Holy S*** It’s Dominaria!

Well now that it’s out there, we may as well have a talk about it! Pro Tour Champion Ari Lax is the conductor of the hype train this time around! Check his analysis on the most exciting things about Magic’s newest oldest place!

I’m not even going to pretend I’m not excited by the Dominaria
leak. My pre-competitive days of Magic were during the Dominaria hayday
from Ice Age through Invasion and it was awesome. Small
child Ari read all the books back when they were good or passable. I am
loving picking through each card and puzzling out the references they are
all making, much like Time Spiral.

The actual game text on the cards is very similar. There are a lot of
things that look awesome on first glance but are huge puzzles to put
together, and since we have all of this information so early that seems
like the best place to start.

If you are waiting on “official” previews and like surprises, this is your
last warning. If you are on the fence, let me make a strong argument that
this set is awesome and will only be extra awesome in the pre-event data
information vacuum.

The Antiquities War


Enchantment – Saga

(As this Saga enters and after your draw step, add a lore counter.
Sacrifice after III.)

I, II – Look at the top five cards of your library. You may reveal an
artifact card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest
on the bottom of your library in a random order.

III – Artifacts you control become artifact creatures with base power
and toughness 5/5 until end of turn.

Appropriately, we are starting with a card representing the earliest real
dive into Dominaria’s history.

The Antiquities War is absolutely insane.

I was originally going to write about Vintage this week as a teaser for SCG
CON’s insanely awesome Vintage event, and a big part of that was a look at
how Mishra’s Workshop decks have changed. I won’t spoil it as I still plan
on getting around to that format, but Walking Ballista and Phyrexian
Revoker as stock four-ofs is part of it.

You know what doesn’t get Phyrexian Revoker’ed, Walking Ballista ping’ed,
or just beat down the way Jace, the Mind Sculptor does? An enchantment that
wins the game off triggered abilities. Nice Flusterstorm and Mental
Misstep, opposing blue deck. Nice Oath of Druids against my non-creature
win condition. It… uh…. finds Grafdigger’s Cage against Dredge and
uhh…. has the special ability “is blue for Force of Will” against combo.

In Legacy this is awesome to pair with Ancient Tomb. Honestly, it probably
pairs well with Ancient Tomb in Vintage too.

In Modern, this hits in a lot of important spots. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
was already a card in Lantern Control sideboards, and this kills a little
easier at the cost of being worse against Karn Liberated, but the bigger
deal involves Affinity. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas was always almost there
for that deck as “suspend one drain all your life,” but the Affinity
manabase can’t really be expected to make two colors at the same time. The
Antiquities War can fill that role, and while it’s a little slow, it’s a
win condition that doesn’t die to Ancient Grudge or Abrupt Decay. It still
loses to Stony Silence, but that is because your whole deck is
non-functional against that card.

In Standard, I just want to say this card should be in decks that are a bit
fairer than you think. There aren’t a lot of interactive artifacts the way
there are in older formats, or maybe interactive is the wrong word given
the cards I’m talking about are Ensnaring Bridge and Chalice of the Void.
You only need four artifacts to win the game with The Antiquities War, and
it’s going to find you a couple. You need at least twenty artifacts to be
90% to find one in each five-card look, but Renegade Map lets you cheat a
bit on that count. I’m envisioning a U/W base, similar to how W/B Tokens
utilizes Fumigate, and you can even make your Hidden Stockpile tokens into
5/5s if you want to go full Esper!

Mox Amber


Legendary Artifact

T: Add one mana of any color among legendary creatures and
planeswalkers you control.

Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain


Legendary Creature – Human Artificer


Whenever you cast a historic spell, draw a card. (Artifacts,
legendaries, and Sagas are historic.)

One upside of the transition from multi-set blocks to standalone settings
is all the absolutely wild stuff is presented up front. For example,
putting a legend-linked Mox in the same set as a legend that draws you a
card when you cast said Mox. Also, a bunch of themes means there’s
potential for overlapping ones to go absolutely wild, like the fact that Kaladesh features Metalwork Colossus and makes you want to do this
exact stuff. A quick Gatherer search yields about thirty metric tons of
nonsense to pull off, so in lieu of a decklist you are getting a bunch of
different combo sets to explore.

Powerstone Shard



T: Add C for each artifact you control named Powerstone Shard.

Before I dig into the win conditions, I want to highlight Powerstone Shard
as one of the most important enablers for anything you are doing in this
range. Hedron Archive powered some of your most broken turns with old
artifact combo decks, and this iteration has multiple reasons to want to go
off big mana style. Treasure Mage finding additional Powerstone Shards is a
key part to getting the engine going and also gives you access to a lot of
powerful cards like Aethersphere Harvester.

The other half of looking at enablers is finding other legends for Mox
Amber. All of these are okay, but none of them are super exciting. The best
might be Nissa, Steward of Elements as a way to actually go off and use
your mana in the end. With the cards in the format, making sixteen mana for
double ultimate, take 20 land damage is not out of reach.

