SA: GGA Highlander 500 (27/02/2022) Deck Lists & Tournament Report

By Daniel Stoney

I have been playing Highlander on a ‘competitive’ level for a good 12 – 18 months now, testing with friends at least once a fortnight and trying to attend every local event I can. For any newer/less seasoned players out there, the Highlander community is truly awesome in sharing wisdom and advice on all things deck building, sideboard plans as well as lending expensive pieces of cardboard to help people with their decks.

Background

I would like to take the opportunity to give a huge shout out everyone I met at Cancon in Canberra this year. From Highlander committee members, to veteran PTQ players and beautiful people from all walks of life. I really enjoy the camaraderie and awesome feeling you get from playing paper magic with new people. It was an absolute pleasure slinging my favourite cardboard with you all across the weekend.

From a ‘newer’ player point of view I would highly encourage anyone that is thinking about participating in Cancon to take that step. The tournament itself is well ran and organised across the weekend. The judges do an exceptional job, all staff were friendly, approachable and especially vigilant in following Covid procedures.

Now for details of the Good Games Adelaide “Highlander 500”, which marks the first results in the post-Feb 2022 Points Announcement metagame (where there were around a dozen Pointed card changes).

Final Standings and Top 8 Decklists

Player’s StandingPlayer’s NamePlayer’s Deck List Link
1stDaniel StoneyOmnath Control” (WURG inspired by Dan Abraham)
2ndLiam WhelanJund” (BRG Midrange)
3rd – 4thRussell CuttingMUD” (Artifact Ramp)
3rd – 4thOli OksRUG Lord (no list provided; but close to Sarv’s latest version of Temur Big-Tempo here)
5th – 8thShane CuttingForbidden Jutsu” (BUG Aluren + Ninja)
5th – 8thRob LarkNono White Control” (UBRG Control)
5th – 8thRaj TokhiJunk” (GWB Midrange)
5th – 8thZach McDonnellMarchesa” (Mardu Midrange)

Tournament Report

16 keen players gathered for Adelaide’s first post-points update Highlander event held at Good Games. Whilst 16 is lower than typical Adelaide turnout (due to our ongoing COVID outbreak), majority of the field was long standing players such as Michael Hern, Rajdeep Tokhi, The Cuttings Brothers, James Arthur and of course, current National Champion Robert Lark.

On the day I was piloting an Omnath Control list inspired by Daniel Abraham. I’ve been following Dan’s list closely since pre Cancon and have enjoyed seeing the deck get leaner and more powerful along the journey. I would encourage anyone to check out Dan’s list here. The in depth primer gave me great insight into the card choices and play style of the deck, which really helped in taking my game to the next level. The deck typically looks to control the early game with a heap of cheap interaction and then run away with the mid to late game with synergies & power house cards such as Uro, Oko and Omnath + Sylvan Library/Wrenn and Six.

Winner of the GGA Highlander 500: Daniel Stoney on Omnath Control

Here is a summary of each match up I faced on the day

Round 1 vs Luke McGlaughlin on RB Aggro

This feels like a favourable match up with a large number of 4 toughness creatures and the life gain in Uro, Omnath & Klothys. However, the explosive nature of aggro is not to be underestimated. Luckily I won the die role to edge things in my favour.

Game 1 came very close as Luke laid on the usual aggressive turn 1 pressure, a resolved Price of Progress saw me take a whopping 10 damage and put me within bolt range at a measly 3 life . A seemingly ‘dead’ Spell Pierce in hand came up clutch as Luke attempted to cast a kicked Burst Lightning for lethal. My next turn saw me cast Uro to stabilise and draw Brazen Borrower for my Force of Will waiting in hand. Once Luke’s next spell was swiftly countered he was out of gas and conceded.

Game 2 played out in similar fashion as Luke piled on the pressure. A 2-for-1 Firespout helped me stabilise and I eventually I took over the board with bigger creatures for another close win.

Both games Luke put me on 1 life but couldn’t find or resolve that one last point of damage. I feel this match really showcases the tight nature of Highlander and how important little edges and advantages are in the format. Winning the die roll and stabilising on one life can sometimes be the difference between going on to win an event or not making the top 8.

Round 2 vs Reuben on Blue Moon

This can be a tight match up as you need to respect the possibility of a ‘moon’ effect which can completely wreck our greedy mana base.

Game 1: Played out in awkward fashion for Reuben as he stumbled on only 2 islands and a Mystic Sanctuary which met my Wasteland. I pulled ahead whilst Reuben was stuck on 2 islands.

