Dominaria United Set Review - Allied Colors and Shards

Shanna, Purifying Blade | Art by Magali Villeneuve | Graphic Design by Luminarch

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts & Lands | Allied Colors and Shards | Enemy Colors and Wedges

Legends Upon Legends Upon Legends

Tired of your same old decks? None of the commanders in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate caught your eye? Looking to spice up your deckbuilding life? Say no more! Dominaria United's got you covered, and then some! I mean, basically every card in this set is legendary. Am I exaggerating? Yes, but only kind of. Anyway, enough of this introductory nonsense, let's jump right into the Allied Colors and Shards Review, because there's a lot to cover.


Mythics


Ajani, Sleeper Agent

Look how they compleated my boy. At least they repaired his eye in the process! Thanks, Phyrexia.

Is our Sleeper Agent any good, though? Compare it to his uncompleated self, Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, who appears in 4,500 decks on EDHREC. Mentor is one more mana, but his abilities are similar and they are both +1 abilities. That makes Sleeper Agent a bit hard to sell. I can still see him in counters matter decks, like Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion/Master Chef, Ghave, Guru of Spores, or Falco Spara, Pactweaver.

The ultimate, though, is really neat (and flavourful too)! If you can activate Ajani's ultimate the turn he comes down (thanks to Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, for example), every planeswalker or creature you cast gives an opponent two poison counters. That does put a real clock on the game! It makes Ajani a nice inclusion in decks that can Proliferate the poison counters (Atraxa, Praetors' Voice). It makes me wonder if we're going to get enough compleated planeswalkers across the next sets to make a Compleated Superfriends Atraxa deck? All will be one.

All in all, I expect to see Ajani, Sleeper Agent a decent amount in counters or superfriends decks, especially the ones that can abuse his ultimate right away, because his other abilities are a bit lackluster.


Rith, Liberated Primeval

Giving ward 2 to your Dragons isn't nothing, and I suspect it'll be very easy to trigger Rith, Liberated Primeval's second ability, given that Dragons are usually pretty large. Making a 4/4 flyer on your end step is okay, but not crazy powerful, and it only happens once every turn rotation. You are in white and green, so Anointed Procession and Parallel Lives are in the discussion. I suspect Bite-type cards will be pretty good to trigger Rith's ability, as well as effects like Terror of the Peaks.

Rith, Liberated Primeval is our first dedicated Dragon commander in these colors. However, I don't think the build-around he offers is as exciting as, say, the new Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm.

Alternatively, I can totally see Rith, Liberated Primeval in the 99 of Tiamat, Scion of the Ur-Dragon, or the beloved The Ur-Dragon.


Shanna, Purifying Blade

Shanna is our second lifegain commander in Bant after Treva, the Renewer. Treva is six mana, and her ability is kind of clunky, so Shanna, Purifying Blade becomes the default commander for this archetype in these colors. She comes down early and her lifelink can trigger her own ability, which is reminiscent of Well of Lost Dreams, and card advantage in the command zone is always powerful. The real question is: what does blue add to a lifegain deck?

Blue gives us access to a lot of powerful cards, like Cyclonic Rift, Counterspell, and Supreme Verdict. How about a little more synergy, though? For interaction, we could run Absorb or Dramatic Rescue. Shanna draws us cards, so we could profit from Shabraz, the Skyshark and Horizon Chimera. Those two cards combo with Drogskol Reaver, by the way! Just make sure you have a Laboratory Maniac on the battlefield as well, otherwise you'll deck yourself and die. Oopsie!

You can also surprise your opponents with blasts from the past! Cast Illusions of Grandeur and pay your remaining mana to draw that many cards? Neat! Do you have a green player at your table? Lifetap is for you! Gain life while doing absolutely nothing. How great!

Shanna, Purifying Blade has a sweet design and is a good reason to play Bant lifegain. Is her card advantage good enough to make her a potential cEDH commander? Some say she's Tymna's second coming. That can't possibly be true, right? Let me know what you think in the comments!


Sol'Kanar the Tainted

As a commander, Sol'Kanar the Tainted certainly looks slow. His abilities are rather tame, and on the fourth turn, you must give him to an opponent. Bummer. You could flicker and keep him, I suppose, but is it worth it?

Alternatively, you could pass Sol'Kanar the Tainted around and build a politics-oriented deck, with cards like Xantcha, Sleeper Agent, Share the Spoils and the Offerings cycle. Maybe put a Braids, Conjurer Adept into play and see what happens. A little bit of group hug, a little bit of chaos. Don't forget to add some goad!

I guess you could also go Grixis Elemental tribal. Sol'Kanar the Tainted gives no support whatsoever to this tribe, but he's an Elemental himself. Is it enough? Not really, but I'm trying here.

