Draft - Core Set 2019


Core Set 2019 is a limited set in a lot of ways intended for newer players. The set is built around the origin story of Nicol Bolas, an ancient planeswalker villain and his search for the infinity stones. The set features some very interesting reprints ( Scapeshift, Crucible of Worlds…) and a ton of new, interesting cards to tinker with. The cards in each color cling close to the archetypical tribes that represent them; Goblins and Dragons for red, Wizards and Sphinxes in blue, Human soldiers and knights with angels in white, Zombies and Demons and black, and ofcourse, Elves and giant beasts in green.

Draft characteristics

The 2019 Core Set is pretty straightforward to draft and will be relatively easy to get into for new and experienced players alike:

  • - Draft features 3x Core Set 2019 boosters
  • - A relatively slow format, often decided by unanswered bombs
  • - Removal is incredibly important
  • - Fliers are very common, make sure to account for them
  • - Colors seem fairly balanced, but certain pairs (RG, UB, GB...) have strong snowball potential
  • - Goodstuff builds with a subtheme perform better than full archetypes
  • - Bombs and removal should be prioritized even more so than usual (B.R.e.a.d)
  • - A lot of trap, cute or useless cards

Core sets generally do not feature any new or complicated mechanics, and the same is true for Core Set 2019. The most “complicated” mechanic can be found on Bolas the Ravager, a mythic Elder Dragon that flips into a powerful planeswalker.

  • - Planeswalkers

  • - Planeswalker signature spells

  • - Planeswalker "Excavators"

  • - Planeswalker "Pets"

  • - Elder Dragons

  • - Rare legends

  • - Tribal Lords"

  • - Mares

  • These three cards show Nicol Bolas chronologically. From his godlike powers as a Planeswalker, where he created whol planes and spieces for his own amusement and then hunted and tortured them to oblivion, to the mending where he lost most of his powers. Finally, the last card depicts his slow and patient rise back to his current power level.


Core Set 2019 offers a variety of archetypes, even more than one/color combination. The Elder Dragons are a very good incentive to dip into three colors, and some of the archetypical pay-offs are downright sexy. That being said, they aren’t always worth it. I believe it’s a good rule of thumb to follow where the bombs take you and primarily build into a X/x/...x goodstuff deck, with hard-synergies (such as Dragon, artifact etc.) as a secondary benefit. Color are fairly balanced across the board, with Green and Red slightly weaker overall than the other three (ironically, I believe Red/Green to be one of the strongest archetypes).

As usual, white pairs decent removal with explosive early game creatures, combat tricks and solid mid-game. The Soldiers, Knights and other 1-4 CMC creatures offer a solid Weenie base, that pairs wonderfully with either of the 4 remaining colors. The mid game bombs offer a nice way to end games quickly or an excellent splash for other archetypes. The evasive angels work especially well when paired with Black or Blue and provide a solid game-ending beatdown. As a standalone color, I consider white the strongest of the five.

Best Commons:

There is a pattern of the colors representing their color-identity ideals in M19, and that’s especially evident in blue.The color focuses on spell synergy, tempo plays (bounce, tapping..) and evasive creature. Blue is the color that shines no matter what you pair it with… UW Fliers, UB Control, UG pseudo-Boggles, UR spells… They all work, and neither of them requires a particular synergy to do so.Be it as the main or support color, when in doubt, blue will never let you down.

Best Commons:

Murder. This 1BB uncommon is a card pick over most other rares/mythics and never regret it. It’s the best removal in M19 that deals with anything. As it has double black in its casting cost, Murder is not splashable, and as there are no hate picks in MTG: Arena as of now, should not be taken if you are already locked out of black. Alongside premium removal, the best color in Magic offers graveyard recursion, Zombie synergies, tons of ways to gain card advantage and mana-efficient fliers (e.g. Demon of Catastrophes). It works best as the main color, but can easily be splashed for some of its best removal and bombs.

