Looking back on “Cards To Watch Out For in Return to Dominaria”

Back at the beginning of May, I wrote this post concerning some of my thoughts for the new Dominaria set for Magic: The Gathering.  While I always include a disclaimer that I don’t profess to be able to predict the future, I thought it might be interesting, three months on, to see if any of my predictions have matured.

I will note that we got the new Magic Core 2019 set in the card pool nowadays, so that slightly confounds some of the analysis here.  Maybe that’s just an excuse, lets just get to the review.

Most Expensive Card Over the Life of the Set

Karn Scion of Urza

When I saw the initial spoiler, the card I immediately wanted most was the new “baby” Karn.  7-mana Karn is a staple in Modern, with massive loyalty and back breaking effects.

With the new Karn, we get a 4-mana colorless Planeswalker with high loyalty for its mana cost.  It can also gain some small card advantage while building a board.  With a dedicated artifact build, Karn’s third ability is even better.  He doesn’t have an ultimate, but that’s not how competitive Standard walkers are judged nowadays.

Critics have pointed out that his initial ability is draw two, pick the worst card.  That is true, but he makes up for that with his minus ability to retrieve whatever was passed over.  Is that a tad slow?  Sure, but he’s got high loyalty to buy time, and if the opponent leaves him alone, he can really run away with the silver counters.

He has unsurprisingly opened as the most expensive card on MTGO and I believe he will remain there.  Karn is a powerful effect and can fit into any color shell.  People love Karn the character, and he’s mythic.  All of this points to his long term value for Standard.

This one has held true up to this point.  While not exactly a hard call, the new Karn remains the most expensive card both online and in paper (between $30-$35) narrowly edging Teferi for the top spot.

Karn has found an immediate home in the R/B Midrange decks that can help protect Karn as he powers up and builds card advantage.  Combined with Chandra, the R/B decks have really filled out the four-drop slot with heavy hitters.

Karn has also found its way into the W/B vehicle-heavy decks, again as a nice mid-level card advantage threat for in a mid-range style.  His high loyalty makes him so hard to cleanly take off the table, made even more difficult if defended with any kind of creature.

I was slightly off in saying that Karn would flourish in an artifact strategy.  While Karn himself has not birthed such a strategy, he has been an integral part in the rise of the Paradoxical Outcome decks that have made their way into the MTGO 5-0’s.  This deck will die on rotation but I think it illustrates the potential.

Most Divisive Card

Mox Amber

Moxes in Magic traditionally allow for broken effects, beginning with the Power 9 Moxes which are purely free land drops.  Wizards has tried to print “fixed” Moxes throughout history, with Mox Diamond and Mox Opal, but all of them have found ways to break their free mana effects.  That brings us to the newest iteration, Mox Amber.

In reading preview articles and listening to podcasts, everyone has opinion on whether Mox Amber “is the next broken thing” or if Wizards has finally printed a “fair” Mox.  On the one hand, it requires you build a deck where legends matter.  Furthermore, the power of Moxes has traditionally been in playing them on the early turns, and useful legends are typically higher CMC.

However, with Baral in Standard (along with two drops like Shana), and things like Isamaru in Modern, early legends do exist.  However, what’s the end goal other than letting the Mox get online on turn 4 or 5?

It’s going to be interesting to see how deckbuilders approach this card.  I think it will ultimately find a home in a shell that is willing to ramp later in the game or otherwise use its artifact type to its advantage.  We will see.

Mox Amber may finally be the “fair mox.”  The card has underwhelmed and not met the lofty expectations the optimists placed upon it at release.  The early legends just haven’t gelled with a card that wants to ramp, and a late-game ramp plan hasn’t been useful.

However, once again the Paradoxical Outcome deck has begun to use the newest Mox as a zero drop that can power the combo, mana or no.  On occasion it can even be used for mana with a Sai, Master Thopterist in play.

Currently, I don’t see Kaladesh block being the reason this card has been held down.  I think it just doesn’t have a shell to unleash any potential power it has.  Legends are fairly plentiful, and we might get a couple in Ravnica.  However, I doubt they will be super synergistic with Mox Amber.

Underrated Card That Needs a Home

Yawgmoths Vile Offering

I originally passed over this card on my first review, mostly because I didn’t take the time to read what this actually does.  For 5 mana, you are destroying their best Planeswalker or creature, and also bringing back the best from the graveyard.  That’s a huge swing and certainly worth a look.

Now, this thing does cost 5 mana AND requires you have a legend in play.  Further, if your opponent is bashing you with a Glorybringer, this simply whiffs.  However, I think with the legends matter subtheme of the set, and the fact that cards like Lyra (analyzed below) becoming popular, this card can find itself well positioned in the metagame.

Swing and a miss.  Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering has just been too slow without enough payoff at 5 mana to justify inclusion into competitive decks.  The rise of Bolas seemingly created a chance in Grixis for this to be useful, but its just not reliable enough.

