Building an EDH deck can be a lot of fun, especially when you are familiar with the format and have already built multiple successful EDH decks. For those new to the format, building your first EDH deck will be intriguing and a good time, but if left to your own devices can be frustrating. Much like having a crush on Princess Leia only to realize you’re her brother. Just when you thought everything was going your way, the proverbial rug is pulled out from under you. Especially when you play in your first pod and realize your opponents’ decks are much more focused, have better tricks and carry better individual card value. Card value seems as a good a place to start as any.
By card value I do not mean you sell your car at the nearest used car dealership, buy a used Schwinn, slap your backpack on your back and pedal to the store every day to rule over your minions on the EDH battlefield with your elite EDH deck filled with $100+ Magic cards. Skullclamp is a perfect example of the type of card value I am talking about. A card that costs no more than a couple of bucks, and yet, can give you a huge card advantage over your opponents. Of course, if your EDH deck is running no token generation and is full of big fatties, you’re not going to be able to take full advantage of Skullclamp’s drawing abilities, but card synergy will be left for another time. In other words, I am talking about cards that supply an advantage in some way. This advantage can be in a number of different areas: Card draw, land ramp, mana acceleration, removal, etc... Here is a small list of cards in each color that can provide the type of value that I am talking about, concentrating on cards valued under $10, with most of the cards listed being under $5:
Keiga, the Tide Star: 5/5 flying creature, when it goes to the graveyard gain control of target creature.
Mystical Tutor: Instant, Search your library for an instant or sorcery card, put it on top of your library.
Consecrated Sphinx: 4/6 flying creature, whenever an opponent draws a card you may draw 2.
Spell Crumple: Instant, Counter target spell, the spell countered goes on the bottom of its owner’s library. This is a great way to get rid of an opponent’s general in EDH which instantly, in most cases, provides an immediate advantage over your opponent.
Decree of Pain: Sorcery, Destroy all creatures, they can’t be regenerated, draw a card for each creature destroyed this way.
Phyrexian Arena: Enchantment, at the beginning of your upkeep you draw a card and lose one life.
Rune-Scarred Demon: 6/6 flying creature, when it comes into play, search your library for a card and put it into your hand.
Grave Pact: Enchantment, whenever a creature you control is put into a graveyard from play, each other player sacrifices a creature.
Seedguide Ash: 4/4 creature, when it is put into your graveyard from play search your library for up to three forests and put them into play tapped.
Woodfall Primus: 6/6 creature w/ trample and persist, When it comes into play destroy target non-creature permanent.
Genesis Wave: Sorcery, Reveal the top X cards of your library and put all permanent cards equal to or less than X into play and the rest into your graveyard.
Eternal Witness: 2/1 creature, when it comes into play return target card from your graveyard to your hand.
Insurrection: Sorcery, Untap all creatures and gain control of them until end of turn. Those creatures gain haste until end of turn.
Price of Progress: Instant, Deals two damage to each player for each non-basic land he or she controls.
Urabrask the Hidden: 4/4 creature: Creatures you control have haste, creatures your opponents control come into play tapped.
Stranglehold: Enchantment, Opponents can’t search their libraries. Opponents cannot take extra turns.
Karmic Guide: 2/2 flying creature w/ echo and protection from black, when it comes into play choose target creature in your graveyard and put it into play.
Oblation: Instant, The owner of target non-land permanent shuffles it into his or her library and then draws two cards.
Land Tax: Enchantment, during your upkeep if an opponent has more lands than you, you may search your library for up to three basic land cards and put them into your hand.
Wrath of God: Sorcery, Destroy all creatures, they cannot be regenerated.
Sol Ring: 1 casting cost, tap to add two colorless mana to your mana pool.
Skullclamp: 1 casting cost equipment, equip cost 1. Creature gets +1/-1, when equipped creature is put into the graveyard draw two cards.
Expedition Map: 1 casting cost artifact. Sacrifice cost 2. Search your library for any land card and put it into your hand.
