Hi and welcome back to Strictly Standard. Spoiler season is upon us (by the time you read this the full set will be revealed) and it’s time to get those brewing juices flowing. This time around I have decided to curate 20 cards to feature, which means it’s a top-20 for Core 2020! Some of the cards will be cards that slot into existing archetypes to buoy their position in the meta while the others are simply powerhouses that may even spawn their own archetypes.
Here we go!
Apostle of Purifying Light gives more mid-range creature based strategies a way to combat the over the top busted things that Grixis and Command the Dreadhorde are doing. Proactively eating cards from graveyards early will limit the targets and in the late game you wait to respond to the recursion target to eat the card they are trying to get back. Plus protection from black means the main removal and wraths of the format can’t deal with this.
19. Rotting Regisaur
Rotting Regisaur introduces some very interesting design space. A 3-mana 7/6 is some huge stats that landing on the board on turn 2 (assuming you are ramping with Llanowar Elves or Arboreal Grazer) means the game could possibly be over by turn 4 if your opponent has taken any Shock damage from their lands. The upkeep discard effect is a real drawback, so it is yet to be seen if the big body stats are going to be enough to overcome.
18. Steel Overseer
Steel Overseer is a very powerful card in Modern because of the synergies it plays with Artifact creatures, specifically for the Affinity deck. There are several artifact engine cards that exist in current Standard, like Karn, Scion of Urza or Saheeli, Sublime Artificer that a card like Steel Overseer could be the type of synergy that puts them over the top.
Rienne, Angel of Rebirth comes with two very good abilities. Her static +1/+0 for other multi-colored creatures makes the race turn in your favor extremely quickly. And getting your creatures back whenever they die mean that your opponent is really never able to get rid of them. I imagine a completely new multi-color creature aggro archetype to spawn from Rienne.
An evasive 5/5 flying body for 5 Mana that “brainstorms” on entering the battlefield is a great way for controlling decks to stabilize the board and refuel their plan of action. And if you’re in the late game and those cards are useless, you can work out a way to shuffle them away and act like you’re playing Legacy in Standard! Initial thoughts for that role would be Evolving Wilds, Mausoleum Secrets, Prime Speaker Vannifar, or Traveler’s Amulet. On top of this, she shuffles herself back in and gives you an incremental scry to ensure you are able to keep rolling.
15. Tale’s End
Tale’s End is a Stifle effect with a counterspell for legendary spells tacked on. This could be exactly the release valve that the format needs to keep things in check. You can counter an enters the battlefield trigger. You can counter a Planeswalker loyalty ability activation. You can counter a PLANESWALKER entirely! This will probably find itself as a 1- or 2-of in control decks with another copy or 2 in the sideboard for mirrors.
Grafdigger’s Cage is a definitely a plant for Modern. The great part is that it will be extremely useful for Standard as well. This card provides great utility in shutting down one of the major strategies in current Standard in Command the Dreadhorde. Stopping them from recurring the creatures that gain back all the life they lost is key to shutting down the deck. There are also other less frequent uses like stopping a Grixis player from getting back a creature with their Bolas.
Kaalia, Zenith Seeker is the kind of card that, if unanswered, will completely take over a game. When you build around her enters-the-battlefield trigger (and why wouldn’t you), you can potentially draw 3 cards of pure gas. Typically, angels, demons, and dragons are very powerful beings and refilling your hand with 3 of them will make things VERY hard for your opponent to keep up with. The biggest drawback is the deckbuilding restriction that is inherent with these creature types, as they are also typically very mana intensive. I’m expecting most builds to resolve around Boros style aggro decks featuring Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice but could also see some 5-color shenanigans (no not the card, that’s not legal) with Niv-Mizzet Reborn.
Magic’s newest potentially broken 3-mana planeswalker Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer is a very tempo-oriented card that can present several angles of attack that will make life very difficult for the opponent. On turn 3, the +2 ability renders most early game creatures powerless, thus protecting her so next turn you have your choice of advancing towards the ultimate, or dropping a 4/4 flyer for “free”. Her ultimate at a whopping -8 turns all of your Islands, both current and future, into 1-Mana draw effects. And at this stage in the game you’ve probably got 6 or 7 of them. That’s A LOT of card advantage.
Kykar, Wind’s Fury is an insane engine. In a Jeskai spells deck she threatens to go off in a hurry. Being an evasive 3/3 flyer for 4 mana is just icing on the cake. I see Kykar slotting into a Feather, the Redeemed or Arclight Phoenix deck or even generating her own deck utilizing cards like Finale of Promise and Heroic Reinforcements.
