Cracking The Core Set 2020 Code

Some packs of Core Set 2020 are tough to draft. So tough, in fact, that even Ryan Saxe doesn’t have the answer! One is in his latest. Trust us, you’ll know it when you see it…

Core Set 2020 keeps surprising me. There hasn’t been a core set with this much archetypal depth combined with good gameplay since Magic 2013. I don’t think it’s a format for the ages, but it’s quite good for a core set. Mono-Red was the topic of discussion last week, when previously it was difficult to be aggressive. I’ve since come across more monocolored decks and am excited to see what other hidden gems are in the format.

Pack 1, Pick 1

The Pack:

The Pick:

Lavakin Brawler, Gods Willing, and Corpse Knight aren’t actually in the discussion, but they each merit discussion.

Gods Willing is worse than usual in this format. The card is still quite good, but the white archetypes are often based around the card Inspired Charge, and protecting a threat is less relevant there.

Corpse Knight at first glance looks like a very efficient archetypal signpost, and in the past those kinds of cards have been high picks. However, it gets outclassed too quickly and the bonus isn’t great. Furthermore, Corpse Knight doesn’t even help the lifegain archetype. Every time I see the card, I’m surprised it doesn’t gain life.

Lavakin Brawler is a key component to any red deck. It combos with Chandra’s Embercat and Goblin Smuggler in a favorable fashion, and all of those cards are easy to get your hands on. I’m not taking it so highly as to grab it out of this pack, but if you’re on the “force mono-red” train, go for it.

Murder is the second-best common, and the pick out of this pack. It’s a Limited classic, and you’ll play any number in your black decks. I do think Season of Growth is quite powerful if you can draft the proper deck for it, but I don’t believe that comes together enough to justify taking it over Murder.

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

Wakeroot Elemental is a cool rare, but that’s about it. The colored mana requirement in the activated ability is too steep. A six-mana 5/5 is below rate, and that activated ability does not make up for it.

Fencing Ace is an overrated two-drop. I initially took this card highly for all my white decks, but I’ve found it to be worse than Raise the Alarm. There are a fair amount of ways to profitably interact with one-toughness creatures, and not enough good and efficient ways to augment them.

The name of the game in this pack is “overrated cards.” I actively dislike Sleep Paralysis. I don’t want to play more than one in my blue decks and ideally I’d play zero, as there are too many ways to interact with the enchantment or bounce the creature. It trades down on both mana and resources too often.

This leaves Blood for Bones, a card that used to be criminally underrated but is now properly rated. The value this card produces is through the roof, and it even loops with Scholar of thee Ages. It’s black, so it’s a great follow-up to Murder, and I am slamming it!

Pack 1, Pick 3

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

Winged Words is one of the best commons and my favorite way to abuse the card is to draft a bunch of copies of Faerie Miscreant so I can cast Winged Words on Turn 2. Don’t sleep on this card and take it highly.

Creeping Trailblazer is better than Corpse Knight in terms of how highly I pick the efficient signpost uncommon, but it still doesn’t compete with the rest of the cards in this pack because it doesn’t pair with either of the cards in my pool.

Noxious Grasp, in my opinion, is not a sideboard card. 70% of archetypes have either green or white cards, and so I would rather start it and sideboard it out. This isn’t a common opinion, but I have been happy with one copy. Furthermore, there’s so much value in this format that the potential of a dead card is somewhat mitigated. I rarely find myself scrounging for resources. There are more two-for-ones at common in this set than most. I will acknowledge that this logic isn’t irrefutable, and I intend on spending time discerning whether to start the other cards in this cycle, but I do think it’s in contention here.

Chandra’s Embercat and Lavakin Brawler are two of the best red commons. They aren’t in consideration for me here, but if you are forcing mono-red, you could take one. This may sound odd to you, but I do believe that mono-red is the best deck in the format, and hence if you believe the rest of the people at your table will ignore it, forcing it can be a reasonable strategy. I would take Embercat over Brawler in this case just to prioritize the cheaper card early on, since the archetype puts a large importance on a good curve.

The last option in this pack is Embodiment of Agonies. If you don’t think this card is good, I suggest you reread it. At first, I thought it only counted the different converted mana costs, but it actually counts all mana costs. If Murder, Winged Words, and Soul Salvage are in your graveyard, Embodiment of Agonies is a 3/3. It can still be a liability since you may not be able to cast the card until later in the game, but it scales incredibly well. And even a 1/1 or 2/2 deathtouch flyer is a reasonable card. It’s not a bomb rare or anything, but the card is good.

So what would you pick? I believe this pick is between Winged Words and Embodiment of Agonies. Furthermore, with two other black cards in my pool, I’m inclined to stay open by following up with Embodiment. Even Pack 1, Pick 1, Embodiment of Agonies is probably better than Winged Words, but I do believe that pick is closer than you may think.

Pack 1, Pick 4

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

If you take Bladebrand here because it is the same color as the rest of your picks, I strongly recommend reconsidering your philosophy. Staying open is valuable, but taking Bladebrand here doesn’t actually keep you more open than taking any other card. It’s a fallacy. How likely do you think Bladebrand is to make your deck? And if it does, is it that much better than what you’re replacing? Bladebrand is the definition of a 23rd card. It rarely fills an important role and rarely makes a large impact on the game. The card is fine, but at this point in a draft, it is much better to speculate on a card outside of your colors that has the potential to be impactful.

Bone to Ash and Reduce to Ashes are prime examples of clunky interaction. You can play either card, but their mana cost is prohibitive to their utility. Yes, Bone to Ash is a two-for-one. But it can also get stuck in your hand easily. In my opinion, these kinds of cards are taken too highly in basically every Limited format.

Swiftwater Cliffs and Diamond Knight are the reasonable picks for staying open. Diamond Knight ranges from poor to solid, depending on how hard to one color your deck leans. And the logic of “when in doubt, take the land” is reasonable out of such a weak pack. A Dimir deck could splash red, a Rakdos deck could splash blue, and even an Izzet deck could splash Blood for Bones in order to loop Scholar of the Ages.

This leaves Ogre Siegebreaker and Goblin Smuggler. Goblin Smuggler has impressed me. The card is unassuming, but don’t underestimate it. I groan whenever my opponent casts this on Turn 3 if they can get in hasty damage. It’s one of the key components to the mono-red archetype, and generally crucial to red aggressive decks.

Ogre Siegebreaker is a bit of an odd card. A 4/3 for four isn’t fantastic stats, although it is serviceable. And the ability is less valuable when your opponent knows about it. Vraska’s Finisher was best with a surprise factor, and so the Siegebreaker will play out a bit differently. I would read it as “attacking creatures you control have deathtouch” because your opponent can choose to trade down if they would like to, but they can also take the damage. That’s still a fairly powerful card, but it’s worse than it initially looks.

Honestly, there are no great options here. I drafted this a bit over a week ago and didn’t have much experience with Ogre Siegebreaker. I took it, but after playing with it more, I’m not so sure it’s the correct pick. It was always worse than I expected, although it was a fine card overall.

If you think you cracked the code with this pick and have good logic to back that up, let me know on Twitter!