Reading the Signs of Core Set 2019

Hello, everybody, and welcome to my first article for Team Rankstar! My name is Victor and my main focus is on limited Magic. I just got back from Grand Prix Vegas with a disappointing 5-3 finish and am looking forward to the new Core Set 2019 format. The full set when live today so my very first step in evaluating each format is to look at the so-called “Signpost Uncommons,” the 10 card gold cycle that lets you know each color pair’s archetype.
New sets are the most exciting time in the Magic calendar so I’ve accompanied each archetype with a summer cookout themed hype level. See which colors I can’t wait to shove into my mouth and which I’ll leave on the table.
So whether you’re waiting to draft on MTG:Arena or are heading to your LGS for some Pre-Release sealed I hope this forcast helps. Let’s dive in.

WU – Artifacts Matter

White-Blue returns to familiar territory by caring about artifacts on the battlefield. The main thing to keep in mind with this type of synergy is to evaluate cards in terms of their floor and ceiling. Look at Aerial Engineer, for example. A gold 2/4 for 4 is way below rate. It’s floor is pretty low. If you ended up in these colors and didn’t manage to draft a single artifact this card would not make the cut. However, looking that the ceiling–a 4/4 flyer–and, wow, this is a limited bomb. A threat of that caliber is often 5 or 6 mana. Getting a beater like that a turn early is what pushes someone into this archetype.

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The fact that so many of these cards seem to have a low floor tells me that you really need to prioritize artifacts to turn these on. Ideally you’d want at least 8 strong artifacts to make this deck work. That’s a real cost to the deck, though, as artifacts tend to be low power due to them being open to any color. All in all this is a type of deck I hate drafting. The nightmare scenario of drawing the wrong half of the synergies is too much for me to take the gamble.
Hype level: coleslaw

UB – Value Control

Blue-Black is also making a familiar return to control. While not a ‘synergy’ per se control is more of a macro archetype of the game. The idea is simple: remove your opponents threats and then pull ahead in the late game with card advantage. In limited you’ll end up playing more creatures in your control decks than in constructed but those creatures should function as both answers and finishers. Psychic Symbiont is an absolute house. It’s a clean 3-for-1 which on turn eight can really help pull you ahead. Flying also helps it be a finisher or an answer to smaller flying threats.

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I default to wanting to play this kind of control in limited because everyone ends up playing some amount of filler until they get to their game plan and strong removal just wrecks that. It’s not sexy but it wins. Just don’t durdle too much. If all you do take turns off to draw more cards your life may be too low to come back!
Hype level: andouille sausage

BR – Sacrifice

Another familiar mechanic (welcome back, Core Sets!) Black-Red will be sacrificing some creatures for a greater value. Brawl-Bash Ogre is already an ok card as a 3/3 with menace but being able to eat an irrelevant early drop to get big is amazing. Pair this with creatures that want to go to the graveyard like Reassembling Skeleton and you have a clunky but effective fire breathing. Best of all, you’re able to take a normally bad card like Act of Treason and turn it into a modal spell: take a blocker/add damage or removal.

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Haste is all over red in this set and sacrifice effects help give some creatures a pseudo-haste in that they have some aggressive value the turn they come into play. Being able to do damage out of nowhere can put opponents in tough positions where they have to hold back attackers in case you have an explosive turn. This is an aggro deck with a lot of choices and ways to present lethal out of nowhere in an almost combo-finish. I’m really looking forward to this one.
Hype level: jalapeno poppers

RG – Dragon Ramp

Red-Green is going big with a ramp package that ends in dragons. Getting big, flying beaters turns ahead of your opponent is a clear path to victory but needing the right balance of ramp to payoff is important. One of the tensions of ramp decks is what happens when you draw payoffs too early and ramp too late. Draconic Disciple does a good job of being both an enabler and a payoff along with having a reasonable body to keep you from getting ran over if it takes longer to find the beasts.

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I would want to have at least five payoffs to make this strategy consistent but don’t jam too many unless you have also stuffed your deck with ramp. Also look for non-”dragon” finishers. Dragons are cool but Treefolk, Hydras, and Dinos get it done just as well.
Hype level: corn on the cob

GW – Enchantments Matter

Green-White brings us an enchantments matter signpost in Satyr Enchanter. The Satyr Druid tries to help mitigate one of the problems faced by auras in that they can generate card disadvantage if answered quickly. While it’s not clear how well removal will line up with threats just yet, it will have to take more than the enchanter to make some auras playable. The risk, I find, is often too great, especially against removal colors like black, red, and white.

