BIG Guide to building your EDH / Commander Deck

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    Welcome to the greatest format in all of Magic.

    I'm going to assume that you know the basics of the format and are looking to improve your EDH/Commander deck or maybe even just get started building or planning your first one. That's where we're starting. This guide is far from comprehensive, but I'm hoping it's a good starting point for the new EDH deckbuilder or a good review for the more experienced one.

    If you have any suggestions for things I should add or change, please post here about it and let me know. I've tried to keep this guide mostly as a list of points and tips pretty much agreed upon by the majority of experienced EDH players, but there will always be particular points of disagreement, and honestly, it's impossible to keep my own opinions and biases completely out of it.

    Here We Go:

    Table of Contents Still Under Construction -

    Now before you do anything, realize that if your playing EDH as a casual format with friends instead of a competitive format that you will want to stay away from cards and strategies that make the game "unfun" (I know, not a word) for the other players. Playing cards like Knowledge Pool, Stasis or Winter Orb might be fun for you, but a lot of people despise playing against those cards, and they might not invite you to play again. Remember, unless it's competitive, keep it fun for everybody, not just yourself. If the deck is specifically for competitive play, then run what wins.

    My personal guidelines that I try my best to adhere to with each deck I build are:
    Be able to win.
    Be mostly true to a flavor and a theme
    Be very interactive
    Be fun to pilot or to play against (without a lot of excessive effects to keep track of)
    Have multiple paths to victory
    Have lots of cool interactions and synergy
    Play out differently every game to keep it fun over a long time
    Integrate the Commanders abilities into the strategy at least a little, but...
    Be able to win without ever playing the commander.

    And keep in mind that EDH decks ARE NOT MATHEMATICAL EQUATIONS. There is almost never a "single best answer/card" or "best" way to approach something. EDH decks are more like living, breathing works of art that adapt and evolve over time. Chasing perfection is fine as long as you understand that not only can it never be achieved, but that it doesn't even exist in the first place. Never think for a second that you've assembled the "best possible decklist". Listen to others and learn what you can from their experiences, and always strive to improve what you've got.

    First - The Nine Prime Elements of EDH Deckbuilding:

    Before you read these, don't forget, this advice is almost strictly aimed at multiplayer games. Dedicated 1v1 edh decks are a VERY different thing.
    1) Think Big - This is not Standard, or Extended, or Legacy - Get out of the mindset that if "x" card is good in every other format, that it will be good in EDH. You're not playing against one player with 20 life and a few mana sources, you're playing against one or many players with 40 life and huge amounts of mana at their disposal.

    Some cards/types of cards that you should avoid and why (note there are exceptions to each).

    Small Removal - EDH, at least in multiplayer, is a game for big, scary creatures and big spells. Lightning Bolt or Arc Trail may be great in Standard or Extended, and can even prove useful in 1v1 EDH, they don't kill much in a game full of Multiplayer EDH fatties. It has it's place in edh in certain situations, and will generally find a utility creature to kill, but if you're going to use a card slot for a kill spell, it needs to be able to kill something big that's threatening to kill you in the next 2 turns. Your Arc Trail may hit the Rafiq pumped Darksteel Colossus for 2 damage and take his controller from 40 life to 38, but you're about to get smacked in the face with 24 points of trampling death. You're not going to win this race. There are lots of cheap removal spells that are very effective in edh like Swords to Plowshares, Mortify, Putrefy, and Go for the Throat.

    Small Non-Utility Creatures - A 2/2 First Striker like White Knight might be ok in standard, but it will get run over like roadkill in EDH. There are very effective decks out there that successfully run lots of small creatures like goblins, wizards, elves, tokens, but the point of those creatures is that when played together, their synergy gives them really big effects. Goblin Guide and Hellspark Elemental may be staples in Standard Aggro Decks, but in edh, you're not trying to kill one person with 20 life, you're trying to kill multiple opponents with 40 life. So using small aggro creatures like those in edh is usually a wasted card slot (unless they have particularly powerful synergy with the rest of the deck).

    Unless they pay "x" cards - Forget about counterspells with "unless they pay x" like Daze, Mana Leak, or Mana Tithe. They very rarely belong in multiplayer edh. Huge manabases are common in edh, so much of the time, you're Mana Leak is a wasted card. If you're running countermagic, you need hard counters like Counterspell, Cancel, or better yet, Hinder, as it puts a countered commander on the bottom of the library instead of in the graveyard where your opponent can just exile him and play him again next turn. Mana Drain, Hinder, Counterspell, Force of Will, Pact of Negation, Desertion, Time Stop, and Cryptic Command are all counterspells that see lots of play in edh. You'll notice most of them are not only hard counters but have added value or flexibility.

    Single use/opponent discard - Forget about ripping single cards from an opponents hand. Unless your edh deck is specifically for 1v1 matches, cards like Thoughtseize, Duress, and Inuqisition of Kozilek don't belong. Even cards like Blightning which is great in standard are completely underwhelming in multiplayer edh. You cannot effectively control, or even really affect in any meaningful way a table full of edh decks with single discard. The card slot is much better left to something else. If you really want to make someone discard, do it big with cards like Mind Twist, Mind Shatter, and Mind Sludge. A great multiplayer discard spell isSyphon Mind, as at a 4-player table you're getting to draw 3 cards for it, but don't forget that it could paint a target on your head. Identity Crisis is very good discard for edh as it not only takes out the entire hand, but also the graveyard which is a valuable resource in most edh decks (just make sure you're ready to finish the player off after you hit him with it).

    Lifegain only - Cards that only gain you life in edh like Landbind Ritual, really have no place in edh, though there are exceptions. There's really not much that gaining a few life is going to do for you in edh, and even large life gains from cards like Beacon of Immortality may do nothing for you as an opposing commander still only has to hit you for 21 points to kill you. Even more often, you'll be killed by combos that don't care what your life total is. Exceptions to this are if your strategy is to win with life total using cards like Felidar Sovereign and Test of Endurance, which is a somewhat viable stratey. Cards that add a little lifegain as an added benefit and creatures with lifelink are great, but you should only view the lifegain as a small added benefit, not the main reason for including the card. With the rising popularity of Sorin Markov and Magister Sphinx knocking your life total down to 10 in a single shot, some lifelink/gain can be useful in battling your way back into the game, but the cards should ideally still have some other purpose than just gaining life.

    Single use damage prevention - Damage prevention is good in edh, but single use cards like Fog and Holy Day are usually very sub-par. A card used for damage prevention in edh needs to do it repeatedly or add other useful things. Knight-Captain of Eos sees lots of play in edh for damage prevention as it gives you 3 bodies to use, multiple damage preventions, and can be recurred once dead or "blinked" to provide even more tokens to prevent damage with. Kor Haven finds it's way into nearly every white edh deck as it's first and foremost a land to use for mana, but then has the added benefit of being re-useable damage prevention, and Maze of Ith is nearly a staple of the format. Story Circle sees some play, but is most often inadequate as you can only prevent damage from one color. It has much more use in 1v1 than multiplayer.

