Building an EDH Deck
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Epochalyptik - 4 April 2012
By now, I'm sure some of you know that EDH is my pet format. It's what I'm best at building and playing, and I appreciate the depth and complexity you can get from an EDH deck that just can't be found in others. I wrote this article with the intent of helping those unfamiliar with the format and its complexities build their decks. Before we formally begin, I'd like to provide links to some of the best available resources for designing decks (and EDH decks in particular).
EDH Official Rules Website
Gatherer Advanced Search
MagicCards.info Advanced Search
List of Generals
In particular, I'd like to make a note of the banned card list, which is (at the time of writing) as follows:
- Ancestral Recall
- Black Lotus
- Coalition Victory
- Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- Gifts Ungiven
- Kokusho, the Evening Star
- Library of Alexandria
- Limited Resources
- Mox Pearl, Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, Mox Ruby, Mox Emerald
- Painter's Servant
- Panoptic Mirror
- Protean Hulk
- Recurring Nightmare
- Staff of Domination
- Sway of the Stars
- Time Vault
- Time Walk
- Tolarian Academy
- Yawgmoth's Bargain
Additionally, the following cards may not be used as your general (you can, however, include them in the maindeck).
903.4. The Commander variant uses color identity to determine what cards can be in a deck with a certain commander. The color identity of a card is the color or colors of any mana symbols in that card's mana cost or rules text, plus any colors defined by its characteristic-defining abilities (see rule 604.3) or color indicator (see rule 204). Example: Bosh, Iron Golem is a legendary artifact creature with mana cost 8 and the ability "3R, Sacrifice an artifact: Bosh, Iron Golem deals damage equal to the sacrificed artifact's converted mana cost to target creature or player." Bosh's color identity is red.
As a brief introduction to the rules of the format, an EDH deck is a 100-card highlander deck. This means that you have a total of 100 cards and no two may have the same name except for basic lands. One card in your deck is a legendary creature (your general/commander), and the color identity of every card in your deck must fall within the color identity of the general (for example, you can't play a red card in a deck with a mono-green general). The game begins a bit differently. Each player starts with 40 life and the general starts the game in the command zone and may be cast as though it were in your hand. If a general would be put into its owner's graveyard or into exile, its owner may choose to return that card to the command zone instead. Whenever a general returns to the command zone, it costs two more colorless mana to cast the next time (this is an additional cost - not a change to the general's mana cost - and these costs apply cumulatively for each time your general returns to the command zone). If a player is dealt 21 or more combat damage by a single general, he or she loses the game.
The single most important card in any EDH deck is the general - it is a resource that is constantly available and one that determines what you have to work with for the build. Some people choose a general based on the colors they offer in their color identity. This is a more common route when you have an idea for a deck or combo that depends on you having certain cards; choosing a general may not be a matter of you playing the card itself, but the colors of that card. Others choose a general based on the abilities and properties of the creature itself. Decks built this way tend to cater more toward the strengths of the general than decks built for their colors.
While the general does not necessarily have to be a key part of the deck during gameplay, you should take into consideration its potential to contribute to various aspects of your deck, from the color coordination to the supporting abilities. Also note that although it is the build of the deck that ultimately decides how powerful it is, some generals inherently have more potential than others. Choosing a legend with a great ability and good colors will leave you better off when you go to build the deck than choosing a vanilla creature.
A rundown of the advantages of each color is appropriate here, since many legends are multicolored and choosing one often involves considering color identities as much as anything else.
- White - Tutoring (usually for enchantments), targeted removal (exile, tucking; anti-artifact/enchantment and anti-creature), mass removal, recursion, utility
- Blue - Tutoring (usually for instants/sorceries or artifacts), counterspells, bounce spells, utility
- Black - Tutoring (black is vastly superior to every other color in this department; the amount of search power it brings to the table is staggering), targeted removal (kill), mass removal, recursion, utility
- Green - Tutoring (land and creatures), recursion, utility (provides a vast array of different abilities from acceleration to token production)
- Red - Targeted removal (damage-based; anti-artifact), mass removal (damage-based, weaker than other colors)
This step is not always mutually exclusive to the selection of a general; often, the two steps coincide and one is determined from the other.
