Return to Core Set Limited
After a brief hiatus, the core set is back this summer, with Core Set 2019 fully spoiled and coming out in a couple weeks.
While some players find this beginner-friendly product less interesting to play, I have always really enjoyed core set limited. M13 was the first set I played on Magic Online, when I really learned how to draft, and was well-balanced and one of my favorite sets to the day. My first Grand Prix Top 8 was also in core set limited, playing M15 Team Sealed. With less heavy themes, there are more individually flavorful cards and the identities of each color stand out more. While it might not take as many drafts to figure out the format, it is a very pure form of limited magic. This format will not be played at the Pro Tour this summer, but there are a couple of Grand Prixs at the end of July. I’ll have a hometown GP Sacramento, getting to drive 20 minutes and sleep in my own bed.
With the full spoiler released, I have poured over the commons and uncommons. While not as flashy, they are always my favorite part of a set spoiler, as they are the key to have a limited format plays out. Since the last core set, there has been a recent trend of signpost multicolor uncommons, which are a great started point to see some of the themes of the color identities. Some of these uncommons require specific support that will push the color pair in a specific direction:
Blue-white has an artifact subtheme, with Aerial Engineer one of a few cards that reward you for having an artifact in play. However, there are only 6 artifacts at common (compared to 11 in the last set of Dominaria), so it will be important to prioritize artifacts in drafting this archetype.
Red-black looks to sacrifice creatures for value, especially hoping to use Act of Treason to steal and then sacrifice the opponent’s creatures.
Enigma Drake is back from Amonkhet. The blue-red spells archetype can range between a tempo deck or a more controlling deck. Cheap spells that replace themselves like Anticipate and Tormenting Voice are a good way to reach critical mass of spells while also helping to find the key threats that synergize with instants and sorceries.
The lifegain theme in black-white has the most cards that support it. Regal Bloodlord and Ajani’s Pridemate are the two biggest payoffs. The creatures that gain life (especially repeatedly from lifelinkers) are the best way to enable them. It’s possible that with enough copies of the payoff cards you want to go as far as the pure lifegain cards like Fountain of Renewal, but most versions of the deck can probably find enough incidental lifegain on cards that affect the board.
Satyr Enchanter is probably the weakest of the group, and with the inherent risk of auras on your own creatures, this is the subtheme I am most skeptical of. Vine Mare is one of the best cards for this deck, already a good rate and taking most of the risk out of these auras.

Most of the other gold cards don’t require as much build around, and are just solid cards:
Draconic Disciple is a very solid card, and the creature type Dragon does matter for a few rares, but nothing at common or uncommon.
Heroic Reinforcements might not be that powerful, as a finisher is it probably worse than Inspired Charge, but the go-wide theme is well-supported in red-white. Angel of the Dawn is a functional reprint of Dawnfeather Eagle, a common from Aether Revolt that really overperformed. While not a card I usually want to play, Rustwing Falcon could become a fine role player given enough of these mass-pump effects.
Poison-tip Archer and Skyrider Patrol are potent midrange threats, but they don’t hint to any particular synergies for green-black or green-blue decks. Psychic Symbiont looks to be good top end for a blue-black control deck. This color pair is often the most controlling, and that is very much true hear with these colors removal spells and card advantage.
After then looking through each of the colors’ commons, I was most impressed by white. There is a full curve of very strong commons. Pegasus Courser was arguably the best white common in Dominaria, an essential part of white aggressive decks. Along with Star-Crowned Stag, it will be very hard to block against white decks. There are also two removal spells at common that can answer any creature at an efficient rate. While Take Vengeance is fairly conditional, it does combo well with the Stag. White looks like a great place to start a draft, with strong commons as well as multiple synergistic themes like artifacts or lifegain to look for.

Finally, I’ve thought about how this format will look for sealed deck, which will be most players first experience with the format at the upcoming Prerelease, as well as the important first day of the Grand Prixs. One interesting feature is a full cycle of 10 dual lands at common, which is unusual for a set without a specific multicolor theme. This should make splashes very common for sealed decks.
I will also be happily maindecking Plummet in sealed. Sparktongue Dragon gives every color besides green solid fliers at common, and Plummet will also answer many of the rares, including the cycle of Elder Dragons at mythic, which will more easily see play given the density of dual lands.
The last important question about a new format is its speed, but this can often be hard to deduce from just looking at the list of cards. We saw a handful of powerful aggressive cards, but also with fewer synergistic themes, core set games often revolve around resource exchange. I’ll be curious to see how these different decks play out. Hopefully I’ll see some of you next month at GP Sacramento.
Thanks for reading!

Previous Articles · Meet the Massdrop Teams: · *2nd* at Pro Tour Ixalan: · Unclaimed Creature Types: · Why I Never Drop From Tournaments: · The Art of Sideboard Construction - Sultai Energy: · A Commoner’s View on Pauper: · Blue Moon Beach Control: · Top 5 Modern Decks: · Storm in Vintage Cube: · An Early Look at Rivals for Standard: · A Standard Approach to Evaluating New Cards: · Drafting Rivals of Ixalan: · Team Sealed Secrets: · Steal My Standard Ideas: · Vexing Devil. Any Questions?: · Team Massdrop Rivals of Ixalan Limited Primer: · Gestation of RG Eldrazi: · Top Tim Tournament Training Tips: · What Makes Someone Bogle?: · A Pauper Adventure: · Blue Moon at GP Phoenix: · Brawling into Dominaria: · Looking at The Current Lands(cape) of Legacy · Deconstructing Dominaria Limited: · Diving into Dominaria Standard: · What are your.. drives?: · Top 10 Cards for Dominaria Modern: · Brewing Standard with Dominaria: · Dominaria Team Sealed: A Case Study: · Battlebonding in Vintage and Legacy: · Decks I Almost Played at PT Dominaria: · RB Chainwhirler for the Non-Aggressive Player: · Top 4 at GP Vegas:
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