Core Set 2020 Limited Guide (Part 2)
In this section I will be discussing my picks for the best common and uncommon cards for each color. These are cards that should be prioritized when drafting. Additionally, each color has a couple themes that you should keep in mind when selecting cards, as there is a lot of potential synergy to maximize as much as possible. I will be highlighting the themes and drawing your attention to card interactions I think are especially powerful.
As I mentioned in Part 1, I do think that White is the weakest color in this set. This is primarily because on an individual basis its cards are weaker than the others. However, White has two themes that come through pretty strongly, and if you are able to draft around those themes it is possible to create a powerful deck. White also has a lot of solid flyers which can help compliment Blue and form one of the stronger archetypes in the format.
Themes: Life Gain, Creatures Matter
There are several payoffs for gaining life in White and Angel of Vitality is the best one at Uncommon. A 3-mana 2/2 flyer is fine, and I have been surprised how many times I’ve gotten her to 4/4. Fencing Ace also performs better than usual in M20 due to the myriad of efficient ways to buff it (like Ancestral Blade) and the general weakness of 2-drops. Herald of the Sun is a good example of a card that seems expensive, but often pays off due to how slow the format is. Master Splicer and Gods Willing are both very efficient cards I am always happy to play. Protection is a very powerful effect, and Gods Willing provides a lot of utility. Typically you are going to use it to block removal or win combat, but it also has 2-for-1 potential if you use it against a stack block, and you can also make something unblockable at an important time. Even if you use it 1-for-1 you still get to Scry, which essentially draws you a card if you Scry away an unneeded land. All that for 1-mana makes me think this is an underrated card!
At common the creatures matter theme starts to come through. Pacifism is the strongest individual card here, but the others are all efficient. Ideally you want to have 3-4 Battalion Foot Soldiers for them to be worth playing. It takes a while to get them all on the field, but once again in M20 you tend to have the luxury of time. Also, flooding the board with creatures helps payoff some other cards:
Both of these cards rely on you having things like Foot Soldiers or Raise the Alarm to be worth the mana, but when it comes together White can present some powerful board states. Combine that with tap-down or bounce effects in Blue or Overcome from Green and you have yourself a solid creature deck.
Blue is likely the strongest color in M20. As you will see there are several individually powerful cards at both common and uncommon, so you don’t even need to rely on very much synergy to make Blue work. Similarly, the themes are very straightforward and powerful on their own.
Themes: Flying, Card Advantage
Renowned Weaponsmith and Scholar of the Ages take a little work to pay off, but all of the others are stand-alone greats. Spectral Sailor is the rare 1-drop that must be removed/raced or will eventually win the game. Wavecrasher combos well with Cloudkin Seer or Frost Lynx (see below), and can also be played on an empty board with no penalty. Warden of Evos Isle can quickly flood the board with cheap flyers or ramp into a 4th turn Air Elemental or Boreal Elemental (see below), and is at worst a 3-mana 2/2 flyer which is a fine playable.
The top three are unbelievably efficient commons for a core set. Cloudkin Seer in particular is absolutely nuts as a 2/1 flyer that doesn’t even cost you a card. Most core sets offer a 2/2 flyer at 3-mana common, and sacrificing a toughness to gain a card is quite a deal! Frost Lynx also performs great as a tempo card. Tapping a creature for two of your combats can be quite powerful. Boreal Elemental’s ability is often relevant since most removal that deals with it costs 4 or 5 mana, and your opponent may get stuck before reaching the 6 or 7 required. Also consider that all three of these creatures are Elementals, the best supported tribe in the format, and it should be obvious why Blue is so strong. The noncreature spells are solid as well. Winged Words often acts as a 2-mana Divination, Sleep Paralysis is usually hard removal for 4 mana, and Unsummon is quite good in this set due to all of the playable enchantments. Honorable mentions also include:
These three are all solid playables. Metropolis Sprite in particular has overperformed, especially if you have ways to pump it since its ability can further convert the added toughness into damage. All in all I am very happy to draft Blue in Core Set 2020
Black is a bit unfocused in this set. It definitely offers some powerful cards, but I see it more as a complimentary color unless you are able to find a lot of graveyard interaction cards. It seems like there is a definite Black-centered archetype that generates a lot of card advantage through certain cards, but I don’t see that deck coming together too often.
