pie chart

The EDH Multiverse - A Model of the EDH Landscape

Commander / EDH* Casual Competitive Primer

Beebles


Welcome to a model of the EDH format

And to a primer on Commander power level and pre-game conversations

This is my latest attempt at modelling the EDH landscape. It's a summary of many ideas already out there in the community presented in one visual overview, as well as a reimagination of the EDH power level guide, both in form and in function. Hopefully it can help EDH players in navigating the many different interpretations of our format and serve as a reference for future EDH guide attempts.

The project has led to several guides with different uses, a playmat version, a poster and also a website for easy access. In this primer you'll find a complete write-up the project. It includes all guide variants, the ideas that went into making them, more information about their main uses, and a selection of other community guides that may help you navigate the many faces of the EDH format.


Before you dive in

Although my guides may appear similar to traditional power level guides, they are not meant to reduce the pre-game talk to a numbers exchange or to standardize levels of play. Their main goal is to help individual players (especially newcomers) express themselves in or be prepared for a pre-game talk without requiring them to reference categories, unit-less numbers or even the chart itself.


Main Chart - For analysis outside of play

The current version is 1.20 (last update: May 1, 2024)

EDH Multiverse Commander Power Level Chart

This guide was made for and with help from the community, so I did not want to reserve all rights. To that end I have applied a Creative Commons license. The work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


Variants

Variants and views for other uses. See chapter 3 for more info.

EDH Multiverse Commander Power Level Guide EDH Multiverse Commander Power Level Poster EDH Multiverse Commander Power Level Playmat EDH Multiverse Commander Power Level Quick Scan EDH Multiverse Commander Power Level Scale

Pre-game Guide | Poster Version | Playmat Version | Quick Scan | Power Only


1. About the guides

Trying to win and trying to prevent others from winning are two fundamental drivers in the game. In EDH, the extent to which these drivers are pursued will lead to different experiences that different players prefer. Some may even forgo these aims entirely and create decks that do something very different instead. These guides describe how the EDH experience can differ using those two drivers as the defining aspects.

In this section you can read more about the ideas that went into making the guides and what are their main uses.

EDH has a characteristic that I view as being both a great strength and a weakness: it can be played in many different ways. By focusing on the social aspect of the game EDH has become a format of many possibilities, opening up many avenues to enjoy Magic. Unlike conventional formats, which are mainly played at their competitive edge, EDH facilitates games at all levels of play. This diversity is great in that there is something in EDH for everyone. And everyone should be able to find an EDH game they will enjoy. Regardless of budget, skill or time.

At the same time this open-ended nature of the format has led to many different preferences and ideologies among the EDH player base. So different that sometimes it can seem as if the person accross the table is playing an entirely different format. In that sense it has become somewhat of a format multiverse in which several diverging interpretations exist at the same time. And not all of them are going to be compatible with each other. It's a Myriad Landscape. This can cause challenges in translatability and accessibility of EDH, especially in a more casual setting and for newer players. A logical consequence when we all want something different from the same format.

The solution to this challenge in my opinion is not one party forcing their preferences upon another. I see more chances of success in acknowledging that there are different EDH interpretations to play in, and that all of them are viable as long as everyone at the table is on board. And instead of conforming to just one, we can be open to switching between EDH interpretations across games - like a planeswalker moving from one plane to the next - so that every player can get their preferred deck out for a spin and get the experience they are looking for. As long as EDH means different things to different people, we can prepare ourselves to play in EDH interpretations that are different from our own.

Three Goals

1. A neutral description of the format

I believe a power level guide can help players navigate this varied landscape. Not by letting them assign a number to their deck or by always having to put the guide on the table before a game. But rather by presenting players with an overview of the options that the format provides.

This was the initial goal of the main chart. I wanted to take a step back and describe the overall EDH landscape by creating an overview of the different ways one could interpret EDH. A game theory resource that makes a bit more sense of our EDH Multiverse. I wanted to do this using language that is as neutral as possible, rather than using a judgemental tone for certain levels (as some other systems did at the time).

2. Approaching power level as a social problem

The challenge of power level can be viewed either as a mechanical or a social problem. Depending on that perspective you either look for mechanical or for social solutions in your approach. A second goal was to provide players with a power level guide built primarily from a social viewpoint rather than a mechanical one.

In my evaluation, traditional power level guides are mechanical solutions. Such tools focus on assessing the power of decks and assist the user to produce objective (or at least intersubjective) deck ratings. By doing so they aim to create a fair playing field or even try to standardize different levels of play. “As long as power levels of decks are matched, I should be able to play anything I want”. This mechanical approach to pregame talks prioritizes game balance over player preference: “Even if not everyone will enjoy the game, at least it will be fair”.

Although I agree game balance is valuable, in a "social first" format I find it more appropriate and also more realistic to value alignment of player expectation over anything else. Then a power level tool should help players express their preferences to arrive at a set of game expectations that no one at the table has objections with. “As long as we have a similar idea of the kind of game we want to have this time, I can pick any deck that fits that experience”. This social approach to pregame talks prioritizes player enjoyment over game balance: “Even if the game won't be entirely fair, at least everyone will have had a good time playing”. In such an approach the preferred gameplay experience of the group is the primary subject of assessment; the power of decks is secondary.

This explains the two axes used in the guides: because mismatches in expectations about how far we want to go to win and how far we want to keep others from winning seem to be two of the most common causes for feelbads in EDH. It's also why the resulting gameplay experience is the focus of the descriptions at each level (instead of the deck ingredients for example).

