The following masterful Magic the Gathering set preview is written by our boy – Joe, Unplugged. Joe is one of the founders of Gemhammer & Sons Gaming, and has graciously offered to give WGG it’s first taste of unplugged card gaming goodness. Enjoy.
Next week, on April 27, Magic the Gathering is set to release it’s 78th Expansion, Dominaria. Since the leak of the Chinese Release Notes a few weeks ago, Magic players have been unreasonably pumped about the new set. After the weak-ass reaction to Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan, where Magic succeeded at the herculean task of making Pirates, Vampires, and motherfucking Dinosaurs boring (how they did that is still be investigated by Top Men at WGG), having players actually excited about a new product is a breath of fresh air to the community. Today, I’ve taken over WGG to explain to you why I am so excited about a return to Magic’s home, as well as why this set is going to be powerful in Standard, fun in Limited, and even give the non-rotating formats something to write home about.
Anyone who started playing Magic after Coldsnap or is reading just to stay on the pulse of what’s going on in Magic can just feel free to skip this part. Dominaria returns to the plane where it all started (in Magic, the main characters, and the players, are kinda like trans-dimensional Wizards having trans-dimensional Wizard feuds, and as such, the story and products jump between ‘Planes’ to explore new worlds and meet new allies and villains). So, like, I get it if this isn’t your thing, but it’s my thing and it’s my article so you can feel free to A. join me in my excitement, B. skip ahead to where I start talking about the cards, or C. fuck right the fuck off. The choice is yours and yours alone.
That said, I’m just going to gush about the coolest returns from the past, expansions of previous lore, and the coolest flavor in Dominaria. Now, like pro wrestling, Magic has one long, continuous story, so explaining why this stuff is the tits would be far beyond the scope of this article. So, just let me gush. It’ll be cathartic for me.
The Weatherlight is back as a fucking vehicle that I can crew! And Jhoira is immortal now with a whole new crew? And Squee came back! Of course, Squee always comes back. And Teferi finally gets a Standard-legal Planeswalker card, and he’s joining the Gatewatch. Call it a shameless PC Police attempt to get more representation in the Gatewatch, but 1. you’re wrong and 2. Teferi is a fucking beast, so I just don’t care. There’s another Mox coming? To Standard. Shit, I thought a Llanowar Elves reprint was going to push the power of Standard up, I had no idea that we were getting a new fucking Mox. It’s not going to help on Turn One, but a free land-drop the second I get a Legendary Creature or Planeswalker on the field is so sweet, especially in Commander. And a Legendary creature in every pack! “Legendary matters” is going to be a draftable archetype!
For everyone who sat through that, thank you. But let’s move on…
Karn, Scion of Urza
You heard it here, first: this card is going to be banned from Standard. The Banned List is growing huge recently, in this is just another massive screw-up from a recent set. Between June, 2011 when Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic were banned, until 2017, no cards were added to the Standard banned list. Since 2017, nine cards have been banned. Nine! And Karn, mark my words, is going to make ten.
At 4 mana, of any color, you can draw a free card. It comes in with 5 loyalty, so after +1ing, there’s no standard-playable burn spell that can kill him. And if you reveal a key combo piece or a huge beater and your opponent exiles it, you can just go get it again with his -1. Aside from Approach decks and UW God-Pharaoh’s Gift, there’s not a deck in Standard that won’t want one of these. Think of a Hazoret-based Red Deck that can have an entire hand of cards exiled and ready to be grabbed whenever it is most useful to have it. Think of Big Green Stompy just adding more cards to their hand. Blue black Scarab God is only limited by its ability to keep gas in the hand, and if going to slot at least two of the Artificial Planeswalker into their decks.
This card is exactly the opposite of Karn, it’s going to see almost no Standard play. Do not Draft this card. If this card is in your Sealed pool, despair. But this is going to be a game-changer in Modern. A single sideboard card that hoses both Tron and Storm? This is the new Relic of Progenitus…every sideboard is going to want at least a pair of these. This uncommon is currently pre-ordering at around $4, and I don’t think that price is going down. Modern players, grab a playset now or you’ll have wished you did in a few years. Sadly, this is not the Commander all-star I hear some people claiming it is. Mana doublers, from Caged Sun to Dictate of Karametra to Gauntlet of Power to Crypt Ghast are ubiquitous in most mono-colored Commander formats, but those cards have no interaction with Dampening Sphere.
