Multiplayer Is An Art, Part 22: Killing Time With Highlander

This article is provided as a time killer. For when you’re bored because you need to attend the visits of aunts and grand uncles that you’ve never even heard of. They call you by your brother’s name, because they do not know you either and they can only vaguely remember a set of names which they randomly try, hoping to match them all correctly at the first try. All I can do to pass the time is tell you about my Highlander deck….

Sound of gunfire, through the night.

Killing and hatred, it’s a terrible sight.

That’s from the song”Killing time” by the Anti-Nowhere Front. No, I have never heard of them either – but they were covered by Metallica. And my (at that time) mass-consuming, commercial ears started to notice the song then.

But that’s irrelevant. This article is provided as a time killer.

For when you’re bored because you need to attend the visits of aunts and grand uncles that you’ve never even heard of. They call you by your brother’s name, because they do not know you either and they can only vaguely remember a set of names which they randomly try, hoping to match them all correctly at the first try.

You need to stay home because your parents are telling you to do just that. Actually, you’re yearning to go back to your own home in that far-away city where your university is, so that you can spend the time with your friends. But it’s Christmas, and therefor you need to shake hands with old people that have the same name as your grandmother’s maiden name. You do not know them, but you have to.

But after shaking hands, you can flee to this computer you’re using now, and you can flee to StarCity. That’s where I am, providing some time killers about my 150-card mono-uncommon highlander-deck. That means that my deck is exactly 150 cards thick. It consists solely of uncommon cards, and all cards are included only once. And I mean all cards. That’s correct, only one swamp. Only one Snow-covered Swamp. As for love, there are plenty of substitutes for basic lands. Like cycling lands – two kinds of them. And like Fallen Empires sacrifice lands. The list keeps going on and on, like a pink rabbit wielding a drum.

So I’m not going to tell you how I’ve built my 150-card mono-uncommon highlander-deck. That would just take too much time, and it would make no sense. For I’ve built the deck as follows:

My cards are stored in binders with those nine-pocketed sleeves in them. Each pocket contains eight uncommons. Four copies of two different ones, both different ones facing the two other sides of the sheet. That way I can store 72 uncommons in only one sheet, and I can see where they are. This deck was built because I felt kind of sorry that I did not use about 97% of my cards. So I paged through the binder, and picked one of each of the cards I thought that I had never used before.

Those where quite a lot of cards, for I attempt to get four of each common and uncommon of every new set. Have you ever used Squee’s Revenge before? Didn’t think so. To make the deck not become an ultimate pile, I also included cards that I had already played, but felt sorry for not using.

Isn’t it a shame that you have those four perfectly mint beta Sinkholes, but that you do not use them? That’s what I thought when building this deck. Unfortunately, the Sinkholes were common, so they were not allowed. But it’s the thought that counts; the thought about feeling sorry for not using certain cards. This deck is their chance to shine.

Lands are the only type of cards that are not restricted to being only uncommon. This is mostly practical, for being forced to play with Ann-Havva Township while you already have Sand Silos and Archeological Dig in play is just a harrowing experience. As long as only one copy of them is included, Tinder Farm and City of Brass are just fine for this deck.

So we’re going to read 150 different card names, all with some witty comment behind them. The cards have no strategic value when they are in this particular combination, so do not suppose that copying this decklist will give you an advantage over your friends. The cards are in the order that they are in right now, and I have just shuffled them. So do not expect to first see a mana base, and then find a list of one-drops, et cetera. It’s random.

Reports come in from a heavy attack.

Message received: We’re moving back.

1. Abyssal Specter: Do you not also think that there’s something amiss or out of place in this picture? It seems that the hand holding the axe is not entirely correct in its perspective, and the horse has some anatomical issues, too. But opposed to that, it is a black abyssal knight, tearing at your opponent’s sanity. And it is from Ice Age. I enjoy playing cards from Ice Age because it is so rarely done – these forgotten uncommons are especially cool to me. Last, and not least, this is just a good card. It has brought me to more than one victory.

2. Urborg: Well, this can be used to cast your Abyssal Specter with. Actually, it’s there for 97% just to simulate a Swamp. The other two abilities are good enough – removing either first strike or swampwalk from a creature. I mean, it shuts down an opponent’s evasion creature when it evades through swampwalk, and it limits an opponent’s defensive capabilities when he relies on creatures with first strike.

