With Pro Tour Dominaria on the horizon, I’ve spent a lot of my time drafting Dominaria. I’ve played almost every Limited format, most of them I’ve played in high quantity, and Dominaria is one of my favorite formats of all time. The games all feel fresh and challenging, which keeps it interesting.
Games Develop Slowly
Slower games provide more opportunities to make meaningful decisions. No one likes to feel helpless, like there’s no play they can make by turn 3 because they kept a hand with two lands and didn’t draw their third. Slower games of Limited are better games of Limited.
The 2-Drops Are Blockable
If you look at Ixalan and Amonkhet, you see a bunch of 2-drop creatures that are difficult to block. This meant that playing a 2-drop on turn 2 would usually shorten the length of a game drastically. Creatures like Gust Walker, Oketra’s Avenger, Rhonas’s Stalwart, Deeproot Warrior, and Kitesail Corsair are some examples of the creatures in the last couple of Draft formats that were difficult to block and could easily attack late into a game.
In Dominaria, the 2-drop creatures look like Mesa Unicorn, Benalish Honor Guard, and Corrosive Ooze. Bloodstone Goblin, Relic Runner, and Serra Disciple are the 2-drops with an evasive ability, and all take a little work to have a meaningful impact. Bloodstone Goblin might attack as a 3/3 with menace one or two times, but usually it’s just a Grizzly Bears.
Scaling down the power level of the common 2-drops has a positive impact on games because it takes the emphasis off of drawing a quality 2-drop in your opening hand, or a way to remove your opponent’s Gust Walker that may deal 12 damage on its own. Blocking is good. Please let us keep doing it.
One of the biggest issues with a lot of weaker formats is the lack of mana sinks. Kicker is an outstanding mechanic for this reason. A lot of games come down to who drew too few or too many lands. In Dominaria, you have a lot of ways to use excess mana when we get flooded. The various Equipment, cards like Urza’s Tome and Slimefoot, the Stowaway, and all of the kicker cards, provide a way to utilize extra lands. With lands having additional value and the format being less aggressive, you can still win the games where you miss a land drop early and games where you draw a couple of extra lands early. In Ixalan, if you missed your third land drop you’d often be in a lot of trouble immediately. In this format, creatures like Ghitu Chronicler can actually block other 2-drops, so you can play your 2-mana 1/3s and keep your life total healthy long enough to draw out of your mana problems.
In a less aggressive format where you have extra use for lands, you can keep a wider range of opening hands. Five-landers with two good spells or two-landers with a higher curve than you’d like are more acceptable in this format than they would be in ones where there is a lot of pressure to play an impactful spell on each of the early turns. You can miss a land drop, you can flood a little, and the game won’t be over immediately. It’s much harder to make up the lost card than it is in Constructed, but in this format it’s correct to keep more speculative hands because there is less pressure to play a spell every turn than in a more aggressive Draft format. Mulliganing less frequently leads to fewer non-games where one player starts with four or five cards, or a game where the opponent misses their second land drop and can’t effectively block for the rest of the game because the creatures in the format are too difficult to block.
The Colors Aren’t One-Dimensional
This is one of my favorite qualities of this format. I’ve talked a lot about how this format isn’t fast, but that doesn’t mean that there are no aggressive decks at all. U/W Flyers, U/R Wizards, and R/W Equipment are all examples of aggressive archetypes. This means one red deck could want Ghitu Chronicler while another is looking for Run Amok, or one blue deck wants Deep Freeze while another wants Relic Runner.
Adding this flexibility to each color allows players to draft each one in different ways. I’ve had success with U/R Wizards as an aggro deck, but I’ve also enjoyed some success with U/R Control using countermagic, card draw, and removal to pair with Ghitu Chronicler and Vodalian Arcanist. This allows me to enjoy Draft after Draft of Dominaria because there are so many different ways to draft the format. My decks look different despite being in the same color pairs, so each game plays out differently. This can add some interesting decisions to Drafts, which makes the format both more difficult and more rewarding.
Curving Out Isn’t As Important
Most games aren’t decided by tempo. Very rarely, you or your opponent will play a 2-drop, a 3-drop, and a 4-drop, and run the other player over. You have time to catch back up, so you don’t have to build your deck with a bunch of mopey 2-drops just because you need to develop your battlefield early. Instead of worrying about your curve, you can draft and build your deck with a long-term plan or strategy. Playing a B/R Ghitu Chronicler Soul Salvage loop isn’t just a pipe dream, and drafting Cold-Water Snapper and Arcane Flight isn’t too slow. All these cute little combos and synergies you’d expect to see LSV try and fail with are viable and can be successful. Deep down we all want to draft cool decks, but at the same time we don’t want to draft a sweet deck, get beat down by some common creatures, and only have a screenshot left to enjoy. Dominaria lets you go a little deeper without ruining your win percentage.
