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2015 Highlander Top 8 Player Profiles!

Hi all! The Highlander Top 8 for the 2015 season is happening this Sunday January 24th and I thought I’d stop in to give people some insight as to how it works and who the players are!

The tournament is structured as follows. The eight players are seeded but matches are not determined by seeding in the typical fashion i.e. 1vs8 2vs7 etc. Instead the Highlander top 8 is run as a double elimination tournament with two groups  which then cuts to a typical top 4. The groups are determined by the players and as reward for being the most successful the highest seeded players get to choose who they will play in round one. All in all it breaks down like this. 1st seed chooses their opponent out of the bottom 4 players, 2nd seed chooses their opponent out of the remaining 3 bottom 4 players, 3rd seed chooses between the two remaining players, and lastly the 4th seed chooses which group they and their opponent will be in.  So a hypothetical break down might look like this:

Group A:

1st seed vs 7th seed

2nd seed vs 5th seed

Group B:

3rd seed vs 6th seed

4th seed vs 8th seed

So in this case the 1st seed chose to play the 7th, the 2nd seed chose to play the 5th, the third seed chose to play the 6th, and the 4th seed knowing their opponent decided they wanted to be in the same group as the 3rd and 6th seed! From here we just play until two players from each group win twice. The winners of the first set of matches will play each other as will the losers. Once a player has two loses they are out of the tournament. Once we have our final four players they will play a typical top 8 decided by seed until we have our Highlander!

Hopefully that made enough sense! One of the things we like about this system is that it leads to really interesting metagame decisions for both the players in the top 4 and bottom 4 as there is are a lot of mind games as to what people might play and who might chose to play who. Altogether this leads to really interesting and diverse metagame!

Without further ado here are your competitors for this year’s top 8! (Sorry no photos for two competitors!)


Robin Sorenson

Seed: 1st

Wins: 7

Winning Archetypes: Black Lotus Storm x6, Blue Green Tempo with a light black splash

Robin’s 2014 campaign was brutal. He won only two tournaments while placing second in about 4 times that number. Ultimately he missed the top 8 last year after losing in the play in. This year was very different. Robin meticulously tuned and practiced his storm deck and began achieving great results. The deck seemed so powerful in his hands in particular that many advocated for placing additional points on the deck. Robin also picked up a tournament win with his namesake Blue Green tempo or Blue Green “Sorenson” as it’s known in the Victoria community. His mastery of the two archetypes he is best known for led him to many successful Mondays and this year instead of being on the outside looking in at the end of the year Robin is the first seed for the annual Highlander top 8.

Most likely Deck Choice: Storm. This seems obvious but he has been so successful with the deck even with people gunning for him that it strikes me as his most likely choice.


Colin Miller

Seed: 2nd

Wins: 6

Winning Archetypes: Mono. Red.

The Magus of the Moon himself sits in the second seed for this years top 8 after a quiet 2014 Colin stormed back onto the scene with his careful constructed and skillfully piloted Mono Red deck. One of the constants of the format Colin virtually never wavered from his chosen archetype and saw great success with it. In a format with a fast evolving metagame like Canadian Highlander it is important to take advantage of the metagame as much as possible. Colin did exactly this and when the meta was soft to aggressive strategies he crushed all of those in his wake. A consistent contender at the top tables Robin and Colin played an enormous amount of times this year and seemed to be one of the only players who could stop him at his peaks.

Most likely Deck Choice: Mono Red. Though I’m sure it might be tempting to audible to some other deck in order to catch players off guard Colin is almost assuredly going to dance with the girl that brought him to this top 8.


Alasdair Howie

Seed: 3rd

Wins: 5

Winning Archetypes: Black Green Rock

I’m not sure there are many players who can claim that they’ve played the same deck at every single Highlander tournament this year but Alasdair is certainly one of them. The Rock master Alasdair is an expert pilot of the midrange control deck. Though he had a slower start to 2015 once he started winning tournaments he didn’t stop jumping all the way up to the third seed. Like Colin and Robin Alasdair has managed to succeed despite most of his opponents knowing almost his exact 100 every time they sit down to play. Alasdair finished second last year in the year end top 8 and is likely hungry to avenge that loss.

Most like Deck Choice: The Rock. This one is also basically a lock, Alasdair has too many reps in with this deck at this point for another choice to make sense.


Spencer Sacht-Lund

Seed: 4th

Wins: 5

Winning Archetypes: Junk Mox Blade x2, 4 Colour Blood x2, Jund Aggro

Spencer also had a bit of a slow start to the 2015 season and didn’t pick up his first win for a few months but after and even before picking it up he could always be seen around the top tables and finished as the 4th seed. Well known for his love of aggressive creatures Spencer can almost always be found slinging Green cards coupled with some complimentary colours. In case you’re ever wondering what particular colour combination Spencer is playing just check his dice as they’ll usually provide a helpful hint. If Colin is the Magus of the Moon Spencer is the aggro master and is certainly the most successful multicolour aggro player in the community’s recent history. This year he turned his attention to another pursuit and began to play 4 Colour Blood which is a major part of the European Highlander metagame. Spencer’s port to the Canadian scene has proved successful as picked up multiple tournaments wins with the archetype.