The land seems to be very good… But strangely enough, I have never used its abilities. I have used Karakas’ and Pendelhaven’s and Hammerheim’s… But not Urborg’s, and (more understandably), not Tolaria’s. Beware of its legendary status when you’re playing against another highlander deck, for everybody is packing this cycle of legendary lands. This copy of Urborg is Italian. I have some English ones, too, but they were all in use while I built this.

3. Calming Licid: Licids were the bomb in Limited! They blocked, threw damage on the stack, and then disappeared into enchant-creaturedness, cleverly evading incoming blows. That was sweet and good. Then, when the Limited season was over and the Licids were resigned to Constructed events, the good ones found a home in multiplayer decks.

Stealing creatures is alright. Being able to regenerate all of your folk at will is alright, too. Flying is good. I also used the Tempting Licid and the Enraging Licid one in a deck that revolved around Song of Serenity – which was a very funny deck, winning with Marsh Vipers and Sabretooth Cobras. But the Calming one was never heard of again. At least, not by me.

Therefor I included him in here as one of my few ways to stop Spiritmonger. Or as good defensive card. If Flowstone Thopter is among the worst cards you fear, this is a good defensive card.

4. Plateau: This deck does not play red, but that only makes Plateau into a non-basic Plains, which is something we want to see very badly. We need lands. And lands with as few negative sides as Plateau are a blessing. They do not come into play tapped and they do not use up counters or other mana. And red mana is always a nice benefit should we stumble upon cards with red kicker costs. Or upon domain spells. Duals are good.

And do you not think that this new picture is better than the old one? This is one of the few pictures by Drew Tucker that I find especially pretty. Most of his other stuff is just, well… Strange. Not necessarily ugly, but strange. This one is as pretty as a picture.

Now it’s time to eat a chestnut. I’ll be right back.

5. Vodalian Illusionist: If there’s one all-around utility creature, it’s this one. Like a Mother of Runes, this shifty fishtail protects all your creatures from lethal damage and from being targeted. Instead of dying or getting stolen, your creatures just phase out. And we can live with that, can’t we?

As an added bonus, Siegfried (or Roy) here also gives your opponent headaches when he tries to target one of his own creatures. Is that a Gaea’s Embrace? Please let it fizzle, my dear man. Your target has taken a temporary trip to the astral plane.

And it attacks for two. Rock on.

6. Wasteland: The land might promise nothing, and keep its promise, over there in Rath – but here, Wasteland is a very promising piece of cardboard. Given that most lands in this format are non-basic, since only ten basic lands are allowed (the five different ones, and their frosty brethren), this is a near Strip Mine.

Entire games can hinge on one single land that produces both your red and your green mana – and when that one is destroyed, two-fifths of your decks action cards have become dead draws. That is the power of Wasteland.

Partly because of this power, I play only three colors: Blue, white and black. This also allows me to use double-colored casting costs, like the ones from Black Knight and White Knight.

7. Ruins of Trokair: This is a plain that comes into play tapped and makes your X spells one tad larger. Commonly played because it’s so hard to find solid mana sources in this format. It has a classic picture.

It is one of my first cards, but it’s still mint. For I thought:”Why would you want to sacrifice your land for more mana when you could just not sacrifice it and then tap it again next turn and the turn after that? That’s three mana instead of two. It only takes longer, but it’s more durable.”

I also thought that this card was called”Ruins of Troikar,” and it isn’t until I wrote the name of this card up here, that I discovered the difference. Troikar, Trokair. A Troika is a Russian sled, and if I am not mistaking it is also some form of Triumvirate. That word made much more sense to eleven-year-old Stijn than Trokair did. Now I will never be able to get it out of my head again, I fear.

8. Ancient Spring: That one fits the colors of my deck perfectly. It’s a slow island, and it can help out with it’s other ability by giving that badly needed third black mana. Or white mana, for that matter. When Invasion came around, all the highlander-decks in the Labyrinth gladly absorbed these basic-substituting lands. It works well with Reflecting Pool, but as a drawback, it also works well with your opponent’s Fellwar Stone.

No funny comments on this one, alas.

9. Force of Will: Also known as Willenskraft in this deck, this card’s first appearance to me is something that I well remember. It was in those days, that I was trying to complete my set of Alliances before a friend of mine could do it. I pulled this one from a booster, and had never seen it before. So I called over to Wilco on the phone:

“Yo, I found a new card in a pack!”

“Cool, what is it?”

“It’s called Force of Will, and you will either love or hate the picture.”

“We’ll see about that. What does it do?”

“It’s a blue interrupt, for 3UU. And now comes the exciting part…”

“Pray tell!”

