Relive the Legacy: Dominaria
Ever since I started playing, back during Dragons of Tarkir (Yes, not very long ago, but it certainly feels like it), I always wondered what it was like to play, during the days of Dominaria. This is the plane that started it all, and I wanted to experience it for myself. However, Dominaria was so long ago, and we have seen so many other planes, that I never held my breath on this wish coming true.
I don't know what exactly is going on this year, but this is the second time that Wizards of the Coast has given me a chance to experience games of old in the modern day (First with Unstable, and now with the brand new Dominaria). Whatever is going on here, it's a beautiful.
When we all heard that the legendary Richard Garfield would be a part of the creative team for this set, I don't feel like anybody was panicked about how this set would turn out. As we can see, we were correct to feel this way, as it bring flavor, balanced structure, and power to the game that we haven't seen since, well, the Khans of Tarkir block. What I did not expect, was the overflowing new wave of commanders brought to the PDH world. Not just new candidates, but actual Legendary Creatures also legal in the format. Maybe this is a good omen of sorts for us, maybe it's solely just a beautiful coincidence. I don't know, and right now, I don't care. There is one thing we can agree on though; Our Format just got a whole lot more interesting!
With everything being brought to the table with this set, it's very easy for things to slip through the cracks. The number of legendary creatures entering the scene is quite exciting, but that is not to say that is all that we have introduced. Let's take a look at some great non-legendary mentions.
I'm glad to see that not only do we have strong additions to the roster of commanders, but also some unique additions. Playing a colorless deck in PDH can be a challenge, with such few options, but can spark interest in a fun challenge. Pieces like Howling Golem brings a taste of group hug, and Jhoira's Familiar has the potential of being a great piece as future sets come out, and more commons are added to the list. Thorn Elemental, allowing you to redirect combat damage directly to the opponent, will show deadly results. Equip a Slagwurm Armor to it, and there's almost nothing stopping it. Diligent Excavator will prove to be a great piece as the variety in artifacts grows, and Champion of the Flame should be some casual fun.
With the non-legendary mentions concluded, it is time to sink our teeth into the real meat and potatoes of this set. This set, for the first time since Kamigawa, we are delivered a set with a full roster of Uncommon Legendary Creatures. Some are better than others, but none of them are poor, by any means. As is tradition, I have selected a top 5 in no particular order, but I wouldn't be doing a service by disregarding the others. There is a lot to discuss.
Picking a Top 5 for this set was the most difficult it has ever been. I am so excited for what we have at our disposal now, and I am dying to see these in action. I have taken a personal liking to Baird, Steward of Argive, and all of us here at PDH Home Base really dig Slimefoot, the Stowaway. Seeing a strong Boros commander is never a bad sign, so I am looking forward to playing against Tiana, Ship's Caretaker. For our combo friends out there, I know in advance, when I see Tatyova, Benthic Druid or Adeliz, the Cinder Wind hit the table, be in store for a mess.
I said before,picking a Top 5 was dreadfully difficult, and seeing below, you will understand why. This set is just jam-packed with so much. As if blue didn't have enough support, Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive brings a new strategy to blue altogether, giving creatures unblockable. Yargle, Glutton of Urborg is hilarious. Rather linear, but I would LOVE to see this make an appearance in future games. I have taken a personal liking to Valduk, Keeper of the Flame, and see much potential for this to create incredibly dangerous combat phases. With so many red non-permanents to give all creatures trample, first strike, etc, until end of turn, you can clear the board quite fast.
Further observing several pieces from our guild cycle of commanders, Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage, a strong creature in its own right as is, gives you an opportunity to cast artifacts at any time you see fit, outside of your turn. As we will see below, with commons supporting artifact decks, this commander will only become stronger as more and more sets come. Garna, the Bloodflame, although closer to the jank end of things, allows you to recover quickly from incredibly brutal combat phases. Such commanders will be useful, if needing to sacrifice your board to weaken a commander like Shanna, Sisay's Legacy. No player running this commander will have any difficulty turning this into a dangerous and large weapon.
It's not hard to assume that some commanders are clearly stronger than others. However, there are circumstances where the strength of the commander isn't weaker because of its ability, its weaker due to the 99 itself. A prime example of this, Hallar, the Firefletcher, will be a commander that is weakened heavily by the low number of spells with Kicker legal in the 99. Dominaria will be adding to that list, as I can imagine the remaining two sets of this block will as well. This is a commander that is at the moment not a leading competitor, but in time, will definitely make a deadly return.
The remaining 8 additions can be seen above. As you can see, none of these are bad, by any means. Arvad the Cursed falls to a similar fate as Hallar above, but will probably not have an opportunity to make a future appearance in such a prominent way. Although not quite as powerful, these remaining pieces are still interesting, and do allow come creativity. There is at least one Johnny among us that will be drawn to one of these, and I can't to play against it. If this what one set from a large block brought us, I can't wait to see what we will continue to receive over the following year.
New Additions to the 99
It's not common that when a set is released, I can find an addition for all of my decks. Lucky for me, Dominaria is just that good. Commons alone can be a limited selection, and yet, there are plenty. With that being said, some areas do indeed receive more support than others. With the new "Historic" classification of spells brought to the table, new commons have been made, just for this new system.
The newly added Raff Capashen benefits greatly from this new interest in historic spells, hence its design. Although that leaves out Cabal Paladin, a realm yet to be explored is black Voltron, and here is a great supporting card for such a deck. A number of months back, Jesse brought us an Esper Artifacts tech, and every single of these cards would make an amazing addition. Click here to see the deck tech.
I have recently taken an interest in building a rats deck, ever since the rarity change of Relentless Rats (Courtesy of Masters 25), and to my surprise, a similar creature, Rat Colony has entered the ring. Although it is always exciting to have a new card that can appear any number of times, Rat Colony falls to pitfalls, very similar to Shadowborn Apostle, as I had written about a few months prior. These things will die easily. Feral Abomination, on the other hand, will not go down so easily at all. By the time it goes down, several things are going with it. With that said, if your opponent goes for the finishing attack with Gaea's Protector, there is very little to save you. That abomination is highly dangerous, so I will be looking to run a Pegasus Courser in my white decks. Unfortunately for me, I tend to play red. So I will be eager for the card draw advantage of Keldon Raider.
Several pieces have been added to the "removal" arsenal, but the most exciting piece is the new artifact, Navigator's Compass. Mana fixing is a larger issue in budget formats, with far fewer items at our disposal. This new artifact gives us a better chance at playing 5-color decks.
If this set is an indication of how following blocks will look, then we have a fantastic year ahead of us. Uncommon legendary creatures have given a new breath of life into our format, and shows great promise for the future. That means now more than ever, is the time for brewing, and the time for playing.