    ** Very Important Point Here - While I love to say "EDH is for big, scary stuff", it does have limits. There has to be balance. You can't completely ignore the early or mid-games, and just because a card isn't "big", doesn't mean it isn't good. While Lightning Bolt may not be good in EDH, there are other low cmc removal spells that are great, like Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile, or Terminate. These cards are great because they cheaply and quickly deal with a vast array of threats, bolt doesn't. All EDH decks need their smaller "utility" creatures and spells. Cards like Glen Elendra Archmage, Mistmeadow Witch, and Azorius Guildmage all see lots of play in EDH, and they are far from "huge", but they all do really useful things.

    2) Versatility and Added Value is paramount - Cards that give you options are a staple in EDH. Cards like Profane Command, Austere Command, and Bant Charm. Cards that have "cycling" or "transmute" all give you much welcome options, as well as cards with "Kicker", and "Entwine" offer some added value when you've got the extra mana to spend.

    A good example of this flexibility and added value would be - you could use a card like Naturalize to kill an artifact or enchantment, or instead, you could use Krosan Grip which gives you the added benefit of being "split-second" to get through counterspells and bust up some potentially lethal combos, or Return to Dust which gives you the option of killing 2 things at once if you play it main phase. You could also use Acidic Slime to kill it, and have the added option of killing a troublesome land, and have a body left to beat face, chump block, or trigger a sacrifice effect from something like Grave Pact. So go with the Grip and/or the Slime and leave the Naturalize at home.

    Another prime example would be using Doom Blade to kill a creature. What if the creature you need to kill is black? What if the threat isn't a creature at all, but an enchantment? Upgrade your card choice to Mortify and deal with a lot more. Take it a step farther and have the flexibility to destroy any permanent with a card like Vindicate. You only have 100 card slots, they each need to count for as many different uses as possible.

    Transmute cards are a good example of flexibility. Dimir House Guard serves as a blocker, sacrifice outlet, sacrifice target, and library search all in one.
    Cards with "cycling" are also very useful in this regard as you can use them for card draw or getting additional mana sources if they aren't needed on the battlefield. Eternal Dragon is the perfect example of this flexibility. During the early game he fetches lands for you, then later in the game he comes back as a beater.

    Along these lines you don't want to play many cards that are "situational". For instance, cards like Vexing Shusher. Shusher is fantastic against blue decks, but you might not be facing blue. Flashfreeze is a great counterspell against red or green, but useless against anything else. Unless you're specifically running a "toolbox" build you want all your spells to be good no matter what your facing. You never want a "dead" card taking up space in your hand.

    3) Synergy - I'm sure you're probably familiar with this concept already, but just in case you're not, it needs to be mentioned as it's probably the single most important factor in building any deck in Magic.

    In general, synergy may be defined as two or more agents working together to produce a result not obtainable by any of the agents independently. To simplify that a little, it's two or more cards that, because of their abilities/attributes, make each other much better than they could be by themselves, or the "whole" is greater than the sum of the parts. Whenever possible, the cards in your deck need to "synergize", or work together with all the other cards in your deck.

    For an example, let's look at two cards. Emeria Angel, and Indomitable Archangel. Both are flying angels with the same mana cost, But they both have abilities that make them each very suitable to very different decks. If you're commander is Teysa, Orzhov Scion, who likes lots of tokens to sacrifice, you want to choose Emeria Angel for the deck because of it's synergy with this strategy/commander. If your commander is Sharuum the Hegemon and your deck runs lots of artifacts and artifact creatures, you'll want to choose Indomitable Archangel from the two for it's synergy with your commander and your strategy.

    When building your deck, and choosing the cards to go into it, ALWAYS ask yourself "does this card have good synergy with the rest of my deck".

    4) Multiple cards serving the same function/"Functional Density" - The chance of drawing a single card by turn 6 in an EDH deck is only 13%. That's not good. So if you need a type of card, say a sacrifice outlet, by turn 6 at the latest, you need to find several cards that will serve that function. Upping the count of cards serving a particular function to 4, increases your odds to 44% that you'll see one by turn 6. Further increasing the count to 8 cards gives you a 69% chance. Now we're in business.

    I've created a post with tables showing the different % probabilities based on # of copies of drawing certain cards or combos in your EDH deck, and it's followed up by some mathematic calculations by other members that are frankly over my head, but if you're very mathematically inclined it may interest you. You can find that thread here.

    5) Tutors - Being able to search your library for a particular card you need is a huge bonus. This is especially true for combo decks. Some good tudors would be:
    and there are many more.
    Also cards with "transmute" or "transfigure" serve very well as tutors. Cards like Dimir House Guard, Dimir Machinations, Fleshwrither or Shred Memory are very useful for tutoring up a card you need, while being flexible enough to serve other purposes that you may need more than the tutor at the moment.
    There are also a lot of creatures that tutor for various cards like:
    Fauna Shaman - For creatures
    Academy Rector - For enchantments (when he goes to the graveyard)
    Weathered Wayfarer - For lands
    Tutors that put the cards they search for straight onto the battlefield (like Natural Order) are generally(but not always) preferred over tutors that put the card in your hand or on top of your library, and instant tutoring is always preferred over sorceries.

    6) Re-useability - Why settle for using a card once, when you can use it multiple times. There are a lot of possbilities for graveyard recursion and buyback or flashback in EDH. Use them. Again, why use a card like Naturalize to destroy an artifact, when you can use a card like Indrik Stomphowler, and then recur him from the graveyard later to kill another artifact. Cards like Eternal Witness, Regrowth, and Yawgmoth's Will, and any card that recurs other cards from the graveyard are great in EDH. Cards with the keyword "Flashback" like Dread Return have some built-in re-useability.

    A Great Example - I used the example of Mulldrifter earlier for card draw. He's great because of re-useability. You can blink him or bounce him to be played again, or recur him from the graveyard over and over to give you two cards every time. And what will you use to blink him? Turn to Mist? Why not upgrade to Momentary Blink, as it lets you use it again later from the graveyard. Better still how about Erratic Portal to do it every turn!

    7) Card Draw/Card Advantage - Card advantage is huge in EDH, so make sure to have some card draw in your deck. Some of the best draw cards in edh are:
    Phyrexian Arena
    Recurring Insight
    Promise of Power
    Necropotence (be careful with this one)
    Rhystic Study
    Mind's Eye (not the best, but popular in decks that don't have access to a lot of draw)
    Momentous Fall

    Even better can be creatures that draw you cards since they can be bounced/blinked/recurred to do it again, and their bodies can be used for other purposes:
    Consecrated Sphinx
    Graveborn Muse

    Then there is everyones favorite card drawing engine:
    The clamp is amazing with token decks or self-recurring creatures like Bloodghast and Reassembling Skeleton.

