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.)
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Ajani does two things I like quite a bit. First of all, he adds two counters, putting +2/+2 worth of haste pressure on the opponent (assuming that you have some creatures to begin with). Second, he brings back a creature, making the play of Ajani -> creature a threatening one even if they deal with Ajani. The capability for card advantage and the ability to pressure the opponent makes Ajani a solid aggressive planeswalker, and the kind of card that punishes control and can break open stalled boards. This isn’t Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but it’s no house cat either. Look for this in WW-style decks, and watch it play especially nicely with Knight of Malice/Glory.
Ajani’s Last Stand
Casting this for its effect isn’t worth getting out of bed, but discarding this can be. If something like Nicol Bolas (the 4-drop) becomes popular, this is a way to abuse the fact that the opponent is making you discard.
This continues to be a solid part of a niche deck in Modern, though reprinting it doesn’t really open any doors.
Wraths are pretty medium right now, because so many of the threats are Vehicles and planeswalkers. Additionally, the white decks are the ones playing artifacts and enchantments at a high rate, so blowing all those up doesn’t exactly sweeten the deal.
I’m going to cast this out of Constructed, but I figured that it was worth mentioning because it looks like the kind of card that’s playable.
Invoke the Divine
This continues to be a marginal sideboard card, and is still behind Forsake the Worldly.
Now that Deathrite Shaman is banned in Legacy, I’m not sure this has much appeal. It would take a mighty strange Standard format for it to see play, and we aren’t there in older formats either.
Lena, Selfless Champion
As I said, sweepers are pretty weak right now, so Lena loses a bit of appeal. She does present a lot of power, but 6 mana is so much in Constructed. It’s hard to justify playing her, but I like the spirit—an army in a can with built-in protection is a good recipe.
If this ability was always on, we’d have a card on our hands. Sadly, it takes a lot of herding cats to get it to function, which makes it too unreliable for the level of payoff you get.
This is the kind of card that never actually gets there—a 4-mana creature that must attack to provide value (R.I.P. Hero of Bladehold, the one time the plan worked). Leonin Warleader packs a huge punch, so maybe you can utilize this in matchups where the opponent isn’t easily able to kill a 4/4. If you get a hit in, this should lead you to victory.
Mentor of the Meek
This is my second-favorite Mentor, second only to one that isn’t quite so meek. I love this card, and think it’s a really neat build-around. It’s a little slow, but if you can play 1-2 creatures a turn it does snowball. It fits perfectly with Oketra’s Monument, as both abilities are insane with Mentor, so that’s definitely where I’d start.
Despite disliking people who toot their own horns, I have to admit that the Bugler has some game. In Constructed, you can easily build a deck that hits almost all the time, and a 2/3 for 3 that draws you a card with selection is not bad at all. This fits nicely with Mentor of the Meek, and there could be a nice combo/aggro deck brewing.
As far as graveyard hate goes, this is pretty free to play. A 2/1 flyer for 2 is a deal some decks will be interested in, and you get the Tormod’s Crypt ability basically as a bonus. It’s not dedicated hate, but getting that option at low cost is how good interactions and counterplay sneak into Constructed.
Resplendent Angel isn’t too far from Constructed on its own merits, but I think it’ll need a little push to make it. If there is a reliable way to gain 5 life the turn you play this, you could have some action on your hands, because waiting a turn and sinking 6 mana into this is unlikely to pan out. I’d look for a life gain deck and see if this slots in, as the ability is appealing and the card is powerful enough to do some work to enable it.
Renewed Faith does this better, as 2 life plus a card or 6 life is a better range than 3 life plus a card. Still, it’s good to have options, and this does crush Renewed Faith in the picture category.
The main problem with this against red is that they just won’t target it, and at that point you’ve overpaid for a 2/3. The classic way to lose to red decks is to side in cards like this while they side in Chandras and Glorybringers, so make sure that your deck is capable of winning the long game even with cards like this running around. I do like this more out of U/W Control than a creature deck because it does buy you some time. It’s no Kitchen Finks, but what is?
Ah, another elegant solution card, this time with energy in its sights. Well, energy got banned a while ago, so this particular cleansing solution is going back under the sink. The abilities here are fine, but really specific, and I don’t believe the conditions are right for them.
Top 3 White Cards
White has a theme going, and it involves small creatures. That’s a fine place to be, as white has been low on that lately, but it does mean that most current white decks aren’t getting a lot of love.