3. A guide that can help individuals to change their behavior

Lastly, I wanted to create a guide that doesn't require the whole community, or even the whole playgroup, to know about it before it can start adding value. Instead I wanted to make a guide that an individual could use as a resource to inform what behaviors they can adopt themselves to have constructive pregame talks. Instead of trying to become the power level standard (which is just never going to happen, ever), I wanted to create a guide that you could use yourself to get on the same page with your playgroup without ever pointing others to it.


Intended uses

Analysis outside of play

For the model of the EDH landscape, I see the following main uses:

  • Increasing format understanding through an overview of the main possible interpretations of EDH
  • Presenting players language that can express what kind(s) of EDH they do and do not want to play that anyone can understand
  • Understanding the root cause of tensions in certain playgroups
  • Facilitating conversations in fixed playgroups about the different ways they want to play EDH
  • Gauging for what format interpretations your decks might be suitable
  • Understanding how your suite of EDH decks can be changed to increase its overall format coverage

All of these uses help you to navigate the EDH landscape, they all happen outside of play and most of them require only you to know about and use the model.

Supporting pregame talks

With the pre-game alignment guide I sought to create a version that's more appropriate for helping you have effective pre-game talks. Check chapter 3.1 if that's what you're looking for.

The model was born from the realization that most EDH guides leave out a dimension of the format that I find vital for understanding it: how far players want to go in stopping each other from winning. Playgroups that avoid cards like Armageddon, Mindslicer, Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, Drannith Magistrate or Rest in Peace don’t do so because they are overpowered for their meta. They do so because the effect that these specific interaction pieces have on the experience doesn’t match with the type of gameplay that the group is looking for. It's for social reasons, not power reasons. It's because of people's preferences. It's a similar story for people who don't want to play in pods with little to no interaction. I think interaction impact can help to better understand the format, as well as what makes Casual EDH and cEDH different.

Restraint - The casual challenge

The history of the EDH format is an interesting story. Although now enjoyed at all levels of competitiveness, EDH was created with the intent to be played casually. As an alternative to competitive formats. Instead of trying to build the most powerful decks possible, in EDH you could build and play decks that were toned down in power to give room for a larger card pool, more variance and an alternative experience.

This casual way to play implies applying restraint in the deck building process. Restraint in how good your deck is at winning: after all, if you can win way faster than the rest of the table, they might get the experience that they did not really have a chance to participate. The classic pubstomper scenario. The same is true however for your deck's ability to stop others from winning: after all, if you are way better at shutting down your opponents than them, they might also get the experience that they did not really have a chance to participate. Neither tend to be a recipe for an entertaining game. At least not for the majority of the table. Ideally, both aspects of the deck you choose to play are appropriate given the expectations of all the players at the table.

Most other guides out there focus on mapping "Power level" alone. With this guide I propose that understanding the expected range of "Interaction Impact" is equally important for knowing what your playgroup is OK with, especially in a casual setting. This is because, at least in my experience, showing restraint on both of these areas defines what it means to play casual EDH:

To build your decks so you can play your game and try to win in an expressive way,
but never at the cost of the other players feeling they've lost their ability to do the same.

Now where those boundaries lie exactly will differ from playgroup to playgroup, but that balancing act of finding a shared ballbark with the people you are playing with is what casual EDH means to me. It's about respecting the time of the other players at the table by refraining from building decks that will make you have fun at the expense of the fun of others. It's about the intent to ensure everyone will enjoy the game you’re about to play. Where competitive play is clearly determined by the decks that actually compete at the highest level, any ballpark to play in that's not the competitive edge is a socially constructed one. They are ambiguous in comparison, because the creation of these ballparks isn't driven by game results, but by social convention.

That is where the casual challenge lies: if you’re not going to play at the maximum power of the format, then how much restraint are you going to apply to make it fun for everyone? How far can we go until players feel that things are going too fast (or too slow)? And how far can we go until players feel they have lost too much agency over their game actions (or feel there's not enough pushback)? This is something you'll have to talk about with the people you are playing with before you start, which is something not seen in any other format. In that sense, EDH is more akin to a game framework than a conventional format: you have to interpret it first before playing. Finding the shared ballpark takes some effort, and because of the many possible outcomes it's challenging at times to get on the same page or to not run into some feelbad situations every now and then. In my opinion, it makes Casual EDH best suited for playing with a fixed playgroup, because it gives you a lot more time to know where everyone's at and to craft one or more casual EDH interpretations that everyone can get behind.

When playing casually, the concept of Interaction Impact can help players express what level of restraint they prefer in the trying-to-stop-each-other-from-winning department. Just like the concept of Power Levels can help them express what level of restraint they prefer in the trying-to-win department.

Unambiguity - The competitive advantage

This balancing act is less of a challenge when playing EDH competitively. In cEDH, at least in my understanding, the expectations tend to be very clear and consistent:

Play to win, without compromise.
Anything that is legal in the format is tolerated.

That is the opposite of applying restraint. As a result, there is little room for ambiguity in that EDH interpretation, which for some is one of the main draws of cEDH. That is not to say there is no room for expression in cEDH, or that cEDH players don't respect the time of their fellow players. Although cEDH players are more competitive in mindset, cEDH is also about a social experience and enjoying a game of multiplayer Magic together. It's still EDH. It's just a different ballpark to play in that provides a different experience. And because the cEDH ballpark is free of restraint, aligning on what that experience should look like takes less effort compared to casual EDH, as it's relatively hard to have different expectations for the competitive interpretation of the format. This absence of restraint in cEDH also means the concept of Interaction Impact will likely be less relevant to you the more competitively you prefer to play.

Which EDH interpretation is correct?

