My Top 8 Dominaria Cards So Far

Lots of views are flying about over Dominaria! New cards, new types, new formats, new almost everything! Todd Anderson hops in the Weatherlight for a bit of nostalgia and evaluation!

is almost here, and with it comes some fantastic new cards. The flavor of
the set, so far, is hitting it out of the park. The Sagas tell cool stories
relating to the history of the plane, while the legendary creatures are
either old(er) favorites or offspring of the heroes we once knew. So much
time has passed since the last time we visited Dominaria, but the legacy of
those heroes fills the world with rich history, opening new avenues to tell
the stories of those who live there now.

But for most of us, a return to Dominaria just means new cards. Brawl is a
new Commander-esque format revolving around Standard, and Dominaria seems to have a heavy legendary theme. Not only are
there going to be a ton of legendary creatures to represent the heroes and
villains of the world, but there will also be iconic legendary spells that
can only be cast if you control a legendary creature. If I’m being honest,
Brawl sounds pretty sweet because Standard Singleton is a relatively
unexplored format. On top of that, the release of Dominaria with
this announcement means we’re going to have a lot of Brawl commanders to
choose from.

Today we’re going to be discussing my Top 8 favorite cards previewed thus
far, and their implications in all formats, with an emphasis on Brawl and
Standard. As you probably know, very few cards in new sets make their way
into older formats, but a good clip end up being staples in Standard. Now
that we have Brawl as an additional format to build decks for, a lot of
cards that might not have seen Standard play will get their day in the sun.

8. Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp

While Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp might not make waves in Standard, I could
easily see him being a great Commander for Brawl. While you don’t need a
heavy artifact theme, having a few lying around is definitely a plus for
keeping him cheap and effective. Mahamoti Djinn has a special place in my
heart, as it was one of the cards my first Magic-playing friend kept
beating me with over and over. But once I got my hands on a playset of
Terror, it was lights out for the Fat-Moti.

Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp might give the improvise deck another top-end
weapon, which it desperately needs. Maverick Thopterist is powerful on the
second or third turn, but the deck really lacks powerful follow-up plays.
Zahid being legendary might make it a bit risky to play more than two
copies of, but I’m a fan of jamming a ton of legends that close the game if
left around long enough.

Whirler Virtuoso might give Zahid some problems at first since it can
generate some chump blockers for a few turns, but the undercosted Mahamoti
Djinn is still one of my favorite cards from the set for multiple reasons.
Just the idea of a random artifact being the “Genie’s Lamp,” and having to
“tap it” to summon Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp is some awesome flavor.

7.) Phyrexian Scriptures

Phyrexian Scriptures seems like it will be one of the more powerful Sagas
in the set, if only because it feels like Tragic Arrogance with suspend 1.
And if you randomly control another artifact creature, you get to keep them
around as well. I love cards that punish decks that go wide while also
giving you a reason to continue playing out creatures. While I don’t know
if there are a ton of good artifact creatures to play right now, the fact
that this spell will give them all a bit more value (both for you and your
opponents) is definitely a plus.

My gut tells me that this card will be great alongside stuff like Scrapheap
Scrounger, possibly giving Mono-Black Aggro a chance to shine in a format
where The Scarab God rules over all. Sweeping the battlefield so that you
can get in one big attack is exactly what this style of deck needs. And
alongside Yahenni, Undying Partisan, this one-two punch could end the game
on the spot.

But Phyrexian Scriptures doesn’t necessarily have to go into an aggressive
deck. It fits perfectly alongside creatures like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner in a
midrange deck. You don’t care much if your Champion of Wits hits the bin,
and you don’t have that many creatures you want to protect. And the fact
that the Phyrexian Scriptures will trigger while all your mana is untapped
means you’ll be the first person to deploy a big threat on the fifth turn
after the Phyrexian Scriptures pops. Now doesn’t that curve nicely with The
Scarab God?

Aside from the Constructed implications, I love the fact that this card
tells the story of Phyrexia and how they operate on a grand scale.
Processing creatures into artifacts, becoming husks of their previous
selves, and wiping out all that oppose them was their ultimate goal. Submit
or be destroyed. Perfect!

6.) Goblin Warchief and Siege-Gang Commander

Goblin Warchief is a card I’ve wanted in Modern for a very long time, as
Goblin Warchief and Siege-Gang Commander were the cornerstones for Goblins
back in Onslaught-Mirrodin Standard. Goblin Warchief is also one
of the best creatures in the Legacy version of Goblins, giving the deck
some haste-power and high damage output alongside Goblin Piledriver (which
is conveniently in Modern already).

