I haven't been so excited with a new Magic release in, well, ever.
Not only does Dominaria herald the return to the most iconic and awesome plane (and it's not close) in the history of Magic lore, from a gameplay and power standpoint, the set is absolutely stacked. Just on the basis of its history, I would have been excited about a weak-sauce Dominaria set, but one that is deep, thoughtfully designed, and has seemingly boundless stuff going on is absolute gravy.
Step one is to get to the prerelease and enjoy this truly special MTG moment. I can hear Jay and the Americans crooning it out real smooth: This MTG Moment, so different and so new, was like any other, until my Dominaria wish came true...
The prerelease being great will take care of itself, because it always does. It's pretty fun and easy to jam a bunch of brand spanking new cards with some friends. However, we all know the drill – in between rounds, there is great value to be had trading with the local players who typically sling their spells at the kitchen table at home with friends.
One of the coolest things about a prerelease is that it brings everybody out to the game store to experience the cards for the first time. Everybody from the local pros, to the weekend warriors, the grinders, the commanders, and even the kitchen-table generals comes out to share these unique cross-sections of Magic history.
Being that the whole gang is there, prereleases are a great opportunity for the adept trader or collector to make some nice trades. What that doesn't mean is that you should rip off more casual players who don't know what their cards are worth. But you absolutely can be mutually beneficial to each other.
Note that the random dude with a dusty binder full of Beta Underground Seas, asking if they are worth anything, doesn't actually exist. Even if he did, he would just look up the price on his phone. Even if an opportunity was there, I'd hope that my fellow financers are not out on the street taking advantage of the casual players, townies and small children.
Rather, casual players are great trade partners because they are looking for unique subsets of cards that other players don't typically prize as highly. I usually try to add the casual players I make happy trades with on Facebook and let them know to hit me up any time they are looking for something and that I'll hook them up. It's a great way to make new remote trade partners. Your network of potential trade partners can never be too big.
Okay, enough about how great prereleases are and the virtues of establishing good ties with the casual crowd. Let's get to the business of skimming the value from Dominaria.
The first impulse that I have looking at the set is that it is super deep without too many obvious busted strategies calling out to slam the door on everything else. The powerful "Red Four-Drops of Doom" obviously create a baseline for the format, as do the remaining Energy shells, but by and large, a lot of these Dominaria cards will eventually have their day in the sun, which is how Magic should be.
Historic and Legendary Synergy Cards
I'm always interested in trading for cards that appear to be undervalued from a new release. The obvious good cards come out of the gate hot and overpriced, but finding the cards that other people have been sleeping on is a great way to grind some early, free value.
I believe Naban, Dean of Iteration will be a straight-up Constructed bigwig. First of all, the card is just good for the cost. Two mana for a 2/1 with a great ability is real. The fact that it has double great typing, Wizard and legendary (which counts as historic), gives the card a lot of room to make an impact.
Tribal Wizards look to be on the fringe of Constructed playable, and don't forget that we'll get another set of synergy cards to match up with him. He triggers "historic matters" conditions and turns on Mox Amber early. The card will be in competitive decks, but Naban seems like a spicy Mono-Blue Wizards Commander as well. This means picking up foils will be a good play.
Sram is another Legendary card that will likely play nice with Mox Amber in certain shells. He's basically a bulk rare right now, but I don't expect that will last for long. A Mox is nothing to be messed with, and any two-drop legendary creature should be on your radar right now, as harnessing the power of the Mox will likely be a major sticking point of the new Standard (and possibly Modern) format.
Meanwhile, we have a powerful mythic with a surprisingly low starting price point. I think this card has potential in Constructed formats. In particular, decks that play a lot of Moxen in Eternal formats. Four mana for "draw a card when you play an artifact" already exists on much weaker bodies and doesn't see play, but attaching the ability to a respectable body and having it also trigger for artifacts and legendary permanents makes the card considerably better.
I also anticipate foil copies being a hot commodity, as Jhoria seems like an absolutely busted Commander general. It's such an obviously good and fun "build around me" general in a great color combination.
Why Are People Not More Excited About These Absurd Three-Drops?
Another exciting cycle of cards that seems not to have captured people's imaginations:
These cards are absurdly powerful if you can meet the mana commitments, and I think all of these cards slot nicely into doing the kinds of things mono-colored decks like to do: be aggressive and play all lands untapped every turn.
The whole cycle is gas. Also, don't forget that with Aether Hub, fast lands and the reprinted Innistrad land cycle, a player can essentially get 12 "splash" sources of mana in a basic heavy mana base for a low cost. I think these cards will have a huge impact and can't understate how good I believe they will be in Standard.
The green one has already surged up to $8, and I'm not even sure he is better than Benalish Marshall or Goblin Chainwhirler, although I admit the card seems like a saucy blocker against Red Decks.
We've had "epic" spells, but these are the first legendary sorceries to actually exist, which is pretty cool. Basically, they are just regular spells, except you must control a legendary creature or planeswalker to actually put them onto the stack. I like the flavor – the player needs to have a legend on the battlefield to actually execute this tactic.
These are cards that would typically be relegated to scrap because the conditions are simply too awkward to realistically meet. However, in a block where most of the playable creatures are randomly legendary and give buffs to other historic cards, the condition might be nearly free.
It is also worth noting that Llanowar Elf is back, which makes ramping things out likely one of the best things anybody can do.
The card makes me think of Genesis Hydra back in the RG Devotion decks. Simply make a ton of mana and reap a ton of rewards by casting a giant X spell. There are good planeswalkers that ramp already, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some of these legendary spells paired up with them.
The card is very close to a Bonfire of the Damned in a deck that can field it. A potentially triple removal spell? I think this is a very spicy option for midrange duels as long as it can be cast.
And Finally, a Completely Unreasonable Card That Nobody Is Talking About
What in the world!? Four mana for a 7/7 with trample and no drawback?
Okay, it has a drawback, but not one in any deck where it will appear. I will likely be jamming this card in Legacy and Vintage. It may not have an obvious spot in an Affinity deck, but this card has absurd stats. I think this is a card to be picking up for speculative purposes. Four mana for a 7/7 with trample is not something that comes along every day.
Well, those are my thoughts on the underrated cards from the new set. The set is so deep that there are a lot of potential places to search for value. It doesn't matter if you are an old-school grinder returning home or a new player experiencing Dominaria for the first time: enjoy the prerelease and enjoy the return!