Dominaria United is upon us, and many Commander players just want to know what the best cards in the set are. Today, I’ll break down what’s great from the set.
DMU has a bunch of cards aimed at Standard and some pretty niche effects, too. I won’t be covering these, as they don’t add enough value to your collection. We’re only interested in the most universally great cards for Commander.
And remember, If you like what you see, you can find other recent set reviews here:
- Battle for Baldur’s Gate
- Streets of New Capenna
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
- Crimson Vow and Midnight Hunt
- Adventures in the Forgotten Realms
Ready to return to where it all began? Let’s dive in.
DOMINARIA UNITED: WHITE
The first card today is a good one, and one I’m hype to play in my equipment decks. Equipment archetypes are all about cheating on mana, and Danitha, Benalia’s Hope does just that.
She can bring a piece of equipment from hand or grave into play attached to her, and she comes with a pretty robust set of abilities, too. I’m looking forward to a turn four Kaldra Compleat, even if that is a flavor fail.
Defiler of Faith is the first of a cycle of Phyrexians that let you pay Phyrexian mana for one of the colored pips in your spells. They also come with another attribute. Defiler of Faith gives you a 1/1 soldier whenever you cast a white permanent spell, which combos pretty nicely with many of white’s soul sister effects. And if you can gain the life back? The sky really is the limit.
I love a good modal spell. You’ll always have a target for this, and I wouldn’t hesitate to run it if you don’t have access to the best removal options in your colors. Even then, I will always entertain arguments for running modal pieces, such as if you’re using Sunforger. I’ve been running more Valorous Stance lately and I’ve been enjoying it. A solid budget option.
Crucible of Worlds on an Angel? With the ability to also cast mana value 3 or less permanents instead? This thing is going to be a house in 60-card formats, and it’ll do a lot of work in Commander as well.
The most obvious use case for this card is recursion, but don’t sleep on how easy it is to circumvent the exile clause: just flicker your stuff, and you don’t need to worry. Games are shorter these days anyways, right?
Oh hey, it’s a card that removes treasures. Temporary Lockdown laughs in the face of those who vomit up countless, cheap mana rocks and treasures, putting a stop to early game setup. While it’s not as potent as Culling Ritual, it’s still a solid answer to tokens and has plenty of use cases.
Sagas are back, this time with “Read Ahead.” Zooming through them may prove useful, but we should still evaluate them holistically to determine if they’re playable.
Urza Assembles the Titans is card and mana advantage in superfriends decks, with a serious buff on the final mode. The superfriends archetype continues to see solid support and this is more than playable — I’m just not sure what I’d cut for it.
In a vacuum, Valiant Veteran valorously vociferates votives of value as the vanguard for venerable veterans. Outside of a vacuum, the white card in the cycle kinda sucks.
DOMINARIA UNITED: BLUE
Seeing powerful, older women on Magic cards never gets old. We’ll probably see this card show up a fair bit in more controlling lists. The ability being optional means you might see some interesting ebb and flow in games.
Combat Research is a new version of the Ophidian effect. While it’s pretty certain we’ll never see a card as powerful as Curiosity again, I do like this variant. +1/+1 and Ward 1 feels generous for one mana, and it’ll slot right into many Voltron or Enchantress decks, from Eutropia to Tuvasa.
The blue Defiler is arguably one of the better ones. Drawing a card when you cast a blue permanent spell is solid card draw, until you remember that blue is a color mostly about casting instants and sorceries. To make this card truly perform, you’ll want it in a creature based deck featuring flyers. Think Linvala, Shield of Seagate.
Micromancer kinda had to cost four, didn’t it? Grabbing mana value 1 spells is a powerful thing to do at the higher power levels of Commander. We’ve already seen just how good Spellseeker can be — being able to grab counterspells and removal with this at a cheaper mana value would have been far too good. As it stands, it’s still a pretty reasonable card I expect to see some play.
Blue gets board wipes now? Apparently!
If that wasn’t monumental enough for you, you can still plan ahead by phasing things out that you don’t want to lose. I expect to see a lot of this card in Simic or mono blue decks going forward.
