A Whirlwind Tour of the Archetypes of Dominaria

Posted in How to Play Limited on April 24, 2018

By Marshall Sutcliffe

Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited and never looked back. He hosts the Limited Resources podcast and does Grand Prix and Pro Tour video commentary.

Welcome back, value hounds! This time around, we are taking a look at the Limited archetypes in Dominaria. We'll go over the broad strokes and see what makes each one tick. I'll also be providing plenty of cards for you to focus on in each archetype.

When Luis and I sit down to do our set reviews on the Limited Resources podcast, we usually start out with the gold uncommons in the set. These gold uncommons can often act as sort of signposts for what each color pair is trying to do in that set.

Today we'll go over all ten color pairs in Dominaria, and we'll play a little follow-the-leader with the legendary gold uncommon from each one. This will give us a good idea of where the color pair is going, and we'll fill in the details with a few cards to look out for in that strategy while we're there.

Let's waste no more time—we have a lot of archetypes to plow through!

Blue-Red Wizards

Adeliz, the Cinder Wind kind of says it all, doesn't she?

Things we care about in this archetype:

  1. Wizards
  2. Attacking
  3. Instants and sorceries

This is one of a few instances in Dominaria of a tribal subtheme. The Wizards deck gives you bonuses for controlling a Wizard, some of them quite strong.

One of my favorite cards in the set gets a little cheaper if you control a Wizard, for example.

There are even some fun callbacks to old cards that cost as much as they would in the current day, unless you control a Wizard, in which case they cost as much as they did back in the day.

The main idea here is that the more Wizards you have, the more likely you are to get these benefits, and the more likely it is that your game plan comes together—that game plan being to attack and ping away at your opponent's life total.

This deck looks assertive, and can win through a combination of burn spells and evasive attackers.

Oh, and don't overlook Sorcerer's Wand as a possible finisher in a good Wizards deck either.

It might not look like much, but it can end the game in the right build.

White-Black Legendary

White-black doesn't have nearly the same level of focus as Wizards. Let's look at Arvad the Cursed to get a hint about what's going on.

While he's a pretty powerful card on his own, he apparently cares about other legendary creatures. The thing is, there are some non-gold legends to pair with him, but they are generally strong cards regardless and you'd probably play them either way.

Of those three uncommon legends, Whisper, Blood Liturgist stands out most for this archetype. There are lots of ways to get creatures in your graveyard. Through sacrifice, normal death, or even self-mill, you can get some kind of a reanimation thing going.

But the truth is that white-black looks less focused than some other color pairs, and that's okay. It has some cool historic stuff going on, as well as access to some of the best removal spells in the format.

  • Eviscerate
  • Cast Down
  • Seal Away
  • Blessed Light

If you put together enough individually powerful cards, your synergy can be the exception rather than the rule.

Black-Red Sacrifice Aggro

First things first:

Garna cares about two things: the graveyard and attacking. The cool part about this archetype is that it does both of those things quite well.

For the graveyard stuff, you can sacrifice your own creatures for value and then get them back, either to your hand or sometimes to the battlefield itself.

There are lots of good ways to get your creatures in the yard (for value, of course).

  • Vicious Offering
  • Thallid Omnivore
  • Thallid Soothsayer
  • Skizzik
  • Goblin Barrage

And once they're there, you can get them back.

  • Lingering Phantom
  • Demonic Vigor
  • Memorial to Folly
  • Soul Salvage
  • Whisper, Blood Liturgist
  • Garna, the Bloodflame

Generally speaking, this feels like an aggressive strategy that is capable of shifting gears into a more value-based graveyard deck when needed.

Red-Green Kicker Ramp

Red-green is very straightforward, and it really gets right to the point.

As you can see from Hallar, red-green is about beefy attacking creatures and the ability to take advantage of extra mana and the kicker mechanic.

Red and green have the most cards with kicker, and while they are generally quite good on their own, they get better when you can ramp into them and get paid off for doing so.

  • Llanowar Elves
  • Elfhame Druid
  • Grow from the Ashes
  • Song of Freyalise

The mana ramp is very real in green, and the payoffs are nice in both colors.

  • Baloth Gorger
  • Grunn, the Lonely King
  • Saproling Migration
  • Keldon Overseer
  • Fight with Fire

Cards like Fight with Fire are really hard to kick in a normal deck with no mana ramp. But with this deck, you can do it and do it well—and when you do, you often just win the game on the spot.

Combine beefy creatures with good red removal spells and the mana to go over the top, and you've got a classic Gruul combination on your hands.

White-Blue Historic Fliers

Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage gives us a glimpse at both sides of the white-blue coin here.

First, there's the special ability regarding historic cards. Blue and white get the most historic cards in the set, and that's part of the overall strategy of this color pair.

  • D'Avenant Trapper
  • Sanctum Spirit
  • Relic Runner
  • Sentinel of the Pearl Trident

With a decent number of artifacts, legendaries, and Sagas, you can piece together some powerful synergies on a card-to-card basis. I call these one-two punches.

But the other half of this strategy is perhaps even more consistent and powerful: flying.

Yeah, this deck has some historic stuff going on, but the truth is that the designers of this set reached back through Magic's history to find one of the most popular and successful Limited strategies to lean on: White-Blue Skies (also known as the fliers deck).

