Top 20 Standard Cards In Core Set 2019

While Patrick Chapin is covering countdowns of eras past, Todd Stevens is continuing one of the best new traditions in Magic: his new set top 20! How does your ranking compare?

I’ve listed my Top 20 Standard Cards from every set since Eldritch Moon except for Dominaria. There was other news
to write about at the time, and unfortunately I couldn’t fit it in my
weekly article schedule. However, with Core Set 2019 on the
horizon, I think this is the perfect time to bring back my Top 20 Standard
Cards list featuring Magic’s newest set.

I try to focus on what I cards I believe will have an impact on Standard
throughout their entirety of being legal in the format, and not just what
will jump out of the gates. Predicting what’s going to see the most play
throughout that many months of different formats is basically impossible,
but that’s the fun of this! If you’d like to see how I’ve done in the past
to see what I’ve been right or wrong about, you can check out my last four
Top 20 lists here:

Top 20 Standard Cards from Rivals of Ixalan

Top 20 Standard Cards from Ixalan

Top 20 Standard Cards from Hour of Devastation

Top 20 Standard Cards from Amonkhet

I won’t be including any reprints in Core Set 2019 that are
already in Standard. That means you won’t find Lightning Strike, Shock,
Essence Scatter or the like on here. I’ll include some reprints that aren’t
currently legal in Standard like always, but I’m not going to take any easy
answers with the cards that are already in the format. That looks like
enough of a prologue. Let’s get to it!

20. Murder

The removal spells that black has access to right now are incredibly good,
and I don’t expect Murder to see any play until rotation at the earliest.
Even after rotation, there will still be Walk the Plank, Cast Down, and
Vraska’s Contempt, plus another new set in the fall, so there’s still
pretty slim chances Murder will see much play. With that said, it is an
instant speed non-conditional removal spell so how popular expensive
creatures like Lyra Dawnbringer get, as well as how valuable instant speed
is, will dictate how much play Murder will see.

19. Liliana, Untouched by Death

All five of the Core Set 2019 planeswalkers make my Top 20 list,
starting with Liliana, Untouched by Death, which is the most narrow of the
bunch. Even though you won’t find Liliana in any non-Zombie deck, I still
could see it having an impact on Standard in the next couple of months
before rotation, as many of the same Zombie cards that were in Gerry
Thompson’s Pro Tour Amonkhet-winning deck are still legal in the
format right now. I’m not exactly sure what that deck would look like, but
there’s no better place to start with than with this deck
Gerry posted a couple weeks ago

If Zombies make an appearance in the Standard metagame, Liliana, Untouched
by Death will be a big part of the reason why.

18. Shield Mare

Shield Mare is a part of a cycle of Horses, two of which make my list
today. Gaining life is a classic way to defeat red decks, and Shield Mare
looks to be a nice sideboard option for a variety of white decks in the
format. Not only do you have a modestly-sized creature at 2/3 for three
mana, but you’ll also gain three life simply for getting Shield Mare onto
the battlefield where it will hopefully trade with another creature the
opponent has. If it doesn’t and your opponent decides to use a removal
spell on it, you’ll gain another three life for your trouble. This isn’t
the most powerful card by any means but add in any kind of life gain
synergy or recursion and Shield Mare will do more than pull its weight
against aggressive decks. The fact that it’s also an unblockable creature
against red decks is an extra bonus.

17. Elvish Rejuvenator

The next three cards I’m going to have on my list are more speculative than
anything, as I’m really not sure how they will fit in, but they most likely
won’t see any play until rotation and will have to have new decks built
around them in mind. The first of these in Elvish Rejuvenator, which as a
three mana 1/1 is hardly inspiring. The enters-the-battlefield ability, on
the other hand, is completely inspiring since it allows you to ramp by
putting the best land out of the top five cards of your library onto the
battlefield. Again, I’m not sure where this will see play, and it will
likely have to be after rotation when there should be less Goblin
Chainwhirlers around due to the rotating red cards, but this card could be
a fantastic enabler in the future.

