Dominaria Set Review, Part 1

Chas Andres kicks off his Dominaria finance review! Would Mox Amber be a $28 preorder if it were called “Amber Medallion” instead? Is Jaya Ballard secretly underrated? And which cycle is effectively priced at its floor already?

People are excited about Dominaria, y’all.

I took a quick poll of my Twitter followers, and 86% of them feel that Dominaria is either “better than average” or the “best set in years.” Dominaria may end up disappointing us once we actually get to play it, of course, but getting 86% of Magic players to agree on anything, much less on liking something, is nearly impossible.

Dominaria‘s perception is important because it plays into how I approach my financial set review. If people are super-excited about a set, it generally means that pre-order prices are going to be higher than average. It may also mean that prices end up settling in a lower range and remaining there longer because more packs are bought and opened. Exciting sets also tend to be full of good cards, which means that each individual card is likely to be worth slightly less. For a set to generate a $50+ mythic, it usually must be pretty devoid of other playables. If a set has fifteen to twenty good cards, no single mythic is likely to dominate the charts.

Of course, an exciting set should lead to a resurgence of interest in Standard, which would drive the entire index to increase in price. Because of this, the smartest bet to make on Dominaria is to buy up all the Ixalan block staples you need. Dominaria should bring a lot of people back to Standard, but they’re not going to want to buy any Ixalan packs. All those cards are relatively cheap right now, and they’re going to be legal in Standard for another year and a half.

We’re here to discuss the ins and outs of Dominaria today, though, and even though people are hyped about the set, there are still some cards in the set that feel undervalued to me. As always, I’ll be covering half the set today and half the set next week. Let’s start with the mythic rares, and we’ve got some doozies straight off the top:

Mythic Rares

Mox Amber – $28

Before Mox Amber, eight Moxen had been printed over 25 years. The original five are among the most broken cards in the history of the game. Mox Diamond is a Legacy staple. Chrome Mox is banned in Modern. Mox Opal is a key card in a couple of Modern’s best decks. If you’re betting against Mox Amber, you’re betting against a long and unbroken lineage of absurdly powerful cards.

On the other hand, would Mox Amber be a $28 card if it were named Amber Medallion? I highly doubt it. You must jump through a pretty tight hoop to make Mox Amber pay off, and I’m not actually sure that this card is playable, much less good.

If I’m pre-ordering a card for $28, I want a lot more certainty than this. Mox Amber has $60+ multi-format upside, but it also has an “unplayable across all formats” level of downside. There’s a reasonable shot that Mox Amber ends up being the face of the set, but the buy-in is too steep for me to recommend buying in before you see at least a fleeting sign of success somewhere.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria – $13

Five mana is a lot for a planeswalker, but Teferi, Hero of Dominaria does everything you want in a control planeswalker. The fact that you can untap two lands right away to net a card, a loyalty counter, and the ability to keep up a counterspell or removal spell is super clutch. Teferi’s -3 is a fantastic safety valve, and his ultimate is game-winning.

Casual and Commander interest should give this one a short-term floor in the $7-$8 range, and immediate play would likely cause a spike to $30-$35 before dropping off toward $20-$25. $13 seems like a great deal to me, and I’m going to pre-order a couple of copies for sure.

History of Benalia – $10

Mox Amber has a high ceiling and a low floor, which makes me wary of buying in at current retail. Teferi has a high ceiling and a high floor, which makes me interested in it as a spec opportunity. History of Benalia has a low ceiling and a high floor. It’s not a great speculative buy, but it’s totally fine to snag if you think you’re going to need a couple of copies early on.

Getting two 2/2 Knights and a delayed pump is an awesome rate for 1WW, and I have no doubt that History of Benalia will find play somewhere, possibly in some sort of Anointed Procession deck. I don’t even think you need any other Knights for this card to be good—it’s powerful enough on its own. My only worry is that the card ends up being a bit too narrow for it to be worth the big bucks; if you’re not going wide and you can’t easily cast double-white spells, do you really want this? I expect it to end up staying in the $10 range long-term.

Jaya Ballard – $9

Unfortunately, I think that Jaya Ballard is too narrow to be very good. 2RRR is a miserable casting cost, her first +1 ability is restrictive, and her second is never going to gain you any actual card advantage. I don’t think that Jaya Ballard slots into any of the current mono-red decks, and I can’t imagine she’ll end up being powerful enough to build around. This is a future $3-$4 planeswalker.

Weatherlight – $8

I don’t think that Weatherlight is going to be good right away, but keep an eye on it after rotation. The Kaladesh Block Vehicles were pushed a little too far, and Weatherlight will probably be the best vehicle in Standard once Heart of Kiran and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship rotate. Abrade also makes life difficult for Weatherlight, and that card will rotate in September as well.

