The week that was Dominaria United!
The mandate that Frank and I have around here is straightforward: recap the week in competitive Magic. While most weeks that means big tournaments and formats ranging from Pioneer to Modern to Legacy that send players to the Pro Tour, sometimes it means a prerelease to a throwback set and some good ol' excitement.
Frank handles the hottest new decks, but I get to talk to the players that make them.
It's easy to assume that high-level Magic players take one look at a card gallery for the newest set, instantly break down the best cards in the set, picking out the overhyped cards and hidden gems. They show up to the Pro Tour with the perfect 75 (or 95 if you're a
But the truth is the "pros" don't necessarily have a better handle on the latest cards than you or I. I won't name any names, but I can think of a handful of cards off the top of my head that never lived up to the billing that many extremely talented Magic thought it would. Remember
None of this is a dunk in any way. Rather, I bring it up to show that when it comes to new sets like Dominaria United, everyone starts on the same page. The process of discovery is part of what makes Magic great, and because of that different, extremely skilled, players can look at something and come to completely different and reasonable conclusions.
In other words, hype is fun!
With Standard rotation hitting with the release of Dominaria United, it was the perfect time to bring back a The Week That Was classic: the new set roundtable!
Another secret of the Pro Tour is that many of the names you might associate with a particular deck are not necessarily the players who developed it originally – often there are dedicated online grinders or teammates behind the scenes who are integral to tournament success even if it's not their name in the Top 8. With Dominaria United hitting Magic Online and MTG Arena over the past week, these players have been busy cracking the code on the set's impact on new Standard and beyond.
Let's meet the panel!
Eli Kassis (@Eli_Kassis)
Kassis is a longtime Pro Tour competitor, streamer and content creator who is coming off the highest point yet of a career that began with a string of Top 8 appearances at Grand Prix across North American in 2016-2017, and it's been a steady ascent since ever since.
Kassis routinely tests with some of the most storied teams in the world, and in the last 12 months he has put together a Top 8 showing at Magic World Championship XXVII and followed that up with a victory at the Neon Dynasty Championship.
Pascal Vieren (@vierenpascal)
Vieren burst onto the Magic scene in 2008 with a win at the Belgian National Championship, and staged a comeback almost a decade later with a finals appearance at the World Magic Cup in 2016. Now he is most likely to be seen on MTG Arena, where he battles late at night while juggling a busy home life – making his continued format innovations all the more impressive.
DeQuan Watson (@powrdragn)
One of the most prolific MTG Arena content creators and streamers, Watson has vociferously devoured the new Standard format and has been exploring decks at a faster pace than almost anyone else. His insights into the MTG Arena metagame have been key to players looking to climb the ladder and secure a spot in Qualifier Weekends.
Best known by his online handle Yoman5, the onetime GP Top 8 competitor is on the forefront of Standard online, and keeps most of the rest of us updated at the same time with his content. It's safe to say that perhaps no one goes harder than Yoman5 when it comes to dissecting a format: to wit, he already has highlighted more than 60 Standard decklists he's considering in the new metagame.
Eliott Boussaud (@eliott_dragon)
Boussaud is a Grand Prix winner who has recently made a return to the top ranks by showing off his day 1 prowess of this new Standard format. The longtime French player made the Top 4 of the first major Dominaria United event, the Crokeyz Dominaria United challenge organized by Team Liquid. Make sure to check out Frank's article for the spiciest lists!
What to do with Dominaria
What are the cards you're most excited to build around?
Vieren: I have a weak spot for tribal Elves and
Watson: The three cards I'm excited to play are
Boussaud: I'm most excited for
What Standard Decks are you most excited to try?
Kassis: Reanimator decks are near and dear to me, so I'm hoping they're competitive quite a bit. Jund, Esper, and Grixis are fun color combinations also.
Vieren: With the MTG Arena Championship coming up, I'm spending a lot of time on Draft and Alchemy. But I'm excited that Hinata should be less dominant, and an open format is always great!
Yoman5: Mono-Red Aggro gets
Boussaud: I had success with a control deck using
What cards do you think are going to get much better in Dominaria United Standard?
Watson: One card that's been overlooked here might be
What's the first thing you do when you're brewing in an unknown format like this?
Kassis: I play a ton of Limited to learn the set and see what impresses me. From there, it's looking at what's still in rotation and how those decks could use the new cards to become even better.
Vieren: My strong suit when it comes to deckbuilding is building combo decks, so every set I look out for cards with a unique effect or combination of cards that will allow me to combo!
Watson: I have decklists already pre-built – I just start putting them together as soon as the full set is released. I'll drop gold on MTG Arena and start working on the two or three decks that I'm closest to completing from the initial cards I open.
Yoman5: The first thing I do is build a lot of decks. During preview season I make a to-brew list. If I see a cool card or package of cards, I'll make a note, and then when the full set is revealed I go through every deck idea or card I wanted to build around and make a deck with it. Sometimes things don't work out. You look through Scryfall for what Merfolk are in Standard and there's simply not enough. That's okay, cross it off the list and look at your other ideas. Sometimes you start with "Boros Aggro using
Which planeswalker from Dominaria United will have the biggest impact, and how do you expect
Liliana of the Veil to play in Standard this time around?
Kassis: I think Liliana might be a trap, but I'm sure people are excited to play again. But I think we have power-creeped past Lily.
Vieren: Liliana. I'd say fond memories are a stretch, but I do have recollections of splitting my cards into two piles more than I would have like. I think Liliana is still very strong. The combination of removal, putting pressure on your opponent's hand and a strong ultimate is still a lot for a three-mana planeswalker.
Watson: Liliana, plus gets to be played in Pioneer now. I think the other planeswalkers in the set will get better as more Standard sets are released. I expect Liliana to be useful, but not overly dominant in Standard this time around—at least not immediately.
The last time
Boussaud: Liliana, of course. It really impacts the gameplay during a match, making you keep lands in hand and playing with low resources. My memories of Liliana the first time were the people often conceded to the ultimate, and that's actually been what's happened for me 100% of the time on MTG Arena this week!
With Dominaria United shaking up online play already and paper play beginning today, there's sure to be plenty of interesting decklists to come in the next few weeks as players integrate the set.
That begins with the Legacy Grand Open Qualifier in Paris, France on September 17th. It's one of a handful of events during a busy weekend of Magic that will also see players compete at the Singapore Open and the Card Monster Team Modern Open in Lexington, Kentucky. Plus the MTG Arena Qualifier Weekend is taking place next week, with Dominaria United being used for Sealed!