April 19, 2016

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Musings of the Madman - Exploring Canadian Highlander

Welcome back all! Let’s take a look at Canadian Highlander, a fun variant format that allows use of your older power cards, including Collector’s Edition and Championship Edition variants! As you might have surmised, this is essentially 100-card singleton, but you can actually go well over 100 cards if you wish, to 200, 300, 400 and beyond! The format’s banned list is essentially the same as the Vintage banned list, with Shahrazad added for ease of gameplay. To get a better idea of the format’s rules and intricate workings, let’s go to their cool site here.

As we can see, the format has been around forever, close to 20 years at this point. Originating in Victoria, British Columbia, the format ebbed and flowed and eventually pointed itself to a tournament scene, which led to the first inklings of a banned list, whose inorganic nature led to the points system we have today.

The Points System:

You have ten points to allocate to adding some of the more broken cards in the game to your deck. Every 100 cards in your library grants you a base 10 points, so if you wanted a 500 card deck, you could use 50 points. Since there isn’t any duplication because of the Highlander nature, you would never have multiple Ancestral Recall, for example, but you could have that and some Moxen. It’s important to note that you start with 20 life points and there is no sideboard to help you, so you’re on your own with your creation! Without further ado, here is the current point system, based on a 10 point buy-in.

As we can see, fast mana tends to be at a midpoint cost of around two to three, while cards that will just end the game on spot, like Flash or Tinker, are weighted higher up the scale around five or so. This seems fairly reasonably as it gives you chance to chain a tutor into a finisher, but at the cost of a little more mana. You can have an Academy, but if you want to fuel it you’ll likely have to dedicate your package to it. It’s worth noting that cards such as Lotus Petal and Mox Diamond are absent, likely due to their impermanent nature or costs to play.

A perusal of some of the more popular decks here shows that mana accelerants are at a premium, just as they are in Commander. Your deck will habitually have its Mox or Mana Crypt, some nana dorks and a handful of tutors. In Canadian Highlander as in Commander, consistency is the soul of victory, so to speak. For example, the "Mono Green Craterhoof" deck I'll be listing here has Mana Crypt, Mox Emerald, Worldly Tutorand Summoner's Pact as some of its stars. There's a solid "Elfball" array of mana elves, including Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary and his crew to power out massive fatties. Without further ado though, here's a decklist, courtesy of Benjamin Wheeler! (Note that the points in parentheses next to some cards refer to to their point cost off the Canadian Highlander list.)

Mono-Green Craterhoof

Creatures (44)
Artifacts (3)
Enchantments (2)
Planeswalkers (7)
Instants & Sorceries (10)
Lands (34)

Some quick observations: we immediately differentiate from Commander in that the deck, purporting to be mono-green, splashes red for a few cards without penalty. Otherwise we see a lot of familiar faces. Lots of snow lands (but oddly enough no Scrying Sheets to abuse them) and as many ways to draw cards and abuse creature entry from library to hand or play as possible. This deck looks like it could explosively get to 7-10 mana by turn three or so and then just crank out large critters until your life total is 0. There isn't a lot of enchantment or artifact removal, but that Reclamation Sage can get recycled something fierce with the various bounce effects.

All in all, Canadian Highlander seems like a good alternative for your group if Commander or regular casual play gets a little stale. I'm sure we'll see this pop up in Ottawa at some point in the future!

Until then, may there only be one victory, and may it be yours.