Game 2: I suspected Reuben was in fact on Blue Moon but I side boarded for a mono blue match up having only seen the 3 islands and a counterspell. A resolved turn 3 Magus of The Moon shut me down real fast. I aggressively dug for an answer with Sylvan Library to no avail.

Game 3: Side boarding Noble Hierarch back in proved clutch as I went turn 1 Hierarch, into turn 2 Goyf, followed up with turn 3 Questing Beast. Reuben was hit with the old the left, right, goodnight!

Round 3 vs Shane Cutting on Sultai Ninja

(yes you read that correctly)

This was a tough match up that caught me off guard. Shane typically builds and plays his rogue style decks like a well oiled machine. This glorious 60 card streamlined commander deck was no exception.

Game 1: True to the deck’s namesake Shane had the element of surprise as I floundered about attempting to read every creature he played. Grist on board along with a cheeky Spellstutter Sprite surprise kept me at bay while the Ninjas took me to Jujitsu town.

Game 2: “Lets’ see what I’ve got written down for the Sultai Ninja match up” I joked with Shane as I referred to my to my sideboard plan… “Nope, nothing here.” #goodtimes. Game 2 was long and grindy. Omnath did broken Omnath things combined with Sylvan Library. I gained 8 crucial life over the course of the game and eventually whittled Shane down so it was on to game 3.

Game 3: The Ninja came out of the gates hot closely followed by a level 3 Hexdrinker. Endurance did its own best impression of a ninja warrior and Mother of Runes bought me some time but a crucial mistake was made in combat when I opted to double block the Fallen Shinobi over Hexdrinker. Hexdrinker proceeded to level up into oblivion and end the game quickly… Curse you ninjas with your pretty gold borders, distracting text and tricky flippy combat abilities!

Round 4: ID

I was fortunate enough to ID into my first ever top 8, finishing in 7th place after the swiss.

Daniel Stoney during the Top 8

Quarter Finals vs Shane Cutting on Crouching Sultai Hidden Ninja

The opportunity for redemption arrived swiftly. I wasn’t particularly confident going into the match as I’m someone that typically prefers to ‘get the reps in’ to really understand and feel out how a match up plays out. On top of this I had a plenty of dead cards – Spell Snare, Brazen Borrower, Dack Fayden, Force of Negation and Scooze to name a few.

Game 1 was again super grindy. Shane began amassing a strong board presence with an early Bitterblossom and Grist online. I lined up a key sequence that would allow me to ping and bounce two 1/1 faerie blockers and swing my 7/7 Murktide Regent to eliminate the Grist and commence my comeback. This dream was short lived as Shane channelled Otowara, Soaring City at my massive Regent boi and went on to win the game.

Game 2 saw Omnath star, gaining 8 life and go over the top of Shane’s ninja strategy.

Game 3 Shane had a slower start than previous games and an escaped Uro on my side of the board took over the game rather quickly. I don’t recall much more detail from game 2 and 3. But for me the key take away was more attitude and mentality based in coming from behind to win the match. I’m usually someone that puts a lot of pressure on myself to play at my best every step, this often leads to ‘clouded’ or narrow minded lines of play. Shane’s jocular nature and solid banter helped put me in a more relaxed headspace. Mid game I realised I generally play my best magic when I’m relaxed and having fun. I decided win or lose it was best to embrace the moment and enjoy what remained of my first ever top 8 match, this was a key part in playing well and making a solid comeback.

Semi Final vs Oli Oaks on “RUG Lord” (Temur Big Tempo)

Oli is always a tough opponent that has been piloting his RUG list to many a top 8 finishes since I started playing the format. It always feels like Oli is functioning a couple turns ahead of you, historically our games together have always been tight.

Game 1 it would appear Oli took a gamble on keeping a hand that hoped to draw a green mana source. Unfortunately he was restricted to only casting blue and red spells. I swiftly answered a Young Pyromancer before it could get out of hand and my Klothys slowly dominated to victory.

Game 2 on the draw I prioritised keeping Spell Snare available rather than deploying a turn 1 Hierarch. Oli’s RUG list typically has plenty of 2 turn threats I wanted to counter – Goyf, Thing In The Ice, Young Pyro & Ice Fang Coatl. Keeping the Spell Snare was clutch as I countered Sylvan Library – a key piece in running away in the match up. Oli however landed a turn 3 Back to Basics ruining my fun (and my life) while he untapped with a trifecta of RUG snow lands. Oli took over the game while I spent a few turns trying to find basic lands and answers to the nasty enchantment.

