Core Set 2020 Review – Gold and Colorless

(Golos, Tireless Pilgrim | Art by Joseph Meehan)

2019 is the Golden Year for Commander

During the review week for Modern Horizons, many in the community labeled the set “Commander Horizons.” The set had tons of goodies for us 100-card singleton players. Now, as we sit down to look at the gold and colorless cards of Core Set 2020, there’s no denying it; this entire year, and even much of 2018, has just been amazing for our format. I would say at least as far back as Dominaria, each set has given us gift after gift after gift. In conjunction with Horizons and the 40+ legendary creatures from Dominaria, we have seen Battlebond, Core Set 2019 with new cards for our old format forebearers, the Elder Dragons, and three sets in Ravnica that have been amazingly fun for the format.

That brings me to Core Set 2020. Prior to 2019, core sets never really felt like they were for Commander. They occasionally had a few cool legendary creatures, but for the most part, they were just the glue between Standard sets, meant to give us some generic, basic cards like Unsummon and Murder. This enables the actual plane-based sets to have more slots for fun, awesome creatures and spells, and the world was largely happy with this. Now, however, something has changed behind Wizards of the Coast’s emerald curtain – Core Set 2020 feels like Commander Core Set 2020! WotC knocked it out of the park with some of these gold and colorless cards. You may not be ready, but you better be set, because here we go down the rabbit hole!


Mythics


Rienne, Angel of Rebirth

To kick things off, Rienne is the Buy-A-Box card for the set, so if Naya reanimation or mass board wipes sounds fun to you, you may want to make sure you have a box pre-ordered at your LGS. Fairly-costed as a 5/4 flying body at five mana with a pump to your multicolored creatures to boot, Rienne awards us even further by returning our gold creatures to our hands whenever they would die. With some tricks and flashy creatures, I am sure there is an interesting Naya brew just waiting to hit the tables. Rienne is not the most interesting of the gold legendary creatures for me, but she is not the least, either. Expect to see her running Qasali Pridemage and Dauntless Escort or Saffi Eriksdotter for recursive fun, but don’t be shocked to see her leading a simple army of Knight of New Alara and other fun face-bashers, or annoying opponents through the mere act of making her stuff harder to remove.


Kaalia, Zenith Seeker

Kaalia got herself a second card and admittedly, OG Kaalia of the Vast seems the stronger and more fun leader of a deck. I do think that OG Kaalia suffers from some command zone threat assessment hate – people know not to let her survive or she’ll dominate the whole table – so maybe running Zenith Seeker will have people less nervous about dying on turn four, giving you some room to breath. I think this newer version of Kaalia fits nicely into the 99 of an OG Kaalia deck, digging for the gas to slap onto the table with that nasty attack trigger.


Omnath, Locus of the Roil

If we want to talk about characters getting new cards, we cannot skip over Omnath, who sees their third card and their third added color of mana. Now appearing in Temur, this version of Omnath is cheaper but still cares about lands and Elementals. Because Omnath the Third can have Angry Omnath in their 99, we are most likely going to be seeing most Gruul players adjusting their decks to add some sweet blue spells and Elementals! (Looking at you, Roil Elemental, you fiend!) New Omnath welcomes effects like Tatyova, Benthic Druid into the fold, and can even try one of their many hands as a Voltron with cards like Hardened Scales.


Kethis, the Hidden Hand

Here is where I show a bit of my personal bias. So far, I have heard that most people feel lukewarm on Kethis, mainly since no one likes the idea of exiling their legendary cards for the sake of recursion. For the most part, I feel like Kethis is more of a value card. A three-CMC 3/4 body that discounts legendary spells (not just creatures) seems like great value, in colors that are already great at recursion by themselves. I think people are underestimating Kethis so far – remember how potent The Ur-Dragon‘s cost reduction turned out to be? Even without the recursion ability, he’ll do nice work.

