One of the more exciting War of the Spark cards for me was Domri, Anarch of Bolas. The card didn't appear especially powerful, but it did pique my interest as a potential role-player in a couple of my favorite decks: GR Moon and Temur Delver.
As the static-ability walkers spoiled, I identified in them one critical weakness: a lack of cohesion. While the abilities they offered seemed interesting one by one, taken together on a card, I felt most of the walkers did too many different things. We'd only want one of its many abilities in a given matchup, for instance, and Modern has better cards for executing that ability.
Domri, Anarch of Bolas offends less on this count, and I felt it would be possible to build a deck that benefited from all three of his modes. To make use of Domri's abilities, the deck would need to:
- Go wide or want to buff creature power by 1 for some other reason
- Make use of an additional mana per turn
- Have creatures large enough to turn fight mode into a reliable kill spell
As it does every so often, my brainstorming led me back to two of my old pet decks: GR Moon and Temur Delver. Read on for proposed builds in each archetype and my preliminary thoughts on Domri in the decks.
An Embarrassment of
GR Moon is a stompy deck that ramps into turn two Blood Moon and promptly pressures opponents until the game is over. It differs from Ponza in that it doesn't run land destruction cards, and has a much lower mana curve, enabling Faithless Looting to sift through the deck. Its primary closer is Tarmogoyf.
One of my longtime nitpicks with GR Moon, an archetype I've played around with for four years now, has always been the lack of effective planeswalkers to run. With Fatal Push legal, it's critical that Tarmogoyf be as big as possible, giving us plenty of incentive to fit walkers into the list. Granted, we've since received an adequate walker for the strategy in Sarkhan, Fireblood—see this article for more on his roles in the deck. But as they say, the more the merrier, and I think Domri too offers GR Moon some unique angles.
Domri's static ability rewards us for running Goblin Rabblemaster. The 2/2 has made it into a few of my Moon builds, especially the earlier ones with rituals, but has mostly held a flex spot in my builds. Lately, the card is proving itself as one of Modern's strongest options for quickly pressuring disrupted opponents. Giving every Goblin token +1/+0 significantly increases Rabblemaster's power, effectively doubling its per-turn damage output. Additionally, granting our creatures +1/+0 turns an excess of mana dorks into more pressure.
The mana addition also meshes with GR Moon's strategy. We like to dump mana sources beyond the fourth with Faithless Looting and Sarkhan, using that chaff to dig into business. Domri gets that ball rolling a turn earlier. Instead of deploying a fourth land, we can sandbag it and still have access to the same amount of mana. It's icing on the cake that our creatures can't be countered.
Fight mode is nothing new, as it's something the old Domri Rade also featured. But while Rade's other two abilities weren't worth our time, Anarch's are, incentivizing us to seriously weigh fight mode's applications. One of GR Moon's classic issues is its lack of hard removal. While splashing black is an option, and the first one I employed, it's not so elegant, especially with color-intensive walkers in the mix. Domri's -2 lets Tarmogoyf take out pretty much any threat across the battlefield, including other Goyfs thanks to the +1/+0. I've also used the -2 on a freshly-deployed Hazoret the Fervent before making a hasty attack. Of course, in lieu of a fatty, the ability leaves much to be desired—we can't be caught bringing a Bird of Paradise to a gun fight.
Here's the build I'm working with:
This deck really wants to start with a mana dork in hand, be it Birds, Hierarch, or Sprawl. That's why we run 10 of them, an ample amount under the pending London Mulligan. With all those Bolt targets, as well as Rabblemaster, I figured it safe for Magus of the Moon to make an appearance. 4 Blood Moon isn't so many when your gameplan depends on it.
I split the walkers down the middle, maximizing the odds of sticking both. Looting can then ditch walkers as necessary with an equal chance of finding the right one down the road.
The sideboard maxes out on some of the best hate in the format. Dire Fleet Daredevil returns from the last build as another way to remove large threats across the table, especially against the Goyf decks, which also tend to run Fatal Push. There are no Surgical Extractions here because Damping Sphere hoses Izzet Phoenix better, and Anger of the Gods takes care of Dredge.
Tuning Temur Delver
My other long-lost deck, Temur Delver, uses Domri for slightly different purposes. It has no interest in deploying lots of creatures or going wide with tokens. Rather, Temur takes advantage of Domri's planeswalker type with self-mill effects to grow Tarmogoyf for value, and especially enjoys the +1/+0 boost on its creatures.
Tarmogoyf has long proved problematic for this deck, too, and now our Goyfs beat theirs in combat. Hooting Mandrills is also way more threatening when it's got Gurmag Angler-levels of power, not to mention impossible to stonewall with an Angler under Domri. Cutest of all, though, is the buff granted to Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration. Not only does a 4/2 flier end the game very fast, Insectile Aberration // Insectile Aberration now grants ferocious for Stubborn Denial!
As with GR Moon, Temur Delver usually finds itself strapped for mana. The extra boost from Domri helps cast threats while keeping up counterspell mana. And fight mode is relevant for the same reasons: we can finally remove big creatures with our bigger Goyfs.
Something to keep in mind about Domri in this deck, compared with in GR Moon, is that it won't be coming down ahead of schedule. Rather, Domri is a tap-out turn three play, or a way to punish opponents who commit mana to dealing with our creatures. Once it's down, they can't counter our future threats, which are larger than before and can also take out enemy creatures. Against aggro decks, Domri doesn't need to be dead on arrival each time; his +1 can generate a mana for Hooting Mandrills, or Tarmogoyf if we've got another to spare, and these creatures can protect him for the turn cycle.
Snapcaster is a bit clunky in Temur, but I like the upside of keeping a single copy in the mainboard of a four-Scour deck. Taking a cue from Grixis Shadow, I've included 2 Faithless Looting here as a means to sift through unwanted cards or dump rare card types into the graveyard—Domri in particular can clog in the early-game. Bauble is here to make Tarmogoyf worth playing over Death's Shadow, and so is Tarfire.
The other flex spots are occupied by Flame Slash, a killer of Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror, and a couple blue protection spells: Simic Charm and Lazotep Plating. Both of these save our threats from removal with upside. Simic's benefit is its flexibility: we can use it to soft-disrupt a combo by bouncing a creature, or to trample over an enemy blocker with Hooting Mandrills. Plating, too, is flexible, as outlined in my War of the Spark spoiler review. But its bonus effect of generating a token happens no matter which "mode" we choose—countering a burn spell; saving a creature; protecting Domri; or just end-step amass. Of note: with the planeswalker in play, our amass token is a 2/1! I like amass here because it insulates us from edict effects, as on Liliana of the Veil, and gives us blockers for the damage race or pressure for an enemy planeswalker.
This sideboard does indeed run Surgical Extraction, as well as Damping Sphere and some Moons of its own for the big mana matchups. Huntmaster and Hazoret remain Temur staples in my eyes. The Werewolf and his token increase their power by a lot with Domri in play, and Hazoret hits like a ton of bricks no matter what. The final Stubborn sits in the sideboard for spell-based matchups.
A Walker on the Wild Side
I don't think either of these decks will upend Modern, or even close—they both have fundamental issues that Domri doesn't fix. But I do think the walker improves them on some metrics. For me, part of the fun of Modern is being able to gradually strengthen beloved decks as new cards are released. Which War cards have you feeding your pets?