Thursday, 25 October 2018

Core 19 Highlander Playables

I think they named this set Core '19 in anticipation of me writing this article a year late, but I showed them! Let's get straight into it:

Great for decks with plenty of two-drop creatures which are good at blocking, because they will often be body blocking for Ajani.
Many creature decks in Highlander utilise the mana-dork + Skull Clamp core. Those decks tend to skip two-drops and go straight to more powerful threes, therefore Ajani is less suited to those decks. He is better at the top of a '1, 2, 3' curve.
Against opposing creature decks you can take the defender's advantage and sit back whilst ticking up to his ultimate. Against control he is a difficult threat to answer and against combo he applies decent damage whilst returning hate bears which may get swept away.
+1/+1 counter synergies can be relevant too, e.g. Walking Ballista.

Fringe playable in artifact control. The reason to play such a deck is to combine the mana boost of Tolarian Academy and Mishras's Workshop with powerful long game cards like Smokestack and Ensnaring Bridge. Tezzeret's card draw is a nombo with Ensnaring Bridge. His thopter generation however, is fantastic with it. The thopter generation also works fantastically with Smokestack.
All the Tezzerets are at odds with Mishra's Workshop. To ease this, you can play mana rocks like signets and talismans.
This version of Tezzeret is only effective against midrange and control. He's too slow against aggro and combo, so you'll be relying on the rest of your deck to handle those archetypes.

Powerful in 'eggs'. I'm imagining tutoring for Black Lotus and playing a string of creatures which return it for effectively free. Chuck Sai in there for a thopter each time:
Eternal Witness
Renegade Rallier
Auriok Salvagers (infinite mana)
Daring Archaeologist
Leonin Squire
Trusty Packbeast! (also from Core 19).
If Blood Funnel ever breaks, then Sai will probably be there with blood all over his hands.
Sai is great with Sensei's Divining Top; guaranteed thopter each turn.

I can't remember how I got it, but I own a foil (resplendent) Refreshing Rain. If a life gain deck exists, that's a decent combo. Although it would just be sideboard because you need the opponent to have a swamp. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth could help, but that's jumping through too may hoops for not that big a payoff. Nourishing Shoal works too.
When 'build around me' cards pop up, it's unlikely you can build a Highlander deck around just that one card. It needs to be roughly the fifth or sixth major payoff printed for that strategy. What are some other powerful lifegain payoffs?
I've always wanted to play Tainted Remedy, although to use it you need targeted life gain rather than just yourself. False Cure is the same. Imagine turn two False Cure + Refreshing Rain and Invigorate. GG.
One day there'll be an infinite combo with Tamanoa, Surely they'll print a card that says "whenever you gain life deal 1 damage to target player".
Tavern Swindler is pretty cool with Resplendent Archangel.

Might look janky but I rate this in mono red. True-Name Nemesis is a real problem for red aggro.

Fringe sideboard card for decks which don't want to kill their own cheap things. There are lots of sideboard cards which are good at wiping out all the cheap things, but if you're playing cheap things yourself, then Isolate could be what you're looking for. Skullclamp will definitely rise in popularity with it's recent reduction to one point, and those decks play plenty of ways to return Skullclamp from the graveyard, so the exile on Isolate is key. Those decks will have plenty of mana dorks to exile too, if need be.

Such a weird posture and it's plates are computer chips. Like a dinobot.
Only attacks for two, which means that you're really relying on that triggered ability to make this good. The faster you get it onto the battlefield, the better.
Regarding it's ability, the big one is obviously fetch lands.
It's pretty nice against Strip Mine / Wasteland lock where it can dig you into your graveyard removal before you run out of lands.
Also great against a few creature combos, e.g. Devoted Druid + Vizier of Remedies. So you probably want to add a zero-cost removal spell like Snuff Out to your deck in case.
I think Runic Armasaur is a metagame card. I only recommend playing it if your expect it's ability to trigger against almost all your opponents.

Filler for hyper aggressive decks. Much much better than a 2/1 haste.
Wizard creatures seem to be getting more aggressive with every set, especially the recent Dominaria. Patience is shrinking everywhere.

Flesh // Blood is still the king of flings since you don't need to sacrifice the creature, but at one mana, Thud takes second place.
There are ways to make a huge creature Thud, some better than others:
·Wall of Blood - Much like Channel Fireball (funny how this term barely means the cards anymore).
and many more!

