Ranking the Archetypes of Core Set 2020 Draft

I’ve been drafting a ton of Core Set 2020 lately, and I think it’s a pretty interesting format with a lot of potentially cool decks you can draft. In today’s article, I’m going to rank the archetypes.

The Best and Worst Archetypes of Core Set 2020 Draft

#1. Blue-Green

Blue-green has two decks that I like–one is almost always good, the other is a “Hail Mary” if things are going badly. The first is U/G Elementals (and that’s the one the rank is for). This deck can be extremely powerful because a lot of the good creatures you want to play are Elementals anyway (Boreal Elemental, Frost Lynx, Cloudkin Seer, Thicket Crasher, Leafkin Druid…). The main issue here is that U/G doesn’t have many Elemental payoffs; the two best common ones are in red, so you are reliant on Risen Reef most of the time. Most of my U/G Elemental decks include Risen Reef, as I either start with it or pick it up in pack 2 while I’m base green or base blue. It’s not a disaster if you are U/G Elementals and don’t have Risen Reef (or if you don’t draw it), as the cards are all reasonable on their own anyway, but your deck will be much better with it.

Risen Reef

You should prioritize interaction spells. Frost Lynx is one of my favorite cards in the set and fits perfectly here, but Rabid Bite and Unsummon are also better here than in other decks because you don’t have many ways of dealing with problematic creatures. One card I’ve found to be particularly underrated is Vorstclaw–7/7 is a lot of stats and 6 is not that much mana, and it gets particularly strong if you can give it trample via Thicket Crasher. A lot of my U/G Elemental decks have two as curve toppers.

If you are Elementals, you might be tempted to splash red since those are the Elemental colors, but I’ve found that it almost never works. Sure, if you have Omnath then you’re splashing that, but you shouldn’t splash for the random Lavakin Brawler no matter how many Elementals you have. That said, you can often just take speculative cards, as both colors are incredibly deep (and in green in particular, the power level is somewhat flat).

The second U/G deck is not one I’m usually looking to draft, but is potentially a good fallback: a basic tempo deck with fliers and pump spells. There are a lot of pump spells, and there are a lot of cheap blue fliers that benefit from the ability to just use them as direct damage spells. The key cards here are Growth Cycle and Metropolis Sprite. Growth Cycle is virtually ignored by bots and people alike, as it’s not that great a card (though people will take it more than the bots; I have a sneaky suspicion that “cool cards” like Growth Cycle and Faerie Miscreant are intentionally de-prioritized so people can have fun drafting decks full of them). If you have multiples, it can deal a lot of damage. Metropolis Sprite is a perfect creature to pump, as you can then just sink more mana into it. For example, one Sprite combines with one Growth Cycle to deal 9 damage–that’s a lot of damage. With this deck, it’s not uncommon to attack for more than 10 damage with just one creature (two Growths is 8 by themselves).

Another card I like a lot here is Season of Growth. Between all the pump spells and Rabid Bite, it actually becomes a powerful engine. The bots also tend to ignore it and it’s not an uncommon card to wheel on MTG Arena.

#2. Blue-Black

This can also come in two forms–which are honestly pretty similar–so it’s more like one deck that can prioritize different things. The first is U/B Control, which is just a traditional U/B deck with some creatures, some card advantage, and a lot of removal. The key card here is Soul Salvage, which should let you win a lot of the late games (and you will get to the late games since you’re a control deck). You can still play cards like Unsummon and Frost Lynx, but they are not nearly as good here since you are defensive. Most of the time that I am U/B Control it’s because I have a bomb of some sort, otherwise I often maneuver into other colors.

The other deck is U/B Tempo, and there’s one main reason: Audacious Thief. It has a way of running away with the game, and blue is very helpful at pushing it through with the cards that the previous deck isn’t that interested in (Unsummon and Frost Lynx). This deck naturally plays more cheap creatures and fliers, though it’s not that different from the control build–you can still have bombs and cards like Soul Salvage to make sure you win the late game, you’re just more interested in proactive cards than cards like Bone to Ash.

#3. Red-Green

This deck is mostly Elementals. Lavakin Brawler is the big payoff that is missing from U/G, but Thicket Crasher works as well, and Chandra’s Embercat is also pretty good. Between Chandra’s Embercat and Leafkin Druid, I’ve found that I can often play more four-drops and fewer three-drops than I would like in a normal deck. One three-drop that does get better is Goblin Smuggler, as it is best friends with Lavakin Brawler (you can make it un-targetable and then it will grow).

Other than the Elemental synergies, this deck plays like a normal R/G deck with some cheap removal, some cheap creatures, and some big creatures. The pitfall I see people falling into the most is just playing every Elemental they can just because they have some synergies and are somewhat aggressive (and here I’m looking at you, Scorch Spitter). I’ve found that I almost never want to play Scorch Spitter in a “normal” deck, and most decks are normal.

Splashing blue in your R/G decks is a lot more common than any splash option for Elementals, because the blue cards that are worth splashing actually cost a single colored mana. Namely Risen Reef, but I can see some builds that would splash for some blue Elementals like Boreal Elemental.

#4. Blue-White

Blue-White only really has one archetype: Fliers. As a rule, you’re just looking for a critical mass of cheap fliers (think Loyal Pegasus more than Boreal Elemental), and then if you can get cheap spells like Pacifism or Unsummon these are pretty good too. You’re mostly a tempo deck, and you need to have a mana curve. White is the worst color in the set by a fair bit, so I usually don’t start with a white card if I can avoid it, but I maneuver into U/W if I’m base blue and see white cards late or if I pick up an early Empyrean Eagle.

