Core Set 2020 Notable Cards

Introduction

Those who have visited the page in the past know that this isn’t going to be a “best of Core Set 2020” article. I might end up accidentally or incidentally choosing cards that would be considered good. However, that is not the intent of this article. There are plenty of other resources out there that will give you those cards. Instead, I like to do things a bit differently around here.

In the realm of Magic the Gathering personas or whatever they call them, I’m a Johnny. Sometimes I’m a Timmy. I am almost never a Spike unless I start getting beat a bit too many times on Magic the Gathering Arena. As a result, I look through spoiler lists with a slightly different eye than the usual reviewer. My list of cards will contain cards that I (a) think I can build crazy combos around but usually (b) ones that make me say, “Wow, that’s a cool card!” If that sounds like your cup of tea, join me and continue reading.

White Cards (Did Somebody Say Angels?)

Yes, it’s a reprint. But, what a reprint!

Planar Cleansing – Those of you who visit the page on a semi regular basis know that I am a hypocrite when it comes to Magic the Gathering. I will rail against other people playing solitaire Magic decks until I’m blue in the face even as I tap my own blue face for mana to play cards that don’t allow my opponent to play Magic. Planar Cleansing has always been one of my favorite cards. The art is perfect. The effect is ridiculous. And, if you hate all the Superfriends love from Dominaria, here’s your answer.

So, uh, does this mean we are returning to Theros?

Starfield Mystic – As soon as I saw this card, I texted Chris about it. Looks a bit like a Theros card, doesn’t it? He agreed. We’ve been talking for a while now that it would be nice to travel back to Theros. I mean, they’ve been back to Innistrad and Zendikar. This last trip was the third to Ravnica. How about some Greek mythology love this time, WotC?

Oh, there’s a 2 mana penalty for removal on my commander? That’s cute

Sephara, Sky’s Blade (Honorable Mention) – i think it was Jeff Hoogland who was playing this one on his stream recently. The alternate casting cost didn’t go off as much as I had hoped, but this thing would be ridiculous in an EDH white token deck. I’m sure someone else already has theirs built and tuned but I’d love to put one together myself.

Only one of us will be playing Magic today.

Pacifism (Lifetime Achievement) – Remember earlier when I mentioned that I like to play cards that don’t let my opponent play Magic? This is probably my all time favorite card ever printed. I don’t like this art, but I will still play the card.

Blue (Oh, I’m Sorry. Did you want to play Magic today?)

Further enraging the community by giving blue players another reason to tap their islands.

Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer – This card might as well just say, “Blue. Blue blue blue blue blue. Blue blue blue.” Everything about this card says to me, put 20 basic islands in your deck and play this card on turn 3. The only thing missing is a counter ability, but that’s tough to do when Planeswalkers activate at sorcery speed. Nevertheless, drawing 20 cards a turn, you’ll get a counter eventually.

Someone posted online that whoever came up with this card needs to be fired or promoted. On the name alone, promotion.

I saw this card on a Gaby Spartz’ stream, I think. She was playing limited and it seemed like every single person was playing this card. The card itself is a blue beast token with upside, but that name is absolutely magical. I’m putting four of these in my Mu Yanling deck just so I can repeatedly say, “I cast Octoprophet.”

I activate Teferi’s +1. Uh, just a minute there, Buddy.

Tale’s End (Honorable Mention) – This is a very specific counter and ultimate useless in most cases. However, it has that quality of blue Johnny cards that just speaks to me. Being able to either counter a Planeswalker or a particularly annoying activated ability of that Walker if you get it a turn late is oddly satisfying. You’ll still lose the game, but a turn or two later.

All my spells have flash? Perhaps I don’t want to draw all those cards with Mu Yanling.

Leyline of Anticipation (Lifetime Achievement) – One of the surprising reprints in this set was the Leyline cycle reprint. I’m not sure why they would have been reprinted now, but maybe because they are Enchantments and Theros was all about enchantments, that’s one more clue that we are going to go back there in the next sets.

Black (Your graveyard is looking a bit empty)

Why not just give it trample, too, and make you discard 2 cards a turn?