So on the one end of the format we have the casual mindset, seeking a specific experience by applying restraint when building a deck to both its power to win and its power to stop others from winning. On the other end we have the competitive mindset, seeking a specific experience by not applying such restraint in their deckbuilding, but instead exploring how far the format can be pushed competitively. Which one is correct?

In trying to answer this question we could look at how the format was intended to be played. Its creators made EDH as an alternative to competitive play. That is the game they designed and it’s that experience that the Commander Rules Committee has committed most of their resources towards. They know the format is easily broken and for a long time advised players not to in their Commander Philosophy Document. They aren’t committed to balancing the format, because that is not relevant for the game experience they set out to develop and maintain. And even if they wanted to, it would probably not be possible anyway.

This may lead people to believe that Casual EDH is the only one correct way to play the format. Or that the casual way is more correct than cEDH because it’s closer to the way it was originally intended to be played. Personally I don’t think that's how this stuff works. For example: the electric guitar wasn’t intended to be played in the ways that Jimi Hendrix ended up using it, but those ways surely proved to be entertaining for a lot of people.

Perhaps a more fitting comparison is Mario Kart 64. That video game, like EDH, was designed to be played as a local multiplayer game. A party racing game you enjoy with 3 of your friends casually with some beers and banther. And the majority of players probably play it in that way. However, because it's so easily broken it accidentally also ended up becoming one of the most entertaining speedrun games ever made. Its speedrun community still thrives, despite the game never getting a speedrun game mode, in-game leaderboards, or bug fixes from the game developer.

If EDH is the Mario Kart of Magic, then the cEDH player base is its speedrun community. The game wasn't originally designed to be played like that and its developers haven't committed many resources to support that way to play, but that doesn’t make it wrong to do so.

The game of Commander is a form of entertainment. You are playing it correctly when you and the people you are playing it with are having a good time.

Don't talk numbers; talk about the preferred gameplay experience instead

A presumption some players seem to have about power level guides is that you should use them to assign a number to your deck, and that you’d then be able to take that number everywhere you go and have it be understood without any further explanation. While it can be valuable to understand how the power of your deck compares to others, sharing a power level number in a vacuum during a pre-game talk is rarely enough to align expectations. It can even further obscure differences in expectations when your fellow players attribute a different meaning to them than you do. I believe you’re much better off talking about the preferred gameplay experience instead, especially when playing with strangers: assess the type of EDH the group wants to play first and then see what decks best match that. That’s why in these guides you will find observable expressions of power describing what the gameplay experience looks like at each category. My advice is to use that to align on games rather than numbers.

You don’t need to show these guides to your playgroup for them to work

Although still possible, it's not necessary to show these guides to your fellow players. Instead you can use the guides to get on the same page with your playgroup without referring to them. They can help you get a rough overview of the EDH landscape, diversify your deck suite, express where your different decks fall using language everyone can understand, gauge the preferred gameplay experience of your playgroup, and understand what options you have to resolve mismatches in expectation. That can be all you need to get into the same ballpark with your fellow players most of the time.

The included format interpretations are examples

The boxes marking "~cEDH", "~High Power Casual EDH", "~Casual EDH" and "~Tolerant Casual EDH" are meant as a starting point and not as the correct definitions of these ballparks. Users are encouraged to define their own preferred format interpretations by drawing their own lines.

All EDH interpretations are considered viable

The guides are built from the principle that there is no correct or incorrect way to play Commander. Only a more or less appropriate way given the expectations of all the players at the table.


2. Explanation of model elements

This section covers the different model components and what they represent.

The y-axis asks players to consider what range of "Power Level" (or "Winning Power") of decks is preferred when they play. Power level is defined here as "How far does a deck go to win?". The main metrics to consider are win speed and consistency: at what turn range a deck can consistently threaten a win without help. Five main categories are presented for distinguishing different levels of play and for identifying what range you find enjoyable. These categories should align with the main power level assessment tools and concepts already out there. They are based on:

  • Main driver: This scale expresses how far your deck goes in trying to win. Is your deck built mainly to “win the game” or to “do my thing”. Most decks will have a mix of those two drivers, but the balance between them tends to shift as the power levels change.
  • How fast can it threaten a win: This metric has been proposed by many content creators (the Command Zone for example). In this model it represents at what turn range your deck can reliably threaten a win independently (so without help from the other players) most of the time. This doesn’t mean it always does so in real games (for example: because it’s not always the best play to threaten the win when you can and other players will also chip away at your opponents). Instead this metric only looks at the built-in winning capabilities of a deck, and not how other players may assist in that capability. Also note that when a deck can threaten a win will often vary greatly. Some decks may do so between turns 7 and 9 most of the time, but incidentily also earlier or later. However, "Precon X once won a game at turn Y" still does not mean it will do so most of the time. So try to gather information from many games to gauge this metric.
  • What decks it can control: A limitation of when a deck can threaten a win is that it does not work well for control decks. To address that limitation, each power level category in this model also includes control decks that can reliably win by controlling the decks at that power level. For example, a cEDH Stax deck may never threaten a win between turns 1-4, but it is still very much built to win games at that power level of play and therefore fits the highest power level tier: because it can reliably control decks that go for a win turn 4 or earlier. Ultimately the power of a deck that seeks to win through control is determined by the power of the decks it can beat in this way.

Note that this model does not advocate any specific Power Level. It just describes that decks can have different power levels and that different playgroups may seek to play within different Power ballparks.