Sometimes in Dominaria, you open a bomb of one color, and then you kind of lock in on that color while staying open to find out what your second color will be. Others, you bounce around several different colors until you have a good idea of what’s open and what you want to draft. Having a few playable artifacts in the set lets you stay open while also collecting cards that will always end up in your deck.
That Icy Manipulator doesn’t care if you end up U/R or B/R—it’s going to make the cut. That Skittering Surveyor is going into your deck no matter what. Struggling for playables? That late Bloodtallow Candle will fill out your deck in any color combination. If you have a few creatures and need a playable, Jousting Lance is perfectly serviceable.
Having a couple of artifacts available to pick up in a Draft can give you more time figure out which colors are open, and which colors you want to end up in, without wasting picks speculating. Or if you do want to speculate, you can pick up a couple of later pick artifacts to fill out your deck. Having a few playable colorless card can go a long way toward making a Draft format more interesting.
Commons Deal with Bombs
There are some pretty powerful cards in Dominaria Limited. Lyra Dawnbringer, Shalai, Voice of Plenty, Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp are all strong rares and mythics. All of these creatures, however, are dealt with by a simple Eviscerate or Blessed Light. I like opening and playing with powerful rares, but it’s also not fun when you reveal your Tetzimoc, Primal Death for a prey counter and you opponent immediately scoops up their cards. Having common removal for the bombs of the set makes playing against them more bearable and playing with them much more challenging. “Maybe I should wait to cast Lyra and see if they kill this Aven Sentry first?” Having access to answers, and plenty of them, for a lot of the set’s most powerful cards leads to a more interesting Limited format that players will continually enjoy playing rather than quitting the format the third time they got locked out by Profane Procession.
Splashing is Often Correct
There’s nothing more annoying than opening a powerful rare or mythic and getting pushed off it. In Dominaria, the format is slow enough that you can often splash your most powerful cards without being punished too hard. There are not many double-colored cards, so your mana requirements are less strained. That Teferi, Hero of Dominaria I opened will end up in my deck, no questions asked. Tatyova, Benthic Druid is a great first pick, and you can comfortably put it into most green decks or blue decks without much, or any, fixing. This leads to more creative Draft strategies, which keeps the format fresh, entertaining, and extremely challenging to draft and build.
Card Evaluation is Difficult
Drafting this set has honestly been a pretty big challenge. Since there are so many different archetypes, it’s tough to be certain about your picks. To prepare for this Draft format, TeamCFB posted a ton of P1P1 scenarios and the confidence level in our pick orders is much lower usual. The games play out in so many different ways, and there are so many different viable strategies that it’s occasionally tough to decide which card is better for your deck, or even just in general. Should I take this Eviscerate or Vicious Offering? I’ve never been as flustered in Drafts as I have with Dominaria, and that’s a good thing.
In some Draft formats, you barely scrape together enough playables to build a deck. In Dominaria, picking up sideboard cards is extremely relevant. Naturalize effects, Pierce the Sky, Soul Salvage, and even just some high-cost creatures like Pardic Wanderer can be important sideboard cards. Not only do you have the tension in the Draft of taking a playable or a Broken Bond for your sideboard, you also have to know to put in those Soul Salvages when your opponent is playing a control deck, or take them out when your opponent has no removal. Sideboarding appropriately can be challenging in Dominaria, and drafting a sideboard is much more important when the games play out longer. You’ll often need to maximize the value of every spell in your deck. I sideboard more cards in and out of Dominaria Limited on average than I have in most other Draft formats.
These are most of the reasons why I enjoy Dominaria Limited, and why it’s one of my favorite Limited formats ever. I’ve had a lot of fun drafting Dominaria and will continue to draft it even after the Pro Tour, which I’ve done less and less of with recent sets. Wizards did an excellent job with this one, and I hope they can recognize why we like this Limited format, and why it stands out from other sets. I hope they continue to slow down the Limited formats so that we can all enjoy more challenging and entertaining games of Magic.
What’s your favorite part about Dominaria Limited?