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Lessons from the Dominaria Prerelease, Part Two

I played in three Dominaria prereleases. I wrote about the first two previously, and will talk about the third one, as well as my first Dominaria draft this time.

Third Prerelease

Here's my sealed pool from the third prerelease event I played in (including both promo cards).

Lands (1)

Memorial to Unity

Artifacts (10)

2 Aesthir Glider
Amaranthine Wall
Bloodtallow Candle
2 Navigator's Compass
Powerstone Shard
Sorcerer's Wand
Sparring Construct
Voltaic Servant

White (17)

Aven Sentry
Benalish Honor Guard
Board the Weatherlight
D'Avenant Trapper
Excavation Elephant
Gideon's Reproach
Healing Grace
Invoke the Divine
Kwende, Pride of Femeref
2 Mesa Unicorn
On Serra's Wings
3 Sergeant-at-Arms
Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Triumph of Gerrard

Blue (13)

Artificer's Assistant
2 Befuddle
2 Cloudreader Sphinx
Cold-Water Snapper
Diligent Excavator
Karn's Temporal Sundering
2 Syncopate
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive
2 Unwind

Black (15)

Blessing of Belzenlok
Cabal Evangel
Cast Down
Dark Bargain
Deathbloom Thallid
Demonic Vigor
Drudge Sentinel
Final Parting
Fungal Infection
Lingering Phantom
Phyrexian Scriptures
Rat Colony
Settle the Score

Red (13)

2 Bloodstone Goblin
Fervent Strike
3 Fiery Intervention
Fight with Fire
Goblin Warchief
Keldon Warcaller
Radiating Lightning
Rampaging Cyclops
Run Amok
Shivan Fire

Green (12)

Broken Bond
Gift of Growth
Grow from the Ashes
2 Kamahl's Druidic Vow
3 Llanowar Scout
Mammoth Spider
Spore Swarm
Verdant Force
Yavimaya Sapherd

Multicolor (5)

2 Adeliz, the Cinder Wind
Grand Warlord Radha
Tatyova, Benthic Druid
Tiana, Ship's Caretaker

Based on the two previous Dominaria prelease events I'd played in, it seemed that bombs and unconditional removal were even more important than usual. In this pool, that meant Shalai, Voice of Plenty, Phyrexian Scriptures, Verdant Force, Grand Warlord Radha, and Tatyova, Benthic Druid, along with the Black and Red removal spells. I considered building a base Black/Green deck that splashed Red for Grand Warlord Radha and removal, White for Shalai, Voice of Plenty, and Blue for Tatyova, Benthic Druid and the Cloudreader Sphinxes, but then decided that was too greedy given the limited manafixing in the pool. I regarded the Navigator's Compass as unplayable, which meant that I'd be relying on a single Grow from the Ashes to fix my mana.

I had to cut a color and Black had the most spells that required two colored mana, so I settled for a Red/Green deck that "only" splashed White and Blue. While I was giving up the unconditional Black removal, I figured that Fight with Fire and Fiery Intervention were close enough to unconditional, and Red had more creatures that could keep me alive in the early game until I was able to cast my bombs. The Llanowar Scouts were also supposed to help me survive the early game and accelerate me into my bombs. I also chose to play Rampaging Cyclops despite it underperforming during my second prerelease because it always functions as a 4/4 on defense, and I maindecked a Broken Bond to avoid losing to bomb Sagas or Equipment and since it could serve as incidental mana ramp. Here's the deck I built.

I lost my first match to a Blue/Black deck that splashed White and Green. My opponent had Aryel, Knight of Windgrace, Rona, Disciple of Gix, Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp, Dread Shade, and Muldrotha, the Gravetide, and while I did win one game, I couldn't keep pace with the barrage of bombs. Incidentally, the Aryel and Rona were his two prerelease promos, whereas I had yet to include a single promo in any of my prerelease decks. I'm not a fan of having two promos that can be included in your deck; rares and legendaries tend to be more powerful than the average card, and if they fall in your colors, you have a significant advantage, which makes luck even more of a factor at prerelease events. Then again, it's a prerelease, and reducing the luck factor at prereleases is unlikley to be a priority for Wizards of the Coast.

