Points Announcement: Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

  • Birthing Pod -1 (1 to 0)
  • Doomsday -1 (1 to 0)
  • Hermit Druid -1 (1 to 0)
  • Jace, the Mindsculptor -1 (1 to 0)
  • Life from the Loam -1 (1 to 0)
  • Personal Tutor -1 (1 to 0)
  • Dreadhorde Arcanist +1 (0 to 1)
  • Gush +1 (0 to 1)
  • Lutri, the Spellchaser +1 (1 to 2)
  • Ragavan +1 (0 to 1)

EXPLANATION:

First of all to acknowledge the hit to UR decks: 

Decks with the Izzet core (URx) were given a pass the previous points announcement; It was theorised that the large presence of Thassa’s Oracle combo was keeping away predators of URx decks. The points change successfully reduced the number of Thassa’s Oracle decks but URx still emerged stronger than we wanted. Its ability to fill the graveyard with cheap instants and sorceries gives it access to powerful delve, escape and delirium spells, which are strong against strategies that may otherwise be effective against the UR core.

On the surface it may look like UR gained 4 points, however:

  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor is now zero points and therefore URx gains a powerful card.
  • URx has been tier 1 for years and in the last year the core has added Dragon’s Rage Channeler, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Murtide Regent, Expressive Iteration and less notably Unholy Heat and Consider.
  • URx has many options to spend points on. Other 1 point cards just as powerful as Lutri were sometimes played over it already.

Considering these factors, the damage is not as bad as it seems. It’s still a big hit but with so many powerful new tools we believe URx decks will continue to be tier 1, which is where we want them. 


Birthing Pod

Birthing Pod -1 (1 to 0)

Birthing Pod gained a point in September 2014. Since then the format speed has increased dramatically. It is a lot harder to recover from the tempo loss of paying 4 mana, 4 life and sacrificing a creature these days. To do so you either need a combo, a 5 point Time Walk to find with Spellseeker or you need ‘tempo regaining’ creatures all the way up the curve. Each of these are large build costs.

  • Running a combo typically involves Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, a significant colour requirement and weakness to creature removal.
  • Paying the 5 points for Time Walk leaves only 2 points. With Time Walk in your deck you would like to run Lutri to copy it, but with Lutri gaining a point, that’s less appealing.
  • Running ‘tempo regaining’ creatures with persist, gain life or the ability to kill a creature when they enter, reduces the space you have for other things. These creatures can be bad in some matchups and your deck quality is reduced in games where Pod gets answered or not cast.

In general we are happy for more players to adopt Birthing Pod because heavy creature decks aren’t popular and this would increase diversity.


Doomsday
Gush

Doomsday -1 (1 to 0)

Gush +1 (0 to 1)

This change is a pair. Doomsday wouldn’t have been depointed if Gush weren’t pointed.

Due to losing half your life and the risk of the opponent untapping with disruption, Doomsday players try to win the turn they cast it, typically with a cantrip to draw Gush, which draws something like Lion’s Eye Diamond and Gitaxian Probe, which lead into Manamorphose and Thassa’s Oracle. That is one example but there are many more, mostly involving Gush for its unique ‘zero mana draw two’ effect.

Now to discuss Gush apart from Doomsday.

Gush has gone unpointed until now because the format hasn’t been as fast. Gush is used well in two ways:

  1. You are comboing off this turn and therefore you don’t care about returning two islands.
  2. You have run out of lands to play, in which case Gush effectively draws two cards and gains you a mana over two turns. Decks with a low land count and lots of cheap cards maximise Gush in this way.

By pointing Gush we aim to hit blue tempo decks. We hope this will reduce the speed of the format, raising deck and card diversity.


Personal Tutor

Personal Tutor -1 (1 to 0)

This is a scary depointing because it increases the chance of turn two kills via Channel or via Yawgmoth’s Will. Despite that, we believe the depointing to be safe. Sorcery-speed ‘on top’ tutors are significantly worse than instant-speed because they’re susceptible to many more cards and alert the opponent early. Popular cards which mess with the top of the opponent’s library include: Thoughtscour and Portent in delve/escape decks; We expect Ragavan to still see some play at 1 point; We are depointing Jace, the Mind Sculptor, who can ‘fateseal’ the top card away; removal such as Assassin’s Trophy and Boseiju, Who Endures can act as Sinkholes if the tutor player won’t shuffle.

The decks which best use Personal Tutor, i.e. Channel and Storm, have been gradually losing power due to the printing of disruption being greater than the printing of combo pieces. Therefore we believe the addition of Personal Tutor won’t bring those decks back to prominence.


Hermit Druid -1 (1 to 0)

Hermit Druid earned its point back in February 2012. Having no basic lands in your deck you can use Hermit Druid to mill your entire deck then use Dread Return fuelled by Narcomoeba and a few creatures with the unearth/embalm mechanic to bring back a game winning creature the next turn. Alternatively you can Memory’s Journey a Reanimate into your library in your upkeep yet you risk losing to a counterspell or graveyard removal.

The increased speed of the format is a factor in this change too. It was always easy to kill Hermit Druid the first time it entered the battlefield, but the format used to be slow enough that you had time to tutor for Shallow Grave and bring Hermit Druid back with haste. Now that’s not the case.

