Karn, Scion of Urza, History of Benalia, Lyra Dawnbringer, Llanowar Elves,
Goblin Chainwhirler, and the rest of Dominaria have had a
tremendous impact on the format, no question. However, from where I’m
sitting, it sure looks like we’ve only scratched the surface. Some of the
obvious cards have devastated previously existing strategies, and not
everyone has evolved and caught up yet.
Today, I’d like to talk about ten of the most underrated cards in Standard,
cards that have more meaningful purpose in today’s Standard format than
people are giving credit. And I’m not talking Dominaria cards
people haven’t figured out how to use yet, like Lich’s Mastery. I’m talking
returning stars (or former also-rans).
10. Baral’s Expertise
Baral’s Expertise has always had a dramatic effect on the tempo of a game,
but the card has new meaning because of cards like History of Benalia and
History of Benalia is an incredibly strong token maker that is appearing in
all kinds of decks. When you bounce token-makers with Baral’s Expertise,
you’re getting exile while only paying for bounce. Bounce two tokens and
whatever else they might have played, whether it’s a Knight of Malice or a
Lyra Dawnbringer, and you’ll have regained the card advantage you were
“sacrificing” to play Baral’s Expertise. What’s more, you’ll get to drop a
four-drop for free and completely swing the game in your direction.
To this end, Karn is an especially potent four-drop for combining with
Baral’s Expertise. To begin with, it’s just incredibly powerful and costs
four, so already, that would be interesting with Baral’s Expertise. Of
course, the majority of opponents have Karn, as well, so fighting over Karn
is a big part of the game. Baral’s Expertise can bounce the Construct,
assuming they make it, and can bounce any blockers that would potentially
try to defend Karn from your attacks.
Karn’s abilities also happen to work well with Karn’s Temporal Sundering
(imagine that!), not to mention just being an incredibly resilient way to
get the legendary sorcery online.
Yeah, Karn’s Temporal Sundering is a harder to cast Part the Waterveil, but
the free bounce spell we get tacked on for free is actually quite valuable.
If you just bounced two Knight tokens and a Lyra Dawnbringer last turn, and
then dropped Karn for free, the last thing they’re gonna want to see is
Karn’s Temporal Sundering bouncing the Lyra again, and giving you two
uncontested attacks without her around… And that’s to say nothing of having
your own Lyra Dawnbringer when you Sundering.
This list doesn’t have all that many cards made cheaper by Baral, Chief of
Compliance, but reducing the cost of Baral’s Expertise or Karn’s Temporal
Sundering can be game-winning.
This list is capable of some pretty devastating plays out of nowhere. For
instance, imagine it’s turn 7 and you have no non-land permanents. You
might flash down Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage, along with a History of
After untapping, you’ll get your second Knight token already, while being
able to attack for five. Add a Karn’s Temporal Sundering to the mix, and
you’re attacking for another eleven before they know what hit them. Of
course, depending on the state of the battlefield, you may just want to
bounce your History of Benalia in order to make two more tokens.
I could easily imagine Baral’s Expertise/Karn’s Temporal Sundering decks of
any two-color combination or even mono-blue. If we played green, Llanowar
Elves and Rishkar, Peema Renegade are both very attractive, and we might be
inclined to get Nissa, Steward of Elements back into the mix.
If we preferred black instead, we might consider a Tezzeret the Schemer
style of deck (obviously still using Karn), as Tezzeret is great for
ramping into Karn’s Temporal Sundering and synergizes well with a lot of
the same cards we might be interested in because of Karn.
The first card that jumps out at me for a U/R build is Chandra, Torch of
Defiance. Chandra has largely fallen out of favor, presumably because of
Karn taking her lunch. She’s not exactly at her best against History of
Benalia or Lyra Dawnbringer anyway.
Nevertheless, she’s still a very powerful card and one of the best cards
you could put onto the battlefield with Baral’s Expertise. Additionally,
her mana ability can lead to taking extra turns even earlier than planned,
leading to some pretty snowballing battlefield positions.