Vedalken Orrery: 4 casting cost artifact. You may cast spells anytime you could play an instant.
All cards listed can provide an immediate advantage over your opponent, therefore providing for considerable card value without being considerable card value!
Some might say I should have listed the selection of your general as the first topic in this article. I personally would say they are wrong. Card value will be important no matter which General you decide to go with. With that said let’s move on to picking your General.
Selecting Your General:
Besides card value, selecting your General is one of the first important decisions you are going to make in Commander. This decision is made in many different ways by all who play the game, but there are some basic factors to consider when selecting your General. First will only be able to use cards that share a color type with your general. For instance, hybrid mana cost spells in which one of the hybrid colors does not share a color with your general cannot be put into the deck. For me this often means finding a General that shares color types in which I am comfortable using. It seems in the world of Magic the Gathering, many of its mages have an affinity towards certain colors. I personally hate durdling around waiting for enough lands or artifact ramp to come by so that I can accomplish all that I wish to accomplish within a game of Commander. What this means for me is mana ramp.
If you’re going to mana ramp in Magic the Gathering you’re going to need to embrace the tree hugging spirit that is the glory of nature and that means having a General that includes green in its casting cost. For some, they have an affinity for blue and the wonders of countering your spells and taking extra turns. While I personally think of these individuals as evil and quite greedy (seriously, can’t you just be happy with one turn like the rest of us?), this is a perfectly acceptable path to victory. Maybe you like to blow things up, smash your opponents in the face with their creatures, bathe in lava? If this feels like you, then including red in your General’s casting cost is a must. Is The Walking Dead one of your favorite TV shows, but instead of rooting for the living you have a great love for the zombies trolling around looking for a living snack? Black is the color for you. And lastly, if your soul is requiring you to pray at the altar of God right before you take to the country side on a pious crusade to smite your enemies, white should definitely be in your General’s casting cost.
Once you know which color you have to have in your General the next question is do you choose a general with only that color or do you choose a General with multiple colors. In my opinion running a General with at least 2 colors is often more successful than a mono color General. This is not always true of course. I play with a friend who runs Rakka Mar as his general and he is quite successful with the deck, having won multiple games he has played. For the most part although running multiple colored Generals is often the better choice. The reason for this is because you have more options for your spells and abilities and you are not locked in to whatever that mono colors benefits, and therefore it’s weaknesses, are. For example I would not choose a mono green general. Green is notoriously horrible at removing creatures and having limited to no removal in an EDH deck is the fastest way to loose. Therefore by picking a General with at least two colors I can expand my range of spell abilities. For example I have an EDH deck which runs Tolsimir Wolfblood as my General. Casting cost; 1W 1G 4 colorless. With green I get access to mana ramp, card draw and some graveyard recursion and artifact and enchantment removal and some limited remove any permanent other than creature removal which can come in handy when removing plainswalkers. With white I obtain access to creature removal, mass and spot, as well as additional artifact and enchantment removal. By running multiple colors I end up with more options which most of the time means I end up with a more balanced and ultimately more fun to play EDH deck.
Another way to pick the general is by finding a General that has abilities that you like and building the deck around those abilities. A few great examples of this are Ghave, Guru of Spores, Karador, Ghost Chieftan and Kaalia of the Vast. All of these generals were released in the Commander Series pre-constructed decks and all lend themselves very to building a deck centered on your Generals abilities.
- Ghave deck construction can go down a couple of different paths. One path is pure token generation and overrun. Another is permanent manipulation using his ability to sacrifice creatures as the catalyst.
- Karador is focused on your graveyard. With him you can take graveyard recursion to a whole new level.
- Kaalia’s ability to throw out large glutinous flying creatures is quite scary and often makes your opponents cringe and call you names in which I cannot print in this article.
Well that’s the basics of starting an EDH deck. In future articles I will cover things like deck synergy and win conditions. So until then may the battlefield be littered with your fallen enemies!