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.)
Preface: Gold cards are always a little tricky—they are often more powerful than mono-color cards, with the substantial drawback that they commit you to two different colors (or more). When looking at a gold card and a mono-color card pack 1 pick 1 of a Draft, you should take the mono-colored card if the two are close in power level. That said, my ratings of gold cards do not account for this—I’m rating these cards as if you are the colors of the card. When we look at Aerial Engineer in a second, assume you are U/W when looking at my rating. That seems more accurate to me than reducing each rating by some amount, which is what you should do when making P1p1 decisions. If you see a 3.0 gold card and a 3.0 mono-colored card, being mono-colored is a relevant tiebreaker.
The only exceptions are for 3-color cards, which in this set are the Elder Dragons. You are never just 3 colors, so their rating takes into account the difficulty of splashing a third.
Alright, let’s get to it!
Aerial Engineer is a solid body by itself, though not one you’d play without the upside. If you have 2-3 artifacts in your deck, this card is good, and at 4+ it becomes one of your better cards (and I’d adjust the rating up accordingly).
Arcades, the Strategist
Arcades has committed some strategic errors in this set, as a splash card that triggers when you cast a defender is awkward when it comes down after all of the defenders. This is tough to build around, though some decks might be able to get there. If you’ve got a little mana fixing and 2+ defenders, this is playable, but it’s nowhere near the bomb some of its brethen are.
Limited: 3.0 // 3.5
This is a great sacrifice outlet for Act of Treason, as it doesn’t cost any mana to use and attacks quite well without a ton of support. It’s always playable if you’re black-red, and can really headline a sacrifice deck once you provide the necessary fodder. This is a build-around I wouldn’t mind starting with, as the rewards are there.
Chromium, the Mutable
Now this is more like it. Chromium is splashable, impossible to deal with (it dodges counters, removal, and is big enough that it won’t die in combat often either), and finishes the game really quickly. If I was any two of these colors, I’d snap this up, and would be very happy first-picking Chromium despite it’s tri-color requirements. It’s fitting that an Elder Dragon is a huge bomb, and I’d be disappointed if it weren’t.
Draconic Disciple is the perfect ramp card. It fixes your colors, accelerates you, and once you’re flush with mana, turns into a 5/5 flyer. That checks all the boxes I look for, and makes this one of the better gold cards in the set.
Limited: 2.0 // 3.5
The low end of the rating on this is a bit of a mirage because the people who want this are going to snap it up early enough that you aren’t likely to see it super late. When you have 7+ spells, this is playable, and at 10+ it’s just absurd. This was one of my favorite cards to build around in Amonkhet, and U/R Spells is a strong archetype in M19 as well.
This card is a beating in an aggro deck. By itself, it brings two 2/2 haste creatures, and it’ll often pump 2-3 other creatures as well. Curving into this on turn 5 or 6 is nigh-unbeatable, and at almost any point in the game it will be awesome. It’s at its worst when your offense is halted, but even then it puts a decent amount of power on the board. It loses a lot of luster in defensive decks, so keep that in mind.
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
While you don’t get all the mileage possible out of this costing just 4 mana because you aren’t often playing it turn 4, Nicol Bolas is still an amazing threat. It comes down, eats a card, and is a 4/4 flyer that threatens to turn into an unbeatable planeswalker. The Arisen has so much loyalty that the opponent is unlikely to be able to kill it, and the combination of killing the best creature, reanimating the best creature, or drawing two cards is a powerful one. There are few situations where this won’t just win you the game.
Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner
Hexproof until it deals damage is a really neat text box—it’s guaranteed to get a hit in (or a block—note that “deals damage” doesn’t just mean to players), but the opponent can kill this afterwards. Palladia-Mors is still a beating, and a 6/6 flying, vigilance, trample is no joke. The fact that it lives when you tap out for it is huge, as that shores up one of the biggest weaknesses of huge creatures, and that pushes it to a 4.5.
Poison Tip Archer
Poison Tip Archer is an absurd uncommon. Not only does it trade for anything, including sniping flyers, but the passive ability that pings the opponent is hugely threatening as the game goes on. There are some boards where this never attacks or blocks and still is the best creature out, especially since it triggers whenever any creature dies, whether it be yours or theirs. I’d splash this, and it’s a great reason to go into B/G.
Speaking of splashing, Symbiont is a great card to pick up if you’re either of its colors. It has a huge impact on the game and is one of the easiest 3-for-1s you’ll ever see. It doesn’t take a psychic to figure out why I love this card, and it gets especially filthy if you can bounce this or return it from the graveyard.
Regal Bloodlord is a medium-sized flyer that does a good job of dragging out the game, and there’s enough incidental life gain that it will make a flyer or two without you even building your deck around it. When you do build your deck around it, it becomes awesome, and that makes this card a very safe bet.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
Building your deck around this might be an enchanting proposition, but it doesn’t seem all that likely to happen. Filling your deck full of Auras isn’t where you want to be, and you aren’t picking up enough Luminous Bonds to satisfy the Satyr by itself. It is cute with Talons of Wildwood, but unless you pick up two Satyrs, I wouldn’t go all-in on that strategy.
Ride or die is right, as this just runs over the opponent unless they stop it quickly. You hit for 5+ damage each turn, and the accumulated counters give you value even if they can halt your offense. This is splashable, but is much stronger in base blue-green because you can play this on turn 6 and immediately use the trigger.
Vaevictis Asmati, the Dire
Your opponent will be in dire straights if you get to attack with this, and given that it’s a 6/6 flyer, there aren’t many ways for them to stop you. It even triggers on attacks, not damage, so there’s no way they can assemble enough blockers to stop this. It is worth noting that it doesn’t just kill their cards, as they can flip something sick, but it’s still a highly advantageous trigger.
