Dominaria: The Truth about Nostalgia

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Dominaria is the plane where it all began for me. It was 1999 when my friends and I biked up to our local Jewel (a grocery store chain in the Midwest) and opened our first packs of Magic called Urza's Saga. I still have the Gaea's Cradle that my friends and I pulled that day and it is still turning sideways for (a lot of) green mana in my Seton Druid EDH deck.

You can find me on Instagram for more photos like this one!

Surprising as this might be: Magic escalated slowly for me. As a 12-year-old who was dabbling with Pokemon cards and loved playing sports, Magic started as an afterthought. My best friend Nick was really excited about the sci-fi and imaginative aspects of the cards, though, and because he is like a brother to me I felt I had to give it a shot.

The expansive lore based on the plane of Dominaria is what drew me in further to the game. Specifically, in 2000, the Invasion block novels got my imagination hooked. I can still remember reading the books at our local Barnes and Noble and buying packs of Invasion afterward. This was back before Amazon, Kindles, and iBooks when a good hardcover or comic was a go-to source of entertainment.

Those novels cemented Magic in my life forever.

Learn from History and Repeat it

Urza's Saga was a fairly complicated set for a 12-year old; it had lands like Cradle and Tolarian Academy which back then seemed insignificant (what little we knew). All my friends and I wanted at that age were cool heroes and scary monsters to construct our own stories and games around. There were worthwhile cards in Saga for us, but in general, the set was underwhelming given our "narrow" goals. I even remember pulling a Phyrexian Plaguelord and it being one of the most coveted cards any of us got from Saga, despite it not actually being very good.

Needless to say, we stuck with Magic in jest, making up rules as we went and playing more with Winding Wurm and Skittering Skirge than Gaea's Cradle and Sneak Attack. To be honest, I think we almost entirely disregarded the rarity symbols and were more excited by the art and the power/toughness combinations of creatures. The abilities and features of "powerful" cards were unbeknownst to us back then. If it wasn't a creature or basic land, it probably didn't make the cut.

Little did I know looking back on it that Saga (and the Dominaria-based sets of the time) would become some of the richest and most defining sets in Magic's history. The storylines and lore were vast, and are often referenced to this day (see: Urza, Lord High Artificer and Yawgmoth, Thran Physician). Not coincidentally, a few of the Reserved List cards from the Urza's block are among the most expensive non-A/B/U cards ever printed.

Enter Spring 2018: the Dominaria expansion.

We are creatures of habit and memory, and it is well-known in marketing and advertising that these human characteristics (i.e. feelings of nostalgia) cause a connection far beyond what a jingle or catch-phrase can do. Wizards knew this, so what better way to sell a set than return to the plane where many (if not most) Magic players began their journeys.

I cannot fathom a guess as to how many players began playing Magic between the Urza's and Invasion blocks. I tried to find more information about player base growth to little avail (I knew this was a tough subject to research as Wizards was a private company back then and therefore not obligated to share this data). It does appear based on anecdotal evidence that there was sizable growth during the late-90s, and whether confirmed or not, I have to believe this was a part of the inspiration for the Dominaria expansion.

The set tugged at our heartstrings with nostalgia, lore, and incredible limited design. Wizards knew how to play all of our angles, ensuring that feeling of opening our first packs could rush back through us with Dominaria. They went all out, too.

We got the first series of legends printed at uncommon; we got a look at Teferi, Hero of Dominaria for the first time in almost five years; and most importantly, we got nods and references to icons of our past (Mending of Dominaria, Phyrexian Scriptures, and the list goes on).

Unsurprisingly, tugging at our heartstrings worked. Dominaria sold like crazy and forged itself in Magic's history as one of (if not the) most well-received sets in Magic's 25 (now 26) year history.

Chris's Commander Corner

I was stuck in a Time Warp talking about my love for all-things Dominaria. It is close to my heart and talking about it flows so easily. That made this week's edition of rotating set reviews really fun for me, so let's get to it!

In my opinion, this is the easiest pick from the entire set. Helm of the Host checks three critical boxes:

  1. Demand! It is the most popular card in the entire set according to EDHREC
  2. It is an artifact that only gets better over time
  3. It is a flavorful acknowledgment to the Queen of Vesuva making it harder to reprint outside of a supplementary set

I only own two copies of Helm of the Host but I plan on acquiring more for personal use after rotation. I feel like this card will follow the trajectory of Panharmonicon post-rotation where it will drop ever-so-slightly, then catapult to higher highs within 3-6 months.

Investment Plan #1

I am a believer in non-foils believe it or not. I think they have room to grow into a $10 card by as early as Spring 2020. I am planning on grabbing a playset if I can find it for $4 per copy (I am watching eBay auctions right now in hopes this is a possible price-point).

I see the foils with upside into the mid-$20 range, especially for near mint copies as those will command a premium due to the heavy play Helm of the Host sees in commander. I picked up one NM foil at $12.99 during my set review analysis and I intend to grab at least 2-3 more foils if I can find them for that price.

Is she the best commander ever printed? Maybe; maybe not. One thing is for sure: if you value a commander who is a dream to brew with and filled with everlasting longevity, then Muldrotha, the Gravetide is for you.

