There are few formats in Magic that polarize opinion like Commander. Some people love it, others hate it with a passion. Why?
1. It’s Multiplayer. This can be a good thing for some. It opens up a whole different angle of play. Politics. It’s generally considered a bad thing to be in the strongest position in any multi-player game. However dominant your board position is, it’s seldom powerful enough to beat 3 other players who’re all gunning for you.
Conversely, this means that your deck doesn’t need to be the strongest at the table, and in fact, if your deck is garbage, you’ll probably be killed last. Also, there is a definite skill into looking weak when you’re actually strong.
2. There’s no consensus of ‘How to Play’. Things vary between playgroups. There are ultra-Spike playgroups, who expect you to be trying to infinite combo as fast as you can, while they do the same, and there are the Super-Timmys, who just want to play massive guys, and smash them into each other.
There’s no right or wrong way to play it, but it’s important to know your audience. Don’t sit down with your [Card]Sharuum, the Hegemon[/Card] infinite combo deck when the other 3 guys want to bash [Card]Chromium[/Card], [Card]Ramses Overdark[/Card] and [Card]Arcades Sabboth[/Card] against each other.
3. EDH Players are petulant children. This is sadly true. In literally every game I’ve ever played online, there have been whiners, people who disconnect, people who disappear regularly, and for long periods, people who don’t like that I can actually build a good deck in this format.
My own personal, paper play-group is not like this. If they were, they wouldn’t be my playgroup.
For perspective, EDH is the format I play in the pub, on a Saturday afternoon, while drinking heavily, and heckling those around me. It’s not a serious format to me, and I don’t treat it as if it’s a tournament finals. I’d like to win, but if I can smash a couple of big guys into each other, and kill my opponents with something big and stupid, I’m happy.
My own deck-design tends towards the Spikier side of the spectrum. I initially started my forays into the format with [Card]Reveillark[/Card] based combo decks. Have you seen that guy? How easy is that to abuse. Add a [Card]Carrion Feeder[/Card], and something that has a ETB ability, and a [Card]Karmic Guide[/Card] or [Card]Saffi Eriksdotter[/Card], and you’ve got an infinite loop. Be it [Card]Highway Robber[/Card], [Card]Venser, Shaper Savant[/Card] or anything else, the loop either ends the game, or comes close to an approximation of it.
Initially, I thought that this would be pretty fragile, as it’s a 4 card combo, that uses creatures and the graveyard. This was not the case, once I started using [Card]Survival of the Fittest[/Card]. This let me tutor for the whole of the combo, at instant speed. Pretty busted, right?
This wasn’t where I wanted to be. EDH is inherently broken. Everyone knows it. It isn’t hard to build a super-competitive deck, with a few infinite-instant win combos, but it’s just so boring to play, both with and against. When what everyone else is doing is irrelevant, it’s no fun. You might as well be goldfishing in your bedroom. It’s fun to bust out the infi-combos every now and then, but it’s so easy to do, it gets boring really fast.
I then moved onto a variety of Esper coloured control decks, settling on [Card]Dakkon Blackblade[Card] as my general. This deck was full of card draw, [Card]counterspell[/Card]s and fatties. Pretty much the polar opposite of the ‘Lark decks, this one was focussed on making big guys, and turning them sideways. Sadly, the counter-suite that this deck runs makes it not the most enjoyable to play against. Generally, my guys are better than my opponents, and I’m in a position to counter anything relevant that they can cast. It was refreshing to use [Card]True Conviction[/Card] as a win condition though.
As an aside re: [Card]True Conviction[/Card], does anyone else think that card would be insane in a format without [Card]Mana Leak[/Card]? Have you read it? Nuts.
So, where am I now?
I feel like there’s room for a cadre of semi-competitive EDH players. Where the goal is to straddle the line between casual and competitive. The primary purpose is to have fun, and this deck certainly is. The secondary purpose is to have game vs the ‘Tier One’ decks. I’d include Sharuum, [Card]Rafiq of the Many[/Card], [Card]Azusa, Lost But Seeking[/Card], [Card]Zur the Enchanter[/Card] etc in this category. This deck does. The tertiary purpose is for the people who’re playing against you to enjoy what’s happening. I think this deck delivers on all three counts.
[Card]Gwendlyn Di Corci[/Card]
Just a quick note. I’ve played about 50 games on MODO with this deck. I’ve cast Gwendlyn once. Literally once. This isn’t a deck that’s built around the general at all. She’s not needed. I’ve used her because she’s a cheap Grixis Coloured legendary creature going, and her ability is reasonably flavourful to the deck if you actually have to cast her. Also, she sets up an excellent Rob Zombie based title for this article, which is always welcome. White Zombie rules.
