Dominaria United Set Review - Enemy Colors and Wedges
(Jhoira, Ageless Innovator | Art by Justyna Gil)
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts & Lands | Allied Colors and Shards | Enemy Colors and Wedges
The Wheel Turns
Normally, "reinventing the wheel" is used in a negative connotation. It refers to going through all the hard work that one's predecessors have already accomplished. As it turns out, the Serra Angels, hailing from Dominaria, refer to the very plane itself as "the Wheel", speaking to its interconnectedness with nearly every other plane. What happens on Dominaria ripples throughout the multiverse, like spokes to a rim.
In fact, perhaps it's a plane that necessitates reinvention. It's been the setting of Magic: the Gathering's story for the majority of the game's history, and has seen more invasions than grilled meats at a fly-infested summer cookout. We could visit Dominaria a thousand times over, and yet feel as if we only scratch the surface of what histories lay there, dormant, whispered, forgotten. In a thousand visits, we'd also never settle on the final fate of the Dominaria - there's a feeling that it's fate will never be truly sealed, as it's in a constant state of flux, a state of perpetual becoming rather than a state of being.
It's a plane that's felt every form of mana channel through it, clashing and colliding into vibrant kaleidoscopes of multiple colors. So like a kid in grade school, let's take a moment and explore just what happens when we mix two (or more) colors together.
Jodah, the Unifier
Okay, Jodah may not be an exclusively enemy-colored card from the set, but let's be honest, there are just a ton of legendaries in this set. It's Dominaria, after all.
That first ability is no joke, practically granting your legendaries a specific type of Coat of Arms or Heroes' Podium. Read closely, and you'll notice the way he's worded means he will even buff himself, such that he's a 6/6 all alone!
Off the bat, he bears striking resemblance to Sisay, Weatherlight Captain in being a five-color legendary matters commander.
Both also get bigger the more legendaries you have out, and both also have a form of 'card advantage' in how they work with other legendary creatures. Honestly, that's where they differ. Jodah, the Unifier strikes me more as a Coat of Arms meets legendary Cascade, whereas Sisay, Weatherlight Captain operates more as a toolbox commander or 'hidden commander' extraordinaire. Plus, Sisay's doesn't buff all legendary creatures, just herself, and is far more concerned about the colors represented than Jodah.
Interestingly, Sisay, Weatherlight Captain, Esika, God of the Tree, and Go-Shintai of Life's Origin are in succession as the top third, fourth, and fifth most popular five-color commanders. While I won't go so far as to say Jodah will replace all of them, I do think it's likely he may replace one or more of them, as I feel Cascade is just a fun enough mechanic for people to get behind while also letting you buff your team with each successive cast of a legendary. Heck, Jodah also works with God tribal, Shrines (e.g., Go-Shintai of Hidden Cruelty), or even planeswalkers, since all of them are legendary spells!
Astor, Bearer of Blades
Choo-Choo - Boros Equipment lovers, all aboard! Next stop on the Boros Equipment train!
Astor provides card advantage and cost reduction from the command zone, and even though they're tied to very specific permanent types (Equipment and Vehicles), that's pretty much always worth a consideration in Boros/Lorehold colors.
Astor's largest draw will be in Equipment decks. Even with a density of other cost-reducers in Equipment decks, just consider how he works with something like Sword of Hearth and Home. Equipping Astor, Bearer of Blades for only one mana means he can swing in, ramp, and flicker himself to get another ETB trigger and dig for more Equipment. Normally, this would be a bit of a mana loss, but since Astor makes Equipment cost only 1, we can use it to re-equip Astor with the very land that the Sword got out of our library!
While he may be a slam dunk in Equipment-themed decks, I'm genuinely curious about the Vehicle proposition. Depala, Pilot Exemplar was our only serious option for a long time, and I found in building her that I struggled to balance tribal and Vehicles effectively. Kotori, Pilot Prodigy and Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty helped to breath new life into Vehicle tribal decks, but I'm intrigued if Astor is enough to push some people to try Jeskai. Kykar, Wind's Fury Vehicles anyone? Or perhaps Mardu with Greasefang, Okiba Boss? Let me know!
Ivy, Gleeful Spellthief
My, my. While I'm no expert in predicting popularity like our very own Kyle Massa, I'd be willing to bet this may well be one of the most popular ones of the set. Here's why:
First off, it's tricksy, which a lot of Commander players enjoy. Second, it's tricksy in a way that takes one-off effects and makes them suddenly much better by letting you double-dip with copies. Not unlike Feather, the Redeemed, Ivy, Gleeful Spellthief has the potential to double up on small, targeted cantrips (e.g., Viridescent Wisps) to let you churn through your deck. Ivy also works with Auras (e.g., Ancestral Mask), Mutate (e.g., Parcelbeast), pump spells (e.g., Giant Growth), and so much more! That's not even counting what your opponents are casting!
