Another season of Magic: The Gathering is in the books. Core 2019 turned out to be a decent set, much better than most anticipated but not nearly as complex or fun as Dominaria. For a core set that gets by on the basic elements of the game, it managed to get me out and playing a little bit, and that’s a huge compliment seeing how hard that is in this stage of my life called “early parenthood.”
That being said, I only played the set three times, once at pre-release, once at Friday Night Magic, and this past weekend at my local shops Store Championship, where I placed 4th with a really solid deck.
For the Store Championships, I often go to a different location than my usual Magic: The Gathering shop. Not because it is a more casual atmosphere, but rather because, this other store uses Draft as a format rather than Standard, and if given the choice, I’ll take drafting almost every time.
Depends how much money I want to spend.
The draft was in a pod of eight, so my first time in a while playing in an officially sanction sized draft. Usually, I play in pods of seven or nine, and it all gets messed up.
First pick Lich’s Carress over a rare Detection Tower, second pick Arcane Encyclopedia with no Black cards or other colors luring me in, third pick Rabid Bite, fourth pick Luminous Bonds, pretty standard picks in this set, taking powerful removal spells first before building a deck of creatures and bombs.
No surprises here. When you’re drafting Core 2019, these are prized commons that will help bring down the big threats on the board. Lich’s Caress is expensive, but that lifegain really helps. Green’s creatures are big enough to use Rabid Bite effectively, and Luminous Bonds is just the straight up best common removal in the set. Cheap, splashable, and it hits everything shy of a Vine Mare.
With these cards, it seemed I was pretty much secured into at least Green, Black, or White, correct?
Well, after a fifth pick Skyscanner, I still hadn’t settled on any color just yet. Perfectly acceptable at this point since it’s still early in the draft, and Skyscanner can be played in every deck without shame. Drawing a card and putting a flying blocker on the board for three mana is a perfectly good move at any point in the game.
Then, sixth and seventh pick sealed the deal with a twin selection of the same card.
Sold! Star-Crowned Stag is White’s premiere common creature, able to mess up an opponent’s blocking ability with relative ease and push serious damage through. It teams up well with any color, be it huge Green baddies or Blue flyers, and seeing two in a row this late in the first pack, along with the earlier Luminous Bonds, was a clear indication nobody was playing White.
Likewise, Black and Green were totally dried up by this point, so White became my obvious main color. My opening pack’s Take Vengeance came back around at the ninth pick, and a late Aviation Pioneer as my tenth pick hinted that Blue was open as well. I scooped that up since it’s one of Blue’s best commons and closed the pack with a solid Oreskos Swiftclaw.
Definitely, White was open.
It’s always a great feeling to open a bomb in your main color in pack 2, and that’s just what I did. Leonin Warleader is almost unstoppable in Core 2019, rocking stats that allow it to easily survive combat with most creatures and creating a hoard of free lifelink cats that get out of control if not immediately dealt with. Seeing as I was already in White, I didn’t even look at the remaining cards.
My second color had yet to be established though, and I had a solid common in Black, Green, and Blue at this point.
White’s second-best common creature as a pick 2. Almost as good as Star-Crowned Stag, but I’d take the straight up no-blocks and three power over Pegasus Courser’s gift of flying and one power. Still, together, they make blocking a nightmare for opponents.
I had two stags and a pegasus in my previous draft, and yeah, they make a deadly team.
Interesting third pick that pushed me towards Blue. Green and Black were still showing no signs of life, and Core 2019’s White/Blue deck is artifacts based. This card is a huge payoff for those synergies, turning any artifact into a 5/5 threat and especially combining well with Skyscanner.
Skilled Animator is especially susceptible to removal, but creating a 5/5 out of nowhere is no laughing matter.
Throughout pack 2, Blue continued to show signs that it was open with an Anticipate and a Sift making its way into my deck, but I still focused on building White with another Oreskos Swiftclaw, a Shield Mare, and a Militia Bugler.
Funnily enough, I couldn’t play the bugler because most of my creatures had three power. Usually, it’s a great card but not in the deck I ended up with.
Even with the Blue cards flowing, I took an eight pick Heroic Reinforcements just because I know how powerful this card can be in the right deck. I hadn’t seen any Red in pack 2, but I wasn’t really looking either.
If necessary, it would be easy to change gears in pack 3 and fill out with some aggressive creatures…
No need. My first pick in pack 3 sealed Blue as my secondary color. Horizon Scholar is a bomb in White/Blue with a big flying body and the ability to fix the top of your deck and free yourself from flooding. It’s the perfect top-end card in a deck full of weenies.
Easily snatched it up over some forgotten rare.
White removal on pick 2, check!
Interesting pick on pick 3, Aerial Engineer is an multicolor uncommon that was on-color with my choices so far. This means that my colors were now wide open, and I was in no way competing for the artifact synergies of White/Blue. Easy pick in pack 3.
