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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Sep 05 2022 10:10am
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It’s been a while yet again, as I skipped most of the summer, mostly ignoring the Baldur’s Gate sets. Instead, I’m going full force into the Phyrexian arc as we return to Dominaria with a set that seems relatively similar to the previous Dominaria. However, as we’ll get to in a second, it trades a Historic/Legendary theme for a full push into multicolor.

 

Mechanics:

Enlist:

The latest attempt to make the concept of “banding together” into something that makes sense, but I’m not sure how good it is overall. It’s only in Naya (RGW), and it seems like it costs a lot of power, especially if you pair it with evasion (Coalition Skyknight being the obvious example, and it’s even uncommon). The use case is obvious (power through a big blocker), but I don’t know if that’s what this format is about yet. Surprisingly the red options are more efficient than the other colors: Yavimaya Steelcrusher is a fine two-drop, and Coalition Warbrute is the only evasive common (and doesn’t have awful stats either). I’m going to start not valuing Enlist that much, but I have a feeling that will change later in the format.

 

Read Ahead:

Sagas are back, but they’re deciduous now, so they aren’t really special anymore. Instead, all ten Sagas in Dominaria United (cycles at uncommon and rare, though The World Spell is mythic instead) have a new mechanic that lets you choose which step to start at. I don’t like this design that much, since it removes a lot of what makes Sagas stand out and means the modes are less powerful overall (which hurts more in Limited, where access to a specific mode isn’t as important). In particular, they seem a lot more situational—Yotia Declares War only makes sense if you have enough artifacts for the second mode to work, while Founding the Third Path is only good in the self-mill deck, if at all (and of course some of the rares are useless in Limited).

 

Domain:

The first of the multicolor-centric mechanics, Domain is heavily centered in green. All of the colors have a common and a rare (except blue, where Sphinx of Clear Skies is mythic instead), but green not only gets ten mono-color cards, it gets a gold uncommon in each pair. However, the real story is both how easy it is to get domain in the set. Not only are their multiple ways to search out lands (even if most of them are relatively expensive), the common tap duals all have land types! In addition, the common Domain cards seem very pushed, more so than the uncommons and even some of the rares. We’ll just need to see how they environment shapes out.

 

Kicker:

However, what isn’t up for debate is how strong most of these Kicker cards are. They’re all off-color Kickers, and they’re spread evenly across the colors (each has four commons, four uncommons, and one rare). It also seems like most of them are acceptable spells on both halves, and some are better than that—seriously, Urborg Repossession is insane for a common, In fact, some of the Kickers are so good, it’s going to be extremely skill-testing on when to cast them unkicked, or even play them without the Kicker color in your deck (but it seems like it’ll be easy to splash with stuff like Crystal Grotto and Salvaged Manaworker). It’ll be very interesting to see how many colors you can end up playing.

 

Archetypes:

White/Blue: Wide Spells

Raff, Weatherlight Stalwart and Tura Kenner point towards a strategy with two sides that seem at odds with each other: cast lots of spells and have lots of creatures. However, what this points to is more of a tempo strategy, as shown by the Kicker crossovers Stall for Time (which is one of the few Kicker cards that might get cast more unkicked), Tolarian Geyser, and Protect the Negotiators. There are also a lot of fliers in this combo, so that is likely how you can break through. The archetype seems fine overall.

 

Blue/Black: Spell Control

The Dimir deck is pretty clearly a grindy control deck, with a ton of card advantage like Phyrexian Espionage and Shadow Prophecy combined with recursion like Rona, Sheoldred's Faithful and Braids's Frightful Return. The removal is also good, with Tribute to Urborg, Extinguish the Light, and Rona's Vortex being the highlights. This deck also really wants to splash green for some of its self-mill synergies, but even just the splash for the kickers on Urborg Reclamation and Choking Miasma might be good enough, especially if you can get it off a dual for Shadow Prophecy and Jodah's Codex value. This deck is set to do well in a midrange field, but I can see if having problems if there’s a really fast or really big deck in the field.

