M14: Domestication

Like most Control Magic effects, Domestication is obviously a very good card. Normally, such effects are better than normal removal spells because they not only neutralize an opposing creature, but add a creature to your side and thereby provide card advantage (a 2-for-1) unless the enchantment is removed. However, M14 has a lot of Auras that increase a creature’s power, so the goal of this post is to determine whether Domestication is exceptional or just playable in M14 drafts so we know whether to pick it over Pacifism or Quag Sickness, for instance.

Let’s start by referring to the spreadsheet I’d previously created with a breakdown of all creatures by power and toughness. Of the must-kill creatures in M14, all 8 commons, 4 of the 6 uncommons, 13 of the 15 rares, and 1 of the 2 mythics have power <= 3, so Domestication can handle about 90% of the must-kill creatures in a typical draft (accounting for rarity). Of the flyers in M14, all 10 commons, 2 of the 5 uncommons, 4 of the 7 rares, and 1 of the 3 mythics have power <= 3, so Domestication can handle about 84% of the flyers in a typical draft.

Those are pretty good numbers, but we need to also account for effects that increase a creature's power. Since Domestication checks the enchanted creature's power at the beginning of the controller's end step, instant-speed pump spells (and some Auras like Blessing where the creature doesn't receive any benefits until you choose) are very effective against Domestication since you can pump the creature after its controller's combat step. Auras that increase a creature's power and sorceries that add +1/+1 counters are also quite effective; while they give your opponent a turn to attack with the enhanced creature, the enchantment remains when you get the creature back, so you've dealt with the Domestication without spending a card. Finally, certain spells are ineffective against Domestication: spells like Fortify and Ranger's Guile that only pump creatures you control work only if cast in response to Domestication and so cannot be relied upon to neutralize it, and sorcery-speed temporary pump spells like Enlarge don't work at all (unless used with Quicken) since the creature's power returns to its original value before your opponent's turn.

That means there are 14 spells that can effectively deal with Domestication even after you no longer control the creature:

  • White: Show of Valor (common), Divine Favor (common), Blessing (uncommon), Ajani Caller of the Pride (mythic)
  • Blue: Illusionary Armor (uncommon)
  • Black: Dark Favor (common), Mark of the Vampire (common)
  • Red: Thunder Strike (common), Lightning Talons (common), Shiv’s Embrace (uncommon)
  • Green: Giant Growth (common), Trollhide (common), Briarpack Alpha (uncommon), Oath of the Ancient Wood (rare)

So white, red, and green have the most number of effective ways to deal with Domestication. Not including the unplayable Oath of the Ancient Wood, there are 8 commons, 4 uncommons, and 1 mythic in the list, so a typical draft will have 24 spells that can potentially combat Domestication. That’s a lot of maindeck-playable answers to Domestication (an average of 3 per player) before we even account for Solemn Offering and Naturalize. While these spells won’t always increase a creature’s power to 4 or more, they will do it often enough for creatures that matter, so Domestication isn’t guaranteed to stick around even if you do have a good target.

In addition, black has a number of sacrifice effects that can turn Domestication into “just” a removal spell (Blood Bairn and Altar’s Reap at common, and Vampire Warlord and Gnawing Zombie at uncommon). Blue has Disperse which can be used after the fact without incurring card disadvantage. And while Ranger’s Guile has to be used in response to Domestication, it only costs one mana.

None of this means that you should not draft or play Domestication, but based on the analysis above I would rate it playable instead of exceptional, and would take Pacificm or Quag Sickness over it early in a draft; while they’re less likely to have as large an impact on the board state, they’re more likely to deal with a creature permanently. If you are playing Domestication and your opponent knows that, they can save their pump effects to deal with it, and side in additional pump effects and enchantment removal, so you might also considering siding it out, especially if you don’t have other enchantment or artifact targets (all enchantment removal in M14 also hits artifacts).

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