By the time this article goes live, Dominaria United will have hit Magic Online and the best MTG commons from the set will have started to make their way into various Pauper decks. Dominaria United is far more New Capenna than Neon Dynasty as the power level is far lower. The fact that these cards are hitting at the same time as some of the initiative cards from Battle for Baldur’s Gate and in the wake of Double Masters 2022 means they’re going to be fighting for space in the most powerful Pauper format in the past several years.
But that doesn’t mean the set is bereft of value. The highs in this set are up there and will make their presence felt. And I think there’s no better place to start than with the new set of dual lands.
Dual Lands/Crystal Grotto
Being realistic, these 10 cards are nearly identical to the 10 snow Ddals from Kaldheim. They do, however, add another set of lands with basic land types to the format. This could make cards like Tribal Flames or Wild Nacatl more reliable. Of course, running these and regular basic lands means you are giving up a tiny bit of equity if you’re red since there’s no chance of having Skred in your deck with Sacred Peaks over Alpine Meadow. Crystal Grotto falls in a similar sidegrade camp, providing an improvement to Shimmering Grotto while missing out on the extra damage from Cave of Temptation. Still, Pauper continues to get lands that do something and it will be interesting to see what interactions present themselves in the future.
Destroy Evil/Smash to Dust
Destroy Evil and Smash to Dust are the latest in a long line of flexible spells that do their jobs just well enough to be considered. Sideboard slots are at a premium in Pauper these days with certain strategies sometimes eating up seven or eight spots for certain decks. Destroy Evil is flexible enough to come in against Affinity (hitting Myr Enforcer and Gurmag Angler or Makeshift Munitions) or any deck running the initiative cards that have just hit MTGO. It does not lose its utility against Bogles or Heroic and can even hit relative newcomer Vampire Sovereign. Smash to Dust is a worse Abrade but comes with the ability to wipe out an army of Squadron Hawks or Battle Screech tokens. Neither of these are winning any mana efficiency contests but when push comes to shove, they are split cards that only take up a single deckbuilding slot and are highly efficient in that regard.
Shore Up/Ghitu Amplifier
I want to like Shadow Prophecy. With three basic land types on the field, this becomes a solid hand sculptor, with four it gets significantly better and at the full five it is somewhat obscene. The problem is getting to domain. The various dual lands will help, but if Shadow Prophecy is going to come to pass, it’ll need to be paired with Nylea’s Presence. Now, there’s a fringe deck out there that uses Heliod’s Pilgrim to search up Auras and Kruphix’s Insight to fill the hand and wins with Pestilence and Quiet Disrepair. If there was ever a deck for Shadow Prophecy, it would be this one… but if it ends up as an instant speed draw two in black it might just be good enough.
Shield-Wall Sentinel tutors up creatures with defender. WonderWalls is a combo deck that uses Axebane Guardian and Overgrown Battlement to generate an obscene amount of mana with Freed from the Real or Galvanic Alchemist before drawing into Secret Door (which also has defender) to win the game. Now, WonderWalls sees a ton of cards thanks to Winding Way and Lead the Stampede and is fairly redundant as is. Adding another piece of tutoring to the deck could make it more consistent. The real question is whether or not the deck can afford a four-mana spell that does not win the game on its own.
Since it was released in Gatecrash, Foundry Street Denizen has been a staple of red aggro decks that run a density of creatures for its ability to pump out damage. Goblins ran this card alongside Goblin Sledder and Mogg War Marshal to put several triggers on the stack. Burning-Tree Emissary provided a similar boost in non-Goblin based decks and every so often, the 1/1 makes another appearance. Llanowar Stalker is not a strict upgrade but the fact that it gets the buff off of any creature – not just red ones – is important.
Stompy has more or less fallen off the map and while Llanowar Stalker won’t solve the deck’s problems on its own, it could go a long way. Starting on Stalker means a turn two Nest Invader or Burning-Tree Emissary could lead to some early aggression. The real issue is the single point of toughness, which could spell trouble in a world full of Thraben Inspectors and Krark-Clan Shamans.
Finally, we come to Tolarian Terror, almost certainly the best card for Pauper in Dominaria United. Pauper is full of cheap instants and sorceries, which means that this could easily come down for three mana or fewer. Unlike Gurmag Angler, it doesn’t eat the graveyard, making it easier to follow up with subsequent copies. Ward 2 is nice, even if it won’t stop Snuff Out from doing its job, but the upside is there. Forbidden Alchemy was the backbone of Dimir control decks for several years and if Tolarian Terror is good enough, it’s possible the card could make a comeback. Or maybe the deck is loaded with Ponder, Preordain and Consider, then paired with cheap removal to ensure the Terror hits early and hard.
Dominaria United has a number of cards that are sure to see play. Unlike recent sets, the power is focused in a few areas instead of spread across the board. What is your favorite common from the latest set? Which ones are you eager to try out?