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Building an Eight Point List: Part 1

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Hi all! This is my guide to building your first Eight Point Highlander deck, some of my learnings and common pitfalls. Welcome!

Building an eight point list isn’t as simple as adding a pointed card to an existing seven point deck. You should be striving to build a cohesive deck that capitalises on the extra point you gain access to.

While this guide will focus on building an Eight Point list, as most players will have less experience in this field, I hope some learnings can be useful to you when building Seven Point lists also.

A new approach to viewing the Points List

The Highlander Points list is home to the most powerful cards and effects across Magic’s history. Some cards are individually powerful and will threaten to win the game if unchecked, some enable or enhance entire archetypes, and some fall somewhere in between

Powerful Threats

e.g. Minsc and Boo, True-Name Nemesis, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Murktide Regent, Forth Eorlingas!
Cards that fall into the first category don’t typically ask much of you, either in deckbuilding or in gameplay. They will impact most games they’re played in, and will be worth the point expenditure whenever you draw and play them. Spending two points on Minsc and Boo will be worth it every time you cast the card, because it will either win you the game or give you a fighting chance.

Powerful synergy or combo cards

e.g. Time Walk, Thassa’s Oracle, Underworld Breach, Time Vault, Channel, Oath of Druids
Cards in the second category will be powerful, game ending effects that require lots of support, usually in both deckbuilding AND gameplay. There’s no sense in spending five points on Time Walk if you’re only casting it once, when putting the effort in to cast it multiple times will win you more games.

Efficient utility cards

e.g. Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, Sol Ring, all tutors, Force of Will, Wrenn and Six
Cards in the third category are the glue of the points list. They’re rarely broken on an individual basis, but will be powerful across most situations as they’re the “generically good” cards of the points list. You won’t lose a game because you didn’t cast Treasure Cruise, but you won’t win the game by resolving it as it simply draws you your other cards.

I personally categorise the points list like this, and treat the points each card costs as a portion of our total point allocation. The more points a card is worth, the more I need to get out of it, as the opportunity cost of “losing” these points by not casting or not winning the game with said card exponentially affects my win-rate. For every three point card you put in your deck, there are three one point cards you AREN’T playing. Is your Sol Ring going to be worth more or less than an Ancient Tomb, a Mishra’s Workshop AND a Tolarian Academy?

With this approach I have built lists that take advantage of the point allocation I have, rather than trying to patch together the holes that are created when removing the Reserved List cards from a Seven Point list. While this approach is a perfectly reasonable way to build decks in Highlander, I’ve personally found it leading to decks that lack cohesion and a focused game plan.

So how do I build an Eight Point Deck, or a Highlander Deck in general?

Within your main deck and sideboard will exist a certain number of points, spread out over multiple cards. Whether this is seven, eight, or less if you wish, some of your cards will be worth inherently more or less than others. Playing more points worth of cards, especially more than your opponent, should increase your overall win percentage, as points played represent the most powerful portion of your deck.

By determining the value of your selected pointed cards and the percentage of your total point allocation they represent, you should be able to better understand how best to improve your deck. There are several ways to improve the overall value of your points expenditure:

Individual point value: Some two point cards are worth 2.4 points, rather than 1.9 points. Due to the requirements of rounding to whole numbers, the points list will inherently have disparity within categories, and some cards will be “better” than others with the same point value. Therefore, these cards will give you “more bang for your buck”. I won’t do a deep dive into what cards belong to this category, both because it’s highly subjective and the points list is ever-changing, but it’s worth keeping this in mind when reviewing the list before you build your next deck.

Increasing point density: By playing five one point cards rather than one five point card, you are five times more likely to draw a point with each draw step. Whether this point drawn and played is worth 20% of a five point card or not will matter both subjectively and contextually. Additionally, drawing two one point cards may be worth more than 40% of a five point card, not taking into account the times when you DON’T draw the five point card and your overall point density is exponentially higher.

Increasing point frequency: The more non-pointed ways you can get to your pointed cards, the more often you will get the value needed out of your pointed cards. This can include playing more card draw, playing tutor effects, playing pointed cards that find other pointed cards (Spellseeker into Time Walk for example). The pointed cards are the most powerful cards available and increasing the frequency you play them in your matches will increase your win percentage.

Increasing point potency: A wise woman once told me “a Ragavan that connects is worth two in the hand.” The impact your cards have on a game, both pointed and not, directly affects your win-rate. A Treasure Cruise feels amazing and worth more than two points every time you draw three spells, and feels like a waste when you draw three lands you don’t need. By deckbuilding in a manner than best uses your pointed cards and ensuring that your game plan is progressing properly whenever you play them, you can get more value out of each point spent.

  • The companions on the Highlander Points List are two of the easiest ways to increase your overall point equity. By spending three or two of your seven or eight points, you gain access to a powerful card that you can draw and play every game. By abiding by the deckbuilding restrictions, and the requirements to make these cards as powerful as possible, you can guarantee a significant portion of your point equity is realised every game.

Hopefully this has provided some insight into my personal approach to deckbuilding in Highlander and has given you fresh ideas on how to build your next deck! Tune in next time for Part 2, where I will go over pointed packages and how they create and work within the archetypes available in the format!

Vi

Melbourne based MtG grinder and content creator. Ex L2 Judge, ex Twitch streamer, multiple PT attendee and team member on team Australia for the World Magic Cup.