The Draft format on MTG Arena has switched from GRN to Dominaria. I was pretty excited to see this change take place, since I have already acquired much of what I need for deck building from GRN but still need a lot of common and uncommon staples from the older Standard-legal sets.
Today’s article is a quick refresher guide on how to draft winning decks in Dominaria. I know it’s a little bit old hat to talk about drafting an old format, but with this being the format to grind on MTG Arena, it has again become relevant to the average player.
My goal is to offer an efficient, but also in-depth, guide to drafting Dominaria on Arena that provides a reader at any skill level with the basic building blocks of the format, as well as some expert level advice about approaching some of the most consistently strong archetypes.
Slow Down, Slow Down
When somebody says it’s a fast Draft format, they mean that aggressive decks tend to be effective at pressuring and winning the game.
Regardless of whether a format runs “fast” or “slow,” you always need to be conscious of having a smooth curve and lots of plays to make in the first three turns, but “fast” formats place a higher priority on early plays and immediate interaction.
Dominaria is a fairly slow format and many games develop into the later stages where card advantage, traction, and powerful-but-expensive spells decide the match.
Part of the reason for this is that defensive 2-drops are better than aggressive ones.
It’s difficult to mount an offense that can run anybody over because the defensive cards are more powerful than the majority of the aggressive ones. Also, there is a lack of 2-mana 3-power creatures, which makes it difficult to break through 3-toughness blockers on the ground without using a combat trick. Having to use combat tricks to punch through an opposing 2-drop is pretty weak and not the best use of resources.
The key piece of information is that you need to prioritize having a plan (or plans) to win games where you can’t simply beat down a fumbling opponent by curving out. Beatdown is always a viable strategy, but you’ll want to make sure that you have options if the board stalls.
Generals Don’t Win Wars—Mythics and Rares Do
Since the advantage of tempo is a little bit less profound in Dominaria, the overall quality of your cards tends to matter more. In particular, it never hurts to have a few game–changing rares at your disposal. If you are not lucky enough to open or be passed bomb rares, you can still get a lot of value out of the powerful uncommons the set has to offer.
In fact, a lot of the uncommons are actually more impactful than many of the rares:
When the set has both a legendary and multicolor flavor running through the uncommons, you are bound for a lot of bomby cards. “Bombs” are a great way to swing games that are close or where you are behind in your favor by creating a big effect that is beyond what a typical, baseline-power-level common could do.
In a format where the common creatures are already inept at beating down through 1/3s, the fact that there is an abundance of powerful uncommons makes prioritizing late-game threats a smart move.
Fly Like an Eagle
Another common endgame is a ground stall. A ground stall occurs when both players have sufficient creatures in play to repel a direct attack. In fact, in a ground stall. a player who makes an attack is walking into a trap, since the blocking player will always have advantageous blocks.
In a format with a lot of high-toughness creatures on the ground, these types of stalls are very common and you’ll want a way to break through:
Flying is the most common way around a ground stall. There are not a ton of flyers at common, but the ones that do exist hit pretty hard. It’s a pretty common endgame to have a ground stall with the majority of the action happening up in the skies.
Perhaps the best of the common flyers is Pegasus Courser, since it can float a fatty along with it into the red zone to quickly clock an opponent without blockers.
Having ways to break through stalls is important. Keep in mind that when a board stalls, often nothing happens for several turns in a row as players are both trying to draw a card that them helps break through.
Synergy Decks Are Very Good
Since beatdown isn’t a tier 1 strategy on Dominara, something else has to be… outside of simply having a bunch of rares, one of the best things to do is draft a deck that has a lot of synergy between cards (i.e., cards that work together well).
The first important keyword to keep in mind is historic. There are a lot of cards in the set that grant bonuses or care about historic cards either being played or on the battlefield. White tends to be the color with the most historic synergies, so if you are going white, prioritize artifacts, Sagas, and legendary uncommons when you can.