The energy cards have seemed underplayed recently, and while there are
obviously no new ones, it’s not like Whirler Virtuoso isn’t good anymore…
9. Whirler Virtuoso
Having a 2/3 body is great these days, and both it and Baral are
complemented by Fiery Cannonade out of the sideboard. Thopters are
especially good with Karn, Scion of Urza, as it doesn’t take much to want
to get onto “The Pack Rat Plan.” If you Baral’s Expertise, then drop Karn
and -2, you’re looking good to untap and -2 again. Even if they can kill
Karn, the next one is making such large Constructs, and an extra turn is
8. Chart a Course
Chart a Course is a shockingly efficient card draw spell for decks with
even a halfway reasonable collection of creatures. Dominaria
features a healthy mix of blue creatures worth considering, and as
discussed above, the stock of Baral, Chief of Compliance has risen with the
advent of legendary sorceries. Baral is a fantastic way to get into the
course charting game if you ask me.
- 4 Baral, Chief of Compliance
- 2 Nimble Obstructionist
- 4 Siren Stormtamer
- 2 Merfolk Trickster
- 4 Tempest Djinn
- 22 Island
The printing of Tempest Djinn is an extremely compelling reason to play all
Islands and Merfolk Trickster. Blink of an Eye and Wizard’s Retort all add
some much appreciated power and flexibility to the color.
One of the most fun Wizards in the deck is the uncounterable
Stifle-cantrip, Nimble Obstructionist (take that, History of Benalia
trigger!). Nimble Obstructionist only barely missed my list, itself, and
the 3/1 flying, flash body is highly synergistic with the mono-blue aggro
game-plan. Just watch out for Walking Ballista…
7. Ceremonious Rejection
Even though it’s the same deck, Ceremonious Rejection deserves its own spot
on the list. Between Karn, Walking Ballista, and Heart of Kiran, an absurd
number of decks are running colorless cards, and Ceremonious Rejection
might actually be maindeck’able. We’ve even got Chart a Course to put the
cardboard to use in spots where it’d be dead; and countering a turn 2 Heart
of Kiran is just awesome.
Another way to stop a turn 2 Heart of Kiran, one might reasonably ask
“Why Ceremonious Rejection at all when Spell Pierce is legal?” Well,
obviously Walking Ballista is an important part of the equation, but so too
are Bomat Courier, Scrapheap Scrounger, Scrap Trawler…Besides, sometimes
they’ve got two mana laying around.
Why Spell Pierce instead of Negate? We’ve even got Baral…
True, but things are often going well when you’ve got Baral anyway. The
ability to Spell Pierce on your first turn, effectively stealing the play,
is just awesome; the sequence of Tempest Djinn into Tempest Djinn with
Spell Pierce backup is not weak.
6. Angel of Sanctions
With Lyra Dawnbringer and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria hogging so much
spotlight, the metagame seems to really be sleeping on Angel of Sanctions.
It’s not so much that Angel of Sanctions “held onto a niche,” but rather
that it’s better than ever thanks to how well it lines up against the new
Similar to Baral’s Expertise, Angel of Sanctions is great at hunting Knight
tokens and Construct tokens, not to mention being a great way to go after
an opposing Walking Ballista. It’s also absolutely devastating against
these green decks, and it can actually be deceptively difficult to kill.
Even when it does die, however, the embalm ability is quite strong. It’s
like we’re paying one mana to draw an extra card and that extra card is
always Angel of Sanctions. Just watch out for opposing Nimble
Angel of Sanctions can make an excellent sideboard card against green and
white creature decks, as demonstrated in Zan’s list above. These sorts of
decks generally want the ability to go a little bigger after sideboarding
That said, I could see the metagame moving in a direction where Angel of
Sanctions gets played maindeck more often. I’m talking alongside Lyra
Dawnbringer, not necessarily in place of. It’s even an Angel, so it gets
powered up by Lyra!
5. By Force/Release the Gremlins
By Force and Release the Gremlins are a couple of extreme anti-artifact
cards that have new purpose in this world of Karn Cconstructs. It’s not
just Karn either. There are a growing number of decks with 12-24 artifact
creatures, not to mention vehicles left and right. Cards that can kill
multiple artifacts are definitely of greater interest than before.
