Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Commander 2016 7-point highlander set review


The weekend just gone was the Melbourne RPTQ for 2016. It was Modern and I played Affinity. Some very sloppy play and an average deck choice took me to a 2-4 record. Disappointing but I did get to hang out with some good friends, including some from interstate, which was a real treat. Congrats to Jo Sclo, Bennie, Joe Connely and Prads for winning invites. With the RPTQ over and the next one not until March, time to focus on Highlander!

I command you to read my Aussie Highlander Set Review of Commander 2016,

These sets often yield some strong Highlander cards because R&D don't need to hold back on power level for fear of ruining Standard or Modern. Let's see what goodies we have this time.

Like all the four colour legends in this set, her mana cost is very restrictive. I wouldn't play any lands which only produce colourless.
Breya isn't a powerful enough card that you would want to play four colours just to get access to her; If you just stay UR then you can play the much more powerful Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon and Back to Basics, a.k.a the three amigos.
The scenario in which Breya is most likely to see play, is an artifact synergy deck. Funny that her artifact sacrifice ability would be really nice for getting Mana Crypt off the table in the mid-to-late game but you can't cast her with Mana Crypt, so they're incompatible.
Breya is a serious road block. Imagine you're getting beaten down. Drop Breya with two mana open, block three dudes and take out another one with her -4/-4.
Fights Jace well, flies over True-Name Nemesis and beats down fast. Ticks dem boxes.

"I'm back Billy, and I want youuuu"
"That's a huge bitch!"
"Kiss me or I'll crush you"
"It was him, get 'im boys"
/tourettes quote outburst.
Saskia is a massive beating, so much so that I think Zoo decks should cut all their Wastelands/Strip Mines for moxes and splash black. Most of them are already splashing black for Deathrite Shaman (that card is too good).
Saskia even plays defense. 
Nice that you can split her damage between your opponent's face and their planeswalkers.
Any pump you have goes up in strength with Saskia around, especially with trample: Selesnya Charm, Ghor-Clan Rampager. You won't be able to play Kessig Wolf Run due to Saskia's mana cost but that's not a huge loss.

Dark Bant has been one of the strongest decks for a long time. Atraxa is a possible addition. She fails the Jace test and she's very slow against combo, so I think she'll end up in peoples sideboards. However, some people just love creepy angels and will maindeck her no matter what.
Like so many lifelink angels before her, you can play DITS, Tidehollow Sculler and Vendilion Clique to protect her and let her deal with all your opponent's creatures by herself.
Creature type: Horror, doesn't get bounced by Thing in the Ice! :P I haven't seen Thing in the Ice in a Highlander deck, which is a crime.
The proliferate ability on Atraxa is cool but will probably just be incidental value here and there rather than a reason to include Atraxa in your deck.

It's a huge shame that the last four colour general, "Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis" has such a long forgettable name, otherwise we could name the four-colour combinations after them, the same way we use Jund, Bant, etc. The rest of the names work: "Atraxa", "Breya", "Saskia" (just) and then those gay Theros heros had to go and ruin it. The card isn't even highlander playable, cummon!

Speaking of poorly named cards...
This little guy can create some pretty crazy plays. Imagine you cast him, then in your opponent's turn you Sickening Shoal their guy pitching, say Hit // Run for ten damage. Smashing. With this guy in your deck you should prioritise instants slightly higher.
Vial Smasher is a Goblin, a creature type which has been receiving slow but steady support for a long time now. Goblins are definitely on my list of decks to brew.

Goes straight into my bear tribal deck, not that kind of bear.
This guy only just gets there in terms of playability. He dies to bolt and trades with a two-cost Goyf but you'll get some value most of the time and double strike is super powerful.
The flavour of this card is also hilarious, which counts.

Rei and Rohan had a baby.
Can't tell if female of male.
Probably some +1/+1 counter shenanigans that you can pull:
Nothing else sweet really comes to mind. There may not be enough powerful interactions to make Reyhan good yet, but the potential is there.

That's some crazy hair. Red-white equipment aggro could work. Always wanted to play Goblin Gaveleer; I slam my gavel down
Weapons Trainer is a card.
Moxes are now two points.
Equipment is awesome in Highlander.