This is a [Card]Living Death[/Card] deck.
It should be obvious. We’re trying to fill up the graveyard as quickly as possible, and return all our sweet guys with either [Card]Living Death[/Card], or [Card]Twilight’s Call[/Card]. Our plan B is to just cast our fatties. It’s reasonable to expect our opponents to be packing some type of graveyard hate, and though we’re relatively resilient, due to the redundancy I’ve built into the deck, the plan B is not unreasonable if you NEED to.
It’s not a glass cannon, but it definitely works better when your opponents just let you carry on unmolested.
I’ll run through some of the card choices. I’ve broken them down into categories, for ease of viewing. I’m unsure of the best way to list an EDH deck. If this isn’t it, let me know in the forums, and I’ll try and do better next time.
[Card]Magus of the Bazaar[/Card]
[Card]Sphinx of Lost Truths[/Card]
[Card]Thirst for Knowledge[/Card]
A bunch of cards that draw cards, and make you discard cards as well, to be recouped for value later. You actually need to mulligan pretty aggressively with this deck into at least one of these cards. These are the engines behind the deck, so you really need at least one.
[Card]Magus of the Bazaar[/Card] is sick, but it’s unlikely that you’ll actually get more than a couple of uses out of him with out a way to fully refill your hand. Which leads us nicely onto…
This deck is almost as much a [Card]Wheel of Fortune[/Card] deck as it is a [Card]Living Death[/Card] deck. Have you ever cast a [Card]Wheel of Fortune[/Card] with a [Card]Sangromancer[/Card] in play? It’s filthy. The deck cycles through itself at a breakneck pace, so it’s good to have a couple of full-refills, without having to resort to [Card]Recurring Insight[/Card], etc. These cards are centric to our gameplan, and help our opponents fill up their graveyards as well. It’s unlikely that our opponents will be as well set up to take advantage of the [Card]Living Death[/Card] as we are.
This might seem like a lot. That’s because it is. The deck is so powerful when its Plan A works, we want that to happen a lot. Each of these spells finds [Card]Living Death[/Card], and with the card filtering we’re running, there’s a lot of time to find one of these tutors.
[Card]Balthor the Defiled[/Card]
[Card]Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed[/Card]
The weakest link here is [Card]Balthor the Defiled[/Card]. He’s very slow, telegraph’s what’s coming, and doesn’t bring back all our guys. To be honest, any opponent who’s borderline intelligent should be able to see the [Card]Living Death[/Card] coming from a mile away, but it’s important to not make it obvious for the idiots as well. This is EDH afterall…
Creatures that let you sac other creatures to make your Living Death better? I’ll have 2 please. Seriously. These guys are nuts. And they make your Plan A much better. So many of our creatures have 187 abilities that the re-buy from the sac-guys is well worth the fact that they’re pretty useless on their own.
This is why we’re in red. Aside from [Card]Wheel of Fortune[/Card], everything else can be replicated in other colours. Both our haste-enablers are creatures, giving Red the nod over Green’s [Card]Concordant Crossroads[/Card].
[Card]Urabrask, the Hidden[/Card]
One interaction worth pointing out is that if you [Card]Living Death[/Card] [Card]Urabrask, the Hidden[/Card] into play, all creatures your opponent controls enter tapped. If you can’t kill at least one opponent with this, you’re doing something wrong.
Move along, nothing to see here…
Seriously though, these cards are really good, and probably do belong in every EDH deck. Skipping to 4-drops on T2 is insane, and especially in a mana-hungry deck like this, is necessary to optimize how quickly we can kill everyone.
Not really sure what to group this stuff as. Stuff that does stuff either when in play, or coming into, or leaving play. [Card]Living Death[/Card] fodder. There’s nothing in here that I’d be embarrassed to hard-cast, but it’s obviously better if you’ve got 10-12 of them entering the battlefield at the same time.
An aside on [Card]Clone[/Card]s. They’re terrible in this deck. They enter simultaneously, so there’s never actually anything for them to copy. Don’t play Clones. Play [Card]Body Double[/Card] instead.
