Dominaria United spoiler season is right around the corner, but we’ve already gotten an initial little batch of spoilers to get the hype train rolling. While I’m riding that train, however, I can’t help but stop and wonder at what the set has in store for us. I believe that the cards we’ve already seen are not-so-subtly giving us some hints on what we can expect, and I’ll run through some of my own predictions after we take a moment to talk about what we do know definitively.
We know that the Phyrexians are making a return, this time with a much more substantial presence. We’ve seen individual Praetors interacting with each plane we’ve come to in the last few sets, all culminating in some form of greater threat. It looks like we’ll be seeing at least part of that insidious plan coming together, as evidenced by the Evolved Sleeper card and by the flavor text on Shivan Devastator (who we’ll get to talking more about in my speculative predictions).
We’re paying homage to the original legends of magic with a handful of new, entirely redone versions of these iconic cards. We can almost certainly expect to see a new version of each and every one of these old-school legends, but the designs of the cards we’ve seen so far are so different from the originals that I cannot even begin to speculate on what they may look like. Nonetheless, we can expect to see some very cool commanders coming out of this set.
Kicking It Again
Lastly, we know that kicker is making a return, though with a slight variation with and/or wording. This may only be for a cycle of cards, with regular old kicker making a return for other cards in the set, but we have not gotten enough information yet to know for sure. The number of things that can be done with a modal version of kicker is limitless, so I’m excited to see where design is going to take us.
Dominaria is home to most of the iconic tribes in magic. Each color has at least one tribe associated with it that was originally popularized in dominaria: Soldiers, Merfolk, Zombies, Goblins, and Elves. Showing off a new elf as one of the initial spoilers for Dominaria may well be pointing us back to these original tribal synergies, and I’m entirely expecting to see at least some of these tribes make a return to do battle against the Phyrexians (or, perhaps more fun, to be compleated and join the side of the invaders- we can make a game of guessing what creature types will get turned). Notably, I believe that Evolved Sleeper gaining the “Cleric” type is hinting at a return of tribal clerics as well.
Hybrid Iconic Creatures
Speaking of iconic creatures, each color in magic also has a large, iconic creature that has a home in Dominaria: Angels, Sphinxes, Demons, Dragons, and Hydras. Shivan Devastator, in addition to revealing more about the phyrexian invasion in its flavor text, hints at something else we might be seeing: combinations of these iconic monsters. A hybrid Dragon Hydra is wickedly cool, and I would love few things more than seeing more of these creatures smashed together. We’ve seen demons combined with iconic creatures, with New Capenna’s mob bosses all being demons, but I expect to see an Angelic Demon or a Draconic Sphinx uniting against the threat of New Phyrexia.
The Shadow of Yawgmoth
New Phyrexia has ample opportunity to properly combine with the old in Dominaria, as the tomb of the original Father of Machines lies in Urborg. The full blown return of Yawgmoth may be unlikely, though I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if we saw it happen. However, I will be completely surprised if we don’t see the malignant remnants of Yawgmoth impacting the plane in some way. I can readily see Sheoldred cementing her foothold in Dominaria with Yawgmoth’s help, either literally as whatever shade persists in his grave, or figuratively with the power the original Phyrexian’s presence has left behind.
While we know we’ll be seeing Kicker in one form or another, the other mechanics in the set are a big question mark. So far, Kicker has been represented as the “good guy” mechanic, so the question has to be: what tools will the Phyrexians be given? I doubt we’ll see infect, but I strongly suspect that we’ll be seeing a variant of, if not a direct return of, Phyrexian mana. While the mechanic is largely perceived as “broken,” if printed with the right mana costs it can be flavorful without being too powerful. We just saw Tamiyo, Compleated Sage printed with one phyrexian pip, and I fully expect to see the option to trade your life for easier mana costs if you’re willing to sell a part of your soul to Phyrexia. Indeed, with the printing of Tamiyo and a design team that’s mindful of the power of the mechanic, I think we can safely ignore Maro’s placement of Phyrexian Mana on the storm scale (the higher the score, the less likely it is to see print again):
Combining the New and the Old
Dominaria United is poised to combine familiar, nostalgic magic elements with more modern design. Our previous return to Dominaria did an excellent job of replicating that sense of nostalgia, and bringing back familiar Phyrexian villains only adds to that feeling. We can fully expect Dominaria to evolve into something more, and I’m more than ready to see what form it takes– especially if that form continues to feature the satisfyingly evil Phyrexians as antagonists. While we may have to wait for a return to New Phyrexia to see Elesh Norn make a return (she’s currently busy ruling New Phyrexia, to the best of our knowledge, so is unlikely to show up here), we can certainly expect great things from Sheoldred’s invasion.