Dominaria is just around the corner and Magic players around the world are preparing for the new limited environment. As part of that preparation many of you have already taken a swing at rating every card in the new set as part of the Dominaria limited community set review. At this point over 77,000 grades have been submitted. If you haven't had a chance to do your review of Dominaria limited, follow the link and rate the cards!
Trying to rate limited cards - even before the set has been played in paper - is a difficult task. As limited players we have to take our best guess at how good different mechanics will be, how fast or slow the set will be, and whether certain archetypes will be worth drafting. Given all that, it's a wonder that sometimes we mostly agree. Take Lyra Dawnbringer, for example:
No matter how the rest of the set plays out, the community recognizes that Lyra is a ridiculous game winning bomb, easily one of the best cards in Dominaria for limited. It's no surprise that she's also one of the least controversial cards in the set - there's a clear consensus that Lyra is a "A" level, ridiculous Magic card. But sometimes a card isn't as easy to evaluate as Lyra. Sometimes there is no consensus, and huge questions remain about exactly how powerful these new spells are.
Last time we looked at the controversial commons and uncommons in Dominaria. Today we'll look at the top 8 most controversial rares and mythics in Dominaria. For each card I'll start by discussing what makes the card controversial, then offer my take...
...which, given these cards, is guaranteed to be controversial.
8. Primevals' Glorious Rebirth (Community Grade C)
The controversy: Here we see two things that might become a pattern before this list is over: a Legendary Sorcery and sweet art by Noah Bradley. The central question poised by Primeval's Glorious Rebirth is this: "Just how well supported is the Legendary theme?"
Can you reliablely set up a situation where you can get to seven mana and return a game winning collections of legends to the battlefield? It seems like a tall order, but on average the community thinks this is a fine card - a "C" - and will find a home.
What I think: To understand legendary Sorceries we need to do some math. To even cast them, how many legends would we need?
A neat trick to thinking about this problem was one I learned from this video by Simon Goertzen . Think about all the possible orders you could draw your cards if you had one legendary creature and one legendary sorcery. To simplify things a bit, let's assume you are in trouble if you draw your sorcery first, but happy if you draw your creature first. What's your success rate? 50%. What if you have two legendary creature? Then the only ordering that makes you unhappy is if you draw your sorcery first, a success rate of 66%. If you have three legendary creatures? 75%. Four? 80%. Five? 83%.
That means you hit a point of diminishing returns at around three legendary creatures. So how likely are you to be able to find three Legendary creatures? More math!
There are 80 uncommons, 53 rares and 15 mythics in Dominaria. Of those there are 22 uncommon legends, 14 rare legends and 12 mythics (if you count the Weatherlight). That makes the "as-fan" of legends that help you cast cards like Primeval's Glorious Rebirth around 1.155 per pack - or about 3.465 per player per draft. That's just enough to make it possible to think about splashing these cards in limited.
However, that's not all Primeval's Glorious Rebirth asks of you. Some of you legends need to die, but not too many! And it's a two color card, and you have to make it to seven mana.
That's just too high a bar.
7. Karn's Temporal Sundering (Community Grade B-)
The controversy: Another legendary sorcery, another sweet Noah Bradley piece. Karn's Temporal Sundering is cheaper than Primeval's Glorious Rebirth, and only a single color. This cards grants you an extra turn - oh and it bounces something for good measure too.
While you do need a legend to cast it, Karn's Temporal Sundering isn't quite as all in on you having oodles of legends in you limited deck. The community thinks this card is quite a bit better, a reason to play blue and a reason to take an extra legend or two.
What I think: Having done the math, I'd be comfortable "splashing" for a powerful Legendary Sorcery, and Karn's Temporal Sundering is powerful enough that I'm interested. While I'm not typically that high on time walk effects in limited, I really like the extra bounce effect attached to this one. Getting a key blocker out of the way will often be enough to make the two turns of combat lethal or at least swingy. Weakening your opponents board, getting to untap, draw a card and potentially cast more spells seems like a game winning play.
This is worth the risk.
6. Cabal Stronghold (Community Grade D+)
The controversy: Cabal Stronghold provides a unique effect: land based mana ramp. The downside is that you have to have at least four basic swamps in play before Cabal Stronghold does anything to help you. That's a lot of swamps, so you might as well grab your Dread Shades because you are going mono black.
The community is not impressed with this tradeoff and gives Cabal Stronghold a below average grade - "D+". So does Cabal Stronghold's ability to give you gobs of black mana worth the deck building restrictions it places on you?
What I think: In Cabal Stronghold's defense, because kicker is in the set, there are some good potential mana sinks for the extra mana. However, the simple fact is that it's nearly impossible to go mono color in most limited draft formats, which given how swamp dependent the Stronghold is, renders the card virtually unplayable.
5. Thran Temporal Gateway (Community Grade C-)
The controversy: For eight mana you opponent is going to have to contend with the possibility of instant speed Yargles. And while "sudden glutton" might sound terrifying, for 8 mana you could have already cast everybody's favorite frog spirit or literally any other historic card in Dominaria.
