Planeshift: Domain Review (Part 2 of 2)
It was a beautiful evening. While I couldn’t find where I’d misplaced my Johnny Cash Christmas album, we nevertheless went ahead and decorated the tree, saving the his-and-hers Corpse Bride ornaments for last as always. Once the house was still, Jimi poured herself a glass of Malbec, while I fished a Samuel Adams ‘Winter Lager’ out of the fridge. Completing this delightful holiday scene? Two playmats on the kitchen table, with Domain and Comeback set out before them. Here are our notes from this most delightful engagement.
It’s not the best hand, but it’s keepable- a pair of Forests and a Terminal Moraine. Plus I am on the draw. Two turns later, I’m dropping the Moraine and cracking it to fetch an Island, because I have a pair of Blue spells in my hand. It would turn out to be the mistake of the game.
Jimi, for her part, is off to an equally uneventful start. A Plains, a Swamp, and a Salt Marsh before drawing into a turn 4 Arctic Merfolk. For my part, it’s a Plains and a pass. With my deck optimising with one of each basic land type in play, I’m more than happy to let the game go long.
First blood is drawn on turn 5, with Jimi sending in her Merfolk before returning it to her hand when her Silver Drake resolves. She then drops a Sisay’s Ingenuity on it, and passes. Unable to play nearly anything in my hand, I make do with a 6-point Wandering Stream to save myself from having to discard down to 7. I’m now up to 25.
Jimi swings in with the Drake the turn following, nicking me for 3, then she recasts her Arctic Merfolk. Desperate for a land (and a Mountain in particular), I cringe as my turn is not only a blank, but now I have to discard down to seven. I reluctantly pitch a Stratadon, and pass.
Emboldened, Jimi now swings in for 4, then plays a Cavern Harpy (gating out the Merfolk). Passing over to me, I draw, grumble, and discard a second Stratadon. Four land in play, and I literally can’t do a single thing. Either I’m a mana shy (Allied Strategies), creatureless (Confound), or just have the wrong colour.
Turn 8, and Jimi’s now in for 5 damage with her army, taking me to 13. She recasts the Arctic Merfolk with kicker (giving it a +1/+1 counter), then recasts the Harpy she returned for the Merfolk. Back to me, I finally draw another land (alas, an Island) and drop down a defender in the form of the Magnigoth Treefolk. Tragically, it’s not to be- Jimi’s next turn sees her drop down a Hunting Drake, which bounces the Treefolk to the top of my library. She then comes in for another 5, and I’m at 8 life and circling the drain.
Although I manage a turn 9 Allied Strategies for the heck of it, my goose is cooked and I scoop the turn following.
After two turns of manabase building, things start to get serious. I hit a turn 3 Harrow, sacrificing the Terminal Moraine I’d just played to fetch a Swamp and an Plains to add to my Forest and Island. Fast start! I play a Samite Pilgrim, and pass. Back to Jimi, she drops a Stormscape Familiar which she enchants with Sisay’s Ingenuity.
Next turn, I keep the ramp going with a Primal Growth, and I’m happy to sac my Pilgrim to the kicker. Fetching a pair of Mountains, I am now domain-optimised. Playing a replacement Samite Pilgrim, I pass to Jimi. For her part, she pecks me for 1 with the Familiar, then follows up with Guard Dogs.
Turn 5 is a blank for me, managing only to lay down a Forest. Jimi’s not so sedentary, attacking in for 3, then following it up with a Silver Drake (returning the Guard Dogs) and an Arctic Merfolk. Back to me, I play Allied Strategies and refill my hand. I take four damage from Jimi’s critters once it’s back to her (taking me to 12), but it’s worth it.
I go on the offensive on turn 7. First I kill off the Drake with an Exotic Curse. Next, I lay out five 1/1 Bird tokens with Ordered Migration as my win condition unveils itself. Eager to replace the Drake, Jimi sacs her Ancient Spring for Black mana to pay for her Marsh Crocodile (she discards the Guard Dogs, I discard a Forest). Next turn, I come in with the Birds for 5, then lay out a Quirion Trailblazer (nabbing another Swamp). Jimi’s turn is a compelte blank.
