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By: zebhillard, Zebiriah Ray Hillard
Mar 26 2019 1:00pm
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Hi there.  It’s been a little while, huh?

So, what have I been up to?

Well, I haven’t been playing a lot of Pauper. 

I had a fantastic showing at the local monthly Legacy event, ripping through the Top 8 with a fairly standard Goblins list, but after a barely better than positive ending at SCG Regionals (a 5-4 finish after a 5-1 start) I decided to take a step back and start to dig into other formats a bit more for a few weeks.

My problem is, I’m fairly competitive when it comes to gaming, and I always have been.  This usually cuts out some of the more “non-competitive formats” that Magic has to offer.

This led me down a rabbit hole because I was already a fan of EDH, but the three decks I had put together weren’t exactly “nice” to the table.  (Atraxa) hybrid Stax/Superfriends, a seriously grindy (Lord Windgrace) “EDH Lands” list, and a quick out of the gate Yuriko Aggro deck featuring high CMC bombs to reveal like Draco and Temporal Mastery.

The format was fun to me, but a lot of groups local to my area were less cutthroat and more “let’s let everyone do their thing and have their fun.”

So, while I was taking this journey, I happened across the 2018 Canadian Highlander Championship put on by LoadingReadyRun.  It was basically Vintage Singleton, and with point restrictions acting as a noose on some of the crazier things, ended up being exactly what I was looking for.  I watched some crazy turn 4 storm kill, a glorious Taxes list, and other notable and fun (to me) kinds of things going on that I really enjoyed.  There was a local scene that had tournaments fairly frequently, so I decided to give it a look and make note the next time it came up.

And, well, I completely forgot to do any real reading on the format or research about basically anything, until a few nights leading up to it.  So, with the event on a Sunday, I decided engage in the tried and true plan of waiting until Friday, binging on information, and throwing something together last-minute and seeing how it goes.

That didn’t work out either.  And, with already mentally committed to going but understanding how lazy I was, it wasn’t until around 10PM on Saturday night that I decided I needed to put something together.  So, I did what any good person in a pinch does…I dismantled an EDH deck, pulled all my favorite Black and Green cards from my Modern Jund deck, and dug up a few things that had been sitting in a longbox languishing unused for far too long (Mind Twist, my Old Friend, it’s good to see you again by the way).

So, with everything already in perfect fits, I smooshed the hundred into a new pack of sleeves (gloss, which was a big mistake, but just the first of several, I usually go with matte to make shuffling easier), gave it a solid press to get some trapped air out, crammed the deckbox into my swanky good looking backpack that’s produced by a company that isn’t paying me to say their actual name (I mean, not that I’m ruling out some of that sweet sponsorship, of course), and forgot all about it until I scooped it all up and headed out to the site.

If you’ve made it this far and don’t know anything else about Canadian Highlander, I admire both your tenacity and enjoyment of my writing style.  But, to save you the trip web-hopping to another site I can break it down very easily.  It’s a singleton format like EDH, that uses the Vintage Banned and Restricted list, but additionally taxes some of the more powerful cards with point costs.  The standard cap is 10 points, and the more powerful to the format a card it, the higher its point cost.  An easy example is the combination of Flash and Protean Hulk will take up all 10 of your points; while the pair of universal tutors Demonic and Vampiric are three points each alongside the Moxen, and the aforementioned Mind Twist sits at a lowly one.

My ten points were eaten up quickly with Demonic Tutor (3), Vampiric Tutor (3), Strip Mine (2) Mind Twist (1), and Mana Vault (1).  Mana Vault likely should have been Fastbond because the (usually) one-shot mana ramp never really came into play.  The rest of the list looked like this:

