Ultimate Dominaria United Draft Guide and Archetype Breakdown
Everything you need to dominate your pre-release event and the draft table
Dominaria United is just around the corner. For Limited fans, its arrival will be a welcome one. We've suffered through two mediocre to bad formats recently in New Capenna and Crimson Vow. Neon Dynasty was a breath of fresh air but was short-lived. By the looks of it, Dominaria United is far less bomby than Vow and should offer more archetype selection than New Capenna. We'll have to see if it can stand up to Neon Dynasty, widely hailed as one of the best Draft formats in recent memory.
Dominaria United is filled with strong commons and uncommon as well as splashy cards that can power up niche archetypes. Meanwhile, there are plenty of themes to build around, which should help balance the format.
We're hyped for Dominaria United Limited and want to get you ready for it. In this article, we'll cover the set's mechanics, archetypes, and the cards you should be looking at early in your drafts. After you're done reading, you'll be ready to go win some games.
Dominaria United Limited Mechanics
We are seeing the return of several mechanics from Magic's past as well as a few new ones in Dominaria United. Perhaps the most exciting is Kicker, a fan-favorite and extremely flexible mechanic. There are plenty of ways for these to spice up the format, so let's look at each one.
It's back, baby. Kicker is a mechanic that is perfect for Limited. You can play your card on-curve and get its normal effects. Or, later in the game, you can dump extra mana into it to get a little something extra.
Dominaria United's version of Kicker also includes multiple colors. You'll be able to kick certain cards multiple times using two different colors of mana. This gives you even more flexibility to use your mana in the late game and build your deck.
Sagas // Read Ahead
Unsurprisingly, Sagas are back in Dominaria United. This time, though, they come with a new feature. The Read Ahead mechanic allows you to start the saga on any chapter rather than having to go through each one in order. This is a great way to impact the game exactly how you need to.
If you have time, you can get extra value from the early chapters. If not, you can get the stronger effects of later chapters right away.
There are lots of strong sagas in this set and they all feature Read Ahead. It will be interesting to see how these play out.
Would it be a trip to Dominaria if we didn't care about legendaries? Dominaria United has 49 legendary cards in the main set, including several at uncommon rarity. Though not as heavily emphasized this time, legends matter.
One of the new mechanics of the set, Enlist, is looking rough for constructed. However, it could be interesting for Limited. It allows you to give an attacking creature a temporary buff by tapping a (non-summoning sick) creature you control. This adds the tapped creature's power to the attacking one's.
This can help break a stagnant board and force blocks from your opponent. However, there are few times when you want to tap another creature for this temporary effect. Remember, it won't be there to block when your opponent goes to combat.
Moreover, early creatures that would usually be good candidates for Enlist might be tapping for their own ability or better serve as a blocker.
At first glance, Enlist feels clunky and underwhelming, but we'll have to see how it plays out in real life.
Another returning mechanic, Domain is making its return to Standard and Limited. This focuses on the number of basic land types among lands you control. In Standard, it will be easy to turn on Domain thanks to New Capenna's triomes.
However, in Dominaria United Limited, doing so will be more difficult. We do have a cycle of slow dual lands at common that will help. However, you can't always count on finding them in your draft packs.
Much like drafting around the snow archetype in Kaldheim, focusing on Domain is tricky. You need a balance of Domain payoff cards as well as enough lands to make it worth your effort. With lots of variability in Draft, you might have trouble doing this.
Note that most Domain cards in the set are fairly mediocre if your land type count is three or less. If you can get to four or five types, those cards get much better. However, doing so is very difficult, especially in Limited.
Finally, we have not necessarily a set mechanic, but a new evergreen mechanic. Stun counters give blue a new way to deal with problematic creatures.
They work like a sticky tap. If a creature would untap, instead a Stun counter is removed and it stays tapped. If you're able to add multiple Stun counters, such as with Impede Momentum, the creature is effectively removed.
It's nice to see this as it is well within blue's color pie, but is an interesting new form of removal.
Dominaria United Limited Archetypes
New Capenna brought the return of three-color archetypes. It's clear that Dominaria United isn't meant to be the same. With very limited mana fixing, this Limited format will be defined by two-color archetypes.
Interestingly, with some decent dual lands at common, making light splashes is certainly possible. This is potentially impactful given the presence of multi-color multi-kicker and Domain.
Let's look at Dominaria United's Limited archetypes.
Boros (Red/White): Aggro and Enlist
Boros is leaning aggressive. Who could have guessed? This time around, the red/white color pair is utilizing the set mechanic of Enlist. As discussed, Enlist is looking iffy. We'll have to see how that affects the archetype.
Baird, Argivian Recruiter is the first uncommon signpost and gives you an incentive for having buffed creatures on the field. This seems fairly easy to do given the number of combat tricks and counters available. Meanwhile, Tori D'Avenant, Fury Rider is the other uncommon gold card. It is a solid creature at four mana that pumps your team and helps them get through opposing defenders.
