Thursday, 22 September 2016

Eldritch Moon Highlander Set Review (very late)


Man, I'm sooo far behind on set reviews.

Here's my previous one for Shadows over Innistrad if you missed it.

It's 11:12pm. I tried to go to sleep but no, mind had other ideas and I couldn't stop thinking about how I would build a cube when I eventually get round to doing it.
Anyway, couldn't sleep so thought I'd slink out of bed, pour myself a glass of milk (underrated) and try catch up on my Highlander set reviews.
As of this article, Conspiracy: Take the Crown, wipe the brown, has come out, so that's next after this. Kaladesh prerelease is this weekend, so I'm behind on that one too.

Apologies that I won't be having hyperlinks on cards for this article. There's just too many to do and this article is going to be long as fuck.

*sips milk*

Shines brightest in aggro decks where you can make use of your opponent's creatures entering tapped.
Thalia can go in any deck except combo and control decks with sweepers.
Three-power first strike works great with and against Jitte. Also good with and against Rancor.

God damn this card is too good. Can't believe they made it this good. Spell Queller doesn't require any support but some protection will make it even better: Duress, Thoughtseize, Inquistion of Kozilek, Mental Misstep and Mother of Runes. I even like Spellskite.
When I'm evaluating creatures in Highlander I always consider how well they hold equipment. Spell Queller comes down the turn before you would Jitte + equip, and the flying will probably keep it alive after damage.
Eventually there may be a spirit tribal deck but not yet. Here are the only decent spirit payoffs that I found:
Drogskol Captain

I mentioned Mausoleum Wanderer before. Cloud Pirates have come a long way. "Mausoleum", such a weird word. Sounds Hebrew.
But yeah, Skullclamp, Jitte, and Sword of X and Y, all good with this guy.
Even a nice one-drop for a blue devotion deck.

Speaking of equipment...
To make Sigarda's Aid worth it you'll need to play more equipment than the usual two or three. All the Sword of X and Y's are great. Jitte, Batterskull and Skullclamp are obviously great. That should be plenty of equipment. For fun I had a search for some less loved equipment that would be particularly good with Sigarda's Aid. Here they are:
Argentum Armor
Moonsilver Spear
Scythe of the Wretched
With such expensive equip costs these are very risky if you haven't got Siggy's Aid. If you were also playing Quest for the Holy Relic, then you could justify them.
I totally overlooked the Aura clause, don't think it's relevant though. Maybe be Wheel of Sun and Moon post-board.

I can imagine this being a sweet random card in control decks; They lay the tree, stabalise and turn the corner reeeal fast. Also, if you activate the ability (abili-tree) and then morbid Tragic Slip on it they're dead! Tree slip. 
Twisted Image and Inside Out would also work.
What am I saying??? This is a terrible idea and you should not play this haste would be nice. Also very cool with Necrotic tempting but so bad...but maybe not...

Bet you weren't expecting this card to be on my list! probably weren't expecting Tree of Perdition either I suppose.
ALL LANDS. That has to be breakable. Just add all the looting and dredge cards that you can find and a few lands with mana sink abilities. Bake for 20-30 minutes, sit uncovered to cool for 5 minutes and serve. Splendid.

This one's a sideboard only card for Mishra's Workshop decks. Good against control as a hard-to-deal-with threat, mana fixer and accelerator.

I reckon this card has a home. It's best in creature heavy metagames since the last ability is by far the best. Kills a True-name Nemesis, which is nice.
In the right conditions you could make them sac a creature AND untap a big blocker for a two-for-one.
There a plenty of decks which won't attack you with creatures often, so I would only use this card in a deck which can make use of the "untap two creatures" mode. I'm thinking of a green heavy Bant ramp deck with:
  • Knight of the Reliquary
  • Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
  • Roffelos, Llanowar Emissary
  • Dragonlord Ojutai
  • Joraga Treespeaker

Good in reanimator and dredge decks. Also excellent in the Turbo Walk deck which some of the East Melbourners may have lost to at the hands of Brett Hughes:

Time Walk***
Jace, the Mind Sculptor*
Muddle the Mixture*
Mana Drain*
Force of Will*
Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn
Capture of Jinghou
Temporal Manipulation
Time Warp
Part the Waterveil
Walk the Aeons
Temporal Mastery
Temporal Trespass
Anvil of Bogardan
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Howling Mine
Kami of the Crescent Moon
Dictate of Kruphix
Jace Beleren
Temple Bell
Noxious Revival
Call to Mind
Serum Visions
Sleight of Hand
Mental Misstep
Spell Snare
Shadow of Doubt
Spreading Seas
Cryptic Command
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Minamo, School at Water's Edge
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Geier Reach Sanitarium
16 Island

Laboratory Maniac
Null Rod
Ratchet Bomb
Back to Basics
Whelming Wave
Jace, Architect of Thought
Jace, Memory Adept

A good aggressive creature in equipment decks. A bad blocker by itself, but you can block and sac' if you have other blockers, so it's not useless in defense.
Obviously great against sweepers, except for Toxic Deluge, which is probably the most popular sweeper.
The sacrifice ability is pseudo protection against removal. About half of Highlander removal is 'exile' though. If you're investing mana into expensive powerful creatures or equipping a creature or assembling a creature combo (Splinter Twin + Pestermite or Grindstone + Painter's Servant), then Selfless Spirit's indestructible could win you the game.

