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Dominaria's Most Exciting Cards

There isn’t a period I enjoy more in Magic than the first week following the release of a new set. I’d imagine this is a sentiment I share with many, but perhaps for a different reason. For most, a new set simply means new cards. And while I certainly enjoy playing with new cards myself, the main reason I enjoy new formats so much is because success generally needs to be earned during this period. The people who succeed early on in formats are often the people who have put the most work in. Without a mass of information readily available, the onus is on you to figure what the new format offers. Playing Magic Online until my eyes bleed is my preferred method of accruing information, but for those who live much healthier and balanced lives, there are other things you can do to get ahead in a new format. Playing a normal amount of Magic Online, testing with friends, theorizing, goldfishing, and reading articles are all steps you can take to get an advantage over the field. Reading articles is probably the most efficient method out of all of these. Information extracted from hours of testing all condensed into a quick read, and the only drawback is that the information is secondhand. But fortunately for all of you, at the time of me writing this, I currently have the most trophies in Dominaria Standard Constructed leagues. This technically makes me the most qualified person in the world when it comes to anything regarding the new Standard format, so all of the information here can be taken as a 100% factual.1

The cards are always the sole focus of my initial testing. The specifics of a deck and my record with it are negligible. Determining which of the new cards are poised for success and how the power level of older cards change may be the single most important thing when a Standard format is in its infancy. When you know what cards matter, it’s easy to build the deck. My Sultai Energy list that I used to win the week one Dallas Open and the Sultai Midrange deck that my team used to Top 4 this past week one Dallas Open are perfect examples of this. In the first one, I determined that Hostage Taker played exceptionally well against the clunky Four-Color Energy decks, so I built my deck in a way to fully leverage the power of the card. In the last Dallas Open, I quickly realized that people were going to be underprepared to deal with The Scarab God. When testing for the tournament online, I noticed that almost no one was playing more than two answers to The Scarab God in their starting 60, so I simply just jammed a full set of them into a deck and built the rest of the deck around it. I think this a very effective strategy for week one tournaments specifically, and these are the cards I currently have my eye on for The SCG Open in Atlanta next weekend. I’ll do it countdown style to make it a bit more interesting. If you’re an impatient person like myself, feel free to skip down to one and go up.

10. Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle

An absurd amount of card advantage stapled to a body is always a good combination, but the body may be a bit too weak in this case. Four mana for a Wind Drake is a lot to ask for in a Constructed format, but I’m not quite ready to dismiss Teshar just yet. The idea of pairing Teshar with all of the value centric 3-drops we currently have in Standard is too appealing for me to pass on. The card hasn’t been too impressive in the games I’ve played with it so far, but I have some ideas on how to make it work.

As is, this deck is mostly likely an untuned pile of garbage that I would advise against playing. With that being said, there are a lot of powerful things going on here and, with some refinement, it could turn into something real. The idea is that you can play out like a regular Gift deck, butwith a value backup plan in Teshar when facing down cards like the increasingly popular Thrashing Brontodon. Filigree Familiar is a card that pairs nicely with Teshar as it serves as both a cheap way to trigger it and a great card to recur with it. It also does a great job at buying the time your Teshar deck will need to get set up. Board the Weatherlight is also a nice if your deck is specifically centered around Teshar, and it happens to find both cards for the gift package and the Teshar package in this deck. With 22 hits, you’re a little over 90% to hit which should be sufficient.2

This is definitely the cookie-cutter version of a Teshar deck, but that’s normally a good thing. With access to extra mana, plenty of historic enablers, explore creatures to both fill your yard and recur, and ways to protect your Teshar, it should be an ideal fit. Where this deck might struggle is against any Approach of the Second Sun style decks. With zero ways to actually interact with them, winning is nearly impossible. You could look to splash Blue to remedy this problem, but that would mean having to axe to Llanowar Elves.

