Another new set means another opportunity to shake up constructed, and M19 doesn’t disappoint! This is the first core set since Magic Origins in 2015, and with it comes the opportunity to inject staples back into Standard, as well as unleashing powerful new tools for all our favorite Constructed formats.
A new core set means a new cycle of mono-colored Planeswalkers, and M19 gives us Ajani, Tezzeret, Liliana, Sarkhan, and newcomer Vivien Reid. Of these five, I think that Ajani, Sarkhan and possibly Vivien might have competitive applications (though Liliana will slot perfectly into my Zombie EDH deck!).
I’m particularly excited about Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, who looks like a good fit for existing green-white Shalai, Voice of Plenty decks. I also think these decks could splash black for Winding Constrictor, if they want to focus on a more +1/+1 counter-heavy strategy. I also think he could revive more low-to-the ground white strategies that have been pushed out of Standard due to the prominence of Mono-Red and Goblin Chainwhirler, such as U/W Auras.
I’m interested in trying out Sarkhan, Fireblood in the Mono-Red and Red-Black lists that have been popular in Standard. I think his first +1 can be useful to help mitigate flooding – a problem that is often the downfall of aggressive strategies – and I think I would prefer him to the other options for the three-drop slot such as Ahn-Crop Crasher and Pia Nalaar. That his other +1 can help you cast a Glorybringer early is an added bonus, and his -7 should definitely put you in a position where you’re winning the game the next turn.
I think Vivien Reid will find herself in a similar position to Nissa, Vital Force, after rotation. She’s a great sideboard threat against Control strategies such as U/W, as those types of decks might have a tough time answering her if she resolves. Her +1 digs to more threats, and her -3 provides a clean answer to enchantment-based removal, such as Seal Away and Ixalan’s Binding.
It is also possible that Tezzeret could see play in the U/G Karn deck that was popular at the Pro Tour. However, I think this deck will only rise again in popularity if Mono-Red and Red-Black relinquish their hold on Standard – something I don’t expect to happen.
Let’s start with the flashiest creature… or should I say Planeswalker? To me, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager looks like a promising Midrange or Control finisher that you can cast in the late game with counterspell back-up. Only being able to transform him any time you could cast a sorcery does have its drawbacks, but I think a powerful Grixis Midrange deck could take full advantage. The only remaining question is: Does Nicol Bolas have the power to defeat Teferi and his powerful U/W Control deck? Only time will tell.
Speaking of U/W Control, Chromium, the Mutable looks like a reasonable alternate win-con to splash in those decks. Previously, Control lists had to rely on clunky answers like Approach of the Second Sun and Gideon of the Trials as ways to speed up their victories, so Chromium might be a welcome inclusion.
While I’m not sure if the remaining three Elder Dragons are competitively viable, I will definitely be keeping an eye out to see if they make appearances.
M19 comes with a full cycle of lords, and all of them could have an impact on Constructed, from Standard to Modern to even Legacy!
The most obvious contender for Standard is Valiant Knight. A B/W knights deck already popped up after Dominaria’s release, and this anthem effect (and double-strike on a stick!) accompanied by powerful cards like Lena, Selfless Champion, could be just what that deck needs to push it to tier one.
With all of the Zombies in M19, including the Zombie and Skeleton lord Death Baron, as well as the Zombie tribal cards from Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation, it’s also possible that a Zombies deck might find itself at the forefront of playability. It would even be able to take advantage of the Zombie-centric Liliana, Untouched by Death!
Turning to Modern, I could see both Elvish Clancaller and Supreme Phantom augmenting existing strategies. Bant Spirits with Collected Company is a fringe tempo strategy and an obvious home for Supreme Phantom, while Elves is a bit more mainstream.
Speaking of Elves, Legacy Elves could undoubtedly also take advantage of a two-mana pump to their boardstates. And Legacy Goblins gets a nice new addition with Goblin Trashmaster. With the recent changes to the Legacy Banned and Restricted list, I could see both of these strategies rising in popularity.
Banefire is the first reprint that caught my eye. This is an easy upgrade for Mono-Red and B/R lists that have struggled against U/W Control in Standard. Currently those lists have been playing two to three copies of Fight with Fire in their sideboards to go big against Control strategies, but I can see those quickly being replaced with this more efficient solution.
Crucible of Worlds is another splashy reprint. With Scapeshift (and Ramunap Excavator!) in the format, I can’t help but wonder if there’s going to be some sort of way to take advantage of these effects in future Standard.
Mentor of the Meek is another standout reprint. While he’s not a Knight, he does open the door for more token-centric strategies…but only if Goblin Chainwhirler’s dominance doesn’t keep that door slammed shut.
Other Cards of Note
Mistcaller is a card that doesn’t fit into any of the above categories that I also wanted to highlight – particularly for potential applications in Legacy. Legacy Merfolk has not yet had a Containment Priest affect, and the ability for Mistcaller to put a stop to decks like Sneak and Show and Reanimator should not be overlooked.
A card I’m particularly excited to brew with is Resplendent Angel. The ability to curve out from Resplendent Angel to Shalai, Voice of Plenty to Lyra Dawnbringer seems like exactly the kind of Magic I want to be playing.
Suncleaser is another interesting, sideboardable addition. The ability to neutralize a Walking Ballista or drain an opponent of Energy seems like it could be very useful if those cards or strategies become dominant.
Infernal Reckoning is the final card that caught my eye. An efficient answer to Walking Ballista in Standard, Wurmcoil Engine in Modern, and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in Legacy, I think this a powerful but niche sideboard card, should any of those strategies increase in popularity.
With so many exciting new and returning additions, I can’t wait to dive into Constructed!