Magic the Gathering Core Set 2019 Preview (A Joe, Unplugged Guest Blog)

{This article is brought to you by our friends IRL and friends of the program over at Gemhammer & Son’s Gaming.  We know nothing about Magic the Gathering, but they sure as shit do, so enjoy our pal Joe Curran’s preview of the upcoming Core Set for 2019.  Make sure to check out Gemhammer & Son’s gaming as well.} 

A new Magic the Gathering set is coming out next week, which means I’m back to talk about it and, perhaps, get you a little excited about cracking open some boosters and putting cardboard on paper with friends.


Now, here in my third article about Magic, I feel like I should tell you that you can play Magic as a video game. Either using Magic Online if you like a huge card pool and a terrible UI or Magic Arena if you prefer a tiny cardpool and a modern, Hearthstone-style UI (though, admittedly, Arena now has cards going back to Kaladesh and Magic Online…has no redeeming qualities. Like, it’s got a large population of people fighting through the terrible user experience and there are huge tournaments and learning to wrestle the UI into submission will help you better enjoy those, admittedly, great personalities, but Oketra help ye if you attempt to actually have fun with that).


Magic Online tangent aside, let’s talk about Core Set 2019 (or M19). Core Sets are a little weirder than “Expansion Sets,” like Dominaria that we talked about a few months ago. Core Sets are themeless, designed for beginners, and don’t introduce new, named mechanics. Wizards of the Coast decided back in 2015 that Core Sets were a bad idea and got rid of them. Well, it turns out that not having a way for new players to get into your game is, in new-fangled marketing speak, “bad” and Core Set 2019 is a triumphant return to form.




Being themeless, they have an opportunity to provide important reprints. Core Set 2019 includes the first reprint of Crucible of Worlds since 2007 (and needed, since it was floating at around $70 before it was announced for M19), a first-ever repring of casual favorite Omniscience (an astounding $30 for a card that sees almost no Constructed play), and Scapeshift (around $60 a month ago and seeing its first non-promo reprint ever with gorgeous new art). None of these reprints would make sense in the nostalgic themes ofDominaria, the Meso-American/Pirate/Dinosaurs that were all over Ixalan (I still don’t know how Wizards of the Coast took that idea and made it not-fun), the doomed Egypt stand-in plane of Amonkhet, or the steampunk-India crossover episode that was Kaladesh. By having a set without a theme, those reprints are possible.


Being designed for beginners, the cards are accessible. Limited events, Drafts, even constructed decks are just simpler with simpler cards. Sure, there are powerful cards, but they’re simple. Let’s look at Open the Graves. A powerful card? Yes. But it’s simple to understand. And even the one even slightly confusing thing (it only cares about nontoken creatures dying) helps teach new players about the differences between creatures and creature tokens. Core Set 2019 also doesn’t introduce any new Keywords (like Battlebond did; we talked about that early last month). While you might say this leads to boring designs, make note that this set is giving us Isolate, an amazingly powerful removal spell, as well as five new monocolorPlaneswalker cards, each that really sings to one of the archetypes that those colors care about (interestingly, providing powerful cards for experienced players and still being a way to teach new players such an important part of the game).


But the story of M19 wouldn’t be complete without talking about everything done to hose Tron. For those who aren’t plugged into the hardcore metas, “Tron” refers to a constructed deck archetype that attempts to get Urza’s TowerUrza’s Power Plant, and Urza’s Mine on the battlefield together as quickly as possible, ideally producing 7 mana by Turn 3. Now, the mana is colorless, which used to mean it can usually only be used to cast artifacts. But Modern has Eldrazi: huge, powerful, colorless titans with amazing statistics, the Annihilator ability (requiring their opponent to sacrifice their permanents whenever they attack) and Tron decks are powerful in the format. Oh, and there’s Karn. Ask any Modern player what the best turn-three Planeswalker is and Zoo decks might say Domri Rade and Jund decks love their Liliana, but the consensus best choice is Karn Liberated, a 7-mana powerhouse capable of winning the game on its own, and coincidentally an amazing reward for any player who can assemble each of the Tron lands with their first three land drops.


The traditional way of handling Tron is Blood Moon, a three-mana red enchantment that turns makes all non-basic lands produce nothing but a single red mana. There are problems with this strategy, of course. The first should be obvious: if they have already assembled Tron on Turn 3 and played a Karn, they’re already so far ahead that shutting off their landbase does little to help. The second is that, well, Modern is a format that loves it’s Shocklands (lands that produce any two kinds of mana for the low cost of 2 life) and Fetchlands (lands that, for a single life, allow you to search your deck for the Shockland you need when you need it). Blood Moon ruins your landbase as much as your opponents.

But Alpine Moon, now that’s much different. It costs one mana, which means it’s not going to be too late. It only applies to your opponents’ lands, so it’s not going to ruin your own lands. And by simply naming a single Tron land, it shuts down all of them, turning one of them into a rainbow land while the other two are nothing by Wastes.

Another problem with the huge Eldrazi that Tron can shit out is that they’re Indestructible. Infernal Reckoning deals with that upside by providing a cheap and efficient way for black to exile those Eldrazi titans and have a chance. One mana to remove any colorless creature may seem really, really powerful, but it only hits 546 cards in Magic. Yes, I checked. If you’re wondering, there are 8873 creature cards that it misses, as well as 15 of the 24 lands that can become creatures.


So, yes, Core Set 2019 is a great place to get into playing Magic. It offers some great reprints to reduce some really ridiculous prices. It provides new sideboard answers for Modern. And it provides a cool, exciting experience for new players.


This weekend, July 7-8, your Friendly Local Game Store is holding a PreRelease, giving you a chance to play with the new cards in a casual, Limited environment. Core Set 2019 releases next weekend. You may be wondering why we haven’t spoken about Commander in this preview. Well, keep your eyes posted to your favorite purveyors of Degenerate Gaming Journalism and we’ll see if I can convince them to let me write for you again.

Joe, Unplugged is a Level 1 Magic Judge and one of the founders of Gemhammer & Sons Gaming who constantly plays 2048 on his phone, and that counts as a Video Game, right?

–Joseph Curran
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Dr. Bob

Friendly Neighborhood physicist who just so happens to enjoy drinking 12 beers and playing videogames all night. Always streaming at

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