A recurring dream for Recurring Nightmare decks.
This was the catalyst for the modern BridgeVine deck. I don't think Highlander has enough redundancy for that strategy YET. But perhaps in the future.

Chalking this up on my Training Grounds spreadsheet.
Zombies have lots of 'decent' rank and file cards. They won a pro tour relatively recently, so you know they're strengthening.
If you can find some incidental combos which fit into plan-A of 'horde of zombies', then perhaps zombies could be a real deck one day. Here's an example of a combo I'm talking about:

This plus Phyrexian Altar and one-drop zombies which provide value, i.e. Maggot Carrier and Stitcher's Supplier.
Gravecrawler + Phyrexian Altar wins too with something like Blood ArtistZulaport Cutthroat or Embalmer's Tools.
When you combine the loose combo threat of Liliana with her passable aggro zombie plan, I think she just gets there.

More suited to the beatdown elf decks rather than the combo focused ones. Still a two cost lord.
Obviously you're not going to be calling many other clancallers with the second ability.

This guy is anything but trash. Goblins have been desperate for instant speed artifact destruction. Until now they've been relying on Tuktuk Scrapper and Tin Street Hooligan. Their sorcery speed has not been ideal. Sure, Goblins could've played cards like Abrade, but anything that isn't a goblin subtracts from all the payoffs in the deck. I believe you should either build to your deck's strengths or change decks.
Here are the big artifacts that have been plaguing Goblins forever: Time Vault, Vedalken Shackles, Sword of Fire and Ice and... Umezawa's Jitte. Jitte absolutely shreds Goblins. 
Goblin Matron and Goblin Recruiter make Goblin Trashmaster's presence felt three-fold. If you look into the future, Goblin Cratermaker is some more instant speed artifact hate.
A few one-drop printings and goblins may jump to tier 2.

Not as worse than Mogg War Marshal as it seems since you get an extra attack with a gobbo, which is probably pumped by a lord.
Mass goblins + lords, that's what we want. We also want Skullclamp.
Gene Holland was running a sweet goblin Contamination list for a while. This card certainly gets in that.

There is barely enough Spirit tribal payoff in modern let alone Highlander. But you never know, a few more spirit sets and Supreme Phantom could have its night at the opera.
Wizards seem to be going the way of all long-running lore, just rehashing their old material (no one's seriously complaining though!). Therefore a Kamigawa revisit may not be far off, which means more spirits!
Whenever I consider tribal cards from less supported tribes I think: "Elves, Goblins and Zombies are getting printed at the same rate, therefore you can never catch them". But at the power level of Supreme Phantom, wizards may be 'rubber banding' other tribes up to speed.
As far as strategy goes, there are some good spirit token generators out there: Lingering Souls, Promise of Bunrei, Spectral Procession and more.

Like a bee: flying around then sacrifices itself for the opponent's displeasure.
Might save your ass against a reanimator deck or prevent you from getting Strip Mine locked. Decent aggro beater in the mean time. Holds equipment well.
Terrible at blocking, so strictly aggro only.
I came across the card Mogg Bombers whilst working on Flash Hulk combo with Michael Leslie. This means beware that you can no longer rely on graveyard hate like Remorseful Cleric to beat that deck. Instead you need replacement effects that use "if", like Rest in Peace.

This however, does deal with the Flash Hulk combo. This is the cheapest creature based answer, undertaking Containment Priest. Thinking a bit more on it, one-cost isn't a huge improvement on two-cost with regards to the speed at which you can tutor for and cast it. Still nice to have redundancy though.
This goes straight into the sideboard of my Merfolk deck.

Narrow sideboard card against hardcore Gaea's Cradle and Tolarian Academy decks. I wouldn't recommend playing this unless you there's one of those decks in your 8-man FNM metagame of whatever.

I have delusions of bringing back my Mishra's Workshop equipment deck. It plays all five double protection swords and every half decent <4cmc flying/trampling artifact creature. 