16. Demon of Catastrophes

A four mana 6/6 flying trample creature is certainly no joke, even with the
drawback of having to sacrifice a creature to cast it. We saw Desecration
Demon dominate Standard during the days of Mono-Black Devotion, and it
didn’t have trample and could also be tapped down. Once Demon of
Catastrophes is on the battlefield it will be the biggest thing in the air,
with the only thing holding it back right now being the additional cost to
cast. If that’s ever mitigated, this card to shine. Notably if you can get
this creature onto the battlefield without casting it, for example
reanimating it from your graveyard, you won’t have to sacrifice a creature.

15. Dark-Dweller Oracle

Dark-Dweller Oracle is one of the most perplexing cards for me to evaluate
in recent times but looks to have potential. For one mana, you can
sacrifice a creature and then play the top card of your library, whether
it’s a land or a spell that you’ll still need to be able to cast. I can see
how and why that would be useful, but I’m not seeing the type of deck that
really wants to play this right now. Is it just a go-wide Goblin deck that
can sacrifice extra tokens to cast new spells? Maybe some kind of combo
deck? It does work very nice against Settle the Wreckage, allowing you to
sacrifice the creatures that would get exiled to play new spells on your
turn, but not so much against sweepers cast on your opponents’ turn unless
you reveal instants. I could see Dark-Dweller Oracle seeing no Standard
play and also I could see it being a key piece of a tier one deck.

14. Chromium, the Mutable

Chromium, the Mutable will likely see a decent amount of Standard play as a
control mirror-breaker, coming in from the sideboard as a threat that is
incredibly difficult to deal with while ending the game quickly. Even with
this, it’s still just a three-color sideboard card, so it’s hard to have a
huge impact on the format. I don’t expect it to see any main deck play, so
there are some major limitations, but every control player will need to
have answers for it on their radar.

13. Stitcher’s Supplier

Stitcher’s Supplier was a pretty difficult card for me to rank as I’m not
sure if it will see play after rotation, but I think it will find home in a
couple decks right away. I talked before about a Zombies deck with Liliana,
Untouched by Death and Stitcher’s Supplier will likely be an important
one-drop in that deck, but it’s not where I’m most excited about the card.
U/B God-Pharaoh’s Gift decks have been popular in the past and Stitcher’s
Supplier’s self-milling ability looks to be a perfect inclusion for that
deck. I’m very nervous about the 1/1 body not mattering enough to make the
card played as much as it should be, like we’ve seen with Dusk Legion
Zealot so far, but I have high hopes for this Zombie.

12. Banefire

Banefire is an incredibly interesting reprint for the current Standard
format. It will mostly be used in G/R Ramp style decks alongside Hour of
Promise as a somewhat inefficient removal spell that doubles as a finisher
against control decks, but I could also see red aggro decks that play it in
their sideboard for the control matchup because of one card: Settle the
Wreckage. The presence of Settle the Wreckage in U/W Control means red
aggro decks will likely have many more lands than normal on the battlefield
throughout a long game which raises the effectiveness of Banefire. However,
U/W Control decks still have an answer to Banefire in Commit, meaning that
it isn’t quite a light’s out card in the matchup. Having both Settle the
Wreckage and Commit in the same Standard format as Banefire is incredibly
intriguing to me, and I can’t wait to see how the gameplay and decklists
play out with these cards in mind.

11. Anticipate

There’s nothing flashy about Anticipate, but it’s a solid card selection
spell for two mana in Standard for control or combo decks. I’ve been very
happy to
have it in my decks in the past
to help find whatever I needed in the matchup I was playing, whether a
counterspell in a control mirror or a sweeper against a creature deck. Two
mana instants also play perfectly with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which
makes Anticipate an even more valuable card in the current Standard

10. Graveyard Marshal

Graveyard Marshal looks to be a solid two-drop for all sorts of black decks
moving forward and not just Zombie decks, although it will certainly see
play in the latter. The double black casting cost is certainly a hindrance,
but Graveyard Marshal is a quality two-drop that’s an amazing draw in the
late game when you have access to tons of mana, which is incredibly
valuable. I expect to see plenty of this card in a variety of decks over
its Standard shelf life.