Turn 9, I strike again with the flock, taking Jimi to 10 life. Jimi retaliates with the Familiar, pecking me for 1 more and leaving me at 11. Next turn, I go all in, attacking with the Birds, Trailblazer, and Pilgrim. The Croc devours the Pilgrim, but the rest get through to leave Jimi with 4 life.
Which is exactly how much damage my kicked Breath of Darigaaz does.
On the play, Jimi leads with an Ancient Spring and passes. I play a Forest, and pass back. A Coastal Tower and Tidal Visionary comprise Jimi’s turn 2, while I manage a Plains and a Samite Pilgrim.
Next turn, Jimi swings in with the Visionary for 1, then follws up with Ravenous Rats. I pitch a Forest, since I’ve already got one in play. Over to me, I play Primal Growth following a Mountain, again offing a Samite Pilgrim for the sacrifice. I fetch out a Swamp and an Island, and just like that I’ve hit full domain.
Turn 4, and Jimi’s keeping up the aggression with a swing for 2 (Rats + Visionary). She follows up with a Cavern Harpy, and naturally returns the Rats to hand. Seeing what’s coming, I start to hoard land, and only play a couple of critters on my next turn (Quirion Explorer, Samite Pilgrim). Next turn, Jimi swings for 2 more (taking me to 15), then recasts the Rats, compelling me to pitch another Forest. Looking to refill my hand, I draw five cards with Allied Strategies, drop a Forest and pass.
In comes the Harpy for 2 more on turn 6. Jimi then pays 1 life to unsummon her Harpy, recasting it to return the Rats to hand. With only one Swamp in play, she’s not able to take full advantage to set up a recurring combo, but she can still limp it along. Things change, though, when I untap and land a Wayfaring Giant– a 6/8 bruiser.
Jimi swings in overhead with the Harpy on turn 7 before returning it to hand with the Silver Drake. It’s a 19-11 game, but with the Giant I have some momentum on my side. I kill off the Drake with an Exotic Curse (I’m holding another in my hand for the Rats), then swing in for 6.
Next turn, Jimi manages a Vodalian Merchant (looting from her library), then playing Galina’s Knight. She strings this interaction together when I swing in with the Giant next turn, stepping in front of it with the Knight and using the Visionary to turn the Giant Red. A clever play which I totally missed. I decide to give her the agony of choice next turn, and play a Stratadon before passing.
All Jimi can do on turn 9 is lay a Sisay’s Ingenuity on the Merchant. I kill off the Knight with my other Exotic Curse, then swing safelt for 11. Jimi chumps the Giant with her Tidal Visionary, leaving her at 8 life. She finds an answer next turn, when the Phyrexian Bloodstock slays my Giant coming in. Back to me, I clear the board with Breath of Darigaaz, then swing for lethal with the Stratadon.
Thoughts & Analysis
Depending on your personal threshold for feast-or-famine-type strategies, Domain is either wildly fun or maddeningly inconsistent. The first game saw me completely unable to get anything going despite having four land in play, a point at which most decks should be fully functioning. Still, getting all five lands in play wasn’t hard with the right tools, and having achieved full domain in the next two games made a huge difference. Five cards for five mana with Allied Strategies, five damage with Tribal Flames, or the pumping of certain creatures all made each spell cast a relative bargain.
Of course, you had to survive long enough to get there. As it happened, Comeback managed to give me plenty of time to do so. A fast, cheap aggro-swarm deck would eat this one for lunch. Indeed, the five-colour domain deck made a comeback recently with Duel Decks: Phyrexia vs The Coalition, and the Phyrexian deck had to have some brakes applied to its mono-Black wheels (via card selection) to give The Coalition a fighting chance.
If you’re the kind who doesn’t mind a little early suffering in exchange for the opportunity to run riot later, Domain is the deck for you!
Hits: Clever deck construction makes hitting five basic land types feel like a reward (like your third artifact for Metalcraft); solid mana fixing makes domain actually feel viable despite restraints of being a theme deck (a suite of Zendikar fetches, for instance, would make this scream)
Misses: Little in the way of early stall/defense; Despite solid mana fixing, domain-based strategy is still considerably inconsistent
FINAL GRADE: 4.25/5.00