Uprising has given us Dromai, Ash Artist, a Draconic Illusionist with some of the coolest cards Flesh and Blood has ever seen. The Draconic talent incentivizes Dromai players to use a high density of red cards, and she rewards you nicely for both pitching and playing them. Pitching reds generates Ash tokens, and will serve as the primary way to enable playing Dromai's many dragons.
Rules Tip: Ash states that the phantasm keyword inherent to the material is passed down to whatever it transforms into- so even though the dragons themselves don't have phantasm written on the card, they do inherit it from their material and can be popped.
Notably, dragons don't innately have the ability to attack, which is where Storm of Sandikai comes in. Combined with Dromai's second ability, things get interesting. Playing a single red card gives all your dragons go again for the duration of the turn, so we want as many of our red cards to have go again as reasonably possible in order to maximize our ability to attack wide and utilize our dragon board.
As an Illusionist, Dromai has some very efficient attack actions counterbalanced with phantasm. In addition to Draconic variants of some familiar looking Illusionist attacks, she also has a few smaller attack actions that have don't have the phantasm keyword.
She also brings with her the first appearance of non-legendary allies. Where Prism's board state is accomplished via auras with Spectra, Dromai is looking to flood the board with dragons. The major difference between the two is that dragons have health instead of Spectra, which massively changes the math on opponents' ability to combat our board state. Allies regain health and the end of the turn, but attacking them doesn't rob opponents of restored action points from go again. You also cannot defend attacks directed at your allies, which means free hit triggers for cards like Prism's heralds, Runeblades' Mauvrion Skies, and Ninjas' Mask of Momentum. Knowing when to deploy your allies will be a key aspect of playing Dromai effectively.
So, we want to play and pitch a lot of red cards, we want the vast majority of those cards to have go again, and we want to flood the board with dragons to create an overwhelming board state. Let's start by looking at the dragons to see which ones are worth our time, examining our equipment options, and then perusing Dromai's available card pool to see what we can put together.
The Strength of Dragons
When evaluating the dragons, we have multiple factors to take into consideration. All the invocations are red cards that block for 3, which is a solid baseline as playing any invocation turns on Dromai's go again for all of her dragons that turn. Of more concern are the stats and effects of the dragons themselves.
Aether Ashwings are her baseline dragons, and are created by a number of different cards. A wall of Ashwings provides you with a hard-to-defend string of consistent damage- though the nature of phantasm puts the chain at risk with each attack, so weigh your options carefully!
The legendary dragons are aptly named, each boasting top notch stats for allies along with powerful attack triggers that can singlehandedly change the face of a game. Dracona Optimai boasts the best stats and has the potential to deliver massive damage, but the tragic cost of 6 resources in a deck that is looking to skimp on blues is unfortunate. At 5, Tomeltai can be played with a hand containing a single blue, as can Dominia (who only costs 4), and we will very likely see play rates of these dragons be inversely proportional to their costs. Tomeltai's ability to roast an equipment and Dominia's ability to strip cards from hand are both very punishing for our opponents, which makes them both must-answer cards. If either dragon ever stays in play for longer than one turn cycle, it is incredibly likely that we're winning that game.
Cromai and Azvolai are our zero cost dragons, requiring only Ash in order to play, and their raw efficiency will likely have them both in most Dromai lists. Cromai has the better ability of the two, insulating you from a phantasm popper so you can keep attacking. Azvolai gives Dromai a bit of reach, as most opponents won't be bringing Arcane Barrier against her; and his ability to direct arcane damage at multiple targets makes this a very important piece of the Dromai mirror as a way to clean up multiple Ashwings at once.
The one-cost dragons get a bit more interesting and come with some better stats. Kyloria gives us an on-hit threat which is unique among our dragon options. Stealing items will always be at least a setback for our opponents if not a boon for us, and drawing cards is one of the most powerful abilities an attack can have. Miragai can remove phantasm from our first dragon attack each turn, so we can safely attack a few times per game without fear of getting popped. Yendurai is the least exciting of the three, but he has solid stats and his shield effect makes him a lot less trivial to remove.
Ouvia is the dragon I've seen the most drastically differing opinions on, and I still can't make up my mind on her. She reads like an engine card, capable of providing an overwhelming number of Aether Ashwings if she manages to remain in play. On the other hand, if you need to be aggressive she only attacks for 1 (or 2 if you make an Ashwing), and if you're tight on Ash then she’s a very poor value proposition. Whether you want Ouvia or not will depend on your decks game plan.
