[Planeswalker Spotlight] Sarkhan

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another Planeswalker Spotlight. This is the third installment following the spotlights on Gideon, and Sorin respectively. These decks are made to brew around a planeswalker, and try out with your friends and at FNM. Planeswalkers have been around since Lorwyn, and truly it wasn’t until Shards of Alara where they not only felt central to the story, but also cards to build around.

Today I’m going to talk about one who devoted his whole life to worshiping dragons: Sarkhan Vol.

Sarkhan was a soldier in the Mardu Horde who grew tired of the bloodshed of war, became a shaman, and afterwords was touched by the spirit of an ancient dragon. He then cleared his foes from the battle (sparking in the process), left his home on Tarkir, and went searching for dragons. Eventually succumbing to the will of Nicol Bolas he wound up being forced into the Elder Dragon’s plot to release the Eldrazi, before returning to Tarkir’s past to save the Spirit Dragon, Ugin from Bolas’ claws of death.


There have been six (yes 6!) Planeswalkers featuring Sarkhan, and honestly some of these I’m not even going to use. If you wish to comment about them you can, but unlike the other two that I have looked it there are some Sarkhans that honestly I feel are too difficult to try to make playable. I’ll still comment on each of them though so they won’t be completely dismissed.

Sarkhan Vol

In my article about the Izzet League I talked about Runaway Steam-Kin. I think we can do something with that here.

Creatures (17)
4 Runaway Steam-Kin
4 Quirion Dryad
4 Winding Constrictor
3 Walking Ballista
2 Scavenging Ooze

Planeswalkers (2)
2 Sarkhan Vol

Enchantments (6)
4 Hardened Scales
2 Song of Freyalise

Spells (11)
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Atarka’s Command
2 Kolaghan’s Command
2 Dreadbore

Lands (24)
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Bloodstained Mire
3 Raging Ravine
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Forest
2 Swamp
1 Blood Crypt
1 Stomping Ground
1 Treetop Village
1 Wooded Foothills

How the deck works

Miracle Grow decks have a long history in Magic, and this may be a time to take a look at another version, albeit a more aggressive version, of the archetype. The synergy between the cards above can not be questioned, and with the addition of Hardened Scales your creatures can become more powerful than what your opposition has. There is one inherent flaw though in that your spells do have to have red in them in order for the primary creature in the deck (Runaway Steam-Kin) to be useful.

  • Your ideal first turn is turn 1 Hardened Scales, and then play a Quirion Dryad or Winding Constrictor. If those survive playing a Runaway Steam-Kin into a Lightning Bolt will send you off to the races.
  • Sarkhan Vol is your finisher. Although your creatures do not get counters from his first ability (but the creatures do based on the color of the spell he is) it could be the punch you need. You could also steal a blocker to finish them off.
  • Song of Freyalise might seem like an odd inclusion, however being able to use your creatures for any color of mana can help you clear the path, deal some damage to your opponent, and once you get to the third chapter finish them off.

In the sideboard you will want discard spells like Duress, some form of graveyard hate (perhaps the third Scavenging Ooze), and Bow of Nylea would be a sweet one of if you are ever in a matchup where you have a board stall, and need either more counters or deathtouch.

I really wanted to fit Bloodhall Ooze in here, but found no room.

Sarkhan the Mad

Here we come to our first of the Sarkhans that honestly does not feel that great. He has no way to add counters to himself, and unless you have a creature on the board he has no true impact. If you were to build a deck with him I recommend using creatures with the Persist mechanic (like Kitchen Finks) or Undying mechanic (Geralf’s Messenger), or perhaps both. There may not be enough to facilitate a deck, and using his -2 ability first does not leave a lot of room for his 0 ability. He also requires running more than one to keep his abilities going. If you build a deck with him share it in the comments below.

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

This one is my favorite of the Sarkhan planeswalkers, and embodies the spirit of Magic: the Gathering. In the beginning this game depicts you as a wizard traveling fantasy realms doing battle with others with your spells while summoning creatures. Since his spark ignited (which every time I hear that being used I always think of the Michael Bay Transformer movies) he has become a powerful adversary seeking the power of dragons, sometimes even turning himself into one.

Creatures (13)
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Llanowar Elves
3 Tireless Tracker
2 Wood Elves

Enchantments (4)
4 Blood Moon

Planeswalkers (3)
2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter

Spells (15)
4 Stone Rain
4 Farseek
3 Explore
2 Molten Rain
2 Lightning Bolt

Lands (25)
8 Forest
4 Field of Ruin
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Cinder Glade
2 Stomping Ground
1 Ghost Quarter

How the deck works

While we’re all familiar with the Gruul Ponza Scheme deck (that’s what I call it) this focuses on not only depleting your opponent’s lands but also searching for your own. Forgoing the Utopia Sprawl plan allows for other cards (such as your planeswalkers) to be played. Granted the planeswalker presence is a little light here, but I always envisioned this type of deck to go big through spells over creatures. Garruk, Primal Hunter also adds a steady stream of creatures, while your Field of Ruin plus Ghost Qaurter package complements your land destruction spells in your deck.