The x-axis asks players to consider what range of "Interaction Impact” (or "Stopping Power") of decks is tolerated, especially when playing at tables that are not competitive. Interaction Impact is defined here as "How far does a deck go to stop others from winning". The main metric to consider is the deck's effect on opponents' agency: to what degree a deck impacts the ability of the other players to play their game. Five different categories are presented for distinguishing different levels of play, and for identifying what range you find enjoyable. These categories are based on:

  • Main driver: This scale expresses how far your deck goes in stopping other players from playing their game. Is your deck built mainly to allow others to do their thing and “see what happens” or is it created to “control the game”? Most decks will have a mix of those two drivers, but the balance between them tends to shift as the impact levels change.
  • The impact of the interaction: How much impact does your deck have on the ability of the other players to play their game? This is the main way to assess Interaction Impact, ranging from not impacting that ability at all to completely shutting your opponents down. Five levels of impact are described in the different tiers to express how this impact can differ.
  • The amount of interaction: If the interaction impact of your deck is not evident, looking at the amount of interaction slots can also inform what level of Interaction Impact your deck might be. But this is just a secondary/guiding metric and not a 1-1 mapping. You can put entire games to a Standstill with just a few interaction pieces of the highest impact or run 30+ interaction pieces of low impact, so weighing both the count and the impact of interaction on the other players is advised when assessing a deck’s overall Interaction Impact.

Note that this model does not advocate a specific Interaction Impact. It just describes that decks can have different levels of Interaction Impact and that different playgroups may seek to play within different Interaction ballparks.

What is considered interaction?

In this model, interaction is defined as any card that can stop or hinder an opponent’s action (apart from declaring blockers). It includes single target removal, board wipes, counter- and redirection spells. But it also includes protection spells, resource denial pieces, silver bullets, or any other effect that stops or hinders what an opponent is trying to do.

Four example format interpretations

The model includes 4 boxes that represent 4 example format interpretations. Each box shows what range of power level and interaction impact are expected within each one. As stated before they are meant as a starting point, and not as an attempt to standardize different ways to play EDH. Instead, the user is encouraged to gauge the expectations of the players in front of them to figure out, from all the possible options, what kind of EDH we want to be playing this time. And also to draw their own lines and clarify their own preferred ways to play the format.

Lastly, the boxes indicate what ranges of play are expected within each one. Not necessarily what deck characteristics are required to play in that format interpretation (for example, you could still join a cEDH game with a lower power deck if you wanted to and the rest of the table is ok with that). Here's a description of the 4 example boxes included:

  • cEHD: the expected Power Level of decks is between 9 and 10 and all levels of Interaction Impact are tolerated. The crucial turn range - when we can expect players to go for a winning play - is between turns 1 and 4.
  • High power casual EDH: the expected Power Level of decks is between 6 and 8 and Interaction Impact is tolerated up to level 8. Decks are restrained from running the most powerful win strategies and do not aim to lock down other players. So strategies such as full on stax, hand hate and land destruction are avoided. However, efficient and free interaction, taxing effects, denying access to the commander through something like Drannith Magistrate, and silver bullets such as Rest in Peace and Torpor Orb are usually still fine. The crucial turn range tends to be between turns 5 and 8.
  • Casual EDH: the expected Power Level of decks is between 1 and 5 and Interaction Impact is tolerated up to level 6. Decks are restrained from being too far optimized and do not include cards that would prevent others from game actions. Silver bullets, such as Rest in Peace and Torpor Orb are avoided in this interpretation, and are replaced for alternatives that leave the other players with more agency over their actions, such as Scavenging Ooze and Strict Proctor. However, most forms of interaction are still very much tolerated and embraced, such as single target removal, board wipes, counterspells, protection pieces and destroying specific powerful lands. The crucial turn range tends to be between turns 9 and 12.
  • Tolerant Casual EDH: not meant as a true format interpretation. Decks that fall in this ballpark, such as a Taniwha + Sunder deck, or a (non-cEDH) Tergrid, God of Fright   deck, may require additional pre-game communication before choosing to play them.

Again, these are just 4 examples. One of the uses of this model is to define your own ballparks to play in with your regular playgroup, with the boundaries of the box showing where decks are starting to become unfit for that interpretation and will start to raise some objections from fellow players.

Note that it isn't vital in that use case for you to know exactly where your decks are located on the map, as long as they fit somewhere within the ballpark that you end up agreeing upon with your playgroup. If you're not sure about that, then talk about it to figure out what the group thinks and if everyone's ok with playing against your deck in that specific preset.

Four model extremes

A term is included in each of the 4 corners of the model to indicate the 4 extremes of the different axes combinations:

  • Glass cannons (high power, low interaction): what is meant here with glass cannons are decks that put all their eggs in one basket and go for a quick win while not including many spots for interaction. An extreme example of such a deck is the Maralen of the Mornsong Ad Nauseam variant with 80+ lands, or (at a lower power level) a Purphoros, God of the Forge deck that only includes ramp, draw, token makers and protection spells, and 0 removal.
  • Stax (high power, high interaction): competitive Stax is a clear example of a deck that plays to win by completely preventing others from playing their game. They are different from the next category in that Stax decks are very much built to win games, even if they sometimes don't include any cards to actively win the game. Outside of EDH, Lantern Control is another great example of an archetype that competes at the highest level without running any win conditions beyond preventing the opponent from playing their game.
  • “Nobody Wins” decks or Troll decks (low power, high interaction): extreme examples of decks with a high interaction impact but with no ability to win are decks that try to end games in a tie (for example through the Ajani's Chosen + Enchanted Evening combo or through Divine Intervention) or certain chaos decks that seek to completely remove everyone’s ability to perform meaningful game actions, including the chaos deck player (for example, through Possibility Storm + Rule of Law).
  • Total Jank (low power, low interaction): decks that neither have any power to win or any power to stop others from winning have little to no impact on gameplay, which is what is understood here with a Total Jank deck. That does not mean they can't succeed in achieving alternative goals. It also doesn't mean janky deck ideas can't end up being more powerful (just that those decks would not be considered total jank decks in this model).

