Core Set at Worlds

Posted in Learning Curve on August 6, 2003

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

Today begins the 2003 Magic: The Gathering World Championships. It is the culmination of both the current Pro Tour season and a series of qualifying events that began with Regionals and continued on to the various National Championships around the world.

The eyes of the world will be on Berlin (the host city for the event) for a variety of reasons. In addition to the normal coverage provided on the Sideboard by myself and fellow contributors Randy Buehler, Josh Bennett, and Toby Wacther there will be live streaming video of the Top 8 matches on Sunday. It is an exciting step forward in online event coverage. In addition to watching the best players in the world duke it out for the title of World Champion, you can listen to Randy's live play by play commentary.

While that is an exciting development, even more exciting to me is the fact that Wizards has made an exception to their tournament policy to allow the use of Core Set (Eighth Edition) in the constructed portions of the event. Normally, the floor rules would not allow the inclusion of the cards until September 1st, but to continue the 10th Anniversary celebration that got underway last weekend and to shake up an established environment, they made an exception.

Two constructed formats—Standard and Extended—and the world's best players can only result in one thing—new decks. Actually, not just new decks. A handful of Standard decks are relegated to the scrapheap (Opposition anyone?), a few may be dented beyond repair (Psychatog) while others new decks roll off the assembly line with that new deck smell. It is sure to be an excting weekend.

savannah lions

Extended and 8E

The outgoing cards in Eighth Edition have no effect on the Extended format since that set remains a part of the card pool. There are only a handful of cards that are new to the base set that weren't previously available in the format, including Underworld Dreams, Nekrataal, and Blood Moon. But the two most notable cards are Merchant Scroll and Savannah Lions.

With deck designers all over the world fiendishly stroking their chin and chortling manically over Mind's Desire it is impossible for me to imagine that the Scroll will not see play in any Mind's Desire decks that may surface this weekend in Berlin. Savannah Lions is more questionable. The White Weenie deck has always had its devout followers and the inclusion of the archetype's original inspiration in the Core Set should drive at least a few players to go to Worlds with it in tow.

Standard and 8E

In Standard, the rotation of the Core Set will force people to sift through the previous two blocks for interesting cards that will fuel interactions that were not possible prior to the release of Eighth. One such card is Symbiotic Elf. If there are any black-green Oversold Cemetery decks sporting the freshly reprinted Phyrexian Plaguelord, the unlikey Elf may find a home in sideboards at the very least. In additon to having synergy with multiple cards in the deck like Plaguelord, Braids, and Oversold Cemetery, it is a reasonable option against horde decks like Goblins.

Another card I have been toying with for the new Standard is Riptide Mangler. The Mangler is one of very few cards that provides a continual source of targeting for Cowardice. Whipgrass Entangler also provides continual targeting the white in its activation cost may make it too mana intensive to be effective.

One of the decks that was impacted by the base set rotation is the Psychatog deck. Not only did the deck lose Counterspell but it lost crucial sideboard cards with no suitbale replacents in sight. Mana Leak ahs been an effective piece of countermagic whenever it has been available but how can Tog win without being able to Cunning Wish for Mana Short? The deck relied on Mana Short—or the fight over Mana Short—to allow an Upheaval to resolve. On top of that it no longer has Duress for its post-sideboard games against other control decks.


With key tools missing and its enemies picking up powerful sideboard options such as Choke and Boil I expect Tog to be a non-factor at Worlds this weekend without some significant changes to the wazy the deck functions. I could see the deck reverting to an older build that relied more on library manipulation cards like Predict and Mental Note along with bounce spells like Aether Burst to clear the way.

The deck I most anxious to see post-Eighth Edition is Goblin Bidding. Japanese Magic standout Tsuyoshi Fujita built this deck and it took him and two friends into the Top 8 of GP Bangkok. Fujita went on to win the event but claimed the deck would not survive the rotation due to the least likliest of cards leaving the Standard format—Goblin Matron.

The Matron was the backbone of the deck fufilling multiple jobs in the deck. It could tutor out the powerful Siege-Gang Commander or it could search for a chain of copies of itself that culminated in a hasty Goblin Piledriver when backed up by the Goblin Warchief. More often than not it would search for the Gempalm Incinerator and remove obstacles in the way of an attack step while generating devastating card advantage.

There was another Goblin Bidding deck at European Championships prior to GP Bangkok and its pilot, Wolfgang Eder, managed a high finish with it. The deck does nto seem as explosively powerful as Fujita’s but it did have some success without the only lately lamented Goblin Matron.

Topdeck Goblins

Download Arena Decklist

shivan oasis
It will be one of the many stories to follow in the coverage all weekend along with how blue-green Madness and red-green Beatdown adjust to the new card pool. While blue-green loses very little—the occasionally-played Counterspell and Merfolk Looter—it should be able to compensate for their absence. Red-green—the deck that qualified the US National Champion—on the other hand has to contend with the loss of Llanowar Elves and Karplusan Forest. I don’t think that Shivan Oasis is going to cut the mustard here and I am anxious to see how members of the inevitable red-green contingent of the tournament cope with the open spots in the deck.

The coverage is not just about decks either. You can follow your favorite players, root for your home country, follow a Rochester Draft in exacting detail or even get a leg up on the Boston Pro Tour with coverage of the Nationals team event. There will be decklists and feature matches all weekend and don’t forget the live coverage on Sunday!

Brian may be reached at

Latest Learning Curve Articles

Daily MTG

December 23, 2004

Three Days to Go by, Brian David-Marshall

This article really set the stage for me to move on to The Week That Was. The news regarding the success of the Seething Song/Furnace Dragon sideboard from Japanese events was a major de...

Learn More

Daily MTG

July 28, 2004

Round and Round by, Brian David-Marshall

Something pretty unusual happened two weeks ago. I have spent so much time traveling around to do event coverage (I am in Malaysia as I write this) that I don't have much opportunity to p...

Learn More



Learning Curve Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All