6 Reasons to be Hyped for Dominaria

Kyle Massa
March 12, 2018
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If there's a silver lining to Wizards of the Coast's accidental leak of Dominaria's release notes, it's that we get early access to what appears to be an amazing set. Also, we got a glimpse at what Magic would be like without pictures. It's just not the same.

At any rate, there's plenty to get hyped about for the imminent release of the latest Magic: The Gathering expansion. Let's break down the top six things to look forward to in Dominaria.

Disclaimer: Since official Dominaria card images haven't been released yet, the images you see for new cards in this article have been custom made using mtgcardsmith.com. Though the text for the cards is accurate, the templating, images, and overall aesthetics are purely hypothetical. They're only provided to give you a visual reference. On with the show...

1. Legendary Matters...A Lot

It matters so much, in fact, that each pack of Dominaria will contain at least one legendary creature! I love this idea. It makes Dominaria feel like a plane steeped in history (which it certainly is). Plus, it provides an added layer of excitement every time we open a booster pack.

For Limited players, I think the seeded legendary cards are going to be quite interesting. They'll provide an added punch of power for Sealed pools, since many of the legends appear to be quite strong. However, for the sake of Booster Draft, I do hope they're not too powerful. If the legend is always the correct first pick, it makes drafting a lot less interesting. 

In addition, Dominaria brings us legendary sorceries. These ultra powerful spells may only be cast if the caster controls a legendary creature or planeswalker. This restriction certainly incentivizes players to play legendary creatures. We might even see dedicated legendary constructed decks!

It's cool to see Wizards pushing legends as not just a cool designation, but instead as a relevant mechanical trait. Thrilled to see where this one goes.

2. Hints of Tribal

Well, I was wrong. Slivers will not appear in Dominaria. Though I know Sliver Queens and Hivelords are mourning the snub, this set still appears to offer tribal support. For one, goblins look like they'll be making a comeback.

The evidence: we're getting reprints of both Goblin Warchief and Siege-Gang Commander, both of which slot perfectly into goblin archetypes. Also...

We've got a new version of Squee, which partners quite well with Siege-Gang Commander in particular. Though expensive, dealing two damage each and every turn is an excellent way to close out a game.

 

And how about the glorious return of saprolings? Slimefoot, the Stowaway looks like the headliner for any potential deck in this tribe. (Also, it deserves serious consideration for greatest card name of all time.) In Standard, saprolings already have very powerful support in the form of Tendershoot Dryad. Could Slimefoot push the deck into tier one status?

3. See These Sagas

Sagas are a brand new subtype, and they're quite interesting. One might think of them sort of like Level up creatures from Rise of the Eldrazi, only these are enchantments.

Here's how they work: When Sagas enter the battlefield and immediately after your draw step, add a lore counter to them. Then, activate an ability corresponding to the number of lore counters on your Saga. Once you've activated the third ability, sacrifice your Saga. Simple enough.

For Vorthos fans, Sagas are especially interesting because they seem to reference historic moments from throughout Dominaria's history. For example, Triumph of Gerrard references Gerrard Capashen, the former Captain of the Weatherlight and one of the game's most iconic protagonists. There's also Time of Ice, which seems to highlight the Ice Age which swept over Dominaria early in the game's history. And for really, really longtime Magic fans, there's The Antiquities War, a Saga which harkens back to the Brother's War between Urza and Mishra. I love how these Sagas glance back at the past in such a natural way.

What's more, Sagas also offer pretty powerful options in-game as well. The Antiquities War, for instance, could easily prove a powerful build-around for any kind of artifact-based deck. And we'll likely see many of those, considering the number of powerful Kaladesh artifacts still floating around Standard. I could definitely see an archetype like Metalwork Colossus making a comeback thanks to the printing of this card.

4. Dominaria Hints at Future Sets

It's probably too early to guess, but this article is already written and published, so it's too late to try and stop me. I'm going to make a prediction. Based on what we've seen from Dominaria, I believe the next set is a return to Theros. There. I said it.

Here follows my supporting evidence. First off, the existence of the aforementioned Sagas offers a big hint. Enchantments, of course, are the flagship permanent type of Theros. So the inclusion of this powerful cycle of enchantments suggests an added importance for the card type in the future.

