Changes to the present banned list, effective 05/15/2020:
Single card explanation (parenthesis -> voting result):
Although we ultimately voted for no changes this time around, there were 2 cards that came close to being banned and 2 cards that came close to being unbanned:
Tolarian Academy (Unban 3x / Ban 3x / Abstain 1x)
The artifact powered land has certainly been one of the most discussed cards for a banning for quite a while now. The deck this card lends its name to is capable of powerful starts and impressive turns where it sometimes draws multiple new hands of 7 cards and then wins with one of many different combos. We are aware that playing against this deck can lead to frustrating situations, where you sometimes have to sit and wait for several minutes while watching the Academy player do his thing before he finally finishes you off. At the same time we do want combo to be a viable archetype in our format and although the highest highs of the deck are indeed very impressive, we do acknowledge that Academy has its weaknesses. Especially blue based tempo decks, which are among the most popular archetyps at the moment, are one of the best tools to fight Academy. We will continue to monitor the decks performance closely but for now Tolarian Academy stays unbanned!
Oath of Druids (Unban 4x / Ban 3x)
The second close contender for a ban this time is one of the most powerful enchantments in the format. Oath has always been good at cheating out big creatures for very little investment and sometimes you got that little extra value with cards like Life from the Loam. Now the best additional value you can get are flashback spells both printed last year from C19 and MH1: Sevinne’s Reclamation and Echo of Eons. You now are able to put something like Fastbond and Crucible onto the battlefield while getting your Emrakul. Or you can draw a fresh hand of 7 cards on top of summoning your big creature. Nevertheless Oath of Druids is not seing a lot of play at the moment, so we decided to keep it off the banned list for now.
Skullclamp (Unban 3x / Ban 4x)
This card is the most discussed tool for pushing creature heavy decks, especially tribal decks like Elves or Goblins, into more playable territory. We decided to go with the community vote on this one and leave Skullclamp banned for now!
Umezawa’s Jitte (Unban 3x / Ban 4x)
This card is also regularly brought up as a weapon for small creature strategies to go head to head with big creature decks like 4C Blood. Ultimately we think that Umezawa’s Jitte will actually make creature-synergy decks even weaker by being able to pick off anything from mana accelerants to lords.
Ban watchlist: • Demonic Tutor • Dig Through Time • Intuition new • Mana Drain • Oath of Druids • Oko, Thief of Crowns new • Tainted Pact • Tolarian Academy • Treasure Cruise • Underworld Breach new
Unban watchlist: • Skullclamp • Survival of the Fittest • True-Name Nemesis • Umezawa’s Jitte
Single cards explanations:
Underworld Breach is one of the fastest banned cards in Legacy ever and already making waves in Highlander as well. The powerful 2 mana enchantment is enabling a consistant combo deck that abuses Lion’s Eye Diamond to cast Brainfreeze over and over again, first targeting yourself to fuel the escape costs and finally to finish off the opponent. While the deck is very fast and consistant, we think that the current situation, with no high stakes tournaments being played, leaves us with more time to evaluate the powerlevel of the combo. Furthermore we want to give people the option to adept and prepare for/against this strategy before taking any further steps.
Intuition has been a Highlander staple for many years now. Cards like Snapcaster Mage, Eternal Witness and other regrowth effects always made sure that you got the card you really wanted. Reanimate strategies abused the blue instant to put 2 fatties into the bin and control decks sometimes played the card for it’s versatility. While Intuition has always been a powerful card,the printing of Sevinne’s Reclamation last year has pushed the card into new territory, essentially making it a one-card combo enabler. We do want to watch it’s development closer and have the possibility to take action against it if necessary.
Oko, Thief of Crowns:
During our last announcement we wrote the following about Oko: Oko is one of the most powerful cards of 2019, probably the most powerful one and a mistake that Wizards has admitted they missed during testing. Therefore WOTC came to the conclussion it should be banned in various formats (Standard, Pioneer, Brawl). In Modern, Legacy and even Vintage, Oko makes regular appearances. Meanwhile the planeswalker has certainly proven to also be impactful in our 100 card singleton format. A lot of people have risen concerns about his power especially against creature strategies. Though we think the card is currently fine for Highlander in terms of powerlevel, we are adding Oko, Thief of Crowns to the watchlist and will continue to closely monitor his performance in the future!
Statement regarding the Companion mechanic:
Companion is the most talked about ability from Ikoria and is creating a lot of buzz among players.
When the mechanic was first introduced, WotC announced that Commander, the biggest 100 card singleton format, would allow Companions even though Commander does not have a sideboard. Additionally, the card Lutri, the Spellchaser was preemptively banned because the singleton nature of Commander means, that every deck is meeting it’s Companion criteria right away.
While we already leaned towards not following this example but rather stick to the official rules, which require the use of a sideboard for Companion to work, we wanted to see how the mechanic was dealt with in all kinds of different settings before drawing a final conclusion. Unfortunately, the ability is already warping every competitive constructed format around itself, leading to repetitive gameplay and frustrated players calling for changes. A free 8th. card you have every single game apparently is way too powerful, even with some built-in restrictions.
We will thus follow our initial approach:
Highlander does not have a sideboard, which Companion requires. We are not going to make an exception to this rule, which means the Companion mechanic does not function in Highlander. You are still allowed to play these cards in your regular deck, but not as a Companion that starts outside the game.
Changes to publication of Council Announcements
Leaving the Council Thomas Stier, “Maqi”, from Germany, Mannheim, is stepping down as a Council member, which he has been since the end of 2012. We would like to thank Thomas for the dedication and the work he has put into our format for many years and wish him all the best for the future!