Rotting Regisaur – This is another one that I texted Chris about. 3 mana 7/6 with minimal draw back? And, as he said, one of black’s identities is sacrificing cards for stronger effect, so even if you discard something, chances are it will be back later. Sometimes I think the fine folks at WotC are just trolling us with these cards.

Half of a duress that exiles on a stick feels real nice.

Yarok’s Fenlurker – This card seems like it could be a limited all star, but I’m terrible at evaluating cards (as the next section will show). A 1/1 body that exiles a card from the opponent’s hand? Sure, the opponent gets to choose, but that’s still a great upside. Plus, it can be a grizzly bear for only 3 additional mana! See, I told you I’m terrible at evaluating cards.

4 mana 1/2? Sure, why the hell not?

Sanitarium Skeleton (Honorable Mention) – This card is absolute garbage. Sure it might be nice on turn 1 as a blocker for those pesky goblins that basic mountain decks like to play. And, it can sit in your hand for a few turns to be fodder for Regisaur. Why am I including this card in my article then? Who knows. Sometimes, a card just speaks to me.

If I can’t counter your stuff, I’ll just kill it.

Murder (Lifetime Achievement) – The caption to the picture says it all. I’ve been playing a UB no fun deck on Arena the last few weeks and it’s filled with counters and removal. This one is just such a tidy answer to pretty much anything that the opponent sneaks through my counter spells.

Red (Aw, man, do I have to?)

I hate red, but this is the kind of red I can get behind.

Chandra’s Regulator – Another card that necessitated a text to Chris. I think my exact words were, “This card might be garbage, but I love it.” We then had a discussion about Chandra planeswalker cards, how they are always garbage, and as a result, so was this card. Oh well, I still want to play it.

It might be red. But, the art and flavor text make this card solid gold.

Reckless Air Strike – There is so much wrong with this card. First, it’s a sorcery. Second, many flying creatures have so much more than 3 health. Third, we’ll just slap some artifact hate on the end there. Still, I’m sure to end up with this card in draft and it’ll prove just how unplayable it actually is.

We heard you like dragons. Well, we’ll dragon your dragon until you got a dragon.

Drakuseth, Maw of Flames (Honorable Mention) – I really include this card as an homage to our fallen homie (oh, he’s not dead, just inactive on the page), Chris. He’s a dragon guy. And this is quite the dragon. Hell, even that subtitle is ridiculous.

A red card that is sort of like a blue or black card? Of course this is my favorite.

Act of Treason (Lifetime Achievement) – Oh, you got a creature past my counter and I don’t have removal? Well, I guess I’ll just take it from you and beat you with it, then. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve used this card to steal someone’s giant creature and beat them.

Green (Giant, Stompy Dinosaurs!)

If Mu Yanling is blue, then this card is GREEN.

Vivien, Arkbow Ranger – This is another card that I texted to Chris about. I mentioned how I thought the card was sexy and he told me to calm down. Our conversation then went on to other NSFW content. Seriously, though, this card is dope.

He looks like he might live in Theros.

Loaming Shaman – I’m only including this guy as another possible hint that we’re heading back to Theros soon. That ability it kind of neat. What really grabs me is white horse guy with white hair and bear has gotta live on Theros.

A generic 7/7?!

Vorstclaw (Honorable Mention) – This thing is just a big dumb creature. It doesn’t trample. There’s no ramp. No text at all other than for flavor. And that’s even that isn’t much of a flavor. Earlier there was a 3 mana 7/6 with minimal draw back. Now, we have a 6 mana 7/7 with no upside. What is happening in this game?

3 mana now for 1 mana later? Sure, why not?

Gift of Paradise (Lifetime Achievement) – This is probably the slowest ramp in the history of the game. But, it is ramp. And ramp helps you to get to those 6 mana generic 7/7s that much faster. So, get out there and start ramping.

Multicolor (Or, the gold border always makes me think it’s Mythic. Yes, still.)

Now, this one is Mythic. However, many of them are not.

