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Shivan Devastator Art by Brent Hollowell - Dominaria United

Dominaria United Limited Set Review: Red

Our complete review of all the Dominaria United cards, for limited (sealed and draft).

Hey everyone! We’re back for my favorite time of year. That’s right it’s pumpkin spice season! Oh, I guess you are here for Magic stuff. Let’s try that again… It’s new card preview season! I’m really excited to be heading back into Dominaria to throw down with the Phyrexians for the fate of the multiverse. So, let’s get down to the business of how these cards are going to be playing out in Dominaria United Limited.

Here’s the usual grading scale:


Balduvian Berserker

Rating: 2.5/5

You really need sacrifice effects to maximize this and there aren’t a ton of those running around. The plan is to enlist this to a hefty number and swing it in to offer up the 2 for 1 on it, once they decline you just sacrifice this to Bone Splinters or Gibbering Barricade to kill the target du jour.

Chaotic Transformation

Rating: 1.0/5

Chaotic dogwater might be too nice of a descriptor for this card. You’re basically able to Transmogrify a bunch of different permanents which is not a very good effect when your deck isn’t able to be built to take advantage of it.

The only redeeming quality of this is that you can exile your opponents bomb creature and give them the next random creature in their deck. So it does have a use when desperate times are calling for desperate measures.

Coalition Warbrute

Rating: 2.0/5

Trample is what enlist really wants to be doing because it lets you force through a huge amount of damage while only risking one creature in combat. I bumped this up because red doesn’t have many common creatures at this point in the curve and it lets your low end still pseudo swing in.

Defiler of Instinct

Rating: 4.0/5

My first instinct it to take this when I open it. Great stats that let you quickly add to the board. It’s also important to note that it is any target so you can go face if you don’t quite have enough damage to take out a creature. Or you can just kill them with it, whatever.

Dragon Whelp

Rating: 2.5/5

True story, my mom has a tattoo of the alpha art of Dragon Whelp. She saw it when I was a kid, loved it, took my freaking card, and got some ink done. I never did get the card back…

The three in the butt actually tends to matter on this card so you’re not just trading it for a Wind Drake or a Bear. While it’s normally capped at a 5/3, it does let you go all in if it’s lethal, want to trade up, or are just a horrible person who wants to sacrifice a baby dragon.

The Elder Dragon War

Rating: 4.5/5

A 4/4 flyer for four isn’t close to a bomb these days, but there is a lot more going on in this war than just that. A Pyroclasm effect is typically either amazing or a dead card and this one even domes your opponent for a deuce so it’s sweet to have that in your pocket if you need it.

If that doesn’t deal with anything and you’re flooding, step two helps you turn that frown upside down by rummaging away your garbage for new cards. Worst case scenario (value wise at least) you get a relatively cheap dragon out of it. You really can’t go wrong with this.

Electrostatic Infantry

Rating: 3.5/5

While this looks like a secret Izzet gold card, it’s still good in most decks that have spells. How many decks do you play without those? It only takes one counter before you are happy with this card and it has the potential to get crazy. Only costing two and having trample makes Spellgorger Weird really jealous.

Fires of Victory

Rating: 3.0/5

Early in the game, this can probably kill anything you want for only two mana. In the midgame, you can pick off something decent and draw a card. The only time when it’s really bad is when you draw it in the late game and it’s a five-mana Zap that can’t go face. Also if you can’t kick it, then you really don’t want to draw this later.

Flowstone Infusion

Rating: 2.5/5

It’s a red Lash of Malice which can kill 41.2% of the creatures and 54.7% of the common creatures in the set. That’s a lot of Murder for only one mana. It can sometimes even sneak in lethal on an unblocked creature with more than two toughness. That makes it almost a Shock that happens to be able to wreck Guardian of New Benalia.

Flowstone Kavu

Rating: 2.0/5

I like how Flowstone Kavus stats line up with menace because if they block with two bears, you can just pump and get a two for one. It’s also cracking in for up to four a turn which puts the pressure on them to block and get blown out by a trick.

Furious Bellow

Rating: 1.5/5

I’d prefer that this was Run Amok so I could use my Hocus Pocus memes all through Halloween season. First strike normally isn’t a bad fall back from trample on a trick, but having two other tricks floating around that give indestructible in Take Up the Shield and Battle-Rage Blessing kind of negate that advantage.

Being able to use it at any time instead of just when attacking and getting a scry do help though.

Ghitu Amplifier

Rating: 2.0/5

This can do some work in the Izzet spells deck because an extra two damage per spell can add up fast. Normally you hate drawing this type of creature any turn past two, but you can kick it into a really expensive Man-o'-War. The reason I’m not higher on this is that even when it’s growing, it’s still only two toughness and most people can easily deal with two in the butt.

Goblin Picker

Rating: 2.0/5

When I hear Goblin Picker, I just picture this annoying guy in a back yard trying to offer Urza $5 for a Black Lotus or $1.50 for a Mox.

This guys better than the average bear because he has a relevant late game rummage ability that’s not quite good enough to be worth stopping him from performing his bearly duties of attacking early. Solid glue card.

