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April 20, 2018

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Going for the Gold: Dominating your new Dominaria Prerelease

Welcome back to Going for the Gold!

Finally! A fresh new Limited format that brings more promises than the super aggressive focus of Ixalan. This weekend is the Prerelease of this set at your LGS, and on Magic Online. I’ve been spending a bunch of time testing this format out on the Beta client, so I didn’t have much time to get this article out for you and get you ready to crush your first few events. So without further ado, let’s get started!

If you’re a regular reader of my column, then you know that I strongly believe that the commons of a set really define the limited format. This is because approximately 79% of the card pool that you’ll use and face is made up of commons. So how do the commons of Dominaria stack up?

Red:

ShivanFire FieryIntervention KeldonRaider

As you can expect, the best cards are typically removal spells. And we sure have a doozy of a card here… a creature shock that can scale up to four damage in the mid-part of the game. What surprised me was that a 4/3 that rummages when it enters play could be as good as it was.

Green:

LlanowarElvesBalothGorger AncientAnimus YavimayaSapherdMammothSpider

I thought Wizards of the Coast said they were never going to make one mana creatures again? I guess they must have forgotten.

Llanowar Elves is easily the best common in the set. Combine that with the fact that the colour is super deep and full of great value creatures, and green is my overall pick for the colour that I want to play. Given the opportunity, that is. Look at that 4/4 for four mana that can scale up. And now we have a two mana Prey Upon that pumps your creature if it’s legendary!

Black:

Eviscerate ViciousOffering CaligoSkinWitch StrongholdConfessor

Black has two incredibly cheap removal spells at common. Which is the better spell will depend on how the format turns out. We even have a Gerard Fabiano-esque Mind Rot spell that makes the list of top black commons since the body can be relevant early on. From what I’m seeing when I look at the commons as a whole, there aren’t many aggressive creatures, but there are a lot of three toughness bodies.

Just don’t be fooled by cards like these, which have never been good from the beginning of Magic 25 years ago when we first stepped foot on Dominaria:

BlessingOfBelzenlok DemonicVigor

These cards will do more work for you as a coaster for your drink!

Blue:

AcademyDrake BlinkOfAnEye Syncopate CloudreaderSphinx

While blue does have some really powerful cards, its power level really drops off after the above four cards.

We have Wind Drake, a Limited staple, that now has the additional option to enter as a dragon which makes it an incredibly powerful common. We have an Into the Roil reprint that will not only be great in Limited, but change the face of Standard for the next few years. Blink of an Eye is an incredibly efficient tempo spell that even recoups the card loss if you have the mana. I guess if they called it Into the Roil, everyone would just automatically be like, “oh yeah that card’s great!”

Syncopate has been great since its inception in Odyssey. Plus, because it scales so well, it will be a card that you will have to play around in Limited and in Standard. Finally, we have a blue-ish dragon that helps with our card filtering. In the past, you would be happy to play a 3/3 flier for 5 mana (when’s the last time you benched Aven Windreader?) and this does way better than that.

White:

BlessedLight AvenSentry CallTheCavalry GideonsReproach

White starts with another functional reprint in Iona’s Judgment, which now has instant speed making it so much better than it was in Worldwake. Also, it gets one of the best fliers in the format in a white Snapping Drake, stats that are always welcome on a four mana flier. Only time will tell how good Call the Cavalry is outside of a dedicated token deck, but it seems to be great value as you are receiving four vigiliant power and toughness for four mana. Gideon’s Reproach is also a very mana efficient removal spell.

Artifact:

SkitteringSurveyor AesthirGlider BloodtallowCandle

For those who remember Pilgrim’s Eye or Civic Wayfinder, we now have a great way to splash a colour and get a throwaway body at the same time. Aesthir Glider is just a functional evasion threat that can be played in any deck and will be great in a historic deck. Finally, the candle is a mana inefficient removal spell for decks that would do anything for one. The other artifacts are mediocre outside of the historic deck.


In order to understand how deep each colour was, I took a look at the 18 commons of each colour and rated how many I would be happy with playing in my maindeck. Here are how the numbers stacked up:

Green: 15/18

White: 12/18

Black: 12/18

Red: 10/18

Blue: 9/18

As you can see, it is clear that green is the best colour withwhite and black tied for next best. Blue unfortunately is the worst colour in the set because it is not as deep and cannot support as many drafters. This of course will also be influenced by the various archetypes that come out in this format.

Now let’s take a look to see if aggressive decks are viable!

When you take a look at the “aggressive” common two drops in the format, this is what you get:

MesaUnicorn (1) BenalishHonorGuard KnightOfNewBenalia CabalEvangel RatColony  CorrosiveOoze BloodstoneGoblin  KeldonWarcaller  RelicRunner

With the exception of Benalish Honor Guard, Rat Colony, and Bloodstone Goblin, the other creatures cannot get big enough to trade up without the assistance of a trick spell. Also Relic Runner is great in a Historic deck as an evasion threat, but in every other deck just falls flat on its face. Unlike the flexible two drops that we are used to, which can be used early and late in the game, this set is full of anemic two drops. This gets worse when you look at all the commons that have three toughness for either two or three mana.

CaligoSkinWitch GhituChronicler KrosanDruid LlanowarScout PegasusCourser SergeantAtArms TolarianScholar VodalianArcanist

We have just as many creatures as the aggressive two drops above. With the exception of Tolarian Scholar and Vodalian Arcanist, I’d be happy with having any of the above cards in my deck. Maybe I just really don’t want to be blue in this format!?!

Okay, you know what? Maybe the tricks in the format can save us. So, what are those?

AdamantWill ArborArmament Befuddle BlessingOfBelzenlok Charge FerventStrike FungalInfection GiftOfGrowth RunAmok

Of the above tricks, only Adamant Will, Befuddle, Fervent Strike, Fungal Infection and Gift of Growth are “real” playables. This means that in order to play a hyper aggressive deck you have to go against the majority of the cards in the format. That isn’t to say that you cannot do it, but it won’t be the norm.

So get used to finally playing a slow limited format, where your decisions matter more than the auras that you play on your creatures. I’m definitely excited for the next few months of Limited and next week I’ll be back with an article on the various deck archetypes and what you want to prioritize in each.

Have a great weekend, and have fun at your prerelease!

Sammy T