Rules Update: May 18th, 2020

May 18th, 2020 Rules Update

“Lurrus of the Dream-Den”, a new companion card from Ikoria, has been banned in Vintage.

Across the history of the format, we’ve used the Vintage banned list to help clarify format rules. Prior to today, “the Vintage banned list” was more or less a convenient way of consolidating:

– “Ante” cards
– “Conspiracy” cards
– “Dexterity” cards (Chaos Orb, Falling Star)
– “Silver-bordered” cards
– “Sub-game” Cards (Shahrazad)

Outside of unnecessary “um, actually” moments of pedantry, these aren’t “real” Magic cards. They’re illegal in every official constructed format, and in most community formats

Lurrus is not one of these cards. Lurrus is a real deal Magic card, and with Companion being a non-issue for Canadian Highlander, Lurrus will continue to be legal for play.

What this means is that Canadian Highlander will go through a slight rules change, albeit a change for the sake of cosmetics and clarification.

OLD RULE:

“Canadian Highlander follows the Vintage banned list.”

NEW RULE:

Canadian Highlander uses the following banned list:

– “Ante” cards
– “Conspiracy” cards
– “Dexterity” cards
– “Sub-game” Cards

This was a unanimous decision by the council, as well as a concern raised among MANY community members to maintain some amount of normalcy during the era of Ikoria.

If you’re concerned about structuring Magic Online matches (as most as previously been set as Vintage), please format your Canadian Highlander decks/matches as Freeform.

As always, if you have any questions/comments/concerns, please keep all discussion below.

March 2nd, 2020 – Points Changes

Changes Effective March 2nd, 2020:

Price of Progress increased from 0 points to 1 point (ADDED)
Time Walk increased from 6 points to 7 points
Underworld Breach increased from 0 points to 1 point (ADDED)
Wishclaw Talisman increased from 0 points to 1 point (ADDED)
Yawgmoth’s Will increased from 1 points to 2 points

Stoneforge Mystic decreased from 1 point to 0 points (REMOVED)

 

A video featuring explanations and justifications for these changes will be posted within the days following this announcement.

December 16th, 2019 – Points Changes

Changes Effective December 16th, 2019:

Strip Mine increased from 2 points to 3 points
Time Vault increased from 6 points to 7 points
Yawgmoth’s Will increased from 0 points to 1 point (ADDED)

Enlightened Tutor decreased from 1 point to 0 points (REMOVED)
Summoner’s Pact decreased from 2 points to 1 point
Tinker decreased from 4 points to 3 points

 

Justifications for these changes will be posted within the following day.

Top 10 Canadian Highlander Cards of 2019

As another year of magic comes to a close, I thought I would reflect back on the year through the lens of Canadian Highlander and discuss what I think are the best cards printed over the course of the past year.

Honourable Mentions:

 

Questing Beast

They somehow managed to fit 3 keyword and 3 non-keyword abilities onto the same card and they are all great. Stats? Also great. The 4th point of toughness is huge especially when combined with the deathtouch ability which will often force a double block. This has the potential to blow games wide open, seal the deal on its own, or drag you back from the brink. The only reason it is stuck in the honourable mentions is that I haven’t played with it much and as cliche as it sounds, it just dies to Doom Blade.

 

Plague Engineer

It wasn’t too long ago that I can recall players trying (and winning) with Engineered Plague in their decks to combat all of the goblins and elves running around the top tables. While they aren’t as prevalent as they once were the broken symmetry, and bearish body attached to this version turn what should be a silver bullet sideboard card into a format staple. The high potential for blowout and reasonable worst case has driven this to become an auto-include in midrange and aggressive decks that make the black mana to cast this.

 

The Top 10:

 

  1. Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft

While a relatively new card, the power level is clearly evident and it just manages to steal the last spot on the list. A common issue with these types of cards, is that you end up paying an inflated rate for both halves of the card in order to benefit from the versatility it offers. This card’s closest analogs on both sides cost the same amount, and you can have both halves if you want. Many decks often struggle to include a versatile answer like Petty Theft because it lacks raw power. It is simply a stop gap as opposed to a permanent solution and is inherently card disadvantage unless you are willing to pay a mana premium for the cantripping versions. This version does even better. A 3/1 flyer for 3 is already a reasonable rate, and giving it flash makes it competitive in decks beyond those craving for tempo. For years blue mages in the format have been asking for more Vendilion Clique-like cards. Something a little disruptive with a reasonable clock that they can cast on their opponents end step. Brazen Borrower immediately slides into the upper echelon of those along with Nimble Obstructionist and Vendilion Clique. I believe most blue decks will want this with the exception of the hardest control decks and dedicated combo decks, however, you could even make arguments for including it in some of those. I think people still aren’t quite giving this card the praise it deserves because finally you can have the versatility without sacrificing power level or efficiency.

