Dominaria has been tournament legal for a few weeks now, and the set has made a major impact on Standard. Between being played constantly online and some high-profile paper events, there has been ample time for players to incorporate new cards and for the metagame to evolve. Many new cards are performing, whether they have found their way into an existing top-tier deck, elevated a deck on the cusp or have spawned a whole new archetype. Today I'll share some of the most innovative and interesting decks I've seen that utilize Dominaria and discuss the roles the new cards play.
TheAntiquities War is quietly one of the most powerful cards in Dominaria and has already made its way into Affinity, one of the best decks in Modern. It offers card advantage and the selection of digging 10 cards in the deck – which draws comparison to Dig Through Time – and comes with a game-winning ultimate identical to that of Tezzeret, the Seeker. Unlocking that power just requires playing a ton of artifacts, which is harder to swing in Standard than in Eternal formats, but entirely possible. Standard's best artifact deck before Dominaria was Grixis Improvise, so it's a natural home for The Antiquities War.
Karn, Scion of Urza is a huge boon to this strategy and alone could bring the deck into to prominence, so it's incredible that the deck also receives The Antiquities War. The new cards outshine Maverick Thopterist, so doing away with and red altogether helps improve the mana.
A more aggressive approach to The Antiquities War is to use it in a Tribal Construct deck, which plays some of the best creatures in Standard including Walking Ballista, Scrapheap Scrounger and Bomat Courier, and has received a Construct-generating planeswalker in Karn, Scion of Urza.
Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle has an ability with the potential to be incredibly strong in a deck built around taking advantage of it, and one such deck has emerged.
Rather than try to set up some sort of combo, the simplest and so far the most effective way to use Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle is to combine it with cheap artifact creatures that can both trigger its ability and be targeted by it. This deck does that by including a Construct tribal subtheme of its own. It takes great advantage of Scrap Trawler, which has become a Modern all-star and is useful in this deck as another way to gain value from the graveyard. Merchant's Dockhand is a one-mana play that can enter the battlefield early or cheaply trigger Teshar later and can use extra mana to generate value with its ability. While it doesn't trigger Teshar, a fantastic card to Reanimate with its ability is Glint-Nest Crane, which generates more value when its enters the battlefield.
The creatures in the deck support vehicles including Heart of Kiran, which is incredibly strong with Karn, Scion of Urza and has become of the Standard's premier combinations.
Dominaria'scycle of triple-color creatures contains some of the finest cards in the set, and while it has taken some time for Dread Shade to show up in decklists, it has arrived in this Mono-Black Midrange that uses Cabal Stronghold to make a ton of mana to sink into its ability.
Another nice mana sink for Cabal Stronghold is Josu Vess, Lich Knight, which is a Limited all-star but potentially powerful enough for Constructed. Its base 4/5 menace body isn't embarrassing, while kicking it is just about game over and only requires eight lands if any of them are Cabral Stronghold.
Mono-black, and all variety of black decks for that matter, have received a new card in Cast Down, which cleanly deals with many of the best creatures in Standard and has become a staple in black removal suites. Not hitting legends keeps it from dealing with some important creatures like Lyra Dawnbringer, but its efficiency – which has even earned it a place in Modern as an alternative to Terminate – makes it a nice tool to have access to.
Similar to Dread Shade is Tempest Djinn, and there are so many creative decks using it that it demands its own section. Like Dread Shade, Tempest Djinn grows better as the game goes on, whether it's hitting a bit harder each turn in the early game or being a great topdeck in the late game. Unlike Dread Shade, it doesn't require pumping mana into and has evasion, so it's a much more powerful, aggressive threat.
This power comes with a restrict color restriction, stricter than all of the other creatures in the cycle – which require three of one color mana but don't require basic lands to function – but it's a hint at how strong the card is. I have to assume that it was tested by Magic R&D without the restriction but was found to be too good. Being forced into a Mono-Blue deck is a huge cost, and it essentially demands building a brand-new deck around. There are some obvious homes for it to slot into, like the Mono-Blue Tomb of the God-Pharaoh's Gift deck that put up some online results right before Dominaria was released, or this Favorable Winds deck, but it's possible to get more creative.
Another approach to blue is to embrace its controlling side and become a classic draw-go deck full of countermagic. Tempest Djinn would provide an efficient threat to act as pressure like a Delver of Secrets or Vendilion Clique, or more accurately, Tarmogoyf. Playing any of these creatures early in the game and following it up with disruption is an easy path to victory, and Tempest Djinn has the advantage of being a lightning-fast finisher in the late game when there are many Islands in play. I theorized about such a deck a couple weeks ago, but now someone has actually put up a 5-0 league finish with the strategy.