9. Sarkhan, Fireblood

I really enjoy the design of Sarkhan, Fireblood and it’s one of the cards
in Core Set 2019 that I’m personally excited to play with the
most. I’m already

brewing with it in Modern

, and there could be some interesting new Standard decks that take
advantage of every ability as well.

Three mana planeswalkers have traditionally been Standard staples, and
Sarkhan, Fireblood looks to be yet another. The power of being able to
rummage through your deck every turn is being overlooked by some,
especially in this format with aftermath and eternalize cards. I could also
see Sarkhan being the key piece of a R/B Control deck which is the kind of
deck that always looks better on paper than how it performs because of the
variance in its draw steps and lack of velocity to filter through the deck,
the exact problem Sarkhan can solve.

8. Sai, Master Thopterist

You’ll certainly need to build around this innocuous looking 1/4, but if
you do, the payoffs can be enormous. There are so many good cheap artifacts
right now that you’ll easily be able to play Sai, Master Thopterist in the
mid-game and immediately create a Thopter token or two for your trouble. It
pairs particularly well with Mox Amber from Dominaria, which is
not only a zero mana artifact that Sai enables, but can also be sacrificed
by Sai when you draw multiples. You do need to be worried about Goblin
Chainwhirler and Plague Mare when building a deck around Thopter tokens,
but I think the payoffs will be worth the trouble.

7. Vivien Reid

Just like with Sarkhan, Fireblood, I’m also high on Vivien Reid and believe
it’s being overlooked by many right now. The competition for five mana
cards is incredibly high with Standard having the full eight sets, but that
should ease up after rotation. The ability I’m most excited about with
Vivien Reid is the minus three ability. We’ve seen how valuable being able
to destroy an artifact or enchantment in the maindeck is with Vraska, Relic
Seeker and Vivien Reid can do the same for one less mana. Unfortunately,
Vivien Reid can’t destroy any creature like Vraska does, but hopefully your
green creatures have the ground locked up while Vivien takes down important
flyers like Lyra Dawnbringer or Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. This is ignoring
the plus one ability that’s basically an Impulse which will bury opponents
that are behind or at parity over the long run. Vivien Reid looks to be a
solid planeswalker that I believe will see around as much play as Vraska,
Relic Seeker has seen so far.

6. Plague Mare

The incredibly easy comparison to Plague Mare is Goblin Chainwhirler, which
has been directly in the Standard spotlight ever since it’s dominant
performance at Pro Tour Dominaria. Plague Mare is obviously not as
good, as it’s a 2/2 instead of a 3/3 with first strike, and it doesn’t deal
damage to the opponent or planeswalkers they control, but it does have some
upside. It’s likely the “can’t be blocked by white creatures” text won’t be
relevant too often, but there may be times it can get through some white
blockers to finish off a planeswalker or maybe even a game. More
importantly, giving -1/-1 to the creatures until end of turn instead of one
damage will make combat easier on your side against creatures that have
more than one toughness. I don’t expect Plague Mare to be as good as Goblin
Chainwhirler, but it isn’t far off and looks to be a wonderful option for
aggressive black decks to have access to.

5. Cleansing Nova

Cleansing Nova looks like another card that will need to wait until
rotation to start seeing widespread play because of the presence of
Fumigate, which is likely the better card for now. However, as long as
another sweeper isn’t printed in Guilds of Ravnica, I expect
Cleansing Nova to see plenty of play. You won’t be as incentivized to play
the remaining enchantment removal like Seal Away and Ixalan’s Binding with
Cleansing Nova in your deck, but there’s no harm in having the versatility
to destroy all artifacts and enchantments as well if that’s necessary. It’s
possible Karn, Scion of Urza or Tezzeret, Artifice Master artifact decks
become quite popular, making Cleansing Nova even better.

