Magic: The Gathering’s Dominaria United Previews – Day Four Highlights

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  • Defiler of Faith
  • Rona’s Vortex
  • Phoenix Chick
  • Bortuk Bonerattle

Magic: The Gathering’s preview seasons can be a mixed bag. Some days you’ll get hit after hit after hit, with more new staples and combo pieces than you can even begin to process. Other days, you may get one or two decent cards in a sea of draft-centric commons and uncommons.

Day four of Dominaria United’s preview season was the latter. Sundays have historically been quieter than most other days, but thankfully there are still a few interesting things worth pointing out. Here’s the best of what was revealed on day four.

Defiler of Faith

Three generic, two white creature – Phyrexian Human – 5/5:

Vigilance

As an additional cost to cast white permanent spells, you may pay two life. Those spells cost one white less to cast if you paid life this way. This effect only reduces the amount of white mana you pay.

Whenever you cast a white permanent spell, create a 1/1 white Soldier creature token.

At first glance, the white member of the Defiler cycle appears to fall prey to the usual underwhelming-white-card problem. It doesn’t give you card advantage like Defiler of Dreams, and doesn’t buff your board like Vigor. All it does is make a single 1/1.

However, white is the colour of lifegain. Particularly in formats like Pioneer where Soul Sisters decks are so popular, you can use Defiler of Faith to reduce the cost of white creatures, only to have things like Soul Warden, Kor Celebrant, and Impassioned Orator build the life right back as soon as the creature you cast enters the battlefield.

And then it gets even better, as making a token creature triggers all those lifegain sources all over again. Who cares about two piddly life if you’re gaining back five or six each time a creature enters the battlefield?

Rona’s Vortex

One blue instant:

Kicker: two generic, one black

Return target creature or planeswalker you don’t control to its owner’s hand. If this spell was kicked, put that permanent on the bottom of its owner’s library instead.

Fading Hope is getting some competition as Standard’s best bounce spell with Rona’s Vortex. Getting anything out of the way for one mana is good, but being able to bury something into your opponent’s library for four is excellent.

In a lot of situations, putting something on the bottom of the library is much harder to overcome than putting it in the graveyard. Particularly in Pioneer, this could shut down everything from red/blue Izzet Phoenix to the various iterations of Greasefang decks with ease.

Phoenix Chick

One red creature – Phoenix – 1/1:

Flying, haste

Phoenix Chick can’t block.

Whenever you attack with three or more creatures, you may pay two red. If you do, return Phoenix Chick from your graveyard to the battlefield tapped and attacking with a +1/+1 counter on it.

With a lot of Mono-Red Aggro’s favourite choices rotating out of Standard soon, Dominaria United needed to put the foundations back in place with a lot of low-cost, hasty red creatures, like Viashino Branchrider and Phoenix Chick.

More than just a new body to throw at your opponent, though, Phoenix Chick supplies some much-needed ‘gas’ to red decks. In Magic, ‘gas’ is the concept that your deck has a limited window of time to win before it either runs out of resources or your opponent builds up an adequate defence. Mono-Red Aggro has one of the smallest windows of all, trying to win quickly in the first few turns.

If you stall out, though, Phoenix Chick can easily help red push over the finish line. It has flying to avoid blockers, something rarely given to small, red creatures, and it can even bring itself back from the graveyard if you swing with enough creatures. Three 1/1 Goblins for a 2/2 flier when your opponent is successfully keeping you at bay could be a worthwhile exchange.

Bortuk Bonerattle

Four generic, one black, one green legendary creature – Troll Shaman – 4/4:

Domain – When Bortuk Bonerattle enters the battlefield, if you cast it, choose target creature card in your graveyard. Return that card to the battlefield if its mana value is less than or equal to the number of basic land types among lands you control. Otherwise, put it into your hand.

This was so close to being a great card. Being able to return a creature under a certain mana value back to the battlefield is fantastic, and the flexibility of picking something bigger to put into your hand instead is also nice. Domain seems like a difficult mechanic to pull off in limited, but in other formats like Standard and Commander, this could’ve been something.

Unfortunately, there are four words here that completely kill Bortuk Bonerattle: “if you cast it”. This means you’ll likely be paying a whopping six mana for a fairly basic reanimation effect that’s already severely limited by the number of land types you control. You can’t flicker it or copy it to get the effect either. In Commander, you could cast it from the command zone, but the command tax makes it even more expensive each time you do it.

This card feels like it harkens back to Innistrad: Crimson Vow’s days of annoying “once per turn” limits on otherwise perfectly fine cards. Domain and costing six mana feel like big enough limitations already, the only way this would’ve been a worthwhile card outside of limited formats was if there were ways to cheat Bonerattle into play more than once or twice.

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