As the sun begins to set on Dominaria United (DMU), and all eyes drift towards the upcoming The Brothers' War (BRO), it is time to celebrate the past format the same way we show respect to so many things: and that is, of course, with a bunch of lists and meaningless awards.
Archetype Power Rankings
We discussed the format through the lens of pillars. The decks that emerge from those pillars, however, are a little more nuanced.
- UR Spells & UB Spells - These two archetypes play a little differently, but they get the most out of the best commons in the set. As a result, these decks offer a powerful shell of cards that are both individually powerful and synergize with one another. Tolarian Geyser, Tolarian Terror, Essence Scatter, Act on Impulse, and Shore Up are all cards worthy of consideration early in packs. The red version offers a more proactive strategy while the UB Spells decks play a more controlling angle. Both represent enviable endpoints for any draft.
- Big Domain - The difference between the Big Domain decks and the Aggressive Domain decks is better represented on a spectrum than as two binary points on a line (which is often the case in Magic). If our deck wants combat tricks, it is an Aggressive Domain deck. If our deck wants access to kicker spells for card advantage, it leans toward the Big Domain decks.
- Grindy Creature-Based White Decks - These are typically the WB and WU Creature-Based decks. They utilize the effects of Gibbering Barricade and Tolarian Geyser to support their suite of creatures. Argivian Cavalier and Benalish Sleeper provide meaningful synergies while the best cards in the Esper wedge support their general strategy.
- Aggressive Domain decks - Sunbathing Rootwalla, Nishoba Brawler, and a flurry of pump spells can kill out of nowhere.
- Aggressive Creature-Based White decks - Most commonly RW, these are the true go-wide decks of the format. They use many of the same pieces as their grindier brethren but are more reliant on uncommons, because of the low power level of the two-drops in the format.
The Uncommon Common
When the public recognized the power of this card, it transformed the format. It pulled the meta away from the Domain piles towards more streamlined strategies. In my opinion, this marked the most significant change in the format.
Beyond being transformational, Tolarian Terror is still one of the best reasons to be blue and one of the main reasons why the Blue Spells decks share the top spot on the above list. While many decks are happy with it as a four mana 5/5, the ability for it to be one or two mana, allowing players to cast multiple in a turn (my record is four, with a fifth in hand), makes this card an absolute beating.
It makes every piece of the blue decks better. Act on Impulse and Timely Interference provide more value when you're drawing into this serpent. It plays exceptionally well with Shore Up, which can feel like a Power Sink after opponents pay the ward tax. Its sizing makes it a great threat and a cheap way to stabilize while holding up mana. Gone are the days of drafting four plus, but they're still the most important part of the Blue decks.
The Gust-Walker Trophy
For the second straight standard set, we will be awarding the Gust-Walker Trophy for "Most Outstanding Performance by a Common Two-Drop".
Before announcing the winner, I'd like to give an honorable mention to the Izzet table setters: Ghitu Amplifier and Haunting Figment. These two two-drops help provide the best aggressive deck with its consistent tempo. However, there can only be one winner:
This card does a lot. The threat of activation allows it to get in free damage. It can help stabilize and turn the corner in Big Domain decks, and it's an essential piece to the Domain Aggro decks.
Common Removal Power Rankings
Good removal goes early. While context is everything in DMU, these ratings define which spell we should prioritize pack one pick one. These rankings are extremely close. Of note, Tolarian Geyser is left off the list from a categorical standpoint. If it was included, it would have been #1 overall.
- Destroy Evil - This card is a mana-efficient answer to the cost-reducing creatures, and one of the best ways to kill Tolarian Terror. It's a great trump to the green-based pump spells, embarrasses Phyrexian Warhorse, and can free creatures from enchantment-based removal at instant speed. It's also a potent splash, as its best targets are late-game threats.
- Tribute to Urborg - This feels wrong. I'm not sure it is. This is a cheap removal spell that helps slower decks from falling behind. That means Big Domain and UB Spells are going to use it best. Those are also two powerful archetypes, and both of them are great at kicking it.
- Essence Scatter - Personal preference convinced me to put this over Extinguish, and that may be controversial. Being a blue spell is valuable. Countering any creature for two is excellent. The way it plays with Act on Impulse is great. This is a key piece to the Blue Spells decks.
- Extinguish the Light - Double black can be difficult, but this is still the premier point-and-click removal. It hits everything and gives you value when it would otherwise be inefficient. Four mana is more than we want to pay for an answer, but it does the job.
- Lightning Strike - Two mana for three damage to any target at instant speed is still good. Red is a support color in the format, which hurt its rating.
Scourge of the Format
Every format has a looming threat casting its shadow over every round. Sometimes we see it immediately. Sometimes it reveals itself at a pivotal juncture. The scourge of this format is Wingmantle Chaplain.
This card has a shockingly high win rate of 62.4%. Perhaps more impressive, it boosts the win rate of Shield-Wall Sentinel to 59.9%. When the Sentinel enters the battlefield, we know what's up. When Phyrexian Reposession brings it back, frustration sets in anew. Some runs just end when we have the unfortunate luck of running into back-to-back Wingmantle Chaplain decks.
Overall, DMU has been an incredible format. From its incredible selection of gold Legends, the cycle of cost-reduction creatures, and the overall balance, this format has been skill-testing and fun. It gets an A+ in my book and may go down as the greatest format of all time.
While we look forward to The Brothers' War, the bar has been set high. Here's to hoping that we get another classic.