We should see some sweet “legendary matters” decks with him at the helm, full of Arvad the Cursed, Reki, the History of Kamigawa, and even a ton of excellent legendary planeswalkers. This is the perfect home for Primeval’s Glorious Rebirth, not to mention Dominaria’s other excellent legendary spells like Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering. The cost reduction is excellent, and the recursion ability is a great Plan B. Do not sleep on this card!

(I do also want to note, there are a ton of great legendary Elf cards in Magic: the Gathering the last time I checked, across these three colors. Elf tribal is already great at ramp and now we are giving them a discount in the command zone? Cool!)


Kykar, Wind’s Fury

Jeskai players, rejoice! Here is your savior! Seriously though, Kykar looks like an awesome commander for any Jeskai lover because he rewards you for something the wedge already does well: slinging spells. Double up on your commander’s token-making goodness by throwing every Young Pyromancer effect you can into the 99, like Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, Docent of Perfection, Monastery Mentor, and even Anointed Procession! Then, if that is not enough, your Spirit tokens are capable of turning into fuel for more spells! Soon enough, you are looping through crazy cantrips and wheels, and the table will never fell this legendary Bird Wizard!

I think Kykar will wind up being one of the more popular commanders from this set because we can build the deck in so many different ways. Spellslinger, tokens, and even Storm! If any of these archetypes sound fun to you, sit down and look at the Kykar page on EDHREC.com after some data starts flowing in; I am positive you will be inspired.


Yarok, the Desecrated

I saved the best mythic for last, as this card is crazy. We just recently got death-based Panharmonicon in the form of Teysa Karlov. And truly, Panharmonicon itself is a crazy card. Now, though, we can put that effect in the command zone with even less restriction! I almost feel like it is unfair how awesome this card is, though I also predict people will be seeing many “goodstuff” Yarok decks cropping up in and around your meta. Yarok is diverse, though – you can double your Eternal Witnesses and Grave Titans, but you can also double your Lotus Cobras and Retreat to Hagras. Heck, you can even double your Constellation effects like Doomwake Giant.

This may be the most exciting legendary creature in the set for me, and I think we are going to see it be the most popular commander from Core Set 2020. Be warned, though – Yarok isn’t a ‘may’ ability, so if you play a Dimir Aqueduct, you have to bounce two lands. You can spin that to your advantage, of course, but just make sure you’re aware of those types of interactions.

PS: Play Faerie Artisans in your Yarok deck. If your opponent plays any creature with an ETB effect, you will get that effect four times. Like I said, Yarok has no restrictions – it counts all permanent types, even when they enter under your opponents’ control.


Rares


Golos, Tireless Pilgrim

At this point, it seems crazy to think of how many five-color commanders we have seen in this golden age of the format. Commander 2017 gave us three new five-color Dragons, then Jodah, Archmage Eternal arrived in Dominaria, Najeela, the Blade-Blossom showed up in Battlebond, Niv-Mizzet Reborn in War of the Spark, and we got three new ones in Modern Horizons! Now with Golos entering the fray, that makes ten over the past two years!

Some people want to abuse his first ability with flicker effects to find value lands, some want to ramp up and pump out spells for free with his activated ability. It wouldn’t be difficult to play Golos like he’s Narset, Enlightened Master and spin a bunch of extra-turn spells like Time Stretch over and over, but it’s also not difficult to imagine folks just using Golos to spit random big stuff onto the field, too. Golos is so vague and value-based, I cannot help but think he is going to wind up a popular “I just wanted all five colors” type of commander.


Bag of Holding

The flavor here is off the charts, capturing the limitless bag from Dungeons & Dragons perfectly. I like the idea of loot effects or even just discard-for-value effects to be rewarded by stockpiling your cards for later. Run out a Sire of Stagnation and wind up as the only person able to retrieve their hand. Use a Reforge the Soul and end up with even more cards. Toss our your lands with Tectonic Reformation to draw something new, then get your lands back and toss them again for even more goodies.

I can only imagine that discard decks like Neheb the Worthy, wheel decks like Nekusar, the Mindrazer, and even incremental value decks like the new Yawgmoth, Thran Physician will want a card like this. The biggest downside is needing to keep four mana handy to dump the bag back out, but if you’re clever, that shouldn’t be a problem.