Weatherlight does a decent Dragonlord Ojutai impression in the right deck, and I suspect it’ll see occasional sideboard play this summer before finding a permanent home in a good deck at some point this autumn. I’ll hold off on buying now, but I’ll be grabbing a set or two in August.

Demonlord Belzenlok – $6

Demonlord Belzenlok seems awesome. Nearly all the “big bad Demon” cards have been unplayable in recent years, but this is exactly what I want in a six-drop. For six mana, you get a 6/6 creature with two kinds of evasion as well as a guaranteed nonland draw. Oh—and there’s a shot that you’ll chain into some absurd draw sequence that will win you the game on the spot.

It’s certainly possible that there’s no room for Demonlord Belzenlok in a world where The Scarab God is running wild, but I must believe that these two baddies will find a way to coexist. And if they don’t, Demonlord Belzenlok should be quite good in a post-rotation world. For $6 at mythic rare, this is a gamble I’ll take.

Phyrexian Scriptures – $6

Phyrexian Scriptures also seems incredibly good to me. People seem to be viewing this card as a worse version of Damnation because it can’t Wrath the battlefield the turn you cast it. That comparison makes Phyrexian Scriptures seem quite bad, but if Damnation were in Dominaria, we’d rightfully assume that it was the most powerful spell in the entire set. “As good as Damnation” is a high bar to clear.

Phyrexian Scriptures may not be Damnation, but it’s more powerful in the right situation. You’re likely to keep an impactful creature around while your opponent loses their entire battlefield, and the graveyard removal chapter is pretty danged relevant in the current Standard metagame. This is a very powerful card against both aggro and midrange decks, and I bet it’ll see a good deal of play. I like this buy at just six bucks.

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain – $5

I’ll be buying a foil copy of Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain for Commander, because you can kind of get away with casting Vedalken Archmages in that format. Aside from some kind of theoretical shenanigans where you create a recursive loop with Mox Amber or something, though, I don’t see this card making an impact in any competitive format. Future bulk mythic.


Steel Leaf Champion – $8

Yowza. GGG is hard to deal with, of course, but has a three-drop creature ever had more raw power? Steel Leaf Champion is Woolly Thoctar with evasion, and it was printed alongside Llanowar Elves. You’d better believe that this is going to be the first deck that many people are going to build once Dominaria hits shelves.

My worry here is that Steel Leaf Champion is simply too narrow to be worth all that much in a set as powerful as Dominaria. Even if Mono-Green is a Tier 1 deck (which it very well may be), this card is a rare, not a mythic. It might be able to sustain an $8-$10 price tag, but where’s the upside? For a rare to be worth more than $10, it must see significant play in multiple good decks. Steel Leaf Champion probably won’t do that. Feel free to snag these if you want to build Mono-Green straight off, but this isn’t a very good card for speculators to target.

Shalai, Voice of Plenty – $8

Geez, this card is good. Don’t be fooled by those green mana symbols in the text box: Shalai, Voice of Plenty is plenty playable without access to that ability. G/W go-wide decks are absolutely going to want this, of course, but Shalai is the sort of card that you can run in your maindeck knowing that it’ll win you a couple of tough matchups without ever being a totally dead draw. I also suspect that Shalai will end up as a one-of or two-of in a couple of different Modern sideboards, which should keep the price around $4-$5 no matter what.

Again, my big worry here is that a set as good as Dominaria will have some difficulty sustaining rares in the $8+ range, and this card is likely to depreciate some simply based on how the economics of Standard work. I don’t doubt Shalai’s power or playability, though, so snagging a couple of these now if you need them is totally fine.

Fall of the Thran – $5

Five bucks is close to the best-case scenario of what Fall of the Thran might be. This seems like a good way to fight against control or stave off a powerful endgame combo, but it’s also a narrow card that’s best used in moderation. Powerful spells like this can kick around the $5 range for a while, and they might occasionally spike toward $8, but my guess is that this one will spend most of its time closer to $2. There’s no need to buy in now.

Gilded Lotus – $5

I’m not sure that Gilded Lotus will see much play until Abrade and Hour of Promise rotate. I also don’t really know what you’re ramping into right now besides Scarab God activations. This card has proven to be quite powerful, though, and casual interest has caused it to spike past $10 a couple of times now. I’m probably not pre-ordering these at $5, but I’ll snap up a few dozen copies for my long-term spec box if they drop down to $2. Best case, it shows up in Standard after rotation. Worst case, casual players will want them a couple of years from now.

Enemy Checklands – $4-$5

This is one of the better Standard land cycles, and $4 was at the low end of what they sold for last time they were printed. If you don’t have these yet, pre-order whatever you think you’re going to need now so that you don’t have to worry about getting them later. Worst case, your $4 card drops to $3. Egad!

