First Impressions of the Mechanics of Dominaria United

 Lots of exciting news coming from last Thursday announcements regarding Dominaria United (DMU) and the upcoming sets. For the near future, Dominaria is returning to the center of attention for Magic Players and with that new cards to look at for cube. Last time we visited the plane we were introduced to a slew of new mechanics, many of which stuck around. My favorite of these was the concept of batching being introduced to MTG starting with Historic and latered spawned Modified and Party. For those unfamiliar, batching connects different cards together creating synergies and interactions that would not normally exist. The set had a lot of powerful and/or interesting cards that still come up from time to time in cube, but have a greater impact on other formats particularly EDH. This is also a time for a whole bunch of legendaries to get thrown at us, so for us running commander cubes, this is the time to look especially after the mixed response regarding CLB. 

Initially upon hearing the announcement, I was skeptical about this set for a number of reasons. First off, it was replacing the coreset, but that does not mean it isn't a coreset with extra flavor. I vividly remember playing AFR (Adventures in the Forgotten Realms) and I did not enjoy the set because I felt WotC played it too safe with card designs. I felt that the set was basically a coreset with DnD seasoning sprinkle on top. For anyone unfamiliar with drafting core sets, they feel like french vanilla cubes, but are significantly powered down and so games feel like a drag often times. So far DMU, this is a big concern for me. This became even more concerning when the spoiled mythic was Shivan Devastator (I do want to test this in my traditional cube). Shivan Devastator is symptomatic of the safe, boring direction that could happen to this set. It doesn't have a mechanic keyword or an interesting ability, thus there's a lack of excitement to playing and drafting it. This doesn't mean there won't be good cards to add for cube as AFR introduced better monocolored manlands and Shivan Devastator's raw power does merit testing, but they don't spark creativity that would encourage me to poorly warp my cube around it.

Fortunately with news and cards from Thursday, I'm looking forward to the set as there are already a couple hype cards. Many of the mechanics present are returning mechanics with the newest one being Enlist. I'll be examining the mechanics under the lens of both traditional and commander cube. As a reminder, my philosophy differs significantly between the two cubes. For traditional, I value power and pet cards the most. There are a lot of cards I think are neat, but have already been outclassed and the niche the play isn't convincing enough. For commander cube, I value synergies then power as commanders have different needs. Card choices get weirder here. If you are looking for card evaluations, make sure to come back when the set is fully revealed. I will be writing one for both my cubes.



Kicker makes a return from Zendikar Rising. From my experience, Kicker has had troubles trying to fit in with cubes for a variety of reasons. Kicker adds an optional cost that will enhance the effects of the card being played. This added cost and effect makes cards appear clunkier than they actually are and will often become the focal point of the card's evaluations. From previous iteractions of kicker cards, there is a pattern to attach a moderate to high kicker cost on an average card, which makes it less playable since the card is already weakened to compensate.

The kicker cards that thrive in cubes are cards that have strong/decent baselines, but with the added kicker gain later game versatility. Take for example Bloodchief's Thirst, for 1 Black, you are able to kill any planeswalker or creature with 2 MV or less, making this a great removal spell early. Late game, you can pay the kicker to kill regardless of MV for another 3 mana, which is an exceptable rate.

From the current previews, it seems WotC is planning to go with this route of pushing kicker. Many of the cards I've seen so far are strong in cube at their baseline with the kicker making the cards even stronger. The kicker cost have been more reasonable to pay as well with most effects costing 1-3 mana, so I am excited to see which cards are worth testing.


Domain has been around for a long time as well and hasn't been seen since Alara block. The mechanic has largely been unpopular in cube due to how clunky it is to assemble every basic land type. Many of the cards at their baseline are not impressive and I do not expect this to change, which hurts their inclusion into most cubes. If the domain cards are strong on their own and get better with proper domain support, I think their inclusion is worth considering. 

The only other way I see this mechanic hold a spot in cubes is a strong presence of a Field of the Dead lands deck and a 5 color deck.  The thought process being that if your cube can support decks that are adept at grabbing the colors needed supporting domain should be easy since it is the same build.

From the cards I have seen so far, domain is looking to perform about the same as it ever will because of the problems that persist still in these designs.


Enlist is a new mechanic that comes with DMU and this seems like the weird mix between Exalted and Exert. For those unfamiliar with the two mechanics, look them up. The way enlist works is that when you declare attacks with a creature with enlist, you are able to tap another creature that does not have summoning sickness to adds its power to the power of the attacking creature. There have been other occassions where we've seen abilities similar to this and they typically do not make it into cubes and it have to do with how clunky the mechanic is. On top of this, the baseline for this creatures have typically been atrocious as well. Some creatures will have bonuses when you enlist but that varies from creature to creature. 

From a preliminary perspective, this seems like a solid mechanic so far. It adds more depth to how you choose to attack. The mechanic does not punish you for choosing not to engage with it  since you don't do less damage if you choose to enlist, even if you have anthems out. With the current previews we got, I am noticing that there is a lack of evasion on these creatures and keywords as a matter of fact, which makes it hard to push in damage if there is always a blocker. Furthermore, the creatures themselves have a boring baseline of just being a vanilla creature with some exceptions

.I can see this mechanic excelling in voltron style decks that intend to build up a singular creature with combat tricks, auras, and equipment. These decks will fill in the gaps that these cards have. Exalted does exceptionally well with this mechanic as well since enlist can double dip into the exalted creatures. Regardless, my main concern is WotC plays it too safe with Enlist and do not include evasive creatures.

Side note: Their does seem to be a missed opportunity with the samurai exalted that we just got in NEO. Enlist and Samurais seem to be a boros (RW) centered mechanic that synergize, however so far there is only one warrior with enlist. 

Stun Counters

Though not a new mechanic to MTG, the counters that represent the effect are new. For those unfamiliar, stun counters are counters placed on a tapped creature to indicate that it can not untap and instead a counter will be removed at any attempt to untap it. It prevents the creature from untapping during the untap step, which is something we've seen already. What makes this mechanic neat is that it prevents players from using cards and abilities to untap their creatures. Since these are counters, you are able to interact with them the way you interact with any other counter. This means proliferating them will keep the creature locked down for longer.

Currently, there are not too many cards that give out the counters. The current ones that exist do not seem solid enough for cube, however I believe in time we can only have better options. This might eventually become a design space for pseudo removal in various colors.


Sagas are making their return from NEO and were initially introduce with Dominaria. Initially, Sagas have been iffy with their power level in cube, but with each iteration, they have been getting stronger and stronger. From my experience, strong sagas are evaluated mostly on steps 1 and 2 with some consideration for step 3. This is because players are typically able to survive for the duration of their saga. 

Judging from what is available in DMU, none of the cards seem like strong players for traditional cubes, however EDH cubes might be interested with these.

Pseudo Phyrexian Mana

There seems to be a cycle of creatures that will replace colored mana with a cost of 2 life. These do not look playable in cube since they have a high mana cost and the additional benefits of playing a permanent in that colors do not seem good enough. If they release a 3 or 4 drop member of this cycle, it might be worth considering, but otherwise avoid these.

The Wrap Up

Looking forward to playing this set as it seems a lot of the cards are interesting to play. I'm expecting kicker to be prominent in the draft meta. As noted during the kicker portion, the approach to design the cards with kicker seem to range from being playable to strong. In regards to cube, the designs pique my interest as there are cards that have unique effects that synergize with existing effects. If these cards, do not pan out, this could potentially be a dud set for cube designers. 

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