Core Set 2019's Release weekend just wrapped up, and while everyone is excited to incorporate the latest cards into their Standard decks, the set also offers quite a bit for players of Eternal formats like Legacy, Modern, and Commander. Today we take a look at some of the Eternal standouts among these cards.
Soul Sisters is a deck that never quite dies. It's shown up in Modern across many eras, and while it has never been tier 1, it is often a contender. It focuses on using the titular Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant as a recurring source of lifegain to power up Serra Ascendant and Ajani's Pridemate. Ajani's Welcome offers a new Soul Sister effect. While it does not trigger itself, nor does it trigger from opposing creatures, it is notably not a creature itself. This makes it invaluable for maintaining a board presence against creature-light, sweeper-heavy decks like Jeskai Control that can remove your threats along with your lifegain sources with a single Wrath of God or Supreme Verdict. While it is not guaranteed to see play in this role, it is definitely worth a consideration. Commander decks with lifegain themes, particular Karlov of the Ghost Council should also consider this card.
While Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile are the most frequently-played white removal spells across all Eternal formats, Isolate offers an interesting alternative. While it still hits many of the things you want Swords or Path to deal with, like Delver of Secrets, Death's Shadow, Noble Hierarch, Goblin Guide, and Monastery Swiftspear, Isolate exchanges the flexibility of hitting more expensive creatures for the ability to hit non-creature permanents. Potential targets include Aether Vial, Exploration, Springleaf Drum, Expedition Map, Relic of Progenitus, Rancor, and others. It likely does not edge out either of the top removal spells, but could potentially supplement as a 1-2 of. It's also notable in Commander for being able to answer a turn one Sol Ring, ever the boogeyman of the format.
Hero of Bladehold has seen occasional play in both Modern and Legacy as a hard-to-answer creature (it dodges both Lightning Bolt and Abrupt Decay) that presents an absurd clock. Leonin Warleader represents slightly less damage per swing, but adds Lifelink to the mix as a way to keep up lifetotals. Also notable is the fact that Warleader is a Soldier, making it a potential consideration for the fringe Legacy deck Soldier Stompy. In Commander, Warleader's Cat typing and tokens make it a perfect fit for Cat tribal decks helmed by Arahbo, Roar of the World.
Militia Bugler is another potential consideration for Soldier Stompy lists. Landing in between Recruiter of the Guard and Enlistment Officer, both cards the deck already considers, Bugler has a better body than Recruiter for the same cost and a better cost than Officer for a similar body. The ability can't dig as deep as Recruiter and can't ever draw you two or more soldiers like Officer can, but it does offer advantages over both while still providing the self-replacing function the deck needs to grind out longer games. Better still, the deck can pack all three effects and really ratchet up the grind.
Resplendent Angel offers a very interesting package. At three mana for a 3/3 with flying, it is already a good body for its cost. If you have any way to consistently gain solid chunks of life, the value it accrues from even one trigger for a Serra Angel is absurd. And to top things off, it functions as a mana sink that turns it into a 5-power lifelinker, which is enough to trigger itself and make you an Angel token as well. While it may not have an obvious home, Legacy decks running Batterskull or Umezawa's Jitte have ways to trigger it, while Modern Soul Sisters can hit 5 life fairly easily with Martyr of Sands or an active Serra Ascendant. It is also an interesting consideration for a possible Legacy "Angel Stompy" deck, packing Ancient Tomb and other accelerants into Chalice of the Void and big Angels. In Commander, Resplendent Angel slots into any lifegain-matters deck, as well as any deck with a lifelink commander who can consistently cause 5-point swings.
With a 1/4 body for just two mana and a range of interesting applications, Suncleanser is a card that should at least remain on the radar. If an Energy deck ever materializes in Modern, Suncleanser is an obvious counter. It also allows you to create an infect-proof blocker to wall off arbitrarily large infect creatures. It can also target opposing Devoted Druids to potentially shut out their combo with Vizier of Remedies. Against Affinity decks, it can clear Arcbound Ravager counters from a problematic target. In Commander, Suncleanser is an amazing answer to Ezuri, Claw of Progress and the other Experience Counter commanders, as it can shut them off from their signature abilities entirely until it gets removed, and it resets any progress they've made permanently even if immediately answered.