  • Aven Sentry
  • Pegasus Courser
  • Serra Angel
  • Academy Drake
  • Cloudreader Sphinx

The tried-and-true strategy of deploying flying creatures while otherwise detaining or delaying the ground assault from the opponent is alive and well here in Dominaria.

Sure, you'll get some historic bonuses here and there, and maybe even a full-on historic deck will come together sometimes. But the baseline is strong, and the flying creatures are too.

Raff wouldn't lie to us, would he?

Blue-Black Value

If Rona is any indication, blue-black looks slow and grindy in this format. This looks like another color pair that isn't particularly focused, but that has more traditional incentives associated with the color pair.

The interaction and removal suite from these colors is fantastic.

  • Eviscerate
  • Vicious Offering
  • Blink of an Eye
  • Deep Freeze
  • Fungal Infection

This color pair tends to lend itself to a more controlling strategy, and what better way to propel yourself into the late game after you've used up all that removal controlling the board than some good old-fashioned card advantage?

Rona herself is all about that long game value as well, so I suppose she sets the tone appropriately.

While blue-black may not be super focused, the theme of value stands out, and that's something we can all get behind, am I right?

Green-White Tokens

Shanna is a measly 1/1 on her own, but with more creatures she can grow to be massive.

Which makes you think, "How can I get even more creatures on the battlefield?"

So glad you asked.

  • Call the Cavalry
  • Sergeant-at-Arms
  • Spore Swarm
  • Saproling Migration
  • Yavimaya Sapherd

There are plenty of ways to go wide with this deck, but Shanna isn't the only payoff for doing so. After all, you'll want to win the game at some point, right?

This game plan looks solid. You are playing cards that are generally good on their own, but also leveraging the power of combining them with similar cards to make something truly powerful happen.

The removal suite isn't amazing; it leans on white pretty hard, but this is an assertive deck that isn't hoping the game goes on forever. And if things go the way this deck wants them to go, it certainly won't.

Black-Green Saproling Sacrifice

Besides having the second-best name in the set (winner: Yargle, obviously), Slimefoot, the Stowaway has some really powerful stuff going on here. He's all about the Saprolings, and if you can surround him with them, he'll make you proud.

There are plenty of ways to get Saprolings onto the battlefield, but the payoffs get really good if you open the right cards.

Combine any or all of these with Slimefoot and you have a great engine with which to win the game. The sweet part about this strategy is that you can really gum up the ground while you wait for your payoff cards to show up.

And once they do, the game ends quickly in your favor.

Green-Blue

I tried to come up with a shorthand name for this archetype, but nothing seemed to stick.

It has some ramp going on for some kicker-based payoffs, but blue doesn't really help much there.

It has some value and control stuff going on, but green didn't really contribute.

While this color pair doesn't seem to have any super definitive characteristics, it does feel very green-blue in how it plays out.

I mean, let's just start with Tatyova herself. Insane! You'll usually want to wait until you can play her and then play a land to secure the value she provides. If you get to untap with her, forget it. Every land you hit increases your chance of hitting more lands and basically drawing at least two cards every turn for the rest of the game.

You do get some solid stuff with some nice kicker payoffs if you can combine the ramp in green with the blue good stuff.

  • Academy Drake
  • Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep
  • Grunn, the Lonely King
  • Untamed Kavu

Arcane Flight seems right at home in this archetype, as you can put it on some massive, kicked green creature (maybe Grunn?) and kill your opponent very quickly. You even have this guy to throw it on in a pinch:

I also like the idea of combining the great ramp spells in green with the great card draw from blue.

  • Llanowar Elves
  • Elfhame Druid
  • Grow from the Ashes
  • Divination
  • Weight of Memory

Blue-green is probably my favorite color combo of all time, and even though it's not laser-focused here, it feels very blue-green, and that's where I want to be.

Last one incoming.

Red-White Auras and Equipment

Tiana is a bit on the nose here, but this deck has significant payoffs for sticking an Aura or Equipment on your creatures.

Let's check out the payoffs first:

  • Champion of the Flame
  • Danitha Capashen, Paragon
  • Valduk, Keeper of the Flame
  • Kwende, Pride of Femeref

I'm not normally one to run headfirst into a two-for-one by casting an Aura on my best creature only to see it killed, but with incentives like these I may have to change my ways.

The game just ends so quickly if you get one of those powerful threats rolling with some of these cards on it:

  • On Serra's Wings
  • Frenzied Rage
  • Dub
  • Jousting Lance
  • Short Sword

Of course, you can throw these on any early drop in the deck and start smashing, but if you happen to land Dub (or any of these) on Kwende, Pride of Femeref or Valduk, Keeper of the Flame, forget it. You are able to pressure your opponent so quickly that they will likely succumb to your onslaught.

On top of this highly assertive strategy, red and white have access to excellent removal spells in both colors.

  • Fiery Intervention
  • Shivan Fire
  • Wizard's Lightning
  • Gideon's Reproach
  • Seal Away
  • Blessed Light

This could prove a deadly combination for sure.

Wrap-Up

Phew! That was a whirlwind look at all ten archetypes in Dominaria Limited. It should be enough to get you started on figuring out what each is doing, but you'll have to join me in figuring out over time which are the best and which need some help.

Until next time!

@Marshall_LR

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