Themai has great stats and is just annoying for opponents. He's particularly annoying for Wizards- but given Dromai's ability to create tons of Aether Ashwings, it remains to be seen if it's even necessary for the matchup.
Nekria is our other pseudo-engine card, as she can repeatedly give us Ash. Attacking for 4 is a great breakpoint, but she suffers due to not having an on-hit effect. Conversely, 7 health is a lot, so I am more likely to be playing three Nekria than zero, despite the higher resource cost.
Vynserakai is one of the coolest dragons of the bunch, doing his best impression of Phantasmaclasm by threatening 9 damage from one attack, but he's also quite fragile. Wizards can kill it at instant speed with any damage spell that can target allies and deny us our go again; he dies to a single Kodachi or Luminaris-powered aura attack; and he also can simply be popped via phantasm. Meta conditions will have to be very particular for Vinny to see play, but you better believe I will be looking for that chance.
Forged in Dragonfire
As mentioned earlier, Storm of Sandikai is the Draconic Illusionist weapon of choice and is the only real option if you want to play any dragons. In essence, Dromai's strategy foregoes using a weapon; like Azalea, she cannot fall back on her weapon to preserve her deck. Given a relative lack of aura options for Dromai and the complete dismissal of dragons that a different weapon would require, I'd advise steering clear of Iris of Reality.
One of the biggest questions for Dromai is which chest equipment is the right choice. The ceiling on Flamescale Furnace far exceeds Fyendal's Spring Tunic, as it blocks better and can give us +1 resource on each turn rather than every 3rd turn. But that resource needs you to have a 1-cost red to start the turn with, at least 2 reds to pitch, and then something worthwhile to do with those resources. The way games tend to play out means that we're going to be blocking pretty frequently- and needing to eat a good chunk of damage if we want to keep a 4- or 5-card hand to get that value from Furnace. Currently I have both equipment in my list, and time will tell if one is just better than the other or if we want both depending on the matchup.
Phantasmal Footsteps is the default Legendary for Illusionist, and I don't think that changes with Dromai. A play pattern I expect to be very common is leading off with a big phantasm attack, looking to bait out potential poppers. If they pop it, we use Footsteps to gain an action point and continue our turn, potentially having cleared the way for our dragons to make some attacks safe from the threat of another 6+. The drawback of Footsteps in Dromai is that we cannot regain an action point from a popped dragon- but we'll likely play enough phantasm attacks to make it worthwhile regardless.
Silent Stilettos is a fine budget option that has some upside over Nullrune Boots, but given Dromai's propensity for generating Aether Ashwings, I don't think the extra Arcane Barrier of Stilettos will be worth giving up Footsteps.
Dromai has three great options for head equipment. Crown of Providence has the most powerful effect, able to help fix an awkward hand or turn a card in arsenal into a 5-card hand. Skullcap potentially gives an extra point of defense, but that isn't a guarantee, and we won't often have the resources to pitch to the Arcane Barrier: 3 even if it's active. Crown of Reflection is the Arcane Barrier equipment of choice, though for Dromai it may as well be Nullrune Hood most of the time as we don't have access to auras like Prism does.
Arm equipment is the most interesting slot for Dromai, as the options do wildly different things. Silken Form is probably the default equipment, able to help our defensive numbers in a pinch and give us an Ashwing for our troubles. We can also potentially run Dream Weavers, Ironhide Gloves, or Nullrune Gloves if the meta calls for it.
And then there's Ghostly Touch. This legendary is going to be Dromai's late game plan against Guardians and Brutes who customarily run 40 or more phantasm poppers in CC. Ghostly Touch does have phantasm itself, which makes it risky to attack with, but we can play around the risk. Lead the Charge and Timesnap Potion can both allow us to play Passing Mirage right before we uncork for a 20+ damage attack with our gloves, without the risk of phantasm. For the MTG players among you, I think Ghostly Touch compares favorably to a creature land, which we all know can be vital for closing out late game slogs. Ghostly Touch is a game changer in the arms slot for Illusionist players.
Three attacks- Sweeping Blow and the Cenipais- should make up a good chunk of the core of any Dromai deck.
Sweeping Blow is the premiere Ash enabler, and is one of a few Draconic Illusionist attacks that do not have phantasm. Time will tell how many of these are needed to help with Ash generation versus just being able to consistently pitch enough red cards, but at a minimum I think you want the reds, and it might end up being correct to run the full suite of them.
Dunebreaker Cenipai and Embermaw Cenipai look a lot like Spears of Surreality and Enigma Chimera, but with the added upside of being Draconic and rewarding us with an Ash when they are destroyed. Following the pattern we've seen with Illusionist attack actions prior to Uprising, the Cenipai are above-rate attacks with phantasm, which makes them excellent lead-off plays to maximize our chances to get value out of Phantasmal Footsteps.
