Hello magic fans. Today I'm taking a look at a slightly older Magic the Gathering Expansion: Core Set 2020. Core 2020 may no longer be standard legal, but it's still worth a look for casual players.
New to Magic? Here's a quick rundown: Magic the Gathering (MtG) is a long running, collectable card game for two or more players. Each game represents a battle between powerful wizards, known as Planeswalkers, who have the ability to travel a multi-verse. You’ll discover countless worlds inhabited by species as varied as the fantastic lands they live in.
Players will cast spells, summon creatures, and deploy artifacts to overcome their opponents. Typically, a player will win by reducing their opponent’s starting life points to zero, but there are other paths to victory.
Wizards of the Coast regularly release expansion sets, and supplementary products. These combine to add hundreds of new cards to the available pool. Players now have thousands of cards from which to collect and play within customised decks. A Core Set is the perfect starting point for new players. It is also a product with appeal to regular players, due to the type of cards included. Typically a Core Set contains a large percentage of staple cards, re-printed from older expansions. These support many styles of deck building archetypes.
Core Set 2020 is the 19th core set released for MtG, released globally on 12 July 2019. 280 cards make up the set: 112 commons, 80 uncommons, 53 rares, 15 mythic rares, and 20 basic lands. This set includes a combination of reprinted and new cards.
Collectors can chase a further 64 exclusive and promo cards. These will be available at in-store events or from products such as Planeswalker Decks and Welcome Decks.
The Core Set 2020 product range includes the bundle, a Deck Builders Toolkit, Spellslinger Starter Kit, and a Land Station. It also includes Draft and mono-coloured Theme Boosters, five welcome decks and five planeswalker decks.
Core Set 2020 does not feature any new mechanics. Nor does it reintroduce mechanics from older expansions in a meaningful way. It does however, Protection from in a limited way. Core Set 2020 includes five creatures, one in each colour, with protection from an enemy colour: Apostle of Purifying Light (Black), Cerulean Drake (Red), Blightbeetle (Green), Unchained Berserker (White), and Shifting Ceratops (Blue).
There is no overarching theme or story to tie the cards in this set together. However, Chandra Nalaar does feature prominently, with three different Chandra planeswalker cards present in the set. These cards represent Chandra at various stages of her life. A fourth Chandra card is available in the Chandra Planeswalker Deck.
Each colour does lean into a separate mechanical theme: White into Lifegain, Blue into Flying, Black into the Vampire Creature type, Red into Direct Damage, and Green into Big Creatures.
Cavaliers and Legends
It is common for a cycle of thematically, or mechanically related cards to be included in a set. These cycles include a card for each colour. In Core Set 2020, players get the Cavaliers of Dawn (White), Gales (Blue), Night (Black), Flame (Red), and Thorns (Green). Five rare creatures, each with powerful effects that trigger when they enter and leave the battlefield.
There is also a cycle of legendary, rare creatures, with powerful effects that can turn the course of a game: Sephara, Sky's Blade (White), Atemis, All-Seeing (Blue), Vilis, Broker of Blood (Black), Drakuseth, Maw of Flames (Red), Gargos, Vicious Watcher (Green).
The Core Set 2020 release coincided with a rule change to the mulligan ruling. From July 2018, the London Mulligan rule replaced the Vancouver mulligan rule for all play:
To mulligan under the new rule, the player shuffles their hand back into their library and draws seven replacement cards. The player can do this multiple times. When the player is happy, they must place a number of cards from their hand, on the bottom of their library. The number of cards is equal to the number of times the play took a mulligan.
Thoughts on the Set
Core Sets have a little of everything - New cards, reprints, a mix of mechanics and card types to support many deck building archetypes. They make ideal sets from which to play limited formats, such as draft. Core Set 2020 is no exception, it's a fun set to draft with. New and casual players would find this, or Core Set 2021 a great starting point to get into the game. Drafting with a group of friends is a brilliant way to hone your deck building skills. When drafting, remember to look for the sign post cards. They exist to help players identify the deck archetypes the set has been designed to support. Examples of Core Set 2020 signposts include Corpse Knight, Empyrean Eagle, Creeping Trailblazer, Risen Reef, and Moldervine Reclamation.
Note to new players, if you want to play Standard legal decks, look at Core Set 2021. Core Set 2020 has rotated out, but remains legal in Modern and other formats.