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,


Thursday, 6 October 2016

Yet another late set review, it's a conspiracy!


This is my 'Conspiracy: Take the Crown' Highlander review.

Lots of reprints in this set, so it won't be the soul crushing marathon review that Eldritch Moon was.

First off the line in no particular order we have:

If your opponent becomes the monarch, this card is terrible...
Skinrender and Flametongue Kavu are playable sideboard cards. This guy has a much worse body but he exiles, which more than compensates. I still think this is a sideboard card though.
This guy will be particularly effective in Birthing Pod decks, especially the ones with blink sub-themes utilising cards like Restoration Angel, Flickerwisp and Eldrazi Displacer:

If anyone in the Melbourne area has this for trade, contact me, seriously.
A good addition to some creature based combo decks. The 1/1 body is too small for anything other than chump blocking.
Been a while since my Hermit Druid combo deck got a new card. This finds all three: Hermit Druid, Nomads En-kor and Cephalid Illusionist.
Recruiter of the Guard most famously performs the same role as Imperial Recruiter in the Aluren combo deck, which I haven't seen played in Highlander for many years and have never seen be successful. In case you were wondering how that combo works, you have Aluren and cast Recruiter of the Guard to find a Man-o'-War or equivalent, which bounces the Recruiter, which you recast to find Cavern Harpy, which bounces Man-o'-War, which bounces Recruiter again to find Parasitic Strix and now you have an infinite combo to win the game. The trick to this deck is having enough Aluren and Recruiter tutors.
Not scooping to instant exile removal is a huge boost for this deck.
Other combo creatures which Recruiter finds:
The list could continue until you couldn't be bothered reading it.

Grenzo! This card is fun. Similar ability to Edric Spymaster. Evasion creatures obviously go up a little in performance with Grenzo in your deck.
The double red casting cost restricts your mana base a little; means you'll want two red dual lands to find with each fetch land you play.
Grenzo is 'aggro deck only' and the more aggro the better, so that you can make use of the goad trigger when you want.
Most of the time you'll be using the exile trigger for the sweet value. You can't play any lands you flip and there will be times when spells aren't useful but it's still great. Did a Gatherer search to see if there were good ways to set up the ability:

Blue goblin deck anyone? In Highlander that can definitely be a thing. Noxious Revival and Memory Lapse aren't typically aggro cards though. 
Unfortunately for Grenzo. some of the best cards to put on top of their deck are pointed instants and sorceries, which the remainder of those cards can't target.

A decent sideboard card in control decks. Good for killing off pesky equipment. Note that Skullclamp will be destroyed before the creature dies from state-based effects, so they won't draw the two cards.
I wouldn't play this in a deck with it's own artifacts, e.g. Vedalken Shackles.

I like this guy. I can imagine him in a Recurring Nightmare strategy or maybe aggro dredge with Bloodghast, Bloodsoaked Champion and Gravecrawler.

What happens if I equip this to Graf Rats? Or what if I have this on a dude and activate Hanweir Battlements?
Can I get Spirit of the Night if I equip this to Urborg Panther and just sac itself?
I doubt any of those work. Even if they did they wouldn't be good enough. I just wanted to mention them.

Interesting card to evaluate. He can't just win the game all by himself like most planeswalkers. Daretti requires you to play some artifacts, otherwise you're just banking creature removal effects, which often won't be enough when your opponent is ticking up a planeswalker of their own, hitting you with a True-Name Nemesis or comboing off.
Also, black is not a great support colour for artifacts. It has The Abyss and that's about it (one day I'll make a deck with Soldevi Adnate and Priest of Yawgmoth). Artifact decks like to play a few colourless lands like Ancient Tomb to overcome high mana costs. Three colour artifact decks may not be able to afford those colourless lands. Red blue is a combination with a lot more support for artifacts than red black.
In conclusion, Daretti has the power level to work in an artifact control deck but red black artifacts isn't as good as blue red or mono.

Oh boy, Leo is da man. That Chains of Mephistopheles-esc first ability shuts down so many highlander staples: Treasure Cruise, Brainstorm, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Skullclamp and all the cantrips.
Any Sultai deck which isn't running sweepers, should play this guy. Sultai decks are already excellent, this is yet another payoff.
I wonder how the rules work with Spellskite and this guy; could you draw a card each time you make their thing target Spellskite?
Leovold doesn't have a huge body, so it won't be uncommon that he can't attack or block, but eventually your opponent will run out of cards which don't get screwed by Leo and then you will "come to an arrangement" which suites you nicely.
If you're going deep, Leovold can combo with Timetwister, Jace's Archivist, Windfall, Whispering Madness and a few others.
Worth noting that he can be Green Sun's Zenith'd.

Obviously best in creature dense decks but she's powerful enough against combo to have in the sideboard of any white deck. 
Choosing the cmc of their removal spells is a good idea when you're choosing without much information. 
Having effects which let you see their hand will improve Sanctum Prelate's performance. If you make them creatures like Tidehollow Sculler then you can avoid screwing yourself if Prelate is already out.
The earlier you get Prelate down the better. Mox Pearl is a good one. Mana elves work well too, especially the ones which tap for white. You can get away with other mana guys but you'll need a land which taps for green and white.

Ghost Ass-Ass-In. Apparently you can assassinate ghosts now rather than just old fashioned exercising.
Like most planeswalkers, she's awesome if your opponent has no pressure.
Her blink ability is still good enough at defending that I'm happy to play her maindeck but she probably gets sideboarded against really aggressive decks.
Her blink ability can be bad against creatures with 'enters' triggers but it's awesome against tokens.
There will be the occasional scenario where you'll want to blink your own creature, which is cool.

Wow, that does it for Conspiracy: Take the Crown. Only nine playables. I liked Matt Sperling's likening of all the 'when you draft X' cards to Chaos Confetti. The good mythic rares of this set are going to be hard to find cause there won't be many opened. If you see one in a folder, grab it.
No format-shaking cards here, just a few nice additions to niche strategies.
My pick for best new Highlander card of the set is Leovold, Emissary of Trest.
I didn't feel like creating any decks for this review like I did in my Eldritch Moon Review, probably because I don't need to justify these cards, they're all clearly playable except maybe Borderland Explorer (Spy Kit was a joke). There also weren't enough cards that all go in the same deck.

Kaladesh set review is up next. Hopefully I can get around to finishing that before your next Highlander tournament. Speaking of which, if you live in Melbourne and have nothing to do this Saturday (8th October), come play sanctioned (no proxy) Highlander with me at General Games, Caulfield.