Dominaria: Playing To Your Weaknesses – Multicolor, Lands, and Artifacts
NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
As for my rating system, after a lot of feedback I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. For the most part, I will focus mainly on cards from 2.5 to 5 stars in my article. The system is as follows:
- 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
- 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective. Example: A creature that fills the curve, a spell that destroys an artifact.
- 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws. Example: A creature with a good ETB effect or decent activated ability. A spell that has a great effect but costs too much or has a big drawback.
- 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback. Example: A creature that will win the game on its own if left unchecked and wins head to head battles often. A spell that has multiple effects or creates a huge swing in tempo.
- 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around. Example: A creature that is almost impossible to due to special abilities or recursion. A spell that wipes the board or gives you massive card advantage.
Well we’ve finally reached the end of the road. The pre-release was a few days ago and I hope you did well. This last article will be chock full of information about the last 3 categories of cards (multicolor, artifact, and lands) as well as some sample lists from my pre-release. As I did before with multicolor, I’ll be talking about what kind of deck you’d most likely find this card in, as we as if it would be worth a splash for. The other categories will be treated as normal.
I’d like to think of these legends as the Power 3. Each one of them have an interesting ability that separates them from the other ones. I’d like to start off with Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy. She’s very easy to cast in a GW deck, and becomes big VERY quickly. You’d want to play a lot of Saproling tokens alongside her in that kind of deck to pump up her power level, and also some trample effects if you could. She’ll be swinging from turn 3 until the end of the game. It’s just too bad she doesn’t have hexproof. She’ll be strong against burn and -x/-x effects, but black kill spells and white exile won’t care how big she is.
Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage seems absolutely broken in a set full of historic cards. You can play legendary creatures at instant speed, artifacts, and event Sagas! In the right pool he could be really good. Sadly UW isn’t really that good, even if you have a lot of flyers in those colors. Blue overall is kind of week in Dominaria, so if I were to play him I’d probably do it as a splash in a RW/u or BW/u deck. Great card to have and a good way to really take advantage of your Sagas.
Arvad the Cursed seems a little heavy to cast at 5 mana, but giving all of your legendaries +2/+2 on top of having deathtouch and lifelink make him a great centerpiece in this limited format. Drafting legendary cards should be no problem, and in sealed you should still end up finding yourself with at least 3-4 other legendary creatures in your pool. Making Raff a 5/5 flyer in an Esper deck, or Aryel a 6/6 vigilance knight are just a few things Arvad can do for you. I think he’d also do very well with some equipment on him, like Jousting Lance.
Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy – RATING: 3 Stars
Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Arvad, the Cursed: RATING – 3.5 Stars
My next three picks are cards that have interesting abilities and can do a lot of work in long games. Rona, Disciple of Gix is somewhat fragile and not something you want to play in the first few turns of a game, but If you just put a Rite of Belzenlok into your graveyard and cast her, she’ll let you cast it again from exile for even more value. The same is true of any legendary creature you had that was killed, or an artifact. I wouldn’t be building a deck around her, but I wouldn’t mind splashing for her in a BR/u or BW/u deck. Since her ability uses colorless mana it’ll be easier to use in a 3 color mana base.
Hallar, the Firefletcher can be a REALLY powerful card if you can capitalize on your kicker activations. The hard thing about that is that most kickers will be costing you around 6 mana, so you’ll have enough ways to ramp or look for mana so that you can activate the Elf’s ability multiple times. Seems really good in draft when you can build a kicker deck relatively easily, but it might be more of a struggle to do so in sealed. Getting pumped up and dealing damage with each kicker is a powerful effect, though I’m not sure how consistent you can make it to really take advantage of the card. GR kicker is the obvious deck to build with Hallar, but Jund could work as well.
Slimefoot, the Stowaway seems like a great card in limited. Not only does it synergize well with all of those Saproling cards like Saproling Migration and Spore Swarm, but it can also make more bodies to block with and eventually take over the game with. You’re gaining value and inevitability whenever you block with a Saproling, and if Slimefoot manages to dodge your opponent’s removal you’re almost assured to come out in the long game. Definitely want this in a GB deck for maximum value, but I could see it as a splash in an Abzan or Jund deck that was playing other saporlings as well.
Rona, Disciple of Gix: RATING – 2.5 Stars
Hallar, the Firefletcher: RATING – 3 Stars
Slimefoot, the Stowaway: RATING – 3.5 Stars
As for the last 4 legends, Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker and Adeliz, the Cinder Wind have easy to understand roles in decks and can be built around, but Tatyova, Benthic Druid and Garna, the Bloodflame are a little more enigmatic.
With a 3/3 first strike, flying body, Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker doesn’t need you to rely heavily on her second ability to be good in limited. She’d be great in the top end of an aggressive RW deck with some combat tricks to pump her up, but she’d also be really good if you were playing a lot of good Auras in your deck such as On Serra’s Wings or Frenzied Rage. Tiana would also work really well with Valduk, Keeper of the Flame. If they teamed up your opponent would be in trouble.
