Previous Dominaria Set Reviews
Let’s take a look at the grading scale, with the usual caveat that what I write about the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade.
I have this slightly higher than the assorted 2/1s because a) it’s bigger (duh) and b) you might get a solid trigger here or there. It’s not the stones, but it’s a mediocre playable and gets a little better once you have 3-4 cards with kicker. It is annoying that kicker costs tend to be expensive, which flies in the face of this aggressive 2-drop, and menace in particular drops in value quickly.
Champion of the Flame
We’ve come a long way from Rabid Wombat (a card I thought was awesome back in the day). Still, this doesn’t really excite me, as it’s very bad before you enchant/equip it and not all that great when you do. In a deck with 5+ ways to buff this, I would try it, but I would not take this early and try to make it my champion.
This is a solid combat trick that has a slightly wider range of uses than most. It will win most combats for 1 mana, which is nice, and can every so often be used to swing for a bunch of extra damage. I’d play this in most aggro or midrange decks, though it’s not so important to be worth taking early.
5 mana for 5 damage is a perfectly acceptable deal, and tacking on a random Shatter is pure upside. The art on this is pretty on the nose, but hey, at least you get the idea. It’s pretty blunt, much like Chandra’s tactics.
Fight with Fire
I’m high on this card. For 3 mana, it kills just about anything, which would already make it an easy 3.5. Adding an expensive and powerful kicker really brings it to the next level, as this will end the game basically every time if you can get to 9 mana (either by killing their board or just going directly to the face). This card more than any shows how powerful flexibility is—even if you kick this just 10% of the time, adding that aspect on to an already great card is a surprisingly large upgrade, and I will be taking this almost every time I see it. I only wish it were called Jaya’s Rage, which would have been a nice throwback.
I love cards from Alpha, though this does not hold up as well as Serra Angel. Play this if your deck is missing 5-drops, but don’t expect it to be [fire emoji]. The stats and cost are mediocre at best.
I wouldn’t quite call this a build-around because it’s passable by itself and will naturally deal 2 a lot of the time, especially in blue-red. That said, if you can pick up a couple extra Wizards, the rating does go up, so this is an aspiring 3.
The First Eruption
Limited: 3.0 // ???
This card is really tricky. I think it’s strong overall, but it might be hard to pull all the pieces together. I see this working as follows:
- Play it and maybe kill a 1/1 or two. Not a huge deal.
- Play something huge and ahead of schedule. Solid upside.
- Wipe the board of all small/medium creatures, leaving whatever you played last turn in play. Big advantage.
If you have a deck with good high end and creatures with 4+ toughness, this can be a powerful way to punish smaller decks. I don’t think that’s every red deck, and the format seems like it won’t be overrun by aggro, so I don’t think this is a bomb. It is interesting, and like all Sagas, I really want to get my hands on them to see.
The Flame of Keld
This is one of the most-argued about cards so far, as many people see a lot higher upside in it than I do. Basically, I see this as a hyper-situational Tormenting Voice + Trumpet Blast, with the slight bonus of making your burn spells deal +2 damage on the final turn as well. It just seems too hard to have a position where your hand is empty and you have sufficient board presence to make this great, especially since it doesn’t increase toughness on your creatures. Maybe really aggressive decks end up digging this, but it looks too hard to set up and not rewarding enough when you do. Let’s see how this fares, and maybe I put it in my underrated set re-review (though here’s where the game is rigged—I admit when I get cards wrong, but all those yelling about how great this is tend to fade quietly into the night, which I guess is what I sign up for by writing these).
I don’t like menace quite as much as first strike on a +2/+1 Aura, but this still will get the job done. As long as you’re aggressive and have a low curve, this will make the cut (and then another cut, and then another cut).
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
This is a slightly different kind of build-around—it asks you to have a lot of spells, but doesn’t care too much about them being specific kinds of spells. If you have 8+ spells, this becomes a great addition, and if you’re running less than that it is still passable. It’s also a Wizard, which could push it over the line in some decks with just a few targets. Plus, if the format is slow enough, I could see this edging toward a 3.5, though it would need to be really slow for it to hit that mark.
Ghitu Journeymage is the definition of filler, and I expect to play it in most aggro decks and avoid it in the slower ones. The extra ping makes it a little more relevant in the late game, which is nice, and tempo Wizards might end up being really into this.
I find it funny that a clumsy Goblin Guide is a more effective pathfinder than a skilled Lavarunner, but either way this isn’t going to make into 40-card decks very often. It’s too much work for too little reward, and this usually won’t be great at the point in the game where you need your 1-drops to be good.
I like this in barrage mode, and if you pay the kicker, you even get some sabotage to go with it. The fact that it’s good without the kicker makes it a fine card, and every now and then you will toss one of your artifacts or Goblins at the opponent’s head. Works for me.
I like this a lot less than the other triple-color cards because so much of the value of this is in the 3/3 first strike body, and that falls off hard in the late game. If you can be nearly mono-red, this will be great, but I wouldn’t take it early and expect that to work out. If you see it later and are in a position to move in, this will be great, but my rating reflects how much value this provides on average, and I don’t see it being insane.
After looking at what’s going on in this set, I don’t really see a Goblin theme getting there. Every now and then you’ll have a base-red deck with just enough Goblins to make this playable, but it’s nowhere near as powerful as the card looks (or was back in Onslaught block).