That show sucks by the way. This card however, is pretty nice. It will always to something. For it to be really good though, the -2/-2 needs to relevant in the matchup, which you can't count on. Even aggro decks play a lot of Kird Apes and equipment.
I like this most in Reanimator decks which really want to discard their fatties and duress their opponent's removal spells.

Almost unbeatable if she lives and they don't combo off. I can imagine a black white control deck with some unbeatable angels, some of discard and creature protection, such as the previous two cards!

Very weird creature with a unique ability. Tried it out in my colourless deck but the risk of my opponent having a 'target at will' ability was too scary. Tower of the Magistrate or Elspeth, Knight Errant... Those aren't super common but the power level of Eternal Scourge isn't that high.
I still like this card against control decks if your deck has a bunch of ways to exile Scourge from your graveyard, e.g. Relic of Progentius, Scrabbling Claws, Deathrite Shaman, Scavenging Ooze and Moorland Haunt.

 The cat's face gets me everytime.
So what permanents do we want to give our opponent's? Illusions of Grandeur, Demonic Pact...that's it, but both of those are pretty sweet. Don't know if the deck could stretch it's mana base to add white for all the enchantment tutors; yeahhh it's Highlander, the mana would work.
Obviously the deck would play Donate and Puca's Mischief as well.
I've decided there aren't enough of each effect for the deck to work but I'll keep it in mind.

Is a planeswalker deck doable? My first thought was the rest of the deck would need to be disruption. Let's see if we can fit enough disruption in with the minimum number of walkers for Deploy the Gatewatch. I would be happy with hitting two planeswalkers 70% of the time. Using stat trek, that means we need ≥19 walkers. Here we go!


Deploy the Gatewatch
Doubling Season
Mana Vault*
Black Lotus****
Enlightened Tutor*
Mana Drain*
Oath of Liliana
Oath of Nissa
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Liliana of the Veil
Liliana, the Last Hope
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Elspeth, Knight Errant
Garruk Relentless
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Jace, Architect of Thought
Garruk Wildspeaker
Kiora, the Crashing Wave
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Elspeth Tirel
Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury
Garruk, Primal Hunter
Gideon Jura
Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Sorin, Grim Nemesis
Inquisition of Kozilek
Mental Misstep
Collective Brutality
Deathrite Shaman
Serum Visions
Ancient Tomb
Hallowed Fountain
Overgrown Tomb
Underground Sea
Watery Grave
Tropical Island
Breeding Pool
Temple Garden
Godless Shrine
Wooded Foothills
Windswept Heath
Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Marsh Flats
Bloodtained Mire
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Arid Mesa

Gemstone Caverns
Mindbreak Trap
Rest in Peace
Ethersworn Canonist
Stoney Silence
Defense Grid
Swords to Plowshares
Chains of Mephistopheles
Wheel of Sun and Moon
Leyline of the Void

Man it's a pain in the arse trying to remember which planeswalkers have commas in their name and which don't.
With only ~eight pieces of disruption main, I don't know how this will go against combo. The curve is complete garbage and the deck plays a lot of shocklands (this could be fixed with some work). I presume the deck is not great against aggro either.

"Welcome to my zombie wonderland"
Liliana is amazing. She basically goes in any deck except combo.
Her +1 wrecks Skullclamp decks due to their high density of one-toughness creatures. 
You don't even need to be playing creatures for her to be good. Provided you have other stuff to support her, you can just +1 every turn and eventually ultimate. 
This Liliana is surprisingly similar to Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.
Liliana is alluring but I get creeped out imagining her age-defying magic running out and her turning all granny in seconds.
I finished my milk.

Special mention:
Not what the walker deck wanted. Would be good against midrange in an aggro deck but that's too narrow. You can do better than Tamiyo for a sideboard card too. I don't think she has a home.

Big pig.
Goes in elves as another Craterhoof Behemoth. Also just great in any swarm strategy, which no one has built yet... I think 'swarm of dudes + turn five overrun' could be good.