“You may remove a blue card in your hand from the game and pay one life instead of paying Force of Will’s mana cost. Spells or effects that prevent or redirect damage cannot be used to counter this loss of life… Are you digging this?”

It was the first pitch spell that we ever saw.

“That seems so cool! You can play it without mana! What does it do then?”

“Well, that’s the sorry part…”

“What then?”

“Counter target spell.”

“Aw, bummer. I did so hope that it would be an exciting effect.”

“Yeah, a shame, huh? It just counters some stupid spell. But hey, I’ve got one, and you haven’t.”

“I’ll trade you my spare Kjeldoran Home Guard for it.”

“That’s a deal.”

Countering spells was for wussies. Kjeldoran Home Guard kicked your mother right in the face. But never mind; I still have eight Forces. And only four Home Guards.

10. Wall of Souls: It is the nature of evil to turn you against yourself. So this wall must be one of the epitomes of evil. This one has a nasty twist to it in multiplayer. Have you ever noticed how Wall of Souls never states that it can only deal damage to the controller of the creature that had just hurt the wall? It just states that it deals damage to target opponent.

Now, of course, in a regular duel, that opponent is always the controller of the offending creature. But in multiplayer, you can do some cool tag-team tricks with a friendly opponent.

Let yourself get attacked by a creature that will not kill the Wall of Souls when it is blocked by it. Then assign the damage to some other player, who has otherwise impenetrable defenses. This way you can”attack”; players who you otherwise could not reach. All you need is a cooperating fellow player.

We’ve reached ten! That means it’s time for a musical interlude:

Killing time! makes you feel you’re alive.

Killing time! Are you trying to kill?

Killing time! What ‘cha say?

Killing time! Ah, killing time!

11. Charcoal Diamond: I just noticed that this one is also drawn by Drew Tucker, yet still it looks quite all right. I think that it is time to start a pro-Drew Tucker campaign, for most people have no good word to spare for his art, even while they should. This surrogate Swamp is a good example for that. I mean, would we really want those ugly 7th edition pictures? I like approximately zero percent of them! Old art is almost always better. That is the case with this diamond. And that is also the case with Sengir Vampire. I like the old art much, much more than that silly new Torment art.

“Hallo, Ich bin ein vampir jah, und ich bin in dem roten jelly pudding gefallen.”


“I stalk the night and tap your veins and look like I am thoroughly under the influence.”

That’s no fair match. The latter one, which represents the older art, wins easily. And that’s how we drive a point about vampires home while we should be discussing the viability of a mirage diamond.

12. Angelic Shield: This makes your three-drop better than your opponent’s. That’s good. Your morphs now beat his. That’s good. Your guys become more resilient to all kinds of burn, gang blocking becomes a more pleasant experience, and Massacre becomes just a little more broken than it already was. And bouncing creatures is very good. We all know why Seal of Removal was so heavily-played in its days, and this card is just a Seal with a great added inherent bonus. Mine is in Chinese. It looks neat.

13. Story Circle: I really do not get it. Why does a Story Circle prevent damage? Is there a meaning of these words that I do not know, or is it an expression? Some American saying?”He’s been caught in the Story Circle?” I really do not get it.

The picture must represent the fact that you can choose a color, for I see five colors of masks. But why are they dancing? Is it relevant that they are all adorned with beads in their hair? So many questions…

And so much damage prevented! This card is great, especially against mono colored decks. But it can also”just” shut down some blue shadow guy and a Mahamoti Djinn or something like that. Shaggadelic.

14. Voice of All: Nooo, I do not want to talk about three different white defensive cards in a row. It will become obvious that all my jokes are the same. But there it goes: Voice of All is your solution to all threats that do not have shadow, are not unblockable and do not have protection from white. This is not a card that I never use – but since I included the five other Voices, I felt that it would be a shame to leave this one out. This is the only Voice that you never draw at the wrong time. But you do always regret that you’ve chosen the wrong color. Ah, the freedom of choice.

“Our freedom is our hell” – Sartre

15. Snow-covered Swamp: why do I bother with my snooty European accent and knowledge? Most of you probably do not even know who Sartre was. Not that I care, I’m just trying to fill up my obliged lines for this basic land. Thank god for the Snow-covered variant, this doubles the allowed number of basics, sweet basics.

