You may have seen that I published an article on CFB earlier this week praising the return of core sets to Magic. I love core sets on every level. I love that they return Magic from the goofy gimmicks and settings of expansion sets to something more broadly recognized as Magic: The Gathering. I enjoy Core Set Limited.
Most of all, I love Magic cards that are designed to feel like "Magic cards" and not fit into specific niches of set-based mechanics. All things considered, the first half of Core Set 2019 looks like a set that speaks to me. I love tying the set together with the Elder Dragons, and I like the return to traditional fantasy tropes. Not to mention, there are some really, really nice cards in the set!
Today, I'd like to give an overview of how I see the set breaking down from a financial standpoint. I'll be focusing on two things:
- The "defining cards" – These are the cards that I think are almost certainly going to be high-impact in Constructed. A lot of these cards come out of the gate with inflated preorder prices, which makes them mediocre investments, but it's still useful information to keep in mind. Most cards have inflated preorder prices, so it's good to separate the "real deal" from the "pretenders."
- The "overlooked cards" – These tend to be the cards that people are sleeping on and thus have preorder prices that may not reflect the eventual trajectory the card will take. These are cards that I see as having a nice fit "somewhere," whether that is Standard, in a sideboard somewhere, or even at the Kitchen Table. If a card is likely to get sleeved up often, it is worth picking up before the gold rush.
Let's get to it!
There are several cards that call out to me as pretty obvious "difference makers." For one thing, the WOTC design team has this crazy habit of making several bonkers cards in every set that are just too powerful to ignore. The set does feature some nice reprints:
These are known staples. I'm less interested in these than new printings. For all intents and purposes, I view these reprints as similar to those in Modern Masters, where it will simply deflate the price of existing copies. At best, Crucible and Scapeshift are likely just niche players in Standard, but they are expensive niche cards for Eternal and Modern – so they are good choices to put into circulation (although I would rather have seen these at rare and not mythic for Limited play).
Let's focus on the new printings that will make a difference:
It's hard to argue that this isn't a great Magic card in terms of what it does for the cost we pay for it. The preorder is in the $30.00 range, which is what I would expect for this card. In addition to being a Standard Staple, it's also Nicol Bolas for flavor points and has a lot of potential in a Commander setting. Bolas is clearly a card that gives players a reason to play Grixis in Standard.
Resplendent Angel is crazy. There are so many stats and abilities on this card. I would think this card should cost five or six mana when one adds up all the things it does. It casts lifelink-pumped Overrun every turn and makes an Angel token? The card is the epitome of: "If you don't deal with this – you lose. You can't race it. Either it dies, or you do."
It's also just a reasonable aggro creature with a 3/3 flying body for 1WW. So it slots nicely into any aggressive white game and provides insane value later in the game. I think this is the most powerful card in the set. It dies to Lightning Stike and Abrade, so at least there are cards already in play that can easily kill it. But I'm interested in playing this Angel alongside cards like Blossoming Defense with other large monsters to really push the Overrun-plus-lifelink synergy.
I think this is, pound for pound, the most powerful card in the set.
Where It's At
It's very rare that some busted mythic rare slips through the preorder gap with a low starting price. It's usually a tricky card like Jace, Vyrn's Prodigy that is difficult to evaluate. I don't see any two-drop planeswalkers, but perhaps I've overlooked something. If you think I did, be sure to drop it into the comments so we can all get rich by buying them out!
Let's move along to some of the rares that I think are quite good and have modest preorder prices:
There are a couple of unknown factors surrounding this card. The major one is: will Goblin Chainwhirler get banned? If yes, this card is amazing. If no, this card is relegated to niche.
However, a two-mana Elf Lord is new and unique. It doesn't exist, except for this specific card. In a game where creep is real and curves get lower and lower, this is a card that should be considered in all kinds of different Elf decks across various formats. Never underestimate the importance and value of cards that are distinct and provide a unique effect – especially on the cheap!
GGGGG is pretty straightforward. This is a mono-green stompy card. But it could be a really good time to be a stompy deck if Chainwhirler ends up banned. Llanowar Elves helps power this critter out, and it has obvious synergy with other good green cards like Ghalta and Rhonas.
Where's the beef? In the green deck where it belongs!
Creature - Zombie Soldier
2B, Exile a creature card from your graveyard: Create a tapped 2/2 black Zombie creature token.
Graveyard Marshall is a good card. It has great stats, great typing, and an ability that is actively useful. One of my pet decks in Modern is Mono-Black Zombies, and this is a card that I will be excited to add to the mix there. If there is a Zombie deck in Standard (and there probably will be), this is one of the reasons that deck will succeed. It's a legitimate, real, good, Magic card.
Over the next ten years, I predict this is the card from M19 I will sleeve up the most times. It's more of a sideboard card, but can certainly be maindeckable in some decks. The ability to have a reasonable threat with a narrow ability that is so high-impact makes me happy.
Where was this card when Rally the Ancestors was dominating Standard? It makes me think of the scene from Ghostbusters II where the Ghost Titanic ship docks in NY and the port guy says, "Well, better late than never..."
Creature - Dinosaur
Whenever an opponent activates an ability of a creature or land, if it isn't a mana ability, you may draw a card.
I love this card and can't wait to play with it. The 2/5 body for 1GG is sweet. It dodges burn and is a consistently effective blocker.
I love the way that the ability is nicely paired with a defensive-minded creature. Drawing cards over the course of a long game or making creature abilities ineffective and unusable.
It is worth noting that Deathrite Shaman does not have actual "mana abilities." Even the ability that "makes mana" is not immune to this creatures reach, since that ability goes on the stack to exile a land from a graveyard. I would actually consider playing this card in Legacy right now with so many copies of DRS floating around.
Armasaur could also be a house in Modern. Think about how many activated abilities creatures have in decks like Affinity and Collected Company. The card has great stats and a good ability. I think it's a potential winner on those merits alone.
I love me some Thopters.
I look at this card and I see serious Modern and Eternal potential. I'm thinking this card would be great in even Vintage or Legacy. Cheap cards with abilities that trigger for free every time something happens are powerful. There is a long list of cards to prove this theory: Monastery Mentor, Young Pyromancer, Argothian Enchantress, etc.
I'd be shocked if people were not raving about this card in two weeks time. It's my pick for best value in the set right now. It looks like people have maybe missed the bus on this card.
All things considered, Core Set 2019 looks like a really fun set. I picked the cards that I thought were most defining and best value to discuss today, but there are a lot of places to search for value. The $5 and $10 mythic Elder Dragons could easily be great value as well. They are powerful, exciting, flavorful, and most importantly, mythic.
I'm enjoying the spoilers and the new (old?) flavor shift in Magic back to traditional fantasy. I will disclose that I've preordered playsets of Japanese versions of the underpriced cards I discussed. I do believe these are cards that are actively great and that I will be playing with in the future and the price is right – well, for right now!