[Welcome back to Taking A Swipe, Dominaria edition! Today, Matthias Hunt and Ryan Overturf analyze ten of Dominaria’s most remarkable cards, Tinder-style, by either Swiping Right (that’s good!) or Swiping Left (that’s bad!). And just like Tinder, both Matthias and Ryan are allowed one Super Like to let that card immediately know that they’re a big fan!]
Matthias Super Likes: It’s the trap I always fall into. I sit down ready to evaluate a whole stack of cards and I use my Super Like on the very first one. Am I going to wish I had saved it? That much is a given. Am I looking at the card in the most favorable of light? Almost certainly, but how could I not? Taking another turn is just so free, and when I get to bounce a permanent while doing it, I feel like I could stabilize just about any battlefield.
Now you might bring up the fact that this card could get stranded in my hand, and you’re completely right. “Legendary Sorcery” is a very intimidating line of text because it requires me to control and protect a very specific kind of card. This should make me more wary of Karn’s Temporal Sundering, but instead I’m just looking at the upside. Cast only if you control a planeswalker? Why, yes, that’s exactly what I would like to have on the battlefield when I cast this Time Warp effect! Given that Standard is favoring tap-out midrange, that Liliana sets up for this nicely, and that there’s a very powerful legendary creature that blue decks all play – ever heard of The Scarab God? – I’d love to have this at the top of my curve.
Ryan Swipes Right: Okay, so you like taking extra turns. Who doesn’t?
The card has some baggage, sure. Always having a legendary creature or planeswalker on hand is a pretty high-maintenance demand. Beyond that, the description explicitly tells you that the card is going to ghost you and send itself into exile, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy the time you spend together. You’ll always remember the times that you took an extra turn, bounced their blocker, and attacked down their planeswalker or hit for lethal together. A Time Warp is a Time Warp is a Time Warp, and while this one comes with a notable downside, the upside likely pushes it over the top. I’ll always swipe right for fellow tempo fans.
It’s possible that this card is destined to be a mainstay of Tier 2 archetypes and brewers having one good weekend, though even a six-mana Time Warp with no extra text is at a power level that deserves a second look in Standard. I don’t want to think about the sorts of games where you get to cast multiple copies of this and reset your opponent’s battlefield.
Matthias Swipes Left: Steel Leaf Champion designed its profile with exactly one thing in mind, and while I appreciate that it gets right to the point, I’m not interested.
Don’t let all the flexing this card is doing in its text box fool you; it’s just another Woolly Thoctar who spends its entire day at the gym. Sure, it’s trying to be impressive by saying that smaller creatures aren’t even capable of blocking it, but let’s be honest: they were never going to block it in the first place. It’s all muscle and nothing else, and that just doesn’t cut it in this world of Fatal Push and Harnessed Lightning.
And that GGG mana cost? I know it didn’t bring it up, but we can see it in its profile picture and it’s not pretty.
Ryan Swipes Right: I’ve cast Leatherback Baloth before. I’m not proud, but I’m also not a hypocrite.
This card isn’t the kind of Magic that I play in ideal situations, but I know that if I have two tickets to a PPTQ, it will serve as suitable company. With Llanowar Elves returning, I can guarantee that Turn 2 Steel Leaf Champions will convert to game wins merely off the back of this being a five-power creature. I’m less interested in the text box than I am of the question of whether mono-green is where you want to be in Standard, but “fast mana and efficient threats” is never a bad starting point. The mana in Standard is kind of weak right now, and sometimes that’s all it takes.
It’s possible that early attempts at Steel Leaf Champion decks result in sleeved stacks of green cards being abandoned with the other junk on my desk, but there’s enough going on here to give it a try.
Matthias Swipes Left: Knight of Grace is trying to be retro but is doing it all wrong. Don’t be fooled.
You might be looking through some old photo albums and seeing that White Knight used to turn heads if you brought it to a party. It wasn’t that long ago, right? You might even be thinking of asking Knight of Grace out. But the truth is that it takes a lot more than a 2/2 or even a 3/2 to turn heads for two mana these days. Protection from Black could block for you when you needed it, but “Hexproof from Black?” It means that no one will Fatal Push your date. Instead you will get to sit by and watch as everyone just ignores your date, and that is far worse.
Ryan Swipes Left: Don’t tell me that you have “Hexproof from Black” as some attempt to appear edgy or more thoughtful than you are.
This card lives its life in White Knight’s shadow in a way that neither tries to speak its own truth nor lives up to the card it lives vicariously through. A Draft uncommon with a lot of text will pique your interest at first, but over time you’ll find out that it’s just a lot of words with no substance.