Speaking of Elementals, the only place I can see Sol'Kanar the Tainted doing work in the 99 is probably Horde of Notions. Overall, I am not impressed by Sol'Kanar.


Soul of Windgrace

A new take on an old favorite, Soul of Windgrace offers a nice change of pace. Notably, it's now a creature instead of a planeswalker, with an enter-the-battlefield and an attack trigger. That, and his ability to protect himself, suggests a more aggressive build.

Note that Soul of Windgrace's first ability can target a land in any graveyard, making it harder to whiff. To me this reads like a lands matter deck with a light Voltron subtheme, similar to a Radha, Heart of Keld deck but with additional graveyard synergies. You get the usual suspects (Ramunap Excavator, Avenger of Zendikar, The Gitrog Monster, Titania, Protector of Argoth, etc.) with some Equipment that can pack a punch (Blackblade Reforged).

Soul of Windgrace's abilities offer a nice toolbox for different situations, and I'll bet it'll be a reasonably popular commander. Otherwise, it slots in pretty nicely in the 99 of its previous iteration, Lord Windgrace.


Zur, Eternal Schemer

Esper enchantment creatures? An interesting proposition. Zur, Eternal Schemer's passive ability is very strong, providing good offense and defense, as well as protection for your creatures. Are we looking to play creatures that already are enchantments, or to turn enchantments into creatures? Let's find out.

First, you have access to 10 Theros Gods, and they pretty much all have useful abilities. At the very least, they're creatures with indestructible, deathtouch, lifelink, and hexproof, which is decent enough. Good luck keeping count of the different Devotions! Aside from them, powerful enchantment creatures include Doomwake Giant, Grim Guardian, Archetype of Imagination, and Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr, to name a few. You can also run some of the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Sagas, which will turn into creatures at some point.

As for noncreature enchantments, we are well served: Rhystic Study, Smothering Tithe, Mystic Remora, Phyrexian Arena, Ghostly Prison, Necropotence... the list goes on. The thing is, noncreature enchantments are usually harder to interact with, so turning them into creatures might make them more vulnerable. They do gain hexproof from Zur, but board wipes will hurt. If we're looking to end the game by animating our enchantments all at once, we can always run Starfield of Nyx or Opalescence.

Still, I think Zur, Eternal Schemer's second ability has legs, especially for higher-mana-value enchantments. Your Kiora Bests the Sea God can also hit face while it's doing its thing. Cool.

I like Zur, Eternal Schemer. It's a nice build-around and a refreshing take on Esper enchantments.


Rares


Ertai Resurrected

There's a new member in the "four-mana flash creature that counters something" gang. Venser, Shaper Savant is probably the best of the bunch, but I believe Ertai Resurrected offers enough versatility to be worthy of consideration.

His ability lets you choose between Disallow or Hero's Downfall, which is very useful if you have to deal with a creature that is already on the board. That does come at the cost of giving a card to your opponent, but people play Arcane Denial all the time without any second thoughts. Powerful ETBs to counter with Ertai include Thassa's Oracle, Dockside Extortionist, Avenger of Zendikar, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, or even just an untimely Bojuka Bog. He can also counter drawbacks of your own spells, like Final Fortune or Phage the Untouchable.

I fail to see why you would pick Ertai Resurrected as your commander, but you might want to put him in a blink deck, like Aminatou, the Fateshifter, to be able to reuse him at will, or in a deck that wants a high number of creatures, like Sefris of the Hidden Ways.


King Darien XLVIII

While not breaking new ground in Selesnya by any stretch, King Darien XLVIII demonstrates a wildly useful range of abilities. He's cheap to cast; he's a Human Soldier, which are two relevant creature types; he has an anthem effect and a mana sink; he cares about counters and tokens; and finally, he can protect your board at instant speed for free. He represents what I would call "Quintessential Selesnya".

As a commander, is he good enough to overthrow some superstars like Kyler, Sigardian Emissary or Trostani, Selesnya's Voice? I don't think so. His abilities are indeed good and versatile, but they're a bit boring. As a support card in the 99 though, he can be played in many different decks. There are the two I just mentioned, but there's also Rhys the Redeemed, Jetmir, Nexus of Revels or Jinnie Fay, Jetmir's Second.


Meria, Scholar of Antiquity

Mana generation and card advantage in the command zone? What could go wrong?

Obviously Meria, Scholar of Antiquity is very powerful, even if she's held back by her nontoken clauses. Sure, you can't tap Treasures for mana, but that would be completely ridiculous. Clock of Omens, Unwinding Clock, and Seedborn Muse will provide a lot of value in this deck, and I'm sure there's a way to make infinite green mana and exile all the cards in your deck with Meria. I don't know exactly how, but I'm sure you can. With some cards, you just know.