 

Black/Red: Reckless Aggro

Are we sure the Rakdos aren’t invading Dominaria alongside the Eldrazi? Garna, Bloodfist of Keld and Lagomos, Hand of Hatred don’t care if your creatures die, and Warhost's Frenzy might be the best Trumpet Blast ever. There are also some sac outlets like Gibbering Barricade and Bone Splinters, and In Thrall to the Pit is a common Threaten (that lets you buy out the combo). The possible problem is that there isn’t that much reliable fodder. The workhorses are Splatter Goblin and Phyrexian Rager, and Cult Conscript and Phoenix Chick are the uncommon standouts, but there isn’t much else. It might be worth it to splash white for the kicker on Phyrexian Warhorse and Keldon Strike Team, and as we’ll see when we get to white/black, a three-color deck could work as well.

 

Red/Green: Domain Stompy

As the FIRE design philosophy has proliferated, creatures have naturally gotten more efficient, and this RG deck feels like the apex. Like, imagine telling someone a decade ago that Magnigoth Sentry would exist and no one would bat an eye? Instead, the focus here is on efficiency of the gold cards and kicker cards like Viashino Branchrider and Yavimaya Iconoclast, along with domain cards like Nishoba Brawler and Sunbathed Rootwalla. You also get the strong kicker costs to splash on cards like Bog Badger and Hurloon Battle Hymn. The only concern is that it’s too difficult to get a high domain count, especially in a deck that’s trying to go at least a bit aggro, but it seems like a fine “simple” deck.

 

Green/White: Tokens

The official reference says this is a domain deck, but not only is this a lot purer of an aggro deck than red/green (making you more punished by “splashing” colors), the payoffs just aren’t there—Zar Ojanen, Scion of Efrava is obviously still good with two or three colors, and this isn’t the deck for, say, Territorial Maro. However, there are plenty of good cards even in just Selesnya, with Queen Allenal of Ruadach and Strength of the Coalition as the stars. The question is how many creatures you can get on the board. Obviously Resolute Reinforcements is strong, but Captain's Call seems underpowered for today’s Magic, and while Scout the Wilderness is reasonably efficient for what it does, I don’t know how much this deck needs the fixing. I also don’t know if you want to go all-in on cards that requires a big board like Argivian Phalanx and Llanowar Stalker. Again, it’s probably fine, but I’m pessimistic it’s more than that.

 

White/Black: Sacrifice

While Rakdos wanted you to attack with your creatures to make them die, Orzhov wants you to take a more direct role. And the stars are the gold cards, as Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim and Aron, Benalia's Ruin look a step above most of the other color pairs, in both synergy and raw power. You also get a lot of fodder with all of white’s token makers alongside Phyrexian Warhorse and Cult Conscript. Benalish Sleeper is also an efficient common payoff, and Sengir Conaisseur is better here than in Rakdos, as you’re more likely to trigger it on your opponents turn). The efficiency here is high, and I think this is one of the decks to beat early on.

 

Blue/Red: Spells Aggro

As per usual, Izzet gets stuck with a mostly typical spells deck with Balmor, Battlemage Captain, Ghitu Amplifier, and Electrostatic Infantry at the head of it. As for the spells themselves, Timely Interference could be sneakily good, mostly because of the high floor of being a one-mana cantrip. I just hope that this deck isn’t hurt by a lot of the spell power being stuck in the kicker cards. In particular, it feels like this deck wants to splash black for Rona's Vortex, and to a lesser extent Phyrexian Espionage and Warhost's Frenzy. Then again, this might be the only deck that actively wants Impulse, and that might be enough to get a high density of spells you don’t need a splash. The deck seems like it works, but it might be dependent on getting a bunch of uncommons and Lightning Strikes.

 

Black/Green: Graveyard Value

Again, the reference says this is a domain deck, and while both gold cards use it (indirectly in (Uurg, Spawn of Turg)’s case, as you can play more lands and keep around a full domain group), it’s much more a graveyard deck, with cards like Urborg Repossession and Writhing Necromass. However, there isn’t much self-mill (just Uurg and Eerie Soultender), so you’ll either have to load up on those (and the Soultender is clunky, if full of value) or do it naturally. Blue helps this deck a lot with Monstrous War Leech and Elvish Hydromancer, and as a slower deck it can splash. This deck has a high top end, but it feels like there’s a low floor as well, so it would be risky in the early going, especially if you don’t get the right top-end.

