A new Magic set has arrived, and Core Set 2020 is full of powerful new and returning cards. As with every new set, that means a whole new draft and sealed format to explore and master. With that goal in mind the limited playing community has put together the Core Set 2020 limited review where you (yes, you!) can help grade each and every card for sealed and draft. If you haven't had a chance to add your grades to the set review, click the link and take a moment to do so.
A lot of the time when you ask the community to rate cards you get a tight little distribution of grades, like this one here:
Mammoth Spider is a solid green common that should help you hold the ground (and sky). The community isn't quite sure if the big arachnid is merely an average limited card - a "C" - or a slightly above average one - a "C+". It's a minor disagreement with most players falling into one of those two camps. One way you could measure this level of community disagreement is to take two random grades from the review and see exactly how much they disagree. The average level of disagreement between two random grades is the controversy metric, and by that metric Mammoth Spider is one of the least controversial cards in the set.
And according to this metric there are some cards the community just can't agree about at all. In this article we are going look at the 8 most controversial commons and uncommons - as voted on by you, the limited playing community. For each card I'll start by summarizing the controversy, looking at the average community grade and then offering my take...
...which, given these cards, is guaranteed to be controversial.
8. Rule of Law
The controversy: Rule of Law is a great safety valve for constructed formats - but we're interested in limited. The controversy is whether a sideboard constructed card has any implications for limited. Most players think this card is a straight "F", but a large enough minority disagreed to land it on this list.
Community grade: D-
What I think: The majority of players rated this an "F" and I'm inclined to agree. This is going to do nothing in almost every game of limited.
My grade: F
7. Cerulean Drake
The controversy: Cerulean Drake is a cheap creature with a collection of three potent abilities on a tiny 1/1 frame. The controversy seems to be whether the fragile stats are offset by Cerulean Drakes plethora of abilities.
The consensus seems to be that Cerulean Drake is too little and is thus a below average card.
Community grade: C-
What I think: I like flyers in Core Set 2020 limited, but running too many small creatures have been a liability in my experience. My opponents have being bringing beefy creatures to the table and Cerulean Drake doesn't quite make the board impact I need it to. The abilities are still useful, and since this is the first protection creature on the list I should mention how good the ability is with this uncommon:
Turning opponent's creatures red and blocking is a good way for Cerulean Drake to blank a single large creature or a board full of X/1's.
Despite that, I've been less than impressed by the sum of Cerulean Drakes parts. It's still playable, but I'd rather prioritize something more solid.
My grade: C-
6. Thought Distortion
The controversy: Thought Distortion will be a nice future punishing overconfident control players. It's a great way to wreck a player with a handful of reactive answers. However, in Core Set 2020 limited, how often is that situation going to come up?
The controversy seems to be that Thought Distortions high cost and narrow application are just going to be too much of a liability. The plurality of players have given Though Distortion an 'F'. However, a handful of players think that Distortion might have a place in limited and have pulled the community average a hair higher.
Community grade: D
What I think: If you want a later game effect that strips an opponent's last key cards may I suggest this replacement:
When your six mana uncommon is often outclassed by a three mana common, you might need a low grade. I do potentially see sideboarding in Thought Distortion in very specific matchups, but it's a pretty fringe situation, and it's grade reflects that.
My grade: D-
5. Portal of Sanctuary
The controversy: Portal of Sanctuary's timing restriction and aura return clause means that it's not going to be protecting your creatures from removal or unlocking them from opponent's Pacifisms. Instead it's going to be bouncing your creatures for value.
Is that worth it? The community is overall down on Portal of Sanctuary and his feels it's a card that should only occasionally be in your deck.
Community grade: D+
What I think: Portal of Sanctuary is an engine that seems super powerful. Blue has at least two commons that combo very well with Portal:
This synergy is powerful enough that I feel a strong pull toward blue if I see an early Portal. In addition, blue also has a lot of tools to stall the game, so it's not unreasonable to combo Portal with some of blue's expensive spicy creatures:
I think Portal is going to generate insurmountable value if left unchecked, and it's a card you should prioritize early in a draft.
