The Great Dominaria United Commander Deck Update

A new set means updates for Sheldon Menery’s suite of Commander decks. How is The Godfather using Magic’s latest release in his 100-card lists?

Emperor Mihail II
Emperor Mihail II, illustrated by PINDURSKI

It’s that time again when the new surges in to replace the old, something, something, regenerative cycle of life and more heading down that philosophical line.  The TLDR is that there’s new stuff in Magic, and some of it has my attention.  In addition to providing me commanders and cards I’m excited to brew with, Dominaria United presents me quite a few updates to my ever-expanding suite of decks, which has now reached 67.  In addition to the main set, I’m counting cards from Dominaria United Commander, Legends Retold, and the eight booster set cards as part of the whole Dominaria United suite. 

The number of cards that I’m going to find room for is always the big question—space being the primary concern.  Whatever cards I’ll put in are good and fit into the deck’s plan in one way or another; otherwise, I wouldn’t be putting them in.  That’s true for the cards that will come out, too.  At one point, I deemed them good enough to put into the deck.  I’ll be sad to say so long to some old friends as I welcome those new ones.  Let’s dive right in.


Defiler of Faith

Into:  Heliod, God of Enchantments

The deck has only seven non-permanents and enough lifegain to offset the loss that will come with nearly everything cast.  Weird that the Soldier tokens are weaker than the Clerics, though. 

Temporary Lockdown

Into:  Merieke’s Esper Dragons

There are a few things in the deck that Temporary Lockdown might catch, but the risk is worth taking out all the two-mana rocks.  I might even choose to change Orzhov Signet to a three-mana rock of some kind, just to be on the safer side.

Valiant Veteran

Into:  Rith’s Soldiers

There are so many good Soldier cards that I might need—like I’ve done with Zombies—to make a second deck featuring the tribe.  Alternately, I could build two other Soldier decks and let Rith go back to being about Saprolings. 


Defiler of Dreams

Into:  Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers

In the worst-case scenario, we can use Phelddagrif’s blue ability to bounce it and re-cast to draw the card.  With enough other blue permanents to make the trigger ability worthwhile, we can’t ignore that Defiler of Dreams is a 4/3 flyer as well. 

Emperor Mihail II

Into:  Thassa, Sea God

Merfolk got some nice upgrades in this set.  Emperor Mihail II is clearly one of them.  Merfolk are inexpensive enough that we’ll nearly always have mana to spend on making the token. 

Frostfist Strider

Into:  Jenara (was Chulane) Proliferate

I doubt we get errata to cards like Frost Titan so that they put stun counters on creatures, but wouldn’t that be nice?  We’ll need to proliferate that stun counter that Frostfist Strider gives out before the creature tries to untap.  There’s some argument already to playing Stall for Time as well; I just found that space was the problem. 

Joint Exploration

Into:  Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers

Only in the most desperate of situations would I cast Joint Exploration un-kicked.  It’s not spectacular, but it’s solid. 

Vodalian Hexcatcher

Into:  Thassa, Sea God

Another strong addition to the Merfolk deck, Vodalian Hexcatcher will want to sacrifice the tokens we make with Emperor Mihail II.  In the worst of all cases, the card makes opponents wait one turn longer to cast something.  Playing Vodalian Hexcatcher alongside Wandering Archaic would generate some value. 

Vodalian Mindsinger

Into:  The Threat of Yasova

A Merfolk that goes in a different deck. Kicking Vodalian Mindsinger means that it can borrow bigger creatures—and, not for nothing, become a pretty big beater in its own right.  The only downside might be that it’ll get a little spendy to kick Vodalian Mindsinger twice and still keep up mana for one of the deck’s sacrifice outlets that isn’t Goblin Bombardment


Activated Sleeper

Into:  Karazikar Goad is GOAT

I’m on record as being a big fan of Sleeper Agent-style mechanics.  I’d like to see even more of them. While this isn’t quite that, a Clone in black is compelling.  I resisted the (reasonable) urge to put Activated Sleeper in my Karador deck, in which I sacrifice a bunch of my own stuff.  In the goad deck, high-quality creatures belonging to my opponent are going to die due to me creating unfavorable combats.  We’ll feast on those remains.

