Two Black Dominaria Sleepers

GerryT thinks Dominaria is one of the deepest sets in years! Today he shows the results of his experiments with two black sleeper cards. Could the overlooked Torgaar, Famine Incarnate break into Modern? And is Lich’s Mastery anything but a brewer’s trap?

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Dominaria is one of the deepest sets of all time. There’s a lot to unpack, so I can’t wait until the tournament results start rolling in and I can see all the stuff I missed. I’ve wanted to build around two specific cards for a while now. The problem was that they’re very strange and I needed more time to figure out what to do with them.

Finally, I think I’m there.

Torgaar, Famine Incarnate

Think of Torgaar, Famine Incarnate as the best emerge creature of all time. Torgaar doesn’t care about what you sacrifice, so going wide with tokens works just fine. There are also cards like Dread Wanderer and Scrapheap Scrounger that don’t mind being sacrifice fodder.

On top of everything, the effect you get is potentially huge. An early Torgaar threatens nearly lethal damage immediately. Removing a 7/6 on Turn 3 or 4 isn’t easy either. There are also the corner-case scenarios where you actually heal yourself back to ten life, which could help win a damage race.

Obviously a single Essence Scatter is going to ruin your day, but you can always maindeck some copies of Duress, sideboard your Torgaars out, or continue pressuring your opponent until they’re forced to tap out.

I will start by noting that Torgaar and Hazoret the Fervent aren’t exactly a combo. One of them wants to dump your hand quickly while the other might be stuck in your hand for a bit. Granted, both are payoffs for playing a bunch of early creatures, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t at odds with each other.

The upside is that cards like Hazoret, Ribbons, and even Night Market Lookout become that much better once your opponent is set to ten life. Maybe Lightning Strike is supposed to make a comeback as well? I’m sure there are other ways to sneak in those last few points of damage that I haven’t found yet.

Regardless, this is the type of deck where Torgaar should shine: early aggression that doesn’t mind sacrificing things to gain a big lead early. The above deck is only doing some light Torgaar-ing but still trying to be a “real” deck. What if we took a more all-in approach?

Turn 3 Torgaar sounds good to me. If it’s backed up by Duress and Supernatural Stamina, we might actually have a deck on our hands.

Grasping Scoundrel could sneak its way in as a fourth one-drop to really maximize the chances of getting Torgaar onto the battlefield as soon as possible. Given how this deck is built already, I think that might be the correct plan. Cards like Ruin Raider and maybe Bone Picker might not have any place in this deck.

Mono-Black Aggro is the most obvious home for Torgaar, even if you don’t necessarily have the reach you would like.

While I blatantly stole this viable-looking Saproling shell from SaffronOlive, I had to include this decklist because he was missing a potentially key piece in Torgaar.

Saprolings mostly want to go wide and stay there, so maybe there’s too much anti-synergy here, but I don’t think so. Most of the time, these decks want go-wide stuff and payoffs, and they don’t necessarily care what the payoffs are. If it usually wins the game, who cares.

Blossoming Defense could be key at protecting your lords from spot removal. Cards like Jadelight Ranger, Llanowar Elves, and Song of Freyalise could be great also. Adventurous Impulse could help set everything up. Taking more of a midrange stance with Vraska, Relic Seeker and Hour of Promise could work. A splash for Radiant Destiny could be sweet and relatively free.

Overall, Saprolings have a lot of potential.

Let’s get Yahenni on the Weatherlight, y’all!

Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle has no shortage of sweet five-card combos, and this deck is no different. With Teshar on the battlefield, you can cast Mox Amber, returning Aviary Mechanic to the battlefield. Aviary Mechanic picks up Mox Amber (after you float a mana). Sacrifice Aviary Mechanic to something, in this case Yahenni, Undying Partisan, and repeat to get arbitrarily large mana.

If you have Oketra’s Monument and a second Aviary Mechanic, they can continually bounce each other to give you an arbitrarily large number of tokens. Not only that, but if you have multiple Aviary Mechanics in the graveyard, you can cast Teshar, cast Mox Amber to return Aviary Mechanic, pick up Mox Amber, and continue doing that for each Aviary Mechanic in the graveyard. At the end of it, you can also return another creature.

All Yahenni is doing in this deck is enabling arbitrarily large numbers tokens should the pieces come together. However, Yahenni is also a legendary creature for Mox Amber and Board the Weatherlight, plus a Vampire for Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle.

This deck has 22 hits for Board the Weatherlight, which is pretty high. Only nine of them really work with Mox Amber, but the Moxes are mostly there to work with Teshar and drawing multiples is necessary if you want to fully combo.