Adeliz, the Cinder Wind is obviously a card you’d want to play in a Wizards deck, but like I said earlier about blue, it just isn’t a powerful color. You’d need to be playing something like Jeskai or Grixis to have access to more powerful removal spells and effects, but at the same time you’d want to focus on getting a critical mass of wizards which are in blue and red. While I think she’s a powerful card, I think she’s a trap as well. I don’t think UR Wizards will end up being good, and if it does, it’s only in rare circumstances. Flying and haste are two things she has going for her though.
So Garna, the Bloodflame. Let me start off by saying his ability is pretty sweet. On the surface he’s a great Raise Dead effect. If you just attacked into your opponent’s creatures to force some bad blocks, you can get all of your dead creatures back into your hand at the end of the turn. This also works on defense. If you want to block aggressively to kill some of your opponent’s stronger creatures, Garna can be flashed in at the end of the turn to get all of those cards back. The other benefit you get from Garna is haste. Let’s say you just flashed him in at the end of the turn and got 3-4 creatures back. Odds are you’ll be able to cast them on the next turn and attack on the same turn. Very strong effect. Great card for glass cannon decks playing Yargle or Valduk.
Tatyova, Benthic Druid has a great affect, but at 5 mana I think it’s too much. Being half blue puts the merfolk at a disadvantage already due to how weak the color is, but only getting a 3/3 body for 5 mana that doesn’t give you any benefit unless you play a land? Hmm, Maybe I’d splash the card in a kicker deck that was focused on playing land quickly/ramping, but otherwise I don’t think it’ll see any play. Just not going to get enough value to make it worth giving up a slot for a big finisher in the 5 or 6 converted mana cost slot.
Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker: RATING – 3.5 Stars
Adeliz, the Cinder Wind: RATING – 2.5 Stars
Garna, the Bloodflame: RATING – 3 Stars
Tatyova, Benthic Druid: RATING – 2.5 Stars
Skittering Surveyor is the 2nd coming of Pilgrim’s Eye. Both grab you a basic land, but Surveyor is on the ground with 1 extra toughness while Pilgrim’s Eye was a 1/1 flyer. While it may seem like there are many reasons to stay in 2 colors in this format, I think splashing is rewarded well. That means having some kind of mana fixing such as Skittering Surveyor will be important. I’d take it early in draft because you probably won’t see any after pick 4 or 5. This is a format without Evolving Wilds that has quite a few multicolor/double/triple symbol effects, so it should see play all over the place.
In a set packed with historic spells, Jhoira’s Familiar is a very helpful card. Teamed up with Danitha Capashen, Paragon, many of your equipment artifacts become very cheap, as well as cards like on Serra’s Wings. I see the Familiar working very well with Raff Capashen as well. Casting a Saga for one less and at instant speed is a very strong effect. I think this card will shine in the draft format where you can pick and choose which historic spells you want, but it will have its moments in sealed as well.
Skittering Surveyor: RATING – 3 Stars
Jhoira’s Familiar: RATING – 3 Stars
I believe all 3 of these artifact creatures will also see play to some extent, especially in a 3 color deck. Howling Golem is a throw back to Howling Mine, but instead of always getting you a card it’s only when it attacks or defends. Yes it’s a double edged sword that also benefits your opponent, but depending on your strategy that can work in your favor. I don’t know if it will always make the cut, but in a powerful deck that doesn’t have access to card advantage like GR or BW I think it could find a place.
Pardic Wanderer seems like a good beater that can fit into any color scheme. Five power and toughness with trample means your opponent will have to team up to kill it, which sets them up for some combat tricks if you have them. Good on an empty board and also helps activate historic triggers.
Speaking of Historic triggers (which it can activate as well) Guardians of Koilos lets you bounce one of your historic cards back to your hand. You probably won’t be doing this with your auras or equipment, but this works well with Sagas. Cast this creature the turn before your saga is set to terminate and return the saga to your hand, then cast it the following turn. I’d definitely want 1-2 of these if I were playing some good Sagas like History of Benalia. Make a ton of knights, then let them all get the anthem on that final turn! I think it would also work with a card like Time of Ice. If you can bounce the Saga and then play it again that same turn, you can end up locking 4 creatures down and then bouncing them all at once!
Howling Golem: RATING – 2.5 Stars
Pardic Wanderer: RATING – 3 Stars
Guardians of Koilos: RATING – 3 Stars
Back during the old days of Magic, Icy Manipulator was an incredibly expensive card. I remember seeing it for $20 or more at card shows because of how powerful it was in those early days. Spells were stronger, and creatures were a lot weaker, so tapping down somebody’s Shivan Dragon meant games went a lot longer. Control was king. Things are different now and there are a lot more threats, but Icy Manipulator is still a very strong effect. Tapping down an opponent’s big threat before combat, getting rid of a dangerous blocker, or even tapping down their vehicle can be a pain in the neck. I ran into it quite a few times during the pre-release and it won a few games for my opponents. Not a first pick, but I expect it will be a high draft pick.
Bloodtallow Candle is a little hard to use because of its activation cost, but for pools that have very few removal options it’s better than nothing. Black, white, and red decks probably wouldn’t need this effect, but green and blue ones probably would. It also helps with historic triggers if that’s any consolation.
