Hey everyone! We’re deep in the trenches of the war with the Phyrexians for the fate of Dominaria. Now that we’ve had a few days to figure things out, I’m here to give you the compleate info you need to dominate your drafts. Alright, fine, no more bad puns, let’s get straight into the action of smashing Sheoldred.
Key Ideas of Dominaria United Draft
This is the most contextual draft format in recent memory. That means that every card is going to have an entirely different valuation based off of the other cards in your deck. While this is true to an extent in every format, this one has extremely wild swings.
You know what that means? The average person looking at the data might end up hindering themselves more than helping. Even within the same color pair you will want to change your picks based off of the plan of your deck.
It’s better to look at the archetypes in the format in the context of what they are doing instead of the colors involved. The main archetypes are Defenders, Domain, Spells, and finally good old fashioned aggressive creatures.
The defender deck is not a meme, it has actually been crushing dreams so far. One of the keys to its early success is that some people still haven’t figured out it’s not a joke and let people end up with a stacked deck. When someone gets there, it is like a Hitchcock film with piles of birds coming to take lives with nothing stopping them.
The leader of the bird flock of doom is Wingmantle Chaplain which has had a lot of comparisons made to Zenith Flare. The problem with that comparison is that if you didn’t get Zenith Flare, you still had the fallback of multiple other cycling payoffs. If you don’t end up with Wingmantle Chaplain, you are staring at a bunch of subpar walls. Considering there are on average only 0.9 of each uncommon per draft (according to Sierkovitz), it is not likely that two people can successfully draft this archetype in the same pod.
I’ve also seen a lot of people freaking out over the win rate on Shield-Wall Sentinel. It has a severe case of Iron Golemitis from the early weeks of HBG. It’s only being played in decks that it should be played in and at a higher rate by better players. It is a very solid card in the right deck because it is similar to having extra copies of Wingmantle Chaplain in your deck to ensure you draw the engine your deck is built around. Something else holding the win rate up is that even a below average player is not going to put this card in their deck if it shouldn’t be there.
I normally expect the individual win rates to come down a bit once more people are fighting over an archetype that can’t be forced. The thing is that as long as people continue to not just jam the walls in decks they shouldn’t be in, the win rates will continue to be inflated.
The way you end up in the defender deck should be drafting early Wingmantle Chaplain and then going from there. Do not start taking the other cards and hope that it shows up, I cannot stress enough how much worse this deck is if you don’t end up with it.
You are fine going into either Esper or Bant for the defender deck. It really doesn’t matter as the filler cards are just another brick in the wall. In the Bant version, you can use Floriferous Vinewall to help fix mana further and cross over into some domain synergies.
That brings us to Domain decks. I can’t possibly tell you how many times I have already heard someone say “OMG I lost to some five-color bull*&*#! Why are they never punished? What the hell is going on?”. To start out, almost every domain deck is actually two to three colors with very light or even no splashes. They just play the extra duals to enable the domain payoffs or splash single pip power cards.
The mana is just really good in the format so it’s hard to ever get really punished. Especially with the duals being common instead of in the land slot which makes them easier to acquire. Choosing the right spot where to draft them is the real key to enabling the archetype. In general, you are going to be base green so take the green duals fairly early, but don’t be afraid to take one that fills in your domain even if it isn’t in your primary colors.
One of the underrated, but huge advantages of being in domain is that it expands the possibilities of what you could be playing. It makes it almost impossible for your opponent to play around everything when you could have almost anything.
There are enough domain cards and fixers to support more than one drafter at the table, but it also gets the benefit of having a bunch of cards that two color decks aren’t interested in.
Meria's Outrider is one of the huge stand outs here as a five mana 4/4 with reach that also deals five to the face turns out to be pretty good. Reach has been overperforming in DMU because of how well it helps you stabilize by preventing them from sneaking through those last few points in the air. Plus, Meria's Outrider has the advantage of secret reach so players like BeersSC will just keep running their flyers right into it.
Another card with a massive swing in usefulness is Shadow Prophecy. You should almost never play it in a two-color deck because you can’t really play it on three with only one land type since you only get one card. With all five colors it’s almost three mana Dig Through Time that lets you grab the two best cards out of your top five.
Even within the domain archetype there is a huge amount of variance in the contents and goals of each deck. There’s a base red green aggressive deck with Nishoba Brawler and Sunbathing Rootwalla backed up by Gaea's Might putting a huge amount of early pressure on your opponent. That is insanely different from the expected domain decks trying to play all the ridiculous end game spells in every color.
Basically, what I’m saying is that synergy is way more important than overall power level in Dominaria. Every single pick you need to be adjusting your valuations on what you already have and to a lesser extent what you can reasonably expect to get.
Even the Izzet spells decks are further split with one version being the tempo-based decks that drop a couple of early threats like Electrostatic Infantry, Ghitu Amplifier, or Balmor, Battlemage Captain while clearing the way with removal and protecting them with Shore Up. It uses tricks like Timely Interference to win combats or even just to get a spell trigger while cycling.
