EDH | Commander Checklist

When deciding to make a new EDH deck, I judge prospective Commanders on the following criteria

They must be:

  • Is cheap to cast

They must be one of the following:

  • Provide value before my next turn
  • Very hard to remove
  • Play good politics / represent low threat level

Commander is ultimately a format about both variance and consistency. We get to pick a Commander, who comes out every game. Yet our remaining 99 is singleton.

My ideal Commander deck has the same rough gameplan every time I play, but the texture and details, the journey, vary depending on what I draw.

Let’s look at my current 16 commanders and see how they shape their decks and made the cut.

Commander as Passive Buff

Ephara, God of the Polis
  • Is cheap to cast
  • Very hard to remove
  • Plays good politics / low threat level

My Ephara deck is a strong build-around. It seeks to run out a Rebel and Ephara by Turn 4, then spend the rest of the game playing control and using Ephara as a reliable source of card draw.

The deck strongly relies on Ephara for the cards, and it generally works for 3 reasons:

  • Ephara comes out early, and doesn’t cost tempo in later turns when I need to be answering threats
  • Ephara is rarely a creature, so very few removal spells can even hit her
  • Compared to cards like Rhystic Study, she flies a low profile and tends to avoid the few spells that could remove her, like Return to Dust
Mogis, God of Slaughter
  • Is cheap to cast
  • Provide value before my next turn
  • Very hard to remove

Mogis on the other hand is merely on-theme.

He’s a solid play for his low cost and relevant body (the many enchantments in the 99 often give me devotion, 7 power is relevant!), but at the end of the day, he is one of many “slug” effects in the deck.

He has a cute synergy with Pestilence and similar cards, but if he gets turned into a Forest, it’s not the end of the world.

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist
  • Is cheap to cast
  • Very hard to remove

I never cast Inalla. She just sits in my Command-zone like an emblem and allows me to clone my many wizards (or the occasional adapted Gary)

She effectively costs 0, is impossible to remove, and provided value all game. Meanwhile the wizards (or soon to be wizards) vary greatly in effect. All resulting in a deck that can very consistently clone creatures for their ETBs!

Sygg, River Cutthroat
Nezahal, Primal Tide

Commander as Spell

Prime Speaker Zegana
  • Has guaranteed payoff before my next turn

The patron saint of UG. My Zegana deck revolves around Maro cards and effects. The line of play looks like this:

  1. Ramp heavily
  2. Play Maro-type card
  3. Cast Zegana or other "power matters" draw spell
  4. This doubles my hand size
  5. Repeat step 3-4

At 6 cmc, I wouldn’t call Zegana cheap, but for how much this deck ramps, it’s not bad. It’s also basically on rate, with the redundant copies of that effect elsewhere in my deck costing 5-6 mana.

So if I want a hand-size matters, why not run Tishana, Voice of Thunder? It’s because the strategy requires two types of cards: Maro + power draw spell. There have been a lot of Maros printed in the last 25 years of Magic, so I can run enough in the 99 to ensure I always find one. That’s not the case for the draw spells.

Being able to rely on Zegana for that extra redundancy is essential, but I still run the alternatives in case she gets stuck on the table or I get slapped with a Nevermore.

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician

Polymorph target

Some token cards solve multiple problems, while others are meh

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician

Enchantress, something to do when Epic

Surrak Dragonclaw
Queen Marchesa
Maelstrom Wanderer
Thrasios, Triton Hero Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder

Commander with Haste

Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge
Arcum Dagsson

I can’t explain this shit

Braids, Conjurer Adept
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh
Written on March 1, 2018