Dominaria United has been fully spoiled and the set looks... nice. As far as Commander is concerned, some cards look great, but are they format-defining? Will they go in every deck, or just a few? But first, a proviso or two!
One Minor Caveat
United has a lot of cards that, while they are not strictly multi-color, have a color identity that is more than one color. On top of that, there are some cards that will certainly see play in specific decks, but will absolutely not see play outside of those decks. Here are a few examples.
Powerful, But Narrow
These are good cards for their respective decks. Obviously, tribal Goblin or Merfolk will love these cards, but few other Commander decks will care. Elves are a bit more common, and this Visionary could see play in green decks that coincidentally have a ton of Elves. Visionary will be an auto-include in every pure Elf tribal deck. Then there is Leyline Binding, which is an excellent removal card so long as you are a five-color deck.
What Counts Here
I'm looking for cards that can fit into at least three archetypes and are not very color-restricted. The cards that will fit into the most decks of any given color are the ones I'm primarily reviewing. There are some amazing five-color cards that will be great in five color decks. They just cannot be played outside of them. The same is true of almost all the domain cards, which offer tremendous value at five but are terrible at one or two and only medium at three or four. On EDREC, five-color decks are the second largest deck population. In short, all the five-color cards in Dominaria United are really good; play them if you can!
White: Back Again
Noteworthy for giving white more recursion, the Paragon also has a good creature type and flying, all for a reasonable mana cost. It's very flexible and can go into many, many decks. Consider a lifegain deck, which is a common white archetype. Simply replaying an Evolving Wilds or any fetch land and cracking it gains you two life, which triggers your life gain abilities. Of course, most decks have life loops that can go infinite, and the Paragon lets you replay anything that gets killed early to combo out.
Welcome to Oblivion
White has piles of enchantment-based removal, like the classic Oblivion Ring which gets huge mileage if replayed. Since this card in particular has the older wording, it is also abusable. Once you have destroyed your own O-ring in response, permanently exiled a thing, and then recast the Ring to exile another permanent, you will grasp the extra value of Paragon.
Blue: Wipe Out
This card is being talked about heavily. It is a blue board wipe, although Cyclonic Rift is better for more mana.
Read Ahead or Value?
While I do think a lot of players are focused on the read ahead aspect of PoZ, it's worth noting that those two turns of phasing a permanent can be very powerful. Additionally, you can use this to save your own permanents, which conveniently comes back after phasing kills everything. Imagine this scenario with an Elesh Norn you have phased out... truly disgusting!
Black: Holy Heck!
While not offering the same power and frustration level as the original Braids, she is still very powerful. One of the interesting things to note about the ability is that permanents with multiple types are excellent. I see this card having heavy synergy in a Golgari deck, sacrificing nontoken creatures that are also lands with Ashaya, Soul of the Wild to make others lose lands or get you cards. There's also great synergy with Dryad Arbor and Ramunap Excavator to do the same thing.
What About The Short Term?
She only costs three mana! As a commander you could turn one Dark Ritual or Jeweled Lotus and potentially play another permanent. Talk about a living Smokestack. A mono-black "Stax-like" effect is pretty amazing, especially if you can access it from the command zone. Obviously in the first few turns your opponents won't sacrifice a land, and you will get to draw two or three cards. Modern Commander relies on players setting up value-based board states, and Braids either stalls out the buildup or accelerates you faster than the other players.
Did You Forget New Sheoldred?
No, I did not. Moving on... okay, let me take a moment to assess the hype. Good card, no downside, I might add it to my deathtouch deck. Singularly great with "draw cards and die" archetypes like Nekusar, the Mindrazer. Outside of that? This won't be your commander for a mono-black deck. You will pick another, better choice.
But What About...
Yes, yes, I know. It's bonkers with, say, Unexpected Windfall! What isn't? Seriously. I've seen Unexpected Windfall combo out people a significant number of times because that card is amazing. If no one can interact and you're doing two things for seven total mana, you're likely to gain huge advantage or just plain win. That is not uncommon anymore.
As for Sheoldred, there is very little flexibility for this card, and it does not solve much. It has no built in protection, isn't inexpensive, is unlikely to be your commander, and does not have haste or an ETB ability. Call me unimpressed.
Red: Overwhelming Value
For mono-red, the Flamesage is extremely solid because of the new enlist ability. This card turns creatures and pump spells into mana, card draw, and damage simultaneously. The Flamesage will be at home in a variety of Izzet, Grixis, Gruul, Boros, and mono-red decks, and should see a large amount of play. It solves the "one third" problem by turning what you have into what you need.
Green: What Were They Thinking?
If you have nine mana to pay the entwine cost, Tooth is likely a game ender. If not? Well, if you coincidentally have two great creatures in hand, it does the same thing as Spell, so it's not better or worse in that case. It gives the another option of searching your deck for answers for only seven. This gives you the ability to get Emrakul, the Promised End and then cast it to get the cast trigger, potentially solving some tricky situations.