Themes: Graveyard Interaction, Removal
Blood for Bones is another underrated card that will almost always deliver solid value. It has excellent synergy with other Black staples such as Gravedigger, Gorging Vulture, and Sanitarium Skeleton (see below). If you add Blue for Scholar of the Ages you can even loop it! Bloodthirsty Aerialist can be triggered by some Black cards such as Vampire of the Dire Moon, Gorging Vulture, or Agonizing Syphon, but in a BW deck can end up being one of your biggest threats. I like Yarok’s Fenlurker but the BB cost means you will want to be mostly Black to run it. There are benefits to going Black though, especially when it comes to removal. Disfigure is a very good example and is more than simply a Black shock since you can use it to weaken creatures and win combat without trading.
Black has two more quality removal spells at common in Agonizing Syphon and Murder. Murder also has a double swamp casting cost, but it is so worth it. Instant speed hard removal at common for 3 mana in a core set is unheard of, and this is not a card to be overlooked. Another card you should not overlook is Audacious Thief. Worst case scenario it replaces itself for only 1 life, and if you are able to keep him attacking for a couple turns the card advantage can get out of hand. Bomb rares aside, if I see multiples of Murder and/or Audacious Thief I am happy to draft Black in M20. The other commons here are good support for the Black themes and have good synergy with one another. Gorging Vulture is an efficient creature that fills your graveyard, while Boneclad Necromancer and Sanitarium Skeleton pay off from it. There are even a couple more commons that are close to making it such as Bone Splinters (see below). I am not as high on that card as some people though because you are giving your opponent a 2-for-1 and can potentially get blown out by a counter/protection spell. In a perfect world you are sacrificing Sanitarium Skeleton and destroying a Bomb, so there is certainly upside, it just isn’t a spell I would reach on. Finally, there is one additional uncommon I considered adding to the list:
In all of my games so far I have not played or played against Bloodsoaked Altar, but I am still pretty sure it is good. The format seems slow enough that you could realistically produce 2-3 Demons, and I have a hard time seeing how you would lose the game at that point. I am looking forward to giving it a try but wanted to disclose that I have not really tested it at this point.
Red is similar to Black in that it has a lot of tools for supporting certain archetypes, but I do not think it as strong as Blue or Green card-for-card. Red (perhaps unsurprisingly) does best supporting Aggro archetypes, particularly Red/Green Elementals.
Themes: Elementals (Aggro), Removal
Chandra is the best of the bunch here, and is an amazing deal for 4 mana. Usually she is going to shock 2+ times, but having the option to mana ramp or +1 to crank up the value on Elemental creatures like Scampering Scorcher is nice utility. Uncaged Fury is a card I am probably much higher on than most, but after playing it in a few decks I am convinced it is one of the best uncommon cards in the set. At worst it wins a combat for you, and it can quite easily win the game with a 6+ damage swing. There are many great flying (Blue) or trample (Green) targets and it will often work to simply go wide and then power up an unblocked creature. At any rate, it is a card I am really happy to play (particularly in this format). Ember Hauler is a card I have passed on a few times if my deck isn’t Red enough, but I have also played and been happy with it, often getting some early damage in and then shocking a flyer. Flame Sweep is a really powerful effect at instant speed. Note that it hits enemy flyers but not yours. Some assembly is required in that you will need to potentially omit cards like Scampering Scorcher. Finally, Rapacious Dragon has solid stats but be aware that synergy with the Treasure is not often there.
