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Magic: The Gathering Core 2019 – Our Favorite Rares

by Ron Duwell | June 28, 2018June 28, 2018 7:30 am EDT

Magic: The Gathering’s Core 2019 set reintroduces the world to the Elder Dragons of old. Sure, their original prints from 1994 don’t exactly hold up to competitive standards anymore, but these new versions are going to leave a huge footprint on Magic for the foreseeable future.

The dragons, six new planeswalkers, and another handful of quality rares are what we’ll be looking at today for Draft and Sealed play. Which of the Dragons will make the cut?

Hint: Not all of them!

Also be sure to check out our lists of the best commons and uncommons from Core 2019.

First up, we’ll look at the Elder Dragons. Again, these are the best for Limited play, not exactly constructed play. One of them is almost unplayable in Limited formats.

The most simply designed of the Elder Dragons is the one you want to open most. Jam in with her right away to pound in big damage, or hold her back when you feel you are facing too much removal and finish an opponent with one direct blow.

Either way, she’s nearly impossible to remove while she has hexproof and lingers over an opponent like death just waiting to happen.

Yeah, you’ll have to control the board and ramp into him pretty heavily but once you get there, this is a dangerous creature. Let’s look at the four pieces of text here.

  • Flash him in? He’ll ambush and kill anything on the spot.
  • Can’t be countered? That’s the only way to really deal with him.
  • Flying? Well, yeah. Why not?
  • Discard a card? As a 1/1, he has hexproof, and he can’t be removed from the battlefield shy of a board wipe. Your opponent might waste a removal spell on him so long as you have one card in your hand. Also as a 1/1, he can’t be blocked, meaning he also acts as a solid finisher if you’re in a tough board state and need to push those last few points of damage though.

Versatile as they come, the exact opposite of Palladia-Mors but just as, if not more so, deadly.

There are plenty of ways to manipulate Vaevictus’ huge wall of text. Attacking with a 6/6 flyer is an excellent move in any game of Magic, and with Vaevitus, that attack allows players to:

  • clear any flying chump-blockers in the way
  • remove the biggest threat on their board
  • cycle away a useless creature of your own and hope for something better
  • see what your opponent’s next draw is going to be

Anything else? Doesn’t matter, it’s already a bomb and a half in Limited Magic.

We’ll call it quits there. Nicol Bolas is decent if you can find the seven mana to flip him, but mediocre otherwise. Arcades has gathered a ton of hype for EDH, but in Limited, there isn’t enough Defenders to justify him in your decks. A 3/5 flyer with vigilance that’s exceptionally hard to cast… no thanks.

For Planeswalkers, Core 2019 has contenders outside of Nicol Bolas. None of these Planeswalkers are overly impressive, but I would be remiss to not even mention them. I would take them for value over common removal on a casual night. However, if I see a Lightning Strike and a Liliana in my opening pack and I want to win for the night, I’m taking Lightning Strike.

Sarkhan is pretty good. His second +1 ability is only useful in a dedicated Dragon deck, but even if you don’t land that, he’s a three drop looter that will eventually score you a host of Dragons. He doesn’t protect himself but with enough Goblin Instigators in your deck, you’ll find a way to throw fodder in his path.

You don’t have to discard cards either, since the word “may” appears in his first +1 ability. Just giving him +1 is totally an option.

Not a bomb Planeswalker, but he’s playable.

Vivien will filter lands, get you your big creatures, and in a pinch, she’ll shoot down any Dragons, Angels, or other creatures with flying that threaten her. That ultimate too… in a White/Green “go wide” deck or any old Green deck in general, whoa.

Again, she’s playable, and because she’s Green, I’d probably take her no matter what. That’s just how I roll.

An army of thopters and card advantage. That’s what you’ll most often get out of Tezzeret, that is, unless you flawlessly control the board and keep him alive to kick off that ultimate.

In a dedicated Blue artifacts deck, he’ll be a superstar be drawing you more than enough cards to win the game, Blue’s exact strategy. If not, you’ll have to keep your thopters alive if you want to draw three cards a turn. Not an easy task.

