Diving into Dominaria Standard

Dominaria Standard action has begun on Magic Online and with is has come one of my favorite parts of Pro Tour preparation - diving through decklists! Since brewing from scratch never came naturally to me, a lot of my success in Standard has come from researching the options that were already out there, finding bits and pieces that looked interesting and polishing them or combining them into something new. I went through the first batch of 5-0 Magic Online league decks to make a list of ones that I thought looked competitive, interesting/spicy, or some combination thereof. Instead of writing a little about a lot of lists, I decided to analyze a selection of decks in-depth, talking about the maindeck, manabase, sideboard, any choices in particular I thought were good or bad, and what improvements I might make. I hope my research here leads you to a sweet new deck idea for Standard!

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria People had pretty high expectations for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria given the past success of other 5-mana Planeswalkers whose plus ability provided card advantage, minus ability provided removal, and ultimate helped close the game. The ability to untap two lands to rebuy some lost tempo on the turn you cast it to hold up interaction was particularly appealing. While Teferi showed up as a singleton in a variety of decks, two players went 5-0 with lists that featured it as a key component in their strategies. One deck in particular was really not messing around, using 4 copies of Teferi along with 3 copies of his Oath!
UW Midrange by Kurukuru
3 Knight of Grace 1 Lyra Dawnbringer 3 Disallow 2 Settle the Wreckage 2 Supreme Will 2 Syncopate 4 Cast Out 4 History of Benalia 3 Oath of Teferi 4 Seal Away 4 Aether Hub 1 Arch of Orazca 1 Field of Ruin 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Irrigated Farmland 5 Island 4 Plains 1 Scavenger Grounds 4 Karn, Scion of Urza 4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
1 Settle the Wreckage 3 Authority of the Consuls 1 Essence Scatter 2 Fumigate 1 Jace's Defeat 4 Negate 1 Sorcerous Spyglass 2 Thopter Arrest
This deck bought a one-way ticket to value town with access to some disgusting curve-outs. Who wouldn’t want to go turn 4 History of Benalia, turn 5 Oath of Teferi blinking History, turn 6 Teferi to draw 2 cards and have 4 untapped lands for countermagic so you can swing with >= 16 power worth of Knights the following turn? Maybe that’s too optimistic, but with how much interaction the deck plays and how many copies of the card advantage sources, it shouldn’t be difficult to reach a board state where you can snowball your advantage. If you don’t have a History of Benalia to blink, the Oath is pretty clunky to deploy which is a strike against it. You can reset one of your enchantment-based removal, bring your Planeswalker back to its starting loyalty, untap your creature, or get an energy with untapped land. Fortunately, even if you don’t get blink value, the Oath pays for itself with one extra activation of a future Karn or Teferi.
The creature package seems a bit weird but the Knights and Angel help fill certain roles. The Knights help make it so that you don’t have to waste removal or counters on tiny, aggressive creatures and they get pumped by History of Benalia if it’s time to turn the corner. The 1-of Lyra Dawnbringer is something you can dig for as the only source of lifegain in the maindeck - a card that can help close the game against red aggro especially. The sideboard has anti-control with its quad Negate and has anti-aggro with its sweepers. Authority of the Consuls is even better than it was before given its synergy with Seal Away, but both cards were already great against red. I wonder if the sideboard could use a Search for Azcanta since you have a lot of cards you want to hold up for your opponent’s turn and the deck is somewhat mana hungry.

