I wouldn’t exactly say that I was excited when Domri Rade was first spoiled, but I absolutely saw potential in the card. It seemed pretty clear that a Planeswalker that has comparable traits to Phyrexian Arena and Magus of the Abyss, if conditional, could be a very strong player in the right deck. Seeing as I had no reason to play Standard for the last several months and how investing in Planeswalkers is typically a foolish gambit I didn’t give the matter much more thought until Eric Froelich Top 8’d PT Gatecrash.
Something to Work With
Froelich’s list, clearly the brainchild of Brian Kibler (by way of Tomoharu Saito), did some really cool things. If you’ve never activated a Domri to start a fight with your Boros Reckoner then you are most certainly missing out. Overloading a Mizzium Mortars in a deck full of massive monsters also feels pretty stellar.
There were, of course, some aspects of the deck that I would wager would’ve been different without tight time constraints leading up to the Pro Tour. It doesn’t take a ton of sample hands to see that Burning Tree Emissary, while capable of generating some insane hands, frequently ends up being a pretty bland Grizzly Bears.
Last week Kibler posted a video featuring some updates to the deck. Most of the matches aren’t really worth watching unless you’re a fan of mulligans and complaining, but his updates to the deck are worth observing. I completely agree with moving off Emissary and when this move is made Hellrider makes even less sense in the deck. Ghor-Clan Rampager is completely insane seeing as it’s a “spell” that plays well with Domri and works to address the Restoration Angel problem.
Thoughts on the Updates
While I see these as the major positive changes Kibler made to the deck, there are a couple slots in his new list that I’m not terribly excited about. In particular I’m never a fan of Avacyn's Pilgrim and I’m on the fence about Thundermaw Hellkite.
Pilgrim opens the deck up to non-morbid Tragic Slips- a card that’s been gaining quite a bit of ground lately. It’s also just completely worthless as anything other than “being a Plains” in a deck that doesn’t feature Gavony Township and, what’s worse, doesn’t care a ton about white mana. Before we go too far off the deep end, this deck can’t afford to play Township. Even if we were to jam all 12 M10 lands and all 12 Ravnica lands that still only leaves us with 16 mana sources of every color while also providing a relevant blow to our tempo. Domri and Township are at odds. If you want to Township then I recommend Prime Speaker Bant. An awesome deck, but a different deck.
Thundermaw is very oddly positioned currently. Against aggressive decks you really can’t afford to play cards as slow as Thundermaw and if your hand is full of expensive things then you’ll have trouble getting to the “I can cast two spells per turn” phase of the game against Azorius Charm decks. I’d say Tundermaw is a solid sideboard card against Junk Reanimator to kill Lingering Souls tokens and to attack through Angel of Serenity, but for the most part I’ve been unimpressed.
One card that I’ve solidly landed on for Domri decks is Strangleroot Geist. I don’t think that anybody is in the dark on the power level of this card and I’m pretty surprised that it isn’t seeing more play currently. It clearly doesn’t have a home in the Naya Humans deck but I believe it’s right at home with Domri. It fights with a good amount of relevant bodies and revealing haste creatures to Domri is about the best thing that can come from +1’ing our namesake ‘walker.
The other cards that I’m taking under consideration are Ash Zealot and Rancor. A Rancored Ash Zealot is possibly my favorite thing to attack with in today’s Standard, but the mana does get a little tough the more we move towards having four Geists and four Zealots. Clearly drawing your actual RG duals starts to matter more the closer these two spells get to full inclusion. Gyre Sage does help quite a bit in games where both Geist and Zealot are drawn though, as you can play the sage on turn two, evolve it off Zealot on turn three and then run out a Geist as well. Swinging for four with a backup 2/3 (probably ready to evolve again next turn) is a pretty big game. All of these bodies also block very well against things like opposing Burning Tree Emissaries.
That said, I think that you only really want 1-2 maindeck Ash Zealots. Other midrange decks can invalidate its body pretty quickly in the absence of a Rampager or a Rancor, and we really want a high creature threshold. Last night I was trying out the following maindeck while battling against Esper, and it worked very well against opponents without many creatures but I don’t think it’s where the maindeck needs to be:
Basically this is what I would want if I were pre-boarded against Supreme Verdict/Azorius Charm decks, where Gyre Sage is flat terrible.
That said if creature decks are abundant, and I believe them to be, some of these elements are going to need to sit on our board as a concession to how good Tarmogoyf… er, Gyre Sage is in combat. Right now I’m thinking I’ll play very close to this list in Kansas City this weekend:
If I run into a ton of Esper, or to a lesser extent UWR flash, I won’t feel great about the continued inclusion of Gyre Sage. Should I run into Jund and other Naya decks then I believe I’m in the right place. I still might play something somewhere between these two lists, all I know for sure is that I’m very close. I strongly encourage playing a few games with Domri variants to see how the deck fairs against various Standard decks. I was pretty convinced that a deck with this little interaction would struggle a ton against a deck like Prime Speaker Bant but was pleasantly surprised by just how much lost ground an overloaded Mizzium Mortars can make up.
With Standard PTQ season looming on the horizon I fully expect Domri to claim its fair share of invites. My lists might not be there just yet but I fail to see how frankensteining together Phyrexian Arena, Magus of the Abyss and Akroma's Memorial could produce anything short of a tier one flagship.
If you have any suggestions for improvement on the list or any questions for me about my considerations then I will be more than happy to address them in the comments section.
Thanks for reading.
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