Points Announcement: Core Set 2019

M19 Points Update

Welcome, Highlander aficionados!

There’s several changes in the below, including one card we are pretty sure has never NOT been a point… exciting times! First though, an update on progress with the ‘committee philosophy’ document.

We’ve been talking about it, and have made progress, but we want to make sure that the document is in its best form before it goes public. Vance, Mulch and Isaac will have a big discussion about it at nats in person. Once the final draft is ready to go live, we’ll be happy to answer everyone’s questions (and it may be subject to revision for clarity, etc.).

On all matters points-filled:

In the last few updates we’ve gone about as far, as we’re comfortable directly adding points to keep control decks in check. For those of you worried about the dominance of control, know that it is under watch. Fundamentally we need to give the metagame a chance to adapt (after this update) before applying the heavy hand of pointing more cards in control if it so comes to that.

Which is not to say we can’t apply a little bit of a nudge in a different direction, namely improving combo decks (and to a lesser extent, aggro). With control taking a large portion of the meta share in recent major events, combo especially needs a helping hand in the face of heavy disruption. For this update we are pleased to announce the de-pointing of a couple of cards which go into a variety of different combo decks. Note that with the printing of Spellseeker (at zero), combined this will be a noticeable boost to dedicated combo decks and we are keeping a very close eye on the meta that unfolds as a result. We are interested in letting the community access these toys for the foreseeable future to return combo to a healthy share of the meta.

We’ve discussed, extensively, cards that can be unpointed to help aggressive decks and at this time we haven’t quite reached agreement. Several are on the watch list below, so that you can better understand the inner-workings of the Committee’s thought process. However it is important to note that one of the combo cards we have released below will fit in to Burn and other aggressive red strategies. This may provide a small boost to aggro for the time being.

Without further ado, we would like to announce:

Wheel of Fortune: -1 point ( to 0)

This is a dramatic (and likely unexpected) change but one the Committee has discussed at length. Wheel is a card which is played at 1 albeit quite rarely, but at 0 will boost both; 1) a variety of combo decks; and 2) a subset of aggro decks that use a high density of burn. Wheel slots directly into quite a few existing combo decks, as well some non-Red Combo decks after a little tweaking (which is highly likely to happen based on the incentive of a 0-point Wheel effect).

This change does not precipitate movement in the other 1-point wheel effects which are all blue and directly assist core blue archetypes (Timetwister; Time Spiral; Tinker for Memory Jar). Colour is the dividing line between these highly interchangeable (in certain decks) draw 7 effects, and its potential to aid both combo and burn-based-aggro in the current meta was a deciding factor.

Wheel has literally never been ‘free’ in the history of Highlander, and we look forward to encouraging players to brew with this specific tool in their arsenal.

Worldly Tutor: -1 point ( to 0)

The committee always has a close eye on tutors which facilitate turn 2 and 3 combo kills. Consistent non-interactive turn 3 combo decks aren’t a feature we’re keen for highlander to have.

Nevertheless we are interested in releasing Worldly Tutor as a tool for creature-based combo decks. We will be paying very close attention to the performance of Flash Hulk and Hermit Druid to name a few, but seeing specifically ‘creature-based combo’ decks rise in a control-dominant meta is overall a healthy move for Highlander.

Further, we are confident that Worldly Tutor enables a diverse range of yet undeveloped brews, and we are interested in releasing this tool for the community to experiment with.

We look forward to seeing the new developments for Highlander with these two new 0-point cards.

WATCH LIST

That’s it for the actual points changes.

Below are the cards on our watch list, which the Committee has had extensive discussion regarding. Most are dramatic changes; some might be relatively safe. Either way we but do not believe right now is the best time to release them, and want to see how the meta pans out with the changes above, in order to make an informed decision during the next update:

Skullclamp possible reduction to 1

Skullclamp is a powerful card, that has the potential to draw you lots of additional cards.

But in a world of abrades, Kohlagan’s commands, Dack Faydens and fiery confluences, artifacts are extremely fragile, and skull-clamp heavy midrange and aggro decks are at an all-time low… even in those cities traditionally favouring clamping.

However, taking a point off skullclamp probably doesn’t solve our control problems; it makes midrange stronger, which makes aggro weaker, which in turn takes the pressure off control. As such at this time we are leaving it at 2, to be re-evaluated again based on the state of the meta by the next announcement.

Strip mine possible reduction to 1

Wasteland and Strip Mine are most often played together as a 3-point package and an essential tool for aggro decks to beat control. The notion of moving Strip to 1 has been entertained. Whilst both being 1 may look strange, there are of course precedents for ‘strictly better’ cards that play comparably on the list (e.g. Vamp and Seal). Since these two are played together we have entertained making them essentially a 2-point package with Strip at 1.