9. Weatherlight


Like every vehicle ever, this card is criminally underrated at the moment. Card selection on a gigantic evasive body at a very reasonable cost makes this card too good to not see play. A hefty yet still reasonable Crew cost of 3 is the only possible knock against this card, but that shouldn’t be problem for a handful of decks. Unless you have to make drastic changes in order to meet crew requirements or get historic cards into your list, your creature deck should probably be playing this. If it weren’t for the fact that I haven’t gotten to play with or against this card yet, it would almost certainly be much higher up on this list. I do plan on getting to it soon, and this is likely the first shell I’ll try it in.

I’ve seen a lot of Mono-Green lists, but even with Steel Leaf Champion you can still get a small splash in there. The Black splash is pretty huge for this deck as Scrapheap Scroungers and discard spells give you an actual plan against Fumigate. Weatherlight slots in here perfectly, as the deck is replete with both ways to crew it and cards to get off of it. With this many artifacts, we even get to play a few copies of Spire of Industry to facilitate the splash. The deck has ten artifacts that you can play on two, so it shouldn’t even mess up your Steel Leaf Champion draws very often.

8. Benalish Marshal

Benalish Marshal

Glorious Anthem attached to a good-sized body at the same cost is definitely an impressive card. The only real drawback is the restrictive mana cost, but that can definitely be overcome. White was already a strong color in the format and the new cycle of dual lands give White’s fast land color combos another untapped land, so splashing is certainly a possibility. Although, even with everything Benalish Marshal has going for it, finding a home may be difficult due to the presence of Benalish Marshal’s cycle counterpart, Goblin Chainwhirler. While Benalish Marshal does actually get your creatures out of Chainwhirler range, it still does compel you to fill your deck with a lot of cheap x/1s. In order to succeed, we may need to see these early rough drafts of Benalish Marshal decks size up a bit.

The idea here is that this deck is still capable of some aggressive starts by curving into Benalish Marshal, but you’re far less susceptible to getting blown out by a Goblin Chainwhirler like some of the other lists out there.

7. Skirk Prospector

Skirk Prospector

I’m not expecting Skirk Prospector to pop up in any honest goblin tribal decks. Skirk Prospector makes this list based solely off of how well it synergizes with Gate to the Afterlife. Some of the main problems Gate to the Afterlife decks suffered from were that it could be slow to get going at times, and it was easy to play around Gate turns. In order to Gate for a God-Pharaoh's Gift before turn five, you would have to risk exposing your gate on turn three. And if you wait until turn five, most decks could often overpower your board before then because Gate decks tend to be filled with underpowered creatures, and from there they can just sit back on their shatter effect. Skirk Prospector throws a pickaxe into that play pattern by providing gift with both the mana and requisite amount of creatures to go off out of nowhere.

This deck was already proving itself to be one of the best decks at the end of the last format, and Skirk Prospector could be the tool that sets it over the top.

6. Karn, Scion of Urza

Karn, Scion of Urza

When I decided to make this a list, I didn’t expect Karn to be this low. I had a very high expectations for the card and its mostly lived up to them. While Karn doesn’t completely dominate a game if left unchecked, like some other planeswalkers, it is still very good. Combine that with the fact it’s absurdly hard to deal with through damage, and you have a fantastic card. The low rating may just be some bias because I had a high expectations for the card while some of the cards above it have performed significantly above expectation. The only real knock against it is that an unfortunate string of +1s will leave the card looking a bit lackluster. This could also just be the result of the Karn decks that I’ve played with and against. For the most part he’s just been a solid ancillary card advantage tool.

In the right shell, like the one here from Magic Online user Scappie, Karn could prove to be completely busted.

5. Lyra Dawnbringer

Lyra Dawnbringer

Lyra Dawnbringer is the White The Scarab God.

People just don’t appear to be properly equipped when it comes to dealing with this Baneslayer Angel incarnate, and winning a game through an unchecked Lyra is nearly impossible. It has even single handedly beaten The Scarab God for me on a few occasions. Between Lyra and The Scarab God in the format, do not skimp on unconditional removal. If you do, you will very likely lose to these cards.

