Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Commander 2017 Highlander Set Review

It's that time again!

One wizard's trash is another wizard's treasure. The Commander players buy the precons and we Highlander players swoop in and pick out all the delicious playables. Right?...Who am I kidding, we buy the precons too.

Ok, let's see what we have this time round:

Dissident, adjective: In a manner that disagrees; dissenting; discordant; different.
I had to look this up but really I should've known, given all the dissenters and dissenting in the late Amonkhet.
Like so many cards on my set reviews, Kess is powerful because the cards she can recast are powerful. Time Walk is especially strong since it gives you another rebuy from the graveyard.
Kess would probably still be playable if she was a 2/4 without flying. A 3/4 flying body really pushes her to the level of 'build around'.

From the same precon as Kess. That one is shaping up to be the one to buy.
My first thought when I saw Mairsil was, 'Time Vault in a cage, that's infinite'. 'Griselbrand in a cage' was my second idea. That one's more likely to go off since you won't need to wait for summoning sickness to wear off.
Regardless of what you intend to cage, there's a chance your opponent will be able to remove Mairsil in response to his ETB trigger. I can't imagine any opponent would wait to see what's in the cage first. At least exiling the card from your hand is a 'may'.
Mairsil is designed to work as a commander, so even if he leaves play and returns, he will still have access to all his cages. Also, you can only use each cage once per turn, so no going infinite with Morselhoarder and Devoted Druid, for example.

Much like Taigam's duality between the Jeskai and Sultai, this card could either be playable or unplayable. I'm finding it hard to tell. I think I just spent five minutes thinking about it.
I'm going to say that he's an ok sideboard card for combo decks, particularly against counterspells. Imagine you're playing combo and game two your opponent boards out their creature removal. Not only do you have a decent 3/4 body to block and attack with, all your cantrips and dig spells rebound. Then when you eventually find your key instant/sorcery, it's uncounterable. Hmmm, this could all be wrong though, since Taigam is still just a four-cost spell against two-cost counterspells.

This is the card I'm most excited about from Commander 2017. Not because it's the most powerful (I think that mantle goes to Kess) but because it might go in one my favourite decks, Death & Taxes. I'm also excited about all the "but who's the secret player?" jokes that I'll get to make.
Stalking Leonin is excellent against big green creatures, which are the bane of Death & Taxes. Stalker forces your opponent to have removal or not be able to attack. A 3/3 is an OK blocker too, so your opponent can't low ball you with attacks from smaller creatures.
To get the most value from Stalking Leonin, you'll want plenty of evasion creatures. Otherwise you'll probably just stall the board whilst your opponent waits to draw removal. You will also want to play cards to protect it, like Mother of Runes and Mental Misstep. On occasion your opponent will have enough board presence that they won't mind attacking into Stalker. In this situation, cards which reset Stalker like Restoration Angel, can be a blowout.
Strategy aside, did this creature really need to be an archer? I mean it's a frickin lioness stalking in long grass. Cummon! It's like an aven with a jet pack.

Wizards spent so many years training us that cats have flash. This one happens to have it but recently many have not. I've had multiple opponents try to flash in Prowling Serpopard against me.
I regress, this is not a Cat Snake but a Cat Cleric! And a very political one at that. If knew more about political philosophy I'd know who's face to photoshop onto Alms Collector.
This card is also a great option for Death & Taxes. Some combo decks rely on drawing lots of extra cards and this will probably cause them to fizzle. You may also catch the occasional Brainstorm effect or Sylvan Library. Pretty funny with Consecrated Sphinx.
Restoration Angel (she comes up a lot) has already burned into people's minds that four untapped mana equals flash 3/4, so don't expect to get any flash combat blowouts, unless they're attacking with Gnat Alley Creeper.
Flash still makes this decent against counterspells despite being four-cost.

Ghostway on crack. The dream is five mana, cast Balance holding priority cast Teferi's Protection.
This card has a bit of utility: counters sweepers, counters Tendrils of Agony, you can block then cast this to fog. None of those are good for three mana but they're handy if you were already playing Teferi's Protection for other more powerful interactions.
It's funny that no one knows how phasing works and therefore don't like it but once a phasing card becomes good, everyone is forced to learn how it works and therefore isn't bothered by it anymore. The reason phasing was taken out of print is because it's too difficult to keep track of what's phased in or out, but if the phasing isn't recurring then it's not too bad.

Boom! Take six! Wow this hits hard. It gets to attack the first turn, then every second turn after that. However, if you can untap it after the trigger resolves and before declare attackers, then you can attack every turn. Also, if you blink it after combat, it'll forget it attacked and be good to go the following turn.
Even if you don't do tricks to attack each turn, just connecting once is a pretty good rate. Burn decks are gonna play this card just for the first hit.

