Top 8 Cards from Core Set 2019
8. Resplendent Angel
We’ve already seen the power of Shalai and Lyra in White midrange decks, and now there’s a three-drop to join them. Resplendent Angel provides a reasonable body for three mana, and the ability to pump out 4/4’s is powerful. Like Crested Sunmare, this works on both your turn and your opponent’s turn, which means that your opponent is going to have to be cautious around attacking into any lifelinking creatures, though 5 is a lot more life than 1. Assembling any subset of the angel package of Resplendent Angel/Shalai/Lyra has a lot of potential power; it will remain to be seen whether there will be a home for them.
7. Sai, Master Thopterist
We’ve seen a couple of artifact-based decks attempted since the printing of Kaladesh, but none have truly managed to break through. Grixis Improvise from last season, and, more recently, UB Improvise and Paradoxical Outcome Storm, occasionally pop up on Magic Online, but can’t really compete with UWx Control and Rx Aggro. Sai might give these decks the boost that they need. While I’m skeptical that the power level of the card is high enough, it is reasonably costed, has 4 toughness to dodge Abrade and Lightning Strike, and fits into a deck that wants to “go off.” The biggest thing standing in its way is that it might just be too slow for what these decks want to do. Nonetheless, there are a couple more months before Kaladesh rotates, so artificers everywhere will have a chance to see if Sai can bring their decks to the next level.
6. Tezzeret, Artifice Master
Tezzeret has a lot going for him; high loyalty, produces a creature to protect himself, and generates card advantage. Tezzeret is another chance for artifact decks to have a last hurrah. The ability to draw two cards every turn once Metalcraft is turned on is extremely powerful. This is a fantastic engine for artifact-based decks, which tend to produce annoying little chump-blockers anyway. This can help the decks keep the gas flowing and find additional copies of their few big threats, such as Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp and Herald of Anguish.
5. Supreme Phantom
Here’s one for modern! For all those UW/Bant Spirits players out there, this is the card that you’ve been waiting for. A two-mana lord is something that the deck has been missing since its creation. While its’ unclear what the deck will cut (Phantasmal Image? Selfless Spirit? Move to UW and cut Company and Hierarchs?), this card definitely has the power level to be included, and could bump the Spirits deck up a tier.
4. Death Baron (and friends)
Right before rotation, Monoblack Zombies with Cryptbreaker, Relentless Dead, and Diregraf Colossus was one of the most powerful decks in Standard. However, losing those cards proved too much of a hit for the deck to continue on. But now, with Death Baron, the new Liliana, Graveyard Marshal and Diregraf Ghoul, the deck is hitting a critical mass of playable cards. Death Baron, Lord of the Accursed, and Liliana’s Mastery provide three straight-up Zombie lords, and cards like Metallic Mimic, Wayward Servant, and Radiant Destiny are options (though you’d have to splash White for the last two). Without Cryptbreaker and Diregraf Colossus, the deck might not be able to go as wide as it once did, but the power level is still there for a playable deck. It might play out games a bit differently, but it’s time to dust off those foil, hat-wearing Zombie tokens!
3. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen
The latest incarnation of Bolas is really, really strong. It will usually generate a two-for-one when it comes down, and a 4/4 flying body for four mana is nothing to scoff at. In creature form, however, it doesn’t match up great against cards like Rekindling Phoenix and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. But if you can get to seven mana and flip it (which is risky since you can only do it at sorcery speed and could get blown out by removal), the planeswalker version is insanely good. Drawing two cards a turn as a plus two is going to be nearly impossible for an opponent to come back from, unless they’re already way ahead. Alternatively, Bolas can remove threats from your opponents board or add to your own, and the ultimate is game over. The deck that wants to play Bolas is probably something that looks a bit like Grixis Energy or UB Midrange splashing Red; it wants to grind, and Bolas is simply one more threat alongside The Scarab God and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner that absolutely must be answered.
2. Chromium, the Mutable
With the rotation of both Torrential Gearhulk and Approach of the Second Sun on the horizon, control decks are losing their two most popular ways of finishing out the game quickly. Chromium can step and fill the role as win condition if players decide that Teferi is not enough on his own. Flash, uncounterability, and turning every card in your hand into a counterspell for removal pointed at Chromium is a control player’s dream for a finisher. He hits hard, killing your opponent in three turns. The one weakness of Chromium is how poor he is on defense. If you block, and then your opponent points a removal spell at him, he’s going to die. However, I believe the upside of Chromium is sufficient such that he will see play as a control finisher.
1. Cleansing Nova
This one’s going to see play. While Settle the Wreckage will stick around post-rotation, we lose Fumigate, which has served as the sorcery-speed sweeper of choice since its printing. While the lifegain from Fumigate will be missed, Wizards continues its trend of printing 5-mana sweepers with upside, and Cleansing Nova trades lifegain for flexibility. White control decks playing against decks heavy into artifacts and/or enchantments are used to their sweepers being dead cards, but not anymore. The true question is whether or not these decks will exist; if they do, Cleansing Nova will be a fantastic sweeper. If they don’t, Cleansing Nova will be one of the worst sweepers in recent history, as only its first mode will be relevant.
And those are my picks for the Top 8 cards from Core 2019! Which cards are on your list?
Ryan Normandin is a grinder from Boston who has lost at the Pro Tour, in GP & SCG Top 8's, and to 7-year-olds at FNM. Despite being described as "not funny" by his best friend and "the worst Magic player ever" by Twitch chat, he cheerfully decided to blend his lack of talents together to write funny articles about Magic. Make fun of him online through Twitter (@RyanNormandin) and Twitch (norm_the_ryno).
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