At 2,644, she ranks only 12 decks behind Meren of Clan Nel Toth as the third (!) most popular commander of all-time. She's also the #1 commander on EDHREC who was not printed as a general in a precon Commander set. Read that again because it is extremely important when factoring in EDHREC rankings (which use time and weight precons heavily in all of their rankings).

Suffice it to say that Muldrotha is the most popular commander ever printed in a standalone, non-commander set and it isn't even close (for perspective, Queen Marchesa ranks #2 for standalone cards at 1,794).

Investment Plan #2

My only non-foil copy of Muldrotha, the Gravetide is leading the charge in a +1/+1 counters deck. I have ambitions of upgrading this to a foil printing if I can find a NM or LP copy sub-$25 (likely during an upcoming promotion on one of the sales platforms).

Barring a reprint of any kind, Muldrotha foils have a realistic shot at $40+ in the next 3-6 months. Non-foils are equally intriguing as a potential $15 card in the future.

My only real reservation towards Muldrotha is that it would make for a beautiful promo card someday which could hinder its long-term growth. Even so, the popularity, demand, and general longevity of this premium commander will always keep prices on an upward trajectory.

The Legendary Sorceries

The above-captioned four are my favorites from both a speculator and player perspective, but I love the concept and design for all six of these cards.

In full disclosure, I bought between 12 and 20 foil copies of each Legendary Sorcery back in 2018 when you could find them for $1 or less (I also did the same with Thran Temporal Gateway). I almost never buy large quantities of cards as I did with these but the unique design combined with the impact when they resolve in EDH had me clamoring to own as many as I could.

Investment Plan #3

I currently run at least one copy across all of the EDH decks I own. I use the four captioned above in more than one deck and feel they have the widest array of applications. For those reasons, I believe these are still worth picking up wherever you can find foils of them at $2 or less.

Most of these have exceeded the $2 price-point on TCG, but be patient and keep an eye out as they might come out of binders during rotation, especially given their narrower applications in commander (i.e. while they are huge impact, they all require a commitment to running a lot of legendary permanents). I'd also suggest watching eBay for auctions of these as you might be able to find copies below TCG low using that route.

I expect all of the Legendary Sorceries will appreciate at a slow but steady rate and envision most of them selling between $3-6 within 12 months.

Song of Freyalise is probably my favorite sleeper of the entire set. It compares favorably to Cryptolith Rite and with Populate in focus due to Commander 2019, I expect this card could see some appreciation sooner than most rotating cards. It got even better with War of the Spark cards like Evolution Sage and Karn's Bastion, and let's face it that a +1/+1 counter strategy never gets old in the world of commander.

Investment Plan #4

I am buying foils of Song of Freyalise and avoiding the non-foils due to the sheer supply available (though those make for a great budget alternative). I acquired two NM foil playsets for $1 per copy and I like this price-point quite a bit if you want to speculate on the card.

It is unique and flavorful to Dominaria which will prove difficult to print anywhere but a supplemental product. As a result, I envision the foils will appreciate to $3 within six months and depending on reprint status I could see this being a $10 foil in two years.

We recently saw another foil uncommon legend from Dominaria explode in price - Tatyova, Benthic Druid - caused by demand increases due to synergy with Yarok the Desecrated and Chulane, Teller of Tales.

I am predicting that foils of Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive will be next to jump in value based on its current supply and its unique ability. It already sees plenty of play in two archetypes - Ninjas (Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow) and Walls (Arcades, the Strategist) - and it could start seeing more use in decks centered around the Commander 2019 printing of Pramikon, Sky Rampart.

While I don't expect this to jump overnight, my approach was to buy foils sooner rather than later because I know personally, I want copies for my own decks (I already play a non-foil copy of Tetsuko in my Arcades deck).

Investment Plan #5

While I was doing the research for this article I acquired a playset of Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive foils for $2.50 per copy. I felt after looking at buylists and general supply on the card that $2.50 is going to be about as low as I will find for Tetsuko.

If you are not in need of a foil Tetsuko immediately but might want a copy for the future, I recommend grabbing it now at or under $3 then acquire additional copies later if the price retraces at all.

I expect six months from now this will be a $5+ foil with $10 upside (similar to the aforementioned Tatyova). I am shying away from non-foils for the same reasons described with Song of Freyalise above.

Additional Cards to Consider

All four of these cards I either own or have added to my watchlist to acquire a copy for personal use. I provided detailed summaries of Shalai and Jhoira in the Quiet Speculation Insider Discord. Join us there to get the additional insight and perspective!

Wrapping Up

As you can see, Dominaria emits a deep sense of passion and excitement for me. It takes me back to my childhood and evokes strong feelings and emotions. Last spring was a trip down memory lane and I think the best part about Dominaria is how successful the set was at reinvigorating Magic.

I'll be forever excited to talk about Dominaria lore (including other sets that took place there), so please feel free to connect with me more on Twitter or on the QS Discord if you have the same passion. My inbox is always open!

You can find all of my past articles here, including my Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan set reviews.

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