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Dominaria United Pauper Review

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It's hard to believe it's already time for another Pauper set review! We've actually had a surprisingly nice reprieve for a little bit now with the last release being Double Masters 2022 in July. Now roughly two months later we're finally at Dominaria United. The Phyrexians are invading once again and it's bringing about some really sweet and inventive designs that are clearly influenced heavily by the original Invasion block. I loved those sets as a kid and I sure love this brand new Dominaria United set for oh so many reasons. That obviously includes a ton of excellent new commons to talk about and go in depth on!

There's a whole ton of sweet new cards to talk about so let's just dive right on in! Just be sure to watch out for the glistening oil as we tour the commons.

Argivian Cavalier

Argivian Cavalier

We're starting right out of the gate with an enlist card. There's only a handful I'm talking about but they all are a little harder to evaluate at face value than your usual card. This is because enlist is basically a fixed and much easier to understand version of banding. It also makes the cards' power vary by nature of the mechanic itself, which makes them far more context dependent.

In the case of Argivian Cavalier, I don't think that you'll be getting quite enough value out of the deal for it to be worth it. The idea behind this card is that you get 3 power and toughness across two bodies and you can use the token to fuel the Cavalier. If the Cavalier dies in the process, you still get left with a token since it's not quite attacking together as one creature the way banding did it. It's not the worst rate, but you could be doing much better, I think. 3 mana is a big ask in aggressive Pauper decks and you'll want to be doing more than this for that cost.

Argivian Phalanx

Argivian Phalanx

Argivian Phalanx marks the first cost reduction card we're running into. There's a full cycle of these and they're mostly quite good. Argivian Phalanx is one of the more niche cards in the cycle, relying on you to have a more go-wide strategy. Casting a Battle Screech and flashing it back means you can then cast this for 1 mana and even at two or 3 mana it's still a pretty sweet deal. You definitely need the right deck for this and it's very easy for it to end up as a dead card, but the power is very real. I'd expect to see it as a one or two-of in the usual White Weenies lists and maybe a third or fourth in dedicated go-wide token lists.

Benalish Faithbonder

Benalish Faithbonder

Weirdly, I actually like this enlist card quite a bit. Its base stats on its own aren't really anything to write home about. However, the fact you can pump it up using another creature, have a good blocker for your opponents' turn, and still have a creature left over if this dies are big pluses. It does die to the majority of removal spells in the format which is certainly a big knock against it, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this end up in some White Weenies lists in the future.

Benalish Sleeper

Benalish Sleeper

Now, here's a card I love and yet simultaneously hate. It's the kind of card that I can't help but look at and feel like it's often going to be a trap. Most decks don't want a two-mana 3/1 for 1w. We have a myriad of those cards already and they're by and large unplayable. This does have the benefit of being able to turn into a Fleshbag Marauder, but to do that you also need to have access to Black mana. Usually, the only deck that does that in Pauper is Orzhov Pestilence and that deck won't want to be playing a 3/1 that dies to the deck's titular card. As such, barring any new brews like Orzhov Aggro or something, I think this isn't really going to make the cut sadly. It's an awesome design, though, and I'd love to see more of it.

Charismatic Vanguard

Charismatic Vanguard

We've seen this effect before but usually it's been on creatures who are much, much smaller (Steadfast Unicorn and Cliffside Lookout, for example). Running those has never been great because their stats are just awful. This one, however, has a little more meat on its bones and makes it for a far better attacker in White Weenies decks. That said, I don't think you'll usually get to the 5 mana to make the pump effect actually worth it, but if you want this effect, this is arguably the best way to do it now.

Citizen's Arrest

Citizen's Arrest

Usually, I'd just say play Journey to Nowhere or Oblivion Ring here, meaning this card probably won't be making it in Pauper anytime soon. That said, Enchantment Control decks have been known to pop up from time to time and this could be a thing for that extremely fringe strategy alongside the other existing options.

Clockwork Drawbridge

Clockwork Drawbridge

Defenders are a Limited archetype in this set and get a little support at common as well! Given how defenders are a strategy in Pauper, I think it's worth talking about them a bit. This one doesn't feel like it necessarily fits the traditionally (mostly) Green deck that usually pushes the archetype, but could be a way to help keep those pesky fliers at bay if the mana's right. Could also be good for artifact strategies looking for good blockers, but generally I think this one's going to be a pass.

