Effective as of the announcement (05/02/2023) (Please confirm with your tournament organisers that they are using the updated points)
- Mana Crypt +1 (3 to 4)
- Ancient Tomb +1 (0 to 1)
- White Plume Adventurer +1 (0 to 1)
- Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes +1 (0 to 1)
- Comet, Stellar Pup +1 (0 to 1)
- Yawgmoth’s Will -1 (1 to 0)
Highlander this quarter has experienced a significant uptick in fast-mana-fuelled aggressive decks, particularly centred around the new initiative creatures. As well as being very powerful (and making up almost half of the top 16 meta at Nationals), this deck also leads to a repetitive play pattern resolving around the initiative, which limits the ways in which decks can interact, making traditional control strategies unviable, and forcing decks to commit to the board quickly and aggressively.
Initiative is a mechanic that is dominating legacy and vintage and in this update we are looking to address the number of decks making use of it. This mechanic is designed to incentivise interaction in a multiplayer format via combat, however we often see commander focused mechanics be disproportionately powerful in our format, when they are removed from the multiplayer setting they are designed for. Take a look at True-Name Nemesis’ mechanics as a much older example; they don’t seem too powerful in Commander against 3 other players. While initiative can be fine if you have 3 other people looking to take it from you, like the monarch mechanic, the problem arises when you have just one opponent (making it much easier to maintain the Initiative).
In this update we’re looking to address some of the power the initiative decks bring to the format, with a focus on limiting the consistency of the fast mana, and the power of the key threats in the deck, rather than focusing on the initiative mechanic specifically. We don’t want to eliminate the mechanic or the deck, but hope to bring it’s power and consistency back in line with other strategies.
Mana Crypt +1 (3 to 4)
Mana Crypt has been used for a long time in the format to play sweet 3-mana cards on turn 1. Over time and through WotC’s design choices, those 3-mana cards no longer grind out a win over 4-5 turns and/or trade almost equally with removal spells (vale, Goblin Rabblemaster!) but instead present a faster clock, resilience to removal or introduction of inevitability mechanics (e.g., Initiative, Monarch). Alongside this, the downside of Mana Crypt has lessened greatly over the years – a game lasts fewer turns than it did 5 years ago, so Mana Crypt is less likely to be a liability in a given game.
Ancient Tomb +1 (0 to 1)
Ancient Tomb (and similarly City of Traitors) were watchlisted during the Dominaria United season, and we found at the time that while they were powerful in RW Moonshine (a red-white prison style deck), their presence in the metagame wasn’t overwhelming. During the Brothers War season, the format has seen a swing towards decks focusing on using Ancient Tomb and similar pieces of acceleration to power out incredible turn one plays such as Blood Moon or various Initiative creatures. We’d like to see the rate of play of these decks return to pre-December levels, and as such we’re adding a point to Ancient Tomb.
White Plume Adventurer +1 (0 to 1)
These cards are warping formats and make the game all about the initiative. White Plume Adventurer is probably the best white 3-drop printed yet. It’s the cheapest and best initiative creature and with fast mana from Sol lands and Mana Crypt we often see it cast as early as turn one.
The most common line will we see is:
Fast Mana (Sol lands or Mana crypt) into turn one White plume adventurer: Basic Land into hand -> Add two +1/+1 counters to a creature -> 5 damage -> draw a card -> Reveal the top 10 cards and get a creature into play for free and make it huge.
Even when answered with early game premium removal you are still left with a really powerful effect that keeps ticking up and gaining advantage. We decided that a good way to reduce the amount of dedicated initiative decks in the format is to add a point on the best initiative creature and this is by far the best one. We will be paying close attention to the prevalence of 4-mana Initiative creatures should this Points Update not sufficiently address the power level of Initiative-based decks.
Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes +1 (0 to 1)
When we watchlisted Minsc & Boo last announcement, we were pretty confident that it was powerful enough to justify a point, but we wanted to let people play with the card a bit and see what answers people came up with first.
This card has made waves in multiple formats as a powerhouse planeswalker that attacks on numerous angles. Whilst opponents do have opportunities to remove the planeswalker when its first ability is on the stack, outside of this narrow window, it is almost impossible to trade 1-for-1 with Minsc & Boo. If this narrow window is unavailable, Minsc needs just a single turn unchecked for this planeswalker to completely dominate a games by applying immediate pressure to the board, as well as providing card advantage and removal options.
By pointing this premiere 4-drop we hope to reduce the homogeneity and alleviate some of the pressure to play RGx decks in Highlander, as well as perhaps giving players slightly more time to find interaction for premiere threats.
Comet, Stellar Pup +1 (0 to 1)
Comet has quickly become one of the best 4 drops in the format. It has taken a starring role in the breakout RW(g) initiative deck, as well as a place in almost every deck that can support the colours. Comet is an extremely powerful and resilient threat in a strong colour pair in highlander, and in particular slots easily into a deck that we’re looking to target with points.
It also presents a play pattern that is extremely high variance, and does little to reward play skill from either player, adding even more variance to what the singleton format already offers. While random effects can be fun, and the risk of downsides is a cost that some players may not want to pay 1 Point for, the issue is that all of Comet’s modes are often excellent. This coupled with rolling a 6 creating an almost insurmountable advantage, the variance often invalidates interesting game decisions before and after that dice roll.
Comet would be a strong contender for 1 Point on power level alone. However, the pointing is further warranted by the addition of play patterns that reduce meaningful decision making in matches (particularly when the card is powerful enough to appear in matches frequently).
Yawgmoth’s Will -1 (1 to 0)
Yawgmoth’s Will is another card on the committees list of ‘historically powerful pointed cards’ that isn’t saying very much play anymore. With 0 copies at the most recent nationals, Yawgmoth’s Will is currently only seeing play only alongside Black Lotus in the powerful (but rarely played) Storm deck.
We hope that by depointing Yawgmoth’s Will, we leave space for people to experiment with ‘fair’ Yawgmoth’s Will, and to explore using it in decks outside of the traditional Black Lotus Storm decks, while providing some options to black control decks (and black decks in general) that haven’t seen a lot of success in recent times.
While there has been a few pilots with some success with Yawgmoth’s Will storm recently, we recognise that Storm’s power level fluctuates with the metagame, and the resurgence was a response to top tier decks committing wholly to the board and creature-interaction. We are also happy for all-in fast combo to be playable in the format, but we are cognisant of making an already good deck too good, so this change comes with a watchlist change below.
- Black Lotus +1 (4 to 5)
- City of Traitors +1 ( 0 to 1)
- Mishra’s Workshop no longer on the watchlist
Black Lotus has seen play outside of Storm decks to launch Mono Red, all-in Initiative decks, and Prison strategies ahead on turn 1 (much like the present issue with Mana Crypt and Ancient Tomb). Further, Yawgmoth’s Will is getting de-pointed, enabling Storm decks to combine Black Lotus with either Underworld Breach or Mox Jet. In general, if Black Lotus is the enabler for all these strategies then it is the card that warrants a strong look at moving to 5 Points, not to mention addressing a potential price barrier should Lotus be a key card that top tier decks hinge around.
As for powerful sources of colourless mana, Mishra’s Workshop will remain at 1 Point for the time being, whilst we pay close attention to the highly versatile City of Traitors. Should this ‘sol’ land continue to enable degenerate early game strategies without the downside being relevant (as Initiative decks can leverage the early game into pressure, making the loss of mana from this land less important) then City of Traitors will be the next target.