Taking A Swipe At Dominaria: Part 6!

On the eve of the Prerelease, Ben Friedman and Gerry Thompson are up for Taking a Swipe at Dominaria! Which cards will make a connection, and which will end up alone on the couch, sobbing into a half-eaten pint of “Ben and Gerry’s?”

SCG Prerelease Playmats!

[Welcome back to Taking A Swipe, Dominaria edition! Today, Ben Friedman and Gerry Thompson analyze ten of Dominaria’s most notable cards, Tinder-style, by either Swiping Right (that’s good!) or Swiping Left (that’s bad!). And just like Tinder, both Ben and Gerry are allowed one Super Like to let that card immediately know that they’re a big fan!]

Ben Swipes Left. I’ve swiped right on a Liliana, a Thalia, and even a Pia, but I tell you, in all my time on Tinder, I’ve never seen a Belzenlok. Maybe I need to increase my search radius…

In all seriousness, Demonlord Belzenlok is a six-mana creature, and you need to get a lot out of such an expensive date to make it worthwhile. This isn’t even as great as some of my old flames I’ll still hit up whenever I’m drunk-texting my Standard contact list looking for a finisher.

Really, though, in a format dominated by powerful five-drops like Glorybringer and The Scarab God, six is just a little too much mana to spend on this effect. The little one-damage-per-card-drawn drawback is also annoying, because you already often need to stabilize and buffer your life total when you have a deck with lots of big expensive spells and effects like this Demon.

Not the one for me!

Gerry Swipes Left. A six-mana 6/6 flier is mediocre by normal standards. Drawing some cards should be upside, but it could also potentially kill you. Not having the option to choose is very in flavor for black, but it’s also very much a downside.

Let’s look at the potential upside, though. As a midrange finisher against a sea of attrition-based matchups, Demonlord Belzenlok could be backbreaking. Drawing cards and getting a huge threat is basically what you want in those matchups, but not affecting the battlefield on the turn you cast it does not bode well for it.

At the end of the day, we’ve been spoiled with much better versions of cards like this. Demons are cool and drawing cards is cool, but this is not cool enough to go in my Standard deck. I could see this in some sort of Mono-Black Control deck or maybe with Song of Freyalise accelerating into it, but that’s it.

Ben Swipes Right. Now, this is a gal who gets my heart racing!

Her little brother Sram, Senior Edificer already plays center for a couple of goofy niche combo-esque decks, and Jhoira works off any artifact in the book. Bring her some jewelry, perhaps a Mox necklace, and she’ll be yours forever. Could there be a Standard “Cheerios” deck waiting in the wings? With unprecedented redundancy and enough reasonable engine pieces available, it might just be time to get a little broken in Standard or Modern. And of course, any girl who tells me she likes to break stuff gets me thinking things I probably shouldn’t be thinking about…

Gerry Swipes Left. Despite being a mythic rare and the captain of Magic’s most famous ship, Jhoira leaves a lot to be desired. Being able to trigger off a Mox Amber is about the most exciting thing going for her, but that’s going to happen very rarely. In the meantime, you’re playing with Hill Giant. Good luck.

Jhoira makes for a sweet Commander (and maybe a sweet Brawl leader), but she will not see play in Standard.

At least she’s got sweet hair, though.

Ben Swipes Right. With her grandpa, Elvish Archdruid, in one of her profile pictures, you know she’s a wholesome, family-oriented girl. With her bandmates in Dwynen’s Elite taking shots in another one, you know she has a wild side.

This girl will be playable in Modern or possibly even Legacy Elves. She’s a must-answer card in an archetype already chock-full of must-answer cards and she provides the most powerful effect the Elves decks are after. Mana is always at a premium in a deck designed to cast Elvish Visionary as often as possible, and with friends like Wirewood Symbiote just a phone call away, this could be a really memorable first date. Call me crazy, but I might just end up robbing the [Gaea’s] Cradle on this one.

Gerry Cautiously Swipes Right. There’s a lot of potential here, but that’s a nice way of saying “If only…”

Right now, there aren’t nearly enough Elves in the format to make Marwyn worth it. She’s legendary, which can be an upside currently, and if she ever gets to make two mana or more, then I’m in. Past Llanowar Elves, there aren’t a lot of Elves in Standard, and I honestly expected there to be more in Dominaria. I guess they had to fit in all the Saprolings and the lone Kavu to make Todd Anderson happy.

