Rotation Grief: Dominaria (Part 1)

The Standard Rotation looms closer with each passing day. The coming meta will be shaped, mostly, as a direct consequence of rotation. We're near the end of this journey of grief (or jubilation, depending on who you ask) as we look into the white, blue, and black cards we'll have to remove from our Standard decks when Dominaria rotates out.

Dominaria White Losses

Benalish Marshal: Dominaria went deep with its various themes, one of which was "monocolored matters," best exemplified by its cycle of powerful three-mana creatures that wanted to be in their respective monocolored builds, and of which Benalish Marshal was a member. Now, any White Weenie list ever wants two things and two things only: creatures on the board and anthems to buff them. The Marshal delivered on both counts, very soon becoming the three-drop of choice in all white aggro lists. Plus, it was a Knight for some sweet History of Benalia interactions. Grief Factor: 9/10

Dauntless Bodyguard: White Aggro also benefits from some insurance against removal for its key pieces, and the Bodyguard would fill that role, while also being a functional Savannah Lions on turn one. Grief Factor: 8/10

Fall of the Thran: Sagas were the splashy new mechanic from Dominaria, and tried to do many different things, albeit succeeding in only a handful of cases, while most of the others remained flavorful and occasionally lead to some minor combos, as it happened the moment this Armageddon clone with built-in delayed reconstruction met with Ashiok, Dream Render from War of the Spark (Remorseful Cleric and other effects exiling the graveyard also worked), resulting in asymmetrical, long-term mana denial. It was a slow, unreliable plan, but not without its devoted fans. Grief Factor: 5/10

History of Benalia: Probably the most popular and game-winning saga. A steady supply of Knights and a final trigger that boosts them all was frequently soul-crushing for an opponent that was already struggling under white aggro's pressure. Unfortunately, the Knights from Throne of Eldraine will never know the feeling. Grief Factor: 10/10

Knight of Grace: Dominaria introduced the controversial "partial hexproof" through a mirrored pair of new takes on the classic White Knight and Black Knight. Regardless, the prospect of a three-powered first striker for two mana was enough for both these guys to see their fair share of play, though White Aggro itself favored either Adanto Vanguard or a double one-drop on turn two, while Knight tribal (a fossil of the planned second Dominaria set that never saw the light of day due to the establishment of the Three-and-One Model) wasn't always a major force in the meta. Grief Factor: 6/10

Lyra Dawnbringer: The true heiress to the once glorious Baneslayer Angel, even more impressive than her forerunner when dropped with a fellow angel already on the battlefield, especially Resplendent Angel or Shalai, Voice of Plenty. With her massive lifegain, Lyra was the ultimate bane of Burn, and could easily steal games all on her own if not answered. She will be missed by all kinds of white-heavy decks and their sideboards. Grief Factor: 9/10

Seal Away: Along with Baffling End from Rivals of Ixalan, white also loses this very similar Oblivion Ring variant, which at times was the most widely played removal in color, mostly due to its instant-speed efficiency. Of course, vigilance was its archenemy, but luckily it wasn't a very common ability in the meta. Grief Factor: 8/10

Shalai, Voice of Plenty: The greatest protector, the nemesis of red, Shalai was the most desirable four-drop in midrange builds. She could bring so much value to the table, shutting down burn, hand disruption and Settle the Wreckage, safeguarding the team, working as a dependable wincon if there was green mana around, and even creating a lock with Spark Double. Never forget what Shalai did for you. Grief Factor: 10/10

Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle: Teshar's valuable recursion trigger was overlooked for a long time, until its (very convoluted) combo with Rona, Disciple of Gix, Chamber Sentry and Diligent Excavator started winning some events. It wasn't a very fun deck to play, especially in digital form, where it required hundreds of clicks, but it didn't lack its militant apologists. It would ultimately get subsumed into Kethis, the Hidden Hand combo decks. Grief Factor: 7/10

Urza's Ruinous Blast: Legendary sorceries didn't exactly make a splash in the meta, being too unreliable and demanding. However, this destructive spell, named for the most famous character in Magic history (there's another of Dominaria's subjects), was a powerful one-sided sweep for historic decks, including those powered by Teshar and Kethis. Grief Factor: 5/10

Dominaria Blue Losses

Blink of an Eye: The functional reprint of Into the Roil from Zendikar, like its predecessor Blink was cost-effective enough to see play as the resident Boomerang improvement for permission decks and other builds aiming to buy themselves some time against aggro. Grief Factor: 6/10

