Kicker is one of the classic mechanics of Magic: the Gathering. It debuted with Invasion block, and since then has spawned an entire family of mechanics. Dominaria is the fourth block/set to use it in the original form, but it’s progeny have shown up everywhere from Tooth and Nail on Mirrodin to Mizzium Mortars on Ravnica. It’s nice to see the original version take another turn in the spotlight.

I am a big fan of kicker in Limited. It’s a modular mechanic, effectively turning a card into a split card: you have two options in one. The parallel is most clear on spells like Burst Lightning, but the most common use of kicker on creatures is to give extra power and toughness for extra mana. Think of it like a conditional X—get the basic deal for cheap, or sink more mana into extra value if you draw it late.

Most of the time, you want to play your kicker creatures on curve, and use your kicker spells most efficiently. Yes, paying two extra mana to draw a card is worth going for if you can—Blink of an Eye is the new version of Into the Roil, which was quite the spell. This is a debate as old as Jilt and as revered as Mulldrifter. Mostly you should do what you need to do when you need to do it, and get value when you can. Don’t skip a spot on your curve to save up a sweet kicker effect, but feel free to play a different three drop and save your kicker creature for later.

Here are five interesting kicker creatures, mostly at common, that I look forward to drafting and testing in Dominaria Limited.

Thraben Purebloods is Shuhei Nakamura’s Invitational card. Most of us mortals get less value out of vanilla five-mana 3/5s, but the body and cost has always been undervalued in draft. Even when this body isn’t that good, it still blocks well and can wheel around the table. Bad five drops are kind of secretly good because the difference between them and the good five drops tends to be small. Which is to say, I’m already on board for the “cheap” version of Excavation Elephant.

Getting back an artifact for seven mana seems like a steal to me. If Dominaria is so fast that you can’t win casting Thraben Purebloods, then you won’t kick this anyway. But there are a number of useful artifacts in the set. Grindy white decks love this kind of effect. Maybe the elephants end up sideboard fodder, but I am hoping they turn out to be good.

Wind Drake has really taken a dive lately. It was unplayable in Kaladesh draft. More generally, draft creatures are too efficient and too hard to block already, meaning it’s not worth paying an entire mana to give your 2/2 permanent flying. Small fliers haven’t been great in control decks, and have mostly slotted into Azorius fliers archetypes. Welkin Tern is better because it costs less and you can’t really block anyway.

That said, Academy Drake is miles better than Wind Drake. It is strictly better, I suppose—unless you lose because you held it to kick instead of winning with a ten-turn clock on turn three. The kicked version, a 4/4 flier, is almost universally good in Limited, assuming you can cast it. My old buddy Venerable Lammasu was a seven-mana 5/4, but you take what you can get. Seven-mana 4/4 fliers are great in a slow, removal-heavy deck that needs a way to eventually win. Taking up the same card slot as a random three-drop is valuable.

Some decks love value one drops. A 1/1 menace is useful if you have equipment and such. Dominaria doesn’t have raid or other attack synergies, but it does have equipment and some strong auras like Dub and Arcane Flight. I think you will mostly want to play this as a four-mana 3/ menace, because that’s a good card. But the ability to drop this turn one makes this very flexible. Then again, maybe it means the aggro aura drafters will never pass these your way. We shall see.

Three-power haste creatures are already a headache in Limited. Keldon Overseer is easy enough to block—compared to a powerhouse like Ahn-Crop Crasher—but its existence at common skews your “will I survive to untap again” calculus against red decks. The kicker effect here is backbreaking. If the format is fast enough, this will probably end a lot of games on turn six.

As a common, a deck could have three or four, which sets up some fun mind games. Slam an unkicked Keldon Overseer, see your opponent sigh in relief that at least you didn’t tack on the Act of Treason. Joke’s on them because you have two more in hand. The design on this card is impressive. Act of Treason is a situationally powerful card, and a 3/1 haste in red is filler. Slap them together and you can’t go wrong!

I realize Untamed Kavu is uncommon, but holy cow is this card pushed. Is it in the same category as Ridgescale Tusker? It might be, especially if you care about playing good two drops. Maybe it’s more akin to Longtusk Cub, but this is great company regardless. Grizzly Bears sure have grown up.

Also note that these creatures leverage bounce effects. There are ways to pick up your own permanents, as well as the usual blue bounce spells that opponents will use to disrupt your aggression. Take advantage of that!

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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