Dominaria United’s pre-release is behind us and we’ve now got the set in our hands. While I shared some early thoughts on Limited last week, today I want to take the chance to look at the 10 interesting cards from a constructed viewpoint – whether that be in Modern, Pioneer, Standard, or Commander.
We’ll be leaving out reprints from this list so Impulse, Liliana of the Veil, and the Painlands, while all having potentially interesting impacts on formats aren’t being considered. This isn't also a list of the best 10 cards necessarily, or the most powerful, but those I think are interesting to build or play with.
The Top 10 Most Interesting Cards in Dominaria United
Braids, Arisen Nightmare
Braids has an interesting history in Magic dating back to her first appearance in Odyssey so much so that her first card is actually banned in Commander for its tendency to lock games down. Now, Braids returns as a sentient nightmare of sorts that harkens back to her original appearance, hopefully without needing a ban.
In Standard and Pioneer 'Braids, Arisen Nightmare' presents a decently sized creature as well as a sacrifice outlet for 'Aristocrats' type shenanigans, while disrupting your opponent, or doing further damage and drawing cards. It is possible though, that the amount of setup won’t work in these formats, but if the support is there it could be a neat deck overall.
Commander might be where 'Braids, Arisen Nightmare' is at its best, as you can build your deck to take advantage of the sacrifice effect knowing that she’ll be there. As a mono-black Commander, she also offers the unique opportunity to get rid of black’s deal-with-a-devil type enchantments and exploit the upside of those cards, without the deadly downside. With multiple opponents, you’re likely to get some cards all the time, and you can use that to keep a flow of permanents going, making it well designed for the multiplayer experience.
Figure of Destiny has been a well of design that Magic has repeated to tap since it came out in Shadowmoor. The level-up mechanic, as well as Warden of the First Tree, and Ascendant Spirit are all direct descendants of the little Kithkin who could. Evolved Sleeper does change things up with its last ability being smaller, and providing card advantage as well as growing as you activate the abilities.
In formats like Pioneer and Standard that makes this guy a likely one drop for more mid-ranged aggressive decks, or for aggro-control decks that want to have mana flexibility. Unlike many one drops, its ability to supply consistent card advantage in the mid-game helps it hold up in the more mid-range decks while also supplying early pressure. Pioneer might like it, particularly in Human decks, as they needed a one drop. Finding out where Evolved Sleeper can work as a card advantage engine as well as a threat seems quite interesting – though I don’t think we’ll ever see it make it to Modern due to the wide range of very cheap removal in the format.
In Commander, I’m looking forward to this guy joining my cleric deck, along with Shadow-Rite Priest, as it supplies long-term card advantage as well as a decent creature, while Shadow-Rite is the class’ first proper lord. Black decks in general might like it for that ability to continue to accrue value while holding up mana to remove threats.
Karn’s Sylex’s ability to be a pernicious deed type removal is powerful, but not terribly interesting in any of the formats it is in. It will be effective and used where it is efficient enough, but there’s another line on the card that really stands out, especially for Modern. “Players can’t pay life to cast spells or to activate abilities that aren’t mana abilities” is potentially a very important ability in the format that is so defined by the Fetchlands.
This could be a big piece towards building a sort of prison deck in Modern, because of its ability to lock down fetchlands completely in a colorless, 3 mana way. Unlike Blood Moon however, it stacks that onto an otherwise solid card as well, so that for games when it’s not needed, it is still useful and not just a dead draw. At the very least, I expect we’ll see the Sylex as a fetchable artifact in Tron decks via Karn in the sideboard, but the interesting possibilities to me are what you could build with it to help obstruct decks that want to go around paying life to grab lands or in 4 colors.
Another elf-lord I hear you say, what can be interesting about that? Well, Leaf-Crowned Visionary isn’t just any elf-lord. First of all, he costs only 2 mana, and second, he adds the ability to draw cards from playing your elves. While it is no Glimpse of Nature, Leaf-Crowned Visionary’s ability to draw a card whenever you play an elf is a really strong way to give these decks redundancy and help them combo off more. In Pioneer, Leaf-Crowned Visionary will easily slide into the spot of Elvish Clancaller pumping up the deck to a better position as it will be more capable of dealing with removal.