If you are chaining off a bunch of card draw with a Mox, the pseudo-Storm
engine is the obvious one. The sad news is that Ornithopter is the only
zero-cost artifact currently revealed in the format besides Mox Amber, but
Powerstone Shard in triplicate is effectively zero cost and the fourth goes
full on mana generation. Foundry Inspector is another card you can find
with Treasure Mage that lets you go off in a slightly more reasonable

Oddly, I think Aetherflux Reservoir might just be obsolete here. Remember
the comment I made about double Nissa ultimate being lethal? Paradoxical
Outcome can return planeswalkers to your hand. An early setup Nissa can
bridge into a combo turn where you generate a ton of mana, bounce it,
recast it for enough to ultimate and live, then just repeat. Your kill
condition goes from a weird do-nothing four-drop to a plain good Magic card
that is enabling your baseline functions.

To steal from an engine from a teammate, Ben Weitz has tried to make
Metalwork Colossus happen almost as many times as he has tried to make
Thought-Knot Seer good. We lost Sanctum of Ugin to chain Metalwork Colossi,
but the additions of Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain and Powerstone Shard give
you a couple more pieces to the puzzle. His favorite thing to do with the
shell was always set up one big Gonti’s Aether Heart extra turn, and Jhoira
is another thing that gives you a lot of benefit for taking an extra turn
by giving you stuff to use the mana on.

Marwyn, the Nurturer


Legendary Creature – Elf Druid


Whenever another Elf enters the battlefield under your control, put a
+1/+1 counter on Marwyn, the Nurturer.

T: Add an amount of G equal to Marwyn’s power.

To steal from another teammate, Magic Online player extraordinaire Tommy
Ashton has kept trying to make Paradox Engine plus Greenbelt Rampager into
a thing. Powerstone Shard and Mox Amber are both other permanents that
Paradox Engine untaps, and Jhoira is another way to keep the chain going
even if you can’t go full infinite with Servant of the Conduit. Marwyn, the
Nurturer is a half infinite, basically a backup way to get multiple mana
per spell you cast.

These decks are all going to suffer from similar issues of drawing weird
pieces together at the wrong time, so the key is going to be finding the
piece that helps you put all the other pieces together. Ixalan
block was surprisingly helpful on this front. Azor’s Gateway feels
especially likely to transform in this shell with both a bunch of
weirdly-costed pieces to exile and potential Paradox Engines to start
revving up.

Like I implied at the top, I literally have no idea if there’s enough here
for a deck or how the pieces come together, but if W/B Tokens and G/B Hour
of Promise Control stand a chance in this Standard format, anything does.
Honestly, if opposing clunky engine decks exist, a true combo deck like
this might even stand more of a chance because it gets to beat them up.

Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar


Legendary Creature – Elemental Avatar


Reach, trample

Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar gets +1/+1 for each land you control and
each land card in your graveyard.

1G, Return two lands you control to their owner’s hand: Return Multani
from your graveyard to your hand.

Squee, the Immortal


Legendary Creature – Goblin


You may cast Squee, the Immortal from your graveyard or from exile.

Both Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar and Squee, the Immortal scream graveyard
shenanigans to me. Their baseline fair rate isn’t great, but anything you
can just access post-dredge is on the table.

Multani is an oddball that I’m pretty sure is basically never better than
Life from the Loam at filling your hand for Conflagrate in true Dredge, but
in a slightly different Seismic Assault shell it offers a backup win
condition and combo enabler. I’m even just excited about the interaction
with Faithless Looting letting you bounce lands you already played then
loot them away in longer games.

Squee is more likely to just be a Dredge card. I doubt more than one or two
copies will see play, but an extra body for consistent Prized Amalgams is
enticing. It is fighting against Haunted Dead for the spot, but keeping
your Conflagrate fuel is a real upside.

Fall of the Thran


Enchantment – Saga

(As this Saga enters and after your draw step, add a lore counter.
Sacrifice after III.)

I – Destroy all lands.

II, III – Each player returns two land cards from their graveyard to
the battlefield.

It took me to my third read of Saga to realize it triggers on entering the

Now let’s talk about symmetry.

Big symmetrical effects were a key part of early Magic. People quickly
realized that what actually happened with these cards was you found a way
to make the effect asymmetric and abused it, possibly exemplified the most
by literal Balance. Armageddon was one of these early “fair” effects, and
unlike Wrath of God we haven’t seen it in a really long time because of how
easy it was to make it a devastatingly lopsided parity.

The first way to break symmetry on Armageddon is just be ahead and cast it,
but Fall of the Thran stunts that in two ways. There’s the obvious drawback
of slowly recurring their lands, which if you’re destroying all lands in
the first place is probably a downside, but there’s also the fact that it
costs six instead of four. That puts it solidly into impossible-to-cast
range unless your deck is stretching to 24 or 25 lands, and at that point
you have other expensive payoffs you would often rather just cast. Even if
Fall of the Thran was just Armageddon, it might be worse against a
Torrential Gearhulk deck than a normal five-drop.