The Rock
Canadian Highlander

1 Abrupt Decay
1 Ancient Tomb
1 Assassin's Trophy
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1 Barren Moor
1 Bayou
1 Beseech the Queen
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Blooming Marsh
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Cabal Pit
1 Chrome Mox
1 Coercive Portal
1 Courser of Kruphix
1 Crop Rotation
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Dakmor Salvage
1 Damnation
1 Dark Confidant
1 Dark Depths
1 Deathrite Shaman
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Eternal Witness
1 Exploration
1 Field of Ruin
5 Forest
1 Fulminator Mage
1 Gaea's Blessing
1 Gaze of Granite
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Glacial Chasm
1 Golgari Charm
1 Green Sun's Zenith
1 Grim Flayer
1 Harmonize
1 Hero's Downfall
1 Hissing Quagmire
1 Hymn to Tourach
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
1 Karakas
1 Krosan Grip
1 Life from the Loam
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Mana Confluence
1 Mana Vault
1 Manglehorn
1 Marsh Flats
1 Maze of Ith
1 Mind Twist
1 Nature's Claim
1 Nature's Lore
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Pernicious Deed
1 Primeval Titan
1 Ramunap Excavator
1 Realms Uncharted
1 Regrowth
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Sensei's Divining Top
1 Strip Mine
5 Swamp
1 Sylvan Library
1 Sylvan Safekeeper
1 Sylvan Scrying
1 Tarmogoyf
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
1 The Gitrog Monster
1 Thespian's Stage
1 Thoughtseize
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Titania, Protector of Argoth
1 Tranquil Thicket
1 Treetop Village
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Wall of Roots
1 Wasteland
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Woodland Cemetery
1 Worldly Tutor

Additional notes are here.

Plain, simple, straightforward.  A little discard, a lot of ways to remove things from play, and a recurring Strip Mine plan to eliminate the opponents chances to win with a backup plan of (Thespian Stage) and Dark Depths if you absolutely must kill someone that’s sitting across from you.  I noticed some glaring omissions after the fact, and resolved myself to find the single cards I couldn’t find when I was gathering up the pile last-minute.  Mox Diamond and Recurring Nightmare should be in there, (Night’s Whisper) or Phyrexian Arena are likely good replacements for Coercive Portal, and I might be able to trim a land or two for a Duress, Languish and/or Toxic Deluge or another old school situational hate-piece (I’ve developed a recent love of Shadow of Doubt which may be an eventual swap here soon).

On to the four rounds?  Well, I officially went 3-0 and likely would have ended up 3-0-1 but I had my third round opponent dead on the board in turn 5 of turns with her having no outs, so she conceded the match in a show of excellent sportsmanship.  The format is a blast, and instead of a round-by-round, here’s a few highlights:

Round 1 I had to Demonic Tutor for basic Forest in one game so I could then be able to cast Krosan Grip and eliminate my opponents Blood Moon to unlock my hand in round 1.  Game two involved a rapidly put-together (Crucible or Worlds) and Strip Mine lock that prevented them from actually playing Magic while I put down a random creature to close out the game.

Game two of round two I hit my High Tide opponent with turn 1 Inquisition of Kozilek, turn 3 Thoughtseize, and then turn 4 Mind Twisted away her hand, then still lost the match, which showed me the absolute resilience of that combo in the format because of the depth of card pool they can use.

There was a super grindy game against BUG that was finally finished out with the Titania and Sylvan Safekeeper combination creating 5/3’s out of all my lands which would have resulted in the opposite direction blow out if he had a Fog effect left in hand.

My 4th round opponent, and the only other undefeated at that point, opened on turn 1 Mox, Land, Porcelain Legionnaire then turn 2 X/1 beatdown creature and me getting to achieve a solid 2-for-1 using Golgari Charm.  Round 2 of that game was him very light on land and me rapidly setting up a Strip Mine lock after finding a removal spell for his Smuggler's Copter.

Needless to say, I can’t even properly begin to use words and describe how much I enjoyed the format even in the games I lost, because of the people and how the interactions went.  I’m going to do my best to make it out the next time it’s scheduled to run and will likely be running back 95 of the 100 that I had listed above.

Before then?  Well, our monthly Legacy is coming up soon and I have a feeling the little green men might be good again.  One way or the other, I’ll try to do my best and come back with a victory report where my opponent concedes in the face of Goblin Trashmaster plus Goblin Cratermaker, just like we were playing Standard or something.  And who knows, maybe I’ll get to cast Boil in my own end step again in response to my opponent tapping out to cantrip, or the new sideboard Anarchy will sweep up a bunch of monk tokens.  Only time will tell!

Until then, take a few minutes and do what I did…try out some new format you may not have heard of, find some new fun and take a break from the grind.  I’ve found myself desiring another “supported competitive format” since diving into the alternatives, and almost feeling reinvigorated to a point of wanting to go back and spend a day in a gaming hall to see how close I can come to ending up on 9th with bad breakers!