Domain Street

Posted in From the Lab on February 11, 2009

By Noel deCordova

Hey there, folks. As you may know, it happens to be Domain Week, which is good news if you're a fan of this newly christened ability word. Even when the mechanic was without its fancy errata (all the domain cards from Invasion block received the Oracle treatment, along with Tromp the Domains from Time Spiral. Or at least, that's what the latest update bulletin penned by the great Mark Gottlieb said. Don't look at me!), it was still a fan favorite. As I quickly mentioned two weeks ago during the Cylian Sunsinger festival, two of my favorite domain spells ever were Ordered Migration and Allied Strategies. The reason why? I'm not quite sure. They were both expensive, yet immensely rewarding. In short, domain—or the mechanic designed by "Barry," who I believe was a clever pseudonym—ruled back in the day.

Ordered Migration
Allied Strategies

It shouldn't surprise you, then, that I'm psyched at the return of "Barry's mechanic." Did the powers that be at Wizards unveil some new expensive yet rewarding domain spells? Oh my goodness yes. From the alliteratively awesome Voices from the Void to my new pet card, Exploding Borders, I'm excited to bring you some neat and innovative decks built around the ability word. Grab your Journeyer's Kites and venture with me, but watch out for Forest Bears, Mountain Goats, Swamp Mosquitoes, Island Fish Jasconiuses, and those Plains No-Shows! (They're a real pain.)

Voices from the Void

Domain: It's All the Range!

Now, although I did just spend two paragraphs splurging on about how much I love domain, I must make one thing clear. Domain isn't that much of a Johnny ability. I mean, there is the challenge of getting all five types of lands in play, but after that, playing domain cards is akin to smooth sailing: Just play whatever domain card is in your hand! Whether it be Planar Despair (bye bye, creatures on the board!) or Wandering Stream (gaining you back some life you may have lost in the early game), that's the exciting feeling of playing with domain.

Planar Despair
Wandering Stream

I have tried to capture this mentality with the following deck. Calmly set up your set of five lands, then just go nuts with whatever domain gas is in your hand. There's no pressure to find a specific card, I hope. Just try to have fun with a great mechanic. (and maybe even win a game or two!)

Domain Stream

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Unstable Frontier

I never see All Suns' Dawn get any play, let alone any mention at all among casual tables, so I threw one in as a fun singleton. Reusing your key domain spells, like Ordered Migration and Tribal Flames, can be huge. I also wanted to try out Unstable Frontier. Sure, Terramorphic Expanse is more popular and possibly a better fit for this kind of deck, but I'm still on a Conflux trip here, OK? Just because I want to use the cards, you're going to give me a hard time? Sheesh. Anyway, the Frontier works decently in fixing your colors early on. Something that Unstable Frontier did very well was provide me white mana: Since Ordered Migration is the only really good white domain spell, I only have two Plains. Unstable Frontier helped me play Ordered Migration without sacrificing some land slots to more Plains. And it has awesome art. What's not to like?

Wort Medicine

I have said it before, and I guess I will say it again: Exploding Borders is my favorite domain card from Conflux. Yup, it beats out the rest of the field by a long shot: Wandering Goblins is the only other domain card that comes a hair closest, and that's just because it's a common that can grow into an absurd 15/3 pretty easily. (Nine colorless mana will never be spent better. Well, maybe Darksteel Forge. One last thing about Wandering Goblins: Play it with Rings of Brighthearth!

Wandering Goblins
Rings of Brighthearth

Okay, back to Exploding Borders. I don't really know why, but something about the primal redness of a Lava Axe attached to a Rampant Growth (or is it vice versa?) really sets off my awesome tracker. An obvious hereditary kinsman of Exploding Borders is Frenzied Tilling, which as a fellow red and green sorcery is very similar. Back then, it was merely a Rampant Growth attached to a Stone Rain, and I still thought it rocked!

Wort, the Raidmother

So what do I want to do with Exploding Borders? Well, if you can play one, why not have two? The thought of scalding my opponent for 10 and searching for two lands, all at once, gets me extremely excited. So, that's why I'm going to pair Exploding Borders with Wort, the Raidmother. The former Auntie, once relegated to ordering around moon-faced naked mole rats back in Lorwyn, happily ascended to the prestigious rank of Raidmother during the Aurora of Shadowmoor, and currently enjoys long walks on the beach and doctoring your everyday red and green spells.

And how to get creatures that share a color with Exploding Borders into play for conspiring purposes? Well, this is Domain Week, after all. Why not Spore Burst? As long as we are going for all five land types, we might as well play around with the latest in a long line of Saproling makers. Plus, Spore Burst is a green sorcery, so it can be conspired as well.

To give me as many options as possible for what effects to copy, I reached for the nearest Charm effect. The Charms, of which five were printed in Shards of Alara, have multiple choices ingrained within them. The choice made when playing the spell is copied by conspire, so you still have to choose between Pyroclasming the board and reinforcing one of your creatures with +1/+1 counters. But when you add in the Wort factor, Jund Charm gives you three different things that you can do twice—for a total of 4 damage to every creature, say, or four +1/+1 counters distributed between one or two creatures. Grixis Charm is another great red spell to conspire. It can give you a global +4/+0 effect, two Sudden Deaths, or two Boomerangs to throw around. Finally, with Wort on the table, a single Branching Bolt could possibly roast four different creatures for 3 each—or two creatures for 6! Take that, Cone of Flame!

