Skip to content

2024 New Player Primer

We’ve had a substantial uptick in interest in Canlander so here is some advice on how you might get started in this wonderful format. If something goes unmentioned here the best place to ask is the official Canadian Highlander Discord


​Format Rules

Firstly for those unfamiliar, Canadian Highlander is a 100-card singleton 1v1 20 life format that uses the vintage ban list (Essentially nothing is banned except things like Ante cards, silver border etc.). This means cards like Black Lotus, Time Walk and Moxen are legal to play with.

We stop the format from turning into a broken degenerate mess by using a points list. Various powerful cards are assigned a points value (Black Lotus – 7, Sol Ring – 4, Mana Drain – 1 etc.) and you can pick 10 points worth of cards to put in your deck. The best comparisons to other formats would be Legacy, Modern, Vintage Cube decks, other 1v1 Highlander formats and to an extent Commander.


​Your First Deck

Canadian Highlander is one of the most diverse constructed formats, with near-infinite room for brewing and self-expression. While it is fundamentally a competitive format with tournaments that are taken seriously, there is certainly room to play pet decks/cards. People frequently do well in tournaments through dedication and mastery of their archetype, rather than just playing the consensus best decks.

Cyclopes8’s Introduction to Canadian Highlander Archetypes video is the premier resource on the wider metagame and the common decks within it, including a breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of each deck (Warning: It’s very long, please skip to the decks that look interesting). There is also an accompanying spreadsheet of all the decks for quick access. #Archetype-Discussions on the Discord has a thread for nearly every archetype you can imagine.

The Canlander Winners Archive is a database of recent tournament winning lists. If you’re a spikier player looking for the cutting edge, this is the place to look. #Competitive-Discussion on the Discord is a great place to get into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to win tournaments.

The Canlander Database is a database containing ‘stock’ versions of popular archetypes curated by members of the community. These lists may be easier to pilot and there are some classic archetypes that may have fallen out of the top tier. There will be several experts on the decks who can answer any questions you may have.

Kelvin Chen has two excellent articles about deckbuilding heuristics for those looking to brew something spicy. Frequently Asked Deckbuilding Questions and How To Build A Manabase For Singleton Formats. #Brewers-Corner or #Deck-Help on the Discord are also great places to get some feedback on a brew.


Tournaments

Firstly, we recommend looking to see if there are any events local to you. Most large cities in North America and Europe have some number of Canlander players and many have regular events.

If there are no events local to you, the official Discord runs a variety of tournaments across multiple formats with the best players being invited to year-end invitationals:

Webcam Weekly Saturdays 10 am PSTThree 50min rounds + finalsNo Decklists
Cockatrice WeeklySundays 10 am PSTThree 50min rounds + finalsNo Decklists
Webcam Async LeagueMonthly Four rounds Swiss/Round robin + Top 8No Decklists/Locked Decklists
MTGO Async LeagueMonthly Rules vary by monthNo Decklists

Full rules and sign-ups can be found via the Discord.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Are there sideboards/wishboards?

A: No, there are no sideboards in Canlander and any ‘put a card into your hand from outside the game’ effects will not function. Even so, Canlander is nearly always played in the Best-Of-Three format which makes mulligan decisions very important.

Q: Can you play with companions?

A: Because there are no sideboards in Canlander, the companion mechanic does not function. We have not made a special exception in the same way Commander has. You are still able to play any of them in your main deck as with any other card.

Q: Is the format proxy friendly?

A: While specific rules will change depending on the event, in general, the format is very proxy-friendly given the prohibitive price point on many of the most powerful cards. The founding store Yellowjacket Comic & Toys allows 10 proxies while many other stores allow unlimited proxies. The Discord webcam tournaments are 100% proxy friendly. It’s important that any proxies you use are easy to read and won’t be mistaken for authentic cards.

Q: How do you choose which pointed cards to play in your deck?