Game 3 saw me a answer Oli’s turn 1 Ragavan with a Swords. From their Oli landed yet another Back to Basics on turn 3 with a Dragon’s Rage Channeler in play. Fortunately I had both my only basic lands in hand along with Malevolent Hermit & Oko. I prioritised sequencing the Hermit to allow for the non creature mana leak ability when casting Oko the following turn. This proved useful as Oli had a counter and decided to force me into sacrificing the Hermit to resolve Oko. Knowing that my deck would struggle to cast spells unless I found Outland Liberator or Boseiju to deal with the Back to Basics, I prioritised making a food and turning my succulent hamburgers into 3/3 Elks to start pressuring the board as my line to victory. This came at a risk as an unanswered DRC is a real engine. Oli prioritised sending the ‘delirious’ Channeler at Oko, which meant using the ‘switcheroo’ ability would put The Thief of Bans at a risky loyalty total. A key play came when I decided to Submerge Oli’s DRC with the surveil trigger on the stack, essentailly time walking him and blocking the surveil. It seemed Oli only surveiled into lands and counterspells, so my small army of Elks went on to finish the game and I was into my first final!

Final vs Liam Whelan on Jund

Whenever you sit across from him, Liam is both a gentleman and rock solid Jund player. Well versed in his Jund list, Liam is a master at getting the best out of the cards he has to play with.

Game 1 Liam opened with a turn 1 Ignobale Hierarch into a turn 2 Thoughtseize, after giving it plenty of thought, my Dack Fayden was chosen to go to the bin, suggesting we were in for longer grindier game. I top decked a Wrenn and Six pinging the Heirarch which kept Liam off red mana. From there the game really came down to a rather quirky battle over a big healthy boi, none other than a 5/6 Goyf. The Goyf began the game on my side of the board but was swiftly met with an Abrubt Decay. The Goyf then entered Liam’s side of the board with a cheeky Reanimate. Unfortunately for Liam my ‘Funferi’ came down and did it’s best impression of Mel Gibson “GIVE ME BACK MY GOYF!”. I had a Goyf and Outland Liberator to Liam’s empty board. Liam top decked a Pernicious Deed with enough mana to pop it and destroy my creatures… yet again a seemingly dead Spell Pierce in hand proved clutch as it tied up Liam’s mana, ensuring I could swing for lethal on my turn.

Is that current National Highlander Champion Rob Lark?

Game 2 Liam was in the driver’s seat. Liam dashed in a Ragavan on turn 3, I swifty Hydroblasted the pesky primate but that was in fact met with a Red Elemental Blast… #blastoff. The nimble pirate legend proceeded to dash me for 3 hits but unfortunately for Liam it only managed to steal 2 lands and a blank path to exile…bad beats. Ragavan finally met a Swords to Plowshares.

After this exchange Liam cast a Grist which met a Force of Will. From there I deployed a healthy 4/5 Goyf. In combat my Goyf was met by a flashy Endurance keeping my graveyard at bay from possible Uro or Murktide Regent action. Before damage Liam cast a Kolaghan’s Command, electing to return Grist to his hand and deal 2 points of damage to the Goyf. This did in fact take a planeswalker out of the yard and make Goyf small enough to be destroyed and see the Endurance live. This really shows Liams strength in finding the best possible line with the resources he has, it was quite the master stroke play. Post combat I cast Wrenn and Six which pinged the Endurance from the board. Liam’s next turns were casting and escaping a Kroxa which I pitched a land to on both occasions. I proceeded to top deck a glorious Unholy Heat (what a wizard) and the Kroxa was no more. From there I cast Titania which was met with a Dreadbore still leaving me with a 5/3 elemental on board. I then top decked Uro which drew Omnath. With Omnath, a 5/3 elemental and a Wrenn and Six on board Liam saw the writing on the wall, like the gentleman he is, he extended the arm and congratulated me on the win.

Conclusion

I was super happy in finally winning an event, it was a real ‘monkey off the back moment’. I took pride in winning all 3 finals matches whilst starting on the draw.

Overall I feel the deck is in a strong position with a few flex spots depending on whether you want to raise the deck’s ceiling or sure up some weaker match ups. Having recently been in direct contact with Dan Abraham, I look forward to more in depth discussions and deck development.

Here are the top 8 lists from the day. Thanks for reading, cheers!

 – Daniel Stoney