Core Set 2020 Draft Tips

Tzu-Mainn Chen
August 26, 2019
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Core Set 2020 Limited has been a pleasant surprise! The draft portion requires more thought than a simple “pick-the-best-card-in-your-colors” strategy, and the gameplay can require tactical thinking. This article will talk about what I’ve found to be the strongest draft archetypes, but before I do that, I’ll offer up a generic piece of advice for drafting Core 2020: be proactive when picking cards for your strategy. Sometimes what that means can be obvious: if you’re playing Elementals… pick the Elementals. Other times it can be less so: Sanitarium Skeleton is a surprisingly high pick if you’re playing any sort of Black-based value deck. With that being said, here are my favorite archetypes!


Rx Elementals

In Core 2020, Elementals are based in the Temur colors - Blue, Red, and Green. I am happy to play any Elemental deck that is centered around Red. Why? Because of one key card: Lavakin Brawler.


This - common! - is a one card wrecking crew. It is difficult to block cleanly, and if your opponent tries to double-block it, a single combat trick represents a huge blowout and often ends the game on the spot.

  

Lavakin Brawler has a few good friends in Red. Chandra’s Embercat lets you drop the Brawler down on turn 3 and attack as a 4/4 - or bigger - on turn 4. Another is Scampering Scorcher, which adds three power to the Brawler’s attack while adding three more bodies to the board.


  

Which color should you pair with Red? Green allows you to ramp into bigger and bigger creatures, giving you a formidable board presence at every point in your curve. Creeping Trailblazer is also an impressive lord that will draw you towards Green.  However, I prefer Blue. Blue gives you a source of card advantage needed if your opponent can deal with your initial threats, and flying Elementals provide an added axis of attack that often leaves your opponent with no good choices for their removal. Cloudkin Seer <3 


Green Stompy

  

I do like attacking, but sometimes Red isn’t an option. When that happens, my fallback plan is to go Green and simply win by outsizing my opponent (sometimes with the help of a combat trick or two). The trick is to pick Green’s outsized creatures at every point in the curve, starting with Centaur Courser at three, Thicket Crasher at four, Silverback Shaman at five, and culminating with the card that really makes this strategy work: Vorstclaw at six.


Vorstclaw is the best claw, and a threat that many opposing decks simply can’t deal with. I’m happy to play with two or three of this guy, and I’ve had opponents scoop as soon as I cast my second one.


We’ve already talked about Red/Green as an Elemental strategy, so how about pairing Green with Blue or Black? Blue gives you evasion and flying threats - the latter being especially important, as a couple of Growth Cycles on a flier can win the game out of nowhere. Black gives you better removal and an ability to play a longer game with some graveyard value.

 

Blue/Black Control

This archetype is more difficult to draft than the previous two, simply because many of the key cards are uncommons. There are still some powerful commons here - Cloudkin Seer and Audacious Thief come to mind - but they’re strong because they allow you to draw into the engines that allow you to break the game open: Blood for Bones, Scholar of the Ages, and Portal of Sanctuary, to name just a few.


This strategy is one that expects to win in the long-term, generating so much recursive value that your opponent is left in an untenable situation. In the short-term you need a way to stall any attack, and the preferable answer is removal. Cards like Moat Piranha are also reasonable at stalling the ground, but can be quickly outclassed or evaded. The deck also needs win conditions. Outside of premium rares, flyers are ideal. But Frilled Sea Serpent has also performed well for me. Sometimes a goofy win condition is still a win condition. 


There’s a certain amount of tension in drafting Blue/Black Control. You need a balance of interaction, value, and win conditions. Sometimes the cards won’t come together - but when they do, your deck will feel unbeatable.

 

Blue Tempo/Value

Cards like Frost Lynx and Cloudkin Seer are a wonderful mix of board presence and immediate value. If you don’t have the big threats from Red/Green or the removal and recursion from Black, then you can still win by drawing cards, carefully manipulating the board, and pecking in with damage.


This is the sort of deck you end up with if you start with the value plan, and get cut off from quality removal and creatures. This is also the sort of deck where pump spells double as bad removal and win conditions. Blue Tempo/Value is not an archetype I’d aim for - but I’ve definitely won with it before.

Black/Red Aggro

“Aggro” is a bit of a misnomer here. I end up in Black/Red when I greedily snap up all the beautiful removal in those colors - and then realize I need to find some way to win. I’ve found that one of the best ways to do so is with this gem:


In some ways, Black/Red plays like a tempo deck. It’s not about winning the long game; it’s about inching ahead in the beginning, and then controlling the board just enough to get your opponent to 0 life before you lose. Cards like Goblin Smuggler are extremely effective at pushing through the needed damage, and also feature in some nice combos with equipment, as well as with perennial all-stars Audacious Thief and Lavakin Brawler.


Black/Red Aggro has a certain fragility to it; it can lose to a single Flame Sweep. But it also puts pressure on the opponent to find their answers within a very limited clock - and if they can’t, you’ll often find a quick victory at hand.


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The archetypes I’ve described above are my favored ones. There are other effective strategies that I don’t like playing, but which I’ll describe here:


Blue/White Fliers

Fliers is the classic Blue/White archetype, and Core 2020 turbocharges that strategy to the max. Empyrean Eagle says it all:


Blue also has a lot of cheap fliers, meaning you can draft flying creatures at every point in the curve. This gives the deck a surprisingly quick clock, especially if combined with mass pump spells.

The problems are two-fold. The first: Blue/White removal is not as unconditional as I’d like. Pacifism and Sleep Paralysis are countered by Blue bounce and mitigated by Black sacrifice effects. The second: there are a lot of counters for fliers - Reach creatures, Plummet, and Reckless Air Strike to name a few.


White Go-Wide

Another classic White strategy is go-wide. Cards like Raise the Alarm dump bodies on the board, and Inspired Charge and Inspiring Captain will churn out a surprisingly high amount of damage.


What this archetype doesn’t have is a great plan B. If an opponent can fend off the early rush - or if that early rush never materializes - then the deck is quickly outclassed by almost every other strategy. That being said, the key cards are mostly common, so it shouldn’t be hard to find enough redundancy to execute your plan.


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Additional Notes

  • Splashing for bombs or removal is definitely viable. The dual lands and Scuttlemutt help (as does Gift of Paradise if you’re base Green), but there’s nothing wrong with using Prismite as an additional color source for your splash.
  • Use your removal judiciously. The Limited archetypes feature a lot of synergy, and you’ll need to save your removal for key enablers such as Lavakin Brawler or Empyrean Eagle - or powerful late game bombs like Drakuseth, Maw of Flames.
  • White is a considerable step below the other colors. Try and stay out of it if you can.

Core Set 2020 will be a ranked Draft format on Arena up until the beginning of October, so buckle in and enjoy the format while it is here. It has been a fun one so far. 

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