My opponent was playing Navigator's Compass, which I'd thought of as a terrible card because of the card disadvantage. But it allowed him to cast his bombs, and bought him a bit of time to draw and cast them, so I decided that I'd underestimated the card. Dominaria sealed is slow enough and the bombs powerful enough that some amount of card disadvantage is tolerable if it allows you play the best cards in your pool. Scouting other tables after the match, I saw other decks were also running Navigator's Compass and/or Skittering Surveyor, cards I'd considered near unplayable when I first read the spoiler, so I decided to give Navigator's Compass a shot.

The Llanowar Scouts in my deck felt rather weak, and there weren't enough playable Green cards left for it to be a main color, so I switched Green to just a splash for Grand Warlord Radha and Memorial to Unity, plus Shalai, Voice of Plenty's activated ability. Tatyova, Benthic Druid was cut because both its colors were splashes at this point. The new deck was Black/Red splashing the remaining colors, and it had as many removal spells as it did creatures, which doesn't seem unreasonable if you assume that you lose if you aren't able to deal with their bombs.

Unfortunately, even with these changes, I lost my second match, once again in three games. My opponent was playing a Green/Black deck that splashed Blue for Muldrotha, the Gravetide (two rounds in a row!). He also had Song of Freyalise, Verdant Force, Rite of Belzenlok, Whisper, Blood Liturgist (which synergizes really well with the other bombs), Helm of the Host, and Sylvan Awakening, which, as in the second prerelease, won my opponent game three on the last of his extra turns.

Both my opponents had multiple bombs with six or more toughness, which proved problematic for my Red removal. There were also games where I didn't draw the fifth mana to cast Fiery Intervention until it was too late. While the second deck felt stronger than the first, the Red creatures weren't any better than the Llanowar Scouts on defense, and the Red removal felt expensive and inadequate. If I were building this pool today, I would build a Black/Green deck that splashed White and Blue for bombs and flyers.

This deck runs only one Navigator's Compass because it also has Grow from the Ashes for mana fixing, and Dark Bargain can help dig for lands or mana fixing. With four bombs, four near-unconditional removal spells, three flyers, numerous sources of card advantage, and plenty of early game stall, I think this deck would have done a lot better, although I don't have any actual games to back that up.

First Draft

While not at the prerelease, my first Dominaria draft was a couple of days before the release with other people who'd also won packs. I took Marwyn, the Nurturer out of a weak first pack, figuring it might fit into a Red/Green ramp deck and that I could use Green manafixing to splash bombs from other colors. I was passed a couple more strong Green cards after that, including Ancient Animus, Baloth Gorger, Llanowar Elves, and Elfhame Druid. After a short diversion to take Whisper, Blood Liturgist fourth pick, I settled into Red as my second color when I was passed Goblin Barrage and Skizzik relatively late in the pack. Red and Green have the most spells with kicker, so that is the preferred color combination for a ramp deck anyway.

I opened Goblin Chainwhirler in pack two and then got passed Grand Warlord Radha (also an Elf for Marwyn!), which seemed like a pretty good start. I also got second copies of Marwyn, Elfhame Druid, and Skizzik, which seemed promising (although I never actually managed to cast a kicked Skizzik on turn three). And I opened Helm of the Host in pack three, which seemed to put the icing on what I thought was a fairly strong deck.

In the first round, I faced off against a grindy Black/Green deck that splashed White, and lost in three games, winning only the game where I double mulliganed.

I won my second match in two games against a Blue/Black deck. We both double mulliganed in game two, and I managed to stabilize at one life and win a few turns later.

My third match was against a Blue/Red aggro deck that used Arcane Flight and Run Amok to deal 20 damage before the card disadvantage became relevant. I thought I had game two in the bag when my opponent was at one life, but he drew a Run Amok for the win. I was probably too aggressive in this match since I'm not used to Blue/Red being the beatdown, but it's probably the most aggressive of the Dominaria archetypes.

Looking back at the draft, I realized that I misevaluated Marwyn, the Nurturer; in limited, she's usually a three mana Llanowar Elves that you can't have multiple copies of in play, and both packs with Marwyn also had Llanowar Elves that I should have taken instead. I was also a bit short on removal, and it's possible that I should have tried to draft more manafixing so I could take splashable removal like Seal Away and Eviscerate, which I instead ended up passing (as a bonus, it would also have let me play the Tatyova, Benthic Druid that sat in my sideboard). Manafixing would also have helped me more consistently get the second and third Red mana needed to kick Skizzik and cast Goblin Chainwhirler.

As is bound to happen with ramp decks, I did also have at least one game with acceleration but no bombs or fatties, and some hands with the opposite problem (which I mulliganed). But that's the nature of the game.

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