If you have a legend of consequence, this card simply gets you further ahead.  There are times that it could break deadlocks, but the necessity of needing a legend in play really hurts its potential to swing a game.  The effect is still powerful, its just held back by its situational conditions.

Underhyped Card That Will See Wide Play

Lyra Dawnbringer

Lyra Dawnbringer is Baneslayer Angel part II.  It gives up the protections subtext in exchange for Legend status (both good and bad) along with an Angel tribal buff.  Baneslayer was good in Standard back in the day, and Lyra will be good today.  I think this assumption has muted any explicit hype for a card that is likely to be a major player in the format until rotation.

White decks now have the go-to five drop in a variety of strategies.  This card is able to about single handily turn around games vs Mono Red Aggro, the former king of Standard.  The lifelink is very relevant when playing from behind, or against any aggro deck.  In the air, this thing survives fights against Glorybringer, and will beat about everything with first strike.

In the preview decks and podcasts, I’ve heard almost no direct praise for a card that seems incredibly well positioned in this metagame.  Yes, it can simply die to a Vraska’s Contempt, but so do most other big threats.  This thing is going to have an impact, and its going to be around for a long time.

I think this prediction was pretty spot on.  You can debate whether this card was “underhyped” but in general it didn’t release to a lot of buzz.  That changed a bit right after release, with a U/W Legends deck finding early success, mostly on the back of Lyra herself.

The card demands an answer immediately or it will completely take over the game.  Lyra has contributed to the rise of R/B midrange, forcing players toward Unlicensed Disintegration as a clean way to clear her.  White decks haven’t found a suitable answer to resurrect Lyra in a more aggressive style, and her use has waned.

However, with the new printing of Resplendent Angel (which I hyped previously here), I think Lyra is primed to continue its presence in Standard.  The Angel tribal text can become relevant while also directly enabling the token producing lifegain mechanic.  Oh, and it curves perfectly with a Shalai in between.  Someone has to figure that out, right?

Cards Most Likely to See Play in Eternal Formats

Damping Sphere

Damping Sphere has received quite a bit of hype as an easy 2-drop to deal with both Urzatron and Storm decks in Modern.  The thinking is that it has a dual purpose making efficient use of the sideboard slots that are oh-so-important in Modern, while also slotting into any deck with a colorless mana cost.

On the flipside, critics have derided its “do-nothingness” where you drop it and then wait around for it to hamper an opponent.  While Blood Moon can actively disrupt an opponents ability to actually remove it, the Sphere simply needs a Naturalize or similar from an opponent to suddenly be neutralized.

Another prediction that has mostly held true.  Tron and Storm have not placed particularly well in recent events, and I think a part of it is due to the generic-ness of this card.  Anyone can play it and they can board it in against multiple archetypes.  However, it does sputter a bit if unaccompanied by pressure, since it can be dealt with via a Nature’s Claim or Echoing Truth, but its managed to find a home in sideboards.

Cast Down

Cast Down is a two-mana efficient removal spell in the vein of Terror, Go for the Throat and the similar.  Just like it’s predecessors, it is released at a time where its restriction (no legendaries) makes it a bit narrow in Standard. However, in Modern, legendaries are far and few between.  Pairing a couple copies of this with Fatal Push is enough to hold off most of the early aggro in the format.

I haven’t seen this card make too big an impression in Modern.  I think its actually been more utilized in Standard to combat the big green creatures and Lyras.  Perhaps this one needs time to settle into Modern or perhaps Fatal Push kills enough in the format to have players look past a two-mana clean kill spell.  This prediction has mostly been a miss.

Card That Will Single Handily Create an Archetype in Casual Games

Rat Colony

Just like the interesting text on Relentless Rats, Rat Colony immediately draws attention to the way it breaks the rules.  Without a 4-of deckbuilding restriction, you can do crazy things with certain cards.

While most of the other cards I’ve mentioned deal with competitive play, every set has its nods to the casual or kitchen counter community.  Rat Colony fits perfectly here.  Pair this bad boy with Thrumming Stone and you’ve got an interesting deck.

The key will be how to consistently get this rat swarm out.  Dark Ritual and others were good in Relentless Rats decks, but Rat Colony is a better two drop.  Maybe Pack Rat?  Basically, rat tribal got a huge boost with this card.

This is a hard prediction to analyze, since its difficult to parse the casual scene.  However, I have not personally seen a lot of adoption of this card, and its currently a dollar as of the time of this writing.  I’m guessing it might make its way into some player’s “fun deck” piles, since the strategy with Thrumming Stone is pretty straightforward, and perhaps not going to find a dedicated player base.  Unknown on this prediction currently.

Conclusion

I’d say I was mostly on the right track with some of my analysis.  Lyra and Karn have definitely helped my words age well, although Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering and Cast Down in Modern have balanced my overall “score.”

I have enjoyed looking back at what I thought months ago and assessed where those thoughts stack up now.  I wrote an M19 post when it released, so I will definitely go back to that post in the future.  Which means you can bet on some Ravnica analysis as well.

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