In my past life, the part of the game that most intrigued was constructed deck-building. So after meeting my personal goals for what I wanted to accomplish for myself in Magic, getting married, and getting shanghai’d into actually working for a living, the natural transition was to dive further and further into the Commander format, a deckbuilder’s paradise. Endless variety. Thousands upon thousands of viable cards. Dozens of archetypal permutations of the same general. It was enough to keep an obsessive compulsive deck builder happily occupied for years, ruminating through dusty dollar rare bins and commons from 1995.
The first Commander article I wrote about, back in 2012 was a multi-player Edric list. At the time, it was known for clocking in turn 7-8 wins against the entire table, usually by chaining a ridiculous number of turns together, and it was the most winningest and cutthroat list I’ve been able to put together. I don’t recommend it for casual playgroups. Since then, it’s lost a bit of ground relative to some of the other projects I’ve been working on, but it’s yet to be dethroned and has improved drastically. This was my original build:
The basic idea is to slip an early Edric onto the field, raise your countershield, deploy tokens (often without dropping the countershield), riding the repeated Edric card-poke to a dominant early position, from which you can build an engine capable of drawing enough cards to take all the remaining turns of the game. Gaea’s Cradle, in particular, is brutally effective in generating a tempo advantage which few decks can match.
For about sixteen months, nothing in our fairly cutthroat metagame could reliably challenge it, and the deck survived even three versus one ganks often enough that it was usually only played a single time per meeting, as the outcome was seldom anything but an Edric victory. Too much mana, too many cards, and too many counterspells, too fast.
The next challenge for an obsessive deckbuilder, naturally, was to figure out how to make life harder for Edric. What kinds of adaptations would be necessary to even out the playing field? Using proxies/placeholders for commonly used EDH staples, I had nearly twenty other lists to play with, so there was plenty of room for experimentation.
So I threw the kitchen sink at the problem. Land destruction. Counterspells. Mass removal. Early blockers. My Rafiq list showed some progress with the latter strategy and its concentration on the early-game, but the majority of my lists were geared too heavily towards using medium to high curves to win the late-game to bear up. Eventually, however, a systematic retooling of my card draw engines to support cheaper card draw, and the tweaking of my removal bases to sustain more cheap spot removal and more cheap counterspells that could strike within the first 2-3 turns, began to finally even the field. No longer could a 2nd turn Edric count on being able to resolve and survive until its counter-shield came back up.
Now it was Edric’s turn to evolve. How to adapt the deck to a leaner metagame, where spells cast on the second turn of the game were likely to be contested?
This was my eventual response:
The core strategy of the deck remains unchanged. Attempt to stick an early Edric, deploy tokens, counter spells, take all the turns. But nearly half the non-land slots of the decks were revamped in an effort to add multiple alternative strategies.
The first major adaptation was an increased emphasis upon the power of Skullclamp. In the event that Edric becomes too expensive, tucked, enchanted, or stolen, or if too many blockers are in the way, Skullclamp offers an alternative card draw engine that’s equally effective to plan A. Trinket Mage and Fabricate were added for additional tutoring.
The next step was to ensure that Edric’s mid-game mana development could stay up to par with the massive mana jumps forward that other decks would be making with options like Worn Powerstone, Thran Dynamo, and Gilded Lotus. To that end, Trinket Mage and Fabricate pull double duty fetching Sol Ring and a newly purchased Mana Crypt, along with options such as Joraga Treespeaker, Overgrowth, and my personal favorite, the little-known Carpet of Flowers. Frequently, Carpet turns out to be a colored-mana Sol Ring, and it’s certainly not unheard of to have it generate three, four, or five extra mana during the mid-game.
Another systemic change was to adapt the deck’s removal and bounce suite to rely less heavily on counterspells, since if the initial Edric is dealt with, the deck was more likely to face situations where it would be required to drop its countershield and create an opening for serious problems such as Zur. Notable additions included Snap, Cyclonic Vortex, Seal of Removal, Psionic Blast, Vedalken Shackles, Aether Mutation, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Helm of Possesion.
Some of the 1 or 2 mana bounce spells may seem like odd choices for the list. Unfortunately, most blue removal sources either are too expensive for the purpose and would result in dropping the countershield, or in the case of Gilded Drake and Rapid Hybridization, would leave behind enemy blockers. The card disadvantage can usually be made up with Edric hits. They also have additional versatility in bouncing creatures such as Mystic Snake, Eternal Witness, and rescuing Edric from theft or removal spells.
A number of other card-by-card swaps were also made. Bribery, Hornet Queen, and Spontaneous Generation were added to the offensive side of the list. Garruk Wildspeaker and Craterhoof Behemoth gives the deck some additional bunch to power through blockers and finish quickly. Personal Tutor and Worldly Tutor add additional utility, and Natural Order brings extensive utility, especially in combination with Terastodon, where it can frequently cripple an opponent’s manabase. As a result of these changes in particular, the average goldfish speed of the deck has improved noticeably, to about 5-6 turns vs. four opponents as opposed to 7-8 turns vs. three opponents in the previous build.
