Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Oath of the Gatewatch Highlander set review

Greetings from my Mum's house!

This is super late but I don't care. I've been writing Highlander set reviews since Avacyn Restored. That's a pretty good run, so I want to continue it.
We've come full circle and Shadows Over Innistrad just became legal this week. I'll put out my set review for that later this week.
I'm not too late with this set review right?....Wrong. I am very late, but I don't care. Not like anyone reads this anyway (aha!, see I'm trying to trick you: "if he thinks no one reads this then he will write some really controversial stuff that only I will be privy to!"...perhaps).

In case you're unfamiliar with Australian Highlander, check out the official site. There you'll find the format rules and points list.

So, Oath of the Gate Watch aye? What gate? I read and enjoy the wizards.com flavour articles and I don't recall any references to a gate.
Wizards have done a good job hyping up the mystery flavour of Shadows Over Innistrad, perhaps the gate we're watching is the one between Zendikar and Innistrad? Emrakul's snuck through the gate like your cheeky rascal childhood family dog. I'm getting a little caught up on talking about Shadows. This is supposed to be an Oath review. Let's get this over and done with so I can move on to the more exciting Shadows review.

Without further adieu
Without further a jew
Without further ado.

I think this is the 2nd best card in Standard behind Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and in front of Collected Company, both of which are very strong in Highlander.
It's funny that Jace, the Mind Sculptor (not Vryn's Prodigy {fucking Jace, he's everywhere}) has 'softened' up Highlander's creature pool before Reflector Mage even got a chance. You've probably heard of 'the Jace test'; basically Jace, the Mind Sculptor is very popular and he makes any creature with converted mana cost 4 or more, unplayable unless they leave behind significant value if bounced. Pia and Kiran Nalaar is an example of a passed Jace test.

Almost a Jace test fail. Despite that, I've listed Kalitas as playable because you can cast him AND a removal spell in the same turn, getting a zombie.
He doesn't die to Lightning Bolt.
Kalitas' main strength is his replacement ability. 
Turning off opposing Skullclamp triggers is excellent. Open the Armory was just printed, so Skullclamp numbers could rise. What could bring down Skullclamp numbers however, is Mox Ruby, Mox Emerald, Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet and Mox Pearl, all going down to 2 points each. This may cause aggro decks to drop their equipment packages in favour of moxen.
Kalitas' replacement ability also stops the Flash + Protean Hulk combo. That deck isn't too popular but it is a thing.
My favourite points change ever: changing Karakas from zero points to one point, ensures that sweet Legendary creatures like Kalitas are playable.

*Ring ring* "Hello, this is Flame"..."Yeah hi. My name's Chandra. You come out of my hands".
Good top-end card for control decks and ramp decks. 
She gets better the less creatures you play yourself. 
Poor against Tarmogoyf, Sword of Fire and Ice and True-Name Nemesis. Will clean up most other popular creatures though.
Competes with Titans (e.g. Grave Titan and Inferno Titan) at 6 mana. Worse than Titans are against creatures but better with and against removal.
I've added Chandra to my Scapeshift deck, which is still a bad deck but I love it.

I love plants. I've been battling with plants since Khalni Garden was printed.
Strong in swarm decks. 
Produces tokens to eat with Skullclamp.
Some minor +1/+1 counter synergies, e.g. Kitchen Finks and Murderous Redcap.
Like Chandra, you should'nt have to worry about the planeswalker rule.

Sideboard card for control against aggro.

Straight into the enchantress deck, which has still yet to post a big result. Wizards will eventually print another enchantment themed block, which will hopefully lift that deck up enough.

Snapcaster Mage and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy are super powered in Highlander due to all the powerful instants and sorceries available. Goblin Dark-Dwellers is in the same team. Imagine flashing back:

All seem pretty sweet.

Probably not maindeckable as there are plenty of decks without enough targets maindeck. 
If you aren't playing artifacts yourself, there is better hate: Null Rod and Stony Silence, but if you don't want to turn off your own artifacts or you're not playing a good hate colour, then Natural State is good.
Being cheap and instant speed is important against Time Vault combo and killing a Sol Ring or Mox on turn one.

Sideboard card against swarm decks. Being instant speed is important against Skullclamp, which is a key card in swarm decks.
Being a colourless spell is randomly handy. I've seen Mother of Runes and Burrenton Forge-Tender get played.
There are red artifact ramp decks here and there, so the triggered ability might be handy for those decks.

Black now has 9 playable two-power 1-drops, 13 if you count Mardu Shadowspear, Pulse Tracker, Thornbow Archer and Deathrite Shaman. That's enough to go mono black.
Highlander mana is good enough that you could splash a second colour and still play all-black mana for Geralf's Messenger and Necropotence.
With Moxen down to 2 points from 3, expect a few players to try out aggro decks with 1, 2 or even 3 moxen.
Reaver Drone's one toughness is good for Skullclamp.

