Dominaria Spoilers in Modern: Part One

14 April 2018, Saturday

Preview season has started for the newest Magic: the Gathering set, Dominaria. Today, I want to take some time to talk about what from them I believe will break into Modern. So far, the set looks sweet; it has one of the best removal spells we’ve seen in a while in Cast Down, and a very powerful hate piece in Damping Stone. Some lower-tier decks will get more tools, as usual, although not enough to push them into the top tier. This set looks great across the board, especially when coming after Ixalan block, which was very underpowered overall.

Damping Sphere

This is obviously one of the most powerful hate pieces we’ve seen in years. For two colorless mana, it helps against Tron, Storm, Living End, Ad Nauseum, and other decks trying to cast multiple spells in one turn or generate multiple mana off of one land. I expect this to be a sideboard staple in Modern. Because of the colorless cost, it goes in every deck, and it does a lot against multiple different decks in the format. This may even make splashes in Eternal formats; in Legacy, it helps fight against Storm, Ancient Tomb decks, and 12 Post. In Vintage, it will fit easily into Shops, despite the fact that it hurts the controller when in that deck.

This isn’t, however, going to kill off Tron and Storm as some people seem to think. Storm deals with it easily using one of their bounce spells. Sure, Echoing Truth adds two extra mana that is necessary before Storm can go off, and so it will usually gain you a couple turns, but that doesn’t mean the deck is dead at all. Storm is already well equipped to fight through hate, and this just gives more decks a way to hate them out. The deck might add a couple extra bounce spells or Artifact destruction spells, and Ad Nauseum, Living End, and other similar decks will be forced to do the same thing; other than that, I don’t expect this to change Storm and other combo decks that much.

The reason this card is so good, however, is because it can see play against multiple decks. It also hates out Tron and Eldrazi variants, by making their lands produce only a single colorless mana when tapped. Green Tron almost always plays three Natural State in it’s sideboard, but Eldrazi Tron will be weakened. This doesn’t really impact RG Eldrazi too much; they only have one Sol land, so it’s usually similar to a Stone Rain against other decks, in that it sets them back one mana. Overall, this card isn’t the best hate card out there, but it’s a solid role player that will see play in many decks.

Merfolk Trickster

This card seems very good in Merfolk. It can shrink Tarmogoyf, allows you to attack through the creatures in Tron, can kill Flameblade Adept by itself, kills Phantasmal Image, and has many other uses against some top tier decks.

The problem here is what to cut. Merfolk doesn’t have many slots that aren’t either for Lords or already locked; you aren’t going to cut Silvergill Adept for this, for example. I think Mono Blue Merfolk will cut two Spell Pierce and cut down on Harbinger of the Tides, which is a very similar effect without some niche applications like killing the Adept mentioned above, and one that doesn’t have Flash unless you use Aether Vial or pay extra mana. Tropical Fish will most likely make similar cuts. Obviously any lists running Watertrap Weaver will replace them quickly.

This won’t elevate Fish to a tier one strategy. It’s a good card, but it doesn’t solve some of the deck’s worst matchups; Affinity and Lantern will still have almost a bye against Fish, Elves will still be insanely favored (although it doesn’t see much play right now). However, it’s a great card that will definitely see play.

An example deck that I think we might end up seeing:

Creatures (30)
Harbinger of the Tides
Lord of Atlantis
Master of the Pearl Trident
Master of Waves
Merrow Reejerey
Phantasmal Image
Silvergill Adept
Merfolk Trickster

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial

Enchantments (4)
Spreading Seas

Instants (2)

Land (20)
13 Island
Cavern of Souls
Gemstone Caverns
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Sideboard (15)
Relic of Progenitus
Ceremonious Rejection
Disdainful Stroke
Echoing Truth
Gut Shot
Damping Sphere

Cast Down

Although this will be one of the best Standard removal spells since Lightning Bolt, I doubt it will have much of a home in Modern; BR decks will prefer Terminate, BW decks will want Path to Exile, and BG decks will get Abrupt Decay. This leaves UB Control, which Thomas wrote about last week, and Mono Black decks, as the only decks that may want it, and even there it will be a meta call between this and Go for the Throat.

Some of the most relevant creatures this misses include Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Vendilion Clique, and, of course, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. In the end, this card will most likely be confined to Standard play, but it might be an interesting meta call in certain decks.

One deck I think this could see play in, as I said earlier, is the UB Control deck Thomas talked about last week. It might look something like this:

Creatures (7)
Snapcaster Mage
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Instants (13)
Thought Scour
Fatal Push
Cast Down
Go for the Throat
Cryptic Command

Sorceries (11)
Serum Visions
Inquisition of Kozilek

Planeswalkers (6)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Liliana of the Veil
Liliana, the Last Hope
Lands (23)
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Verdant Catacomb
Darkslick Shores
Creeping Tar Pit
Watery Grave
Field of Ruin

Sideboard (15)
Collective Brutality
Go for the Throat
Pithing Needle
Engineered Explosives
Fulminator Mage
Surgical Extraction

Steel-Leaf Champion

Mono Green Stompy will love this guy. I’ve seen him discussed in Elves too, but I don’t think he will take off there. Elves really doesn’t have room for such a vanilla beater, even one this powerful. The deck is, first and foremost, a combo deck, which doesn’t have room for another combat-based elf that does nothing else; even Dwynen’s Elite, arguably the most combat-focused elf in the deck (not counting Ezuri, Renegade Leader, which tends to be more of an “I win” button), helps the combo by ramping you to three mana on turn two alongside a Heritage Druid and making tokens for Heritage and Elvish Archdruid, whereas this does neither.

One place I could see this is Mono Green Devotion. They’re always happy for another GGG-costed card, and most GGG cards are at least worth looking at there. With the ability to power it out turn one with an Arbor Elf or another dork, this could even lead to Green Devotion gaining a good aggro plan. A turn two 5/4 can be hard to beat for many decks, of course!

The downside is the need to cut a card, however. I don’t see them wanting to cut Wistful Selkie, so maybe Carven Caryatid or another three drop can take a seat for now? Although a possibility, I would expect this card to end up in Stompy and not many other places.

Here’s an example of what Mono Green Stompy will probably look like once Dominaria releases:

Creatures (26)
Strangleroot Geist
Avatar of the Resolute
Steel-Leaf Champion
Leatherback Baloth
Kalonian Tusker
Dryad Militant
Experiment One

Instants (8)
Vines of Vastwood
Aspect of Hydra

Enchantments (4)
Lands (22)
Treetop Village
20 Forest

Sideboard (15)
Scavenging Ooze
Unravel the Aether
Collected Company
Creeping Corrosion
Grafdigger’s Cage

Overall, Dominaria is a very exciting set across many formats. Although my early assessments may not be right, I’m looking forward to seeing what these cards do! I’ll be back next week with part two of this article, so stay tuned for that, and if you want to talk more about this, find me on Twitter @filthyc4sual1.

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