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By: stsung, Ren Stefanek
Aug 02 2016 11:00am
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A long time ago I went to a local game store and saw a very strange game. Both players had a deck of roughly 100 cards and were obviously playing for quite a while since they had roughly 12 lands in play. They were playing blue based decks and obviously had a hard time killing each other. I stayed and watch them play. At that time Legacy and Vintage were a newly created formats and those players I used to play with (Type 1 and 1.5) didn't like the Restricted and Banned cards lists and stopped playing because of it. Thus I was looking for other players I could play with. Unfortunately the majority of players played Type 2 (Standard) and I just couldn't play that. It seemed too boring. So seeing these two players sling spells I actually knew was something I couldn't ignore. After the game ended I asked them what they play and they told me that they simply play 'Highlander'. None of the players was willing to talk to a little girl so I left.

Later I found out what Highlander is (there was practically no banlist, or rather the Vintage one) and built my first deck. It was mono black Zombie tribal and well, it wasn't a good deck. It soon turned out that playing Mono Black Control was better so I switched Black for Blue since Blue can do it better. Few years later I was forced to add Black once again because there was an influx of new players and those did not like to face mono blue control decks. My deck took a long route to a midrange deck. Since Green seems to be pretty strong I ended up with BUG Rock. Roughly at the same time when I finished my BUG deck there were players who started to ask for a game of EDH. I had no idea what that is and wanted it to ignore it. But I said yes anyway. I found out that BUG colors do not really have a worthy general. I picked Vorosh to be my general but I ignored the card most of the time and just played with my highlander deck winning most of the time. This is the very first time that I realized that these two formats do not really like each other.

Later I started to play both EDH and Highlander competitively. In Highlander I learned what Vintage Highlander can look like which made me change my mind about White Weenie/Hatebears since this was the only unpowered deck that could compete against powered decks. With Power being banned I found out that any deck can be good enough be it mono colored deck or 5c and that it does not even need to play blue to be good. In EDH I found out what I feared the most. That combo decks are the best decks and that certain generals are simply way better than others and thus there is no reason to play those that look fun but would just simply die to Vendilion Clique, Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Geist of Saint Traft. But since my decks did not need their generals at all it was clear that I really have problems accepting the format. It was time to look elsewhere.

On Magic Online there were Singleton sanctioned formats. For example there was Standard Singleton that allowed a player to play 60 card deck built of Standard cards and each card could be played only in one copy. One of the 'odd' Singleton formats was 100 Card Singleton based on Classic deck building rules. 100CS format was dethroned by what many know as Elder Dragon Highlander but is now officially named Commander. This format is considered a casual one though and for that matter we don't see any WotC sanctioned tournaments in this format like we did with Singleton formats. We can play 1-on-1 games but the main focus is on multiplayer as we can see from the Commander products. 100C Singleton was always considered 1-on-1 format. The power level of EDH games can vary a lot (for comparison of power level you can see my Sydri article that talks about a casual deck and Meren article that talks about a deck that could be easily turned into a highly competitive EDH deck). In 100CS the power level can be different but not that much. Since there were tournaments in this format for ages people looked at the format with more competitive approach. Each player has their own notion of fun, different skill level and different budget and this primarily shows in EDH (EDH started as something that would let judges relax from all the competitive play). Many EDH players don't seem to want to win the game. For that reason I started making a list of players that have EDH competitive decks. For example seaandrhythm or Gumgod are both players that had competitive decks when I joined their games. Some other players though for example always had a deck that couldn't keep up even with my most casual decks so I wrote those down as well so I wouldn't join their games and thus avoided premature concessions. In 100CS I do not recall the need for something like this, because a majority of the decks were on the same power level or just simply could keep up. This may be partly due to one of the biggest differences of these two formats. 100CS starts normally at 20 life but EDH starts at 40. This also means that when EDH is played competitively, the most favorite decks are combo decks. That's not a deck an average EDH player would like to face and I'm a player that would like to explore all those combos and see if they can be stopped or not. I would expect my opponent wanting to stop me but often that does not happen. And that is how my (The Mimeoplasm) reanimator deck could win so many tournaments. Many players spent more time trying to understand what my general does than actually playing the match - I do need to note that in a majority of my games I never cast the general.

Those of you who play EDH (or Vintage) probably know the power of cards like Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, Mind Twist, Vampiric Tutor or Mystical Tutor. These are cards people play and don't feel any shame playing those cards. If these cards are legal I understand that people want to play them, but they should accept the fact that someone else will play them as well to help them win the game. These people not realizing how dangerous such cards are usually concede after they realize I play a control version of Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Vendilion Clique (labeling my hosted games as 'competitive' did not help much either). Personally, I think these cards should be banned because they create too big of an imbalance. There are people who play these very powerful cards and do not know how to use them and their deck would better of without them, and then there are those that use them to win the game. Honestly, I am one of those that would rather stare at Emrakul, the Aeons Torn than Sol Ring turn 1. If you have similar feeling about this (EDH), there is 100C Singleton where there is no such imbalance. It might be the Highlander format for you. Even though the format is no longer supported by WotC, it is kept alive by the community.

