Draft: Dominaria

Intro


The Hour of Devastation Quick Draft was a fun and educational experience overall. There are quite a few things we’ve learnt about the Quick Draft in MTG Arena. First of all, Drafts are by far the quickest way to build your collection, even if you achieve 0 victories. There are multiple reasons for that:

  • - At 5 thousand gold to enter, we receive at a very minimum 3 rares, 9 uncommons and 27 commons, some gems and an additional booster pack
  • - Bots seemingly prioritize colors within their pre-existing pool, meaning we are likely to get a rare/mythic passed on later in the draft (for those drafting commonly, even junk rare/mythic duplicates will fill the vault with an exponential increase in speed as we accumulate more cards)
  • - We get a choice of cards as opposed to a completely randomised pack

All points apply even more to the upcoming Dominaria Quick Draft. Why? The vast majority of players that have spent their saved-up gold, real life money or even just play for the weekly free-packs, have Dominaria as their highest priority - not only due to the plethora of Constructed cards that Dominaria’s brought, but as stated above, due to their vault progress.

Dominaria limited


I know I am not alone in saying Dominaria is one of the best limited formats in all of Magic, and quite likely the single best since at least Return to Ravnica. The format feels slow, grindy and intuitive, with a plethora of synergies and fun archetypes. Before jumping into the Dominaria specifics, I'd like to reiterate some general draft rules we've already covered last week:

  • - Watch out for the curve. Make sure to account for early, mid and late game!
  • - B.R.E.A.D (Bombs, Removal, Evasion, Aggro, Duds)
  • - Make sure to draft enough creatures
  • - Don’t commit to a color(combination) too early


Dominaria draft's general characteristics:
Dominaria is a very slow format, and games will often last far into the late game. One must plan and build their decks accordingly, or they will get easily outvalued by their opponent:
  • Removal: Whilst important in every format, Dominaria packs a plethora of powerful creatures, enchantments and artifacts. Make sure you have enough ways to deal with them, and if running a combination of colors that has trouble dealing with either, consider splashing a 3rd one White, Black, and Red have the best tools for the job.

  • Card Advantage/draw: it’s very important not to run out of steam, which can be particularly difficult in games as long as Dominaria’s. Card draw, spells that allow you to go two-for-one and creatures that let you recover cards from the grave will all do a lot of work for you.

  • Aggro trap: Building an aggressive deck is not impossible in Dominaria, but it is difficult. If you opt for an aggro strategy, the games will often still reach late game, so plan accordingly. Evasive creatures, recycling and burn spells should be your priority.


That leads to the format being very mana intense, so one should keep an eye out when building the mana curve and color distribution:
  • 17-18 lands: As a rule of thumb, limited decks in magic run between 16 and 17 lands, rarely dropping to 15 or increasing it to 18. With the exceptional length of games in Dominaria, a ton of expensive spells and kicker costs, I’ve found myself using 17-18 as a standard in all but the more aggressive decks I’ve built in Dominaria. With the general pace of the game slowing down, a decent amount of solid removal and the ability to stabilize rather efficiently in the late game, it becomes more important to hit the 4th and 5th land drop on time, than it is to have turn 2-3 plays and maintain tempo.
  • Color management: Dominaria sports a plethora of multicolor cards and cards with an MM mana requirement on one hand. and very few ways to fix colors on the other. One should try and build decks focused around a single color in the early game and a second one only in mid/late game, or make sure their early drop color requirements are fairly lenient. Three color decks will only work with a late game splash of third color, or heavy focus on drafting all the available fixing.
  • Mana sinks: As the games tend to go late, and there is only so much card draw one can draft before diluting their deck too far, it’s important to find a mana sink for your deck. (i.e. a card with a reusable effect that costs mana) The best ones available are:

  • Tribes: Dominaria brought a bit of support for the native Dominarian tribes. Elves, Wizards, Goblins, Saprolings and Knights. Of the five, Saprolings and to an extent Wizards are playable as a limited archetype, while the other three don’t quite synergize efficiently enough.


The key abilities and mechanics that contribute greatly to the exceptional drafting experience in Dominaria are:
  • Sagas - a new type of enchantment introduced with Dominaria. They all have three stages that trigger when a lore counter is placed on them; When they enter the battlefield and after the draw step on your turn. When a 3rd counter is placed on a saga, it’s final effect triggers and its owner sacrifices it.
  • Historic - A new keyword covering Artifacts, Legendaries and Sagas.
  • Kicker - An additional cost on certain spells that is optional to pay that triggers an additional effect, scaling them greatly into the late game. (i.e. Josu Vess, Lich Knight)
  • Legendary Sorcery - Spells depicting key moments in the lives of characters from Magic: The Gathering lore. They can be tricky to cast as they require you to have a legendary creature or planeswalker on the board. (i.e. Karn’s Temporal Sundering)


There are a few cycles of cards to look out for as well.
  • MMM Cycle - A cycle of creature cards in all five colors. They are incredibly tricky to draft as the mana requirement can be extremely difficult on dual, not to mention tri-colored decks.

  • Memorials - A cycle of mono-colored taplands with secondary effects that can come in handy in long, grindy games.

  • Enemy Checklands - Color fixing is very scarce in Dominaria, so one can consider picking them up fairly early. (and they are a first pick for anyone building a collection)

  • Dual-color legends - A cycle of ten uncommon legendaries, one for each of the two-color combinations. While generally powerful, they can be a tricky early pick as they can pigeonhole you into a suboptimal color combination. They generally each represent an interaction with their respective color archetype.


