With a plethora of printings from back-to-back sets, the overall power level of Highlander has significantly increased since last update. However, the increase is more pronounced in certain archetypes. This Points Announcement increases the investment required to recur Strip Mine, which has recently led to more repetitive game states with a low level of interactivity. This Announcement simultaneously increases the flexibility (and to some degree power level) of Combo archetypes.
Here are the changes:
Strip Mine +1 (now 2 Points) True-Name Nemesis +1 (now 2 Points) Memory Jar -1 (now 0 Points) Yawgmoth’s Will -2 (now 1 Point) Tendrils of Agony +1 (now 1 Point) Scheming Symmetry +1 (now 1 Point) Doomsday +1 (now 1 Point)
Here are the full details, followed by our current watch list:
STRIP MINE+1 (to 2 Points)
Wrenn and Six is a new card that has changed the landscape of eternal formats. Whilst the original intent of reducing Strip Mine was successful in strengthening Aggro archetypes, the unexpectedly powerful printing of Wrenn and Six is too problematic with a 1-Point Strip Mine (in addition to Watch Listing Wrenn and Six itself). Strip Mine at 2 Points will overall lead to less unpleasant game states where one player is locked out of a game and cannot interact with their opponent.
TRUE-NAME NEMESIS+1 (to 2 Points)
This powerful creature is not only a win-condition for control but also operates as a roadblock against aggro, and stall-breaker in midrange mirrors. Given that True-Name Nemesis (TNN) is good at every stage of the game, there is no surprise that it is the strongest 1-Point card, sporting the best conversion rates particularly in Control and Midrange decks for the last 2-years. At 1-Point and an ‘easy’ slot in to Control decks, TNN’s ubiquity is problematic, leading to non-interactive game-states with a higher frequency than The Committee is comfortable with. Conversely with fewer copies of TNN in the average meta there will also be fewer answers, rewarding those who do choose to sleeve up TNN at 2 Points.
MEMORY JAR-1 (to 0 Points)
In general, ‘Wheel’ effects are a powerful way for specific styles of Combo deck such as Storm and Tolarian Draw 7’s to generate card advantage. They are however not without a cost, such as drawing control opponents into counterspells. Last year’s de-pointing of Wheel of Fortune saw the card pop up in Combo decks (and aggro) but not in Control, and whilst Memory Jar will very likely follow suit in Combo, unlike the other Wheel effects on the points list (Timetwister and Time Spiral) Memory Jar also slots in to a different archetype; Ramp.
Artifact Ramp decks must spend a large portion if not all of their points on key cards like Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, and Mishra’s Workshop. With a free Memory Jar, artifact ramp decks are now open to explore the design space with Goblin Welder, Daretti, and similar Trash for Treasure effects.
YAWGMOTH’S WILL -2 (to 1 Point)
Yawgmoth’s Will is a powerhouse in Vintage specifically due to replaying Black Lotus (a pattern matched in Highlander Storm) and the degenerate mana in Vintage (Moxen, Mana Crypt, etc.). With these enablers Pointed in Highlander, Yawgmoth’s Will alone is a largely late-game value card, or mid-late game ‘no-lotus Combo’ one-card-win-condition (but not viable at 3 Points). For the history of Highlander Yawgmoth’s Will has paid ‘the storm tax’, relegated to 3-Points to force Storm to only access Black Lotus and Yawgmoth’s Will as their 7 Points (note that Storm is often the benchmark for ‘best pure combo deck’ in Highlander). This poses challenges around various cards that see almost no play at 1 because they would be a ‘free-roll’ in Storm at 0.
This points change is part of the ‘Yawgmoth’s Will Point Shuffle’, which The Committee have used to offer more decision latitude to future “0 or 1-Point” Combo cards, as well as the potential for such cards on the list (Yawgmoth’s Will inclusive) to see more play. In short, the original 3 Yawgmoth’s Will points have been distributed instead to Storm-specific staples, namely 1 each to Will, Tendrils, Symmetry, and Doomsday (making the current iteration of top tier Storm ‘8 Points’). The first benefit of this change is a diversity within the Storm archetype as a whole, as brewers experiment with their 7th Point flex-slot, which could remain as either of their two current staples (Scheming Symmetry or Doomsday), or they could drop these mainstay options and instead sleeve up their choice of Dark Petition, Intuition, Enlightened Tutor, Mana Vault, Yawgmoth’s Bargain, and so on. Another benefit of taxing storm’s raw power level (albeit with a payoff in increased flexibility) is to also bring it more in line with the power of other lower-tier Combo decks.
The third and far-reaching benefit of this change is Yawgmoth’s Will itself. A 1-Point Will offers a new option to non-Storm Combo decks that is affordable, and isn’t required to be paired with a prohibitively expensive Black Lotus. A late game Will offers combo decks a ‘one-card’ out to draw, and brewers may like to fill their decks with rituals and tutors for Will in order to explore interesting mid-game combos that do not involve Lotus (and slower/less robust alternatives to Tendrils in order to save a further 1 Point). Beyond combo, Will might even be sleeved up in certain styles of Control for a (very) late game win-condition in the Control mirror, give budget BR Aggro decks (that cannot afford Lotus & Mox Jet) a combo-esque burn end-game, or even give a midrange deck a late-game value engine. Without a doubt Yawgmoth’s Will at 1-Point offers interesting design space that was previously inaccessible in Highlander.
