Welcome back, readers!
Normally I try to do a review of each upcoming set from the eternal viewpoint (Commander, Modern, Legacy, and Vintage) and that typically requires two articles. However, Dominaria seems chock full of amazing Commander cards (like Ixalan but on steroids) so I'm going to have to break this one up into a few articles.
What's interesting about this set is that there is a heavy focus on the legendary super type—so much so that we have a lot of good uncommon legendaries, which is definitely...uncommon. All that being said, let's dig in.
Tatyova, Benthic Druid
Tatyova is actually one of the cards I am most looking forward to upon this set's release. Simic decks love doing two things: drawing cards and ramping. The fact that this triggers whenever a land enters the battlefield (instead of when you play a land like Horn of Greed) is bonkers.
I think that this set will likely be opened a whole lot (thanks to the Commander crowd) so it's unlikely that nonfoils of this card itself will hold much of a price tag. My targets for this series will be cards that play well with these new goodies from Dominaria. There are some obvious inclusions in a deck that uses her as a general:
- Oracle of Mul Daya - Obviously playing additional lands in this deck generates a lot of additional value. Unfortunately, thanks to dodging any reprints, current copies of Oracle retail for $23-$25. While I could easily see the card moving up to $30, the potential for profits is rather limited. (I'm a bigger fan of cheap cards that jump a large percentage over expensive cards that jump a minor percentage.)
- Boundless Realms - This card seems insane with her in play. For seven mana you double the number of lands you control, draw that many cards, and gain that much life. Foils on this card are surprisingly cheap, with copies in the 1.2-to-1.5-times multiplier range. After finding this out, I ordered a few for myself just to have.
- Wayward Swordtooth - Whenever WotC prints a card that says, "you may play an additional land each turn," I always keep my eye on it. The fact that this card is Standard-legal (and will be for quite some time) means there's some potential for these two cards to find a home in a Standard-legal deck.
- Burgeoning - This card has been on my spec list for quite some time (and I've picked up a few copies here and there for my spec box). It's very similar to Exploration—you don't get the extra mana immediately, but it also scales in power level with the number of players. The biggest challenge I've seen with it is that you often run out of lands from your hand pretty quickly (at least when you can't refill), however, thanks to the card draw with Tatyova you could potentially churn through your deck.
- Exploration - Unfortunately, Exploration has rebounded nicely after its original drop thanks to being reprinted in the original Conspiracy set (and I did advocate picking copies up when they were sitting at $7 back in 2015). This card likely falls into the same category as Oracle of Mul Daya—it will move upward, but with the high buy-in the percent gains likely won't be worth tying up the amount of money necessary to turn a good profit.
Adeliz, the Cinder Wind
I'm nowhere near as excited about this one. It is a 2/2 flying haste creature so it could turn into a decent one-vs-one Commander (or for Tiny Leaders if that ever came back into the spotlight). It definitely has some potential in a Wizards-themed deck, but the problem is you'd want a deck that has both a lot of Wizards and a lot of instants and sorceries.
Luckily, there are some cards that create Wizard tokens, and they are both cheap (i.e. low buy-in). I'm personally not convinced enough in this card as a commander (I think it's more likely to play a supporting role in a Grixis Wizards deck).
- Docent of Perfection // Final Iteration - This Eldritch Moon flip card definitely plays extremely well with Adeliz (creating 1/1 Wizards that get pumped for the turn, assuming you stack the triggers correctly. Eldritch Moon, while recent, was not a set with a lot of Standard staples. Thus the few cards that are staples are worth a good bit (looking at you, Collective Brutality and Liliana, the Last Hope). This definitely seems like a card that would be an auto-include in any Adeliz deck, so if such a deck materializes this card will likely double up.
- Lullmage Mentor - Another $1 card that could easily double up should the deck take off; this one is a bit older (from Zendikar) and has a powerful secondary ability (though it does require the subtype Merfolk instead of just Wizard).
