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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Apr 17 2018 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Modern Musings!  In this article I am going to be looking at the cards of Dominara and seeing which ones have potential for play in the Modern format.

THEMES, MECHANICS & RULES CHANGES

Themes

Dominaria is a long-awaited return to the plane on which the vast majority of Magic: The Gathering storylines took place and were based.  The plane has a very rich history and a lot of iconic characters.  The set is very much themed around the history of the plane of Dominaria and there are very explicit references to that history on cards like the Sagas.  There is a ton of Magic lore to explored and that is certainly an attraction of the set.  Dominaria is also Liliana's home plane and the storyline for the set revolves around her return home and her attempt to right some of the wrongs there.

Mechanics

The set is actually light on keyword mechanics other than the returning Kicker.

Blink of an EyeGhitu Chronicler
Kicker
Kicker is a mechanic that debuted in Invasion and returned in Zendikar block.  It's arguably one of the best mechanics ever made and actually a lot of mechanics that are variations of kicker.  Kicker allows you to pay an additional cost to cast a spell for an additional effect.  The mechanic allows for a lot of flexibility and makes your creatures and spells more powerful in the late game.

Triumph of GerrardThe Mirari ConjectureChainer’s Torment
Sagas
The Sagas are a collection of enchantments that depict physical embodiments of Dominaria's history in the existing Dominaria.  These take the form of statues, murals, tapestries and other such items.  The sagas enter with a lore counter and gain another lore counter after your draw step (or the beginning of your first main phase).  The max out at three lore counters and are then sacrificed.  They are like mini-planeswalkers with their final effect being a like a planeswalker ultimate of sorts.

If you are interested in the lore surrounding Chainer's Torment, I wrote an article about the Torment story some time ago.

Urza’s Ruinous BlastJaya’s Immolating InfernoKamahl’s Druidic Vow
Legendary Sorceries
Legendary Sorceries make their debut in this set.  Legendary sorceries are like normal sorceries but can only be cast if you control a legendary creature or planeswalker.  The Legendary sorceries showcase major events in Dominaria's history involving legendary characters or planeswalkers.

Rules Changes

With the release of Dominaria, you will now need to target damage directly at Planeswalkers rather than redirect it from a player.  There is a lot of errata to be done as Lightning Bolt now reads 'Deal 3 damage to any target' and there are more complex changes with cards like Blightning and Earthquake.  The question obviously being whether it was ever intended for these cards to deal damage to Planeswalkers.  Obviously on MTGO we have the advantage of errata appearing on the cards but it's a pretty big change and one that I am sure will cause some slip ups.

Llanowar Elves

There have also be some linguistic changes.  References to 'him or her' have been changed to 'they' which seems like a logical gender neutral change.  Also references to the mana pool are being removed from cards like Llanowar Elves and instead just show the mana symbol.  Apparently this was a cause of confusion for new players.

THE CARDS

White

Board the Weatherlight
Board the Weatherlight
A card that bears considerable similarities to Ancient Stirrings but unusually it finds its way into White.  Unfortunately, at two-mana it is substantially more expensive than Stirrings.  It can find legendary lands, creatures or Planeswalkers though as well as artifacts and Sagas if you are so inclined.  The main problem is that I feel Ancient Stirrings probably finds most of the cards you would be looking for with this in Modern and is cheaper to boot.  Perhaps a combo deck could find a use for this in the future but it's a struggle to see exactly where this card fits. 

I suppose the most suitable deck for this card in the current Modern metagame would be Lantern Control where it can act as Ancient Stirrings 5-8.  However, between Ancient Stirrings and Whir of Invention I think Board the Weatherlight has its work cut out to find its way into that deck.

Dauntless Bodyguard
Dauntless Bodyguard
Another in a long-line of Savannah Lions upgrades.  It is similar to Benevolent Bodyguard, a popular card in White pauper decks (or it was when I used to play pauper), but you have to pick the creature you want to protect as it enters the battlefield.  Bodyguard is obviously a worse turn 1 play than other options as it's ability doesn't work without another creature in play.

Notably, Bodyguard is also a Human and a Knight which are two potentially relevant tribal synergies.  I played a White Weenie style deck in Modern a while back if you are looking for some deck ideas.

