Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Hour of Devastation Highlander Set Review


Hello!

This is my Australian Highlander set review for Hour of Devastation. I'll just get straight into it.

I keep hearing people asking store clerks for Braids and I'm like, "What? Isn't she banned as a commander? What do you want with Braids, Cabal Minion?".
I expect to see this played more in control decks rather than aggro decks; Aggro decks want to burn face and exile creatures with their removal. Control decks value the ability to kill diverse threats like Birthing Pod, Skullclamp and Smuggler's Copter. Being instant rather than sorcery is also key.

I've played Fencing Ace in Death & Taxes before. It was 'passable', so Adorned Pouncer should reach the rank of 'fine'.
With a subtheme of creature pump in Death & Taxes, you can really get some value from double strike creatures like Adorned Pouncer and Mirran Crusader. Double triggers on Umezawa's Jitte and Sword of Fire and Ice are crazy albeit 'win more'. Jumping a double striker with Elspeth, Knight-Errant is enough to win a game. Even the +1/+1 from exalted creatures is nice.

I'm not impressed by this card but the idea of putting Time Walk or Ancestral Recall back on top of your library seems playable to me. Here's the kind of deck I imagine it in: (to save time I haven't linked cards that I think everyone knows)

Bloodwater Entity
Thing in the Ice
Young Pyromancer
Goblin Guide
Monastery Swiftspear
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Gitaxian Probe
Ancestral Recall****
Time Walk***
Lightning Bolt
Chain Lightning
Price of Progress
Boomerang
Gush
Manamorphose
Preordain
Ponder
Brainstorm
Serum Visions
Burning Wish
Thoughtscour
Mental Misstep
Volcanic Island
Steam Vents
Scalding Tarn
Arid Mesa
Wooded Foothills
Bloodstained Mire
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Mountain
Mountain
Island
Island
Island
Shivan Reef
Barbarian Ring

SIDEBOARD
Bloodmoon
Magus of the Moon
Surgical Extraction
Null Rod
Ancestral Visions

As featured in the above decklist. I've seen a couple players try all-in Kiln Fiend decks with Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage, to good effect. Crash Through would perform best in those decks.

Perfect for Recurring Nightmare decks. Also note that her ability checks on resolution, so if you pump her in response with Become Immense, that's draw eight discard two! Might of Old Krosa, Groundswell, Might of Alara and Gaea's Might are all awesome too. Champion of Wits works so well with pump that she could go in infect decks.

Surely has some application in creature based graveyard combos. I might add it to my Hermit Druid combo deck. Seems perfect for that. Other decks might want it as a more versatile Dragon Breath.

A decent sideboard card for the dredge deck against combo. The dredge deck has never done well but there are a couple players in Canberra who keep tweaking it and who knows, eventually it may get a big tournament finish. Shout outs to Jacob Dunn and Lachlan Saunders.

May find a home in the Mishra's Workshop prison deck with Smokestack and Dust Bowl. Or maybe a white-based lands prison deck. Something like this rough list I whipped up:

Armageddon
Expedition Map
Balance*
Life from the Loam
Crucible of Worlds
Sensei's Divining Top
Sylvan Scrying
Crop Rotation*
Knight of the Reliquary
Courser of Kruphix
Tireless Tracker
Scroll Rack
Exploration
Mox Diamond
Green Sun's Zenith*
Darksteel Citadel
Dark Depths
Strip Mine**
Savannah
Temple Garden
Forest
Forest
Plains
Plains
Dust Bowl
City of Traitors
Ghost Quarter
Wooded Foothills
Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Arid Mesa
Flooded Strand
Marsh Flats
Wasteland*

SIDEBOARD
Maze of Ith
Qasali Pridemage
Ghostly Prison

Crucible of Worlds on legs. Can be Green Sun's Zenith'd.

Great aggro creature. Committee member Andrew Vance has already top4'd with it in Zoo. Not much strategy involved with Earthshaker apart from 'lay the beats'. The Eternalize token is black, which can help out against red hate.

I quickly realised that I want to add these to sooo many of my decks. Untapped, colour-producing, value lands. These are a relatively big addition to Highlander. All the blue black delve decks will want Ipnu Rivulet. All the aggro burn decks will want Ramunap Ruins. I've added Shefet Dunes to Death & Taxes. Ifnir Deadlands cleanly kills Kitchen Finks and Glen Elendra Archmage, which is nice.
These lands also cast Eldrazi but I don't expect players to push their mana base just for Thought-Knot Seer, Matter Reshaper and Reality Smasher. Eventually wizards will revisit the colourless mechanic and then we'll see.

Potentially very powerful. Casting Wheel of Fortune in red aggro and drawing into this is awesome.
Activate Survival of the Fittest, find Vengevine, discard Vengevine finding Basking Rootwalla, discard Rootwalla and cast it finding Hollow One bringing back Vengevine. That's pretty sick.
Also good in red artifact reanimator: Goblin Welder, Daretti, Scrap Savant, Faithless Looting, Tormenting Voice, Cathartic Reunion. I'll leave the rest to you!

There were heaps of these in Amonkhet too. If anyone wants to build Living End in Highlander, now's the time! They also changed the ruling regarding the CMC of split cards: Before the changes, if you cascaded into Bound//Determined, you would cast the Determined; That is no longer the case, now split cards have a CMC of the sum of both halves in all zones except on the stack. This increases the options of cascade decks.