4. Resplendent Angel

When I initially saw Resplendent Angel for the first time I wasn’t as
impressed with it as many people were as I didn’t like the idea of playing
a three-drop that easily died to Lightning Strike and Abrade for no value.
However, after more consideration as well as some early testing with the
card, I’m starting to really come around on it. Although it fits a nice
spot on the curve, you don’t need to play it on turn three against the red
removal decks, and instead can wait until Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants or
Lyra Dawnbringer can help it survive those removal spells when you’re not
under too much pressure. I also didn’t value the ability very highly, but
it can drastically change the dynamics of the game single-handedly and any
time you’re able to create an Angel token you’ll be sitting pretty. I
didn’t have high hopes for Resplendent Angel at first, but now I’m thinking
it will be a future Standard staple, filling the three-drop slot on the
curve of various white decks along with History of Benalia.

3. Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants

Similarly to Resplendent Angel, I didn’t appreciate Ajani, Adversary of
Tyrants until I started to play with and against the card. The plus one
ability didn’t look like much to me immediately, but it can create a ton of
pressure by turning mediocre threats into ones that can end the game
quickly. I particularly like pairing Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants with
Knight of Glory and Knight of Malice. They are naturally good against spot
removal on their own, and Ajani allows you to make them large enough that
you don’t need to overcommit to the battlefield, which in turn makes them
good against sweepers as well. Plus, when they die, they are two-drops that
Ajani can get back from the graveyard. Ajani also curves perfectly after
History of Benalia, and therefore I’m excited about the future of W/B Aggro
decks based around this package of knights and Ajani.

2. Tezzeret, Artifice Master

While Tezzeret, Artifice Master is not nearly as easy to build around as
Ajani is, it’s an incredibly powerful card if the right home can be found
for it. A five-mana planeswalker that has a three mana card as a zero
ability, in this case Divination, is unprecedented in Standard play as far
as I know, even though you need to work for it a little bit by having three
artifacts on the battlefield. Besides that, Tezzeret starts at a high
loyalty while being able to create Thopter tokens that can chump block to
protect Tezzeret or race in the air after stabilizing, making it the best
traditional planeswalker in the set in my opinion. You probably won’t see
Tezzeret dominating on day one due to the difficulty of building decks
around it, but I expect it will make a similar impact as Teferi, Hero of
Dominaria as a defining card in Standard.

1. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and Nicol Bolas, the Arisen

I’ve already written plenty
about Nicol Bolas, the Ravager when I gave Core Set 2019 its
report card a couple weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been able to play quite a
few games with Nicol Bolas and I’ve been as impressed as I thought I would
be when I first wrote about the card. It’s simply a fantastic card, and the
only thing that will hold it back from seeing widespread Standard play is
the three different colors in the mana cost. Currently Grixis has plenty of
great options to play alongside Nicol Bolas, and I believe Grixis Midrange
will be one of the top Standard decks right away when Core Set 2019 arrives, but with many of the supporting cards
rotating, we will have to see if Nicol Bolas can continue to carry the
Grixis colors through rotation. I’m optimistic that it will be able to, and
therefore Nicol Bolas, the Ravager is my top Standard card from Core Set 2019.

So there we have it, my Top 20 Standard Cards from Core Set 2019.
Which cards do you think will have a much bigger or smaller impact
throughout its Standard life than I do? Are there any cards I missed? Even
though they aren’t the easiest to build around, Tezzeret, Artifice Master
and Nicol Bolas, the Ravager look to be a step above the rest of the set
and took my two top slots. Of course we won’t know anything for sure until #SCGWOR, the next stop
on the SCG Tour where myself, Jody Keith, and Collins Mullen will try to
improve on our top 4 finish from the last Team Constructed Open at #SCGBALT and bring
home the title.