Dominaria is almost here, and it brings with it an almost unprecedented focus on both legendary creatures and the lore of the game. In order to make this theme work the number of legendary creatures in the set was more than quadrupled. The previous large set, Ixalan, had seven legendary creatures. Before that Amhonket had nine. As I’m writing this, Dominaria has thirty-nine Legends previewed, not counting Planeswalkers or other types of Legendary spells.

In order to make this work, many legendary creatures are being printed at uncommon, something that they haven’t done since the poorly received Kamigawa  block. This presents the question: what exactly does it mean for a legend to be uncommon?

First of all, the idea of legends appearing at different rarities has always been a bit silly. If rarity serves as a rough measure of how many examples there are of the creature/artifact/spell in a particular world, and legendary cards represent specific individuals and events, then they should always appear at the highest rarity. This is the path taken by many other trading card games, but Magic has always been happy to split them between rare and mythic.

Only two-thirds of Dominaria has been revealed as I’m writing this, but I think we’ve seen enough of the set to draw some conclusions about what does and doesn’t impact the rarity of characters.

Rarity is not a reflection of storyline importance.

This is an important one. If you’d asked me a month ago to speculate on which legends would be relegated to uncommon, my first metric would’ve been “anyone who will only be getting a brief appearance in the set’s story and/or doesn’t feature in the short stories at all.” (I guarantee there will be some. We’re looking at 40+ characters and 12 stories. Someone will be left out.) But looking at it now, that just isn’t the case.

A third of the way into the block’s story, it looks like we’re going to be primarily focusing on The Weahterlight as Jhoira and her crew travel around the world fighting the cabal and gathering crew members. We currently have five (kind of six) crew members confirmed. Jhoira herself at mythic rare, Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage, Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy, Aravad the Cursed, and Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker. (Six if you count Slimefoot the Stowaway, who’s been hinted at but not full revealed in-story.)

Aside from Jhoira, Every crew member of the Weatherlight is Uncommon. All of them will be getting massive exposure as some of the most important characters in the Dominaria arc. Tiana’s already gotten an entire story written from her point of view. That’s awesome, because it means that we as players are more likely to care about the characters that, on the face of things, easily could’ve been forgotten entirely.

Rarity is a reflection of historical importance.

It’s possible I’m missing someone due to my limited knowledge of older sets, but as far as I’ve been able to figure out not a single character that had been named in any piece of magic lore before the release of Dominaria is appearing at uncommon. Even Squee made it to rare. That actually makes a lot of sense in a set that’s this obsessed about its own history, where what you’ve done in the past heavily influences how the world views you. We see Jhoira getting deferential treatment and respect everywhere she goes just by mentioning her name, while Shanna and Raff get noticed more or less solely because of their ancestors. There are plenty of other uncommons with titles that specifically make them as descendants or disciples of famous legends from the past.

There are new characters that appear at rare and even mythic for reasons that I’ll get to in a second, but as a general rule the more a character’s had happen to them in the past, the more likely they are to be at a higher rarity. (I’m talking in terms of likelyhoods because if this metric was all that mattered, Jodah would most definitely be rare.)

The uncommons aren’t just there for limited.

This is still primarily a Commander column, so let’s talk about Commander for a moment. Most of us are probably used to skipping right to the rares and mythics when looking for cards for the hundred-card format, but I’m surprised by how so many of the uncommon legends aren’t just viable—they’re incredibly strong build around cards that scale well to Commander without breaking Limited.

Raff Capashen is the most insane Shimmer Myr I never would’ve thought of, and he goes in the command zone. That’s an effect I thought I’d never see on a commander, and yet he does so much more by granting flash to all legendary spells. Slimefoot the Stowaway has some incredibly fun potential and gives a powerful finisher to a tribal/token/aristocrats deck. I’ve already gone on at length about how good Baird is in a previous column, and I have a friend who’s in the process of building Valduk right now.

Full disclaimer, there’s also a lot of duds for Commander. Not every card is for us, and that’s fine. As much as I love Tiana’s character her card does not scale well to the demands of Commander. The same can be said of Rona, Shanna, and Urgoros, among others. But Wizards is batting at least fifty percent of uncommon legendaries to be decent to strong in Commander without putting undue risk on other formats. That’s impressive.

The more important you are to your people, the rarer you are.

Perhaps the clearest example of this comes from the three legendary angels that have been previewed so far. We know from last week’s story that Lyra Dawnbringer is more or less the leader of the Church of Serra, and the leader of its angelic hosts. She’s Mythic Rare. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tiana, Ships Caretaker is effectively an outcast among her people. An angel without a mission or a purpose, I get the distinct sense that she was used as an angelic letter carrier for a significant period of time before getting asked to “kindly go fetch that dead power core they dredged up out of the ocean.” As I mentioned before, she’s uncommon.

We don’t know nearly as much about Shalai, Voice of Plenty, but it think it’s a safe bet to say that she isn’t an outcast or the Angel President, but is rather something in between. And Shalai is, you guessed it, rare.

This isn’t the only place this trend shows up either. When talking about the Tolarian Colleges, Naru Meha holds the Title of “Master Wizard”—we know from Barrin that they’re in charge of the college. One step down the rarity ladder we find Naban, Dean of Iteration. Still an important position, but definitely below Naru Meha.

Demonlord Belzenlok appears at mythic rare and rules a global crime syndicate, while his general Josu Vess is relegated to rare. For that matter, the only times a title of authority appears on an uncommon legend (so far) are Grunn, the Lonely King and Baird, Steward of Argive; neither of those titles are particularly strong. Being labled as “steward” means that Baird is either a placeholder ruling Argive until a real king returns, or there’s already a monarch and he’s in charge of the day-to-day tasks that make the kingdom run smoothly. For our other example, Grunn being called the Lonely King sounds a lot like Thrun, the Last Troll in that he probably isn’t king of anything, just the last mighty member of a dying race.

Creature types matter.

This last one is probably fairly obvious, but the vast majority of uncommon legends are humanoid and mortal. Most of the more exotic creature types such as demons, elementals, avatars and the like skew upwards in rarity. Heck, we have two mythic rare dragons, despite the fact that one of them is only the descendant of someone famous. A large part of this is probably the fact that the set puts a heavy focus on history and that favors the races that are inherently immortal, but it also has to do with the fact that there’s only so many giant fliers they can put at uncommon.

Levi Byrne has been with the game since Worldwake and has a rabid love for fantasy writing that goes back decades. Despite some forays into Legacy he plays Commander almost exclusively, and has a love for the crazy plays and huge games that make Magic what it is. He was the go-to advisor of his playgroup on deck construction for more than five years before joining Dear Azami.

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