UW Flash by hecateball
1 Gideon of the Trials 4 Lyra Dawnbringer 4 Merfolk Trickster 4 Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage 4 Walking Ballista 3 Settle the Wreckage 3 Supreme Will 1 Cast Out 4 History of Benalia 4 Seal Away 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Irrigated Farmland 5 Island 1 Memorial to Genius 7 Plains 4 Zhalfirin Void 3 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
2 Authority of the Consuls 2 Essence Scatter 2 Forsake the Worldly 2 Gideon's Defeat 2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty 2 Syncopate 3 Urza's Ruinous Blast
Yet another blue-white legendary permanent spreads its metaphorical, magical wings in this build from hecateball. An active Raff Capashen is extremely dangerous for the opponent, enabling instant-speed ambushes by Lyra, Walking Ballista, or History of Benalia. The ability to flash in a Planeswalker at instant speed is nothing to sneeze at either; although you effectively miss out on one activation opportunity, it gives you the flexibility to hold up interaction and allows you to enter the next turn cycle with the Planeswalker in play and untapped mana. Most of the remaining cards can be naturally played at instant speed, so it’s going to be a nightmare for opponents to try to play around your different options. The old Faeries deck could attribute part of its high win percentage to how easy it was for opponents to make a misstep. I wonder if hecateball ever got to live the dream of having Raff Capashen in play against an attacking Hazoret, flashing in Lyra to block and Merfolk Trickster to remove the indestructibility.
Speaking of living the dream, I wonder if there were any blowouts from flashed-in Shalai in response to removal/discard/burn. Urza’s Ruinous Blast is an interesting option as it can remove vehicles and things like Radiant Destiny. It seems useful to be able to keep your Raff, Lyra, or Teferi alive, but I wonder if it missing opposing Planeswalkers, Hazoret, and The Scarab God means that it only comes in for select matchups. The manabase seems unrefined; just looking at the colorless lands, I’d expect the 1st copies of Arch of Orazca and Field of Ruin, maybe even Scavenger Grounds, to be better than some number of Zhalfirin Void, but maybe Void is the truth and the rest of us have to catch on.

Benalish Marshal The rare triple-color cycle shows a lot of promise for Standard and Benalish Marshal has already made a huge impact. While Goblin Chainwhirler made two maindecks, Steel Leaf Champion made one maindeck, and neither Dread Shade nor Tempest Djinn showed up, Benalish Marshal appeared in a whopping five lists.
There’s a lot of overlap between the five lists, but I’ll talk about three “unique” styles - token based, vehicles + planeswalkers, and Vampires. I think it’s important to see how one card or strategy can have many subtle variants in how it’s used, since doing so can lead you to find new ways to optimize.
Wb Tokens by nathansteuer
4 Adanto Vanguard 4 Benalish Marshal 2 Scrapheap Scrounger 4 Skymarcher Aspirant 4 Toolcraft Exemplar 4 Servo Exhibition 4 Sram's Expertise 3 Pride of Conquerors 4 History of Benalia 1 Ixalan's Binding 4 Legion's Landing 4 Concealed Courtyard 12 Plains 2 Scavenger Grounds 4 Shefet Dunes Sideboard 2 Ixalan's Binding 2 Aethersphere Harvester 2 Authority of the Consuls 2 Invoke the Divine 1 Oketra the True 2 Regal Caracal 2 Settle the Wreckage 2 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
Nathan Steuer is a rising star from the Bay Area with a few near misses for Pro Tour invites. His build focuses heavily on tokens, playing maximum copies of Sram’s Expertise, Servo Exhibition, History of Benalia, and Legion’s Landing. With so many ways to go wide, Benalish Marshal’s benefit is maximized. Pride of Conquerors joins up as another way to take advantage of the token producers, since the tokens can easily become outsized by real creatures. One potential weak point is the lack of removal, but it could be a non-issue due to how well it can execute an aggressive, resilient gameplan. Because the maindeck laughs off opposing one-for-one removal, its sideboard includes high impact permanents that can laugh off sweepers that opponents will board in. It’s not clear what Invoke the Divine is used for - opposing vehicles, Radiant Destiny? Maybe Thopter Arrest would be a better overall option, whereas Fragmentize would be a better targeted option? Skysovereign seems great in a vacuum but with only 22 lands in the maindeck you will need to be certain that you are planning for the game to go long.