Torgaar makes the cut here because we are going wide and certainly don’t mind sacrificing things with Teshar and Mox Amber in the mix, but it and Yahenni might not be worth the splash. Instead, we could use Makeshift Munitions to get some use from our various tokens and to fully combo with Teshar.

I’m very interested in Oketra’s Monument going forward.

What about Torgaar in Modern?

This is actually kind of scary.

Torgaar allows you to cut the Borborygmos package from the traditional lists. An early Torgaar will put your opponent at three life and then any Lightning Bolt or Soul Spike will finish them. Lightning Bolt has the upside of removing troublesome Meddling Mages and Thalia, Guardian of Thrabens too. While Soul Spike is less good at functioning like a normal Magic card, it does allow you to draw more cards with Griselbrand, like what Nourishing Shoal did for the deck.

There’s also the list that has two Infernal Plunges and four Desperate Rituals so that you can kill with Fateful Showdown once you have Griselbrand. I kind of like the Soul Spike / Lightning Bolt list better, even though Torgaar has some issues with blockers in general.

Mox Amber could do the job Manamorphose and Desperate Ritual did, allowing you to actually win the game on the turn you put Griselbrand onto the battlefield. Desperate Ritual is a little better at casting your Through the Breaches, but Mox Amber and Simian Spirit Guide provide the red and black mana you need to either cast Goryo’s Vengeance or Through the Breach again.

Overall, this archetype may have gotten some help from Dominaria.

Lich’s Mastery

Lich’s Mastery is supposed to be a bad card, right? The Lich cards of the past have basically been comically bad, but this one has a bunch of upside text like hexproof, plus the downsides don’t seem very punishing. Gaining life and drawing cards is basically all I want to be doing, so I’m intrigued.

The idea with Lich’s Mastery is that you can play a black midrange game, mostly just drawing cards and killing things, and eventually cast Lich’s Mastery. Once Lich’s Mastery is on the battlefield, you’ll be drawing extra cards off most of your removal spells and will eventually find a way to end the game. In the meantime, you have to contain their battlefield presence so they can’t overwhelm the Lich’s Mastery. If you’ve been doing your job, you should also have plenty of cards in your graveyard to feed Lich’s Mastery.

It actually seems like the perfect black midrange engine.

We can stabilize, draw a bunch of cards, and eventually overwhelm our opponents, but how do we actually win the game? Karn, Scion of Urza is a quick clock, which I like, but maybe we need something else? I included a small Final Parting package (which perfectly sets up Liliana, Death’s Majesty) as well as some additional finishers. Overall, those are probably not necessary, but splashing a singleton copy of The Scarab God is relatively free and it gives you access to sideboard Negates. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas could potentially sneak in here as well.

The Renegade Map / Treasure Map / Orazca Relic / Karn package is a powerful one for midrange decks. While Karn is fine on his own, he truly scales up in power the more artifacts you have. If the package is relatively inoffensive, as these cards are, even better. “Karn, make a 4/4” will be relatively common.

The Noxious Gearhulk in the maindeck could potentially be a Torgaar or some other large creature to reanimate with Liliana, Death’s Majesty. Overall, this deck is going to have a bad matchup against pure control due to the low threat count, so the list would have to be adjusted if control suddenly becomes popular.

This list is probably more reasonable and where I will likely start. I enjoy the streamlined nature of this mono-black list, plus it looks incredibly powerful.

I could also see a package with Cabal Strongholds and Walking Ballista as a finisher, but the Scavenger Grounds are too important if God-Pharaoh’s Gift stays in the metagame. The other utility lands also strike me as stronger than the marginal mana advantage gained by Cabal Strongholds. If we needed an additional finisher or if Walking Ballista were particularly good, I could see playing going that route, but I don’t think we’re there.

I’m sure there’s a Mastermind’s Acquisition version of Lich’s Mastery that plays Hour of Promise, but I’d probably have to spend three hours making that decklist. I’ll save that for Sam Black.

In theory, Vampires do what both Torgaar and Lich’s Mastery want: go wide and gain life. Still, this list is kind of a mess, as Radiant Destiny is very poor with Torgaar. Maybe Torgaar belongs in the sideboard against sweepers? I could see going harder on either aspect of the deck, like including more Lich’s Masteries, but I have a feeling it won’t work out.

There are other options I’d like to explore, including Anointer Priest, Anointed Procession, Authority of the Consuls, Aethersphere Harvester, and Arguel’s Blood Fast. There’s also some merit to using Board the Weatherlight to find some of these cool cards.


Dominaria has no shortage of cool stuff to work with and I’m sure there’s plenty I’ve been missing. The coming weeks leading up to Pro Tour Dominaria should be really fun. I look forward to seeing what people come up with.

Next week: The best decks for Week 1 of Standard!

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