Narrow but a decent aggro card. A goblin swarm deck perhaps: Mogg War MarshalHordeling OutburstDragon FodderSkirk ProspectorGoblin Bushwhacker.
Strong with Burning-Tree Emissary. Can also imagine this in a sort of prowess deck with Young Pyromancer, Grim Lavamancer, Manamorphose and Gitaxian Probe.
This guy's good with moxen too.

Good sideboard card against swarm strategies. Infest has been around forever but never played. The exile clause on Flaying Tendrils makes it so much better than infest. Kitchen Finks, Voice of Resurgence, Bloodghast, Skullclamp of course and many more.
Kills True-Name Nemesis, which is nice.

Manlands are manlands. If you can reliably go long and get into a scrappy resource war with your opponent, then manlands are going to be good in your deck. Entering the battlefield tapped is a significant tempo loss. You'll want to play a bunch of removal to keep on top of that tempo. 
I've always wanted to combo Lavaclaw Reaches with Ceaseless Searblades. Wandering Fumarole happens to be another card which combos with Ceaseless Searlblades. This combo is very bad but for some reason I love it. Would you play the following creature in Modern, "3R - 2/4 - 2UR: +∞/+0"?

Solid. Never awesome, just solid. Doesn't beat hard or disrupt heavily but she trades with Tarmogoyf and not with Trinket Mage
Her sacrifice ability is very useful: You can sacrifice creatures that are Skullclamped. You can also prevent your opponent's Jitte from gaining charge counters by sacrificing your blocker before damage. You can sacrifice an Academy Rector or a creature enchanted with Pattern of Rebirth.
If there's ever an Athreos, God of Passage deck, I'm sure Ayli will be right there on that purgatorial boat.
Eiganjo Castle is sweet with Ayli's deathtouch.

Straight into the UR Delver/Prowess decks. His flying ability helps out a lot against one of that deck's weaknesses, fat ground creatures like Tarmogoyf.

The colourless requirement in the activate ability can be tough to get. I don't suggest going out of your way to add extra colourless sources to be able to play this card but if you already have them, then sweet.
Just like I mentioned with Goblin Dark-Dwellers, Highlander has some powerful instants and sorceries, so anything which enables you to recur or copy them, gets a lot better. Entering tapped is a big cost. I obviously think this is stilll good enough though, otherwise I wouldn't be discussing it here.
The token making ability is less powerful since it can be stopped by your opponent removing your creature.

This reads very well. Like Mirrorpool, the colourless requirement is tough and you shouldn't strive to play this land. It's just good if it naturally fits your deck. I'm imagining a deck similar to the one which Eldrazi Obligator would fit well into. A proactive deck which dumps it's hand and has lots of cheap spells that it can cast even after spending effectively 4 mana to activate Sea Gate Wreckage.

The Eldrazi poster child? 
Lucky for us, Highlander's inherent 1-of rule saved us from Eldrazi oppression. One Eye of Ugin and one Eldrazi Temple is not enough to make an Eldrazi tribal deck. This does not mean however, that Eldrazi aren't playable. Though-knot Seer definitely doesn't need to be ramped out to be powerful enough (granted it does help, especially against combo where they could kill you turn 4 before you cast Though-Knot if you're on the draw).
Sol Ring, Ancient Tomb and Mana Crypt are excellent at dropping this bomb early.
Thought-Knot's colourless mana requirement is something new for Highlander. Currently mana bases are a little stale with the fetchland + dual land combination being much better than everything else except in some extreme strategies. There aren't enough good colourless mana requiring cards for people to warp their mana bases yet, but I hope they bring the 'mechanic' back in the future as it's interesting and different.
Worth noting that Thought-Knot Seer is really bad against Jace, the Mind Sculptor if the Jace player is hellbent (no cards in hand).

Unlike Though-Knot Seer, you can play this in decks with a colourless splash, off say: MutavaultMishra's Factory and a couple others.
Unfortunately for Obligator's popularity, he trades with a lowly Llanowar Elves. Therefore you'll need to pair Obligator with plenty of cheap burn, i.e. Sligh/super aggro deck.
Trading with Llanowar Elves is the floor, the ceiling is quite high. Imagine stealing a Tinkered out Blightsteel Colossus, yum yum yum. Granted that is unlikely as Tinker is usually cast on turn 3 and Obligator costs 5 to 'kick' and you'll be dead by then.
The colourless status of this card might help a little in post-board games where players bring in red hate, e.g. Blue Elemental Blast or Kor Firewalker.

The art makes me think of those fan palm trees:
A solid card in any deck which can support it's colourless mana requirement. Will be at it's best in a low curve creature deck with Collected Company and Umezawa's Jitte. Those decks are typically weak to Wrath effects, a hole weakness which Matter Reshaper can help reduce.

