Brewing Standard and Modern with Dominaria

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
3/28/2018 11:02:00 AM
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The unfortunate leaking of crucial information related to Dominaria means that we get to start talking about the set earlier than what would be typical! Information leaks are something that have happened in the past and are tough to prevent, but I have been very impressed with how Wizards of the Coast has dealt with this matter. And from what we know about Dominaria, the set looks really cool. There are already some standouts, and I want to go over my thoughts on them.

Karn, Scion of Urza

Karn, Scion of Urza is the card that surprises me the most. The card looks extremely good and happens to be colorless. This could be another Smuggler's Copter, where almost every Standard deck plays it. Cheap planeswalkers have a way of making a big impact compared to ones with a higher casting cost. At four mana, and an extremely high loyalty when entering the battlefield, it is going to be tough to remove Karn, Scion of Urza from play once it comes down.

Ticking Karn up is only slightly worse than drawing a random card. You get a card of the opponent's choice but still have access to the card the opponent didn't give you. The silver counters seem really cool, and I'm looking forward to making tough decisions with Karn, Scion of Urza on whether the cards with silver counters are worth bringing back to your hand. Right now, it is unclear how great the final ability on this planeswalker is, though I'm also not sure how much it matters.

There will certainly be some artifacts available for play in Standard, though as of now it seems unlikely to have a ton of them in one deck. Look for the set after Dominaria to potentially bring in additional artifacts. I wouldn't get too caught up on whether the final ability on Karn, Scion of Urza is good, this will be a Standard staple, and potentially the most powerful card in the entire set.

I expect this to see some play in Modern, though I'm not sure exactly how much. It could be used as an alternate win condition in Lantern Control or other Prison based strategies. I don't think it is better than Karn Liberated in big mana Tron decks, because once you do have Tron online you want to be casting more expensive things.

Llanowar Elves

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For a while it was unclear if Standard would ever see a one-mana creature accelerator again. The past handful of accelerators have all cost two mana, so going back to one mana is a big deal, and we will be seeing plenty of Llanowar Elves moving forward. Cards like Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise have seen plenty of Standard play in their days, while Llanowar Elves is slightly less powerful than those cards, it does get better if there are Elf synergy cards.

We know that there will be other Elves in Dominaria to pair with Llanowar Elves, and while we don't know how many Elf synergy cards there will be there certainly will be some. Either way, Llanowar Elves can be used in multiple archetypes; it will be good in ramp decks and we could see it alongside a card like Hour of Promise. It could also be featured in more traditional green midrange decks like Black-Green Constrictor. Llanowar Elves is a card that is a big part of Magic's history, and I'm very excited to see it again.

Goblins

Not only are we returning to Elves, but it looks like Dominaria features lots of Goblins as well! Old school creature types are here to go along with the new ones in Ixalan. Some of the standout Goblins are cards we have seen before like Goblin Warchief and Siege-Gang Commander. Knowing that Goblin Warchief is in the set means that having lots of Goblins in the set is not an accident, and there will actually be ways to tie in tribal synergies. We have seen Goblin Warchief go as far as Legacy play, though we may not be seeing the power level of cards like Goblin Ringleader in Dominaria.

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Siege-Gang Commander is an all-around good card that had the potential to see play even without additional Goblin synergies. However, casting it on turn four with a Goblin Warchief in play is going to look much more impressive. Most of the red creatures in Dominaria do seem to be Goblins, so I'm sure we will see plenty of Goblins that aren't reprints as well. At the same time, it is fun to see familiar cards that have already been proven to be strong enough for Constructed play.

Mox Amber

Mox Amber is unbelievably cool. Moxes are very rare in the history of Magic, and even the “bad Moxes” like Mox Opal and Chrome Mox ended up seeing lots of play. It has been a while since a new Mox has been printed, just because of how powerful we know a zero-mana card that adds recurring mana can be. With that said, it is hard to accurately gage just how good Mox Amber will end up being.

Mox Amber wants to be played in decks that have cheap legendary creatures or planeswalkers. For most planeswalkers three is considered cheap, and unfortunately by turn three a lot of the value you might have gotten from Mox Amber is already gone. Therefore, this card wants to be in decks with one and two-mana cards that can turn it on and allow for immediate mana production. Right now, there aren't enough cheap legendary threats for Mox Amber to really shine.

The best we get is a card like Kari Zev, Skyship Raider. It's not like that is a bad legendary threat, in fact it sees play in one of the top decks in Standard. The issue is finding a deck with multiple cheap legendary creatures, and something you want to use the Mox Amber to accelerate into. Expect to see Mox Amber make more of an immediate impact in Modern, rather than Standard.

