Despite the online grumbling, Eternal Magic is a lot of fun! With the widest pool of cards legal to play, you can sleeve up the idealized version of your favorite strategy from the game’s entire 30-year history and take on the world. Of course, while sitting down to play doesn’t always work out quite as advertised, the 7-Point Highlander format solves many of the issues that plague Legacy/Vintage and Commander by mashing them together.
Legacy and Vintage have strong, established metagames with super-consistent decks that run 4 copies of all the best cards (and cost a mint as a result). Meanwhile, Commander offers a more open environment for playing pet cards — but you’re still limited by color identity rules and the specific kinds of cards that work well in a 40-life multiplayer environment.
Additionally, as more and more cards are created to specifically fit a Commander style of play, the less Commander serves as a playground for your old Constructed favorites. That’s where under-explored, niche formats like 7-Point Highlander come in clutch. It combines the creative deckbuilding and wider playable card pool of Commander with the traditional 1v1 Constructed experience.
WHAT’S THE POINT?
The rules for 7PH are very close to those of other 20-life, Constructed formats like Standard and Modern. The only difference concerns deck construction.
Players still build a 60-card deck with a 15-card sideboard, although as the “Highlander” name implies, you can’t have multiple copies of any card across your 75 (except for basic lands).
The other unique caveat is the points system: you have a total of seven points to spend across your deck, which are used to “buy” access to the most dominant and game-defining cards in Magic.
You don’t need to include a full seven points of cards in your deck — and since only a short list of cards costs points, many players don’t. But this does prevent the kind of deck building you see in Vintage, where every list starts with most of the Power Nine included by default.
Yes, this does mean cards like Black Lotus and Time Walk are legal in the format — but it also means there is a significant cost to those cards, since they cut off access to other powerful options. This brings them back in line with the rest of the field.
In fact, a ruling last year doubled down on this idea of an “accessible Vintage.” If your deck avoids playing any cards from the Reserved List, you get to run eight total points instead of seven!
Some people find this whole idea a little unnatural at first glance, but points serve the same role and have the same metagame impact as ban lists in other formats — though perhaps to a lesser degree. Since cards aren’t hard banned, you can usually reconfigure your deck after a points change.
While this system adds an extra wrinkle to deck construction, the total points allowed and the size of the points list are both kept as low as possible to stop it from getting in the way. Even after adjusting to the significant Eternal printings of the last five years, the points list stands at 66 cards long.
38 of those are worth just a single point; and the cards above that mark are the kind of thing you won’t ever accidentally slip into your list without considering your points cap. We’re talking cards like Channel, Tinker, Demonic Tutor and the Power Nine — as well as Lurrus, Underworld Breach and Thassa’s Oracle.
Again, you’re still able to build decks around these cards if you love them. The points list just gives the rest of us a tangible reason to avoid them instead of those cards becoming auto-includes. To me, that’s something other formats might do well to look at.
GETTING META WITH IT
The main selling point for any Magic format is “what are the decks like?” Those responsible for 7PH understand that fact very well. After all, the primary aim of the points list is to create parity between the classic metagame poles: Aggro, Control, Midrange, Combo, Ramp and Tempo.
The aggregated tournament results show 7PH is surprisingly effective at achieving this goal. Delver-style archetypes certainly gain a lot of power from the ability to play Time Walk and Ancestral Recall, as do combo decks getting their hands on Black Lotus. There’s even completely novel decklists unlocked by the format’s card pool, like the combo deck built around Channel + Lich’s Mirror.
But with these pieces of power all bearing a hefty price of 4-5 points, playing them means making hard choices about which of the many 1-point blue staples to cut.
Meanwhile, non-blue aggro and burn decks have a wealth of “free” points which let them get ahead with multiple moxen, while midrange decks often play Sol Ring to power out 4-drops like it’s Commander Night at the LGS.
The beginner’s metagame primer on the official 7PH website lists 18 archetypes as “pillars,” which are expected to remain consistent in tournament play. But with the flexibility of singleton decklists and a strong history of brewers upending the metagame to win big events, it can certainly be worth building around your own pet cards or mechanics as an entry point.
WHERE AND HOW DO I PLAY THIS?
As you might expect from a format originally called “Australian Highlander,” the most concentrated and organized player base for 7PH is in The Land Down Under. Many cities here have their own regular, local tournaments, and 7PH has been a very popular side-show at larger events like Grands Prix and Nationals in the past.
However, the format has made significant inroads around the world in the last decade or so, and there are established communities as far apart as Germany, Argentina and of course the US.
More recently, the community has thoroughly embraced webcam Magic, which has helped integrate many international players. There have also been great efforts to establish the format on MTGO, with organized league play and prize support.
All of these events are coordinated through the official Facebook group and Discord server, the latter in particular serving as the beating heart of all things 7PH. Deck building site Moxfield allows users to search and post 7PH lists specifically under the “Australian Highlander” section and will automatically count the points total of your list!
Winning decklists and gameplay videos are often posted to the 7PH website, which also hosts the current points list and a range of video primers for popular decks. For those wanting more content, there are some great specialist creators who focus on 7PH, and a few of the larger Magic channels have dipped their toes in the format if you search their archives.
TRY IT NOW, THANK ME LATER
All of this is to say that, while definitely niche, 7PH has a widespread and stable base of support, active and invested leadership, and an established set of tools to match the expectations of players in 2022.
The format has been around for a long time, with an intricate and much-discussed metagame. Yet there’s still a relaxed and supportive atmosphere around the community, with a lot of us who are here to brew around pet cards and enjoy jamming interesting games of powerful Magic. I only hope that this article gets some of you curious enough to join us and explore what YOUR favorite strategy might look like in the world of 7PH!
Tom’s fate was sealed in 7th grade when his friend lent him a pile of commons to play Magic. He quickly picked up Boros and Orzhov decks in Ravnica block and has remained a staunch white magician ever since. A fan of all Constructed formats, he enjoys studying the history of the tournament meta. He specializes in midrange decks, especially Death & Taxes and Martyr Proc. One day, he swears he will win an MCQ with Evershrike. Ask him how at @AWanderingBard, or watch him stream Magic at twitch.tv/TheWanderingBard.