Since you won't find the format under Format filter on MTGO, Vintage is used instead for 100CS games. Since I play Vintage I stumbled upon one such game and since then I wondered how those players found each other to play a match of obviously something else than Vintage. I was too afraid to ask the players though and that is why I found about Chainsaw Massacre just recently. If you wonder what that is, Chainsaw Massacre is a tournament series run by players. Such tournaments are known as Player Run Events (PRE). PREs are played in Getting Serious Room. This tournament in particular is held each Saturday at 4pm EST. For more information see Chainsaw Massacre.

Participating in the tournament requires you to register on the Gatherling site. Then you can register for an event, in this case Chainsaw Massacre. There you will have to upload your decklist (the deck's legality is checked on the site, which helps since the Singleton legality filter is gone from MTGO). When the tournament is about to start you will go to Getting Serious room via Magic Online and play your matches there. You enter specific chat room (join #s100) for the tournament where the host will be doing announcements. Pairings are posted on Gatherling. Under your Control Panel you will see who you play against. One player will host the game (Vintage, 25 minutes, watchers allowed, 100C Tournament Round X in comments) and the other player will join the match. The results are entered via Gatherling's Control Panel by you (players). Entry for PRE tournaments are always free. Usually a family of bots sponsors the tournament. Credit is given out for the best players and there is usually a door prize as well.

What is 100C Singleton?

As the name suggests it is a format where a legal deck consists of any cards from Alpha till the current set. The deck has to contain exactly 100 cards and each card except basic lands can be played only once. Due to this restrictions players started to call the format 'Highlander' - coming from the movie's tagline 'There can only be one'. The format allows 0 or 15 cards sideboard (after sideboarding, main deck still has to consist of exactly 100 cards).

Some of the cards I sided in against CounterBurn were Warmth and Kitchen. I was glad to draw them!

Even though that EDH and 100C Singleton may look alike to a new player they are totally different beasts. In general the decks are not compatible. In EDH majority of decks depend on their General and are limited in deckbuilding which can become a smaller or bigger disadvantage in 100C Singleton. Since fair EDH decks count with higher starting life total they are not usually ready for aggressive decks that are viable in 100C Singleton but almost nonexistent in EDH. The banlists are also different as I mentioned earlier. While EDH players can play with very powerful and often mean cards, 100CS players do not need to fear them.

Since 100C Singleton is no longer a WotC sanctioned format, its banlist is thus managed by the community. You do not need to fear some drastic changes though. The banlist is only slightly different. In general the cards that are deemed too powerful, instant tutors, or cards that lead to degenerate games are banned including fast mana. The current banlist is as follows:

100C Singleton Banlist
Ancestral Recall
Black Lotus
Crucible of Worlds
Demonic Consultation
Demonic Tutor
Dig Through Time
Gifts Ungiven
Imperial Seal
Library of Alexandria
Life from the Loam
Lion's Eye Diamond
Mana Crypt
Mana Drain
Mana Vault
Memory Jar
Merchant Scroll
Mind Twist
Mind's Desire
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Mystical Tutor
Oath of Druids
Sensei's Divining Top
Sol Ring
Stoneforge Mystic
Strip Mine
Survival of the Fittest
Time Vault
Time Walk
Tolarian Academy
Treasure Cruise
Umezawa's Jitte
Vampiric Tutor
Wheel of Fortune
Yawgmoth's Bargain
Yawgmoth's Will


Why play Singleton?

If you like competitive formats but you are tired of playing against the very same decks over and over this might be the format for you. You will be playing with 100 distinct cards (except Basic Lands) that can be from any set. If you have no prior experience with Eternal formats you can also consider this as an entry point. You will find out which cards are the most powerful ones and you will discover strange combos the format offers.

Since we can use almost any card from Magic's history, building a deck for such format can be a challenge but that is also what makes it such a great format. In this format we are not limited in deckbuilding like EDH players that are limited to their General's color identity. This allows us to play 5 color decks if we want to. We can splash a few cards, play Mental Misstep or Phyrexian Metamorph in a non-blue deck, or we can play more dual lands and all fetchlands to make our deck's mana base more stable.

I did not expect to die to Painter's Servant and Grindstone (Transmute Artifact, Snapcaster Mage -> Transmute Artifact).