Overall, red and white offer a decent amount of playable creatures and spells. In a format that looks like it will be slow, however, we'll have to see if aggro can prevail.
Rakdos (Black/Red): Sacrifice Aggro
Rakdos is doing Rakdos things in this set. It puts an emphasis on sacrificing your creatures and being aggressive early on. Yes, really.
Lagomos, Hand of Hatred features an unconditional tutor on a body if you can meet the requirement. Five creatures need to die that turn for you to activate the ability. While Lagomos' body is mediocre, it does create a 2/1 each turn with haste and trample that is sacrificed during your end step. Garna, Bloodfist of Keld lets you draw a card for each attacking creature that dies. If non-attacking creatures die, Garna pings your opponent for one. These abilities are super solid, especially stapled to a 4/3 body.
Rakdos looks like it has some good payoffs for its sacrifice theme. However, this is always a risky one in Limited since resources are priceless and removing your own board makes it easier for your opponent to make a key play and clear their path to victory.
Dimir (Blue/Black): Instants and Flash Control
In typical Dimir fashion, you'll be focusing on controlling the game with a variety of flash threats and instant-speed interaction. The color pair also splashes a bit of reanimation.
Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator is the cheapest uncommon. It offers a nice filtering ability that should help with card selection in long, grindy games. Meanwhile, you can also sacrifice it for two mana to get a Snapcaster effect, allowing you to cast an instant or sorcery spell from your graveyard. This is quite strong and should be a sought-after card in Limited. Rona, Sheoldred's Faithful, while a flavor fail, is a solid creature. It drains your opponent for one life anytime you cast an instant or sorcery. Though you won't be winning the game with this alone, it can be impactful in long games. You can also recast Rona from the graveyard by discarding two cards.
Dimir looks pretty pushed in this set and should be fun. Its success will depend, however, on how fast the format turns out to be.
Simic (Blue/Green): Kicker Ramp
Simic hasn't enjoyed top Limited status since it dominated in Strixhaven. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that will change now. One of the pair's uncommons is borderline unplayable in Nael, Avizoa Aeronaut. As a 2/4 flier for four, its body is underwhelming. Meanwhile, its Domain ability in a two-color deck is horrible. Let's move on.
Tatyova, Steward of Tides is decent in the other uncommon slot. It turns your lands into 3/3 creatures with flying and haste once you control at least seven. Given some ramp options, this could be impactful in long games.
Maybe Simic will take us by surprise. It has plenty of room to splash in several directions for things like Kicker costs and powerful bombs. However, it looks like it is clearly behind other archetypes for Dominaria United.
Selesnya (Green/White): Go-wide Aggro
The go-wide aggro theme returns for Selesnya here. Your green/white Dominaria United Limited decks will focus on pushing through damage with a wide board of creatures. There are also some token synergies here that are worth noting.
Zar Ojanen, Scion of Efrava cares about Domain and puts counters on EVERY creature you control with toughness less than the number of land types you control. Even just one round of +1/+1 counters to your whole board can have an impact. Do it twice and your board of 1/1s becomes a serious threat to your opponent. Meanwhile, Queen Allenal of Ruadach can get huge since her power and toughness are equal to the number of creatures you control. She also creates an extra 1/1 token whenever you create a creature token. Combined with some of the pump synergies found in GW, this can be a potent effect on a potentially huge body.
As usual, Selesnya tends to be vulnerable to removal. However, it can always snowball a game beyond control and overwhelm you with a wide board. It will definitely be an archetype to keep an eye on in Dominaria United.
Orzhov (Black/White): Aristocrat Sacrifice
One of the most interesting archetypes in my opinion is Orzhov and its aristocrat sacrifice synergies. Black/white looks incredibly strong in Dominaria United with some insane payoffs along with drain abilities.
Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim is everything you could ask for in a two-drop. It features Deathtouch on a 2/2 body, which is already decent. Then, you get a powerful effect, draining your opponents for one whenever a creature you control dies and gaining a life whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control. In the right shell, this combination can be a major problem in Limited games. Meanwhile, Aron, Benalia's Ruin also packs a punch. With a 3/3 Menace body, his stat line is solid. You can also use his (W)(B), tap ability to sac a creature and put a +1/+1 counter on your whole board. This flavorful representation of sacrificing something to become stronger (ahem, your body and soul to Phyrexia?) can also spell trouble for your opponents.
Expect Orzhov to be a serious contender for the best archetype in Dominaria United. It can grind long games with the best and rack up damage while gaining life.
Izzet (Blue/Red): Instants and Sorceries
Yes, Izzet cares about casting spells. In Dominaria United Limited, it will be doing so at a discount. The color pair also features a pseudo Prowess theme that buffs your creatures for casting spells.