Destroy Evil

Destroy Evil

Reprisal is far from great, but if you staple some optional enchantment removal to it, it gets quite a bit better. This is definitely going to be a very niche option with niche applications that will be largely relegated to the sideboard due to the many decks that this is dead against. When it works, though, it'll be extremely effective and can take down some of the format's biggest creatures (Myr Enforcer, Gurmag Angler, Ulamog's Crusher) or deal with a very problematic enchantment at an incredibly opportune moment.

Heroic Charge

Heroic Charge

Usually, I think you'll just want to play Rally the Peasants over this. That card will give +4/+0 for 6 mana as opposed to this card's +2/+1 and is going to get in much more damage most of the time. That said, this card grants trample to make up for the lower cost, which can help against token chump blocks. It's very meta dependent, but while Rally is usually going to be better, I still think there may yet be a time and a place for this.

Samite Herbalist

Samite Herbalist

Riffing off Samite Healer isn't the greatest. I look at this as a mediocre way to gain life and scry when going for an attack that's almost certainly not going to go in your favor. However, this is a cleric, and one that's more aggressively geared. Whenever Clerics shows up as a deck, it does tend to have a bit more of an aggressive leaning. As a result, there may yet be a fringe home there, but it's going to be a rarity if it shows up.

Stall for Time

Stall for Time

Oh look, it's this set's tap creatures down instant in White! This one isn't that great but is worth mentioning for the stun counters. These are a newly evergreen type of counter so you can expect to see more of them going forward as they help relieve the memory issues that happen with "tap and doesn't untap" effects. Stun counters have the benefit of being proliferate-able and stack as well, meaning if you can find a way to loop this or those proliferate effects, this can really lock down creatures. In this case, I think it's a little too expensive to make an impact, but it's still notable all the same.

Take Up the Shield

Take Up the Shield

Here's a spell for Heroic decks that acts as evasion, powering up, and lifelink all in one package. That's quite a lot for 2 mana! I think your average Heroic deck still won't want this and will instead prefer other evasion and pump effects instead. Lifegain is a lot easier and better too when you have access to the actual spell Lifelink - which also will trigger heroic in the process. I think there might be times where you'll see this in sideboards, but that'll likely be the only place you run into it.

Academy Wall

Academy Wall

This is a wall that blocks well, survives several forms of removal such as Lightning Bolt and Galvanic Blast, and generates tons of value. You won't want this for your Wonderwalls decks as those don't run many instants or sorceries. You will want it, however, for your control decks as a way to hold aggro decks more at bay while also filtering more easily through your deck. It notably lets you trigger once on your turn and also on your opponents' turns if you cast spells on each turn, so there's lots of value to be had on this one.

Impede Momentum

Impede Momentum

This is the second and (as far as I can tell) only other common with stun counters. While Stall for Time hit two creatures, this only hits one, and rather than drawing you a card, it scrys. That said, it costs two instead of five to get the counters and puts three counters on the creature, meaning whatever creature you hit is going to be down for the count for a while. This is another great option for flickering decks to hold aggressive creatures at bay and helps set up your draws more efficiently in the process. Because these counters are so new, I'm not entirely sure if this will make the cut. Early responses I've seen have been mixed, so we'll just have to see where it ends up landing. Just don't be surprised if you get locked out from this card.

Phyrexian Espionage

Phyrexian Espionage

I imagine someone's going to take a look at this and say "wow, that looks sweet!" and they'll want to play it. I'm here to tell you that you should ignore it and leave it be for other formats. It's basically a fixed Probe but regular Probe is already in the format as is. It shows up once in a while and largely is unplayed. If that card's not cutting it, this one isn't either, especially when most of the time it's just going to be Divination here.

