Dominaria United Set Review

Dominaria United Set Review

In 2017 we returned to Dominaria for the 25th anniversary of Magic and it was one of my favourite sets of all-time. I’m so excited to return for the 30th anniversary and the beginning of a major four set story arc. Join me as I explore Dominaria United to see if it can live up to the standards set by our last visit.

This isn’t just a list of the best cards in the set but a detailed look at the most interesting, novel or fun cards in the set. I’ve made one change to my usual formula and I’m going to start with the commons and uncommons, especially those that showcase the mechanics and themes for the set.

Top Commons and Uncommons

Shadow Prophecy

How do you represent a plane like Dominaria with many factions uniting against a Phyrexian invasion? This question was actually answered over 20 years ago with Invasion block and the domain mechanic. It might seem a good designer would prefer to innovate and create a brand new mechanic but I think reusing old mechanics is fantastic. Older players can get nostalgic and enjoy reliving cherished mechanics and themes from Magic’s past whilst newer players get to experience a mechanic that has already proven itself to be a success. If the mechanic is genuinely great you don’t need to know or remember the old cards to enjoy the new ones. In the past Magic designers have tried too hard to make a fresh new mechanic when using an existing mechanic would have been better fit for a set.

Like in Invasion block, the unification of Dominaria is embodied by playing lots of colours together. Domain is a classic way of doing this as it rewards players for controlling as many basic land types as possible. Domain is a simple mechanic and some of the new Domain cards looks strong. Nishoba Brawler for example is a scary two-drop and I expect Meria’s Outrider to end many games of limited. Shadow Prophecy stands out as my favourite of all the domain cards for many reasons. We have seen many variations on this type of draw spell in the past from Read the Bones to Pointed Discussion. This is very efficient at finding good cards when you have a high domain count and it also puts the cards you don’t want in your graveyard. Putting extra cards in your graveyard is often very valuable in black which is why these effects normally don’t put cards in your graveyard. We have seen Funeral Rites in the past but Shadow Prophecy gives you so much control over which cards go to your graveyard and which cards you draw. This is such a good common.

This is also my favourite piece of art in the set and looking at the other cards in this set this is high praise indeed. Hurloon Battle Hymn also looks incredible and is a very close second for my favourite piece of art. The jumpstart decks include Cosmic Epiphany which is also outstanding. Shadow Prophecy is another fantastic piece by Rovina Cai who has become one of my favourite new artists. She’s a Hugo award winning artist who started in Magic with the Strixhaven Mystical Archive cards. The Mystical Archives was one of my favourite parts of 2021 and a number of the artists who worked on that set brought a unique art style to the game. I’m so happy to see them coming back to make more art for the game. When you look at all the talented new artists working on Magic I think the game is entering a new golden age for art.

Benalish Sleeper

Domain isn’t the only reason you are going to play lots of colours in Dominaria United limited. Another mechanic that debuted in Invasion was kicker and it was so successful we have seen it return many times since. This time kicker costs all require a second colour which I think is a fantastic idea. The kicker cards in invasion used a wide variety of kicker costs, from colourless (Explosive Growth), on-colour (Urza’s Rage) and off-colour (Probe). The off-colour kicker cards are the most striking and focusing on them exclusively gives Dominaria United part of its identity as a set.

Importantly the kicker cards are at a good power level if you can’t kick them which nudges you towards playing more colours but doesn’t force you to commit heavily to an extra colour. For example Phyrexian Espionage is fine as Divination but you only need a few swamps to enable the kicker mode for additional card advantage. The fact that cards like Yavimaya Iconoclast, Battlewing Mystic or Tribute to Urborg are good without kicker makes them much safer picks in limited. I think the designers got the balance on these cards just right. You are incentivised to play an extra colour but you don’t feel punished for playing them when you can’t play both colours.

My favourite of all the kicker cards is Benalish Sleeper. Both modes of this card are classic staples. We see cards like Blade of the Sixth Pride in many sets and Fleshbag Marauder is an iconic card. Getting the flexibility of both modes is great, and the black mana symbol on a white card is a visually pleasing representation of Phyrexian corruption. I also like that the kicker cards play well with the themes of both colours. White has a lot of token makers in this set which makes the kicker cost better and sacrificing a non-token creature puts a creature in your graveyard for all of the graveyard synergies in black. Each colour has a very distinct identity in Dominaria United, and I think the kicker cards do a great job of combining those identities together which helps make the set feel much more cohesive. I’m always a fan of kicker, but I think this might be the best use of kicker that we’ve ever seen.