A 2/1 creature with flying for Selfless Spirit. Remorseful Cleric follows the same formula, but offers proactive hate rather than reactive defenses. They serve different purposes, but a Spirits deck in either Modern or Legacy would potentially want this effect.
with an extra ability and a relevant typing has proven to be playable before in the form of
Sai, Master Thopterist
Another card without an obvious home, Sai, Master Thopterist positively gleams with potential. In Modern Affinity, he can hit the board as early as turn two off of Springleaf Drum or Mox Opal, and then acts as a force multiplier on your artifacts, generating a swarm of evasive threats to pick up bonuses from Cranial Plating, Signal Pest, Steel Overseer, and others. In Legacy, Sai has the potential to function as a powerful threat in an Ancient Tomb/Chalice of the Void list, where extraneous Chrome Mox, Lotus Petal, Chalice of the Void, and other artifacts turn into threats to overwhelm the enemy. In Commander, Sai functions as a decent mono-blue artifacts-matter commander, but can also be slotted in to any existing artifacts-matter deck like Sharuum the Hegemon, Breya, Etherium Shaper, or Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain.
Supreme Phantom is a two-mana lord for a relevant tribe, something that has frequently been playable. The Spirits deck in Modern definitely wants this, and it could push Spirits into a playable tribal deck in Legacy. With Mausoleum Wanderer, Spell Queller, and Drogskol Captain, the deck certainly has some draws over the similar Merfolk list.
Tezzeret, Artifice Master
Five mana is a steep ask for older formats, but decks like Legacy Tezzerator, which already runs Sol Lands and mana artifacts, could certainly find room for Tezzeret, Artifice Master. Having a +1 that generates a flying token makes it very easy to tick Tezzeret up while defending him, and his +0 easily drawing two cards gives the deck the gas it needs to go the distance.
Wurmcoil Engine is still quite the force to be reckoned with in Tron decks in Modern, and fair non-white decks like Jund have lacked clean answers to it for a while. Infernal Reckoning provides one of the cleanest answers to Wurmcoil Engine around, while also being a solid response to other colorless fatties that Tron, Eldrazi, and Affinity can all field.
Liliana, Untouched by Death
Four mana walkers with multiple options for immediate use are frequently playable. Liliana has a slightly narrow scope in what she can do, being restricted to Zombie-based decks, but all three of her abilities can be used immediately and the latter two provide the possibility for card advantage. That makes her worthy of consideration and even building around. A deck like Legacy Zombardment, which likes stocking its graveyard, replaying threats, and removal, would certainly consider this. Modern Dredge variants that run cards like Haunted Dead, Lotleth Troll, and Prized Amalgam may have use for it as well.
Another card that Zombardment and Modern Dredge may both consider, this unassuming 1/1 Zombie does a great job of stocking your graveyard. Stitcher's Supplier mills you three on both entering play and dying, and its Zombie typing means it works well with Gravecrawler and the new Liliana.
Alpine Moon draws immediate comparisons to Blood Moon, as they both allow you to shut down key lands. At one mana, and not affecting your own lands, Alpine Moon fits into even decks with greedy manabases, and it can throw Tron off of assembling its namesake land combination - note that removing card types means that this does stop Tron from being assembled by naming any of its three pieces - even while on the draw, something that Blood Moon is often too slow to do. However, the fact that it fixes mana for your opponent means that it gives Tron the mana they need to be able to Nature's Claim their way out of that predicament. It does, however, give Jund, Jeskai, and Grixis decks a reliable way to shut down Valakut, Celestial Colonnade, and other problematic lands without tanking its own mana. In Legacy, Blood Moon's color screwing effect is generally more important than the ability to shut off specific lands, so this is less likely to see play there.
Deathrite Shaman's banning has breathed some new life into Goblins in Legacy, where they can now drop Goblin Lackey without fearing it will run into a 1/2 wall. And Moggcatcher, the Goblin-based Red Blood Moon Stompy deck, has been a background contender for a while. Goblin Instigator, Goblin Trashmaster, and Dark-Dweller Oracle are interesting possibilities for those decks. Dark-Dweller Oracle provides the decks with a potential card advantage engine, turning the 1/1 tokens that Siege-Gang Commander, Mogg War Marshal, Krenko, Mob Boss, and Goblin Instigator produce into "real" cards. Goblin Trashmaster provides yet another anthem lord, which Goblins has no shortage of, but more importantly, it can turn any disposable goblins into a Shattering Spree, nuking any and all problematic enemy artifacts. This means he's likely to replace Tuktuk Scrapper as the artifact-destruction goblin of choice for both decks' tutor packages. Goblin Instigator is a cross between Mogg War Marshal and Dragon Fodder/Krenko's Command. Being a creature, it benefits from things like Goblin Warchief's cost reduction and Cavern of Souls, which the spell token generators do not. While not as good as the War Marshal, it does provide redundancy of the effect, which is good for consistency. Modern Goblin lists may be interested in this as well.