One shot super Birthing Pod. Turn two Magus of the Moon saccing a mana elf. Allosaurus Rider into Griselbrand or Iona, Shield of Emeria. Eladamri's Call can find Allosaurus Rider. You're probably just better reanimating them though, much faster but obviously bad against Deathrite Shaman and Scavenging Ooze.
Saccing a value two-drop on turn three to get an awesome four-drop can be a backup plan if you don't draw the Allosaurus Rider.
Voice of Resurgence/Stoneforge Mystic/Strangleroot Giest
Siege Rhino/True-name Nemesis/Stoneforge Mystic :P/Thought-knot Seer

This card is awesome. Finally there's a playable Homonculus...actually Court Homonculus got a tiny bit of play.
Obviously you need to play it in heavy spell decks but it's awesome. Mental Note, Thoughtscour, Gitaxian Probe, Manamorphose, help it flip fast. You want to play instants and sorceries that require generic mana to get the most from him. 
If the Pro Tour was still Modern, I'd bet the Pros would find a deck for this guy and the following guy:

Treasure Cruise on legs. Treasure Legs, even though he doesn't seem to have legs. What he does have is the same 3/4 Prowess body as Curious Homonculus.
Bedlam Reveler is a little more conditional because you want your instants and sorceries to be proactive: discard spells, token making spells and burn spells are well suited.
There's the 'discard your hand' clause too, so to get max value you need to dump your hand, therefore the cheaper your spells, the better and you don't want to play cards which may get stuck in your hand.
Bedlam Reveler is nuts. Just think of walking on that ceiling: RR, 3/4 prowess, draw three cards, insane.

A couple strong aggro madness vampires. Their non-madness rates aren't terrible but you really want to madness them.
We took a look at madness in my Shadows over Innistrad set review. Here's the list of good madness enablers that we identified:
  • Wild Mongrel 
  • Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
  • Frantic Search
  • Psychatog
  • Dack Fayden
  • Careful Study
  • Faithless Looting
  • Lotleth Troll
  • Fauna Shaman
  • Survival of the Fittest
Unfortunately a few cards short of critical mass. They also aren't all super aggro cards. Luckily, a few more enablers got printed this set!:

 All of which are aggro. Now we have thirteen good enablers. That's enough for a deck. Here we go!

Basking Rootwalla (One of my favourite artworks of all time)
Ancestral Recall**** (I never play this card. Might get a cleanup step discard)
Mental Misstep
Careful Study
Faithless Looting
Lightning Bolt
Deathrite Shaman
Asylum Visitor
Collective Brutality
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Wild Mongrel
Noose Constrictor
Furyblade Vampire
Stromkirk Condemned
Fauna Shaman
Lotleth Troll
Survival of the Fittest*
Stromkirk Occultist
Bloodmad Vampire
True-name Nemesis*
Bloodhall Priest
Circular Logic
Fiery Temper
Frantic Search
Dack Fayden
Olivia, Mobilized for War
Treasure Cruise*
Violent Eruption
Arrogant Wurn
Reckless Wurm
Incorrigible Youths
Voldaren Pariah
Avacyn's Judgement
Lion's Eye Diamond
Wooded Foothills
Windswept Heath
Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Marsh Flats
Bloodtained Mire
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Arid Mesa
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Twilight Mire
Graven Cairns
Sunken Ruins
Underground Sea
Watery Grave
Overgrown Tomb
Tropical Island
Volcanic Island

Malicious Affliction
Big Game Hunter
Welcome to the Fold
Just the Wind
Nightshade Assassin
Bloodsoaked Champion
Faerie Macabre
Null Rod
Ancient Grudge
Murderous Compulsion
Disciple of Deceit
Gatekeeper of Malakir

Gnarly dude! Goes into more decks than you'd think. If your deck incidentally gets delirium and you're not a combo deck, this fits.
Control decks can even play this as a removal spell, which beefs up later on.

You'll need to play enough removal to reliably get past their blockers but once he hits, he'll keep finding removal.
I didn't realise he was wearing a cloak made of gloves until recently. Flayers gonna flay I suppose.

Put a bunch of "sac me please" three drops in your deck and each of these monstrosities will do great. Here are some "sac me please":
Kitchen Finks
Blade Splicer
Hallowed Spiritkeeper
Sprouting Thrinax
Tuktuk the Explorer
Geralf's Messenger
Matter Reshaper

Good burn spell. Excellent late game if your deck allows you to bank lands in hand to discard. Also, imagine the wombo combo with Spirit of the Labyrinth.

