Core Set 2019 DC-10 Challenge

Written by Jeff Zandi on . Posted in Casual Magic

Core Set 2019 DC-10 Challenge

Jeff Zandi

Jeff Zandi is a level 2 judge and an eight-time veteran of the Pro Tour. He has written continuously about Magic for over eighteen years. His team, the Texas Guildmages, have the longest running regular game in history, meeting at his home every Tuesday night since 1996.

Are you starting to not have as much fun with Core Set 2019? Has your attention moved forward to the end of the month and the prerelease of Guilds of Ravnica? That’s just natural. After all, Core Set 2019, while fun to draft, is still a core set. It basic as hell. A core set is a core set is a core set, right? Pretty much, but Core Set 2019 has really won me over as one of the three or four best core sets for limited play ever. That’s good news, because while we might all wish that we could start playing with a brand new set with new game mechanics and mostly new cards, what we have in front of us are four more weeks of Core Set 2019 booster drafts. That’s why today is a perfect time to share with you another of my Five Fun Things to Do With Core Set 2019. Today’s fun thing is DC-10. This isn’t pack wars, this isn’t mini-master, this isn’t that new Pai Gow (Pai Gao?) casual game. This is DC-10. Invented over twenty years ago by two dudes trying to play Magic on an airliner, continually perfected by weirdos like me.

How to Play DC-10

Here’s what you do. Each player opens a booster pack and removes any token card. Normally, I would want to remove the basic land card as well but Core Set 2019 is different since the land slot can contain a non-basic land. Each player shuffles up their tiny fifteen card library without looking at the cards. That’s important. These games are fun journeys of discovery, at least the first time you use a particular pack. Choose who goes first somehow. Players begin the game with zero cards in their land. The player who goes first DOES get to draw a card on their first turn. What about mana? The first games of DC-10 were played with infinite mana. For many years, I have been very satisfied with a different mana rule. Each player begins each game with twenty basic land tokens in play, four of each basic type. These land tokens follow all the rules of land cards and tokens. They can be destroyed like regular lands and, like tokens, no longer exist if they are bounced by a spell or effect.

Other than that, the rules are the same as a regular game of Magic. Players start at twenty life. You lose the game if you cannot draw a card for your turn. When we feel like gambling, we play a single game and the winner gets all the cards from both packs. When things are tight, we keep the cards we open and play up to three games with the same packs.

One of my most respected friends in Magic, level three judge Joe Klopchic, plays DC-10 with different rules. In his game you simply quit drawing cards when your library is exhausted, you don’t lose the game when you can’t draw a card. Instead of land, Joe’s rules allow for infinite mana of all colors but only allow for an activated ability to be used once per turn.

There are several things that I think are important about my preferred system, the twenty token lands system. Some creatures have landwalk abilities. It’s better if these abilities are useful. Many cards care about basic lands in play. My token lands satisfy those requirements. It’s important that any spell can be cast and so you want a large amount of mana available on each turn. At the same time, some limits are helpful. In my version, you can use an activated ability multiple times in the same turn depending on the mana costs of the ability. Land destruction still matters, somewhat, in my version. Particularly globally destructive abilities like Armageddon or Flashfires or Tsunami.

Now you know how to play DC-10, but you may be wondering why you should play DC-10. Because it’s fun. It’s like Wizards of the Coast carefully packaged random individual decks of cards and all you have to do is unwrap them and start playing. All for just four bucks.

Every time I’m playing Friday Night Magic somewhere, I watch people collect their booster packs at the end of the night and simply crack them. Of course, the best thing you can do with unopen booster packs is use them to play a booster draft. Sometimes, though, you don’t have time or enough players for a booster draft. Sometimes all you have are a couple of packs. This is when you and a pal ought to be playing DC-10. I hate to see someone cracking a whole box of packs, just one after another. Far from enjoying their packs, they actually act like opening the packs is a chore. That’s too bad, because booster packs aren’t free. You ought to have some fun when you open up packs. I hope you’ll try some DC-10.

DC-10 scratches a certain Magic itch for me because it represents an experiment in how cards can play themselves without much interaction from players. In DC-10 your library is only fourteen or fifteen cards, your starting hand size is zero and you have no input whatsoever in what cards are in your deck. Individual play skill rarely matters in DC-10. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? You will rarely be outplayed by your opponent in a game of DC-10 and you will rarely outplay your opponent. It’s about the cards. When you draw the first card of your deck it will almost always be completely evident what the correct play is. It’s interesting to me to see the Magic cards more or less play themselves. The truth is, this is the case more often than you know in all kinds of Magic formats. I’m sure you have had the experience of playing a particular deck so often that you become more and more confident in the play of the deck, more and more confident in what hands you should keep against what kinds of opposing decks. In constructed, the correct play in lots of situations is subjective. Different very good players would choose different plays in the same situation. There are lots of other times in constructed when the correct play is completely (or almost completely) objective. In DC-10, there are more objective decisions. I like DC-10 because I believe it represents a tiny morsel of the larger game of Magic. Beyond getting a few chuckles out of opening my booster packs, I like the experience of seeing the cards play against themselves.

