How to Predict Limited Environments with M19


M19 is right around the corner and probably everybody who will draft it at a pre-release is wondering what to expect. Will the latest expansion's gameplay be fast or slow? Let’s take a look at some points of my Limited evaluation for the new Core 2019 set.

Common Theme

It may be exciting to open boosters of a new set for those unbelievable sweet mythics like Tezzeret, Artifice Master or Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen and play them for the first time. However, new expansions are not simply about new mythics or even rares. We should deal with and build a deck around the cards that we are most likely to see: commons and uncommons.

On average, you get two of every common and one of every uncommon per draft. There can be some variance to this, meaning that about 40% of the time, there won’t be a specific uncommon at the table. In the majority of the drafts however, there will be. This means you can get a pretty good estimation of the average card pool just by looking at spoilers, but this doesn't really solve all your "How strong is this card going to be?" problems. It does allow some decent conclusions though. For example, Dominaria’s two-drops were horrendous. Most of them were just 2/2 and could not get around a simple 1/3 – let alone a bigger creature. This factor alone snowballed Dominaria Limited into the slow format that it is.

M19 Two-Drops

Let me tell you, this is bad. Historically, Core sets do not really have fancy two-drops, but there isn't even a single creature in this set that has evasion or really any kind of way to get around blockers, besides Departed Deckhand and one-time Cavalry Drillmaster. I mean, are we that far-off that we are now using Suspicious Bookcase? It doesn’t even block when used. Usually, Core sets had at least some kind of evasion, such as Welkin Tern or Goblin Tunneler. It meant that having no creatures on turn 2 wasn't so bad and, to be honest, this could have been a zero two-drop format. I was always a fan of this strategy, but lately it hasn't been possible due to the printing of aggressive two-drops. Dominaria actually came close to making this possible again, but some of the two-drops were just too good.

At this point, we should probably just look at the three-drops, since they should be better at at blocking the opponent's creatures. But to my surprise, there aren’t many creatures that have more than two toughness either. This means that there might be a decent chance for early attacks after all – at least when players shy away from playing the necessary to mana 1/3 creatures.

My initial approach would be to play three 3 toughness creatures for two or three mana and to try a slower deck, since nobody really knows which cards make fast decks work. It is almost always better to play a slower, more stable strategy in the beginning of a new set, since you are just focused on playing the good cards. It's hard to go wrong with good cards, even if you are not as streamlined as other players. Then again, nobody really is. I can see myself trying out an Oakenform/Knight’s Pledge deck, which makes the unusable two-drops great again when my opponents bring out the big guns, but he success of this strategy will depend a lot on my opponents' access to removal spells.

M19 Removal Spells

Removal Spells in Core 2019
Take Vengeance common
Totally Lost common
Strangling Spores common
Shock common
Rabid Bite common
Luminous Bonds common
Lich's Caress common
Fiery Finish common
Electrify common
Switcheroo common
Murder common
Lightning Strike common
Hieromancer's Cage common
Thud common

Looking at this list, I’ll probably resign my Oakenform idea for now. It still might be a playable card, making your worthless creature hit again, but your opponents will probably have a removal spell for it. Then again, this may clear the way for your "real" creatures. Drafting an aggressive strategy around Oakenform, however, seems too loose. On the contrary, removal spells in Core 2019 seem to support a slower deck. Shock is amazing against a lot of the two- and three-drops and Lich’s Caress is wonderful at stabilizing.

On the other hand, removal spells are very good at removing one target only, so what if you want to get really aggressive? I am talking about Rustwing Falcon, Goblin Motivator and Trumped Blast. All the cheap creatures with game-ending spells like Angel of the Dawn and possibly Tectonic Rift can combine into a deadly pile. You even have some late-game damage options with Viashino Pyromaster, Shock, Lightning Strike and, of course, my beloved Lava Axe. I love this card because it can utilize cards that others don't really want to their full potential. Lastly, imagine Heroic Reinforcements in this deck.

Speed Versus Evasion

While this scale is not accurate, it still holds some value. The faster a format is, the less you need evasion (and vice versa). Let's say the format is fast, then we want a lot of very solid creatures that can attack and block well. On the other hand, when the format stalls, we are happier with weaker creatures that can still do damage since we are not too concerned about dying quickly.

I expect Core 19 to be rather slow. This means picking medium flyers like Aven Wind Mage or Skymarch Bloodletter should become a priority, but a deck shouldn't really have too many of those. They may not be worth as much as a removal spell, but they are probably better than the other creatures. Aim to take them around the third pick.

Forcing Versus Surfing

Since the overall power level of cards in M19 is rather weak, we definitely want to position ourselves to open colors in order to get the best cards possible. I am much more concerned that the overall power of my deck will be subpar and that I won't get enough playables. In Amonkhet, for example, the power level was very high, so it was able to support two drafters with the same color. That also implies that the very strong multicolor cards in Core 19 should be given much consideration because they can win games on their own. We might have to let go of the possibility of playing them, but only for positioning in other colors that promise us equally powerful cards.

The Late-Game Option

According to my predictions, we can expect a lot of late-game action to occur, so we should be prepared when drafting M19. Having evasion is one prep option but sometimes those creatures get dealt with, plus we need some abilities for our otherwise unused mana. Picking cards with evasion can make a difference, even if they're only in your sideboard. Ideally, we want this ability on cards we actually want to play with, like Siegebreaker Giant, Ghirapur Guide, or Departed Deckhand. It probably also doesn't hurt to play one or two cards that are just for the sole purpose of using mana to the fullest, like Arcane Encyclopedia.

This concludes my pre-release evaluation and I can’t wait to jump into the first drafts as soon as Core 2019 becomes available. You will, of course, be updated on my initial impressions of M19 Limited.

What are your favorite cards for Core 2019 Limited and is there a strategy you would like to try first?

Thanks for reading!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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