Going for the Gold: Drafting Core 19
Welcome back to Going for the Gold!
World Cup Soccer fever is finally over. Now that France has taken the World Cup, I'm back to spending my time focused on Magic and Poker.
It's sad to see Dominaria limited become irrelevant. It was one of the best draft formats in a long time. Going from an expansion set that introduced us to new mechanics and cycles of cards back to the basics is definitely tough. Core 19 (M19) is Wizard's foray back into making introductory sets for new players. That means we expected to see a ton of reprints. M19, like every set now, is build to be conductive to draft.
Since you're reading this column, you obviously want to learn and become the best limited player for M19 in your store. I'm here to help you get there, so let's get started!
I usually focus on Sealed when it comes to limited. However, seeing as prerelease has passed us by, you'll likely spend the majority of your time drafting this set. Typically, to be successful at core limited you need a midrange deck packed with bombs, removal, good creatures, and evasion.
The best commons in the set are:
Our highest priority should be removal. These are the only cards that can save us from bombs and evasive creatures. With enough removal, you can afford to play a slower game and let your card advantage and better creatures take over. So let's take a look at each individual colour's common and uncommon run and see which are the deepest.
It's not clear how good Shock is here, since the aggressive decks will be at a minimum. However, that doesn't stop it from being the third best red common.
Electrify does a great Terror impression, while Sparktongue Dragon is a great evasive threat that doubles as removal. Eight mana isn't a bad deal when you consider that the games go super late. This plays just like a kicker card from Dominaria.
Fiery Finish kills basically every creature in the set while Volcanic Dragon closes the game out in a hurry. Lightning Strike is just a no-brainer. And finally, Tectonic Rift enables more aggressive decks. It isn't the land destruction that you care about. Instead, it's stopping your your opponent from blocking for a turn, ab ability that typically closes out a game.
In the smaller core set limited, we have a worse Llanowar Elves that's probably still the best green common. There is only one fight spell in this format, so Rabid Bite is one of the other top commons. Finally, we round out the top green commons with Elvish Rejuvenator, who is doing a great Civic Wayfinder impression, and Giant Spider, who has shown up in core sets since the beginning of time.
Since there is so little removal in green, we look at Declare Dominance. It can either be a way to end the game outright, or kill five of your opponent's best creatures when combined with Daggerback Basilisk. Vigilant Baloth is another a great uncommon since it's a huge creature that plays both offence and defence very well. The other green uncommons are pretty mediocre at best, so we have Ghirapur Guide, a card that can help us win in board stalls. Plus there's Vine Mare, which can do a great Bogle impression with the other auras of the set.
As usual, the best removal in the format is in black. Lich's Caress not only kills your opponent's best creature, but can also catch you up in racing situations. Skymarch Bloodletter was an all-star common in Ixalan, and remains great even in a format where you can't take advantage of its creature type. Evasion is critical in core set limited. Finally, Macabre Waltz can trade your worst card to rebuy your best two creatures. You'll just have to make sure you hold onto something to discard.
Murder is usually the best black uncommon in any set it appears in thanks to its flexibility and cheap cost. Gravedigger has been a staple of core sets for ages as a great source of card advantage that can be abused with multiple copies. We have a new vampire (Vampire Sovereign) in the form of a 3/4 flier for five that basically comes in with unblockable, haste, vigiliance, and lifelink. Finally with all of the recurable threats in black, Blood Divination could have a place as a card advantage engine.
Aviation Pioneer is another creature in the cycle of small ground creatures that create 1/1 thopter tokens. Since the others have been amazing, I have no doubt that this will be a top common too. Aven Wind Mage is an upgraded Wind Drake, making your instants even more effective in combat. Snapping Drake has always been an all-star in core sets. Finally, Scholar of Stars effectiveness will depend on your artifact count, as a 3/2 for 4 that draws a card is a very good rate.
Sift has and always will be one of the best blue cards in core sets since the format is so slow and it gets you so far ahead in card advantage.
Does Exclusion Mage look kind of familiar? That's because it is the first functional reprint to Man-O'-War that we have received. The only difference here is that you must bounce your opponent's creatures. But that's usually the mode that these types of cards are used for anyways, unless there's a creature with Luminous Bonds on it.
Horizon Scholar is a sphinx that allows you to get some premium card selection. Bone to Ash is slow but it does stop bombs and gain you card advantage which makes it worth your while to hold the four mana up.
We keep seeing Luminous Bond in a lot of sets recently. I guess that's because Pacifism can no longer cost less than three mana. Still, it's the best white common in the set.
White is all about creatures and giving them evasion or improving their attacks. Gallant Cavalry is the exact same card as Call the Cavalry from Dominaria, which proved to be a top common since you got four points of vigiliant power and toughness for four mana. The other three commons on this list all help accomplish this too. If you are able to pick up Courser and Stag, then you can play an aggressive deck with the powerful two and three drops in this colour.
Hieromancer's Cage is the set's Oblivion Ring. As such, it will be highly sought after as one of the best cards in anyone's draft decks since it can exile any non-land permanent.
Not only does Knightly Valor make one of your creatures into a beefy threat, it brings another creature along as well. Meanwhile, Herald of Faith can end the game very quickly. But even if it doesn't, it still helps you stay in the race by providing you with two life each time you swing it. Finally, Make a Stand can blow out combat steps and you can even use it to protect one of your better creatures from a removal spell.
Multicolored and Artifact:
Almost all of the multicoloured uncommons are great and worth drafting around. But when it comes to the colourless cards, these two rise to the top:
Rogue's Gloves is a phenomenal card that excels on evasive or big creatures due to the repetitive card advantage it can gain. Meteor Golem is kind of like the new white oblivion ring in that it's flexible enough to remove any non-land permanent and can be great to have access to. Arcane Encyclopedia takes over a stalled game. Gargoyle Sentinel allows you to have an early blocker that turns into an evasive threat in the late game.
All in all, Core 19 looks to be a very promising set. It should be a nice change of pace from the pure synergy decks that we encountered back in Dominaria. From my initial standpoint, black and blue look to be the best colours in this format.
Now that you know which cards are great, we'll discuss drafting archetypes next week and ensure your continued success.
See you then, and have a great weekend!