By: Daniel Clayton -The Will of the Floral Spuzzem
Today I want to talk about EDH. This is a format that was unknown like 6 or 7 years ago and has exploded in recent years into the giant that it is today. I think the reason for this has been a historically low entrance fee into the format, playing with cards that are considered unplayable in other formats, and with typically a larger variety of decks than you find in most other formats (for the most part; again this is not an article talking about your specific play groups but aiming at most if not all play groups in general). Additionally, it just seems really cool; for me it almost feels like one of the games I used to try to play with my Magic or Yu-gi-oh cards back in the day. I think the biggest factor of it all however is that the format is pretty fun for pretty much everyone who plays it regardless of skill level. It’s a format that for the most part leaves out some of the more fast-paced, rule-intensive aspects of the game (the 40 life, the stack is pretty much gone unless you count the odd blue deck here and there), and it’s replaced with awesome, very visual aspects of the game such as commanders, and infinite combos (which are very possible when you have double the life). Recently, however I’ve started to see a problem and that’s where people have started to see a problem with mono and no colored EDH decks. Let’s begin by stating this, yes I have a mud EDH deck, and yes I think that’s okay as a matter of fact, I think there should be more of us. If you’re not okay with this or offended by this, I guess you should stop reading now, but if you’ll continue with me I’ll begin to expand upon my ideas.
To get to the real heart of my “problem”, and to understand why I feel the need to “ruin the game for everyone” (These were actually things which were expressed to me by other players when they played against me), I believe it best to start with my background; that is to say, why I play the cards I play, and why I build the decks I build. Well, I’m the youngest of 3 brothers and my next closest brother to my age is 6 years older than me. That meant that not only did I get every hand-me-down that my brothers could pawn off on me, was pawned off on me, and I thought that whatever they were playing with was the coolest toy in the world. It was actually my oldest brother that really got me into the game as a matter of fact, he had left for the Marines, his Magic cards were left behind, and he said I could use them to play against my friends. If you’ve read my last article, you’d understand that I started right around the original Mirrodin, but we’ll get to that in just a little while. Anyway, my 14-year-old mind committed immediately to building the coolest deck ever, and this meant taking the best cards out of my favorite color from my brother’s cards. This basically meant a 1000-card green deck, using the biggest most expensive cards (mana-wise) I could find. The deck didn’t win much, but it was still fun to play was more like an EDH deck than I knew at the time. Anyway, this taught me two things, first you should never play a deck this large, you never get what you need when you need it and two it’s really hard to draw mana consistently when you have so many cards in your deck. (This had more to do with shuffling than anything else, really hard to shuffle 1000 cards all at once) This led me to my second deck, straight up mono-black with as many things with regenerate as I could find. This deck was actually a really solid amazing deck. It won a lot of games and was fun to play. Then came the next deck, the one that forever changed my perspective on the game. I tried putting two colors together, I figured that black was really cool for regeneration and kill spells, and red was really cool for damage, so why not the two together. The only problem in this deck was that mana-fixing wasn’t really a big thing yet, or it wasn’t at least in my deck. Additionally, I didn’t really know how to build a mana base for a multi-colored deck, so needless to say it didn’t work… at all… ever. I tried to fix it adding mana, taking it away, changing colors, etc. This drove me away from any multi-colored decks for a very long time. Additionally, Mirrodin became my favorite set, a great set with a ton of artifact creatures that were possible to build a deck around sounded amazing to me, and it really was a ton of fun to play. Well anyway, this general mistrust of multi-colored decks carried through with me to today and I still am not a huge fan of them, even though I run one or two. Well now let’s flash forward to just about 2-3 years ago and talk about my getting into EDH. I was talking to my friends after we had just finished a round of 20 to 30 casual games of Magic. I had gotten out of Magic after middle school and hadn’t really gotten back into it until my junior year of college. They had been amazed at the speed at which my decks had gotten more powerful from casual to tier 1.5 modern decks in the spans of just a year. They said, “Hey Dan, how about you build an EDH deck?” At first I was skeptical as most usually are, but they gave me the rundown and assured me I could build my myr EDH deck. (A throw-back to my favorite creature type) That’s really how the deck started for me, I just wanted to play myrs in a deck, but then it evolved. The commander’s that we looked through didn’t really do it for me, so we