Also, she can abuse Winter Orb and Static Orb and lock your opponents out. While it is a viable strategy, please check with your playgroup and make sure that everyone is on board with this before playing!

Meria, Scholar of Antiquity also synergizes well with effects that care about casting spells from exile, like Delayed Blast Fireball and Wild-Magic Sorcerer.

Gruul artifacts is a nice fresh take on the archetype. Green does have some tricks up its sleeves:

  • Amass a board full of artifacts, then cast Rampage of the Clans on your opponent's end step and swing in with your Centaurs;
  • Go for an artifacto-crats strategy and gain tons of life with Fangren Marauder;
  • Gather some higher-costed artifacts and cast Titania's Song, killing all your opponents' Treasures and swinging with a massive artifact army.

As a final thought, Meria, Scholar of Antiquity's flavour text is basically Wizards of the Coast saying: "Green cares about artifacts now. Deal with it!"


Rivaz of the Claw

Another Dragon commander. Uh, just how many of these are we getting?

Rivaz of the Claw does offer an inviting build-around. He accelerates into your Dragons (tapping for two mana is pretty good) and lets you rebuy them if they get removed. I think he takes over Bladewing the Risen for Rakdos Dragons. He's cheaper to cast, acts as a mana dork early in the game, and his reanimation is repeatable (with different Dragons; the ones he reanimates get exiled if they die).

I'm sure Rivaz of the Claw will find a home in other Dragon tribal decks for the mana acceleration and graveyard recursion, even if he's not a Dragon himself. He is very synergistic in Scion of the Ur-Dragon.


Stenn, Paranoid Partisan

There are so many things to do with Stenn, Paranoid Partisan! A two-mana cost-reducer for anything besides lands and creatures is very open-ended.

He acts as a second copy of Cloud Key, which is a combo-enabler in artifact decks. Here is an example: Stenn draws your deck if you choose "artifacts" and have a Sensei's Divining Top on the board with a Future Sight effect (Mystic Forge, The Reality Chip). Just tap the Top and draw a card, then play Top for zero mana, repeat. If you also happen to have an Aetherflux Reservoir, it's game over!

Stenn, Paranoid Partisan can also facilitate spellslinger strategies. Sure, you don't get to reduce the cost of both instants and sorceries, like Goblin Electromancer, but still, you can build your deck accordingly and run a lot more instants.

You can also go for an enchantress build! Stenn, Paranoid Partisan maybe isn't the best commander for this archetype, but he is a slam dunk in Bruna, Light of Alabaster at least, and in every enchantment deck that has white and blue in its color identity.

I'm probably forgetting some huge and powerful interactions, but that's what's amazing with Stenn, Paranoid Partisan: he's so versatile that an argument can be made to put him in any deck that has a prevalence of noncreature spells.


Uncommons


Garna, Bloodfist of Keld

Unusually aggressive aristocrats? I like the versatility you get from Garna, Bloodfist of Keld. If you can sacrifice your creatures at instant speed, you can decide if what you need is more cards or just good ol' damage. Even if your creatures are unblocked, you can sacrifice them after damage but before the end of combat and they would still be considered "attacking". She pairs reasonably well with the new Lagomos, Hand of Hatred. I like her with effects that put hasty tokens into play to send to their deaths, like Rite of the Raging Storm, Elemental Mastery, Chandra, Acolyte of Flame, or Tempt with Vengeance.

Also, people are talking about giving her Infect, since she's the one dealing the damage. A viable strategy, but I suggest not revealing it until it's too late: people are irrationally afraid of Infect and will just team up to murder you. Live by the Infect, die by the Infect is the saying, right?


Lagomos, Hand of Hatred

Well, that's a pretty decent Thornbite Staff holder! Granted, you have to be able to loop death triggers, have the Sstaff, and Lagomos, Hand of Hatred on board, but still, the payoff is scary. You can do it at instant speed too, and it doesn't have to be your creatures. Even if you're not looping, just creating some tokens each turn with cards like Loyal Apprentice, Legion Warboss, or Goblin Rabblemaster will eventually let you tutor every turn organically. Plus, if people don't block your tokens, they will take damage, making it a lose-lose situation for them. For an uncommon, Lagomos, Hand of Hatred does surprisingly powerful things.


Queen Allenal of Ruadach

Another support card for token decks that run green and white. She has no evasion, but she can get pretty huge. She isn't doubling tokens, but making tokens for free is something desirable. Not super interesting, but serviceable in token decks mentioned above in King Darien XLVIII.


Radha, Coalition Warlord

Oh no. She's bad. It wasn't enough to make her lose her spark and ability to planeswalk forever, you had to turn her into a signpost uncommon? My disappointment is immeasurable and my day is ruined.

