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M20 Limited Synergies Deep Dive!

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By: cncpowerhour - 03 Jul 2019

We are suckers for spoiler season at the C&C Power Hour. We love seeing new cards and what fun (and often silly) interactions we can come up with to hopefully pull of during our streamed sealed league games, and Magic 2020 is no exception. This set has some powerful cards at all rarities, new abilities, and interesting mechanical themes that make it stand out above previous core sets. Chris and Lu took a look at all of the cards and wanted to highlight some key strategies and themes that you should look out for when playing with this new set in sealed or draft, how likely they are to pay off, and what cards you should keep in mind if you do go into these strategies.


ON REMOVAL


Removal is key to any good deck in a limited format. We defined removal as something that either removes a creature from the battlefield or permanently incapacitates it. With that in mind, there are 45 cards that deal with creatures in this way, and 16 of them are at common. With the way pack distribution works, there are going to be about 52 removal spells in a given pod, and you’re going to see maybe 25 of them over the course of the draft as things get passed around. Interestingly, you’re likely to see at least one of these common removal cards in each pack, so you have to be aware of what these can do to your game plan by either boosting it or ruining it if you don’t play around them.


First, in White, there are two removal spells at common, and both interact at sorcery speed. Aerial Assaultimage hits all but 11 creatures in the entire set if they’ve attacked or otherwise been tapped and also has some incidental lifegain if you have a flier. Pacifismimage, a classic white removal spell, makes it so that a creature can’t attack or block. You have to be wary about this, though, because it does not keep triggered abilities from working or prevent the creature from tapping if it has an activated ability. In Blue, Sleep Paralysisimage works similarly to Pacifismimage but it keeps the creature tapped. Be aware that Disenchantimage is also at common, so your opponent may be able to deal with these if they are in White. Blue also has Unsummonimage, which is a very flexible card. You can use it to get rid of a blocker, prevent some damage, set your opponent back a turn, save your own creature, run back a cool enter the battlefield trigger, or permanently remove a token. The possibilities are endless! You know, as long as the possibilities fit under those situations.


Black is where we start seeing more powerful removal spells. Agonizing Syphonimage is costly at 4 mana, but kills about 70% of the creatures in this set and nets you some life. Bone Splintersimage can turn your early plays into late-game removal spells, but it can be a dead card if you don’t get a creature to stick. Murderimage is easily the most powerful common removal spell in the set at 3 mana and instant speed, so if you’re in Black, you should value this card very highly. Red has Chandra’s Outrage, which will kill over 80% of the creatures in M20, and also deals an additional 2 damage. Reckless Air Strikeimage is a killer card against a deck with flyers, where it hits 24 of the 33 flyers in the set, or any artifact creature. Reduce to Ashesimage manages to kill over 90% of the cards in the set, but it is expensive. It has the added benefit of exiling the creature, putting a cork in some of the graveyard strategies. That brings us to Shockimage. Shockimage is easily the most powerful one-mana card in the set. It kills almost half the creatures in the set, 54 of which cost 2 or greater, and can hit a player or Planeswalker, so Shockimage is really punching above its weight here.


Green has Rabid Biteimage, which like Bone Splintersimage, is creature dependent. It doesn’t kill your creature, but your creature does need to have enough power to eat whatever you’re targeting. Plummetimage will get rid of any flyers, and with how prevalent they are in this set, it might be a main deck spell. For artifacts, we have Heart-Piercer Bowimage, which incidentally deals 1 damage to a creature; this is okay, as you can put it on a 1/1 and make it harder for an x/2 to block, or you can ping any of the 28 1 toughness creatures, as well as any tokens. Noticeably, the bow is what deals the damage, so if your opponent throws this on a Sedge Scorpionimage, your creature won’t die to the deathtouch. Finally, there is Vial of Dragonfireimage. This is essentially an As Seen on TV version of Shockimage, where it hits the same number of creatures in any color deck, but you have to pay for it in installments. It’s, you know, fine.


MULTIPLES MATTER


In Magic 2020, there are 5 common cards that have an additional effect if you pick up multiple of them: Battalion Foot Soldierimage, Faerie Miscreantimage, Undead Servantimage, Pack Mastiffimage, and Growth Cycleimage. While the effects can be tempting, you don’t want to pick them too highly, and you’re not likely to see more than 2 in an entire draft. Some of them will work well enough on their own: Pack Mastiffimage is hard to block, Faerie Miscreantimage is a nice early play, and Growth Cycleimage is a good pump spell. As Frank Karsten pointed out back in Magic Origins, if you see one in the first 1-4 picks and a second in 5-8, the first one is likely to wheel, so you can pick them both up and likely get a third in packs 2-3, but you may want to avoid most of these if you don't see them early in the draft.


ARCHETYPES


The limited strategies in M20 are wedge based (wedges are a color and its two enemy colors). Each of these strategies has a big mythic rare in its colors (3 of which support their goals really well), but as you’re only going to see a few rares and mythics each draft, we want to focus on the uncommons and commons. Each wedge has 3 different multicolor “signpost” uncommons that help tie these strategies together. As we went through this set, we noticed that the allied-paired uncommons really focus these strategies more than the enemy-colored cards. Those lend themselves to their own separate strategies that we’ll talk about a bit later.