TL;DR, bad Polymorph.
This isn't really playable but I'm giving it an honorable mention. Play a bunch of cheap token generating effects, e.g. Bitterblossom. Beginning of your upkeep your faerie token becomes Emrakul and attacks!

Powerful but fragile. Probably just a bad Mizzix's Mastery. I don't expect this to see play but wouldn't fault anyone for trying. You can bottle a bunch of cheaper instants and sorceries over a few turns or you can go for one big Enter the Infinite. Either way there'll still be a turn where gobbo can be killed before doing his tricks.

Control Magic sees a lot of play in sideboards but it only hits creatures and is also vulnerable to enchantment removal. Fractured Identity might be a big enough upgrade to see play, despite costing five. It's probably still just a sideboard card though.
Making a token instead of simply taking control gets around the risk of your opponent bouncing their card back to their hand, which is nice.
This card probably completes Stephen Campbell's dream of a chain of six card interactions to break the rules of magic: something, Arlinn KordEnchanted Evening + Opalescence + Mirrorweave, something, something.

Olivia needs a commander hug'n'kiss.
This is no Fractured Identity but I have built a couple aggro decks that coincidentally played a lot of vampires. There aren't any vampire tribal cards worth building around so I don't advocate playing vampires for the sake of vampires but like I said, some black aggro decks could sideboard this.

Blue green elf combo is a deck and this may have a home in it. I'm not at expert on the deck so I don't really know. The double blue may be too much.
Goes infinite with The Locust God.

I was close to sideboarding Curse of Shallow Graves against control decks, e.g. Blue moon; because they struggle against enchantments. I decided against it because there's a chance they could keep me from attacking at all. I can still imagine this being good though. It's an upgrade on Curse of Shallow Graves because it produces untapped zombies.
Open the Armory is OK in Skullclamp decks and can tutor for Curse of Disturbance.

The guy in the art is hilarious. Has the same hair as Yunus from The Tabernacle at Ascot Vale, which is a store in Melbourne that occasionally runs Highlander tournaments. Gonna have fun playing these curses against him.
Also, he's paying off!
Card is tricky to break. Not sure how to go about it but one day it'll happen. Perhaps simply in a five-colour aggro deck or maybe with Shape Anew. I'm struggling here.

Construct tribal anyone? It's worth noting that you don't need to be very tribal for Heirloom Blade to be ok. In fact, it can act as a tutor if you are careful with creature types during deck construction and can sacrifice the equipped creature. 

Metallic Mimic
Hangarback Walker
Walking Ballista
Scrapheap Scrounger
Steel Overseer
Arcbound Ravager
Chalice of the Void
Phyrexian Revoker
Ratchet Bomb
Porcelain Legionnaire
Herald's Horn
Heirloom Blade
Adaptive Automaton
Scrap Trawler
Chief of the Foundry
Foundry Inspector
Treasure Keeper
Lodestone Golem
Cogwork Tracker
Synod Centurion
Ugin's Construct
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
Kuldotha Forgemaster
Scuttling Doom Engine
Wurmcoil Engine
Myr Battlesphere
Mental Misstep
Mox Jet**
Mox Sapphire**
Mox Opal
Mox Diamond
Expedition Map
Inkmoth Nexus
Blinkmoth Nexus
Gargoyle Castle
Foundry of the Consuls
Mishra's Factory
Stalking Stones
Buried Ruin
Ghost Quarter
Tower of the Magistrate
Rishadan Port
Dust Bowl
Cavern of Souls
City of Traitors
Ancient Tomb
Mishra's Workshop*
Tolarian Academy**
Seat of the Synod
Tree of Tales
Ancient Den
Vault of Whispers
The Great Furnace
Darksteel Citadel

Crucible of Worlds
Powder Keg
Uba Mask
Grafdigger's Cage
Mindbreak Trap
Faerie Macabre
Tormod's Crypt
Coercive Portal
Pithing Needle
Peace Strider
Silent Arbiter
Perilous Myr

I've played artifact stompy deck for a long time and it produces lots of great games. There are a lot of directions you can take it. Constructs is just one. The deck is very powerful when you get your fast mana. If you don't draw your fast mana however, you'll need to fight for your win.

Ok! that does it for this set review. Ixalan feels so close due to the early spoilers. Next big Highlander tournament is the 2pm mox-a-licious side event on the Friday of nationals. I'm already preregistered for it. If you're going up for nationals you should play the Highlander too! Will be a great event.

Hopefully see you on the glorious field of battle!


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