Decks that are built by choosing a general for its abilities typically focus on getting the most out of those abilities. Decks that are built by choosing a general for its colors typically focus on the combos and power cards available within those colors. These archetypal approaches are divided not by a line, but a gradient - you'll frequently find that a deck has great synergy with its general, but it can pull off combos and well-designed interactions to help accelerate.
As for how you build your deck, consider how you like to play as well as what you like to play. Preferences in 60-card formats are often good places to start when getting into EDH. Make a few decklists and think about the appeal of each just to get a feel for what you might want to do once it comes time to assemble one of them.
Combo-control is a particularly strong archetype in EDH, since the games tend to last long enough for well-built decks to set themselves up to execute powerful interactions. This kind of deck focuses on one or more (usually at least one main and one backup) combo that can win outright or make victory almost inevitable. The control aspect is there to prevent disruption and maintain consistency. Decks of this nature tend to incorporate blue or black as a primary color, since they offer the most in terms of control and tutor, respectively. Pure combo is also well established, although most combo decks choose to incorporate some form of control or another (whether it's removal or counterspells).
Decks built around a general's abilities are often also combo decks, depending on the nature of the build. Some generals have abilities that cater to being used in combos while others are stand-alone. A good example of both schools of thought is Teysa, Orzhov Scion. If one were to construct a Teysa deck using the combo with Teysa, Darkest Hour, and Blasting Station, then it would be a combo deck (clearly). If one were to construct it with a bunch of token-producers but no real combos, it would be merely ability-centric. The most common practice is to combine the two - take a general with great abilities and include cards that combo with those abilities and other cards that play to its strengths or interact well with them.
Champion decks are simple and easy to build. They focus on winning by dealing combat damage with their generals (21 combat damage from a single general results in a player losing the game). Typically, a champion deck is built around a general with strong combat capabilities (Uril, the Miststalker or Mirri the Cursed, for example) and fleshed out with damage tanking enchantments and equipment. Combos can be included for alternate win-conditions, but the general is the star of the deck.
Traditional bumrush aggro is not a common archetype in EDH because it is too slow and is outclassed by more consistent and powerful builds. Pure control tends to be shunned by most playgroups on the basis that it doesn't do much except slow the game to a grueling crawl.
As in any other format, every card in an EDH deck should serve a purpose. It should contribute to the function of the deck in some way as to make it either essential or comparatively superior to the alternatives. Although you've got 100 slots to fill, that's not as many as you think. There are a vast number of fantastic cards that could potentially be used in any given build, and the matter of choosing between them ultimately falls to personal preference.
In EDH, creatures are not clubs with which to bludgeon your opponent; they are instruments of a greater design. They should offer utility first, then power second. By prioritizing in this manner, you make sure that every creature in your deck does something for you besides eat up mana and occasionally savage your opponent like some dense, territorial boar.
Sacrifice some offensive power if you have to, but preserve some sense of greater usefulness in the beasties you keep around. For example, Rune-Scarred Demon is a 6/6 flier for 7, but it has the added benefit of Demonic Tutoring any card in your deck when it comes in. Primeval Titan is not just a 6/6 trampler, it is a tool for fetching your best utility lands from your library directly to the field.
Instants and Sorceries
These spells are powerful support cards in a properly designed deck. You have to weigh the utility of these single-use options in your deck and debate whether or not each one is worth keeping on a basis of power and practicality.
Instants have an advantage over every other spell because they can be cast whenever you have priority. This makes them exceedingly useful, as you may infer, when you need to react to something your opponent does on his or her turn. Counterspells and removal are the most common examples of useful instants, and they serve their purpose in EDH just as well as they do in other formats. Being able to limit the power of your opponent is a great way to ensure and insure a dominant board state.
Sorceries are less flexible in terms of timing restrictions, but they offer a different set of effects to the discerning player. In sorceries you find the majority of ramp, mass removal, and recursion, just to name a few applications. By including them in your deck, you give yourself access to power that very few permanents can provide, and on top of that you do so in a manner that is less vulnerable to disruption.
