Dominaria was Magic: The Gathering’s first setting, and remained central to its early storylines—like the epic saga dealing with an invasion of mutant abominations of metal and flesh called Phyrexians, who were repulsed when Dominaria’s various peoples came together as the Coalition and defeated Yawgmoth, the man-turned-god responsible for creating the Phyrexians.
The upcoming Dominaria United (opens in new tab) set returns to the plane, finding it in need of heroes again. The Phyrexians are coming back, and their sleeper agents are already hidden among the factions of Dominaria. It’s the beginning of a storyline that will continue over several future sets: The Brothers’ War in November, and next year’s Phyrexia: All Will Be One and March of the Machine.
We previously had a look at Dominaria United’s mechanics, including the return of Kicker (which lets you spend more mana to power-up spells) and Domain (which modifies effects based on how many different basic land types you control, ensuring multi-color decks pay off). New mechanics include Read Ahead, for skipping chapters in multi-stage Saga cards, and Enlist, which lets you boost the power of one creature by tapping another that isn’t attacking (and isn’t suffering from summoning sickness).
Enlist is essentially an updated and simplified version of Banding, an old keyword that hasn’t been used for years. It’s appropriate that it returns in Dominaria United, which is all about bringing back old Magic, including cards from 1994 in some Collector’s booster packs. Banding was interesting but needlessly complex (I remember being confused by how it worked in the videogame Shandalar), and Enlist seems like a much more straightforward application of it.
Enlist appears on the Dominaria United card we’ve been given by Wizards of the Coast to share: Coalition Skyknight. A 2/2 white creature with Flying, its artwork depicts a lance-wielding human on the back of a falcon-like giant bird called an aesthir. It’s reminiscent of the Kjeldoran Skyknight and Kjeldoran Skycaptain from the Ice Age expansion back in 1995—both of which had banding, would you look at that.
(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)
Another card with Enlist we’ve seen from Dominaria United, the Guardian of New Benalia, is also a reference to old cards with Banding—Benalish Hero and Benalish Infantry. Other throwbacks in the set include Territorial Maro, a variation on the nature spirit Maro who first appeared in 1996’s Mirage expansion, and some returning iconic planeswalkers, like the necromancer Liliana of the Veil and burly lion-man Ajani Goldmane. Not all of them remain the same, however. Though Liliana is a reprint that will bring her back into standard, Ajani returns in modified form as one of the Phyrexian sleeper agents, as seen in the teaser video (opens in new tab).
Dominaria United will arrive in Magic: The Gathering Arena on September 1, and physical cards will be available from September 9, with prerelease events beginning September 2. For more information, check out the Dominaria United webpage (opens in new tab). Something a bit further off to look forward to is the Lord of the Rings crossover scheduled for 2023, which will be coming to Magic Arena as well as its paper incarnation.