★/★

The ★/★ in the bottom right is a reference to the way that the game defines the overall strength of creature cards: as a combination of 2 base stats. As expressed in chapter 1 of this primer, I believe there's merit in looking at the overall strength of our decks in a similar way.

Lastly, the main chart includes a section with 10 considerations for regular playgroups looking to further customize their experience through the use of house rules. They represent another dimension on how the EDH format can be interpreted differently.

What are house rules and how do they relate to pre-game and rule 0 agreements?

This is how I understand the differences between those EDH agreements.

  • Pre-game talk: agree on the kind of commander game you want to play with the people at the table.
  • Rule 0 talk: agree on what rules of commander you want to change with the people at the table.
  • House rules: rule 0 agreements that are always active for a regular playgroup.

3. Variants & versions

In this chapter you can find some variants of the guide, a change log, and a Spanish translation that's available.

After reaching out to the community with the main chart, many people had responded positively to it, especially after the revisions after the initial round of community feedback. However, many others found it to be too complex or dense. It made me want to create a variant that would be more legible, less complex and be better fit for helping people have effective pre-game talks. You can find that variant below.

This tool is for you, not for the table necessarily

With the below guide it’s not required that everyone at the table figures out where they are at. Only you need to use it to get on the same page with the other players at the table. By asking and answering the questions included you can gauge the expectations and act accordingly.

The current version is 1.6 (Last update: March 13, 2024)

EDH Multiverse Commander Power Level Guide

It's different from the main chart in the following ways:

  • It is meant for facilitating pre-game talks: That does not necessarily mean that you have to put the actual chart on the table during a pre-game talk. But unlike the main chart, this guide is made primarily to help the user have effective pre-game talks and help them express what they like and don't like to play against.
  • No 1-10 scales: Sharing a power level number is meaningless in my opinion for checking what EDH experience the table prefers, unless everyone knows and uses the same system. So when aligning with strangers I believe you’re better of not talking about those, but instead about things that are indicative of power, things that impact gameplay, and what your main drivers are for playing EDH.
  • Less descriptions: I cut over half of the descriptions for each tier, leaving only the necessary stuff for getting a sense of the ballpark you want to play in. This should make the model more legible.
  • Other questions to help align: Besides the two questions that the axes present, I added twelve other questions you could consider asking or answering to align on the experience before playing.
  • Strategies for solving mismatches in expectation: Another addition compared to the main chart are 6 strategies that might help players deal with situations where the table isn't on the same page regarding their ideal EDH experience.

I've experimented with a few other variants of the model by reusing model components. These attempts ultimately led to the pre-game alignment guide in chapter 3.1. Note that not nearly as much time and thought have went these, so I'm sure a lot can be done to make them better. But have a look if you want something less complex or more traditional.

With this variant I tried to remove as many elements from the model as possible. This is the simplest I could get it while still having some use. It’s in line with what the crew of EDHrecast have suggested to do in one of their videos to make a 1-10 based power level guide better suited for quick alignment with strangers: remove the numbers and combine the jank and casual categories.

EDH Multiverse Commander Power Level Quick Scan

This one has a similar degree of information as the main chart but only shows the y-axis. This makes it more in line with traditional power level guides. It may be preferred by people who did not like the x-axis of the original model or who found that graphic too busy or dense.

EDH Multiverse Commander Power Level Scale

This one is similar to the previous one in setup, but only contains the x-axis of the original model. I reversed the number order from 1 to 10 so that you still read the descriptions in the intended order.

EDH Multiverse Commander Stopping Power Scale

I've been approached by the Chile-based crew of landfalltv to collaborate on a Spanish translation of the main chart. I was very happy to learn that they wanted to share it with their community. You can now find the translated guide and a Spanish rework of this primer on their website in this article. They also dedicated one of their Youtube videos to the guide. It was great to work together to make these translated versions a reality. Thanks again guys!

A brief history

The project began as a covid hobby to kill some time. I started fiddling with the idea of a 2-axes power level guide during yet another lockdown in 2021. After picking it up and putting it back down again a few times, I had a first draft ready I liked to get feedback on end of that year. That feedback round led to some major revisions in 2022 and to the version that the Professor ended up sharing on his twitter. That’s also roughly when this primer went up. Most other development on the guides, such as the pregame version, also took place in that year, although minor revisions were made based on further community feedback beyond that point.

These are the changes I made to the model since posting it here on TappedOut:

EDH Multiverse

  • Version 1.9 came with a higher resolution than before, and had 1 or 2 minor text changes.
  • Version 1.10 has an improved “About this guide” section in the top right, and a few more minor text changes.
  • Version 1.10 also includes “alters” and “certain illegal cards, like unsets or X as commander” as considerations for house rules.
  • Version 1.11 now includes a reference to this page
  • In version 1.12 I changed "lock down" to "shut down" as a broader description of a high interaction impact
  • Version 1.13 had quite some text changes based on community feedback. I adjusted the turn ranges slightly, updated texts in Mid and Casual and fixed wording in the lower Resistant box. I also changed "basic decks" into "casual decks"
  • Version 1.14 only has a few minor text changes.
  • Version 1.15 has new main drivers in the y axis: "Win the game" & "Do my thing" (as proposed by Tap_Asleep)
  • Version 1.16 is now available under a Creative Commons license and is no longer using the MTG fonts due to copyright. Also, some text changes in the "About this Guide" section and some layout tweaks.
  • Version 1.17 has some layout improvements. It also no longer has the "Counterspells?" consideration for house rules (as proposed by StructureMage)
  • Version 1.18 now links to edhmultiverse.com and has some other small tweaks.
  • Version 1.19 has a different order of the considerations for house rules as proposed by Denzo.
  • Version 1.20 a typo fix.

