Back for my third edition of Core Set 2019 pick 1 pack 1. Thanks for all the great feedback on the first two. I still think Electrify and Shock are very close. Electrify is a better card for 4 mana than Shock is for 1 mana in this format. But there are a lot more good options at 4 mana than for 2-or-less, so sometimes I take Shock if it fits my curve better. Pick 1 pack 1 though, I would take Electrify over Shock now for sure. I still see bigger flyers as the most important targets to be able to kill and as high picks.
I’m a huge fan of Volcanic Dragon, Horizon Scholar, and Herald of Faith. Lich’s Caress is still the best common by a wide margin. The life helps you hold on to it longer and survive, before or after you cast it. Black is also a very controlling color in this format. I see blue as the most controlling, black second, green is rampy big stuff, white is aggro go-wide, and red is straight aggression. Decks will do different things based on the 2-color pair, but U/B seems like the most controlling/late game-oriented deck and Boros the most aggressive. This means that sticking gain 3 life on a powerful black removal spell is very valuable because your black deck will often have a better late game than the opponent’s.
The last thing I want to mention before I get to five new packs is Dryad Greenseeker. Please draft this card. I’ve been getting them very late on Magic Online and this card is a 1st pick. It’s the best uncommon in the set. 3 toughness is a reasonable blocker for 2 mana and it taps to draw a card a little over 40 percent of the time. If you play it turn 2 and it lives, you are probably like 80 percent to win the game.
Okay, let’s crack some new packs.
I don’t mind that this card is two colors. In M19, all of the color combinations are draftable and sharing one color with a neighbor isn’t a huge deal. This is a fantastic split card. Accelerators are good early and near worthless late. Unless they turn into a 5/5 flying Dragon, of course, in which case they are great late. Cards that are good in any portion of a Limited game are generally very good, and this is no exception. I love starting a Draft with this card and prioritizing ramp, removal, and Dragons.
Honorable Mention: Star-Crowned Stag
This is an early pick that I’m much less happy with than the Draconic Disciple. It’s a good card in white aggro decks but not a great card in more midrange white decks like B/W. I still almost never cut it, though. Sometimes your opponent is trying to block, and this card can make that very difficult. You can always just trade it off in games where you’re on the defensive. It’s a good white card, but a bad first or second pick. I see this card as more of fourth or fifth pick in terms of value.
I’m a huge fan of this rare. Green decks are generally full of big creatures that can take out the opponent’s best. I don’t like or even always play Centaur Courser, but Daggerback Basilisk is very good and I usually have multiple copies. The Basilisk can also kill any creature when it comes into play off the Invocation. That makes this card the exact kind of 7-mana card I like. It catches you up from behind by killing a creature, gives you a blocker immediately, and it is an almost guaranteed 2-for-1. Green has two different ramp commons in Druid of the Cowl and Elvish Rejuvenator that I usually play. So getting up to 7 mana to cast this quickly shouldn’t be a problem.
Honorable Mention: Reclamation Sage
Another card that has 2-for-1 written all over it. With the artifact and Aura subthemes in this set, Luminous Bonds, and Dwindle, it is not hard to kill a meaningful enchantment or artifact out of almost any deck, every game. The 2/1 body isn’t great, but it’s still one you can slap an Aura on or equip. I don’t consider Reclamation Sage a great first pick like Vivien’s Invocation. It is closer to the next best cards in this pack, Surge Mare and Rabid Bite, than it is to Invocation, but it’s still my second choice out of this pack.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Please stop making good hexproof creatures. This card ruins a lot of good games. I like a lot of the pump and combat tricks in this format, especially green’s Titanic Growth. If you start with Vine Mare, draft these much more aggressively than normal. If you can play Vine Mare turn 4 (or possibly even turn 3 with a turn-2 Druid) and attack with it every turn, you are almost always going to win the game.
If you can Knightly Valor it that’s great, but don’t fill your deck with Auras you wouldn’t normally play just because you have Vine Mare. I’d much rather use the good combat tricks to clear past the opponent’s couple of creatures that can stop it. You can look for more utility creatures like Skyscanner and Elvish Rejuvenator so that you have more good targets for your Oakenform than just Vine Mare, and then when you assemble the two together, you are probably going to win. It is important to remember that if you have one copy of a card, you won’t draw it in even half your games. So don’t play cards that are bad when you don’t draw it. But if you can make those cards good by drafting other effects they work well with, then you have drafted a pre-con—and your opponent will not be having any fun.
Honorable Mention: Liliana’s Contract
Drawing four cards is nice, but losing 4 life isn’t. If you start with this card, prioritize good cheap removal, blockers, and gain life effects. This requires a little work, but four is a lot of cards. On average, Contract is going to put you ahead by one to two “real” cards on the opponent (not counting lands). That’s a big advantage in a game of Limited, so don’t be scared to draft this card aggressively. I like it most in controlling U/B and U/W decks. It’s still very good in R/B. It’s at its weakest in G/B, but I would still never cut it.
This rare is fantastic. It auto wins any late game. The opponent must kill Archaeologist or you very quickly, or you will win. You aren’t going to attack or block with it, so I try not to play it until I have 7 mana in my land-heavy hands. If I don’t expect to make land drops until 7, then I’ll play it early so that I can use it turn 5.
Drawing two extra cards when they kill it can be the difference between winning or losing, and like I said, it’s not going to do much attacking or blocking anyway. You’re not playing it early to have a 2/1 in play, but so that you can use it when you have 5 mana. Sometimes against an aggressive deck you may want to play it and trade it off because your deck has ways to recur it or a much better late game than the opponent. But unless you are looking to trade this off, play it when you would play an enchantment with its ability that could die to every creature removal spell.
Honorable Mention: Luminous Bonds
I think a good Boros Aggro deck can take Angel of the Dawn over Luminous Bonds, but this is pick 1 pack 1. You don’t know where you are going to end up, but you know Luminous Bonds is a great card in any deck. It’s even easy to splash with the common dual lands and one Manalith in a blue or green deck. As I mentioned in the intro, big flyers do magnificent work in M19 and that means that dealing with them is very valuable. I’m not big on the small situational removal in this format but I love Lich’s Caress and Luminous Bonds.
As I mentioned earlier with Draconic Disciple, I don’t mind first picking gold cards in this format. This card is incredibly powerful. Reach and deathtouch give it the ability to trade with a big flyer or blank multiple small ones. It’s a walking removal spell that you can bring back with Waltz to cast again. It also breaks stalemates wide open with its pinging ability, and sometimes wins you a game you would have lost, where the opponent stabilized under 10.
This is another fitting example of a card that is always good in any stage of the game. Turn 4, it brickwalls small creatures. Late game, it can single-handedly kill the opponent if they are low or the board is cluttered. Otherwise, it can just trade up with a big flyer or 6/6 ground creature if the board isn’t cluttered. I love cards that always perform well.
Honorable Mention: Departed Deckhand
Forgot about this card’s drawback. All it means is that you can’t put an Aura on it or they can occasionally kill it with a pump spell. That’s a negative but no big deal. This format isn’t incredibly fast, and there are very few Spirits. A 2-mana 2/2 unblockable is tough to beat when it lives. A 2-mana 2/2 unblockable that lets you pay 4 to make your biggest creature unblockable and hit them for a lot of damage on the last turn is near impossible to beat. The only thing that makes this card not amazing is that it’s blue, which isn’t very aggressive in this format. Try and draft blue as your support color for a red, green, or white creature deck when you start with this card. You see what you see—you can’t control that. This card is incredible in a Boggart Brute aggressive deck but merely good in an Omenspeaker/Essence Scatter control deck.
M19 is a set where the commons aren’t great and the rares are, so finding interesting packs to use for these hasn’t been the easiest. What do you think about the decisions? Let me know not only what you agreed and disagreed with but what was not close and not worthwhile. I tried to mostly focus on how to best use the cards taken and not explain why they are good this time. The cards in Core Set 2019 tend to be a little more vanilla and less dependent on their interactions to gain value. All the decks in this format can have very different levels of aggression and the ability to win the late game through power or card advantage.