    A few other cards worth mentioning are Dark Confidant, Ad Nauseam, and Dark Tutelage. The usefulness of these cards is a hotly debated topic. They can be fantastic in the right deck, but if you're running a lot of high cmc cards, you will want to avoid them.

    It should also be noted that a few cards, while technically not card advantage, can be used to "smooth out" your draws very effectively and are considered by many to be EDH staples. Cards like Sensei's Divining Top, and it's very budget little brother Crystal Ball are both very good at this as well as giving you something constructive to do with leftover mana at the end of your opponents turn. It should also be noted that "the top" is on one of the banned lists for duels.

    Card advantage can also be viewed as using one card to cost your opponent multiple cards. Like removing several of his cards with an Austere Command, or making him discard 5 cards by using a single Mind Sludge.

    8) Removal - You're going to need a lot of removal in EDH, and you're going to need to be able to kill anything on the board. Creatures, Artifacts, Enchantments, Lands.... they all need killin'. You'll need to be able to kill creatures with shroud, creatures with indestructiblility, and anything else you can think of. And remember FLEXIBILITY. A card that can remove several, or even "any" type of permanent like Vindicate, is extremely valuable in EDH. Very often you'll need to kill things that are already dead and in the graveyard. So be sure to pack some graveyard hate like Nezumi Graverobber, Necrogenesis, Beckon Apparition, Bojuka Bog, Cemetery Reaper, Identity Crisis, Necromancer's Covenant, or Tormod's Crypt (again, remembering that the more possible uses a card has, the more valuable it is).
    It's important to have both spot removal like Path to Exile or Rend Flesh as well as mass removal, or "sweepers" like Wrath of God or Mutilate in your deck.

    Unless your deck relies on having creatures in the graveyard, it's also almost always better to exile creatures rather than destroy them. This is because some creatures are "indestructible" but may still be exiled and many decks run lots of recursion spells that bring creatures back from the grave but not from exile.

    Tuck Effects:
    Some mention should be made here about removal spells that can bury your opponents commander into their library rather than sending it to the graveyard where they just exile it and get it back. This is often referred to as "tucking" the commander. Examples would be Spin into Myth, Hallowed Burial, Bant Charm, Spell Crumple, Hinder, Oblation, and Condemn.

    Sacrifice Removal:
    I should also make mention of removal that forces your opponent to sacrifice creatures is often very useful in EDH as so many creatures are indestructible or shrouded or have protection from your removal colors. Cards like Diabolic Edict, Fleshbag Marauder, Smallpox, Barter in Blood, and Consuming Vapors fill this role nicely.

    Removal on a stick:
    And don't forget that creatures that remove things are also very useful in EDH, as they serve multiple roles and are generally very flexible and recurrable. Shriekmaw, Acidic Slime, Indrik Stomphowler, Fulminator Mage, Angel of Despair, Necrotic Sliver, Harmonic Sliver, Terastodon, and Archon of Justice are all very popular for this reason.
    And if you didn't know already, Instant removal spells are nearly always preferred over Sorcery removal spells as they can be played on the other players turn and in response to a spell on the stack.

    Sweepers or Spot Removal?:
    Though it's a good idea to have some of each, opinions vary greatly on which is better in edh. Sweepers seem to win the popularity contest a majority of the time, but personally, I like to pack mostly spot removal. My reasoning being that most of the time, I only need to kill one creature that's threatening to cause me problems, and I don't want to lose the creatures I have to a sweeper. My personal favorite "Mass Removal" spell is Austere Command, as it's flexible enough to usually kill what I need to kill and leave my board mostly intact.

    9) Evasion - That 6/6 beater that you loved in your type 2 deck may have been good at Friday Night Magic, but the chances he'll get through for much damage in EDH is very low. Beaters in EDH NEED some type of evasion. Trample or flying at a minimum, both is more like it though. Shroud, unblockable, protection, indestructibility, and the various landwalks all see a lot of play in EDH.

    Second - Choosing a play style

    How do you want to play? How would you like to win? Do you want to play an agressive beatdown game that puts pressure on from the start, or do you want to control the early game and then lay down big threats. Maybe you would like to win with a large army of tokens, or with graveyard tricks. Maybe by a defensive game with lots of lifegain.This section will lay out some popular deck styles that you can choose from and that will help you choose your commander and make your card choices. It also lays out some general weakness for each archetype.

    Keep in mind that these deck "archetypes" are flexible. Most decks don't actually fit completely into one category but use elements of two or more, and a lot of them "overlap" into others.

    The 3 Major Archetypes - Aggro, Control, and Combo are the 3 basic archetypes that pretty much every deck fits into to some degree although they do overlap a lot in edh. All other playstyles are more like "sub-themes".

    Aggro/Beatdown - Aggro decks put out threats quickly and keep it pouring on through the whole game. It keeps slower decks from ever getting "set up" and keeps combo decks too busy holding you at bay to get the combo pieces they need. It's shortcoming is that you need to stack your deck with threats rather than answers, so the possibility of not being able to deal with a problem always exists, and overextending yourself into a mass removal spell is something to be carefully avoided. Some popular commanders for Aggro/Beatdown are Rafiq of the Many, Sygg, River Guide, Brion Stoutarm, Jenara, Asura of War, Thraximundar, Stonebrow, Krosan Hero, Wort, Boggart Auntie, and Wort, the Raidmother.

    Control - Control decks focus on controlling the early game and slowing the board development of the opponent while building up their own board, then dropping big threats that can't be dealt with. "Controlling" the early game can be done in several ways including countermagic, heavy removal, hand disruption, and land destruction. Blue is the "go to" color for most control decks, and Black is best at the "disruptive" style of control. A few of the popular control commanders are Dralnu, Lich Lord, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, Arcum Dagsson, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV.

    Combo - Combo decks focus on holding off the opponent while getting combo pieces assembled in hand or on the board to "combo out" and win all of a sudden. You'll see a lot of tutors (search cards) in these decks. Combos weaknesses are against decks that put on lots of early pressure, never letting them assemble combo pieces, or heavy countermagic that disrupts their combo. It should be noted that most every deck packs a couple of possible game winning combos among their 100 cards that they don't necessarily actively seek to pull off, but will use if it happens to conveniently pop-up. Some of the popular Combo Commanders are Sharuum the Hegemon, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, Arcum Dagsson.

    Tokens - Make lots of tokens and then use them to your advantage. They can be used for chump blockers, pumped up and used as attackers, as sacrifice fodder for Grave Pact effects or cards like Victimize, Time Sieve, or Natural Order, card draw with Skullclamp, the list is endless. Pump effects like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite are better in tokens than in most edh decks and Eldrazi Monument can easily win games. Among the myriad of commonly seen token producers are Ant Queen, Mitotic Slime, Creakwood Liege, Imperious Perfect, Avenger of Zendikar, Bitterblossom, Siege-Gang Commander, Knight-Captain of Eos, Sacred Mesa, Garruk Wildspeaker, Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Weaknesses are against lots of mass removal spells. Most Token decks will be running either Green or White (or both). Popular Token Commanders are Teysa, Orzhov Scion, Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, Savra, Queen of the Golgari, Ezuri, Renegade Leader, Rhys the Redeemed, Ghave, Guru of Spores, and Ulasht, the Hate Seed.