Khalim's Will, amirite?
Not the greatest but I'd play it. The second ability is nifty against removal.
Here are some particularly sweet creatures for swinging a flail:

Yoink! Ohhh the blow outs. They spend two points, a card and a couple mana. You spend three mana, draw two cards and gain a certain equipment. I'm not going to say which one...I'm not gonna say it.
Sideboard card only. Even in an equipment deck I don't think it's worth main decking this. If you're playing Cunning Wish, you're kind of main decking it though.
If you're playing Merchant Scroll, jam this in your sideboard for sure.
After Saskia, this is my pick for best Highlander card in the set.
According to recent fellow RPTQ failures, Lachlan, Chris and Dillon, this card is unplayable in Canberra ;P

Probably just a sideboard card in storm combo for when the opponent boards out removal.

This card is very sweet. Best in aggro decks where you can make the most of stealing a creature. At worst this is a mana accelerant. The dream is stealing a planeswalker and ultimating it. Actually, the dream is taking your opponent's Time Vault...ohhh baby. Even your own Time Vault works...hmmm.
I really like the flavour text on the card too. Chilling.

Yoink! Yoink! Yoink! If you have a sac-outlet, one-sided wrath. Note that your sac-outlet can't be a creature, otherwise they gain control of it before you can sac their team:

Who doesn't love a good coin flip? This reminds me of my friend, Ponny. In the old PTQ system, he once top8'd with a deck based around Krark's Thumb and Fiery Gambit, which is hilarious enough. What added to the hilarity was that days before the tournament he bought a second copy of this deck because the first copy was too marked from coin damage. He rolled dice instead from then on. In that same tournament I killed Glen Shanley with a Megatog wearing Lightning Greaves in my Affinity deck after he cast Kataki, War's Wage. Those were good times. 
Anyway, back to Boompile. A very rare effect. Much better than Nevinyrral's Disk since on average it blows half a turn earlier and obviously doesn't cost a mana to activate. Making that comparison reminds me of Powder Keg and Ratchet Bomb.
This gives red, blue and black another way of dealing with enchantments. This is a big deal if you're grixis control and want to kill a Blood Moon.

This card is very strong in control and combo. In control you can sculpt your hand whilst fueling Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise and if you don't need the cards, just get a land. The shuffle effect may even assist a Sensei's Divining Top or Brainstorm.
I can also see combo decks which generate heaps of mana using this to pitch lands for gas or fix their mana with the cycling ability.
Note that if you replace draws with replacement effects, e.g. dredge, then you don't need to discard for the draws you replaced.

In a format of fetchlands, original duals, shocks and pain lands, this land is relatively poor but there are some decks that want it. For example, your deck has multiple colours but also wants to play colourless spells like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher, or you're playing multiple colours but also playing hardcore non-basic hate.

Alright! that does it for the set review. I've already obtained a Saskia to beat peoples faces in and a Grip of Phyresis to steal a...thing.

Happy Highlandering!

If you're in Melbourne this month (December 2016), here are some festive local Highlander events:
Saturday 17th, midday - The Tabernacle at Ascotvale
Tuesday 20th, 7pm - NLG Ringwood
Friday 30th, 7pm - General Games Caulfield/East Malvern

See you there,


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Australian Highlander Kaladesh Set Review


This is my Khaliladesh Australian highlander set review. I Kanaan't wait to put these cards into my decks!

I often talk about cards in the context of the points list, which you can find here. (As of this article, the latest change was Sept 27th Mishra's Workshop +1).

As always, cards which let you recast instants are really good in highlander because: Ancestral Recall, Dig Through Time, Mystic Confluence, Mana Drain, shall I go on? No.