Fall of the Thran
Fall of Thran
Armageddon effects are pretty rare which makes this card quite interesting.  It's probably too expensive for Modern play but it certainly has some potential, particularly if you exile your opponent's graveyard with Leyline of the Void or a similar effect.

History of Benalia
History of Benalia
There are a number of tasty Knights in Modern but a Knight tribal deck has yet to really make a mark.  History of Benalia is a card that gives some additional incentive to go down that tribal route though in Modern it has the various Gideons to compete with which makes it a tricky sell.

Seal Away
Seal Away
A instant-speed Journey to Nowhere of sorts, with the obvious drawback that is can only exile tapped creatures.  There are certainly better removal spells in the format but this certainly has its own niche.  It could see play in Bogles as removal spell that also increase the number of enchantments on the board.  It also helps the Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx-powered Enchantment Prison decks that you run into from time-to-time.

Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Shalai, Voice of Plenty
A potential addition to Creature Toolbox decks.  Shalai provides a powerful tutor targets against Burn or discard focused decks or even just protection against Liliana of the Veil.  Shalai's activated ability may also be relevant in a Chord of Calling-style deck which is likely to be running Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch that will help achieve the mana required and appreciate the +1/+1 counter.

Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle
Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle
Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle has a combo-potential written all over it.  You can do some crazy things with Teshar and Myr Retriever and a sacrifice outlet like Krark-Clan Ironworks.  KCI decks have put up some results recently with Matt Nass making the Top 8 of Grand Prix Phoenix and then winning Grand Prix Hartford.

Triumph of Gerrard
Triumph of Gerrard
Triumph of Gerrard could be a nice tool in Bogles but seems a bit slow compared to other available options.  The final lore counter gives a nice pseudo-Daybreak Coronet effect but as I say it is probably a bit too slow.

Blue

Artificer’s Assistant
Artificer's Assistant
A pretty cheap deal for a creature that can allow you to do quite a lot of deck manipulation in the right setting.  Potentially playable in decks like Affinity, Krark-Clan Ironworks, Lantern Control or similar decks as a way of digging to more relevant cards.


Merfolk Trickster
A solid addition to the Merfolk tribe.  Trickster can tap an opposing creature pre-combat or can be a combat trick against creatures like Knight of the Reliquary or Tarmogoyf which shrink in size once they lose their abilities.  Harbinger of the Tides ability is probably better in general but Trickster has the advantage of having Flash at no additional cost.

Naban, Dean of Iteration
Naban, Dean of Iteration
Wizard tribal is certainly a theme in Dominaria and cards like Naban certainly push that theme.  Naban means double Snapcaster Mage activations, double Trinket Mage or Treasure Mage activations and also provides various other options.  Potentially very powerful in the right deck.

I have actually while writing this seen a video posted by MagicAids on Youtube about using Naban in Merfolk.  There are quite a few interesting Wizards in the Merfolk deck, including Silvergill Adept, Harbinger of the Tides and Master of WavesMaster of Waves is particularly exciting as a double trigger.

Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
Tetsuko is a powerful granter of evasion and makes blocking very difficult for the opponent if you play with the right creatures. Seems like it may have some potential niche uses.

Black

Cast Down
Cast Down
A nice alternative to Go for the Throat for decks that play it.  It has its own blindspots such as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben but there aren't a ton of other heavily played legendary creatures so it may be better than Go for the Throat in most instances.

Settle the Score
Settle the Score
An expensive removal spell but one that is interesting for its ability to ramp a planeswalker towards its ultimate.   It's an ability rarely seen on a card of this cost and so provides some interesting options for planeswalker heavy decks.  There are a few BW Planeswalker-focused decks with Lilianas and Gideons.

Lich’s Mastery
Lich's Mastery
A really interesting enchantment that makes it very tricky to lose the game provided you are not in a position where you are taking a lot of damage each turn.  A nice lock piece for an Enduring Ideal or similar deck.

Red

Champion of the FlameValduk, Keeper of the Flame
Champion of the Flame/Valduk, Keeper of the Flame
Tom Ross recently featured a sweet version of Equipment Storm or Cheeri0s in an article on the mothership.  The deck revolves around Puresteel Paladin and playing a bunch of 0-cost equipment to draw through the deck.  The win condition is generally Grapeshot but Champion or Valduk actually provides an interesting alternative as you can hook them up with all the equipment to generate a huge attack with 3/1 hasty trampling elementals or one big trampling creature.  Perhaps that is more fun than functional but it feels like a cool idea.

