There is, if you haven’t heard, a pandemic on. Life has changed a lot, though less for me than for most, since I live in the woods and normally work from home. In the Beforeworld, I went out a couple times a week for Magic, but not much else as I’m a pretty serious hermit.

It mattered a lot more than I thought. My internet doesn’t support streaming anymore. I love brewing, but I don’t know what I’d be developing a deck for, so I haven’t been trying. I stopped playing entirely for a month, stopped reading content, just flat-out stopped. I’ve missed the face-to-face interaction, but also the ancillary communication; talking builds and metagames with folks all over the world. I know I could work harder for it, but sitting in a room playing MTGO alone felt—well, lonely. So I let it go.

So here I am in my house in the woods with poor internet and one opponent (howdy, Partner). I’ve got a bunch of paper cards, and I want to use them. Modern was bae in the Beforeworld, but 60-card competitive decks are (intentionally) consistent in their gameplay. You can’t run the same matchup too many times and expect to get a lot of novelty out of it.

We’ve got a few half-built Commander decks lying around, so we pulled them together and started running them heads-up. While I love the personal expression of Commander—I am the swamp witch, fear my eldrich frog!—I don’t love the format overall. I’m not personally into group games, and decks built for them tend to clunk 1v1. Building around a commander reduces novel gameplay, and not building around a commander makes the color restrictions pinch. This isn’t to knock Commander in general, it’s just not my favorite thing.

But I’ve really wanted to play Magic, and find a way to make it satisfying within our strange global standstill. Enter Travis Norman reminding me that Canadian Highlander exists and explaining why it’s not just commander-less Commander. The fact that you build for 1v1 and start games at twenty life makes it feel more distinct than I expected. Games have the feel of 60-card constructed, but with a lot more novelty. Brewing is much like what I know and love, and while there’s no metagame aspect to it (at least not within my household), it’s freer. I get to play nonsense cards no one should rightfully be allowed to (hello there, Goblin Recruiter). It feels like constructed Cube!

We’ve added one additional spin on it here, due to quarantine. We’re playing without proxies, and only with cards we own. No targeted purchases, and we have to share. That’s one Demonic Tutor between the two of us, and we negotiated over our Settle the Wreckage. Hilarious gaps have popped up, especially in archetypes neither of us have played before. We own a Badlands, but no Frogtosser Banneret. I’m calling it Quarnlander.

This is normal for a lot of people, but I’d gotten used to my Manatraders and my optimized decklists. Quarnlander has brought me back to middle school days, when hair ties were deck boxes and I used babysitting money to buy one Haunting Echoes. The casual aspect of Magic has eluded me since my first sanctioned tournament. This is the best I’ve vibed with it maybe ever. I am stoked to enjoy the game again, and to enjoy it in a brand new, very old way.

When we get to the Afterworld I’ll be back into Modern, but I’m not giving up Canadian Highlander. I’ll pick up a few things for whichever I like most of these decks—I really want to relive the Goblin-Bidding days—but I’m going to try to keep things on the casual side. I want to build a lot, and I’m going to keep talking about it until y’all are slinging 100-card stacks with me before Modern Mondays.

PS: How do I shuffle this many cards?

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