TENDRILS OF AGONY +1 (to 1 Point)
Tendrils of Agony is instrumental in Storm’s early game wins, and is part of the essential ‘storm package’. The ‘Yawgmoth’s Will Point Shuffle’ onto Tendrils ensures that anyone wishing to combo-off in the fastest possible manner must pay the appropriate point-tax. On the other hand, players can eschew the raw power of Tendrils, saving a point by employing 0-Point alternatives that are easier for opponents to interact with (e.g. Aetherflux Reservoir or Sentinel Tower), slower (e.g. Grapeshot), require more investment (e.g. Brain Freeze), and so on. Whilst there are existing non-Storm decks that may wish to still play Tendrils of Agony, such as a Burning Wish target in the sideboard of Channel-Mirror, overall this change largely taxes Storm specifically.
SCHEMING SYMMETRY +1 (to 1 Point)
This new printing for Combo decks necessitates ‘going off’ on the same turn, but when that is possible it actually parallels cards worth 3-points. However 3-months after its release, testing and events have demonstrated that Scheming Symmetry is decent in Reanimator but largely only powerful in Storm specifically. In an archetype with access to a plethora of ‘draw a card’ effects, Storm can quite consistently ‘combo-off’ early game as if playing a 0-Point Imperial Seal. Given that this is for the most part a ‘Storm Only’ card, the decision to place a point on Symmetry works well in the context of the ‘Yawgmoth’s Will Point Shuffle’.
DOOMSDAY +1 (to 1 Point)
The final component of the ‘Yawgmoth’s Will Shuffle’ is Doomsday, which is a card that sees play almost exclusively in Storm. Doomsday itself is fundamentally a 1-card win, either by passing the turn or on the same turn whilst holding a ‘draw a card’ effect. Placing a point on Doomsday makes the current iterations of Storm ‘8 Points’, forcing players to select between keeping Doomsday or Scheming Symmetry (or opting in to a different 1-Point card they were previously unable to play). This put Storm at roughly the same power level of its pre-Symmetry-printing incarnation. Further, it brings Storm closer in line with the power level of other Combo decks in Highlander, and most importantly opens up the potential to de-point a different 1-Point card which slides into multiple combo archetypes in a subsequent Points Announcement.
The Committee have discussed many cards extensively, including 1-Point Combo cards that can potentially become zero after the above changes. The goal is to see how the Yawgmoth’s Will Shuffle pans out for Combo as a whole, as well as observing the fundamental power level of Storm in specific, before making the decision on which Combo card (other than Jar) can be released. Aside from this, here are the highlights that are actively on the Watch List for the Jan update:
Narset, Parter of Veils (+1): As a pseudo-Dig through Time that can be played on Turn 3 of the game whilst locking out your opponent’s cantrips, Narset’s raw power level is undeniable. The Committee will also be watching her closely in the event that her static ability leads to further miserable game states when paired with Memory Jar and Wheel of Fortune as a punishing ‘0-point package’.
Life from the Loam (-1) or Wrenn and Six (+1): With Strip Mine returning to 2, there is potential for Loam to lose its point. There is likewise potential for Wrenn to gain a point to parallel Loam instead, and the decision of The Committee was to place a single point on the Strip Mine component of the land recursion package at the present stage and see how the metagame develops. Wrenn and Six may also prove to be too strong against one-toughness creatures, warping the playability of X/1’s in the format.
Wishclaw Talisman (+1): On the surface this card parallels Grim Tutor, a 0-Point card. However the flexibility of investing the mana over two turns cannot be understated in decks that intend to win on the spot with the card they tutor for. Further, the potential to break symmetry via cards like Voltaic Key and Paradoxical Outcome mean that The Committee will be watching Wishclaw from Throne of Eldraine release.
Library of Alexandria (-1): Library has long been on the watch list awaiting a metagame where control mirrors are not commonplace. With Strip Mine at 1-point and Aggro and Tempo decks coming out of the woodwork there was consideration for Library at 1, however with Strip requiring its 2nd point again and an environment with Wheel and Jar free The Committee will consider the potential for Library at 1 in 2020 instead, pending how the metagame evolves.
Stoneforge Mystic (-1): The equity of SFM has been dropping steadily for some years. Whilst the card is strong, gone are the days of its ubiquity, as demonstrated by point reductions in Steelshaper’s and Skullclamp. Most midrange decks opt for the UBRG colours, so encouraging white again is a potential pathway in the future. However larger numbers of SFM and Batterskull in the meta can punish Aggro decks, and for the time being The Committee would like to see how the Strip Mine and TNN change affects Aggro’s position first.
There are dozens of brand new powerful cards added since the release of War of the Spark, increasing the overall power level of Highlander especially for ‘fair’ archetypes. With the accessibility of Memory Jar and Yawgmoth’s will, we also look forward to seeing you new brews with Ramp and Combo archetypes!