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I like this effect when paired with enchantments that act as removal, like Luminous Bonds. Being able to kill something and draw a card is quite powerful. This pushed GW out of it’s normal aggro-midrange role and into control. But control and auras don’t go together and auras help you race. All together this seems like a mess and I’ll be avoiding this deck until someone else breaks it.
Hype level: macaroni salad

WB – Lifegain

White-Black walks the line of life and death with a focus on lifegain, a much maligned ability because newer players tend to overvalue their life totals and try-hard spikes tend to undervalue it. Much like other enabler/payoff mechanics you need to find the sweet spot but incidental lifegain raises the value of cards. Lich’s Caress and Dwarven Priest are reasonable cards without their lifegain bonus, though both are defensive. Flying vampires will certain help close out the game game and Regal Bloodlord’s ability to spit out bats will certainly help stabilize and finish things off.

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This deck is defensive and can sit back and rely on it’s triggers to close out games. However, with all of these 2/4s it seems primed to be a defensive, grindy deck. Be on the lookout for other ways to force through damage to finish off the game. Angels and demons are your friends.
Hype level: vegetable skewers

UR – Spells

Ah, Blue-Red spells! Easily one of my favorite archetypes in all of Magic. Enigma Drake becomes a flying Tarmogoyf the longer the game goes and burn and tempo spells help you push through damage while card draw gives you more fuel for your game plan. Look out for defensive ground creatures that will function as removal as you setup your game plan.

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This is an aggro-control deck where you slap down an early, undercosted, evasive threat and spend the rest of the game protecting it. It requires a bit of strange deck building as you do need a lot of spells so you may find you’re running fewer than ten creatures. It may seem wrong but, believe me, it’ll feel so right.
Hype level: ribs

BG – Value Grind

Black-Green does two things really well, death and dudes. This is the grindy color of attrition where your removal is better than your opponent’s and your creatures are also better. Every card should not only trade but leave you with some incremental advantage. Poison-Tip Archer is great at this as it encourages you to trade in combat. Skeleton Archer and Rhox Oracle also have reasonable bodies with excellent enters the battlefield abilities.

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When BG curves out it can be really hard to deal with because once the deck gets ahead it tends to stay ahead. The removal appears to be slow so the main weakness is against fast decks and decks with a ton fliers. Giant Spiders and other speed bumps may be necessary for you to set up your attrition game.
Hype level: burgers

RW – Go-Wide

Another classic archetype, Red-White go-wide focuses on swarming the opponent so that they can’t block effectively. Sometimes you’ll sacrifice half a card in a chump attack to force through damage so your combat math has to be on point. M19 introduces two common level 2-for-1 bodies that help with this strategy in Goblin Instigator and Gallant Cavalry. Heroic Reinforcements seems like an absolute beating if the opponent isn’t set up up. It’s four hasted power in addition to added power to whatever creatures you already have. Even without Reinforcements two other anthems exist in Trumpet Blast and Inspired Charge.

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The main weakness of this deck is that your creatures are small and do not trade well. If an opponent stabilizes you have to find other ways to get through damage so though you want to have a low, consistent curve it is often correct to pack a good finisher or two like a dragon or angel. This is as aggro as it gets and a great choice if you like to win (or lose) quickly.
Hype level: bag of chips

GU – Tempo

Green-Blue is an awkward color pairing as neither have the removal necessary to win midrange battles on their own. Rabid Bite helps significantly as it uses greens strength, having larger creatures than your opponent. Blue helps disrupt the opponent enough to get your big creatures in creating a tempo archetype. Your goal is to land a large threat and then use bounce and tap effects to tie up your opponent’s mana while you stop face. Skyrider Patrol helps give those big green boys some evasion to help clock your opponent even faster.

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Tempo strategies can be absolutely devastating if your opponent is relying on expensive creatures that do not generate value as they enter the battlefield. Personally I get a bit shy if I don’t have great removal but Skyrider Patrol looks to be a bonkers Magic card that can take over a game if unanswered.
Hype level: fruit salad

Where do we go from here?

So what whets your appetite? This summer I’ll be slapping some ribs, sausage, and jalapeno poppers on my plate. What about you? Don’t be afraid to let your archetypes blend together on your plate, fixing allowing. Dual lands will float around in the land slots and there are some uncommon fixers.
Leave a comment about what sounds good to you and good luck in your drafts, everybody!

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