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Once we get to Modern, there are multiple one-mana legendary creatures that are playable. Even though those cards don't see play right now, a one-drop like Isamaru, Hound of Konda or Kytheon, Hero of Akros could suddenly start becoming very popular. Being able to use the Mox mana on the first couple turns is where the power of a zero-mana acceleration card comes from.

Here is a White-Red Aggro list that I have been working on that is both aggressive, and can make use of the excess mana provides by Mox Amber:

This is a crazy deck that incorporates a lot of different elements. You have the beatdown plan of getting down early creatures and winning that way. There are 16 creatures in the deck that are both legendary and cost only a single mana. This is as good as it gets for a deck that plays Mox Amber. Your Mox Amber starts are going to be quite impressive, as you can often play two creatures with two power on the first turn.

If an early assault of creatures isn't enough to win, there are some backup plans. Mox Amber allows you to get down a turn two Blood Moon without needing cards like Simian Spirit Guide. This is going to provide a lot of free wins as a single basic Plains or a Mox Amber allows you to have good mana through a Blood Moon. Then we have the combo cards that include Norin the Wary alongside Genesis Chamber and Purphoros, God of the Forge. Since Norin the Wary is near impossible to kill, it is a great combo piece with both those cards.

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Getting tons of creatures into play and pinging your opponent for two damage each turn is a good insurance plan when the game goes long. Mentor of the Meek is a good way to keep drawing gas, and is your main source of card advantage. After sideboarding, this deck gets access to some of the best hate cards in the format. Many are already known, but one of them is a Dominaria hit.

Damping Sphere in Modern

Damping Sphere makes me sad. Tron is one of my favorite Modern decks, and this card seems like it was designed to be great against Tron strategies. With Damping Sphere in play, Tron is essentially nullified. When you are tapping your Urza's Tower for only one mana the entire game, things tend to not go very well. This is not as strong against Eldrazi Tron, as that deck doesn't always need its lands to produce more than a single mana each to win.

Beyond being specifically good against Tron, this is also an excellent card to have access to versus Storm. Any deck that is trying to play multiple spells in the same turn is going to struggle with Damping Sphere in play – all of a sudden, your Pyretic Rituals start to Shrivel up. Damping Sphere is only really good against a few decks, but because it has flexibility it is going to be universally played as a sideboard card.

Having really good sideboard options that are artifacts make them easy to access for any deck. That means that decks like Jund that might not have had great sideboard options against Tron and Storm now can easily play this card. Both Storm and Tron decks suffer because of Damping Sphere, so expect the format to shift with this card entering Modern.

Lyra Dawnbringer

This has a place in Standard as an aggro killer. More specifically, red decks will struggle to answer Lyra Dawnbringer. As it turns out, the best red removal in Standard deals four damage, and this card has five toughness. When you take into consideration Lyra Dawnbringer is near impossible to kill in combat and buffers your life total, red decks should be throwing fits. It seems like a better Ragal Caracal in many situations.

I know Baneslayer Angel saw a lot of Standard play in its time, but this is a different sort of Standard environment. This is an expensive threat that isn't that great against control decks. If control starts to lose some popularity I could see Lyra Dawnbringer moving from a sideboard card to a very good maindeck option.

Phyrexian Scriptures

This card reminds me a bit of Demonic Pact. The Saga cards essentially provide several effects over the course of multiple turns. I'm not sure how strong the card will end up being in Standard, as it is essentially a delayed sweeper and the downside is that your opponent will have time to prepare for the second lore counter, though it really is only one single turn that they will know not to commit any additional creatures to the board.

Being able to save one of your creatures from the impending sweeper effect is also pretty nice. Each effect on the card is relevant and I'm excited to see the Saga cards in action as they definitely effect how games tend to play out in different ways once you play one. The stock of enchantment removal may go up if the Sagas become popular.

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle

The cards with historic benefits create a strong incentive to play many historic permanents in the same deck. Lumping artifacts, legendary creatures and Sagas into one category is a smart way of creating a whole new card classification. The question starts to become how many legendary creatures, Sagas, and artifacts can actually get crammed into the same deck. I'm sure we will have some weird looking creations, that's for sure.

Of the cards that work well with historic, it's unclear if Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle is the best one, though the idea of being able to continuously bring back creatures from the graveyard and put them into play, does sound pretty appealing. Historic seems to be the best way to bring the themes of Dominaria together.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




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