With the release of Dominaria on our doorstep, results are just starting to come in and we see the metagame shifting once again. Dominaria is both enhancing known strategies and helping to reinvent some old ones we may have forgotten about. There are certain cards standout cards that slot well into pre-existing strategies, and then other decks that can add in a bunch of new cards to create a completely new deck. Even swapping a couple cards in a heavily played archetype can completely change a deck, and force other decks to react.
The red aggressive decks were already at the top of the metagame after winning GP Seattle. Now there is a new addition: Goblin Chainwhirler. The rare creatures that cost triple of one color are all very powerful, because of the prohibitive casting cost and two-color decks can't reliably cast them on turn three. In this case we are already playing only a single color, so Mono-Red Aggro can easily access Goblin Chainwhirler.
When looking at this card it is easy to think that it might not be more than a 3/3 with first strike. While it is true that sometimes the trigger won't make an impact, it forces the opponent also to play and build their deck in a different way. For example, casting a turn two Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is incredibly dangerous against a deck with four copies of Goblin Chainwhirler. There are a lot of energy decks and all of them have Glint-Sleeve Siphoners even if they don't' have other one-toughness creatures that can be killed by Goblin Chainwhirler.
If you happen to get paired against Tokens, the Goblin Chainwhirlers make the matchup much better than it was before. Those lifelinking Vampires can disappear with this card, but you do have to sometimes not cast Goblin Chainwhirler on turn three to get maximum value from it. The fact Goblin Chainwhirler deals damage to planeswalkers with its trigger isn't terribly relevant but does come up against opposing decks with Chandra, Torch of Defiance, or Karn, Scion of Urza.
One of the question marks in Mono Red-Aggro has been the three-drop slot. Ahn-Crop Crasher and Pia Nalaar were both fine options, but never felt amazing; Ahn-Crop Crasher dying to cards like Magma Spray or Moment of Craving put it into a worse position. Now the answer is clear, and it isn't just playing a couple Goblin Chainwhirlers – the full playset has been added in. Take a closer look at the mana base. Some of the Deserts have been removed to have as many Mountains as possible to ensure being able to cast Goblin Chainwhirler on turn three.
The other change we see to the deck is Soul-Scar Mage making its way back into the one-drop slot. That makes sense because of how it works with Goblin Chainwhirler. Even if your opponent has creatures that aren't one toughness, you are still permanently shrinking them if you have a Soul-Scar Mage in play when casting Goblin Chainwhirler. The interaction of Soul-Scar Mage with Goblin Chainwhirler is enough of a reason to bring back Soul-Scar Mage as we already knew it was one of the one-drops worthy of consideration.
Ever since the banning of Ramunap Ruins, the Desert theme in the red aggro decks has slowly been disappearing. Now there is not a Desert that produces red, it is necessary to play very few colorless lands. Cutting down a bit on Scavenger Grounds is the primary cost for getting to have the Goblin Chainwhirlers in your deck, and it wouldn't be fair for there to be no cost for having such a powerful card. This is a deck that seems to be getting better and better after each new set, with the addition of Rekindling Phoenix and now Goblin Chainwhirler, so look for Mono-Red Aggro to be one of the best and most popular decks moving forward.
A strategy that isn't quite as popular as beating down with red, but there is definitely a lot to work with here. The token decks certainly should be worried about Goblin Chainwhirler, though they also picked up a useful tool to help fight it: Benalish Marshal. The Marshal gets your tokens out of range of one-damage removal and is essentially an anthem. While we are used to White-Black Tokens being Vampires, the addition of Benalish Marshal pushes things in a different direction.
There are actually quite a few new cards here from Dominaria, to the point this deck is pretty far from the token decks we are used to. Dauntless Bodyguard is essentially the next best one-drop after Toolcraft Exemplar, and the fact it can protect Benalish Marshal from removal is pretty important, though there aren't that many creatures you care about dying.
The addition of the vehicles gives the deck a way to attack through in the air while using effectively using tokens that can't profitably attack to crew. The deck has a lot going on and while I'm not confident playing four copies of both Aethersphere Harvester and Heart of Kiran makes sense, there do seem to be fewer copies of Abrade running around right now. Karn, Scion of Urza works well with the artifact theme of the deck – the idea is to have a decent number of artifacts in order to make the Constructs from Karn as strong as possible.
Not only are the vehicles artifacts, but the deck has opted to play token generators that make Servos. Cards like Servo Exhibition and Sram's Expertise go up in value because they work well alongside the new powerful planeswalker. I expect more decks to incidentally try to add in artifacts to help Karn, Scion of Urza be more effective. Benalish Marshal to me feels like the most important Dominaria card from a Tokens perspective, but here the plan is a bit diluted as we aren't just a Tokens deck any more.
White-Blue now has a lot more tools to work with. Previously we only really saw White-Blue Approach and even there the deck struggled to put up big results, but Dominaria is shifting the landscape surrounding control decks to the point White-Blue Control should become a major player. One of the biggest additions to this strategy is Seal Away. Having good cheap removal was holding back White-Blue Control, and now there is a very solid and versatile two-mana removal option.
Seal Away can pretty much deal with any creature coming out of Mono-Red Aggro including Hazoret the Fervent and Rekindling Phoenix. Red doesn't have a way to get enchantments off the board, and is forced to tap their creatures each turn in order to attack. Seal Away is a good cheap removal spell that is going to see a lot of play. There are a couple of options in the archetype – one reasonable direction is to still play Approach of the Second Sun with an updated removal package featuring Seal Away.
Another direction to go in is to be more reliant on planeswalkers. This deck stands out to me as a sweet way to bring a bunch of Dominaria cards into the mix:
Knight of Grace didn't immediately stand out to me as being a high-impact Constructed card, but when thinking about the popular removal spells right now it makes sense that the card is good. It dodges Fatal Push and Vraska's Contempt, which are the two removal spells black decks rely on the most. Whether it should be in the deck I'm not actually sure, but it does seem sweet. Lyra Dawnbringer can give the red decks fits – they really are forced to have multiple burn spells in order to get rid of it.
The planeswalker package is the primary way this deck plans to take over the late game. Even though it's nice to have a bit of an artifact theme to go alongside Karn, it also isn't really necessary. You can play the planeswalker purely for value, and it is extremely difficult to take off the board without a Vraska's Contempt. There are four copies of both Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Karn, Scion of Urza to have plenty of card-drawing redundancy – both can bury the opponent in card advantage – and the rest of the deck is mostly focused on protecting these planeswalkers.
The other benefit to having the Knight of Grace is that there is actually some tribal synergy because of History of Benalia. The most powerful Saga in Dominaria, History can use the tokens to close out games or trade off with opposing threats. Oath of Teferi is pretty cool in this deck because it works really well with your other historic permanents – being able to exile History of Benalia is beneficial to reset its counters and continue churning out Knights.
Of course, the main reason Oath of Teferi is strong is the ability to use your planeswalkers multiple times each turn. Once that gets going, games have a way of getting out of hand. If a planeswalker is getting low on loyalty you can also exile or reset a Cast Out with Oath of Teferi, so there are definitely some neat uses for it. Initially I thought it was bit overpriced in terms of mana cost for the effect you are getting, but after seeing it in this deck I changed my mind.
The rest of the deck features the type of interaction one would expect with cards like Settle the Wreckage for removal and a variety of countermagic. Syncopate is another new option control decks have access to, as being able to permanently exile cards can be very beneficial. There are still eternalize creatures, Torrential Gearhulk, The Scarab God, God-Pharaoh's Gift and more that care about exile effects. This deck really embraces and highlights some of the biggest haymakers in Dominaria, and it turns out it works!
Thanks for reading,