EDH Pre-game Alignment Guide

  • Version 1.1 has new main drivers in the y axis: "Win the game" & "Do my thing"
  • Version 1.2 is now available under a Creative Commons license and is no longer using the MTG fonts due to copyright. Also, some text changes in the "About this Guide" section and some layout tweaks. I also adjusted some wording in the titles and subtitles of the guide.
  • Version 1.3 a typo fix.
  • Version 1.4 has some improvements in the explanation text and uses less or different words for the 12 questions and 6 strategies. I also added arrows to the axes.
  • Version 1.5 now links to edhmultiverse.com and now also has the "The EDH Multiverse" main title.
  • Version 1.6 now has a question about deck resilience instead of the one about the number of counterspells. Also made some small layout tweaks.

Get easy access to all variants from this image hosting folder.


4. Questions & answers

Here are answers to a few questions that might be relevant to some, but not all readers.

As expressed earlier in this primer, an underlying principle of the guides is that it’s more important to talk about the preferred gameplay experience of the group than to talk about the power of decks. This implies that an individual player is able to do the following:

  • They have a rough overview of the different ways commander is played and know where their decks fall in the grander scheme of things.
  • They take responsibility for what they’re looking to get from the game and what they bring to the table. And they can express those preferences using language anyone can understand.
  • They are interested in the preferences of others and know how they can gauge the preferred gameplay experience of the group.
  • They know what options they have to resolve situations where there are mismatches in those expectations between players.

The guides support individuals to learn and adopt those behaviors. Here is an example of how that can play out:

Step 1: Prepare

  • Get a rough understanding of the different ways Commander is played.
  • Figure out for yourself what kinds of EDH you like and don’t like to play.
  • Build a varied deck suite that covers the parts of the EDH landscape you’d like to play in.
  • Get a rough understanding of where your decks fall and know how to convey that using language everyone can understand.

Step 2: Assess the preferred gameplay experience of the group

  • What kind of EDH do they prefer right now? What’s the group’s preferred ballpark to play in for this game?
    • How far do we want to go to win? e.g. What crucial turn range are we aiming for?
    • How far do we want to go in stopping others from winning? e.g. What degree of interaction/denial are we ok with?
  • Is that something you don’t mind playing as well right now?
  • How’s the vibe? Do you have any objections with the energy at the table?

Step 3: Act accordingly

  • If that’s not an experience you want to commit to right now, feel free to kindly decline to play.
  • If you’re down with that but the group isn’t on the same page, see if you can solve it by:
    • Conforming to what the majority prefers;
    • Convincing other to give it a try;
    • Meeting somewhere in the middle;
    • Agreeing to play several games of different kinds;
    • Agreeing to accept a lack of alignment.
  • Else, pick the deck that matches the table best and go with that experience.
    • Everyone could also do a brief pitch of their deck to check if everyone’s ok with playing against that this game.
    • If you don’t have a suitable deck, see if you can borrow one.
  • Have everyone commit to the game upfront: “Is everyone good?”

Step 4: Play!

Step 5: Evaluate

  • What did everyone think of the game?
  • Would you like to play again?
  • Do they like to play again?
  • What do we want to change in the next game?
  • Go for it or exit.

Although you don't need to place place these guides on the table during a pre-game talk for them to work, of course you could still use the guides like that if everyone at the table is ok with it. When they don't mind absorbing a 5x5 matrix for their enjoyment and they have understood the concepts in the guide, you could then use these 3 questions to align:

  1. How far do we want to go in trying to win?
  2. How far can we go in trying to stop each other from winning?
  3. Are there any objections to me playing X?

Or you can just point. One user shared that their playgroup uses the guide whenever they're playing at an LGS but are one person short. They'll just show the alignment guide to people saying: "We're playing around here, do you have anything that matches that?" and that works for them most of the time to quickly find a new player and set the expectations.

If you want to bring out the images regularly, consider checking out my website edhmultiverse.com. It's built mobile first and should be a convenient way to access the guides and use them for aligning on the game.

Just be aware that not everyone wants to digests models like this and that's a valid reaction. Forcing them to use these guides might not be that much different from forcing them to play EDH in your preferred way.

Playmat

After first sharing the pre-game alignment guide I started receiving requests from players to make it available on a playmat. A great surprise for me! It was something I wasn't expecting at the time. The guide is now available on a playmat via Inked Gaming. It took quite some back and forth to create something that would be legible when printed, but we got there in the end. I hope you like it!

EDH Multiverse Commander Power Level Playmat

Poster

Some time later I also started to receive requests for making the guide available as a poster. It's now available through Redbubble in a variety of colors:

EDH Multiverse Commander Power Level Poster

Shoutout to the people who gave me tips and feedback while making the poster, especially mxkale and findogul.

Here are some questions and doubts that haven been presented in online discussions in the past, and my answer or perspective on them. If after reading them you have any other question or criticism, feel free to share it in the comments.

"What’s wrong with just talking to your playgroup?"

