My Early Thoughts on Core Set 2021 for Standard

Javier Dominguez

Javier Dominguez



Core Set 2021 (M21) is finally out and today I want to talk about how I feel about the best cards for Standard.

EmbercleaveUro, Titan of Nature's WrathOko, Thief of Crowns

Overall, I do like the design of the set a lot. In terms of constructed playability, the set is relatively deep, since there are a lot of cards that are good enough to see play in some decks even if they are fillers like 《Revitalize》. Even though it has a lot of playable cards, there aren’t many cards that are obviously ultra-powerful like 《Embercleave》 or 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》, and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing that’s remotely comparable to 《Oko, Thief of Crowns》.

Having a lot of options but also not feeling forced to play certain cards is something I really like to see in terms of set design. Now, we might not play some of those cards because of the power level of cards like 《Wilderness Reclamation》, but I do love this direction.

Notable Cards from Each Color




《Revitalize》 is a filler that we’ve seen in the past here and there in defensive decks, and It could be played once again if in decks like Azorious Control.

《Vryn Wingmare》

Vryn Wingmare

《Vryn Wingmare》 is a card that has been printed once and has never seen play before, but this time it might be playable against decks like 《Wilderness Reclamation》. The issue this pegasus has is 《Shark Typhoon》, which is a card that might prevent this and many other cards from seeing any play in the next months.

《Selfless Savior》

Selfless Savior

I think 《Selfless Savior》 is a huge improvement for the 1-drops of the white decks that are quite underwhelming in the current Standard format. Good against sweeper, good in combat, and overall quite solid, if there is a White Weenie deck 《Selfless Savior》 will be a part of it.

《Seasoned Hallowblade》

Seasoned Hallowblade

I think 《Seasoned Hallowblade》 is better than what it looks. It looks like a worse version of 《Adanto Vanguard》, but I think this is a very different card. While 《Adanto Vanguard》 was more or less a hate card against control decks, 《Seasoned Hallowblade》 is simply good in every matchup, and I actually expect it to be excellent in creature matchups, since it is very hard to attack into.

Combined with 《Selfless Savior》, these two creatures will make sure any white-based aggressive deck will have some game against sweepers, even if they are very cheap like 《Flame Sweep》.

《Glorious Anthem》

Glorious Anthem

I don’t think 《Glorious Anthem》 is going to be good. White aggressive decks are very weak against removals and sweepers while excellent against decks that simply play the board, and 《Glorious Anthem》 is only good against decks where the whole 《Venerated Loxodon》 thing is already great. I think white aggressive are going to be better after M21, but I don’t 《Glorious Anthem》 is better than the other options for the 3 mana slot on the curve.

《Basri’s Lieutenant》

Basri's Lieutenant

《Basri’s Lieutenant》 fails the 《Elspeth Conquers Death》 (ECD) test, but overall provides a lot of value while adding a good effect against sweepers the same way 《Anax, Hardened in the Forge》 does. While it is worse than 《Anax, Hardened in the Forge》, I think this is playable in an aggressive deck. We’ve also learnt that protection from multicolored is a powerful ability thanks to 《Stonecoil Serpent》.

《Baneslayer Angel》

Baneslayer Angel

Good old 《Baneslayer Angel》! Even though it’s clearly excellent against aggro, I think 《Baneslayer Angel》 might show up in Azorious/Bant decks as a sideboard card against aggro. The curve of 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 into 《Baneslayer Angel》 is something that most creature decks won’t simply be able to beat unless they have a removal spell.


《Frantic Inventory》

Frantic Inventory

The new 《Accumulated Knowledge》 seems perfectly playable to me in decks that really want to cast cheap spells like Izzet. In terms of slow decks, I think 《Frantic Inventory》 might be a little bit too underwhelming, since effects like 《Growth Spiral》 are simply better if you can produce green mana.



I’ve never been a fan of 《Rewind》, but it does interact very well with the whole Temur Reclamation shell and particularly with 《Shark Typhoon》, so this time it could be good. 《Mystical Dispute》 will make this a liability, so keep in mind that even if it’s good it will likely be sideboarded out almost always.

《Stormwing Entity》

Stormwing Entity

《Stormwing Entity》 seems powerful enough to me paired with cards like 《Opt》 or 《Crash Through》. It is also cheap enough that might be strong enough against 《Shark Typhoon》 tokens. I expect this card to be played along 《Brazen Borrower》.

《Sublime Epiphany》《Discontinuity》

Sublime EpiphanyDiscontinuity

Both 《Sublime Epiphany》 and 《Discontinuity》 have something in common; they are clean but expensive answers to 《Shark Typhoon》. I think 《Sublime Epiphany》 is better and I think it could see play as a 1-of in some slow decks, since the effect is really powerful.