Wooded Ridgeline

In competitive constructed players have access to rare dual lands, fetch lands and even triomes to make domain almost trivially easy to achieve. However in limited or on a budget domain has always been much harder. Domain decks want to play lots of colours, but the available dual lands don’t have basic land types. To solve this problem we have a new cycle of common dual lands. They are simple lands with two land types that come into play tapped. I expect them to be high picks in limited and a core part of the format, especially given how important they will be for domain and kicker.

This isn’t the first time that we have seen lands like this at common. We also had the snow versions like Highland Forest in Kaldheim. However these are much easier for wizards to reprint and I hope these become the default for products aimed at beginners so they are always available. Having basic land types has become more and more important over the years and running a card like Timber Gorge with no synergies or bonuses has always felt a bit miserable. The fact that these have been given generic names that would fit on any plane gives me hope that these will become the staple lands for beginners.

Yavimaya Steelcrusher

Every set generally gets a combat focused mechanic because limited is very creature-centric and if attacking isn’t incentivised and enabled limited can devolve into a long drawn-out stalemate. These mechanics are often the least exciting part of a set but they often dictate how successful aggressive strategies are in sealed and draft. I got a shock when I saw enlist because it’s very reminiscent of banding, a mechanic from the very earliest sets in Magic. It essentially allows small creatures to combine forces but the actual rules in game are famous for being difficult to understand and it has been decades since creatures with banding have been printed.

Enlist however is much simpler because it only works when attacking. What I find most confusing about banding is that it works very differently depending on whether you are attacking or blocking. In addition, only one of the creatures actually attacks which I find much cleaner. The stand out enlist creature for me is Yavimaya Steelcrusher. You get a good body for two mana and a useful ability that destroys artifacts which is a nice cool back to Gorilla Shaman. Enlist is then the cherry on top letting it keep attacking later in the game.

I expect enlist to play very well in limited. It encourages blocking because the attackers hit hard but have low toughnesses which then makes combat tricks more powerful. If a creature with boosted power survives combat it will make Molten Monstrosity much cheaper. Enlist allows creatures like Radha, Coalition Warlord to become tapped without entering combat themselves. Effects that give flying or trample become more important and effects like Join Forces can be used to give a creature with enlist +4/+4. Enlist might also influence which removal spells are played in the format. Destroy Evil looks great, but enlist doesn’t increase toughness so it will line up poorly against enlist creatures. Enlist may only exist to balance the limited format but I love how many interesting interactions like this it creates.

Love Song of Night and Day

As I hoped, sagas have returned in Dominaria. They debuted in the last Dominaria and were such a big hit that they have returned multiple times since then. Sagas are such a regular occurrence now that we get new saga mechanics as a way to innovate. In Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty the sagas transformed into creatures and in Dominaria United the first few chapters are optional because read ahead lets you skip chapters.

Sagas are usually designed with a big payoff on the third chapter to build up to. This means that skipping chapters for immediate impact is great if you are already set up for the pay off. For example the Love Song gives you a bird to put a counter on but you can skip to chapter three if you already have good places to put the counters. Read ahead also allows designers to put situationally powerful effects in the first chapter knowing players can opt out if needed. Again Love Song showcases this with the ability to draw cards but you aren’t forced to give your opponent cards if you don’t want to. The bird token and two +1/+1 counters are already good value for three mana at uncommon.

The reason I chose Love Song of Night and Day to represent the sagas in this set is that we have a new artist on our hands. This is one of Eli Minaya’s first two arts for Magic along with Cosmic Epiphany in the new Jumpstart release. Both pieces are fantastic and I hope to see more art from Minaya in the future. Almost every set these days seems to bring in new artists with fresh new art styles and I love it.

Impede Momentum

The last new mechanic isn’t a theme of the set but a new evergreen mechanic that we can expect to see in any set going forward. Stun counters are the new version of Frost Breath effects. These effects would never last for more than one turn because of the memory issues involved. A card like Frost Breath isn’t very different with stun counters but it opens new design space for a card like Impede Momentum that locks a creature down for a longer period of time.