In the sideboard I would look at cards that oppose graveyard strategies as usual. I’m not sure how many slots you would want to devote to Scavenging Ooze or Grafdigger’s Cage though. Enchantment and Artifact hate are also slots you will want to use. This could be done with an Engineered Explosives as often times you’ll only need it for 2 against matchups such as the various Affinity decks and Bogles.

Outpost Siege might also be interesting in here.

Sarkhan Unbroken

While this Sarkhan is pretty neat my idea for this one would be similar to the one above, but with more focus on ramp spells to play a lot of dragons.

Creatures (15)
4 Arbor Elf
3 Stormbreath Dragon
3 Sylvan Caryatid
2 Courser of Kruphix
2 Birds of Paradise
1 Dragonlord Atarka

Enchantments (6)
4 Utopia Sprawl
2 Frontier Siege

Planeswalkers (5)
3 Sarkhan Unbroken
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Spells (8)
4 Farseek
3 Explore
1 Cyclonic Rift

Lands (25)
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Cavern of Souls
3 Misty Rainforest
2 Forest
2 Stomping Ground
2 Mountain
1 Breeding Pool
1 Haven of the Spirit Dragon
1 Island
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents

How the deck works

All ramp all the time. This deck wants more mana than you do in order to cast its large dragons. Dragons historically have had large mana costs, and in a deck splashing a third color it’s much needed. You have multiple directions here as you can ramp into Sarkhan Unbroken, or Stormbreath Dragon. Don’t forget that Stormbreath can go monstrous allowing you to deal damage on top of attacking. I know all of these words may have fallen on deaf ears as you are focused on the single Cyclonic Rift in the deck. With so much focus on ramp the deck will lack interaction, and you have to have a card that allows you to catch up. The Overload cost could be easy to obtain here.

Other things to look for are the Cavern of Souls allowing you to cast your dragons without being countered, and for any color. The Haven of the Spirit Dragon helps vs discard effects as well.

I really wanted to fit Thunderbreak Regent in here. I’m not sure where. That may show up later.

Sarkhan, Dragonsoul

This Sarkhan is from the planeswalker decks made for new players for Magic 2019. While there might be room for a cost this large his +1 does negligible damage, his -3  and -9 are similar to abilities seen on the last two versions of Sarkhan. For me this card feels unimaginative. Perhaps you may disagree? If so share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sarkhan, Fireblood

Now we get to perhaps the most powerful of the Sarkhan planeswalkers. Those that cost three mana to cast are some of the most powerful in the game, yet not all of them see equal play. Once I saw this card I imagined an actual “Dragon Stompy” deck for Modern, and although some have tried to create a version of it I think I might be onto something here.

Creatures (14)
4 Thunderbreak Regent
4 Simian Spirit Guide
3 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
1 Hazoret the Fervent

Artifact (4)
4 Chalice of the Void

Enchantments (4)
4 Blood Moon

Planeswalkers (5)
3 Sarkhan, Fireblood
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Spells (9)
4 Fiery Temper
3 Mizzium Mortars
2 Abrade

Lands (24)
8 Mountain
4 Arid Mesa
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Field of Ruin
2 Darksteel Citadel
2 Ghost Quarter

How the deck works

This mono red prison style deck is meant to lock the opponent out of low cost spells until you can plant a Blood Moon, and then deploy your threats to win. Having a variety of threats in dragons, or cards that can deal damage to the opponent can help win a game once the lock is in place which sometimes can be a problem with these style of decks.

Fiery Temper might seem odd, but with Sarkhan, Fireblood‘s +1 you could discard it, and then pay it’s madness cost. While minor this could come up.

So why does this deck run Darksteel Citadel? Synergy with Pia and Kiran Nalaar of course. Keep in mind the 2 damage that can be done when sacrificing artifacts including the Citadel.

The sideboard MIGHT be a problem. Enchantments are a big problem for mono red, and Ratchet Bomb is awfully slow against them. Graveyard hate, and land destruction may take up most of the slots in your board.

In conclusion

That’s a lot of variety even with 2 of them not really being playable. Each deck plays in it’s own unique way, and tries to focus on the abilities of the Sarkhan in the deck.

What are your thoughts? Have you played with any of these Sarkhans in your decks? Leave a comment, and make sure to follow me on both Facebook as well as Twitter.

NEXT WEEK…we’re going to run the Maze!

Until then…


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