As for equipment, Jousting Lance ended up being my favorite one during the pre-release. The equip cost was high at 3 mana, but giving a creature +2/+0 and first strike when attacking meant you could always attack favorably, even with a 1/1 token. It was especially good with cards that have evasion abilities such as menace and trample.
Ice Manipulator: RATING – 3.5 Stars
Bloodtallow Candle: RATING – 2.5 Stars
Jousting Equipment: RATING – 3 Stars
I’m not a big fan of the red producing land, but I do like the other cards in the cycle. Grabbing a creature is strong, making 2 tokens is good, drawing 2 cards, and getting a card back from your graveyard are all effects that make these cards worth playing in your deck. I’d expect most them to be available around pick 5 or 6 in draft, but after that I don’t think you’ll see them (and if so that’s a huge signal that nobody is playing that color).
Memorial to Unity: 2.5 Stars
Memorial to Glory: 2.5 Stars
Memorial to Folly: 2.5 Stars
Memorial to Genius: 3 Stars
Other Cards that Should See Play
- Aesthir Glider – 2 Stars. Another flyer if you’re going all in on a blue/white flyer strategy.
- Juggernaut – 2.5 Stars. Decent beater but 3 toughness dies to a lot these days.
- Powerstone Shard– 2.5 Stars. Good for ramping or playing kicker spells.
- Navigator’s Compass – 2.5 Stars. If you’re desperate for some mana fixing it’s alright.
- Short Sword – 2.5 Stars. Good for aggressive decks, works well with Danitha and Valduk.
- Sorceror’s Wand – 2 Stars. If you’re playing Wizards it’s an alright card. Otherwise I’m not sure it’s that good.
- Voltaic Servant – 2.5 Stars. Good anti-Icy Manipulator tech. Also works well with Traxos.
- Zhalfirin Void – 2 Stars. Yay scrying!
I ended up doing 3 pre-releases and these were my decks and results:
Saturday – 4/21, 11:30 am pre-release, 28 people, Mint Yokohama, used GB
Removal was really good in this deck as well as the curve. I beat a UW Auras deck round 1 since I was able to go wide with tokens and cards like Josu Vess that put pressure on him early with menace. I wasn’t able to go use kickers at all due to lack of ramp. I might have gotten off one Baloth Gorger and Krosan Druid kicker this match. I lost to a very strong BW legends deck round 2 that was playing Arvad the Cursed and Danitha Capashen, Paragon on top of Sagas like Triumph of Gerrad, and it had an Urza’s Ruinous Blast that ended the game whenever he cast it. I ended this tournament by beating an Abzan deck that managed to use Evra, Halycon Witness’ ability to deal lots of damage and gain tons of life. Once I learned of that interaction I was sure to focus my removal on it in the next two games.
Saturday – 4/21, 4pm pre-release, 28 players, Mint Yokohama, used BW historic
I was really surprised by the power level of Triumph of Gerrard and Rite of Belzenlok in limited. I didn’t have a lot of finishers but was able to put up good results on the back of those cards and great removal.
My first match against another BW deck in round 1 was close. I took the first game on the back of my removal and hitting my curve, but got stuck on 2 mana game 2. The same thing almost happened again game 3, but I stabilized and landed my 7/7 and 5/5 tramplers which ended up taking the game for me once my removal cleared the way. Some tight game play against an Abzan deck playing Shalai helped me to get my second win. My opponent had On Serra’s Wings attached to Shalai, but thanks to Thallid Soothsayer and Thallid Omnivore, I was able to keep him from gaining any life and doing just enough damage to win game 3. I faced yet another BW deck in round 3 and lost to an Icy Manipulator game 1, but I managed to get the next two games largely in thanks to my Sagas pumping my guys and making tons of creatures for value.
Sunday – 4/22, 11:30 am pre-release, Mint Yokohama, 28 people, used Jund (2 rounds)/Jeskai (1 round)
I started off building the jeskai deck but realized too late that I should be playing the Jund deck instead. Since I wasn’t able to finish it on time, I had to play my first round with Jeskai wizards, which I lost. You have to admit that there is some great removal in white, which is what pulled me in that direction in the first place, but there weren’t enough finishers and my creatures couldn’t go head to head with bigger creatures. Jund had decent removal as well, but bigger creatures.
After losing to a BW deck round 1 with Jeskai wizards, I made the switch to Jund and beat both a UR and an Abzan deck. Verix Bladewing and Darigaaz Reincarnated were game winners for me whenever I played them. I had a better feel for how to play kicker this time which also helped out a lot.
So a 7-2 start for Dominara sealed isn’t too bad. I’m feeling good about my evaluations and my insights and I think I’ll do well in future limited events. I plan on doing some MTGO drafts in the near future while things are still fresh in my mind and before people have mastered it. How was your pre-release? Did you do well? If you have any stories you’d like to tell or other synergies you found out, I’d like to hear about them in the comment section. As always, if you have any suggestions about the cards I missed or disagreements with my evaluations, please feel free to voice them down below as well.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll be back soon to check out the new standard and Frontier metagames!