The release of Dominaria is only weeks away, and what we've seen so far out of the set has me excited.
There are already some obvious heavy hitters that will have a serious impact on the format, such as Llanowar Elves and Cast Down. But I won't talk much about those today. Instead I'm going to focus on a few cards I think may have been overlooked.
The Sagas are all interesting and a little tough to evaluate because we've never really seen this design space before. In a way, I see them as planeswalkers that are harder to interact with and follow the default play pattern of "+1 ability, +1 ability, and then ultimate."
Everyone has been super-excited about History of Benalia and for good reason. That card is very strong, and if you want some more insight on it, I recommend you check out Gerry Thompson's write-up on it on the Premium side. But Phyrexian Scriptures has me even more excited.
Phyrexian Scriptures reminds me of Duneblast, used as a mirror-breaker back when Abzan was a dominant deck in Standard and everyone was throwing Siege Rhinos at each other. Duneblast was an excellent way to break a battlefield stall and could even force through the last few points of damage.
I expect Phyrexian Scriptures to be an excellent option in any black midrange deck in Standard. Not only do you get to keep a creature around while wiping the battlefield, but you also have the added bonus of disrupting your opponent's graveyard the following turn to make sure you clean up any embalm or eternalize creatures they may have.
For all the Commander fans out there, it's interesting to note that Phyrexian Scriptures combos very well with Power Conduit, essentially creating a Wrath-on-a-stick. Power Conduit seems to go well with all the Sagas, so that's a fun interaction worth keeping an eye on.
The Saga with arguably the most potential is The Antiquities War. In Standard we have a ton of ways of putting a lot of artifacts onto the battlefield. Kaladesh gave us Servo and Thopter tokens, and Ixalan introduced us to Treasure tokens. Being able to dump a bunch of these artifacts onto the battlefield before The Antiquities War ticks up to three lore counters will easily be enough to end any game.
Another Saga that has me excited is Song of Freyalise. Remember Cryptolith Rite? That card ended up in a few busted decks, notably the B/G Aristocrats deck that Luis Scott-Vargas piloted to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad.
- 4 Blisterpod
- 4 Catacomb Sifter
- 4 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Loam Dryad
- 4 Nantuko Husk
- 4 Zulaport Cutthroat
- 2 Liliana, Heretical Healer
We may no longer have access to Collected Company, but there are a few other ways I could see making this card work.
I have always wanted to build a Paradox Engine deck with mana creatures and Lifecrafter's Bestiary, but the deck was missing too many pieces. With the printing of Llanowar Elves, we might almost be there! You could even include Paradoxical Outcome to bounce all the summoning-sick creatures that you've cast while you're going off to draw a bunch of cards and continue to cycle through your deck.
This combo deck might just be a pipe dream, but I'm still holding out hope that they'll print something in Dominaria that can make my dreams a reality.
Clearly green will have a lot of ways to accelerate mana. Beyond just Llanowar Elves, a couple of other green cards caught my eye. Any card that can potentially ramp you by more than just one mana is worth taking a close look at, and Marwyn, the Nurturer fits the bill.
I typically categorize mana acceleration spells into two types. The first type represents the low-cost, efficient spells designed to get your powerful cards out slightly ahead of schedule. These would be the Llanowar Elves, Noble Hierarchs, and Moxen of the world. Decks that include these spells still have a normal curve, but they want to play these acceleration effects to get a slight mana advantage in the game.
Then you have the big mana ramp spells, like Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary; Gilded Lotus, and Worn Powerstone. These spells require a little more of an investment but are designed to give you access to a ton of mana in the mid- to late-game. Marwyn, the Nurturer definitely falls into this category. In the right shell, Marwyn can potentially give you a ton of mana to work with.
Marwyn, the Nurturer isn't the only big mana ramp spell we'll have in Standard. Several other cards in this category haven't found a home yet.
I had initially dismissed Growing Rites of Itlimoc as a "win more" card. I figured that once you have enough creatures to really get the value out of the land, you should be doing fine in the game anyway. But now that I'm looking at it from the perspective of a big mana ramp deck utilizing a bunch of little Elves, the potential for this card becomes clearer. It even comes with an enters-the-battlefield trigger that can dig you towards your payoffs.
So what kind of payoffs are we looking for? If the deck ends up functioning well, we really want payoffs that we can continue to sink mana into after we've cast the card. We're not just trying to ramp up to a card with high converted mana cost; we're dreaming bigger than that.
Thundering Spineback might look like just a Draft bomb, but if we can activate it twice a turn, it could turn into a real game-changer. Waker of the Wilds and Walking Ballista are also options for putting our mana somewhere even after we've run out of things to cast. These mana sinks will be crucial for any big mana strategy.
If we want to take a step back from big mana and look for options that could be better in R/G Monsters shells, Verix Bladewing has potential to be a strong inclusion in such decks. Verix Bladewing's top asset is its flexibility of mana cost. A 4/4 with flying for four mana is strong on its own, and having the option to sink more mana into it in the late-game for an additional creature is very powerful. I don't think this card is quite the Broodmate Dragon it appears to be at first glance, as the difference between six mana and seven mana is large, but the ability to cast it for less is significant.
That said, the four-drop slot is crowded in Standard as a whole, and R/G Monsters does not lack for four- and five-drops. It's hard to compete with Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer, which current R/G Monsters lists run.
I hope my thoughts on these cards put your brain into brewing mode. This set has a lot of potential to create new and exciting archetypes, and I'm looking forward to exploring what Dominaria brings to the table.