Stun counters only appear on three cards in the set and my favourite is Impede momentum. The other cards only use one stun counter but three stun counters starts to be comparable to a removal spell like Claustrophobia and the scry effect is minor but a nice bonus. In an aggressive mono blue tempo deck this could be a very playable removal spell. This is also another card in the set where I just love the art.

Lagomos, Hand of Hatred

When I think of Dominaria, I think of uncommon legendary creatures. They have since become common place but when we returned to Dominaria in 2018 they were much more novel and a real highlight of the set. I love the power level of uncommon legendary creatures because they are often powerful enough to be exciting without being too strong and there are some pretty examples of this in Dominaria United. Baird, Argivian Recruiter reminds me of the modified payoffs in Kamigawa Neon Dynasty but uses a comparison with base power instead. This is the first time we have seen base power referenced in this way and it makes a lot of sense. Queen Allenal of Ruadach‘s second ability is something we usually only see at higher rarities and makes her a great payoff for a go-wide token strategy.

Lagomos, Hand of Hatred is my pick for the best of the uncommon legends. The first ability works well in aggressive decks and sacrifice decks which is great because red-black decks tend to lean towards aggression and sacrifice themes. The second ability looks like something you get on a rare or mythic rare, not an uncommon. If you can enable five creatures dying in one turn, you get Demonic Tutor for no mana and in theory this is a repeatable tutor. I don’t know how often you can use this last ability but the excitement it offers makes it worthy of being a legendary creature. I like the fact that the first ability gives you one of the five deaths you need to use the tap ability. It’s always more satisfying when all the components of a card work well together.

Relic of Legends

Dominaria United still has a legend in every pack, but it has far less support for the legendary theme. I’m a little sad about this but I understand because there is so much else going on in this set with the Phyrexians and the five colour theme. Relic of Legends however is a nod to decks filled with legendary creatures. Three mana for a mana rock is often considered too weak, so giving this a thematic and powerful upside is great. If you play this after playing legendary creatures on turns one and two, you can then tap all three to get all of your mana back immediately. If you do cast a legendary with that mana and find an fourth land you then have eight mana to spend on turn four. Of course you won’t get explosive starts like this in every game, but I love that such a simple and flavourful card is getting people excited about a three-drop mana rock again.

Salvaged Manaworker

With kicker, domain and plenty of great gold cards this set really incentivises playing three, four or five colours in limited. The new common dual land cycle will be an essential part of the format which means I expect Salvaged Manaworker to be poorly positioned for limited. This will be much worse than effects that increase your domain count or ramp effects but it might be enough for the incidental kicker costs that inevitably end up in your deck. However I think this is a really sweet design. The line of text that says activate only once each turn replaces tapping, which makes it easy to use this as a blocker and fixing at the same time. I was surprised to see that we haven’t seen a creature like this before and I hope it returns in a set where it will be more appreciated. I think this will be a good tool to include when designing a limited format that allows a small amount of fixing but when designers don’t want to enable five colour decks. Even in a set like this one I think the manaworker is a fine replacement for the premium fixing when draft pods or sealed pools don’t co-operate.

Shield-Wall Sentinel

One of the most surprising themes in Dominaria United is the defender tribal archetype in limited. It’s been a long time since we have seen defenders matter in a set. I’m interested in seeing how it plays out in an era where defenders are no longer a common sight and low power, high toughness blockers that can’t attack are usually not good enough even in limited. There aren’t that many defenders or payoffs for defenders which makes Shield-Wall Sentinel really cool. Apart from searching for basic lands we don’t usually get any other tutor effects at common. Searching for defenders seems like a safe enough effect for commons and this could be the card to make defenders consistent enough to be viable in limited. I also like the theme of these robots joining together to protect something being represented by being able to find more copies of itself.

Another defender I really like is Walking Bulwark. This kind of effect has been available on a variety of cards before such as Assault Formation, Arcades, the Strategist and High Alert. A surprising number of the payoffs for playing walls and defenders haven’t actually been walls or defenders in the past so it’s nice to be able to include this one in a themed deck without reducing the number of defenders in your deck. Walking Bulwark gives you access to this effect in any colour and a one mana wall which lets you start playing walls as soon as possible to block early aggression. This isn’t a card that convinces you to build a defenders deck but I think it’s a very welcome addition to a popular archetype.

