If you’re a MTG Arena player with a limited budget, here’s the list of cards you can craft with your Arena wildcards on day one – guilt free – without feeling like you’re wasting any value. If you’re more interested in strategy than finances, then consider this to be the list of cards that I think will be most widely played from Dominaria United in Standard and the other MTG Arena Constructed formats.
There’s no need to follow this power ranking completely. The most expensive thing to do on Arena is to switch frequently between decks and colors. On the other hand, if you can hone in on a smaller number of color combinations or strategies that appeal to you, all the better. Craft the cards that fit your preferences and ignore the ones that are likely to idle in your collection.
5. Combat Research
Combat Research is weaker than Curious Obsession, but there’s plenty of room to be worse than Curious Obsession and still run away with a game. Toss this thing on a cheap flying creature and you can gain enough advantage that you’ll easily overcome stronger creatures and spells on the opponent’s side.
One easy place to slot in Combat Research is the Mono-Blue Spirits deck in Explorer. I don’t think you’ll want the full four, but two copies would compliment the four Curious Obsessions, and help you have your ideal opening hand more often.
4. Balmor, Battlemage Captain
Balmor, Battlemage Captain is a major payoff for an Izzet Spells or Wizard tribal deck. It hits hard, pumps other creatures and even survives two-damage removal like Play with Fire and Flame-Blessed Bolt. I could see this being strong in any format.
3. Phoenix Chick
Phoenix Chick is subtle, but I believe it is quite strong. Mono-red strategies are all about accumulating damage over the course of the game, and a 1/1 hasty flyer sets you on the right track. Returning the Chick from the graveyard should even be reasonable in a deck with lots of cheap attackers and tokens.
2. Tail Swipe
Tail Swipe is green’s replacement for Blizzard Brawl. In a color that often lacks removal, Tail Swipe kills off opposing threats with ease, and even does so while helping you push extra damage. Since it’s only one mana, you can often kill the opponent’s best creature while continuing to add to the board and hammer your advantage.
1. Cut Down
Cut Down is the best black removal spell since Fatal Push. Crucially, it also comes at a time when Bloodchief’s Thirst and Ray of Enfeeblement are rotating out of Standard. Cut Down kills off virtually any creature that costs one or two mana, and even matches up well against a few defining three-drops like Raffine, Scheming Seer.
You don’t need as many Mythic wildcards as rare wildcards, since staple four-ofs (like dual lands) tend to be normal rares. Nonetheless, your Mythics are often the most powerful cards in your deck, and it can be stressful to run out of wilds, particularly as a new player. Here are my picks for the most useful Dominaria United Mythics.
5. Jaya, Fiery Negotiator
Jaya is an exciting new planeswalker for red mages. With a card advantage ability and a game-winning ultimate, she does everything you want in planeswalker. However, the best thing about her is the ability to plus each turn while generating tokens to protect herself. This makes her resilient and very difficult to kill in combat.
I love Jaya, and if it were purely up to me, I would rank her even higher than this. But there are other Mythic Rares which are generating substantially more chatter.
4. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
With great stats and the ability to drain two life with every turn cycle, Sheoldred is an impressive standalone creature. Now add incidental triggers from things like Blood tokens and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker chapter two and you have a very scary card. Take it a step further and combine Sheoldred with effects that force both players to draw cards and you have very real combo potential!
3. Sphinx of Clear Skies
Sphinx of Clear Skies compares favorably with Iymrith, Desert Doom, which is a very strong card currently rotating out of Standard. You want your five-drop creature to stick around when you cast it, and the ward ability helps with that. You also want it to win you the game when it goes unanswered, and the card advantage ability helps with that. The Sphinx even overperformed my high expectations when I played with it on day one of the new format.
2. Serra Paragon
Serra Paragon looks bonkers to me; it’s my personal pick for the best card in the set. However strong Lurrus of the Dream-Den was to have on the battlefield, Serra Paragon also allows you to recast three-drop permanents and replay lands! This could come up big with cards ranging from Field of Ruin to Raffine, Scheming Seer, and of course Wasteland and Urza’s Saga in older formats.