Caged Sun, for instance, is what adds the extra mana, not the land itself (Modern players: Utopia Sprawl works the same way. This is not a great sideboard option versus Ponza). If your EDH playgroup runs more Ravnica Bounce lands than Shock lands, then this is a fine card for 2, but there’s no way to mix it, say, with Dictate of Karametra to ruin all your friends mana bases. I have tried to find a way to use this as an everything-hoser (I run a Colorless commander), and I have failed. Do not share in my shame.
Firesong and Sunspeaker
This was a mistake, Wizards knows it, but they realized it too late to deal with it.
Instead of the Buy-a-box promo being a foil, alternate-art copy of a powerful card from the set, we’re getting these two minotaurs. Cards that have never been printed before, aren’t in Dominaria booster packs, and are only available to people buying boxes at their Friendly, Local, Game Store. Everyone, everyone, hates the idea of a card that’s impossible to get. Players are upset and it makes perfect sense.
The good news is that this card is, functionally, unplayable. We’ve been told that, despite not being in Booster packs, that it is Standard-legal. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough instants and sorceries to make use of this on the top of the curve. As for Commander, it might be an interesting Red/White archetype to try out, but it’s never going to be more than casual fun.
Alright, we gotta talk about Wizard’s Retort. It’s a Cancel if you don’t control a Wizard and a Counterspell if you do. Obviously, Standard Wizards are going to love this card if anyone can make that deck work.
It’s going to be an auto-include in Inalla Commander decks. But there’s a deck that’s going to love this card, perhaps a surprising one: Modern Merfolk. Cursecatcher is a Merfolk Wizard, Harbinger of the Tides is a Merfolk Wizard. Silvergill Adept is a Merfolk Wizard. Master of Waves is a Merfolk Wizard. Aside from Lord of Atlantis and Master of the Pearl Trident, if it’s a Merfolk worth playing in Modern, it’s a Wizard, too. Oh, and remember that an animated Mutavault is a Wizard, too.
Speaking of Modern Merfolk, they’re getting another strong piece of tech in Dominaria. Merfolk Trickster is an uncommon Merfolk Wizard (yup, another Wizard) that enters the battlefield at instant speed, taps down a creature and turns it vanilla. Sorry, but tapping down your opponent’s biggest threat at whenever you want and making it lose all abilities is just too powerful for Modern Merfolk to not consider running this as at-least a two-of.
The Jund match-up is tough for Merfolk, but being able to take an attacking 5/6 Tarmogoyf and turn it into a 0/1 and put a 2/2 body into play? Crazy. Eldrazi titans and Gods are going to lose their indestructibility. Boggles are going to lose hexproof. I don’t think this is going to be a four-of in Modern Merfolk, but any tempo deck that has a bad match-up versus creatures should look to pick a few up, especially if your match-up is bad versus a single tough creature..
This card, simply put, is going to go into every Commander deck. Commander decks after Dominaria are going to be Sol Ring, Reliquary Tower, Zhalfirin Void, and 97 other cards. Zhalfirin Void is an uncommon Land that comes in untapped, taps for a single Colorless mana, and when it Enters the Battlefield you scry 1. Not only is this going to be a Commander staple until the end of time, I could even see Modern Eldrazi and Taxes playing it.
Manipulating the top of your library with practically no downside (I mean, I guess you would be replacing a land that produces colored mana, but anyone trying to cast Thought-Knot Seer doesn’t care) is just too damn good.
So, Dominaria is going to be great for old hands of the game, giving us a whole slew of cards that are going to be playable in Modern and Commander. Dominaria is going to be good few new hands to the game, because this Limited format looks amazing. And Dominaria is going to be good for ancient hands at the game, seeing us return to Magic’s home plane for the first time in 12 years. Pre-Release will be held at your Friendly, Local Game Store on April 21-22 and the full set releases on April 27.
Joe, Unplugged is a Level 1 Magic Judge, one of the founders of Gemhammer & Sons Gaming, and has never played an online game for more than the Free Trial has allowed.