After spending hours parsing this text, I have come to the conclusion that this is good. It kills three permanents, even if sometimes you’ll have to pick lands because they don’t have enough stuff in play, and starts working right at the end of the turn you play it. That’s powerful enough for me, even if it’s very random, and I think this will be a desirable card in this format. It’s also really cute with bounce, as Rescuing or Blink of an Eyeing this will kill the full four permanents, because the aim counter remains from the first time you cast it.
Not all planeswalkers are bombs, and Jaya Ballard certainly is not. Her first ability is mediocre, her second is pretty decent, and her casting cost is hard. In a heavy red deck I would likely try Jaya, then take her out once I got to activate her and confirm that she isn’t good.
Jaya’s Immolating Inferno
Limited: 1.0 // 4.5
This is similar to Yawgmoth’s Horrible Plan (or whatever the black one is called). Hard to enable, and uncastable in some decks, but beyond absurd when you do get to cast it. If you can pick up 4+ legendary creatures, this is an insane finisher, and one worth trying to get to work.
This is a threatening common. It costs a lot, but the good news is that if you want the 3/1 haste mode, the kicker is probably pretty good in your deck (and vice versa). It’s a solid finisher and a card I wouldn’t mind in my beatdown decks, but it’s too expensive to build a sacrifice deck around.
I’m a fan of 4/3s for 4, and ones that let you upgrade a card in your hand are even better. In any red deck, I’ll be on the prowl for as many copies of this as I can get.
Nobody will be singing songs about this guy, but he is a bear with an interesting ability in the late game. In an aggro deck with one or two Sagas, I could see running this, though the most likely use case is curve-filling.
There aren’t enough ways to generate value off of this, and a 2-mana 1/1 is barely a card by itself. As such, I’ll be a good citizen and avoid vandalizing anything.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
This is a marginal main deck card and a decent sideboard one as it can wipe out armies of Saprolings. I would want one of these in my sideboard in most decks, but wouldn’t prioritize it very highly.
I love the joke here, and the card isn’t bad either. It does get weaker in the face of double blocks, but that can be an advantage—the opponent is more likely to try and double up, at which point you wreck them with a combat trick or burn spell. It’s also a fine blocker, and a card I would play every time.
A trick you can only use while attacking loses a ton of flexibility, even if it’s powerful in an aggro deck. I wouldn’t run amok outside of very aggressive decks.
These modes are about as uncomplementary as I can imagine—there is so rarely a time when both are good at once. Add that to the lack of power in either, and a bad card is what you end up with.
This is my pick for best common in the set. It kills a ton of creatures for 1 mana, and if you need to hit something bigger, you can just pay the price and it’ll do that too. The efficiency is so high, and it doesn’t fall off in the late game, which in my book puts it just above Eviscerate.
I love Siege-Gang Commander. It’s insane at any point in the game, and can deal with almost any kind of opposing threat. It even answers flyers once you untap, and is resilient to removal, all while pressuring the opponent’s life total. I’m all-in on Siege-Gang, and would consider switching colors for it if I opened it in pack 2.
There are so few Goblins in this set, and this card would probably suck even if there were more. The ability is just not good, as sacrificing creatures to get a mana boost is a steep cost, making its prospects quite grim.
Charging Monstrosaur this is not, and for that I am thankful. Skizzik attacks for enough to be worth playing, and will have some very swingy moments, but is also soft enough in combat not to be incredible.
Squee, the Immortal
I would always run Squee in a deck with 9+ Mountains, as he can gum up the ground and even attack for a decent amount of damage. It’s nice having a card you don’t care about, and the opportunity cost on Squee is very low.
I like this card a lot more than I like this format. Half the time it has a good offensive ability, and the entire time it’s a 4/4 for 4. I look forward to having some games decided on coin flips (I’m not even joking—I love that kind of nonsense).
Valduk, Keeper of the Flame
Limited: 2.5 // 3.5
Valduk is a build-around, and the best kind too—he has a low opportunity cost, being a 3/2 for 3, and a high upside when he works. This is worth working toward, and I wouldn’t mind snagging him early and seeing where it goes.
Well then. Both modes here are very desirable, and combining the two makes a truly awesome bomb. I don’t have much to say here—the power level is high, the effect is very simple, and what makes this good are the stats and cost.
A 2/2 haste flyer for 4 isn’t impressive, so you need the ability to carry a lot of weight. I don’t think it quite does, and I’d mostly be looking to play this in very aggressive decks, but not much outside of that. If it gave the top creature of your deck +1/+1 that would be a completely different story, but that’s neither here nor there.
In theory, this is a fine way to get a bit of value without costing a card. In practice, your deck never has room for this kind of card, and unless you are making a first strike deck with the Pride of Femeref, this won’t make the cut.
This is quite good at 3 mana and truly great at 1 mana, so it is no surprise that it gets a high grade. Don’t worry about picking up Wizards—this is more than fine regardless of what your deck looks like.
Top 5 Red Commons
5. Ghitu Chronicler
4. Rampaging Cyclops
3. Fiery Intervention
2. Keldon Raider
1. Shivan Fire
Red skews aggressive once more, though Ghitu Chronicler does hint at a controlling red deck as well. Shivan Fire is an awesome best common to have, though the rest are more solid than amazing. I don’t think I’ll mind being a red mage in Dominaria, though if the format does end up being on the slow side, a lot of the red cards lose some luster.