WB Vampires by ura_first
4 Benalish Marshal 4 Dauntless Bodyguard 4 Dusk Legion Zealot 4 Legion Lieutenant 4 Oathsworn Vampire 4 Skymarcher Aspirant 2 Cast Out 4 History of Benalia 4 Legion's Landing 4 Radiant Destiny 4 Concealed Courtyard 4 Ifnir Deadlands 4 Isolated Chapel 4 Plains 4 Shefet Dunes 2 Swamp
2 Crook of Condemnation 4 Duress 3 Fatal Push 2 Ixalan's Binding 2 Profane Procession 2 Seal Away
ura_first meshed together the general white aggressive cards with a Vampire package. It’s exciting that some of the Vampires also happen to be Knights and can get pumped by the final chapter of History of Benalia. On the other hand, Radiant Destiny is not being used to its fullest as your creature types are split up. Perhaps the most awkward part is the manabase with 6 out of 22 lands that can’t help cast Benalish Marshal. Using a hypergeometric calculation and applying minor consideration to Legion’s Landing, you’re around 65% to be able to cast the Marshal by the 4th turn. There will be some games where it rots in your hand. I think there might be too many black sources for how light the black mana aspect is in the deck, so perhaps 1-2 Swamps should become Plains, which would help cast the 1-drop white cards as well. I find it interesting that the sideboard doesn’t have a single alternative threat, but it makes sense given that the maindeck synergies with dual creature types are already somewhat stretched. Overall this deck is an interesting take, but I am worried about the consistency.

Wb Tokens and Vehicles and Planeswalkers, Oh My! by JeanClaude11
2 Gideon of the Trials 4 Benalish Marshal 4 Dauntless Bodyguard 4 Scrapheap Scrounger 4 Toolcraft Exemplar 4 Servo Exhibition 4 Sram's Expertise 4 Aethersphere Harvester 4 Heart of Kiran 1 Thopter Arrest 4 Concealed Courtyard 4 Isolated Chapel 8 Plains 2 Scavenger Grounds 4 Shefet Dunes 3 Karn, Scion of Urza
2 Thopter Arrest 2 Arguel's Blood Fast 2 Duress 3 Fatal Push 1 Fragmentize 2 Fumigate 2 Settle the Wreckage 1 Silent Gravestone
The different parts of JeanClaude11’s build complement each other well. Vehicles provide a way for the small token creatures to stay relevant throughout the game and protect against sweepers. The planeswalkers provide even more protection against sweepers while the tokens can make it difficult to take them off the table via combat. And of course, Heart of Kiran and Karn, Scion of Urza is a match made in heaven with Heart being an artifact to boost constructs, new constructs being potential pilots, and Karn’s chunky loyalty being an alternative way to crew.
The manabase looks pretty smooth for the maindeck; time will tell whether the Scavenger Grounds are necessary or not, as they add some strain. Only having 8 black sources could pose a problem for the sideboard black cards but trying to include more sources in the board seems wasteful given how good the options are in this color pair. Treasure Map might be a better option compared to Argue’s Blood Fast since it is colorless and turbocharges Karn’s constructs with the triple treasure flip.