Archetypes


As Dominaria is a very slow paced format the number of playable archetypes is a lot higher than usual. Some of the more peculiar cards that wouldn’t see play in the faster paced limited environment, often find their home and synergies here. These are the two-color archetypes I’ve found working best in my Dominaria testing thus far:


UR Wizards/Tempo

Wizards are one of the tribes that have the most support amongst c/uc cards in Dominaria. Unsurprisingly they are one of the strongest archetypes that can easily navigate the thin line between aggression and control depending on what they are facing up against. Through some of the strongest removal in red, the plethora of card draw in blue, and the two colors housing the majority of Dominaria’s wizards, this is one of the archetypes that almost builds itself.
Unsurprisingly, even when the tribal draft doesn’t quite work out, the color combination still offers a ton to build with, albeit possibly with a little less bang for your buck.
The bombs in UR are quite straightforward and plentiful. These are some of our favourites:



BG Flora

One of the cutest and deadliest archetypes simultaneously, the mushroom people of Dominaria are both easy to assemble and difficult to beat. Between the incredible tribal synergy of saprolings and thallids, a fast early game and incredible scaling into the late game, BG might just be the archetype to beat in Dominaria. There is a plethora of intricate synergies and interactions, ways to replenish hands and to brush away seemingly harsh taxation on some of the black cards such as Thallid Soothsayer.
Black and green both have a lot to offer outside the floral suite. Strong midrange and late game creatures, ramp and card draw are only some of the goodies the golgari brings at common/uncommon.
Due to its swarming capabilities, especially combine with Song of Freyalise this deck has an easy time resolving some very expensive bombs, or boms that require the sacrfice of your own creatures.



UW Historic

As one of the archetypes with the clearest building path UW Historic is also amongst the more common ones. It relies on the evasive nature of its creatures, flash and the sheer power of historic interaction. The key cards to look out for in this archetypes are:
As this archetype relies on it, you will often get away with drafting artifacts that can be perceived as sub-optimal. Raff Capashen specifically, allows you to flash in Sagas and other historic permanents, allowing you to trigger them in more rapid succession or completely take them by surprise:
There are several powerhouses to look out for in UW, that will tip your deck from great to obscene, probably the most of all archetypes. These are some of the best ones to look out for:



GW Midrange

Relying on the power of strong early and mid-game creatures and the power of anthem effects combined with premium white removal, this deck doesn’t require much outside the common/uncommon pool to be successful. It seeks to swarm early with tokens and solid creatures, then buff and attack once establishing board superiority, making it rather difficult to play against.
As a rather aggressive archetype, GW needs to plan for games that take them into late or even late late game. White auras and certain equipments can help deliver the final blows when paired with evasive creatures.
The bombs to keep an eye out for are:



BW “Knights”

Black and White share a common theme of just solid creatures, ridiculously powerful removal and enchantments. They all come together in this peculiar deck-type that runs the WB pseudo-tribal goodstuff suit focused on knights in the early-to-mid game and slowly transitions into historic/legend theme towards the endgame.
Both White and Black have some of the strongest rare and mythic cards, and unfortunately this archetype’s requirements are fairly steep as well. Most of the key cards to look out are either uncommon or rarer. The list of bombs one can run in the suite however, is astounding. These are some of the most interesting ones, seeing as how most of the typical bombs are rather self evident.



GR Monsters

The seemingly go-to aggressive deck in Dominaria. The deck plays relatively similar to the GR Monsters deck in constructed. It uses mana acceleration to play threats on or above the curve, gaining momentum through efficient use of early game pressure and removal. With the abundance of kicker creatures and spells available, the deck can scale decently into the early-late game as well.
Kicker can be deceitful, especially to inexperienced players trying to get the most value out of their spells. As a rule of thumb, try to play creatures on curve without missing any of the 2-5 drops if at all possible, including kicker spells if lacking alternatives. Try and avoid the Steel-Leaf Champion and Goblin Chainwhirler unless your deck centres heavily around either one or the other color. Given the chance, try to get ahold of some of these bombs to help you deliver the pain:



UG Ramp

This is the ultimate Timmy deck of the format. Using heavy ramp in the early game, this deck tries to lay down fatties as soon as it can. While some of the cards this deck looks for might not seem impressive at first glance, imagine the look on your opponent’s face staring down the.. Beak? Of a 5/7 hexproof turtle on turn 5.
The deck can make great use of the green and blue bombs, but it can also use a lot of higher cost filler cards that often wouldn’t quite make the cut.
With a lot of ways to fix mid and late game mana, this archetype gets away with splashing a third and sometimes even a 4th color to include some of the really greedy end game bombs:

It goes without saying removal should be one of the highest priorities across the board. With that in mind, there are some exceptional c/uc colorless cards that might not look like much at a first glance, but help you stay open, and are capable of putting in a lot of work depending on how your deck turns out.


Conclusion


I have not yet quite figured out the remaining color combinations, and I am certain the ones above can be built in a several distinctly different ways. The one truly beautiful thing about Dominaria is just how flexible and open all the archetypes are. With the amount of experimentation left to be done, I am thrilled to be able to do it for free this weekend and finally try out the 5-color historic, Sultai reanimator and other wacky things I didn’t quite let myself with the money on the line.

What are you going to be playing? What is the wackiest thing you’ll pull off this weekend?


Compleat

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