Braids, Arisen Nightmare

Into: Halloween with Karador

Plus, Karador is getting other upgrades.  I don’t mind sacrificing my creatures, since they’ll come back eventually anyway.  Braids, Arisen Nightmare could easily go into a Kresh, the Bloodbraided deck for some pretty slobbery end steps and to combo with Stalking Vengeance

The Cruelty of Gix

Into:  Digging Up Muldrotha

Unless I put someone on a really important card, I’ll be reading ahead to Chapter II a good deal of the time.  I suppose I’ll also go to Chapter I if I think we have the luxury of time.  Otherwise, the tutor and then Zombify from any graveyard is just too tempting to wait for. 

Defiler of Flesh

Into:  Captain N’ghathrod

I’m behind the curve on physically assembling this deck.  When I do, Defiler of Flesh is absolutely replacing something from the original design.

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse

Into: Halloween with Karador

One of the feature cards in the set goes into one of my feature decks.  Might be sweet to play alongside Secret Rendezvous.  For now, I’ll let opponents play chicken with how many cards they want to draw.


Chaotic Transformation

Into:  Brass Pirates

I don’t have a plan for how Chaotic Transformation will play out, so much as just a desire to see what kind of nonsense the card can make happen.  It’s clearly a way to upgrade a Treasure and a token creature of our own into something good.  I keep threatening to rebuild this deck with a bunch of the new Pirates of the last three years; I swear I’ll get around to it eventually.  When I do, I trust Chaotic Transformation will stay.

The Elder Dragon War

Into:  Kresh Into the Red Zone

Am I flavor failing by not putting The Elder Dragon War into a Dragon deck?  I have it mostly for Chapter II, letting me put creatures into my graveyard for later use.  Chapter I wiping out the mana creatures and not killing Kresh is pretty good as well. 

The Reaver Cleaver

Into:  Kresh Into the Red Zone

Trample is the “evasion” that Kresh needs.  We can’t have chump blockers ruining the day.  Turning excess damage into Treasure tokens is pretty big for this reasonably-costed Equipment. 


Defiler of Vigor

Into:  Zegana and a Dice Bag

With very few non-green permanents in the deck and most of the creatures having +1/+1 counters already, Defiler of Vigor will be a savage beating.  The fact that it puts a counter on itself, gets green permanents onto the battlefield a turn early, is a 6/6 for five mana, and natively has trample is all kinds of silly.  I will thoroughly enjoy playing the card, which is the one that most challenges my self-imposed rule of only one copy of any new card for the whole deck suite.  Defiler of Vigor would be a very easy addition to every green deck that has creatures.

Greensleeves, Maro-Sorcerer

Into:  Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers

Speaking of silly green cards, Greensleeves keeps getting bigger and bringing along friends.  Nearly every turn.  I’m not sure what the flavor element behind having protection from planeswalkers and Wizards might be, but I’m on board. 

Quirion Beastcaller

Into:  Zegana and a Dice Bag

I might think about putting an indestructible creature in the deck, just to take some advantage of Quirion Beastcaller’s ability to distribute its own +1/+1 counters.  The deck already has The Ozolith, but there’s no reason we can’t try to double up. 

Silverback Elder

Into:  Dreaming of Intet

Like I said in my set review, this is no Aura Shards.  Then again, Aura Shards doesn’t have a 5/7 body or the ability to ramp.  The second ability gets any land, not just basics, so casting a creature spell into Gaea’s Cradle can happen.  It can happen even more often in this deck that has a fair amount of top-of-the-library control. 


Astor, Bearer of Blades

Into:  Budget Ardenn and Ludevic

You haven’t before seen this deck.  I just built it for a project in concert with a certain blue-aligned educational institution, which you’ll see the results of in a month or so.  The idea is to build a deck with less than $50.  Swapping in Astor for one of the originally-chosen creatures drives the price to barely above $30, still giving me lots of budget to play with.

Dihada, Binder of Wills

Into:  Marchesa, Long May She Reign

“Smash with vigilant, lifelinking, indestructible Marchesa, pass, draw a card for being the monarch” all day is all we need.

Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim

Into:  Breena Will Do It to You

Putting Elas il-Kor into the Breena deck is just about having some other way of dealing out life loss.  There aren’t too many cases in which I’m going to murder someone by casting Storm Herd

Ertai Resurrected

Into:  Ikra and Kydele

In a deck that’s designed for shenanigans, I’m pretty sure that I’m most likely to counter something to give away the card.  I wouldn’t discount using this version of Ertai as a single-creature Fog, either—maybe even a two-for-one in combat by blocking, too.  There’s some argument to playing this Ertai in Muldrotha, but then it’s slightly over-costed, since the only time flash would be relevant is in combat. 

