Dragon Whelp – Alpha
Date Reviewed: October 6, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 2.50
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Yesterday, we talked about the possible appeal of using The Elder Dragon War as an efficient creature for aggressive red decks. I was thinking of Sligh when I wrote that, and Dragon Whelp was a frequent sight in early Sligh decks. Remember, that archetype is based around tempo and the mana curve: attack your opponent early to deny them time to defend themselves. Dragon Whelp doesn’t look like much as a curve-topper – there are obviously more powerful creatures at this cost now, and even in 1995 he could be hit by Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares. But if you forced your opponent to use all their defensive spells on your (even jankier looking by modern standards) early creatures, they might not have any left, and either way, he can end the game if not answered. Evasion and a “safe” firebreathing scale that kills in four hits ranged, in those days, from playable to a legitimate threat; even now, he’s a card you won’t feel bad about casting at almost any casual table..
By now, you may have heard that Dragon Whelp is actually getting a second sealed product outing this year, in the form of Magic’s 30th Anniversary Edition. This is great news for fans of Dragon Whelp, and potentially great news for fans of old-school Magic. Re-releasing an old set wholesale (even in non-tournament legal format, which some see as “not real cards”) is an obvious idea that Magic has taken absolutely forever to do. Since they’ve historically done many of their good ideas precisely once, you need to let them know how you feel about this. That doesn’t just mean providing a market – I understand that many of us won’t have $1000 to spend on a specialty sealed product. If there’s any chance of them listening to feedback, this is the time to try. Wizards of the Coast claims they have respect for Magic’s history, hence Dominaria United and the 30th anniversary celebrations; Mark Rosewater claims that designers now have an eternal focus. It’s time to tell them to put their money – and their product releases – where their mouth is.
Commander [EDH]: 3 (if you need a relatively cheap dragon, he’s a stylish choice)
Small and cute, Dragon Whelp is one of those classic cards that captures what Dragons like to do: burninate. Coming in cheaper than other Dragons at the time did, it’s a decent body with firebreathing, albeit with the catch that too much fire can kill the Dragon Whelp. Four mana gets you far better than this in today’s game, but this still deserves mention for its ability to swoop early-ish and often-ish, and it can force some interesting decisions if you have mana to spare.
Limited: 3.5 (it’s still a good enough deal as an early flier with the ability to trade up in a pinch)
Commander [EDH]: 2 (a cheaper Dragon can pay off in a pinch, but there are better cheap dragons)
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