Rules Tip: Unlike the Invocations, Billowing Mirage and Rake the Embers do not target Ash as they are played, so you can transform the Ash created by pitching reds as these actions resolve.
While not as flashy as our marvelous dragons, Billowing Mirage, Rake the Embers, and Skittering Sands comprise the main payoffs for our Ash generation. Like Sweeping Blow, Billowing Mirage is a little below rate, but it has the upside of leaving behind an Ashwing that can continue to attack in future turns. Red Rake the Embers giving us 3 bodies while enabling go again for each of them is incredible value. Skittering Sands initially struck me as a card intended for limited play, but the red copies of this card have continually impressed me in Sealed and Draft. Good, zero-cost red cards with go again come at a premium in Dromai, so it might end up making the cut in constructed formats.
I was initially very low on Dustup given the lack of go again, but after playing with it in both limited and CC, it has continuously overperformed. It bears a striking resemblance to Illuminate, which is generally the best 1-card hand Boltyn has to offer. Dromai has relatively few on-hit effects, so Dustup will at least make opponents think about blocking.
Sand Cover is a role player with an incredibly high ceiling. Some games will see Dromai with an overabundance of Ash tokens, and Sand Cover lets you cash those in defensively. Being an instant means that it gets around dominate, and the damage prevention of Ward being untyped means that it can be effective against Guardians and Wizards alike.
Burn Them All (our one Draconic Illusionist Majestic that isn't a dragon) has all the hallmarks of a card that kept being too good in testing and had to be reined in. The ceiling on this card is fine, as if we can play it late game with a board full of dragons it represents several points of reach damage to help close out a game, but the floor is what concerns me. With no dragons in play, Burn Them All may as well not have text on it, and given that our dragons have health rather than spectra, it is substantially easier for opponents to keep our board under control. If it gave us an Ashwing at the start of our turn or created Ash tokens when you added raze counters, I'd be a lot more into it.
Of course, we have to cover the Fabled Blood of the Dracai. I predicted a red gem after we learned that the Draconic talent involved "red stripes matter", and once it was spoiled, I really wanted to like it and be able to justify its inclusion in a deck. I love the design, so I got my wish there. But, with the way games tend to play out, it will be very infrequent that you are able to get more value out of the gem than you would by simply pitching a blue card instead, and the Fable doesn't block! It's also entirely worse when it comes to paying for the more expensive cards we want to play, like Embermaw Cenipai, Phantasmaclasm, Nekria, Ouvia, Themai, Vynserakai, or any of the legendary dragons. LSS continues to hit the mark on "possibly playable but not essential" designs for the Fabled cards, and I think this card will land at a similar level of playability to Arknight Shard.
The Draconic card pool definitely seems more geared towards Fai than Dromai, as many of them care about Phoenix Flames or don't want to be the first red card played on a turn.
Thaw is a great catch call card though: it works as a phantasm popper against opposing Illusionists as well as a Frost Hex safety valve for when we're facing Iyslander (trust me, you are going to want 3 in your sideboard).
Breaking Point is a good payoff for a wide attack, and has a floor of being a red Critical Strike.
Uprising is a little bit like Burn Them All, except all the potential damage is frontloaded and we're capped at 4. It also has the downside of advertising what is coming, so if you opponent can pop the first dragon ally attack you make, you won't have anything to show for the card you played.
As far as the remaining Draconic cards, I am wary of anything that is dependent on Phoenix Flame synergies or rupture cards that don't have a reasonable floor to them. Tome of the Firebrand, Red Hot, Rise Up, and Liquify range from below rate to unplayable if you don't have 4 chain links, and that makes them all firmly Fai cards in my mind. If you're interested in playing a more aggressive build of Dromai utilizing buffs like Transmogrify, Phantasmify, and Veiled Intentions, Flamecall Awakening can pull those Phoenix Flames out of the deck for you to pitch or play, not unlike Belittle/Minnowism. If you are playing some Phoenix Flames in your deck, running a couple copies of Burn Away to pitch until the late game also looks pretty good.
Strategic Planning (red) may look like an odd inclusion, but I wouldn't sleep on this card. There is a finite number of red go again cards we can play in our deck, so if you're ever trying to close out a near-fatigue game against a Brute or Guardian, it's possible you could run out of ways to give go again despite a likely surplus of Ashwings sitting in play. With Strategic Planning, you can recycle other copies of Strategic Planning back into your deck to keep the Ashwing go again threat live well after you've burned through all their poppers. It also has a lot of potential with Ouvia, as juggling Strategic Plannings with Ouvia in play can give you an effectively infinite supply of Ash, Ashwings, and go again.