Something like Hunter's Insight following a pump spell seems particularly potent. Or maybe just trying to double up on Colossification.
Most of all, I'm excited to see cards like Gnarlback Rhino, Season of Growth, Wild Defiance, and Spellwild Ouphe see some play.
Even the Impetus and Vow cycles get pretty nutty, allowing you to force opposing creatures elsewhere after landing your Psychic Impetus or Vow of Wildness, while making copies that enchant Ivy to grow her bigger. We essentially get 'removal' and a Voltron threat for the same mana value. Splash in spells like Double Major or Irenicus's Vile Duplication to get multiple copies of Ivy, and things really start to become a headache. Don't forget Twinning Staff!
Overall, I think Ivy has so much open potential, and proves quite a puzzle to solve (like Orvar, the All-Form), which I think will attract many EDH players far and wide.
Jhoira, Ageless Innovator
Ageless indeed — Mach 3 version of Jhoira comes to us looking, well, as if she hasn't aged a day! Turns out, when you're involved in a temporal disaster at the Tolarian Academy, you can actually slow the aging process to a halt, which is why Jhoira is looking so spritely at her age of nearly 1,200 years old.
And we thought Captain Ripley Vance was the cannon fanatic — I adore the art on the new Jhoira here. It feels epic, as if some whimsical and dramatic classical solo is playing in the background while the Phyrexians eat cannonballs from a salvo.
Just as Jhoira's previous iterations were powerful, so too is this one. In those many lifetimes, we've seen various iterations of Jhoira. The first (Jhoira of the Ghitu) played with time itself, and allowed powerful spells like Eldrazi to be cheated in ahead of schedule. Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain traded big carbs like Spaghetti monsters for a full protein diet of dozens of eggs, making churning through her deck over(ly) easy.
Here, we're encouraged to lean into full combo or stax.
Intruder Alarm is a classic combo card, and it works well with Jhoira's activated ability when synced up with something like Genesis Chamber or Ancestral Statue to untap Jhoira. Corridor Monitor also likely has a home here. You can play Corridor Monitor after Jhoira's first activation to untap Jhoira, then tap her again to go up to four ingenuity counters. This can be used to drop in a Phyrexian Metamorph, copying the Corridor Monitor, allowing us to do it all over again and this time going to six ingenuity counters. There's almost a Birthing Pod/Prime Speaker Vannifar element here. The fact that this Jhoira specifies "with mana value X or less" is huge here, as Birthing Pod variant decks are often very particular in their curve management and mana values, whereas Jhoira just says "put more ingenuity counters on me, and dump whatever's less onto the battlefield for free."
It also seems a perfect home for things like Illusionist's Bracers, Battlemage's Bracers, Clock of Omens, Liquimetal Torque, and/or Silverskin Armor, or any other manner of untap effects, like Freed from the Real or Thousand-Year Elixir. As with most artifact decks, there's bound to be high synergies everywhere, and lots of convoluted lines of play, which is what makes them so simultaneously challenging and rewarding.
Then there's the stax variant. Toss in cards like Winter Orb, Trinisphere, or Lodestone Golem and use Jhoira to plop them onto the battlefield whenever you see fit to slow down opponents while you cheat mana costs with ingenuity counters.
Not every Jhoira, Ageless Innovator deck will be built so tuned, but chances are, people may have seen one of the higher powered variants in the wild and will be quick to remove her. Since the ingenuity counters are placed on her, I may recommend The Ozolith here as a means of recycling ingenuity counters in case she gets removed!
Nemata, Primeval Warden
Reach? Sure. It's a big tree, after all.
(Reads second line of text regarding graveyard hate)
Incidental graveyard hate tacked onto commanders seems to be an increasing phenomenon of late (see: Valentin, Dean of the Vein, Liesa, Forgotten Archangel, Gisa, Glorious Resurrector, etc.). The fact that this non-bos with Grismold, the Dreadsower is kind of a bummer, and that it hoses an opposing Slimefoot, the Stowaway is a flavor fail, but overall, this has some serious utility. It differs from Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet in that Kalitas specifies only nontokens, whereas New-mata is perfectly fine with tokens exiling and netting you Saprolings. This makes it a perfect home for wonky, fun cards like Infernal Genesis or Genesis Chamber.