Pixie Illusionist

Pixie Illusionist

When a new faerie shows up, I pay attention, and this one is really cheap. Is it good enough, though? Yes and no. It's a very weird dynamic compared to some other options available in the format as far as 1/1 flying faeries go. You're almost certainly never going to kick this, so then it becomes a matter of the land type conversion ability mattering. Obviously, it's here primarily for domain - which matters very little in Pauper - but in the context of the commons-only format it can surprisingly have some uses! In Izzet Faeries decks it can turn on Lightning Bolts and Skreds if you can't get your Red source and similarly it turns on cards like Cast Down and Snuff Out in Dimir lists. It is a little fringe and those decks do often have ways to get the mana you need, but this does actually have some playability and is worth mentioning as such.

Shore Up

Shore Up

Mono-Red Blitz is all the rage right now, but if you're in the mood for some Izzet Blitz action this is a great inclusion. Stopping opponents' removal spells while also being a great pump spell is exactly the kind of thing you want for a deck like that. Inside Out decks have also shown up a decent amount again as of late and this could be great for them in small doses, though it's likely you'll want Dive Down there more for the bonus power you'll get out of the deal.

Tolarian Terror

Tolarian Terror

Of all the cost reduction cards, this is the one that's the easiest fit of all. It's so simple to make a control deck or midrange deck that features tons of potent instants and sorceries to fill your graveyard quickly. It's what's made Gurmag Angler such a force to be reckoned with over the last several years now. This one, however, doesn't make you exile your graveyard to do so and has more protection, making it a much better option that you'll be seeing tons of in the weeks to come. This is almost certainly the best card in the set.

Voda Sea Scavenger

Voda Sea Scavenger

The first time I read this, I thought the rate was absurd and that it was like a mega Sea Gate Oracle. Then on a re-read, you realize that you don't actually draw the card and rather it's like a mega scry in a way. While it can set you up quite well, the stats just don't line up to warrant this kind of effect and it likely ends up being an unplayable dud as a result.

Volshe Tideturner

Volshe Tideturner

A clear nod to Vodalian Arcanist from the last visit to Dominaria, this one does the mana for instants and sorceries better. We have seen this sort of thing already in Unblinking Observer and Karfell Harbinger for disturb and foretell costs, respectively. There's usually more playability and flexibility in kicker, however, which makes this the best option of the bunch. That said, there aren't many kicker cards you'll actually want to be playing and most of the ones you do want are already instants or sorceries, so that's not saying much. As a result, this is still a card worth noting pending any future impactful kicker cards, but as of now isn't likely to be doing very much.

Aggressive Sabotage

Aggressive Sabotage

Hey Blightning, is that you? Maybe if you squint hard enough. This is actually a Mind Rot that can become a Blightning if you want to invest an extra mana. Mind Rot isn't that great, and even Blightning itself is an extreme rarity in the format. This doesn't get countered by Hydroblast so I suppose that's a small plus, but do you really want to be playing so many Blightning effects to warrant running this? I highly doubt it.

Battle-Rage Blessing

Battle-Rage Blessing

We've seen deathtouch and we've seen indestructible, but never on the same card before. This is possibly the ultimate card trick when blocking or being blocked as an attacker, but it's still just a combat trick. Most of the time those aren't too great outside of Limited, but this one's doing quite a bit with two stellar keywords that it at least stands somewhat of a chance.

Eerie Soultender

Eerie Soultender

I see this card and my gut tells me that it's too much in cost and too fragile in stats to make it. That said, there's enough going on here that makes me feel like there's more to it than meets the eye and that it may yet have a chance. Self-mill is a thing that happens here and there, this is perfectly fine as an aggressive creature, and even after it dies it can bring back creatures by exiling itself. I'm still going to stick with my gut and say this probably won't ultimately make it, but I'd love to be surprised and see it make an appearance.

Gibbering Barricade

Gibbering Barricade

I imagine some people will point to this for a couple different decks out there, namely Wonderwalls, just by virtue of defender. Unfortunately, that deck already has better draw on creatures (Vivien's Grizzly) and there's even a more on color sacrifice to draw effect in Portcullis Vine. Outside of those strategies, we've already had Spark Reaper which is usually just better because it can actually attack and doesn't require you to have open Black mana. As a result, this card gets a pretty solid pass from me.