Singleton does not use any special rules during play. There is nothing like starting life total 40 or other oddities that were introduced in EDH. 20 life is used as in any other game of Magic. Due to this aggro strategies and Burn are still viable. But that does not mean the format is full of them. Creatureless control or combo decks are not rare. We can play tribal decks like Goblins or Elves, which are both very strong decks. We can play 5c Reanimator if we want to. A very mean Staxx deck is also one of the best decks. We can play true control decks with or without a combo finish (usually with combo finish because finishing 3 games in 25 minutes is tough with such a deck). More decks will tend to be Rock style decks due to the power creep in the last few years and the introduction of Planeswalkers. We can even play Pattern/Rector combo deck if we are crazy enough to spend some time clicking zillion times. Little digression, what I found interesting while comparing the two banlists is that 100CS players cannot play Flash, but can play Hulk and EDH players can play Flash but not Hulk. After playing both formats for some time I have to say that it was Flash that people complained more about even though that after managing to sacrifice Protean Hulk the game always ended with my victory unlike after playing Flash - which usually took 1 to 2 more turns).

The format is not warped around Generals and thanks to almost unlimited deckbuilding and not so restricting banlist we can experience a fair game of Magic with the most powerful cards. It feels like playing Classic, something between Vintage without Power Nine and Legacy. Thanks to all cards being literally restricted it is very unique experience, the games with one deck can be different each time, can be more skill intensive and are in general more challenging.

In the era of net decking trying out Singleton may be a good thing if you want to test your deckbuilding skills. This is probably the only format now that allows the player to start building a deck from scratch. You can build any kind of deck, make it work and tweak it so it suits you. It will be truly your deck and no one will be asking you if you play LSV's or Menendian's deck (people often ask me this).

Winter Orb, one of the best cards against Control decks.

Since 100C Singleton is more of a competitive format, decks cost more since they usually pack staple cards from regular formats. For example the decks I used to play cost around 700tix each which is still way less than in paper (over 3000USD). The fact that cards from Portal Three Kingdoms are easily accessible and for low prices helps a lot too. In this format no one will blame you for trying to kill him on turn 3 or be mean if you play a card like Winter Orb. We all build our decks to win the game and to deal with opponent's decks that are also built to win the game. That does not mean that we don't have fun. Quite the contrary, it is very fun format.

If you'd want to try 100CS out, build a deck and then contact me (stsung) or anyone from the Chainsaw Massacre players via Magic Online. We all will be very happy to play 100CS games.


s100 by MichelleWong at Tue, 08/02/2016 - 21:06
MichelleWong's picture

Thanks stsung for this article. I look forward to many more matches against you.

I have been playing s100 (or versions of it such as 80 card highlander and Canadian highlander) in paper since 1996. Whilst we can never return to the Golden Age when Magic Online hosted sanctioned s100 tournaments, and when WoTC maintained the s100 filter, nevertheless a bright new dawn is rising for us.

They can take away our sanctioned events, they can take away our filter, but they can never take away our LIBERTY! :)

I am glad that the format is still alive today online thanks to members of the community, especially ML_Berlin and others. It is the best format of all, in my opinion. If you are interested in joining us, you would be most welcome.

s100 by stsung at Wed, 08/03/2016 - 02:27
stsung's picture

I'm really glad that the community keeps the format alive because it was always my favorite format. It is probably the only format that wasn't spoiled by Wizards and I could always play it whenever I wanted. So thank you guys for being here and still playing and ML_Berlin for hosting the tournaments.

Other formats like Vintage or Legacy changed a lot during the years and the direction the format takes is not the one I like. s100 on the other hand still allows to play all the decks I'd like to play and I have to accept the new cards and sometimes face them but it is nothing that would be close to ruining the format. Legacy and Vintage at certain points were really unplayable and that is the reason why I just can't say that either is my most favorite format. Vintage is almost there but any non-EDH Highlander and Cube are simply better just because I can play it anytime without fearing some White Eldrazi or Mentor Gush metagame - unplayable.

Links by Sensei at Thu, 08/04/2016 - 12:51
Sensei's picture

The most important link is the 100CS forum:

Some but not all of the information in the forum can be found in the Facebook page:

You can view decklists for the most recent events by clicking
and then on the -Series- menu selecting Chainsaw Massacre

I believe this the most recent 100CS article before this one:

Here's a few more videos:

If you want to view some decklists from when WotC hosted sanctioned tournaments, check these out. They aren't the most useful for current deckbuilding but are fun nostalgia:

videos by stsung at Thu, 08/04/2016 - 15:19
stsung's picture

That reminds me that when I was submitting the article there were actually my own videos linked. I wonder if I deleted them by accident? I will link at least one video then (there are few more on that channel). If interested to see how I mess up you are welcome to view the videos.

Everyone: don't be afraid to contact any of us, post on MTGS forum or participate in the tournament. Everyone is nice and helpful. And be prepared for RDW!

Thank you all very much! by ML_Berlin at Mon, 08/08/2016 - 15:28
ML_Berlin's picture

Thank you all very much! Great article, stsung!
Just two points, not all players in the event are S100 veterans, in fact we had about 20-40% of new players in the last months. And it is not necessary to start buying cards before starting your first S100 deck. Another charm of the format is that new players can use their own card pool for first steps. A red direct damage deck with or without some critters, or a green elf deck with or without a ramp for some 'biggies' is usually no problem to create.
After you enjoyed your first matches, you still may arm your deck more or create a new, less casual one.