Sunday, 25 November 2018

Commander 2018 Highlander Playables


This is my Commander 2018, 7-Point Highlander set review (yes, Guilds of Ravnica has long since come out before I published this).

All Highlander players should pay close attention to these commander sets since the power level is unbounded by Modern or Standard. They're like Highlander's own private sets.
Man, all the Commander set cards blend together don't they? Similar set names and no associated story. Same as the core sets. But that's a small complaint. Ultimately I'm just glad we get a few new toys. 

In no particular order:

Putting a card from hand to top of library is super powerful. There are very few ways to do this: Brainstorm, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Riverwise Augur, Conch Horn, Hidden Retreat...and that's pretty much it, in all of Magic!
Imagine Aminatou with Timesifter, Entreat the Angels, Temporal Mastery, Aethermage's Touch, Descendant's Path and Erratic Explosion. Those are some of the more powerful payoffs but there are plenty of other minor beneficiaries, e.g. Courser of Kruphix
Aminatou's other abilities are gravy. Makes sense that a small child would have trouble defending herself, but her blink ability can help; either giving you another ETB trigger or untapping a land for a spell. 
The blink ability goes infinite with Felidar Guardian but you'll need a trigger card to win.
Animatou's casting cost is a big restriction. You don't want to be playing her together with Forest/Mountain, colourless lands or Llanowar Elves. Although the nombo may be worth it in some cases.

Techno Grandma. Art goes against almost all magic zombie lore, but whatever. Bit Minority Reportish.
In my last set review I identified Stitcher's Supplier, Graveyard Marshal and Liliana, Untouched by Death as possible inclusions in a zombie deck. Varina isn't amazingly powerful but it's hard to imagine not playing her if you were already Esper zombies.
The swarmier your zombies, the harder Varina get's triggered.

Here's what totem armor does, in case you weren't sure: "If enchanted permanent would be destroyed, instead remove all damage from it and destroy this Aura."
A decent card for the enchantress deck, which recently got Satyr Enchanter from Core 19.
I can imagine enchanting Serra's Sanctum with Abundant Growth, Unbridled Growth, Wild Growth, Fertile Ground or Overgrowth and untapping it for loads of mana with Estrid. Actually, Estrid doesn't target, so even Trace of Abundance and Curator's Ward work. That's pretty sweet.
Estrid can also protect Serra's Sanctum with a mask. Field of Ruin and Assassin's Trophy have significantly added to the land destruction being played in Highlander. If your opponent can kill Serra's Sanctum, they will do so on-sight, so Estrid's activation will never be wasted by Sanctum being destroyed in response.
I can't imagine Time Vault getting enchanted but that would be sweet. Relic Ward or Curator's Ward perhaps? Wow, I've mentioned Curator's Ward twice and I didn't have it in my Dominaria set review. Sloppy.

Very powerful. Notably it only copies enchantments you control. Here are some of the better enchantments which you can drop beforehand and then blink every turn: Abundant Growth, Ground Seal, Spreading Seas.
If you're playing black there's Sarcomancy and Trial of Ambition.
And of course the enchantments to copy only get better as you go up the curve.

Big body is handy when you don't have Moat.
Even though you can't draw more than one extra card a turn, that's still enough to overwhelm your opponent.
The more cheap enchantments you play, the easier it will be to cast Tuvasa and an enchantment as soon as she resolves. That way she'll at least draw a card even when removed as soon as possible by your opponent.

In case you didn't play in Theros block, bestow spells enter as creatures if the creature they're targetting gets removed before resolution.
Call me crazy but I think this has a home in a some Bant midrange decks (not a great home, more of a one-bedroom apartment). Good with mana dorks which are able to attack as well as ramp up to Kestia, e.g. Lotus Cobra, Devoted Druid (that card comes up a lot), Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Wayward Swordtooth. Courser of Kruphix draws cards from Kestia without bestowing, by virtue of being an Enchantment Creature.
There aren't many 'Enchant creature' auras that are good, perhaps Rancor and maybe:

You might lose the game to removal in response but the times they don't have it you hit them for huge damage. Worth the risk in my opinion. Especially if you're enchanting a 'throw away' creature. For example, Birthing Pod decks often have a 1/1 body lying around after making a token or drawing a card. Suddenly it's the biggest thing ever and crushing face.
You can even forgo the risk if you have True-Name Nemesis or a hexproof creature like Geist of Saint Traft.