Old Tribes, New Tricks? Vampires, Merfolk, and Dinosaurs each saw their time in the sun as successful tribal strategies in recent Standard. Dominaria reintroduced some tribal synergies we have not seen in a while but it wasn’t clear whether there was enough support from the other sets to have a competitive deck (not counting the easy mode Knight option with cards like History of Benalia). Could Goblins, Wizards, Saprolings, and Fungii find success in the new metagame?
God-Pharaoh’s Goblins by TacoFarmer
4 Bomat Courier 4 Combat Celebrant 2 Fanatical Firebrand 4 Goblin Chainwhirler 2 Hazoret the Fervent 4 Rowdy Crew 3 Siege-Gang Commander 4 Skirk Prospector 4 Walking Ballista 4 Gate to the Afterlife 2 God-Pharaoh's Gift 23 Mountain
4 Abrade 3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance 3 Glorybringer 2 Magma Spray 1 Pia Nalaar 2 Scavenger Grounds
As someone that played UR Gift pre-Dominaria, this list really caught my eye. Skirk Prospector and Siege-Gang Commander seemed like useful options for UR Gift as soon as they were revealed. Skirk Prospector is your turbocharger, helping to provide extra mana and extra looting to find a God-Pharaoh’s Gift faster than ever. Siege-Gang Commander, unlike Combat Celebrant, is excellent to cast instead of just being a great revive target. It can help push through the final damage if you are on the aggressive or provide a wide roadblock if you are on the defensive. TacoFarmer’s innovation was to drop the blue entirely for a deck that has an even better aggro plan B via Goblin Chainwhirler, Rowdy Crew, Hazoret, and a no-nonsense manabase. Goblin Chainwhirler has plenty of 1-toughness creatures to kill in the format, whether it’s Llanowar Elves, a horde of Vampire tokens, Toolcraft Exemplar, or an entire UR Gift board. Even against chunkier decks, the body is more than serviceable and could always be sacrificed to Prospector or Siege-Gang for Gate/Gift shenanigans. Rowdy Crew is at its best here since building up your graveyard is useful and you are more likely than other decks to get a 5/5 with the extremely high creature count.
Dropping blue from the deck does not come for free, though. With fewer ways to dig for the Gate and no Warkite Marauders, you are going to encounter more situations where your opponent is going over the top of you, such as with The Scarab God. I think the lack of Silent Gravestone in the sideboard is a big miss since you can drop it on the table early in the game and proceed to pressure your opponent from the dual aggro and combo angles without worrying about The Scarab God activations or a Refurbished Gift reviving an unbeatable 6/6 Angel of Invention. I understand we might want a bit more mana to support the Chandras and Glorybringers postboard, but with 23 lands, Prospectors, and looting, I think the Scavenger Grounds should be swapped for Silent Gravestone. The rest of the board seems pretty straightforward for a proactive red deck.

Extreme Spice There were two very different mono blue decks that received trophies the past week…
Mono Blue Skies by TombSimon
4 Aether Swooper 4 Glint-Nest Crane 3 Hope of Ghirapur 4 Mist-Cloaked Herald 4 Siren Stormtamer 4 Slither Blade 4 Walking Ballista 4 Aethersphere Harvester 2 Sky Skiff 4 Throne of the God-Pharaoh 3 Curious Obsession 2 Ipnu Rivulet 17 Island 1 Scavenger Grounds
2 Admiral's Order 2 Jace, Cunning Castaway 3 Sentinel Totem 4 Spell Pierce 4 Unsummon
Simon Nielsen has been crushing it online with this list lately. I’m not sure if this 5-0 actually happened before Dominaria released but I don’t see any reason why the deck couldn’t remain competitive. A culmination of draft stars, this deck pushes its strategy to the limit, turning what looks on paper to be a steaming pile into something that can win games of Magic. Throne of the God-Pharaoh seems to be the glue which holds it all together, putting opponents into especially tough spots when Vehicles can be crewed (and even overcrewed) for extra “unblockable” damage. Due to the color and curve restrictions, the 75 lacks any real interaction, so you better kill your opponent before they do anything too relevant. Warkite Marauder and Skyship Plunderer are alternative options which both work particularly nice with Walking Ballista but Glint-Nest Crane might be more important to find the key artifacts. Artificer's Assistant could be better than some of the other 1-drops since you have plenty of artifacts to trigger scrying and your deck really wants to avoid flooding out. I don’t think high cost cards like Tempest Djinn or Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp belong in this style of deck, but there could be an alternative build that supports a higher curve.