While I don’t think we’re likely to see much of this stuff maindeck,
stranger things have happened. I just think a lot more decks should be
playing some mix of three or four of these cards in their sideboards.
It doesn’t have the ability to clear the battlefield like By Force and
Release the Gremlins, but Manglehorn might be of increased interest too.
Killing something on the way in is already appealing, and making the next
Karn token enter the battlefield tapped ensures Karn is at greater risk on
your next turn. In addition to being a castable option for non-red decks,
Manglehorn might be especially well-suited to a G/B or G/W deck featuring
4. Profane Procession
Profane Procession has dipped in popularity, thanks to History of Benalia
making the three-slot one with steeper competition. While the format is
actually a little worse for the card on a single card basis, as a color
combination, W/B is one of the defining color combinations of the format.
You didn’t think I was just going to write an article and not include a
Lich’s Mastery deck, right? They don’t know, yet… but they will…
Approach of the Second Sun could easily be on this list, but I’m doing my
best to not be Mono-Lich’s Mastery. How about we count Profane Procession
and Approach together as one?
3. Liliana’s Mastery
I swear, it seems like people have forgotten just how incredible of a turn
5 play Liliana’s Mastery is!
Yes, a lot of Zombie support rotated out. That’s true. However, they still
have some good cards.
Besides, there’s a lot fewer Magma Sprays and Incendiary Flows than there
used to be (and yeah, Incendiary Flow isn’t legal, that’s the point).
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 4 Lord of the Accursed
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Wayward Servant
- 4 Binding Mummy
- 4 Mummy Paramount
I’m not even sure we’re supposed to be playing this many of the mediocre
Zombies, particularly Mummy Paramount. They don’t exactly line up that well
in the format.
Besides, Liliana’s Mastery is so good, we might be able to play it without
any other Zombies. Getting a pair of 3/3s is great when everyone else is
building a pair of 2/2s. Hell, we could play it alongside our own History
of Benalias if we wanted.
The world got so fixated on Vraska’s Contempt they seem to have forgotten
the card exists. Now, granted, Vraska’s Contempt is a better card. No
question. The thing is, with Karn, Scion of Urza, Ravenous Chupacabra, and
potentially even Gonti, Lord of Luxury, black decks are incredibly tight on
space at the four spot on the curve.
It’s not just that Never costs three in a world where everything you want
to play costs four. Never was substantially weaker against Hazoret and The
Scarab God, both of which have fallen out of favor (at least relatively
I’m torn on Liliana, Death’s Majesty versus Liliana’s Mastery in this deck.
I think if we could find the space to go up to a playset, and maybe added
even one more set of Zombies, we might prefer the Masteries. Never even
makes a Zombie token!
As it stands, however, Liliana is probably the better option. Getting back
Ravenous Chupacabra or Dread Shade is great, and she’s an excellent way to
follow-up a Karn and keep the pressure on. She’s also great at bullying
opposing Karns, as she can keep the token-making up much more effectively
than Karn can.
Duress? How is Duress on this list? Every black deck plays Duress in the
Well sure, but for starters, there aren’t as many black decks as there
should be. Besides, I think there should be a lot more maindeck Duresses.
Between History of Benalia; Karn, Scion of Urza; Teferi, Hero of Dominaria;
and Heart of Kiran, there are targets everywhere. Besides, some of the
threats, these days, are extremely nice to force through. There are so many
4s, 5s, and 6s that will take over the game if unchecked. A single Duress
substantially decreases our opponent’s ability to check us, and even if
they’ve got more defense available, we can play accordingly.
Yeah, some Llanowar Elves decks are going to have relatively few targets.
That’s true. However, they usually have something, whether it’s
Adventurer’s Impulse, Growing Rites of Itlimoc, Heart of Kiran, Karn,
Teferi, Ixalan’s Binding, Fatal Push, Vraska’s Contempt, Blossoming
And if they don’t?
How are they going to stop you anyway?