A number of other card slots have also rotated in and out of the list at various times, and are worth considering or substituting as desired:
Living Wish –Often used to tutor for token spell, removal, or simply for land, this is one of the options that is more likely to be included in the list in the future, but many of the creatures it used to fetch are now included. Some of the potential targets are Llawan, Gilded Drake, Phantasmal Image.
Cunning Wish – Currently cut due to the difficulty in sparing three mana, even at instant speed, but a strong contender particularly if additional bounce spells are deemed useful. Also likely to be added to future iterations of the list.
Unsummon/Word of Undoing/Vapor Snag
Regrowth – Useful for recurring extra turn effects.
Spitting Image – Formerly used as removal and in combination with Eternal Witness
Skyshroud Ranger, SakuraTribe Scout, Wild Growth, Utopia Sprawl, Exploration, Burgeoning – each of these options for acceleration became less useful after the T2 Edric scenario decreased in effectiveness, and at times contributed to inconsistency.
Seedtime – Highly effective measure against countermagic, and an excellent target for Cunning Wish
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of Fire and Ice
Beacon of Creation
Howl of the Night Pack
Coat of Arms
Beastmaster Ascension – Frequently, fewer than seven creatures will attack at once, and in situations where it would be most useful to overcome blockers, it’s difficult to activate
Additional Counterspells, such as Gainsay, Voidslime, Cancel, Stoic Rebuttal, Logic Knot, Deprive, Remand, Memory Lapse, Pact of Negation, Foil, Rewind, Essence Scatter, Remove Soul
First Three Sample Goldfishes
The following are three sample goldfishes of the deck, played one after another for purposes of providing a feel for the deck’s playstyle, and assuming four 40-life opponents.
T1- Verdant Catacombs, Tropical Island, Arbor Elf.
T2- Island, Edric.
T3- Swing for 2 cards, Minamo, leave 2 mana open for counterspells (Condescend, False Summoning) and play Boreal Druid.
T4-Swing for 3 cards, Fabricate, Mana Crypt, discard False Summoning, three mana open for counterspells, pass.
T5- Swing for 3 cards, Bribery with Negate backup.
T6- Craterhoof Behemoth for lethal (35 damage) and 5 cards, with three mana open, Spell Crumple and Condescend and Negate in hand.
T1- Breeding Pool, Boreal Druid.
T2- Gaea’s Cradle, Edric, pass.
T3- Draw 2 extra cards, Yavimaya Coast, play Joraga Treespeaker, Birds of Paradise, then tap Gaea’s Cradle for four mana to cast Natural Order, fetching Avenger of Zendikar for three plants (Hornet Queen in Hand). Alternate play: Terastodon.
T4- No lands for Avenger tokens, cast Craterhoof Behemoth with Negate/Mana Drain backup, lethal (78 lethal damage on opponent #1, and #2, 8 cards.) Play Island. Seal of Removal. Two mana open for countermagic (Negate, Mana Drain)
T5- Tropical Island. Tap Cradle for 8 mana, return Craterhoof to hand with Seal of Removal, recast Behemoth for 84 damage (Lethal on opponents #3 and #4) and eight cards, four mana open for countermagic. If anyone is left alive, Jace the Mindsculptor, Temporal Manipulation, Time Stretch, Hornet Queen, Spontaneous Generation, numerous counterspells in hand.
T1- Polluted Delta, Tropical Island, Expedition Map.
T2- Forest, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary.
T3- Cavern of Souls (Elves), play Edric, swing with Rofellos for one card.
T4- Swing with Edric for one card. Scalding Tarn forBreeding Pool untapped. Tap Rofellos for three green, casting Treachery, and Llanowar Elves, with four mana open for Mystic Snake. EOT, play Mystic Snake.
T5- Swing for three cards with Mystic Snake, Llanowar Elf, and Edric. Play Flooded Strand. Tap six to play Notorious Throng for its prowl cost, with Counterspell and two blue mana open, putting in 5 1/1 faeries and taking an extra turn.
T5 Extra #1– Upkeep, tutor for Temporal Manipulation using Mystical Tutor. Swing for 8 cards. Play Mana Crypt. Play Garruk Wildspeaker, untap two lands, play Temporal Manipulation.
T5 Extra #2- Swing for 8 cards. Play forest. In hand, are Time Stretch, Eternal Witness, Time Warp, Crop Rotation, Seal of Removal, Craterhoof Behemoth, Counterspell, Jace the Mind Sculptor (Lethal to all players: Infinite extra turns using Gaea’s Cradle, Jace, Eternal Witness, and Time Stretch.)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and look forward to hopefully writing additional articles, likely focusing on Commander/EDH, in the future. Hope you enjoy, you can always find me in the forums, and feel free to ask any questions in the following thread:
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