Dominaria has conveniently provided some nice new tools for a draw-go deck, particularly Blink of an Eye to give the strategy a removal spell of sorts that can take care of a problem for long enough to ready a counter. Memorial to Genius is perfect in a deck like this and would likely be an easy four-of if it weren't for the Island requirement, but this list makes room for one.
Eternal of Harsh Truths in the sideboard is a nice touch and a great way to pressure control decks that will be light on creature removal and blockers. I'm curious about Jace, Cunning Castaway, which also generates some card advantage and will be game-winning against a control deck if unanswered. It also doesn't just die to creature removal, which the opponent will keep in if they saw Tempest Djinn, so it demands a counter.
Maybe the best home of all for Tempest Djinn is a more balanced midrange approach, which isn't pigeonholed into an aggressive or controlling role.
Like the typical midrange deck, this deck has an increased density of quality cards compared to the aggressive or control versions of Tempest Djinn, and includes the best card in Standard, Walking Ballista, and what is shaping up to be the most important card in Dominaria: Karn, Scion of Urza. These both help raise the artifact count for Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp, which serves a similar role to Tempest Djinn as a big flying threat, but its large toughness is more formidable on defense.
The deck also makes great use of Merfolk Trickster. Its ability is versatile and helps win races by tapping attackers and blockers, and it fights back against creatures like Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God, and now Lyra Dawnbringer. It's also a nice flash threat to accompany Blink of an Eye and Metallic Rebuke, and is sure to ambush some Llanowar Elves on occasion.
Dominaria has added a great new playable creature to the Merfolk tribe, which has struggled to become a competitive deck, and sometimes it only takes a card or two to bring a deck to the next level. One such card is Merfolk Trickster, which gives the deck another quality Merfolk, one that has already shown up in Modern Merfolk decks.
The most important card for Merfolk in Dominaria is not actually Merfolk Trickster, but Hinterland Harbor, which makes the mana base significantly better, especially in an aggressive deck that wants to curve out from as early as turn one and can't afford tapped lands like the Woodland Stream it was forced to play previously if it didn't want to suffer from insufficient colored sources.
Another deck that really benefits from the reprint of enemy-colored check lands is this Blue-Red Wizards deck. Blue-Red hasn't been a popular combination in Standard lately, but Dominaria has made Wizards a supported tribe in Standard, and its payoffs Wizard's Lightning and Wizard's Retort are worth building around.
Two of the most Constructed-worthy Wizards in the set, Adeliz, the Cinder Wind, an evasive haste threat with an ability that is essentially prowess for itself and all other Wizards, and Ghitu Lavarunner, a poor-man's Goblin Guide, that mesh nicely with two of the best Wizards already in Standard – Soul-Scar Mage and Spellweaver Eternal – to create an aggressive prowess-based Wizard deck.
Things are always stacked against new strategies, but this deck might have what it takes. Wizard's Retort and Wizard's Lightning are clearly very powerful spells that rival anything in Standard. Adeliz, the Cinder Wind can close out the game very quickly in a deck with Warlord's Fury and Opt. Ghitu Lavarunner has the makings of a Constructed-playable creature and is already being used in Pauper, which is more akin to Legacy than Standard.
White-Blue Auras never quite became a popular and top-tier Standard deck, but it has seen brief moments in the spotlight. Maybe what it needed another cheap and aggressive aura, which Dominaria has provided in Arcane Flight.
Danitha Capashen, Paragon is also a nice addition to the strategy, and while the benefit of mana-reducing ability is minimal, its multiple abilities make it excellent for enchanting.
Another beneficiary of Arcane Flight is Electrostatic Pummeler, which flirted with the top-tier once Cartouche of Knowledge caught on. Giving flying to Electrostatic Pummeler and other creatures like Longtusk Cub and Bristling Hydra proved to be very powerful, so Arcane Flight might be a big addition to the deck, and seems to have given it a new lease on life.
Maybe more important than Arcane Flight in the deck is Llanowar Elves, which can get Electrostatic Pummeler into play on turn two to set up a turn-three kill. Speeding up the nut draw by a full turn is a big deal, so this deck has been significantly improved just like other green decks have.
Lyra Dawnbringer, History of Benalia and Seal Away have helped elevate white to the premier color in Standard, and consequently decks like White-Blue Historic, White-Black Vehicles and Green-White Midrange, which pair these cards with the best that other colors have to offer. A less-popular but intriguing combination is Red-White Midrange, which combines these cards to red's removal and threats to create a potent midrange deck.
This deck also uses some of the best new red cards, Goblin Chainwhirler and Siege-Gang Commander. They lend themselves to a midrange red deck as threats that also impact the battlefield and can help slow the opponent down and turn the corner as much as they can pressure an opponent on the backfoot.