The rate on Knight of Grace is fine, and it’s the sort of card that probably ends up in one or two Standard decks simply because it costs the correct amount of mana for the job. It may have even been a Block Constructed all-star in a different life. That said, I’m not excited about the card and it’s definitely not a major draw to the decks that could play it.
Matthias Swipes Right, Messages A Bunch, And Never Asks The Mirari Conjecture On A Date: Dating apps are an imperfect science, so it only makes sense that we end up swiping right on cards that never make it to the deck registration sheet.
The Mirari Conjecture is nice enough that you should test the waters. You only ever need an active Pyromancer Ascension for one turn anyway and Mirari Conjecture offers you just that. It even gives you presents along the way if you do things right. This Saga is exciting and I would definitely send some messages to get the conversation started. I’d start with Glimmer of Genius and Fatal Push, of course, and when things started going well, I’d even start talking about sorceries! I’d talk about how I already play a Doomfall or two in the maindeck and even a Confiscation Coup in the sideboard. The conversation would be going well.
And then it would stop there. It’s one of those situations where, although no one said anything wrong, I would just… lose interest. It wasn’t going to work and at some point we both knew it. Why did I swipe right in the first place? I guess I just needed to be sure.
Ryan Accidentally Super Likes: I hate it when this happens.
Look, I’m not upset that The Mirari Conjecture knows that I’m interested in it, but in all honesty, I was just trying to understand what the card actually does. I’m having trouble imagining wanting to tap out on Turn 5 in Standard to not impact the battlefield, but I’m also having difficulty imagining losing upon hitting the third stage of this saga. Do I want to copy Karn’s Temporal Sundering? Yes. Will I win any games by trying to accomplish this? I don’t know. The heart wants what it wants, and I guess I’m locked in.
Sagas are easily the most difficult cards to understand in Dominaria, and it makes sense. New card types are tough. A good baseline for any new card type or mechanic is that the most powerful ones don’t need to be interpreted in the context of the mechanic. If there’s a deck full of instant and sorcery spells worth recurring, then a spell that recurs them and copies them will be a natural fit. Whether this is the case remains to be seen.
Matthias Swipes Left: Okay, okay. How did this ever show up on my app? Wait a second…. sigh.
I have a “type.” I recognize this, and yes, Powerstone Shard is my type. Is it a bunch of nonsense that warps your deck? Check. Does it have the potential to immediately make more mana than it costs? Check. Can it do something really broken with Mirrorweave in Commander if I do a bunch of other things first? Check again. So I get that the Dominaria matching algorithm has decided to show me this card, but I’m not going to swipe right on it because I have some level of self-respect. I’m going to swipe left, but I’m looking at all its profile pictures first.
Ryan Swipes Left: My mother told me that if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything. When the nicest thing that I have to say is that it’s neat that this card doesn’t enter the battlefield tapped, I’m not sure what to do with myself.
What I do know is that Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger has rotated out of Standard and that Metalwork Colossus hasn’t done a great job as being an expensive payoff in Ulamog’s wake. There are homes for cards like this and ways for them to be powerful, but these conditions don’t seem to be met currently. Perhaps at a future point I will regret passing on this card, when all of Dominaria is previewed or even when the next set releases, but for now I have to take a pass.
Matthias Swipes Left: Sometimes, when I’m bored, I’ll swipe dozens of cards in a matter of minutes. Just a quick up or down – not even reading the text boxes. If it dies to removal, I swipe left.
Is this system unfair and superficial? Absolutely, but there are a lot of cards out there, and while I know I’ll miss the occasional Tarmogoyf or Baneslayer Angel, I’ll get to the Gearhulks and Whirler Virtuosos that much faster. Honestly, I almost swiped left immediately when I saw green and white in the mana cost. Shanna is a reasonably costed card and I could see it hitting hard in a G/W Tokens deck, but without real hexproof or any form of evasion, I’m just not seeing her go anywhere.
Ryan Swipes Left: If you don’t have hexproof, don’t try to make me think that you do.
Sure, you can fade a Walking Ballista and I’m very happy for you, but I can’t be expected to block for you every time a Fatal Push or Harnessed Lightning rolls around. If I find myself with a stack of basic Forests and Plains and in need of a Mox Amber enabler, I’ll call you, but we both know that that isn’t me.
In addition to having a bootleg version of an existing mechanic, Shanna has a convenient mana cost in common with Knight of Grace. Some decks are likely to be in the market for a two-mana spell to fill out the curve and/or to enable the aforementioned Mox Amber or some similar interaction, but the power level as a singular card just isn’t here. Early on in preview season, I’m in the market for flagships, and Shanna simply isn’t that.
Matthias Swipes Right And Never Sends A Message: Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp is the kind of card that you can see potential in.