Enchantments and Artifacts
Whereas instants and sorceries are more ephemeral support cards, artifacts and enchantments stay on the battlefield to offer lasting boons. The benefits could be static effects that help advance your board position (Mana Reflection, Debtors' Knell, Darksteel Forge, etc.) or abilities that offer some additional options in the game (Sensei's Divining Top, Sylvan Library, Obelisk of Alara, etc.).
Since they are permanents, enchantments and artifacts are more susceptible to removal. This is something you need to take into consideration when you start to put the build list together - relying on too many vulnerable cards can potentially hurt you, especially if they have limited faculties (at least creatures can attack and defend, with artifacts and enchantments you've got less combat presence).
Beyond simply allowing you to pay for your spells and abilities, lands can provide some extremely useful bonuses.
In any multicolored deck, dual lands of some form or another should be included. Whether they're taplands or the original ten, duals give you access to more colored mana more quickly. This is especially useful in tricolor and spectrum decks, where the balance of resources must be maintained and having the right kind of mana is critical to success. Duals that come into play untapped (or at least have the potential to do so) are more valuable than taplands, as they immediately open up possibilities that would otherwise be stuck waiting until the next turn cycle.
Some lands are designed primarily for abilities that aren't even mana abilities. Reliquary Tower offers only colorless mana, but provides a fantastic static effect that allows an EDH deck running it to make use of a larger amount of resources for much longer than competitors playing without it. Boseiju, Who Shelters All and Hall of the Bandit Lord are examples of lands that are best suited to a very specific task, but are able to perform in other situations (albeit with reduced efficiency). Cards like Diamond Valley and Maze of Ith forego intrinsic mana abilities altogether and serve only as utilities, offering powerful and useful abilities at the cost of being unusable from a traditional land's standpoint.
When designing and assembling a land base, pay careful attention to the balance between four categories of lands (and these need not be mutually exclusive): basic, dual/multicolor, limited utility, and strict utility (of the latter pair, limited utility lands function as mana producers and focus on providing additional effects while strict utility lands only possess nonmana effects). Basic lands are perfectly functional and work with a wide variety of ramp spells such as Cultivate and Explosive Vegetation, but lack flexibility. Duals offer more reliability for meeting color demands. Most of the work needs to be done in choosing how many utility lands to run, since they can potentially hinder you if they come at the wrong time or with the wrong frequency in a game.
Consider your means of fetching utility lands and determine if it is appropriate to run them if you can or cannot reliably find them when you need to. If they constitute too large a portion of your land base, you will be struggling to play a lot of color-intensive spells and you'll lose tempo as a result.
As for the color balance of the lands, it should remain roughly proportional to the color saturation of the cards in your deck. For example, if you have about a third each of green, white, and blue cards in your deck with a fairly even color saturation, about one third of the colored lands in the deck should be devoted to each. If you have the same colors, but blue accounts for half of the mana symbols in your deck, lean toward 40-50% blue lands. Another thing to keep in mind is that green is a ramp color, so you can take advantage of acceleration spells to fix your mana base in-game. Therefore, you could get away with doing 40% or so blue and 33-35% green.
Planeswalkers are a great way to add some extra power to an EDH deck. Many of them offer some useful abilities, although some are better suited to the format than others. For example, Liliana Vess would be a strong inclusion while Liliana of the Veil would not. While Vess costs more to play, she'll see play almost any time you draw her and her -2 ability is fantastic given the large, singleton deck you have. Comparatively, Veil offers very little in the way of power considering the unique situations that arise in EDH games. While she's playable in a 60-card deck designed to win in the first ten turns of the game, she won't have much of an impact in a game that lasts up to 20+ turns with lots of card draw, recursion, and creature production.
When debating whether or not to include a given walker, think about how that card will add more functionality to the deck. If it doesn't, then it's already out. If it does, what kind of utility does it bring to the table and how relevant is it' Does it combo or interact with any of your other cards' How does it stack up against other cards of the same CMC or purpose?