But what about Marwyn? She’s doing all the nurturing but could use some love herself. Hopefully this is a seed for Magic 2019 or the next block.

Ben Swipes Right. Is that Karona, False God in the picture? Hot.

Anyway, we underestimated Ramunap Ruins last year and I won’t let this one get away. Sure, entering the battlefield tapped is a sizable cost, but the ability is so unique and useful for red going long that it might be well worth including in the sideboard to complement any go-big strategy for whatever incarnation of Mono-Red comes into being with the new set. I’m not certain that I like everything I see here, but I’m confident that I’ll see this card out on the town at least a few times in the coming year or so. Might as well toss out a line and see what happens.

Gerry Swipes Left. There’s potential here, but the cost is too high. Entering the battlefield tapped and using six lands to activate is not a great place to be. You’d have to not mind having a clunky manabase, really want red mana instead of Field of Ruin, not mind going long, and really need to kill a certain land.

I’m not buying it.

Ben Swipes Left. Ehh, he’s got pretty-boy good looks, but I think he’s more flashy show than true substantive boyfriend material.

Restoration Angel, this is not. Specifically, in a format with Abrade and Lightning Strike as common ways of answering Raff at a mana advantage, as well as Goblin Chainwhirler and Thrashing Brontodon as common ways to attack right through him, it’s not his time to shine. Casting your artifacts or legendaries as though they had flash is also just not particularly attractive to me, as there aren’t many obvious already-playable legendaries that turn into super-likable heartthrobs at instant speed.

Maybe Kevin Jones or Harlan Firer will go out with you, Raff!

Gerry Snap Swipes Left. I’m just confused. There is no shortage of incredible cards in Dominaria and Cedric chose Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage? Did he expect anyone to swipe right? I’m going to assume he meant some other legendary creature and mixed up their names.

If Raff is the only ship’s mage, the Weatherlight is screwed.

Ben Swipes Right. Okay, okay, we get it. You like to get freaky with your girlfriends after a night out popping bottles.

Well, you know, I have a place right past the Gate to the Afterparty and we can all head there for a quick nightcap. My friend works at Club Amonkhet, stage name DJ God-Pharaoh, and he’s got some amazing tunes lined up. You’ll love “Walk Like an Egyptian” so much, you’ll spontaneously become a 4/4! Your girls can come back too, I suppose. Oh, yeah, this could be a crazy night indeed…

Gerry Swipes Right. I wasn’t very high on this card initially. The Goblin synergy is incredibly light so far, and at five mana, this is typically worse than Glorybringer. Siege-Gang Commander has some upsides, notably that there are things like Shefet Dunes around and that it can crew multiple vehicles but that’s about it.

My experience with playing fair Siege-Gang decks in the past was that they’d kill your 2/2 and be left with some 1/1s that were brick-walled by a 2/2. You’re technically up resources on the exchange, but those resources need to actually translate into something.

If you’re removal-heavy, having a sticky threat is nice. It’s also a fine reanimation target for Liliana, Death’s Majesty. Overall, it will show up in a few spots, but it’s nowhere near Glorybringer-level good.

Ben Swipes Left. You’re, like, a stage-five clinger, dude. You never leave.

I try to exile you and you keep coming back. Hello, stalker alert. I’m ghosting you faster than you can say “Gemstone Caverns and Serum Powder!” If I wanted that, I’d call up my girl Eternal Scourge. She’s a lot easier on the mana and on the eyes. Nicer backside, too.

You’re done.

Gerry Cautiously Swipes Right. Squee gets a bad rap in general, and this card doesn’t do him any favors.

The cost is high, very few people care about a 2/1 body, and there are exile effects. Basically, the only thing going for it is that he’s legendary, which could serve to enable things like Mox Amber and Jaya’s Immolating Inferno. I’m down with that sort of deck, and Squee, the Immortal will probably end up seeing play if that deck exists.

Ben Super Likes! Didn’t Owen Turtenwald write you a huge love letter last week?

