.1 Garna, Bloodfist of Keld
Dominaria United is coming and with it the Phyrexian Flood. So far with the spoilers we’re missing that key word, Infect. So, until that text is on one of the cards, we’ll have a look at the rest. My pick is Garna, Bloodfist of Keld. This Human Berserker is a new must-have for your Rakdos and Mardu sacrifice decks.
It gets you a draw when your chumps die in battle and pings the enemy every time one of your sacrificial lambs gets dead. The trick is that the creature needs to die in combat for the draw to work. Take your Zombie or human tokens, turn them sideways and after damage, during the combat clean-up phase (and yes there is a phase after damage in combat) you sacrifice them, and bang, two-for-one draw and ping. Garna, Bloodfist of Keld: A new leader for your Rakdos Sacdos decks. Be sure not to draw yourself to death before your enemies get the sting of the ping.
.2 Cut Down
I’m a sucker for cheap, efficient removal. So, when I see a one-mana black Instant with the text “Destroy target creature”, I pay attention. Cut Down is an instant for one black mana that says “Destroy target creature...with total power and toughness 5 or less”. Will Cut Down replace fatal push as the de-facto black removal…Well….
No. Cut Down is redundancy for any deck that wants an extra Thirst for Blood but depending on your format of choice, the target pool that this spell can eliminate isn’t as large as you might first think. Gone are the days of 2/3s for five mana, and while you might snipe an ‘Ertai resurrected’, You’ll need a different tool to move the ‘Blight Pile’. Where I see this card making an appearance is in singleton formats like Commander, Gladiator and Canadian-Highlander where you just need that third copy of fatal push. Early game removal is essential for keeping your opponents off balance and you’ll catch the stray legendary creature. Kill em’ quick, get in for damage. That’s the aggro way.
.3 Liliana of the Veil
As the resident Pioneer fiend and avid Rakdos Midrange (as well as Modern Boomer Jund) player, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Liliana of the Veil being reprinted in a standard set. I have already received numerous groans as people now worry about another piece of the Rakdos toolbox they will have to deal with. I have heard talk ranging from “she will be broken” to “she will be useless”, and I firmly fall in the middle of these two camps.
Rakdos is a tight deck as it is, and the three-drop slot is extremely competitive with the likes of Fable, Bonecrusher Giant and Graveyard Trespasser all being four-ofs. That being said, those like myself who were holding onto their one-of Sorin will likely be dropping that to add a Lili in its place. I will also drop one of the flex removal spots to fit a second, likely dropping the one-of Strangle, and starting with two Lilis mainboard. Some of the top decks in the format like Boros Aggro and Auras are susceptible to edicts, and adding that into the toolkit, as well as another hand-hate source are both great. I will likely sideboard an additional one, and start from there. Time will tell how dominant (or not) Lili will be, but just getting to play her in another format tugs at my heartstrings!
.4 Tolarian Terror
My pick is Tolarian Terror. While on the surface, this is a strictly better version of Cryptic Serpent, being slightly easier to cast and taping on Ward 2, the real value of this card is it's rarity, common. Pauper is a format with some absolutely insane instants and sorceries: from Ponder, to Lightning Bolt the caliber of spells you have access to is quite amazing, and Pauper has multiple decks able to take full advantage of Tolarian Terror. From Serpentine Curve, which plays a whopping 34 instants & sorceries, to the numerous Faeries variants, stuffed with cantrips and removal. There's no doubt in my mind Tolarian Terror will be an excellent win condition, and maybe even give Gurmag Angler a run for it's money.
.5 Rundvelt Hordemaster
With a lifelong passion for dying, goblins is a tribe that has always been happy to trade bodies for various advantages. To quote Goblin Arsonist: “With great power comes great risk of getting yourself killed.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Goblins have a variety of payoffs for dying goblins ranging from the classic Goblin Sharpshooter to the more recent; all ways to take advantage of the pile of tokens made by staples like Krenko, Mob Boss. All of this is to say that the new goblin lord Rundvelt Hordemaster is absolutely incredible. This is the first time that Goblins have received a two mana anthem effect - and its not just an anthem - it also provides you a steady stream of goblins to refill the board. On its own, this is already great: It’s pressure, it’s card advantage, it’s everything that your midrange-combo-control-aggro deck wants. But pair it with some other classic goblins and watch the sparks fly. Skirk Prospector is the first one that comes to mind, turning every goblin into both mana and card draw. Add a Mogg War Marshal into the mix and you’ve built your very own goblin flavoured Ancestral Recall. This is the most exciting goblin Magic has seen since Muxus, Goblin Grandee, but unlike Muxus, Rundvelt Hordemaster is going to be legal in everything from Standard back to Vintage and it is bound to make an impact.
.6 Leyline Binding
As a fellow degenerate modern gamer, my pick from DMU is Leyline Binding. Because Leyline Binding’s converted mana cost is over three, it could go into all of the wonderful cascade decks in modern. I think this card will only likely see play in rhinos as 4 colour versions have existed in the past and a generic one or ten mana answer will be a great upgrade for the deck. I’m looking forward to O-ring some Teferis!
.7 Jared Carthalion
"Legally Distinct He-Man"... er... I mean Jared Carthalion is the first (black border) five color Planeswalker AND is playable as your commander. Admittedly what has me most excited for him is the potential for a Heavy Metal theme deck, but the possibilities are endless! Multicolored, legends, superfriends, counters, the list goes on honestly. It's great to see the glow-up from his previous and unfortunately underwhelming iteration.
.8 The Phasing of Zhalfir
My most anticipated card from Dominaria United has to be "The Phasing of Zhalfir". The depiction of this historical event is mechanically interpreted in this amazingly powerful tool at blue's disposal. Featuring the new "Read Ahead" mechanic, allowing you to skip through some of the less desirable effects of a Saga. This is insanely powerful because of Chapter three, which destroys all creatures and creates a 2/2 Black Phyrexian token in each of their places. We've seen this replacement removal trend in blue before with cards like Pongify, Curse of the Swine, and Rapid Hybridization being consistently powerful removal effects in formats like Commander. However, this is the first time Blue has been gifted an efficiently costed mass-sweeper that indiscriminately destroys all creatures. All for the same cost as Wrath of God or Damnation. The creation of all these identical 2/2s could even give way to some cute Echoing Truth or Echoing Decay shenanigans to asymmetrically eradicate all the pesky creatures on the field.
That being said, a four-mana wrath like this is already incredibly powerful, however, by biding your time for a turn or two you can either protect or remove an important permanent until the wrath occurs using its first two chapters. I could see commander-focused decks playing Phasing of Zhalfir in chapter two to phase out their key commander, then when chapter three rolls around, your commander would come back unharmed. In the situation where an enemy controls an Avacyn, Angel of Hope, or something that may negate the effects of the phasing's third chapter, you can remove that indestructible-granting angel so that phasing can do its work on the subsequent turn! Albeit, waiting for an entire turn-cycle or two for an impending Wrath effect may provoke other players into attacking you or destroying the phasing, so do these more value-centric plays at your own discretion. In the end, The Phasing of Zhalfir, in a vacuum, as a four-mana wrath, gives blue yet another tool to wipe away all creatures. Is it good enough to dethrone Cyclonic Rift? Heavens no! But it is good enough to stand at least nearby as a powerful option for those of you looking for some good board wipes.