As promised, I rolled up into my local game store to play at pre-release for the new Magic: The Gathering Core 2019 set. Excitement and anxiety flowed through my brain because I hadn’t had the chance to play any Magic over the last month or so, and I bombed quite hard at Dominaria’s pre-release. Plus, I was playing at a different store than usual because my usual place’s schedule conflicted with family plans.
However, because it’s my job, (should be read: “because my beautiful wife was lovely and gracious enough to say “Yes,”) I was allowed to be free from my fatherly duties for four hours on Saturday afternoon to turn a few cards sideways.
For those who don’t know, pre-release is always a Sealed Limited event. For somewhere in the ballpark of $25-$35, you get a spin-down dice, a rare promo card, and six booster packs. Using all of these cards, you need to construct a deck of 40 cards (23 spells, 17 lands) and play three rounds against everyone else in the room. Your final record will determine your prize at your local game store.
First things first, at every pre-release event you go to, the first thing you’ll find when you open your $25-$35 box is your promo card. This is always a rare card, always foil, and it will be legal in your deck for the day. It might be a bomb that will win you a game, it might be worthless in every regard, but you may use it during that day.
In my case, I opened one of the best Limited cards in the set (although, someone else did manage to open Nicol Bolas, the Ravager… $$$)
Unless you’re going for monetary value, Demanding Dragon is exactly the kind of card you want to open in a Sealed deck. This card is very powerful, can win you games, and easily helps you prop up one color over another when you start to open packs. If this is your promo and you end up not playing it, your other cards in that color must have been pretty atrocious.
As for the card itself, five mana for a 5/5 flyer is an excellent rate, especially in this simple core set where commons usually are only a 3/3 for five mana. The added effect of choosing between a Lava Axe or a Diabolic Edict effect is also backbreaking. During the day, my opponents were forced multiple times to choose between the two at times when both choices essentially lost them the game.
Easy inclusion in any Red deck, so long as you have the cards to back it up.
After that, it’s best to look at your rare cards.
Awesome. Red bear (2/2 for two) with amazing upside. Filter through your deck for the good stuff, then trade for a big creature.
Awesome. Another Red bear with great upside! Sacrifice useless creatures in hopes of finding something better.
Meh, useless on his own, but decent support in a Red deck especially if you have a few Dragons… like Demanding Dragon.
Useless in Limited, but it might be decent in other formats. Hey, it’s Red though. Am I right?
My first non-Red rare is also pretty sweet. Aggressively paced, just like most Red cards, that opens up a late game once our creatures start heading into the graveyard.
Sideboard! Decent against Hexproof/Aura decks, usually of the Green and White variety in Core 2019…
After looking at our rare cards, we can clearly see that we have support at Red with the two excellent bears. Planeswalkers, even mediocre ones still fit in decks, so Sarkhan is in. And Black is also an option with the proper support.
After checking out our Rares (and seeing that the Magic Gods are begging for us to be in Red), the best way to proceed is to separate out all of our uncommons and commons and find what’s playable. Remember, we are looking for Red cards.
So let’s start with White.
Our White cards are rubbish. Decent cards are Pegasus Courser, Take Vengeance, a pair of Gallant Cavalry, and Daybreak Chaplain if I’m feeling desperate. Militia Bugler is all that’s calling to me at uncommon.
After seeing these cards, it was easy to toss White aside.
I usually look at Blue second.
Blue also turned out somewhat bad for me. Omenspeaker is the only common I would take on the spot. Maybe Aviation Pioneer. The rest are all situational cards that need synergies to work, or they are useless.
Mirror Image is okay, but it all depends on your other creatures. Not being able to copy an opponent’s creature severely limits its power. However, for me, Copying Demanding Dragon could be a win on the spot. Departed Deckhand is also one of my favorite uncommons in the set.
Not enough power at Blue for a nice Red/Blue spells deck. Red is always the third color I look at.