Happily playing this in my Scapeshift deck. Anytime you see a new card which can recur or recast something, it's almost certainly playable in Highlander due to the higher power cards we have access to.
Here's my latest Scapeshift list in case you want to give it a shuffle, and boy will you be shuffling:

Diligent Farmhand
Wayfarer's Bauble
Font of Fertility
Search for Tomorrow
Nature's Lore
Three Visits
Rampant Growth
Into the North
Time Walk###
Sakura Tribe-elder
Edge of Autumn
Demonic Tutor###
Mizzix's Mastery
Bring to Light
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Beseech the Queen
Titania, Protector of Argoth
Grim Tutor
Primal Command
Eternal Witness
Dark Petition#
Pernicious Deed
Clutch of the Undercity
Dimir Houseguard
Snow-covered Forest
Snow-covered Forest
Snow-covered Forest
Snow-covered Swamp
Snow-covered Swamp
Snow covered Island
Overgrown Tomb
Tropical Island
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Scalding Tarn
Bloodstained Mire
Polluted Delta
Wooded Foothills
Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Snow-covered Mountain
Snow-covered Mountain
Snow-covered Mountain
Snow-covered Mountain
Stomping Grounds
Cinder Glade
Volcanic Island
Smouldering Marsh

Faerie Macabre
Mindbreak Trap
Shattering Spree
Thrun, the Last Troll
Sphinx of the Last Word
Gaea's Revenge
Carnage Tyrant
Leyline of the Void
Wheel of Sun and Moon
Toxic Deluge

The best is Doublecasting a Time Walk, which happens occasionally due to all the tutors for Time Walk. Otherwise you're happy to double your Rampant Growth on turn three or protect Scapeshift from a counterspell when you go for it.
In this deck specifically I find Doublecast better than Fork. Counterspells are very popular in Highlander so being able to copy my own stuff without getting blown out is better than being able to copy my opponent's things.

Yeah fine, he's playable. I'm not calling him good, just playable.
There is plenty of card-draw in Highlander, so the discard trigger isn't amazing but it's enough to pass against removal.
There will be times when they haven't got the removal and the transformation just wins the game, but in general he's too slow and not disruptive enough against aggro and combo. Just ok in midrange metagames.

Another enchantress
There are so many good creature hosing enchantments; it's tempting to play them all, but I think the key to a successful enchantress deck is to make it as disruptive as possible against control and combo. 
The enchantresseseses which are vulnerable to removal should possibly be in the sideboard.

Pretty straight forward. I could see this in aggro artifacts. Maybe something something like this:

Toolcraft Exemplar
Thraben Inspector
Glint Hawk
Hope of Ghirapur
Mishra's Bauble
Urza's Bauble
Vedalken Certarch
Vault Skirge
Signal Pest
Court Homonculus
Mox Diamond
Mox Pearl###
Mox Opal
Mana Crypt##
Glint-Nest Crane
Smuggler's Copter
Scrapheap Scrounger
Ensoul Artifact
Stoneforge Mystic#
Thopter Foundry
Sword of the Meek
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
Arcbound Ravager
Esper Stormblade
Steel Overseer
Porcelain Legionnaire
Phyrexian Revoker
Skilled Animator
Cranial Plating
Trinket Mage
Tempered Steel
Master of Etherium
Steelshaper's Gift
Karn, Scion of Urza
Ancient Den
Seat of the Synod
Vault of Whispers
Great Furnace
Tree of Tales
Darksteel Citadel
Hallowed Fountain
Flooded Strand
Marsh Flats
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Arid Mesa
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Mishra's Factory
Blinkmoth Nexus
Inkmoth Nexus
Seachrome Coast

Tormod's Crypt
Welding Jar
Phyrexian Walker
Ethersworn Canonist
Grafdigger's Cage
Masterwork of Ingenuity
Open the Armory
Sword of Fire and Ice
Paradoxical Outcome
Aether Spellbomb
Etched Champion
Heap Doll
Spell Skite
Pithing Needle

I really wanted to fit black into the above list but the sweet manlands and off-colour artifact lands were more enticing.

I vont to EXILE my creature CARDS from my GRAVE YARD ah ah ah.
Pretty powerful effect. Might be some way to make a tonne of bats.
Even the first level thinking of Deathrite Shaman, Scavenging Ooze and Bloodghast seems ok.
Might find a home in Food Chain where you want Eternal Scourge, Misthollow Griffin and ways of exiling creatures from your yard like: Scrapheap Scrounger, Moorland Haunt, Relic of Progenitus.

Don't know why I thought of this; I can't believe there's no card called 'Nightling'. As soon RnD here that name they'll print a black morphling. They already got Torchling, Thornling and Brightling.

Just when you thought the flow of this article couldn't get any worse, I'm now finishing it!
Looking forward to the big Highlander even at GP Melbourne on Friday 16th November. See you there!


Stomp it down the drain! STOMP STOMP