Points Announcement: War of the Spark

Changes over the last year have seen a healthy balance between the fair decks. In specific, the resurgence in Tempo and Aggro strategies has seen good competition with what was originally a heavily Control and Midrange-dominant meta. The current metagame displays a good equilibrium between the four ‘Fair’ archetypes, so the latest Points Announcement is an opportunity to assist decks on the other end of the spectrum.

Here is the change:

Gifts Ungiven -1 (now 0 Points)

Here are the full details, followed by our current watch list:

GIFTS UNGIVEN
-1 (to 0 Points)

This powerful Combo tutor and engine card has been on the points list for some time, and does see intermittent play. Gifts has the ability to provide Control decks with a powerful late game draw engine and mid-game combo finish, but comes with some degree of deck building cost. The key to optimising Gifts however is in Combo shells wherein players can craft decks that make for game breaking ‘gifts piles’. However at 1 Point Gifts has rarely made it in to Combo decks due to their tight points-requirements.

The Committee moves to release Gifts Ungiven as it presents interesting opportunities for existing Combo decks to adopt a powerful tool, as well as new unexplored brews. Intuition has been discussed as a potential for de-pointing as both Gifts and Intuition often fit into the same archetypes due to deck-building requirements and redundancy. The former tutor has more raw power, whilst the advantage of the latter is speed. Among the variety of pros and cons to Gifts versus Intuition, the Committee elect in this instance to de-point for power rather than speed, as making the critical turn for such Combo decks one turn earlier can be problematic.

WATCH LIST
We’ve discussed many cards extensively, but here are the highlights that are actively on the Watch List for July/Aug:

Enlightened Tutor (-1): Tutors in Highlander are inherently very powerful, especially when they search out 4-point cards like Time Vault and Black Lotus. The cheaper the tutor, the earlier the ‘critical turn’ becomes for a consistent Combo deck. However, with Enlightened Tutor it sits in a unique position wherein the card can play a number of roles, including searching out equipment and Birthing Pod in midrange decks, Choke and other sideboard cards in GW Hatebears, and other interesting applications. The Committee certainly has ET on the radar for release at 0 in lieu of reducing a linear card (relatively speaking) like Time Vault, as a flexible card can promote many new opportunities to brew in Highlander.

True-name Nemesis (+1): Most 1-Point cards are powerful in 2-out-of-3 ‘stages’ of the game, however TNN is incredible when you’re ahead, at parity, and when you’re behind. It easily slots into Control decks with no real deck-building requirement (unlike most 1-Point cards), and across all events over the last 1.5 years, TNN has the undisputed best conversion rate of any 1-point card.

Birthing Pod (-1): This card is undeniably powerful but has seen a very small portion of the meta share at 1 Point, largely because of the fear of sleeving up an artifact in the presence of Kolaghan’s Command and Co. However since last announcement, Pod has seen gradually increasing success (but remains on the Watch List for now).

Flash (+1) or a Flash-Hulk (1 & 1): The Flash Hulk deck has received new printings like Spellseeker, and a de-pointing in the form of Worldly Tutor. Flash, is a key to ‘turn-two-wins’ and therefore a potential target to manage the power level of the deck. Flash also sees play in other decks without the 2 Point partner card Protean Hulk. However based on large event results, pointing Combo cards is not necessarily required.

Library of Alexandria (-1): Control is gradually reducing in prevalence, and whilst a gauntlet of control mirrors at every event was a common occurrence in 2017-18, that era appears to be coming to a close. With Strip Mine and Aggro and Tempo decks coming out of the woodwork we may be poised for this potential change at some point in the future if Control needs a helping hand.

Dack Fayden (+1): Whilst he does not generate card advantage per se, Dack’s loot and two different ‘steal’ effects are instrumental in making UR(x) decks some of the best performing archetypes. Control, Midrange, Tempo, and even some Aggro and Combo decks are aided by this powerful planeswalker at ‘no cost’. Applying a cost to running Dack may justify sleeving up the variety of non-URx decks that are on the verge of competitive. The ‘tax’ that Dack-ubiquity also places on the meta in the case of sleeving up artifact and Tinker decks is not irrelevant.

Gaea’s Cradle (+1): This land is a very powerful card in Elf ramp and Combo decks, but these are not a large portion of the metagame at present. The Committee continue to watch this card which could easily deserve a point on raw power level alone, however in looking to assist Combo at present, now is not the right time for such a change.

As you can see, there are a few Midrange, Control, and Tempo cards which could reasonably shift in points, however with the ‘Fair Deck’ spectrum in balance for the first time in a long time, there is no urgent need to change things up in that particular share of the meta. Combo is the pressing issue requiring attention at the moment, so we look forward to seeing your new brews with Gifts Ungiven!

The state of the metagame will be monitored with this new and powerful tool, and if combo is still underperforming then it will continue to be addressed in the next update