It’s that time of the year again! Core Set 2021, the third with this name model since the summer sets were reinstated as core sets, is out in stores as of 3 July 2020, ready to complete the 2019-2020 Standard cycle with a mix of exciting new cards and long-awaited reprints.
Picking up the torch (no pun intended) from last year’s Chandra, the spotlight planeswalker for M21 is the great time manipulator, Teferi. However, the Zhalfirin mage doesn’t get multiple incarnations like the redhead pyromancer did in Core Set 2020. But his legacy is celebrated by a series of legendary creatures, one per each color plus a multicolored one, connected with him in various ways, from his ally Mangara to his mentor Barrin, and from his enemy Kaervek to his wife Subira, his friend Jolrael, and his daughter Niambi. On top of this, Teferi appears in boosters with four slightly different variant artworks, each also getting its own showcase treatment, while a borderless version with alternate art shows up in Draft Boosters and Collector Boosters.
But what about the card itself? Does the monoblue Teferi, Master of Time live up to the high bar set by his recent Azorius incarnations, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Teferi, Time Raveler? Well, only time will tell! What we can be sure of is that this new Teferi comes equipped with two absolutely unique abilities never before seen on a planeswalker. The first is the possibility to activate during every player’s turn, which will make him a force to be reckoned with in multiplayer. The second innovation is made possible by the first, and features the return of phasing, a mechanical keyword that hadn’t appeared in a premier set since 1997, and is flavorfully linked to Teferi. By activating your Master of Time in the opponent’s turn, you’ll be able to shift one of their creatures out of existence until their next upkeep, preventing it from attacking. With enough loyalty, you can then have Teferi phase out another creature in your own turn, perhaps to clear the way for your attackers.
The other returns in Core Set 2021 include high-profile reprints like Containment Priest, Scavenging Ooze, Massacre Wurm, and Commander staple Grim Tutor, seen here for the first time in a proper Magic frame; fan-favorite spellslinging mechanic prowess; and the legendary shrine enchantment type from Champions of Kamigawa, which is given a full new monocolored cycle at uncommon, plus a five-color rare that tutors up one shrine per turn directly onto the battlefield, then doubles their effects when there are at least six of them out. The mill action is also back and finally keyworded with the term everyone was informally using since Millstone.
Each of the five monocolored planeswalkers in the set composes a vertical cycle of five cards: a mythic (the planeswalker card itself), a rare, an uncommon, a common, and their own basic land. For instance, the new entry Basri Ket, a warrior and leader from Amonkhet, is accompanied by Basri’s Lieutenant, Basri’s Solidarity, Basri’s Acolyte, and a special Plains depicting the sands of his native plane. All the cards from one of these cycles play well with each other and with their planeswalker boss.
Basri is the face of white for the set, Teferi takes up blue, the always popular Liliana and Chandra represent black and red, respectively, while green sees yet another welcome return, the apex predator Garruk, who was freed from his curse following the events of Throne of Eldraine, and is now able to resume monogreen duties. M21 also includes the reprint of the colorless Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, who’s however not given a cycle.
That’s too many planeswalkers for you? Not to worry, Sparkhunter Masticore is there to take care of them, as the first creature with protection from the planeswalker type and specialized repeatable pinging.
Core Set 2021 introduces the Dog type, which will replace Hound through a massive number of errata involving dozens of cards. It’s a change head designer Mark Rosewater had been pursuing for years, and was foreshadowed by Mystery Booster playtest card Ruff, Underdog Champ. For the occasion, the Dogs receive a few new members, including a lord, Pack Leader, plus another one shared with their pet counterparts, the Cats – the adorable Buy-a-Box promo Rin and Seri, Inseparable. Cats also get their ranks replenished, a solo lord with Feline Sovereign, and a further homage with the intriguing alternate-loss enchantment Nine Lives.