All right, everyone, Dominaria United is upon us! As promised, I have returned to give you a bird’s-eye view of the archetypes, how they will win, and cards that will enable the gameplan. I’ll do my best to keep this brief, as there are a lot of archetypes, including multiple decks within some of the two-color guilds! The goal of this article is to educate you in some deckbuilding for the Prerelease, as well as know what to expect from the opponents you play. I intend to write a more in-depth guide later in the set, but this guide should get the ball rolling and Sheoldred shaking in her cute little spider boots.
Wall, Wall, Wall…
If you didn’t get the memo, Walls (and other creatures with defender) are back! The reigning, defending champion, Vent Sentinel, didn’t get called up from Zendikar to the big leagues – keep leveling up, molten one. The defenders are split up between the Esper colors, with one common and uncommon each. Two colorless Walls can aid you. Shield-Wall Sentinel can tutor your good Walls, while Walking Bulwark can convince your Walls to fall(?) on your opponents.
The defender deck is very powerful, but all the payoffs are uncommon. I would hesitate jumping in without a parachute, as you may end up on the Wall of Shame with no actual win conditions. Make sure you have a good indication you should be taking Walls, or at least have one payoff before starting to take other random defenders.
It seems like the Azorius Senate has taken to the skies once again in Dominaria. This guild wants to play out evasive threats, while detaining any potential criminals via stun counters and Walls. Dominaria has very few flyers, and this seems to be the best home for a card like Combat Research with a side of Shore Up.
The weak point for this guild can be faster, more aggressive decks. Handle it with cards like Stall for Time, Artillery Blast, and Impede Momentum to address the early-game and keep your life total high.
House Dimir has some of the best control spells this side of Dominaria. It looks to be a very slow archetype, and I believe that it will be the best base-color pair for the Walls deck, given its controlling nature. The biggest concern for this archetype is how you will actually win the game. The threats are extremely light, so be sure to include enough finishing power and resilience to close the game out. Cards like Eerie Soultender will help bring back your threats late in the game, because this deck is slow.
I think I’m just going to call Rakdos Cobra Kai this set. “Strike Hard, Strike First, No Mercy” really seems to sum up the hellbent cult on this plane. You’re looking to put out high-powered threats and clear out blockers with removal spells. The weakness of this deck is its lack of resilience, but there’s not much to do about that without negating the entire Cobra Kai game plan. Make sure you have enough threats that cost two or less, like Yavimaya Steelcrusher and Toxic Abomination. Phyrexian Rager is good in every deck, but very strong here, as it deploys a threat while refilling your hand. A common mistake is having too much removal and not enough threats!
“Has smashing trees and other inanimate objects got you down? Enlist in the Gruul Clans and help smash the invaders!” – Gruul recruitment poster
It should come as no surprise that Gruul has the largest creatures and biggest pump spells. If Molten Monstrosity is at all playable, this would be the deck. The key with this guild is to make sure you have a relevant early-game, with the majority of your focus on having high-powered three- to five-drops with combat tricks to make sure you can attack. It’s okay to have a few expensive finishers, but don’t go overboard with high-cost creatures!
I’ve got Selesnya as a potential front-runner for strongest archetype in Dominaria, The deck wants to go wide and swarm your opponent. Charismatic Vanguard is extremely strong in this archetype, with Strength of the Coalition being the best card for the deck. Argivian Cavalier is the go-to creature you will be looking for, with Captain’s Call and Resolute Reinforcements as solid options as well. This archetype doesn’t have the greatest interaction spells, so make sure you at least get a couple to deal with any bombs that need to be addressed.
Orzhov looks to be a slow, value-oriented build. You can build either a Defender Control-based version, winning via Blight Pile and Wingmantle Chaplain, or a token-oriented build. With the latter, you will be using the tokens that the white cards provide and sacrificing them to things like Bone Splinters, Gibbering Barricade, or Benalish Sleeper while you reap the rewards with cards like Phyrexian Vivisector and Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim. Orzhov doesn’t appear to have any glaring weaknesses; just make sure you have enough ways to deal damage (like flyers) to finish off the wizard across from you.
For the first time in forever, I’m actually very excited by Izzet this set. I don’t know if it will end up being good (it looks great), but it is most definitely the type of Izzet deck I enjoy the most. You will be looking to use cheap, aggressive creatures, with a variety of cheap spells to keep your opponent on the back foot. Timely Interference is going to work wonders in this deck. Ghitu Amplifier and Haunting Figment will be your go-to common creatures to start pushing damage as early as possible. The weakness of this deck will be the late-game. Don’t make any concessions that take away from early-game aggression, as that is the most likely path to victory.
I can’t seem to find a great reason to be strictly Golgari (outside of getting some rares between the colors) instead of a three- to four-color domain deck with green and black being a part of it. Between the two colors, there just don’t seem to be enough solid threats at common/uncommon without branching into another color to access some domain and kicker cards. In the case that you are Golgari, it looks to be the best spot for Floriferous Vinewall, especially considering the lack of good two-drops in the colors. Don’t be scared to start out with just black and green cards in your draft; I would just move forward with the intention to add a third color to complement the deck.
Boros seems to be another great aggressive option. Similarly to Selesnya, you will go wide and enlist your smaller creatures to help deal damage. This seems like a good home for a trick like Furious Bellow (which seems largely unplayable otherwise), which should allow you to turn both your enlisting creatures and tokens sideways with impunity. The deck is obviously weaker in the late-game, but cards like Keldon Strike Team or Charismatic Vanguard should help get those last few points of damage in.
I like to think of Simic as a nice, solid base to start your domain soup. Once you get a nice base going, then you can throw in whatever ingredients (colors) you want! Similarly to Golgari, I find it difficult to justify playing just blue and green, as you will likely not have enough threats.
I’m a big advocate for a responsible manabase, and it’s easy to do so if you prioritize the dual lands highly when you know you’re on this path. If you do start branching into four- or five-color territory, I encourage you to make sure the chance for mana problems doesn’t outweigh what you get out of the splash. No wizard likes to die without casting, at the very least, a magic missile.
Pixie Illusionist has a potential home here, and can fix as well as get you to high domain quickly. The domain decks will be a bit slower, so make sure you can deploy some early blockers until you get your domain established.
There we have it, a brief overlook of what to expect! I’m extremely excited to play a Prerelease this weekend, and I hope you are too! Good luck out there, and make sure to say good game (even if it wasn’t).