Splatter Goblin

Splatter Goblin

Festering Goblin has shown up a bit in the past but largely has fallen out of favor over the years. Zombies decks got Festering Mummy which is just better there, and Goblin Sacrifice decks stopped being about incremental value and turned more into full on combo decks. This leaves Splatter Goblin in a strange in-between spot. Sadly, it's probably not good enough, but it's still an aggressive creature that can take out another small creature when it dies. I think usually it's going to get chump blocked enough that you'd be better off with the Festering Goblin or Festering Mummy if you really needed this, but the possibilities are there. Who knows, we may see some Phyrexian bonuses in the upcoming sets that make it worth playing that much more.

Toxic Abomination

Toxic Abomination

Wow, we just got Crooked Custodian last set and now we're getting this here? These are some extremely aggressive statlines for Black. Even if you have to take two life to put this into play, there's a reason Suicide Black decks have existed in the past. Essentially, even though you take damage to get the cards into play, you'll be dishing out so much more that it's worth taking it just for the potency of the stats here. Black Aggro has already been making a bit of a comeback in recent months so I wouldn't be shocked if this ended up showing up quite a bit.

Urborg Repossession

Urborg Repossession

Pauper often sees its fair share of Raise Dead variants and by and large they're extremely bad. One of the only ones I can think of that's ever been truly effective has been Ghoulcaller's Chant in Zombies decks in the past. There is also Unearth, but that's more straight reanimation as opposed to Raise Dead. This, however, is a Raise Dead with a little life gain that can also give you a full Regrowth for permanents if you kick it. That's a lot better than your typical Raise Dead and can get back artifacts, enchantments, and lands in addition to just creatures if you want. I'm not sure this has a home right now (perhaps Tortured Existence to get back the titular card if it's blown up?) but it's one of the best variations of this effect that we've ever seen.

Writhing Necromass

Writhing Necromass

This is another of the big cost reduction creatures that's been getting a lot of buzz and is generally being compared to Gurmag Angler. As it happens, I think it's close but not quite there. You won't often be casting this for a single Black mana as most decks won't have enough creatures to fill the yard constantly to get this that low. More often than not I imagine you'll be casting this for closer to 3 mana, but even at that rate this is still a house. It's a bit harder to work for than it looks compared to Gurmag Angler, I think, but when it works, it'll work tremendously well.

Coalition Warbrute

Coalition Warbrute

Typically, these stats would have me scoff at this card. The enlist ability, however, gives me a bit of pause. It's really easy to get this big enough that it tramples over opposing creatures and survives a lot of blocks very well. That said, 4 mana is a tall ask in aggressive strategies, so while this may be one of the better enlist options, it's still probably far from playable enough in Pauper.

Ghitu Amplifier

Ghitu Amplifier

This is basically another Festival Crasher kind of creature for your usual Blitz decks, but this one is more fitting for an Izzet Blitz strategy where you can take advantage of the kicker cost. That said, it's unlikely the kicker effect is going to be very relevant most of the time as it costs a whopping 5 mana to get going and usually your Blitz strategies will want the game to be over by then. This may yet have a home in other more tempo or control strategies, though. If it sees play, I imagine it'll be in those more than your usual Kiln Fiend deck.

Keldon Strike Team

Keldon Strike Team

This is pretty sweet even just in that it gives all your creatures haste, which can be very useful in the right deck (see Goblin Bushwhacker). The fact that this has a decently aggressive body and can make some tokens if you kick it is just gravy. I think in general it's too fragile and Bushwhacker just does the mass haste thing better as it gives pumps when you don't need the haste. It does have a chance, though, and it'll be interesting to see if it ends up making it at all.

Meria's Outrider

Meria's Outrider

On its own, this is not a great card. It costs a ton and it's hard to get the domain going most of the time. In a dedicated deck, though, like Domain Zoo - an archetype that shows its head from time to time - it can be a Lava Axe on a really big creature. It gets even better in those cases if you can flicker it with something like an Ephemerate. We're talking some pretty big Magical Christmas Land energy here, but if the stars align and the brews are good enough, this card can be a house when it appears. I'd expect it maybe as an infrequent top end for Domain decks and maybe a neat build-around for brewers.

