Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Favorite Core Cards Intro + Colorless

Recently I talked about Wizards of the Coast's impending departure from annual core sets. At the end of that post, I mentioned that I wasn't sure what I wanted to do as far as a follow-up to that post. I mentioned my longtime affection for core sets, and I enjoy discussing/investigating all Magic sets. So, naturally I would use this opportunity to do some mental exercises regarding core sets.

While I don't think this will be the only post I'll make in this vein, I wanted to talk about some of my favorite cards from core sets. Is there a better way to delve into recent history than to make a good old fashioned top 5 list?

Well, yeah: make a whole bunch of top 5 lists.

So I'll be posting my top five "core" cards from each color. A couple rules I gave myself:
  • Each card has to be a definitive card for that color. Part of what I'm thinking here is that you could look at these five cards and say, "I know what this color is all about." Knight of Glory is a fantastic card, but solo attackers isn't really white's style. So no deal.
  • Each card has to have been featured at least twice in any full set since M10, or three times in core sets of all time. If Wizards hasn't seen fit to print the card at least that much, I'm not comfortable designating the card as "core."
I was going to put them all into a single post, but as I started writing I realized that the post would've been insanely long. While I'm not totally against insanely long posts, I want to give people some quick hitter stuff as well. Variety, spice, etc.

I will, however, offer a little bonus in this post: my top 5 favorite core colorless cards. Artifacts and lands are a little harder fit into the rules, since there's not exactly a color identity for colorless cards, but a lack of color can be an identity. These cards fit the bill. I've always been a big fan of colorless cards as well, so I get a little extra pleasure out of reviewing all these grey-bordered cards.
  1. Evolving Wilds (4 times, most recently M15) - I love Evolving Wilds. I'm also a fan of Terramorphic Expanse, but Evolving Wilds has had a greater presence of late. I obviously enjoy that it allows players to do some mana-fixing, which is great in limited situations. But I also like how it's quietly a strong card in any Landfall-based deck. I love me some Landfall.
  2. Juggernaut (M11, M15) - I was initially worried that I'd have to look at Phyrexian Hulk when it comes to heavy artifact creatures, but Juggernaut was brought back for M15, and my life is complete. I love how heavy Juggernaut is, and I love its casting cost. I love how it attacks every turn, and the flavor of how it ignores Walls.
  3. Primal Clay (5 times, most recently M13) - Primal Clay is just another reason that M13 was so amazing. While none of its options are individually great, it's hard to put a price on the flexibility you get out of A) being able to choose when you cast, and B) being able to play any color mana for it. Well, no, actually, I guess it's not. It's worth about four colorless mana.
  4. Elixir of Immortality (4 times, most recently M14) - Elixir is another example of a card that doesn't fit one single category. The lifegain is generally not worth including the card, but the lifegain on top of protecting against decking yourself, particularly in limited formats, can be a life-saver. I should be clear here: I don't particularly love Elixir, definitely not nearly as much as the other cards on the list, but it's a very good core artifact.
  5. Howling Mine (many times, most recently M10) - Howling Mine is definitely a more valuable card than, well, than any of the others on this list. But that's what makes it #5 on my list rather than #1. A core set card isn't defined by its power; it's defined by its identity. Howling Mine is a good card with a fairly universal effect, so it makes my list, but just barely.

One card I think ought to find its way into regular rotation is Trusty Machete. It would've definitely made my list except that it's only been printed once. I also love Haunted Plate Mail, but it's so new, it feels wrong to call it a "core" card. However, perhaps these cards might find a use in another little project I'm working on. Stay tuned...but, like, for a while, because this is going to take some time.

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