Take Up the Shield

There are some awesome combat tricks in Dominaria United and I expect them to be better in limited than normal. Strength of the Coalition for example looks great. One mana combat tricks are hard to play around but they aren’t always powerful enough to see play. The kicker cost turns this spell into an instant speed anthem. Kicker spells have often had one good mode and one ok mode, but a lot of the kicker spells in this set are good whichever mode you choose. This helps avoids the feeling of being punished because you couldn’t kick your spell. Surprisingly Battle-Rage Blessing is the first combat trick to grant both indestructible and deathtouch if you don’t count Gift of Doom.

Take Up the Shield is my pick of the combat tricks however. It’s just so versatile. It protects a creature, wins a combat and leaves you with a +1/+1 counter. Lifelink is also fantastic in a race. The art showcases both Ajani and the wonderful stain-glass Benalish shields. The flavour text however is my favourite part. It’s perfect on face value for Ajani, but it hits so differently when you have read the last chapter of the Dominaria United story. This duality makes it my favourite flavour text in the set and probably in the whole of 2022.

Cult Conscript

One of the defining features of Dominaria United is how strong and exciting the uncommons are. I’m always excited for the lower rarity cards but this time I think the wider community is sharing my hype. I hate the green glowing magic in the art that just reminds me of bad CGI but I love everything else about Cult Conscript. Recursive two-power one-drops like Gravecrawler or Gutterbones are staples of aggressive sacrifice decks in constructed but they are always at rare and so have a minor impact on limited. Dungeon Crawler is the only card like this at uncommon and it required you to complete a dungeon. Getting a similar creature at uncommon is awesome. I like that it can block which makes it much more playable in limited but because it enters play tapped and you need to be losing creatures it won’t be a frustrating blocker that is impossible to answer.

Another fantastic uncommon is Phoenix Chick. We have had a few phoenixes at uncommon before but getting one that is this strong is great. It’s also the first one mana phoenix for players who want to build casual decks around these fiery birds. Also in red is Twinferno which combines two situational effects in a very flavourful way. Modal spells usually offer great gameplay but a mish-mash of random effects isn’t always thematic or flavourful. I think Twinferno is great because it gives you two very different effects but because they both involve doing something twice it makes for a great pairing.

Rona’s Vortex

We’ve seen some great Unsummon variants lately such as the fantastic Fading Hope in Midnight Hunt. This trend continues with Rona’s Vortex. Tempo decks usually trade being able to permanently answer a threat for the efficiency of a one mana bounce spell. This is great when things are going well. It helps your creatures hit your opponent by removing blockers whilst letting you spend the rest of your mana on more threats or protecting your board. Tempo decks then usually struggle if they don’t kill their opponent quickly enough because cards like Unsummon fail to answer the key threats. Rona’s Vortex is absolutely perfect for this situation.

This is one of a number of cards in this set that will help tempo decks and I’m excited to see if we get a tempo deck in standard. Other cards I like for this archetype are Shore Up, Combat Research and Haughty Djinn. These cards remind me of cards like Dive Down, Curious Obsession and Tempest Djinn which were the backbone of a Standard deck that I loved. I can’t help but wonder if these cards are a very direct attempt to reproduce that deck in 2022 standard. Haughty Djinn in particular is interesting because in the right deck it will end games extremely quickly.

Knight of Dusk’s Shadow

Knight of Dusk’s Shadow is part of a mirrored pair with Knight of Dawn’s Light. This pair is a call back to White Knight and Black Knight from Alpha and follow on from Knight of Grace and Knight of Malice from our last visit to Dominaria. I don’t think the art on the new knights compares to the incredible Knights of Mercy and Malice but I adore the design of the new knights.

The original knights had protection from their opposite colour which makes a lot of sense thematically but shutting down so much interaction leads to uninteractive and less interesting game-play. The Knights of Mercy and Malice instead debuted the new “hexproof from” ability that was a clear call back to the original knights whilst allowing the knights to actually get into combat with each other. The new knights are even better designs because they compete on several different axes. The black knight completely shuts down the life-gain ability of the white knight but first strike means the white knight wins combat between the two. However menace means the black knight can attack past the white knight if it is unsupported and the pump effects can be used by either player to swing combat in their direction. I can’t think of a pair of cards that have such a complex back-and-forth like this when facing off against each other, especially a pair of cards that are so similar. It’s clear a lot of care and attention to detail has gone into crafting this pair of designs.

