We have a bit of a breather in the Magic release schedule…so time to look ahead! Tom gives us his best guesses for Dominaria United!
I almost hesitated to pitch this article to my editors. For many months now, it’s felt like the community is nearly drowning in new cards. There’s regular mixups over whether spoiled cards are Standard or Commander legal. Exciting Limited formats like Neon Dynasty and Commander Legends: Baldur’s Gate being hustled out of the limelight before players had their fill. New sets are still hype, but being hype constantly is exhausting!
Luckily there’s been more of a gap in Standard sets after New Capenna, and Double Masters 2022 being a reprint set has given us all a chance to catch our breath a little. And so I’m glad to find myself once again excited to imagine what might become of an upcoming set: Dominaria United, releasing September 9th. Which parts of Magic’s home plane will we revisit this time – and what precisely will they be uniting against?
DOMINARIA UNITED EARLY PREDICTIONS:
As usual, I’ll be breaking down each set of predictions into three tiers: Educated Guess, Just a Hunch, & Wildest Dreams. That gives me a chance to offer you my most boring, stable, sometimes 100% known advice on what the set will bring – but still follow up with some more outlandish and fanciful guesses.
Q:When & where will Dominaria United’s story take place?
Educated Guess: The present day, in a linear timeline. Totally against type, I know!
Dominaria’s long, storied history is what sets it apart from other planes in Magic’s multiverse. Wizards could easily throw together a set’s worth of cards simply revisiting memorable places and faces from all points in that canon. But Wizards have flagged Dominaria United as the kickoff for a major 4-set plot arc, which implies a single coherent story with a specific time-and-place setting. Since we know the following set takes place exclusively in that past (a retelling of the epoch-shaping war between Urza and Mishra), it feels natural for Dominaria United to get things rolling in the present before that set-long flashback.
Just a Hunch: The New Coalition will be negotiated in New Benalia
Location-wise, we’re used to some globetrotting escapades by our major characters, if only because that helps to justify the presence of different colors/factions of cards that make the set balanced. But given the title of the set, this is one place I see them subverting precedent. Maybe the diverse peoples and nations of Dominaria are coming together to talk alliance? My hunch would be to set these in New Benalia – a lore-rich locale which also holds the right connotations for such positive change.
Wildest Dreams: Time travel may not be the plot, but it will be the outcome
OK, but what if The Brothers War isn’t *just* an artistically updated remake of Antiquities – the first Magic set to have its own original narrative. Doesn’t it seem weird for WotC to announce a new multi-set major storyline and then immediately spend a crucial 25% of its allocated space on a chapter that’s already told? What if we’re revisiting The Brothers War because the modern-day Gatewatch has somehow time-traveled back to observe it – or even an “alternate timeline” version of the same events? Change the past to save the future sort of thing – and if it lets WotC retcon or repudiate Urza’s problematic history, all the better for them.
Q:What will they be uniting for/against?
Educated Guess: Phyrexia 2 – Judgment Day
It hasn’t been officially spoiled in any way yet, but it seems all but certain the threat facing Dominaria is a major Phyrexian plot, if not a second Phyrexian invasion. Many things point to this. The incremental appearance of the Praetors across the past year of Standard sets, all on different planes. The recent short story posts where several of those praetors foreshadow great upheaval – not to mention the shock compleation of Tamiyo, which caused great upheaval among the fanbase! The Eldrazi and Nicol Bolas both had their turn as big bad over the past decade, so it’s time for the Machine God’s children to step up to the plate.
Just a Hunch: The New Coalition doesn’t even know what it’s really up against
Even if we assume the Phyrexians to ultimately be the threat behind this new storyline, that could still manifest itself in a number of ways here at the outset on Dominaria. All-out invasion is certainly the most obvious, and the set symbol for Dominaria United does contain the badge of the Coalition – the anti-Phyrexia alliance forged in the original Invasion set from 2000!
Although personally I would prefer any New Coalition be forged without the proverbial gun held to the head of Dominaria’s peoples, opportunities seem slim. Perhaps they’re uniting against a catspaw of Phyrexia instead of the metal monsters themselves, designed to take them off their guard for an invasion later?
Wildest Dreams: Turns out Phryexia *IS* invading… the past!
Continuing to work on my “last-ditch corrective time travel” theory from above, whatever Dominaria is uniting against has to be bad enough that there’s no real hope of beating it in the here and now. That sounds mighty grim even for a second Phyrexian invasion – unless it has some help. Mishra’s canonical fate is ambiguous after he was betrayed and kidnapped away to Phyrexia late in his war with Urza; could some compleated version of him be at the forefront of the invasion? Or have the crafty Phyrexians invented time travel themselves, and it’s up to our heroes to stop them? These are the kinds of twists I’d be looking forward to.
Q: What will the artistic/stylistic themes be?
Educated Guess: Illuminated Masterpieces
Dominaria is a fairly prototypical fantasy land, which ironically makes it stand out from all the more extreme and conceptual settings Magic has visited. The Mountains look like mountains; the Swamps look like swamps; the Islands look like islands, or at least like lakes and rivers. No need for quicksilver seas and abstract floating cups here! But how to present these familiar sights in an exciting way? I think it’s the perfect chance to try “illuminated manuscript” card styles – it’s a popular kind of alter, and evokes the vaguely-european Ye Olde Fantasy milieu perfectly.