Omnath, Locus of the Roil – If you have “I texted Chris about this card” for this one, then I’m pretty sure you have BINGO. However, I didn’t see this one during spoiler season. It wasn’t until Jeff Hoogland was playing an interesting Elemental deck that I texted him about this card. It looks like such a fun card.

Jeskai is as Jeskai does.

Kykar, Wind’s Fury – Back when Tarkir was the new hotness, I was drawn to Jeskai. I ended up trying to force Mardu in the prerelease event that I went to, but Jeskai is my first love, espeically when they got rid of the pesky red from their color scheme. This card screams Jeskai. And, so, it gets a spot on my list.

No Honorable Mention or Lifetime Achievement – None of the other cards jump out at me as interesting and there aren’t any reprints that I recognize.

Colorless ( Weren’t these cards brown before?)

A colorless card that is actually WUBRG? Mind blown…

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim – If you already got BINGO last round, go for Super BINGO this time. Or, you could play how was this message delivered? “This card is probably garbage, but I can’t wait to build a Commander deck around it.” I love the fact that it is an artifact, but also five colors at the same time. That’s all you need to get me to love a garbage card.

Bag of Holding – A second way to get me to like a garbage card is to name it after a Dungeons and Dragons item. When WotC first took over D&D, I was a little bit worried, but they’ve done a good job with the game. I haven’t played the Ravnica cross over yet, but I saw that they are releasing a 2 player version of D&D for losers like me who don’t have more than one friend.

Um, Time Vault is an artifact, yes?

Manifold Key (Honorable Mention) – Another sure fire way to get me to love a garbage card is to make it so that it reminds me of a card played in my favorite format to watch, Vintage. There’s a combo that allows you to go infinite with Time Vault and Voltaic Key. However, both of those cards are restricted. This one isn’t. Not yet. I’m not sure if there are 3 cards to remove from the deck to add 4 of these, but there’s a chance.

And stay dead!

Grafdigger’s Cage (Lifetime Achievement) – I was watching Modern the other day. And, yes, I did text Chris about it, but this card wasn’t involved in the conversation. Rather, I was telling him about the Hogaak deck that was casting the title creature on turn 2 or 3. WotC was quick to ban Bridge from Below to slow it down. But, thinking about that deck made me think about this card.

The Verdict (Core Set 2020 is a Core Set)

There are some good cards in the set. At its heart, though, Core Set 2020 lives up to the name. There was a time when WotC killed off core sets and nobody, aside from collecting nerds like me, seemed to miss them. I might be off base here, but I don’t remember a ton of complaining when it happened.

Therefore, I, for one, am happy to have the core sets back. I am a bit behind in my collecting, so I just recently picked up my box from Core set 2019, but it should only take a month or so to get up to speed with Core Set 2020. Until then, maybe I’ll do a draft or two on Arena.

Magic the Gathering Arena Review

Introduction

Note: Just to give some context, this review comes shortly after Magic the Gathering Arena switched over to the Mastery system from the weekly quests system.

If it seems like it’s been a while since there has been any gaming content on the page, that’s because it has. I have been working over the last few weeks to get caught up on my comics reading so that I can provide newer content. As a result, most of the recent articles have been reviews of older comic books.

I wrote in my last article that I’m now caught up and next week’s reviews should contain reviews of current comic books. This week I wanted to take a break from comics and get back to what started the page in the first place. Since Quinn is showing an interest in Magic, a new set just came out, and I don’t think I’ve ever done a comprehensive review of Arena, I figured MtG was a good place to start that pivot back into gaming.

The Good (Magic the Gathering Arena is fun!)

I wrote in my notes, “You got Hearthstone in my Magic! You got Magic in my Hearthstone! Two great tastes that go great together?” Because, at my heart, I’m a dad and I abuse dad jokes whenever I can. I think when MTGA was first announced, I even called it Magic the Gathering Hearthstone edition.

I realize now that I’m looking at these two screenshots that I’m selling MTGA short by comparing it to Hearthstone. Sure, they both have interactive backgrounds and an emote system, but that’s about where the similarities end. The animations in MTGA are so much better and more intricate. MtG’s gameplay is so much more in depth and rich than Hearthstone.