Paradoxical Outcome by Tiemuuu
2 Artificer's Assistant 2 Baral, Chief of Compliance 4 Glint-Nest Crane 4 Ornithopter 3 Baral's Expertise 4 Reverse Engineer 2 Commit // Memory 4 Paradoxical Outcome 1 Aetherflux Reservoir 4 Inspiring Statuary 4 Mox Amber 4 Prophetic Prism 4 Renegade Map 1 Inventors' Fair 17 Island
1 Baral, Chief of Compliance 1 Aetherflux Reservoir 1 Commit // Memory 1 Efficient Construction 1 Key to the City 2 Metallic Rebuke 1 Negate 2 River's Rebuke 1 Silent Gravestone 1 Spell Swindle 1 The Antiquities War 2 Treasure Map
Last, but certainly not least, we have a truly wild one by Tiemuuu. People have tried decks like this in the past but they quickly fell out of favor. Mox Amber might be exactly what the doctor ordered for a strategy like this to be competitive. Even without a Baral, Chief of Compliance (which the deck might want an additional copy of in the main), Mox Amber can still help produce mana with the help of Inspiring Statuary and is generally useful for drawing more cards with Paradoxical Outcome / Reverse Engineer and building up a bigger Aetherflux Reservoir storm. Artificer’s Assistant helps find the pieces to start the combo going and the additional triggers mid-combo help prevent fizzling. The maindeck is entirely focused on the combo plan and I’m worried about how this deck fares in sideboard games. The sideboard currently seems like a hodgepodge. What do we want to do - continue with plan A and bring in more protection for it, or try to swivel to a plan B like The Antiquities War / Efficient Construction? Some of the sideboard cards don’t seem to be accomplishing much for either of these plans, such as Key to the City, Spell Swindle, and Commit // Memory. If there was a creature that could win on its own it could be an interesting way to sidestep cards like Abrade, Negate, and Brontodon, especially given you would expect opponents to take out cards like Vraska’s Contempt, Seal Away, and Cast Down. Maybe something like Zahid, which kills quickly, can block many things, and turns on Mox Amber? Padeem is another potentially useful legendary creature, protecting combo pieces while gumming up the ground and drawing extra cards.

Bonus: 4/26/18 batch of decks As I was finalizing the article, a new set of 5-0 decks got published. I got a chance to look through it and decided to throw in one more deck, since it sure looks fancy.
GWb Legends by ripple182
4 Jadelight Ranger 4 Llanowar Elves 3 Lyra Dawnbringer 3 Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade4 Servant of the Conduit 3 Shanna, Sisay's Legacy 3 Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle 2 Urza's Ruinous Blast 3 Fatal Push 2 Settle the Wreckage 3 Mox Amber 4 Blooming Marsh 4 Concealed Courtyard 3 Forest 1 Hashep Oasis 2 Plains 4 Scattered Groves 1 Shefet Dunes 4 Sunpetal Grove 1 Vraska, Relic Seeker
1 Settle the Wreckage 1 Urza's Ruinous Blast 1 Ajani Unyielding 2 Deathgorge Scavenger 4 Duress 1 Heart of Kiran 3 Shalai, Voice of Plenty 2 Thrashing Brontodon
This is actually the first Mox Amber deck other than Paradoxical Outcome! People theorycrafted a lot of potential shells for Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle and Mox Amber and GWx is a home that makes sense - lots of legends, including ones at low mana cost. I’ve seen some GW builds with Ajani Unyielding but Vraska off the black splash is a great card to ramp into. Since GW already has plenty of tools against aggressive strategies, the black splash also lets you play 4 Duress to have extra help against control and combo. It’s not all fun and games though, since the manabase looks stretched. Llanowar Elves is neutered with only 8 untapped green sources for turn 1. There are a whopping 12 lands that come into play tapped when you have 3 lands in play already. It’s really tough to analyze the mana sources in the deck since Mox Amber and Servant of the Conduit have some conditions attached, but I think 4 Scattered Groves might be too many. I’m not sure what the best fix is, but it is a concern to me.
There are two things I find weird about the maindeck - the exclusion of Shalai, Voice of Plenty and the inclusion of Settle the Wreckage. Shalai, unlike the non-Lyra legendary creatures, is a solid body by itself, and it shouldn’t hurt to have an additional mana sink to go along with Oviya. Playing the full 8 Llanowar Elves and Servant of the Conduit makes sense to accelerate all the legends but I don’t want to end up flooded. Shalai does show up in the sideboard at least. Settle the Wreckage seems strange to me on paper, as it’s not clear what it wants to accomplish. Your deck has an assortment of high-power creatures so your opponent will often not want to attack anyway. If your opponent does not attack with The Scarab God, you have no proper way to kill it. Perhaps they are to help against tokens decks, but you already have Urza’s Ruinous Blast. The cards I would want to have access to, like Cast Out or Ixalan’s Binding, are a nonbo with Urza’s Ruinous Blast. It’ll take some games to get a feel for the deck to understand the ins and outs, but I’m not sure if the Settle the Wreckage / Urza’s Ruinous Blast pair are too restrictive. Urza’s Ruinous Blast vastly exceeded expectations in SaffronOlive’s Oath of Teferi video, so maybe it’s worth the awkwardness. The Scarab God and combo decks (like God-Pharaoh’s Gift) are two ways for opposing decks to go over the top, and Urza’s Ruinous Blast absolutely destroys the latter. Just need to figure out the right choice to fight The Scarab God, unless ignoring it is the best option.