However, while it’s a decent card, it’s definitely not as strong as the sets other multicolor uncommons, Heroic Reinforcements or Poison-Tip Archer. Those cards are strong enough to lure you into their colors early, but Aerial Engineer is only something you want to take if you’re already waist deep in White/Blue and have a lot of artifacts.
Perfectly describes my situation, so I scooped it up without a second thought.
Nice flying threat at pick 4, even if I only had one sorcery in my entire deck.
Pick 5, an artifact synergy card. She turns Thopters and Skyscanners into 3/3 indestructible threats, and she herself is solid at 3/3. Not bad at all, again, only if you’re already in the colors.
Seriously, at pick 6?! Whatever, I’ll take it.
The rest of pack 3 turned out to be pretty boring, with the best choice being an Inspired Charge as my eighth pick. Never got around to using it though.
My eleventh pick and twelfth pick were pretty interesting. I took a Scholar of Stars eleventh, which is a fantastic card since we were up to our necks in White/Blue artifacts at this point. Drawing a card and three power for four mana is a pretty good deal.
It’s interesting because I had the chance for another one at pick twelve, but I also had an option for this.
I was very light on combat tricks and fairly certain I wouldn’t need two scholars. Instead, I took Make a Stand, a card I used frequently back in Oath of the Gatewatch and put it in my sideboard.
In the end, I found the proper colors and built a really solid White/Blue flying artifacts deck with Leonin Warleader as a fallback option and a very healthy sideboard.
- 1x Aerial Engineer
- 1x Aethershield Artificer
- 1x Aven Wind Mage
- 1x Aviation Pioneer
- 1x Cavalry Drillmaster
- 1x Horizon Scholar
- 1x Leonin Warleader
- 2x Oreskos Swiftclaw
- 1x Pegasus Courser
- 1x Scholar of Stars
- 1x Shield Mare
- 1x Skilled Animator
- 2x Skyscanner
- 2x Star-Crowned Stag
- 1x Bone to Ash
- 1x Anticipate
- 1x Disperse
- 1x Divination
- 1x Inspired Charge
- 1x Loxodon Line Breaker
- 1x Make a Stand
- 1x Mighty Leap
- 2x Militia Bugler
- 1x Sift
I really enjoyed this deck, and the only changes to my draft I would make is not passing on a second Aviation Pioneer that slipped by me before I settled on Blue. This deck also could have really used an Angel of the Dawn, but one never turned up.
In hindsight, I played Bone to Ash way too aggressively and should have put in a Sift or a Divination instead. Countering creatures is the least effective way to remove them in Limited Magic, and I already had plenty removal with four White options. Instead, it was a dead card more often than not in my hand, and I only used it in my first game out of desperation for card draw… which Divination or Sift would have granted me.
I figured I had enough card draw through my artifacts, but I was wrong.
I also sideboarded Scholar of Stars out too often for Make a Stand, and while Make a Stand won me two games, a weaker creature like one of my Oreskos Swiftclaw or my Cavalry Drillmaster, which is more suited for Red decks, would have been a better choice to ditch.
My first matchup was the player to my left in the draft, and as suspected, he was playing Black and Green… showing why my early Lich’s Caress and Rabid Bite never paid off. Thankfully I took those cards because the dude was already heavy in removal and effectively combined his THREE Rabid Bites with a handful of deathtouch creatures.
His deck also had a pair of Skeleton Archers that unfortunately picked off my Skyscanners, Thopters, and Oreskos Swiftclaws. Skilled Animator came down twice but got removed before the 5/5 could get through for damage. After losing the first game, I stayed strong in the second game by flying over his Green creatures and pushing in the last four damage using my Aven Wind Mage pumped unsuspectingly with Make a Stand.
Game 3 came to a draw after my wimpy flyers were clearly outmatched by his big creatures. I gummed up the board enough with thopters, Skyscanners, and cheap blockers to keep a Vigilant Baloth at bay, and I stalled long enough to survive without taking a loss. Although, a late Pegasus Courser and Leonin Warleader turned the game in my favor. I might have won with another turn or two.
My record was 1-1-1 in a draw.
My second match, against White/Green, and third match, against Blue/Red, both ended in the same fashion… me steam rolling with Leonin Warleader and my opponents unable to find an answer in time. Four easy victories, with an overall 2-0-1 record going into the final match.
And I paid the price for my luck as my last opponent’s White/Black/Green deck perfectly ramped into Sigiled Sword of Valeron two games in a row. Like my previous opponents, I couldn’t find an answer in time and the army of Knights conquered my blockers. Leonin Warleader never came out, and my Hieromancer’s Cage exiled the sword a turn too late in both games. My opponent also main-decked a Naturalize and two Revialize, allowing him to find his bomb easier, gain a ton of life, and destroy my only answer to his bomb.
I ended 2-1-1 on the day with a fourth-place finish, losing out on tie-breakers to the second and third place finishers.
Oh well, I almost got there… again, but I had fun finally getting out and playing the set one last time. Now, I can’t wait for Guilds of Ravnica next month!