    ISBPathfinder has a nice, in-depth guide to tokens in edh here

    Reanimator - Focuses on quickly dumping powerful creatures into the graveyard from the library and then cheating them into play much quicker/cheaper than they could be hardcast. Weakness is against decks running a lot of "graveyard hate". Commonly seen cards are Buried Alive, Entomb, Exhume, Patriarch's Bidding, Reanimate, Living Death, and cards with the "dredge" ability. Black is the "go to" color for Reanimator style decks. Some popular Reanimator Commanders are Balthor the Defiled and Teneb, the Harvester.

    Sac & Recur
    - A little like reanimator, in that it makes plays from its graveyard a lot, it abuses "Enters the Battlefield" and "Leaves the Battlefield" abilities of it's creatures by continually sacrificing them off and bringing them back from the grave. Commonly seen cards are Grave Pact, Angel of Despair, Archon of Justice, Yosei, the Morning Star, Reveillark, Karmic Guide, Sun Titan, Mimic Vat, Nim Deathmantle, Natural Order. Weaknesses are against heavy graveyard removal and cards like Wheel of Sun and Moon and Leyline of the Void. So be sure to pack plenty of enchantment removal if you're running Sac & Recur strategies. Black and White are pretty much the prime colors for sacrifice and recursion. Some popular Sac & Recur Commanders are Ghost Council of Orzhova, Teysa, Orzhov Scion, Savra, Queen of the Golgari, and Teneb, the Harvester.

    Blink (Sometimes called "187") - ( The naming isn't really accurate as more "bounce" is used than "blink", and"187" refers to "enters the battlefield" abilities. The number is the California penal code for murder), These decks (like sac & recur) use lot's of creatures that have ETB and LTB (Enters and Leaves the Battlefield) abilities and other spells that abuse those abilities, but unlike Sac & Recur, it doesn't rely on the graveyard as much as it does "blink", "bounce", and effects that temporarily remove cards from the game. Commonly seen cards for this strategy are anything from the sac & recur list plus Crystal Shard, Erratic Portal, Cloudstone Curio, Momentary Blink, Flickerwisp, Turn to Mist, Mistmeadow Witch, Glen Elendra Archmage, Venser, the Sojourner. Blue and White are the ruling colors for blink effects, often with some Green thrown in. Some popular Blink Commanders are Rasputin Dreamweaver, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, Venser, Shaper Savant, Merieke Ri Berit, Rafiq of the Many. It should be noted that mostly, those commanders are just for color access.

    Dredge - While dredge decks are very popular and effective in Legacy, it's a bit trickier in edh. With a low density of dredge cards available for your deck, and lots of graveyard hate in the format, pure dredge isn't so viable. But it's completely viable as an enhancement to your deck, especially if the focus is graveyard heavy like sac & recur or reanimator. Commonly seen cards for a "Dredge Enhancement" are Life from the Loam, Golgari Grave-Troll, Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, Karador, Ghost Chieftain, and Stinkweed Imp.

    Thievery or Stealy- Another sub-theme that's very fun and popular. It uses a lot of spells that take control of the other players creatures (or other permanents). After all, it's lots of fun to beat the other guy over the head with his own cards! Commonly seen cards are Bribery, Control Magic, Mind Control, Volition Reins, Blatant Thievery, Gather Specimens, Enslave, and Threaten. It's weakness is against decks that don't run a lot of creatures or decks that use a lot of self sacrifice. Blue is the undisputed king of thievery colors, but Black and Red also have some use. Some popular Thief Commanders are Arcum Dagsson, Thada Adel, Acquisitor, Memnarch, Sakashima, the Imposter.

    Toolbox - Toolbox isn't really a deck type as much as it is a feature that a lot of decks use to some degree. It focuses on having an answer in the deck to every situation/problem and then retrieving that solution and/or having special threats in the deck that cause problems for certain other styles/colors of decks. For example, fetching and using Sword of Light and Shadow against a white or black deck or Relic of Progenitus against a deck that utilizes it's graveyard. Using a toolbox can be and extremely effective strategy, but also note that a lot of toolbox cards in your deck comes with the weakness that you can't always get to the required "tool" in time to save you, and because it trades card slots that could be used for "always good" cards for situational cards. Blue and White are both very useful colors in most toolboxes. Commonly seen "toolbox" cards are any that can search out the needed tool including Sunforger, Fauna Shaman, Stonehewer Giant, Godo, Bandit Warlord, Artificer's Intuition, Survival of the Fittest . Some popular Toolbox Commanders are Momir Vig, Simic Visionary, Arcum Dagsson,Zur the Enchanter, Captain Sisay.

    Voltron - Voltron decks try to put a commander on the field and equip him and/or enchant him with cards that make him hard to deal with to do a quick 21 points of general damage. Some commonly seen cards are Lightning Greaves, Whispersilk Cloak, Sword of Body and Mind, Shield of the Oversoul, Argentum Armor, Steel of the Godhead, Stoneforge Mystic, and Stonehewer Giant. This archetypes weakness is against really heavy and varied removal suites. Having your Voltron Commander killed or tucked when he's carrying multiple enchantments/equipments can be a devastating setback. Some popular Voltron Commanders are Zur the Enchanter, Uril, the Miststalker, Sigarda, Host of Herons, Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, Kemba, Kha Regent

    Lifegain - A somewhat defensive style, getting and keeping your life total up while chipping away at your opponents defenses. The lifegain is used as "padding" for the late game beatdown race, or as a resource for cards like Hatred and Necropotence, or as an auto-win with cards like Felidar Sovereign or Test of Endurance. A good lifegain deck can win a game without ever dealing damage or even attacking anyone. The weakness of lifegain decks is that life total often doesn't matter in edh due to combos, general damage, and poison. Some other common cards are Reverse the Sands, Ivory Mask, True Believer, Leyline of Sanctity, Recumbent Bliss, and Beacon of Immortality. White is the king of colors when you're talking about lifegain. Popular Lifegain Commanders are Atalya, Samite Master, Treva, the Renewer, Ghost Council of Orzhova, Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, Gerrard Capashen.

    Stax/Tax/Prison - A very disruptive style that actively "taxes" other players for everything they do and/or actively denies resources to everyone while building up it's own, or even creating a "soft lock" on the board that makes it difficult for it's opponents to do anything (hence "prison"). Land Destruction fits in nicely here too. Some cards you may see are Smokestack, Aura of Silence, and Ghostly Prison, World Queller, Life from the Loam Death Cloud, and Smallpox. This strategy can be very effective, but it won't win you any friends. Some popular Stax Commanders are Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, Savra, Queen of the Golgari, Gaddock Teeg, Rakdos the Defiler, Linvala, Keeper of Silence.