Hammerhand

Rating: 1.5/5

But Josh, we just played Amonkhet… How could you be so down on Cartouche of Zeal. Well let me check the spoiler list again… Nope, still don’t see any Trial of Zeal floating around.

Outside of the lack of Trials, Amonkhet was a much different set. While we don’t know for sure how Dominaria United will play, I doubt that it will be a throw everything at your opponent, wait for the smoke to clear, and check to see if they are dead set like Amonkhet was.

In other words, Tajoordan is going to be playing some mono red pile with six of these killing people on turn four.

Hurler Cyclops

Rating: 2.5/5

I normally prefer my fatties to be bigger than this, but being able to hurl your critters at any target is pretty relevant because it puts your opponent on a timer. Similar to how Lampad of Death's Vigil did the same in Theros Beyond Death, you just hit a point where you can sac out and they can’t do anything about it. There’s also the math of attack all, sacrifice anything that got blocked.

There are also other things like sacrificing two guys you don’t care about to kill one you do or even steal sac with In Thrall to the Pit.

Hurloon Battle Hymn

Rating: 3.5/5

Those minotaurs sure know how to hype each other up for game time. Four damage instant speed removal for only three mana doesn’t walk through the door every day. On top of that, the kicker can be game swinging when they don’t expect you to gain a whopping four life out of nowhere.

An efficient removal spell that is realistically splashable into almost any deck in the format.

In Thrall to the Pit

Rating: 2.0/5

Don’t we usually get something thrown in when Threaten costs four mana? I guess they think having the three-mana kicker makes it worth it to have functionally a seven-mana removal spell. In reality, I think they just didn’t want steal sac to be a thing and that’s a totally fine design decision.

I also wonder if this is a throwback to when people used to sacrifice Breeding Pit thrulls to Lord of the Pit.

Jaya, Fiery Negotiator

Rating: 4.5/5

Damn you giant formerly cuddly kittie cat warrior of doom, at least this is a memorable way for Jaya to go out. She’s a four mana planeswalker that can immediately jump up to five loyalty while producing an endless swarm of bodies to protect itself. It also has a card advantage option and a removal option so it is an excellent Swiss army knife.

The ultimate might seem tempting, but unless you have a couple game changing red spells in the chamber, you might want to just keep using Jaya’s other abilites.

Jaya’s Firenado

Rating: 2.0/5

Time to check in with our typically sad five mana red removal spell of the set. Oh… We get a scry… Whoop-de-doo, I can hardly contain my excitement. It’s even a sorcery, I can’t wait to play this straight into a Shore Up.

I have some great advice. The next time you make a firenado, try adding some sharks to it. Now that sounds like a good time. Someone get sci fi channel on the phone.

Keldon Flamesage

Rating: 3.0/5

This is of course going to be heavily dependent on the variety of instants and sorceries in your deck. Enlist helps to both dig deeper and cast better spells.

You want some sage advice? If I’m sending Keldon Flamesage into certain death, the minimum I want to do this for is five to make sure that I get something decent off of it.

Keldon Strike Team

Rating: 2.0/5

The biggest strike against this is that it’s really fragile, but the go wide aspect could really pay off with something like Heroic Charge which happens to conveniently be in the same colors. It’s almost like they plan this stuff.

It is notable that this gives haste to anything else you play that turn. Pay attention though because if they kill this before you declare attackers, everything loses haste, even the tokens you got off of this.

Lightning Strike

Rating: 3.5/5

Having Lightning Strike as a common matters so much because there will certainly be games where you get down to six and just die to double Lightning Bolt to the face. I do think that it might be a little worse than Dragon's Fire was in HGB because you will miss the ability to scale it up. Still in competition for the best common, there are just degrees of this stuff.

Meria’s Outrider

Rating: 2.0/5

It’s Lava Axe on a stick. Yes, I am going to say “Let me axe you a question” and “Catch!” every time I play this with domain. Were you expecting anything else out of me at this point?

It is five mana though and in a deck with access to all five colors, you can probably do better for a five drop.

Molten Monstrosity

Rating: 1.5/5

This is an odd one because playing a trusty Hill Giant lets you curve into this on turn five which is an acceptable cost. In that case you have a light beer version of Colossal Dreadmaw which I’m sure you were all clamoring for showing up in Dominaria. Actually, I’m not going to lie, I kind of wanted to see a Phyrexian Dreadmaw.

I guess I should stop rambling about dinosaurs and get back to this card. It really sucks if you have to pay any where close to full price for this and against any kind of removal you could get stuck with this monstrosity in your hand.

Phoenix Chick

Rating: 2.0/5

This is great if you’re rushing at your opponent with creatures like it’s a 1995 Beanie Babies release. For reference, it was so insane that I once watched an old lady intentionally trip a child with her cane to get a stuffed bear.

This will usually be able to get a few hits in early and then come back when you’re trying to alpha strike. I just wouldn’t play this in any deck trying to win through value.

Radha’s Firebrand

Rating: 2.5/5

Being able to shut down a blocker is straight fire because it deals with the biggest problem 3/1s face, the dreaded 1/1. It’s a straight up can’t block so your other creatures are getting through too.