Shore Up is the latest trick available to protect your investments in blue. What makes this one interesting is the untap. Plenty of great creatures want to be untapped, if for pseudo-vigilance if nothing else.
So you want to draw some cards? If it’s just a few, Silver Scrutiny works at instant speed. Otherwise, take your time. Solid fiber for any blue deck wanting to draw some cards.
Domain is one of the harder abilities to turn on in Commander, with most players opting for two or three colored decks. If you are going higher, though, Sphinx of Clear Skies is a pretty solid payoff. Ward 2 is nice icing on the cake.
Vesuvan Duplimancy has an incredible name, because I keep reading it as Vesuvan Diplomacy, which has to be intentional. More importantly, it allows Orvar another toy, and decks like Veyran some real firepower.
Merfolk decks are going to love this new lord. I don’t usually write about more niche picks, but when it’s a card for one of the more popular tribes — and one that 60-card players are going to want to get their hands on — it feels right to give people the heads up.
DOMINARIA UNITED: BLACK
Braids is back in Commander, this time with sick artwork and some serious card draw. Playing Braids with Crucible of Worlds, Treasures, Clues, Bitterblossom and Dreadhorde Invasion will give you plenty of sacrifice fodder, and unless you’re giving opponents fodder with Genesis Chamber, they’re unlikely to want to repay you in kind.
Players love The Eldest Reborn, and so I can see The Cruelty of Gix being played. Read ahead lets you skip straight to a Rise from the Grave if needed, but if you have time along the way, you can cash in on a Grim Tutor or even some hand disruption. In Commander this will most commonly start on chapter two, and I think that’s a reasonable cost for those effects.
Given K’rrik is popular on its own, Defiler of Flesh will at the very least find a home in K’rrik decks. While the bonus effect — +1/+1 and menace — is arguably one of the more forgettable of the Defilers, it’s the cost reduction that’s the real deal here. Black decks in particular can leverage paying life, too.
Shadow-Rite Priest is potentially the best Lord effect in the set. Cleric decks love aristocrat effects, and they also love large top end creatures like Villis, Broker of Blood, Sheoldred, Whispering One and Archon of Cruelty. Tutoring them into play is just good.
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is our latest Praetor. For four mana, this effect will no doubt find a home in group hug and group slug decks, from Mogis, God of Slaughter to old, faithful Nekusar. Outside of that, I think it’s a little narrow.
Making this an Abzan card is honestly for the best. While it seems like an expensive price to pay for drawing cards, black rarely gets this kind of on-damage card advantage — and it’s also not drawing cards. It’s revealing them.
This allows you to get around common traps for drawing cards. Abzan decks are thankfully well equipped to gain life back.
DOMINARIA UNITED: RED
Multi-Chaos Warp is a good magic card, especially for mono-red decks without answers for many card types. What’s more, they stay exiled, so you’ll at least see a different card when you reveal the replacement permanent.
Given you can also use this to polymorph, I’d say the red Casualties of War is likely to see some play. It might well make things worse, but at least they’ll be fresh problems to solve.
The red Defiler is a Kavu, and it looks pretty terrifying. How is it in-game? Well, red loves rituals and banking mana when storming off, so this card has potential, right? Well, maybe, but you have to remember that the red decks who love Birgi and Storm Kiln Artist are spellslinger decks at heart.
You could get some mileage out of this in artifact decks, but most often the use case will probably be reducing the cost of Goblins if you can stomach going off-tribe.
Red has a love affair with casting spells by attacking, and Keldon Flamesage offers the latest version of the effect. In dedicated spellslinger aggro decks I can see this doing a lot of work, but it’s hardly the kind of card I’d expect to see elsewhere.
Rundvelt Hordemaster has changed the face of Goblins decks forever. Now, the Goblins die and potentially draw you into more Goblins — at least if you can cast them before the end of your next turn. You’ll want to pick this up while it’s cheap, because it’ll be played until the end of time in Legacy and Modern lists.
Sprouting Goblin is right at home in Goblin decks for some card advantage, but more than that, it’ll slot nicely into landfall decks too. This little fella can grab Triomes or other typed lands, which is not to be underestimated.