The art on this card makes me wonder if Tezzeret might bring the Phyrexians to Kaladesh. He was hanging out in Mirrodin a while ago and he can't take on The Gatewatch by himself. Ehhh might be too early for another interplanar bad guy summoning but Tezzeret's up to something...
This card also has game. What do you think of this construct?:


Metallurgic Summons






Back to my 'Phyrexians coming to Kaladesh' theory. This card. I recommend reading all the short stories regarding Kaladesh. Paradoxical Outcome refers to the story of Rashmi, an inventor who created a device which can only teleport INORGANIC matter through SPACE. Sounds like a Phyrexian teleporter to me! Obviously Tezzeret wants a piece of this action.

Grandma Artifacts
I like her in Tinker and Time Vault decks. She comes down a turn or two too late t t t t T_T but I still think she's good.

Gonti, LoL
Now this guy is gangsta. The black market master himself. It's not clear from reading his text but you can still cast the card even if Gonti leaves the battlefield.
Some blink value to be had. Grind em' out with Karakas perhaps.
Against combo you may exile a combo piece or mess with their scry/Top stacked library.

Probably just a sideboard card. Would be good in a BR artifact deck with Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast, Goblin Welder and Mishra's Workshop.

If you can manage to build a black aggro artifact deck, then this guy has a home. I like to think of him this way, he turns all your artifacts into removal spells. The cheaper the artifact, the cheaper the removal spell. Sure they didn't take damage that turn so it's not the same but he gets that +1/+1 counter which can make up the damage over the course of the game. Ironically the artifacts you're playing in highlander are probably some of your best cards, so it may be bad to sacrifice them. At least moxes make great fodder later on when you have enough mana. 
Whatever value your artifacts gave you before trading with your opponent's card is gravy. His ability may also mess with your opponent's removal spells.

Yeah. I actually think this card is great in aggro. I played Boggart Ram-Gang in my mono-red aggro deck and this card is similar enough that I'm confident it's good.

Great card for dredge. Give your Mum a hug for me.

Obviously a great card. Definitely not Jace, the Mind Sculptor level but playable in any red deck except combo, particularly the ones which wouldn't want to risk exiling a combo piece which they couldn't cast that turn. Rings of Brighthearth combo would be the exception, heh.
All the blue red moon control decks don't currently play any double red spells in the main. I can see Chandra tempting them to the red side. Although, her first +1 ability is less value with counterspells so she may require a more proactive build with more creatures.
All her abilities are useful. Lots of flexibility. Burn baby, burn.

I love cards like this, huge build restriction with decent payoff. Building decks is what I get the most enjoyment from.
So obviously you have your deck's top-end be a bunch powerful artifacts. That's also what you want to do in Tinker but you can't play them together unless you get sneaky with how you produce artifacts.
That's two powerful cards to build around. We need some redundancy; Daretti, Scrap Savant and Shape Anew can help, here we go:


Mental Misstep
Mother of Runes
Stoneforge Mystic*
Mana Drain*
Blade Splicer
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Wurmcoil Engine
Myr Battlesphere
Blightsteel Colossus
Mishra's Factory
Blinkmoth Nexus
Inkmoth Nexus
Ancient Tomb
Volcanic Island
Steam Vents
Sacred Foundry
Hallowed Fountain
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Wooded Foothills
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Marsh Flats
Windswept heath

Show and Tell
Sundering Titan
Vedalken Shackles
Mindbreak Trap
Faerie Macabre
Surgical Extraction

(Yes I've lost my patience with the hyperlinking. Just going to link the more obscure cards)

Conveniently the above list features many other cards from this set. Playing Tinker in a deck with no cheap 'artifacts' is not easy.
The curve on this deck is pretty bad, but it plays cool cards and that's what counts right?
It's hard to fit enough artifacts into the deck to make Madcap Experiment worth it. I managed fourteen. That's about four damage taken on average from Madcap Experiment. Using Phyrexian mana as a bench mark, the artifacts in the deck are worth the damage.
A little more on the other cards featured in this list:
Similar to Baneslayer Angel. At her best when paired with cards like: DITS (Duress, Inquisition, Thoughtseize), Mental Misstep, Mother of Runes, Tidehollow Sculler, Thought-Knot Seer.
I had the privilege of crewing this at the prerelease and it was disgustingly good. I didn't lost a game that I cast it. It's the best vehicle defensively.
Decent in an aggro deck with lots of 'enters triggers'. I've heard buzzings of a combo in modern with Liquimetal Coating, but you'd need a third piece to complete the combo, for example Disciple of the Vault.
I played Pia in an update of my Thran Turbine + Braid of Fire decklist from my last set review and she was impressive. You always get some value from her and she's still good late game as a mana-sink.

