It’s a great time to be alive and playing Constructed Magic! Dominaria has been shaking things up all the way from Standard through Legacy and everything in between. The set is epic (would you have expected anything less from a return to Dominaria?), and has already begun to impact metagames across various formats in dynamic and interesting ways.
The past week has been one of the most enjoyable I can remember in years. The brewers are brewing. The players are playing. Everybody I talk to is excited about new decks and ideas. It really feels like Dominaria has brought a breath of fresh air into Magic.
There is a lot going on and it’s difficult to even keep track of the wild shifts across so many formats, but today I’d like to highlight some of the important trends that I’ve been observing across the big three Constructed formats: Legacy, Modern, and Standard.
Let’s start with the format least likely to be impacted by a new set. It takes a lot to leave a mark on Legacy, but there have been some interesting shifts.
1. Ponder Vs. Preordain
One of the interesting shifts I’ve seen is a true battle of the titans. There has been a lot of debate about replacing Ponder with Preordain in many blue-based strategies. The debate hinges around the fact that Legacy decks only have so many shuffle effects and a lot of Brainstorm effects.
In particular, it appears to be a hot topic among Leovold pilots that are likely to be packing Jace, The Mind Sculptor. In a lot of situations, a player will specifically want one card off Ponder, but the other two—well, not so much. If these situations are common, it makes a lot of sense to consider Preordain.
I’ve been very impressed with Preordain in Pauper, and for a similar reason: Shuffle effects are at a premium and I want maximum value. Truly, blue has an embarrassment of riches when it can be so picky between so many absurdly good cantrips!
2. Turbo Depths Is on the Rise
Turbo Depths has been steadily ticking up in winners’ metagame percentage in the past month. In fact, the deck wasn’t even on my radar a month ago when I started working on my Top 20 Legacy decks series, and was only clocking in around 1%.
The deck is now up around 5% and has had a few nice weekends in a row. The deck is fast and consistent, and it should be on your radar.
3. Karnfather is Real
One of the biggest overall trends in Magic is that players are nuts for Karn, and for good reason—the card is busted. I’ll be talking more about Karn, but you know the card is gasoline when it bursts into Legacy.
You can expect to see this card popping up in the various Ancient Tomb decks across the format as it is one of the best colorless cards ever printed. Eldrazi and Dragon Stompy variants are making fantastic use of this mythic planeswalker.
Modern has also had some sweet innovation taking place.
4. The People’s Golem
Have I mentioned that this Karn card is pretty good yet? He’s a natural fit in colorless-based strategies, such as Eldrazi Tron and Affinity. He’s great at creating pressure or card advantage. Basically, he’s great for whatever the situation calls for.
I’m not at all surprised to see Karn having success in Modern.
5. Humans are the New Jund
If you are looking for the most powerful fair deck that makes up a huge percentage of the metagame, Humans is that deck. The deck has solid disruption and removal paired with a fast clock. Humans is old news. It’s been around a while, but it is now officially the deck to be prepared to battle against early and often at any Modern tournament.
It has the finishes and the numbers—you need to have a solid plan for this deck, or be prepared not to make Day 2.
It kills quickly, has a high threat density, and can disrupt well enough to push past unfair decks. It’s a great deck. Dare I say, the best deck?
6. Teferi is the Truth
I’m getting ready to play a team event (I’m on Legacy) where our Modern specialist, Zach Allen, is jamming multiple copies of Teferi. I was skeptical at first, but I’ve been impressed after watching his matches.
If you had told me a few days ago that a Jeskai deck would play two Teferi and one Jace, the Mind Sculptor, I would have laughed at the absurdity of that statement. I would have been wrong to laugh because Teferi is extremely powerful and may be just what the various U/W control decks have been looking for!
7. If the Iron Works
Matt Nass has been crushing Modern with KCI combo decks. He’s basically taken the deck from a fringe entity into the limelight.
I’ve also seen a lot of hype and experimentation around Teshar in a KCI shell, rebuying cards like Scrap Trawler and Myr Retriever for free every time you cast an artifact!
The Antiquities War is another sweet card people have been brewing with:
It’s obviously a powerful card advantage engine in emergent artifact combo decks that doubles as a giant victory condition. Another card to keep an eye on.
8. Faithless Looting is the New Brainstorm?
Ben Friedman wrote a really interesting article last week about how Faithless Looting is a Brainstorm-esqe Modern card. Obviously, Brainstorm is Brainstorm and Faithless Looting is not, but his argument is interesting nonetheless.
The biggest change I’ve seen in Standard is that it doesn’t appear to suck, and that’s coming from someone who has railed against the format for the past year or so.
The Dominaria cards are bold and exciting, and have pushed many of the annoying kings of the mountain from the high ground in week one.
9. The Old Gods Are Dead (For Now)
It was not a good weekend to be a Scarab God or a Hazoret. The new Dominaria cards appear to have completely toppled the old hierarchy of Mono-Red, U/B Midrange, and GPG for the time being.
I’m glad to see this happen and to see lots of new decks and strategies take center stage with the release of Dominaria.
10. Main Deck a Naturalize for Me
Artifacts and enchantments are in the driver’s seat (and not just Vehicles!).
Vehicles are gas. White enchantment-based removal is everywhere. And don’t even get me started on Karn…
One of the big debates is over the merits of main-deck artifact and enchantment removal.
There are great options across various colors. White has several Disenchant effects. Brontodon is a workhorse. The stock on Abrade is high (if you are brave enough to play red…). It has been a while since maindecking Disenchant effects has been so strong in Standard as there are plenty of great targets.
11. All Karn All the Time
Karn is an absurd Magic card and appears to port into a lot of different decks. The fact that it can impact the board or go deep on card advantage makes it a very useful card.
My friends and I have been brewing a lot for the Team Unified RPTQ, and the biggest question on my mind isn’t “How do we build three great decks?” It’s “How do we build three great decks when only one can have Karn?”
12. Green and White Went from Zero to Hero
It appears as if the metagame has done a complete 180 in week one of Dominaria Standard. The two lamest colors from last season, green and white, have become complete powerhouses.
Dominaria is such a deep set, and it was particularly deep for green and white. When Baneslayer Angel isn’t even the best white mythic rare in a set, well, white is going to be pretty good.
13. Teferi Has Redefined U/W Control
U/W Control decks had a big weekend as well, in large part due to the inclusion of Teferi:
I already pointed out that my Modern teammate is playing this card over Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Modern. I’m going to take that as a sign that it will continue to set the tone in Standard. If isn’t dealt with quickly, it just completely takes over a game. The ultimate is unbeatable!
14. History of Benalia is Kitchen Finks for Control Decks
I know this card looks like a flashy beatdown card on the surface, but it’s strong enough to warrant inclusion in more controlling strategies as well. It can buy time against aggressive decks, as well as pressure Teferi and life totals in the mirror.
History may end up being the single most impactful card in the entire Standard format because it can go into such a wide range of decks. White is deep, and this is one of the best cards in the color.
New sets are always a fun time to be in the Magic groove, but Dominaria appears to be a particularly groovy expansion. Dominaria is the best. I’m glad Magic has gone home to the things that made it great in the first place.