So does the ability to flash in a parade of historic cards make the Gateway worth it? On average the community thinks this card a slightly subpar playable: "C-".
What I think: By the time you finally flash out your first historic card you have spent 8 mana and gone down a whole card. It's hard to imagine recouping enough mana or value to make that exchange worth it
4. Mox Amber (Community Grade D+)
The controversy: "New Mox" is just about the most exciting words a Magic player can hear come spoiler season. Unfortunately, the community is skeptical of the new Amber addition to the Mox family. Most players think that needing a legendary creature or planeswalker to unlock the mana hidden inside Mox Amber is just to big a restriction for limited.
What I think: The numbers aren't just good enough for Mox Amber. As we saw when we did the numbers, cards that care about legends essentially have to be splashed in Dominaria limited, and splashing for a mana source—one that doesn't really fix your mana!—just doesn't make sense. Plus, moxen are powerful because they are fast mana, leading to explosive early game plays. If your legend for the Amber is a four-drop, you might have been better off just paying for a ramp spell.
3. Lich's Mastery (Community Grade D+)
The controversy: Six mana, and doing nothing to help itself, the community is not very high on Lich's Mastery.
Why? Well, for let's talk through what Lich's Mastery actually does. Once you resolve a Lich's Mastery a lot of weirdness begins. Your life total? Doesn't matter. Your new life total is all of your permanents, cards in your graveyard and cards in hand. This has some weird strategic implications - for instance chump blocking makes you essentially lose at least one life (aka permanent) regardless. If you do lose life you're going to have to start exiling things, until eventually you'll have to exile Lich's Mastery itself, at which point you lose the game.
Unless you had a particularly full graveyard, this is going to leave you in a very vulnerable spot. However Lich's Mastery other effect is that this card:
Goes from Healing Salve to Ancestral Recall. Since you've essentially lost your life total as a resource to work with, you are going to have to exploit this ability to turn life gain into free cards to make Lich's Mastery work.
And the community doesn't think that's going to happen often. They've awarded Lich Mastery a "D+". So is there a way to exploit the undead lifestyle in limited?
What I think: To me Lich's Mastery is the most intriguing deck building challenge on the list. It looks to me like you have a few cards that can quickly draw most of your deck:
Both of these cards play especially nice with Lich's Mastery. The acolyte gives you more resources to work with by feeding both your graveyard and hand, while Sanctum Spirit is a repeatable source of life gain and cards that can feed itself with Lich's Mastery out - you can draw more historic cards to protect the spirit.
If you can assemble the BW Lich deck your plan is to resolve Lich's Mastery, gain life and draw a bunch of new cards. The next turn you should be able to take all your new cards, deploy a bunch more ways to draw new cards and the game should quickly snowball out of control. That is a powerful game plan, but require a whole deck's worth of support.
The good news is that I like a lot of the black and white life gain support cards. That means I might try to build this deck regardless of whether I have Lich's Mastery. If I already have a lot of the pieces for this deck and then I see a Mastery? I'll be tempted. However I'd probably just rather make X/X's that are obscenely huge with the controversial uncommon Chainer's Torment.
However, what I'm describing is a low priority, hard-to-cast payoff card for one specific archetype - so I can't recommend it highly.
I will say, that once in a blue moon, when your opponent's plan doesn't reolve around killing you via damage, Lich's Mastery is a hilarious sideboard plan. Take that mill deck!
2. Fall of the Thran (Community Grade C-)
The controversy: Destroying all lands is a powerful ability that you only see every few years on a Magic card. The latest incarnation of Armageddon, Fall of the Thran, does help your opponent rebuild after the cataclysm, but gives you first crack at using your reclaimed mana.
Historically, players casting an Armageddon capatalized by developing alternate sources of mana (did someone say Llanowar Elves?)...
...or by building up their board state quicker than their opponents, and running them over before that opponent could rebuild from the catastrophe.
That begs the question: Is there a good ways to take break the symmetry of Fall of the Thran in limited?
What I think: Six mana is a lot, so it's hard to catch an opponent with a totally undeveloped board, but Fall of the Thran does allow you to press an early advantage. However, aggro doesn't seem to be a particularly well supported archetype in Dominaria either, so it's hard to see a bunch of small creatures bull rushing your suddenly mana severed opponent.
I think Fall of the Thran just doesn't do enough.
1. Kamahl's Druidic Vow (Community Grade C)
The controversy: Kamahl's Druidic Vow is yet another legendary sorcery, and yet another awesome Noah Bradley art piece. This is a callback to another big green sorcery, Genesis Wave:
Kamahl's Druidic Vow offers a similarly powerful effect, for one mana cheaper, but puts the heavy restriction that you will only be getting legends.
The community has overall voted this as an average card, a "C", but as the most divisive card in the set, there's no clear consensus.
What I think: While this presents an interesting deck building challenge in constructed, given the number of legends a Dominaria limited deck has access too, you just aren't going to have enough cards to make this card work.
Those were the 8 most controversial rares and mythics of Dominaria limited. Did I misevaluate a card? Did the community underrate a hidden gen? Let us know - submit your grades at the Dominaria community set review!