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: The best of the best. (Siege-Gang Commander. Lyra Dawnbringer. Icy Manipulator.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Fight with Fire. In Bolas’s Clutches. Josu Vess, Lich Knight.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Cast Down. Slimefoot the Stowaway. Adeliz, the Cinder Wind.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Eviscerate. Shivan Fire. Cloudreader Sphinx.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Blink of an Eye. Llanowar Elves. Jousting Lance.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Windgrace Acolyte. Opt. Grow from the Ashes.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Keldon Raider. Vodalian Arcanist. Dark Bargain.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Ghitu Lavarunner. Knight of New Benalia. Corrosive Ooze.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Cabal Evangel. Aesthir Glider. Arbor Armament.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Skirk Prospector. Unwind. Dub.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Shield of the Realm. Board the Weatherlight. One with Nothing.)
This is an neat finisher for aggressive blue decks—it basically guarantees one hit, and if it isn’t answered it clocks the opponent quickly. I’m glad it’s an uncommon, as the joke would get old at common. Not every deck will want this, but those that do will take it as if it were a 3.0 or 3.5—it’s situational but quite powerful.
Like Opt, this is the kind of card that will often end up on the chopping block because it doesn’t do anything. It’s a good way to spend turn 2 in a deck without low drops, and it smooths out your draws, but you won’t always have space for it. Unlike Opt in Dominaria, there isn’t a heavy spells-matter component, which is why Opt ended up being much stronger in that format. I anticipate playing this most of the time.
Aven Wind Mage
Of course, the next card I talk about cares about spells, but this really isn’t a major theme of the set. The Wind Mage is a solid card, and demonstrates its prowess best in an aggressive deck. A 2/2 flyer for 3 is a good enough deal that you don’t really need spells to justify playing this, though it becomes awesome in a spell-heavy deck.
This is a solid little common. It gets better in artifact-matters decks, but is totally acceptable to just put in your deck regardless of what else you have going on. Two bodies, one of which flies, is a great deal for 3 mana, and I’m going to be happy casting a lot of these. It combos with bounce, ways to get creatures back, and even edges into the sacrifice theme that red has going on.
Bone to Ash
Limited if the format is slow: 2.5
I’m going to start at 1.5 for this because it is a 4 mana situational counterspell. Leaving this up on turns 4-6 and having the opponent tap out for a noncreature spell can lose you the game on the spot, and if the format is fast, you often won’t have the luxury of leaving it up to begin with. That said, it’s powerful in a slow format or in slow matchups, and it definitely will have a place. I’m cool on this to start, but I have my eye on it—Bone to Ash could easily end up being a solid main deck card. I also like the card in Sealed, so you should main deck it there.
I’m less high on Cancel because the payoff isn’t there. Paying 3 mana to trade 1-for-1 isn’t a huge upside, and the risk of the opponent not playing into this or playing something mediocre is a big one. The slower the format, the better this gets, but it’s never been amazing and it’s been printed 50 times.
A nearly unblockable 2/2 for 2 is fantastic, and this even has the ability to make other creatures unblockable. It does die to a stiff breeze, but most spells that target will have killed this anyway, so I don’t see that as a huge drawback. This is great early as a clock, and great late as a way to get a ton of damage in out of nowhere. The only thing I don’t like is that it makes me keep track of which creatures are Spirits, even in games where that doesn’t seem like it is a relevant piece of information.
The fewer ways your deck has to interact, the better this becomes. It’s marginal in a deck with 3+ removal spells, but necessary in one with none. Being down a card isn’t great, but this does fight Auras, combat tricks, and can help push through damage if your deck is fast enough.
I’m not in the business of cutting Divination from my Draft decks. This smooths out your draws, puts you up a card, and is cheap enough that it fits in almost any deck. If you are very aggressive, you can cut this, but otherwise you really shouldn’t (and I’m not only saying that because I’m somewhat fond of the card).
Djinn of Wishes
Djinn of Wishes is one of my all-time favorite cards, mostly because the flavor captures three wishes so well. You are getting 3 cards, even if they aren’t exactly what you asked for, and that’s on top of a 4/4 flyer for 5. I hope you wish for something good, but even if you miss, you’ll probably be OK.
This is an odd version of Deep Freeze, but at least the creature can’t really be used to block all that well. I like including this in controlling blue decks and those with flyers, though it’s passable in blue decks that attack on the ground if you need some interaction.
The difference between 2 and 3 mana on a counterspell is huge, and that’s why Essence Scatter gets an “always play” grade and Cancel is marginal at best. It’s odd seeing this, Cancel, and Bone to Ash all here, but that doesn’t change my desire to take and play Essence Scatter.
This ability is now apparently excluded from being common, which may be for the best. Getting this at 3 mana is a rare (uncommon?) treat, and it fits into any blue deck regardless of how aggressive or controlling it is. This helps you come back when behind and really puts you ahead if you have the upper hand, so take it early and take it often.
Frilled Sea Serpent
While the name may lack flair, this card certainly doesn’t. It blocks well and can close out the game when needed, making it a card I want one of in any control deck. It’s not even the worst aggro finisher in the world, though I wouldn’t prioritize it highly.
1-drops tend to fall off a lot worse in Limited than Constructed, as your curve isn’t so tight that you get to take full advantage. This also looks to be a Constructed card for text-box reasons, and I’d recommend staying away from this unless you somehow pick up 7+ artifacts and are playing a very aggressive deck.
If you can reliably get 5 points of damage out of this and are playing an aggressive deck, I could see playing one copy of this. I’ll need to see more of the format before fully forming an opinion on such a niche card, but as-is this doesn’t impress me.
Seeing this next to Cloudreader Sphinx makes me realize how absurd of a common the Cloudreader is because Horizon Scholar was (and is) a sick uncommon bomb. I’d rather have a Cloudreader, but I’m not complaining about the Scholar, and will take and play this almost every time I see it. It’s even splashable!
There are two main reasons this card falls short for me:
- It doesn’t trigger enters the battlefield effects. Most clone cards do, as you play the creature, copy something with a sweet ETB effect, and profit. This doesn’t because the creature isn’t entering the battlefield.
- It opens you up to a 2-for-1. It’s all well and good to make something into a 4/4 flyer but if they kill it, you are down a card.
You do get the upside of getting to put this on their creature and copying something bad, but that’s not enough to make me want to put this card in my deck. It’s a strange card, and my initial impression is that it’s not a good one.
Mirror Image, on the other hand, is fine. It’s cheap enough that you’ll be able to slot it in when it’s convenient, and on average will be better than a random 3-drop. It does need a lot of creatures surrounding it—ideally good ones—but that’s a doable quest. I like the name, too—it’s very evocative, and captures this effect really well, making it basically the perfect name for this kind of effect.
A swing and a mist. This might be a plausible sideboard card against a deck with multiple cards that this hoses, but that seems like a stretch to me.
Make no Mystic, this card is awesome. It’s barely a 2-drop because you don’t really want to risk it in combat, but it can attack or block in a pinch. Mostly it wins you any game where you’ve stabilized enough to use the ability, as you’ll pull far ahead of the opponent once you start digging into your library.
I like an early blocker that is relevant at any point in the game, so this speaks my language. It helps you find your third land or avoid drawing your seventh, which is a nice range to have.
Instead of casting this, cast whatever else you have many turns earlier.
One with the Machine
Limited: 0.0 // 2.5
Most decks will be none with the machine, but a deck with 5+ artifacts that cost 3 or more might be in the market. It is highly unlikely you’ll end up there, so don’t take this unless you already have all the artifacts you need.
Now this is a build-around I can get behind. Patience is key, as it doesn’t kill the opponent very quickly, but providing a path to victory and slightly more than one extra card per turn is a powerful combination of abilities. This is perfect for a control deck, and as long as you can defend yourself (which is easier given all the extra cards), you will eventually win the game.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
The mill deck doesn’t look very strong in M19, and it doesn’t take a psychic to predict that half-milling the opponent is useless. Don’t play this unless you have a ton of support, and I’m not sure where that support would come from.
Sai, Master Thopterist
Limited: 2.0 // 3.5
The floor on Sai is pretty high, and not just because he knows how to make flying machines. A 1/4 for 3 isn’t a blank, and if you get even one Thopter off of this, you’ve come out ahead. You may not utilize the sacrifice part very often, but I’d play Sai even if I had only a few other artifacts.
Salvager of Secrets
It’s no secret that recurring removal spells is good, and creatures with this effect have always been great. This is no exception, and Salvager at common makes me think that there’s a good removal-based control deck lurking in blue that I can’t wait to delve into. Can you imagine getting back Divination with this??
Scholar of Stars
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
Don’t play this without artifacts, but treat it like an all-star if you have five or more (especially ones that stick around, like Equipment). This is a solid reward for being in an artifact deck, and something you should be able to pick up late if you’re interested.
The power of card draw should not be underestimated. There’s a huge difference between this costing 4 and a single blue and Weight of Memory costing five and double blue, which is why I am giving this a much higher grade. Sift not only pulls you ahead in the late game, it’s cheap enough to still count as draw-smoothing and can salvage your bad draws. This got moved up to uncommon for a reason.
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
Given that this is a 1/3 base, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t end up with a ton of targets. When it does hit, you’ll run away with the game quickly, and this is a solid payoff for having a couple of cheap artifacts in your deck.
Limited: 2.0 // 3.5
I’m giving this a split rating because Sleep is a consistently overvalued card, and I want the rating to reflect how it is not a bomb unless your deck is aggressive. This is a fine early pick and a real beating if your deck wants to attack, which some blue decks certainly will. But it’s quite poor in a controlling deck, and plenty of blue decks would rather just have a Sift or Divination instead. Don’t assume that this is always a bomb because sometimes it won’t be what your deck is looking for.
There’s nothing wrong with Snapping Drake, and I’m never unhappy including one in my deck. It doesn’t block all that well, so some controlling decks will pass, but the vast majority of decks will want this.
Limited: 2.5 // 3.0
A 1/3 flyer for 2 is a fine deal, so it only takes a few other Spirits before this becomes sweet. This isn’t a first-pick card I’d build a deck around—it’s more of a nice addition to a deck with lots of spirit.
I really like Surge Mare. It’s a nice combination of being a good blocker, solid attacker, and value-added loot ability. It’s not a bomb but it is a workhorse, and any blue deck will want what this offers. It’s even got a little extra value against green, which is the color most able to block this early.
I was never a huge fan of this. Sometimes you get to trade a 1/1 for a 5/5, but paying a lot of mana to be down a card isn’t exactly what I’m in for. It gets better if your deck can make tokens, so if you can do that this is a fine late pickup.
Tezzeret, Artifice Master
Making a Thopter each turn is a nice ability, and Tezzeret starts with enough loyalty that you’ll frequently be able to take the first hit and build up a blocking force. He can even draw extra cards if 1/1 flyers won’t do the trick, and the ultimate is a real thing if they can’t attack his loyalty.
Paying 5 mana for this effect isn’t exactly where I want to be, but I’m not totally against this. Most decks will want one of these, but multiples is a bit heavy on the curve.
Despite -x/-0 effects being mediocre on average, this is priced to move. It’s a solid combat trick that can net one or more extra cards, and a fine inclusion in most decks (especially defensive ones).
Wall of Mist
I’m not too interested in spending my turn 2 on this, so I’m likely out unless I have a lot of Divinations.
Odd stats aside, this is a great 7-drop. It blocks well, and rewards you mightily for attacking. It also draws cards right away in a deck with flyers, making it a pseudo ETB effect, which is nice on such a high investment card.
Top 5 Blue Commons
These commons are all pretty close together. Salvager is the most powerful overall, but quite deck-dependent, so it’s easy to imagine taking any of these above the others. Blue has two distinct decks here, with an aggressive flyers deck and a controlling spells deck both with plenty of support. The commons are all solid, but nothing stands out besides Salvager, which I had to keep making sure wasn’t an uncommon. I’m in for a Divination is what I’m saying.