I sometimes see the argument of "just talk to your playgroup" when first reacting to systems like this. As hopefully has become apparent by now, I agree that this is the best approach. However, that approach does imply that you know what to talk about. This can be difficult for many people, especially newcomers. Regardless of your personality traits and communication skills, if you don’t have a rough understanding of the EDH landscape, and if you don't know good pre-game talk questions or what are good strategies to solve mismatches in expectations, then “just talk to your playgroup” can be a difficult ask. These guides can be a useful starting point for those people. Not for them to show to the other players, but to help them build a varied deck suite, to help them express what kind of game they prefer, to help them ask and answer useful questions, and to know how they can adapt to the needs of the table after gauging the expectations.

"Isn’t this all a bit too complicated?"

For massive adoption, it totally is. My guides are definitely not the most accessible or easiest to parse (maybe apart from the Quick Scan variant). Users need to digest them first before they can wield them for their intended uses. However, that is the approach I advocate for: to think about this stuff a little bit more beyond numbers and labels so that people can explain themselves and align on games using universally understood expressions of gameplay only.

Once you do, the pregame talk will actually be very fast when using this approach, as you only need to cover the 2 questions that the 2 axes represent to properly set the expectations:

  1. “What turn are we playing towards?” and
  2. “Any level of interaction we want to avoid?”

That will give you all the information you need to have a mental model of the preferred gameplay experience of the group and to select the deck that best matches that experience. It also has the major upside of not requiring anyone else at the table to know about the guides.

“If you advise against using power levels in a pre-game talk, why bother making a power level guide?”

Like many others in the community I think using power level numbers to align expectations in a pregame talk is not useful (unless everyone at the table knows and uses the same system). However, when using any of the alternatives we have (such as win turn range, infinite combos, tutors, fast mana, stax pieces, and so forth) you are in fact still talking about power level, just by using more universally understood expressions of power rather than unit-less numbers.

Although we won’t need numbers, we will always need to align on power level because the EDH format is played at all possible levels of play. And if we’re sitting down and we know we are not going to play at the maximum power of the format, then the logical thing to do is to first agree on how much restraint we all prefer going into this game to increase our odds of an enjoyable time.

"Isn’t Interaction Impact just a stand-in for some common pet peeves?"

I've seen a few people react to the concept of Interaction Impact by saying that they have their doubts if it fits on the same tier as Power Levels. And they wonder if it isn't just a stand-in for people's distaste for things like Stax and MLD. I don't fully disagree with this. I just don't agree that it would be a bad thing and that it would make it very different from the Power Level scale. I could use the same reasoning to say that the Power Level scale is just a stand-in for people's distaste for high power or low power EDH, depending who you ask. In the end, both concepts serve the purpose of helping people to express what they prefer. They just cover a different aspect of the game experience.

"Isn’t Interaction Impact an arbitrary thing to add to power level for assessing decks?"

Related to that response, some have also wondered why you would add interaction as a dimension to gauge the power of decks, but not other things like resilience, efficiency or consistency. The answer to that question is that this is a desired game experience assessment tool first, and a deck power assessment tool second. With that end in mind I added Interaction Impact: because mismatches in exceptions about how far people want to go to win and how far they can go to stop others from winning seem to be the most common reasons for feelbads in EDH.

"Isn’t a power level guide useless if it requires subjective assessment?"

This greatly depends on your views on what a power level tool is and what it should do. If your presumption is that it should serve as some sort of universally applicable standard that allows the user to attribute some objective truth about the power of their deck through a number, then probably yes. I personally don't believe this is feasible for our context. I think that being able to assign a power level number to your deck and have it be understood everywhere you go without further explanation is an unrealistic dream scenario, and definitely not the goal of this project (and even if you would be able to achieve that, just communicating those numbers would likely still not be enough to align the expectations of the game).

Alternatively, if you assume that a power level tool merely exist to help people align on their (subjective) expectations about a game so that it can increase their odds of having a good time, then facilitating subjective assessment becomes its main purpose. Then the subjective expectations are the primary facts that the tool should help expose. And the power level tool becomes a means to make it easier for players to share and align on their subjective expectations of the game. At least enough for them to commit to that game experience upfront. In that use case it's still valuable that the metrics used are unambiguous, and you still also need to assess your decks to a degree, but it doesn't have to be free of subjective interpretation in my experience. It just has to be clear enough for people to be able to, within a limited amount of time, get into the same ballpark.

"Shouldn’t the boxes in the middle be changed?"

You are probably right about that if the boxes were meant to standardize levels of play. However, they’re not: they are just four example ballparks that a table might settle on. A representation of the combined expectations the players at the table have about the game. My intent is you use the two questions of the two axes to gauge what ballbark the table prefers in the game you’re about to play (which most likely is different from the four examples included).

Even then I agree there could probably be better configurations of ballparks as a starting point, but many of the options I tried were sacrificing too much in terms of legibility or aesthetics (the model is already quite complex for many, so I did not want to go into venn-diagram territory for example). In the end I settled on these four example boxes.

"Nice try, but I still don't like this"

Of course there are people who don't agree with the perspective presented in these models, or who prefer to use other perspectives or guides over this one. Models are inherently limited, and EDH is such a complex game that attracts so many people that I doubt any one tool is going to satisfy all players. My aim with this primer is to at least explain the reasoning behind this one so you can make up your own mind about it.

These models are tools. As with every tool its value depends on the one who uses it. If you can't imagine ever using a model like this just for playing a card game, then that's totally understandable. Perhaps one of the tools in the next chapter is a better fit for your needs.


5. Other EDH guides

Here are some other EDH guides that I came across during this project. I used some of them as a reference. The others I've added here because I think they may be of interest to you as well, depending on what you are looking for in an EDH guide.

These are some of the pre-existing resources I used as a reference when making the EDH Multiverse model.