Every time a new set arrives, I open almost an entire box of boosters simply for my own DC-10 challenge. I pit thirty-two packs of cards against each other in a single elimination bracket using my DC-10 rules. The pack that emerges from these thirty-two booster challenge represents that set as champion. From that point, I pit my new DC-10 champion against the DC-10 champion packs of the past. I continually maintain a gauntlet of twelve championship DC-10 packs.

Core Set 2019 DC-10 Challenge

I started with thirty-two packs of M19. In the first three rounds (round of thirty-two, round of sixteen and quarterfinals) each match consisted of a best two-out-of-three games. For the semifinals I played best-of-five and for the finals I played best-of-seven. Here are the four semifinalists. Each pack is listed with the non-foil rare or mythic first, then uncommons, then the foil card if there was one, then the commons. These cards are not listed in the order they came out of the booster pack.

Nicol Bolas, the Arisen wins 2-0 over Mystic Archaeologist, 2-1 over Liliana’s Contract, 2-0 over Mentor of the Meek, 3-1 over Chromium, the Mutable, 4-0 over Vivien Reid

Vivien Reid won 2-1 over Fraying Omnipotence, 2-1 over Valiant Knight, 2-1 over Goblin Trashmaster, 3-2 over Open the Graves, loses 0-4 to Nicol Bolas, the Ravager

Chromium, the Mutable 2-1 over Remorseful Cleric, 2-0 over Hungering Hydra, 2-0 over Djinn of Wishes, loses 1-3 to Nicol Bolas, the Ravager

Open the Graves 2-0 over Fraying Omnipotence, 2-0 over Metamorphic Alteration, 2-0 over Ajani’s Last Stand, loses 2-3 to Vivien Reid

I sort of hated that Nicol Bolas ran over the field so thoroughly, it’s just another example of why this card may not have really been a good choice to include in Core Set 2019. It’s a little overpowered relative to the rest of the set, and certainly overpowered for DC-10. Still, it happened. The second place booster in my DC-10 competition, the Vivien Reid pack, is also very powerful. Vivien Reid, like other planeswalkers, also have out-sized play value compared to other rares in a set.

Here is the play-by-play of one of the games of the final match between Nicol Bolas and Vivien. This was the third game in the 4-0 domination of Nicol Bolas over Vivien.

T1 Vivien draws and plays Daggerback Basilisk.
T1 Nicol draws and plays Goblin Motivator.

T2 Vivien draws and plays Aven Wind Mage, attacks with Basilisk (20-18).
T2 Nicol draws and plays Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, activates Goblin Motivator targeting Nicol Bolas, attacks with Nicol Bolas, the Ravager (16-18), activates and exiles Nicol Bolas returning it to the battlefield transformed into Nicol Bolas, the Arisen, adds two counters to Nicol Bolas drawing Disperse and Electrify.

T3 Vivien draws and plays Skymarch Bloodletter (21-17), attacks Nicol Bolas with Aven Wind Mage and Daggerback Basilisk, Nicol plays Electrify targeting Wind Mage.
T3 Nicol draws Bone to Ash, adds two counters to Nicol Bolas drawing Epicure of Blood and Snapping Drake, plays Epicure of Blood, activates Goblin Motivator targeting Epicure, attacks with Epicure (17-17), plays Snapping Drake.

T4 Vivien draws and plays Divination drawing Regal Bloodlord and Explosive Apparatus, plays Apparatus, activates and sacrifices Apparatus targeting Snapping Drake, plays Regal Bloodlord, Nicol responds playing Bone to Ash targeting and countering Bloodlord and drawing Take Vengeance, attacks Nicol Bolas with Bloodletter and Basilisk.
T4 Nicol draws Root Snare, plays Take Vengeance targeting Daggerback Basilisk, adds two counters to Nicol Bolas drawing Walking Corpse and Militia Bugler, plays Walking Corpse, plays Militia Bugler looking at the top four (just three this time) cards of his library revealing and putting Giant Spider into his hand and putting Psychic Symbiont and Wall of Mist on the bottom of his library in a random order, plays Giant Spider, activates Goblin Motivator targeting Walking Corpse, attacks with Corpse and Epicure (11-17).

