Next month, Dominaria United will take Magic: The Gathering players back to its original setting to kick off its 30th anniversary celebrations.
It’s been four years since Wizards of the Coast last took us back to Dominaria—setting of the game’s first storylines, central plane of the trading card game’s multiverse, and birthplace of many iconic characters. However, this homecoming isn’t entirely a happy one. Dominaria United will kick off a new storyline of conflict, as the Phyrexians are finally returning for revenge.
The set’s protagonist is Karn. The silver golem has been researching a way to undo the Phyrexians and atone for inadvertently causing their resurgence. Time has run out, however, as the praetor Sheoldred has brought the conflict to Dominaria, starting by turning citizens into sleeper agents. Karn will find aid from Ajani, Jaya Ballard, and Teferi—but will also find there’s a spy amidst his new coalition.
Dominaria United will be peppered with many other familiar faces, either pulled directly from the game’s history or inspired by older legends, like Braids, Greensleeves, and even the Weatherlight. Planeswalker Liliana Vess is also back on her homeworld, represented by a reprint of her notorious “Liliana of the Veil” card.
Dominaria United is not just a return from a story perspective, but in mechanics as well. Leading the pack of familiar keywords is Kicker, the classic trick that allows certain spells to be cast with a higher cost for an additional or heightened effect. This time around, many kicker abilities will have enemy-coloured costs or brancing “and/or” clauses. For instance, the new Archangel of Wrath is a white card with “Kicker B and/or R,” allowing the player to pay an additional mana of those colours; pay one of them to deal 2 damage to any target, and pay the other as well to deal 2 damage to another target.
Sagas also return with a twist. The new “Read Ahead” clause allows the caster to skip a phase of the enchantment for no additional cost. For example, the player can cast “The Phasing of Zhalfir” on its third chapter to destroy all creatures on the board immediately, instead of waiting two turns to trigger normally.
Domain rounds out the trio of Dominaria United‘s returning mechanics. This feature relies on having multiple types of basic land types on the board, as in the Territorial Maro featured above, and so should pair nicely with faction-based cards from Streets of New Capenna.
It’s not all familiar ground, though. The new Enlist mechanic allows an attacking creature to tap a comrade that isn’t attacking (so long as it doesn’t have summoning sickness) to borrow its power. As in the Guardian of New Banalia, sometimes this can also trigger an additional effect. (I can’t wait to try this out with Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty‘s Samurai.)
The love for the Commander format continues as Dominaria United will offer two premade decks for sale: “Legends’ Legacy” (WBR) and “Painbow” (WUBRG). Both feature planeswalker commanders pulled from older lore—Dihada, Binder of Wills for the former, and Jared Carthalion for the latter. Jared was the star of the mid-90s comics, and returns now with control of all five mana types to help the Coalition.
Of course, Magic‘s recent affinity for beautiful “Showcase treatment” cards continues in this set. Dominaria United features stained-glass treatments for a cycle of basic lands and for all Legendary creatures in the set. These beautiful motifs will draw upon elements of the characters’ pasts, powers, and personalities to impart a sense of mythical gravitas. There are 4 planeswalkers in the set, and while they don’t have the same art treatment, they’re still featured in front of stained-glass for their borderless variants.
More unique legends will be featured as Boxtoppers for players who purchase full boxes of booster packs. Nineteeen legends, including one planeswalker, have been reimagined for Dominaria United—and for use in Commander and Legacy formats. These will come in foil and foil-etched varieties. There are even more unique cards to be found in new Jumpstart boosters. These 20-card packs, designed to be mashed together in pairs to instantly make a deck, can include one of five brand new rares made just for this format, as well as those beautiful stained-glass lands.
As Dominaria United previews now begin in full, it seems Magic players are in for a treat along with a heavy history lesson. The set’s story is already almost told in full on the official website, but if you’re a newer player looking for a primer on the legendary characters featured, you’ll have to go digging on wikis or used book stores; at this time, Wizards of the Coast has no plans to re-release or adapt the older stories in any form.
Today’s livestream and story chapter, however, end on a sour note as the identity of the Coalition’s spy and the fate of a hero were revealed—to see for yourself, check out this excerpt of the feed, and join me and Jimmy Wong in being speechless.
Magic Arena players get the first crack at Dominaria United on September 1, ahead of physical prerelease events on September 2. The set will then be available in the usual formats—set, draft, and collector boosters, as well as Bundles—on September 9.