They also both get easily countered by 《Mystical Dispute》, which means they should not see that much play even if they happen to be quite good while resolving, since losing a 6-mana bomb to a 1-mana counterspell is not a great plan.

《Teferi, Master of Time》

Teferi, Master of Time

《Teferi, Master of Time》 is a very unique card. Being able to use a planeswalker loyalty abilities on your opponent’s turn has some upsides like you can wait to see what they do until you decide if you loot or use the -3.

Overall, I expect 《Teferi, Master of Time》 to be somewhat similar to 《Tamiyo, Collector of Tales》. 《Teferi, Master of Time》 does not provide any raw card advantage, but it can filter a massive a mount of cards while relatively protecting itself, which is something 《Tamiyo, Collector of Tales》 can’t do. I think the issue with 《Teferi, Master of Time》 is that it doesn’t get much value if our opponent plays 《Elspeth Conquers Death》 to kill it, while cards like 《Tamiyo, Collector of Tales》 or 《Narset, Parter of Veils》 can at least get a card.


《Village Rites》

Village Rites

One mana is a very cheap cost for a card that might work very well in the B/R Sacrifice shell. You can even combine it with 《Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger》 to create a 3 mana 《Divination》/《Blightning》!

《Kitesail Freebooter》

Kitesail Freebooter

《Kitesail Freebooter》 has been played before thanks to the Human type, but this time I think its biggest upside is to be able to curve with 《Spawn of Mayhem》 through a removal spell in black aggressive decks.



《Eliminate》 is an excellent removal that will certainly see play. While I don’t think the card is particularly powerful, it similar to 《Scorching Dragonfire》 in terms of flexibility, since it almost never going to be dead thanks to 《Shark Typhoon》 tokens being everywhere.

《Kaervek, the Spiteful》

Kaervek, the Spiteful

《Kaervek, the Spiteful》 is actually a powerful against aggressive decks… which are not very good in Standard right now. If they become good, 《Kaervek, the Spiteful》 will likely become a premium sideboard card.

《Demonic Embrace》

Demonic Embrace

《Demonic Embrace》 is a powerful effect for black aggressive decks that are already decent against Temur Reclamation since Red can’t exactly deal easily with the huge black threats. Once again, 《Shark Typhoon》 might make this not be playable at all. See a pattern?


《Chandra’s Pyreling》

Chandra's Pyreling

《Chandra’s Pyreling》 could be a very good addition to 《Cavalcade of Calamity》 decks. It also offers some insurance against cards like 《Bonecrusher Giant》 or 《Cry of the Carnarium》, since unlike all other red 2-drops, this can survive to those effects.

《Terror of the Peaks》

Terror of the Peaks

《Terror of the Peaks》 is likely the best 5-drop for Gruul-Style decks going forward, at least unless 《Skarrgan Hellkite》 proves once again that Haste is sometimes a better constructed ability than a lot of useful text.

However, I do expect both dragons to actually quite bad even in Gruul-based decks. 《Terror of the Peaks》 is also very weak to 《Elspeth Conquers Death》, because the 3-life part only affects spells, not permanents. You also don’t want to attack with this into a blue opponent with 6 or more mana…

《Chandra, Heart of Fire》

Chandra, Heart of Fire

I do like this Chandra as post-sideboard threat for Red or Gruul decks. The red card advantage planeswalker slot has been missing for a while, particularly in those decks where enough expensive cards are played that 《Experimental Frenzy》 is really risky. If you play 《Chandra, Heart of Fire》 as your last card, it digs 3 additional cards per turn, which makes her potentially playable.


《Run Afoul》

Run Afoul

Efficient cards like this often show up in constructed decks. Killing an otherwise unsolvable 《Dream Trawler》 for one mana is a bargain. Dealing with a huge 《Shark Typhoon》 token for 1 mana at instant speed is also quite good. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some 《Run Afoul》 here and there.



《Cultivate》 effects are always serviceable if you want to be ramping. Both 《Growth Spiral》 and 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 are better cards, but if you really want to ramp something huge, you can also throw some 《Cultivate》s on top to make sure you have 5 mana on turn 4.

《Scavenging Ooze》

Scavenging Ooze

《Scavenging Ooze》 is back! I think the most common job this little Ooze will do is to deal with 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》. The issue is that Ooze is otherwise quite bad against Uro decks, since they rarely play other creatures, making Ooze a 3/3 at most. It’s also going to be great against red deck as it has always been.

《Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse》

Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse

I think 《Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse》 is very good, potentially the best card in the set for Standard. What I like about 《Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse》 is that it plays super well with cards that are already quite good, like 《Growth Spiral》, Uro, 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, 《Shark Typhoon》, etc.

《Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse》 will also make sure that you have some bodies to pressure your opponent’s planeswalkers, and if you have enough cards in hand, which is very common in standard simic decks, it will threaten lethal easily once you have 2 cats or more.

《Elder Gargaroth》

Elder Gargaroth

《Elder Gargaroth》 is the green 《Baneslayer Angel》 and I think it will likely take that spot in decks that are able to cast both like Bant Ramp. 《Elder Gargaroth》 is also flexible enough that it might even see some maindeck play if aggressive decks become good again, since drawing a card out of a 6/6 is also good against midrange decks.

《Garruk, Unleashed》

Garruk, Unleashed

《Garruk, Unleashed》 seems relatively unpowered to me compared to the good cards we have in Standard, but it is very good at pumping cards like 《Questing Beast》 or 《Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig》 in Monogreen decks, so it might see a little bit of play.


《Radha, Heart of Keld》

Radha, Heart of Keld

《Radha, Heart of Keld》 is a very powerful card. Gruul colors are not very good in Standard right now, but 《Radha, Heart of Keld》 being both a reasonable body that offers card advantage and a mana sink makes it so if Gruul becomes good 《Radha, Heart of Keld》 will be played there. The fact that we can get a free land out of it makes Radha not that bad against 《Elspeth Conquers Death》. It will also pretty much end the game if you can ever use the ability once 《Embercleave》 is equipped.

《Alpine Houndmaster》

Alpine Houndmaster

A 2 drop that is able to attack efficiently while generating card advantage sounds very playable to me in standard, even if the extra cards we are getting are not very good. I could see 《Alpine Houndmaster》 pairing with 《Seasoned Hallowblade》 and the Boros cards like 《Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice》 to make an actual good Boros deck.

《Conclave Mentor》

Conclave Mentor

White decks can also take the G/W direction powered by 《Conclave Mentor》, since now we have the tools to make an indestructible huge threat. 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 is likely going to be a huge issue, but cards like 《Stonecoil Serpent》 might help there.


《Sparkhunter Masticore》

Sparkhunter Masticore

I see what they are trying to do here, but I don’t think 《Sparkhunter Masticore》 is any good. Even though it is excellent against planeswalkers, discarding a card is too much of a cost so I don’t expect this to be played unless it is used a discard outlet.

《Solemn Simulacrum》

Solemn Simulacrum

《Solemn Simulacrum》 wasn’t very good the last time, but things have changed since it plays quite well with the whole 《Hydroid Krasis》 engine. The body is also relevant nowadays to pressure cards like 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, so I think 《Solemn Simulacrum》 has an actual chance to be played in 3-color ramp decks.

《Chromatic Orrery》

Chromatic Orrery

Cards like 《Chromatic Orrery》 are traditionally not playable, but I think this card might be acceptable in the right metagame. The key here is that the turn you play it it only costs 2, since it gets 5 mana back, and from that position it basically provides all the mana in the world. I like the fact that if you play this into a 5 drop and our opponent casts 《Elspeth Conquers Death》 on it, we basically traded 2 mana for 5, so I think it is worth a try. It is pretty bad against 《Casualties of War》, though.

《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Last but not least, 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》. If 《Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse》 is not the most played card of the set, 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 could easily be it. Simic-based decks are already playing 8 ramp-spells, so reaching eight mana is not exactly very hard now. I expect 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 to win many games out of nowhere against decks like Bant Ramp.

It is not very good against 《Shark Typhoon》 tokens because if we play 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 into open mana to clear the board, they can simply put a token on our end of turn and still have a tempo advantage on us. However, that also means they have to be extremely careful with their mana if we have 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 in our deck, so I think it is overall profitable to play a copy or two of this card in 《Growth Spiral》/《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 decks.

It is also not very good against Temur Reclamation decks as they are built right now, so that in addition to 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 being naturally weak against aggressive decks might relegate it to just an excellent sideboard card if the metagame changes.

That’s it for today! I’m excited to see how new Standard shapes up!


Javier (Twitter /Twitch )

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Javier Dominguez

Javier Dominguez He is the representative player of Spain. Grand Prix Top 8 is six times, including won the Grand Prix Paris 2014 and Grand Prix Rotterdam 2016 winning victories. At the Pro Tour level, he has brilliant achievement such as winning the 9th place in Pro Tour Battle of Zendikar and Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, and finally top8 in Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. Read more articles by Javier Dominguez

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