Core Set 2019 CELF-Test Review (Part 2 – Format Speed and Top Commons/Uncommons)

See part 1 of the set review here: Core Set 2019 CELF-Test Review (Part 1 – Mechanics, Mana and Removal)

Format Speed

As I mentioned in part 1 of my review, for a number of decks the early turns will be spent playing taplands rather than curving out. Let’s look at the early drops available to each color to see if there is an aggressive curve available to any colors in the format. These can be used to exploit any decks that get too greedy and spend the early turns setting up. Here I’ll only include the 1 and 2 drops that I consider playable to see what typical early plays we can expect to see hitting the board.


W: Rustwing Falcon
U: Gearsmith Prodigy
B: Vampire Neonate
R: Goblin Motivator
G: Wall of Vines
Colorless: None
Multicolor: None

W: Novice Knight
U: None
B: Diregraf Ghoul, Stitcher’s Supplier
R: None
G: None
Colorless: None
Multicolor: None

Each color gets a common 1-drop that looks surprisingly playable. The interesting note here is that 4 of the 5 have higher toughness than power. The white and blue options look the strongest and could be good targets for auras or equipment, especially in a format with weak removal. Novice Knight is a fantastic early blocker if you need the defensive speed but I’d prefer to only play it if I have ways to turn it on as an attacker later. Combined with Rustwing Falcon this gives white some redundancy in a potential auras/equipment strategy.

Goblin Motivator is a functional reprint of Bloodlust Inciter. Inciter was a decent card in its format, but this effect will get worse if a red aggressive deck isn’t what this format is asking for.

Wall of Vines and Vampire Neonate seem like the worst of the 5 commons here, but the Vampire in particular may be an important role player in a BW life gain deck. Diregraf Ghoul looks like the playable 1-drop of choice for black if you plan on attracking or having zombie synergies. Stitcher’s Supplier only seems playable if you have significant graveyard synergies or need a disposable body to sacrifice to some other effects.


W: Cavalry Drillmaster, Daybreak Chaplin, Oreskos Swiftclaw
U: Omenspeaker, Wall of Mist
B: Child of Night, Doomed Dissenter, Walking Corpse
R: Goblin Instigator, Viashino Pyromancer
G: Druid of the Cowl, Greenwood Sentinel
Colorless: None
Multicolor: None

W: Ajani’s Pridemate
U: Departed Deckhand, Surge Mare
B: Reassembling Skeleton, Doomed Dissenter, Walking Corpse
R: None
G: Dryad Greenseeker
Colorless: Diamond Mare, Suspicious Bookcase
Multicolor: None

I absolutely hate 1-toughness creatures in this format:

  • 2-mana 1/3s: Omenspeaker, Druid of the Cowl, Daybreak Chaplain, Diamond Mare, Dryad Greenseeker
  • 2-mana plays that trade with value: Doomed Dissenter, Goblin Instigator
  • 1 damage effects: Plague Mare, Skeleton Archer, Volley Veteran, Radiating Lightning

The 1/3s even make 2/2s and 2/3s significantly worse. Omenspeaker is just a great card for any blue deck, providing early defense and fixing your draws. Dryad Greenseeker is also a great value engine in a longer game. These cards will see a lot of play and make life difficult for any ground creatures with less than 3 power.

Cavalry Drillmaster is a card I would normally like for it’s ability to push in damage, but the 2/1 stats make me pessimistic about its value. It will function more as a burn spell to push through some extra damage the turn it comes into play. Even then, it may just soak up a chump block from a Doomed Dissenter or Goblin Instigator token.

Summary on Format Speed

The format looks slow. Efficient early blockers and life gain will make games center around the mid and late game. Playing taplands in the early turns will not put you behind on board and will set you up to cast potential splash cards.

If there is an aggressive strategy available it will likely have to center on cheap creatures combined with auras or equipment. Based on the available removal, this is a strategy worth exploring.

Evasion will be incredible important for any deck looking to attack. Evasive keywords are at a premium and aggressive decks may have to look to some of the spell-based tricks to close games (see Tectonic Rift, Ghostform, Aether Tunnel and Sleep).

Top Commons and Uncommons

Our analysis so far sets the stage for choosing our top commons and uncommons. I’ll be looking to avoid aggressive cards and favoring card advantage and powerful mid to late game value plays.


Luminous Bonds
Knightly Valor
Angel of the Dawn
Take Vengeance
Pegasus Courser
Hieromancer’s Cage
Ajani’s Pridemate
I love the way white is shaping up because vigilance is probably my favorite mechanic. White gets decent removal, the ability to race and defend with vigilance, and evasion. Angel of the Dawn and Knightly Valor are both very powerful 5-mana plays. Star-Crowned Stag is an example of a card that I think would be very good in other formats but I’m low on it to start here (though it does combo nicely with Take Vengeance).


Essence Scatter
Aviation Pioneer
Departed Dockhand
Blue has too much card draw and value to list here. Departed Dockhand stands out like a sore thumb in this list and it’s possible Sift should be include over it. But a 2/2 unblockable that can give other creatures unblockable is a must answer threat.


Lich’s Caress
Skymarch Bloodletter
Macabre Waltz
Mind Rot
Epicure of Blood
This selection of black cards is all about value. Unconditional removal and 2-for-1s. Epicure of Blood is a speculative pick, but seems like it has potential to be a part of a powerful engine with the life gain enablers. This is the type of card that gets better in a slow format.


Bogart Brute
Havoc Devils
Lightning Strike
Volcanic Dragon
I had to go pretty deep to fill out the commons in red. Red’s power will come from building around synergies. I didn’t list Goblin Instigator or Act of Treason in the top commons but I could easily imagine decks that wanted to take those cards highly to enable a specific game plan.


Rabid Bite
Evlish Rejuvenator
Giant Spider
Bristling Boar
Druid of the Cowl/Llanowar Elves
Dryad Greenseeker
Vigilant Baloth
I’m not a fan of green’s commons. There are some generic beaters of reasonable size. Green’s biggest appeal is its ability to ramp. It’s not doing anything fancy but playing some big thugs ahead of curve can be enough to win games.


I’m really excited to be able to play core set limited again soon. I remember fondly playing M14 limited as the first set that I ever drafted a lot. It was the set where I started regularly going to a local store and my success there made me realize that I could do really well at the game if I put the time in to learn and improve.

Core Set 2019 looks very similar to that core set format. I expect games to be all about grinding and getting value in the late game which is a sweet way to play magic. There are a lot of cards I’m excited to cast here.

I hope this limited review has helped you feel more prepared to take on the limited format when the new set releases soon. Let me know your opinion of the new set in the comments.

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