thought and we thought and we came up with one that I liked, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. The only problem with him is that there are no colors in his mana-identity so I couldn’t run the cards that I wanted in the deck; so with a certain amount of compromise and a whole lot of evolution the deck that I have today was born. Now that the deck was finished it came time to play it and play it I did, it was a strong deck that played well against all manner of players. Then I tried playing it in multiplayer and a funny thing happened, everyone attacked me. Everyone just assumed that my deck was too powerful and attacked me, and it was a pretty powerful deck, but not one that could handle three people at once. It did two things, sent me back to the drawing board and made me make a choice; either make the deck better or give up and lose every multiplayer game. It’s funny thinking back, because it makes me realize that if everyone hadn’t assumed that my deck was so powerful that even with three people stopping it later on wouldn’t be possible, this wouldn’t be true now. I decided to take the latter choice and made my deck better, and I’m honestly glad that I did. I stuck to my guns and was rewarded with a solid deck that can take what people are spitting out and spit it back with more gusto.
Let’s talk about this format for a little while guys, it is always lauded as a format with the most variety of gameplay and the largest variety of decks, playing cards that you will hardly see in any other format. I have to ask myself… Is this really true anymore? I’m sure it was at one point, but is it true anymore? I’ve gone to plenty of tournaments for EDH, (American rules not French, because that format sucks too much) and in the beginning you see a whole bunch of really cool decks that have unique commanders that you’ve never seen before, but by the end you see the same decks with the same commanders. You see the same strategies and you don’t really see much evolution past the basics. There’s a reason for this of course, some cards are just better than others, and the best cards naturally filter to the top, but I place pretty high in most of these tournaments and I’ve never seen anyone else running a deck anything like mine; and this is for a few reasons: it’s actually pretty expensive to build a deck like mine, it’s hard to build a deck like mine and make it unique and fun, and it gets a lot of hate.
There are two problems with having no colors in your commander’s color identity, namely lands and color identities you weren’t expecting. Believe it or not, there are a ton of cards that have color identities, ranging from mud permanents with a colored activation cost to lands that have awesome effects, but just have the problem of having the tap for white mana, etc. This means that you have to create a unique mana base, based entirely around lands that are either very expensive, or you wouldn’t expect to run in any deck (even an EDH deck). This means that your deck winds up with strategies far from your standard fare of creature rush go, power creatures go; you have to come up with and are encouraged to come up with strategies that are much rarer than this. It’s the type of decks where cards like Darksteel reactor can be a dangerous clock putting an eventual win on the board and making you win very quickly. It’s funny, but when I think about it, the things that are colorless are actually the best at producing mana. As such while it’s a little tricky to come up with a land base to support the deck, once you get 3 or 4 mana onto the field it’s not hard to get to 10 or 11 mana in just a turn or two. This makes the deck terribly reactive (opponents are shocked when I can consistently get out Kozilek every turn after turn 5 or 6 with the right hand), but terribly dependent on getting to the mana you need. This all points to what kind of lands do you run in a deck like this, and the answer is mostly simple T: add 1 to your mana pool. Usually you can add in a few that do this with an added little bonus, such as Desert or Quicksand. These lands really aren’t broken at all and with enough of them, they alone will get you there and the original list ran just these and it got there once in a while, but as I said the deck needed some kick, so I found some in some of the strongest lands in the game, lands such as Mishra’s Workshop, Ancient Tomb, and City of Traitors. This leads me into the expensive aspect of the deck; some of the best cards in the deck are some of the best cards in the game, and as such some of the most expensive as well. Let’s just look at some of the prices, Mishra’s Workshop (300, if you’re really lucky), City of Traitors (Sat at about 50 last I checked) and Ancient Tomb (20-25 last I checked); so about $400 in just 3 cards; when you add to all of that a commander that ranges upwards of 50 to 60 you’re looking at a pretty penny for a deck. On top of this building the deck is pretty tough, especially with the way I took it, the colorless creatures are pretty cool and even with such a limited card base you can still build a pretty cool creature deck, but artifacts for me should do things and so I feel that you really get value out of the mud EDH decks if they’re not creature-based. This combined with the severe limit to the amount of cards you can run, can make deck construction very hard at times especially with a more limited budget.
