Dominaria has the potential to usher in a new golden age of Standard, and Magic in general, especially with a new core set immediately after. We've seen half of Dominaria at this point and the sheer amount of playable cards is almost overwhelming. I don't think Standard will ever be shaken up as much by a single new set than with this one.
First, some quick hits:
- Unless Standard dramatically speeds up, WotC is going to regret reprinting Llanowar Elves. Games where you're on the draw and facing down a Llanowar Elves aren't particularly close. Regardless, they aren't particularly fun, as your opponent tends to have a sizable advantage thanks to the mana boost. If you're staring down a 5/4 before you play your second land, there's only so much you can do. That said, Dominaria is exactly the place to do some cool stuff, and Llanowar Elves qualifies. People will have fun with it (if they're not on the receiving end), and they'll be glad to relive some of the nostalgia. Hopefully this doesn't become a regular occurrence though.
- The new legend frame is excellent.
- Enemy checklands are rad. Enemy-colored decks definitely needed the manabase help. In general, I'd be happier with more dual lands than fewer. With eight great dual lands for each color combination and the deserts to fill in the gaps, our manabases are finally functional.
- Sagas are going to function like miniature planeswalkers. You'll typically get a quick burst of something happening, and then they'll vanish. In the meantime, they are much more difficult to remove, but main deck Disenchants could easily become a thing. Artifact and enchantment support are both very real in this set. If anything, main deck Spell Pierce just got a whole lot better.
I'll start with the scourge of Dominaria.
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Angel of Invention
- 3 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Shanna, Sisay's Legacy
- 1 Tishana, Voice of Thunder
Elves, as a tribe, has the same issue as Knights. Right now, there aren't many in Standard. I would expect Dominaria to provide more support, and then hopefully we can add things like Marwyn, the Nurturer to this sort of deck. The versions that are popular right now feature Wildgrowth Walker alongside the explore creatures to stay alive, but Llanowar Elves and Song of Freyalise should speed up the deck to the point where you don't need the help. If you do end up needing some help, you can always try summoning Lyra Dawnbringer.
Anyway, a G/W go-wide strategy is already solid enough with Shanna, Sisay's Legacy, but having Growing Rites of Itlimoc and Song of Freyalise to build up to Ajani Unyielding, Walking Ballista, and Tishana, Voice of Thunder is another nice incentive. Maybe Tishana is a bit ambitious, especially considering there are other options for expensive payoffs and there's no way to cast her without Song of Freyalise. Still, Tishana is one of the more powerful things to do if you happen to have both a pile of creatures and mana lying around.
Decks like this could potentially sideboard Fall of the Thran for control decks, which could be interesting. I wouldn't expect them to necessarily let a six-mana spell resolve, but any sort of ramp or black midrange deck is going to have a huge issue beating it.
Mono-Green Aggro has been performing solidly on Magic Online already, and Llanowar Elves is basically the perfect addition. Of course, Mono-Green Aggro isn't historically one of the most powerful decks because it tends to lack interaction, so if all the other decks improve as well, even Llanowar Elves might not be enough to save it.
Cards like Ghalta, Primal Hunger, Heart of Kiran, and Rhonas's Monument give you a ton of reach, which is something decks like these typically lack. Steel Leaf Champion also ignores chump blockers, which is a powerful ability on a cheap, enormous body.
A Song of Freyalise package alongside Walking Ballista wouldn't surprise me, nor would a slight splash for Shanna, Sisay's Legacy, even if this deck doesn't necessarily go super wide.
This is the card I'm most excited about from a rate perspective, at least from what we've seen so far. Since 1WW for a pair of Reid Duke tokens is a pretty good bargain, anything that happens on top of that is just a bonus. The Inspired Charge for Knights is added value and can be potentially devastating if your deck has additional Knights.
There aren't a ton of Knights in Standard at the moment, but that could change as more of the set gets previewed. Most of those that currently exist in Standard happen to be Vampires also. It's possible there is enough overlap to make Champion of Dusk work, but if not, it's not a big deal. History of Benalia doesn't need much help.
White aggressive decks have been doing quite well, and there are many different shells for them. W/G Tokens, Mardu Tokens, W/B Vampires, W/U Auras, and various Anointed Procession decks all have their various pros and cons.
We haven't seen this level of power in a Mono-White Aggro deck in quite some time. There are good global pump effects, powerful cards at each spot on the curve, and there's even some staying power. I suppose the deck is lacking in good, cheap removal, but for the most part, you can attack around whatever your opponent has going on.
Cards like Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God are largely irrelevant against a deck like this, which is a great place to be. With so much emphasis being placed on the powerful mythics and their role in Standard, having a deck that mostly ignores the popular spot removal spells is a good place to be.
How much hate people are packing for go-wide decks waxes and wanes, but there are also ways to fight opponents who try to fight you with sweepers. The Magic Online metagame has largely adapted by incorporating a vehicles package, either in the main deck or sideboard. So far, it's proven quite effective and should have a place here.
Any two-mana legend is going to have my attention, and Baral, Chief of Compliance is likely the stronger of the bunch.
I'm eager to explore this sort of big blue tempo deck.
The package of Baral, Chief of Compliance and Karn's Temporal Sundering is potentially a nice one. A tempo-based Time Warp deck could take many different forms. Threats like Tempest Djinn, Torrential Gearhulk, and even Karn, Scion of Urza can provide a fast clock. In the meantime, you're trying to not fall behind with cards like Blink of an Eye, Essence Scatter, and Baral's Expertise. Memory, Karn, and Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin should help keep the gas flowing.