    Here is a great primer for building stax decks from Phil -

    Ramp - Focuses on using various types of mana acceleration (artifacts, specialized lands, creatures and spells that put extra lands in play) to get lots of mana really quick and play huge, scary stuff. Commonly seen cards are Sakura-Tribe Elder, Yavimaya Elder, Gaea's Cradle, Rampant Growth, Solemn Simulacrum, Darksteel Ingot, Coalition Relic, The Signets (Orzhov Signet, Golgari Signet, Azorius Signet, etc). Green is the usual color for ramp, though most all good decks include at least a little bit of mana acceleration. Some popular Ramp Commanders are Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Omnath, Locus of Mana, Mayael the Anima.

    Big Mana - Could be considered a sister deck of "Ramp" as the two overlap quite a bit. The difference being that instead of quickly "ramping up" your mana sources, it relies more heavily on the use of spells like Caged Sun, Extraplanar Lens, Mana Geyser, Mana Flare, Mana Reflection, Gauntlet of Power, Gauntlet of Might, and Cabal Coffers to make truly huge, explosive plays. How about a Consume Spirit on turn 7 for 30 points of damage and 30 more in lifegain sound? Green, Black, and Red all have good "big mana" cards available. Some popular Big Mana Commanders not seen in the "Ramp" list are Kresh the Bloodbraided, Akroma, Angel of Fury, Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief, Geth, Lord of the Vault. Other popular cards for "Big Mana" decks are ones that are able to use all the extra mana you can produce like Steel Hellkite, Mana-Charged Dragon, Banefire, Exsanguinate, and Profane Command.

    Land Destruction - While not many decks focus exclusively on this, a lot of decks use it as a sub-theme/strategy. They try to take away your mana-fixing lands with cards like Wasteland, Strip Mine, Dust Bowl, Fulminator Mage, and Acidic Slime while they build up their own mana bases including a lot of artifact mana sources. They also tend to use a lot of land recursion like Life from the Loam, Grim Discovery and Crucible of Worlds (where not banned). Some commonly seen cards are Sundering Titan, Dwarven Blastminer, Wake of Destruction, and Avalance Riders. Some popular LD Commanders are Numot, the Devastator, andWort, the Raidmother.

    An additional land destruction strategy that a lot of decks use is gaining board control, then blowing up all the lands with something like Armageddon, Ravages of War, Desolation Angel, or Catastrophe and finishing you off. While a perfectly viable play style, it generally won't win you any friends, and is much better used in duels than in multiplayer.

    Artifacts - Taking advantage of large numbers of artifacts can be extremely effective in edh, and can be used to aid in beatdown strategies or combo. Sorry, Tolarian Academy is on the banned list. The mechanic "Metalcraft" can be of significant use in artifact heavy decks. Darksteel Citadel and the cycle of artifact lands from Mirrodin (Ancient Den, Seat of the Synod, Great Furnace, Tree of Tales, and Vault of Whispers) can be used to increase your artifact count. Some commonly seen and useful cards are Scourglass, Open the Vaults, Cranial Plating, Inkwell Leviathan, Master Transmuter, Steelshaper's Gift, Enlightened Tutor, Trinket Mage, Treasure Mage, and Tezzeret the Seeker. Weaknesses are mass artifact removal like Austere Command. Blue and White are the colors most synergistic with artifacts and popular commanders for the decks are Sharuum the Hegemon, Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer, Arcum Dagsson, and Memnarch.

    Mill - Filling your deck with cards like Traumatize and Tome Scour in order to slowly mill an opponent over the course of a game can work, but is generally NOT an effective strategy in EDH. This is because, not only is it tougher to mill a 99 card deck than a 60, not to mention having to mill multiple 99 card decks, but there are also lots of Eldrazi creatures and other spells commonly played in edh that instantly stops your mill strategy. There are, however, LOTS of combos used in EDH that instantly mill one or more opponents, and a couple of commanders that can easily mill an opponent if they have enough mana available. So, if you want to win by milling your opponent, it's best to do it in one or two shots rather than a few cards at a time over the whole game. A combo that does this would be Spin into Myth or Hinder coupled with Tunnel Vision. Another would be Karmic Guide and Reveillark with Altar of Dementia. The commanders that can mill are Oona, Queen of the Fae, and Geth, Lord of the Vault. Big or Infinite mana combos with either of these commanders can mill out an opponent very quickly. Milling some cards from your own library or an opponents in order to stock the graveyards with cards you can use or to make creatures like Lord of Extinction more powerful can be useful at times too.

    Infect/Poison - Since the release of the Scars of Mirrodin block, winning by putting a quick 10 poison counters on your opponent has become a viable strategy. Perhaps more for 1v1 than multiplayer, but still a viable option in either. These decks try to make any unblocked creature with Infect or Poison a potential death dealer at any time with cards like Hatred or Might of Oaks. Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon is a very effective commander for this strategy and a lot of people like Glissa, the Traitor for her color access. Blightsteel Colossus is an auto-include.

    Enchantress - Plays as a somewhat controllish and defensive strategy, using enchantresses like Argothian Enchantress, Mesa Enchantress, and Verduran Enchantress, along with lots of, surprise, enchantments to generate massive card advantage. Commonly seen cards are Serra's Sanctum, Moat, Aura Thief, Karmic Justice, Privileged Position, Enchanted Evening. Popular commanders for this style include Treva, the Renewer, Uril, the Miststalker, and Hannah, Ship's Navigator. White and Green are the primary colors for enchantress with some blue showing up very often.

    Punisher (Sometimes called "Group Slug") - A little like Stax, but instead of denying and taxing resources, it punishes everything players do like drawing cards, tapping lands, and playing spells with cards like Manabarbs, Ankh of Mishra, Spellshock, Underworld Dreams, Painful Quandary, and Spiteful Visions. The trick is making it hurt your opponents more than it hurts you, and using other effects to mitigate some of the damage like lifegain or cards like Urza's Armor. Popular commanders for the decks are Kaervek the Merciless, Zo-zu the Punisher, Kaalia of the Vast, and Heartless Hidetsugu. This is another style of deck that usually won't win you many friends.

    Group Hug - A very unconventional and highly political style of play that actually helps out opposing players while setting them up for the eventual kill. Commonly seen cards are Howling Mine, Upwelling, Tempting Wurm, Hunted Wumpus. Pheddagrif is the quintessential commander for group hug. This style of deck really shouldn't be played by edh newcomers, as it creates a lot of chaos at the table and tends to be heavily disliked by a lot of players. It may be novel and fun for a little while, but usually gets old very quickly. Save your group hug deck for special occasions.