My grade: B
4. The Sideboard Five
The controversy: The color hoser cycle is controversial because of one obvious reason: against some opponents they will be blank. All five cards made it into the top 15 list overall, so I thought it would be fitting to discuss them as a group here - the spot where the most controversial card in the bunch, Fry, landed. Like all of the cards in the cycle Fry will punish your opponent if they are blue and white, and punish you if they aren't.
The community mostly rated these cards in the average or just below average range, since situational removal is still removal. However, the community dinged the more reactive Veil of Summer an extra half grade.
Community grades: Fry (C), Noxious Grasp (C), Devout Decree (C-), Veil of Summer (D+), Aether Gust (C-)
What I think: I've found these cards to be too situational to maindeck, and thus I've not been prioritizing them super highly, despite their efficient mana cost. However, in a draft I would be willing to take an on color hoser over any below average common, just to have access to it out of the sideboard.
Because of how sketchy these have turned out to be for me maindeck I wouldn't recommend taking these at all in best-of-one formats.
My grade: C
3. Zephyr Charge
The controversy: Zephyr Charge doesn't do anything without help, and really only excels if you either need an emergency flying blocker or a flying attacker to break though a board stall. However, blue already has plenty of great flyers that fills that role quite well. The fact that Zephyr Charge is otherwise a blank means that the community has rated it as a card that will only occasionally making maindecks.
Community grade: D+
What I think: There was a time (M14) when this card was part of a wacky but devastating combo.
Play this seven mana do-nothing rare, and suddenly Zephyr Charge is mowing down each of your opponent's creatures for the low cost of two mana a pop.
Sadly that's not an option in M20. Still, I've often found myself in board stalls in Core Set 2020 limited, and Zephyr Charge does in fact break those. But it seems like a worse option than one of the many blue flyers the color has available. If I've drafted a blue deck that somehow lacks evasion or a good enough win condition to break a stall I might consider Zephyr Charge as my 23rd card, but that situation seems too rare to really give Charge a playable grade.
My grade: D-
2. Season of Growth
The controversy: "Do-nothing" enchantments are often mainstays on the most controversial list, and Season of Growth is just the latest in a long line. However, the upside here is that asking green to play creatures and combat tricks in a core set is not too onerous an ask.
However, Season of Growth still doesn't impact the board, a fact which has some players thinking it just won't pull it's weight. The overall consensus is that Season of Growth is just average.
Community grade: C
What I think: Season of Growth makes almost no demands on your deck - almost any green Core Set 2020 deck is going to play enough creatures to feed it - and is cheap enough to slip into play early without costing a critical turn. From that perspective, there's very little for me to dislike.
The ability to repeatedly scry eventually starts to feel like card draw (by burying unnecessary lands or unneeded spells) and the bonus of turning combat tricks or a defensive unsummon into cantrips is just gravy.
I think Season of Growth has a home in any green deck and will draft it accordingly.
My grade: C+
1. Bloodsoaked Altar
The controversy: Bloodsoaked Altar doesn't make it easy. To make your first creature with it you need to give up a lot of resources: 6 mana, 2 cards, 2 life, and a creatures. However, upgrading all your creatures to 5/5 demons is going to make opponents very dead very quickly.
The controversy comes from whether Bloodsoaked Altar's unwieldy cost is worth the payoff. The community is very split and the average grade is, well, average.
Community grade: C
What I think: My early experience of Core Set 2020 limited has come with an awful lot of board stalls broken open by flyers. In long games decided by flyers Bloodsoaked Altar does two things I like: gives me a way to use extra lands (by discarding them), use outclassed creatures (by sacrificing them), and break a board stall (with my new demon).
However, the cost is very real. You can easily be in a position where you draw Bloodsoaked altar and are unable to use it, whether that is not having the life, the extra card or the extra creature it demands. That seems like you can partially offset that by knowing Bloodsoaked Altar is in your deck and holding extra lands accordingly, but you can still lose a game by top decking this instead of a blocker.
However, I think Altar offers enough power that I'm going to prioritize it. I'm going to especially be tempted with these commons floating around:
There's enough upside that I think I'm going to be taking Bloodstained Altar early and building my deck accordingly.
My grade: B-
Those are the 8 most controversial cards in Core Set 2020. What cards am I wrong about? Where is the community misjudging the cards? Do you have a better read on the environment? Let us know: rate the cards yourself.