Diligent Excavator: Designed as a combo piece for historic decks, this blue archaeologist ended up being exactly that, putting her unassuming self-mill ability at the service of both Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle and, later, Kethis, the Hidden Hand. Grief Factor: 6/10

Merfolk Trickster: A key player in Blue Tempo decks, where this murderous mermaid would set up all kinds of ambushes against unaware attackers or push a blocker out of the way of an upcoming alpha strike. Grief Factor: 8/10

Syncopate: The archetypal soft counterspell from Odyssey was last seen in Return to Ravnica, thus making it eleven years for the first reprint, six for the second; see you in 2021? Grief Factor: 5/10

Tempest Djinn: Despite being the most conspicuous threat in Mono Blue Tempo, the Djinn wasn't actually the reason for the deck's success, but having a reliably large finisher available for a reduced cost certainly helped close many games. Grief Factor: 8/10

The Mirari Conjecture: Not the most played saga, but one that granted the most cumulative benefits, especially when fetched off the sideboard with Mastermind Acquisition, which the Conjecture could then return to hand in order to start a new wishful cycle. The control decks that adopted this plan were typically low-tier, sometimes even casual-oriented builds, but with the potential of being surprisingly effective when not properly pressured. Grief Factor: 6/10

Wizard's Retort: All blue-based decks featuring Wizards (the main tribal group to receive support in Dominaria) enjoyed turning Cancel into bona fide Counterspell. Grief Factor: 7/10

Dominaria Black Losses

Cast Down: Despite Dominaria's many legendary creatures, which were immune to this spell, Cast Down grew up to be black's signature two-mana spot removal for most of its run, easily beating the sorcery speed of the technically less restrictive Walk the Plank. Over time it became progressively less relevant, though, losing ground to more versatile multicolored options like Assassin's Trophy and Tyrant's Scorn, or to specialized spells like Despark, Legion's End, and Noxious Grasp. Grief Factor: 8/10

Demonlord Belzenlok: The set's big Demon was serviceable, but not impactful enough to have players go out of their way to reanimate him or ramp into him. While most of the times he would just draw you one card, there were moments in a protracted game when summoning Belzenlok could outright kill you on the spot – which is very flavorful for a demonic deal, but not particularly appealing in Constructed. Grief Factor: 3/10

Dread Shade: Arguably the only real misfire in the monocolored three-drop cycle, although it's possible that it would have had better fortune if monoblack was still a presence in the meta after Torment of Hailfire's rotation. Still, Dread Shade feels very inefficient, attempting the same routine as Tempest Djinn, except on the ground and mana-intensive. Grief Factor: 2/10

Fungal Infection: The scope of this removal piece was clearly limited, but it could hit several juicy targets on turn one, while the token generation would further contribute to a nice overall tempo gain. As a consequence, it saw more play than one would have expected. Grief Factor: 4/10

Josu Vess, Lich Knight: Liliana's late brother had been a strong finisher in Cabal Stronghold builds during Amonkhet Standard, but once his majority partner Torment of Hailfire left the building, and all the weight of sealing the deal fell squarely on Josu's undead shoulders, he couldn't carry a whole archetype alone. It's a pity, really, because it caused Josu's complete disappearance from the meta, and he deserved more consideration, because his dual mode was flexible, and summoning his full team was a solid endgame for a reasonable cost. Grief Factor: 4/10

Knight of Malice: The inevitable counterpart to Knight of Grace. It saw more or less the same amount of play, but in Knight decks it would prove easier to enable its power boost while History of Benalia was on the battlefield. Grief Factor: 6/10

The Eldest Reborn: The most played saga after History of Benalia and perhaps The Flame of Keld, it was somewhat expensive, but in the right situation the edict-disruption-reanimation cycle added up to a considerable swing, especially against planeswalkers. It was also used as an answer to unkillable threats like Carnage Tyrant. Grief Factor: 7/10

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.

Rotation Grief Archive

  1. M19 (white, blue and black)
  2. M19 (red, green, multicolored and colorless)
  3. Ixalan (white, blue and black)
  4. Ixalan (red, green, multicolored and colorless)
  5. Rivals of Ixalan (white, blue and black)
  6. Rivals of Ixalan (red, green, multicolored and colorless)


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MaxJuzam(25.09.2019 21:10)


RonePro(25.09.2019 17:03)

Great article, and overall an amazing series!