Converting those Saprolings into tribal payoffs, a Voltron threat (don't forget your Access Tunnel to make Nemata unblockable before buffing him!) and card draw are all welcome. All in all, it feels like a tree-shifted, less oppressive version of Toxrill, the Corrosive, and I'm here for it.
I see this slotting into the 99 of Slimefoot and Grismold, the Dreadsower more so than the reverse, but they all do care about Saprolings to some extent, and therefore offer a nice trio of commander options to shake up your aristo-Saps deck.
Ratadrabik of Urborg
Hey look, he finally got a card! First appearing in the flavor text of cards such as Smallpox, Minions' Murmurs, and Ridged Kusite way back in 2006, it's always a bit exciting to see a character jump out of the italics and into the command zone.
It's a neat commander to boot. While the vigilance may not be a huge boon, it's nothing to sneeze at, especially since Ratadrabik enables a tribal synergy which could buff him up to swing in for damage and stay as a hefty blocker. Many of us have felt how surprisingly effective ward effects are, and ward 2 means someone will have to go that extra distance just to get Ratadrabik out of the way. I think it's safe to say he'll stick around a bit before getting removed.
It's that triggered ability that's so alluring. Doubling up on ETBs, utility, or death triggers from your dead legendary creatures is a great space to be in, reminding me of my own very dear Hofri Ghostforge build. While a lot of Hofri builds seem to lean into the Threaten effect variant, which isn't so available here without red, we can still lean into weird cards like Evangelize or Ritual of the Machine to steal opponents' creatures, sacrifice them, and get Zombie tokens for ourselves.
Ratadrabik's ability is triggered, not a replacement effect, and it doesn't even exile the creature from the graveyard, meaning that we're able to get those very creatures back out if we need to. Ao, the Dawn Sky, Junji, the Midnight Sky, Sidisi, Undead Vizier, Vogar, Necropolis Tyrant, and Teysa Karlov are some options that come to mind. Ao's death trigger allows us to dig deeper into our library, Junji allows us to reanimate, while Sidisi grants us access to two tutors (hello, Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward and Animate Dead!), and Vogar gets swoll when other creatures die and rewards you with cards when it dies. It's even a Zombie! Speaking of which, even nonlegendaries, like Cryptbreaker and Undead Augur, are likely to pull weight here.
Finally, Anointed Procession and Elenda, the Dusk Rose also seem some fun options here, just being able to double up on your legendary ETB and death triggers. Even if Anointed Procession or Song of the Worldsoul doesn't let you keep two legendaries, you still get two ETB or death triggers. Overall, this is a really sweet commander and I've been having a blast co-brewing a build with a dear friend (thanks Tyler for all your help!).
Uncommons & Commons
Aron, Benalia's Ruin
Cool title, and fantastic art (oh, how we love the fabled stained glass of Dominaria [e.g. History of Benalia]!), but an underwhelming set of abilities given everything else we're seeing. I'm probably one of the bigger menace fanatics out there, and yet I'm still not sold on this guy. I think if you're opting for a Phyrexian build or need a slot in your Orzhov/Mardu+ legends matter, go hog-wild.
But that second ability means that we really want to go as wide as possible to make the most of Aron, while having to sacrifice those very creatures to pump the rest. With a high enough density of counters, I could see things like Nikara, Lair Scavenger, Fain, the Broker, and Embrose, Dean of Shadow pulling weight alongside Cathars' Crusade. However, we need to hit a critical mass to get there first. I'm curious to hear from any of you if this is the legend that piqued your interest and how you're looking to manage sacrificing with going wide and counters all at once.
Baird, Argivian Recruiter
Baird, Steward of Argive traded in two mana and his vigilance and a little less booty (toughness) for a bit of red. Normally, getting access to more colors is a powerful thing for commanders, as you get access to a whole new slice of the color pie, but this Baird is just a bit bland.
Having creatures with more power than their base isn't a huge ask in Boros, with the number of anthem effects out there (see Tori D'Avenant, Fury Rider below!), but the payoff is pretty minimal, granting us a 1/1 Soldier only on our end step. On the plus side, I don't see this getting removed at all, but probably because it just doesn't have to.
Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia similarly produces a slow stream of bodies only on our turn, but at least black has a means of mobilizing sacrifice effects more efficiently and converting them into other resources.
Overall, a good pick in Limited, but not terribly impressive in the command zone.