    Pillow Fort - A very defensive style of play, a good pillow fort deck dissuades others from attacking you by building up strong defenses and/or "rattlesnakes" and making other players look like more tempting targets. Wincons in pillow fort are usually game finishing combos or big spells to finish off players that have been weakened by slugging it out with each other while ignoring you. White and Blue, and particularly the combination of the two, are the "go to" colors for pillow fort. Hanna, Ship's Navigator, Lady Evangela, and Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer are popular and effective pillow commanders. Other commonly seen cards are Kor Haven, Wall of Denial, Martyr's Bond, Gomazoa, Propaganda, Norn's Annex, Maze of Ith, Ghostly Prison, Academy Rector, and Blazing Archon. Be careful to avoid defensive cards that annoy or tax people that are not targeting you, they will have the opposite effect of what you're going for.

    Third - Choosing your Colors

    You may decide on choosing your Commander and/or Playstyle and allowing that to dictate your colors, but then you may want to choose at least one or two colors first as some are much stronger for certain playstyles.

    Here are some of the strong points and playstyles for each color:

    Black - Using the graveyard and your life total as resources.
    Creature Removal
    Card Draw
    Tutoring for anything
    Creature Recursion
    Hand Disruption
    Big Mana (in mono black)
    Pre-emptive "gutting" of decks (ex. Sadistic Sacrament)
    Zombies & Vampires

    Blue - Control Strategies
    Card Draw
    Big Evasive Creatures
    Stealing other peoples creatures
    Copying Effects
    Wizards, Merfolk, and Faeries

    White - Defense
    Creature and Enchantment Recursion
    Removal of just about anything
    Tutoring for enchantments and equipments

    Green - Mana Ramp
    Aggro Builds
    Creature and Non-Creature Recursion/Graveyard Shenanigans
    Non-Creature Removal
    Elves and Big Trampling Creatures

    Red - Aggro Builds
    Land Destruction
    Direct Damage
    Artifact Removal
    Goblins and Big Flying Dragons

    Fourth - Choosing a Commander (If you haven't already)

    Obviously, the most important decision about your new deck is who the commander will be. It needs to "fit" or "enhance" your chosen playstyle for the deck. You can design your deck to focus specifically on enhancing your commander like making lots of black mana for Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief, or putting lots of enchantment and equipment on Uril, the Miststalker, OR, you can just make your commander part of a larger strategy like using Ghost Council of Orzhova as a reliable sacrifice engine.

    A lot of people choose a commander solely based on the colors it gives them access to, and that's ok, but you've got easy/reliable access to the commander card in the command zone, you might as well use it to your advantage.

    Your first commander should probably be two or three colors. My opinion is that two-color is the best for newer edh players as they are versatile and easy to make a stable, inexpensive manabase for. Mono-colored decks are viable in EDH, but there is plenty of mana-fixing available for multi-colored decks and the added flexibility is very welcome. I personally love the simplicity, reliability, and flexibility of two-color decks and almost never go higher than that, but that's just personal preference and certainly not for everyone.

    For the CMC (converted mana cost) of your commander, keep this in mind; Even though your commander is replayable after being killed, it costs more and more every time, so if you choose one that starts out at 7 or 8 mana, there's a good chance you may only get to play them once or twice (if that). It seems that most players like to keep their commanders at 5cmc or below but consider up to 7cmc to be acceptable as long as that commander does something "big". Thraximundar is a very popular and effective 7cmc commander.

    Here is a list of popular commanders and what type of deck they play well with ***** Though style of play is possible with nearly every commander.

    UAzami, Lady of Scrolls - Control and Combo
    UTeferi, Mage of Zhalfir - Heavy control
    BBalthor the Defiled - Reanimator
    BDrana, Kalastria Bloodchief - Agressive Big Mana with recursion and some combo. Vamp tribal.
    GThrun, the Last Troll - Voltron
    GOmnath, Locus of Mana - An unusual big mana approach.
    GAzusa, Lost but Seeking - Ramp
    WLinvala, Keeper of Silence - Somewhat Defensive Beatdown. Some lifegain and recursion.
    WEight-and-a-Half-Tails - Controllish/Defensive with Lifegain. Some Voltron.
    RGodo, Bandit Warlord - Aggro/Voltron with Equipment
    RKiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker - Combo. Abusing ETB effects.

    Allied Bicolor:
    GWCaptain Sisay - Toolbox, Voltron, some Combo. Pretty versatile.
    GRStonebrow, Krosan Hero - Aggro
    UBDralnu, Lich Lord - Heavy control. Sometimes with a zombie sub-theme.
    UBOona, Queen of the Fae - Versatile. Control and Combo. Some Big Mana. Sometimes with a faerie sub-theme.
    UBSygg, River Cutthroat - Aggro/Voltron and Control.
    WUGrand Arbiter Augustin IV - Heavy Control, Stax, Blink or Lifegain with some Combo.
    WUSygg, River Guide - Aggro, Control, and Combo. Voltron and Toolbox. All viable strategies.

    Opposed Bicolor:
    RWJor Kadeen, the Prevailer - Artifact heavy beatdown, often with a toolbox.
    RWBrion Stoutarm - Play big creatures and fling them at your opponent. Often with a toolbox.
    RUNiv-Mizzet, the Firemind - Combo and Control.
    RUNin, the Pain Artist - Combo and Control.
    WBGhost Council of Orzhova - Sacrifice and Recursion with some Lifegain and Combo.
    WBTeysa, Orzhov Scion - Sacrifice and Recursion with some Aggro, Tokens and Combo.
    GUMomir Vig, Simic Visionary - Creature heavy beatdown and some combo, toolbox-ish.
    GUEdric, Spymaster of Trest - Versatile and political. Access to lots of tricks, combos, and big beaters.
    BGNath of the Gilt-Leaf - Tokens and heavy discard. Elf sub-theme.
    BGSavra, Queen of the Golgari - Sacrifice and Recursion, Tokens, Stax. Lots of graveyard shenanigans.
    BGGlissa, the Traitor - Voltron/Aggro with a heavy artifact recursion sub-theme.

    Allied Tricolor (Shards Colors):
    GWUJenara, Asura of War - Popular for Aggro & Voltron but very versatile. Can easily do Combo and Control.
    GWURafiq of the Many - Aggro with some elements of control.
    BRGKresh the Bloodbraided - Aggro, Voltron, lots of sacrafice.
    RGWMayael the Anima - Big creature beatdown.
    RGWUril, The Miststalker - Voltron. Heavy on auras and equipments.
    WUBSharuum the Hegemon - Combo, Control, and heavy on the artifacts
    WUBZur the Enchanter - Voltron, Toolbox, heavy on enchantments
    UBRThraximundar - Versatile control and/or aggro or combo.