SMASH! Great name, sounds exactly how it feels to play.
Excellent at smashing planeswalkers and probably pumpkins.
The trample means it wear a Sword of Fire and Ice really well as you'll almost certainly get the trigger (Same goes for any other sword of that cycle).
The discard trigger ability is good but not backbreaking; Highlander has many cards which draw a lot of cards. Against a reanimator deck, the ability may even be bad as it'll enable them to discard Reanimate targets.
Something cool you can do against Reality Smasher is cheat in a Loxodon Smiter, Obstinate Baloth or Wilt-Leaf Liege.

Wizards are always careful when printing colourless removal. Doing so breaks the colour pie. If colourless removal is too good, mono blue gets way too good.
This is some handy removal for the colourless deck, which doesn't have many options for that function. It kills Trygon Predator, a big problem for that deck. It can also act as a Lava Spike against combo decks when you're racing or against control if they tap out.

Dunno if this is good enough. I am currently trying it out in my Mishra's Workshop deck. Entering the battlefield tapped may make it too slow.
I only just realised the other day that this has a flavour tie with Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. That's pretty cool.
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood is not played in Highlander that I've seen. Doesn't mean it's not good enough though. Could be an indicator that Ruins of Oran-Rief isn't good enough. I'm gonna find out for myself.
Has a little bit of synergy with Hangarback Walker, Arcbound Ravager and Triskelion.

As narrow as Ruins of Oran-Rief. 
Great on offence, terrible on defence.

I'd like to share my colourless decklist here and talk a little bit about it. Lots of credit for this deck goes to Brett Hughes, my best brewing buddy. We've gone deep on this deck for a long time now. Brewing is definitely my favourite part of Magic. 
Oath of the Gatewatch's release was what brought me back to the deck. I was playing it way back when Nationals was a thing, good times.

By not playing coloured spells, this deck is able to play a huge amount of value lands (manlands etc), which means it has excellent long game and lots of play options in the mid-to-late game. 

The downside to forsaking colour is that it lacks cheap efficient spells. All the deck's points are spent trying to counteract this: Mox Sapphire (2 points), Mox Pearl (2 points) and Sol Ring (3 points), all are there to get to 4 mana as quickly as possible where the spells start to get efficient.

Apart from the value lands, being colourless also allows the deck to play powerful acceleration like Mishra's Workshop, Ancient Tomb and Eldrazi Temple.

This deck relies heavily on artifacts, so it's exposed to artifact hate. Artifact hate has been rightfully popular since Mishra's Workshop going to zero points last year created a lot of hype. The strength of Time Vault combo and Black Lotus storm also keep artifact hate popular.

A simple summary of the deck is that it's awesome when you draw fast mana and ordinary when you don't.

Here's the list:

Mox Diamond (25 lands, about the minimum to play Mox Diamond)
Chalice of the Void (consolation prize for not having good one-drops to play) 
Phyrexian Revoker (Lots of powerful artifacts to shut down)
Spellskite (strong against Time Vault)
Ratchet Bomb (our only answer to the super scary Back to Basics. Also kills True-Name Nemesis, another problem card)
Porcelain Legionnaire (First strike good against Jitte)
Metalworker (untap = win)
Ramroller (Ram it up ya roller!)
Cogwork Tracker (Coggsie!)
Rusted Relic (can someone tell me if this triggers Eldrazi Mimc!?)
Ugin's Construct (nombo with Porcelain Legionnaire and Batterskull but that's it)
Precursor Golem (Lodestone Golem, Dread Statuary, Rusted Relic and Mutavault are Golems, so try to avoid that blowout)
Inkmoth Nexus (yes, still good even as the only infect creature. Handy for chipping planeswalkers and eating dicks edicts)

Trinisphere (could be main)
Staff of Nin (could be main)

The trickiest part of playing the deck is knowing which lands to play first. Typically you'll play manlands first so that they can attack ASAP but there are lots of exceptions, you may want to turn on the metalcraft of Mox Opal for example.

Honorable mentions from Oath of the Gatewatch:
Sweet combo with Peregrine Drake. Almost combos with Brood Monitor and Emrakul's Hatcher


Could be good in a crazy Kiln Fiend, Nivix Cyclops, prowess deck

Way too cute to actually be good now but one day they might print a cheap to cast equipment with a ridiculously expensive equip cost, then this guy becomes a $4 uncommon. Moonsilver Spear was the best I could find with magiccards.info. A two card, turn 4, creature reliant combo should win the game on the spot. This does not do that. You're better off playing Pestermite + Splinter Twin or Painter's Servant + Grindstone.

Alright. That concludes my Oath of the Gatewatch Highlander set review. It was brutal, I practically had to retype it all because my laptop battery died whilst I was working on it offline. Made it feel like a tonne of work.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this. It's now 12:20am and I don't feel remotely tired FML.


No comments:

Post a Comment