Tribal Thriftiness #55: Welcome… to Domain Event!

Read Dave Meeson every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Tuesday, January 13th – Conflux spoilers are starting to appear online, and Dave can’t help himself – he just keeps looking at them. While none of the cards discussed inside are going to break the bank, they might just help you become Master of your Domain. [Warning: Contains Spoilers.]


“Are you Master of your Domain?”
“I am King of the County. You?”
“Lord of the Manor.”
“I’m Queen of the castle!”

Seinfeld, “The Contest”

Almost immediately after the release of Shards of Alara, rumors began circulating that included a list of cards that were going to be reprinted in Conflux. And hidden among those was that Worldly Counsel, the Domain version of Impulse from Invasion, would see a reprint.

Now Domain, as a mechanic, is ideal for the thrifty player. I mean, what could be better than a mechanic that relied on basic lands, the oh-so-most-commonest-of-commons? But with no other information about the set other than that, the question that begged to be asked is: would Conflux have a Domain subtheme, certainly plausible from a storyline viewpoint as the five Shards get smooshed back into one complete world? Or is Worldly Counsel just a nice reprint that has a lot of functionality in today’s multicolored world?

First, though, a Wayback Machine venture:

Domain History 101

Personally, I was hoping that Conflux would go whole-hog into Domain. Domain was a great mechanic from the Invasion block that didn’t get much press outside of Kai Budde success with the Dark Domain deck:

Dark Domain
Kai Budde, Winner at GP: London 2001

7 Forest
5 Island
2 Llanowar Wastes
2 Mountain
1 Plains
3 Swamp
1 Yavimaya Coast

4 Allied Strategies
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Collective Restraint
2 Destructive Flow
4 Evasive Action
1 Goblin Trenches
4 Harrow
4 Lay of the Land
1 Legacy Weapon
1 Ordered Migration
1 Overgrown Estate
2 Pernicious Deed
2 Void
4 Worldly Counsel
1 Yawgmoth’s Agenda

3 Addle
1 Destructive Flow
1 Legacy Weapon
1 Overgrown Estate
3 Penumbra Bobcat
2 Pernicious Deed
3 Spiritmonger
1 Void

Kai’s GP-winning deck used basic land fetchers like Lay of the Land and Harrow to quickly assemble the basic lands needed to maximize his domain spells, then used those heavy-hitting domain spells like Collective Restraint to control the board. Originally Domain decks used Global Ruin to limit what the opponent could do, but Apocalypse brought along the Domain-friendly enchantments of Destructive Flow and Pernicious Deed to give the deck even more board control. The deck also uses the Domain-powered Legacy Weapon as pinpoint removal. Winning is more of an eventuality than a quick thing, with token-powered victory coming from either Goblin Trenches or Ordered Migration.

Beyond the fun domain interactions, though, the deck is mostly a Blue-based control deck. Having played a version of the deck in Invasion Block PTQs around that time, I can tell you that it didn’t play much differently than the Cruel Control decks of today’s Standard: build your manabase, deal with opposing threats using global and pinpoint removal, and find one of a couple of finishers once you have decent board control. (Of course, you could say that about most control decks in between the two as well.)

Dark Domain also attacked the opponent from a couple of extra directions. The land-destruction aspect of Destructive Flow (and Global Ruin before it) became an unfair lopsided Armageddon in Invasion block (where most decks where two or three colors and had a few good color-smoothing nonbasic lands to choose from. The passive creature control of Collective Restraint meant that an aggressive opponent could either attack you or make new creatures, but not both — and often in the midgame, they were reduced to attacking with only one creature instead of a horde.

Step One: Acceptance

The first thing to do with a new mechanic (or, in this case, a returning one) is to see which of the existing deck archetypes might benefit from it. The current five-color Giant Elephant in the Room is Cruel Control; would it like to have an Impulse effect to help dig to Cruel Ultimatum or its finisher du jour? Right now, most of the top CC lists from Worlds appear to have taken Esper Charm as their de facto card-drawing spell. Worldly Counsel draws them one less card, but digs a lot deeper. The biggest setback to this plan, though, is that it would require a complete revamp of the manabase. Worldly Counsel doesn’t do much when you only run one Island in terms of basic lands.

The other two base-Blue decks are Merfolk and… and… I’m forgetting something here… oh yeah, Faeries. Right now, neither are overly five-color, and the decks that do dip into a second color (or a third in the case of Faeries) still aren’t using many basic lands.

So no, Worldly Counsel probably needs a wholly different deck. I’m okay with that.

Step Two: Belief in a Greater Power

(Please no twelve-step hate mail, they’re just section headers.)

So since we are forced to create anew, there are two things we need to build a new Domain deck. One, we need some way to maximize the chances of having the complete Domain – meaning basic lands and basic land searchers. Two, we need more cards to make us want to use Domain. Luckily, more of Conflux’s Domain cards have been spoiled.