So we have to break the synergy harder than that. Mana accelerants and mana
rocks? Sure. Ways to remove your own enchantment? Sure. But the thing that
seemed the easiest to me was exiling their graveyard. Surely there had to
be a Tormod’s Crypt, but it turns out all the easy artifacts are one-sided.

Phyrexian Scriptures


Enchantment – Saga

(As this Saga enters and after your draw step, add a lore counter.
Sacrifice after III.)

I – Put a +1/+1 counter on up to one target creature. That creature
becomes an artifact in addition to its other types.

II – Destroy all nonartifact creatures.

III – Exile all cards from all opponents’ graveyards.

Enter Phyrexian Scriptures. Just as a card, Phyrexian Scriptures is well
into the range of playable. Suspend one lopsided Wrath of God is a real
game breaker in some matchups, even ones where you have almost no natural
artifact creatures.

It just happens that lining up Phyrexian Scriptures into Fall of the Thran
will win most games. Destroy all non-artifact creatures into destroy all
lands, then exile their graveyard before recurring your lands.

It also just happens that in Magic lore the rise of Phyrexia under Yawgmoth
was what led to the destruction of the Thran.

This is some actual ten-out-of-ten card design. Both cards are interesting
and functional on their own, fit their respective events very well, and fit
together in function and flavor to literally tell the story.

Haphazard Bombardment



When Haphazard Bombardment enters the battlefield, choose four
nonenchantment permanents you don’t control and put an aim counter on
each of them.

At the beginning of your end step, if two or more permanents you don’t
control have an aim counter on them, destroy one of those permanents at

I almost bypassed Haphazard Bombardment until Greg Hatch of Mono-Blue
Martyr and Artificer’s Intuition fame pointed out it looked a lot like the
very playable Detritivore. There are going to be matchups where six mana
kill three lands is great, and maybe nabbing a threat in the process is
just double great.

Then I realized multiple Haphazard Bombardment kills lands in double time.

This might not be quite good enough in the 2018 world of The Scarab God,
but I really, really want it to be.

Karn, Scion of Urza


Legendary Planeswalker – Karn


+1: Reveal the top two cards of your library. An opponent chooses one
of them. Put that card into your hand and exile the other with a silver
counter on it.

1: Put a card you own with a silver counter on it from exile into your

2: Create a 0/0 colorless Construct artifact creature token with “This
creature gets +1/+1 for each artifact you control.”

I don’t think I could end a look at Dominaria without talking
about Karn, who is by far the most interesting planeswalker revealed so
far. Jaya Ballard is uninspiring as a five-drop that doesn’t protect
herself, and Teferi is just obviously good and pushes the Ob Nixilis
Reignited mold towards its power level limits.

But Karn… let’s just chat Karn.

First of all, Karn, Scion of Urza is colorless. That means any deck can
cast him, but do they really want to? Without any context, the alternating
plus and minus abilities on Karn to effectively draw an extra card a turn
are just okay. I think you have to ask for more than a bonus card a turn
these days when Chandra, Torch of Defiance does that while spiraling
towards ultimate.

Colorless also isn’t a color for Mox Amber, which seems intentional and
fortunate, but Karn is still a legendary permanent for other purposes. He
counts as historic for Jhoira and performs a similar role to Azor’s Gateway
in assembling your core synergies in the full engine decks I detailed

Of course, Karn isn’t just going to go plus then minus every time. If you
don’t reveal a card you immediately want, you can just plus Karn again the
next turn, and then later Karns can find the things the first ones
revealed. An immediate six loyalty is a lot for anyone to try and chew
through, and I can easily see Karn being cast to force direction and action
early, picking up a couple cards and life before dying, and setting up a
later Karn to have tons of options to pick up.

There’s still a third ability on Karn. He isn’t just a tank that kites
their aggro and draws cards. He produces tokens. This ability is the
opposite of the rest of his text and wants you to build your deck in a
specific way, so let’s talk artifacts.

A 1/1 solo Construct clearly isn’t good enough even if it grows with the
next one. A 2/2 is closer, but likely leaves a vulnerable three-loyalty
Karn. 3/3 is really the turning point where it feels like your token
requires effort to push through and also threatens to get out of hand with
another minus pushing it up to a pair of 4/4s.

What do we need to do to produce two artifacts early? In a format with Mox
Amber, Renegade Map, Treasure Map, Hidden Stockpile, and more, I honestly
don’t think it takes much.

Karn, Scion of Urza at least has a home in W/B Tokens. That deck is looking
for a bit more card selection, a bit more standalone power that dodges
Naturalize, and honestly some way to just jam on people for free wins which
is everything Karn offers. It even goes off with Anointed Procession for
double Construct tokens.

If it seems like a lot of these cards are weird, unique, speculative
things, that’s probably due to the nature of the information we got. These
are only the cards that need extra explanation. Glorybringer and Carnage
Tyrant weren’t in the Release Notes for their sets. There are probably some
really crazy cards on pure rate that will likely be the talk of the set
once more official previews start, but for now I’m happy with this. If the
outcome of a massive leak is we all get to live in the weird world of
potential artifact combos and build your own Armageddons for a bit longer,
that sounds like a best case scenario to me.