Tolarian Terror

Dominaria has a very interesting structure. Instead of two-colour or three-colour archetypes being the foundation of the set, in Dominaria United each colour has a very strong identity and the two-colour archetypes are then a blend of two single-colour archetypes. For example Raff, Weatherlight Stalwart combines white that wants a board filled with creatures and blue that wants to cast instants and sorceries. The gold uncommons still show players what the two-colour pairs are about but if Raff was in a normal set you would expect token makers in blue and support for spells-matter in white. This approach to set design is actually more common in cube as it gives drafters more room for creativity and lets them combine themes in different ways. I’m excited to see how different players approach drafting this set and if we see this style of set design again in the future.

The stand out in the cycle though is Tolarian Terror. Blue’s best cards are usually instants and sorceries and these card types go to your graveyard automatically. You can also mill yourself to get a bigger discount. Ward 2 is also the best ability in the cycle. Once you reduce the casting cost enough it’s impossible for your opponent to kill it with a removal spell without using more mana than you did. One of the benefits adding ward to the game is that designers now have a keyword that they can put on blue commons like this but isn’t as strong as hexproof or flying, both of which would have been too strong for this card. This feels like the perfect power level for a seven mana common.

Cut Down

My last of the lower rarity cards is a very strong removal spell that looks great. Interestingly this is only the second card to care about total power and toughness after Wild Pair and the first to use total power and toughness to codify what counts as a small creature. Cards like Defeat, Strangling Soot and Fatal Push have used power, toughness and mana value to describe small creatures but total power and toughness seems like the cleanest way to do this. Once you see it on a card, you start to wonder why this hasn’t been done before and whether this text is going to be more common going forward.

Top Rares and Mythics

Shivan Devastator

We have our first Dragon Hydra which is a little surprising after thirty years of Magic sets. We’ve seen huge dragons with multiple heads before but a dragon hydra just seems like such a great combination that it’s weird it took so long to see the light of day. The simplicity of such an epic dragon fascinates me. Some have expressed disappointment that a mythic rare dragon is so bland, but after several years of double-faced cards with bloated text boxes, something simpler is refreshing. It’s also interesting to see magic commentators review such a simple card because it forces them to evaluate the power level of a fundamental mechanic like haste.

Personally I think haste is an underrated ability that is hard to play against and it’s really nasty with flying. Blocking this is very hard which means to avoid taking damage you need instant speed interaction. Most decks have to tap out at some point and when they do this will hit hard. Of course you can kill it afterwards and be even on cards, but the damage has already been done. I’m interested to see how much competitive play this sees, to see if my high opinion of haste, flying and a flexible mana-cost will be validated.

Karn, Living Legacy

Karn is the main character in the story-line, with a long standing and personal mission to end the threat of the Phyrexians. His planeswalker cards are consistently excellent. Karn, Living Legacy should one of the most desirable cards in the set but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone give him a favourable review. It’s just strange to see such an important character get such a underwhelming card. In theory it combines ramp, card advantage, card filtering and a win condition but in practice you get an unexciting version of each effect. I’m surprised we didn’t get a more powerful Karn, especially since reprinting Liliana of the Veil shows that very strong planeswalkers are allowed in the current standard format. Perhaps powerstone tokens will be so important that this becomes much better when Brother’s War is released.

There are a couple of notable things about Karn, Living Legacy. Firstly it creates powerstones which are going to be a big mechanic in the next set. This and The Mana Rig from the commander decks create powerstones as a little taste of what is to come. The double negative requirement is really awkward to wrap your head around so it’s important to note that the first ability helps to pay for the second ability since it isn’t a spell. The act of paying mana to use the card draw ability is also really interesting. We haven’t seen a planeswalker activation require mana like this before and it makes it harder to evaluate. If Karn could come down on four and immediately replace itself it would help make Karn more playable. Finally the last ability is pretty underwhelming for a planeswalker ultimate. In the right deck it will kill your opponent very fast but it just doesn’t feel very epic. I do like that the last two abilities are both powered up by the powerstones. I wish more planeswalker designs were as thematic as this one, but I think Karn is missing something special to get excited about like a dramatic and splashy ultimate. I love Karn, but I think this version of him is a little disappointing.