Well that was a few new cards for the Enchantment deck. Perhaps it's worth a new look! Now what about the artifact decks:

You really need to be all-in artifacts to get enough out of Saheeli. Making a 1/1 each turn is too slow against too many decks. Therefore, you need to make use of that cost reduction ability. I can easily imagine a deck having four or five artifacts the turn you cast Saheeli, allowing you to cast a significant artifact spell for free immediately. If that happens you've effectively cast Saheeli for free, which is the power we're looking for; The power to make up for susceptibility to artifact hate.
Saheeli's servo generation works nicely with Smokestack.
With regards to Saheeli's double colour cost, it's worth noting that artifact decks really need to play all the artifact lands. This can be a strain on your coloured mana count. Let's have a very rough look at mana bases which include the six artifact lands, Mishra's Factory, Blinkmoth Nexus, Inkmoth Nexus and a basic land of each of each colour played: We want about 15 sources of each colour to reliably cast our spells, so roughly we need the rest of our lands to tap for each of our colours. Fetches do that, but duals only do that for two colour decks. Therefore, artifact decks should stick to two colours unless you cut man lands or add Talismans/Signets for extra colour sources.
What I'm getting at with all this is, you might have to choose between UR for Saheeli or UB for Tezzeret if you're playing artifacts. UG is also a good choice for its land tutors and UW for its equipment tutors.

A pretty cool card. I'm guessing the telchor are super sentient myr warped by Phyrexia. We might be seeing more of them since Karn is returning to Mirrodin New Phyrexia in the story line.
Brudiclad isn't super powerful compared to say, Inferno Titan but we've recently seen the printing of the treasure token and clue token mechanics. Perhaps Brudiclad could transform a bunch of practically blank tokens into myr or greater. Eldrazi spawnProssh, Skyraider of Kher and Rite of Belzenlok also come to mind.
Tinker decks value the blueness of Inkwell Leviathan and Sphinx of the Steel Wind for pitching to Force of Will and Misdirection. Brudiclad is arguably the next best blue artifact to Tinker for.

T-t-t-t-Time Vault.
To pull this combo off, you've given the opponent an extra turn, which means they've developed their mana further making it more likely that they're able to kill Tawnos. Ideally you would cast and activate Tawnos in the same turn to get at least one extra turn if he dies. UURR may be hard however, since you're almost certainly playing Buried Ruin and Academy Ruins in your Time Vault deck.
Not many other powerful abilities to copy that I can think of. Expedition Map is ok. Getting double counters from Arcbound Ravager is pretty sweet but Ravager doesn't go in a Time Vault deck (I always seem to screw up one rules interaction in these articles, that could've been it).
Coveted by Mishra's Workshop players everywhere. This is Dreamstone Hedron on crack.
As long as you can prevent your opponent from stealing it, you probably win the game. Flickering or welding this in and out would be amazing. Even just having a way to sacrifice it before it gets stolen would be good enough.

Move over Kjeldoran Outpost.
Sacrificing Thopters is where you want to be. Let's look at good Thopter cards:
Retrofitter Foundry is tutorable with Trinket Mage which is nice.

Do you like grinding and playing around or with Blood Moon?
It's nice to see basics get some more payoff, albeit very slow payoff. That's right, the atlas is the jerk-off rag and those mountains are the jizz.
Planeswalkers are a more mana efficient card advantage engine than this card but I can imagine it finding niches which planeswalkers can't fit, it's cheap mana cost for example.