Most like Deck Choice: Some three colour aggressive strategy. I’m not sure exactly what to predict here as Spencer has a lot of range within the aggro archetype but I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t audible to something really off the radar. If I had to guess I would put him on Bant or Junk but I certainly can’t be certain.


Jeremy White

Seed: 5th

Wins: 4

Winning Archetypes: Scapeshift x2, Grixis Time Vault, Blue Green Black Tempo

Jeremy is the first player on this list who is truly a jack of all trades. Despite his tendency for playing brews Jeremy is often very successful with them as his success with Scapeshift, a previously under explored archetype, clearly demonstrates. His wins have mostly come from control combo decks but he has also had success playing aggro, tempo, and big mana prison strategies. It is exactly his willingness to try anything that has led to him being so successful as it is difficult for an opponent to come to the table with a deck that he hasn’t piloted some version of before. Jeremy is always looking to attack the metagame from a new perspective and has interesting innovative takes on already existent archetypes. He is the 5th seed for this tournament and perhaps poses the greatest problem for any of the higher seeds because of how difficult predicting his deck selection will be.

Most like Deck Choice: Who knows? Jeremy might well show up with 5 Colour infect (please please please please please) in an attempt to catch the competition off guard. If I had to take a stab at it I would predict him to either play some control combo strategy or a blue based tempo deck as those are the decks that got him to the top 8 but anything is possible.


Josh Layne

Seed: 6th

Wins: 4

Winning Archetypes: Academy Combo, Blue White Control, Blue Green Tempo, Reanimator

Josh is one of the most timeless players in the Victoria Canadian Highlander scene. He is the all time leader in Monday wins and still managed to qualify for this years championship as the 6th seed despite reduced attendance due to travel. A stalwart blue mage Josh is one the people who you are both most excited and resigned to sit across from because you know you’ll have a great game but you also know that you will need to play nearly perfectly in order to win. This coupled with the fact that Josh is one the friendliest people in the community always leads to pleasant but difficult games. Josh has had a lot of success in the past with creature based combo decks like Pattern Rector, Hermit Druid, and Flash Hulk as well though he didn’t win a tournament with any of those decks this year. His wide range should certainly make him a very tough opponent for anyone in the top 8.

Most likely Deck Choice: Hermit Druid or Grixis Control. Josh likes to have a proactive game plan especially in invite only tournaments. Last year in the top 8 he played Grixis control to medium success so I am unwilling to definitively guess it and Hermit Druid seems like a good fit for his play style and potentially this metagame.


Stefan Bard

Seed: 7th

Wins: 4

Winning Archetypes: Blue White Control, Esper Control, Blue Black Green Control

Stefan is last year’s top 8 winner and came out of the gate fast in 2015. He jumped out to 4 wins before anyone else but then seemed to fall off as the season wore on. Despite this he still qualified comfortably as the 7th seed. Stefan is still certainly a threat to take down the entire tournament though for a few reasons. Firstly he is the archetypal control mage and has in the past drawn unintentionally thus ruining his chances of winning on Monday nights. In the top 8 the rounds are untimed and as a result Stefan will not have to worry if he takes a few extra minutes. Secondly control flourishes when it knows the metagame and can tune itself in order to beat certain strategies. The last reason that Stefan has a great chance of winning this tournament is that he is the control master and is realistically capable of winning any game.

Most likely Deck Choice: Esper Control. Stefan played this deck to great success last year and I would expect him to run it back. The colour combination allows access to all the effects one wants in this metagame. It’s also worth noting that there is not likely to be a lot of tempo in this top 8 which makes non red control even better.


Nelson Salahub

Seed: 8th

Wins: 3

Winning Archetypes: Suicide Black x2, Izzet Burn

Nelson is another jack of all trades. He qualified for the top 8 last year playing a variety of aggro tempo and combo strategies and it is certainly within his range to play any of them. This year however his success came in the form of the more aggressive strategies. Somewhat amusingly on two separate occasions a new set had very recently come out and Nelson ran back Suicide Black with a few new cards to great success. Nelson is a very intuitive player who is capable of analyzing board states quickly and efficiently in order to determine the correct line of play. Like Jeremy he has played a ton of different decks in the format and consequently is unlikely to be surprised by any of the deck selections of his opponents.

Mostly likely Deck Choice: Blue Red Tempo. This is a deck that Nelson has played a lot of and if you look at the predictions I have made about what other players might play you’ll notice there are not a lot of basic lands being slung around. Tempo would be particularly well positioned against many of the combo decks as well. A special mention is probably also warranted for Mono Green combo which is another deck Nelson has played successfully and might also be good in this metagame.


Thanks for reading! Tune in next time for exciting results news!

-Liam Coughlan