Now that you've got a good sense of most (if not all) of the cards you want to include in your deck, it's time to sleeve them up and give it some practice runs. Playtesting is the only way to determine if you need to change something (you always will), since what looks good on paper doesn't always work well in cardboard. You need to assess the deck's strengths and weaknesses and work on balancing it, which means dropping some cards for others that will shore up any shortcomings. Certain things to pay special attention to during playtesting include:
- Mana curve, availability, and color management - How harsh is the curve on your deck? Is there enough ramp to reach the cards you want at the time you want? Do you find yourself with access to all the colors you need when you need them? How often do you draw your utility lands if you've included them? More than that, think about how often drawing the wrong land has hurt you or how often you find yourself depending on drawing a certain land or group of lands.
- Draw power - Does your deck tend to run out of steam at a certain point? When you draw a card you don't need, are you able to make up for it by shuffling it back in, drawing more cards, or playing around it?
- Field power - Can your deck establish presence on the field and hold its own in combat? How long does it take to establish a stable board state? How long does it take to establish a dominant one? Consider the purpose of the deck and how often you find your field helping or failing to achieve that purpose. Also, do the cards on your field interact well with one another?
- Reactive capacity and resilience - How well can you respond to threats or changes on the board? Does a single move destroy your entire plan? Evaluate your deck?s ability to recover from setbacks such as bad draws, loss of field presence, etc. Also evaluate your decks ability to disrupt other decks if their board states are approaching "critical mass."
- Effectiveness in accomplishing goals - How well does your deck execute its projected win condition? Is it able to execute a secondary win condition should the first be disrupted? How easy or difficult is it to achieve a secondary win condition should the need arise? Consider how strong the deck is as a whole, especially as the sum of its parts. Are there any cards that are under-performing or useless?
- Mulligans - How often do you find yourself taking mulligans? What cards do you usually pitch and how often do you pitch them? How many times have you gotten a starting hand that was completely acceptable? Pay close attention to how many different cards you run that you would absolutely not keep in a starting hand, and also how many you would be unlikely to keep (as in you would keep them only if the rest of the hand met certain conditions).
- Patterns - This is kind of general, but look for patters in anything you can think of that would be reasonably attributed to your deckbuilding choices. Do you find yourself looking or hoping for a certain situation or draw? Is there a combo/interaction that seems particularly easy or difficult to set up? Did you notice that combo/interaction when you built the deck?
- Balance - When you look at your deck in its entirety, do you have a good ratio of card types? There are no set numbers that one can point to and effectively argue for as ideal card counts for each type; rather, these figures are determined through playtesting and experimenting with different builds. Having a functional deck is more important than representing all of the card types, but make sure you're using the best of what you have.
- General's performance - How relevant is the general to your strategy? Is this reflective of what you wanted when you built the deck? If not, do you find yourself using your general more or less than you anticipated? Are there any changes you could make to the build to be more reflective of your in-game strategy? Are there other legends that would make for better generals now that you know how the deck actually plays?
It is difficult to write a single article that encompasses all of the intricacies and facets of EDH deckbuilding and strategy, but I hope that I have at least produced a work sufficient enough to serve as an introduction or even a general guide to the format. If there are any questions, don?t be afraid to ask them. If there are any comments, don't be afraid to make them. Good luck deckbuilding and have fun with the best format in the game!
Thanks for taking the time to write this up.. Nicely detailed and very well explained. :) I'm going to my first ever EDH game next weekend, so this came up at the perfect time.
April 4, 2012 2:07 p.m.
Pretty awesome article, though.
April 4, 2012 2:09 p.m.
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary is banned as a commander, not Eladamri.
April 4, 2012 2:10 p.m.
Oops. I guess I missed that one when I was typing it up. I forgot to save one of the drafts.
April 4, 2012 2:11 p.m.
what are some of the black and blue tutors?
April 4, 2012 2:45 p.m.
depends on what you wanna tutor for. There are quite a few
April 4, 2012 2:51 p.m.
Blue: Mystical Tutor, Merchant Scroll, Mystical Teachings, Personal Tutor, Trapmaker's Snare (for finding Mindbreak Trap, Transmute Artifact, Eerie Procession, Fabricate, Intuition, Library of Lat-Nam, and transmute cards (Muddle the Mixture, Tolaria West (colorless land, blue identity), etc.)
April 4, 2012 2:54 p.m.
One word about the social aspects of EDH would be appreciated in your introduction, this is supposed to be a casual format (yes, i know people have different oppinions on what is casual) and i think it should be mantionned somewhere. One word about strategies/effects that are being frowned upon in most playgroups could help new players in their understanding of this wonderful format.
April 4, 2012 2:57 p.m.
@Internet_the_Explorer Black and Blue tutors can be selected based on what you're trying to find.
Black can get pretty much whatever you like with Vampiric Tutor, Grim Tutor, Imperial Seal, Demonic Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, Beseech the Queen to name a few. Black is also the go-to colour for graveyard search, like Entomb and Buried Alive.
Blue tends to be much more tricksy. It's got good instant/sorcery based search like Mystical Tutor. But you can also get a bit more diversity if you branch out into something more interesting like Intuition.
I think the one bit of advice that our magic table has generated after playing EDH repeatedly is not to rely too heavily on your general, in the sense that your deck should be able to still function well if your commander never existed.
April 4, 2012 3 p.m.
@ Goblin_lord: I hadn't considered including anything about that, now that I think about it. I suppose I was focused more on deckbuilding, but the experience does deserve mention.
An addendum, then:
As far as the experience goes, EDH games range from the casual to the competitive. It is largely considered a casual format, which is something to keep in mind when building a deck. Your BUG control deck might be the best in the area but nobody will want to go up against it if your meta consists of recreational players. Some playgroups frown on "unsporting" tactics like infinite combos or heavy control. Others shun you if your deck can't compete with their next-level combo control strategies. These preferences are largely reflective of the groups themselves and at a large store or gathering you might find many different attitudes among EDH players. The trick to really enjoying this format is to find where you fit on the spectrum and try to play against other people of the same mindset. You'll find that you get more out of your games and walk away with a great experience and the occasional story to tell.
April 4, 2012 3:25 p.m.
Fun is very important in EDH, yes. Why is that? Mostly because it stops your friends who are losing too much from strangling you. If you've used the Squirrelcraft infinite, your friends will probably hate you. If you use Insurrection, you may elicit a laugh or two instead of simple hatred.
It's very annoying to have to patronize people whose decks are worse than yours. You become an instant target in multiplayer when you're too good, and then it isn't any fun for you. There's a balance, unfortunately. You honestly cannot win them all, unless your group is full of gaming masochists.
April 4, 2012 3:27 p.m.
So I'm trying to build a deck out of Wrexial, the Risen Deep, and decided to go with the swampwalk/islandwalk/just-in-general-unblockable portion of his abilities. The issue with this is that Turning Guys Sideways rarely actually works too well in EDH... So to that end, I've tried to find cards that give benefit when they hit an opponent, like Dimir Cutpurse, Coastal Piracy, and Larceny.
April 4, 2012 4:43 p.m.
Thank you so much for typing this up. I'll give it the time it deserves a bit later. I have a couple EDH decks, but very few people that play EDH and so being able to build some others would be great.
April 4, 2012 4:43 p.m.
@ CrushU: A part of deckbuilding is card knowledge, and I don't know if there are any searches that would yield what you're looking for. Off the top of my head, I know that ninjutsu is a mechanic that might be of interest to you. In particular, there's Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni. You might also want to look at some demons.
April 4, 2012 5:02 p.m.
I did find Ninjutsu to be useful; One issue I had with it though is that it only (probably) works once, so I was torn on actually using them. (There is a Ninja that makes ninjas unblockable, though, so maaaaaaaaaaybe.)
I actually just did a search for all blue/black cards and put all the ones that looked interesting into a private prototype deck. ... Four hundred cards chosen later... ;) There's actually a good bit of Swamp/Islandwalk. (And Shadow!)
April 4, 2012 5:51 p.m.
In building Sacrimundar one of the most useful things to me was Magic Cards Advance Search. The other tool I use is Card Kingom Advance Search which is pretty useful but I personally like magiccards.info better.
Then playtest playtest playtest! I'm still taking cards out for things that I think might work better =)
April 4, 2012 8:45 p.m.
People at my store ask me why I take decks apart all the time, or why I won't trade things out of my EDH deck. The answer is simple. Standard rotates, and my store doesn't support Modern or Legacy. But EDH is forever. There will always be EDH players, and no matter where you go, there is someone with an EDH deck willing to play you.
EDH is by far the most "eternal" format.
P.S. I had to fight the incredible urge not to shamelessly plug my own Vendilion Clique EDH.
P.P.S. I failed... :(
April 5, 2012 4:34 a.m.
This is a really great article to point new folks to. One thing that I find in a lot of EDH decks is an insufficient manabase to support some of the cards they expect to play. The typical culprit is running too few lands because they want to fit all of these great cards in their deck, then you're stuck with a Blightsteel Colossus in your hand the whole game. Or, running a multicolored deck with triple-color-cost cards like Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir without enough blue sources to cast them.
April 5, 2012 8:36 a.m.
I find that 34-37 is an appropriate number of lands for an EDH deck. You have to take into account all of the mana accelerators (usually in the form of mana rocks like Sol Ring and signets) and ramp spells in your deck. You also have to gauge the ability of your deck to find the lands you need (Cultivate, Kodama's Reach, Skyshroud Claim, etc.). As with any deck, there's no absolute number of lands to run, so playtesting will tell you if you've got it right.
April 5, 2012 11:07 a.m.
Thank you for your time on this Epoch, ive been waiting for you to breakdown your thoughts on EDH (in a article that is). Keep it up mate! your quite the inspiration for all of us!
April 5, 2012 2:52 p.m.
I'm frequently trying to get more people at my university interested in the EDH format, so thank you for writing up these useful points that I can direct people to.
The fact that EDH was originally designed as a group format is casually addressed in your article, but I think that it's worth outright stating. A group format requires its own take on card selection, such as the percentage of spot removal VS wrath effects. There are plenty of people who participate in simple duel matches with their EDH decks, but the general mentality that EDH is a group format will influence the comments that people receive on their deck lists. It's just one more factor to consider during deck construction (both in designing your own deck and guessing what other people might have in theirs).
There are a few other nit-picky aspects to EDH deck construction to be considered, but this is a great intro article that will hopefully inspire more discussion on the format.
April 6, 2012 8:04 p.m.
I often find myself playing 1v1 BUG combo-control mirrors (which are surprisingly fun), but it is true that EDH is often a group format. It's certainly something to be aware of in playtesting and perhaps I should have addressed it in the "Putting It All Together" section as another item on the list. I suppose I'll do that now:
Game size - Does the deck perform consistently in any sized game? Does it do better in 1v1 or multiplayer? If so, why and how could you improve it to make up for any deficiencies? Consider that EDH is in many cases a group format and often times you'll find that large games demand more of your deck; there are going to be more answers to your actions and you'll be forced to give your own answers to an increased number of threats. Designing a solid deck that can handle multiple environments and game sizes is difficult, but rewarding.
April 7, 2012 12:08 a.m.
So, after reading, then re-reading, then re-re-reading this article, I think I've managed to put together a pretty decent EDH deck. :)
I have put another EDH deck together before this, but that was restricted by cards I actually own (I'll get to test my deck:prevail-3 next weekend).
Considering I designed it as a combat-oriented deck, would my Olivia's Chosen deck be considered 'good' by you more experienced deck builders...? Currently I only have a small handful of the cards in the deck list, but depending on the feedback I get, I may actually work towards building it sometime in the near future.
April 8, 2012 4:02 a.m.
The definition of "good" is subject to opinion. My standards are somewhat biased by my experience building, playing, and playing against high-caliber decks. Your Olivia deck is certainly functional in many regards, but as with all decks there is room for improvement.
April 8, 2012 5:06 a.m.
Great article. It should be noted, though, that some of these rules (such as banned cards, mulligans, and the banning of certain themes [land destruction, board-wipes]) are all up to your play groups. EDH is a casual format and lends itself to some rules changes depending on what the players feel like changing.
April 11, 2012 3:44 a.m.
Very true. One of the most common house rules I've encountered is one that changes the maximum infect damage from 10 to 20. Many groups also tend to shun decks that run mass land removal.
