Even at this early stage, Core Set 2020 is already packed with sweet cards new and old alike. It’s time for a bit of a history lesson as we look at some of the reprints Core Set 2020 has revealed so far and discuss their potential impact on Standard. Let’s get right to it!
The Leylines are, of course, the most hotly anticipated reprints to have emerged so far, and for good reason. Leyline of Sanctity and Leyline of the Void both do a lot of work in Modern, and driving the price down for these cards increases the format’s accessibility (particularly for Leyline of the Void, given the current state of the format). But what will their role be in Standard?
Last year we got reprints of Modern staple Scapeshift and fringe player Crucible of Worlds, and neither had a particularly large impact on Standard. Obviously they weren’t meant to–they were plants for other formats–and that’s fine. Will things be different with this year’s Modern reprints? Broadly speaking, yes, I think they will be, although not to a huge extent.
In Modern, some decks bring in Leyline of Sanctity against Burn. In Standard, Mono-Red has a huge burn package, and will often send its copies of Wizard’s Lightning and Skewer the Critics upstairs, so it might not be ridiculous to consider Leyline of Sanctity there. It also has random upside against cards like Duress/Thought Erasure, Ashiok, Ral, Settle the Wreckage, and Angrath’s Rampage. Still, it’s not an automatic sideboard four-of.
Leyline of the Void isn’t poised to have too much of an effect on Standard, as there just aren’t many graveyard-based decks. Command the Dreadhorde can still bring back opposing threats through a Leyline, and Izzet Phoenix can still win with Crackling Drake. While it hoses cards like Sorin, Golgari Findbroker, and Gutterbones, these cards aren’t played widely enough to make Leyline of the Void a slam-dunk hate card. As a final sidenote–don’t forget Leyline of the Void prevents Rekindling Phoenix from returning!
As for Leyline of Anticipation, well… I just can’t see it happening, principally thanks to Teferi, Time Raveler. Little Teferi’s static ability overrides a Leyline of Anticipation, and his +1 offers a pseudo-Leyline to creature-light decks. Leyline of Anticipation is an extremely sweet card, but all-too often it’ll be blank cardboard against one of the format’s most widely-played cards.
Finally, don’t forget that every single time you think about how good a Leyline is, you’re assuming it’ll be in your opening hand. A lot of the time, it won’t be. You’ll draw a slow and clunky four-drop on turn two and feel like a total idiot. Don’t overestimate the Leylines–I think they’ll see more play than Scapeshift and Crucible, but they’re not about to turn Standard on its head.
Six years ago, we went from Innistrad/Return to Ravnica, with checklands and shocklands, to Return to Ravnica/Theros, with shocklands and Temples. We’re doing almost exactly the same thing in 2019! Five enemy-colored Temples join us in Core Set 2020, and you better believe they’re going to have an impact in Standard.
These lands, despite appearing quite unassuming, are terrific. They’re the perfect turn-one play in a slower deck, and allow you to keep a broader range of opening hands (the London Mulligan notwithstanding). Obviously they’re not the greatest addition to fast, aggressive decks, but they were so good last time around that two-color decks started playing off-color Temples!
A “free” scry that also fixes your mana is exactly what control decks are interested in, and even midrange decks gratefully accept cards that allow you to dig through a wide array of threats and answers for the specific one you need right now. When Theros first released, people weren’t hugely impressed by the Temples, but that changed very quickly. Don’t be the chump who underestimates them this time around!
Finally, only having the five enemy Temples implies that the next set will have five allied dual lands, and as likely as that is, it’s by no means a guarantee. Perhaps we’ll see a cycle of allied Horizon Canopy lands in the next set, to complete the 10-card cycle after Modern Horizons?
Dungeon Geists saw some fringe play last time it was in Standard, not only in early Delver builds as also in Jeskai Midrange decks, alongside Geist of Saint Traft and Thundermaw Hellkite. It helped proactive, aggressive play with top-tier creatures, backed up by Snapcaster Mage as another excellent utility card. This time around, however, things are a little different.
Given the huge number of powerful planeswalkers that dominate Standard, midrange decks usually have a much more defensive bent, as they’re looking to put the shields up and protect the incremental value that planeswalkers offers. This doesn’t mean that Dungeon Geists doesn’t have a chance–rather, it means that if it’s to see play in Standard, it will be in a different role.