For some reason everyone involved in Magic either loves or hates Artifact cards; this goes for the players, the R&D, the rule makers, the writers, the creator, etc., etc. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone that plays the game that just feels so-so about the mud monstrosities. I generally get the line that my deck is broken, and I respond with it’s hard to deal with, but hardly broken, as a matter of fact, you can find more artifact removal in the game than you can almost any other type of removal. Additionally, there are a ton of removal cards, which can be a complete blow out for a deck like mine, just to name a few creeping corrosion, acquire, blood moon, price of progress, primal order, ruination, etc. Additionally, the game seems set on printing even more cards dedicated to pulling apart mud EDH decks like mine with cards like Bane of Progress. On top of hatred from the R&D and rules community of EDH, most of the players play against you and will group together to play against you. This is fine; however, as I said the deck that I run has evolved throughout the years and it’s mostly through interactions like this that my deck has made so many leaps and bounds. It became resilient able to recover from attacks that completely decimated the field for me so many times.
I’m sure the burning question on everyone’s mind right now… if there are any burning questions on anyone’s mind is… “BUT DO YOU RUN WINTER ORB?” And the answer to that question is of course I do, it’s a great card, and I always get the response… but omg it’s so unfair, how could you? The answer to that is simple, I want to win, and you don’t want me to win, so I have to stop you from stopping me. It’s sort of like saying why would you run a Vendilion Clique in your blue deck? I want to win, you don’t want me to win, so I have to stop you from stopping me. Additionally, I don’t understand why people say it’s the most broken card in the game, it just slows things down and it’s fairly easy to kill. Plus a lot of times it stops someone from completely taking over a game. Plus do you remember how I was talking earlier about the way that everyone and their mother hates artifacts, well this one card was my initial solution to the problem, and it worked so well at its job that I haven’t taken it out since.
I’m sure at this point you’re probably asking yourself, “He keeps talking about evolution, but what does he mean? A deck’s not alive, how does it evolve?” This is very true, but just like a living organism a deck needs to keep changing in order to overcome its challenges, or it is very soon lost and discarded to the annuls of history. This is the problem you see in so many formats and it’s one that has begun to make its way into EDH that is to say a deck being created and never being changed. As for my deck, I change it at least once a month if I have it on hand, taking cards out, putting cards in, etc., etc.; and it’s just this amount of change that allows my deck to flourish. In evolving I’ve come up with strategies that are so far from the original that I wouldn’t have thought of them in the original conception of the deck. This leads me back to the point I was trying to reach in the previous paragraph; that is to say the fact that if there is so much removal for my lands and for my artifacts then why are there so many out there that say that my deck is broken? There are two answers, first, my deck is very strong… artifacts are extremely strong, hard to deal with cards, yes. The second is many people are unwilling to change in all aspects, but especially in the construction of their decks; if someone wanted to they could deal with or at least try to deal with my deck handily, but they don’t instead giving up on this aspect and call the deck cheap. Anyway I feel as though we’ve gotten to the heart of the article however, and believe it or not it’s not that mud EDH decks are fair and you should let them into your play groups. Just realize that the decks are out there and they will show up in a tournament every once in a while, so be ready for them.
The point I’m trying to get across is to be willing to roll with the punches, not only in EDH, but in all formats, you are going to have to deal with decks that your deck can’t handle in its current form, so instead of complaining about it, you need to be willing to be flexible with your deck construction when it’s not working, or you need to see yourself out of the competitive formats.
By the Will of the Floral Spuzzem
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