Karn’s Temporal Sundering – $4

Karn’s Temporal Sundering is gorgeous, but it’s far from my favorite of these legendary sorceries. I worry about spells that are completely dead unless you control a legendary creature or planeswalker, and I tend to dislike cards that require this many hoops to jump through. It’s certainly possible that one or two of these legendary sorceries will be good enough to overcome that drawback, but a six-mana Time Warp isn’t it. This will probably stay in the $2 range, since casual mages love their Time Warps, but I’m not buying in at $4.

Naban, Dean of Iteration – $3

Right now, Naban is stuck between two worlds. It isn’t powerful enough for Modern, where doubling a Snapcaster Mage trigger would be awesome, but there aren’t enough exploitable Wizard abilities in Standard for me to get excited about building around this. Naban is a $3-$5 card if a Wizards deck materializes, but it’s a 50-cent bulk rare if the strategy falls short. I’ll be reevaluating Naban once the full set has been previewed, but I’m not even close to interested yet.

Squee, the Immortal – $2.50

If “you can cast this from exile” were unspeakably broken, Misthollow Griffin would have done something by now, right? Maybe Squee will force the issue somehow by being a little cheaper or by being playable out of your graveyard, but unless you can find a way to combo off, you’re going to be stuck with a 2/1 at the end of the day. Standard is not about casting 2/1s for three, even if they can come back from the dead whenever you want. There’s a shot that Squee finds some obscure home and ends up being great, but I bet it’ll end up in the dollar bin.

The First Eruption – $2

I’m not sure if The First Eruption will find a home, but it’s powerful enough to be a role-player in the right iteration of Standard. “Clear out opposing critters” into “Cast something big” into “Kill everything else” is a decent progression, even if it’s not going to work out every time. The fact that the final chapter is optional seems clutch, too. The First Eruption probably won’t end up being a major part of the format, but you should feel free to grab a couple copies at $2 if you think you’ll need them.

Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle – $2

My guess is that Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle is just a little bit underpowered and hoop-jumpy to be good. It’s a 2/2 flier for four, you have to cast a historic spell to trigger its ability, and it only returns creatures with converted mana cost three or less. That said, there’s some serious combo potential here and this card might end up spawning an entirely new archetype. I’m not buying in right now, but I’ll be monitoring whatever meager information they give us from the Magic Online Leagues in case somebody ends up breaking this card in the future.

Grand Warlord Radha – $2

I have no idea if Grand Warlord Radha is good enough. I suspect that a 3/4 for four is not going to cut it, even with haste, though I can imagine G/R Midrange wanting the extra mana enough that Radha ends up making the cut as a two-of or something. She’s priced fairly at $2 right now.

Looking beyond Standard, there are a couple of other semi-interesting spec opportunities here. Aggravated Assault is already an expensive card, but demand might go up, since you can go arbitrarily large here easily in Commander. Ditto Hellkite Charger, though that one’s harder to combo off with and has also been reprinted many more times.

Precognition Field – $2

Precognition Field doesn’t do it for me. It’s incredibly good in a very grindy control mirror, but you can’t take a turn off to cast this against most of the field and it’s clearly outclassed by Search for Azcanta most of the time. Precognition Field might show up now and again, but I’m expecting this one to be a future bulk rare.

Jaya’s Immolating Inferno – $1.50

I can imagine that a red deck with enough copies of Hazoret the Fervent and Captain Lannery Storm or whatever might want a couple of copies of Jaya’s Immolating Inferno. I still don’t love the legendary sorceries for competitive play, but this one’s good enough to at least be worth consideration. $1-$2 seems about right to me—it’s not going to be a major player in the format, but it might show up now and again.

Kamahl’s Druidic Vow – $1.50

Here’s a legendary sorcery that might be worth building around. The drawback is negligible here, since you aren’t playing Kamahl’s Druidic Vow in a deck without a ton of legendary permanents regardless. This isn’t as easy to build around as Genesis Wave, but it’ll certainly show up in some sort of semi-competitive Saffron Olive brew that might end up being secretly good. I don’t think that Kamahl’s Druidic Vow will break Standard or anything, but it could certainly see a spike or two into the $6-$7 range.

Siege-Gang Commander – $1.50

Siege-Gang Commander is good enough to see play in Standard, though it’ll have to compete with Glorybringer in the five-drop slot for a while. There are already a ton of copies out there, though, since Siege-Gang Commander has already been printed in Scourge, 10th Edition, Magic 2010, Eternal Masters, and a Duel Deck. There’s no financial upside here, but the card should stay out of the bulk bin.

The Mirari Conjecture – $1.50

Even though it sounds like the title of an episode of The Big Bang Theory, I kind of like The Mirari Conjecture. Unfortunately, me liking a card doesn’t mean that it’s actually good. The Mirari Conjecture is almost certainly too slow and clunky for Standard, though it might end up in a sideboard or two. Future bulk rare.