This archetype allows you take cards that other people don’t naturally want and make very good use of them. Empyrean Eagle, for example, is a card that no one else wants, and it’s possible to speculate on Faerie Miscreants because if you end up with, say, three of them, they’re better than in another deck (on MTG Arena the bots almost never take Faerie Miscreant, so keep them in mind as you’re drafting as you’re very likely to wheel them).

The biggest weakness in this deck is that, by themselves, your cards aren’t the most powerful. You rely on having a good start and applying pressure, as most other creatures will outsize you, and if you fall behind you don’t have many ways of getting back in the game other than just racing.

#5. Blue-Red

This is the most aggressive version of Elementals you can find, and it uses the blue cards to both push through stuff like Lavakin Brawler early in the game and to push through damage with fliers later on. This is very often an early-game oriented deck, unlike the U/G or U/R versions that play more of midrange, which means having a curve is very important. Chandra, Novice Pyromancer reaches new levels of broken here–it’s always a fantastic card, but when you’re pumping blue’s cheap Elementals that often have evasion it gets even better.

Chandra, Novice Pyromancer

There is also a super-fast U/R deck, with fliers, one-drops and Maniacal Rages. I like this deck less than I like U/G if I’m going to be “all-in” on something, but it is a viable deck if you find yourself in a tough position. I would recommend not getting into the draft with the intention of drafting this–it’s not the best archetype, but you should know it exists as a fallback if your primary plan doesn’t work out.

#6. Black-Red

This deck can exist on all sides of the spectrum–you can play a very aggressive deck with some removal to clear blockers out of the way (this is the least common version), a midrange deck that’s pairing mid-sized creatures with cheap removal (the most common version), or a grindy deck that has a lot of removal and wins the late game with bombs and Soul Salvage. Whichever style, the best cards are still going to be the removal spells (Chandra’s Outrage and Murder in particular), but the supporting cast can change a lot.

I’m a huge fan of Audacious Thief in all builds, as red has two common removal spells that help clear the way for it, as well as Goblin Smuggler, which is a very good combo with it. Ogre Siegebreaker is also a good combo with Heart-Piercer Bow.

The biggest pitfall you can have when you’re drafting black-red is to assume that you must be aggressive because that’s how the archetype usually works. Black isn’t necessarily an aggressive color in this format, and red can just offer you big creatures and removal. Make sure you don’t neglect your late game, and always try to pick up a Soul Salvage or two and some big creatures–obviously rares are preferable, but even a card like Feral Abomination will do.

#7. Black-Green

Black-Green is not a highly synergistic deck, as the cards don’t often get better than the sum of their parts, but both colors are powerful and deep, so the deck can work just fine. It’s usually just a goodstuff deck–you want removal and mid-sized creatures–but Audacious Thief is also a key card here (as it is in all black decks), as it works very well with pump spells and particularly Feral Invocation, since it’s a card they’re strongly incentivized to block.

One card that’s worth mentioning is Moldervine Reclamation. I’ve seen a lot of people swear by it and say it wins games by itself, and, while that’s sometimes true, I’d say that on average the power level of the card isn’t that high–you have to pay 5 mana for a card that isn’t impacting the board, and then you need some creatures to die before it becomes a Divination. It does fuel itself, so if you are playing a grindy game and untap with it, it’s likely you’ll draw many more cards over the course of the game, so it does look very good when it’s good, but it’s not a card that I would pick early and certainly not a card that draws me towards B/G the same way Empyrean Eagle draws me towards U/W.

#8. Black-White

This deck is a bit all over the place, though it usually has an aggressive component regardless of what else is in it, as white is a very aggressive color in this format. I’m not a fan of the archetype, and I rarely find myself in it because there’s simply no incentive to combine both colors–they never become more than the sum of their parts as there are no meaningful synergies.

One “theme” that you can follow is lifegain–white has Angel of Vitality and black has Bloodthirsty Aerialist, and both colors have a lot of incidental lifegain, but the main issue with this is that both of the payoffs are uncommons, and Bloodthirsty Aerialist in particular is just a very good card, so you’re unlikely to see it late.

#9. Green-White

This archetype is in a similar state. Most of the white cards here are bad but green is deep enough to support it, but the cards don’t go well together. White seems to have a theme of “going wide,” but green has big creatures and pump spells, and the two don’t work very well (plus, sometimes you have Rabid Bite and your strongest creature has two power, which is infuriating). The G/W uncommon, Ironroot Warlord, is very powerful, and could be a reason for you to draft his deck. Another card that becomes better here is Overcome. Overall, though, I’m not looking to draft this archetype (or really any white deck other than U/W).

#10. Red-White

White and red are the two most aggressive colors in the format, but for some reason they don’t pair that well together. I think the main reason is that, again, white is just bad, and then red can’t carry the deck by itself when some of its best commons rely on having Elementals for them to reach their full potential. You could still just have a R/W deck full of cheap creatures, tricks and removal, but it’s not a very good archetype in this set unless your power level is very high.

As always, though, remember that drafting is self-correcting (more so with people than on Arena), and even the worst color combination can be playable, but, if I’m choosing, that’s the order I’d rather be in.

See you soon,

– PV

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