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01.10.2011, 00:28 Uhr, von <empty>

<empty>Banned List Changes Season IV - 2013

02.04.2013, 20:00 Uhr, von <empty>
Valid during October 15th, 2013 0:00 CET until April 14th, 2014 24:00 CET.
Changes to the present list, effective 10/15/2013:


* Natural Order


* Tolarian Academy


* Oath of Druids
* Sensei's Divining Top
* Mana Drain
* Demonic Tutor
* Tolarian Academy
* Dark Depths
* Mishra's Workshop

* Free Mulligan


* Mystical Tutor

Single card Explanations:

Natural Order

A Tinker for green creatures. While the format doesn't have moxes (and probably never will), we do have several first turn mana dudes, and the current design trend is that we continue seeing them. In fact, we have so many of them that the pressure to ban Natural Order has grown, especially since it continues to appear in top 8 lists in large numbers. The "Natural Order+Primeval Titan"-package more and more becomes an auto-include in some of the most popular archetypes, e. g. Goodstuff, Midrange Bant and even in some Naya-builds.

Goodstuff (24/33)
Naya (11/33)
Bant Midrange (18/26)
Almost 30% of all listed decks include Natural Order (~115/400).
(Source: mtgpulse.com)

Furthermore Natural Order assembles the very powerful combo "Dark Depths+Thespian's Stage" quite easily - a new threat that has already become a nuisance in some communities.

Generally, when Natural Order resolves you get an awesome board presence that your opponent is very unlikely to deal with completely or has to spend so many resources on in order to keep up with you, that your other cards will be able to run away with the game. On top of this, Natural Order almost always demands an immediate answer from your opponent, which makes it even harder to deal with. It thus creates harsh do-or-die scenarios that more often than not decide games in a very random and non-interactive manner.

In the end, the combination of its statistical dominance together with its distorting in-game behaviour led us to the decision to ban this card.

Tolarian Academy / Mishra's Workshop

Staxx and other artifact-based decks haven't appeared much on the latest toplists. Some of the most popular archetypes like Bant, Goodstuff, Naya and 5C-Aggro often have the appropriate toolbox to deal with the keycards of Staxx. At the recent GP there was just one out of hundred decks which employed an artifact-based strategy.

As a consequence we decided to give those decks a new toy to play with. We are nevertheless aware that now there are very many goodies available (Academy, Workshop, Mind over Matter, Trinisphere etc.) which made those decks quite consistent and dominant in the past.

Tolarian Academy stays in close observation, as its potential as a key card for non-interactive combo is known. The game is expected to slow down with the introduction of the new mulligan, but with the tutoring power present in the format, building a combo shell around Tolarian Academy is perfectly possible, and we want to see what kind of a new archetype this presents. Should it be harmful for the meta, we have to rethink Academy.

Oath of Druids

The reasons to observe Oath of Druids haven't changed much since we have introduced it on the watchlist. Oath of Druids has occasionally a powerful effect, which with traditional builds brings Emrakul or some other game winning beast into play, but this hasn't always warranted a win since the board position then can already be in such a way that the opponent is just one turn away from winning via attacking with creatures, or it leaves the opponent some other window to react properly. However, since the last GP we saw a new approach in the winning deck, that enabled a consistent combo kill which was able to end the game right there after one turn. Nevertheless we haven't seen many top-lists including Oath on mtgpulse.com so we decided not to ban Oath of Druids yet.

Sensei's Divining Top / Mana Drain

Both cards are more or less a community choice. The highlander council always tries to record the feedback of the community members and value that input highly in our internal discussions. Back in 2012 we made a small survey on a grand prix about former banned list. The results 2012:

Ban: Unban:
Birthing Pod 20 46,51% Life from the Loam 11 25,58%
Stoneforge Mystic 13 30,23% Yawgmoth's Will 9 20,93%
Sensei's Divining Top 7 16,28% Gifts Ungiven 8 18,60%
Mana Drain 6 13,95% Dread Return 8 18,60%
(Source: http://www.magicplayer.org/forum/index.php?topic=584.60)

We want to take a closer look at Mana Drain and Sensei's Divining Top and want to ignite a discussion about both cards with the community again. So please let us know about your opinion on these cards.

Demonic Tutor / Mystical Tutor

We are still evaluating if a change on those tutors would make sense and if the effects especially on the meta would be positive. Our last time announcements on those cards are still valid.

