May 1st, 2023 – Ban and Watch List Changes
Changes to the present banned list, effective 15/05/2023:
•White Plume Adventurer
Changes to the present watch lists:
Birthing Pod *Removed
• Oath of Druids
Oko, Thief of Crowns *Removed*
• Urza’s Saga
• True-Name Nemesis
• Gifts Ungiven *New*
• Library of Alexandria *New*
• White Plume Adventurer *New*
Single card explanation:
White Plume Adventurer
The tight grip that the Initiative mechanic has held over the midrange matchups of the format hasn’t loosened up since we initially put WPA on the watchlist. Since WotC hasn’t shown any interest in fixing the mechanic themselves (by nerfing The Undercity for example) we don’t see any other way forward than to take action ourselves.
We’ve previously stated, that the cheapest Initiative threat is the most dangerous and for this reason we are banning White Plume Adventurer.
The HL format is hardly the same it was back in 2019, when TNN was added to the ban list. While still being able to take over some games, he is hardly as fearsome as he used to be. As our own testing and the majority of the feedback we have gotten during the trial phase has shown that the Merfolk is just another good 3-drop nowadays we have decided to unban True-Name Nemesis.
When we unbanned Pod in November last year we stated that “a three month trial period cannot show all effects on the meta and we will keep an eye on the development of the format with Birthing Pod.”
Another six months have passed since then and while Birthing Pod is in fact a strong card, it hasn’t lead to any initially unforseen unhealthy play patterns. After this additional surveillance periode we are now removing Birthing Pod from the watchlist.
Oko, Thief of Crowns
Today marks the 3-year-anniversary of Oko being introduced to the watch list. While the planeswalker is still a very strong card and can sometimes be frustrating to play against, numerous answers have been printed since 2020 and what once seemed almost like it couldn’t be dealt with, can now be handled by almost any deck (Not more or less difficult than other Planeswalker anyway).
We do believe that there will be even more viable solutions to Oko printed in the future. For now, the Thief of Crowns has served his time on the watchlist and is free once more.
We are removing Oko, Thief of Crowns from the watchlist!
While Oko’s three years might sound like a long time initially, they do get dwarfed by the almost incomprehensible 12 years, that Gifts Ungiven has been on the ban list already. Most Highlander players never experienced a format with the powerful instant. Even nowadays, the council statement from the initial banning holds up:
The three most common scenarios with Gifts have been: tutor up the four best cards for any given situation (tutoring for overall quality), setup a strong graveyard based synergy, or pave a way for a combo win initiated during next turns. So in a sense, Gifts has been both a powerful tutor, as well as an instant draw on steroids at the same time in combo/control builds. When abusing this card, the most broken scenarios have been the ones where Gifts has been used to tutor up a suite of win conditions that in the end leave the opponent no way out.
While combo cards, graveyard synergys, win conditions and the overall powerlevel of cards in general has gone up since then, one very important thing has also changed: The speed of the format.
We still recognize Gifts Ungiven as a very powerful tutor spell that can set up all kinds of shenanigans that weren’t even around back when it was first banned (Sevinne’s Reclamation / Unburial Rites+Fatty – Yes, you read that one right! The original Innistrad released exactly one day before Gifts Ungiven was banned, so HL players never got to experience that combo!) but we do at the same time think that the format might be fast enough today to not have it being dominated by it.
To have the potential to test Gifts Ungiven in a future Trial, we are adding the card to the unban watchlist.
Library of Alexandria
One-upping even Gifts Ungiven, this land was banned in 2010, almost 13 years ago, after being legal since 2008.
The two main reasons given back then were dominance in control mirrors and the price tag (If people back then knew what cards would be worth today…).
We do want the format to be as accessible as possible but card prices are no longer leading to bans.
As for the dominance in control mirrors (or other matchups): The same logic in regards to the speed of the format explained above with Gifts Ungiven applies here.
To have the potential to test Library of Alexandria in a future Trial, we are adding the card to the unban watchlist.
Every now and then Players are asking if they are allowed to bring a wishboard. To make it clear for everyone, the homepage rules section will be updated: For rules purposes, the only cards a player owns during a tournament match are the ones contained in the deck they are currently playing.