EDH | Colors to Avoid
Whenever I have a friend who’s trying to get into EDH for the first time and they ask for my advice on deckbuilding.
Now, I have all sorts of opinions on deck building, which I hope to write about further. But if they’re just starting off, I don’t want to stymie their creativity and potential hurt their interest in the format. The worst thing for a new player to do, in any game, is focus prematurely on what’s “top tier” or “meta” instead of exploring the format and having fun.
That said, I like to give my friends four gentle suggestions:
- Don’t play 4 or 5 color
- Don’t play colorless
- Don’t play mono White
- Don’t play mono Red
- Don’t play Boros
Let’s go through those in order, shall we?
Don’t play 4 or 5 color
I lump these together because they have the same core problem: the mana is just too tough.
If you’re just starting out in EDH, you probably don’t have the goofy singleton mana base already on hand. Outside of a ramp or rock gimmick, you tend to need some combination of:
- a full suite of fetches + duals/shocks/tangos/etc
- all 10 trilands
- all 5 Vivids
- some assortment of one-off all color lands like
City of Brass
- a bunch of two-color lands to fill in the gaps
…and half of those options come into play tapped. You can pretty easily get a working 3 color mana base on your first try, but 4-5 colors turns your mana base into a deck building decision, when you should be focusing on more interesting stuff like deck themes, threats, and answers
Don’t play colorless
EDH is (generally) a slower format, where long-term card advantage really matters. You want to have lots of options late into the game after the fifth wrath has gone off. But to maximize those options, you need to have spent some time early/mid game accelerating your mana.
Basically, the two most important things in EDH are Draw and Mana. I don’t think that’s a terribly controversial statement.
Now, every deck can run artifacts. For better or worse, the good artifact options for Draw tend are limited and slow. Artifacts provide great Mana acceleration and fixing with rocks, but thanks to color identity rules, your options are limited the less colors your deck. For example, the Signets are some of the best ramp cards for their speed and fixing. This is how many you can run in your deck depending on your number of colors:
The fewer colors your running, the less options you have for artifact ramp, and you have to start digging into slower options like
All this is to say: a mono colored deck doesn’t get much help from artifacts in fulfilling the two core needs of a deck: Draw and Mana. You can force artifacts to work for the mana in 1 color, but that color really needs to pick up the slack.
Colorless is really lacking too much in both departments. You can build a cute deck with every possible rock that powers out
But what if we add one color? Which ones can carry their weight?
Don’t play mono White
Let’s look at some good colors first.
Blue has great draw options. It has strongest one-shots like
Green is the opposite. Sporting the best ramp, not only for efficiency but resiliency (mass land destruction is less common than
Black has an interesting mix of both. Black had the second best draw after Blue, with decent one-shots like
So what about White?
White’s Draw options are bad. Land Tax is good, but only draws you threats with Scroll Rack. Mentor of the Meek might like a mini-
White’s even worse off the in mana department, sporting merely 1-2 “Tithe” style cards which won’t work half the time.
White has promiment strengths, with some of the best answers both
Don’t play mono Red
Red is almost as impoverished as White, trading White’s few true engines for unpredictable one-shots.
Yes, Red has lots of looting (and
Most of Red’s draw is “this turn only”, which does little to expand your options in the long run, and often flips cards you can’t afford or don’t want to cast.
Red’s standout asset and strongest Draw tool are it’s various “wheels”, named after the original
In the mana department, all of Red’s mana cards are one-shot flares, whether it’s a
Red does have some limited artifact and graveyard recursion which you can use to try and build some draw, but you need to run a commander like
Played alone, Red mostly does what you’d expect from 60 card constructed - flare out early, then lose. Except you’re fighting against not 20 life, but 80-160 depending on play group. In a format favoring late game, Red is designed to fail. You can run an aggresive
Don’t play Boros
Which brings us to my last point, which should be pretty obvious by this point.
White and Red can be great assist colors, but they both lack key tools. Unfortunately, combining them doesn’t cover any weaknesses. While you gain with a few very powerful gold cards, you lose the mono artifact doublers like
You can make good Boros decks. I’ve seen solid wins from
You can make it work, but it’s a handicap. So while it’s entirely possilbe (I have a mono Red deck as of writing), I try to steer newcomers away, lest they spend their first experinces with the format staring at a small mana base and empty hand.