[Welcome back to Taking A Swipe: Dominaria edition! Today, Jim Davis and Ross Merriam analyze ten of Dominaria's most unique cards, Tinder-style, by either Swiping Right (that's good!) or Swiping Left (that's bad!). And just like Tinder, both Jim and Ross are allowed one Super Like to let that card immediately know that they're a big fan!]
Jim Swipes Left. Oh boy, it's so awkward to run into an ex on one of these things.
Radha and I had quite the fling about a decade ago. Back then she was known as Radha, Heir to Keld, and I played four copies of her in my Time Spirial Block Constructed deck at Pro Tour Yokohama. We had some crazy times in Japan, casting Stonewood Invocation and all, but after we finished just outside of the money we went our separate ways and left our hearts in the land of the rising sun.
Now here she is again. She's clearly gotten a promotion, but bigger doesn't always mean better. There are so many great four-drops in Standard, and Grand Warlord Radha just doesn't stack up. I'd have swiped right on old Radha, Heir to Keld for old time's sake (and because she'd be a nice two-drop mana creature that plays well with Lightning Strike), but the truth is people change.
And you know what? That's okay. I wish her all the best.
Ross Swipes Right . Radha has certainly grown up quite a bit since her Planar Chaos days. Back then she was young and didn't really know what she wanted out of life. Was she supposed to be a mana creature or an aggressive card that enables early double spell turns in a bigger Gruul Aggro shell? I don't like to play games, and I want to match with a card that knows its role in a deck, so back then, Radha got a left swipe from me.
But now, Radha is more experienced, is leading Keld, and knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. Even better, she doesn't wait around hoping good things will happen. She's decisive and takes what she wants immediately...a very attractive quality.
Grand Warlord Radha having haste is a huge advantage here, since it means you can immediately double spell with a Magma Spray or Abrade and take a significant lead on the battlefield. With the quality of instant-speed red removal in Standard these days, I think the odds that this card finds a home are reasonably high, especially in combination with Llanowar Elves.
Jim Swipes Right But Isn't Happy About It . Lyra looks kinda familiar too, but not in a good way. I never got along with Baneslayer Angel back in the day, as she was too fickle. She either died and I wasted a huge investment on her, or she took over the game as a helpless opponent looked on. I was much more interested in dancing the night away with Reveillark.
However, the truth is that not much touches Lyra in Standard besides the already taxed Vraska's Contempt. She dodges almost all the red removal, as well as Glorybringer and Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and beats just about everything in combat while flying over armies made by The Scarab God. Lyra is going to find a home in Standard, so I may as well swipe right and get to know her now.
Ross Swipes Right . Wow, what a body. The numbers are great here, and the extra keywords mean Lyra demands an answer. It matches up quite well against the red flyers, Glorybringer and Rekindling Phoenix, meaning at the very least Lyra should be a great sideboard option against red decks, whose removal mostly matches up poorly against five toughness.
There are a couple things that give me pause though. First, Lyra Dawnbringer matches up poorly against Vraska's Contempt since she gains no immediate value and Vraska's Contempt is among the most powerful removal spells in the format.
Secondly, have you read that flavor text? It sounds good at first, but I'm a little worried that she's going to be overly clingy. There's a creepy "Every Breath You Take" vibe there that I'm going to watch out for on the first date.
Jim With An Overzealous Super Like ! Well hello there! Nice body, good creature type, powerful enters-the-battlefield effect... I got so excited I used my Super Like without even considering that I was only on match three!
Truth be told, I don't think the Goblin synergy cards like Goblin Warchief and Skirk Prospector have much relevance in Standard or Modern; there's just too much removal and the singularly good cards are just too much better, and there's no Goblin Ringleader-level payoff for putting a bunch of Goblins in your deck.
However, Goblins that are good on rate alone are fair game, and Goblin Chainwalker has rate pouring out its large green ears (an obvious turn on). A 3/3 first striker for three mana is already great, but Goblin Chainwhirler can also pick off format staples like Llanowar Elves, Glint Sleeve Siphoner, and half the cards in Mono-Red Aggro for extreme value. Furthermore, the trigger is also amazing against token decks as well.
I can only hope Goblin Chainwhirler swipes right back... my profile does say "Goblin King" on it after all.