I'm going to go ahead and assume Domain isn't really worth it if you haven't got the five basic land types, so let's review Radha, Coalition Warlord in the light of five-color decks.

She can give a +5/+5 buff to a creature you control. You better have tap/untap shenanigans to achieve this, because as a Hill Giant, she won't do much attacking. Esika, God of the Tree can help Radha tap for mana, triggering her ability. Then, if you can infinitely tap and untap her somehow, you can boost your creatures' power to arbitrarily large amounts. It's not terrible, I guess. She's a Warrior, so maybe there's a place for her in Najeela, the Blade-Blossom? I'm grasping at straws here.

Radha fans, let's just act like this never happened. I'm sad.


Raff, Weatherlight Stalwart

A lot of spellslinger decks can make tokens every time you cast a spell (Talrand, Sky Summoner, Monastery Mentor), so tapping two creatures to draw a card doesn't seem too steep a cost. Later in the game, you can use Raff, Weatherlight Stalwart's second ability to sink mana into pumping your massive board of creatures and turn them sideways for the win. Either in the 99 of a spellslinger deck or leading his own, I believe Raff, Weatherlight Stalwart will see play.


Rona, Sheoldred's Faithful

So, Rona, Sheoldred's Faithful is an infinite damage outlet for Isochron Scepter and Dramatic Reversal. Pretty neat. Since you're in Dimir, you also have access to the most powerful countermagic and tutors. I believe Rona, Sheoldred's Faithful can helm a reasonably high-powered deck.

Other than that, she can reanimate herself pretty easily, avoiding the commander tax. Dimir has access to a bunch of ways to recur spells from the graveyard (Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy, Snapcaster Mage, Lier, Disciple of the Drowned) so discarding two cards might actually not be a downside at all. Also, Flashback exists.

Rona, Sheoldred's Faithful can also have a support role in Kess, Dissident Mage or maybe Anhelo, the Painter.


Rulik Mons, Warren Chief

There are 17 green or Gruul Goblins within the Gruul color identity, and, let's be honest, most of them aren't very good. Fun idea, but it's basically mono-red Goblins with ramp. Other than that, I'm just not impressed with Rulik Mons, Warren Chief: he has to attack, and he either makes a Goblin or puts a land into play. I don't think this is good enough for lands decks (Omnath, Locus of Creation, Lord Windgrace, Omnath, Locus of Rage) either.


Tura Kennerüd, Skyknight

The more expensive the payoff, the less you can profit from it. Five mana is a lot to invest into a 3/3 flyer, and then you have to cast some spells to start making 1/1 Soldiers. It's not bad, but it's not very exciting either. It's rather slow. There are worse things to put in your Azorius or Jeskai spellslinger deck I guess, except if you really care about Knights or Soldiers for some reason.


Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator

Oh, look, another IsoRev outlet in the command zone. When you've drawn/discarded your whole deck, if you haven't killed everybody with Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator's damage, cast Thassa's Oracle to win. Yay!

Vohar can probably lead a deck of their own, or maybe slot in Rona, Sheoldred's Faithful or Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy/Scion of Halaster. Dimir spellslinger is getting some decent support this set! Any Grixis spellslinger deck might also be interested by Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator.


Zar Ojanen, Scion of Efrava

Unfortunately, I don't think Zar Ojanen, Scion of Efrava does enough. If you want to pump all your creatures with +1/+1 counters each turn, just play Loyal Guardian or Brokers Ascendancy. You might think you can do something crazy since she only needs to "become tapped", but the creatures you pump cap at five toughness, so no infinite untap shenanigans. "Five Color Good Stuff" runs the best of the best, and sadly, Zar Ojanen, Scion of Efrava doesn't make the cut. I'm not even sure I see her in Cat tribal.


Zur, Eternal Schemer | Art by Jesper Ejsing

So Much to Build, So Little Time

There are tons of new legends to choose from in this set. Some of the uncommons are surprising as well, and the power level seems rather high. I am very excited about Shanna, Purifying Blade for a Bant lifegain commander, and I think Zur, Eternal Schemer opens up a really interesting design space for an enchantress build. Then, I have to say, I can't wait to see what folks come up with for Meria, Scholar of Antiquity as a Gruul artifact deck. All things considered, I am stoked for what Dominaria United brings to our format!

What do you think? Am I sleeping on some of these cards? Is there some broken interaction I didn't see? Are you excited for Gruul Goblins? Let me know in the comments! I'm Philomène, thanks for reading, and I hope you'll have a blast with the set!

Philomène is a film composer from Montréal, Canada. Her love of card games started in the late 90's with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z and of course, Magic : The Gathering. Preferring a more casual kind of game in commander (art and lore being very high on her list of reasons to play cards), she satiates her competitive urges through Limited formats.