(All spoiled cards courtesy of MTG Salvation and subject to correction.)

Basic land searchers: In terms of spells to mimic the Lay of the Land and Harrow in the original Dark Domain, we’ve got… not much. Rampant Growth is about it, unless you are willing to dip into creatures like Farhaven Elf. Wanderer’s Twig might be okay, because ideally you want to only spend a couple of turns fetching out the right mix of basic lands to hit your Domain. There’s also the possibility of putting in some fetchlands, but I think you’d be hit and miss if you relied on the Panoramas – how could you be sure you’d get the colors you need? At least with Terramorphic Expanse, you can get whichever basic land you’re missing.

There’s also this spoiled possibility:

Armillary Sphere
Artifact (C)
2, T, Sacrifice Armillary Sphere: Search your library for up to two basic land cards, reveal those cards, and put them into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

Twice the work of a Wanderer’s Twig for twice the cost. The problem is that this takes up turns 2 and 3, where Wanderer’s Twig takes up turn 1 and can be cracked on turn 3 alongside something else. I think the Twig is actually more flexible here, and that’s important.

Other Domain cards: Relevant to a controllish deck, there are only a handful of cards so far that appear to be running on the Domain mechanic. There’s a functional Gaea’s Might reprint called Might of Alara. And then there are these two:

Exploding Borders
Sorcery (C)
Domain – Search your library for a basic land card, put that card into play tapped, then shuffle your library. Exploding Borders deals X damage to target player, where X is the number of basic land types among lands you control.

A combination land-fetcher and damage dealer – I like it! It’s like they strapped a Tribal Flames onto a Rampant Growth. Sure, you can’t point it at creatures, but there’s only so much we can ask for and reasonably expect to get. They just reprinted Tribal Flames, remember?

Matca Rioters
Creature — Human Warrior (C)
Domain – Matca Rioters’ power and toughness are each equal to the number of basic land types among lands you control.

The deck is going to need a win condition, and a 5/5 for 3 doesn’t sound horrible. Especially not in the common slot. Sure, we all wish it had some sort of evasion; you’d think for three mana they could give it trample. But it’s a start. I’d also consider this guy:

Worldheart Phoenix
Creature — Phoenix (R)
You may play Worldheart Phoenix from your graveyard by paying WUBRG rather than paying its mana cost. If you do, it comes into play with two +1/+1 counters on it.

A recurring win condition that I can easily recur? Yeah, I can go for that. If you have the desire to play Domain, it may be a good idea to snatch these up at the Prerelease. (Not that I expect them to get expensive, mind you.)

Domain 2K9

7 Forest
5 Island
2 Mountain
3 Plains
1 Swamp
3 Terramorphic Expanse

4 Chromatic Star
4 Windborn Muse
4 Negate
4 Rampant Growth
4 Wanderer’s Twig
4 Worldly Counsel
4 Exploding Borders
4 Path to Exile
4 Mulldrifter
2 Worldheart Phoenix
1 Legacy Weapon

Rare Cost Summary:
Windborn Muse ($2.00 x 4 = $8.00)
Worldheart Phoenix (??? x 2 = ???)
Legacy Weapon ($1.00 x 1 = $1.00)

And hey, look, they reprinted Legacy Weapon in Tenth Edition! Now you know why. Path to Exile is the new “fixed” Swords to Plowshares that you’ve probably already read about, if you’re keeping up with spoilers. On the surface, it looks pretty good, especially since you’re trading “giving your opponent life” for “giving your opponent a land drop he may or may not actually have,” what with all this non-basic nonsense going around nowadays.

Bonus Might of Alara Decklist

We were talking about how no base-Blue aggro deck is likely to use Domain, right? Well, Might of Alara gives them a powerful incentive — much like Gaea’s Might did for Zoo decks during last year’s Extended season. And while the tribal-centric Merfolk and Faeries decks might be watered down by wrecking the manabase to add Might of Alara, there’s another aggro deck out there that’s a little more well-suited: BantCrasher.

The good news about BantCrasher is that it’s already three colors, meaning that it’s halfway towards being Domain already; and its signature creature, Shorecrasher Mimic, has trample once activated, meaning he’s a good target for Might of Alara.

The problem is, it relies on Rafiq of the Many ($11.00) to really cause obscene amounts of damage. Here’s a budget version instead:

4 Rampant Growth
4 Bant Charm
4 Snakeform
4 Might of Alara

4 Shorecrasher Mimic
4 Jhessian Infiltrator
4 Rhox War Monk
3 Wistful Selkie
3 Waveskimmer Aven
3 Worldly Counsel

4 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Mountain
1 Swamp
4 Plains
6 Island
7 Forest

The Domain Rests

Domain is just one of the many things to start getting excited about. Conflux is just around the corner! Official previews start in a week! Make your Prerelease plans now! Et cetera! And come back here in a week to look at more Conflux goodness!

Until next week…


dave dot massive at gmail and facebook