Dominaria has been released for a couple of weeks now, and the cards have already made a massive impact on the Standard format. This powerful set has also started to expand its influence to Modern. The first professional event including Modern with Dominaria cards is almost a week away in Grand Prix Toronto. Let's take a look at some of the cards that have appeared in Modern decks on Magic Online, as well as speculate on some cards that may have a future impact on the format.
As soon as this card was printed, its intentions were incredibly clear: hose Tron and Storm. Aside from these two obvious top tier decks that it is a sideboard bullet for, there are several other less popular decks that are incidentally affected by the powerful artifact. The finals in Grand Prix Hartford featured two combo decks in Krark-Clan Ironworks and Amulet Titan, which both have an incredibly hard (or impossible) time winning through Damping Sphere. So we know what decks are negatively impacted by the presence of this card, but which decks benefit the most from it? Bogles had a tough matchup against Tron, Storm, and fringe combo decks that it had a hard time interacting with, and this card can solve a lot of its problems. In order for blue control decks to stand a chance against the big mana menace Tron, it had to play lots of land hate such as Field of Ruin, Ghost Quarter, and Spreading Seas, so three color variants had a hard time stopping it. This card offers an alternative, so that Jeskai and Grixis decks can be viable even if the metagame has a lot of Tron in it. Jund would have to dedicate a lot of sideboard slots for Fulminator Mages, and even if it drew one, the Tron deck could recover fairly quickly from one land destruction spell. The potential of discard spell turn one into Damping Sphere on turn 2 has to make the matchup much better for Jund, and they do not need to play four of this card like they would with Fulminator Mage. Lastly, while this card should see a high amount of play, it is unlikely to severely deter players from playing decks that are hosed by it such as Tron and Storm. The sideboards of both of these decks already included several ways to interact with an artifact, and this just means they may need to add one or two more.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
The MOCS Playoff on May 5th featured a couple of Jeskai strategies that included two Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and zero Jace, the Mind Sculptor. That's right, the card that everyone feared would break Modern with its unban was pushed aside by the new five mana planeswalker from Dominaria. Considering Jace is widely considered to be the best planeswalker ever printed, that is fairly high praise for the cards power level.What makes Teferi so well positioned in Modern? The first advantage it has over Jace is its starting loyalty of four, and going up to five on the first turn while still drawing a card. Obviously, this puts it out of Lightning Bolt range while still netting a card. Previously, if you wanted to play around Bolt with Jace, you would have to scry or fateseal the first turn, and then if your opponent had a clean answer such as Dreadbore, you gained no card advantage. Also, putting your shields down for a turn in a format such as Modern can spell your doom, and Teferi allows you to tap out for him and leave up a counterspell or removal spell the following turn. You would have to wait a turn to have the same luxury with Jace, so Teferi's mana cost is closer to three than five in this sense. Lastly, each card has a similar minus ability to defend itself, and in order to see how Teferi's is better equipped to deal with the format, look no further than Reality Smasher. If your opponent has a Reality Smasher in play, Jace may as well just be a four mana Brainstorm because his minus will not help you in this situation, whereas Teferi can make it so the troublesome Eldrazi is tucked away for a few turns and give you some breathing room.
Karn, Scion of Urza
The Dominaria card with the greatest hype is unsurprisingly finding its way into Modern decks. The most obvious home for the card is Affinity, and some lists online are including two of the planeswalker in the maindeck. His minus two ability effectively makes a Master of Etherium sans the anthem effect, and if it lives after making two of these creatures, it can start to generate some card advantage. Other artifact based decks such as Lantern and KCI can utilize the card as well out of the sideboard as it essentially laughs in the face of most artifact hate such as Stony Silence or Ancient Grudge. There are definitely some matchups where this card will simply be too slow and not effective enough, but considering that most decks that will want this card play Mox Opal and other artifact based mana acceleration, casting him on turn three should not be a problem.
Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Shalai, Voice of Plenty is part Restoration Angel, part Gavony Township, and is already finding a home in green-white creature decks. Decks that feature Chord of Calling and the Devoted Druid infinite mana combo are especially interested in this card. This is because while it fills the role of protection that a Restoration Angel would, it also provides an outlet for the infinite mana when it assembles the combo.Shalai also has the added benefit of protecting you from spells, so she could be utilized as a versatile sideboard card. A burn opponent would essentially have to draw Path to Exile in order to beat this card as pointing two burn spells at a creature instead of the opponent is not typically a winning line. Storm opponents cannot cast Gifts Ungiven with Shalai in play as well. These are some fortuitous use cases for a creature that is already a formidable body as a 3/4 flier for four mana.
Fatal Push currently sits on the throne of best black removal spell in Modern, but decks are limited to four of the card, so I expect to see Cast Down get played occasionally. There are also some advantages to playing the new Dominaria removal spell over the Aether Revolt predecessor. Some decks may have a hard time casting Fatal Push with revolt due to a lack of fetch lands, so three and four mana threats like Knight of the Reliquary or Thought-Knot Seer are problematic, so Cast Down solves that problem more effectively. However, decks such as these are generally combo decks like Ad Nauseum that need to kill legendary creatures like Gaddock Teeg as well, so that restriction is a major one. I am not sure such a deck exists currently, but if there is a deck with black as a major color that features Chalice of the Void prominently, then the two casting cost would actually be a positive rather than a negative. Lastly, there are some creatures that Fatal Push can never answer that Cast Down can deal with such as Gurmag Angler, Primeval Titan, and Reality Smasher. I know, Cast Down isn’t the cleanest answer to the latter two of those, but they will win the game if they stay on the battlefield so it is better than losing.These advantages are not enough to push the card ahead of Fatal Push however, and I do expect to only see this played in addition to it in two-color decks that want additional removal such as green-black rock decks or blue-black Faeries.
Mox Amber is the most likely card to be busted in Modern from Dominaria. It may take some time to find the right home for it, and on the surface it appears to be more fair than it’s Imprint and Metalcraft predecessors. The first Magic Online decklist dump featured two decklists with Mox Amber. One was a mono-white Death and Taxes style deck that was already playing Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, but added Kytheon and Isamaru into the mix to turn on the Mox. The other deck had a similar take, but in a more aggressive shell that splashed red for another one mana legend in Zurgo Bellstriker, and used the additional mana to power out Hazoret the Fervent and Goblin Rabblemaster. A curve out of turn one Zurgo, turn two Rabblemaster, turn three Hazoret seems to be powerful enough for Modern, and in addition it gets access to great sideboard cards (although Stony Silence would be awkward with Mox Amber).Pairing Mox Amber with the one mana legendary creatures for some faster aggressive starts seems like the obvious first attempt to make the card playable, but in the end I believe these style of decks will end up being weaker than Affinity. Where I think the card will truly shine is if it enables a combo deck that previously was too slow for Modern. I can’t really think of what that might be, but I’m sure some brewer like Matt Nass can figure it out. As far as existing combo decks go, there is the Cheerios deck that features Sram and Puresteel Paladin to cast zero mana equipments and use Mox Opal and Retract to generate enough storm count to kill the opponent, but only half of the creatures are legendary, so unless they print another legendary with Sram’s effect, it seems unlikely to get played there. Storm plays a two mana legendary in Baral, but if Baral is in play then Mox Amber is strictly worse than the rituals it is already playing, and it does not synergize with Past in Flames, so it doesn’t seem good there either. This could easily be a card that does not see play until something is printed that breaks it wide open. This type of card is the type of card that can only get better over time as more cards get printed. This is the case with Mox Opal, which continues to gain supporters of its banning as more and more powerful cheap artifacts get printed. As more and more cheap legendaries get printed, Mox Amber will have its day in the spotlight.