Ah, Twinferno. This is a card I can get behind. Surprise double strike is one of my favorite effects right now, having single-handedly (ahem) sung the praises of Two-Handed Axe. Putting double strike as a mode on a card that also copies your removal spells? Dang, now I’m seriously interested.
DOMINARIA UNITED: GREEN
Defiler of Vigor is the green version, and naturally, it grows your team with counters and brings a hefty body to the table for five mana. It’s a great magic card — there’s little else to say.
This is a great card for tribal decks, but also for Tribal Tribal builds. This’ll trigger when you cast a changeling spell, whether it’s a creature or not.
Silverback Elder is the talk of the town. Aura Shards is already a marmite card, but putting it on a creature and offering other useful modes alongside it makes for a tempting inclusion for many decks.
Magic players aren’t known for their moderation, so chances are that if you see this across the table, you are losing your artifacts and enchantments. I expect this ape shaman to eat a lot of removal.
Five mana is a lot for a ramp spell, but Slimefoot’s Survey is pretty extra for a ramp spell. First up, it gets dual lands, shock lands and triomes. Second, it gives you some card selection after you’ve ramped. Not every deck wants this, but it’s firmly playable, especially if you’re wanting to use Domain.
Tear Asunder is the headline removal spell of the set. While Utter End is a little expensive these days, it’s weirdly more palatable when you can opt to pay less to only hit artifacts or enchantments.
Exile is still king when it comes to removal. View this as a Disenchant with upside, rather than akin to Utter End with a discounted mode, and you’ll be better off.
Threats Undetected lets you dig deep for creatures. You won’t get all of them, but you’ll always end up with something. If you build your deck right, you’re sure to end up with piles that are hard for opponents to sift through. I love mini-game cards, so I’ll definitely be trying this one out.
The World Spell is an interesting Saga. It doesn’t synergize well with Sagas, making it much closer to half of Tooth and Nail with the option to dig for cards upfront instead of the option to search your library for the exact cards you need.
Most often, this will be a shield to put game-winning permanents into play with. Will your opponents counter The World Spell? If they do, then you’ve eaten a counterspell and can cast your Omniscience next turn instead.
DOMINARIA UNITED: MULTICOLOR, ARTIFACTS & LANDS
Dominaria is chock-full of legends, so I’m going to cover the more unique or functional ones in this set review.
Kicking off the multicolor cards, Astor, Bearer of Blades, gives us a solid role player in decks using vehicles or equipment. Depending on the makeup of your build, he might be a better option than Depala at the head, but either way, makes for a nice combination of cost reduction and card draw. Importantly, he lets you actually crew the Weatherlight Compleated early.
Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim is a Suture Priest in the Command Zone. Having access to this effect in the zone opens up new possibilities for deck building, especially when combos involving Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond are on the table.
While Ertai isn’t the most exciting option for a Commander, it is a flexible interaction piece that can be fetched with Recruiter of the Guard or Wizardcycling. Though it does give cards in exchange, you do get a lot of flexibility.
Garna, Bloodfist of Keld is deceptively cool. You can slot this into a Deathtouch tribal build or merely control combat by having a sacrifice outlet.
Dealing damage is also cool, especially if you can give Garna Infect. This uncommon is good enough to be a Commander, too. Rakdos gets all the cool designs.
Okay, well maybe not all of the cool designs. Ivy, Gleeful Spellthief is an intriguing Simic option. It’s always good to have Simic options that aren’t land and draw based, and Ivy is a homerun.
She’s clearly meant to be leading an Enchantress deck, but in specific, auras. I expect we’ll see some out-there builds that can take advantage of this unique creature.
Jodah, the Unifier has real First Sliver vibes. Cascading into another legendary nonland card that costs less, costing WUBRG, having chunky stats… He’s strong enough to lead his own decks, but he’s also a great piece of card advantage to stick in the likes of Sisay, Weatherlight Captain or Esika, God of the Tree.
We’re now back to Rakdos for another homerun design: Lagomos, Hand of Hatred. While it might seem a tall order to have five creatures die, it’s not that difficult to pull off.