Lead the Charge (red) feels like an instant staple in the deck, as it synergizes with Passing Mirage, Dustup, and sometimes serves an insulator against a single phantasm popper.
Let's start with something novel: a deck built around Transmogrify. This does some powerful things off the back of the Belittle and Flamecall Awakening synergies. Transmogrify turns any of the deck’s tiny attacks into real threats, and Fractal Replication is at its best in this sort of deck.
With that said, if you're interested in the most competitive version of the Dromai, I don't think this is it. It has the power level of a Runeblade in terms of damage output, but with added fragility due to phantasm. If you're looking to play an aggressive deck at a high-level event, I'd recommend a Runeblade or Ninja over Dromai.
For a more midrange or controlling approach, this is the core I've been working with. It incorporates our red Draconic Illusionist attacks, the most efficient dragons, 6 essential blues, and some key role players. Thaw makes the cut in the sideboard as a foil to opposing Illusionist and Ice heroes, and Timesnap Potion is the easiest way to enable our Ghostly Touch game plan against Guardians and Brutes.
The Core (50):
- 3 Billowing Mirage (red)
- 3 Dunebreaker Cenipai (red)
- 3 Embermaw Cenipai (red)
- 3 Embermaw Cenipai (blue)
- 3 Rake the Embers (red)
- 3 Sweeping Blow (red)
- 3 Dustup (red)
- 3 Sand Cover (red)
- 3 Spears of Surreality (red)
- 3 Lead the Charge (red)
- 3 Passing Mirage (blue)
- 1 Invoke Tomeltai
- 1 Invoke Dominia
- 3 Invoke Azvolai
- 3 Invoke Cromai
- 3 Invoke Kyloria
- 3 Invoke Miragai
- 3 Invoke Yendurai
- 3 Thaw
- 2 Timesnap Potion
This core leaves plenty of room to customize the primary gameplan and adjust as the meta calls for.
These are the cards I am considering and testing out for the deck:
Dragons: Invoke Nekria, Invoke Ouvia, Invoke Themai, Invoke Vynserakai
Zero Cost Reds: Ravenous Rabble, Skittering Sands, Burn Them All, Uprising
Blues: Dunebreaker Cenipai, Dustup, Billowing Mirage, Sweeping Blow, Enigma Chimera, Pierce Reality
Power Attacks: Miraging Metamorph, Phantasmaclasm, Embermaw Cenipai (yellow), Command and Conquer, Erase Face, Enlightened Strike
Defensive Tools: Sigil of Solace, Sink Below, Fate Foreseen, Oasis Respite, Chains of Eminence, Enchanting Melody
Sideboard Tech: Strategic Planning (red), Semblance, Energy Potion
My current version of Dromai can be found here, and as I continue to test and make changes, these are some of the questions I'll be attempting to answer:
- Tunic vs Furnace
- How many blues?
- Do we need arm equipment aside from Ghostly Touch and Silken Form?
- Are the Cenipai as good as I think? (I see a lot of people skimping on these in their lists and it baffles me.)
- Which is the most effective late game strategy into Brutes and Guardians: Passing Mirage + Ghostly Touch, or Strategic Planning + Ashwings?
Dromai's Place in the CC Meta
Dromai has some fun and unique play patterns and some extremely powerful dragons, but whether or not she can hang in the current meta is up in the air.
Prism remaining as one of the pillars of the format is a definite mark against Dromai's viability, as her aura spam presents the same issue for Dromai as they do for most other classes, and Luminaris allows for Heralds and Spectral shields to make short work of our dragon allies.
Beyond Prism though, there are still more questions. Runeblades and Ninjas come at you with aggression, Ice heroes will look to punish our red heavy deck, and Guardians and Brutes both have an extremely high number of phantasm poppers.
Dromai offers a lot of flexibility and is able to able to present a few different game plans, which will be necessary for her long term success, but it remains to be seen whether we can fit enough of each game plan into 80 cards to be successful against an open field.
Kevin Brayer is an author for the Rathe Times and has been playing Flesh and Blood since the release of Crucible of War. He is a competitive player with a background in MTG, and spends his time honing his Runeblade skills. He enjoys giving back to the community by sharing his insight, humor, and love of all things Demonastery.
Kevin, this is an EPIC writeup! Thank you so much for this - really helped me to understand Dromai!
Glad you enjoyed it! It a fun one to write and she's been really interesting to try and build
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