While this isn’t a new Magic card, as it was first printed in Onslaught, it has not been Modern legal until now. On its own, the card is essentially the same as Wild Cantor, which is a one shot mana accelerant on a turn delay. Since Wild Cantor is not getting played in Modern currently, a deck with other goblins in it will have to be viable for Skirk Prospector to see some play. One possible home for Skirk Prospector is a combo deck with Fecundity and Empty the Warrens to kill your opponent as early as turn three. Jim Davis discusses the possibilities of this deck in an article located here: http://www.starcitygames.com/articles/37055_Fecundity-Goblins-In-Modern.html . I wasn’t playing Magic at the time when these cards were legal in Extended, but I assume that since I just heard about it this month, the deck suffered consistency issues and thus was never a top tier deck. However, there are more tools to help find the necessary combo pieces available in Modern today than there were back then, so maybe it is a viable strategy now. Another possible home for the card is in a goblin tribal deck that focuses on going wide with goblins and winning with Bushwackers. The deck already features a lot of one drop goblins, and I am not sure if Skirk Prospector is better than any of them, but it is definitely worth consideration. Steel Leaf Champion
Steel Leaf Champion is an aggressively costed card, and while its casting cost can be extremely prohibitive of what decks can play it in Standard, Modern features some great mana fixing and you can easily play it in a two (or maybe even three) color deck. It also happens to be a relevant creature type for the one premier mono-green deck in the format, though beatdown isn’t Elves main game plan these days, so I expect it to land elsewhere if it does see play. The text on the card is also relevant as chump blocking massive creatures with Lingering Souls tokens and the like tends to be a solid answer for them. The major pitfall of the card is that while three mana for a 5/4 is generally powerful, the format features some absurd creatures such as free 4/4s (Hollow One), one mana 7/7s (Death’s Shadow), and one mana 5/5s (Gurmag Angler). However, Steel Leaf Champion generally requires less of a build-around to make it effective.Where I think this deck may find a home is in an aggressively slanted Collected Company deck. These decks already feature one-drop mana accelerants such as Noble Hierarch, so casting the card on turn two is reasonable, and if you cast Company on turn three and hit two of these off of it, that is likely going to win you the game.
I doubt that the Modern Merfolk deck really wanted another two-drop that isn’t a lord, but this does provide a unique effect. The cards that this most likely competes with for space in the Merfolk deck are Harbinger of Tides and Tidebinder Mage. All three provide a similar effect in that they help swing the race with other creature decks in Merfolks favor. With an Aether Vial in play, there is no doubt that Harbinger is the superior option, but if you want to use it at instant speed without one in play, it costs two more than the Trickster, which is a major drawback. The Merfolk player would also need to have the Vial at two counters, which if they have Master of Waves in hand they may not want to do. If the metagame is predominantly green and red based creature decks, the Tidebinder Mage is the better option as it can be extremely devastating, especially when paired with Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, but generally this card is best suited for sideboards. Considering it is more versatile and mana efficient than the other options, I would be surprised if Merfolk Trickster didn’t find its way into the Modern scene.
Song of Freyalise
The saga card type is really cool and I think Wizards nailed it, but I am not sure if any will be viable for Modern. Considering how fast the format is, there may not be any time to see chapters two and three trigger, even on a cheap saga. I mention Song of Freyalise in particular because it is one of the fastest sagas available, and it does provide some interesting possibilities for existing decks as well as potential new decks. With two creatures in play, it is effectively free to cast (in terms of mana, it does cost you the attacks these creatures would have made). The following turn can provide a lot of mana, which can be used to easily deploy all the creatures in your hand. Assuming that your opponent did not have a sweeper of some kind or a combo kill, the third chapter should effectively end the game or at least put your opponent in an unwinnable situation. The pitfalls of this card are that the scenarios where your opponent played a sweeper or killed you with a combo are very real in Modern, so I don’t expect this card or other sagas to see a lot of play.The most likely deck I could see playing Song of Freyalise is the Hardened Scales deck. This deck has an issue with deploying its creatures in a timely fashion, which the second chapter should help with immensely, and the third chapter gives the deck something it is actively seeking in counters. This effect is already a powerful one, but when the creatures you’re adding counters to are Walking Ballistas, Arcbound Ravagers, and Hangarback Walkers, it gets pushed to another level, and imagine if there’s a Hardened Scales in play as well.
So far it seems like Dominaria has lived up to the hype and has provided a lot of great cards for all constructed formats. I am really excited to see how the Modern landscape shifts with the introduction of these cards, and I intend to include at least one Dominaria card in my Modern deck for the team constructed GP in Toronto next week.
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