Overall, there are a number of pros and cons to taking a point off strip mine. It would very likely help aggressive decks the most, and hurt control decks. However, it would also help prison decks (or decks with prison options) like Lands and some moon-type strategies.

The feel-bad of playing around blood moon and back to basics but losing to your basic getting strip mined at the right time is a pretty miserable feeling, and a fair consideration in this move.

We did discuss wasteland to zero instead, but agreed that the “everyone is either playing wasteland, playing a combo deck, or being wrong” days were not ones we terribly wanted to revisit at this time.

If we do, at a later date, decide to make Strip Mine 1, there’s a decent chance it will be in conjunction with increasing points on another card that make the prison applications less free (and essentially make ‘no change’ for decks already running the prison package, so as to boost only aggro). At this stage no change.

Moxen possible reduction to 2

Moxen at two are pretty powerful, but are quite possibly the boost that aggressive strategies do need.

They’re also multiple thousands of australian dollars each. We don’t often consider pointing decisions along the price-axis, but for cards this expensive, this powerful, and this ‘essential’ for aggro players, it is definitely something we have to factor in.

It might be a decision we do have to go ahead with at a later date. If we do, expect us to point Gaea’s Cradle to counterbalance this boost to Elves.

Yawgmoth’s Bargain possible reduction to 0

Bargain is, without doubt, powerful. ‘Pay 1 life, draw a card’ is some of the best text an enchantment can have. Six, on the other hand, is a lot of mana.

This is very good in storm, but the deck has been on the downturn as of late. We have discussed the possibility of releasing this card but not at the same time as Wheel of Fortune. Bargain may also fit in hypothetical other yet-to-be constructed brews (a rector-bargain deck? Show and tell alongside Griselbrand?) so Bargain may one day make it in to the community at zero only if Storm is in the right place at the time with this powerful tool.

Enlightened Tutor possible reduction to 0

As per Worldly Tutor above, the Committee wants to avoid fast combo decks being too consistent in turns 2 and 3. Enlightened Tutor does enable the fetching of very cheap combo pieces such as Time Vault, but as of late that particular card (at 4 points) has seen very little play. It does however also fetch Black Lotus for Storm enabling very swift kills. We believe that if this control dominant meta continues to be hostile to combo, it might be an environment in which we can cautiously release another specific slow-tutor in the future.

The top-tutors are powerful cards, and it’s pretty likely they’re very good at zero points, but in each case we would have to be reasonably confident that they’ll help existing combo decks without making them unreasonably faster. Whilst Enlightened Tutor at 0 becomes a new option for, say, GW Hatebears (and other dedicated aggro decks) to fetch their clamp and enchantment-based hate to boot, we must base this decision on the deterministic and un-fun turbo wins viable in Combo. Therefore, for the moment we must space-out combo-enabling points decisions and evaluate the effect each has on the format before considering releasing Enlightened Tutor too.

Personal tutor possible reduction to 0

Another top-of-deck slow-tutor cycles, and a sorcery speed one at that. This has been considered for the future once we see how the Worldly Tutor pans out in enabling turbo combo decks.

The difference is that sorceries are the kinds of cards which end games on turns 2 or 3, so it’s taking a backseat to it’s mirage brethren for now. The number of terrifying pointed Sorceries this fetches for the early game is staggering…

Green Sun’s Zenith possible reduction to 0

Moving GSZ to zero is an interesting idea, but one we feared would reduce deck diversity without meeting our goals. It boosts Midrange decks and Titania, rather than helping aggro decks so this change might be one for when pure midrange falls out of favour, but it is not that time now.

Intuition possible reduction to 0

Another card we strongly considered depointing instead of bargain. We thought there was more risk of this one getting played in control shells, and anything that might inadvertently boost control in the process instead of combo/aggro will remain on the shelf for now.

Karakas possible reduction to 0

Karakas at zero is another risk of reducing diversity of card choices and potentially promoting annoying lockouts. On the other hand, Karakas would reduce the playability of some control all-stars like Tasigur and Kess, and enable non-Grixis control decks to compete so it’s up for further consideration. At the moment, the threat of sliding it straight into a control shell with Clique and Venser is not what we want to boost.

Spellseeker possible increase to 1

And finally! The only card which had any really serious discussion of adding a point to.

Spellseeker is powerful, and we all know it. But as yet it hasn’t flaunted that power in an “I’m a clear cut point” kind of a way. We’ll be watching it, closely, especially with Highlander at nationals, the AE Highlander Challenge and other medium and large events coming this month, especially in the context of the other combo related unpointings.

Mind Twist possible increase to 2

Mind twist moving to two is still on the cards as another potential point to slightly hamper control decks, making them consider their options more carefully and potentially increasing the variety of points that are played.

But at this time we do not want to add any points directly to control, as mentioned above, and rather free some pinpoint tools for other decks like combo and aggro to compete with dominant control strategies.