Vodalian Hexcatcher

For eternal formats the most impactful cards in Dominaria United might come from the rare cycle of tribal lords. Some are stronger than others but I expect all of them to find a home. Valiant Veteran might be the weakest but there have been lots of powerful soldiers recently so I expect this to be strong in standard. I was hoping the black lord would be support zombies which is a tribe that would love a two mana lord. Instead we got Shadow-Rite Priest that will be a fun way to cheat out huge threats in Commander. Five mana and sacrificing another cleric is a very low cost to get Progenitus into play.

The other three lords are all in contention to be the best lords of all time and give a boost to popular tribes that already see play in older formats. Leaf-Crowned Visionary is perfect for elf decks that already produce huge amounts of mana whilst Rundvelt Hordemaster is fantastic with sacrifice effects like Skirk Prospector. The goblin lord in particular stands out as the first lord for goblins that only costs two mana.

My favourite of the cycle however is the Vodalian Hexcatcher. The art by Dmitry Burmak is incredible and all of the abilities align perfectly with a typical Merfolk deck. Flash means the Hexcatcher can function as a combat trick which is fun whilst also letting the merfolk player hold up mana for counterspells which is powerful in a tempo deck. It is going to be hard to play against merfolk when they leave up mana. Speaking of counterspells the hexcatcher can also counter spells with the last ability. Cursecatcher is a classic merfolk and whilst sacrificing merfolk is never good this ability to tax spells is often good enough to protect your merfolk from boardwipes or removal that targets a key merfolk. Delaying Wrath of God by one turn can give you the one additional attack step you need to win the game. As a cheap lord that can protect against the most powerful answers to tribal decks, Vodalian Hexcatcher is my pick for the most powerful lord of all time.

Defiler of Vigor

The Phyrexians have finally returned. We had seen a few Praetors in previous sets which let us know that the Phrexians were still actively trying to conquer the multiverse, but we finally have a chance to see many more Phyrexians. The biggest and baddest Phyrexian in this set is Sheoldred, the Apocalypse which looks like a great card even if it isn’t quite as epic as the art or name suggest. This is the first time we have had a Phyrexian praetor only cost four mana and I would have preferred something bigger and scarier. We now have four out of the five praetors since Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider was released in Kaldheim and I can’t wait until we see the biggest and baddest of them all, Elesh Norn.

But Sheoldred is not alone. There are nineteen other Phyrexians in this set and this can only be a taste of things to come. The rare cycle of defilers are the most exciting of the Phrexians with an ability that mimics Phyrexian mana. Phrexian mana first appeared in New Phrexia and it is one of the most broken abilities of all time. By spending life instead of coloured mana it made spells too cheap and gave colours access to abilities they don’t normally get access to. Famous examples include Birthing Pod, Dismember, Gitaxian Probe and Gut Shot. Phyrexian mana caused problems in multiple formats and so it’s interesting to see a balanced version of it on the defilers. You are limited to using it on permanents of a single colour and only once per spell but it’s still a very strong ability. Any of these defilers could see play in Standard but the green defiler in particular is crazy. Green can play a lot of cheap green permanents to get the most out of the cost reduction and getting counters on all your creatures is a great payoff. Defiler of Dreams also looks good but blue typically plays fewer permanents than green. I’m disappointed that the white defiler, Defiler of Faith, only makes a token which is noticeably weaker than some of the effects on other defilers.

Talking of paying life to cast spells, Karn’s Sylex shuts down paying life to help cast spells. Between compleated planeswalkers and defilers there are some interesting things shut down by Karn’s Sylex, but is the sylex designed to combat something in a future set? Would Wizards really bring back Phrexian mana? Could they really bring back such a signature mechanic to get people excited but without breaking every format? Before seeing the defilers and Karn’s Sylex I didn’t think so, but now I’m not so sure.

