10 Core Set 2020 Cards that will Shape Standard

Chantelle CampbellStandard

With Core Set 2020 upon us, it’s time to see how these exciting and powerful new cards will shape the Standard landscape through the fall rotation and beyond. Here are our picks for the Top 10 Core Set 2020 cards that will affect Standard.

10. Planar Cleansing

While a six-mana board wipe might not seem ideal in a world with Kaya’s Wrath and Settle the Wreckage, this card has the power to deal with hard-to-answer planeswalkers. Ridding your opponent of a Narset, Parter of Veils and an Ugin, the Ineffable should be enough to swing the game in your favor. Of course, Planar Cleansing also rids the board of any errant creatures, or even enchantments such as Ixalan’s Binding, Oath of Kaya or pesky Leylines

While I think Planar Cleansing will see fringe play in current Standard, it may shine more brightly as other board wipes rotate out. 

9. Cavalier of Thorns

Cavalier of Thorns is a versatile, higher-curve threat that can help you ramp into the late game and provide additional threats when it hits the bin. Based on stats alone, a 5/6 with reach lines up nicely against flyers like Lyra Dawnbringer and Hydroid Krasis.

Fortunately, Cavalier of Thorns also has the Elemental creature type, which makes it useful for Elemental tribal decks. But it’s also starting to see play in Sultai Command the Dreadhorde decks. Putting four cards into the graveyard can help set up for nice recursion from Command the Dreadhorde; after your opponent deals with Cavalier, they’ll have an uphill battle as you bring more creatures back from the graveyard!

8. Grafdigger’s Cage/Leyline of the Void

With so many graveyard-based strategies in Standard (we’re looking at you, Command the Dreadhorde and Arclight Phoenix), it’s important to find answers. Both Grafdigger’s Cage and Leyline of the Void provide cheap (or free!) graveyard hate in decks of any color.

Worth noting: If you’re playing a graveyard deck yourself, Leyline of the Void is a one-sided effect that won’t disrupt your plans. Plus, Grafdigger’s Cage also prevents creatures from entering the battlefield from libraries.

7. Leyline of Abundance

Between Llanowar Elves, Paradise Druid, and Incubation Druid, there are a lot of mana-producing creatures in Standard. And Leyline of Abundance makes your ramp decks…well, really rampy. This could easily fit into Simic or Bant decks that are looking to power out a quick Nissa or Mass Manipulation or cast a game-winning Hydroid Krasis or Finale of Glory

While it’s not the primary feature of the card, Leyline of Abundance‘s activated ability should be useful nevertheless. In midrange mirrors, you can often run into board stalls, and being able to pile +1/+1 counters onto your creatures will allow you to pull ahead. 

That said, be wary of aggro and control match-ups while playing midrange decks with Leyline. You’re also likely to draw extra copies of this card in grindy games, so consider finding ways to discard them.

6. Dread Presence

Scapeshift is playable in Standard for a few more months, and brewers are already identifying ways to take advantage of it. Dread Presence goes especially well in a Jund Scapeshift deck with Crucible of Worlds, World Shaper, Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar and Nissa, Who Shakes the World.

Dread Presence’s value lies in its flexibility. Whether you’re short on life or cards, Dread Presence has your back. It can help to pick aggressive creatures off an opponent’s board, or it can provide card advantage in a battle of attrition. With Dread Presence on the battlefield, you can cast Scapeshift and grab enough Swamps to drain your opponent to zero. 

5. Yarok, the Desecrated

We’ve already talked about the power of Command the Dreadhorde and mentioned the Elemental synergies in M20. Luckily for us, Yarok, the Desecrated slides easily into both decks.

There are a lot of enter the battlefield triggers that pair nicely with Yarok. In Sultai alone, you’ll find Ravenous Chupacabra, Wildgrowth Walker, Hostage Taker and Fblthp, the Lost, just to name a few. Yarok also pairs well with Omnath, Locus of the Roil and other Elementals, if you want your mana base to be really greedy. 

Unlike Panharmonicon, Yarok has both mana restrictions and an easy-to-kill body. But if it stays on the battlefield, some nonsense will likely ensue. 

4. Temples

When the Temples were printed in Theros, they were hailed as some of the best nonbasic lands for Standard. And with their return, they will definitely be popping back up in midrange and control strategies.

It’s important to note that only the enemy-colored Temples (Silence, Epiphany, Malady, Triumph, and Mystery) were reprinted in this cycle. However, as Ixalan rotates out, these will likely find homes in Simic and Bant Ramp, Izzet Phoenix, Golgari midrange strategies, and Esper or Grixis Control. 

3. Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord

It seems like Ixalan was a lifetime ago, and many have forgotten the power of Black-White Vampires. Luckily for us, Sorin (and his accomplice Knight of the Ebon Legion) still remembers. These new additions, along with Icon of Ancestry and Temple of Silence, give aggressive Vampires decks additional reach and more explosive potential. Sorin‘s ability to put Vampires into play means you won’t need to take a turn off to cast him, and his second +1 ability can seal the deal.

As with many aggressive strategies, a board wipe can spell trouble for Vampires. I’d consider using Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord’s bigger (younger?) brother – Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord – to help rebuild in case the unthinkable happens.

2. Chandra, Awakened Inferno

It’s been a while since we’ve had a powerful six-mana Chandra in Standard, and Awakened Inferno does not disappoint. Her two minus abilities allow her to protect herself from on-board threats, and her +2 can put her at a staggering eight loyalty the turn you play her. Add a “can’t be countered” clause and the ability to produce emblems and you’re looking at a great top-end for Gruul, Big Red, or even a control deck.

1. Risen Reef

Chandra is all over Core Set 2020‘s marketing, so you probably expected Awakened Inferno to take the number one spot. However, one uncommon has been making a far bigger splash (pun intended) in the Standard queues.

Risen Reef has been called the second coming of Rogue Refiner: a three-mana creature that lets you draw a card or ramp. It also and partners too well with fellow Elementals Omnath, Locus of the Roil, Yarok, the Desecrated, and Wildgrowth Walker. But you don’t need that Elemental synergy for Risen Reef to help you combo off with Hydroid Krasis or flash in end-of-turn with Vivien, Champion of the Wilds in play. Risen Reef is quickly becoming a Standard staple that can help you smooth out your draws and ramp into your threats. 

In Conclusion

With so many interesting additions to existing archetypes, and new archetypes being opened up by the cards printed in M20, the format seems wild, diverse, and most importantly… fun. I for one am excited to get brewing!