Goblin Warchief
Goblin Warchief
This reprint brings Goblin Warchief in to Modern legality, having been originally printed in Scourge.  It's a good card but I am not sure it actually makes a huge difference to existing Goblins decks.  I could be wrong but Goblin Chieftain seems like the better three-drop for the deck for my money and Goblins doesn't really want to be playing too many high cost creatures as this damages its explosiveness.

Skirk Prospector
Skirk Prospector
Another Goblin reprint from Onslaught block.  Prospector is quite an interesting card that has some combo potential.  With Prospector, Metallic Mimic and Murderous Redcap in play you can repeatedly sacrifice the Redcap for infinite mana and infinite damage.  I have also seen some comments about comboing with Fecundity as well.

Wizard’s Lightning
Wizard's Lightning
Wizard's Lightning is a fairly standard burn spell unless you happen to control a Wizard at which point it become a Lightning Bolt.  There are plenty of 1-mana 3 damage spells in Modern, which is why Burn is so good, but none are really better than Lightning Bolt.  Is it worth the extra effort to get your Lightning Bolts 5-8?  I can't imagine it is outside of a specific Wizard tribal deck.

Green

Adventurous Impulse
Adventurous Impulse
Another Ancient Stirrings impersonator and a solid one-mana cantrip for green.  I think both Ancient Stirrings and Oath of Nissa outstrip Adventurous Impulse to prevent it seeing play but a solid card.

Broken Bond
Broken Bond
A solid Naturalize effect which sacrifices instant-speed for the ability to put a land into play from hand.  This feels like a strong sideboard card for Scapeshift decks as this is a hate card that also furthers the gameplan of ramping as many lands into play as possible.  Tron may also be interested in this card.  Obviously the disadvantage is that your forgo the one-mana Naturalize options available in the format.


Steel Leaf Champion
A 3-mana 5/4 with evasion is a pretty nice card.  Leatherback Baloth sees play in Mono-Green Stompy decks in Modern and this seems like a better card than that in most instances.  The Champion is also an Elf which could be useful but I feel like Elf decks already have their 3-mana cost creature slots pretty locked up.

Multi-Coloured

Adeliz, the Cinder Wind
Adeliz, the Cinder Wind
I am not sure if there is a Wizard deck to be made but Adeliz plays nicely into that idea.  UR Kiln Fiend and Prowess-focused decks are around and Adeliz certainly plays into that style of deck.  At 3-mana, however, I am not sure if Adeliz is just a bit too expensive for that type of deck.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Teferi is much too slow for Modern and his effects just aren't impactful enough.  His ultimate is hilarious with Jace, the Mind Sculptor's Brainstorm ability but if you have managed to get Teferi to ultimate you probably should have won the game already.

Artifacts

Damping Sphere
Damping Sphere
The PureMTGO preview card which got an excellent right up from stsung.

Damping Sphere is a card I see having quite a big impact on Modern sideboards.  The first clause of Sphere hates on Tron, Eldrazi Temple and Utopia Sprawl decks.  The second clause hates on decks like Storm, (Ad Nauseaum), KCI, Cheeri0s, Living End and other cascade cards or really any deck looking to play multiple spells in a turn.  The fact it works well against multiple decks while also being cheap and colourless makes it very useful.  It also slots well into a deck like Lantern Control that can tutor for this when required.

I think Wizards needs to be careful about printing too many artifact hate cards as they play into the wheelhouse of decks like Lantern Control that have the potential to be quite oppressive.

Mox Amber
Mox Amber
There has been a lot of hype around this card and with good reason based on the legacy of Moxen.  That said, my current opinion on Mox Amber is that it has been well designed to not be insane and the result is a card that is interesting but probably not worth the effort.  There are a number of one-mana legends in Modern that you can use to help generate mana as fast as possible with Mox Amber but none are real Modern staples.  Also, the impact of filling your deck with Legendary creatures and planeswalkers is inevitably you will have an increase in dead cards whenever you find a duplicated legendary.