Speaking of poison counters; I have built highlander infect before and it felt pretty good. This card slots right into that deck. At this point I wonder which deck would be better, infect or double strike? I've found the following infect creatures to be playable:
Inkmoth Nexus
Glistener Elf
Plague Stinger
Plague Myr
Ichorclaw Myr
Lost Leonin
Blighted Agent
Whispering Specter
Viridian Corrupter
Rot Wolf
Razor Swine
Priests of Norn
Phyrexian Crusader
Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

I haven't actually built a double strike deck but here's the list of creatures I presume are playable:
Boros Swiftblade
Fencing Ace
Viashino Slaughtermaster
Warren Instigator
Fabled Hero
Aven Sunstriker
Mirran Crusader
Prophetic Flamespeaker
Skyhunter Skirmisher
Hearthfire Hobgoblin
Iroas's Champion
Silverblade Paladin
Arashin Foremost

It's an interesting comparison: Infect needs to be more colours to play all the creatures but you might just want to be five colours anyway to gain access to Might of Alara and Gaea's Might.
The infect creatures seem to have extra abilities but the double strike creatures are boosted by the pain of your opponent's mana base.
Tough call. I'll let you decide which is more worthy of Blossoming Defenses.

Red artifact aggro, nothing else. I've heard her called Nerd Ape, which is a better name.

Raging Goblin eat your heart out. I think the burn deck will play this little fella. Regular Zoo aggro decks won't benefit from the three-or-so cards which this guy can net you because you'll probably just draw more Kird Apes which have already been blanked by a big blocker, whereas a burn deck will be more likely to draw burn spells, which should be enough to win the game.
Bomat Courier goes in the madess deck from my Eldritch Moon set review. By the way, I missed a few cards in that list: Liliana of the Veil and Oona's Prowler. There's been another great addition to that deck from Kaladesh. We're going to be seeing a lot of it for the next year or so:

Learn how to drive vehicles with Chopper:
annnnd this one's for all you globetrotting pros out there (Minesy/Jason Chung/Manderson):
A great addition to all the aggro decks. I also think it will out-perform in Recurring Nightmare strategies.
Since I've started working an office job, I've been enjoying a few MTG podcasts. Most recently I listened to Top Level Podcast. Pat Chapin put it convincingly, "It's a flying Watchwolf that turns your creatures into hasty Merfolk Looters". I've also been listening to Limited Resources, LSV and Marshall Sutcliffe pair well together. The occasional episode of This Machine Kills Netdeckers was entertaining since I'm a player from Melbourne. None of those podcasts talk highlander unfortunately. Perhaps highlander will get big enough for that one day.

Biggie train, smallie cost. Not as good as Smuggler's Copter. You lose a blocker whenever you crew a vehicle so I only like them in aggro decks. I like vehicles for the threat diversity that they add. Sulfuric Vortex is a far better card because it doesn't die to creature removal. Vehicles are obviously easier to deal with than enchantments but you see my point.
'Vehicles plus haste creatures' is a lower average power than 'Vehicles plus non-haste creatures'. For example, you want play vehicles and you have a choice between Brazen Scourge and Mindsparker, go with the Mindsparker.

Better than Renegade Freighter but I do like trains much more than cars, especially luxury cars.
This is great at running over planeswalkers.

I'm playing Bombat Babar Boat Barge Brigade in the sideboard of my Mishra's Workshop deck against control matchups, so I guess I consider it playable.

No idea what sound this thing makes. Not sure what's up with the giant snout coming out of it either. Looks more like one of those tree branch shredding trailers.
Also in my Workshop sideboard, although I think it has wider applications. 
I like this card in greedy midrange decks with Garruks and one-cost removal.

"can't block". Good sideboard card for black aggro decks in general. Good in a dredge decks with sweepers. Good in artifact beatdown decks.