I was watching a Kibler stream where he played some ridiculous Angels deck against Day9. They both had nearly 100 angel tokens on the field. Kibler, laughing, said, “You wonder why they don’t have this on mobile? Here’s why.” I admit to asking why in the past. My phone would probably spontaneously combust trying to render that many animations at once.

Magic the Gathering Arena is so much more than just a rip off of Hearthstone. I am ecstatic to have been wrong about that. In my opinion, MtG is so much better than Hearthstone and I would much rather play this game for random gold and packs than Hearthstone. I do still play Hearthstone but only after I’ve finished my time in Arena.

The Bad (Magic the Gathering Arena is Standard Only – for now)

No luck if I want to trade in my wild cards for a set of Force of Will.

Look, I understand that they need to start somewhere and that Standard makes the most sense. I also get that the game is buggy and suffers from slowdown even now with only standard sets programmed. Still, I’m a Vintage player at heart and I’d love to be able to hoard my wild cards to put together a deck that I’d never play in a million years in paper or even on MTGO. It’s a pipe dream at best, but maybe I’ll live long enough for them to (a) properly optimize the code and (b) transfer all cards into the game.

After all, they’ve announced a new format specifically to address the fact that older cards have already been coded in since the game has been in beta since Ixalan. They’re calling it Historic (?), which seems like a really dumb name. Also, given their recent lack of success in creating new formats, I don’t give this one much chance of lasting very long. Then again, I’ve been wrong before.

The Ugly (Magic the Gathering Arena rewards aren’t as much fun?)

I mean, fire kitty is pretty cute. Also, speaking of buggy, he’s part of a game breaking one.

Like many games that want to keep you on the treadmill, Magic the Gathering Arena has daily quests. They used to also have weekly quests. By winning 15 games in a week, I could collect 3 free packs. Apparently, someone decided that was too generous and they changed over to this Mastery system, which gives rewards based on gaining experience through daily quests and your first three wins of the day.

I put this under the ugly section mainly because of my reaction to it. I was not happy with the initial announcement and became less enamored with the idea once I saw it in action. However, as with most things in life, it would appear that Wizards of the Coast knew better than I did. I’ve been playing Arena more now than I ever did under the old reward system. Well, played WotC, well played.

The Verdict (Magic the Gathering Arena is good)

It should come as no surprise that someone who enjoys Magic the Gathering would enjoy a PC game based on Magic the Gathering. Well, the surprising part here is that I despise MTGO. I don’t like playing it. I don’t like watching streams that play it. I enjoy watching Hearthstone so much more and it is mainly for the cartoon graphics and silly animations. Those, therefore, are the main reasons that I keep coming back to Arena and streams that play Arena.

The game isn’t very polished at this point. There are bugs and slowdown from a lack of optimization. However, it is Magic the Gathering. That part I mostly enjoy. I’m still suspicious that RNGsus hates me and loves my opponents. But, I will continue to play as long as they support the game. Look out for me on a virtual tabletop near you.

Marvel Comics Week of 06/30/19 Review

Introduction

Note: While this is listed as the Marvel Comics Review for the Week of 06/30/19, the comics reviewed are actually from a few months ago. Some might be more recent, but I’m still catching up on my reading, so most will be older.

I think that this might be the last of the retro review articles for a couple of weeks. With the release of Core Set 2020, next week I am going to focus on Magic the Gathering. Then, hopefully, the week after, I will do some more recent comic reviews. The boys have gotten into Marvel Puzzle Quest recently, so I want to piggy back off that momentum plus the release of the new Spider-Man movie.

Tony Stark, Iron Man #7-9 (“Stark Realities” by Dan Slott and Valerio Schiti)

The Good (I Like Dan Slott)

I’ve been a fan of Dan Slott on Spider-Man and enjoy what he’s been doing with Fantastic Four, too. When I saw that he was writing the new Iron Man book, I figured I would continue collecting after issue 600. Admittedly, it’s been a mixed bag, but hopefully things will pick up soon.

The Bad (This Story is Kind of Meh)

I said that this title has been a mixed bag so far and it starts with the story. There’s some sort of virtual game or other program that Tony created that became very popular. Now, the thing has gone haywire and it trying to kill it’s users. It might have even crossed over into real life in some way or another. I’m just not interested.

The Ugly (Tony Alone is too Much)

I think I texted Chris when I first started reading this title and the new Avengers book that I liked Tony much more in the Avengers than in his own title. I don’t know if it is the writing or just because Tony by himself is too much. I like it better when he is reduced in his role because the writer has to pay attention to other characters.

Uncanny X-Men 18 (“Something Hellfire Club” by Matthew Rosenberg and Carlos Villa)

The Good (Mr. Sinister and Emma!)

Two of my favorite villains were in this issue and that kept me going through what is another uneven offering from the House of M. I was genuinely excited about this title when it was announced that they’d be doing away (?) with the X-Men color series and consolidating into a single Uncanny title (which is the only X-Men title that should exist in my oldbie opinion), but this one hasn’t grabbed me. Again, maybe it will get more exciting.

The Bad (What is this team?)

This is not my Uncanny X-Men. I can’t even remember who all is on this team. That’s how bad it is right now. I mean, you bring out the Z team for X-Men Fuschia, not Uncanny. Please, for the love of all that is holy, give me my Uncanny X-Men. I’ll even understand if Logan is off doing his own thing. As long as the rest are there.

The Ugly (How many times…?)

How many times are they going to do this extermination of the mutants story? They just did an extinction event and before that was the 187. Is that literally the only story that they have for these characters at this point? Just stop already.

Captain America #7-9 (“Captain of Nothing” by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Adam Kubert)

The Good (Cleaning Up after Secret Empire)

I’ve mentioned before. I wasn’t much of a Captain America fan until Brubaker somewhat redefined the character in the 90s. Then, the movie version became one of my favorite characters. Secret Empire did some damage to that fandom, but I did want to see how they were going to clean up after that. It was a bit messy at the end of the event. Now, though, I like the direction that things are going.

The Bad (The Aftermath is Bad)

This is to be expected. When you take one of the most popular characters and completely retcon them to be the opposite of what they were, things are bound to get bad. When that is compounded by what is actually happening around us, it approaches ugly. While they’ve done a good job of trying to fix things, it will take some time to get back to normal (if ever). God, I hate writing that.

The Ugly (Not Quite as depressing as Secret Empire)

This story isn’t quite as depressing as Secret Empire. However, with things the way they are in real life, things are still pretty ugly. I’m hoping that changes soon. It seems like I’m saying that a lot in these books. I can see now why Marvel hasn’t been as popular in the comics scene as in the movies.

Venom #12 and 14 (by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman)

The Good (Love that Horror Vibe)

When Marvel relaunched after Secret Empire, there were two books that I enjoyed. One was expected (Hulk) and the other was a bit of a surprise (Venom). Both had a distinct horror vibe in common. I’m glad to see that they haven’t changed their minds about that for this book and Chris says that Hulk is still nailing it, too. Who knew? I’ve never been much of a horror book fan.

The Bad (Another Retcon?)

I’m not sure if this is a retcon or I missed the notes, but it feels like they’ve changed the origin of the symbiote suit. There’s some weirdness in here that I can do without. It doesn’t make things not enjoyable. It just takes me out of the narrative a bit when they start in with the new stuff.

The Ugly (Eddie’s Family Past)

This doesn’t feel like something new, but it might be, too. There’s some story in #12 (I think) about Eddie’s father and the abuse that Eddie suffered. I don’t remember that from the original story way back when Venom was introduced, but it makes sense. Abuse in any form is ugly, but it does make the character a bit more well rounded.

The Verdict (Marvel Comics Week of 06/30/19 Review)

The books that I read this week were uneven. Tony Stark is not my cup of tea so far. Uncanny X-Men has a long way to go to become enjoyable for me. Both Captain America and Venom are very good and I will continue reading them to see if they can keep it up.

I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to read the first two books, but definitely check out Captain America and Venom. If nothing else, read Venom and Immortal Hulk. Those are probably the best two Marvel books out there right now. Until next time, Excelsior! (Old joke now made a bit melancholy thanks to Stan Lee passing away.)