Ross Swipes Right . Solid rate and a good ability. You're going to be mono-red (or nearly so) to cast it consistently, but that's the color that often stays with its own anyway. There are plenty of one toughness creatures it kills, from Llanowar Elves and Merfolk Branchwalker to the various token makers that are seeing play right now. It's not very good against control decks, but outside of that, Goblin Chainwhirler should be a house. I'm expecting it to see fringe play in Modern as well.
An underrated aspect of this card is how it affects a player defending a planeswalker in combat. Often chump blocking an attacker to keep a planeswalker at one loyalty is a strong play, since the planeswalker's activation should recoup some of the material lost and you have the potential to stabilize the battlefield on your turn to keep the planeswalker around. Those lines are now greatly punished by Goblin Chainwhirler, much more so than if they must spend a full card finishing off the planeswalker with a burn spell. The threat of this card is going to make planeswalkers harder to defend, and any time you can get value for doing nothing you're doing something right.
Jim Swipes Left . How many times can I keep swiping left on bad Ostracize variants?
I don't know, but I'll keep doing it. They look nice on the surface but are never there for you when you really need them. Hard pass, don't be fooled again!
Ross Swipes Right . When it comes to discard spells, taking non-creatures has always been more important than taking creatures. That's due to a couple factors. First, decks with lots of non-creatures tend to be more reactive, meaning a discard spell holds its value to later in the game, whereas creature decks tend to empty their hand more quickly.
Second, most non-creature spells that see play are reactive cards: removal, counterspells, etc. These cards are cast when a threat is presented, which is something your opponent has no control over. This gives you the ability to hold a key threat and cast it on your terms, whereas a creature you want to take with a discard spell may be cast before you draw your discard spell or have a good window in which to cast it.
That said, Standard is so creature-centric that we've seen Harsh Scrutiny enter the format as a cheap solution to value creatures. Divest should fit the mold here as a card that's enough better than the historically unplayable Ostracize to see some play. Taking vehicles like Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is particularly important for some decks. This isn't a world beater, but it'll show up in sideboards from time to time.
Jim Swipes Right Hard . Wow. I think I may have been hasty with my Super Like.
The last time we saw Karn, he was quite the meathead; large, expensive, but with enough muscle to elicit fast concessions and copious amounts of salty opponents. However, he required the extra might of the Urzatron lands to lift him into decklists, as he was just too hefty for most decks.
Now Karn is back, and he is a lean, mean, card drawing, creature token making machine. Did I say lean? I meant everywhere but in the loyalty department, where he starts on five and can go immediately to six. Six loyalty? Is that a typo or something? And I can play him in any deck in Standard?!
I keep looking for flaws and it's hard to find any; Karn, Scion of Urza is the best card in Dominaria. I'll be right back, I'm going to make a second account just so I can swipe right again.
Ross Super Likes! If you were watching the coverage of SCG Milwaukee last weekend, you may have caught Patrick Sullivan's evaluation of this card, which boiled down to the single word, "Busted." Patrick Sullivan is a smart man.
Jim Swipes Left . While I do feel like any card after Karn has a lot to live up to, Tiana, Ship's Caretaker has absolutely nothing going on and I don't feel bad saying it. I might consider letting her win me a match or two in a one draft-night stand, but that's all. Complete miss in all competitive formats, completely not interested.
Ross Swipes Left . We were on such a roll! We've come to our first dud. Tiana has a lot going for her: good job, useful skills for someone who isn't very handy (the window in my bedroom is currently stuck), and she's clearly a selfless, compassionate person.
However, when it comes to games of Magic, Tiana simply isn't up to snuff. At 3/3 she lines up poorly against most removal despite costing five mana and not offering any immediate value. Her ability is tough to put to good use without warping your deck around her and it's unlikely you get more than a card or two out of her even if she stays on the battlefield for a while. There's just no spark here.
Jim Swipes Left . I had some great times with Gather the Pack and Commune with the Gods, but that's because they offered something special beyond the sum of their parts. Both cards would get me a card I wanted, but also fill up my graveyard for all sorts of graveyard hijinks that tickled my fancy.
Board the Weatherlight doesn't allow for that kind of fun, nor is it an instant, nor does it seem proficient at assembling any sort of combo (that we are aware of). You can't just spend two mana for card selection at sorcery speed in Standard, and Modern already has Ancient Stirrings.
I've seen your friends, Board the Weatherlight, and they make you look bad in comparison. Make sure they aren't in your pictures.
Ross Swipes Left . Everyone knows that boarding the plane/ship/whatever is the worst part of the travel experience. Once you're settled in to your seat you can pop in your headphones, take out a book, and maybe order a drink or two. But getting in is just a sea of inconsiderate people who are fighting for valuable overhead bin space and arm rests. The aisles are always tiny, so you bump into three different people on the way to your seat and somehow everyone boards in the least convenient way possible every time. It's horrible.
Casting this card, while not that bad, is close enough that I want no business in casting it. You need to have a ton of historic cards in your deck for this card to hit reliably (15 gets you to between 75 and 80 percent), which is a significant deckbuilding cost, and the rate isn't good enough to justify that cost. I also don't much care for cantrips that can't find lands, since preventing mana screw is a big reason to include card manipulation in your deck to begin with.
Jim Swipes Left . There was a time in my life I may have been interested in a wild fling with Kamahl's Druidic Vow, but I'm older and wiser now and much more interested in consistency.
Sure, I'd bet Kamahl's Druidic Vow knows how to party, and I'll bet it would lead to some wild and crazy times where you put four planeswalkers onto the battlefield for only seven mana. But in my aged wisdom I can only think of the times I would cast it for seven and miss, and of course, the two-day hangover that would follow.
Maybe in a past life, Kamahl's Druidic Vow, but not in this one.
Ross Swipes Left . The fundamental question to answer in evaluating this card is how many legendary permanents are going to be in your deck?
The answer is not enough.
Its function as a ramp spell is anemic at best since ramp is best when cast early in the game so you can start leveraging a mana advantage early. The ramp spells that have seen high level play in Standard net one land for two to three mana and two lands for four to five mana. This card is highly unlikely to match those rates, and the upside as a late-game card fails to make up the difference.
Jim Swipes Right . Not every card is going to be super flashy like Lyra Dawnbringer or Goblin Chainwhirler, but it's the more humble and solid cards that often make the most impact in our decks.
Memorial to Glory is a very solid utility land, providing great flood insurance as well as extra synergy to token decks. Entering the battlefield tapped is certainly a detriment, but paired with Shefet Dunes, Memorial to Glory gives white a very nice amount of utility from its manabase at a very low opportunity cost.
Ross Swipes Right . I have a type. That type is utility lands. I love them. From Treetop Village to Sunscorched Desert, give me a land that provides the barest amount of value on top of tapping for mana and I'm sold. I'm not even above playing Zhalfirin Void.
Two 1/1s isn't a lot of value, but it doesn't take that much to make a utility land good because the opportunity cost of putting it into your deck is so low. You may not want that many enter-the-battlefield-tapped lands, but if that's not an issue, you're basically getting those 1/1s for free.
Utility lands are awesome.
Jim Swipes Left . Yeah, I get it, Arvad. You're very edgy. You're a brave heroic vampire always fighting the beast within. Really, I'm very impressed. They should write some young adult novels all about you; I'm sure the kids would eat it up. It would be fun to go out sometime and hear more about your tormented...oh oops! I accidentally swiped left. Rats, what an awful mis-swipe.
There's always (much) better Standard five-drops in the sea.
Ross Swipes Left . Ugh. Not the best way to close. This guy looks like a classic arrogant jerk. All the hallmarks are there: cocky stance, unnecessarily large sword, inadvisable facial hair. If I found myself on a date with him, I'm betting that at some point he makes a pass at the server and tries to pass it off to me as a joke.
He'll also spend the entire night talking about himself, about ten percent of it being remotely true, and then act shocked that you don't want to repeat the mistake by going out again.
You can even tell from his ability. He doesn't help the common creature, working hard and never getting ahead. He's only there to benefit himself and his other legendary friends. It's not worthwhile because at best you'll get to pump one or two other creatures, and the stats, while close, ultimately fall short of standing on their own.
Get over yourself, Arvad. You're not Gaea's gift to Dominaria.