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4 Lessons from the Dominaria Prerelease

Dominaria Limited looks to be good, honest, old-fashioned Magic—and it’s incredible.

It’s a funny thing how whenever Richard Garfield comes anywhere near a Magic set, it ends up being one of the all-time greats. Most recently, Garfield was on the design teams for Ravnica: City of Guilds and Innistrad, both widely considered to be among the best Limited formats of all time, and it looks like the good doctor has helped to deliver the goods yet again with Dominaria.

In more ways than one, Dominaria harkens back to the good old days of Magic. While there are flashy legendaries and splashy bombs, gameplay is centered around attacking and blocking, gaining small edges with interaction, and correctly navigating tough deck-building choices. Kicker mitigates mana flood to reduce feel-bad games, removal seems to have been given a significant upgrade over recent sets, and the resonant flavor scratches an old itch for the early days of Magic.

We still have so much to learn about this format. Subpar fixing has been coupled with splashable removal and powerful gold legendaries to create excellent deck-building tension—the speed of the format is still somewhat uncertain—while Dominaria seems to be a good deal slower than what we’re used to, aggressive starts are possible with efficient, cheap commons, and individual card evaluations are already varying wildly depending on who you ask.

Dominaria is Full of Lower-Rarity Powerhouses

At both uncommon and common, there are plenty of cards across all five colors that have really been pushed in terms of power level. I’m sure everyone who attended a prerelease this weekend witnessed at least one instance where someone picked up a card that was wrecking them before exclaiming, “that’s just an uncommon!?”

On Serra’s Wings

Gone are the days of all Auras being automatically unplayable, and in the case of On Serra’s Wings, it’s quite the opposite. This card will end a game very swiftly indeed, and take removal-light opponents to task. Despite the risk of a clean 2-for-1 with something like Eviscerate, even a single combat with this card will result in a huge life swing and turn the game around. Plus, every time I played it I got John Farnham’s “Angels” stuck in my head. The card is just full of upside.

Time of Ice

Blue has the tools to get aggressive in this format, especially when paired with more evasive beaters in white. Time of Ice does a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to pushing through damage and pulling further and further ahead. Woe betide any opponent who faces this card in multiples—or worse, in conjunction with Sentinel of the Pearl Trident!

The Eldest Reborn

 

Another pushed uncommon Saga speaks to an emerging trend—Sagas are, generally speaking, pretty bloody good. I don’t suggest you first-pick The Antiquities War and try to make it work (spoiler: it won’t), but cards like The Eldest Reborn just don’t feel like uncommons, and given the slower speed of the format, you should be able to get that value you crave.

Fight with Fire

If you’ve ever tried to play around Lava Axe or Explosive Impact in previous Limited formats, Fight with Fire is here to teach you a thing or two about just how good burn spells can be. Be very, very aware of your life total if an opposing red mage hits 8 mana. As an uncommon, Fight with Fire is going to end a lot of games.

Untamed Kavu

While both sides of this card are great, I’m looking for reasons to hold off until I hit 5 mana before letting this dog off the leash. A 5/5 vigilant trampler (vigilample?) will dominate almost any battlefield. What’s that? Vigilance and trample? Oh yes, sweet summer child. Hidden among all that nonsense about kicker are two pretty important keywords. Don’t be like a certain Australian coverage team member and chump-block to leave yourself dead to trample damage.

Dominaria’s Fixing Situation is Really Engaging and Difficult to Analyze

There are plenty of reasons to branch beyond two colors in Dominaria Limited. There are a plethora of splashy gold cards—again, many at uncommon—that are easy enough to splash in an otherwise 2-color deck. In addition to this, there is insanely good removal that isn’t prohibitively costed: Eviscerate, Blessed Light, Time of Ice, and Fiery Intervention all have a huge impact for such easily cast cards.

On the other hand, however, there’s no Evolving Wilds, and very little fixing at common. Skittering Surveyor does a decent job of finding your splash color, and Grow from the Ashes was a surprising standout in enabling slower 4-color decks that cherry-pick the best removal, especially, as when kicked, it effectively costs 3 mana and can be used to deploy a 2-drop after it has resolved. As for Navigator’s Compass in these multicoloured decks, well…

As more and more time is spent investigating Dominaria Limited, the role splashing plays in the format is one of the puzzles I’ll be keeping a close eye on. On the face of it, it feels as though splashing for versatile and powerful removal spells is certainly worth it, but the cost may be just too high if the format takes a quicker and more aggressive turn.

The Prerelease Saw Some Pretty Sweet 2-Card Combos

Marshall Sutcliffe pulled off a stunning flavor victory (in addition to a perhaps more tangible 4-0 victory):

Marc Ferguson’s turtle aspired to be the next Great A’Tuin:

Kenny McConnell pulled off a one-sided Armageddon:

Cabal Spooksman paid tribute to the bane of Return to Ravnica Limited with prerelease promos:

Vincent van der Vliet’s Traxos becomes the scourge of a lot more than just Kroog after being lifted up by aaaaaangels:

Next week I’m back in the booth in Bologna, as Dominaria hits the big stage for the first time at a Team Limited GP. If you’re attending, come and say hi—and if not, come and hang out on Twitch during the broadcast! In any case, I’ll be back next week to get you across all the action!

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