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,


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