Even more cards for my Mishra's Workshop deck. Just in time to mitigate the power loss of Workshop getting a point. I wouldn't play any of these outside a Workshop deck.

On the lower end of planeswalkers these days but he's still good.
Sometimes he won't reduce the creature's power to zero but he can shut down mana creatures, which are popular in highlander.

This makes me want to build a deck with all five Sword of X & Y's. It find the swords AND has evasion. The key to making the deck good would be keeping your creature and artifact count high whilst still having enough disruption against combo.

No one's talking about this guy. Maybe because he threatened to cut off their aether supply or maybe he works for Rupert Murdoch.
Kambal is very good. I would play him in any midrange or aggro deck. He's even fine as storm hate in the board.

Surprised we didn't see more of Nissa at the Pro Tour. She hits really hard. Five power haste for five mana passes the 'fast enough against combo' test.
Untapping a land could also be quite good in Tolarian Academy and Gaea's Cradle decks. Granted that may make those lands vulnerable to creature removal; but if they go to the graveyard, Nissa can return them and I doubt your opponent will have removal up anyway, since they would be looking to reduce the mana output of Academy/Cradle by killing your creatures before you untap. If you think they have removal, you can always -3 to get something back instead.
Nissa has strong synergy and is still good by herself. Powerful card.

Highlander's mana is already good enough but these fill some niche roles:
  • The blue producing ones help protect against Choke, Boil and Carpet of Flowers.
  • They all help in decks which are trying to break the synergy of cards like Leonin Arbiter, Suppression Field and Root Maze.
  • They go in decks which play extremely colour intensive cards like Necropotence, where regular dual lands aren't enough.
  • These lands save fast combo decks some life. Especially relevant for Channel and Ad Nauseum.
Well Zoo's happy. They did it. The power creeper has climbed all the way to the top of the World Tree and the only thing left is the Ninth Season of Dragon Ball Z, then strangulation.
With the addition of Voltaic Brawler, Zoo may need to reconsider which mox or moxes they play. Moxes have been very strong since coming down to two points, by the way. I like how they give previously unsupported decks somewhere to dump their points but I don't like the walkover games which moxes can cause.

Oh mumma. She/it is huuuge. I've played with her already and can confirm, playable. The immediate four counter distribution gives her the required speed against combo, the required value against control and the required size against aggro.
I expect her to be hulking alongside Titania, Protector of Argoth in all the Birthing Pod decks. Kitchen Finks into Murderous Redcap into Verdurous Gearhulk to remove their -1/-1 counters. So much value.
Can't be Go for the Throat'd.
Can be Green Sun's Zenith'd.

Here's one last decklist so I feature Toolcraft Exemplar:

Thraben Inspector
Mishra's Bauble
Vedalken Certarch
Vault Skirge
Signal Pest
Smuggler's Copter
Scrapheap Scrounger
Spell Skite
Hangarback Walker
Stoneforge Mystic*
Arcbound Ravager
Steel Overseer
Baleful Strix
Porcelain Legionnaire
Phyrexian Revoker
Cranial Plating
Trinket Mage
Master of Etherium
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Mox Diamond
Mox Sapphire
Mox Jet
Mox Opal
Blinkmoth Nexus
Mishra's Factory
Underground Sea
Hallowed Fountain
Watery Grave
Godless Shrine
Flooded Strand
Marsh Flats
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath

Tormod's Crypt
Path to Exile
Grafdigger's Cage
Etched Champion

Boros Reckoner, block your dude, Rush of Vitality. Infinite life. Imagine the rush.

Combos with Isochron Scepter or Izzet Guildmage plus non-land mana producers. Sounds like a terrible combo but fun.

Hardened Scales anyone? This brings me back to my 'Tezzeret brings Phyrexia to Kaladesh' theory. This card adds counters on players, you know what counters go on players other than energy counters? Poison counters.

That concludes my Kaladesh highlander set review. I hope you feel high and inspired. I'm looking forward to the next big tournament. Not sure when that'll be but hopefully soon. Cheers,