Ajani is getting all the hype, and he’s okay. Usually, he’ll be pumping your squad and bringing them back if they die. If you can activate that ultimate, an endless stream of lifelink cats will drag the game on for a LONG time.

That’s a big “if” though because he can’t defend himself unless he uses his minus ability.

Sorry, but I’m not big on Liliana. You’ll have to draft enough zombies to get her to work, and she’s entirely dependent on the strength of those zombies. Meh.

Okay, enough of that nonsense. None of Core 2019’s Planeswalkers are Vraska, Relic Seeker, so let’s get on with some real Magic: The Gathering cards now.

BOOM! Pelaka Wurm enjoys a legendary status among Limited superstars, so much so that it had its rarity boosted up to Rare. Too many of these at uncommon in a draft is just stupidly powerful. 7/7 Trample is impressive, and attaching it to 7 points of lifegain and card draw makes this a flawless Magic card.

Again, play this in Black and Green, and recur the hell out of it!

And if Pelakka Wurm costs a bit too much for your mana pool, this will bring it down quicker and make it an 8/8. Goreclaw is a worthy build-around, one that can close the game with the right creature in play. Colossal Dreadmaw, Thornhide Wolves, Rhox Oracle, and Bristling Boar are all legitimate targets at common for Goreclaw to pump and cheapen.

If you pick her first, go all in and don’t look back.

Got enough lands in play? Throw this down, filter out your deck of the rest of its lands, and enjoy drawing some action for the rest of the game. That is the ideal way to use this card in Limited, and if you can score a non-basic land in the process or combine it with Crucible of Worlds to guarantee land drops, that’s all the better.

4/4 for four is already a good Limited card, especially in White, and the army this feline can create with each attack must be dealt with immediately. Those cats get out of control. We learned that back in Amonket, and Core 2019 has two bomb rares that create them endlessly.

With enough mana, you can simply win the game with this card, straight up. BOOM, you’re dead. I remember feeling so good by winning a game with a kicked Fight With Fire in Dominaria, and I can’t wait to do it with Banefire. It’ll be like Fireball all over again!

It also acts as a removal spell that can kill anything on the board. Clean and simple.

4 damage for three mana at instant speed is already a premium Red removal spell. The ability to bring it back so easily with Dragons only makes it that much better.

Great in a Red deck, backbreaking in a dedicate Dragons build. Even with two or three Dragons, you’ll be getting that extra value out of it.

Loot, loot, loot, BURN!!!! What an excellent Magic card. He plays his role of drawing you through useless cards or unnecessary lands until it comes time for him to play his final role: bringing down a larger creature.

Get value from card advantage, then get value by taking down a four- or five-drop with a two-drop? I’m all game. This might be one of my favorite Rares in the set.

Four mana and a single creature is a small price to pay for a 6/6 flying, trample demon. Pair him with a Rejuvenating Skeleton or, even better, Act of Treason, and you’ll have ended up on top by a large margin.

There’s not a lot that can stop this guy if he comes down on turn 4, and that’s an easy victory.

If this hydra comes down big or at least ahead of your opponent’s curve, it’ll only get bigger and bigger whenever chump blockers get in the way. Nothing can ever gang up on this hydra, so if the defenses allow, attack without fear and let it grow to impossible sizes.

With enough creatures eaten, not a single creature in Core 2019 will stand in its way. Even Chromium falls in the face of Hungering Hydra, and if you’re exceptionally lucky, he can even become impervious to Nicol Bolas’ -3 ability of 10 direct damage!

Pro tip: You can shock or bolt your own Hungering Hydra to make it bigger. Imagine using burn spells as a means of +1/+1 counter distribution… That’s the dream, right?

A big blue flyer with card advantage attached to it will keep you well defended and draw enough cards to help seal the game away. With a nicely placed Disperse, you can even get those wish counters back and cast free cards all over again.

White card advantage is hard to come by in any set, but Mentor of the Meek is the real deal. With enough white weenies hitting the battlefield, the mentor will help ensure that they keep on flowing.

When combined with Ajani or Leonin Warrior, you’ll be drawing cards until the cats come home.