Valid during October 15th, 2015 0:00 CET until April 14th, 2016 24:00 CET.
Changes to the present list, effective October 15th 2015
* Natural Order
* Tolarian Academy
* Oath of Druids
* Mystical Tutor
* Sensei's Divining Top
* Stoneforge Mystic
Scry-1 Mulligan (described here: http://www.magicplayer.org/forum/index.php?topic=1115.0) will be part of the official HL Mulligan rules (http://highlandermagic.info/index.php?id=mulligan).
Back in October 2014, Wizards announced changes to Friday Night Magic events, according to which any format could be sanctioned. This was also covered in our forums. Sanctioning an event would require the Magic cards being used to be from tournament legal editions; more specifically, the cards with square edges or with gold-bordered backside/front would not be permitted as they would be considered proxies, which are not in line with the requirements of sanctioned tournaments.
We want to make the Highlander format broadly available so that it can be sanctioned by tournament organizers if they so choose. Currently cards from these editions are permitted in Highlander:
Beginning with the next banning season (October 15th, 2015), we put the decision whether to allow or disallow IE-/CE-/Championship-cards solely in the hands of the respective tournament organizers.
In case the cards are not getting allowed by the tournament organizer, the tournament may be sanctioned as a casual-rated event through the WER (Wizard's Event Reporter).
Why do we do this?
As a general rule, it is not permitted to sanction a rated tournament and at the same time allow proxy cards. (Magic: The Gathering tournaments sanctioned by the DCI allow the use of proxy cards only to replace cards damaged during play, e.g. water is spilled on a deck mid-tournament, causing some cards to be marked. That is the only exception.)
"Gold" cards are considered proxies and this creates a complicated barrier for Highlander tournaments to be arranged as part of bigger, official tournaments, like as a side event at PTs or GPs. In the long run, we want to promote Highlander on a larger scale and we will therefore need to deal with potential impediments which will prevent Highlander from being accepted in broader non-casual environments.
Also, we have been observing the trend of tournament organizers having themselves banned IE-/CE-/Championship-cards from their tournaments for varying reasons. We don't want to hamper the work of TO's, who through their dedication and effort promote Highlander as a competitive format. Instead, we want to empower TO's to being able to make the decisions which best suit their needs.
What this will mean?
We want to emphasize again, that we are not discouraging the use of IE-/CE-/Championship-cards at all. Ultimately, since tournament organizers are the ones who make Highlander happen, we want to let them be able to choose the approach they prefer.
Single cards explanations:
Natural Order was banned exactly two years ago (http://www.magicplayer.org/forum/index.php?topic=959.0). The ban was partly justified with a meta full of green-based Goodstuff, Naya and 4c Blood decks, which almost all included the "Natural Order+Primeval Titan"-package. The meta has changed in the last two years and so Natural Order appeared on the unban watch list from time to time (http://www.magicplayer.org/forum/index.php?topic=1045.0).
Based on the results reported to MTGPulse in the last year (since Khans of Takir has been released) the metagame shifted towards blue-based control and -midrange decks. In fact beside 4c Blood there are following top entries on MTGPulse since KTK-Release:
Azorius Control 14
Izzet Control 13
Jeskai Midrange 11
Actually there are not that many T1 decks, which are able to get any profit of the unban. Maybe 4c Blood could make use of it, but we guess it won't be an autoinclude like in older days. As the meta changed, so 4c Blood did. Nowadays the Blood decks usually have a lower mana curve. Most of these play spells only up to CC 4, adding (if at all) just a few CC5-drops (mostly Thundermaw Hellkite). To get any advantage of Natural Order they have to add a fitting valuable high mana cost creature (e.g. Primeval Titan, Thragtusk).
In contrast we believe the unban can push decktypes, which are actually underrepresented, like Pattern Rector (3 entries in the last year), Ramp (3 entries) and Elves (0 entries). Maybe some other hidden champions will appear, which can mix things up again a bit. Nevertheless we are aware of the power of Natural Order, so it is added to the ban watch list.
Tolarian Academy always stays under close observation, as its potential as a key card for non-interactive combo is known.
The game has slowed down with the introduction of the free mulligan and it is not as easy as it was under spoils conditions to sculpt a perfect hand, 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 new archetype this possibly brings forth. Should it be harmful for the metagame, we have to think again about Academy. The latest developments regarding the Eggs deck demand a reintroduction of Tolarian Academy to the ban watch list.
We are aware of Fastbond being able to enable advantageous plays in a short time. However at the moment the card is not notably present in the decks, nor does it overperform in the big tournaments or the weekly events. (HL Cup Maintal -> occurrence: 2, Top 8: 0/ MGM#3 -> occurrence: 7, Top 8: 2)
Since Fastbond was unbanned not so long ago and the next Edition contains two sets with land strategies (Landfall), Fastbond will stay under observation.
Oath of Druids
Like Tolarian Academy, Oath of Druids is mostly introduced to the watch list because of its enormous potential, especially in decks like Eggs, TPS and many other Oath Control lists.
Particularly its performance in the last big tournaments was remarkable. This card earns special attention and therefore stays on the watch list.
We have decided to put Mystical Tutor on the watch list.
Besides the obvious mana efficiency (1-Drop + EoT option and therefore no loss of mana in my own turn) and timing (instant), Mystical Tutor is able to find direct answers (in form of removal, discard, counter) or indirect answers (other tutors), in contrast to his “siblings” Enlightened and Worldly Tutor. Like many other tutors too, Mystical Tutor gains more and more options with each new set (e.g. Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, Kolaghan’s Command). The potential of this card is unmistakably and therefore should be observed.
Sensei's Divining Top
SDT seems to split the community somehow: http://www.magicplayer.org/forum/index.php?topic=684.60. There is obviously no way to please everyone by banning or unbanning that card. SDT has been never banned in the long history of highlander, but not many cards have been discussed that intensively.
Sensei's has been banned 4 years ago in Modern. The reasons for its banning also fits in Highlander somehow. Following topics were discussed quite controvertible:
* time issue, especially problematic in tournaments or in hands of unskilled players
* (un)fun factor, SDT sometimes leads to quite annoying games
* skill rewarding, yes or no?
* powerlevel, acceptable or still a huge swing T1 into SDT?
In contrast to Natural Order Stoneforge Mystic seems to be an autoinclude in most of T1 decktypes.
4c Blood will add it for Sword-Toolbox.
UW- / Jeskai- / Esper-Control will add it for Batterskull and sometimes Sword of the Meek.
The already top seeded archetypes would get a new powerful toy to play with, which makes things worse for those decks which are actually a bit behind and have no use for it.
So Stoneforge Mystic won't help to have a more diverse meta, but contributes to more similar games, which will often circle around Stoneforge Mystic and the way to handle the enemy Sword (SoFI vs Izzet, SoFF vs 4c Blood etc). That's why we decided not to unban SM yet, but leave it on the watch list as it could may be a good moment in the future to unban the Mystic, when the meta changed a bit again.
Entomb is put on the watch list. We are aware of the power of this card and the possibility that Entomb could push Reanimator and various other combo decks. Nevertheless the format greatly changed within the past years. Is Entomb too strong in the actual meta? Would its influence be disproportionate? Or might it have a healthy impact on the format? These questions can only be answered, when we pay more attention on this card in the future.
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