This guide was posted on reddit a while back by redditor emillang1000. This was one of the earlier guides I used as a reference. It has received some fair criticism, but it’s also a good starting point for a conversation. Check the original post on Reddit.

I thought this guide presented a lot of great ideas, but I also had some issues with it. Mainly with the judgmental tone chosen for describing the lower power levels. The guide failed to recognize that many EDH players consciously choose to build weaker decks even if they could easily build more powerful ones. Simply because they enjoy playing at that power level. Also, it did not have a respectful place for iconic EDH jank decks such as Ladies Looking Left or the Chair deck. Those were things I wanted to change.

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I consider the 5 categories proposed by DJ and later expanded upon by the Command Zone podcast as foundational for the way most EDH players think about the power of commander decks. The 5 tier system works well to distinguish different levels of play. I saw no reason to deviate from this established concept.

I just always thought that the turn operationalization made by the Command Zone crew was odd. For some reason the size of the turn ranges deviate per power level number, with some power levels sharing a turn and some don't. And by placing all games between turns 1 and 12 at 7-10, 60% of the scale is reserved to describe various kinds of jank. Note that the turn ranges in emillang1000’s guide also suffers a bit from this problem. I sought to amend this with my guide.

enter image description here

This is another visual power level guide that used to come up often. For setup I attempted to keep my guide in line with this one and the ones from the previous sections.

enter image description here

An interesting reference for me to test if the concept of Interaction Impact was any good to help people explain what they don't like to play against was EDHrec's top 100 list of salty cards. I was interested to learn for how many of these 100 cards the reason for its high salt score could be attributed to a high power level, a high interaction impact, or something else. These were the numbers at the time in my humble and brief evaluation:

  • About 22 cards could explained because of their high power level
  • About 66 cards could be explained because of their high interaction impact
  • About 12 cards seemed to have other reasons for being on the list, such as extra turn spells, cards that can be a nuisance such as Rhystic Study, and cards from the Walking Dead secret lair.

If you'd like to check out more of the older power level guides, this article by Bryan Smith provides a good overview.

If you don't want to go about creating your own EDH interpretations and you'd rather conform to existing ones, have a look at the five format interpretations made by PlayEDH.

Note that they describe their EDH tiers as "Power Levels". I think it's more appropriate to view them as EDH interpretations or sub-formats because they also include rule-0 adaptations. For example the inclusion of extra banned cards for most of the tiers.

  • In this Youtube video, Joey from EDHrecast outlines some of the nuances and challenges people can face when they find out they can’t align the expectations during pre-game talk, especially with respect to guarding your personal boundaries.
  • Although not an MTG guide, this flowchart made by redditor The_Unreal for tabletop RPG's gives people who find this kind of stuff challenging a nice path to thread when facing problematic behavior in their playgroup.

enter image description here

  • The lovely people at the Commander's Sphere once made this little graphic to help players have effective pre-game and postgame talks.

enter image description here

  • I find this guide from the Professor another accessible way to align on the game experience and to have fun playing EDH. Check it out on Youtube.

6. Closing thoughts

I'd like to close this primer with a quote the Professor from the above video (in chapter 5.4):

“There have been attempts to make that power scale better, or to use a different rating scale entirely. And while some of those have been better than others, I think they are all inferior to just having a discussion with the people you are about to play with.”

I fully agree with this. Guides like these should be used to help people express themselves in or be prepared for a pre-game conversation, and not to replace the conversation.


Thank you for taking an interest in this primer. I hope some of it was helpful to you. A big thanks to everyone who has shared their thoughts, either here on TappedOut or elsewhere. I also thank the voices in the community who have brought attention to the guide, including the Professor at TCC, Landfalltv 🇨🇱, the CommanderCast podcast, Nackt und Rosa 🇩🇪, The Social Contract podcast, Demo from EDH Deckbuilding, Błażej Smerdel at psychatog.pl 🇵🇱 The Queen of Cardboard at Coolstuffinc.com; and Jay at mtgacentral.com.

Special thanks to Sheldon Menery for his feedback and support, and for all he did for the game. May he rest in peace.

I’ve now come to a point where this project seems to have run its course and has come to a close. But if you still have ideas to further improve these tools, then feel free to let me know.

Upvote and support this project!

GL & HF

Beebles


The guides are also accessible through a dedicated website. Check it out at edhmultiverse.com

Suggestions

Updates Add

New RC Philosophy Document

I’d like to bring to your attention that with the latest quarterly update the Commander Rules Committee has published a new Philosophy document on their website, which was mainly written by Jim LaPage. A draft of it had already been teased in the “Commander State Of The Format 2023”, but now we have the final version. I personally really like this new iteration. Especially because the philosophy document no longer makes any value judgements about other people’s preferences. I recall the old one said something along the lines of: “the format can be easily broken; we believe it’s more fun when you don’t”. Instead, this version puts the arrival at a shared set of expectations front and centre, regardless of what those preferences might be, making it much more inclusive for cEDH players and more neutral in tone. This is driven home with the sentence:

“Help players communicate their preferences and arrive at a shared set of expectations“

This line could very well be the mission statement of the EDH Multiverse, so of course I am very happy this emphasis on being cognizant of the preferences of others and finding a shared ballpark is now so clearly reflected in the philosophy document. Ultimately, the goal of any pregame talk is not to achieve perfect balance or to agree on what the power level of each deck is, but to arrive at a shared set of expectations of the game you’re about to play.

New Guide Video

Demo from EDH Deckbuilding returned to support the project by doing a video on his channel about the pregame guide and the website. Thanks again Demo!

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This deck is not Commander / EDH legal.

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