Drilling Into Core Set 2020 Draft

Welcome to Core Set 2020 Draft! Ryan Saxe has three picks to get you excited for a core set unlike any we’ve ever seen before! Make the most of your early Limited events!

It feels like sets are coming out every time I blink this year. Core Set 2020 is the most excited I’ve been for a core set that I can remember. The power level is fairly high, and it feels as though the complexity of the commons have increased.

Furthermore, Wizards of the Coast is trying something new with the archetypes of this core set. According to this article, rather than creating ten individual archetypes for each color pair, each three-color wedge will overlap archetypally. These archetypes are:

  • Jeskai: Flying
  • Temur: Elementals
  • Abzan: “Go wide”
  • Mardu: Aggro
  • Sultai: Control with enters-the-battlefield effects

I’m excited to see what this means for the Limited format. These definitions are loose, which could create a fluid and deep environment where many cards excel in many archetypes. However, it can also yield an environment lacking in synergy that gets stale quickly. I doubt the format will be poor, but I plan on starting off pursuing card quality over synergy.

Pack 1, Pick 1

The Pack:

The Pick:

I’m usually an advocate for taking the rare at the beginning of any Limited format for data purposes. However, Starfield Mystic is just too narrow. None of the archetypes appear to synergize with enchantments, and hence this seems more like a Constructed plant.

Hard Cover is quite interesting. Auras come with risk, but this one is powerful. Merfolk Looter is one of the best Limited cards you can ask for. This turns any creature into a Merfolk Looter as well as a better blocker. I’ve heard the argument that it’s not like Merfolk Looter because you have to go down a card to put this on a creature. May I remind you that Merfolk Looter is a 1/1, which is nowhere close to worth “a card.” It is a real risk to combine two cards to make a Merfolk Looter, and this isn’t my pick out of this pack, but I have my eyes on this card!

Pulse of Murasa is always better than it looks. Six life is a lot. This card often creates a powerful loop with a card like Archaeomancer, but Scholar of the Ages is a bit expensive to put that together reliably. It’s also two uncommons, where previously this combination has been two commons. In fact, that’s an important note. Pulse of Murasa was previously a common, which means that WotC believes that change was necessary. Just food for thought.

When all is said and done, the best card in this pack is Tomebound Lich, and it isn’t particularly close. The Lich may be a gold card, but it’s great both offensively and defensively. It can trade up and provides premium card selection. And I imagine with the common multicolor lands, gold cards will be easier to play in this set than most.

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

Vilis, Broker of Blood is just too expensive. Remember End-Raze Forerunners? That card looked so powerful, and it was, but the Craterhoof look-alike belonged in your sideboard more often than not. Eight mana just isn’t tangible in Limited barring a very specific deck. Maybe this format will enable Vilis as a bomb rare, but I doubt it.

Reduce to Ashes and cards alike come in basically every set nowadays. They’re almost always overrated at the beginning of the format. “It’s removal,” they say, justifying pick after pick. I’m genuinely curious when the world will finally calibrate and realize that five-mana removal is clunky. Cheap creatures are better than they used to be, and using a card like Reduce to Ashes to kill a two- or three-mana creature can be a significant disadvantage. It’s a fine card, but you shouldn’t take it early, or even really in the middle of the pack either.

Audacious Thief is an incredibly powerful common. If you can back up this bad boy with removal spells to facilitate attacks turn after turn after turn, well, you won’t lose that game. This card is difficult to evaluate because the potency is contingent on if a 2/2 body is relevant in the format and how easy it is to push through via removal spells or combat tricks.

I’ll admit, I first thought Portal of Sanctuary was amazing. And then I read it again, “Activate this ability only on your turn.” I love cards like Crystal Shard and Erratic Portal, but limiting the activation to both sorcery speed and only your creatures makes them substantially worse. I’m not going to take it here, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it is still solid, given that one of the defined archetypes revolves around enters-the-battlefield effects.

The card I am taking out of this pack is Thrashing Brontodon. There’s no reason to be married to my first pick, and it is the best and most efficient card in this pack. Many of the other cards are both enticing and on-color with the gold card in my pool, but I don’t believe they are correct to take.

Pack 1, Pick 3

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

Before I discuss the pick, I want to bring to your attention that there are no black commons in this pack. An overwhelming majority of packs have at least one common in each color. While the signal isn’t guaranteed, it is quite likely that a black common is missing from this pack. This shouldn’t have a large weight in the decision of what to take and how to draft, but it is an important data point and can be employed as a tiebreaker.

Eternal Isolation is an efficient removal spell, but how often should you start the card? I imagine, just like Smite the Monstrous, Eternal Isolation is just a phenomenal sideboard card. It looks like a two-mana removal spell. It’s not. Most creatures in a Draft deck have two or three power.

Ferocious Pup is an interesting card to evaluate. An 0/1 and a 2/2 is a fine, yet unexciting, rate for three mana. However, with cards like Portal of Sanctuary running around, it’s possible that this little pupper pulls some weight. Centaur Courser, the other green card in this pack in contention, is a solid filler card in almost any format. If I’m choosing between the two, I think it’s important to just select the one that I need to learn more about even if Centaur Courser is a better rate.

It’s unclear which blue common, Winged Words or Unsummon, is the better blue choice from this pack. This is mostly a comment on format speed and the importance of playing to the battlefield in blue decks. In a format like Dominaria, Winged Words would be much better than Unsummon, but in a format like Ixalan, Unsummon would be much better than Winged Words. At the moment I am expecting Winged Words to be better based on the archetypal definition that blue decks are either based around flying or a control shell. Furthermore, Unsummon may be worse in a field of creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects.

Lastly, Blood for Bones is a powerful card, especially given the omnipresent theme in this article about enters-the-battlefield effects. Sacrificing a Ferocious Pup, as sad as that is, is a lot of value for Limited. Given that the Sultai wedge is focused on these value creatures, I believe Blood for Bones pairs well with what I have in my pool so far. The real question is whether or not the fact that it’s likely that a person passing to me is in black should influence me towards another card in this pack. I believe the delta in power between Blood for Bones and the rest of the pack is large enough that it is the pick regardless.