He has this ability that is similar to improvise, so it only makes sense that he could have a home in improvise-style decks. It’s for this reason that I would swipe right, but that’s where things would likely end. Improvise is a specific kind of shell and it doesn’t exist right now in Standard. If I find myself having to pay six mana for a 5/6, then this isn’t going to be the 5/6 that I’m casting. I might match here and it’s nice to know that I have the option of sending a message, but it’s not happening.
Ryan Swipes Left: Zahid looks a lot like a card that I used to draft. We never made the commitment and jumped to Constructed, but Mahamoti Djinn did have some nice stats.
Zahid boasts some upgrades to Mahamoti Djinn, but you’d better not let him catch you with other Zahids. He is the jealous type and will throw a fit if you don’t buy him jewelry. I’m more interested in a millennial Djinn who also understands the impracticality of diamonds. I would definitely draft Zahid, though I am apprehensive about letting Zahid move into my Constructed deck.
Zahid cheats on mana, but just not by enough. By the time you have four mana, you could be casting planeswalkers and/or exploiting synergies. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for more than the ability to attack and block.
Matthias Swipes Left: Fall of the Thran isn’t really appealing…. on any level.
At six mana, I’m not really interested in blowing up all the lands because my opponent either won’t care at that point or will be ready with a counterspell. And the rest of the card? I’m not even sure why that’s there! I thought I was reading this card so that I could blow up all the lands! It’s like starting a profile by saying that you really like sports but then listing all the sports you don’t watch. I’m confused at this point and the initial pitch wasn’t even that good. Swipe left and move on.
Ryan Swipes Left: This is mostly a matter of taste.
I pass Armageddon in Cube way more than most, and six mana is definitely a lot to pay for that effect, even if we’re talking about Standard. I find it hard to believe that a deck aggressive enough to leverage an Armageddon is in the market for a six-mana spell. Some people are into this sort of thing and that’s totally fine, but this feels a lot more like the sort of card that you bring to a Commander game to act diplomatic than one that would show up in Standard. Perhaps Brawl players will go for this.
Mattias Swipes Right: So I’m going through the Dominaria previews, and then, boom, Llanowar Elves. I’m staring at the profile of my old sweetheart.
We dated for years during high school and registered all sorts of decks together. Sure, we broke up a couple of years ago, but there were no hard feelings. She was moving out of town for college and I wasn’t. Now I see that she’s back in the area and this might be the most exciting news in the whole set.
I can’t say exactly how things will go this time around. Our new relationship has to start from scratch because we’re different people now. I’ve grown as a player and can’t give her three colors of mana by Turn 2 like I used to, and she can’t power up a Nykthos for my devotion deck, but we were great and, given time, I’m sure we’ll find a way.
Ryan Swipes Right: So I creeped on some of old photos of Llanowar Elves on Instagram, and while I was a bit weirded out, I’m not going to deny that we’ve all been through some phases that we’re not proud of. At the very least, everybody always looked like they were having fun in those pictures, so who am I to judge? I don’t really get the knife thing either, but whatever. I try to keep an open mind.
It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago that we were told that we weren’t getting this sort of effect in Standard anymore, so it’s really surprising to see this card in Dominaria. The power level here is high, and if you’ve been around for a while, you know that this card is great.
It’s going to see Standard play. It’s going to win tournaments. Next question.
Matthias Swipes Left: Sometimes you read a card and you can tell that they want something extremely specific, and you’re not it.
Firesong and Sunspeaker only installed the app because they were trying to connect with Lightning Helix, and if you’re not Lightning Helix, then why bother, because you’re not going to match. What cards in Standard am I even supposed to play with this? Never mind the fact that this is a six-drop in R/W that doesn’t attack well. And it’s sorcery-speed, in case you were thinking of playing it in Jeskai. This card could be powerful in the right situation, but I’m not willing to change myself just to make this work.
Ryan Swipes Left: I feel like Firesong and Sunspeaker are into EDM. I don’t really know anything about that stuff. All I know is that glowsticks are involved and it’s not my scene.
This card is clearly printed for Brawl, which I think is pretty cool. A six-mana Boros creature is a pipe dream for Standard, though Brawl seems to be picking up some traction already. More ways to play Magic are always great. Some people are upset that this card will only be available as a Buy-a-Box promo upon release, which is a stance that seems odd to me. Even with that being the case, I fully expect there to be plenty more of this card than people who want it. Beyond that, heaven forbid that Wizards of the Coast pushes a promotion that encourages players to buy directly from brick-and-mortar stores by making Buy-a-Box promos that are worth more than a quarter!
I look forward to seeing some happy players picking these up with their boxes of Dominaria.