Urza’s Ruinous Blast – $1.50

Much like Kamahl’s Druidic Vow, you’re probably not running Urza’s Ruinous Blast unless you’ve got a deck full of legendary creatures and/or planeswalkers. If such a deck is possible to build, this card is incredibly powerful. This card might end up being a bulk rare, but it might also be a $5-$6 centerpiece in a Tier 1 deck. I’m probably not going to snag a set myself, but this has the highest upside of the entire cycle.

Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering – $1.50

Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering isn’t good enough to warrant building around, but if you’ve already got a critical mass of legendary creatures and/or planeswalkers, this spell seems pretty good. You’d expect to pay seven to eight mana and two cards for this effect without any drawbacks, so the discount you get should make this Standard-playable…if you can reasonably expect to cast it. Regardless, I don’t think this one’s clearing $3-$4 even in a best-case scenario. You can grab a few copies if you want them, but there’s not enough upside here to excite me.

Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp – $1.50

It’ll be interesting to see how good a 5/6 creature will end up being in the new metagame. In a world where the best removal spells deal three or four damage and most of the big threats have five power, Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp could end up being quite good in decks that run a significant number of cheap artifacts. That doesn’t seem likely to me, at least not until Kaladesh and Amonkhet rotate, but there’s a whiff of long-term playability here.

Goblin Chainwhirler – $1

Goblin Chainwhirler seems fine. I wish it had haste, but this is a decent three-drop in Mono-Red and it’ll see play off and on over the next couple of years. Grab a few copies at a buck if you play red—there’s not much upside here, but it’s not like Goblin Chainwhirler is getting any cheaper.

Two-Headed Giant – $1

If they were going to name a card after a format and confuse the heck out of everyone, why not make the card good? Future bulk rare.

Forebear’s Blade – $1

“Thanks for the, uh, the neat sword, grandpa. I’ll use it every day!”

(Sigh. Go home. Stick it in the back of your closet.)

This Week’s Trends

The Dominaria hype hasn’t translated into actual Standard gains yet. While Carnage Tyrant and Rekindling Phoenix are slowly ticking up on Magic Online, the only Standard card on the paper index that jumped more than a buck this week was Paradox Engine, a card that sees no real Standard play. Meanwhile, practically every decent format staple in Kaladesh, Amonkhet, and Ixalan block is either ticking down or remaining stagnant.

Expect this to change at some point over the next two weeks. Once Dominaria has been fully previewed, exciting new decklists will start to emerge and the Standard resurgence will begin. Buy what you need now and buckle up.

The Modern index has been growing all year long, but things have finally begun to slow down a bit. Cavern of Souls, Engineered Explosives, and Horizon Canopy have all ticked up a bit, but most of the other gains are in the $2-$3 range. Hex Parasite is probably the most exciting spec, jumping from $0.50 to about $4 based on the card’s interaction with the Saga cycle. I don’t know if this is anything more than a pipe dream, but the buy-in is low, even at $4. I’m going to snag a set of these just in case.

On the other side of things, Noble Hierarch is down about $5 this week after climbing in price for about a month straight. This was just a little bit of market correction after an absurd peak, and I don’t think that the price is going to keep falling. Ditto Trinisphere, which is important part of the G/R Land Destruction deck that I neglected to cover last week.

As usual, there were a couple of major Reserved List spikes this week. Lion’s Eye Diamond is heading toward $250, and Lake of the Dead spiked past $60. Lion’s Eye Diamond sees a ton of Legacy play, and it can absolutely sustain that crazy new price tag. Lake of the Dead doesn’t see much play anywhere, though, so the price will probably fall a bit. These Reserved List spikes are resilient, though, so it’ll probably stay above $40 regardless.

Sylvan Safekeeper also spiked this week, jumping from $2 up to $5. It sees a bunch of play in Legacy, and it’s starting to be used in the Lands deck now, but that format is niche enough to keep demand relatively low. I have a trillion of these hanging around in my spec box from, like, 2011, and I’ll be selling them into the spike.

Altar of the Brood tripled in price this week as well, though as of this writing you can still find copies in the $3-$4 range. I’ve seen some rumblings of a Naru Meha, Master Wizard combo deck that uses this card, though I don’t know how real that is. Altar of the Brood is a unique card, though, so it can probably sustain a $5+ price tag.

Another weird spike this week: the Revised edition of Shivan Dragon, which jumped from bulk up to about $15. This is one of the most iconic cards in the history of the game, but there are still plenty of 4th and 5th Edition copies—which have the same art—for less than a buck. I doubt this spike sticks, but if it does, there are loads of other iconic casual cards from the Revised era that might be worth looking at.