FAQ (Frequently asked questions).

  1. Why is the format named "Highlander"?
  2. Why is there a 100 card minimum? All other card formats are played with a 60 card minimum!
  3. Why is no sideboard allowed?
  4. Why is card "XYZ" banned / not banned?
  5. Why not just use e.g. the Legacy banned list?
  6. Which Highlander deck is the best?
  7. How does one build a good Highlander deck?
  8. Will the banned list always remain the same?
  9. How often and when will changes to the banned list occur?
  10. What is the "Watchlist", and what does it mean when a card is included?
  11. Why is this strange Mulligan variant required?
  12. Are the world champion/IE/CE cards valid for Highlander tournament play?
  13. Why is my question not listed here?


Q: Why is the format named "Highlander"?


The format is based on the same named movie starring Christopher Lambert in the main role named "Highlander". The persons are deemed immortal where in the end only one can remain. Based on the sub-title of this film came the idea for this format, "There can be only one".


Q: Why is there a 100 Card minimum? All other card formats are played with a 60 Card minimum!

Answer: A 100 card minimum has some clear and obvious advantages over 60 cards:

  1. The process of deckbuilding becomes more interesting since it is more complex and difficult to pick the best cards for a 100 card deck than for 60 card deck.
  2. This transforms to a more diversified tournament, since more deck types are promoted. At the end of a tournament, you will most likely have played against five different decks and not 3 times against T&N and twice against Gobbos.
  3. With 100 cards, your deck remains interesting since not the same cards are always drawn.
  4. Since your opponent also is not drawing consistently the same cards, the matchups become even more interesting.
  5. The 100 card format distances itself effectively from all other standard formats.

Enough distance from standard formats to not discourage the pros, but also encourage casual players to play.


Q: Why is no Sideboard allowed?


Highlander matches, because of their inherent slower nature, require a longer period of time to play. The 50 or 60 minute timelimit quickly becomes exhausted. The deckshuffling especially pile-shuffling and deck-searching effects due to big deck sizes require considerably more time. The addition of a Sideboard would exceed all available timelimits.

Also it is an incentive in this format to build a deck which will compete competitively against all other decks. The deck must be constructed in keeping with the current metagame. You must have answers to all threats which an opponent could present. One card which is against one deck a "hoser" may be against other decks "dead". Games after sideboarding would have an inherent luck factor since the player drawing the first sideboard card has a greater chance to win.


Q: Why is card "XYZ" banned / not banned?


Whenever one starts out to build standards for a non-sanctioned DCI format, there will always be friends and enemies of such projects. Most of the discussions will revolve around cards on the banned list. Complaints stating "why is my favourite card XYZ banned" and others "I always lose to card ABC and that should be banned" run rampant and it is impossible to satisfy everyone.

Without data, opinion prevails. Where opinion prevails, whoever has power is king.

The banned list which is currently applicable for Highlander using the highlandermagic.info rules is based on experience accumulated since 2004. The banned list is not just maintained by one person, but there is a committee ("Highlander Council ") which includes the six most active participants internationally who discuss and decide together over the bannings. They rely on the tournament results posted by the community to deck database, but take into consideration the view points of individuals as well.

The major aspects and goals we follow in our banning stategy are:

  1. To maximize the variety of competitive decks;
  2. Keep the number of banned cards as low as possible;
  3. React to the metagame should certain deck types begin to dominate disturbingly with evidence meta is not able to correct itself;
  4. If a deck merely exists due to a "broken" card, this deck loses the right to exist. Then only the "broken" card should be banned (e.g. Flash, not Protean Hulk).
  5. If a card exists that is difficult to be supported from tournament logistical or round time reasons reducing overall enjoyment, it should be banned (e.g. Shahrazad and Sensei's Divining Top).

Of course we don't expect everyone to agree with the decisions the committee makes. This is not possible where we attempt to satisfy the pro-tournament player as well as the casual player.

Within the highlander format we wish to encourage a large variety of players and their decks. The games should be decided over play-skill rather than top-decking the god-card.