Dark Depths

Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage combine into a two card combo which threatens to win the game within short time. Both cards involved are lands, which makes the combo somewhat hard to disrupt. Also the created Marit Lage Avatar, thanks to his indestructibility, is not easily dispatched.

The whole combo can be found with many strong cards you'd already play - Primeval Titan, Intuition, Knight of the Reliquary - so it can be added to decks with little cost.

Other announcements:

Free Mulligan

The first time a player takes a mulligan, he or she draws a new hand of as many cards as he or she had before. Subsequent hands decrease by one card as normal (cf. Comprehensive Rules, 103.4c).

Beim ersten Mulligan zieht der Spieler eine Hand mit so vielen Karten wie er zuvor hatte. Die nachfolgenden Hände reduzieren sich dann wie üblich um eine Karte (vgl. Comprehensive Rules, 103.4c).

Reasons for introducing the free mulligan:

First of all, Highlander is a form of Magic - with all its strengths and its flaws. We neither want to invent a new game nor try to get rid of all the potential flaws the game has, but we want to stay as close to the basic rules of MtG as possible.

Often, the mulligan-system is recognized as the most annoying "flaw" of Magic because the randomness of opening hands can lead to frustrating games where one side of the table never has the chance to take part in the game. There were different approaches to correct this: The "0,1,6,7-mulligan rule" (where you had the chance to take a free mulligan each time you had a hand with 0,1,6 or 7 lands), the free mulligan, the overdraw (draw 9 cards, put 2 cards on bottom) and the so called spoils mulligan.

The main aim of all those approaches was to decrease the risk of losing the game before it even started by giving the players a tool that would allow them to shape their starting resources (available mana and spells in their starting hand) to some degree and thus give both players the chance to take part in a game.

At that time, the spoils mulligan seemed to be the best way for the Highlander Council to deal with this problem. So we decided to make a drastic change of the Magic basic rules by adding this mulligan rule to the Magic universe.
While we played with spoils we found out that the rule worked well but had to accept that there also were some downsides attached to it. You can follow the discussion on this topic right here: http://www.magicplayer.org/forum/index.php?topic=934.0.

One big development that is often regarded as problematic was that - over time and through the printing of new powerful spells that gradually rose in power level - curving out became more and more important. Additionally, the release of the new fetch land cycle allowed players to fix their mana better than ever before. The spoils mulligan was used (some say abused) as a tool to not only sculpt your hand in a way that would allow you to participate in the game but rather to refine your starting hand to such a degree that you would be able to curve out with a sequence of cheap and powerful spells that would eventually overpower your opponent.

One could argue - and indeed we do - that the spoils mulligan might not any longer be the optimal solution for the Highlander format. Overall card quality increased and "getting your game going" is usually quite achievable. Instead the spoils mulligan became a mighty weapon that allowed players to run 4 or even 5 colors with ease and therefore enabled a strategy of "just the best cards".

Although this strategy was legit within the recent rules frame we must admit that it wasn't originally intended when the spoils mulligan was introduced to the Highlander format.

Indeed the community was split by the question if the spoils mulligan is boon or bane of the Highlander format. Through discussion the question quickly became: Is the free mulligan rule superior to the current spoils mulligan rule?

With the above said in mind, the main argument for the free mulligan is consequently as follows: It allows players "to be in the game" without being able to sculpt their starting hand as perfectly as the spoils mulligan allowed.

With our two goals in mind

a) to stay as close as possible to the official Magic rules and
b) to reduce the risk that games are decided just by the mulligan

we come to the conclusion that the spoils mulligan isn't needed anymore and that it is not superior to the free mulligan which seems to solve the problems at hand better than the spoils mulligan.

We decided that there would be only one way to prove this and therefore introduced the free mulligan so we could analyze what will happen over a period of at least 6 month and then decide on fundamental tournament data and play experiences.

That’s why we put the free mulligan on the watchlist. We are fully aware that introducing this rules change is drastic and we want to make clear that nobody can say what will happen with 100% certainty.

When in the end it becomes clear that the free mulligan is superior or at least as good as the spoils mulligan regarding (1.) the metagame, (2.) the Highlander-games itself and (3.) the community opinon, we will stay with the free mulligan in the future. If not, there is no need to stick to bad rules and we can reverse the ruling and go back to the spoils mulligan.

Please help us to find out the answer by posting decklists, tournament results and don’t stay away of playing highlander or split from the highlander community. Share your opinion with the community. Your voice will be heard.

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