Traditionally, there are only a few specific cards in each new set that affect Modern, and that is also the case with Dominaria. This shouldn't be surprising as Dominaria is a very small pool of cards compared with all of Modern. However, there are definitely some high-impact cards that players may be overlooking. This past weekend Humans and other known strategies continued to dominate the format, so it seems that players have yet to fully dig into the potential that Dominaria brings to the table.
The first card I want to talk about is Cast Down. I haven't heard much chatter about this one, and I'm not sure why, because this is an extremely strong removal spell. With creature decks continuing to do well, it is obvious that black decks need more help than Fatal Push. Cast Down should be a better version of Doom Blade or Go for the Throat. While there are some legendary creatures in the format like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, most of the creatures you want to kill aren't legendary. Cast Down is not as strong as Terminate, but not all black decks want to be paired with red.
Cast Down isn't going to be needed in something like Jund that has access to whatever it wants in terms of removal, but how about the blue-black strategies? Those decks have been struggling because there has been no great two-mana removal spell, and that seems to be changing with Cast Down. Both Blue-Black Control and Sultai have been decks that are on the verge of breaking out as real contenders. Here is where my Sultai list is at:
Cast Down takes this deck to a new level. There is now a good answer to creatures like Hollow One and Gurmag Angler, and a good way of dealing with Reality Smasher. Snapcaster Mage can also rebuy Cast Down for additional value. In this metagame with lots of Humans and other midrange creature decks, this is where you want to be. This deck can overload the opponent with its removal, and then has the insane card advantage with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Tireless Tracker and Snapcaster Mage. It could be that the addition of Cast Down makes Sultai better set up than Jeskai Control is for this metagame. Tarmogoyf means you do have a fast clock and good blocker, and with the discard suite the combo matchups aren't normally too difficult. This is the sort of control deck that can adapt and switch cards based on what decks it wants to beat the most.
We see Damping Sphere in the sideboard of the Sultai deck, and that shouldn't be surprising. This is going to be the single card in Dominaria that impacts Modern the most. It won't be a main deck card because of how matchup-specific it is, but it makes a ton of sense for many decks to bring it in as a must-answer card after sideboard. Some of the most popular decks have been Tron and Storm, and those are the type of strategies that Damping Sphere is very good against.
So what decks want Damping Sphere the most in their sideboards? Firstly, you want to not already have strong matchups against Tron and Storm. Burn, for instance, doesn't really need a card like Damping Sphere, as it already has Eidolon of the Great Revel. This card is also not going to be as strong in decks that already play other artifacts. For instance, players are always going to bring in all their artifact hate versus Affinity, so it can very easily catch an Ancient Grudge or Nature's Claim. But a deck like Jund that doesn't have any artifacts and has a rough matchup against both Storm and Tron can make good use of Damping Sphere.
Boarding in artifact removal only to fight a couple Damping Spheres is not going to work out well for decks like Tron and Storm. The card is also going to fit well into decks that can find it with Ancient Stirrings – like Red-Green Eldrazi – it makes it seem like you are boarding in more copies than you are. Overall, the decks that are heavily affected by Damping Sphere are likely to take a pretty big hit in terms of their popularity. This is one of the most powerful sideboard tools Modern has ever seen, and being an artifact any deck can access is quite scary. It reminds me a lot of Grafdigger's Cage in that way.
Clearly very powerful as a mana accelerator, the question is whether putting a bunch of legendary creatures in your deck is worth it to make Mox Amber good. This is a build-around card, so we won't be seeing it as much as the other more versatile cards I have mentioned already. I don't think there will be any tier one decks that use Mox Amber, at least not yet. However, there are still plenty of viable directions you can go in terms of finding a home for it.
There are the traditional cheap legendary creature-based decks, and Mox Amber helps with explosiveness there. For instance, here is a brew in its early stages that I'm still very unsure of at this point, but it is a cool idea and maybe there is something here.
The deck now has another angle of attack other than going off with Puresteel Paladin or Sram, Senior Edficer. The issue with the Cheerios deck hasn't been its power level, it has been inconsistency. The addition of Mox Amber helps the turn you cast an Erayo, Soratami Ascendant or Sram, Senior Edificer, as the additional mana you have on turn two can be the difference in the game. Erayo provides another angle of attack in case you don't have the ability to instantly win on turn two, and flipping this card makes life very difficult for the opponent.
Now the Cheerios deck can grind out a longer game. Paradocical Outcome is another absurdly powerful card that hasn't seen much play in Modern, while it is one of the best cards in Vintage. With all the zero-mana artifacts in this deck it makes sense to have it alongside Retract. Retract is what you want for your turn two combos, but Paradoxical Outcome is the card that allows you to gas back up in longer games. I like my combo decks to have alternative ways to win the game, and this version of the Cheerios deck can grind.
Is this version better than the traditional Cheerios deck? That is a tough question – it certainly isn't as all-in on going off turn two, but it does take a bit more work to finish games off. The additional mana produced by the Moxes helping to power out a Paradoxical Outcome is definitely sweet, so I think this deck could potentially be better with the right configuration.
The card is clearly powerful, but it isn't exactly obvious where the powerful planeswalker fits. Karn Liberated makes more sense in big-mana Tron decks because it works better with turn three Tron and getting easy wins with your big spell, as well as triggering Sanctum of Ugin. I don't think Karn, Scion of Urza will gain much traction there.
It does make some sense in decks with artifacts, as the minus effect starts to become quite relevant. This leads me to Affinity. Affinity is a place I could see wanting access to one or two copies of Karn, Scion of Urza to provide more of a late-game punch. Being a four-mana card, though, means you can't afford to have too many of these – it would be the most expensive spell in Affinity – and I can understand why players would be apprehensive about it for that reason.
Karn, Scion of Urza may end up being more of a generically powerful sideboard card that can come in for midrange matchups. Decks that can play it on turn three like Red-Green Eldrazi may want it to make sure you don't run out of gas. I'm confident we will see some of Karn, Scion of Urza, though it is going to be at its best in deck that do have some artifacts. Lantern Control is another possible home, or other Prison style decks.
This is a card that we have already been seeing plenty of in Standard, and I believe it will make a Modern impact as well. Decks won't play many copies of this card due to its mana cost, but a deck like White-Blue or Jeskai Control certainly may want this. The ability to remove any nonland permanent from play for a little while means the card has a ton of versatility. That is the type of universal effect that can be important to have access to regardless of the matchup.
Being able to cast your planeswalker, tick up while drawing a card and having mana open for removal or countermagic on the opponent's turn is why the card is so powerful. If it weren't for the ability to untap two lands when drawing, Teferi would be significantly worse. Here is the latest Jeskai Control list of Benjamin Nikolich.
He has actually gone with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as the only planeswalker since it protects itself so well. I also don't mind having Jace, the Mind Sculptor alongside Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, but you do want to be careful how many of these types of cards you play in control decks. Logic Knot is the perfect counter alongside Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, because you can have it available turn five immediately after casting the powerful planeswalker.
Overall, Dominaria is set to make an impact on Modern, and I'm excited to see how the format adapts to the new set.
Thanks for reading,