Molten Monstrosity

Molten Monstrosity

Now we're at the Red cost reduction card and I think this one's far worse than it initially looks. To get this to cost 3 mana, you need a creature that's 5 power already, and that can be a tall ask. It can maybe be a top end if you need a giant creature for your Kiln Fiend decks as it can come down super cheap in those, but it's extremely risky as your Kiln Fiend-style cards may not even survive long enough to be able to cast this. If you can make it work, it's great, but I think you're going to find it's much harder to actually cast this than it looks.

Smash to Dust

Smash to Dust

Sorcery speed sucks, but there's a ridiculous amount of modal power here. Artifact destruction is big right now and there's always a need for sweepers to get rid of weenies. You even get the incidental hate for Wonderwalls built in when you might not even be necessarily putting this in your sideboard for it! A very sweet card that does quite a bit. Consider me a fan!

Viashino Branchrider

Viashino Branchrider

You show me a Raging Goblin that has additional abilities and I pay attention. This has multiple great mana sinks attached to it and can be used in multiple circumstances. I imagine most people will be eyeing the fact that you can pump it for 3 mana to get through extra damage, but I think less people will note that this is actually a very kickable card. You know what also sees play in Red aggro decks? A little card called Burning-Tree Emissary. That's a card that can actually get you an incidental Green mana if you have the 4 mana to kick this, and even beyond that Gruul Aggro decks exist. There's a lot going on here that I really like and it may yet become a welcome addition to various aggro lists.

Yavimaya Steelcrusher

Yavimaya Steelcrusher

Torch Fiend is a card that's seen play in sideboards in the past. This is Torch Fiend on steroids. Enlist makes this an absolute house for attacking and it can still be sacrificed to blow up artifacts in a pinch. Even better, you aren't restricted to only being able to use Red mana for the sacrifice effect. While largely irrelevant as these cards show up most in Mono-Red lists, it is still a notable little tidbit. Either way, this card is great, and may be a great addition for various Mono-Red Aggro decks.

Bite Down

Bite Down

I mostly mention this card for the people who will inevitably bring up that this is a better Rabid Bite. That's true, but for the sake of Pauper, Ram Through exists and is just better than both of them. Play that instead.

Bog Badger

Bog Badger

A 3/3 for 3 mana isn't the worst value in the world, but if you can kick this, it makes it very easy for your creatures to get through. Most of your usual Golgari decks aren't particularly aggressive, though, so while the mass evasion is a very welcome buff, it's not going to do a whole ton most of the time, thereby making this a pretty mediocre card in the end.

Colossal Growth

Colossal Growth

I don't usually care for Giant Growth variants that much, as they typically don't do enough to warrant playing them. This one has the versatility of kicking it, though, and the buffs it grants from kicking it are pretty substantial. A total +4/+4, trample, and haste is a ton for 3 mana. Is it enough to warrant the inclusion? Maybe, if only for that modal gameplay, but if it does show up the applications will generally be tremendously limited.

Floriferous Vinewall

Floriferous Vinewall

I think it's arguable that Gatecreeper Vine is usually going to be better than this. In the event you want a very specific land that can't be found from Gatekeeper, though, this is a welcome addition for Wonderwalls. Given that deck typically runs exclusively basic Forests, though, I'd rather just stick to Gatecreeper Vine.

Hexbane Tortoise

Hexbane Tortoise

A three-mana enlist creature with some built in protection is pretty neat considering Green is the ideal color for Stompy decks. The problem is that 3 mana can be pretty expensive for those Green Aggro decks when they can get similar stats at 2 mana. What's more, Enlist ends up not being all that great on this as it's so easy to chump block it and take it out. It'd almost have liked this more if it was a 2/3 instead of a 3/2. As is, I doubt it'll see any play.

Llanowar Stalker

Llanowar Stalker

I sure did get tagged on this quite a bit when it dropped with this sort of expectation that it could be good for Elves. As is, I don't think it's good enough for that deck unless you wanted to try for less of a combo build and more of an all-in aggro variation - which has existed in the past! I think this is a lot better for Stompy as it triggers from all manner of creatures coming into play and can get double bumps from the likes of Nest Invader. Definitely one to keep an eye on and an extremely good aggro card.

