The 20 best cards from Magic: The Gathering's Core Set 2020
© Wizards of the Coast
Take a look at our picks of the 20 top cards from Core Set 2020. Some of these beauties will be used in the final of Red Bull Untapped.
Magic: The Gathering has a 26-year history, but the premier trading card game keeps reinventing itself. Its latest release brought elementals, vampires and even dinosaurs to the forefront. It also added powerful planeswalkers and protection spells.
With a back catalogue of cards from over a quarter of a century, it may seem daunting to get into Magic: The Gathering, but the majority of Magic games use material no older than two years. It's this ever-changing nature that keeps the game fresh and fans hooked for years – it's also what ensures the game remains accessible for new players.
In early July 2019, Magic released its latest batch of cards – Core Set 2020. As the name implies, the set showcases what's at the core of Magic now and for the upcoming year. This includes certain themes and recurring characters, the alliances and animosities that exist between the five colours of Magic, as well as the types of creatures you're most likely to meet going forward.
The set serves as an introduction to the basics, but at the same time it features a number of powerful cards that have already turned the tables even at the highest levels of tournament play. This makes now the perfect time to get into Magic, whether it's at your local game shop or by downloading MTG Arena to your computer.
If you're getting into it, here are our picks for the 20 best cards from Core Set 2020 – you may see some of them in action in the Red Bull Untapped final on Sunday, August 4.
20: Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
What could be more magical than a big, bad, fire-breathing dragon? MTG's history is riddled with examples of the familiar fantasy trope, but this legendary specimen is particularly powerful. When Drakuseth swoops in for an attack, it can burn a whole band of opposing creatures to a crisp. It can even take the opponent down from 20 life in two attacks – over the course of two turns – all by itself.
In Magic, bigger creatures and effects are balanced by the fact that they cost a lot of mana to cast. As indicated by the number of mana symbols in the top right corner of the card, it takes a lot of energy for a player to summon Drakuseth to the battlefield, energy typically not available until late into a game. Drakuseth has seen some tournament play anyway, because nature always finds a way. Specifically, ingenious people have found ways to cheat Drakuseth into play as early as turn five.
19. Cerulean Drake
Even the mighty Maw of Flames cannot touch this little fellow. Cerulean Drake can also block any red creature all day long and survive, despite its diminutive size. Much like fire and water, blue and red are sworn enemies in Magic. Most of blue's creatures are weak to fire, but this drake – a relative of the larger dragons – has developed an immunity.
18. Dread Presence
You only have to look at that artwork to understand why the presence of this card inspires dread. This literal nightmare is a dark wizard's best friend, because they pull most of their mana from Swamps, of which a deck can have any number and of which a player can play one every turn. Draining the life essence of an unfortunate victim is one of black's favourite pastimes.
17. Nightpack Ambusher
Nightpack Ambusher combines two powerful aspects into one unsurprisingly strong card. First, there's the ambushing – the ability flash allows a creature to be played during the opponent's turn; for instance, after they declared attackers. At 4/4, Nightpack Ambusher will usually be able to block a creature dead without suffering meaningful consequences itself. Then there's the pack. When a player 'sleeps' and doesn't cast any spells during their turn, that must mean it's night-time, right? And you know what happens at night? The wolves come out…
16. Temple of Triumph
Lands are the main source of mana, the mystical energy required to cast spells, summon creatures and do just about anything in Magic. Temple of Triumph, which is part of a cycle of five such lands across different colour pairs, enters the battlefield tapped, meaning it can't be used right away. However, the ability to generate either one red or one white mana on each subsequent turn has proven to be worth the delay. Playing a deck with two or more colours, it's easy to run into problems of not having the right mana at the right time, but Temple of Triumph fixes this, and it can fix the next card to be drawn as well.
15. Drawn from Dreams
The colour blue commands the forces of air and water, but it also deals in mind magic, in illusions, dreams and knowledge. Drawn from Dreams may not have an immediate impact on the battlefield; however, getting the best two cards from the top seven cards of one's library, depending on whatever the situation calls for, will have an impact before long.
14. Veil of Summer
Green is the colour of life and nature, and it doesn't appreciate blue's meddling or the death and destruction that black brings. Wrap yourself and all of your stuff into a Veil of Summer, though, and none of that poses a problem for the time being.
13. Cavalier of Thorns
There are five Cavaliers in the set, one for each colour, that all add some immediate value when they enter the battlefield and then one more time, if they die. So far, Cavalier of Thorns has proven the most successful in tournaments.
12. Gods Willing
It isn't the most powerful effect, but the small things often have big relevance in Magic. This is especially true when, like Gods Willing, they interact with big powerful creatures.
11. Omnath, Locus of the Roil
One of the major themes in Core Set 2020 is the creature type elemental, representing forces of the earth – wind, water and fire. Omnath is the king of the elementals and combines all three. Things start with a blast of fire when Omnath first enters the battlefield, and with this card lands lead to growth, and later on to a windfall of extra cards.
10. Rotting Regisaur
Most dinosaurs in Magic are red, green or a mix of both, but as a member of the undead, this zombie marks the rare exception. It follows black's habit of paying a price for greater power. At 7/6, Rotting Regisaur is much larger than other creatures that cost three mana. It will cost you a card at the beginning of your turn, but only as long as you have cards in hand… and only as long as your opponent survives.
9. Chandra, Awakened Inferno