Just a Hunch: The “Legendary Grimoire”
What sort of cards would you apply this style to? As with the D&D sets and their “rulebook page” printings, they would be better off on non-land cards where the omission of a real background limits the art less. Well, legendary creatures are a big deal in Dominaria, and the (canonically long-dead) Braids is unmistakably featured on the Collector’s Booster Box packaging. Why not a series of “masterpiece” Legend reprints in this new Illuminated style?
Wildest Dreams: Revisit Magic art history!
I’ve long wondered if certain classic cards could be reworked in a full- or extended-art form, using parts of the canvas that were cropped in the original printing. Certainly this wouldn’t be possible for every older card, but what a cool way to revisit the history of Dominaria where those larger paintings do exist! Or perhaps the original artists could be tapped to revisit their famous works from an alternate perspective? Imagine Don Hazeltine’s iconic depiction of the Cabal Coffers, but as seen by the figure in the doorway: great swathes of coin tarnished by the dark light of the Mirari…
Q: What will the mechanical themes be?
Educated Guess: Legendary/Historic matters (again)
Well, not only does Braids appear to be spoilered on the packaging (and other recurring characters too), but early product listings indicate that there’s a guaranteed legendary creature in every pack. Gods forfend but that a Standard set would release without some extra incentive for Commander diehards! Given how central the uncommon legends were to the hugely successful Dominaria Limited format on our last visit here, I’d expect that to again be the mechanical underpinning of the whole set. We could quite likely see Historic make a comeback – the synergy, not the format – with artifacts, sagas and legendary cards all bundled together into one theme.
Just a Hunch: Enchanted Oaths of Allegiance
The guess I’ve seen a lot of people make from what’s foreshadowed is a heavy artifact theme – and sure enough, both Phyrexian nonsense and ancient Thran machinery are prominent elements in our setting. But remember, we’re about to get a whole set focused on those things – if not several! Plus, Standard rotates with this set’s release, leaving Neon Dynasty’s powerful enchantment enablers stranded without support. So I’m predicting not only a new wave of sagas, but a bunch more enchantments and auras which represent the oaths and pacts being sworn to unite the Dominarians – something the enchantment card type is frequently used for!
Wildest Dreams: Grandeur OR mono-color appreciation time!
Per agreement with my editors, I get one of these entries per predictions article to soapbox for my personal bucket list items. So here it is – Wizards, this is yet another ideal opportunity to bring back Grandeur! It’s a legendary-specific set with a high as-fan of legendary cards; Grandeur is an open-ended and unique way to soften the worst-case scenario for playing multiple copies of those. Don’t let another chance pass you (and me) by – make Dominaria United the Grandeur Set of my dreams!
Alternatively, make it another set with explicit support for mono-color decks, like Dominaria or Throne of Eldraine or Theros. We could do with a little more of that after the rainbow Standard we’re currently experiencing.
Q: What’s the biggest surprise that hasn’t been hinted at yet?
Educated Guess: Commanders of the past, revisited
We know even less about the Dominaria United commander decks right now than we do about the set proper. But since Commander products also stand outside the main set’s storyline, they could be another chance to spotlight Dominaria’s past with modern design. Might the pair of decks capture a pit fight between Kamahl and Ixidor? Both of them could use a more Commander-friendly variant. Keeping with the Invasion theme, could we go back and print playable-as-commander variants of some more pre-mending Planeswalkers – to match the likes of Freyalise, Windgrace and Tevesh-Szat?
Just a Hunch: Praetor meets They-tor!
Given the slow but consistent printing of an updated Praetor cycle, and Elesh Norn’s clear status as archvillain of this story (at least until Daddy Yawgmoth shows up), it seems fair to predict Sheoldred will re-emerge somewhere in Dominaria United. That’s already pretty exciting for my fellow black mana fans, but I have a further prediction: she will be working directly with Ashiok! The nightmare Planeswalker is another of Elesh Norn’s many enemies, and while Tezzeret has been responsible for moving the other Praetors around with his personal Planar Bridge it’s boring if he’s the only one pulling the strings. What if Ashiok’s nightmare powers can manifest a sufficiently-real Sheoldred in their own way? It just has the right vibes, is all I’m saying.
Wildest Dreams: Archenemy product line!
On the supplementary product side we already know Dominaria United is coming out alongside Commander decks and a JumpStart set – but what if we got an Archenemy product too? Given the sheer pace of the Commander release schedule, you know WotC have to be on the lookout for other casual formats well suited to product support, and to me Archenemy is the clear best candidate. This “boss battle” format offers a distinct vision of Magic, is potentially compatible with Commander, and has plenty of design space to explore. And it’s a perfect way to capture key story moments in a less organized post-block era. Basically, if WotC don’t let me play 1v3 as Yawgmoth’s invading army then they’re all cowards.
PREDICTING – A CHEAP AND LEGAL THRILL
There you have it – my thoughts and predictions ahead of Dominaria United. Feel free to come back in a month or so when we have spoilers and see how close I was (or wasn’t)! But what a treat it is to once again be idly looking forward to mysterious new cards, letting that anticipation build. A new major plotline, a new Standard rotation, and a new Limited format are all waiting there… juuuust far enough away to be exciting.
Tom’s fate was sealed in 7th grade when his friend lent him a pile of commons to play Magic. He quickly picked up Boros and Orzhov decks in Ravnica block and has remained a staunch white magician ever since. A fan of all Constructed formats, he enjoys studying the history of the tournament meta. He specializes in midrange decks, especially Death & Taxes and Martyr Proc. One day, he swears he will win an MCQ with Evershrike. Ask him how at @AWanderingBard, or watch him stream Magic at twitch.tv/TheWanderingBard.