I held out as long as I could, but I finally caved and made my way through the Dominaria spoiler. Wow, the set looks great! I’m amped to return to the plane where it all began, and not just for the nostalgia (although that doesn’t hurt…). In fact, based on what has been revealed thus far, I’m inclined to believe Dominaria might be one of the best designed sets I’ve ever seen and I can’t wait to finally play with the cards at the prerelease.
There are several reasons I’m excited for the release of Dominaria and today I’d like to explain why I believe Dominaria is poised to knock it out of the park.
Before I do, let me take a moment to clarify something: I don’t get excited at overpowered, undercosted cards. It’s not difficult to design unbalanced cards. When I see an Emrakul on a spoiler, it annihilator 6s my enthusiasm for Constructed Magic. I love cards that allow me to play fun, dynamic games of Magic much more than ones that blow games open.
With that being said, Dominaria isn’t a set full of Tarmogoyfs and Fatal Pushes. It may be disappointing to some, but I think taking the foot off the gas is a positive quality that Magic, and in particular Standard, needs right now.
A set can be fun and exciting without it beating me over the head with absurd ‘walkers and 1-mana removal.
1. A “Historic” New Keyword
One of the biggest gripes I’ve had with Standard and design over the past three years is that everything competitive feels like it has cookie-cutter functions.
There has been a lot of building around keywords like energy, delirium, and Vehicles.
“Historic” is one of the new keywords and refers to “artifacts, legendaries, and Sagas.”
There are all kinds of different ways that historic comes into play. There are creatures that trigger when historic cards are played, and there are cards that let you search for historic cards. It’s just a keyword that clumps these three types of cards into one group. I love it.
There are tons of different ways to utilize historic in deck building. Unlike a mechanic like energy, where it is obvious that you want to find all of the energy cards and pick the best ones in a color palate, there are lots of ways to work historic synergies into your decks.
Rather than being exclusive, the mechanic feels open ended. I love it, especially in a set that has all three of the types in spades!
2. Enchantments Get A Rebrand: Sagas
I’ve played Magic since the beginning, and enchantments used to be a big part of the game—much less so now.
I enjoy a good prison deck that grinds a game to a halt as much as the next mage, but I understand why Wizards has chosen to go in a different direction…
Sure, enchantments exist, but haven’t been a prominent part of modern Magic. There are Auras that are just removal, Auras that buff creatures, but not a ton of exciting innovation over the past five years. Ixalan block brought us the cycle with Search for Azcanta that transform into locations, which was a neat innovation, and now Sagas kick it up a notch!
Sagas are enchantments that trigger each turn and have an effect on the game. So, they are kind of like planeswalkers that can’t be attacked (but can be disenchanted) with progressively more powerful effects as the game goes on.
It is also worth noting that these cards look aesthetically beautiful. All around a slam-dunk. I have mad respect for when design is able to take something as basic as “enchantments” and give them a whole new spin. Also, I love the flavor of these cards as they create an effect on the game that feels like the theme of an old Dominaria set.
3. Kicker Is Back!
I will never understand why mechanics like kicker, cycling, and flashback are not evergreen and in every single set. Maybe design is afraid of giving us too much of a good thing. In my mind, these should be like flying or defender and just a basic part of the game.
Kicker is an amazing Limited mechanic since it gives players the option to use their mana early but rewards them for saving the card for later. It’s pretty simple: kicker makes a set better.
4. Good 1-Drops in Multiple Colors
I’m excited to see that there looks to be a cycle of competitive 1- drops spanning at least three colors.
One of the reasons Standard may have suffered is that the best cards are all glutted in the middle of the curve. The cheap cards simply get outmatched and overtaken by the powerful 3- and 4-drops and cease to matter. There simply haven’t been enough competitive 1-drops in the format to punish players for starting their curve at 2, which results in a midrange slogfest.
More 1-drops means that players will need to prioritize being nimble or risk having clunky draws that get run over.
I’m not saying that I want Standard decks to play sixteen 1-drops, but having cheap cards that are playable adds a cool dynamic to a format. These 1-drops are good enough that they will also be potentially impactful in Modern.
I’m optimistic that each of the four colors will eventually have a good 1-drop creature once the full spoiler goes up, and here’s why:
5. Triple-Color Threats
In the same colors as the insane 1-drops (red, white, and green), there are also pushed threats that cost 3 of the same color:
Obviously, these cards are powerful for just 3 mana but they come with the cost of needing 3 of the same color mana to cast them. Not easy in decks that are not mono-colored.
There is often little incentive to stay within just one color and I like that cards like these exist to do just that. Real diversity comes from options and these creatures are a step toward enticing players to leave the beaten path.
Also, all three of these cards are sweet and really embody the flavor of each color. I’m hoping that blue and black will have cards to complete both cycles in the second half of the spoiler.
6. Tribal, Without Being “Too Tribal”
I actually enjoyed Ixalan Limited a great deal, but a lot of people had gripes. One of the biggest complaints was that the set was too focused on tribal synergies, it was the only tier 1 strategy for drafting.
I love that Dominaria will be featuring some of the most beloved tribes from the plane without being heavy-handed about it: Goblins, Elves, and even Saprolings are in the mix.
I’m also excited that Saprolings have some legitimately good cards coming down the pipeline. I’ve always wanted to build a Saproling Commander deck, but there have never been enough playables.
7. Adding Some Old-School Dominaria to Modern
I love the fact that some iconic reprint cards have been included in Dominaria and will now be legal for Modern play.
Other than Time Spiral block, the new Dominaria expansion is the only set that is actually set on the plane where it all began.
The Goblin tribe has felt close to playable, but needed some help, and Warchief seems like a great fit there as well.
These are just a few of the trends in the set that stand out to me, and that’s with only two-thirds of the spoiler up. I haven’t even gotten into individual cards that are fun and interesting. I’m stoked for the complete spoiler to go up so I can start working on my updated Danger Room list. There are at least thirty cards that I’ll be considering for my stack, which is a lot for a new set.
I’m glad the set looks so strong and well designed. I would have been disappointed with a weaksauce return to Dominaria, but it looks like this expansion will be a homecoming worthy of the plane!