 

  1. Hexdrinker

On the face Hexdrinker looks a little clunky and rather unassuming. While it shares text with the powerful Progenitus it seems an onerous task to obtain it. I’m here to tell you, it will happen both much more often, and more quickly than you think. While it is a reasonable turn 1 play I believe that the strongest turn to play this is when you have minimum 4 mana available, which in green decks is often sooner than turn 4. Treat it as a 4-drop and immediately level it to 3, which threatens, with an additional land next turn, to jump it straight to Progenitus status. With the prevalence of sorcery speed removal dropping in the format the ability to immediately make this nigh unkillable for some decks the turn it comes down makes this a more reliable plan that it first seems. I haven’t even really mentioned that you can also get all of this power for the low, low cost of 1 mana; which makes it easily tutorable with Green Sun’s Zenith, Finale of Devastation, or even from the same set Ranger-Captain of Eos. This is another card that has impressed me whenever I’ve seen it and isn’t quite getting its due  in our format as of yet.

 

  1. Force of Negation

The closest we’ve come to Force of Will since the printing of the original. I was skeptical at first that the inability to hit creatures would mean that this would be liable to sit in hand, in crucial moments. I was wrong. The ability to reasonably cast the card for mana as well as the addition of the pitch clause stapled to it makes this almost as good as Force of Will already and you don’t even need to pay a life to alternatively cast it! Our format has grown to the point where there will be relevant targets in almost every deck for Force of Negation. Even aggro decks will have planeswalkers, equipment, burn spells or even fast mana all of which gets tagged and can swing the course of a game. The biggest reason this makes the list is that it offers decks functionally a second copy of Force of Will against combo. Which, in a singleton format, is a huge deal. Doubling up on a free hard counter in the combo matchup means that you’ll be able to tapout relatively safely even more often to make sure you can apply pressure without actually going shields down. Force of Negation is already a staple in just about every blue deck playing counterspells as it should be.

 

  1. Prime Speaker Vannifar

Vannifar is another card that has strong similarities to a format staple, this time a pointed format staple in Birthing Pod. Vannifar not having haste is a bit of a downside, but, being a creature means she is more tutorable and easier to untap for greater one turn win potential. Vannifar immediately found success as a functional second Birthing Pod in the already existing 4c Pod decks. However, it didn’t take long for new decks to start sprouting up looking to take advantage of the ability to have twice as many pods in them. Well known Birthing Pod aficionado Pat Berdusco developed a BUG Midrange/Combo with the ability to out grind the grindiest of decks and assemble the most convoluted of combos with ease. This deck was so interesting that he convinced me to give it a whirl and we both ended up playing it in the first Puget Sound Battle Ground last year to a combined 9-0-1 record (Pat had the draw). Needless to say the addition of Vannifar certainly stretched the envelope on what is possible in terms of creature combo decks and even allowed for a more value oriented version to become successful.

 

  1. Teferi, Time Reveller

It should come as no surprise to see “T3feri” on this list. Ubiquitous and defining for an extended period in Standard. Even making strides in Modern though often in more of a utility role. The static ability ranges from annoying to infuriatingly impossible to beat. The plus 1 while innocuous has won me several games personally, and the minus 3’s ability to buy time and generate value completes one heck of a package especially considering it only costs 3. The ability to virtually lock out counterspell decks while generating additional advantage this early is very powerful. Especially with the effect not stapled to creature meaning it is much more difficult to remove. Teferi is already seeing play in fairer midrange/control strategies, however, I actually think he is strongest in combo. Against more aggressive decks he will serve as a road bump and will buy you valuable time. If resolved against control it is likely just game over. Even on his own providing subtle utility such as resetting a candelabra or drawing an extra card and storm by bouncing your own Black Lotus. You may start to notice a theme connecting the cards listed thus far; efficient, cheap, and powerful. Teferi certainly checks all three boxes.