There’s also a version that tries to attain a certain velocity of early spells to enable dropping cheap Tolarian Terrors to dominate the board. You want Thrill of Possibility and Essence Scatters to get you to that point quickly. It’s almost like playing a Tarmogoyf control deck.
Black based spells archetypes are control decks floating around the Sultai or occasionally Esper colors. They play like an old school control match up where you just invalidate all of their relevant spells through counters and removal before finishing the opponent off with one of your large threats. Guess what. Tolarian Terror puts in works in these decks as well.
Where does this leave the aggressive decks? Actually, they’re in a pretty good place because you can use picks on real cards instead of your mana base or get to take Heroic Charge late when it’s insane for you in combination with your token generation. Your card quality might not be as high, but it doesn’t matter how fancy someone’s hand is when they’re dead.
I don’t think I need to get as in depth on the aggro decks. Both Boros and Orzhov really take advantage of their cheap creatures and tokens to go around or even right through the other decks before they get an opportunity to stabilize. It will be interesting to see if their win rates hold up once the other decks have been “solved” and optimized.
The speed of the format is mid-slow to slow giving you enough time to set up a plan and execute it. As a whole, it is less tempo driven than many of the recent sets. That means things like raw card advantage can actually matter with Silver Scrutiny performing quite a bit above initial expectations.
Disclaimer that while it is less tempo oriented, it is still a modern limited set. That means you can’t just spend the first few turns doing nothing. You still need cheap interaction or relevant low drops.
This is a better Bo3 than Bo1 format because there are so many relevant sideboard cards. I don’t just mean the obvious things like Smash to Dust. Jodah's Codex is almost game breaking in a big deck Domain mirror where you are just throwing haymakers at each other, but pretty atrocious against aggressive decks.
There is a big difference between valuation of double and single pip cards because of how many decks are running a third color or splashing.
I’ve also gotten a lot of questions about why Destroy Evil has been so good. One of the biggest factors in that is how many of the reduced cost creatures running around like Tolarian Terror, Yavimaya Sojourner, and Writhing Necromass. Against the low to the ground decks without a big enough creature to kill, it can still hit up one of their plethora of enchantment removal spells. I’m happy playing one in every deck with potential to bring a in a few more.
Fun little interaction. If you Timely Interference with kicker and attack with only a menace creature, they have to double block it.
With all of the additional time you have in the games, it increases the chance that you can craft the course of the game into exactly what you need to maximize your sweeper.
The only “everything must go” sweeper of the set is Karn's Sylex. It’s not exactly “no questions asked” though since it gives your opponent a turn to prepare and requires you to have enough mana to remove everything which can be a problem in a world full of reduced cost creatures. It does have the benefit of letting you scale the destruction if you’re the one with the chonkers.
The other large-scale disaster is Temporal Firestorm which can wipe anything out with five toughness while potentially letting them phase a couple creatures out. It’s really hard to see this coming since they can play a somewhat normal game with large bottomed creatures that force you into overextending to get around them.
Temporary Lockdown is pretty strictly a sideboard card against token decks.
The less that is said about The Phasing of Zhalfir, the better off we all are. It’s not a good Magic card.
The big combat trick to watch out for is Take Up the Shield which can absolutely destroy a block while leaving them with a better creature. In a way it’s similar to watching out for when they have Timely Interference and are offering a suspicious trade that’s too good to be true.
Battle-Rage Blessing might technically be a thing, but it’s not a thing I’ve seen being played much.
I would be remiss not to mention that Twinferno exists because no one likes getting Double Striked in the middle of nowhere.
The most commonly played and best counter in the format is Essence Scatter. You’re almost always going to have to play creatures to win the game so you might be better off trying to bait it out with a less valuable creature than waiting for them to tap out.
I’ve also been super happy with Ertai's Scorn so far as people tend to lead with the card they want countered before walking right into the now cheaper counter.
Protect the Negotiators is important to watch out for if they keep leaving UW1 up, just try to keep count of their creatures without risking anything too important.
Ertai Resurrected is a great card, but it’s a rare so you don’t have to worry about it as much. Negate is mostly a sideboard card (though don’t be too surprised to see it game one) and Vodalian Hexcatcher is hot garbage.
These are the Pack One Pick One (p1p1) no doubt, windmill slam, just take them rares of the set. These are not in rank order, just take these over any non-mythic uncommon or common.
- Archangel of Wrath
- The Elder Dragon War
- Herd Migration
- Quirion Beastcaller
- Rith, Liberated Primeval
- Serra Paragon
- Silverback Elder
- Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
- Sphinx of Clear Skies
These might be uncommons, but they sure don’t play like they are.
Do Not Draft List
These are the ones that some people talk themselves into, but you should always pass.
Well that brings me to the end of the first edition of the Dominaria United Draft Guide which will continue to be updated throughout the format. This is such an amazing set with so many things I could continue to go in depth about, but we only have time for so much. I’m over ten articles in Dominaria United Limited and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface on this so I’ll be back later this week with another article.
I’m always open to feedback, let me know what you loved, what you hated, or just send dog pics. You can contact me at: