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Core Set 2019 Set Reviews (Click to expand)

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Before I introduce the grading scale, I offer the usual caveat—the grades don’t tell the whole story, and what I write about each card provides context.

Ratings Scale

5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind SculptorTarmogoyfSnapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s ProdigyCollected CompanyRemand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace BelerenRadiant FlamesShambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of ThoughtZulaport CutthroatExplosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory AdeptAnticipateTransgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living GuildpactNaturalizeDuress.) 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.)

Blood Operative

Constructed: 2.5

Blood Operative is a good recursive threat that even disrupts the opponent’s graveyard, and can leap into your hand without you ever drawing it. Note that you can surveil this into the bin and immediately bring it back, due to rules quirks, so you can pay a couple life to essentially draw an extra card. I like this as a threat in a surveil aggro deck, or a sideboard card against attrition decks (with extra value as “free” graveyard hate). That’s a couple of good modes, making this a versatile card.

Burglar Rats

Constructed: 2.0

Ravenous Rats can steal games in Constructed every now and then, and if there are enough synergies then this can easily make the cut. You basically need to either care about the free 1/1 body or the discard (or both), so look for sacrifice effects and cards that punish low hand sizes.

Creeping Chill

Constructed: 3.0

This rating is solely for formats where Dredge is legal (so, Modern/Legacy/Vintage), and it matters most for Modern Dredge. That deck cares a lot more about the opponent’s life total, and often wins by dealing medium damage over a few turns instead of just 50 in one, so Creeping Chill is a solid addition. Any card that plays for free out of your graveyard is worth considering, and the effect here is one Modern Dredge is very much interested in.

Dead Weight

Constructed: 3.0

I really like having access to a wide range of removal spells, and Dead Weight is a great addition. It’s efficient, kills most 1-2 cost creatures, and can even be tossed on something bigger to weaken it.

Doom Whisperer

Constructed: 3.5

Doom Whisperer is one of the best cards in the set, and it covers a lot of bases at once. First of all, it’s an enormous threat—a 6/6 flying trample (I refuse to say “flample,” sorry) is a great deal for 5 mana. Your opponent can’t attack into it and can’t effectively block it, making it a game-ender and a great defensive option. The main issue with giant creatures that don’t have ETB or death triggers is that they get bounced or removed and you’re down mana, but Doom Whisperer conveniently has a 0-mana activated ability as well. Paying 2 life to surveil 2 makes this a potent threat against midrange or control, as even when removed it sets up your next couple of draws perfectly. It also dumps cards into your graveyard, and if you’re looking for a specific card, you can even pay 10+ life in search of it. This card is why Whispering Snitch only triggers on the first surveil per turn, and even without that mondo combo, Doom Whisperer is going to show up in multiple different decks. It’s a great finisher for midrange, solid as a 1-2 of in control, and could even be a good option for a closer in aggro. I like when giant monsters are good enough, and this looks like a successful Baneslayer Angel indeed (in that it’s a big creature without an ETB ability that is actually good enough).

Gruesome Menagerie

Constructed: 2.5

Gruesome Menagerie is a rewarding build-around for Constructed, as you can make an ideal curve and play plenty of ways to get creatures into your graveyard. Once you do, you’re paying 5 mana for 6 mana worth of creatures, and getting a 3-for-1 in the process. That looks good enough for me, and I suspect this will menage to show up here and there.

Lotleth Giant

Constructed: 2.0

Lotleth Giant looks like another card that goes on the “Dread Return” finisher list. Whether that makes it a relevant addition I’m not sure, but it is worth considering.

Mausoleum Secrets

Constructed: 2.0

I still think it’s a flavor fail that this can’t get Black Lotus (it even has black in the name), but that would make this an absurd card in Vintage. Restricting this to only black cards is a big enough drawback to make this too hard to get to work, but if there’s a deck with enough different black cards and creatures, maybe it’ll make the cut.

Midnight Reaper

Constructed: 2.5

Cards like Midnight Reaper always lurk on the fringes of playability, with Grim Haruspex seeing some decent play in Rally decks. It does trigger off itself, which is a big upgrade, so I can see some midrange decks reaping the rewards of this as a solid threat.

Necrotic Wound

Constructed: 2.0

I suspect this is a bit too much work for a removal spell, but I do like that it exiles the target. That makes it a decent option in a creature-heavy deck against cards like Arclight Phoenix, if enough of those are running around.

Never Happened

Constructed: 2.0

This likely will pass by as if it never happened too, but at least it gives you the option of being hand disruption or graveyard hate. It’s a bit expensive at either cost, so you really need to care about both halves before it becomes a legitimate option.

Pilfering Imp

Constructed: 2.0

Pilfering Imp’s strength mostly comes from its type, as this plays like a spell but also puts a creature into your graveyard. That’s a solid bit of value, and Imp can even attack and block in a pinch. Bonus points if you combo this with Midnight Reaper.

Plaguecrafter

Constructed: 3.0

Plaguecrafter is a powerful and flexible card in Standard, as it checks multiple boxes. It lets you upgrade your crappy cheap creatures at no card cost, and triggers death abilities and graveyard synergies nicely. At the same time, it will kill opposing creatures and even pick off planeswalkers (which is where a ton of the power comes from), while also making the opponent discard if they don’t have anything in play. That’s a lot of action for 3 mana, making this a card worth crafting.

Price of Fame

Constructed: 2.5

With enough legendary creatures running around, Price of Fame has the potential to be a high-tier removal spell. You need to cast this for half price about half of the time before this is worth a slot, so it may be more of a sideboard card than a main-deck one.

Ritual of Soot

Constructed: 3.0

Black control decks get a solid sweeper here, even if nothing can ever kill Vine Mare. Ritual of Soot wipes out red decks well enough, and can even fight against a solid portion of the mono-green curve. This is an important card, though at times it will warp the metagame to the point where it actually isn’t good.

Top 3 Black Cards

3. Plaguecrafter
2. Dead Weight
1. Doom Whisperer

Black got a ton in this set. Doom Whisperer is an awesome headliner, and Ritual of Soot, Plaguecrafter, and Dead Weight are all great removal spells. It even has Creeping Chill as a combo piece, which rounds out these offerings nicely.