16. Stand / Deliver: Why are all the other split cards so sweet while this one is so definitely not? Well, Illusion / Reality is pretty stinky too, but this one’s just… You know. So I decided to give it a chance and I put it in my deck. And it did, well, mediocre. Sometimes I was glad to discard it to an incoming Ravenous Rats, and sometimes it saved my Vodalian Illusionist who was just trying to save another creature of mine. Sometimes I just wasted it on a random expensive permanent on the other side because I had eight cards in my hand, and sometimes I bounced a Lich with it (Hell yeah!)

17. Swamp: I play that one, too. It’s a very reliable source of black mana and it cannot be targeted by a Wasteland. Enough of that now. I chose a beta Swamp, the one with the lightest picture – with the branch standing upright, parallel to the left side of the picture, and a branch hanging over the entire scene, coming in from the top right. Now that’s a Swamp. Away with all that newish art; this Swamp is for real. It looks really evil and really dark. Those ancient pictures are a part of my life, one could say. They’ve been with me for longer than, for example, chemistry or my girlfriend. Only my piano has been with me for longer. Bless this game.

It’s really time for another chestnut. It’s some work cracking them, but the insides are very tasty. Eating them makes you smarter. They resemble the human brain, so smart observers had already gotten the clue.

18. Annihilate: Bury target creature. Draw a card. Elegant and very powerful. It even buries that dreadful ol’ Masticore. And it draws you a card. Do you know what this card means? It means that your opponent will lose his best and finest creature, and it will not even cost you a thing – except for some mana, which will untap the next turn anyways! Waste greatest creature, draw card. Kill best man for free. Unless, of course, that creature is a Zephid. But we don’t get that here very often.

19. Air Elemental: 4/4. Flying. That says it all. This might very well be one of the biggest treats that this deck has to pose to the opponent. And a fine treat it is. It’s larger than Morphling, and it continually flies.

Sure, a Morphling could take it down – but that would cost 4U for it’s controller. U for the flight, 1 for making it 4/2, and then another three to make it 1/5 after damage is put on the stack. So technically, Morphling is better… But Air Elemental just feels better. You are controlling an incarnation of the wily wind and tempest that is all around us – not some sort of cloned freak with checkerboards on her shoulders. Elementals supreme! I run the Portal Second Age version in this deck, because it’s English black-bordered. I have a Chinese black-bordered one with the original picture, but I also have four portal ones, and I felt sorry for not using them. The Chinese quartet was already on duty in my elemental tribe deck. So the Portal ones got their time to shine. And boy, did they shine! Chalk down some kills for these guys.

20. Stalking Stones: I have activated their ability a grand total of one time. Why? Most of the time, this deck just can’t afford to spend the six mana on something as trivial as a 3/3 creature. And the rest of the time, it is afraid that it will lose the land as soon as it animates. Lose it to a Thicket Basilisk enchanted with a Lure. Or lose it to Kamahl or another Lightning Bolt.

But the one time I did activate it, it dealt eighteen damage to the opponent. Then it got Banished in a very Dark way, and then I lost. But it almost won me the game. And therefor I keep it in the deck. And besides, it’s a land that enters play untapped, which is a valuable commodity.

21. Hyalopterous Lemure: I had hoped that this was the last card to be found in the deck, for it is the sole reason that I built this deck. The day that I finally found my fourth Lemure, I thought:”Now let’s build a deck with them.” Several restrictions entered my mind at that very instant. It isn’t quite possible to build a good deck that revolves around these cute little creatures. There are better creatures. Like Sengir Vampire. So what was I supposed to do?

I built a highlander deck with them, and restricted myself to the sole use of uncommons. That should give me a pretty good reason to play the Lemure.

But it turned out that I was wrong. I wound up with over three hundred selected cards, and I still needed to add land to the mix. I cut notorious couples of uncommons, like the Black Knight (None shall pass) and the White Knight (Do pass) and like Serra Angel and Sengir Vampire. Yet this little bugger remained. And why? Because otherwise nobody in the entire world would play with him. I felt I needed to help the thing, or something like that.

And once again, it is an uncommon from Ice Age. I have a soft spot for Ice Age uncommons, because somebody has to care for them. If I do not, who will?

And my Hyalopterous Lemure has a savagely gigantic claim to fame! It has, single-handedly, killed a Zephid! Now what other uncommon could do that? Not Chainer’s Edict. Much like scrambled eggs, there were ground critters all over the place. And not Massacre; Zephid is just too huge for that to happen. Two Massacres would need to be used, and that’s card disadvantageous. I can only think of Slice and Dice and of Canopy Surge as cards that will single-handedly kill a Lemure – so that’s only two, and those are relatively new cards. The Lemures are ancient. They’ve been around longer than you have been playing Magic (no offense to those of you who have been playing longer. You are an elite minority, of which I am one too.)

