Shared Discovery – 15 Card Highlander at Nats by Rob Wagner

Shared Discovery – Downtime: The Alternative NQ Huddersfield Report by Rob Wagner


Hi all, how was your Nationals? I failed to grind into the main event after going 2-1 in the first draft of that LCQ and deciding that I’d have a slightly better chance of doing well enough in Standard than 3-0ing a random draft but then drawing DI lands in a really good matchup round 1 and then having 2 good and a bad matchup to knock me out through no real fault of anyones.

What that did allow me to focus on was hanging out with all the people I know and play in some side events to meet even more people :D The first one I did was the Extended Generic GPT on the Friday to kill some time while my friends were in the main event. It gave me the opportunity to play sweet cards like Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor and tech out my deck with stuff like Spellstutter Sprite and Mental Misstep (which no-one else seemed to have but was insane for me all day). Long story short, despite forgetting to play Sword of War and Peace (don’t build a deck in 5 minutes over some beers), I won £150 travel award and 3 byes for any European GP before the end of 2012 which isn’t bad for playing in an event I didn’t really care about.

An event I did care about, however, was the 15-card Highlander event. Covered by Dan Barrett on StarCityGames, the format is extremely skill-testing when it comes to deckbuilding and resource management. Using my Grixis deck from last year as a foundation (I can’t be bothered to search for a link since it won’t be relevant anyway) I came up with the following starting point:

5 Swamps
Inquisition of Kozilek
Horrifying Revelation
Geth’s Verdict
Reassembling Skeleton
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Liliana’s Specter
Vengeful Pharaoh

Not exactly sure what the last card was going to be as Sadistic Sacrament had become banned (quite rightly), but my testing partner Rob Catton texted me from his Sheffield testing hole to suggest the previously-documented Zombie Infestation plus Emrakul, the Aeons Torn combo. For those with no imagination, this gives you a dead draw in your deck that lets you re-use all your cast cards, and in the constraints of the format this means that you will never run out of cards while your opponent does so it’s net card advantage in a format all about card advantage. They had a Temple Bell in their list which seemed a bit awkward but Andy Edwards and I came up with mirror tech in the form of Cemetary Reaper. Seeking a main deck which was good vs the expected Splinter Twin decks we brewed:

4 Swamps
Inquisition of Kozilek
Horrifying Revelation
Go for the Throat
Zombie Infestation
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Liliana’s Specter
Vengeful Pharaoh
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Cemetery Reaper
Leyline of the Void
Revoke Existence

I played against three copies of fellow 15-card Expert Seb Parker‘s Splinter Twin list and beat it each time with only Seb himself taking a game from me. The other two decks I faced were a Green-Blue Summoning Trap deck which made my Smallpox and Horrifying Revelation awkward as he had me out-gunned two-to-one in the Eldrazi war but I was able to keep him off possibly getting to 6 mana by resolving a Smallpox without hitting a re-shuffle and using my removal spells on his mana elves, aaand mtgUK-er Tom Rickarby in the last round with a UB control deck – we ID’d (and then he quietly crushed me with some lucky top-decks or something) ;)

I think I had the most busted deck in the field, boasting a good matchup with the Splinter Twin decks which were laying the smack down on the rest of the field. 15 card re-presented itself as a fun format with plenty of busted things going on and I’m looking forward to next year’s event already :D

You can find the most up to date Ban List here.


Bonus Content: One match vs URw Splinter Twin

Although this article went up earlier I decided that it looked a bit short and content-light so I got Rob Catton online to play out a match vs Seb Parker’s deck. For reference, his list is:

3 Mountain
Seachrome Coast
Celestial Colonnade
Mental Misstep
Spell Pierce
Mana Leak
Into the Roil
Deceiver Exarch
Splinter Twin

Leyline of Sanctity
Mutagenic Growth
Noxious Revival

Game 1: I keep…

This hand showcases the beauty of the deck, which is that most opponents cannot beat a resolved Smallpox, plus we even have a free reshuffle with the Eldrazi. I make a Swamp for my turn and after his Celestial Colonnade I Smallpox him basically out of the game.  My Liliana’s Specter in two turns gets Mana Leaked but on my next turn I Inquisition the Spell Pierce, leaving him with Spellskite, Splinter Twin, Dismember and Dispel. He makes a drawn Mountain for his turn so on my turn I get to cast the Smallpox I’ve just drawn to which he concedes as he can no longer make his combo and protect it being down two lands.

For game 2: I keep…

…which is probably a bit loose but I am on the draw and half of my remaining cards are lands. Unfortunately he leads with the Leyline of Sanctity and even though I draw a land straight away all I am able to do is resolve a 2/2 Gatekeepr of Malakir and then a Zombie Infestation to discard some of my dead cards. Although I draw one of my two removal spells he is able to make enough land drops to cast and protect his combo after countering my late Smallpox.

Game 3 sees a slightly stronger hand although he once more has the Leyline without having to mulligan. My turn 2 Infestation gets Spell Pierced off his Seachrome Coast but my turn 3 Liliana’s Specter gets the Mental Misstep out of his hand. He uses the opportunity to make a Deceiver Exarch and untap his blue mana to protect it but it’s a ruse as I draw my Revoke Existence for his Leyline and then Horrifying Revelation takes an Island and mills his Mana Leak. He now has 4 lands but 1 card in hand and hasn’t drawn the Splinter Twin so when I untap and use my Smallpox he concedes.

A close matchup it seems but I feel that the Splinter Twin’s deck’s draws have to match the Smallpox deck’s draws rather than vice-versa which puts you in the driving seat. A resolved Smallpox brings the fight a long way in your favour as killing a land is a big strategic advantage. What’s your take on the matchup or the format?

All these 15 Card Highlander decks can now be purchased here.



Rob Wagner


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