Amulet of Safekeeping
I guess you could side this in against someone who makes a million Bat or Goblin tokens, but that seems very unlikely. This text box is a doozy, and is so clearly aimed at U/R Storm in Modern that you end up with a super awkward text box (and one that makes no sense to most people who read it, especially in a core set).
There are some decks that need this so badly they’ll take it as if it were a 3.5 or even 4.0, but the format isn’t quite slow enough for this to be a windmill slam bomb. If either player curves out, this is a little slow, though it will win any game where the owner stabilizes. It’s great in Sealed, full stop, because decks are on balance quite slow and grindy—throwing the book at them is a great strategy.
Limited: 1.5 // 2.5 // 4.0 // ???
The rating here is basically nonsense because the range on this is so wide. Overall, I’d always main deck this in Sealed and tend to sideboard it in Draft, which makes it a 1.5 in Draft and a 3.5 in Sealed, but it is pretty wild. I crushed my first Sealed with it because everyone always plays 3+ pieces of removal in Sealed, but in Draft you could run up against a deck with all pump spells or whatever. I like this card, but would prefer to side it in against removal decks in Draft rather than main deck it.
Crucible of Worlds
Reprint Value: $$$
You should both never play this in Limited and basically always first pick it, for “collectability reasons.” Actually, I’m allowed to say that cards are worth money here, so you should take it because it’s worth a lot.
It seems like a stretch to get this going. You’ve got to go so deep on Macabre Waltz, and I just don’t see that happening reliably enough.
Limited: 0.5 // 3.0
I’d sideboard this in against aggro, but otherwise would bet on a different horse (any of them). It just doesn’t impact the board very much, and gaining a couple life isn’t very exciting. The exception is in the life gain deck, where this provides a lot of triggers, but you’ll know if you’re in that deck.
I don’t see this triggering all that often, but Manalith is a playable card in this format, and there are common and uncommon Dragons. This isn’t as good as gold, but it’s not unplayable either.
This isn’t exactly explosive, but it’s a playable card if you’re short on removal or cards in general. Much like all artifacts, it gets an upgrade if you’re in the artifact deck, but it’s annoying that you have to sacrifice this to get value from it because that deck likes artifacts sitting in play.
Aggro decks will sometimes play 2-mana 2/1s, and artifact decks won’t mind creeping into this guy’s DMs, but for the most part you won’t want to field this as part of your starting lineup.
Fountain of Renewal
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
In a normal deck, this isn’t worth a card (even though it eventually replaces itself). In artifact decks or life gain decks, it’s a fine way to get your synergies going.
Gargoyle Sentinel is unplayable in aggro decks and quite good in control or midrange decks, making it a card you’ll play most of the time. Having to pay mana to attack is rough, but it can eventually finish things off and is a good-sized blocker.
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
This is pretty cute—it’s an artifact that cares about blue cards, proving that the relationship goes both ways. This is a good reward for being in blue, and is a marginal playable outside of that.
Magistrate’s Scepter takes way too long to pay off, and spending 15 mana to take an extra turn just isn’t something you can do in Limited (or Constructed, for that matter).
Ramp decks and 3-color decks both want this, which makes it a solid card in the format. Your 2-color midrange or aggro decks aren’t into it, so you can probably pick these up in the middle of the pack if you’re in the market for them.
The effect here is powerful, but you can’t just slot this into a deck and get good value. You want a way to make tokens or evasion creatures, or have a desperate need for artifacts.
Limited: 1.5 // 3.5
In a normal deck, this is a tad too expensive. In a dedicated ramp/control deck, this is an awesome finisher. I love when there are powerful cards that only some decks can use, and give them bonus points for being 7-mana Golems (I have a soft spot for those).
Limited: 1.0 // 2.5
I like this in a few spots: as a finisher in Sealed, as a sideboard card against control, and as an artifact/finisher in a controlling artifact-matters deck. Don’t put this in a normal deck, and try and find better finishers for your Draft control decks. Milling them only helps them unless you kill them (since there are various graveyard synergies) and this doesn’t combine with very many other cards when it comes to finishing the game. It’s also not super fast, so you aren’t racing with this.
If you have a lot of Thopters (or other evasive creatures) this can lock up the game very quickly. In a deck with all ground pounders, it’s not worth a card, so know when to put the gloves on (and when to take them off).
Sigiled Sword of Valeron
I’ve gotten to jam this multiple times already, and it’s pretty nice. Sometimes your opponent eats the 2/2 token you make and it’s not too exciting, but sometimes they don’t and you win on the spot. It pairs well with flyers and removal both, and can go into any creature-based deck and be very good.
Given that this is colorless, an artifact, evasive, and combines with a ton of little synergies, it might actually be a 3.5. Either way, it’s awesome, and I will be playing a ton of them.
I can’t say enough good things about the flavor, even if the card is just fine. It’s a good blocker in a control deck, and can eventually give you a way to finish things off.
There are some boards where this doesn’t do much, and it’s really bad in an aggro deck that attacks on the ground, but the effect is incredible in a control deck or a flyers deck. Downgrading three creatures into 2/4s is awesome, and if you have good blockers to corral those Oxen, this will be very close to triple-Terminate. The upside on this is high, and it’s amazing if you build with it in mind.
Cinder Barrens Cycle
You’ll always play these and they help you splash, but they aren’t ever going to be very high picks.
You should never end up in this position, and if you do, it’s probably because you played a colorless land and are now color-screwed.
I’d play this in 3-color decks, but would largely avoid it in 2-color ones.
That’ll do it—happy hunting, and enjoy the M19 queues!