The core set has returned to Magic! I’d always enjoyed core set Limited, so I’m glad to see it return. Magic 2019 feels like a return to the old time style of Magic: creatures, removal, and card advantage without any funky mechanics. This format might not have a ton of depth, but it looks like a nice palate cleanser before we spend a bunch of expansions on Ravnica being inundated with guild mechanics and whatnot.

For prerelease weekend, I rolled up to Game Heroes, one of the many local stores in the Denver area. My pool didn’t offer up any flashy mythics—others around me pulled Crucible of Worlds, Tezzeret, and elder dragons galore. I got a Banefire, which is probably better than all the bombs, and a sweet set of Izzet cards to go with it.

Old Time Izzet

Creatures (12)
Dismissive Pyromancer
Omenspeaker
Enigma Drake
Boggart Brute
Guttersnipe
Hostile Minotaur
Snapping Drake
Sparktongue Dragon
Salvager of Secrets
Volcanic Dragon
Frilled Sea Serpent

Spells (11)
Dragon’s Hoard
Banefire
Electrify
Shock
Fiery Finish
Essence Scatter
Disperse
Switcheroo
Divination
Sift
Lands (17)
Highland Lake
Island
Mountain

Sideboard (25)
Supreme Phantom
Scholar of Stars
Wall of Mist
Cancel
Anticipate
Goblin Instigator
Fire Elemental
Alpine Moon
Tormenting Voice
Crash Through
Woodland Stream
Timber Gorge
Rupture Spire
Gift of Paradise
Plummet
Elvish Clancaller
Elvish Rejuvenator
Colossal Dreadmaw
Rabid Bite
Talons of Wildwood

This deck is just about perfect. Fliers, removal, card draw, and some sweet spell synergies. Guttersnipe usually won’t do much in Sealed, but here it was an all star. Enigma Drake is good even as a 1/4 flier, but I often got it up to 4/4 or bigger. Dragon’s Hoard is good enough even as a simple Manalith, but I managed to pick up a few extra cards along the way thanks to my two dragons. And yes, Sparktongue Dragon is absurd at common.

The true powerhouse of my deck, besides Banefire, was Dismissive Pyromancer. This card reminds me of Deathrite Shaman: an efficient cheap creature with multiple powerful abilities tacked on for free. The pyromancer probably won’t get banned in Modern or Legacy, but in Limited it does everything you could want. Remember when red had to have downsides on its bears? Ironclaw Orcs, we hardly knew ye. This bear rummages away extra lands while storing up a free Flame Slash for later. Or you can drop it on turn two and attack like a normal red deck. So versatile, so powerful.

I cruised to a 4-0 record, dropping one game on the day. That earned me plenty of prize packs, and we put them to good use this week for my first draft of the format. It went pretty well for me:

Jund Dragons

Creatures (16)
Doomed Dissenter
Goblin Instigator
Viashino Pyromancer
Ravenous Harpy
Skyscanner
Gargoyle Sentinel
Plague Mare
Hired Blade
Skeleton Archer
Fire Elemental
Sparktongue Dragon
Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire

Spells (7)
Liliana’s Contract
Lich’s Caress
Strangling Spores
Fiery Finish
Mind Rot
Act of Treason
Macabre Waltz
Lands (17)
Rupture Spire
Foul Orchard
Timber Gorge
Swamp
Mountain

Sideboard (14)
Duress
Vampire Neonate
Bogstomper
Explosive Apparatus
Tormenting Voice
Catalyst Elemental
Lava Axe
Alpine Moon
Smelt
Thornhide Wolves
Recollect
Talons of Wildwood
Wall of Vines

Yes, I drafted two copies of the same elder dragon. Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire was in the first pack I opened. I briefly considered taking Electrify over it, on the theory that solid removal is better than a three-color bomb. But I corrected myself quickly and went with the dragon, which felt correct after the draft was over. The format is slow enough, there are enough dual lands floating around, and most of the creatures are weak. Take the dragons when you can. Who knows, maybe a second copy will get passed your way in pack two!

After taking the Jund dragon, I focused on red and black removal along with some cheap blockers. After two packs I had no fixing, so I first-picked Rupture Spire out of the third. That reminded me of full-block Return to Ravnica draft, where I would draft all the gold cards in the Dragon’s Maze pack, then first-pick Transguild Promenade (a functional reprint of Rupture Spire) or Prophetic Prism to ensure I could cast them. In this draft, I was also able to pick up two dual lands in pack three to fix my mana perfectly without needing to play any forests.

This deck felt great. I lost one round to some very bad draws in games two and three, finishing 2-1 in the draft. The small creatures were perfect to clog the ground and feed my two copies of Ravenous Harpy, which is very strong. I never got to cast Act of Treason, but they become strong cards with a couple harpies in your deck.

The Jund elder dragon is a bit random, but you almost always come out ahead. It’s a good idea to have mana open when attacking with Vaevictis Asmadi, in case you hit Sparktongue Dragon, or if your opponent flips a sweet creature you need to remove before blocks. If the top card of your opponent’s deck is an instant or sorcery, they get nothing. (The card stays on top of their library.) It is possible for things to go poorly, but you will almost always come out ahead. One time my opponent flipped Dwarven Priest and gained seven life, effectively fogging my attack; but I still won a turn later.

In the deciding game of my final match, I unlocked an achievement that may prove hard for others to match, at least in Limited. I attacked with Vaevictis Asmadi, sacrificing my Liliana’s Contract for good value. The top of my deck revealed the other copy of Vaevictis Asmadi. It’s not a great result—you just lose the new one to the legend rule, unless you want an untapped one, but then you don’t get to finish the attack. But still, that is worth style points at the least. Everyone already knew I had two, so I didn’t get the full “holy shit” value when I revealed the second copy, but it’s best not to be too greedy.

Perhaps I’ve used up all my luck and value in the format, but I hope not. The set is fun, classic Magic. I’m looking forward to the PPTQ and GP season, at least for a month or two.

Brendan McNamara (Twitter: @brendanistan) is Editor in Chief of Hipsters of the Coast. He used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he pans the planeswalker points for bronze, or whatever happens to be the cheapest metal that bots will buy.

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