Cost reduction is always broken. A 7/7 flying lifelink creature for a single mana sounds extremely unfair…for your opponent! Sephara, Sky’s Blade also gives your other flying creatures indestructible, so you will probably be closing it the game in quick order. This could be what puts an Afterlife based deck on the map.
9. Lotus Field
Lotus Field creates such a huge mana advantage that you can’t ignore it despite the underwhelming “enters the battlefield tapped” clause, and the fact that on its face, you are really only at parity on mana compared to having any three lands. But with three ways to untap it that see heavy play in tier-1 decks in the current standard meta, you start to realize the broken nature of getting “more mana than you should” for any card. Wilderness Reclamation, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria all want to do broken things, and adding a broken effect like “add three mana (to your mana pool)” means that they will be doing BIG broken things.
Leyline of the Void single-handedly shuts down the Arclight Phoenix AND the Command the Dreadhorde decks. Not only can this card give you the auto win against some opponents, it also happens to randomly hose any “dies” triggers by exiling as a replacement effect. I fully expect to see some copies of this in both main deck and sideboards.
What a card like Cavalier of Thorns does to a game of Magic: the Gathering cannot be dismissed. A 5-mana 5/6 with reach is a great set of stats, but he also comes with TWO other very relevant abilities. On entering the battlefield you are all but guaranteed to ramp from 5 to 6 mana ensuring you can make your next bomb play of the game (most likely a Command the Dreadhorde). Then when he dies, you get to put any card from your graveyard on top of your library to draw next turn and keep the hits rolling (again, most likely a Command the Dreadhorde).
Vivien, Arkbow Ranger comes with removal for a creature or Planeswalker the turn she comes down, or can pump your team with some real stats should that be what the situation calls for. Her ability to go into your sideboard to get ANY creature that will answer ANY situation you find yourself in is very powerful and will prove itself to be even more so once people start playing with it.
Leyline of Sanctity is a direct throw in the face of most of the top archetypes going into Core 2020 Standard. It shuts off Thought Erasure from the various Esper, Dimir Control, and Grixis Control decks. It also shuts off Mono-Red’s ability to close out games with targeted damage spells. With London Mulligan debuting alongside this set and proper play and deck building strategies not agreed upon, I will go it on a limb and say this should be a mainboard consideration for any deck running white, and even some that aren’t!
Sorin is back with a vengeance! A 3-mana Walker that isn’t burdened by two colored Mana requirements that lets you put ANY Vampire into play (permanently…there’s no drawback here) but also has two relevant +1 abilities deserves some serious respect. I can see Vampires becoming a tier 1 strategy on the back of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord but I believe he will provide a boon to the mono-White and Rakdos decks too.
Chandra, Awakened Inferno is a 6-Mana play that is guaranteed to resolve, has a +2 ability that gets her to 8 (yes EIGHT) loyalty the turn she comes down and will end up providing 6-to-10 points of damage on average over the course of a game. You can +2 her repeatedly because the emblems will stack meaning it can often be correct to play her on turn 6, give your opponent an emblem, then on turn 7 +2 again and drop a second Chandra give the opponent 3 damage per turn. In a pinch you can use her as a sweeper or spot removal if the game dictates that. I am very high on Chandra slotting into several existing archetypes, but also creating her own fiery control builds.
2. The Temples (Temple of Epiphany)
It may be cheating to lump 5 cards into one slot, but they all provide the same effect in tapping for two colors of Mana while giving you a scry 1 on entering the battlefield (so I guess that technically makes this a Top-24 list… but that’s not as catchy). When these lands were first introduced back in Theros, they were also paired with the Shock lands from the Return to Ravnica block. Decks slowed down, and more controlling strategies were able to take a stranglehold on the meta. Considering that control is already the top deck, I don’t foresee that changing this time around.
Dig Through Time was a broken magic card, and not just because of the Mana reduction that Delve allowed. The pure card advantage coupled with selection that this effect provides is the exact thing that locks down games. Getting to look at 14% of your deck (assuming you run this out on turn 4 and have had no other card draw in the game) and pick THE BEST TWO means you will never be left wondering where your answers are. You have them right in your hand now. That is what makes Drawn from Dreams the most powerful card in Magic Core Set 2020!
I hope you enjoyed this run down of the most powerful and important additions to Standard from #MTG2020. Did I miss something? Perhaps your favorite per card? Leave a comment and let me know!
Eric has been an avid Magic fan and player since re-discovering the game in 2012. He is a Red mage at heart but likes to confuse himself with the varying decision trees presented by mid-range and control decks from time to time.
Eric plays mostly casually with his 9-year-old daughter, but manages to get out for every prerelease and a few FNM’s and GP’s every year.
Please reach out to me on twitter @edubious
Watch my Twitch stream at twitch.tv/edubious