Best Commons:

Red is a peculiar color in M19. I find it somewhat lacking as the main color. While it’s removal is absolutely astonishing and a-plenty, its commons are in general… meh? That’s in part due to their aggressive stat distribution/curve relative to the slow pace of the format, and in part due to how great some of the commons in other colors are. The relatively high casting cost of dragons (who are generally amazing), makes red an awkward main color, but really makes it shine when paired up with another. Gruul Dragons take advantage of Green’s solid early game and ramp, and the devastating power of the red Dragons. Izzet spells combine the blue tricks and evasive creatures with the premium red removal, and Boros Weenie takes advantage of the small/aggressive creatures by overwhelming the opponent.

Best Commons:

Playing green in core sets has always given me a special pleasure. As the core-set formats are generally slow and grindy, the big, fat green beasts and monsters often find their spotlight here. Green is M19 is defined by all its classic features; Ramp, Fatties and Growth spells, all of which can prove to be insurmountable hurdles to some of the opponents, but often simply fold to combat tricks, removal and evasive creatures. As such, green is at its best when paired with one of the colors that mends some of these downsides, either through threats of its own, removal or other form of disruption. With the plethora of fliers in M19, I’ve come to run 1-2 copies of Plummet in my main deck, and have yet to come to regret it.

Best Commons:

Artifacts and Multicolors:
It's a given Elder Dragons are incredible, so I will omit them in the Bombs section. Most uncommon multicolors fit specific two-color archetypes and should be drafted carefully. Artifacts are generally lovely filler cards that don't commit you to a color. Some are powerful on their own or with specific other cards. In Core Set 2019 they are generally pretty weak, and most clock in at filler value.

Strongest Commons

Build-Around Archetypes
Each of the sign-post two-color cards represents a predetermined archetype in Core Set 2019, and some of them are really good. Gruul Dragons for example, is one of the strongest builds once can make, given they draft the right cards, while say Selesnya Enchantments (Auras) is risky at the best of times. Orzhov combination, alongside the life-gain synergy is proving to be extremely efficient as well, combining the recursive and evasive creatures with premium removal in both colors.

Izzet spell synergy archetype for example, doesn’t require much of a build-around and elegantly offers pay-offs for running cards one would draft either way, while Azorious Artifacts for example, is quite tricky; the majority of decent artifacts are rare/uncommon and one can’t really rely on picking them up. The Rakdos sacrifice-for-effect ability is rather tricky as well. If the opponent has an answer, much like in the case of Auras, a two for one trade can be detrimental to our gameplan.


Disclaimer: The following is my approach to drafting. It’s not applicable to every situation, it’s likely not the most efficient and it’s definitely very MTG: Arena bot-draft specific.

1st Pack
I’ve had the most success sticking to what I call a good-stuff draft strategy; I try to pick the best possible cards in the first pack, prioritizing bombs and removal, with little regard for colors (that being MTGA specific, as the bots don’t appear to be reading any signals) whilst still trying not to branch out too much.

2nd Pack
This is where I try to pick the main and assisting color of my deck based on what the bots seem to be passing on. In regards to M19, it seems to be best to try and force yourself into the colors of your bombs, unless that completely hinders your general strategy. This is the point where you try to smooth out your mana curve and look out for color fixing ( Manalith, Dual lands…) if necessary.

3rd Pack
It’s generally too late to make a hard color-switch at this point, but not impossible if you happened to pick an incredible bomb and the color seems open. What I generally prioritize in pack 3 are in-color ways to smooth the curve, removal and if at all possible, pick a good enough in-color card pool to avoid splashing a third color. Ideally I want to play an X/y deck, and only splash a third color for the Elder Dragons (if applicable).


Core Set 2019 is a beginner friendly draft format that offers an excellent learning experience. The B.R.E.A.D pick priority applies even more so than in the past 7 sets, and it teaches the players the importance of not only building a coherent deck, but accounting for what the opponents might throw at you. There are tons of trap cards that might seem great on the surface but can be hard to make work (e.g. Gigantosaurus), and cards that require careful consideration and risk calculation when playing, but with a great payoff (e.g. Prodigious Growth).

All-in-all, it’s fresh, it’s crisp and it’s fun. No reason not dive in and have some fun.


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