 

  1. Neoform

Another Birthing Pod adjacent card makes the list, to the surprise of no one. Although the most obvious comparison here is Eldritch Evolution. Eldritch Evolution was once pointed for a day and has remained a contentious discussion point for the council ever since. Although the ceiling on Neoform may appear a little lower because it only jumps one rung on the mana ladder, it actually has several advantages over Eldritch Evolution. First and most obvious it only costs 2 but this is vastly more important than just costing less mana. This means it is tutorable by Spellseeker which makes it much more accessible. It also adds a +1/+1 counter to the creature which can often make a big difference. Ever have to face down a 4/4 Leovold, a 4/2 True-Name Nemesis, or an 8/7 Carnage Tyrant. Neither have I, but several of my opponents sure have! Lastly it doesn’t exile and in a world of Snapcaster Mage, Eternal Witness, and even Archaeomancer (likely too deep) that opens the door for many neos to be formed. Neoform is already a staple in every creature combo deck that can cast it, and even sees a reasonable amount of play as a value tutor in fairer decks.

 

  1. Urza, Lord High Artificer

Urza is one of the best Academy cards printed in a long time. The ability to combat artifact hate cards effectively, provide a valuable mana sink, and win the game via the likely massive token all in one card is ridiculous. Urza forces your opponent to fight on multiple axes, and answer both it and the token quickly or the game will simply end. Academy decks often rely on having engine cards to function, for example Paradox Engine is a great mana engine, Future Sight a great card engine. They work great together however on their own they aren’t nearly as threatening. Urza does both as well as provide value and impact on board. The ability to tap non-mana producing artifacts for mana lessens the cost of including them in the deck so now non-eggs Academy decks have the ability to play explosive cards like Krark-Clan Ironworks with less risk of it being dead. I still don’t think there has been enough innovation in regards to Urza yet. He has been slotted into already existing decks, but I believe that he is powerful enough, and there are enough supporting pieces to try out new archetypes revolving around the High Artificer.

 

  1. Oko, Thief of Crowns

Oko just might be broko. Oko may only seem decent at first glance, but once you get a chance to play with him you almost immediately realize just how powerful he is. The most overwhelming part of the card is the starting loyalty. The ability to go to 6 loyalty to first turn he’s in play is backbreaking. I cast this card the first week it was legal against mono red on turn 2. I plus 2’d to make a food token and they asked what that did. I almost felt too bad to tell them. How do they ever come back from that point. That is not withstanding what is in my opinion the most confounding part of the card. The second ability is a plus 1?! It seems to me that that ability could have easily been a minus 1 or even a zero and it still would’ve been a powerful card. The combination of making a 3/3 every two turns while gaining 3 loyalty seems absurd to me and most people sitting across from it happening. Where I think Oko is most underrated (yes, I actually think he is underrated) is as a utility answer to problem permanents. Blue/Green is a colour combination that’s biggest weakness has always been a lack of good answers to permanents that have resolved. Oko has the ability to turn even the most powerful Creatures and Artifacts in the game into mostly harmless elk. The first time I got to play Oko I immediately used it to turn my opponents Paradox Engine into a 3/3, I won that game.

 

  1. Mystic Sanctuary

It’s. An. Island. The opportunity cost of playing this in most decks is absurdly low. With the advent of more and more basic-typed dual lands it will only get better with time. It should be an auto-include in just about every blue control deck. The ability to rebuy a spell just by playing a land and often have access to it in the same turn is incredible. Not to mention more powerful uses such as setting up Miracles. Esper Reanimator now has the line of Entomb Entreat the Angels, fetch Mystic Sanctuary put Entreat on top all on your end step. Great I love it. This is without even touching on the multitude of potential infinite combos available using Time Walks. Meloku, Trade Routes, Kefnet, Venser, the Sojourner, and even Zuran Orb + Crucible of Worlds/Ramunap Excavator all go infinite with this fetchable land any castable Time Walk. The cost of putting this card into your deck? You have to play islands. It might come in tapped sometimes. That’s it. This card is nuts and we haven’t even come close to fleshing out all of the possibilities yet.

