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Canadian Highlander: The MTG format where 'Spikes' cast weird uncommons off a Black Lotus

Written by Nathon Cook

Today's blog is written by a special guest! Since being introduced to Magic back in M14 as a way to kill time in between Warhammer games, Nathon has been a very active member and champion within our local gaming scene. He was kind enough to write this up on a Magic format that may be unfamiliar to those outside of Canada, and one that has started to grow in popularity over the last year or so.

What is Canadian Highlander?

You may have heard of this format, especially if you’re a fan of loading ready run. Unlike other formats, Canadian Highlander, or CanLander, has no banned list or card restrictions; you are only limited by its singleton nature and its format-defining points list. The games are played 1V1 and use a 100-card singleton deck, and the game play is often fast and uses classic strategies like aggro midrange control and combo. When constructing a deck for this format, you have a total of 10 points available. The costs are constantly updated, and you can find a curated list found here. With the lack of a banned list, this point list ensures decks stay fresh and have an amount of balance.

I often hear the format compared (by those that haven’t played it) as “commander without the commander,” but I feel this is a poor descriptor of how the format truly plays. Commander is often a centerpiece type of game where the other cards in a deck are integral to how one card functions - without a commander the capabilities of your chosen deck are limited, and lack the consistency of knowing you'll always have access to one of your key pieces. Canadian highlander, on the other hand, plays more like an eternal constructed format (such as legacy or modern) but with a much greater card pool, especially considering there is no era restriction.

My favorite way to play Magic The Gathering, the TLDR

  • Singleton only: since you only require one of a card (basic lands not withstanding), some cards that would otherwise be too expensive to justify a playset are perfectly appropriate - here you only need one!

  • 100 cards minimum, you can play more if you want (but no less)

  • 20 life just like every other constructed format ….mostly

  • 1v1: just you and your opponent (no table politics here)

  • No sideboards: come prepared for everything

  • No commanders or colour restrictions: mono black and you want to play deathrite shaman? Get that weird elf dude in the deck!

If you are interested in a Canadian Highlander deck list example, check out this Flying men budget version here!

On behalf of Chris and I, we'd like to thank Nate for his submission. We'd love to have more voices in the community share their passion for the hobby, and truly appreciate the time spent putting this together. If you play a game or format that you feel is underplayed or just needs more love, please let us know!

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