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The Protect the Queen Archetype in Highlander

Welcome to the Protect the Queen deck archetype for 7 Point Highlander! On this page you will find all the content related to this play style.

A Summary of the Protect the Queen Archetype:

Protect the Queen decks are based on a strategy in chess whereby you leverage one particularly important piece and make moves that keep it safe so that it can continue its rein over the board. The iconic equivalent in Magic is deploying a Delver of Secrets early in the game, and then holding your ‘counterspells’ for when your opponent attempts to kill that powerful creature (and ignoring largely any other spells they cast). The Protect the Queen archetype hinges on aggressive threats backed up by cheap interaction to ensure that they can dominate the early game, and then eke out those last few points of damage once your threats are outmatched and the opponent thinks that they have stabilised.

Although Red doesn’t appear in all variants of the Protect the Queen archetype, Red often plays a key role in maintaining ‘tempo’ in any match. Red spells have the ability to clear blockers with ‘burn’ like Pillar of Flame and then direct said spells at the opponent’s life total when needed. Because of the lower number of these damage-dealing cards than a dedicated Burn deck (see the Burn archetype), almost every one of these slots will pull that double-duty role in Protect the Queen, ensuring that your creatures have a clear path. Although you will not see Lava Spike effects in this archetype, there is always space for the one all-important finisher: Price of Progress. When paired with cheap blue counterspells like Daze and Spell Pierce, this archetype will ensure you can always put your opponent on the back foot and thus stay ahead on ‘tempo’.

Protect the Queen Deck Lists and Variations:

The two popular colours for this archetype are Blue and Red, and staying in this ‘Izzet’ pair ensures that you have a stable mana base filled with Basic Lands. Not only does this nullify the advantage of other powerful archetypes that attempt to prey on non-basic lands, but it also allows you access to the same ‘punisher’ strategy with your own Back to Basics and Blood Moon in the Sideboard. The aggressive creature suite in Blue and Red can be either evasive (e.g., Delver of Secrets), or fast (e.g., Zurgo Bellstriker’s dash ability), or both (e.g., Sprite Dragon), which lends well to maintaining tempo and closing the game before the opponent has the chance to stabilise.

In general, the threats in Izzet Tempo are not particularly large, making cards like The Royal Scions instrumental in pushing damage through potential blockers. It is essential to keep only hands that apply pressure and use interaction to protect those threats (and therefore lead to more damage in the long run). Thus, once an opponent does manage to staunch the bleeding, their life total is low enough to finish them with a burn spell. Wheel of Fortune and Magus of the Wheel shine in this position, as they allow you to re-draw another seven cards and unleash a series of cheap ‘burn’ spells before the opponent can leverage that new hand.  

Deck ListIzzet Tempo

Adding a third colour is another option for the Protect the Queen deck archetype; for example Black offers the allure of more robust threats and disruption. However a popular variant elects to add Green, creating a ‘Temur’ (Blue-Red-Green) Tempo deck. Hexdrinker, Tarmogoyf and friends are individually more impactful than the early-game creatures available in strictly Izzet colours, enabling the variant to close the game faster by essentially protecting a ‘larger’ Queen so to speak. Green also provides additional forms of reach to close in on an opponent’s life total when they’ve stabilised, such as Deathrite Shaman’s life drain ability or Hooting Mandrills trampling over a True-Name Nemesis. One of the most alluring reasons to be in Green however is the sideboard, which offers powerful answers to opposing Control strategies like Veil of Summer and Sylvan Library. There are also flexible answers that punish multiple different opposing strategies that Blue, Red, and Black struggle to answer, for example Cindervines dealing with artifacts, enchantments, the Storm archetype, and even dealing damage as a game-ending threat in its own right.

Deck ListTemur Tempo

In addition there is a video primer available, which covers the key groupings of cards and touches on the fundamental aspects of the Temur Tempo playstyle in only 7 minutes. You can watch it here:

Another approach is to forego the colour Red entirely. Base Blue-Black (or ‘Dimir’) versions of Protect the Queen are designed to leverage their stable mana base and incredibly well-costed interaction (e.g. Thoughtseise, Inquisition of Kozilek) to dominate the early game, but also have a solid mid-game. This is achieved via Black, which gives access to two 3-mana variants of Liliana as well as value cards like Hymn to Tourach and Baleful Strix. Most importantly, staying power is achieved through huge Delve threats like Tombstalker and Tasigur the Golden Fang, as well as ‘growing’ a Pteramander via Adapt. All these creatures can also be deployed remarkably early in the game through the use of Mental Note and Thought Scour, supporting this Dimir Tempo variant’s ‘Delve’ theme.

