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An $85 Precon, an Eighth Point and a half baked hypothesis.

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The Friday before the fifth RC held the largest Highlander event of the year since Cancon and CanBrawl. I committed myself early on to playing an 8 point deck and to put my money where my mouth is, and came out of the event with a top 8 result!
If you frequent the Highlander decklists on Moxfield, you might have seen some decklists posted by yours truly. These decks all have 8 points and no Reserved List cards, and I’ve tried my best to build them with plenty of Modern and Pioneer staples to make them accessible to non enfranchised players. Click here if you want to check them out!
Since starting the project, I’ve made sure to play some of these decks at weekly events, with a few 3-1 and 4-0 results. But I wanted to give it a shot at the big stage. Enter the Win-a-Mox event, a real Highlander event for real stakes. Here’s what I brought!

https://www.moxfield.com/embed/4whvQLuHY0yNRXcB-wVkGQ

The core philosophy behind this deck was a simple hypothesis; if I draw pointed cards more often, and they’re high impact cards, I should win more games on average. By playing eight points and seven pointed cards, alongside glue like Thraben Inspector and Stoneforge Mystic, my overall game plan was firmly established and single-minded; throw cardboard against the wall until something sticks.
The deck itself worked surprisingly well, and I found myself playing more cards per game than my opponents and generating enough incremental advantage to eek out wins. There was plenty of raw power in certain synergies, like Solitude plus a flicker effect and simply making all my land drops and casting plenty of spells put my opponents into tough positions they couldn’t wriggle out of. Most of the cards in the deck are pretty classic red and white midrange cards, with a few specific haymakers for certain matchups.

However, there was a dark horse in the deck that even I didn’t properly see coming.

Seeing Pre-War Formalwear in Fallout preview season, I knew it would be a “good” card, and would take over the Batterskull/Kaldra Compleat slot in most Stoneforge Mystic decks. I knew I wanted to play with it as soon as I could. I went to the event hall bright and early to check if the vendors had opened any product, and discovered they hadn’t, much to my dismay. This conversation with my friend and testing partner Kate followed.

“It can’t be THAT good, I can just play a Batterskull and it’ll be fine.”
“I don’t know Vi, I’m pretty sure it’s cracked in half.”
“Sigh, I know. I just don’t want to buy a Commander Precon for one card.”

Next thing I know, I’m $85 down, holding a box of Dogmeat and his Scrappy Survivors.

What followed was an incredible Eureka moment, and a series of rants to friends telling them to get their orders in for a copy of this unassuming equipment. Pre-War Formalwear is the best equipment printed for Stoneforge Mystic creature based decks since Umezawa’s Jitte (sorry *insert your favourite Sword here*). At no point during the tournament did my Stoneforge Mystic fetch Jitte, even in creature matchups, because Formalwear was simply better in every single spot. I’ve actually written an entire article about Pre-War Formalwear and Stoneforge Mystic’s place in Highlander moving forward! (link to sfm article)

As for the tournament itself, I’m not a huge fan of tournament reports as I believe the information can be skewed when trying to recall certain events. I tend to generally prefer discussing how the deck felt, and what lessons I learned to help with future decklist decisions. However, I will discuss certain aspects of the deck that may be confusing, and general play patterns that occurred throughout the event.

This is a true midrange deck in spirit, trading cards to gain incremental value very slowly and snowballing into an unsurmountable board state. By having a critical mass of cheap and free interaction, you can spend your mana very efficiently turn after turn developing creatures and making your land drops, while keeping your opponent off the board. After a certain point, there will typically be a “swing turn” where you pull massively ahead and gain a stranglehold on the game. This can come in various forms, but will usually involve removing your opponent’s last threat, gaining the Monarchy, the Initiative or both, and attacking for much larger amounts than previous turns. Once you have established this board state and had this swing turn, the game is usually over in a short time with very little room to lose.

This game play pattern is facilitated by highly synergistic deckbuilding choices, powerful pointed cards that are able to threaten to win the game by themselves and premium removal. Most cards will either synergise with several other cards e.g. flickering Thraben Inspector to get more card draw and grow your Urza’s Saga tokens, flickering your Pre-War Formalwear to reanimate another threat, or will bury your opponent because of their individual power level, like Comet, Stellar Pup and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer.

While the deck has underwhelming cards when compared to some of the best threats in the format, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each card is a cog in an overarching machine and your gameplay decisions will matter more and more as the game progresses. Understanding your role in certain match ups will contextualise the order you play your cards in and the expected outcome of each of your plays. Practice will definitely make perfect!

As for where the deck itself goes from here, here is the updated decklist. https://www.moxfield.com/decks/SGnPYuoLE0uQGJbDJk0pmg (turn into image) There were a lot of lessons learned over the course of the tournament and I think this archetype could be a real contender going forward with further deck refinement.

I think the eight point deck space is underexplored, especially by experienced players with deep format knowledge. Hopefully this will inspire some of you to try and innovate as well, but otherwise I look forward to meeting you all on the battlefield in the near future!

Vi

Melbourne based MtG grinder and content creator. L2 Judge, ex Twitch streamer and multiple PT attendee.