Balmor, Battlemage Captain gives your entire team +1/+0 and Trample for the turn for each instant or sorcery you cast. It also comes on a flying body. This feels like it can get out of hand quickly with some cheap spells. Najal, the Storm Runner lets you cast your sorceries as instants and lets you copy those spells for two mana when it attacks. This is a great way to get value and Najal should be able to attack often given its 5/4 stat line. Not to mention copied removal spells clearing the way.
Like Dimir, Izzet looks strong. There is an abundance of blue tempo spells and red removal looks strong. Overall, this looks like one of the stronger archetypes for the set.
Gruul (Red/Green): Aggro and Domain
You'll want to stay aggressive in Gruul colors in Dominaria United. It looks much stronger than the pair did in the Innistrad sets and looks to make good use of Domain as a bonus.
Radha, Coalition Warlord is an excellent four drop that buffs your creature for at least +2/+2 but up to +5/+5 whenever she is tapped. You'll have to be careful about swinging Radha into the enemy front, but the effect is powerful in the right deck. Rulik Mons, Warren Chief helps you ramp and fill your board whenever it attacks.
Both of these uncommons look promising. However, what will make this archetype shine is the strength of red and compliments of green. The pair is well positioned within the set and should be strong.
Golgari (Green/Black): Midrange Graveyard Shenanigans
Looking to grind out some games? Golgari is for you. This archetype is all about the midrange grindfest we've been seeing in Standard lately. You'll focus on dropping creatures, dueling for resources, and maybe bringing things back from the grave.
Bortuk Bonerattle helps you bring creatures back into play from the graveyard based on your Domain count. This could be decent, but may also be tricky to pull off. It feels more like incidental value from an uncommon six-drop than something to fully build around. Uurg, Spawn of Turg, however, is certainly a piece you can form a deck around. Its power is dictated by the number of lands in your graveyard and its passive ability lets you dump the top card of your library. You can also sacrifice lands to gain life if things get dire.
Golgari is certainly going to be one of the grindiest archetypes in the format. Much of its success will likely depend on how easy it is to turn on graveyard shenanigans.
Azorius (Blue/White): Flying Tempo
Believe it or not, Azorius actually has two archetypes in Dominaria United. The primary one is all about tempo. You'll want to focus on early, evasive threats and instant speed spells to back them up. There is no shortage of cards to fit this mold in blue and white.
Raff, Weatherlight Stalwart is one in the uncommon slot. He rewards you for casting instant and sorcery spells by drawing cards if you tap creatures you control. Raff can also give your team vigilance and a buff in the late game. Tura Kennerud, Skynight is the perfect summary for the archetype. As a 3/3 flier, you'll get through for evasive damage. You also get 1/1 tokens each time you cast an instant or sorcery. This can quickly spiral the game in your favor if it sticks around.
Bonus Defenders Archetype
WotC's Gavin Verhey confirmed in a Good Morning Magic stream that there is a secret archetype in the set. It focuses on the keyword Defender. There is a total of nine cards with Defender in the set, highlighted by Blight Pile in black. Verhey warns this archetype won't always be available, especially if two players try to draft it simultaneously, but promises it will be powerful when it works out. There are several payoffs for Defender throughout the set and it adds an interesting wrinkle to the format.
Mana Fixing / Splashing
In some sets, running a four-color or even five-color deck is reasonable given the amount of mana fixing. In Dominaria United, that isn't the case. Fixing is available, but it is limited and will be highly sought after.
As mentioned, this set is intended to be a two-color set. Archetypes are built to work with two colors. Light splashes into a third color may be possible for some, but not all archetypes.
For instance, decks running green have more options when it comes to fixing. Thanks to Domain synergies in some green archetypes, there are ways to search out certain lands and tailor your mana base. However, archetypes like Orzhov and Rakdos will have trouble making a meaningful splash thanks to limited fixing options in their colors.
A few of the more notable mana fixing cards include the cycle of tapped dual lands. These are common but will be picked aggressively by decks that need them. Don't expect them to make it back around very often.
Artifact fixing includes Salvaged Manaworker, Relic of Legends, and Meteorite. However, none of these are great options, and needing them to splash will slow down your plan.
Green benefits from the likes of Slimefoot's Survey, Deathbloom Gardener, The Weatherseed Treaty, and Scout the Wilderness. All of these are stronger than the artifact options, but again, are limited by their color(s).
While you might be able to get away with some three-color decks in this format, splashing for anything other than Kicker costs is risky. It's worth noting that the latter is much less risky since you can always cast the spell without Kicker if your manabase comes up short.
Dominaira United is poised to be a fun Limited format if it plays how the cards look. Sure, one of the archetypes could turn out to be extremely broken. However, the slower look of the set should reward players of a higher skill level and those who make better deck-building decisions. We can't wait to dive in and start playing!
What archetypes are you most looking forward to drafting? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!
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