A: The answer to this will depend on the exact deck in particular and ultimately comes down to personal preference, however, cards are given certain point values based on their strength in their most powerful contexts. In general, blue-based midrange and control will lean on Ancestral Recall (8), non-blue midrange and aggro will lean on fast mana like Mana Crypt (5) or Moxen (3) and combo decks will often lean on tutors like Demonic Tutor (3). There are a lot of exceptions to this so I recommend asking about your deck in particular.

Q: Can you play fewer than 10 points in your deck?

A: Yes, 10 points is a limit not a requirement. There are lots of reasons to run less than 10 points. Sometimes it’s wrong to add a pointed card to your deck even if it leaves you at 8 or 9 points or perhaps you’re brewing on a budget. In mono red aggro for instance Strip Mine (2 Points) can be just as powerful as Black Lotus (7 Points).

Q: How often does the points list change and who decides the changes?

A: The Canadian Highlander Council is made up of five of the most experienced players, with the council voting on new members when one decides to leave. Currently the Councillors are: Robin Sorensen, Spencer Kanaka, Sacha Christensen, Evan Pepper and Benjamin Wheeler. The council votes on points changes as needed and there is no set schedule. In recent times there have been 2-3 announcements per year.

Q: Can you play with more than 100 cards?

A: Just as with most constructed formats you can play more than the minimum deck size, but it is usually not advisable as it leads to lower consistency. You don’t get to play more points by playing a larger deck.

Q: Is it easy to convert a Commander deck into a Canadian Highlander deck?

A: While some people have found success converting an EDH deck into a Canlander deck it’s usually not advisable. The valuable traits of good EDH cards (high impact, value over time, universal interaction, good non-combat abilities on creatures) and good Canlander cards (hyper-efficient, immediate value, good stats and keywords on creatures) don’t have a huge amount of overlap. However, lots of edh strategies have similar themes and goals to Canlander decks and you can construct decks with themes you like even if they only share 30 cards in common with your edh deck. For instance, a Gruul Stompy deck in EDH might look like this and in Canlander it looks like this.

Q: How fast is the format?

A: While not being quite as fast as Legacy and Modern you should still expect to have to make meaningful plays on turns 1/2. Aggro decks tend to be fast enough to reliably win unimpeded by turn 5 and occasionally on turns 3 and 4. Fast combo decks are similar aiming for turns 3-4 but games can certainly go very long.

Q: Where can I find people to play with?

A: Despite its origins in Victoria, B.C., Canadian Highlander is a global format with players and events on every continent. If you just want to dip your toes in I highly recommend playing webcam, Cockatrice or MTGO on the Discord, there are always players available for pickup games. On the Discord, you may also find players local to you that run tournaments or just to play causally with. It’s also worth asking your local playgroup to try the format, many players have found success in cultivating a local scene by building a ‘Battlebox‘ of various decks to lend to people to get a taste for the format.


Some Useful Links

Canadian Highlander Discord

Canadian Highlander Subreddit

Untap Open League Discord (Online Tournament Organiser via Untap.in)

North 100 (Canlander Podcast and Gameplay from Loading Ready Run)

Council’s Judgement (Competitive Podcast from two councillors and one former councillor)

10 Points Podcast (Podcast and Paper Gameplay)

Ol’ Cranky Man Collectibles (Podcast, Paper Gameplay and Tournament Organiser)

Cyclopes8 Highlander (Discord Tournament VODs, Theory Videos and Deck Techs)

Benjamin Wheeler’s Moxfield Profile (Prolific player with hundreds of sample decklists)

Joking101 (Theory Videos, Deck Techs and Interviews)

FryGuy (Discord Tournament VODs)


Barney Miller is a UK-based Canadian Highlander enthusiast who runs weekly Cockatrice tournaments and can frequently be found lurking in #looking-to-jam on the Discord.

Moxfield: Vaaste

Discord: Vaaste

Tags: