Hola! Hoy vamos a discutir unas nuevas cartas poderosas en Dominaria. Estoy muy emocionado para…
Oh. Wait. Wrong language. When EstrellaCiudadJuegos.com gets released as the Spanish-language companion to our own StarCityGames, I'll be the first in line to write articles as the resident "gringo loco," but until then, I suppose it's ingles for the foreseeable future.
As your resident bilingual writer, though, I feel it's my duty to inform my readers of an interesting tidbit, one that might easily slip by someone unfamiliar with the Spanish language. You see, a simple slip of the ink turns the proper noun Dominaria into Dominara, or "would dominate" in Spanish. Coincidence? I think not!
You think we foolish Americans wouldn't be able to see your encoded message, Wizards? Wrong. If you wanted to plant a subtle hint that this set was going to absolutely dominate Standard for the entirety of its tenure, you could have at least picked a plane name that translated into a slightly less overt message! Wizards' Latin America division must have had themselves quite the chuckle as they prepared advertisements for a set that essentially told their customers that it will be a dominant force in competitive Magic. I'm not one to turn down such a clear clue, so vamonos, let's get down to what Standard is going to look like with this new dominant force involved.
1. Karn-du Vehicles:
I briefly touched on Karn, Scion of Urza's impact to the forgotten Mardu Vehicles archetype last week , but this Planeswalker is truly on the level of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, poised to bring back artifact aggro in a big way. Heart of Kiran just needed a good, strong pilot, and with Karn and his Constructs at the helm, there are going to be a lot of unlicensed drivers coming back to punish the unprepared. This is the day zero, easy-peasy monster deck to beat, no two ways about it. We'll start with a more reasonable three-color version, but keep in mind that four-color options including Glint-Nest Crane are available.
Lots of Abrades are in this list because, well, there are going to be a lot of juicy targets. If it isn't Gate to the Afterlife, it'll be opposing Constructs or Heart of Kiran. If it isn't Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle, it'll be Baral, Chief of Compliance. If it isn't Llanowar Elves, it'll be Mox Amber. The Fatal Pushes could also become Magma Sprays in an attempt to add more minor hate on God-Pharaoh's Gift decks as well as opposing Scrapheap Scroungers and Earthshaker Khenras.
Additional options for the deck include lowering the curve with a pair of Inventor's Apprentice, adding Doomfall as additional Duress-like effects against control that also work against a lone Rekindling Phoenix or Hazoret the Fervent, or Dire Fleet Daredevil for when it's time to gear down and grind in the mirror match.
Of course, it's going to be a difficult road for Karn and company facing down a mono-colored menace, the newly juiced-up Mono-Red Aggro with Goblin Chainwhirler as a dominant, swingy beatstick that invalidates Toolcraft Exemplar, Bomat Courier, small Walking Ballistas, Pia Nalaar's token, and (of course), Llanowar Elves. "Trasgo Portacadenas" is likely to elicit more than just a "dios mio" whenever it hits the battlefield.
2. Chainwhirler Rojo:
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 2 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Fanatical Firebrand
- 4 Goblin Chainwhirler
- 3 Rekindling Phoenix
- 4 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
The Flame of Keld is a speculative sideboard inclusion because of its power to create incredibly swingy turns and finish off opponents in the midgame with a flurry of burn. Turning all your Fanatical Firebrands into walking Lightning Bolts is no joke, and the "hellbent" synergy with cards like Bomat Courier and Hazoret the Fervent mean that this might be the next evolution of Mono-Red. If Rekindling Phoenix turns out to be too expensive for this speedy Standard format and we need to downshift into cheaper battlefield-vomiting effects, this saga could be just the card that keeps the gas flowing until your opponent is burnt out.
But why speedy? What makes it likely that this Standard format is going to move down to third- and fourth-turn fundamental turns rather than fourth- and fifth turn? We have one friendly "elfo" to thank for that, the card that is going to make it easy being green in the upcoming format. Indeed, a large part of the reason for U/R Gift's recent success is its incredibly low mana curve, featuring twelve (!) one-drops, and more and more decks are going to need to stay low to keep up with the tempo boost Llanowar Elves offers its caster. Fanatical Firebrand will continue to see its stock rise, and several incredibly sweet, incredibly non-intuitive Gift strategies that were not quite ready for prime time are going to break out in a big way.
3: G/R Gift
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 3 Combat Celebrant
- 3 Fanatical Firebrand
- 4 Glorybringer
- 2 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 3 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 3 Servant of the Conduit
- 3 Thrashing Brontodon
- 2 Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar
Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar is a house and a half when combined with God-Pharaoh's Gift. I'm talking 10/10 trample here. That's what we call dominant. Additionally, the fair game plan of this deck is unparalleled, as it's essentially the R/G Dinos deck that performed well in the most recent Standard format stapled to a sick Gate to the Afterlife shell. The heavy component of mana acceleration means that third-turn Glorybringers are not uncommon. That's what it means when I say that Standard is rapidly moving towards a fundamental turn in the 3.5 range rather than the previous 4.5 range. Huge swings are imminent, and even The Scarab God may end up being a little bit on the slow side!
Speaking of huge swings, it may turn out that Multani is not the beefy reanimation target we are looking for. Cultivator of Blades could be this deck's version of Angel of Invention, coming down and absolutely devastating an opponent with a single-turn swing incorporating a massive +6/+6 for whatever random Llanowar Elves and Merfolk Branchwalkers you have lying around on the battlefield. Additionally, there's no shame in including my man Verdurous Gearhulk, which is like a less-explosive Cultivator of Blades on the backside, but a more consistent beefcake on the front side. All three of these incredible pieces of beatdown beef deserve consideration in this hybrid stompy/combo deck.
Now, you may notice a few neat pre-emptive touches to combat the impending barrage of chains we are likely to see in this brave new Standard. The first is a large number of Thrashing Brontodon, which is perfectly sized to stare down a Chainwhirler while also perfectly content to stare down an opposing Gift player or Mardu player and fill the role of Qasali Pridemage. "Esta carta dominaria Dominaria." This card would dominate Dominaria (specifically, two of the most-likely frontrunners of the coming format).
The second inclusion is the sideboard trio of Raptor Hatchling, which is well-sized to come down early and happily jump right into the graveyard on a trade or a Chainwhirler trigger and clog up the trenches with the backside. Now, obviously the Chainwhirler's first strike is incredibly annoying, but a body that can block Bomat Couriers, Ragavan tokens, Fanatical Firebrands, and Earthshaker Khenras is not to be trifled with. The more bodies you can have hit the battlefield against red, the better you will be. Especially with Glorybringers to own the skies, it's imperative that little guys make an impact and keep you from getting overwhelmed before your big creatures can do the rest.
Now, one of the sacred cows of the list is particularly vulnerable to the Goblin's chains, which means that there's always the possibility of removing Combat Celebrant and including more of the green explore creatures in their stead, which would open a potential techy sideboard spot for Wildgrowth Walker instead of or in addition to Raptor Hatchling. There's no better feeling than winning in style with Limited standouts like Wildgrowth Walker, Raptor Hatchling, or Cultivator of Blades.
Of course, we will continue to see U/R Gift as well as newcomers Sultai Gift and Temur Gift. Heck, on any given week, one of the Gift decks may become a better choice than another, and small tweaks to the threat set or alternate game plans will be critical for gaining an edge. The fact of the matter is, though, any would-be contender will have to find a way to beat three powerhouse cores that anchor these three dominant strategies:
- Gate to the Afterlife
- Karn in Vehicles
- Goblin Chainwhirler-infused Red
If you don't have the low-end spells like Moment of Craving and Fatal Push to handle getting swarmed, you'll just lose before you can deploy ponderous spells like Glimmer of Genius. If you do have the low end to handle the swarms, you'll have to handle disparate sledgehammer threats like Glorybringer, Hazoret, Karn, Chandra, Rekindling Phoenix, God-Pharaoh's Gift, and even big Walking Ballistas. Simply put, the time for B/U Midrange slinging Champion of Wits is over. The time for Grixis Energy slinging Whirler Virtuoso is over. Three mana is too much to be spending on those effects, especially when you're not accelerating anything out or playing other massively undercosted threats on turns one and two.
Fear not, though. There is still innovation to be had in this new world of low-cost threats and the immediate need to get a battlefield presence as quickly as possible. For all the talk of great one-mana cards, one has been going under the radar in nearly all the set reviews out there. It's been a part of several broken strategies before, but there's little respect given to the Skirk Prospector. Consider this start, though:
- Turn One: Spirebluff Canal, Minister of Inquiries, pass.
- Turn Two: Skirk Prospector, Fanatical Firebrand, attack, mill yourself.
- Turn Three: Gate to the Afterlife. Mill yourself. Sacrifice Fanatical Firebrand to Skirk Prospector, discarding away a Combat Celebrant. Sacrifice Skirk Prospector to itself, discarding away another Combat Celebrant. Use the two red mana to break the Gate.
If you found another Celebrant combo piece in any of your Minister mills, you immediately win the game with a combo kill. If not, you merely attack your opponent for 16 and have the win the subsequent turn.
This type of potential is not to be ignored. A single Prospector on the battlefield means that your opponent is often going to have to play scared even if you only have three lands on the battlefield. Incredible. Mono-Red Goblin Gift could be a deck, and if there are more Goblins printed in upcoming sets I wouldn't be surprised to see it take off. As it stands, we're more likely to play U/R Gift with Goblin Chainwhirlers and a lighter blue splash, but the potential is there. Mixing two of the dominant three shells into one archetype, by mashing up Chainwhirler Red and God-Pharaoh's Gift, could be the secret sauce to true domination.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 2 Champion of Wits
- 4 Combat Celebrant
- 4 Fanatical Firebrand
- 3 Goblin Chainwhirler
- 3 Minister of Inquiries
- 4 Skirk Prospector
- 3 Trophy Mage
- 2 Warkite Marauder
It might be desirable to go with an even lighter blue splash, losing Minister of Inquiries and Warkite Marauder (and even Champion of Wits!) in favor of Glorybringers or Siege-Gang Commanders in the main deck and the fourth Chainwhirler. A few Trophy Mages for improved Gate-finding capabilities might just be the only blue you need, if you even want to have blue in the deck at all.
Dominaria Standard is a breakable format. The major players are in front of you. The principles are clear. The flagship cards are here, and they're ready to rumble. Suerte!