[Card]Big Game Hunter[/Card]
[Card]Butcher of Malakir[/Card]
[Card]Chancellor of the Spires[/Card]
[Card]Garza Zol, Plague Queen[/Card]
[Card]Kaervek, the Merciless[/Card]
[Card]Prince of Thralls[/Card]
[Card]Sheoldred, Whispering One[/Card]
[Card]Venser, Shaper Savant[/Card]
[Card]Wrexial, the Risen Deep[/Card]
[Card]City of Brass[/Card]
[Card]Bazaar of Baghdad[/Card]
[Card]River of Tears[/Card]
[Card]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/Card]
I’m not a fan of running off-colour fetches in my EDH decks. Nor do I really feel the need to run more than 3. This isn’t a deck that needs [Card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/Card], so I don’t need the shuffles. I know that this might be seen as sacrilege to some, but as I’ve said above, EDH players are, for the most part, idiots. Try it out, cut some Sacred Cows, and see if your deck still works or not. Not having Sensei’s Divining Top certainly speeds up the game, and that is almost certainly a ‘Good Thing‘. This is obviously a personal preference issue. I don’t like running off-colour fetches, so I won’t do it. You might want to, or only have access to Zendikar fetches. This is fine. I won’t berate you for it, and anyone who does needs to get laid more often.
The [Card]Bazaar of Baghdad[/Card] issue. I get it. It’s powerful, and has a disgusting price-tag attached to it. It’s not necessary to the deck, in that it can function without it, so feel free to cut it. If you’ve got one, play it though. It’s nuts. We run [Card]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/Card] so that it can make mana, and even [Card]Tolaria West[/Card], to find either.
Further RE: Sacred Cows. I don’t run [Card]Maze of Ith[/Card], or [Card]Strip Mine[/Card]. They’re unnecessary. We need all our coloured mana, and we don’t want lands that don’t tap for mana. I’ve counted [Card]Bazaar of Baghdad[/Card] as a spell when considering my Land count, so please don’t start needling me in the forums. What land could you possibly want to kill that either a)someone else won’t or b) will put you off coloured mana. I can’t think of one, outside possibly [Card]Cabal Coffers[/Card] fuelling a [Card]Maga, Traitor to Mortals[/Card] that would kill you before you can attack, but a)no one plays Maga and b) That’s only 1 situation. Also, given that I’m trying to give EVERYTHING haste, [Card]Lightning Greaves[/Card] is another unnecessary card. We’re not all-in on any one threat, and the goal is to overwhelm our opponent with the volume of our fatties than to protect the queen.
I’m fine with people net-decking EDH decks, but this article is intended more as a slightly alternative way to look at the format than the way most people seem to play than as a decklist and talking through how to play it.
EDH decks are never truly ‘finished‘ per se, so I’m always open to suggestions. If there’s anything hugely obvious I’ve missed in here, let me know in the forums. My evolution of this deck has been pretty solitary, so I’d welcome external opinions.
I tried to record you some videos for this. I really did. I couldn’t find a single watchable game that anyone would learn anything from. Basically every game has someone complaining and conceding before I can close it out, me getting annihilated by super-competitive decks, or me beating up on the pre-cons. Games go over an hour as well, so I’d rather share the deck, without the videos. It should be obvious how to play it, if you’re planning on using it.
Just as a conclusion, I’d like to say to those that play EDH on MODO; ‘You suck‘. I’ve seriously never had the amount of whinging, cry-baby morons that populate the multi-player room on Magic Online. It’s almost enough to get me to stop wasting time on such a casual format, but I do love a good Troll, so I might keep at it for a while.
Things that grate me about Multiplayer, a brief list.
1. Don’t start a game if you’ve not got time to finish. An EDH game lasts for around an hour to an hour and a half. If you don’t have this time, don’t start. The amount of time you will run down on the clock for no reason isn’t fair. It’s not right to waste other people’s time.
2. Don’t complain when someone assembles a lock. If you’ve been playing for a while, you’ll understand the concept of a lock. If you were in 2-player magic, you’d just concede. If you don’t want to play against infi-combos, post in the game description, and check before you start.
3. This is important. I always put ‘Competitive decks, no quitters’ in my game descriptions, and confirm my potential opponents have read it before I start. Not that this makes any difference, but if you snap-concede because you kept a 1-lander for some reason, and don’t draw your 2nd land until turn 5, I reserve the right to block you, and make sure you don’t waste my time again in future. I want to play against 3 other people, not waste my time considering your plays if you’re not going to be around to finish the game.
4. Show some respect. Not everyone plays the game the same way. Just because you want to play the game one way, if you haven’t put a description of the type of game you’re looking for on it, you can’t complain when people who want to game differently join in. This is not an incentive to flood the chat log with threats to ‘Kick your ass‘ or ‘Find your childhood pet, dig it up and eat its corpse’. Both are things that have been said to me, and I’ve only been MODO EDH’ing for a couple of weeks…
Seriously, this is a reasonably fun format, but it’s such a shame that those that play it online are just the absolute detritus of humanity. Basic respect MODO’ers, please, otherwise it’ll just die out, like most of the other casual formats from years gone by.
Stay Classy, mtgUK