One thing Magic has no shortage of is card cycles. These are a mini-set of cards within the larger set (or block) they’re part of. Card cycles don’t have to match identically, but they typically have overlapping traits, sharing similar casting costs, abilities, rarity, and / or size. The reason the game continuously puts out new iterations of card cycles in set after set is simple: we like them. As players, we love seeing examples of the same idea translated across all colors and their respective contributions to that cycle. As designers, they enjoy it because it provides an exercise in design symmetry. In all cases, we as humans love patterns. And, so, we love card cycles. We love them so much that there’s been numerous times throughout the game’s history where players believe cycles of cards exist where none had been ever intended. Think about that: we like the concept of card cycles so much we see patterns that the creators of the game themselves hadn’t ever conceived. That includes the so-called ‘broken two-drop’ cycle theory.
Yeah, it’s a thing.
Card cycles can appear in many different forms. The most commonly used are horizontal card cycles, where they are all of the same rarity and similar templates, such as power and toughness or creature type. The most recent example of this would be the five Gearhulk creatures from Kaladesh. After that comes vertical card cycles, where cards are part of the same ability or namesake but are spread out among multiple rarities. A good example of these would be the M12 Empires artifacts.
Most of the time these cycles appear within the same set, but that isn’t an absolute requirement; other cycles are spread across multiple sets in the same block (i.e. the Kaldra equipment). Less common still are sets that have been deemed cycles after the fact, with the designers deciding to go back and complete them later on, such as as the case with Tower of Calamities and the Mirrodin enemy sword cycle.
The weird part to me with card cycles, however, isn’t our collective fascination with them, or whether every card is equally appealing. Rather, it’s what happens to those cycles over time. See, why it’s not uncommon for cards from a cycle to be reprinted, it’s always strange that not every card of them is reprinted equally.
Take, for instance, the M11/M12 titans. With Primeval Titan, it makes sense that it only saw three printings considering it’s banned in a couple formats. Yet Grave Titan and Frost Titan have also only been printed three times as well. Inferno Titan, by contrast, has gotten four appearances in sets, and Sun Titan takes the cake with a five iterations. Clearly someone there has the better publicist.
Still, at least all of the Titans have even seen reprints. That’s frankly better than many cycle cards who never seen beyond their initial printing. As it happens, this week’s pick is one such card, that, for all it has to offer, only ever graced a single edition.
Today we have: Dromar, the Banisher
Name: Dromar, the Banisher
Focus: Creature Bounce / Board Wipe
Highlights: Casual players really like dragons, especially solidly powerful ones, and the five dragons of the Invasion set certainly fit that bill. These were the first cycle of multicolored dragons since the Elder Dragons. They were significantly more useful than their predecessors, had storyline tie-ins, and they were pretty popular at the time. And in some ways, Dromar was the scariest of the lot. But unlike its siblings, it never saw renewed life.
Of the Invasion cycle, Crosis, the Purger was reprinted in the Graveborn premium deck, and the other three (Darigaaz, the Igniter, Rith, the Awakener, and Treva, the Renewer) were all reprinted in the Phyrexia vs Coalition duel deck. Rith also got a bonus printing in FTV: Dragons deck – which of all the dragons to choose from still seems strange.
Luckily, though Dromar may be limited to a single set, that doesn’t diminish its potency. Like all of the Invasion dragons, Dromar is a hefty 6/6 flyer for six mana, which is respectable on stats alone. They each also have a colored combat trigger which can significantly impact games if left unchecked. For this Esper-colored dragon, its effect allows you to bounce all creatures of the color of your choice when you hit an opponent. In this way, not only does your opponent have to fear a sizable flying creature, but you can trigger this effect by hitting any player, making it a potential problem for anyone with a sizable army of creatures sharing a specific color. This can be especially crippling against token armies or problematic creatures you can’t affect otherwise, even if it means you have to attack a third player to have it go off. What’s more, because you don’t have to choose the color until the resolution of the trigger, it provides an incredibly flexible tool based on the current state of the board.
That capacity to not be locked into a specific color does tie into the couple limitations that Dromar brings with it, however. For one, not everyone at the table is going to like not knowing your intentions until you actually damage someone, especially in the cases of those with something to lose. So don’t be surprised if they try to stop you from using it. Secondly, because Domar is a tri-colored dragon, 3/5 of the colors you can choose from will bounce itself as well. For some Commander players, repeatedly having to cast this six-cost dragon just to pull off its ability may be less than ideal, even though as with most mass bounce spells a well-timed execution can ultimately be game-changing.
Moreover, while Dromar easily makes for a useful creature within your deck, the aforementioned limitations may make it a bit too situational as a viable Commander. It has the capacity for doing so without being overpowered, certainly, but the fear of its trigger bounce will only be amplified if it’s coming from a Commander – which could paradoxically curtail its usefulness.
All that aside, Dromar is solid, flavorful dragon that is well worth the investment. And given that it’s only ever seen a single printing, I’m sure Dromar wouldn’t mind the additional exposure.
Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.
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