Balmor, Battlemage Captain
Yet another addition to the Izzet Blitz archetype! I've always enjoyed the spell-slinging nature of Izzet pairing with combat and aggression, and I'd venture to say many others do too, as Izzet prowess has is a deck you see crop up various formats every now and again.
Adeliz, the Cinder Wind comes to mind as the immediate counterpart here. Assuming no ramp, Balmor comes down a turn earlier, but without haste means both Balmor and Adeliz are likely to swing on turn three. While Balmor's pseudo-prowess is limited to only boosting power, the granting of trample is particularly sweet here, allowing you to stack the deck with big power boosts (e.g., Dynacharge, Haze of Rage) and still get damage through.
Balor likely slots into Adeliz a bit easier than vice versa, but I think you're in no wrong shape to have a deck full of Izzet Wizards and many low-cost spells. Bonus points for equipping Robe of the Archmagi to Balmor!
I.... well... this isn't great. I love a good Wayne Reynold's piece, and when I saw Troll Shaman I immediate got excited... until I read the text box.
Domain is a keyword that, when tied to legendary creatures, means, by virtue of our rules, that we just aren't (often) going to have any more potential than the color identity of that very commander. Bortuk is two colors, meaning outside of Prismatic Omen effects, we just aren't getting more than a 2/2 out of our 'yard onto the battlefield for six mana. I could see some nice potential with it even returning creatures to hand, but the fact that it's a cast trigger and not a general enters-the-battlefield trigger means that we're stuck casting it from the command zone over and over, or forced to bounce it back to our hand with things like Sanctum of Eternity, which just isn't terribly productive.
Great art, but a tricky ability. I'm curious to hear if anyone out there has settled on this and cracked it!
Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim
Well, a two-mana 2/2 with deathtouch and a suite of abilities is now really starting to make Bortuk's bones rattle.
This this is lean, mean, and downright efficient. It comes down early and immediately starts giving you lifegain while also putting future pressure on your opponents if those very creatures die.
Effectively having access to a low-mana-value Suture Priest and Blood Artist in the command zone is probably something many will want, especially when it's also a good blocker and can be recast so easily in a pinch. Orzhov is well at home in wanting small creatures to enter and subsequently die for the cause, so this seems a great slot both in the command zone or in the 99 of other Aristocrat strategies.
Oh, and it's a great Pauper EDH commander to boot!
Nael, Avizoa Aeronaut
Okay, I'm about to spend a lot more words than you probably expected on Nael, Avizoa Aeronaut, but I hope you stick around for it.
First off, I like the idea of an aeronaut. Throughout Magic's history we've gotten quite a few humanoid creatures using ships, hang gliders, and propellers to become one with the birbs. For Nael, it's a cool juncture of technology and exploration, and I think a good place for Simic outside of the oozing value we're used to seeing.
Simic may well be king of casual EDH due to blue's card advantage and green's ramp, but for me, I always was drawn to Simic for it's weird, quirky potential. Commanders like Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist, Lonis, Cryptozoologist, and Moritte of the Frost always piqued my interest for how dynamic they could be rather than leaning into the tried-and-true card draw + ramp formula. It's blue's cold ingenuity and strive for perfection butting up against green's wild, untamable vibrancy. It's where nature and nurture come to a head, and where all manner of those curious in the natural world seek to understand and document it (see: Volo, Guide to Monsters).
Nael, Avizoa Aeronaut was likely not designed with being a commander in mind, considering once again the limits of Domain in a two-color identity. Sure, she slots into the 99 of five-color decks or even Omnath, Locus of Creation decks which have access to multiple land types by virtue of their color identities.
On her own, though? Well, let's try our darnedest to see what we can come up with.
While Bortuk Bonerattle also has Domain and I didn't exactly give them a glowing review because of it, I think Nael has a bit more potential. Both have access to Dryad of the Ilysian Grove and Prismatic Omen, but Nael, Avizoa Aeronaut can also dip its toes into cards like Vedalken Plotter, Convincing Mirage, Grixis Illusionist, and all manner of land-changers (Reef Shaman, Tideshaper Mystic, etc.).
I've been scratching at this itch for a while now, wanting to find a home for cards like Dream Thrush or even Annex. Are we doing an exorbitant amount of work just to filter down and draw one card? Yes, yes we are. Do the Domain cards we have access to really help us for all our hard work? No, no they don't.
But we do get to run a deck chalk full of cards (and a commander!) that will elicit many a "wait, what does that do?" It feels old-school EDH, and there's something to be said for that.