I got a bit excited and made another deck to showcase some of the new Eldritch Moon cards. The article will end eventually I promise:

Thran Turbine
Expedition Map
Crop Rotation*
Mental Misstep
Deathrite Shaman
Mana Vault*
Ancient Stirrings
Birds of Paradise
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Green Sun's Zenith*
Mox Ruby**
Mox Emerald**
Kessig Prowler
Sensei's Divining Top
Braid of Fire
Radha, Heir to Keld
Sylvan Scrying
Into the North
Duskwatch Recruiter
Grim Monolith
Hanweir Garrison
Tireless Tracker
Den Protector
Seedborn Muse
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Polukranos, World Eater
Ulrich of the Krallenhorde
Titania, Protector of Argoth
Seige-Gang Command
Deranged Hermit
Ishkana, Grafwidow
Primeval Titan
Stomping Grounds
Snow-covered Forest
Snow-covered Forest
Snow-covered Mountain
Snow-covered Mountain
Wooded Foothills
Windswept Heath
Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Bloodstained Mire
Scalding Tarn
Khalni Garden
Treetop Village
Raging Ravine
Dark Depths
Westvale Abbey
Thespian's Stage
Kher Keep
Hanweir Battlements
Dust Bowl
Gargoyle Castle
Mouth of Ronom
Kessig Wolfrun

Maze of Ith
Scavenging Ooze
Homeward Path
Seagate Wreckage
Faerie Macabre
Pyrostatic Pillar
Thrun, the Last Troll
Flametongue Kavu
Akoum Firebird
Gorilla Shaman
Ash Zealot
Viashino Heretic
Phyrexian Revoker
Kitchen Finks

There's a lot going on here. My idea for the deck was to abuse the powerful mana generators that only give you out-of-main-phase mana, i.e. Thran Turbine-Braid of Fire-Radha, Heir to Keld and Seedborn Muse. There's not many of those, so the deck probably isn't good but we'll see.
Thran Turbine is very powerful. I can imagine a Legacy deck doing well with it one day then its price skyrocketing.
To abuse the mana generators I packed the deck full of activated abilities.

Thran Turbine and Braid of Fire can help pay for the meld cost on Battlements. I decided not to go deep on assembling this combination since it is a lot of mana and easily disruptable. As a compromise I added Dark Depths + Thespian's Stage combo and land tutors; That way I can tutor for Battlements if I incidentally draw Garrison.
Note that Into the North tutors for Dark Depths. It also finds Mouth of Ronom, which can use the mana generators.
Outside of this deck Hanweir Garrison is a decent aggro card and could also fit into a swarm strategy. Hanweir Battlements would be nice in a red Eldrazi deck that already wanted the colourless land.

With all the activated abilities in the deck, I figured that Ulrich would be better than usual because taking a turn off to activate some abilities gives you the bonus of flipping him.
Typically five-drops are slow in in Highlander but his pump ability keeps him up to speed. Obviously the pump gets better around lifelink, double strike and infect creatures.

Not sure if Ishkana is playable but I put her in anyway; with my deck's weakness to fliers, her activated ability and the little spiders to help summon Ormendahl, the Profane Prince, I couldn't resist. Coincidentally there are lots of Shadows over Innistrad cards in this deck, a nice flavour touch.

Fine stats on front side and a decent ability to sink mana into. 
Obviously better suited to aggro decks. Flexible one-drops should be noticed.

Last thoughts on the deck:
  • It's possible that adding Dryad Arbor is correct due to the combined appeal of Green Sun's Zenith, Westvale Abbey and four green fetches. The deck could also swap Mox Ruby for Skullclamp to support Dryad Arbor.
  • The sideboard is creature and land-centric due to the deck having access to land tutors, creature tutors and cards which generate mana for abilities.

Last thoughts on this set review:
  • Goddamn that was long, why did I decide to do this?
  • Is cereal a soup?
  • Am I alcoholic?
  • I'm glad to see the eldrazi gone for a while. It's been an awesome year of tentacles but it's been a year of tentacles.

So cool.
Ok, Land, Creature, Instant and Sorcery are all easy so let's focus on the exotics; We don't want to play bad cards just for their card type. Also, the cards need to naturally go to the graveyard.

Ratchet Bomb, Powder Keg, Porcelain Legionnaire. That's not many. Probably need to play Mishra's Bauble and Urza's Bauble as well. Looks like we're a control deck. Better to be a control deck anyway so that when we take their turn, they have lots of mana for us to wreck them with their own spells.

Take your pick from the planeswalker deck earlier in the piece. Can also choose red ones, which weren't in that list; most notably Nahiri, the Harbinger.

Pernicious Deed, Courser of Kruphix, Seal of Fire...those are the good ones. There are some average ones too: Seal of Cleansing, Seal of Primordium, Seal of Doom, Parallax Wave, Parallax Tide and Parallax Nexus.

Tarfire, Nameless Inversion and Warren Weirding. That's it really. We can play the good blue cantrips to increase our chances of drawing these but I wouldn't go further than that.

Naturally play a few ways to tutor for Emrakul and happy tentacles all round a hundred

Cheers and hopefully I'll see you on the glorious field of battle!