 

  1. Wrenn and Six

Wrenn and Six is an absolutely devastating magic card. We all laughed at Tibalt. “He’s unplayable!” we said. Who’s laughing now? Wrenn and Six. They provide a functional way to recur Strip Mine or Wasteland starting turn 2. While also having the option to kill the mana dork you desperately want to play to try and break the lock. They also come down at a potential 4 loyalty frequently on turn 1 or 2 meaning it will almost certainly take more than one turn to remove them even without blockers. This card is certainly at least partially responsible for the recent success and prominence of the lands based midrange decks over the past few months. Beyond that it has become ubiquitous in every deck that can cast it and several that previously couldn’t. It is a 2 drop that is powerful at any point during the game and has the ability to take over as soon as it enters play. I have spoken to some people who think Wrenn and Six seem underwhelming. The operative being “seem”, once you play with or against them you will truly understand just how powerful they are.

 

2019 was a great year for Magic and Canadian Highlander in particular. Some of the most powerful cards in recent memory were printed and are still being tinkered with to fulfill their maximum potential. Others have already had near instant success and have been dominating tournaments already.

 

Jeremy White
@jrhwhite
twitch.tv/jrhwhite

September 9th, 2019 – Points Changes & Justifications

Changes Effective September 9th, 2019:

Crop Rotation increased from 0 points to 1 point (ADDED)
Demonic Ttuor increased from 3 points to 4 points
Mana Crypt increased from 3 points to 4 points
Sol Ring increased from 3 points to 4 points

 

Before we dive into card specific justifications, I want to stress the amount of time dedicated community members put into both testing various pointed cards/archetypes, and harvesting data from their respective communities. It is because of those efforts, that we are able to promote these points decisions with the utmost confidence, and can assure players that these changes are made entirely with producing a better format. While four individual increases seemingly presents such a large power shift, I hope that over the course of the next months you’ll take it upon yourselves to experiment with various new points spreads, and experience a fresh take on your favourite archetypes. I think you’ll find it isn’t as drastic as you may think.

What I’m trying to say is we’re all still going to die to Medium decks pooping out monsters, get strip-locked into oblivion by our Wrenn & Six overlords, and have to stare at our Eggs opponent trying to remember if they PLAYED their Buried Ruin or if it entered play from one of their two Crop Rotations.

You know, the reasons why we love this format!

 

Below are the justifications for the following changes:

 

Crop Rotation– Increased from 0 to 1 (ADDED)

Watchlist post:

While all extremely powerful cards on their own, the potential increase behind this suite of mana producers & deniers is more or less tied with the potential decrease of Fastbond. More or less these cards are included as general format housekeeping, but the council has been tracking the activity and achievements of Strip Mine and Crop Rotation over the past year or so, and their status on the points list may be judged as standalone cards.

Crop Rotation being added to the points list has been a long time coming. It takes a lot for a card to be added to the points list, with Spellseeker being the next most recent addition approximately one year ago. Thankfully, Crop Rotation is up for the challenge! Rotation shares all the qualities of a pointed tutor; flexible, cheap, instant speed all within a colour poised to take advantage of potential new crops. Being a strong and flexible card however isn’t enough to land a card on the points list, but rather it’s the play patterns that Crop Rotation specifically sets up that push it over the edge. You’ll often find Rotation setting up Strip Mine (and Wasteland) locks, kicking a Tolarian Academy or Gaea’s Cradle into gear, or leaving an EoT Marit Lage on your opponents door step. While each of these are format defining lines of play, the speed and frequency that Crop Rotation allows for these lines is a bit too much to continue along free of charge.

 

Demonic Tutor– Increased from 3 to 4

Watchlist post: 

It was no secret that Black was unanimously the weakest colour in Canadian Highlander for quite some time, often being relegated to strictly combo strategies or as the supporting colour in Grixis Control. Our intention on reducing the points of Demonic Tutor and Tainted Pact during the previous year(s) was to increase the diversity and prevalence of Swamps in the format. While we believe we have successfully accomplished what we set out to change, we worry that the various changes put into place may have created more swing-games than hoped.