Deck ListDimir Tempo

In addition there is a video primer available, which covers the key groupings of cards and touches on the fundamental aspects of the Dimir Tempo playstyle in only 7 minutes. You can watch it here:

In the same vein as Temur Tempo, Sultai (Blue-Black-Green) Tempo seeks to add Green for more impactful early-game threats like Tarmogoyf, as well as powerful sideboard options not available to Dimir, such as Veil of Summer and Sylvan Library. Beyond the cards that Green offers to Temur Tempo, Sultai Tempo receives notable powerhouses in the threat department (Grim Flayer) as well as universal removal spells (Abrupt Decay; Assassin’s Trophy) to keep clearing the path to attack. Most importantly, the Sideboard also offers the ability to transform into a Midrange-Control deck with cards like Sylvan Library, Leovold Emissary of Trest, and Uro Titan of Nature’s Wrath, making the Sultai Tempo deck remarkably flexible.

Deck ListSultai Tempo

In addition there is a video primer available, which covers the key groupings of cards and touches on the fundamental aspects of the Sultai Tempo playstyle in only 7 minutes. You can watch it here:

Building Protect the Queen on a Budget

If you like the sound of Protect the Queen but you are on a budget there are versions of both the above decks that do not require Ancestral Recall. One of the most popular substitutions includes True-Name Nemesis, which provides an incredible source of repeatable damage and will continue to pressure your opponent’s life total even after they stabilise with blockers. Remaining points are often very well spent in cards that keep your opponent off-balance, such as Strip Mine and/or Wasteland. Temur Tempo can be built with these points but still requires three original ‘dual’ lands in order to support its ability to consistently play potentially three different colours of one-mana creature as early as turn one. On the other hand, Izzet Tempo with True-Name Nemesis, Strip Mine et al., is largely comprised of Common and Uncommon burn spells and creatures, making it very budget friendly. If you don’t have access to a Volcanic Island, the deck can even be played very competitively without losing much equity because you are playing the tempo role; losing 2 life from fetching your Steam Vents every few games will be far less relevant than when piloting a control deck.

Playing 7 Point Highlander on a budget? Don’t forget to listen to listen to one of the 7 Point Highlander Cast’s seminal episodes on how to construct a good deck whilst on a shoestring!

Podcast – Building on a Budget

Highlander Protect the Queen Video Content:

Compiled below are links to some excellent YouTube resources that can help you see versions of the Protect the Queen deck archetype in action.

Watch this video to see Izzet Tempo in action:

Watch this video to see Temur Tempo in action:

Watch this video to see the Budget version of Temur Tempo in action:

Watch this video to see Dimir Tempo in action:

Watch this video to see Sultai Tempo in action:


Where to next?

Did Protect the Queen fit the kind of deck archetype you’re looking for? Want to know more about other Tempo decks? Visit the Tempo hub here.

These decks do have some similarity with Aggro strategies. If you’d like to know more about dedicated Aggro decks or those that have an Aggro element to them, visit the Aggro hub here.

Dr Sarven McLinton

Sarven has been playing Magic the Gathering since Stronghold (1998) and is on The Highlander Points Committee. He is well-versed in a wide variety of deck archetypes but remains an avid student of the game. Sarven is a passionate writer and seeks to apply his extensive experience in research and statistics to gaming. By day, 'Dr McLinton' works as a Research Associate at the Centre for Workplace Excellence (CWeX) managing various projects investigating psychosocial factors at work, as well as lecturing Psychology Honours and supervising PhD candidates. By night, 'McLinton Sensei' teaches traditional Japanese Karate in South Australia's premiere sporting centre, the ARC Campbelltown. He holds a 4th-degree black belt and is a gold medalist, competing both nationally and internationally in Karate and Open-style contact tournaments.