Other LSV Core Set 2020 Limited Set Reviews:
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Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. The Scarab God.
5.0: The best of the best. (Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Skarrgan Hellkite. Ethereal Absolution.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Thief of Sanity. Judith, the Scourge Diva. Experimental Frenzy.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Gate Colossus. Mortify. Biomancer’s Familiar.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Blade Juggler. Skewer the Critics. Skyknight Legionnaire.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Sauroform Hybrid. Watcher in the Mist. Wojek Bodyguard.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Ornery Goblin. Syndicate Messenger. Plague Wight.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Radical Idea. Noxious Groodion. Ghor-Clan Wrecker.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Wall of Mist. Axebane Beast.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Feral Maaka. Knight of Sorrows. Prying Eyes.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Expose to Daylight. Persistent Petitioners.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Font of Agonies. One with Nothing.)
We may be a little spoiled by getting to play with Smiting Helix from Modern Horizons, but Agonizing Syphon is a solid piece of removal. Gaining three makes up for it being a little slow, and it will kill most things you care about killing.
I really like Audacious Thief. This card is going to steal games all over the place, because if it hits turn three and the opponent can’t stop it, the game ends very quickly. The most common way to enable this will be removal, though bounce works nicely too. The reason this is more highly rated than similar cards is that it triggers on attack, which means it 2-for-1’s the opponent when they block with a 2/2 and at worst you can throw it away to draw a card. That’s a lot of power, and Audacious Thief is one of the best commons as a result.
This is a pretty big letdown coming on the heels of Audacious Thief, and I’d only recommend playing it if you are short creatures or have Sorin (which is a mythic).
Despite being a good combat trick in Ravnica Allegiance, Bladebrand loses a lot of luster without Footlight Fiend to accompany it. Those sorts of synergies matter, and Bladebrand is not a card I expect to play all the time. If you have extra space in your deck and a bunch of small creatures, it’s fine, but by no means is it a premium card.
I don’t like Blightbeetle as much as some of the other protection creatures, because a 1/1 ground creature is quite a bit worse than a 1/1 flier or 2/1. That said, it’s not the worst maindeck inclusion, because protection from green is really effective at stopping big ground attackers, and you can side it out if your opponent isn’t playing green. This gets better if you have sacrifice cards, as at least you get to make the 1/1 into a relevant game piece.
The trend of creatures having keywords only on your turn is a cool one, and it plays out pretty well. Blood Burglar is only the second-best thief in the set, but it’s still a fine 2-drop and you’ll end up playing it most of the time.
Blood for Bones
You need quality creatures to make Blood for Bones good, and if you meet that bar it will deliver. It’s especially good when you’re sacrificing fodder, and ideally getting back creatures with good ETB effects. I really like the loop with Scholar of the Ages, but this is still great if you’re sacrificing a 2/2 to get back two larger things. Cards like this also make me think that Gorging Vulture will be a staple.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
The cost here is high enough that you can’t play Bloodsoaked Altar without doing some work. A six-mana 5/5 flier is great, but once you add in 2 life, a card, and a creature, the deal starts looking a lot less good. Some ways to get around that are Act of Treason, turning the sacrifice into upside, tokens, and fodder like Sanitarium Skeleton. Once you’ve mitigated the sacrifice part, the Altar begins to deliver, and this can be a powerful finisher in a sacrifice deck.
Bloodthirsty Aerialist isn’t so much a build-around as a decently-sized flier that sometimes really goes off. I’d play this without lifegain, and with 2-3 ways to trigger it, the Aerialist becomes quite the force to be reckoned with.
Unlike Spark Harvest, Bone Splinters doesn’t come with the option to pay the gold price. Iron it is, and you are always getting 2-for-1’ed unless you find a way to generate some sacrifice fodder. Luckily that’s not too difficult, and this will often find its way into your deck, though it doesn’t become great until you’re pairing it with Act of Treason.
5/5 worth of stats for 5 mana is good, and by the time you cast this you likely will have something to devour. This helps token decks amass some forces and works well if you have ways to bounce it or bring it back.
Cavalier of Night
Disfigure is incredibly efficient, and unlike Shock, can team up to take down bigger creatures without the loss of a card. Your 3/3 beats their 4/4 in a fight, and you only spent one mana in the whole exchange. Efficiency plus power is something I always look for, and this is one of the premium removal spells in the set (though note that it’s an uncommon now).
Dread Presence may not be the largest creature around, but it acts like a planeswalker if you’ve got enough Swamps. Pinging any target for 2 is huge, and when you’ve gained enough life and killed all their stuff, this starts drawing you cards as well. It’s got a heavy black commitment, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best cards in the set. I’d usually err on the side of playing this turn five so you can drop a Swamp and get at least one trigger guaranteed.
Duress is almost never maindeckable and is only sometimes a good sideboard option. Unlike Negate, this runs a good chance of whiffing and is a horrendous card to topdeck in the lategame. I’d only side this in if my opponent had a ton of spells, and in particular some expensive/powerful ones.
Embodiment of Agonies
Even though you probably can’t play Embodiment on turn three, it likely will be a 3/3 or larger in most games. That’s a fine deal for three mana, and deathtouch means that this still is relevant as a 1/1 or 2/2.
Epicure of Blood
The effect here is minor enough that I mostly see this a 4/4 body, which you can play if your deck needs it. With a couple recurring ways to gain life, the damage adds up, but it’s not a big enough payoff to make this a true build-around.