While I don’t expect Goblin Warchief to make too many waves in Standard
until there are a lot more Goblins running around, it does have some
serious impact with Siege-Gang Commander for high levels of burst damage.
There aren’t any mass-reanimation spells like Patriarch’s Bidding to
instant-kill the opponent like the old days, or machine gun turns with
Goblin Sharpshooter, but the implication of having both cards back in
Standard has me pretty excited.

Siege-Gang Commander also has some serious synergy with Liliana, Death’s
Majesty and The Scarab God. Not only can you create a bunch of small
blockers to protect your Planeswalker, but you can close the game rather
quickly even if The Scarab God gets hit with a Vraska’s Contempt. And with
all the removal in the format leaning toward exiling the more important
creatures, something like Siege-Gang Commander could punish people who
aren’t playing sweepers, like Fumigate.

I don’t know exactly where these two cards will fit into the new Standard,
but I would love to see an old-school Goblin deck featuring Aether Vial,
though the lack of Goblin Matron might make it worse than a
hyper-aggressive version.

5.) Lyra Dawnbringer

Lyra Dawnbringer – 3WW

Legendary Creature – Angel

Flying, first strike, lifelink

Other Angels you control get +1/+1.


Lyra Dawnbringer is functionally identical to Baneslayer Angel, which gives
me a bit of pause. It took quite a while for people to realize that
Baneslayer Angel was actually a good Magic card, but the truth of the
matter is that Lyra Dawnbringer will only be as good as the removal in the
format allows. Yes, it will stop aggressive decks in their tracks, but
there are a lot of spells that will trade for it and gain the opponent a
mana advantage.

But when Lyra Dawnbringer sticks, it will be very tough to lose the game.

And that was always the strength of Baneslayer Angel. Yes, it “died to Doom
Blade,” but the games where it didn’t were the games where it would shine.
And if your opponent is forced to use their removal on early threats that
could potentially overwhelm them, then a mid-game Lyra Dawnbringer will be
even better.

While control decks have quite a few better finishers now, something like
Lyra Dawnbringer could be a great addition to a midrange strategy focusing
around having a bunch of creatures that are must-answers. That means you
should play fewer token generators, fewer creatures that generate
additional value as they enter the battlefield, and more creatures that put
you very far ahead if you get to untap with them.

I expect Lyra Dawnbringer to be one of the rares that people overlook at
first, much like Baneslayer Angel, but the residual effects of how
Baneslayer Angel impacted Standard will lead people to overplay this card
rather than underplay it. After all, everyone loves big, flying,
lifelinking Angels.

4.) Cast Down

Cast Down is not Doom Blade, but it’s still very good. We haven’t had a
Standard spell like Cast Down in black for quite some time. Yes, there will
be a lot of legends in Standard that this won’t affect, but there will
still be a ton of creatures running around that this will take care of.

I don’t want to spend too much time talking about Cast Down because I don’t
know exactly what creatures will end up seeing the most play in the format,
but I do think that Cast Down will be a major removal spell in Standard.
Whether or not the format adapts to be more “legend-heavy” is a different

What I do love about Cast Down is the downside. Killing an expensive
legendary creature for two mana was always a feel-bad moment for newer
players. Removal spells should have a downside if they’re cheap, and the
drawback on Cast Down feels almost perfect.

3.) Adeliz, the Cinder Wind

Adeliz, the Cinder Wind – 1UR

Legendary Creature – Human Wizard

Flying, haste

Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell, Wizards you control get
+1/+1 until end of turn.


I have this much higher on the list than it deserves, but it is still one
of the coolest cards in the set. Effectively giving all your Wizards
prowess is exactly my cup of tea. Plus, it having flying and haste makes it
a fine draw in the later turns of the game. While something like Adeliz
might not end up being super-powerful in Standard thanks to the drawback of
needing to play a bunch of Wizards in your instant-sorcery heavy deck, I do
love the idea that Adeliz represents. You know me, I love casting a bunch
of spells in a single turn, and I love cards that give you a payoff for
“spinning your wheels.” Plus, it feels good to kill an opposing creature
while pumping your whole squad.