A Lagomos deck will include plenty of board wipes, plenty of edict effects and creatures like Plaguecrafter, and haste enablers like Anger or Swiftfoot Boots. Lagomos explores similar space as Gadrak and Mahadi, offering a Demonic Tutor instead of treasures.
Dubbed Gruul Urza, or Gruurza, Meria asks you if you’d like to play artifacts in Gruul. She’s restrained to an extent by her inability to utilize token artifacts, but that won’t stop you from putting together a strong build — it’s just never really going to be Urza.
I’d say that’s a good thing. Work for it.
Golgari Commanders have been a little dull lately, and I’m glad to see Nemata is at least a little different. Graveyard hate that makes tokens, which can be used to either buff Nemata or draw cards, feels more refreshing than it might actually be.
Keeping on top of graveyards is good, and Nemata might end up being a roleplayer in your meta, keeping you on top of a game before you can finish it.
Ratadrabik of Urborg is the latest in a long line of creatures that seek to circumvent the legendary rule. This time, we have one in Orzhov.
Technically Ratadrabik is also a zombie Lord, but that’s way less important. This’ll give you a new take on aristocrats that’s distinct from the usual cleric piles in this color pair.
Historically, Rakdos hasn’t been the preferred color pair for Dragons. Rivaz of the Claw is, however, a Rakdos leaning Dragons-matter creature. A key recursion piece in the Ur-Dragon, Scion of the Ur-Dragon and potentially the new Bladewing deck, Rivaz is still a solid creature. Maybe it’ll spawn its own archetype? Time will tell.
Shanna, Purifying Blade is kinda like Well of Lost Dreams if Well was time-gated and on a creature. Despite the time-gating, Shanna means business. Bant Lifegain is an archetype that could use more love.
If you really don’t enjoy using Planeswalkers as Commanders, you now have a Jund Lands option in creature form. Why you’d opt for this instead of just jamming it into Lord Windgrace is beyond me, though.
Soul of Windgrace does a heck of a lot for four mana — don’t miss that you can drag lands into play from any graveyard using the triggered ability.
UW is always crying out for interesting Commander options, and Stenn, Paranoid Partisan fulfills that role. It’s a flexible cost reduction depending on what you need to produce, and it comes with self reset/protection.
I imagine this’ll pick artifacts most often, but will probably pivot to something like instants as the game progresses.
Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator isn’t technically a Merfolk Commander, but it could be. Blue creature decks have always loved pivoting into spellslinger, and Vohar could be the Commander you need for this strategy. It’s more likely, though, that it sees play as spell recursion in Grixis decks.
A new Zur that’s a little less easy to break than the old one. I like this design a fair bit as, when you animate your enchantments, they become Hexproof. The other keywords are nice, but Hexproof is where it’s at.
Zur, Eternal Schemer can be at the head of enchantress decks that love Starfield of Nyx, but it can also slot nicely into existing Zur decks. A very nice design.
I’m a fan of Streets of New Capenna’s Mysterious Limousine. Golden Argosy is one mana cheaper and can flicker multiple creatures each turn. This thing is going to be a staple in decks that like to mess with EtBs, flicker creatures and even in dedicated vehicle decks. Enough crewing creatures in those decks have strong EtBs.
Trample and haste are two of the most important keywords in equipment decks, second only to hexproof and flying/unblockable. At two to play and two to equip, getting a buff and some keywords is a good rate for Hero’s Heirloom.
Will it beat out Fleetfeather Sandals? Maybe not quite. Will I play it alongside it? You can bet on it.
Karn’s Sylex is another in the design space of Nevinryall’s Disk, Oblivion Stone and Pernicious Deed. Being Legendary is neat, and that will allow decks that care about Legendary matters access to a tutorable board clear.
The added upside of slowing down decks that pay life is pretty neat, and it takes an otherwise debatably playable card (wiping only at sorcery speed) into a place where some decks will happily consider it.
I might be biased, but I think this card is pretty strong and will do more work than you’d expect — especially in cEDH with access to cheap or free legendary creatures.
