Dominaria finally hits shelves this weekend, but for those of us who are perennially logged-in, the set’s been available on Magic Online since last Friday. While I’ve been dodging the limited queues, unwilling to burn through my bankroll, I’ve been jamming Standard leagues in my time off this week, and figure I might as well share some quick insights with you fine folks. Let’s hop right into it.
There are a lot of very powerful cards in the new set, and they tend to lend themselves to colour-heavy strategies. While the format’s mana improved nominally with a reprint of the Innistad dual lands, the strongest cards in Dominaria have double or triple costs of a single colour of mana. Playing Goblin Chainwhirler on curve, for instance, requires about 22 red sources in your deck. You can’t really achieve that in anything other than a base-red deck. This reality informs a lot of the top decks in the early days of this format. While I think people are going to start stretching manabases further and further to accommodate these powerful cards in two-colour strategies, there’s always something to be said for a consistent deck in a more-or-less linear Standard format, and so that’s where we’re going to be looking today.
First off, old faithful. Mono-red was hit hard by the banning of Rampaging Ferocidon, losing a lot of its strength against creature-based decks, and specifically the token-heavy strategies that were certainly going to become popular off the back of History of Benalia. Fortunately, we’ve been gifted Goblin Chainwhirler, a pretty unreasonable card, as a replacement. When this spikey boy does a Flametongue Kavu impression, he’s good, but sometimes he’s a 3/3 Plague Wind for three mana. In recent weeks, it had seemed like the Gerry Thompson R/B Vehicles deck was the Hazoret deck of choice, but the printing of Chainwhirler has definitely changed things. He’s great with Soul-Scar Mage and just generally encourages a more aggressive posture in the deck. No longer do you have to commit to having a controlling sideboard plan full of Fiery Cannonades just to beat white decks. Now you can freely dedicate slots to big hitters like Glorybringer or Siege-Gang Commander. Personally, I still prefer the dragon, but others seem to be finding success with the goblin team. I also stumbled across some cool technology, courtesy of Kris McCord: Puncturing Blow is the only reasonable answer in Mono-Red to both The Scarab God and Lyra Dawnbringer.
Mono-Red Aggro – Daniel Fournier
Next, we have the obvious mono-green deck with Llanowar Elves and Steel Leaf Champion. This deck is naturally weak against control, so I stole some tech from Yuuki Ichikawa’s stream and ran the light black splash for Scrapheap Scrounger. The construct is a natural friend of Heart of Kiran, already an auto-include, and the light splash lets us play Hour of Glory in the sideboard to answer the problematic five-drops of the format. The point of this deck is to play unreasonably large and under-costed creatures, then turn them sideways to quickly kill the opponent.
There is no finesse here, only thicc dinosaurs, elves and artifacts (not sorry). I played a bunch of leagues with Jadelight Ranger as the other three-drop but was consistently underwhelmed, since we’re not really very interested in hitting land-drops past three or four. That slot eventually went to Thrashing Brontodon. It has a great butt for this format, and having access to a maindeck Naturalize is way stronger than it would seem. Given that each and every single one of your creatures is unreasonably large and game-ending, a timely Blossoming Defense tends to always win the game. You should almost never board it out if your opponent has any amount of removal in their deck. Also be aware that Resilient Khenra is Dark Ritual for Ghalta, so it’s wise to hold it as long as possible, unless you’re giving up material advantage to do so.
Mono-Green Beatdown – Daniel Fournier
Control decks also got a lot of new tools from Dominaria, from the versatile-yet-flawed Syncopate to an effective midrange planeswalker in Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Most of the interesting new cards are in white, so I started my invariably frustrating control leagues with U/W. I found the deck was very strong on average, but could struggle with the usual suspects, like a resolved Nissa, Vital Force or other difficult to answer permanents like Treasure Map. For that reason, I have as many catch-all answers as is reasonable jammed into this decklist, including a heavy three Teferis. I have a pair of Meandering Rivers in here because, despite the card being obviously bad, the mana requirements of a Disallow/Settle the Wreckage deck are actually fairly intensive. Karn is a fairly effective card advantage tool in the midrange and control matchups, though we obviously aren’t using the card to its full potential without artifacts in our deck. Teferi is very powerful if you’re able to resolve it on an open board, like any other planeswalker would be, but is unique in that its a virtual three-drop that generates significant advantage. You can actually just hold up countermagic while playing your win condition. That’s great.
I have a few weird cards in my sideboard. First off, in a deck full of Fumigate and Seal Away, Authority of the Consuls is the most effective hate card against red. It stops you from getting overrun, and that’s the only way we can lose, given the density of big answers we have access too. Lyra Dawnbringer is Baneslayer Angel, and Baneslayer Angel is good as hell against every single deck that struggles to answer her. Bring her in outside of just red matchups, and watch her dominate the board, then end the game immediately. Before you hover over Admiral’s Order to see what the hell the card is, note that it’s just yet another hard counter. There are a lot of big, difficult midrange threats in this format, and we’ve run out of other hard answers to them. Sometimes you just need another counterspell. There’s also a 26th land as Field of Ruin in the sideboard for control mirrors as well as any matchup with a bunch of troublesome lands.
U/W Control – Daniel Fournier
Last, but certainly not least, we have History of Benalia and its sworn brother, Benalish Marshal. These two cards alongside Sram’s Expertise are the most obvious build-around-me cards included in a set since Hazoret and basic Mountain. I already went over a midrange version of the deck earlier in the month, so let’s look at what an aggressive version of the deck would look like. We’re reusing the light black splash from the green deck for Scrapheap Scrounger, with extra value coming out of Toolcraft Exemplar.
A deck like this is also begging for a couple Duress’ in the sideboard, so, despite them being hard to cast, they fill out the last few slots. Otherwise, the deck is pretty self-explanatory. Jam an unreasonable amount of power into play and turn it sideways, then play Pride of Conquerors for an easy win.
Benalia White – Daniel Fournier