In the recent Wizards Presents 2022 Livestream, we got our first real taste of Dominaria United. The hype train has undoubtedly left the station with a compelling story summary and plenty of spoilers to sink our teeth into. Along with the first wave of Dominaria United spoilers, Wizards also revealed the mechanics featured in the set. As usual, Magic’s latest set features an eclectic mix of new and old, so there’s plenty to be excited about!
Kicking Things off Right
To get things started on the right foot, Kicker is coming back to Magic: the Gathering. First appearing in Invasion block, and most recently in Zendikar Rising, Kicker allows a player to pay an additional cost on a spell for additional effects. In Dominaria United, this mechanic is given a slight twist, showing the plane banding together against Phyrexia. Unlike in Zendikar Rising, in which Kicker costs were typically colorless or in the color of the card, Dominaria United has kicker costs from across the color pie.
On Archangel of Wrath, for instance, the Kicker cost can be paid for in black and/or red. Players can deal two damage to any target for each of these costs paid. This effect is more potent than usual on Archangel of Wrath thanks to its Lifelink, which will cause you to gain life for damage dealt.
Banding Is Back… Almost!
Introduced in Alpha, Banding is an absolute mess of a mechanic. While new modern mechanics such as Stickers and Spellbooks get a lot of complaints, few mechanics are as wild as Banding. In theory, Banding should be a relatively simple mechanic that allows creatures to come together to attack as a group. In practice, however, Banding was often a headache and subsequently left behind by Magic’s designers. Thankfully, Banding isn’t actually coming back to Magic in earnest for Dominaria United. Instead, Dominaria United is getting a new mechanic, which is a twist on the old favorite.
Dominaria United’s new mechanic, Enlist, is a whole lot simpler than what came before it. In its simplest form, Enlist allows an attacking creature to tap a nonattacking creature you control to add its power to the creature until end of turn. Essentially allowing one creature to attack with the force of two, Enlist seems incredibly powerful to punch through an opponent’s larger threats.
For better or worse, Enlist does come with a few caveats of its own. It wouldn’t be a new take on Banding without it, truthfully. First off, as we briefly mentioned before, the Enlisted creature can’t be attacking, so you can’t pull off any fancy tricks with Vigilance. Additionally, you can’t Enlist a creature that has summoning sickness. Aside from those caveats, however, you have free reign to Enlist as you please.
Sagas Get a Makeover!
First appearing in 2018’s Dominaria, Sagas have grown to become somewhat of a fan favorite across their handful of appearances. Most recently, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty transformed Sagas into double-faced creatures, providing a new twist to the established mechanic. Now, in Dominaria United, Sagas are once again getting another shakeup through a new mechanic, Read Ahead.
Appearing on Dominaria United’s Sagas, Read Ahead allows a player to start a Saga with any amount of Lore counters. This will enable players to skip over a Saga’s chapters to get to their desired effect. For instance, in the new Saga The Phasing of Zhalfir, blue players can Read Ahead right to the third chapter to destroy all creatures. As you might expect, the effects from the Saga’s skipped chapters won’t activate when using Read Ahead.
Currently, Read Ahead only appears on three Sagas, although, admittedly, this is every Saga spoiled so far. It’s currently unclear if the mechanic will appear in future sets or if there will be a spell that gives all Sagas Read Ahead.
As the source of the mana, you need to cast all your spells; land always matters in MTG. In Dominaria United, however, land matters even more than usual! This is thanks to the return of the Invasion mechanic, Domain. Last seen outside of supplemental sets in Conflux, Domain’s return has certainly been a long time coming. Now that it’s here, we can expect to see a lot more five-color good stuff going around.
If you’ve not heard of it before, Domain cares about the number of basic land types that you control. For example, Territorial Maro’s power and toughness are twice the number of basic land types you control. Along with the new Commander Planeswalker Jared Carthalion, this encourages you to get very adventurous with your land choices.
It’s important to note, however, that non-basic lands don’t always feature the basic land subtype. Dominaria United’s new pain lands, for instance, don’t feature the basic land subtype. Meanwhile, Ravnica shock lands such as Temple Garden feature both primary land subtypes, subsequently counting for Domain twice.
Dominaria United Commander also features the Desertwalk mechanic to make land matter even more. Appearing on Hazezon, Shaper of Sand, it’s currently unclear how many Desertwalk cards, or Deserts, there will be. Nevertheless, Desertwalk is a land matters mechanic making a return, even if it is only partially.
A New Counter!
Alongside its returning and reimagined mechanics, Dominaria United is also getting something entirely new… ish. Stun Counters are a new way to keep creatures tapped in Magic: the Gathering. Like the tried and true, “this creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s untap step,” Stun Counters prevent a permanent from becoming untapped. Rather than permanently debilitating a permanent, however, a Stun Counter gets removed upon a player’s untap step. This makes Stun Counters more of a ticking clock rather than an outright shutdown.
Unlike the other mechanics introduced in Dominaria United, Stun Counters may be sticking around. In their vast teaser post for Dominaria United, Magic’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, revealed that Magic is getting “a new evergreen counter.” Stun Counters have not yet been officially announced as this counter. However, it appears there are no other mechanical counters in the set thus far. Wizards have also stated themselves that “ you’ll see them [Stun Counters] here and there in future sets as well.”
A Few Missing Features
For better or worse, it appears that Dominaria United is missing a few fan-favorite mechanics. In the leadup to Dominaria United, when the Phyrexian Invasion was a pipe dream and not a reality, there was plenty of speculation around the return of Phyrexian mechanics. However, it appears that these mechanics are surprisingly absent in the set. Instead of seeing the total return of Infect and Phyrexian mana in Standard, players instead have new takes on these mechanics to enjoy.
First appearing in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, Comlpeated is back as a Planeswalker-specific mechanic. Currently spoiled on the crushingly lore-rich Ajani, Sleeper Agent Compleated is a Phyrexian Mana variant that comes with an extra drawback. Alongside costing two life for the alternate cost, being Compleated also makes the Planeswalker enter the battlefield with a fewer number of Loyalty counters.
While it doesn’t have the Phyrexian Mana name, a similar mechanic appears across a cycle of cards in Dominaria United. Defiler of Dreams allows you to pay two life to reduce the blue mana casting cost of spells. This gives players a taste of Phyrexian Mana on every blue spell, however only for so long as Defiler of Dreams sticks around.
Ultimately, the lack of Phyrexian Mana and Infect in Dominaria United shouldn’t end the world. Facsimiles exist from Ajani, Sleeper Agent’s Poison counters, and Defiler of Dreams’s Phyexian Mana-esque replacement, after all. There’s also the possibility of their return in the future as Magic is headed into the Phyrexian arc throughout 2023.