Garna, Bloodfist of Keld

Into:  Kresh Into the Red Zone

I like creatures replacing themselves if they die attacking.  In fact, it’ll make me even more aggressive about getting into battle (as if I could).  Alternatively, it just starts killing people when battlefield sweepers happen.

King Darien XLVIII

Into:  Rith’s Soldiers

Strict upgrade to Dauntless Escort?  It might seem so.  The anthem alone is worthwhile, since it makes Rith into a three-turn killer instead of four.  Anthems are also better in go-wide decks, which this certainly is. 

Najal, the Storm Runner

Into:  Dreaming of Intet

With eleven sorceries in the deck, Najal is going to provide some serious value.  We’ll be able to wait to cast Praetor’s Counsel, a card that I often struggle with spending the eight mana to cast because we become more vulnerable by having less interaction available.  Knowing that we’re going to cast a particular instant or sorcery means paying the two mana to copy it after attacking is trivial. 

Tor Wauki the Younger

Into:  Kresh Into the Red Zone

When figuring out what deck in which to play Tor, I searched for all of them that have Goblin Bombardment.  The Flings in the deck are big enough (hello, Lord of Extinction!) that the extra two damage doesn’t matter, but Shocking something while casting Cultivate is pretty cool. 

Tori D'Avenant, Fury Rider

Into:  Ruhan Do Over

Tori fits right into a deck that’s basically Boros with a little bit of blue support.  The deck enjoys attacking and most of the creatures are red or white, in some cases both.  She becomes a very good upgrade, even if she doesn’t give herself the +1/+1 bonus. 

Xira, the Golden Sting

Into:  Kresh Into the Red Zone

I might pull back Xira from the deck eventually to build around her, but for the time being I’m content laying little Insect eggs all over the place. 


Gerrard's Hourglass Pendant

Into:  Korvold Myths and Legends

I probably need to change to some other Jund commander, because Korvold just scares the pants off of people by being in the command zone—regardless of how janky the deck is (and this one is janktastic).  Preventing extra turns for one mana is great.  The four mana and exiling of the Hourglass (an appropriate cost) to get back everything that got wiped out is a rather nice bonus.  It also obviously fits with Korvold’s sacrifice plan.

Golden Argosy

Into:  Lavinia Blinks

I might not seriously over-crew Golden Argosy, but there are also times when Lavinia herself might do some piloting.  The deck is full of creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers, so I’m content with a Mulldrifter or Solemn Simulacrum.  No need to get greedy.

The Peregrine Dynamo

Into:  Korvold Myths and Legends

The deck is full of legendary permanents, many of which have activated and triggered abilities.  The Peregrine Dynamo is a natural and flexible fit.  Like a good pair of house pants.

Plaza of Heroes

Into:  Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers

I simply picked a deck with lots of legendary creatures, which many of the Maro-Sorcerers are.  Add some mono-color legendary creatures, like Pir, Imaginative Rascal and Toothy, Imaginary Friend, and we’re in business. 

Relic of Legends

Into:  You Did This to Yourself

I want to keep repeating the mantra of three-mana rocks that do interesting things.  Relic of Legends applies in this particular deck because it means that we can tap Ruhan and keep him out of unfavorable combats.  In fact, we can first choose at random the player we’ll be attacking and then decide if we want to tap him or not.  It works this way because Ruhan’s trigger happens at the beginning of combat.  Once it resolves, we get priority and can activate abilities before having to declare attackers. 

38 Special

When the picks started coming slowly in the first color, I was a little concerned that there wouldn’t be that many cards in the set worth finding homes for—despite an opposite impression when reviewing the set.  Then things turbocharged in blue, and we ended up with 38 cards from the set into the suite, higher than average. This speaks to the quality of the cards in Dominaria United and its associated releases, cards that I suspect we’ll be enjoying for quite a while. 

As always, we have a channel on the Commander RC Discord server dedicated to discussing my articles.  I’d love to hear about features that you’d like to see, material you want more coverage on, or even things that you think just aren’t working.  I’m all ears.  Join more than 7,000 friends for discussion of not just this piece, but on a wide variety of topics—both Commander-related and not.  Hope to see you there!