All of the sweet new Dominaria United cards will become legal on Sept. 9, and as always, I’m keeping a close eye on the spoilers to see if anything can impact the Modern landscape. The good news is we’re in business!
Unlike some recent Standard release sets that contained little more than sideboard cards or fringe roleplayers, Dominaria United has cards that can make a meaningful improvement to existing archetypes. Before we dive into the list, I will say these aren’t necessarily in order — they’re just my top five cards for Modern from Dominaria United.
Tribal decks in Modern have had a rough go of things for a couple years. When the overall power level of Modern increases, these synergy driven tribal decks tend to suffer, especially when cards like Fury are printed.
However, the best way to combat Fury is to have a high enough density of lords in play that Fury and other damage based removal will struggle to pick off multiple creatures at once. The five tribes for Dominaria are: Elf, Goblin, Soldier, Merfolk and Cleric, and each received a new lord this time around.
In addition to these lords bringing tribal decks ever closer to the critical mass they need, some of these lords are likely the best Modern legal options for their respective tribes.
It is unclear to me which card is the best of the bunch between Vodalian Hexcatcher or Rundvelt Hordemaster, but they’re certainly the top two. Hexcatcher having flash and turning all of your Merfolk into Cursecatcher is going to lead to a lot of blowouts for unsuspecting opponents.
That being said, Rundvelt Hordemaster is likely more appreciated by the Goblins tribe given they have so many fewer playable lords than Merfolk. One problem Goblins face is that if you can keep up with removing a few key targets, they often run out of steam rather quickly (with the exception of Goblin Ringleader). Hordemaster helps to prevent that by turning all of your Goblins that die into extra cards to keep the onslaught going.
Leaf-Crowned Visionary is the third best, in my eyes. Elves could use another lord, which Visionary provides. Yet, perhaps more importantly, it is a lord that also provides a mana sink and fuels itself through card draw.
Elves generally have no shortage of mana, but they do have a shortage of productive things to do with it. Visionary letting you pay a green mana to draw a card whenever you cast an elf will make sure the cards keep flowing to snowball games quickly.
Valiant Veteran is likely the worst of the group so far, but it’s still a perfectly fine lord in its own right. Soldiers aren’t a popular tribe in Modern, but over the last couple years they have gotten a bit more support. Many Humans also happen to be Soldiers, which could be one interesting direction to take Valiant Veteran.
Shadow-Rite Priest doesn’t look to have much going on either as, similar to Soldiers, Clerics aren’t a particularly supported tribe in Modern. However, if they do manage to pick up cards in the future, Shadow-Rite Priest will likely be a key part of that deck, given the low density of lords that Clerics have access to. The ability to sacrifice a Cleric to search for any black creature is interesting, given that you can just put a Griselbrand or something similar into play if you want to, so we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.
Leyline Binding may look unassuming given the existence of Prismatic Ending. And typically, Leyline Binding would be far too expensive to consider. However, Modern already has a couple of four color decks floating around.
While Four-Color Control may or may not want Leyline Binding (it very well could), Cascade decks are particularly interested. The clear home for this card is Glimpse Combo, which is already a four color cascade deck that can always use better removal.
Adding a Savai Triome to the existing Glimpse Combo mana base makes casting Leyline Binding on turn two fairly easy, in conjunction with either Breeding Pool, or Ketria Triome. Because all most of the fetch lands that Glimpse plays can find Savai Triome, making it not that challenging to make Leyline Binding cost one mana.
A mana value of six means that Leyline Binding is perfect for the Cascade decks, as it can deal with any problem permanents without getting in the way of cascading into your payoffs.
Meanwhile, Rhinos, in its Temur iteration, won’t want Leyline Binding. But, if the deck ever goes back to the four color Yorion build, it will be an easy inclusion there as well.
Temporary Lockdown is going to be an incredibly strong sideboard card against anything low to the ground. Death’s Shadow certainly won’t enjoy being across the table from Temporary Lockdown, and it may just single handedly beat Hammer Time, exiling their entire battlefield.
Often, cards like this aren’t good because they only exile creatures — but Temporary Lockdown hitting all nonland permanents is a huge boon for its playability. I’d expect to see Temporary Lockdown in controlling white sideboards as long as Hammer is popular.
Karn’s Sylex has a lot of different lines of text on it, and they combine to make not only an interesting card, but also a potentially powerful one.
On its surface, Karn’s Sylex has merit as something close to Pernicious Deed. However, going deeper, the first ability that stops players from paying life to cast spells or activate abilities at a minimum shuts off fetch lands. That can be a huge boon if your deck is built with breaking that symmetry in mind, as it can effectively lock your opponent out of a game given how many Modern decks rely on fetch lands.
Cards like Dismember are turned off, too, which makes enabling cards like Death’s Shadow much trickier. I don’t think that we’ll see a ton of main deck copies of Karn’s Sylex, but it can be a powerful option to get with Karn, the Great Creator.
While evaluating some of these cards, it is often clear what decks they’ll fit into. That is not true for me when it comes to Serra Paragon, though. So while I had a handful of cards in mind for the fifth spot, I decided to go with the most powerful of the bunch in a vacuum and explore where it might fit.
While this isn’t Lurrus of the Dream Den for a variety of reasons (it costs one more, can’t be cast with black mana, isn’t a companion), Lurrus taught us just how powerful being able to cast something from the graveyard every turn is. Serra Paragon says you can’t cast the same Mishra’s Bauble every turn because it will get exiled, but it also says you can play lands from the graveyard and gain some life along the way.
Being able to cast a zero mana spell or play a land from the graveyard the turn Serra Paragon comes into play will make sure it always gets some value. Serra Paragon as a 3/4 flier is also nothing to sneeze at in combat, blocking well and being effective at pressuring opposing planeswalkers.
I’ll be interested to see what kind of decks end up picking up Serra Paragon, and I’d be surprised if it sits on the sidelines for long.
That is all I have for today. Dominaria United looks like it’s going to be a sweet set with a handful of cards that have Modern applications. I know I’m excited to get my hands on these cards and sink my teeth into what adding these new cards does to Modern.
If there are any cards you’re confident in that I missed, feel free to let me know on Twitter! As always you can find me at @RappaciousOne for questions, comments and feedback. I’ll see everyone next week and, until then, happy brewing!
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.