I’m not even concerned with trying to get domain with this as paying four in an average two-color deck is totally fine since it’s restricted to once per turn. Solid early creature with a decent amount of upside.

Rundvelt Hordemaster

Rating: 1.5/5

The dream with this is to horde all the busted goblins with Squee, Dubious Monarch and Rulik Mons, Warren Chief. Then just turning all those extra suddenly 2/2 goblins into new cards to bury your opponent under.

The big problem is that the only way you get anything is if you hit a goblin card off the top and there really aren’t many of them. On top of that, it’s has the 1/1 lord not being able to carry it’s own weight problem. The dream of going down, down to goblin town is dead. Insane constructed card, really sad limited card.

Shivan Devastator

Rating: 4.5/5

The dragons of Shiv have been devastating opponents since 1993 and the modern iteration isn’t looking to disappoint granddaddy Shivan Dragon. This is a reasonably costed hasted flyer at almost any mana and can just be a ridiculous game ending beating later in the game.

This is your official warning to not play with your food because you are one top deck away from a Fireball to the face.

Smash to Dust

Rating: 2.0/5

I checked my Sierk-o-meter and it says that this actually kills 35.8% of commons in the set. That’s because there are plenty of cards with defender floating around on top of anything with one toughness.

One of the key sideboard cards in the set which might even become main boardable depending on how the meta shakes out.

Sprouting Goblin

Rating: 2.5/5

Apparently, the theme of reds creatures is bears with upside. You can get a free land if you wait a turn to kick this and it even lets you sacrifice your extra lands to dig for real cards later. That’s enough upside that I’m fine with this sprouting up in my deck.

Squee, Dubious Monarch

Rating: 3.0/5

First things first. This ability is just escape, why didn’t they just say escape? Escape isn’t an evergreen effect and they don’t want to put a keyword on just one card in the set.

Squee must be getting up there in age because he comes back much slower than he used to. He attacks for three haste on the turn he drops which will probably just get the extra goblin eaten while Squee does his normal thing and dies. Four cards in the yard is a real cost, but at least you don’t have a bunch of other cards competing for it here.

Temporal Firestorm

Rating: 4.0/5

Time to sweep them up as this turns 97.3% of creatures in this set into roasty, toasty marshmallows. That might as well be a hard Wrath of God for five mana.

It even has the ability to hide a couple of your creatures from the destruction as long as you have two mana per each one. That means you can run out your best creatures so it doesn’t remotely look sus that you are setting up a sweeper.

Thrill of Possibility

Rating: 2.0/5

We’ve seen this effect pop up in almost every set and I’m glad they went with Thrill of Possibility over Tormenting Voice because the instant speed is a huge step up. It’ll actually play really well in the spells matter Izzet deck, but can be a decent filler card in almost anything.

Twinferno

Rating: 2.5/5

Somewhere Fork is crying in the corner like, “But… But… I used to be restricted”. This is a case where two situationally powerful cards that you would hate playing on their own are much better on what is essentially a split card.

Viashino Branchrider

Rating: 2.0/5

The pump on this is really expensive so it’s doubtful you are ever trading up on mana. It’s almost never going to be cast on turn one because it just dies to literally anything. You can’t even attack into a 2/2 with this on turn three because they will just block and tie up your mana.

That makes this almost exclusively a Gruul 3/3 haste for four with the option for a pricey pump. If that’s what you’re looking for then sure toss this in. Otherwise leave it on the sidelines.

Warhost’s Frenzy

Rating: 2.0/5

Another go wide pay off, but this is significantly better than Trumpet Blast or Burn Bright. When you use those for anything besides killing your opponent, you can have trouble with running out of gas to get the job done. This has the nice bonus of refilling your hand to keep the onslaught coming. It’s even nice enough to give you a card for token creatures so your Mardu piles can stack it up with Captain's Call.

Yavimaya Steelcrusher

Rating: 2.5/5

Enlist gives this the possibility of hitting a lot harder once a bear can no longer get in there profitably. The option to kill an artifact usually doesn’t matter, but it’s one of those when it matters, it REALLY matters things.

Yotia Declares War

Rating: 1.0/5

Do I want to play Ornithopter? No, I sure don’t.

Am I going to have enough artifacts to tap to kill a creature? Most likely not.

Is making one creature a 4/4 until end of turn worth a full card? In case you didn’t notice, they usually give you a card for doing that these days.

Should you play this? Nope.


Wrap Up

Red seems like it will be a really strong support color in Dominaria United. It packs in some great spell payoffs like Electrostatic Infantry or to a lesser extent Ghitu Amplifier for the Izzet decks. It also has a lot of cheap removal to help the Boros decks get across the finish line. To top it off, it has some great bombs in The Elder Dragon War, Jaya, Fiery Negotiator, and Shivan Devastator.  

I’ll be back tomorrow with my Dominaria United Limited Review of Green. Now I’m going to go get that pumpkin spice latte… Yeah I have them every day… Don’t judge me…

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.

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j2sjosh
j2sjosh

Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

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