Alternative Magic the Gathering formats

While I do consider myself an enfranchised Magic the Gathering player, I don't have much interest in the popular tournament formats or the widely-played causal Commander format. Here are the primary ways I engage with Magic:

Pack Wars

Cracking packs is fun, so why not play with the cards you open immediately? Open a pack of Magic cards, remove the token and basic land, add in 3 of every basic land, and shuffle up and play against someone else.


What do you do with all the garbage cards you crack open when playing Pack Wars? I've decided to put a bunch of them in a cubelet, a 100-card pile of Magic cards designed for quick pick up and play games of Magic. This pile of cards contains no basic lands, instead any card can be played face down as a land that taps for one mana of any color.

This makes it really easy to just pack up my deck box and a couple dice, and get games in with anyone who knows the Magic rule system casually. You can even design yours so there aren't any counters to worry about and just carry a deck box around. Just because a card is not viable in tournament formats does not mean it can't shine in the right environment, and you are completely in charge of that environment. Mine features a lot of cards I enjoyed playing in Standard (through Magic Arena) or had memorable moments with in Pack Wars from Standard sets released since I started playing. It's really just a Greatest Hits of random pack pulls.

My current cubelet list: Sakurina's Frontier Cubelet.

Canadian Highlander

Canadian Highlander is a 1v1 100-card singleton format that allows all cards legal in Vintage, as well as Lurrus of the Dream Den. There is no sideboard. Cards do not get banned out of Canadian Highlander, they are instead given [a points value]. No deck can have more than 10 points' worth of high-power cards.

Bans have been quite plentiful across officially sanctioned formats over the last few years, and I almost bought into a Modern deck built around Faithless Looting shortly before it was banned out of the format. Because of that, I've come to value formats like Canadian Highlander where all of your cards are guaranteed to stay playable, just maybe not all in the same deck. I like this approach so much that I've tried to adapt it to the Pokémon Trading Card Game as well.

The obvious thing to note about Canadian Highlander is that since everything is legal, the most optimal version of a deck can often be prohibitively expensive. That said, I'm still playing a less-than-optimal deck, mostly due to being priced out of certain Reserved List cards, and it is a ton of fun to pilot and play. If you can derive enjoyment from doing cool shit and not just winning with your deck, I think Canadian Highlander is probably the best 1v1 format out there and I encourage you to give it a try.

My deck: Golgari Cemetery


Gladiator is effectively a Magic Arena analog to Canadian Highlander. It is also a 1v1 100-card singleton format, but pulls from the complete list of cards available via Magic Arena, even those banned in the Historic format. It is led by a lot of members from that community, but instead of featuring a points list like Canadian Highlander, it currently has a ban list instead.

Finding matches to play is done via the Gladiator Discord server, where casual games and leagues can be found at any point in the day. Tournaments are held on a regular basis as well, although I am less interested in those.

My deck: Jeskai Skies