theme, I'm going to be adding quite a few dragons. The primary contenders are:
Drakuseth is just a really solid new dragon. He does a lot of damage and doesn't ask too much. That said, he may prove redundant with the other damage-dealing dragons. But as I move away from recursion, having multiple options for crucial effects looks more important.
Knollspine dragon is questionable alongside mage, but I like the option to refill only myself.
Moonveil dragon looks better and better now that scourge of the throne has replaced hellkite charger. Having a place to dump my mana would be nice.
Moltensteel dragon is absolutely brutal with SotT. In 1v1 it's incredibly easy to 1HKO someone. Terror of Mount Velus amplifies the effect as well, and could allow me to 1HKO the table from full health with just 3 dragons.
Skyline despot gives me draw and a dragon token, and doesn't really ask much. It's not exciting, but as an "eot, do something reasonable" setup play it's not bad. Utvara is way better, but it's more all-in since you generally want to activate Zirilan again on your subsequent turn. Again, redundancy is going to be more valuable with the loss of recursion.
Terror of mount velus is a pretty uncontroversial inclusion, I think. It hits harder than almost any other dragon, and has a huge, mana-not-intensive team boost for alpha strikes. The only reason it's not already in there is that I don't have one yet. %$#%$#% theme booster exclusives.
Thunder Dragon used to be in the deck once upon a time. I think that time has returned. Global clears at instant speed, instead of waiting for balefire to attack and get through (plus it hits all opponents) is pretty valuable as a tool for responding to enemy tech. Plus it was always good, I'm really not sure why I cut it.
WGD is a trial inclusion, but it's just nice to have an out to any removal, especially MLD or MAD. It's high risk, but it's also very easily game-winning in those circumstances. Plus it can perm all my dragons, which is pretty cute.
Adding all these dragons will give me three things:
-added redundancy in case I draw a crucial effect or need it multiple times, especially since I'm more likely to exile them with fewer sac outlets
-more diversity of effects for dealing with more specific problems
-a more reliable backup plan of just playing dragons, if Zirilan should get priced out of the game, and a generally reduced number of dead draws
As far as synergies, there's been a few good ones printed recently, and some that used to be here, and I think merit reconsideration.
flameshadow conjuring - minion reflector was cut for being too clunky, but this is far more streamlined. Primarily because it curves easily into T4 ahead of Zirilan. And the effect is very powerful.
magewright's stone - thousand-year elixir has been good in the deck forever, and honestly this is probably better. Casting zirilan and activating him the same turn is very expensive, and only really happens if I have a mana doubler out. So this is practically the same thing for less mana. And especially with how powerful pulling 4 dragons out has become, one untapper really is enough to win the game with Zirilan handily.
thornbite staff - This is just too good not to try again. It costs 2, equips for free, and does some pretty crazy stuff. Sure, sacking dragons will be harder, but all I need to do is pull out a bogardan hellkite or thunder dragon and it'll almost certainly trigger as many times as I like.
mirage mirror - this might be my favorite card of the past 5 years. It's just so flippin' cool. Here, it's a great way to double down on dragons. Copy a utvara hellkite, copy a dragon tyrant - at EOT, it'll stick around, no problem. Similar to flameshadow conjuring, except the mana costs are skewed and it pays off in different ways sometimes (less good if you're putting multiple dragons into play, but if you're doing that, you're probably pretty happy anyway).
Finally, ramp. I'm going to be focusing primarily on 2-drop rocks, to improve my curve-out into Zirilan. Here's what I'm looking at primarily.
Anyway, this is still in progress. Just wanted to get my thoughts out there and see if anyone else is still playing my favorite Viashino Shaman, and if they had any opinions on this build.