April 11, 2012 7:15 a.m.
are their any good commanders that are colored Blue/Black/White? Also can you use a planeswalker as your commander? i have never played EDH before and me and a friend have been talking for awhile about getting into it. I ask about the U/B/W because those are my favorite colors, and i am only/mostly familiar with cards from scars and innistrad blocks. Also i hear this is a format for multiplayer, but is it still as good with only 2 people, because the rest of our group have no interest in playing EDH.
April 14, 2012 4:44 a.m.
sorry done some digging around, i think i found my commander in Sen Triplets is this a good choice?
April 14, 2012 5:12 a.m.
April 14, 2012 10:17 a.m.
Zur the Enchanter and the previously mentioned Sharuum the Hegemon are typically the two most popular generals in those colors, so you'll find a bunch of other decks that you can reference for those two. Another possible general that hasn't been mentioned yet is Dromar, the Banisher.
Sen Triplets is a fun choice, but can be a little hit-or-miss to use due to EDH rules stating that nothing in your deck is able to produce mana outside of your general's colors, so you can't throw in things to produce green or red mana. Sen decks usually use use Celestial Dawn and Mycosynth Lattice to get around that little problem.
And yes, EDH can be played just fine with only 2 people. It originally started out as a multiplayer format but there's no reason why is can't be played 1v1.
April 14, 2012 12:45 p.m.
I often play 1v1 EDH and have a lot of fun, so the multiplayer aspect isn't necessary to the experience (you should try it out if you can, though).
As for the general, it must be a legendary creature. You can't use a noncreature card such as a planeswalker as your general.
Since there are multiple choices for an Esper general, you should consider what each one offers and try to match yourself up with the general that best accomplishes the goal you had in mind for the deck. For example, Ertai, the Corrupted and Sen Triplets are more suited to control decks while Sharuum the Hegemon is a combo-based general because of its ability. Also, if you pick Sharuum you kind of have to build around its ability for it to be useful. Otherwise it's just there for the colors.
April 14, 2012 12:49 p.m.
This article is quite helpful and I very much appreciate the time you clearly put into writing it. Thanks!
July 15, 2012 11:31 p.m.
July 20, 2012 4:43 p.m.
i need some help because i need cards in Sin Triplets the goal is to be a jerk but i need more combos and i am on an extremely limited budget only getting what can be pulled out of a booster pack. the proxie limit around the place where i play is 17 and i am almost there. any cheap but effective ways to get an infinite combo.
August 18, 2012 9:14 p.m.
i think that you should update it. updating will help people that are reading this.
November 19, 2012 8:18 p.m.
I don't have the ability to update this post, unfortunately. All I can really do is repost the banlist any time something changes.
November 19, 2012 8:20 p.m.
You should also mention that the cards that go into the deck and the functionality of the deck may change because of the house rules. For example, Vendilion Clique has been all but abandoned as a 1v1 general/deck at my store because there is a house rule that states that if your general would go to the bottom of your library or would be shuffled into your library, you may put it into the command zone instead. This effectively ruins Vendilion Clique 's ability to function as a deck in 1v1 matchups.
January 3, 2013 11:08 a.m.
House rules are difficult to cover in any kind of detail, unfortunately. Many playgroups don't use house rules, and the ones that do often have different rules because of different concerns and experiences. While one group may ban tutors, another one may ban infinite combos. Some unban cards and others change the actual rules and mechanics of the format. House rules are one of the few things I can't really offer solid advice on because they're specifically tailored to the people who play by them. You'll know your own house rules best.
January 3, 2013 11:26 a.m.
You might want to update the ban list of this amazingly informative article :)
Primeval Titan and such
January 24, 2013 12:28 a.m.
Unfortunately, I don't have a way to edit this page. If I did, I'd update all the relevant information.
January 24, 2013 12:30 a.m.
can some one lend me a perspective towards my first edh? i dont have all the cards yet and still not sure if im going to buy all the top dollar cards but i like how its going so far IDK yet lol
May 27, 2013 5:39 a.m.
