Finally, a Unique Planeswalker: Brewing with Dovin, Grand Arbiter

A closer look at the text:

+1: Until end of turn, whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, put a loyalty counter on Dovin, Grand Arbiter.

-1: Create a 1/1 colorless Thopter artifact creature token with flying. You gain 1 life.

-7: Look at the top ten cards of your library. Put three of them into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

Love it or hate it, you have to at least appreciate that this is not a 5-6 mana planeswalker with +1-2 draw a card, -3 removal, -8-9 win. This is quite a radical departure from the planeswalker model, much moreso than recent successful “deviations” like Chandra costing only 4 or Vraska making creatures instead of drawing a card, which are pretty tiny variations on the known model.

The first thing that should jump out at you is what Dovin rewards you for doing (I tend to think of it as “what is this card asking me to do?”). Dovin is blue-white (Azorius if you insist, U/W for short) and yet the card asks you to attack with creatures, plural, in order to be used to maximum effect. That’s a different ask from a U/W card than it would be from, say, a R/G or W/G card. Will your U/W deck want this payoff bad enough to start playing cheap threats or token-generators? I think it will. The fact that Dovin himself provides you with evasive token creatures and only requires an investment of 3 mana to start doing so is what gets me really excited about this card.

Clearly, white is going to be the deeper well when it comes to aggressive creatures and go-wide token-generators. Let’s take a quick inventory of existing cards in Standard that could help you trigger Dovin’s +1 ability or that provide similar rewards for doing similar things, and thus might combine nicely with Dovin. I’ll list them roughly in order of my excitement to pair them with Dovin, Grand Arbiter.

Adanto Vanguard: It’s cheap, it sticks around, all it wants to do is attack, and it’s annoying to block.

History of Benalia: If it didn’t compete with Dovin at the same spot in the curve, it would be #1 on my list. Still though, this is a card you already wanted in your deck, it’s a card that creates multiple creatures, and it then helps you attack with those creatures.

Venerated Loxodon: This thing is another payoff for going wide, and turns the Thopters you get from Dovin into 2/2s. It then presents a 4/4 body that joins the red zone. This is a natural complement to Dovin in multiple ways.

Skymarcher Aspirant: It’s cheap, it can gain evasion, and Dovin spits two permanents out the turn you drop it, immediately giving you Siggy’s Blessing and helping you get the city’s blessing as well. Aspirant seems like a premium thing to do on turn 1, and you’re getting Hallowed Fountain in the new set to help you have untapped mana to do just that.

Legion’s Landing: It makes token(s), it pays you off for attacking with three creatures, and is another natural fit when going wide with white in Standard. Why not.

Mist-Cloaked Herald: When you want to get a creature through unblocked in the early game, this is a pretty good way of guaranteeing it.

Warkite Marauder: Not only is this a good attacker, it will help get those 1/1s and 2/2s sitting on the ground through unblocked, at least some of the time. It can also get Thopters through by stripping blockers of flying. A natural fit.

Curious Obsession: Once you’ve answered Dovin’s demand for unblocked attackers, there is heavy upside coming your way in the form of Curious Obsession. This is an overpowered card that makes the same requests of us that Dovin does. I’d be happy to include it if going more evasive than I was going purely wide.

Siren Stormtamer: Cheap, evasive, and a powerful card, although it must be said that going wide isn’t very conducive to wanting the “protect the queen” ability on the Stormtamer. But that ability was just upside anyway—it’s still flying men. And if you use Curious Obsession, protecting the enchanted creature becomes valuable.

Resplendent Angel: Evasion is helpful for sure, but without a life gain theme I’m not sure the Angel will be able to pull its weight at the very crowded 3-spot on the curve.

Dauntless Bodyguard/Snubhorn Sentry/Hunted Witness: These are passable 1-drops, but they are easy to block and less powerful than Skymarcher Aspirant, and without the upside of Legion’s Landing.

Arclight Phoenix: It isn’t blue or white—actually, who are we kidding, it’s blue. It has haste, and it has evasion. It does ask you to play a very high density of instants and sorceries, however, so I’m not completely convinced that we can pull this all off alongside Dovin.

Murmuring Mystic: This card is a blue army-in-a-can. You just have to supply some instants and sorceries to get it going. The fact that Dovin asks you for permanents and Mystic asks you for spells keeps it from being higher on the list.

Knight of Grace: Solid and somewhat hard to block profitably. It’s nothing exciting really and you should hope to do better.

All right, let’s work on a couple early deck list sketches to see the evasion ideas and the go wide ideas laid out:

Dovin Evasion

Dovin Wide


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