Baral's Expertise is particularly great, especially with powerful threats like Tempest Drake and Karn, Scion of Urza. Blue typically hasn't had that sort of thing before, which is incredibly exciting. I wouldn't be surprised if a complete lack of hard removal made this sort of strategy impossible, but that's not going to stop me from trying.
This version of Baral has an artifact subtheme for Metallic Rebuke, Reverse Engineer, stronger Karns, and some mana acceleration. I don't necessarily think it's stronger, but it definitely has the potential to be. If nothing else, your Karns are much stronger.
Other notable cards we could play are Kefnet the Mindful, Spell Swindle, Walking Ballista, Prophetic Prism, and Powerstone Shard. A larger focus on permanents and Secrets of the Golden City could be nice, but Reverse Engineer seems stronger. Additionally, The Antiquities War is something that should certainly be in the 75. Can we ramp hard enough to play a copy of Overflowing Insight?
You could also go super deep and build around Metalwork Colossus, but the Baral theme is more exciting to me.
Mox Amber - 0
T: Add one mana of any color among legendary creatures or planeswalkers you control.
Think of Mox Amber like the Serra Avenger of Moxes. You're not accelerating into big plays early (that's Llanowar Elves' job), but it does help you ramp up to five mana for a bigger planeswalker or to double spell early.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Wily Goblin
- 3 Captain Lannery Storm
- 1 Hazoret the Fervent
- 4 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
- 2 Pia Nalaar
- 2 Squee, the Immortal
Wily Goblin makes its triumphant return! In this deck, a Treasure to accelerate into your planeswalkers and a body to protect them isn't too bad, especially since this deck lacks early plays.
Jaya's Immolating Inferno looks appealing to me, so I'm willing to jump through some hoops in order to make it castable. One of the common deckbuilding constraints is going to be finding playable legendary creatures and planeswalkers to best utilize the legendary sorceries (and maybe Mox Amber). Squee, the Immortal isn't impressing anyone, but he does ensure that you will have a legend around whenever you need one. I'd be happier if there were some way to discard Squee for value in the early game, but oh well.
One of the hidden upsides of trying to make Jaya's Immolating Inferno work is that your opponent will often behave differently around your legends. Cards like Pia Nalaar used to never be targeted by removal, so the second copy would almost always rot in your hand. That probably won't be the case anymore, unless your opponent really wants Jaya to light them up.
As always, Karn, Scion of Urza could have a home here as well. Heart of Kiran, once crewed, also serves as an enabler for Jaya's Immolating Inferno. An artifact-based bigger red deck could be sweet. I also want to try playing Goblin Chainwhirler alongside The Flame of Keld, but that's probably for a different deck.
- 4 Adanto Vanguard
- 4 Dauntless Bodyguard
- 3 Skymarcher Aspirant
- 3 Danitha Capashen, Paragon
- 4 Sram, Senior Edificer
- 3 Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
Tetsuko, Umezawa Fugitive is kind of great here. Not only does he allow your one-drops to continually attack unimpeded, but he helps Adanto Vanguard and your lifelinking Vampires to get in there as well. Obviously there's some anti-synergy with the various pump auras and Shefet Dunes, but it just means you're attacking your opponent on multiple axis by going wide and tall. Being a blue legend also means you can play him on Turn 2 and still have Spell Pierce backup with Mox Amber.
This might not be the correct shell for W/U Auras, but the archetype is clearly gaining some additional help.
Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar - 4GG
Legendary Creature - Elemental Avatar
Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar gets +1/+1 for each land you control and each land in your graveyard.
1G, Return two lands you control to their owner's hand: Return Multani from your graveyard to your hand.
I bet you didn't even think Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar was playable, did you?
Does this deck actually work? I have no idea.
The goal of the deck is to put as many lands onto the battlefield as possible in order to make Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar as threatening as possible. Ramping with Hour of Promise works, but so do Wayward Swordtooth and Ghirapur Orrery. Wayward Swordtooth and Ramunap Excavator are a combo with Evolving Wilds and the various cycling and sacrifice Deserts. Meanwhile, Arguel's Blood Fast and Ghirapur Orrery keep the gas flowing.
I've been on a huge Arguel's Blood Fast kick as of late, and a Temple of Aclazotz plus Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar is game over. Ghirapur Orrery might be too all-in for what the deck actually wants to be doing, but hey, it's more Wayward Swordtooths. It's also a card I've wanted a reason to play and a Turboland-style deck certainly fits that description.
The Lich's Mastery in the sideboard is a card I'm interested in building an entire deck around. Black has excellent ways to keep your opponent low on resources, so trying to set it up as a Forcefield of sorts doesn't seem too outlandish. In the meantime, whenever you gain life with Vraska's Contempt, Moment of Craving, Aethersphere Harvester, or Gifted Aetherborn, you get more resources to protect Lich's Mastery.
If you're behind, Lich's Mastery won't help you very much, but you don't have to play many (or any!) copies thanks to Mastermind's Acquisition. Clearly you'd rather pay six mana instead of ten mana over two turns, but maybe it's worth it to not have to draw Lich's Mastery early.
There's the argument that the combo of life gain plus an enchantment is what you want to be doing, except with Arguel's Blood Fast. I could believe that.
So, what's possible in Dominaria? Well, if anything, it should be pretty clear that mono-colored decks are perfectly viable due to the sheer number of strong mono-colored cards. For multi-colored decks, we might have to wait a bit to see what the color pairs have in store. For example, G/R Elves could very easily be a thing, as could W/B Knights or Vampires, but we need more supporting cards.
Other strategies I'm excited to try include U/R Wizards, Primeval's Glorious Rebirth, Paradoxical Outcome, and various improvise strategies. There's no shortage of cool things to try, and we're only just scratching the surface.