Alright, I can kind of dig it. I have one of each of the evergreen creatures, Havoc Devils, Hostile Minotaur, and Boggart Brute, and they should be enough to help fill out an aggressive curve into my Red rare cards.
Our uncommon cards are also enough to push us even further into Red. Lightning Strike is an immediate deal sealer since there are a lot of creatures in Core 2019 with a toughness of three or less. Volley Veteran would be a bomb if I had opened up a Goblin Instigator or two, but with Boggart Brute and Dark-Dweller Oracle, he can still deliver value. Even alone, he deals 1 damage, which is something.
More than enough support for our Red rares. Now, lets move to Black, which we also have a really solid rare in.
And it seems I forgot to take the picture. So sorry about that. Rest assured, Black was really solid at commons with Two-Headed Zombie, two copies of Lich’s Caress, and two cards I overlooked when reviewing the set, Hired Blade and Skeleton Archer. Macabre Waltz also fit in with our graveyard plan, considering our rare card. Lastly, Child of Night is just solid filler that curves out any aggressive deck.
Double Mind Rot and a Duress for the sideboard.
Uncommon also brought some power with Plague Mare, which is able to wipe the board of weenies while delivering a 2/2 creature. Rise from the Grave is also a ton of fun, able to target both your cards and your opponent’s.
Black was really solid, and considering our rare cards, a Black and Red beatdown deck didn’t seem too far off. However, I always look at Green last because it’s my favorite (and secretly your’s too.)
Oh yeah, double Colossal Dreadmaw for the win! Double Bristling Boar also helps round out a beefy creatures deck, and Thornhide Wolves is always underappreciated no matter where it turns up. Giant Spider for the sideboard, Highland Game to fill the curve. I also like Talons of Wildwood since recurring Auras can do a lot of damage.
Green clearly has the support at common, and at uncommon, double Declare Dominance can wipe the board with a single creature using this power.
Green comes up short compared to our Black cards, but those commons are clearly better than our Red commons. Tough call at the moment. Lets look at our artifacts and multicolored cards.
Skyscanner is a must play. Every Limited deck should have at least one. Drawing a card and a getting 1/1 flyer is always great. Since we’re a beatdown deck, Marauder’s Axe also helps us out a lot in pushing more damage through, especially with menace on Boggart Brute and Two-Headed Zombie. I’d also play an Explosive Apparatus to clear out blockers or go right to the face. Manalith is great if we want to open a third color.
I’d even consider Field Creeper for the sideboard if we needed to lower our curve.
We only have one uncommon artifact, but it’s so cool. Meteor Golem delivers more than just its incredible art! Seven mana is a lot, but it’s worth it for a 3/3 creature and the ability to remove ANYTHING.
We also have Regal Bloodlord and Poison-Tip Archer as our multicolored cards. The bloodlord is powerful but useless to us since we have so little lifegain. On the other hand, Poison-Tip Archer helps us in two of our stronger colors, Black and Green, and has a powerful effect that can push a few extra points of damage through all by itself.
With this pool, there are two decks we can clearly make. We can do a straight up Black/Red aggressive deck with some graveyard play to buy back our creatures, or use Manalith and a Timber Gorge we opened to make a Jund Black/Red/Green deck with powerful Green commons, some Black removal, and the support of Poison-Tip Archer and our insane Red rare cards.
Ultimately, I decided to keep it simple. The thought of using those big Green creatures really tempted me to go in that direction, but I wanted to keep it consistent and just smash opponents in the face with a steady flow of evasive beaters. A basic Black/Red aggressive deck was our strategy for the day, and it looked something like this.
Sorry, I won’t sleeve them before my pictures next time.
And our strategy worked out very well for us. Had this been a normal event, we would have gone undefeated. This deck pounded our opponents to pieces, and we closed our first three rounds with a 3-0 match record. We lost only a single game in the process to Demon of Catastrophes, but we changed strategy to ensure that our opponent kept no creatures on the board to sacrifice, easily letting us beat him in game two and three.