Temporary Lockdown

Portable Hole has proven itself as a efficient and versatile removal spell in constructed where answering cheap threats efficiently is vital. Temporary Lockdown might be two mana more expensive but it’s still a great deal. Aggressive decks will get wrecked by this, especially as it comes down a turn or two earlier than most boardwipes. What I like most about it though is that it cleanly answers strategies that have been very difficult to answer in the past. The first one that comes to mind is “cat-oven”. This removes Cauldron Familiar, Witch’s Oven, Trail of Crumbs and food tokens. It even exiles to prevent the Cauldron Familiars just coming back immediately. Temporary Lockdown answers cat-oven so cleanly I even help but wonder if it was designed as an answer for it specifically. At least enchantment removal provides counterplay to such a powerful answer. However I feel sorry for mono-red decks that will get hit hard, whilst being unable to remove the enchantment to rescue their cards to the battlefield. I would be shocked if this doesn’t see play and warp meta-games in multiple formats. I am a little surprised at the name though since we are all so sick of temporary lockdowns after the last few years.

Temporal Firestorm

Temporal Firestorm was one of the first cards to be revealed from Dominaria United and it was the card that showed us that kicker with off-colour costs would be in the set. Below rare, cards with kicker in this set can only be kicked once, but the rare kicker cards can be kicked once or twice. One of the problems with kicker is that whilst it makes gameplay much better it has no inherent theme or flavour. Temporal firestorm has easily one of the most evocative kicker costs of all time. The art and the name clearly sell the idea of Jaya and Teferi working together. The base spell is a powerful destructive effect that requires red mana to represent Jaya whilst the bonus effect uses phasing, a mechanic that is synonymous with Teferi. The additional cost then requires white and/or blue which are the two colours associated with Teferi. This card sells the idea of two planeswalkers working together beautifully. I just wish more cards in this cycle has also followed the pattern of planeswalkers working together.

The Raven Man

I got into Magic’s story at the time of Magic Origins where I was introduced to the Raven Man, and where the art from the Raven Man’s new card first appeared. I have always loved this art and the mysteries surrounding the Raven Man. Five years later this art finally makes its way onto a magic card and the true identity of the Raven Man has been revealed in the newest pieces of web fiction. A powerful wizard who has appeared to Lilliana on many planes to protect, manipulate or taunt her but who until now had been almost a complete mystery. It was never clear if he was another planeswalker, a figment of Liliana’s imagination or part of the chain veil’s curse. I won’t spoil the story, but at long last we have some answers.

The card itself is a fine support piece for a deck themed around discard effects. This is pretty flavourful as it synergises well with Liliana of the Veil and since discard effects usually represent madness, this card design also represents the many years the Raven Man spent messing with Lilliana’s sanity. I like that this triggers on any turn and applies to cards you discard as well which opens up different ways to use the Raven Man to generate a large flock of ravens. I also wonder if the Raven Man is concealing his true power and if we will see a more powerful version in the future. Given that people have been trying to guess the Raven Man’s identity since he appeared in web comics in 2010 it might be some time before we learn more.

Plaza of Heroes

There are a couple of interesting rare lands in Dominaria United. Both have very busy rule boxes and can make any colour of mana but I had a very different reaction to each of them. First Thran Portal which has so much text for a Evolving Wilds variant. Lands like this are supposed to make Magic’s mana system a bit more consistent but this makes it more frustrating. It punishes you in so many different ways. Mana Confluence is a great card and it’s completely reasonable that Mana Confluence hurts you every time you use it. Thran Portal however has multiple other draw backs. If this is played as your fourth land or later it comes into play tapped which usually means the most powerful spells in your deck are delayed by a whole turn. The natural response is to play it as one of the first lands you play, but that means taking more damage. It also forces you to choose the land type earlier than you might want to. For example if you need a forest and a swamp, so choose swamp and then draw a swamp you are going to to be so frustrated. I am surprised Wizards are making a land with so many downsides and infuriating play patterns.

This is a stark contrast to Plaza of Heroes which has so many upsides and benefits. You could remove any two abilities from this land and still find decks that would run it. There are so many good legendary creatures these days that building a deck with lots of them to take advantage of this land is very attractive. But what makes this land so crazy is that you can justify running it in any commander deck that needs to protect its commander and can afford to run a colourless land. If your strategy revolves around your commander this land is worth looking at and this is almost ignoring the ability to make five colours of mana. I am so confused as to why Plaza of Heroes is so good and why Thran Portal is so bad. Why are there so many restrictions on how you can use the first land and so many good abilities on the second? It feels like they come from completely different designers with different philosophies despite being in the same set and the juxtaposition between the two is so jarring.