There’s no question that the combination of Black Lotus and Demonic Tutor was the single most ubiquitous combo spread available in the format. This iconic gruesome twosome were in fact so prevalent and strong, that any other combo spread (or deck for that matter) was often piloted to the detriment of a players win percentage. This isn’t to say that other combo decks were not viable, with Paradox Academy and Time Vault archetypes generating their fair share of groans, but the strength of Lotus/Tutor versus an unknown field cannot be ignored. This lead to a homogeneous collective of Storm shells masquerading as “unique” combo strategies, all of which tossed the diversity of deck construction and in-game strategic trajectory out the window.

It must be said that this change was not solely brought down by the monotony of combo spreads, but also those of midrange decks. While we believe it is important to have “points pillars” for our format, being a pillar does not leave a card exempt from change. The efficiency of DT lead to players having “the perfect answer at the right time” far too often, to the point in which it became the cornerstone of most midrange decks in the format. While it is important to allow players access to tools to reduce the variance in any given format (especially a one-hundred card singleton format), it can is a delicate balance that when unchecked can lead to uninspired gameplay and play patterns.

Also, come on, it’s Demonic Tutor. The granddaddy of all tutors will still be an excellent use of points for both combo decks and midrange decks alike, for many years to come.

 

Mana Crypt & Sol Ring – Increased from 3 to 4

Watchlist post: 

Mana Crypt will be increase to 3 points within the following weeks, and this should come as no surprise to anyone who has played the format in the past year. Mana Crypt based midrange and aggro decks have been sitting on the highlander throne for a bit longer than the council is comfortable with, and we believe that increasing Mana Crypt is a great start. The inclusion of Crypt of the watchlist is just a formality at this point.

Sol Ring on the other hand is something that we’re glad has seen an increase in “fair” gameplay, but it proved to be a bit warping in combination with the reduced Mana Crypt and Strip Mine. We’ll be seeing how these decks adapt to the increase of Crypt before addressing Sol Ring, but we’re well aware of the power behind one of the deck cards in the game.

This change may be the most predictable shift in our format’s history (aside from maybe the initial pointing of Birthing Pod or the first increase of Natural Order), and there’s not much to be said that hasn’t already been covered across various other platforms. Crypt & Ring provides fast mana like no other, and certainly find themselves in a rank above their moxen compatriots. Such an oppressive burst of speed, be it powering out dragons, Memory Jars or titans, lead to an uncomfortable amount of non-games, to such a frequency that the council has decided to increase both options.

Taking a mulligan on the Sorensen

As the result of a community referendum and then a unanimous council vote Canadian Highlander will no longer be played with the Sorensen Mulligan and will adopt the London Mulligan.

For a while now the council has wanted to try to align the format rules with those people are familiar with from other formats. This feeling combined with the resurgence of fast mana decks looking to push the limits of a second six mulligan led to the decision to adopt the London Mulligan over the Sorensen.

June 3rd Tournament Report – Goblins

Round 1 – Arlo – Abzan Good Stuff

Both mulligan to first 6, both scry to bottom. Arlo starts things off with Forest and Arbor Elf. I get a little cagey and play Chain Lightning off my Mountain on my first turn. I tend to favour this play on the draw when I feel like I could fall behind too quickly. Arlo played Skullclamp and a Ranumap Excavator on the next turn. I played a Sensation Gorger but it got hit by a Palace Jailer. My empty board looked pretty bad compared to his creatures. I got hit with the equipped Naga before landing a Goblin Warchief and a Stingscourger on the same turn. I bounced the Naga and attacked with Stingscourger to threaten becoming the Monarch. Arlo blocked, later allowing my Gorger to return and leaving my board looking okay. I had Goblins on top of my deck over the next two turns but Arlo had little to no cards each time; didn’t seem good to let him draw four. I think I got a bushwhacker of some sort and sealed it from there.

In game two Arlo had an early Smuggler’s Copter and cast an Anafenza, the Foremost to attack for three and loot. I was working on building my board with Goblin Wardriver and Goblin Rabblemaster (played in second main) and Arlo had played a Siege Rhino and got in for seven, pumping the tapped rhino at the same time. I made some attacks after playing Goblin Trashmaster but things didn’t look too too good. Arlo played a Palace Jailer and hastily targeted my Goblin Trashmaster. I sacrificed it in response to kill the copter. Arlo didn’t attack and it gave me the chance to take the win with hasty goblins. The game could have gone either way.

Continue reading June 3rd Tournament Report – Goblins

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