Slimefoot, the Stowaway
Slimefoot is another one I'm excited about getting access to. Saprolings are a subtype that has been around for a long time in Magic's history and there are a lot of older cards that create them. The fact that he can make Saprolings for generic mana and without tapping means there is definitely some potential for abuse.
He also comes with a restricted Blood Artist ability which serves as a fantastic win condition that doesn't target (though sadly it is damage rather than life loss, which is relevant sometimes).
I think Slimefoot will definitely be a somewhat popular commander in the next year ahead, as he seems to have a lot of potential as a powerful general thanks to both those abilities. Interestingly enough, there are currently zero cards (discounting any in Dominaria) that actually have the subtype of Saproling. Now what cards seem like an auto-include in this type of deck?
- Nemata, Grove Guardian - I actually built a deck around this card when it was Standard-legal and the ability to sacrifice the Saprolings to pump the rest made blocking a nightmare for my opponents. This card plays beautiful with Slimefoot as she provides a sacrifice outlet to trigger his triggered ability, a slightly discounted way to create Saprolings, and the sacrifice trigger pumps all other Saprolings you have. And of course I can't leave out that she's a rare from Planeshift (which was not a widely opened set). Currently copies are in the $1-$1.5 range—should a Slimefoot deck take off, she could easily be a $4-$6 card.
- Elvish Farmer - To be fair I think the whole "spore counter" thing is not where you'll want to be in any Commander decks (as it's just too slow for minimal gain. However, this is a rare from Fallen Empires that provides another sacrifice outlet. I wouldn't go and buy up a bunch of these (as Fallen Empires was pretty terrible), but if you have any in bulk it's likely worth picking them out and seeing if it goes anywhere.
- Life and Limb - I will be the first to state that including this card in your Commander deck is very risky. Turning all Forests into any type of creature opens you up to a wrath turning into a wrath plus Armageddon. However, it also means that all the Saprolings you create tap for G, which if you can give them haste can get out of hand very quickly. This card is also sitting in the $1-$1.5 range with only a single printing as a rare in Planar Chaos, so any demand increase will likely cause it to double up (or more).
- Saproling Symbiosis - A rare from Invasion (with no reprints), this card is currently sitting at $3 already; however, doubling the number of creatures you have in play at potentially instant speed is definitely powerful.
- Spontaneous Generation - Currently a bulk rare from Mercadian Masques, this definitely doesn't seem as powerful as Saproling Symbiosis. However, thanks to cards like Praetor's Counsel, it can generate a lot of tokens for four mana.
- Utopia Mycon - The only uncommon I've listed so far, this one has the slow spore-counter generation like Elvish Farmer, but it's sacrifice ability plays better with Slimefoot's abilities. Ironically, despite being an uncommon from a newer set than any other I've listed, it's actually $2.50 already thanks to casual demand, so it could easily see a jump to $5.
- Tendershoot Dryad - Our Standard-legal reincarnation of Verdant Force. Any green token deck should have no issue getting to the City's Blessing, and while the focus of this article is on the Commander ramifications, it does seem possible that these two paired in Standard could form a deck.
Tiana, Ship's Caretaker
To be honest I'm not that impressed with this one. The only reason to build a deck around it is the second ability, which does seem pretty awesome with umbras (essentially making her indestructible). That said, the best umbra (Bear Umbra) is green and thus couldn't be included in any deck with her as the Commander. She could combo with cards that benefit from sacrificing artifacts (like Krark-Clan Ironworks), but I'm not sure what else would go in that deck.
Shanna, Sisay's Legacy
Shanna seems like a great support card in a token-based deck, as a solid finisher that's hard to interact with. But those decks have better generals already. That being said, I could see her finding a home in a one-vs-one Commander archetype with a lot of one- or two-drops that plays very aggressively. Unfortunately, that style of Commander is not one I'm intimately familiar with, so I don't have much else to say about this one.
Rona, Disciple of Gix
Rona is hard to get a good read on, but the abilities seem powerful. The first essentially gives you flashback on any historic card; the second is library manipulation that puts the cards in "cold storage" to potentially be used whenever.