Spell lets you use any two permanents, as long as they are not Sagas. Furthermore, if you just want insane value, you can let the Saga run its course and filter through 14 different cards to get the two best permanents before getting them into play for free, while keeping all your mana open for responses.
The amount of combinations of game-ending permanents is far greater than only creatures. The singular best permanent for general situations is Omniscience, as it is effectively a one-card combo. However, in a live game, you might already have pieces on the board to win at seven mana, and any given permanent could be a wincon.
Spell can end the game for seven mana more often than Tooth. If the board state has complications, Spell gives you access to more options to solve them. For nine mana, Tooth wins games, but it's nine mana. In the one or two turns it would take to get that extra mana, would Spell have been better? I think it would be almost every time. Furthermore, a slowly ticking Spell lets you keep mana open to protect your play whereas Tooth is a bit more all-in.
This is the best of the five Defilers, effectively granting you green Phrexian mana. Getting a 6/6 trample body that gives +1/+1 counters to all your creatures puts this Defiler over the top. This goes into a large amount of decks that feature counters, is a huge threat and a synergistic combo piece, and provides mana ramp. It's all the things for all the decks all at once. More so than every other color, green has plenty of one-mana permanent spells like Birds and Elves. Defiler likely gets you from five mana to seven or eight mana, which puts you into position to end the game.
Extremely close to but clearly different from Gifts Ungiven, this card is still busted. It allows you to tutor for combo pieces, answers, threats, or something that is all of those things. Even though it does not have the same graveyard interaction that Gifts has, it's still possible to get Eternal Witness to retrieve other cards. Or you can get Reclamation Sage to answer many situations. If mana isn't an option, you can get Eldrazi. Getting good cards with Clones is another option.
A cool ability on an intelligently-designed card. Good job, Wizards! This potential commander does a bunch of different things. On top of that, there's a sort of disincentive for your opponents to do anything about it, because they will eventually get Sol'Kanar under their control. Of course, there are so many different ways to deal with the "drawback" that it no longer becomes a drawback. A card bursting with this much flavor is rare and nice to see. Last but not least, it has two great creature types that are underserved for the color combinations Sol'Kanar represents. I love this concept.
Not only is this the new "equipment guy," it's also the best vehicle commander in the game. Surely it's significantly better than Kotori, Pilot Prodigy. Astor solves many scenarios and is functionally a four and six mana spell that sets up your entire Boros equipment deck but also gives the option of vehicles as well. It's certainly a heck of a lot better than Wyleth, Soul of Steel, which failed at this idea.
These are great, and at common rarity, represent a boon to players new and old. Totally functional and great synergy with anything that references land types. Budget lands with synergy are not bad!
I was a big fan of Zhalfirin Void, but it did not see very much play. Crystal Grotto is strictly better and allows you to run both. Untapped lands that give a free scry are not bad at all. Grotto adding the ability to mana filter makes it just that much better. Bear in mind that there are some potent synergies with cards like Elminster to effectively make these lands tap for two mana on the turn they are played and cards that let you name the top card of your library for an extra benefit.
What a cool card! It can be used to trigger ETB abilities again, which is good in any deck and exceptional in blink/flicker-style decks. The other great ability is to crew it with every creature you have, attack, and then board wipe, getting everything back at end of turn, minus the Argosy of course. It's also a boat!
Wow, a card that truly hates on taking extra turns which also has a solid activated ability. If your local meta features many extra turn cards, this is a silver bullet at only one mana with flash. It's far from useless even if your meta lacks Time Walks. Consider the massive upside when paired with Emrakul, the Promised End because they simply do not get their extra turn. Finally, it's a colorless counter to board wipes, which is useful for any deck.
I Have Gripes…
Why does this card not say "escape"? Please, Wizards, stop making new keywords and then a few months later act like they no longer exist... only to print functionally equivalent abilities on cards. Magic is a more complex game than others and that is a strength, not a weakness. Any new card that says "when something escapes, draw a card…" will not work with Squee, Dubious Monarch. Why? Why remove interaction from your own game?
Surely, You Must Be Kidding...
"Legendary Cascade." I'm fine with the function of the card, it's cool! But please. Use. Existing. Keywords! Consider that this has no synergy with Averna, the Chaos Bloom and question why Wizards makes players sad when things don't have any synergy or interaction by merely using a keyword instead of a block of functionally identical text.
Yea or Nay? Yea, of Course!
Minor gripes aside, there are plenty of decent cards in Dominaria United to look forward to, and some overtly powerful cards. However, are there lots of format-defining, must-play cards for Commander? I'd say not really. There are a few I expect to see. But the vast majority of new cards will see play in a few narrow decks. That's not a bad thing, of course. If you're building those decks, you are going to be very happy!
What are you looking forward to in Dominaria United? Am I completely wrong about Sheoldred? Let me know in the comments.