Colourless

Karn, Scion of Urza
Karn, Scion of Urza
A new Karn is an exciting prospect, particularly as Karn Liberated is a Tron staple and colourless planeswalkers generally have proved pretty powerful.  The new Karn is smaller than his previous colourless counterparts but is certainly impressive in his own right.  Let's take a look at his abilities:

  • Karn's +1 allows you to draw a card, which is always nice.  Unfortunately the ability is less Sleight of Hand and more of a Clumsy Fumble.  Your opponent gets to give you the worst of your top 2 cards which is unlikely to work out as favourably as you would like.
  • Karn's -1 allows you to retrieve the cards your opponent has denied you from Karn's +1 which is likely to be handy as presumably those will be your better cards.
  • Finally, Karn's ultimate isn't really all that ultimate as actually you can activate it twice just by casting Karn.  The -2 creates an artifact creature that gets +1/+1 for each artifact you control, which depending on your deck can be huge or tiny.  Certainly there is a lot of reward to playing Karn in an artifact-focused deck.

I am really unsure about the potential of Karn at the moment.  He certainly has some good qualities - a very reasonable casting cost, the potential to draw cards and generate creatures and a high starting loyalty.  However, as a draw engine I feel Karn leaves quite a bit to be desired and so you really need to be looking at its token generating ability.  With the existing decks in the format oddly I think Karn might actually best suited for use in Affinity where he can generate two huge token creatures and then provide a draw engine thereafter.  However, I question whether that is really an optimal use of Affinity's resources.  I have seen talk of use of Karn in sideboards and he certainly has potential there.  I guess only real testing will show precisely how good the new Karn is.

Lands

Cabal Stronghold
Cabal Stronghold
A poor impersonation of Cabal Coffers.  An interesting mana engine on the surface but actually much too slow.  Stronghold also requires you to play basic Swamps to benefit from it which is a tricky sell in Modern.

Memorial to GeniusMemorial to WarMemorial to Unity
Memorial Lands
The memorial lands are a cycle of lands that enter the battlefield tapped.  Each has a sacrifice effect which is pretty valuable.  Entering the battlefield tapped is a pretty big drawback for Modern though so I would be surprised if they see much play.

TOP 8 DOMINARIA CARDS FOR MODERN

Here are my Top 8 picks from Dominaria for Modern:

  1. Damping Sphere
    These seems like the card that is most likely to impact Modern.  A very welcoming sideboard card that helps decks tackle a number of different decks and hates on two different axis making it a good use of a sideboard slot.
  2. Karn, Scion of Urza
    I think the new Karn has quite a bit of potential though I have my doubts about how good it really is.  A colourless draw engine and token generator certainly provides an exciting package.  I will be interested to see how Karn is used in Modern.
  3. Skirk Prospector
    This little goblin has combo potential and could be a useful tool for a version of Goblins that plays more high-end threats.
  4. Goblin Warchief
    As above, Warchief has a potential to push forward Modern Goblin decks, however, I think the value of Warchief really needs to be in the cost reduction it provides and without higher end threats I think Goblin Chieftain is a better card most of the time.  I am a little dubious of the impact that Warchief will have.
  5. Cast Down
    It's quite dull but this is a solid removal spell which may be better than Go for the Throat.
  6. Settle the Score
    I could see card seeing play as a one-of or two-of in a planeswalker focused deck.  Four mana is expensive for removal but I think the right deck could find room for this card.
  7. Naban, Dean of Iteration
    I would be interested to see if Naban catches on in Merfolk decks or elsewhere.  There certainly quite a few ways to abuse his power.
  8. Mox Amber
    I am sure there will be some use for Mox Amber, if not now then in some time in the future.  Right now I don't think there are enough good cheap legendary creatures to make it worthwhile.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, I don't think there's anything in Dominaria that is really going to have a massive impact on Modern.  The biggest boost is probably the Goblin reprints which may push Goblins to a higher power level but I am not entirely sure what a revamped Goblins deck would look like.  After that there are some sideboard cards and some other cards which may find their niche but nothing that jumps out as a new format staple.  Personally I think that's fine as Modern has had a lot of changes recently with the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf and so no major changes is not a big problem.

Dominaria seems like a lot of fun and there is a ton of lore in the set.  I always find Legendary to be an odd theme as its more flavourful that it is practical.  A legendary permanent just means you can only have one in play at any one time which is more of a drawback than it is a benefit.  That said there seems to be a lot of positive buzz around the set at the moment and I hope that continues.

Let me know your thoughts on the Dominaria set and your favourite cards for the set in the comments.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)