Are tricolor EDH decks considered objectively better than mono- or dual-colored? I understand that there are more options and interactions with more colors introduced, but mono- and dual-colored ones don't have as much mana-fixing to worry about. I understand that it is ultimately a matter of preference, but do all of the skilled EDH deckbuilders "prefer" to use tricolored? For instance, I have been working on my first stab at an EDH, Just one of those days..., that builds off of Arcanis the Omnipotent
's ability. To get access to his card draw, though, I am limited to mono-blue. Is that going to sabotage me in the end?
January 17, 2014 1:32 p.m.
@the5ervant: There's not really an "objectively best" color combination because that discussion quickly turns subjective. Each deck has potential for certain things, and those things vary from deck to deck. Each deck is strong or weak against different things.
I can tell you that tricolor decks are harder to balance because the mana bases are more demanding and harder to make consistent.
I happen to like tricolor because it gives you a lot of versatility, and because I'm not averse to spending a bit to optimize my decklist.
Monocolored decks are much harder to balance because they have limited versatility, but blue and green are in the best positions as monocolored decks.
January 17, 2014 3:05 p.m.
I don't really update the ban list information in this article. You're meant to defer to the Commander site for current ban information.
February 4, 2014 1:01 a.m.
Hi, my names Matt, I'm still relatively new to magic as a whole. I would first like to say a huge thank you! this is an excellent article and I will be referring to it while i build my deck!
I have one question; Because my card knowledge is limited, and my experience playing the game also limited, i'm having a difficult time knowing exactly how to start. I really like playing with blue,black,green and white. really don't like red because I'm not the aggressive type.
i've got over 1000 cards at home, and my question is.. Could i simply go through them and build a deck with my favourite cards i find? And then of course pick a general that allows me to play them.
again thank you for this in-depth article !!
April 19, 2014 12:31 p.m.
April 19, 2014 12:34 p.m.
It's perfectly fine in EDH to just go through your card collection, pick your favourite cards, and select a Commander based on the colours you want to use. One of the unique features of the format is the usual length of the games, which give people the opportunity to actually play those oddball rares that you like but just aren't feasible to play in other constructed formats. People have different attitudes towards how competitive they want the format to be but there are lots of people who just want their games to be a social and fun time. The trick is finding the right group that wants to play the format at the same level you do.
April 19, 2014 2:01 p.m.
@silentblues: Glad you like the article.
Check out my profile page. I have a lot of resources meant to help newer EDH players get into and understand the format. My lists of staples are meant to help you familiarize yourself with the format, so lack of card knowledge is not as high a barrier as it used to be.
If your collection is comparatively limited, you might consider finding one of the preconstructed EDH decks, either from the original Commander series or from Commander 2013. C13 is still stocked in major retailers like Walmart and Target.
If you don't want to spend the extra money, you can build from what you have and upgrade the deck over time.
April 19, 2014 3:41 p.m.
Fantastic Article! I'd like to point out though that Primeval Titan is used as the example in the creatures section, as this was written before it was banned.
Another great resource! thank you
May 5, 2014 8:48 p.m.
First off, Thanks a ton for the article. A friend of mine just recently got me and my brother into playing commander. And he even bought me a precon deck (power hungry). That being said, he only runs his tribal vampires deck, and every time we play his deck outclasses and out runs mine. Is it poor form on his part for using a "better deck" with me and my brother just starting out in commander? and of course and idea's on how to improve/speed up said precon deck? Im using prosh as the commander. thanks in advance for your time and thoughts. Here is the link to the deck . http://archive.wizards.com/Magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/feature/269c
July 3, 2014 10:29 a.m.
I am building a commander deck based around Vorosh, the Hunter , does anyone have advice??
August 17, 2014 10:40 p.m.
@spilled_paint: It's probably best to post that in DH because it doesn't say anything about the article itself.
August 17, 2014 11:28 p.m.
The ban list truly needs updating as Staff of Dom is no longer on it but other cards have been added.
November 4, 2015 9:33 a.m.
Fantastic article! I am a returning MTG player, and commander is the format that brought me back! I have found a general that I love, but I am struggling with how to put some pieces together. I have never really put together a 'good' deck of my own. My other decks never had synergy. If at all possible, would you take a look at what I have so far with me EDH deck, and leave a comment with advice? The general is Marchesa, the Black Rose. Here is a link to it: