Dominaria Limited Refresher

Hey everyone! One of Magic’s highest strengths is the diverse amounts of formats available for people to play. Whether you like the diverse and changing play style of limited, the intense and decision heavy gameplay of modern or legacy, or the social interaction of commander, there’s something out there that’ll suit everyone’s needs! Additionally, whenever a new product comes out, there’s at least a couple of formats that have new cards injected in to give players more options or to build new decks entirely! Nowhere does this happen more, however, than in limited. Limited as a format is technically incorrect, as all sets have their own format within themselves and have independent metas within them, all of which stem from how archetypes are built differently in different sets. For example, the blue/white deck in Amonkhet, which focuses on the embalm mechanic, is radically different than that of Modern Horizons, which is all about flickering and ETB value. Additionally, whenever a new draft set comes out, it typically straight-up replaces the previous one, giving players new experiences quite frequently!

While this shakeup is what keeps the game fresh for a lot of people, there are some players who lament that their favorite draft format goes too soon for them. Fortunately for them, Wizards often hosts these previous formats quite regularly in events typically called “Flashback Drafts”! Primarily held on Magic Online, these events let you relive the glory days of formats past, such as Innistrad or Zendikar. This has proven so popular that it has been emulated onto Magic Arena, with certain draft formats reappearing every-so often. Nowadays, this is often done in the “Quick Draft” option and focuses on current standard sets. Recently, however, Wizards announced that they would have a flashback draft of Dominaria soon in the Premier Draft section! Dominaria is considered one of the best draft formats ever by many and is a great decision on the part of the company! However, the set is over two years old and means that some players may not be familiar with the limited environment anymore. That’s where I come in! Today, we’ll take a brief tour of the Dominaria limited archetypes and some general tips on how to build them! This won’t be an extensive list on each color combination, more of an overview to refresh you for this amazing environment. With all that said, let’s get into it!

Before we look at the archetypes themselves, we should examine the set as a whole. Each set as a different mix of aggressive and defensive creatures that define the “speed” of a set. Dominaria leans more into the defensive side, having creatures with larger toughness to block easier. Because of this, boards get stalled more frequently and will rely on either flyers or interaction to push through and win the game. Out-atritioning the opponents with drawing extra cards or tokens also helps a lot to find those answers to finish off the opponent.

Blue/White: Historic Flash

One of the mechanics introduced in Dominaria was “historic,” which triggers certain cards and payoffs for playing or having certain types of cards: legendary permanents, sagas, and artifacts. Blue/white is all about paying you off for playing a bunch of historic cards in various ways. Our signpost uncommon here allows you to cast all your historic spells at instant speed while doing that himself (FYI: all the signpost uncommons in this set are uncommon legendary creatures) and paying you off for casting him. The rest of the color pair has various ways of getting things to go off for playing these spells. One thing to note is that artifacts should be in a higher picking order than usual because they will make all of your triggers go off and are easy to cast since none required colored mana.

Blue/Black: Historic Graveyard

One of the bad things about all the historic cards in the previous archetype is that, often, most of those historic cards have finite lives and find themselves in the graveyard. In this color combo, however, that problem is mitigated thanks to our signpost uncommon! Switching black for white does give us some options to recur our spells from the bin at the cost of less historic triggers. Black gets a few and retains all of the blue ones, but this sacrifice is notable. Furthermore, this deck is highly dependent on Rona staying alive and nabbing the right things from the top of your library. This means that most of the resurrecting will come from traditional black spells and de-emphasize the historic theme. Still, you can recur some very powerful things in this color pair and, while not my cup of tea, can perform very well provided you have sufficient workarounds inherent in any graveyard deck.

Black/Red: Aggro

Don’t you just hate it when you’re in an aggro deck and your opponent has the audacity to kill your entire board from either a mass pump spell after going all in or using a board wipe? Well, luckily for you, those concerns are in the past thanks to our signpost uncommon here! Garna can get back all of your recently-deceased creatures to your hand and grants all of them haste when you recast them, allowing you to get back in the fight. Aside from this, the deck is a rather simple aggro deck, with a lot of auras and combat tricks to help you hit harder and get in for big surprises. The graveyard resurrecting is also present, so you can get some of your fallen creatures to keep the pressure up for your opponent.

Red/Green: Kicker

This archetype really speaks for itself. You want to pay the kicker cost of your spells as much as possible. The interesting thing about this deck is that there aren’t that many actual payoffs in this color pair. Instead, the payoff is getting all the additional effects that come with the mechanic. This means that you’ll be incentivized to go for it as much as possible for maximum value. However, don’t be afraid to not pay the cost. After all, it’s best to establish a board presence first and treat the mechanic as a payoff for ramping, going long, or both.

Green/White: Go Wide

There aren’t any surprises here with this color pair. This pair is all about going wide and has certain payoffs for it. The biggest one at uncommon is the signpost uncommon Shanna, who grows larger as your board widens. This color pair is the most defined by its rares, which really turn the deck online. Because of this, this deck is the very risky and needs a lot of support to function well. If there was a deck to splash a color, it’d be this one.

White/Black: Legendaries

The “legendaries-matters” theme of the set comes in full force in this color pair. The signpost uncommon pumps all of them quite significantly and has quite a few to choose from. Aside from that, the deck acts as a typically grindy B/W deck that hopes to get all your legendary creatures huge and win the game with some big monsters. All of the legendary creatures’ abilities also lend themselves to being more grindy, helping the deck overall. It should be noted, however, that all legendary creatures are at uncommon and above, making the deck a bit more challenging to get into. I would recommend to try for it early but don’t be afraid to pivot if it’s not coming together.

Red/White: Auras and Equipment

This is probably one of the scarier archetypes to go into in this format. After all, if you stick a bunch of auras onto one creature, a single removal spell will ruin your day. However, the signpost uncommon here makes that feel a little less bad by getting all those auras back whenever something with them dies. Additionally, there are a few creatures (specifically in red) that pay you off for enchanting them, so it’s not like you’re going to be dead in the water. Adding a couple of equipment isn’t bad either, as it can help you push through a bit easier and are safer to put onto, as they stick around when your creatures die. If you get about 5 auras and a couple of payoffs, then you’re in good shape for this deck.

Blue/Green: Lands/Ramp

So here we have a pretty standard archetype with an amazing signpost uncommon: Tatyova, Benthic Druid. Besides being one of the best lands commander in EDH, this card pushes you in the direction to play a lot of lands to get value from her. But what do you do with that mana, you may ask? Well, two things, actually. You can first pay for really big spells like a typical ramp deck and get some big fatties on the board earlier than usual. However, another use for this deck is for kicking spells. The green kick spells from the Gruul deck stick around and join blue’s option to allow you to pay for the kicker costs earlier than most decks to get big value earlier.

Blue/Red: Wizard Tribal

My personal favorite archetype, this pair is all about getting a bunch of wizards on the board that pay each other off and go from there. The signpost pumps all your wizards with a prowess-like effect and can win on her own given she isn’t removed. This color pair, naturally, also has a spells-matter theme and can shift into a spellslinger deck if your picks lean into that. The amount of draw in these colors can help you find those answers to win the game and is just a fun deck overall.

Black/Green: Saprolings

Our last archetype to talk about focuses on the little fungi that can: saprolings. Absent for a long time, this set is filled with a lot of payoffs for these little guys in two ways. The first is that there are some tribal payoffs for the creature type as well as funguses in general. The second way is by killing them off. Though adorable, there are a lot of sacrificing effects in this color pair that reward you for sacking saprolings in particular. The signpost uncommon here straight up gives you saprolings and encourages them dying like the little troopers they are to edge closer to a win.

Archetypes Ranked

Now that we’ve looked at all the archetypes, let’s list them off from best to worse. This won’t be a giant tier list, but a general ranking on how likely a deck is to perform well. This, by no means, is saying that any deck is absolutely going to dominate above another; the quality of cards you are passed and pick are the biggest factor, meaning you can stomp the best deck with the worst if your deck is good enough. So don’t be afraid to lean into your favorite strategy if you’ve got the right stuff!

1) Saprolings

Turns out these little guys perform! The army of saprolings is stupid easy to pump up and grow in terms of number to grow a board stall in your favor. Black straight up has the best removal in the format and all the sacrifice effects that reward killing your saprolings to make this deck the best around. (it’s a shame you’re murdering all these cute shroomy bois, though)

2) Wizards

The payoffs for playing wizards is really high and you can snowball very easily, especially with Adeliz. The amount of card draw also lets you really dig in for those win cons, so it’s a great choice to go with.

3) Historic Flash

All the historic spells make this deck very easy to assemble. The ability to cast them at instant speed is too good to pass up if presented early; this including all the payoffs make this deck very lucrative and rewarding to play. Another aspect to push it is the fact that there are a lot of flyers in this color pair, so you can always assemble old faithful to get in for the win.

4) Kicker

Kicker is an amazing ability on its own, so having a deck full of them has to be good, right? Turns out the answer is mostly yes. The slower games of Dominaria draft allow you time to survive long enough to pay your kicker costs more reasonably and get the few payoffs for doing so. If matched against a faster opponent, however, you’ll be forced to play your kicker creatures without any additional benefit and feel bad about it.

5) Legendaries

This is definitely a hit or miss deck. Get it going and it can steamroll the best decks. Miss the mark and you’re just kind of stuck there out in the open. Grinding out a win is a bit more difficult in this color pair because the win part may be hard to get to. Splashing another color can help alleviate this problem if you find yourself lacking legendaries, though.

6) Ramp

The lack of reasonable ramp spells makes this deck a bit harder to assemble than usual. The signpost is amazing when you get her on the board, but it’s the act of getting there that’s difficult. Going Temur for more aggressive creatures with kicker is probably the best route to go if your mana base can afford it. If you can’t, then be prepared to have some lackluster creatures until you can really get going.

7) Aggro

The slower format affects this deck in an interesting way. Instead of going under your opponent, your creatures are just better mana investments and can be brought back with Garna or any other resurrecting spell. This is the deck I have the least experience with and I don’t know where to put it, so I went very conservative here. If you get it right, I could see it somewhere around 4th, so we’ll see if I’m wrong here.

8) Historic Graveyard

Black’s removal in this format is nothing to scoff at, but this deck just doesn’t have that many ways of paying you off for having historic things in the bin. Rona is vulnerable when you first get here and there’s no guarantee that you’ll even get a good card from here when you exile things. I’m not a fan of graveyard decks in general, but this one is really unfocused and hard to pull off.

9) Auras and Equipment

This is a very challenging deck to pull off successfully. For starters, the reality of having an enchanted creature removed is very painful and makes the deck very painful. Tishana only affects equipment and auras in the graveyard, so you do get back your spent auras pretty frequently. Equipment, however, is more difficult to get into the bin, so it’s hardly ever relevant. Overall, the risk is just too high for a higher placement.

10) Go Wide

In this format, this is the hardest deck to pull off and the one with the least payoff. The signpost uncommon grows herself with all the other creatures and leaves the others in the dust. In a slower environment, this is beneficial and can attack more often with the right board. However, if she is removed, then you’re likely stuck with a bunch of weaker creatures that kind of sit there and you’ll be in a bad spot. Your rares can really help you, but this deck relies on them too much to get there on its own.

Well that should wrap things up for Dominaria! If you missed out on the limited environment or want to experience the format again, I highly recommend waiting for the event. If you also think I’m wrong in any of my assessments, please let me know! I’ll catch y’all next time!

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