My opponent must have thought, for some reason, that the Lemure were just 4/3 flying, so he was forced to block with the Zephid, as a result of being at three life. I bluffed that it was a four-power flyer, and he fell for it. And that’s the story of the Zephid-slaying Lemure. Party on.

22. Thran Dynamo: New favorite for all of my decks. This thing just helps, a lot. During what turns do you not use three mana? During almost none. And this thing sets you high on eight mana on your fifth turn. That’s quite a lot of mana. And it does not come into play tapped, so that it virtually costs only a one-mana investment on the turn that you play it. It’s a very simple card, yet it is very comfortable to play with.

And after Armageddon, who has most mana?

Next chestnut please. Do you know that part from the Simpsons, where Homer acts like he’s doing the tune from the Flintstones?

“Simpson, Homer Simpson, he’s the greatest guy in History.

From the, town of Springfield, he’s about to hit a chestnut tree.


That’s where I learned the word chestnut.

23. Spite / Malice: I think it is very elegant how this card was designed. It can deal with everything but a black creature. And it does so completely in flavor for the colors that it’s in. And it is costed just right. I’m never disappointed when I draw this. Spite a spell away, or observe Malice through the looking glass, get influenced by what you observe, and kill. Cold-bloodedly.

Have you noticed how I am positive about all cards up until this one? One might start to think that this deck is out to win the next Type I part of the next Invitational. But it isn’t. Spite / Malice is one of it’s best cards. And that is, unfortunately not even close to the worst card in good type I decks. What a shame. Luckily, I also have a whole big slew of type I worthy cards, so I can defend myself. Type I is almost as much fun as multiplayer, and it is definitely the best official format ever. But that is sooo off topic when concerning Spite / Malice.

24. Thwart: Another counterspell. It is a very rare occurrence for this deck to actually have three Islands in play, as there are only seven in the deck. I am counting the four blue dual lands and Thawing Glaciers for this. Plus the regular and the snow-covered one, and that’s seven. So most of the time, it is just hard-cast. But that’s okay with me. In a format where countering is so very good because nobody expects it, Thwart is still good when it can only be hard-cast. This deck contains almost all available hard counters – and some Power Sinking effects, too. It’s one of its strong points.

Opponents do not feel comfortable when they are under the continual treat of getting their stuff blasted away from the stack – especially in casual formats like these. A single Counterspell can almost cause a nervous breakdown. So, with some knowledge of linear algebra backing me up, I feel pretty sure in making the statement that the nineteenth counterspell cast, will cause your opponent’s nineteenth nervous breakdown.

Your mother who’s been neglecting you owes a million dollars tax,

and your father’s still perfecting ways of making sealing wax.

You’d better stop, and look around…

Here it comes, here it comes….

25. Thawing Glaciers: We all know how good this card is. Even in this deck, where it can only find six different lands before it is exhausted, it is still profitable enough a card to be worthy the slot. I mean, when Ruins of Trokair (not Troikar) is used, Thawing Glaciers should already be in, shouldn’t it? And it’s picture is by Jeff A. Menges, which makes it a good picture. I love Moat. I love Master of the Hunt. I love Thawing Glaciers and I love Black Knight. It also lets you shuffle your library, which is good when combined with stuff like Scroll Rack and Sylvan Library. Unfortunately, those cards are common or rare, and therefor excluded from inclusion in this deck.

I’m almost signing off; expect the rest of the deck next week, or later. Or never, if somebody with authority thinks that this article is worthless. Then I will be forced to quit this. (Or I’d never publish it, but what the hell – The Ferrett) But I rather enjoy writing it. It’s what I do best: Whip up random trivia or experiences about some random card. And a collection of cards more random than my 150-card mono-uncommon highlander-deck is very hard to come by indeed.

Have some nice times during these holidays.

Emperial regards,

Stijn van Dongen,


Bonus track!

Songs contained in this article that I can think of:

  • Slim Shady – Under The Influence

  • Rolling Stones – 19th Nervous Breakdown

  • Thin Lizzy – Whiskey In The Jar

  • Rolling Stones – What A Shame

  • Anti-Nowhere Front – Killing Time

  • The Flintstones Tune

  • Cradle Of Filth – Malice Through The Looking Glass

  • The Frasier end-tune. You know, that Jazz song about Salad and scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs all over the place. What is it that they do?

There may be more of them. I do it automatically, and I’m not going to read the entire article again just to find songs which nobody cares about anyway.