The best ninja ever.
Would be flavoursome to ninjitsu your....Seht's Tiger? Wow there are so few tigers in magic. Heaps of lions and leonin, barely any tigers - let alone playable ones.
To make Yuriko worthwhile you need to either:
  1. Give her evasion
    Tamiyo, Field Researcher (ok, this is removing blockers rather than giving evasion. You got me)
    I'm actually struggling here. This might be a dead end.
  2. Kill every blocker
    This method means that you won't be ninjitsuing Yuriko in often because you will be playing removal instead of creatures, which also means Yuriko won't have 'safety in numbers' and will be vulnerable to removal. If you do go with this method, make sure that most of your removal can still be useful against decks which don't play creatures. I suppose playing creatures which ARE removal, e.g. Ravenous Chupacabra, could be a way. Getting to return them with ninjitsu is pretty nice too.
  3. Rig the top of your deck with something expensive and ninjitsu her in with a cheap evasion creature. There are many ways to rig the top of your library but few cheap enough to cast and pay the UB for Yuriko on the same turn.
    Vampiric Tutor
    Personal Tutor (e.g. Treasure Cruise)
    Mystical Tutor (e.g. Dig Through Time)
    Enlightened Tutor
    You really need this play to win you the game to make up for all that work. You can either reveal a super expensive card like Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn  or a useful card with high CMC, e.g. delve cards.
Seems like a good win condition for storm combo. Might have to be post-board though, since it's so poor against counterspells. I suppose that goes for any deck which can achieve eight mana without dying, not just storm.
I assume you win the game if this resolves. Although, I imagine most of the spells in your deck will be aimed at getting enough mana to cast this, and more mana is the last thing you need at that point! Cards which actually effect the board AND gain you mana could be a good way to build, although those cards tend not to disrupt the opponent, so that's a deck building challenge.

Niche sideboard card. Good if you're playing creature tutors and most of your guys have >3 toughness. Some decks really don't want to be playing non-creature spells, e.g. they have Nullhide Ferox or Lead the Stampede. Although I can't imagine those decks also wanting to -3/-3 their team.
Could make some cool plays with Felidar Guardian or Restoration Angel.

Polymorph on crack. Not only are you not restricted by 'creature only', it also has retrace. Of course you can still get blown out by removal in response, but there are measures you can take: You can play discard spells to make way for the Reality Scramble, or you can target permanents with Hexproof or Indestructible.
To make Reality Scramble work, you will either have to rig the top of your deck (perhaps with the aforementioned Aminatou) or you can build your deck such that you're guaranteed to hit gold, e.g. you could Reality Scramble a clue token or treasure token and the only actual artifact cards in your deck are huge fatties. If you do build a deck like this, an easy way to lose is to draw your uncastable Polymorph targets, so make sure you can make use of them in your hand.
Side note: I haven't been able to find this card as a single, anywhere. If anyone has one they would like to trade/sell me, hit me up!

Only good against creature decks, which puts it in the sideboard category. However, it's also fairly easy to kill without leaving behind any value, therefore it may not be good enough in some metagames.
I do like it against Birthing Pod decks where they're low on removal and have a lot of death triggers, e.g. Voice of Resurgence, Kitchen Finks, Skullclamp, etc.
I also like it against the Protean Hulk + Flash combo as a Green Sun's-able answer which is easier to cast than Anafenza, the Foremost...Ok, that was a lot of conditions.

This has got to be abusable somehow. I had a search around and didn't find anything that truly breaks it. Probably works ok in Gaea's Cradle Elves. It can either make a couple plants via fetchlands to power up Cradle, or it can get Cradle back if destroyed, Thespian's Stage'd or sacrificed to Crop Rotation.

Alright! That sums up this set review. Apologies if you could've used these ideas before the recent large Highlander event at GP Melbourne, 98 players! Was fantastic. Met a lot of cool players with lots of cool decks. I'm sure all future GP Highlander events will be awesome too. I've already registered for GP Sydney in February next year. Hopefully see you all there, and hopefully I get my Guilds of Ravnica set review out by then XD.

Happy Highlandering!