Mystic Forge

Outside of dedicated artifact decks, I am not sure about this card. In artifact decks, this is great fun, and it even helps you get rid of the odd land or spell that gets in the way. Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain will enjoy it in particular, helping to spin through her deck of low-drop artifacts even faster, especially with the assistance of cost-reducers like Etherium Sculptor and Foundry Inspector.

Oh, and it doesn’t just work on artifacts. If you’re in an Eldrazi deck like Kozilek, the Great Distortion, you need this in your deck, like, yesterday.


Icon of Ancestry

It seems like the presents never stop for tribal players! Not only is this a cheap lord effect, but the activated ability essentially acts like card advantage, which is great for any tribes that may be light on it. With the printing of Morophon, the Boundless, it almost feels like every tribe has had at least a minor boost on the synergy scale. Most tribes like their anthem effects to be on creatures themselves, but this is still good to have available.


Uncommons


Elementals

There is some Elemental support in this set, supported nicely by the Chandras and new Omnath. The Stormkin above mostly seems more like it might be a nice two-drop for tribal Wizards than be a great card for Elemental decks. Trailblazer is an aggressive lord effect that can also become a big beater in the mid-to-late game, especially if we give it evasion. Risen Reef is the star card of these three, though. Provided we can set up the top of our deck, there are some fun interactions between Reef and Angry Omnath, Locus of Rage where we can get a field of Elemental tokens and ramp our land base nicely. Reef is going to be an auto-include for Temur Omnath decks, and Horde of Notions seems pretty happy about it as well.


Empyrean Eagle

This feels like a decent card for “flying matters” decks, also supported by Favorable Winds and Gravitational Shift. There are a non-zero number of Spirit tribal decks out there too. The rogue Geist of Saint Traft player might like this, but the real winner here is Kangee, Aerie Keeper.


Corpse Knight

Zombies have fully been branching out into Esper spaces since the Amonkhet block in 2017 and last year’s Commander precon with Varina, Lich Queen, and this Knight feels like an obvious inclusion in those decks. Oh, right, it’s also a Knight – Aryel, Knight of Windgrace, get over here. This is great for decks that make tokens, and especially for aristocrat decks like Teysa, Orzhov Scion to deal damage as they repeatedly create and sacrifice creatures.


Moldervine Reclamation

Oh, be still my Golgari heart! Encouraging my creatures to die, check. Gives me value, check. Doesn’t specify ‘nontoken’ creature, check. Is an enchantment instead of being a vulnerable creature, check. Into every deck I own, it goes!

Seriously though, I do like this card quite a bit and predict it will see some play in, frankly, most Golgari decks. The biggest downsides are that it does cost five mana and the ability is not a may, so there is a risk of drawing too many cards and decking out. Let’s be honest, though – isn’t that the best way to go out of any game?!


Manifold Key

At first I overlooked this card because I honestly do not see it being a major powerhouse. Still, meshing Voltaic Key and Key to the City on a cheap artifact is an interesting idea. There aren’t too many decks that want to abuse both of these effects, but there might be a few where they overlap; untapping your artifacts is never bad, and cards that get bigger equal to your artifacts, such as Master of Etherium, Darksteel Juggernaut, or anything wearing Cranial Plating will appreciate the evasion. It will probably end up being best utilized in Traxos, Scourge of Kroog decks.


All That Glitters is Not Gold. Sometimes It’s Colorless!

What do you think about the gold and colorless cards of Core Set 2020? Did I miss any secret spicy tech for a big deck in your meta? Which legendary creature do you plan on finding 99 cards to play with? Make sure you let me know in the comments down below! Thanks for reading!

DM Cross started playing Magic: the Gathering when he was 8 years old. Currently 29 years old, he's become an avid lover of the EDH/Commander format and is constantly keeping an eye on everything coming out to see how to tune and tweak his favorite decks. DM can be found on Twitter @DM_Cross