These are the six Red commons I am looking for. Chandra’s Outrage and Shock are the more exciting removal spells, while Reduce to Ashes does get the job done but for a hefty cost. Lavakin Brawler is a staple creature that gets really intimidating when it comes out 3rd turn on the back of Chandra’s Embercat. Worse, Goblin Smuggler can make Lavakin Brawler unblockable before she grows during combat. Red has the most synergy paired with Green, or even Blue and Green, but it has pieces that could support other archetypes. Red does thin out somewhat at common past these cards, but I have Infuriated some people and it is quite entertaining.
Last but not least, Green is very well supported in M20 despite not having a clear theme besides being stacked with efficient creatures. Green pairs well with Blue and/or Red as an Elementals-centered creature deck. I could also see GB or GW working since both can benefit from the creatures Green offers. For this reason I would put Green up with Blue as the two most important/powerful colors in this format.
Themes: Creatures, Elementals
Barkhide Troll is my favorite of the double-costed cycle, winning combat against nearly all 2 and 3 drops in this set as well as threatening hexproof. Howling Giant with its uncannily similar art costs a small fortune but provides 9/9 worth of stats and an important Reach keyword. Thrashing Brontodon is a solid creature and there are some viable targets for its ability even though it can be painful to give up a 3/4 body for it. Woodland Champion has a few friends in Green, but most other colors can contribute some token generation as well. I wouldn’t go overboard building around Champion, but it is awesome when you can get your 2-drop to 4/4 early. On the noncreature front I would say Overcome is a borderline bomb. It is very common to find yourself in a board stall in this set and this is one of the few cards that can crack the game open. Wolfrider’s Saddle is better than it looks for the same reason. As long as you own the biggest creature it enables you to continually attack in situations where your opponent has good stack blocks.
Silverback Shaman, Rabid Bite, and Leafkin Druid are the most important here, but I will say Mammoth Spider falls just after that. The spider is very underrated in this set. Most people seem to think it is a fine playable, but it is much more than that in this set. There are a ton of weak flyers and 5 toughness is surprisingly hard to crack. Mammoth Spider has been middling in previous sets but it really shines in this format. Thicket Crasher has solid stats and giving cards like Lavakin Brawler trample can actually pay off really well. Sedge Scorpion is another card that plays better than it looks in this format, as it trades with anything on the ground and turns Rabid Bite into hard removal. Altogether Green brings a powerful batch of creatures to help beef up any deck.
Notable Artifacts and Lands
Meteor Golem is well worth the 7-mana and Pattern Matcher seems to find a match as long as you can double up 4+ cards in your deck. Anvilwrought Raptor isn’t an early pick but is a solid playable due to all of the low toughness flyers in the format. I am not too keen on the other common/uncommon artifacts outside of bow/vial/Diamond Knight in the Renowned Weaponsmith deck I mentioned in part 1 or Scuttlemutt as a mana dork in a 3+ color deck.
The Rare (scry) lands are quite good and can definitely be taken as good playables even if you only have 1 of the colors in your deck. I would only take gain lands at the filler level unless I have a few double costed cards and my mana base needs help. I generally like playing Evolving Wilds (even in 2-color decks) because it helps thin out the lands. Cryptic Cave would be great in a mono color deck but playing it in most others would make me nervous.
If I was forced to rank the colors I would go with:
Blue ~ Green > Red ~ Black > White
UG Elementals, GR Elementals, and UW Flyers seem to be the strongest decks in the format. Black-based Graveyard decks and Red-based Aggro decks also seem solid, and there are some other interesting builds such as the mono-blue Renowned Weaponsmith Artifacts deck. It will be interesting to see how the meta evolves, especially in a BO1 environment. I hope you found this guide informative! As always, leave me some comments/questions and if you are feeling generous today there is a donate button below. You can also follow me on twitch (http://Twitch.tv/compulsion02) where I will be doing some M20 drafts with commentary.