In modern, where I’ve been playing Elves, Leaf-Crowned Visionary is very interesting. Right now tribal decks are in a bit of a rough spot in Modern because of Fury, but the Leaf-Crowned Visionary could help because it can restock the hand quickly as it’s played. I’ve seen success with Sylvan Anthem there, and running this alongside it would seem to further help. These would feed well the aggro-combo style of Modern Elves with Elvish Archdruid and Realmwalker, as the deck works to get out more onto the field than an opponent can deal with. It’s not enough to make Elves an upper-tier deck, but it might help it some in the continuing battles against Fury.
The Lady of Otaria
One of the box-topper Legends Retold cards, The Lady of Otaria is only legal in Commander, and Eternal formats. It’s far too slow for Eternal, but for Commander it is quite interesting. The Lady of Otaria is the first Dwarf tribal card to be in green, and thus using it as your commander has you leaving out the white dwarfs that have become more commonplace. It also asks you to solve a unique problem, and invites you to use the one green dwarf as well.
The Lady of Otaria wants you to be using Dwarf cards alongside lands that you can sacrifice. Flavorfully, this calls to mind the idea of the Dwarf's mining and then more of them showing up to mine. Fetchlands, along with utility lands with cards like Crucible of the World to recur the lands that you sacrifice. The Dwarfs are easily able to recur the Lady of Otaria if she is killed, and she provides a consistent flow of Dwarfs (remembering cards with Changeling are Dwarfs!). This will be an interesting, and rather unique deck as it comes together, if not the most powerful.
The Phasing of Zhalfir
Blue has never had a Wrath of God until now, with the closest being mass bounce spells in the past. The Phasing of Zhalfir is an area that Mark Rosewater has said they won’t continue much in with stuff like Pongify, but in the meantime, we have this interesting card. It can also phase out your creatures before doing that, or temporarily phase out troublesome non-creature permanents. This is interesting as it’s a tool that blue just has not had access to before – whether it’s good competitively or not is tough to say but I want to find out.
In the realm of crazy cards, Vesuvan Duplimacy seems likely to come up with its ability to copy artifacts and creatures targeted by single-target spells. While most likely confined to Commander play where it will likely end up as a piece for combo and value decks, it is possible that there’s going to be some combo deck in Standard taking advantage of the ability to create loops with the right enters the battlefield abilities. There probably won’t be, but it will be interesting to see what combinations can come together with it.
My spiritual home in playing magic is probably in Aggro Control – small creatures that disrupt and attack, which Vodalian Hexcatcher is a perfect creature for. While Standard lacks a critical mass of Merfolk, both Pioneer and Modern have a lot more and they could fill in a good spot. While Modern’s meta is spell-heavier, the presence of Fury makes it harder for any tribal deck to make it competitively. Merfolk have shown up occasionally already, and Vodalian Hexcatcher would seem to be a tool that could help them get to greater play in both formats as a disruptive lord for the tribe.
Weatherlight Compleated is the first vehicle to be printed without a crew cost, instead it turns into an artifact creature once it has gotten enough counters. Weatherlight Compleated is a really interesting piece for decks that want to sacrifice their creatures as it gives a scry 1 from the get-go, and later on provides a 5/5 body, as well as eventually card draw. Beyond those Aristocrats style decks though, Weatherlight Compleated could see play in some aggressive decks as a way to fight off control as the creatures dying trigger it. The design here is unique, and the payoffs plentiful, and there’s no reason this couldn’t see play in a lot of areas, from kitchen table to top-end tournaments. In one Commander game, I’ve already seen a Goblin deck draw over 20 cards off of it when they sacrificed tokens made by Krenko in the face of a mass removal spell.
Zur, Eternal Schemer
Zur, that tricky enchanter is up to it again. This time, instead of summoning cheap enchantments from your deck like his past iteration did, Zur, Eternal Schemer invites you to play some big enchantments and turn them all into deathtouch, lifelink, hexproof monsters with which to battle down your foes, all of whom are doing other things to the field. Hexproof is especially important because it means that you aren’t turning your enchantments into targets for removal spells, although they might be impacted by mass removal. Zur’s ability doesn’t end at end of the turn, meaning that you can build up a whole selection of enchantment creatures. What the best cards are for this, and how to make it work well, promise to be intriguing puzzles to solve.
So that’s my pick for the most interesting cards in Dominaria United. Think I missed something? Let us know in the comments below, because I’m interested to hear what you think of the set.