Here are the payoffs:
The legendary cards are all pretty good on their own, as they are all uncommons, but these commons are great cheap artifiacts:
I had a great 7-0 B/W Historic Beatdown deck on my stream last night that was an absolute blast to play. It was largely built around the cast offs other players wouldn’t be excited to pick.
I like to be creative when I’m drafting, to the point where I often don’t know exactly how good my deck will be until I’ve played some games. At the Limited Grand Prix I won in Boston back in 2012, when I was interviewed after the Top 8 Draft, I was asked by commentary, “How good is your Draft deck?” My response was, “It’s either completely absurd or 100% unplayable. I’m really not sure.”
The same can be true for a deck like the one above. I’m actually using a bunch of individually mediocre cards to create aggressive synergies. Sparring Golem is doing a ton of work in this deck paired with Demonic Vigor. I used him to generate ETB triggers for the Disciples and Trappers, then used Demonic Vigor to allow him to trade up: rinse and repeat.
I think this deck was good because it was aggressive and had ways to deal with typical “good stuff” Draft decks that clog the ground . It also has removal. I had flyers to close, Chainer’s Torment gave me some burn to finish people off, and I had a great bomb in Helm of the Host.
Don’t ever pass this card. It is 100% unreasonable and unbeatable once it gets going.
The other really good synergy strategy is B/G Saprolings. To be fair, B/G is just a really deep color combination in Dominaria and the Saproling overlap is just icing on the cake.
Overall, I think black is easily the best color in Dominaria Limited, with an abundance of great removal at common:
In a slow format where flyers and powerful creatures matter a lot, removal to take down their trump creatures is obviously great. I wouldn’t even mind paying a premium for these types of effects in a format such as this (a.k.a. red cards) but black removal is also efficient.
The big payoffs for Saprolings are mostly uncommon, but they pay off big:
All of these cards come together to make the 1/1 Thallid tokens much better than they would be on their own, and the various spells that create between two and four 1/1s much more impactful.
Here’s an example of a very good B/G Saproling deck I went 7-1 with yesterday:
Keep an eye out for this mondo-combo:
Both of these cards are absurdly good individually, but pair them up with proper timing to create a one-sided Plague Wind that essentially ends the game.
Slimefoot + Omnivore also combine to create an endgame that is virtually unbeatable if you can’t break it up. I lost a game last night to the combo where I dealt my opponent at least 65 damage and they were able to eek it out.
U/R Wizard Tribal
The other archetype I’m looking to draft is U/R Wizards. Blue is a good color in Dominaria because it has access to both flyers and card draw, both of which are good in a format where the board tends to stall.
The biggest problem with decks like these is that they often play into the opponent’s hands by falling behind on the ground before their tactical advantages can kick in. So you need to be conscious of having enough early plays on the board to allow you to stabilize. The Wizards do a good job, and are aggressive enough to start taking the play to your opponent, and forcing them to block and try to trade.
Here’s an example of a good 7-0 U/R Wizards list I drafted yesterday:
I was worried about this deck when I drafted it because it has a relatively low creature count, but it played very well. I was able to keep opposing creatures off the battlefield and pressure with my cheaper, more nimble squad.
I also had a lot of built-in card advantage with the Memorials to grind through the midgame and keep the threats coming.
I’m really glad to see that Arena is mixing things up and bringing back Drafts for the older formats. As a newer player to Arena I’m glad for the opportunity to round out my collection drafting an older set, rather than having to keep running back GRN.
It also doesn’t hurt that Dominaria is a really fun Limited set. I like formats that are a little slower and let me experiment with wacky synergy decks rather than just force 1- and 2-drop beatdown creatures and combat tricks. Beatdown is still viable (as we saw with my B/W historic deck), but it isn’t clearly better than midrange or controlling strategies. The diversity of possibilities while drafting is a tremendous boon that rewards repeat play of the format.
I know I’m clearly biased as a person who has played Magic since 1995, but I love the flavor of the plane of Dominaria and the fact that the Limited play is so strategic. Good luck drafting and may all of your prize packs have mythic wild cards!