Scout the Wilderness

Scout the Wilderness

At 3 mana, you likely already have all the lands you need, and the soldiers are likely also pretty inconsequential as well. There's a lot going on here with some fairly solid value, but I think in most situations it's going to be too little to be worth running for what it costs to cast in either form.

Sunbathing Rootwalla

Sunbathing Rootwalla

If this has a home, it'll be in exactly Domain Zoo strategies and absolutely nowhere else. Turning this into a cheap 7/7 is no joke, but you really need the perfect setup that almost every deck will not be able to do. As such, it really is just Domain decks or bust.

Vineshaper Prodigy

Vineshaper Prodigy

This is one of the first elf cards that makes me think it might have a home in Elves. On its own, it's just a basic bear, which makes it less than ideal. If you can get the kicker going, though - which is easy to do in Elves - then you get your pick from three cards off the top of your deck. There's enough versatility here that I like it, but the front end makes it likely not worth it. Worse still, Elves is on a tremendous downturn right now and this card isn't going to be what the deck needs to bring it back into the meta proper. As such, I think this one feels like it might be worth trying out but is likely going to end up being a pass.

Yavimaya Sojourner

Yavimaya Sojourner

This is easily the worst of the cost reduction creatures and is the only one that's actually impossible to reduce to only 1 mana. Even in Domain Aggro lists, this will at the lowest be a three-mana 4/6. That's pretty great at face value, but Matca Rioters becomes a straight 5/5 and doesn't require Domain to cast at 3 mana. The applications for this card are already super narrow and it's facing some stiff competition, so I have a feeling this won't end up making the cut.

Meteorite

Meteorite

This was a pretty unexpected downshift! While it's unlikely to do much in most decks, this is still a mana rock that Tron lists can easily get down. While expensive even for those decks, the fact that it also doubles as a removal spell gives a little more incentive to play it. It's still probably too prohibitive, but I could see it making appearances in small numbers yet!

Shield-Wall Sentinel

Shield-Wall Sentinel

Of all the common defenders in this set, this is clearly the most obvious for Wonderwalls. It's a card that's a defender itself and helps you find whatever defender card you need in any given specific moment to get there. You can even use it as some roundabout redundancy to get Drift of Phantasms to be able to transmute into wincons like Galvanic Alchemist or Bloodrite Invoker to be able to win the game. I've seen mixed opinions from Wonderwalls experts as to whether this will actually be good enough to be run, but it is at the very least being tested so I'd expect to see it a bit in the coming weeks if nothing else.

Crystal Grotto

Crystal Grotto

If you want another Shimmering Grotto variant with upside, here you go. I think if you want a Shimmering Grotto, though, you're likely going to end up sticking with Cave of Temptation most of the time instead.

Contaminated Aquifer, Geothermal Bog, Haunted Mire, Idyllic Beachfront, Molten Tributary, Radiant Grove, Sacred Peaks, Sunlit Marsh, Tangled Islet, Wooded Ridgeline

Contaminated Aquifer
Geothermal Bog
Haunted Mire
Idyllic Beachfront
Molten Tributary
Radiant Grove
Sacred Peaks
Sunlit Marsh
Tangled Islet
Wooded Ridgeline

It's really cool to see Wizards continue the tapped lands with basic land types at common. While it's arguable these won't do too much given that we already have the snow duals from Kaldheim, these still have their benefits. Using these won't cause you to take damage from Icequake or allow your opponents to gain life from Thermokarst, and you can also run these as copies 5-8 if desired. They're somewhat minimal additions, but they are still relevant and absolutely playable for Pauper!


That just about wraps up this Pauper review for Dominaria United! While this set is arguably a little lighter on power for the format compared to the last couple of releases, there's still plenty of great stuff to utilize here. Not only that, but we're finally about to see the addition of the initiative mechanic and other notables like Kenku Artificer and Lantern of Revealing from Battle for Baldur's Gate finally hit Magic Online at the same time. What that means is that there's going to be no shortage of cool things to be doing in the commons-only format in the coming weeks. I can't wait to see all the sweet brews and new decks that come out of the mix and I bet many others feel the same way!

What cards are you most excited to play with from Dominaria United?

Paige Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

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