However, this store was doing a tournament style, and the two players with a 3-0 record had to spar for top place. I lost pretty miserably. Mana screw wasn’t enough. My opponent used an Abzan White/Black/Green deck with Hexproof and Aura cards backed by Black removal. See above. My Detection Tower didn’t come down in game two, and my black creatures couldn’t block a Vine Mare enchanted with Prodigious Growth two games in a row.
Yeah, I lost bad. I was also playing against the clock since I had a barbecue to get to and didn’t realize I’d be playing four rounds. Otherwise, I would have sideboarded in my Jund strategy and might have had the power to block his superior Green forces. Captain hindsight, away!
Still, I had a good time. I might watch a few Core 2019 drafts on Twitch and YouTube, but if I go back to my Friday Night Magic or another draft night, I might just ask to play more Dominaria. Core 2019 is decent, but it’s pretty barebones. Balance and simple fun are the key words here, but it hardly lives up to the nonsense you can accomplish in Dominaria’s color combinations.
Cards that over-performed
I have to apologize to these cards. I poo-pooed most of them in my commons review, but I believe I was thinking with a Dominaria mindset. In the simplistic world of Core 2019, sometimes a single evergreen text is all you need. Each of these cards delivered when needed, and I couldn’t have asked for a better set of beatdown commons. Well played, my friends!
This card over-performed against me! Core 2019 is home to a lot of 3/2, 4/2, 3/3, 4/3 creatures, and not a single one of them has a power of five. Thornhide Wolves might not have any text, but it can block, kill, and survive against just about any other common creature it enters combat with. It survives Electrify, it can easily beat Two-Headed Zombie in a menace block, and Strangling Spores can’t beat it outright.
At common, only Colossal Dreadmaw, Lich’s Caress, and Bogstomper can hope to provide an answer. Again, I wish I had splashed Jund just to play this creature in my final game, but alas. It can do just about everything you need it to in combat, but it can’t stand up to a 12/10 hexproof Horse with trample. There are limits as to what Thornhide Wolves can accomplish.
Black removal over-performing?? Go figure. Well, in my commons review I said “I would take the cheapness of Eviscerate or the treasure tokens from Contract Killing,” but now I’m not so sure. That life gain is a pretty big boost, especially when you’re racing in such a straightforward set.
That price is a lot to pay, but this card rocks! Cast it, kill something. Trade with a block. Recur it with Rise from the Grave, kill something else. If the game goes on that long, this can easily turn the tide in your favor.
Cards that under-performed
Oh Sarkhan… granted, I didn’t have enough Dragons, but Sarkhan was only able to let me loot once or twice before he bit the dust. At least he distracted my opponent, who wasted a Ghostform and left himself open to a Hostile Minotaur beatdown for the chance to prevent his ultimate from going off three turns later.
That’s the most you can really ask out of mediocre Planeswalkers. They distract and intimidate your opponent rather than impact the game in a meaningful way on their own.
Three people opened Sarkhan as well, meaning he might not be all that mythic.
Aw, I was disappointed in Palladia-Mors. I took a hit from her, then blew her up with Lich’s Carress and gained three life back. My opponent recurred her, I blocked with Skyscanner, took five damage, and then blew her up again with Meteor Golem. Granted, I was playing a heavy removal deck, but I wanted her to do more trouncing than she was able to do.
I’m a bit sad about these three. They’re good cards in a vacuum, but they didn’t help me out much. Maybe I played against the wrong decks, but I wasn’t able to kill off that much with just one damage. I killed a Child of Night after it had hit me twice, and I killed a Doomed Dissenter, which actually helped my opponent since they got a 2/2 out of it. I also didn’t get to finish anything off post-combat with them since my creatures were either able to evade blockers entirely or finish the job on their own.
Volley Veteran would be better if I had more Goblins, but there’s just not enough 1-toughness creatures to make that ability seem useful. At least the stats proved valuable. 3/3 and 4/2 are solid bodies in Core 2019.
Better luck next time.