The fact that artifacts as a whole count as historic, and that blue-black tends to be a powerful artifact color combination, does hint that this card could end up as the commander of some artifact-based Dimir combo deck. Currently we have no legendary instants or sorceries, but if they should materialize (and are powerful), it might be worth taking another look at Rona.
Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage
At first I thought this card was rather unassuming. But the fact that all artifacts count as historic make it more appealing, and while Esper and Dimir are most known for artifact-based decks, Azorius isn't far behind. Flashing in artifacts at instant speed could be extremely powerful, especially when you factor that Raff himself comes with flash.
Unfortunately, while this may make for a powerful build, it's not likely to include anything that isn't already seen in your typical Esper artifact build. I wouldn't be surprised if Raff was simply slotted into that archetype rather than creating a new one.
Hallar, the Firefletcher
A 3/3 with trample that grows and has a pretty powerful ability seems like it has some solid potential. Unfortunately—and this is a big unfortunately—his second ability only triggers when spells are kicked. While we have had kicker in a fair number of sets, the number of playable cards with kicker that can be put into a red-green deck is fairly limited.
That being said, here is a list of a few with some potential:
- Hunting Wilds - Green decks already like ramp spells, so here's one with a pretty solid upside. It was printed at uncommon (so the price ceiling is lower than a rare or mythic), but it was also only printed in Planar Chaos.
- Thicket Elemental - While the base creature isn't anything spectacular, the low kicker cost and the ability to cheat a creature into play is very strong. One could argue this ability is on par with cascade—while you're limited to creature spells, the mana cost is irrelevant and it can't be countered as it's put directly into play. In addition to the original Invasion printing there's one from the Nissa vs. Ob Nixilis Duel Deck, so the price ceiling is definitely lower than it would have been otherwise.
- Strength of the Tajuru - This card tends to see play mostly in Elf decks (or other decks that play a lot of creatures and generate a lot of mana). It also plays extremely well with Hallar's abilities, adding a lot of +1/+1 counters and triggering his second ability.
- Goblin Ruinblaster - A more recent uncommon, so the ceiling is pretty low. But one that would play well in Commander, as targeted land destruction can be very useful. I would definitely imagine this card would find a home in most Hallar decks.
- Skizzik - If the Hallar deck is playing a very aggressive strategy (perhaps as a one-vs-one deck), then Skizzik could easily find a home as it's a very aggressive card and the kicker cost is low.
- Urza's Rage - The list wouldn't be complete with arguably the most famous of the kicker cards (I remember when this was Standard-legal and Urza's Rage was the most expensive card in Invasion). Nowadays 11 mana for 10 uncounterable/unpreventable damage doesn't seem that impressive. But if your goal is to kill one opponent as quickly as possible, having an ace up your sleeve that's so difficult to deal with isn't bad.
Arvad the Cursed
There's a reason why Vampire Nighthawk used to buylist for $1, even after it rotated out of Standard. Casuals love deathtouch and lifelink. That being said, this is another difficult-to-evaluate legendary creature.
The abilities are actually very powerful and coming with a built-in Day of Destiny seems very relevant. The problem I see is that most Orzhov decks that play a lot of creatures tend to be token decks, and he doesn't help at all with that. An Arvad deck would need to play a lot of legendary creatures in it to really benefit from the static ability (which is arguably the reason to play him).
He does come with two very relevant creature types (Vampire and Knight) which have some Magic history behind them and plenty of support cards. Unfortunately, most of those support cards tend to favor playing that specific tribe as opposed to legendary creatures in general. I could see him being used in a deck chock full of cheap legendary creatures meant to aggressively kill the opponent as quickly as possible.
Dominaria is looking to be a fantastic set for us Commander players, with so many new options. This type of set is also amazing for MTG finance as Commander players often scour Gatherer for obscure cards to fill new decks and often we'll see massive price spikes in cards found in the most popular of these new Commander archetypes.
Next week I'll be focused on the rare and mythic legendary creatures from the set. Any obvious targets I missed? As always, I love to hear people's thoughts in the comments below.