Every team has them. These are the role players who get dirty in the trenches so the star gets the open look on the three-pointer that wins the game, or the quarterback gets that extra second they need to deliver the perfect strike, or the winger who digs in the corner and feeds the pass for the one-time slapshot to win the game.
I thought I would look at a few of the role players in Dominaria. These are the cards that do what needs to be done to let your mythic and rare all-stars shine.
This fellow is a quiet, unassuming Golem that is going to slot into plenty of "group hug" style decks. A callback to Howling Mine, the Golem lets each player draw a card whenever it attacks or blocks. Normal group hug decks tend to play cards that give everyone land and/or card draws with the hope that everyone will be happy to get more cards and mana and will leave them alone. Of course, many group hug decks then use all those cards and mana more effectively, since they knew they were going to get them and you didn't, but it is an alluring Siren's Call.
Howling Golem gives the group hug deck a political bend. If the group hug player attacks with the Golem, they will want you to let it through so it will survive combat and it can attack elsewhere next time. If the player doesn't attack, they can threaten to end the extra card draw if anyone attacks them with a creature bigger than Howling Golem.
I like the nuance Howling Golem offers to group hug decks. I know you are a smart player and will ignore their requests, smashing the Golem into little pieces the first chance you get, but many others are not and the Golem is ready to prey on them.
"To you from failing hands we throw the torch be yours to hold it high."
— In Flander's Fields by John McCrae
It isn't a torch, but the imagery fits perfectly with Forebear's Blade, and the card is going to be a great utility card in plenty of decks. Any creature with +3/+0 is a threat that will need to be dealt with sooner rather than later. When you give that creature trample, suddenly the token creatures and chump blockers are not nearly as useful against it. Now add vigilance to the mix – probably the most undervalued creature ability in multiplayer games – and you get a card that forces everyone at the table to sit up and pay attention.
The true joy of the card is the limited ways there are to deal with the creature holding it. Everyone knows equipment stays on the battlefield, but at least you force the player to pay the equip cost repeatedly. With Forebear's Blade, that doesn't happen if there is another creature on the battlefield. This means killing the creature in combat is nice, but the next creature is coming next turn to do it all again. The only realistic way to deal with this is to destroy Forebear's Blade itself or use mass removal, so no one is there to pick up the Blade. I look forward to plenty of decks running this soon!
This isn't a utility card per se, but I will be curious to see it in action. Picture this equipped to a Solemn Simulacrum or other utility creature. Get the land and send the token in to attack, practically hoping it will die so you can draw a card. And that is just the utility creatures.
The best part though is the line of text they didn't include on the card; it doesn't die at the end of the turn! That's right, you aren't getting this token copy through just your combat step or until the end of the turn. Your opponents are actually going to have to kill the tokens. Suddenly that five-mana equip cost makes so much more sense. You could have multiple copies of your commander or another card that is better in multiples (like Jhoira's Familiar!) sticking on the battlefield. A kicked Rite of Replication keeps things crazy and Helm of the Host may well do the same!
Journey to Nowhere would be so much better with flash, wouldn't it? Rather than using it on a creature before you even know who the creature is going after, Seal Away lets you wait until that creature swings at you! Seal Away wants you to look at it and question its value since it only works on tapped creatures. The key is to look at that apparent weakness in the card and recognize it as the helpful instruction it really is. The card is practically telling you that you should not use this until the creature you intend to exile is attacking, and probably attacking you.
Okay, let's just get this out of the way right now: this is not replacing Krosan Grip in any deck where it could. Split Second is better that four life by almost every metric.
That being said, Invoke the Divine is an instant that gives you four life. Are you willing to pay one more mana to get four more life? There are many who prefer the two-mana options, sticking with Disenchant, while others are willing to pay a little more and get something extra, figuring the Commander format to be a little slower. I'm not sure where I fall in these camps.
I do know that Invoke the Divine is simply better than Decommission and likely finds its way into several decks. I expect it to replace Terashi's Grasp in my Firesong and Sunspeaker deck. Invoke the Divine isn't the best, but it slots in well among the Naturalize/Disenchant options.
I really like Confiscate. I like its flexibility. Sure, Control Magic only costs four mana, but the ability to take any permanent is a wonderful thing. Borrowing a (former) friend's planeswalker right before they are about to use the ultimate ability is great! Bending an artifact or enchantment to your will is delightful! And stealing a particularly pesky land should not be overlooked, either.
While I love Confiscate as a way of dealing with annoying cards my opponent's control, I'm not sure I want or need a Confiscate and an In Bolas's Clutches in one deck. This may prove to be redundant, so I may pass on it. On the other hand, the players in my meta are using planeswalkers more and more so stealing two of them may not be a bad thing…
Grow from the Ashes may very well play with the big boys of mana ramp. Consider contenders:
- Rampant Growth. Growth costs one less, but it enters the battlefield tapped. Grow from the Ashes gives you the land untapped and can be kicked later on.
- Kodama's Reach / Cultivate. They each find two land, but only put one on the battlefield and it is tapped. Primal Growth gives you one land right now for the same cost or add two more mana and get two right away.
- Explosive Vegetation. You get two lands but both enter tapped. For one more mana you can get both untapped.
I'm not sure if you want to spend five mana for a ramp spell. Once you have five mana, you are supposed to be playing interactive spells. The trick with Grow from the Ashes is to understand that you aren't really paying five mana for it when it is kicked. Sure, you must have five mana available, but after you play the spell you are getting two untapped lands you can use immediately.
The real benefit of the card is the flexibility. Early on it will find you a land, and later in the game it can get you two. That flexibility is something you really want to consider when deciding which ramp spells to include in your deck.
A Bird that makes my commander cost one less is a great start. I find that once I'm being asked to pay seven or more for my commander, I start to question the value in casting it. The Familiar is likely going to let me do it at least once more. Now consider that your planeswalkers and other legendary creatures also cost one less. At this point, Jhoira's Familiar is reducing the cost of at least five of the cards in your deck. Perhaps that isn't quite enough to make it worthwhile. You are looking at Superfriends builds or decks loaded with legendary creatures.
Now let's add in the artifacts.
Consider the mana rocks, artifact creatures and artifacts that fit the theme of your deck. Now you are probably looking at 13 or 14 cards that get cheaper with Jhoira's Familiar, and you aren't even trying to abuse it yet. We haven't even mentioned the artifact decks that would go crazy with this card.
One other thing to consider. A lot of the cost reduction cards say that it doesn't reduce the cost to zero. Doing that tends to create infinite combos very easily. Jhoira's Familiar doesn't say that, so when you see it appear in an opponent's deck, start watching for the rest of the combo pieces to appear.
I hope you enjoyed looking at some of the building block cards in Dominaria. It is unlikely any of these cards are going to be on the end of a windmill slam, but they do the heavy lifting every deck requires so you can enjoy the big plays!