Welcome to part four of the Returning to Dominaria series! My plan is to look at the top 10 Commander cards from each of the early blocks set on the plane of Dominaria. I'm not suggesting these cards will be reprinted (or even should be reprinted), but it's a great way to introduce players who weren't playing more than 10 years ago to some of the great cards in the older sets – and those of you who were playing back then can look at my list and tell me how wrong I am!
I hate honorable mentions. They are just a way for lazy and indecisive writers to add more cards to their Top 10 list.
My honorable mentions:
Yavimaya Hollow – It is more the threat of regenerating a creature than actually doing it that makes this card wonderful.
False Prophet – Mass removal that exiles is particularly effective. With the Prophet dying, he can come back again and again and exile everything else again and again!
I have always loved this card. The idea of spending two mana to get the best creature on the board in exchange for a 3/3 flying creature always seemed like a good idea to me. This card was printed back in the day when no one at Wizards of the Coast considered multiple opponents, so the expectation was that you were going to have a 3/3 flyer coming at you so there would be plenty of times when this would just be a dead draw. A 3/3 flyer would be one of the best creatures in the game back then, so why would you want that coming at you?
Since those days, the creatures have gotten a LOT better. You only need to look at some of the previous articles in this series to realize how weak a lot of the creatures of that era were. A 3/3 flyer was often a dangerous trade that could seriously The other part of Gilded Drake is the multiplayer aspect. In a 1v1 game, you are giving something to your opponent. In a Commander game, you may be giving the flyer to someone you are working with to take down a tougher foe. This completely eliminates the downside!
9. Sneak Attack
The other part of Gilded Drake is the multiplayer aspect. In a 1v1 game, you are giving something to your opponent. In a Commander game, you may be giving the flyer to someone you are working with to take down a tougher foe. This completely eliminates the downside!
When I first saw this card and for a long time afterward, I just didn't understand the power. Why would you want to play your creature so it could only attack once, when if you just paid its mana cost it could attack turn after turn? Isn't a big part of multiplayer games getting as much use out of every card that you have and yet this card was encouraging you to treat creatures as single use burn spells?
It wasn't until I saw actual results did I understand the power of Sneak Attack. As long as the player had a card in hand, you had to assume they had a creature that was going to block and kill whatever you were sending that way, so it made it very difficult to attack. When trying to determine what you needed to defend against opponents, you had no idea what creature could be coming at you, so you were never sure if your defenses would be enough. Among my friends who were lucky enough to own the card, they would get the enters-the-battlefield trigger for the creature that Sneak Attack surprised you with. Then they would attack with it, not caring if it lived or died. They would also have a sacrifice option, usually Ashnod's Altar, that would give them mana to play a spell that would then bring that creature from the graveyard back onto the battlefield permanently, giving them another enter the battlefield trigger, and a blocking creature.
Then I understood the power of Sneak Attack.
Repercussion is on the list because it dramatically changes the way everyone plays the game. Most multiplayer games involve players building up their defenses until they are satisfied, then trying to find ways to break through what their opponents have set up. There is often some kind of permanent that makes attacking more difficult or encourages attacks elsewhere, and there is almost always a few creatures there to block. They might not kill an opponent's attackers, but they will prevent you from taking damage. An attack that would cause no damage is often enough reason not to attack.
Repercussion takes those board states and flips them on their heads. If an opponent is attacking you, you are going to take damage no matter what you do. Suddenly you are left trying to decide if blocking and losing your creatures is worth it in an effort to damage the attacker's creatures and also the attacker.
Repercussion also gives the burn player a doubling effect. No longer are they left to try and decide if it is better to send the damage at the player or the creature, when Repercussion says to just hit the creature and you get to hit the creature's controller as a great side effect!
On a side note, my favorite play story with Repercussion involved playing it into a table with Blightsteel Colossus out. I followed that up with Pyrohemia. Watching an opponent go from 40 life to dead after eight red mana into Pyrohemia was so satisfying!
With Commander, we all know the value of getting lands onto the battlefield and the faster the better, especially if you are playing green. Green players know that their bigger spells and creatures are the way they are going to win and the best way to do that is to play lands as quickly as possible. Exploration has become a staple in virtually every green deck since there are plenty of ways to search for a land that only puts it into your hand.