T5 Vivien draws and plays Doomed Dissenter.
T5 Nicol draws and plays Wall of Mist, removes four counters from Nicol Bolas returning Snapping Drake to the battlefield from his graveyard, plays Disperse targeting Skymarch Bloodletter, activates Goblin Motivator targeting Snapping Drake, attacks with Epicure and Walking Corpse and Bugler and Spider and Snapping Drake, Dissenter blocks Epicure (2-17), Dissenter triggers when it dies creating a 2/2 black Zombie creature token.

T6 Vivien draws Rupture Spire, plays Skymarch Bloodletter (3-16).
T6 Nicol draws Psychic Symbiont, removes three counters from Nicol Bolas targeting Skymarch Bloodletter, attacks with Goblin Motivator and Epicure of Blood and Walking Corpse and Militia Bugler and Giant Spider and Snapping Drake, Zombie token blocks Epicure (-7 -16).

NICOL BOLAS, THE RAVAGER WINS GAME THREE ON TURN 6, LEADS MATCH 3-0

In defense of the winning booster, it won game one without ever drawing its mythic rare.

DC-10 Ladder Bracket

After I play a bunch of DC-10 games with packs of a certain set, like Core Set 2019, I tend to lose perspective of that set’s power compared to other sets. For that reason, the fun isn’t over once I’ve determined my Core Set 2019 DC-10 champion. Now it’s time for the Nicol Bolas booster to take on the DC-10 Ladder Bracket Challenge. I’ve been doing this DC-10 challenge thing for quite a few years and I keep the champion pack together for each set. More specifically, I maintain a gauntlet of twelve champion booster packs from different sets from past years.

The Core Set 2019 champion pack, led by Nicol Bolas, must now try to climb its way to the top of this gauntlet of previous DC-10 champions. The M19 pack plays a match against the twelfth place pack in the gauntlet, which at this time is Oath of the Gatewatch. The winning booster will play a match against the eleventh place booster. As it turns out, the match between M19 and Oath took three games. Here is the play-by-play of that third game:

T1 M19 draws and plays Wall of Mist.
T1 Oath draws and plays Vampire Envoy.

T2 M19 draws Root Snare.
T2 Oath draws and plays Gravity Negator, attacks with Envoy, Envoy triggers (21-20), combat damage happens (21-19).

T3 M19 draws and plays Goblin Motivator.
T3 Oath draws Elemental Uprising, attacks with Envoy and Negator, Envoy triggers (22-19), combat damage happens (22-16).

T4 M19 draws and plays Walking Corpse, activates Goblin Motivator targeting Corpse, attacks with Corpse (20-16).
T4 Oath draws and plays Kor Scythemaster, attacks with Envoy and Negator, Envoy triggers (21-16), combat damage happens (21-13).

T5 M19 draws and plays Militia Bugler looking at the top four cards of his library revealing and putting Giant Spider into his hand putting Psychic Symbiont and Snapping Drake and Take Vengeance on the bottom of his library in a random order, plays Giant Spider, activates Motivator targeting Bugler, attacks with Bugler and Corpse, Scythemaster blocks Bugler (19-13).
T5 Oath draws Natural State.

T6 M19 draws Bone to Ash.
T6 Oath draws and plays Immobilizer Eldrazi.

T7 M19 draws Disperse.
T7 Oath draws and plays Comparative Analysis targeting himself drawing Pyromancer’s Assault and Eldrazi Aggressor, plays Pyromancer’s Assault, Assault triggers and Oath chooses to target Goblin Motivator, plays Eldrazi Aggressor.

T8 M19 draws Electrify.
T8 Oath draws Baloth Null.

T9 M19 draws and plays Epicure of Blood.
T9 Oath draws and plays Zulaport Chainmage, M19 responds playing Bone to Ash targeting and countering Chainmage, M19 draws Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, Oath plays Baloth Null returning Zulaport Chainmage and Kor Scythemaster to his hand from the graveyard, Assault triggers targeting M19 (19-11).

T10 M19 draws Take Vengeance, plays Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, Nicol Bolas triggers when it enters the battlefield, Oath discards Natural State, M19 activates and exiles Nicol Bolas returning it to the battlefield transformed into Nicol Bolas, the Arisen, removes three counters targeting Baloth Null, attacks with Epicure of Blood, Oath plays Elemental Uprising targeting an untapped Plains making it a 4/4 Elemental creature until end of turn that is also a land, M19 plays Electrify targeting the Elemental land, Immobilizer Eldrazi and Eldrazi Aggressor block Epicure, M19 plays Disperse targeting Immobilizer Eldrazi.
T10 Oath draws Deepfathom Skulker, plays Zulaport Chainmage, plays Kor Scythemaster, Assault triggers targeting Walking Corpse, plays Immobilizer Eldrazi.