1. Liliana of the Veil
However, the card everybody’s talking about is Liliana of the Veil, which is a reprint of one of the most beloved planeswalkers in history. At times, Lili has been a staple four-of in both Modern and Legacy. She’s cheap and has the ability to attack either the opponent’s hand or their board position. She even cleanly answers troublesome creatures like Sphinx of Clear Skies!
Liliana of the Veil is a safe craft on day one, since she’s already proven herself in the crucible of competitive play.
10. The Raven Man
If Liliana is the hottest card in the set, then The Raven Man is her sidekick. The ability to generate multiple ravens in a turn cycle – and then continue doing it as the game drags on – is huge. He triggers when you make the opponent discard, but also on incidental discards like Blood tokens and channel abilities.
Hot tip: if you want to make a raven on the opponent’s end step, set a stop in their main phase so you won’t miss your chance to activate a Blood token.
9. Anointed Peacekeeper
Anointed Peacekeeper has a similar feel to the extremely useful Elite Spellbinder. It can even shut off activated abilities of existing cards like Vehicles and planeswalkers. Peacekeeper will become a staple of both aggressive and disruptive white creature decks.
8. Defiler of Vigor
Defiler of Vigor is another of my personal favorite cards in the set. I’ve always been a sucker for giant green monsters, and there are few creatures that generate as much raw power and toughness as Defiler of Vigor. Especially in a color where many of the best creatures have trample, this thing really packs a punch.
7. Quirion Beastcaller
I was excited about Defiler of Vigor, so I built a mono-green beatdown deck for my first few games of Dominaria Standard. I chose Quirion Beastcaller as a placeholder for my two-drop creature, but it quickly became apparent that it was one of the best cards in the deck. This thing grows and keeps growing, and soon gets to a point where the opponent doesn’t even want to kill it if they can!
Check out my take on Mono-Green in the article and video linked below.
6. Aether Channeler
Aether Channeler is a powerful and flexible creature. Bouncing a nonland permanent is generally a great effect. However, because they lose their potency in certain types of games and matchups, creatures like Man-o’-War rarely see much competitive play. With Aether Channeler, you get this effect with two additional backup options, so you can always have the right tool for any situation.
5. Haughty Djinn
In the right deck, Haughty Djinn will be obscenely powerful. I remember the old Enigma Drake sometimes cracking double-digit power. Haughty Djinn does the same thing, but on a mono-blue body with another highly-useful ability. Talk about a payoff card for packing your deck with instants and sorceries!
4. Tribal Lords
In the #4 position, we have “choose your favorite tribal lord.” These aren’t the most flexible cards, but they’re fun and powerful when played in their respective archetype. Vodalian Hexcatcher might be the most impressive as an individual card, but Elves and Goblins are traditionally more successful and well-supported tribes.
If one of these catches your eye, and you decide you want to build around it, don’t hesitate to craft it!
3. Drag to the Bottom
A default mana base in Dominaria Standard will include four copies of a tri-land like Ziatora’s Proving Ground. Since these already count as three different land types, Drag to the Bottom will give -4/-4 to all creatures. This is the same effect as the old Languish, which was a format-defining board sweeper in its time.
If dedicated domain decks wind up being good, Drag to the Bottom’s stock rises even further. This is an amazing anti-creature card, and even gets around indestructible effects like Guardian of New Benalia and Tamiyo’s Safekeeping.
Once again we have “choose your favorite color combination.” I don’t think painlands are quite as good as Pathways or “slowlands,” but with so many good tools rotating out of Standard, we’re going to need them. It’s hard to go wrong spending any number of wildcards on painlands.
Note that only six out of 10 color combinations are represented in Dominaria United. We’ll have to wait for an upcoming set to get the remainder.
1. Leyline Binding
Finally, we have Leyline Binding. For all of the same reasons as Drag to the Bottom, Leyline Binding is a card with a high floor and an even higher ceiling. At three mana, an instant-speed answer to any threat is a great rate. At two or even one mana, it’s amazing. Leyline Binding is efficient enough that it will help you get back to parity after spending a turn or two setting up with enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands.
For further reading, I highly encourage you to check out Martin Juza’s Deep Dive, which discusses Leyline Binding and many of the other cards featured on these lists:
Let me know what I missed, and which cards you’re most excited for coming out of Dominaria United.