Jeskai Flyers


White, Blue, and Red in this set are full of low flyers and ways to profit off of them. Empyrean Eagleimage is the linchpin of the strategy, which buffs your flyers, while Ward of Evos Isle can help you power them out early. At common, cards like Winged Wordsimage or Aerial Assaultimage will gain you some extra benefits for having flyers, and Boreal Elementalimage is hard to block outside of Green and will tax your opponents if they try to remove it. Most of the flyers are in White and Blue, but Red gives you access to Shockimage and Flame Sweepimage, which hits just as many things as Shockimage but keeps your flyers alive.


You’re going to want to plan for Plummetimage and Reckless Air Strikeimage, which will really mess with your day. Otherwise, you will basically be picking up any card that says “flying” on it while attacking early and often.


Temur Elementals


Green, Blue, and Red house a lot of Elemental cards and cards that care about Elementals. Creeping Trailblazerimage is the uncommon you want to look for, as it will pump your other Elementals and then make itself big late-game. You can also grab a Risen Reefimage to help churn through your deck as you play Elemental creatures. Lavakin Brawlerimage attacks well, and Thicket Crasherimage and Tectonic Riftimage are nice common ways to make your creatures punch through on the ground. Leafkin Druidimage is a solid pick here, as you’ll want some of your more expensive Elementals out early. Vorstclawimage will be a good finisher, as it can at least trade with all but one creature in the set and gets killed by 5 other non-deathtouch creatures in the set (all of which are at rare). Lastly, two of the three Chandras play really well with Elementals and can make this deck pretty explosive.


Sultai Enter the Battlefield


Black, Green, and Blue have some interesting enters-the-battlefield effects that you’ll want to abuse as the game goes on, either for card advantage or to create tokens. While Yarok, the Desecratedimage really gets this engine going, at mythic you won’t see that card too often so we have to rely on other methods. Risen Reefimage is a card you want to focus on, as there are a few good Blue Elementals like Cloudkin Seerimage or Frost Lynximage and many good Green ones that you’ll want to get. Tomebound Lichimage will also be a valuable card, as it’s tough to block and loots you right off the bat. Boneclad Necromancerimage gets rid of a creature card from any graveyard, not just your own, and gets you 5 power over 2 bodies. Portal of Sanctuaryimage and Unsummonimage are cute cards to throw in if you can find them, as they let you bounce a token generator or a tapped creature that you can replay if you have nothing else to do.


Mardu Aggro


Black, Red, and White have some aggressive creatures and focus on getting as much value as possible out of them, even if they have to die in the process. Ogre Siegebreakerimage is the defining uncommon here, as it lets you attack into bigger creatures with your smaller creatures and spend mana removing your opponent’s threats. Fathom Fleet Cutthroatimage is some good redundancy for this effect at common. Heart-Piercer Bowimage, Sanitarium Skeletonimage, and Unholy Indentureimage will help both of those cards be effective. Steadfast Sentryimage will buff a different creature when it dies (also, it survives Aerial Assaultimage). Bladebrandimage, Infuriateimage, and Disfigureimage are fantastic combat tricks to squeeze out some extra kills with your creatures.


Abzan Go Wide


White, Black, and Green have some token generators or cards that care about tokens. Ironroot Warlordimage is the main uncommon here, but Woodland Championimage and Squad Captainimage can both get very big very quickly if you’re making tokens. Howling Giantimage is a great top-end, as it profitably blocks almost every flyer in the set and gets you 9 power over 3 bodies for 7 mana. Gruesome Scourgerimage can be a way to sneak in those last points of damage. Raise the Alarmimage will fit right in here, and you can use Inspiring Captainimage, Inspired Chargeimage, or Might of the Massesimage to pump your creatures. Black gives you access to Undead Servantimage or Unholy Indentureimage (which is great to put on any ETB token creators), plus Black's great removal suite.


SHARD SYNERGIES


Things don’t always work out in your colors. Maybe you started in White and Green but the black isn’t great or you’re not seeing too many token generators in Green, so you’re wondering what to pick up. The strategies we outlined above aren’t hard-coded. In fact, there may be better options in different color pairs, or some fun little sub-themes that you can work with to salvage a draft that you misread or a poor sealed pool.


Naya Tokens


With Green and White already making some tokens, why not add in some Red for removal and a few additional token generators? Ironroot Warlordimage and Woodland Championimage are still great here, but Red gives you access to Skyknight Vanguardimage, an uncommon that creates a 1/1 Soldier token whenever it attacks. You can also use the Chandras (Chandren?) here to great effect. We won’t know until we get our hands on the set, but honestly, it might actually be a better tokens deck than Abzan.