We've got all of our conspiring shenanigans all set up. What about actually achieving domain? In the last deck I used the fun and casual staple, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and its traveling band. With this deck (which, if you haven't yet noticed, is entirely in Standard) I'm going to "cop out" and use Prismatic Omen. The color-fixing constellation instantly gives you domain, whether you have five lands or two. It also allows me to get away with playing (and conspiring) spells like Howl of the Night Pack and Jaws of Stone, where in a traditional domain deck such suggestions would make no sense.

Siege-Gang Commander
Dragon Fodder

Siege-Gang Commander and Dragon Fodder should round out the token creators, and Rampant Growth is admittedly necessary to complete the following potential turn scenario. Turn one: Land. Turn two: Land, Rampant Growth. Turn three: Land, Exploding Borders. Turn four: Land, Wort, the Raidmother. Follow up with whatever is exciting in your hand, and you should conspire into a victory.

Wander + Explode

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The deck all but revolves around Wort, the Raidmother, so I knew I wanted to run a way to find her and other things. I fiddled around with Gift of the Gargantuan before settling on a mana base rooted in Jund and playing a triad of Boggart Harbingers. The snail-headed goblin (was he caught purple-handed for a Morsel Theft?) can find Wort, the Raidmother; Siege-Gang Commander for general usefulness and Goblin tokens; Wandering Goblins (Domain Week!); and Tarfire for utility.

If I were going to shuttle this deck concept to Extended, the very first card I would make room for would be Tromp the Domains. Conspiring that baby with tokens on the board would be awesome. Tribal Flames would obviously be great, as would Frenzied Tilling in Legacy (surprise!).

He's No Meglonoth

As I stated before, there aren't that many "build around me" domain cards in Magic thus far. Utility cards, sure. Synergistic with one another cards, sure. But there just aren't many domain cards to use as a centerpiece for a potential fun and kooky deck.

Or is there? Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Magnigoth Treefolk! I would ask you to clap for him, folks, but old Magni doesn't appreciate any sudden spikes in happy energy. Look at the twisted and depressed expression on its face—it puts the "goth" in "Magnigoth." And I have no clue what a Magnigoth is!

Magnigoth Treefolk

What is there to do with Magnigoth Treefolk? At his best, it is a 2/6 unblockable creature for five mana. If I ever wanted or needed 2 power's worth of unblockability, I'd turn to the reasonably cheaper Phantom Warrior or Inkfathom Infiltrator. If I needed a similar creature that was also green, Ayumi, the Last Visitor might actually take a call for once. And we're talking about a creature that gets statistically worse with each nonlegendary nonbasic land that gets printed! (Think that's narrow? Count of those lands within Shards of Alara block thus far: 15.)

At first, I wanted to see if Magnigoth Treefolk would be a fruitful inclusion in the "new" Treefolk deck, as of Lorwyn. Unfortunately, this experiment did not pan out. I almost always wanted to play Timber Protector instead when I hit five lands. The Lorwyn Treefolk deck is made up of branch-busting aggro (Dauntless Dourbark, Battlewand Oak), and a sometimes-sneaky five-drop didn't fit into that game plan at all.

I started over with Magnigoth Treefolk and Prismatic Omen. While musing, I decided to start thinking of the Treefolk as having landwalk, not unblockability, just to refocus the creative juices. And then something silly hit me: Concerted Effort.

Concerted Effort

Concerted Effort notes, among its many keywords, that landwalk will be spread out among your creatures, provided one of your dudes has it. Since Magnigoth Treefolk will have all five types of landwalk (or "domainwalk" as I have dubbed it) all your creatures will therefore have it!


Madly making a ton of creatures or tokens, unlike the gam eplan of today's second deck, won't cut it here. Remember, Magnigoth Treefolk wants to be a clock for the late game. Therefore, I went with a more controlling strategy. Specifically, an Enchantress strategy, since I already had two enchantments going into the deck. A third soon followed: Wellspring! Not only does Wellspring accelerate your mana, it pairs very well with Magnigoth Treefolk. Try to steal a land of a type you don't have yet, like an Island. Since your opponent is most likely playing with multiple Islands, you've made the Treefolk unblockable! A similar card in function is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. By making each land a Swamp, you let your gothy treefolk doubly dig the global marshes.

Hmm ...controlling strategy, enchantments, creatures later on, what cards to add? Hi there, Sigil of the Empty Throne! Multiple 4/4 Angels are simply great. Elspeth, Knight-Errant isn't an enchantment, but all three of her abilities should help. Two Conflux cards close out the selections: Asha's Favor, for providing a whopping three keywords at once, and Martial Coup. The Coup can make lots of tokens in case you can have an early start, and the Wrath of God ability should keep you alive until your opponent meets the unholy Tree of Goth.

Magna Garden

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With a Sigil of the Empty Throne in play, a Flickering Ward in your hand can become the engine: ": Put a 4/4 Angel into play." Cage of Hands is more expensive, but is potentially similar. And as far as Concerted Effort goes, the deck can generate flying, first strike, vigilance, protection, and landwalk. If you want to hit more of these bases, try Rancor or Battle Mastery.

See you next week!

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