Fathom Fleet Cutthroat
The more aggressive your deck is, the better Fathom Fleet Cutthroat gets. It’s especially good in B/W tokens, as you will often be jamming a bunch of crappy small creatures into bigger ones, which sets up the Cutthroat perfectly. Be wary if your opponent ever swings a 1/1 into your 4/4, and try to avoid blocking if possible.
There’s no shame in running the Abomination, as it is a large threat, though there are enough dorky ways to end the game that it’s never going to be a high pick.
Black has a bunch of cards which care about what’s in your graveyard, which make me think that the bird’s the word. Gorging Vulture is an efficient flier already, and milling yourself for four is definitely upside in this set.
It’s hard to beat Gravedigger when it comes to value. This is a clean 2-for-1 and works very well if you have ways to bring the Gravedigger back after it dies. I’m always happy running this, and don’t mind taking it early.
Unless your deck is remarkably creature-light, Gruesome Scourge is a punishing threat and can easily end games. It’s capable of dealing a ton of direct damage and gets really sick if you have ways to recur it.
Knight of the Ebon Legion
I gotta hand it to Knight of the Ebon Legion. If you have three mana up, it’s a huge threat, and it even grows if it gets to whack the opponent. It doesn’t even stop you from pumping multiple times, so in the lategame this becomes even more of a monster.
Killing 2-drops isn’t always something you need to do, and I’m scared this will be a dead card in the mid to lategame. It’s fine to maindeck it as most decks will have 3-5 targets, but if they aren’t aggressive then I’m more than happy siding it out.
Leyline of the Void
Like most Leylines, this is great for Constructed and unplayable in Limited. The graveyard just isn’t worth spending a card on, even if they have multiple Raise Dead effects.
It’s never a disaster if you end up maindecking Mind Rot, but it’s rarely all that exciting. I like it more in Sealed and prefer to sideboard this in against slow decks, as spending three mana to not affect the board can be a bad move.
Murder at common is shocking, but I’ll take it (especially if I see it in a pack). This kills anything, no questions asked, and does so for a very reasonable amount of mana.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
Noxious Grasp is another great sideboard card that I’d recommend against maindecking.
I’m all for Reggie here, as this ends the game so quickly that discarding a couple cards doesn’t matter. Note that if you have no cards in hand this doesn’t have a drawback, and that 7/6 is very big. It does hurt if this gets hit by Pacifism, and watch out for Unsummons in response to the trigger if you are empty-handed. I’d look to draft an aggressive deck to complement this, though it’s a good card in just about every archetype.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
I don’t like playing the Skeleton without combos, and even in a sacrifice/graveyard deck it’s slow and unexciting. It is cool that you can mill it with Gorging Vulture, but that’s not enough to make me crazy about playing it.
I’d be suspicious of Imperial Seal in Core Set draft, as skipping a draw step to find a card is often not going to be worth it (your best cards aren’t usually that much better than the rest). Once you make it so your opponent gets to do this for free and draws their card first, I’m completely off it.
Sorcerer of the Fang
A cheap early play that has lategame relevance is often a recipe for success, but this is anemic enough at both ends that I’m never going to be excited about it. It’s fine if you need filler, and not much better than that.
Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord
Limited: 1.5 // 2.5
If you rack up a couple Vampires, Sorin gets a lot more attractive. On his own, he’s too vulnerable and provides no lasting effects, which isn’t a planeswalker I want to sink my teeth into. I’d like to have 2-3 Vampires alongside Sorin, and less than that dramatically reduces my interest in him.
Soul Salvage occupies a funny space. The first one is often great and can even be critical if you’re trying to play a grindy game, but the second one is way worse, and in neither case do you want to pick this super early. I’d err on the side of picking up one, and in decks with multiple Gorging Vultures, would gladly play more.
Not only does this cost a million mana, it even misses on the most common card type in Limited. Hard pass.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.5
You need three or more of these before I start getting interested, and even then I’m not that thrilled until you hit the 4-5 range. That won’t happen all that often, so only speculate on these if the packs have nothing else for you.
The delayed gratification on this is too much of a cost, as there are plenty of ways for this to go wrong. You can put this on opposing creatures, but either way I’d recommend against playing it.
Vampire of the Dire Moon
This rating may seem high, but with three good ways to bring back dead creatures, a 1/1 deathtouch is at a premium in this set. Plus, adding lifelink is a real advantage, as it means that pecking away with your 1/1 actually gets you something now.
The Warchief isn’t exciting, but it can often grow to be a 5/5 or 6/6 without much difficulty. You can also grow this yourself, as you damaging yourself does indeed trigger it.
Vilis, Broker of Blood
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
In a normal deck, eight mana is too much to realistically get to. It’s just too expensive, and Vilis is unplayable as a result. In a ramp-specific deck, things change a little, and this becomes a legit finisher if you have enough ways to control the game and gain resources. I will have fun trying to make this work and think it’s powerful enough to be worth doing so. If Vilis hits the board and you have a decent amount of life left, it will dominate with ease.
Ravenous Rats gets a serious upgrade, and the Rats were good enough to begin with. This takes a card immediately and lurks around until you have enough mana, at which point it becomes an actual threat. That’s a great deal for two mana, and I’d always be happy running this.
Top 5 Black Commons
1. Murder (by so much)
The top five commons are all fantastic, and it doesn’t end there. Black looks like a fantastic controlling color and has plenty of removal and good card advantage engines to boot.