Add in all the cards and abilities that demand you return a land to your hand to play the spell, or have some type of landfall trigger, and suddenly Exploration is better than ever. Even in groups that run land destruction, playing additional lands means a quicker recovery. Exploration does work!
Treachery is a card that costs no mana and says, "You control enchanted creature, but I won't let you do it until there is a creature worth taking."
First off, you get to take the best creature on the battlefield. That is rarely a bad thing. Whether you need a blocker, an attacker or a flying creature, Treachery is there. If you need to stop your opponent from activating a creature's ability, Treachery is there. If you need to use an activated ability on a creature an opponent controls, Treachery is there. If your deck isn't as powerful as your opponent's, Treachery gives you at least one creature that can help even the playing field.
Secondly, the card is essentially free. Yes, you have to have five mana to cast it, but as soon as you do, you can just untap those lands and you are good to go. Treachery shows you why you didn't want their little creature turns earlier. Treachery made you wait until an opponent played something that was worthy of your card. Treachery taught you the value of patience and maximizing the value of your cards.
Finally, Treachery also taught you the value of lands that tap for more than one mana. Whether it was the Ravnica bounce lands, Temple of the False God or whatever other Karoo-style lands, Treachery was not only free, but a way to get even more mana. It also worked as a way to untap your value lands. Now you could activate Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion twice, or untap your Faerie Conclave the turn you played it out.
When your meta is getting just too full of 1/1 Saproling or Soldier Tokens, Crawlspace is there to help you out!
Realistically, it is there to help you wall up behind your defenses so you can focus on finding the cards you need to combo out, but if you haven't figured that out already, I don't want to provide you with a powerful tool against my raging creature hordes!
As someone who happens to play a lot of token creatures in their decks, I discovered the power of Powder Keg the hard way. I didn't understand why you wouldn't just play Nevinyrral's Disk, only to see my carefully cultivated token armies vanish in front of a Powder Keg for zero.
Getting extra fuse counters on the Keg is rarely difficult either, so it is very effective in whittling down a battlefield to just the biggest creatures around. Those of you who spotted the synergy with Sneak Attack can pat yourselves on the back for seeing something I never understood for years.
BONUS: Groups talk about "blowing the Disk," and "doing the Deed" when referencing Nevinyrral's Disk or Pernicious Deed. There is a Canadian steak chain called "The Keg," so my group referred to an activation of Powder Keg as, "going to the Keg."
I always underestimated this card because my early interactions with it were generally benign. My friends and I weren't running combo decks, so we were just finding two particularly miserable creatures and putting them onto the battlefield. For only four mana, this was a pretty amazing ability and generally brought games to an end pretty quickly if there wasn't a way to destroy the enchantment. I recall one game where the controller eventually won because he had brought six creatures onto the battlefield with it. Oh, those days of innocence!
Now, everyone understands that the controller is likely finding the two creatures they will need to combo out and win the game right there. I share this not to encourage the combo players, but as a warning to others that you must deal with this card immediately or the game will simply end. Even when you do deal with Defense of the Heart, keep in mind that the player who used it has a way to win instantly, so you should now be working together to take them out of the game… while I sit here quietly building my forces to crush you the next turn!
No, Grim Monolith isn't as good as Sol Ring, but almost nothing is. Too many players see that you have to pay four to untap it and suddenly they think it is hot garbage. You are getting three mana here! This card all by itself is a ramp machine. If this is your only ramp it means that you have six mana on turn three.
The real joy is as you extend towards the late game when you have turns where you aren't tapping out. At the end of your opponent's turn, you can spend the extra mana you have to untap it to get ready for that big turn you've been planning.
Well I never said that this is the Top 10 of affordable cards from Urza block. Most players who have the card only put it in decks that produce a ton of creatures, so when you see it, you are likely facing a token deck or some ridiculous green elf deck.
The reason this sits at #1 is because it is so good at that, but it can go in any green deck. Virtually every green deck is running creatures and as long as you have two creatures on the battlefield, this card is good. I just said tapping for three mana with Grim Monolith was amazing and it needs a lot of help untapping, is an artifact and doesn't produce colored mana. Gaea's Cradle just waits for the untap step and is ready to do stupid things turn after turn.
Surrak, much like almost every green commander, benefits from Gaea's Cradle!
I hope you enjoyed our walk through the Urza block and discovered a few cards Dominaria has to offer!