A person may obtain a decisive advantage by being the first to draw a certain card to opener seven and "curve out". Examples where the effect have proven to outweigh the cost and breaking the symmetry are: Library of Alexandria, Umezawa's Jitte and Sol Ring.


Q: Why not just use e.g. the Legacy banned list?


This would be of course the easiest way especially since we wouldn't be responsible for the list. The frequent criticisms brought against us would be rendered useless since the DCI would be responsible. But we would be neglecting the format by making life easy!

A special format with 100 cards also requires an individual banned list that covers the idiosyncracies of this format. The Legacy banned list is made with a "60 Card / 4 of each" frame of reference and is only useful in that type of environment.


Q: Which Highlander deck is the best?


Just as in any other format, there is no "best deck." How good a deck is will be dependent on quite a number of factors including player-skill, metagame etc. To form an idea what to play, you should check Highlander deck database for archetypes that have finished in top-8. The goal for the Highlander committee is to maintain a banned list and to react to the metagame when certain decks begin to dominate. We strive to maintain the rock-paper-scissors concept. Each deck type requires an antagonist and this antagonist should not lose against all other decks.

Combo decks should be possible but not dominate in form of degenerate combo. We encourage variety where Beatdown, Prison, Recursion, Ramp or better said: Aggro, Control, Midrange, Combo etc. all have an equal chance of success. Combinations such as Tinker / Memory Jar or first turn Strip Mine targeting basic land with later Crucible lock are discouraged.


Q: How does one build a good Highlander deck?


In contrast to other formats, it is difficult to build a good Highlander deck from scratch. You build a solid base after which you tune the deck through experience and playtesting. You should not become discouraged should your new deck become trounced through other established decks, rather through testing you should determine the weaknesses of your deck and respond accordingly. Here it is often best to settle on a strategy and build a solid deck around this stategy also taking into account the current metagame.


Q: Will the banned list always remain the same?


No. The Highlander committee will monitor the format and strive for a variable and balanced format. To conserve this balance, changes will be made to the banned list (see question 10). Potential changes may be reflected in the watchlist which gives a clue to which cards are under closer scrutiny (see question 11), while the watchlists are metered e.g. using collected tournament data. The committee will decide over the bannings and unbannings of cards and also occassionally ask your input through the forums.


Q: How often and when will changes to the banned list occur?


Changes to banned list will be announced twice a year on April 1st. and October 1st. The changes will take effect on the 15th of the same month the change was announced. All banlist changes are scrutinized through the watchlist which is announced quarterly.


Q: What is the "Watchlist" and what does it mean when a card is included?


Cards are placed on the watchlist when a card is considered a problem in the current metagame. These cards are under a greater scrutiny through added playtesting and discussions for a minimum of 3 months before possibly being placed on the banned list. Unban watchlists on the other hand serve to investigate whether a card still on the banlist could be unbanned.

In the end, watchlists are used to increase transparency and flexibility. We also do not want to subject the format to too many and sudden changes (stabilization), or unban a card, then suddenly ban it again right on the next round. Thus the biannual announcements but quarterly watchlists.


Q: Why is this strange Mulligan variant required?


Through the nature of statistics, the chances of building groups of lands within the deck are higher with a 100 card deck than with a 60 card deck. This results in more starting hands with very few or very many lands. Since we wish to minimize situations where games are won through mana screw or mana flood, this additional mulligan rule was introduced. The introduction of this rule as indeed balanced out this statistical imbalance. The current mulligan rule (Comprehensive Rules, 103.4c) has been in use since 10/15/2013.


Are the World Champion/IE/CE cards valid for Highlander tournament play?


Ask your tournament organizer. To ease the accessibility, cards from the following editions are still permitted, if the edition cannot be determined from the back of the card:

  • International Edition
  • Collector's Edition
  • Championship decks

The cards from above sets can only be used by tournament organizers' discretion and only if the tournament isn't sanctioned. This must be communicated in the original tournament announcement.


Q: Why is my question not listed here?


Perhaps because it hasn't been asked frequently enough yet? :)

You are invited to join in the discussion within the forums.