Previous Core Set 2019 Reviews
Let’s take a look at the grading scale, with the usual caveat that what I write about the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade.
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
Paying 4 mana for 3 cards is a bloody good deal. Having to sacrifice a creature is significantly less so. The fact that it puts you behind on board is pretty close to a deal breaker, as you’d need a deck that is full of creatures you want to sacrifice before this makes the cut.
A recurring 5/4 flyer is appealing, and Constructed decks are able to fill their graveyard easily enough. My main concern here is that a vanilla 5-drop is such a tempo sink, and when this gets countered or killed, you might be too far behind even when you can return this. Where it has the most promise is as a way to get a threat from your graveyard in a deck that self-mills or discards, as it is a threat that doesn’t require you to actually draw it. This could also be a sideboard card against decks that don’t kill via exile, as it can beat a lot of Terminates but not very many Cast Outs.
Apparently, Zombies just needed some royalty to rise from the grave and become a deck again. Death Baron pumps your squad and makes them kill anything in combat, which helps against high-toughness blockers. This didn’t make much of a splash last time it was in Standard, but it looks pretty solid this time around.
Demon of Catastrophes
The stats-to-cost ratio is good enough here that I’m willing to do some work, and this plays nicely with a lot of different black cards. It pays you off for playing sacrifice fodder, and doesn’t eat anything if you were to bring it back from the dead (with something like The Scarab God, for example). I also like this as a sideboard card against decks without unconditional removal, as 6/6 is a lot of stats.
Black frequently gets 1-mana 2/2s of a relevant tribe, and they are always playable. Vampire Lacerator and previous printings of Diregraf Ghoul can attest to that, and the Zombie tribe is quite happy to accept another member (assuming that Zombies have feelings).
Constructed: 2.0 // 4.0
This is an all-time great sideboard card, but rarely makes it into main decks. If the format becomes particularly planeswalker-heavy, it might get there, but either way I’m glad to have it around.
Constructed: 1.0 // ???
Cards this weird are worth keeping an eye on, as this effect is powerful, if unwieldy. My guess is that it’s best to keep it to 2HG, where it draws the game, but it is funny to think about. The life loss is the worst part, as my first inclination is to use this as a pseudo-wrath in a control deck, and those decks do not want to lose half their life.
Zombies is the real deal, and getting no less than four relevant cards in this set is a huge boon to them. Graveyard Marshal is a cheap threat that is good on turn 2 or turn 5, and that’s excellent for an aggro deck that needs late-game action. This attacks well and can come with friends, making it the exact kind of card decks need to excel.
This is an enticing sideboard card for older formats, where Thought-Knot Seer and Arcbound Ravager roam, though those are the exact formats where sideboard space is at a premium. I like the effect this provides, but you’d have to expect a ton of colorless decks before you could justify running it. I also don’t like that it runs into Chalice of the Void on 1, which is a common play that Eldrazi decks already like to make.
Isareth the Awakener
Getting a 3-drop to survive until it can attack is a feat, so I’m not overly high on Isareth. She brawls well and puts you up a card if she does get a hit in, so look for decks like mono-green to be popular if you want to try using her.
Liliana, Untouched by Death
I’m a big fan of Liliana’s power level, even if she comes with some specific demands. Well, just one—play lots of Zombies. Assuming that your deck has a ton of them, she acts as The Abyss and Yawgmoth’s Will all in one.
OK, maybe that’s an ambitious slew of cards, but she does provide a steady stream of Zombies and removal, with some bonus life loss on top. I suspect she will be a solid 1- to 2-of in Zombie decks, and matchups may shake out where she ends up being a 3- to 4-of as well.
Tidings is one of my favorite cards, and I’ve even got a funny story about it. I initially didn’t think much of Tidings’ Constructed prospects, and proxied one as a Force of Will, writing such on the front of the card. It then became a 5-dollar uncommon, and my roommate at the time, Eirik, was forced to play with that Tidings at Regionals. I loved it.
In any case, this looks like a sideboard card if you really need card draw and don’t care about life loss. That could definitely come up, unlike the Demon clause, which really won’t.
Whenever this gets reprinted, it shows up in small numbers as a way to fill out removal suites. At 1BB and with no frills, it’s not usually going to be the staple removal spell (especially not with Fatal Push to compete with), but it’s a good card to have access to. I wouldn’t say that it’s gonna kill it in Standard, but it does help Torrential Gearhulk have more friends to play with.
The fact that this is a plausible sideboard card really highlights how obscene Goblin Chainwhirler is. Plague Mare is a good card to keep in mind, though the success of the aforementioned Goblin is going to suppress the decks Mare is good against.
This looks like it will be in demand for older formats, as those are the ones with powerful graveyard synergies. This is cheap, a Zombie, and can mill 6 cards for 1 mana. That makes it desirable for various nonsense decks, and I bet we see this one pop up in a few different places in Modern and Legacy.
Top 3 Black Cards
Black got some action, though it’s almost all Zombie-related. They are once again a tribe to be reckoned with in Standard, and Stitcher’s Supplier is a nice pickup for a variety of decks. Black is likely the winner in M19, as getting four different good Zombie cards is way better than what other colors get.