DC Giant (Batman 1-6)

Introduction

This review is for the DC Giant (Batman 1-6) books. Yes, I realize that I am somewhat behind on my reviews. These books came out last year. However, I am getting caught up and my reviews next week should be of current books. So, that’s something for all of us to look forward to. For now, enjoy another blast from the past as we gear up for more modern content.

I don’t remember how I learned about the Wal*Mart exclusive DC Giant Batman books. Either Chris mentioned them to me or I saw a post on social media. While it doesn’t matter either way, I do like to give Chris credit when due. I do remember that when they first released, Chris wasn’t able to find them for the first few months. That was a mixed bag. I got to feel superior but I also couldn’t discuss the books. Overall, a net negative.

The Good (“Hush” by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee)

Somehow I missed this entire story the first time around. It’s not because I didn’t know about it. It was a very popular story at the time and I remember hearing about it and seeing the books on the shelves at the store. Jeph Loeb is one of my favorite writers and Jim Lee might be my favorite artist. It just doesn’t add up.

Nevertheless, I did miss it at the time and I’m sort of glad that I did. Being able to read such an engaging story for the first time is a treat. I am enjoying the intrigue and issue 5 introduced The Joker. I don’t like all Joker iterations, so I’m hoping that this is one of the better ones. FWIW, I really liked Tom King’s interpretation during the run up to the “wedding issue”. I look forward to finding out in the next issues.

The Good? (“Universe” by Brian Michael Bendis and Nick Derington)

I’m usually a fan of Brian Michael Bendis. I enjoyed his run on Ultimate Spider-Man. I have also more or less liked what he’s done with Action Comics and Superman. It feels like the move from Marvel to DC was a good one for him creatively. So, when I heard that he and Tom King were switching things up for the Giant books so that he would write Batman and Tom King would write Superman,it got me excited.

You may think that I’m setting this up for one of my old switcheroos. And, you’re correct. But, only partially correct. I’m not going to completely shred the story. It’s a decent story. It’s just that the pacing feels uneven, for lack of a better way to put it. The story bogged down especially in issue 5. Maybe it will get better going forward.

The Bad (“Nightwing” by Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrows, and Eduardo Panscica )

I’ve never been a fan of Nightwing. Having grown up as a Marvel zombie, I didn’t have a particular affinity for any one Robin character. In fact, other than the old campy Batman TV show, I never liked Robin at all. I prefer my Batman to be alone. That’s weird, then, that I was all in for the Catwoman wedding. But, as ever, I digress.

This story hasn’t made me want to learn more about the character. I plug through the story because it’s in the book and I paid 5 dollars for it, so I might as well get my money’s worth. I just don’t see a scenario where I become a Nightwing fan from this particular story.

The Ugly (“Harley Quinn” by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Chad Hardin)

Unlike Nightwing, I actually like Harley Quinn as a character. However, like Joker, she can either be written really well or not so well. That’s not the problem with this particular story. The story is actually interesting. It’s just that in addition, Harley suffers from the Deadpool disease.

What do I mean by that? Well, in small doses, both characters are fine. They are enjoyable even. However, larger sample sizes such as entire books dedicated to the characters quickly become tiresome. They become parodies of themselves. Look, I understand that’s what they’re supposed to be. I just don’t like it.

The Verdict – DC Giant (Batman 1-6)

Overall, DC Giant (Batman 1-6) is solid and well worth the 5 dollars. There are two good Batman stories and the Nighthawk and Harley Quinn stories aren’t even that bad. It’s just that I’m not a fan of either of those characters, so I don’t pay as much attention to the stories. I just read without much enjoyment or comprehension.

I don’t know, other than eBay or another reseller, how you can obtain a copy of the books. Given the popularity of them, I assume that DC will figure out a way to compile them into a collection of some sort. You could always buy the trades for the stories. I will put a list at the end of this article. The only problem with that is that it could be cost prohibitive. Nevertheless, if they do reprint the books or collect them, I highly recommend picking them up as the value can’t be beat.