T11 M19 draws and plays Snapping Drake, removes four counters from Nicol Bolas returning Baloth Null to the battlefield on M19’s side returning Goblin Motivator and Nicol Bolas, the Ravager to his hand from the graveyard, plays Goblin Motivator, plays Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, attacks with Epicure of Blood (15-11).
T11 Oath draws and plays Crumbling Vestige, plays Deepfathom Skulker.

T12 M19 draws Psychic Symbiont (the last card in his library), CONCEDES.

OATH OF THE GATEWATCH WINS GAME THREE ON TURN 12, WINS MATCH 2-1

In this game, which contained many possible decision trees, the M19 pack showed it had the greater collection of powerful cards, but ran out of turns thanks to the size of its library. A year ago, Hour of Devastation did the unthinkable, running straight through the DC-10 gauntlet without losing a match. By way of contrast, the Core Set 2019 pack loses in the first round of the gauntlet to Oath of the Gatewatch.

Here are the match results of this trip through the gauntlet:

Oath of the Gatewatch 2-1 over Core Set 2019
Oath of the Gatewatch 2-1 over Shadows over Innistrad
Oath of the Gatewatch 2-1 over Khans of Tarkir
Oath of the Gatewatch 2-0 over Kaladesh

Dominaria 2-1 over Oath of the Gatewatch

Journey into Nyx 2-0 over Dominaria
Journey into Nyx 2-1 over Ixalan
Journey into Nyx 2-0 over Magic 2015
Journey into Nyx 2-1 over Theros
Journey into Nyx 2-1 over Fate Reforged
Journey into Nyx 2-0 over Amonkhet

Rivals of Ixalan 2-1 over Journey into Nyx

Here is the play-by-play of the decisive third game between Rivals and Journey:

GAME THREE

T1 Rivals draws Plummet.
T1 Journey draws and plays Flurry of Horns creating two 2/3 red Minotaur creature tokens with haste, attacks with both Minotaur tokens (16-20).

T2 Rivals draws Recover.
T2 Journey draws and plays Thassa’s Devourer, Devourer triggers milling Crashing Tide and Forerunner of the Empire into Rivals’ graveyard from the top of his deck, attacks with both Minotaur tokens (12-20).

T3 Rivals draws and plays Goblin Trailblazer, plays Recover returning Forerunner of the Empire to his hand drawing Waterknot, plays Forerunner of the Empire searching his library revealing and putting Ghalta, Primal Hunger on top of his library.
T3 Journey draws and plays Sigiled Starfish, attacks with both Minotaur tokens and Devourer, Forerunner and Trailblazer block a Minotaur token, Journey chooses to damage Trailblazer first (8-20).

T4 Rivals draws and plays Ghalta, Primal Hunger, plays Waterknot enchanting and tapping Sigiled Starfish.
T4 Journey draws Desperate Stand.

T5 Rivals draws Moment of Triumph, attacks with Ghalta (8-6).
T5 Journey draws and plays Nyx-Fleece Ram, Devourer triggers milling Impale and Snubhorn Sentry into Rivals’ graveyard from the top of his library, plays Desperate Stand paying the strive cost one time targeting Minotaur token and Thassa’s Devourer, attacks with Minotaur token and Devourer, Forerunner blocks Devourer (4-6).

T6 Rivals draws and plays Strength of the Pack putting two +1/+1 counters on Ghalta, attacks with Ghalta, Primal Hunger blocked by Minotaur token and Thassa’s Devourer and Nyx-Fleece Ram, Rivals chooses to damage Devourer and then Minotaur token and then Ram.
T6 Journey draws and plays Harvestguard Alseids.

T7 Rivals draws and plays Soul of the Rapids, attacks with Ghalta, Primal Hunger blocked by Harvestguard Alseids (4- -5).

RIVALS OF IXALAN WINS GAME THREE ON TURN 7, WINS MATCH 2-1

Rivals of Ixalan becomes the ninth DC-10 booster to be retired:

Battle for Zendikar

Magic: Origins

Magic 2014

Dragon’s Maze

Hour of Devastation

Dragons of Tarkir

Aether Revolt

Eldritch Moon

Rivals of Ixalan

Rivals of Ixalan booster pack contents:

Ghalta, Primal Hunger
Forerunner of the Empire
Resplendent Griffin
Soul of the Rapids
Recover
Waterknot
Dusk Charger
Strength of the Pack
Moment of Triumph
Snubhorn Sentry
Impale
Goblin Trailblazer
Crashing Tide
Plummet

When a booster pack conquers the gauntlet it is retired to a special binder in my office where I make sure to foil out the championship booster pack.

Magic fetish much?

Thanks for reading, thank you for being a part of my ongoing therapy.

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