    Opposed Tricolor (Wedge Colors):
    RWUNumot, the Devastator - Aggro or Control with a land destruction sub-theme.
    BGWTeneb, the Harvester - Sacrifice and Recursion
    BGWGhave, Guru of Spores - Tokens and graveyard games.
    BGWDoran, the Siege Tower - Combination of Ramp, aggro and control
    BGWKarador, Ghost Chieftain - Graveyard based strategies (reanimation, dredge, etc)
    URGIntet, the Dreamer - Varied. Good at combo, aggro or control.
    URGRiku of Two Reflections - Varied, but best abusing etb creatures and copied spells.
    URGAnimar, Soul of Elements - Creature heavy builds
    GUBVorosh, the Hunter - Varied.
    GUBThe Mimeoplasm - Good for graveyard based play.
    WBROros, the Avenger - Varied
    WBRKaalia of the Vast - Big Angels, Demons, and Dragons.
    WBRTariel, Reckoner of Souls - Varied with good sac & recur possibilities.

    WUBRG Horde of Notions. Very versatile, lots of elementals. Some recursion.
    WUBRG Scion of the Ur-Dragon. Very versatile, lots of dragons and gy recursion.
    WUBRG Sliver Overlord. Very Versatile, lots of slivers.
    WUBRG Child of Alara. Again versatile (like all 5-color decks), with a sweeper in the command zone.

    Fourth part B - A Note About Going Tribal and sub-themes

    Tribal decks are very popular in magic and a lot of people want to continue that into EDH. That's completely fine if that's what you want to do, and it can also be very competitive if you know when to "step out of" the tribal zone and keep it to kind of a "sub-theme" or a "semi-tribal" deck. After all, EDH is mostly about having fun, so if you like it, go with it.

    Some groups, like my own, build tribal edh decks as their own format. The guidelines we use are:
    Minimum 25 creatures (including commanders and changelings) that match a single tribe of the commander.
    Maximum 5 creatures not in tribe.
    Regular EDH banned list plus Engineered Plague, Extinction, Circle of Solace, Peer Pressure, and Coat of Arms. But again, that's just my group, do whatever your group feels.

    A lot of tribal decks shatter the "go big" rule in EDH, as their incredible synergy gives them tremendous power.

    Also, don't forget that creatures with "changeling" like Chameleon Colossus can be used to fill your tribal slots, and for tribes without a lot of support, other universal cards like Adaptive Automaton and Brass Herald can possibly help out.

    Listed here are some popular tribal themes/sub-themes, and some commanders that work well with them.

    Goblins - Arguably the strongest tribe in magic. Goblin tribal is definitely doable at a competitive level in EDH, mostly with an Aggro/Combo approach. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Wort, Boggart Auntie, Wort, the Raidmother, and Krenko, Mob Boss.

    Wizards - Another very powerful tribe in EDH. Very competitive as Control/Combo. Azami, Lady of Scrolls, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

    Faeries - Oona, Queen of the Fae

    Merfolk - Sygg, River Guide and Sygg, River Cutthroat

    Zombies - Balthor the Defiled, Geth, Lord of the Vault, Dralnu, Lich Lord, Thraximundar, Grimgrin, Corpse-Born.

    Elves - Nath of the Gilt-Leaf and Ezuri, Renegade Leader

    Soldiers - Darien, King of Kjeldor, Captain Sisay

    Vampires - Anowan, the Ruin Sage, Garza Zol, Plague Queen, Mirri the Cursed, Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief, Olivia Voldaren

    Artifacts - Sharuum the Hegemon, Memnarch

    Dragons - Scion of the Ur-Dragon and Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund

    Angels - Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, and Linvala, Keeper of Silence

    Spirits - Ghost Council of Orzhova, Karador, Ghost Chieftain, and Iname, Death Aspect

    Elementals - Horde of Notions and Animar, Soul of Elements

    Slivers - Lot's of people love their Slivers. Sliver Queen and Sliver Overlord.

    Rats - Marrow-Gnawer

    Fifth - 1 vs 1 Duels or Multiplayer (or both)

    Whether you'll be playing mostly duels or multiplayer will have an influence on your card choices.
    For multiplayer most people want more sweeping removal like Damnation and Wrath of God, where in duels, you'll want more spot removal like Swords to Plowshares, and Rend Flesh. It's best to have the flexibility of both mass and spot removal in your deck no matter what your focus is, but you can lean heavier one way or the other based on whether your primary opposition will be multiplayer or single. And against popular opinion, I tend to go a little heavier toward spot removal in most of my multiplayer builds. I find that much of the time, I only need to kill one troublesome creature and don't want to destroy my own board position with a sweeper.

    Some cards like Exsanguinate and Syphon Mind are particularly effective with a table full of opponents while being only marginal against a single opponent (for obvious reasons).

    A card like Luminarch Ascension can be fantastic in a duel, and it seems like it would be great in multiplayer as well, but if you lay down a card like this in a multiplayer game, you've just made yourself the prime target for everyone. Politics plays a huge role in multiplayer. You want to go about setting up your board position or assembling your combo pieces without drawing fire from everyone at the table, but in a 1 vs 1 duel, your only opponent is directing all his energy at killing you anyway, so politics is unneeded.

    Some strategies, like hand disruption/discard, while perfectly viable in a duel or any other format in Magic, are near suicidal in Multiplayer EDH. Remember, you're not playing against one player with 20 life. You're playing against multiple opponents at 40 life, and each of them probably has adequate card drawing built into their decks. You will not be able to adequately control all of them with discard.

    Aggro decks are also more suited to duels than multiplayer. You can do ok with them in a big game, but the amount of sweeper spells that hit the board in multiplayer and the fact you have multiple opponents to take down, make aggro in multiplayer an uphill battle. A lot of people have adopted a "30 instead of 40" life total starting point for 1v1 dueling. This also works in favor of fast aggro decks as you stand a lot better chance of taking down your one opponent before he gets an advantageous board established.

    Sixth - Mana, the foundation of every deck

    Fixing your mana is relatively easy in EDH due to the wide variety of lands and mana-producing artifacts available as well as mana ramp creatures and spells.
    Most decks run 38 to 40 lands and a few artifact mana sources/ramp spells.
    If you want a direct comparison of how many lands in a 60-card deck = How many in a 99-card EDH deck:
    23 = 38
    24 = 40
    25 = 42
    26 = 44

    Excellent Link Here! I highly recommend the following website by Clanmackay that lets you plug in the colors of your commander and find all possible fixing and utility lands for your deck.

    Some lands for fixing mana:

    Hands down, the best way to fix mana is with a combination of Original Dual Lands and/or Shocklands along with Fetchlands to go get them, but that can get kinda "$expensive". Besides those the best color-fixing land in edh is:

    Command Tower - Comes into play untapped and gives you any color you can use.

    Original Dual Lands -They have a hefty pricetag but are the best fixers.
    Fetch Lands - Handy for fetching Original Dual Lands or Ravnica Shocklands. Can be pricey but well worth it. Allied & Enemy colors

    Ravnica Shocklands
    - Very useful, very fetchable with not much drawback. Allied and Enemy colors.

    -Good fixers with not much drawback. Allied and Enemy colors available.

    - Good three-way fixers, ETB Tapped.

    Scars Fastlands
    - Come in untapped if you control two or fewer lands. Good fixers in allied colors.