4. Goblin Chainwhirler

Goblin Chainwhirler

I alluded to this earlier, but Goblin Chainwhirler will be the most impactful card to come out of Dominaria. That doesn’t mean it will be the most successful or the most played, but no other card will limit what can and cannot be played more than Goblin Chainwhirler. As long as this card is seeing a healthy amount of play, relying on one-toughness creatures to be your early game is not an option. Chainwhirler solves a major problem for what was already one of the best decks, so expect to see a lot of this card in the next few weeks.

This is the Red list I played to a 13-2 record on the day Dominaria went live on Magic Online. The list is just an updated take on the list used to 18-0 Grand Prix Seattle, but it does play out a bit differently. Without Ahn-Crop Crasher, the deck does lose some of its ability to push through damage, but my experience with Chainwhirler has lead me to believe it is absolutely worth it. So, with that in mind, I do think this current list is a bit short on ways to get through large creatures. I tried going back to Soul-Scar Mage over Fanatical Firebrand thinking it would help with the issue while also being a nice little combo with Chainwhirler, but the card was absolutely terrible for me. In the current builds of Red, this card is just a ½ far too often to justify putting it in your deck. Fanatical Firebrand being able to team up with Chainwhirler to take out a two-toughness creature was also far more relevant for me than -1/-1 counters from Soul-Scar Mage were. So if you’re looking for a way to get through large creatures, I suggest looking elsewhere. Between The Scarab God, Lyra Dawnbringer, and Steel Leaf Champion, it might just be time to sleeve up some Puncturing Blows. Less embarrassing, but also less versatile, options are Cut // Ribbons and more copies of Kari Zev's Expertise.

3. Llanowar Elves

Llanowar Elves

I can’t remember who it was, but I saw an argument about how people will overrate this card because it’s much easier to evaluate what you already know, and I couldn’t agree more. But with that being said, Llanowar Elves is very good and will have a pretty big impact on how people build their decks. Taking the first turn-off against an opposing Llanowar Elves is costly, and shipping back on the first two may often just be the same as conceding. If people adjust their decks properly, I don’t think this card will be as dominant as many are suspecting.

2. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

This is by far my favorite card to come out of Dominaria. To give you an idea of how good this card is, I went 14-1 with a stock uw Gift shell where the only new cards were one Teferi main and another one in the board. In the three leagues I played with the deck, I only won two pre-board games. Everyone I played against was well prepared to stop me from gifting, so I just boarded into either a mediocre Teferi control deck or a mediocre Teferi tempo deck and only lost a single postboard game in fifteen matches. I dealt significantly more damage with Minister of Inquiries than I did with reanimated Angel of Inventions. It didn’t matter that all of my cards were worse because I was drawing so many of them with Teferi. And if my opponent ever had a problematic permanent I could just -3 Teferi and get rid of it with either a Minster, Ipnu Rivulet, or Field of Ruin.

1. History of Benalia

History of Benalia

I already thought this card was great, and when I found out that it wasn’t actually legendary it quickly catapulted up my rankings. A cheap card that gives you a massive tempo swing early on in the game is not something to be taken lightly. There aren’t many decks, at the moment, that can beat a turn three History of Benalia followed up by another copy on the next turn. The last time we were introduced to a new card type, Wizard's pushed the one they wanted to see Constructed play a bit too hard, and we might be looking at a similar situation here. History of Benalia isn’t nearly as offensive as Smuggler's Copter from a design perspective, but it’s another situation where the card clearly didn’t have to be this good in order to see play. In the first batch of 5-0s with Dominaria cards, History of Benalia was the most played cards from the set with over ten decks featuring the new saga. A few of the lists look promising, but this one is probably my favorite as it plays basically all of the new cards that I like.

Honorable mentions go to cards like Cast Down and Seal Away that are much better than some of the cards here, but this list was mainly focused on cards to build around.

1 Not true

2 Shoutout to Frank Karsten. While I did do the math myself when building the deck, I would’ve been way too insecure about possibly being wrong to include it in my article.

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