Najal, the Storm Runner
Not having haste or flash feels a bit of a bummer, especially with lightning being featured and all, and five mana just to get your gameplan started can be a bit of an ask in Izzet colors. I like the space this is in, coming off the heels of Wizards of Thay.
That is, until you realize Hypersonic Dragon already exists, and has both haste and flying. Having to pay full price for your spell and an additional two mana on top of that means you are paying quite a premium to fork your next spell, and possibly sending Najal into danger to do so. It's a simple design, and frankly, there's something to be said for that, but I think I still prefer Rootha, Mercurial Artist here. Rootha also requires paying two to copy spells, but also pull Rootha out of trouble (since her ability is part of her cost), and works well with things like Sneak Attack and Honor-Worn Shaku.
So I guess the question to ask you all is: what big sorcery are you looking to copy with Najal?
Tatyova, Steward of Tides
A Tatyova that won't elicit nearly as many eye rolls! Frankly, this is pretty neat tech, simulating almost a Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper build.
Of note here is that Tatyova essentially makes it so Landfall (after seven lands) gets you a a hasty 3/3 flyer (not unlike Halimar Tidecaller). With a fetchland, that can be two 3/3s for the price of one, let alone if you have extra land drops (which you probably will in this kind of deck).
Even more crucial is to notice that Tatyova does not specify until end of turn — these lands become creatures forever.
You'll want to lean into protecting your lands as well as having some good recursion, like Ramunap Excavator, Ancient Greenwarden. Yedora, Grave Gardener is particularly sweet, as our lands aren't in fact tokens, so if they do die, they come back as... well, Forests! If Tatyova, Steward of Tides is still out and we have the requisite land count, they become creatures all over again. Splash in Titania, Protector of Argoth and we aren't so worried after all if our land creatures hit the graveyard.
It also seems the perfect deck for some niche cards like Earth Surge (873 decks), Sylvan Advocate (3,572 decks), and Embodiment of Insight (4.149 decks). Embodiment in particular is nice, as our lands will be 3/3 hasty, flying, vigilant, Elemental lands, which is a lot of keywords, and they can swing in while still tapping for mana later.
Overall, Tatyova can slot in to the 99 of your preexisting Simic(+) Landfall deck as a finisher (e.g., OG Tatyova, Benthic Druid or Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait) or can helm her own unique deck with the other big Simic Landfall legends to shore up some of her card draw in the 99.
Tori D'Avenant, Fury Rider
This feels like an updated Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran (who, I will staunchly go on the record for having a set of abilities that seem to do very little with his actual role in the books, but I digress). Poor old Kos has fallen to only 57 decks on EDHREC, likely because it fills the age-old Boros aggro archetype, which by nowadays is a crowded field.
The field is still crowded for Tori D'Avenant, Fury Rider, but maybe she has just enough oomph to get some people stoked. The blatant +1/+1 is fine, but the color-specific trample and untap (pseudo-vigilance?) is really what should be taken advantage of. I think it will still look like a lot of Agrus Kos decks, slamming every Boros-colored attack-y creature into the 99 to try and benefit from both buffs as much as possible. Whether that cuts the mustard more than any of the other Boros attack-y legends is a different question.
Uurg, Spawn of Turg
Our Frog tribal lovers out there are finally getting a critical mass (quite literally) on the backs of Tatsunari, Toad Rider, Grolnok, the Omnivore, and now Uurg, Spawn of Turg. While Uurg is likely to slot into your Sultai Frogs build, I think it will see sizeable play in The Gitrog Monster decks especially, as there's such an overlap of their build. Both The Gitrog Monster and Uurg, Spawn of Turg actively want lands going into the graveyard, with Uurg allowing you to possibly dump a land for free on your upkeep, or sacrifice one in a pinch.
While The Gitrog Monster is undoubtedly stronger, Uurg has some fun Voltron potential if you can dump a number of lands into your deck at instant speed (Squandered Resources for an all-out combat trick anyone?), or just continuously dredge and self-mill your way there. The trick is, the Voltron route becomes actively worse when you have World Shaper or Splendid Reclamation recover all the lands from your graveyard, but they're likely still good enough to include here.
By the way, uh, does anyone else think the stained-glass art variant looks a bit like Nickelodeon's Reptar?
The Wheel in the Sky Keeps on Turning
As is tradition with visits to Dominaria in the last few years, there are a lot of legendaries; it's almost impossible to keep up with all of them. Hopefully all of us here at EDHREC have helped cut down on some of your homework for you so you can get to the fun part of brewing!
Which of these is your favorite? Any spark your interest? Sound off in the comments below!