Rather than tap down blockers to allow a Delver or Geist of Saint Traft to get through, Dungeon Geists will instead be a Waterknot that can still block other small creatures and keep your planeswalkers around. It’s entirely reasonable to imagine Dungeon Geists running defense like this, but… wouldn’t it just be better to cast Vraska’s Contempt and get rid of the threat altogether? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but given the defensive nature of midrange decks these days (and the fact that it dies to every red removal spell outside of Shock), I’m not too optimistic about Dungeon Geists.
Which figure? Dis one! Disfigure will be a critical piece of removal as we head towards rotation, and potentially afterwards, too. Shock is widely played in red decks of all kinds and this black version of Shock has the advantage of killing Adanto Vanguard. Moment of Craving sees a lot of play, and while the two life is extremely welcome, it costs a whole extra mana. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Disfigure eclipse Moment of Craving as a result.
The difference between one and two mana is staggering, particularly against aggressive decks that look to flood the board early. Being able to pick off opposing one- and two-drops quickly and efficiently is key to keeping your snoot above water, and Disfigure will allow decks to effectively contest blazing aggro starts with turns that deploy multiple pieces of removal.
Planar Cleansing won Ivan Floch a Pro Tour in 2015, in a format dominated by Sphinx’s Revelation and characterized by brutal Elixir of Immortality mirrors. It’s a powerful, no-questions-asked answer to essentially everything ever, although one that comes at a steep cost at 3WWW–can it have the same impact this time around?
In short, no. And in long, noooooooo. There’s a very good reason for this, and that is that the slow, controlling decks of 2019 are heavily permanent-based thanks to the many powerful planeswalkers at their disposal. Every control deck worth its salt plays both big and little Teferis as well as Narset, and some go as high as Liliana and Ugin–blowing up your own planeswalkers isn’t a great gameplan.
You will be downgrading your deck significantly in order to get the most out of Planar Cleansing. You can’t really base your gameplan on planeswalkers when you’re looking to also leverage Planar Cleansing, and so you’re then actively choosing not to play what is, undeniably, the best control game available at the moment. Thanks to control’s current reliance on planeswalkers, Planar Cleansing is not going to make it big.
Pulse of Murasa
Pulse of Murasa seems like an unassuming card, but make no mistake–it’s here to do some work in Standard. It’s never going to be an all-star, but it’s an incredibly useful utility card in creature-focussed slower decks. Gaining six life while redrawing your best threat is a great little package, offering flexibility and breathing room (especially in aggressive matchups).
Don’t underestimate Pulse of Murasa. Against control decks, it allows you to get back a creature that was sniped by Thought Erasure, and against decks like Mono-Red, six life and another Wildgrowth Walker is what’s known as big game. All for three mana, and at instant speed? Pulse of Murasa is a tidy little package that green midrange decks should be interested in picking up.
Rule of Law
Finally, a card that threatens to shut down some of the most important and consistent value engines available in Standard! Firstly, Experimental Frenzy effectively becomes a blank piece of cardboard once Rule of Law is down. What’s more, Experimental Frenzy decks usually have no way to rid themselves of Rule of Law, as red can’t destroy enchantments!
Additionally, there’s another red four-drop that Rule of Law singlehandedly shuts down. Arclight Phoenix becomes nothing more than a flying Vulshok Berserker. Blue decks might be able to bounce a Rule of Law, but in the long-term, recurring a Phoenix becomes impossible thanks to this enchantment.
Rule of Law is really threatening to shake things up in Standard, particularly when you consider the kind of deck that would typically run a card like this. A slow, planeswalker-heavy deck would welcome an effect like this, as planeswalker activations can “cheat” the Rule of Law by providing multiple spell-like effects each turn.
While Rule of Law doesn’t have the same impact against other decks, its effect threatens to take apart two powerful Standard strategies and I’m extremely interested in seeing how the format responds. This could be the end of Experimental Frenzy’s dominance as Mono-Red’s big finisher!
Core sets usually have plenty of reprints, and so I’m sure we’ll see plenty more important familiar faces before long. I’m looking forward to seeing what else the set has in store for us!