Yeah, you’re a hotshot. You’re even on the pack art, for crying out loud! I don’t want to love you, but you are the total package. You draw cards, you untap lands, you can put any permanent away for another day, and you even have a kickass ultimate ability.

Oh, be still, my beating heart!

Ugh, call me shallow, but I’m a sucker for a card-drawing planeswalker that also generates mana. And if you can protect yourself, I know you can protect me. Now that’s what I call “relationship goals.”

Just don’t go out with Shaheen. He’s a little too controlling, if you know what I mean.

Gerry Swipes Right. No one who reads Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is going to swipe left unless they’re a maniac. I expect most people will use their Super Like here, so I’m not even going to bother. My Super Like would be meaningless, effectively cast out into the void.

So Teferi “only” gets my highly confident swipe right. Teferi allows you to Oust permanents, which is a cool take on the Ob Nixilis design of planeswalker. Being able to Flametongue Kavu other planeswalkers is incredible and shouldn’t be underestimated.

The +1 is solid, and while the “untap two lands” clause might seem like trinket text, I think it adds a lot of potential upside to the card. Control decks have typically played this awkward role of wanting countermagic while needing to play sorcery speed threats, and Teferi eases that pain a bit. On Turn 5, you can cast Teferi and leave up Essence Scatter, Negate, or Syncopate. If you wait a turn, you have access to Disallow. A turn after, there’s Settle the Wreckage.

Overall, Teferi is great and well-deserving of a right swipe.

Ben Swipes Left. I think you and I just aren’t working on the same wavelength.

You sat out and missed sorority rush into UUU and now you’re probably sitting on your couch, drinking wine and looking forlornly at pictures of those Frostburn Weirds and Cloudfin Raptors and all the fun they had back in school. Even so, I was always more of a Pack Rat kind of guy. You might have been hot back in 2014, but things change in four years. Hell, I’d have Super Liked you back then, but I’m looking for someone a bit less, um, one-dimensional now.

Also, where did you go to school? Nykthos University? Is that place even accredited?

Gerry Cautiously Swipes Right. Thinking back to the Delver of Secrets days, a card like Tempest Djinn would be appealing. We don’t have access to basically any of the stuff that deck had, so building a tempo deck is mostly out of the question. So, what then?

You basically have to be mono-blue for this card to do anything and that doesn’t seem feasible right now. I’ve built some decks around Karn’s Temporal Sundering and Favorable Winds, but neither seems particularly appealing. Maybe there’s something in store post-rotation, but I’m playing the long game here.

Tempest Djinn is not good right now, but I believe it will have a place before it rotates out of Standard.

Ben Swipes Left. I know, it’s a cute mantra. “If you can’t handle me at my three-mana-est, you don’t deserve me at my free-mana-est.” Cute, but just like those banal “Live. Laugh. Love.” boards on literally every single Millennial girl’s wall, I’m over it.

Just be upfront with me about how much time and mana I’m going to have to invest. Negate is straightforward. Spell Pierce is straightforward. These promises of three free mana after I put a ring on it are a huge red flag. No sane person would sit around all day holding up three whole lands in the pursuit of some fairytale ending.

Get real.

Gerry Super Likes! A lifetime of playing RPGs has kind of conditioned me to rarely use my consumables (because what if I need them later?). This isn’t an RPG, my Super Like isn’t a Megalixir, there are no post-game secret bosses, and this is the end of the road, so I might as well use it here.

I mean, I was already going to swipe right on Unwind, so who knows? Maybe Unwind is feeling a little down on itself. It was previewed quietly, and no one is really talking about it, so maybe getting this Super Like will make its day. Maybe Unwind will walk around with a little more confidence and a little spring in its step, just knowing that someone out there Super Likes it.

Negate is a maindeckable card. You probably won’t play large numbers and Syncopate or Censor could potentially fill the same role, but neither of them have the enormous upside that Unwind does. Bryan Gottlieb pointed out to me how backbreaking it would be for control to cast this followed by Glimmer of Genius on the same turn, and I can’t help but agree.

Unwind is tight and will probably create some massive blowouts during its time in Standard. I can’t wait.

SCG Prerelease Playmats!