Since Hermit Druid received a point, creature and graveyard removal has improved, especially Wrenn and Six and Deathrite Shaman. However, the ways of winning with Hermit Druid have not improved as much (Thassa’s Oracle was supportive but eventually earned its 4 points).

Despite Hermit Druid being a fast combo, the large deck building costs of running zero basic lands and including several ‘bad’ cards in your deck is enough to warrant Hermit Druid at zero points. In addition to that, the advent of companions and power creep of creatures has increased the amount of removal in the format, making Hermit Druid worse.


Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Jace, the Mindsculptor -1 (1 to 0)

Jace was added to the points list in March 2015; a different time when he was oppressing Hero of Bladehold and Doran, the Siege Tower. To be a playable creature you had to provide some value even if you were bounced immediately, a.k.a. “pass the Jace test”. Pointing Jace reduced his popularity significantly and gave 3 and 4 mana creatures a chance to attack.

The power of the format has increased since with a big spike in the last few years resulting in those creatures being oppressed anyway, by the speed of the format and cards like Teferi, Time Raveler, Fatal Push and Oko, Thief of Crowns.

This has been the case for a while but Jace remained on the points list as a way of reducing the overall strength of the dominant colour, blue. We have come to realise that powerful delve and escape creatures are strongest in blue decks, which can fill the graveyard easily with cantrips. We theorise that releasing Jace, the Mind Sculptor will reduce the number of big delve creatures and be roughly a net zero gain for blue with the added bonus of helping aggro, since there will be less big blockers.


Life from the Loam

Life from the Loam -1 (1 to 0)

Once again, as the speed of the format changes, so must the points list.

Life from the Loam was added to the points list as a prisoner exchange with Strip Mine. At the time the committee wanted to help struggling aggro decks by giving them a cheap Strip Mine without increasing the number of ‘Striplocks’ with Life from the Loam. It turned out that not just aggro decks adopted one-point Strip Mine and there were too many non-games due to random Strip Mines, and it went back up to 2 points; Yet Life from the Loam remained due to the bitter taste of Strip Mine and not the performance of land based strategies.

Despite how slow Life from the Loam is, being Striplocked is so miserable that the risk of depointing it didn’t seem worthwhile the last few announcements. However, we have decided that the format is now fast enough that players can easily get underneath Strip Mine/Wasteland + Life from the Loam. A simple lock on the play leaves the opponent with two mana to work with each turn until they run out of land drops. These days two mana buys you game winning creatures, which force the Loam player to release their chokehold lest they be hit by the upcoming train tunnel.


Dreadhorde Arcanist

Dreadhorde Arcanist +1 (0 to 1)

It took us a long time to pick up on Dreadhorde Arcanist; the fact that you can simply remove it with a Lightning Bolt and effectively end up one mana ahead in the exchange made Dreadhorde Arcanist seem like a regular creature. But the card’s continued success and banning in Legacy forced further evaluation. Upon closer inspection it was clear that Dreadhorde Arcanist wins the game by itself and must die immediately if you hope to win the game. The card and mana advantage it produces at no extra cost snowballs quickly. At two mana, this was too low a cost.

  • It was compared to Hermit Druid in the sense that it must die immediately, but it doesn’t have the large build cost of Hermit Druid.
  • It was compared to delve creatures but they indirectly cost more than 2 mana because you’re paying for cantrips etc, and the graveyard resource is consumed when cast. 
  • It was compared to Tarmogoyf but that just does damage, which doesn’t matter until the opponent is at low life.
  • It was compared to Dark Confidant but that costs life, and mana to cast the extra cards received, and dies easier. 

Dreadhorde Arcanist is a length ahead of the rest of the zero-point creatures.

We had a target on the UR deck core, and Dreadhorde Arcanist was a powerful option to hit. 


Lutri, the Spellchaser

Lutri, the Spellchaser +1 (1 to 2)

Before this points change, companions were in roughly 40% of decks, with the majority of them being Lutri. For diversity we would be happier with 30% or less.

Lutri typically doesn’t get added to your hand until you run out of spells, but in a fast metagame players run out of cards quickly and Lutri becomes excellent, even at 6 mana.

An 8th card in your starting hand for 1 point is a bargain.

Lutri is strong in Highlander not only for being an 8th card but also due to the high power level of things it can copy.


Ragavan Nimble Pilferer

Ragavan Nimble Pilferer+1 (0 to 1)

It was clear from his printing that Ragavan was in contention for a point.

If he hits a powerful card he can effectively win the game, which is crazy for a 1drop.

Ragavan is smaller than, or trades with most creatures, but realistically the Ragavan player will be running removal and just one hit is all it can take to snowball a victory.

A Ragavan top deck is still threatening deep into the game due to the dash ability. This dash ability also allows it to dodge some removal, e.g. Wrenn and Six.

Ultimately a 1 mana game winning threat is too cheap, too efficient.


WATCHLIST UPDATE:

Lurrus of the Dream-Den
In consideration for an additional point.
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
In consideration for an additional point.

Luke Mulcahy

MtG buddies call me Mulch. Been playing 7 Point Highlander since 2004. Based in Victoria, Australia. Competed on the ProTour eight times. Won Mox Ruby, Mox Pearl and Mox Sapphire from Highlander tournaments, just Emerald and Jet remain! I've been writing Highlander articles since 2012. Most of them on my blog http://highlander4eva.blogspot.com/ I'm on the points committee. Hit me up anytime for a chat.