Dragons have been getting a lot of powerful toys over the past few years, like Glorybringer and Thunderbreak Regent. These cards have shown up in lists like Skred Red in Modern and Dragon Stompy in Legacy. Sarkhan, Fireblood and Spit Flame are more potential toys for these kind of dragon-based Red control lists. Sarkhan provides a powerful ramp as well as card filtering. Spit Flame provides repeatable removal, which Punishing Fire has proven in the past to be very strong. While Spit Flame does not have the advantage of being able to go to face, it does combine well with Sarkhan, allowing you to discard it to draw a card and then recur it when you cast a big dragon off of Sarkhan's other + ability.
Another two-mana lord, Elvish Clancaller does not have as obvious of a place as Supreme Phantom but is interesting nonethelesss. Legacy Elves generally plays towards a streamlined combo engine based around Glimpse of Nature, Heritage Druid, and Nettle Sentinel. But Modern Elves plays a more aggressive game, and Elvish Clancaller fits much better there, offering an extremely effective anthem along with the possibility of grabbing additional copies of itself to break lategame stalemates.
Very much a niche package, Armasaur does offer the advantagesof being a green creature with converted mana cost three, meaning it's a possible target for Collected Company, Green Sun's Zenith, Woodland Bellower, and a few other conditional tutors. And the ability to draw multiple cards while presenting a solid body is not to be lightly dismissed. Against decks like Death and Taxes, where abilities like Stoneforge Mystic, Mother of Runes, Wasteland, Rishadan Port, and Brightling are common, Armasaur can provide quite the threat while fitting nicely into most toolboxes.
Not a new card, but one sorely in need of a reprint, Scapeshift is a welcome sight in a core set already packed with interesting cards. Scapeshift is the backbone of a high-tier Modern deck of the same name, as well as a fringe Legacy Nic Fit variant.
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
Grixis midrange-control lists are common in both Legacy and Modern, and Nicol Bolas offers a curve-topping four drop that generates immediate card advantage, dodges common removal like Lightning Bolt and Abrupt Decay, presents an efficient body, and threatens to completely dominate a game if it goes long. While it is competing with cards like Kalitas, Traitor to Ghet in Modern and Kess, Dissident Mage in Legacy, it is certainly worth consideration in both formats.
Amulet of Safekeeping
Amulet of Safekeeping was cleverly crafted as an answer to Storm decks. It counters all of the copies of targeted Storm spells like Grapeshot, Tendrils of Agony, and Brain Freeze, and the most popular untargeted Storm spell is Empty the Warrens, which creates ineffective tokens with the Amulet out. The question, however, becomes whether it is worth running the Amulet over cards that have a broader reach, like Thorn of Amethyst, Trinisphere, Sphere of Resistance, Damping Sphere, or Chalice of the Void? My gut says it probably is not, but the Amulet is an option for decks that cannot run those effects for fear of neutering their own gameplan.
Crucible of Worlds
Crucible of Worlds is another very welcome reprint. Crucible is a core card for Legacy Lands lists as well as many Stax builds, and shows up in a lot of sideboards for Midrange and Control decks for both Legacy and Modern as a way to grind out value in mirror matches.
While the "one or more" text on Desecrated Tomb stops it from being completely broken in conjunction with Delve spells or mass graveyard reshuffle/exile, Tomb is still an interesting card to include in Dredge type lists. It will trigger off of every Dredge draw, every Bloodghast, Vengevine, Prized Amalgam, Narcomoeba, Haunted Dead, Gravecrawler or similar recursion, every time the opponent exiles a creature from your graveyard, and more. The potential for shenanigans runs extremely high.
Spine of Ish Shah has seen occasional play in MUD lists in Legacy, as they can generate huge amounts of mana off of Metalworker and can make good use of it with Goblin Welder and similar effects. Meteor Golem is like a Spine on a body, which means it can also work well with effects that can cheat creatures into play, like Sneak Attack. For a deck like Sneak Stompy where seven mana naturally isn't out of the question from rituals and Sol Lands, Meteor Golem provides an Ashen Rider-type effect that can be occasionally hardcast. It's also fetchable with Eye of Ugin, and while it may compare unfavorably with Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre in terms of being hardcast, it does still offer its benefits on being cheated into play.
And that's a wrap on the set review. While there is nothing that screams to be broken or will clearly redefine either Legacy or Modern, there are a lot of role-players and possibilities for niche strategies. What cards are you most excited to brew with?