Now the only trick will be finding a bunch of cheap Wizards to play in the
early turns of the game…

2.) History of Benalia

One of the cooler cards I’ve seen thus far, and possibly the best Saga,
History of Benalia gives aggressive white decks one of the most powerful
three-mana threats I’ve ever seen. For three mana, you get four power worth
of first strike, and a big follow up turn after you make some more threats.
Yes, the third act of History of Benalia only pumps Knights, which might
restrict your deckbuilding just a little bit if you want to get full value
out of it, but I do love it when cards just fuel themselves.

Much like Siege-Gang Commander, I think the value of cards that generate
multiple threats will increase as people try to play more and more answers
to The Scarab God. One-for-one removal that exiles is all the rage right
now, so any card that can generate multiple threats of relevant size is
going to be desirable. While it might not win you the game by itself or
have as large of an impact as something like Phyrexian Scriptures, History
of Benalia is a perfect card for an aggressive white deck, which we haven’t
seen much lately. Perhaps this will give it the boost it needs to be

Honorable Mentions:

Before we get to the final card on the list, I wanted to talk about a few
more cards from Dominaria that caught my eye but didn’t quite make
the cut.

These lands were very good in their original Standard format and continue
to see fringe play in a number of Modern archetypes. I hope that these will
be as good as I remember them being. Right now, we already have the
“allied” check lands that do the same thing, and we all already know that
they pair well with the cycling dual lands thanks to them counting as basic
land types.

I think this cycle will give us some help in forming more three-color
strategies, as well as giving two-color enemy strategies another land to
ease the pressure off of playing so many basic lands.

Squee has always been one of my favorite characters in Magic lore. Just the
thought of squishing a Goblin over and over again, only to have him come
back, fills me with a strange sort of sadistic glee. Hrm, maybe I am a bad
guy after all.

While the original Squee, Goblin Nabob had some cool synergy with cards
like Zombie Infestation, this one will play out in a much less exciting
fashion. But even though it won’t have a huge impact on the game,
body-wise, your opponent can never kill it. You can cast it from your hand,
from the graveyard, or from exile. How is a control deck ever supposed to
beat this thing?

I think this card has the best chance to impact older formats over anything
else from Dominaria that I’ve seen so far. There are enough decks
in Modern and Legacy that don’t need colored mana and would love an early
scry. I expect it won’t take long for this card to find a home in something
like Affinity, Eldrazi, or something similar. We saw Temples dominate in
Standard a few years ago and those entered the battlefield tapped. Even
decks like Mono-Black Devotion eventually started playing black Temples
just for the scry, as card selection began to outweigh the drawback of
entering the battlefield tapped.

And now, onto the grand finale.

    1. Llanowar Elves

I think it’s kinda weird that the best card in the new set is a reprint,
but geez what a reprint this is. We haven’t had Llanowar Elves (or similar)
in Standard for years, and many of us thought that those days in Magic
design were over. Llanowar Elves offers some high-powered starts from green
decks, but that will only be as powerful as what they’re ramping into.

Yes, Steel Leaf Champion is an absolute unit, but I’m more excited about
trying to ramp into bigger game. Playing a Chandra, Torch of Defiance a
turn earlier sounds busted, and especially so if you’re able to untap with
it on the following turn and use her mana ability as well.

G/R Monsters was only a deck because Elvish Mystic was a card. Mono-Green
Devotion was only a deck because Elvish Mystic was a card. Generating three
mana on the second turn is an insanely powerful effect, and I expect
Llanowar Elves will be the backbone to numerous strategies in the first few
weeks. People will quickly learn that you need to “Bolt the Bird,” as it
were. Because if they don’t, their removal spells might not be good enough
to handle what comes at them on the second or third turn.

Llanowar Elves is my easy pick for best card in the set, if only because of
what history has shown us. No, it isn’t fancy or splashy or a mythic rare,
but sometimes that’s okay. The best cards in Standard don’t always have to
be mythic rares.

That’s all for today, but I’ll be back later this week to talk about the
two decks I’ll be bringing to Grand Prix Seattle. If you’re a fan of
Legacy, or a Standard format that’s about to change, be sure to tune in
(spoiler alert: it’ll be mostly about Legacy). These are my Top 8 cards
from Dominaria, but the set is so stuffed with cool designs and
throwbacks and flavor that I expect each person’s Top 8 to be unique. Maybe
these eight won’t overtake the Standard format, but they all struck a
positive chord with me.

I’ve been playing Magic for a long time, and Invasion Block was
where I put down roots. These characters and their stories call to me like
a siren’s song. These cards represent something more than just their text
box. So, with that said, what are your Top 8 cards from Dominaria?