Closing Thoughts There were plenty of other published interesting decks, and this was only the first week’s batch! I’m looking forward to trying all types of different shells in the next month. Grand Prix and Pro Tour testing is kicking into full swing. You can find some of us at Grand Prix Columbus this weekend or Grand Prix Dallas the weekend after. Turns out that Dominaria Limited is pretty great, too. Good job, Wizards of the Coast!
Afterwards, I get to join up with Massdrop East teammates Ari Lax and Jarvis Yu as the Standard seat for Grand Prix Toronto trios constructed. We really want to bring home the trophy this time so I hope I get to compete with a sweet deck. Winning is much more fun when you get to do it in style!
See you soon,

Previous Articles · Meet the Massdrop Teams: http://dro.ps/mtg-team-announce · *2nd* at Pro Tour Ixalan: http://dro.ps/ixalan · Unclaimed Creature Types: http://dro.ps/ari-creatures · Why I Never Drop From Tournaments: http://dro.ps/eric-nevergiveup · The Art of Sideboard Construction - Sultai Energy: http://dro.ps/jon-sideboard · A Commoner’s View on Pauper: http://dro.ps/mark-pauper · Blue Moon Beach Control: http://dro.ps/scott-bluemoon · Top 5 Modern Decks: http://dro.ps/pascal-modern · Storm in Vintage Cube: http://dro.ps/ben-storm · An Early Look at Rivals for Standard: http://dro.ps/shaun-rivals · A Standard Approach to Evaluating New Cards: http://dro.ps/rob-newcards · Drafting Rivals of Ixalan: http://dro.ps/tim-ixalan · Team Sealed Secrets: http://dro.ps/eric-secrets · Steal My Standard Ideas: http://dro.ps/tommy-secrets · Vexing Devil. Any Questions?: http://dro.ps/jon-devil · Team Massdrop Rivals of Ixalan Limited Primer: http://dro.ps/ari-primer · Gestation of RG Eldrazi: http://dro.ps/ben-gestation · Top Time Tournament Training Tips: http://dro.ps/tim-tips · What Makes Someone Bogle?: http://dro.ps/tommy-bogle · A Pauper Adventure: http://dro.ps/pascal-pauper · Blue Moon at GP Phoenix: http://dro.ps/rob-bluemoon · Brawling into Dominaria: http://dro.ps/scott-brawling · Deconstructing Dominaria Limited: http://dro.ps/jon-dominaria
thumb_upJoshua Benson and Duncan


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