Core Set 2020 Draft Guide

Core Set 2020 Draft Guide

Core Sets are often derided as simple, superficial, and boring, though this criticism often rests on the shoulders of experienced players. While designed to have a less complex limited format, occasionally a core set rises to the top by all metrics, earnings its place in the annals of Limited history. Whether or not Core 2020 fits this parameter, it is nonetheless an exciting limited format with extra layers of complexity when compared to prior core sets. Overshadowed in some ways by the wildly successful Modern Horizons, Core 2020 brings with it the full fruition of pushed commons, making Limited less about opening bombs and more about identifying the key cards.

In this article, we’ll be giving a brief overview of the format, as well as archetypes, signpost uncommons, key cards, and general approaches to a successful Draft. These are all early format observations, and will change as we have more opportunities to explore the limited format.

Click here for our Core Set 2020 Draft Tier List

Umbrella Archetypes

While Modern Horizons had defined archetypes, Core 2020 shows a pattern most Standard legal sets showcase — signpost uncommons, but only a few specific archetypes. What separates Core 2020 from the traditional design of sets is that Core 2020 has a loose roster of archetypes spanning three colors rather than the normal two. Let’s take a look at these archetypes.

  1. Temur Elementals | Risen Reef and Creeping Trailblazer are both Elemental payoffs in color combinations sharing Green. While there are some Black elementals, the primary three colors are Red, Green and Blue, which corresponds with the three color mythic Omnath.
  2. Jeskai Skies | Azorius Fliers is a staple archetype of most limited formats, and upon initial inspection appears to be a powerful archetype, with Empyrean Eagle serving as the signpost uncommon. However, there are more Red creatures with Flying than in most sets, as well as readily available mana fixing. This combination corresponds with the Jeskai Mythic Kykar.
  3. Sultai Value | With a suite of recursion spells and the ability to reuse enters the battlefield triggers, this archetype’s signpost uncommon is Tomebound Lich, giving the deck both recurring value and an immediate enabler for graveyard shenanigans. The mythic this correponds to is Yarok, the Desecrated.
  4. Abzan….something | Presenting a mish-mash of graveyard and life gain synergies, Abzan is one of the three color combinations lacking a definitive identity. While still quite playable, often these decks will revolve around individually powerful cards, though this archetype does have enough life gain to dive into the life gain archetype. As we can see from Kethis, the Hidden Hand, the legendaries only go so far in expressing synergies.
  5. Mardu…aggro | With no direct synergies between the signpost uncommons in this color combination, the aggressive slant of the colors lacks any synergistic identity. While Kaalia, Zenith Seeker has a lot of support in the set, there are few tribal synergies worth pursuing. Thus, the “synergy” in the Mardu colors is simply good, aggressive cards.

Other Archetypes

Selesnya Tokens | Green and White have both token generators and payoffs for going wide, and the Ironroot Warlord serves as an exceptional payoff for this archetype. Try to snag Inspired Charge or Overcome as a late game finisher.

Orzhov Lifegain | With Angel of Vitality and Bloodthirsty Aerialist there is a minor life gain archetype, though the Black and White decks may not even have life gain payoffs, though all of them are quite strong.

Card Names Matter | Faerie Miscreant and its appropriate cycle can be powerful with enough copies, and the uncommon Pattern Matcher does an excellent job at smoothing out these decks. While Faerie Miscreant and Pack Mastiff are the main payoffs, Undead Servant does an excellent job at outpacing the opponent with enough copies.

Renowned Artifacts | While not a necessarily draftable archetype, Renowned Weaponsmith and Steel Overseer are reasonable cards on their own that become powerhouses with enough support. Even a single copy of Vial of Dragonfire is enough to make Renowned Weaponsmith into one of the best two drops in the format.

Best Commons and Uncommons by Color













General M20 Drafting Advice

  • With easy mana fixing and an abundance or strong multicolored cards, the optimal strategies is to remain open and read signals, though getting a powerful build around card is an exception.
  • With a low amount of removal relative to other sets and an easy to splash nature of the removal options, taking premium removal early is important, but don’t take weaker removal over a solid threat.
  • Two power creatures are quite weak, as they get outclassed quickly and most of the good interaction is at uncommon. While many are worth drafting, don’t craft your game plan on connecting with a two power two drop.
  • Blue is an aggressive color in M20, and has lower toughness than other formats. When Blue likes to attack, blocking is worse than racing, which contributes to the strategy of prioritizing good threats over good interaction.
  • Many games are going to be ended by bombs — mana is good enough for players to splash. Most of the rares and nearly all of the mythics are bombs.
  • Having a good curve is critical in M20, even though having an abundance of two drops is not. Play only the best two drops, and start your curve at three in most games. With life gain lands and three toughness three drops, the ability to slow down ground assaults is easy.