 

Red/White: Tokens Aggro

Another fairly standard Boros deck here, but I’m surprisingly pessimistic about it, just based on raw card quality on the gold cards. Tori D'Avenant, Fury Rider is a good Hill Giant, but needs to attack to get any value, and I’m not sure how often you’ll be able to trigger Baird, Argivian Recruiter (at least without green to get some +1/+1 counters). As for the Kicker cards, on one hand Heroic Charge is one of the weakest commons (obviously it’s a good finisher, but Inspired Charge was situational even in the pre-FIRE era), while Hurloon Battle Hymn is one of the best uncommons, but it’s good enough even without the kicker that all red decks want it. Obviously Keldon Strike Team is good and the deck can work, but I think the other similar decks (red/black and green/white) do this better overall.

 

Green/Blue: Domain Ramp

And of course, the one green deck that’s full-on domain doesn’t get mentioned as a domain deck in the reference. The Weatherseed Treaty and Scout the Wilderness are good land searchers, while Deathbloom Gardener and Salvaged Manaworker help fix your splashes. However, the key to this deck will be how good the “impulse to the top of your library” mechanic seen on Voda Sea Scavenger and Nael, Avizoa Aeronaut is, as that’s a lot of selection but not much card advantage (unless you have full domain for Nael). Conversely, Vineshaper Prodigy is actual good card advantage, so that’s important overall. I think this deck will be best if it’s going for pure ramp and just putting out big things like Mossbeard Ancient, Territorial Maro, and whatever rares you’ve opened. It could work if there isn’t a fast deck, but it could also stumble if it has to reliably get domain to do anything.

 

Other Important Cards:

The main theme that doesn’t cleanly fit into an archetype is the defender subtheme, with Shield-Wall Sentinel, Wingmantle Chaplain, Blight Pile, and others. The problem is that other than the Sentinel, the build-arounds are all uncommon, and most of the colored defenders are okay on their own (Clockwork Drawbridge, Blight Pile) or tie into the themes of other archetypes (Gibbering Barricade, Academy Wall), so you aren’t likely to go full-Rise of the Eldrazi and get a deck with ten defenders. Otherwise, there’s a lot of instant-speed removal in this set, even in colors that don’t get it as much (Artillery Blast, Rona's Vortex, Bite Down and Tail Swipe). Another note is that we’re back to cheap, relevant equipment with Vanquisher's Axe (much better than common normally gets) and Hero's Heirloom (fine even on non-Legendary creatures), so cheap creatures can be made into bigger threats easily.

 

Conclusion:

This is a crazy set, and it looks like it could turn out well overall. However, a bunch of other stuff was announced at the same time. Some of it was weird (Doctor Who is a strange IP to adapt, even if there’s probably a lot of overlap with the audience), some of it was awful (I still think putting Lord of the Rings into Modern and Alchemy is a massive, massive mistake, no matter how much they’re going to power it down), and some of it is intriguing (March of the Machines Aftermath is such a new concept for Magic, even if other TCGs have done similar ideas, and I’m just hoping it’s not another Double Feature, but this time one that actually matters).

 

However, the most interesting announcement by a mile for me is Dominaria Remastered, as we finally have a Masters set with interesting boundaries, even if it’s as simple as “cards that take place on Dominaria.” Wizards said it includes 27 sets, and there actually aren’t that many to pick from (my count is 29, not counting this year’s sets or the partial sets like Magic Origins or the Commander sets). I’m already well into design on it (heck, I started when it leaked on Amazon the day before), and it’s interesting working with a bunch of weak sets (and also Dominaria) and creating viable archetypes. I’m worried I’m leaning too hard on linear themes (either from Dominaria or Onslaught’s tribal themes), and I’m not sure how I’m going to get all the sets in (and I also need more lore on which partial set cards I can use). Even still, that will probably be the article I put up next, so until then.

 

Vincent

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