Alright, Magic 2019 is coming out, awesome! Time for another Mana Dork article where I break down the new keyword mechanics and how they work! Just gonna fire up the ol’ Chrome browser aaaaaand…

magic 2019 principles

… gonna need a new plan! New plan. Okay. We can do this.

magic 2019 divination


It’s been a few years since Magic Origins (has it been that long? (God, I’m old (wait, don’t admit that in a column (too late (anyway how do you do fellow kids))))), so let’s do this real quick for the new folks.

Core sets have two main purposes:

  • To serve newer players as an on-ramp into Standard
  • To allow Wizards to print “safety valves” and “seed cards” into Standard without having to force them into particular planes

Serving newer players is a purpose that should be apparent in the cards—Panharmonicon these are not. Magic 2019 contains a bunch of straightforward but exciting cards that can synergize clearly with each other and form a good teaching tool.

“Safety valves” are cards that specifically hate out particular strategies, providing answers and balance to things that may be strong in a format. Alpine Moon is a good example, as it hates on a couple of decks in Modern, and very likely whatever rare lands will be printed in Guilds of Ravnica this fall.

“Seed cards” are cards that aren’t yet in Standard decks, but will be soon. For example, Yahenni, Undying Partisan and Gifted Aetherborn were excellent seed cards for the Vampire theme in Ixalan.

(While it’s tough to predict what cards in Magic 2019 are “seed” cards, if you ask me, Aegis of the Heavens is something to watch. Normally, defensive uncommon combat tricks in White just grant indestructible, but Aegis doesn’t. We might be seeing a toughness-matters theme later, beyond Dragon Friend Arcades in M19… )

Core sets are otherwise just like any other Standard-series set, as they were before.

Notably in this edition, lead designer Ethan Fleischer realized that a lot of the complexity stuff was more important at common and uncommon than at rare. So when you’re opening Magic 2019, you’ll probably notice that more rares than usual are secretly hate cards for Standard or Modern. That’s

  • Okay, since the ultimate goal is to make Modern and other eternal formats more accessible, and
  • Something to keep in mind for Limited, since there will be fewer “Limited rares” and “Limited mythics” (ie. cards that have been pushed up in rarity since they would otherwise be too strong in Draft / Sealed games) running around!

magic 2019 meandering river


For Magic 2019, there will be a cycle of ten dual taplands occupying the land slot in each booster. Approximately 5 out of every 12 boosters will have a dual tapland instead of a regular basic land.

So when you’re drafting, make sure you keep the land card this time. The land slot is just as relevant of a selection as a common. Sometimes more so, if you need that fixing!


Alright, let’s get to it! You know the drill from our Ixalan FAQ article, these are notes on a few of the cards I wouldn’t want to get tripped up by at the Pre-Release.

Abnormal Endurance—You can’t use this to make an infinitely-recurring creature. If the creature dies and comes back, the game considers it a brand-new creature, so it won’t have the ability that Abnormal Endurance gave the first version.

Alpine Moon—Yes, this means your dual taplands from the back of the booster will enter untapped. It also has a whole bunch of implications for older formats, but I’m prepping you for the M19 Pre-Release here, so we’ll skip those. 😉

Aven Wind Mage (and Guttersnipe, etc.)—Remember, it checks for spells cast, not spells that resolve. So if you get into a flurry of counterspells, Bird Friend here is still going to get swole, and Goblin Friend is still going to burn a bunch of people!

Chaos Wand—Just a quick note that you don’t choose “instant or sorcery”, the game checks for the first card that meets either condition. And you can’t use it to mill out an opponent—game losses for milling only occur on a draw trigger, and Chaos Wand puts all the cards back before that can happen.

Dark-Dweller Oracle—You still have to obey timing restrictions for casting whatever you flip up. So if you use this on your opponent’s turn and exile a sorcery, too bad. You’ll just have to appease the RNG gods harder next time. (Plus side: you can sacrifice the Oracle to his own ability! #value)

magic 2019 demon of catastrophes

Demon of Catastrophes (and Blood Divination, Tormenting Voice, etc.)—This is your annual reminder that sacrificing things as a cost, or discarding things as a cost, happens right when you cast the spell and can’t be responded to. For example, let’s say you cast Demon of Catastrophes, sacrificing Highland Game to do so. Your opponent can’t hit your Highland Game with Murder to prevent the Demon from showing up—it’s already too late (muahahaha). The Highland Game was gone as soon as the Demon of Catastrophes spell was on the stack.

Departed Deckhand—Just like Aven Wind Mage above, Pirate Friend here checks for spells that have been cast, not necessarily spells that have resolved. So even if you Cancel your opponent’s Murder (wow, there’s a lot of Murders running around today), your Deckhand will still Depart.

magic 2019 doublecast

Doublecast— … do I have to?

Doublecast—Alright, alright. Here we go: you don’t have to copy a spell with targets, you don’t have to choose new targets (but you can if you want), the copy resolves first, if there’s an X in the cost the copy will keep that same value of X, and you don’t get to pay kickers or other additional costs (but if any were paid, you keep them). Finally, if you Doublecast twice in a row, you only get two of the next spell. If you Doublecast three times in a row, you’ll get three spells. If you Doublecast four times in a row, Mark Rosewater flies in on his private jet and has a stern chat with you about delayed triggers.*

Fraying Omnipotence—You round up what you lose, not what you keep. For example, if you had 5 life, five cards in hand, and five creatures, you’d lose three of each.

magic 2019 isareth

Isareth, the Awakener—This was the big one for me: the corpse counters do nothing. Isareth’s ability creates a replacement effect that sticks around, independent of the corpse counter. The corpse counter is only there as a reminder. So if Isareth pulls a Colossal Dreadmaw out of your yard and you somehow get the counter off of it (not that that can happen in this set, but we’re staying #gravewoke here (actually, I think Suncleanser can do it (#sunwoke))), the Dreadmaw will still get exiled when it dies.

Knightly Valor—This needs a legal target before you can cast it. So unfortunately, there’s no way to have it enchant the Knight token that it itself creates.

magic 2019 omniscience

Omniscience—If you cast Omniscience, you already know everything so I don’t have to give you any notes, haha
Omniscience—For real, though: if you cast a spell “without paying its mana cost”, all you’re skipping is the cost in the top right. So all the usual rules for that apply: X must be 0, you can still pay additional costs (like Tormenting Voice, for example, or a kicker effect), and so on.

Resplendent Angel (and Regal Broodlord, etc.)—These two spells check to see how much life you gained this turn. They don’t care about your current totals, how much you lost, or your net gain. For example, if you gained 5 life and lost 8, you’d still get an Angel token from Resplendent Angel and you’d still get a Bat token from the Broodlord.

Sarkhan, Fireblood—Just a quick note that “Dragon” spells must have the “Dragon” subtype. For example, Dragon’s Hoard isn’t a “Dragon” spell, but Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire is.

Suspicious Bookcase (and Frilled Sea Serpent, etc.)—This is your annual reminder that these abilities must be used during the declare attackers step or earlier. If your opponent has declared blockers, it’s too late.

Magic 2019 prerelease


I make no apologies. Come for the Magic talk, stay for the awful segues.

Anyway! A Muse N Games will have Magic 2019 Pre-Releases at Midnight, Noon, and 5 PM on Saturday July 7, then at Noon and 6 PM on Sunday July 8. Tickets are $35 for Early Bird registration, or $40 at the door.

See you then!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. It took all of his strength not to make a “core set” / “corset” joke today. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!

* = Actually, Mark would probably be really excited that you quadrupled something.