Dominaria United: Sleeper Commons

Ben Fischer • August 30, 2022

The release of Dominaria United is right around the corner, and sleeper agents are everywhere. Don’t let these innocuous commons slip past you in your first draft!

Dominaria United is the most excited I’ve been about a set release in a very long time! I’m happy for everyone that enjoyed Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate, but I can best describe this latest spoiler season as “refreshing.” The Phyrexians are back, along with some classic mechanics, and plenty of unique card designs. We’ll let legends like Teferi and Radha figure out how to deal with Phyrexian sleeper agents- we Limited players have some different sleepers to worry about. Here are my early picks for commons to keep an eye on!

Side notes: We’re going to use Vector Theory to analyze these cards and archetypes. If you’re not familiar, you can read all about it here. I’m going to focus on “sleepers,” not necessarily top commons, which can be very not-subtle. If you see Citizen’s Arrest or Lightning Strike in your pack, just take them 😉

I love when a set drops hints as to what certain vectors “want” to do. Dominaria United provides us with a cycle of cost-reducing commons that spell it out for us by color. Argivian Phalanx suggests that white’s vector points towards going wide with creatures.

I love a good attacking mechanic, but I notice some conceptual problems with Enlist. It asks you to be okay with not attacking with all your creatures, and it asks you to be okay with waiting until the creature you enlist can attack, but will not (due to the summoning sickness clause). Argivian Cavalier solves both of those problems. The token is small and likely won’t get through on turn 4 anyway, when the Cavalier itself can attack at the earliest, and it gives you both creatures at the same time, so neither is summoning sick on turn 4. If Argivian Cavalier was just a 3-mana 3/3 with Enlist, you would have to choose to either swing with the Cavalier and your 2-drop, or Enlist and attack. As printed, this card lets you do both!

This flavor text made me realize that I forget how to read numerals.

Never underestimate the power of multiple bodies for a single card. Sacrifice them to Aron, Benalia’s Ruin to pump up your entire board. Create more tokens and grow your Queen Allenal of Ruadach. Draw cards and swing in thanks to Raff, Weatherlight Stalwart. This is even an easy way to get your Argivian Phalanx down to a 1-mana 4/4! I see this card as a solid piece of every white deck’s vector.

Tolarian Terror tells us to put instants and sorceries into the graveyard. Blue players probably won’t take much convincing! Black has ways to self-mill, and there are a handful of cantrip effects across the colors to keep the spells coming.  

Hammerhand tells the rest of their story.

In blue-red, this will be pretty close to a removal spell that draws a card. In every other blue vector, this is a cantrip at worst, and a brutal combat trick reminiscent of Chilling Trap or Zulaport Duelist at best. I’ve gained respect for cards like this over my time playing Limited. The chance of turning a trade into a win and a free card will make your opponents think twice about their blocks, and it should make you reconsider your would-be trades as well.

I shore don't want my opponent to have this.

Speaking of annoying 1-mana blue instants, Shore Up provides a lot of utility for its cost. Blue effects like this don’t usually buff power OR untap the creature, and I suspect this will catch even veteran drafters off-guard. Having both this and Timely Interference in your deck will force your opponent to fear your one untapped Island.

Writhing Necromass suggests that black vectors care about creatures in your graveyard. Like instants and sorceries, this will happen naturally, but discarding creatures to Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator or self-milling with Monstrous War-Leech will help speed the process along.

Eerie Soultender seems to do everything black decks want. It starts by stocking up your graveyard, and has high power to trade with a good number of creatures. Once it’s in the graveyard, you can activate it to return your best creature to your hand. It doesn’t care how it got there, either- self-milling this is sweet graveyard card advantage. This also seems to suggest that black decks are not aggressive, and that their vectors point towards winning a long and grindy game.

Reminds me of some people I know.

This wacky wall fits right into that vector. Effects like this make it extremely difficult for aggressive decks to punch through damage using removal or tricks without wasting their resources. I’m keeping an eye on this 5-color defender deck, but the vectors of the Sultai colors will make best use of defenders like this.

At first glance, Molten Monstrosity seems to have more tension towards its color than the rest of the cycle. Red has access to some large creatures, but the strength of red-white or red-black is often in dumping a handful of smaller threats. Enlist and powerful combat tricks like Furious Bellow act like mana rituals to cast the Monstrosity, and might be enough to resolve this tension.

This happened to my buddy Eric.

This is the Shock of the set, but I think it has some interesting uses besides that. Red seems to care more than usual about altering the power of its creatures, with Enlist and creatures that get buffed on casting instants and sorceries. This gives red the ability to push through surprise damage on unblocked creatures, potentially winning the game out of nowhere. Flowstone Infusion can be a Shock or a game-ending pump spell!

Can I kick it? Yes, you can!

What do you get when you cross a Kiln Fiend and a Man-o’-War? Probably a very scary card! The utility of being either makes up for some of the drawbacks, such as not being able to bounce your own creatures. Red decks with lower instant and sorcery counts might prefer a different 2-drop, like Yavimaya Steelcrusher. These Enlist decks will need to apply the pressure quickly to mitigate the drawback of tapping their creatures to attack with only some of them (NEO Samurai decks fell into a similar trap). Keep in mind that Viashino Branchrider, Lagomos, Hand of Hatred’s tokens, and other creatures with haste pair very well with Enlist, though it might be better to just turn everything sideways.

The green vectors all revolve around Domain, and while Yavimaya Sojourner looks pretty unexciting, green has some strong ways of ensuring you make it to the late game. Your opponents functionally cannot interact with your Domain, so at least you can trust that once you have the basics you need, you’ll reap the rewards.

Deathbloom Gardener looks like one of the strongest mana dorks we’ve had in recent Limited memory. It can tap for any color to cast your off-color kickers and spells. Once you don’t need it for mana, deathtouch ensures that it remains one of the most relevant blocking bodies on the battlefield. Great early, solid late, beautiful art- what more can you ask of your mana dorks?

I'm not strong enough to resist forcing 5c Walls.

That’s one way to find your lands! This provides a 2-for-1 right away, though the 0/2 body isn’t much of a card by itself. Digging six cards deep, it’ll take some true statistical anomalies to miss on lands entirely, and this will often give you selection to find the basics you’re missing. If a true 5-color deck exists in this format, Floriferous Vinewall will be an important part of it.

Did I miss any Evolved Sleepers? Feel free to let me know what you think on Twitter. For more insight into this format, check out my set review over on the Draft Chaff Podcast. Have a great Prerelease, and watch out for the sleepers among us!