And another defining mechanic of Theros is devotion, an ability which counts the number of mana symbols of a specific type among permanents you control. That includes enchantments (which includes Sagas, hint hint). Players loved the mechanic, so it's likely to return with Theros.

Now take another look through the Dominaria release notes. I'd like to draw your attention to four cards in particular: Benalish Marshal, Goblin Chainwhirler, Steel Leaf Champion, and Tempest Djinn. Notice those three mana symbol casting costs. These four also appear to form a cycle in each color (though we've not yet seen the black version, I'm assuming we'll see it later in the spoiler season).

Now what do these cards have to do with my theory? Well, they're perfect inclusions in mono-colored, dedicated devotion decks. A Tempest Djinn, for instance, provides three to one's devotion to blue without any help. Devotion decks of all colors appeared in Theros Standard of yore. I expect we'll return in September.

5. High-Impact Reprints

Yes, Dominaria marks the return of many classic cards back into Standard. A short list: Llanowar Elves, Verdant Force, Gaea's Blessing, Goblin Warchief, Siege-Gang Commander, Icy Manipulator, Juggernaut, Skizzik, Thorn Elemental, and Innistrad's cycle of enemy-colored dual lands.

Though reprints are certainly not new to Standard-legal sets, I think this batch is particularly powerful. Llanowar Elves, for instance, might not look like much. But even the exalted Mark Rosewater, Head Designer of Wizards of the Coast, admitted that mana accelerants such as Llanowar Elves might be too powerful for their cost. Expect to see four of them in most green decks at your local FNM.

Or what about Icy Manipulator? Like Llanowar Elves, this one might seem innocuous. At four mana, it's somewhat overcosted for a card that doesn't actually do anything when it's cast on curve. However, its ability to disrupt an opponent's game plan—no matter what that game plan might be—is remarkable. If your opponent has a big threat, you can tap it down. If they're building to their big threat, you can tap down their lands on their upkeep. And if they've got a nice vehicle in play, maybe Heart of Kiran, you can tap that down, too. Since it's an artifact, the manipulator slots nicely into any deck that wants it. And in terms of sheer annoyance, Icy Manipulator is unparalleled.

In addition, Dominaria also marks the return of Counterspell and Lightning Bolt!

…Okay, that's not actually true. But we do get Wizard's Retort and Wizard's Lightning, which are the diet soda versions of their tastier counterparts.

I'm super hyped for these two cards. As many have mentioned, this is a clever way for Wizards to functionally reprint iconic spells, even if those spells are too powerful for current Standard standards. These are still powerful spells, and at times they're ruthlessly efficient. But now it requires a little deckbuilding finesse to make them function. Great work by the R&D team.

6. Significant Rules Changes

Beyond mechanics, Dominaria heralds a number of significant terminology changes coming to the game. For starters, "mana pool" is going the way of the dinosaur (non-Ixalan dinosaurs, I mean). So for example, our little pal Llanowar Elves will now simply read, "Add G." Though perhaps evocative of a relaxing summer pool party, the term "mana pool" confused new players and ultimately takes up space on cards without adding much to the game itself. I like this change.

Also to avoid confusion, the planeswalker damage redirection rule is no more. Instead, cards which used to read "target creature or player" now read "any target." Lightning Bolt, for example, has received errata so that it now reads, "Deal 3 damage to any target." While I like this decision moving forward, I'm worried about confusion for cards in the past.

For example, any card printed in Dominaria and after which reads "target creature or player" can now no longer planeswalkers. Any card from the past with the same text, however, will receive errata so that it may target planeswalkers as well. I expect it'll take a significant adjustment period before we get used to all this.

The final language change coming to Magic is the replacement of the words "he or she" with "they." This update makes reading cards aloud much less clunky. Plus, "they" simultaneously acknowledges players who might be gender non-binary or who might not identify as male or female. Great work addressing multiple improvements with one change.

Dominaria is going to be an awesome set. With all that we've seen so far, plus the promise of even more in the near future, things are looking wonderful for Magic's return to its original plane. If you're hyped, there's no better time than now to go pre order your booster box (or case?). Excuse me while I go do the same…

Kyle Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living in upstate New York with his fiancée and their two cats. When he's not writing, you'll find him down at the East Greenbush Flipside store jamming booster drafts. For more of Kyle's work, visit www.kyleamassa.com or follow him on Twitter @mindofkyleam.  

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