Timeless Lotus enters the battlefield tapped, and it’s Legendary. That’s a lot of safety valves on a mana rock — and for good reason. Five mana for a rock that produces WUBRG is pretty cheap, and you’d end up paying more for it to enter untapped (though how much more, when Chromatic Orrery is seven mana, I’m not sure). Still, it’s playable in decks that want the effect.
Our last artifact is Weatherlight Compleated. It excels in vehicle decks because of the number of ways you can crew it early before it becomes a creature. It’s solid card advantage in those decks and will make the 99 of many of them.
Plaza of Heroes might be one of the best cards in the set, and it’s a plant for Commander for sure. Countless decks will want this effect, and even if you just consider Voltron decks, that’s a lot of decks.
Beyond that, there are so many decks that care about keeping their Commander in play that this card will be good forever.
Thran Portal is a Gate, and therefore it will see some play. Other than in a Gates deck, I don’t think you want this card.
DOMINARIA UNITED: COMMANDER
The Dominaria United Commander decks are fun and interesting builds, with Commanders that, while powerful, don’t break the game. You can find our upgrade guides for Legends’ Legacy and Painbow here. As well as cards from these decks, there are the set booster exclusives and the box topper legends reimagined. Here’s my rundown of what you should check out:
It feels soldily like an equipment for decks that can cheat equip costs, or decks that otherwise don’t care about equipment but want to generate a lot of mana or artifacts. Think Akiri, Line-Slinger or Ardenn based decks.
Cadric, Soul Kindler is happy to be your Commander and let you double up on Legendary permanents — and yes, that includes Planeswalkers and Enchantments. This opens up an exciting new avenue for Boros deck building while also augmenting existing token strategies.
Copying abilities is always fun, and Verrak, Warped Sengir and The Peregrine Dynamo both let you do so in interesting ways. They’re sure to find their way into many existing builds, whether you’re playing fairly or unfairly.
Of the new Set Booster exclusive cards, there are three that stand out to me above the others. Robaran Mercenaries will find a home in all of the decks The Peregrine Dynamo will, and then some. My love affair with Samut, the Tested is sure to be reignited with this card.
Emperor Mihail II is a boon to Merfolk tribal decks, and it can just as easily climb to the top of the pile for mono-blue Merfolk Commanders.
As we round things out today, let’s look at the Box Topper cards. These are reimagined Legendary Creatures from Legends, with modern designs to make them playable in today’s metagame.
The most playable include the likes of The Ever-Changing Dane, an Esper shapeshifter Commander that fans of Lazav will jump on immediately as a fun new transforming Commander. Ramirez Depietro, Pillager is likewise a homerun design — it’ll slot into Grixis Pirates but can quite happily lead a deck on its own.
Two of the best and most refreshing designs here are ostensibly Voltron in nature. Ramses, Assassin Lord, asks you to kill one player at the table in order to win the game. Aggro Dimir? Alternate wincon? Sign me up.
Stanng, Echo Warrior propagates the Voltron pile you’ve assembled every time you attack, which is kinda awesome (though it does limit you to non-legendary Auras and Equipments, for the most part).
And finally, the last card in my Set Review: Tor Wauki, the Younger. A time for Pestilent Spirit to shine. Tor Wauki is a unique and interesting build that pulls from Judith, the Scourge Diva and many other adjacent builds to create a deck that does something unique. Definitely one of the better designs in the box-topper set.
Well, we made it through another set review. Dominaria United might well be one of the biggest sets in recent times, what with the extra cards in various products and the box toppers.
I’ve toiled away to bring you this rundown of what you should care about from the set — what you do with that information is up to you, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be fired up to build some new decks and buy some singles. Let me know if I missed anything you’re excited about on Twitter.
Kristen is Card Kingdom’s Head Writer, and member of the Commander Advisory Group. Formerly a competitive Pokémon TCG grinder, she has been playing Magic since Shadows Over Innistrad, which in her opinion, was a great set to start with. When she’s not taking names with Equipment and Aggro strategies in Commander, she loves to play any form of Limited.