We're already spoiled for excellent colourless value lands. This land may fit in certain builds. Obviously great with fetchlands. Although what kind of deck wants fetchlands and can afford colourless lands? All the three and four colour good stuff decks don't even play Mishra's Factory, so it's an interesting question.
It's worth noting that opposing Deathrite Shamans and Scavenging Oozes could mess with your Hostile Desert.

A sideboard card in decks which don't play many creatures or planeswalkers themselves. This card is particularly good against the relatively popular green elf ramp decks which have seen success lately (Tim Hughes' 3rd-4th list is the most recent big tournament list). Creature based ramp decks are typically weak to sweepers. The successful Highlander ones use planeswalkers to hedge against creature sweepers. Hour of Devastation happens to crush that plan, so it's positioned nicely. The green decks do have Whisperwood Elemental and a couple ways to tutor for it though, so they're not cold to Hour of Devastation.

Double tutor for non-basic lands. Must be good. The aforementioned Gaea's Cradle ramp decks may play it. Even finding two creature lands is ok when they already have their Gaea's Cradle.
This finds both Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage. If you also play red for Hanweir Battlements and Flamekin Village, there's a good chance Marit Lage is hitting them next turn for twenty, boom!
Tolarian Academy decks have gone mono-blue as of late. Hard to tell if Hour of Promise will sway them back to blue green. The possibility of finding a combination of Tolarian Academy, Deserted Temple, Minamo, School at Water's Edge and Petrified Field is pretty enticing.

I've been playing Gainsay in the sideboard of a couple of my decks. Jace's Defeat is strictly better. Also you get reminded of how badass Nicol Bolas is.

Sideboard cards against burn. Able to be flashed back by Snapcaster Mage and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy.

Combos with Dark Depths! Powers Tolarian Academy and copies it for even more mana. Copies Gaea's Cradle. Combos with Time Vault. Decent against reanimator decks.
So many powerful effects.

Stifle Bird! Anything that hurts fetchlands I like. Even when you cast Vendilion Clique and leave your opponent with their current hand, the 3/1 flash flying body is still quite nice. That's a precedent for Nimble Obstructionist.
Blue has a decent number of beaters these days. Blue instant speed tempo decks seem excellent.

Use Flash and Academy Rector to cheat in a one-sided Humility! Perhaps Bitterheart Witch plus sacrifice effects could become a thing? Unlikely, but it's sweet. Other strong curses include Curse of Misfortunes, Curse of Exhaustion, Curse of Death's Hold and Cruel Reality.

Might be good with Gifts Ungiven or Realms Uncharted as a way to tutor for lands. Titania, Protector of Argoth is wayyyy better but in Highlander that's still good enough.
In general, due to the one-of build restriction of Highlander and the strength of powered cards, any card which gets back things from the graveyard is strong.

...yeahhh, just. She's fine. I wouldn't fault anyone for playing Samut in a stompy deck. Plenty of four-power three-drops that Samut can whip. The -2: Forked Bolt is nifty against elves and planeswalkers.

Symmetrical, so not great if you're relying on your own graveyard. Yes, it exiles itself.
I really like this in counterspell decks which can afford to hold up mana all the time. If your opponent has graveyard shenanigans, they can see the Scavenging Grounds sitting amongst your lands, they're not going to walk into it. But by staying instant speed you never give them an opportunity to do their thing.
It's worth noting that Flash Hulk combo is alive and really scary. It gets worse, Scavenging Grounds isn't even good against it. They just go get Titania, Protector of Argoth and Sylvan Safekeeper. I recommend everyone switch their Tormod's Crypts and the like for Rest in Peaces and Leyline of the Voids.

I know there's something you can pull with this. Phyrexian Unlife is the one everyone knows. There's probably others. Not a bad combo to tutor up with Enduring Ideal. Haven't seen that deck before. Maybe could fit into Enchantress.

Infinite with Intruder Alarm, so are a lot of things, but this is the only two-mana one.

Possible applications in Oath of Druids to prevent you from milling yourself. There have always been cards which do this, but none with a useful removal spell front side.

Honourable Mentions


If mill ever becomes viable in Highlander, this card will be in it for sure. I believe mill just became playable in Modern with the printing of this card.
If you find yourself playing against this, you can cast instants and crack fetchlands during the endstep to avoid the trigger timing.

Another expensive win condition. I suspect he'll get played even though he's probably a little bit worse than other win cons. Players just love Bolas.
His first ability is bad against Sensei's Divining Top, which is pretty funny.
When you plan to cast seven drops, you better have a plan against counterspells. Someone could just Mana Leak you and it's a complete blowout.

Once upon a time land destruction was a viable strategy. If more cards like Liliana, the Last Hope get printed and force mana elves out of the format, then land destruction could make a comeback. Very unlikely this will happen though.


Ok, that's does it for the set review. In summary I think the coloured deserts will see a decent amount of play, as will Abrade and Scavenging Grounds.
I'm glad we'll be taking a break from the Gatewatch. Next up, Commander 2017 and then Hearthstone Ixalan.

Cheers,

Mulch

P.S. If anyone knows of some code which automatically adds pop-up links to any card names it recognises in an article, that would be awesome.

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