Jund Attrition


The Green and Black signpost uncommon is Muldervine Reclamation, which doesn’t fit super well in the Sultai Deck unless the game starts going very late. With deathtouch in Black and Green, and fantastic removal in Black and Red, you can play a more defensive version of the Mardu deck to keep your opponent at bay until you can take over the game with bigger creatures. Sedge Scorpionimage, Unholy Indentureimage, and Feral Abominationimage are going to be some key commons. If you can, pick up some good blockers like Sanitarium Skeletonimage or Vampire of the Dire Moonimage, or maybe a Vengeful Warchiefimage that will get out of hand as the game goes on. Recursion like Gravediggerimage, Soul Salvageimage, Blood for Bonesimage, and Pulse of Murasaimage will also do some work here.


Grixis Aristocrats


Blue, Black, and Red have some interesting cards at uncommon that you may want to build around. In particular, Bloodsoaked Altarimage makes one of the biggest flyers in the set. It’s a lot of work, but if you pick up some counters and the plethora of removal spells available in Red and Black, you can make your opponent’s life very hard. Mask of Immolationimage is also an interesting uncommon, as you can attach it to sacrifice creatures to ping any target. Frilled Sea Serpentimage is going to be great finisher in this, as it blocks really well and can’t be blocked if you don’t have anything else to do with that mana. Similarly, Spectral Sailorimage is a premium uncommon with one of the few mana sinks in M20. If you can, Act of Treasonimage will be a great way to turn your opponent’s creatures against them, especially if you can then sacrifice them to the Altar, the Mask, or Bone Splintersimage.


Esper… Stuff


Okay, so this one isn’t really as much of an overall strategy as it is a few sub-packages that work well together. Master Splicerimage is a great uncommon, for 5 power over two bodies. However, there are also 4 other Golems in this set, with Prismiteimage and Stone Golemimage being commons, as well as a rare way to make two additional 3/3 Golems in Masterful Replicationimage. Having this many artifact creatures in your deck also makes Steel Overseerimage a compelling inclusion, if you manage to find one. Outside of the demon made by Bloodosaked Altar, these are the biggest tokens in the set.


Even if you only pick up the common Golems and a Master Splicerimage, there is this cool “life matters” strategy you can swing into. Corpse Knightimage is going to get through some incidental damage whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, so you can use the same recursion tricks as the Mardu deck or find some white and black token generators to take advantage of it. What’s really important, though, is Bloodthirsty Aerialistimage. This card will grow out of hand very quickly, especially with early plays like Daybreak Chaplainimage, Blood Burglarimage, or Soulmenderimage


Finally, there is a small Angels-matters set of cards. If you have a Bishop of Wingsimage, you’re very likely to get some great value out of the common Dawning Angelimage. Angel of Vitalityimage and Hearald of the Sun are going to be great pickups if you’re in White, especially in the lifegain plan. This isn’t a great plan, mind you, but it’s better than no plan. Probably.


Dummy Thicc Bant Buttfighters


We now reach the most statistically unlikely plan of attack that centers around a single uncommon. Gauntlets of Lightimage is a cool aura that does a lot for 3 mana. It buffs your creature’s toughness and if you have an extra 3 mana, you can make sure it survives an Aerial Assaultimage or can still attack through a Sleep Paralysisimage, but most importantly, it lets your creature assign damage equal to its toughness instead of its power, while buffing its toughness to boot. There are some creatures with fantastic toughness values at common like the Yoked Oximage, Mammoth Spiderimage, Frilled Sea Serpentimage, Griffin Sentinelimage, or Fortress Crabimage. On their own, these things block practically anything in the set, but with Gauntlets of Light, they become some of the biggest damage dealers. You can add some additional enchantments like Feral Invocationimage or Glaring Aegisimage, turn your creature into a flyer with Zephyr Chargeimage or Angelic Giftimage, or even turn it into a looter if you happen to pick up Hard Coverimage. Be sure to pick up some ways to protect your creature like counterspells or Gods Willingimage, and you might be able to make this work.


However, the chance of seeing both of these uncommons or multiple copies of Gauntlets of Lightimage are very, very low. So if you want to go in on this plan, you have to take these uncommons early. Make sure to prioritize card draw and removal when you can’t find creatures to take, as you’ll need to get rid of your opponents biggest threats and try to find your Gauntlets of Light as soon as possible. Finally, if you somehow manage to pull this off, we want to know!


WRAPPING UP


Looking this deeply at a set was really fun for us. As fans of limited in general but especially cube, looking very deeply at how these cards interact compared to the rest of the set was a fantastic exercise. Draft is self correcting as time goes on, because powerful archetypes get picked earlier and more frequently by more and more players and let the little known archetypes glow because no single person is getting every great piece of the main strategies, so as that happens we hope that these discussions were helpful so that you know what alternative plans to pivot towards.


If there were things we didn’t explore deeply enough or missed, feel free to leave a comment! We also stream paper Magic every Sunday at 4:00 pm Eastern at twitch.tv/cncpowerhour. We’d love to discuss your opinions on the set as you play more of it, so feel free to stop by!

About cncpowerhour

The C&C Power Hour started as a joke between two friends at work, and grew to a ridiculously involved paper Magic: The Gathering stream. Every Sunday at 4:00 pm Eastern, we stream various limited formats or Commander on Twitch! We also occasionally stream video games and MTG Arena throughout the week when time allows.

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