    M10 Duals and Innistrad Duals
    - ETB tapped unless you control one of it's two basic lands. Very good fixers.

    Zendikar Refuges
    - ETB Tapped but give a little bonus and very cheap.


    Worldwake Two-Color Manlands
    - Turning them into creatures usually isn't too good in edh (though it can be), but they can help out with the color-fixing anyway
    Celestial Colonnade
    Creeping Tar Pit
    Lavaclaw Reaches
    Raging Ravine
    Stirring Wildwood

    Invasion Duals - Only come in allied colors, but their very good, and very budget.
    Salt Marsh
    Coastal Tower
    Shivan Oasis
    Elfhame Palace
    Urborg Volcano
    Lorwyn Tribals
    -Good budget fixers for any deck, Great if you happen to be running heavy tribal, but this isn't a requirement.
    Ancient Ampitheater - R/W. Giants
    Auntie's Hovel - R/B Goblins.
    Gilt-Leaf Palace - B/G Elves
    Murmuring Bosk - G/B/W Treefolk. Also is "Forest" type so it's "fetchable". Great 3-way fixing.
    Primal Beyond - 5-color, but it's colored mana an only be used for Elemental spells and abilities.
    Secluded Glen - U/B Faeries
    Wanderwine Hub - U/W Merfolk

    Vivids - ETB Tapped, but then provide 5-colors for a limited number of times. Very good fixers.
    Filterlands - Very good for any two-color deck.

    Reflecting Pool - Good fixer for nearly any deck, and useful for all five colors.

    Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth - Good fixer for any deck running black, as well as enabling swampwalk against your opponents.

    Crystal Quarry - A consideration if you're running 5-colors
    Mirage Tapped Fetchlands - Very small budget form of the very popular fetchlands. Their drawback is fairly small for EDH considering they can retrieve an Original Dual Land or a Shockland. They are available in allied colors only.
    Bouncelands, also called Karoos -There is a lot of debate about the usefulness of these lands. They are cheap mana-fixers. The only issue is that if there is a lot of players running land destruction (Strip Mine, Wasteland) in your meta, it can be pretty rough getting your bounceland blown up. If there's no land destruction in your meta, go ahead and use them.
    Two-Color Bouncelands:

    Three-Color Bouncelands (also called Lair Lands)
    Return to Ravnica Guldgates - Cheap and effective fixing for two-color decks.
    Some Miscellaneous 5-Color Fixers: Most of these are not really highly recommended in anything less than a 5-color deck as they have too many drawbacks.
    City of Brass - Not the greatest, but if you're hurting for 5-colors, go ahead.
    Ancient Ziggurat - Only useable mana for creature spells, so not really recommended.
    Grand Coliseum - Not the best with all it's drawbacks, but it'll do in a pinch.
    Exotic Orchard - Much better in multiplayer than duel.
    Rupture Spire - Also not really recommended as it generally loses you too much tempo and we have lots of other lands to choose from. But in a pinch or if you really need to insure you have access to all five colors, go ahead and use it.

    There are other manafixing lands, but the best options have already been listed.

    Non-Land Mana-Fixing and Acceleration:
    There are lots of Non-land options for mana fixing that also serve as mana-ramp. Artifact mana sources like Orzhov Signet, Sol Ring, and Coalition Relic are staples of edh. They provide ramp, color-fixing, and they give you a slight buffer against mass land destruction or effects like Blood Moon or Winter Orb.

    Pure Acceleration in Colorless Mana:
    Sol Ring - The gold standard in acceleration, but it is on the 1v1 banned lists.
    Mind Stone - Great for providing a little ramp and some extra card draw when you need it.
    Mana Crypt - Can hurt you, but it's still a favorite of many veteran players.
    Thran Dynamo
    Grim Monolith
    Basalt Monolith
    Worn Powerstone
    Ancient Tomb
    Mana Vault

    Some good artifact mana fixers/accelerators are:
    Coalition Relic
    Darksteel Ingot
    Chromatic Lantern
    Armillary Sphere (not really acceleration as much as ensuring consistent land drops)
    Wayfarer's Bauble
    Coldsteel Heart
    Fellwar Stone
    Expedition Map - Especially good as it can fetch any land at all.
    Scapeshift - Not true acceleration (although it can be) but extremely powerful as it fetches lots of non-basic lands all at once.
    The Obelisks - Cheap and great fixing/acceleration in allied 3-color decks.
    The Signets - Very cheap, very useful.
    The Alara Reborn Borderposts - Good budget option for two-color decks:

    Some Creature-based Acceleration and Fixing:

    The best creature based fixers/accelerators do so by putting additional lands into play like Weathered Wayfarer, rather than tapping to produce mana themselves like Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch. This is because once you put the additional land in play, it's going to probably be there for the rest of the game. With Birds, or Hierarch, they're going to be gone the first time a sweeper spell hits the board, and it will. Sure, you can recur them from the graveyard, but you can with the others as well, and now you get them putting even more lands in play.

    Some Spell-based Acceleration and Fixing: (and yes, I know that technically creatures and artifacts are spells too)

    Rampant Growth
    Harrow - Great spell, but it can be risky/costly if there is a lot of countermagic being played.
    Land Tax - Absolutely amazing in multiplayer, but not out of place in duels either.


    Some spells/lands/artifacts/enchants allow you to basically double (or at least greatly increase) your mana output. These can be extremely powerful.

    **** Continued in the next post down!

    Special thanks for all of the input and help that so many other forum members have given me on this project. It's all been a HUGE help.
    Last edited by Blackjack68: 1/14/2013 10:52:55 PM
  • #2
    Seventh - Utility Lands

    Utility lands are lands that do things other than or on top of providing mana fixing. They commonly provide sacrifice outlets, creature recursion, protection, land destruction and lots of other purposes. This list will be far from comprehensive, but it will touch on some of the most popular utility lands that you'll see in EDH.

    Land Destruction Lands - Because sometimes even land needs killin'
    Recursion Lands
    Volrath's Stronghold
    Academy Ruins
    Unholy Grotto - For Zombies Only
    Emeria, the Sky Ruin - Great Recursion for decks with lots of plains
    Buried Ruin

    Sacrifice Outlets - Sometimes you need to kill your own
    Cycling Lands - Give you the option to draw a card if you don't need the land and can be especially good with land recursion like Life From the Loam or Crucible of Worlds.

    Some other miscellaneous utility lands commonly seen:

    Maze of Ith - Goes in just about any deck.
    Homeward Path - Amazing power level for combatting creature theft
    Bojuka Bog - Grave Hate
    Boseiju, Who Shelters All - Great for protecting that crucial spell you're about to cast
    Crypt of Agadeem - Big mana with lots of black creatures in the grave
    Cabal Coffers - Big mana for decks running lots of swamps
    Eiganjo Castle - Helps protect your general from damage
    Gaea's Cradle - Big mana if you have lots of creatures
    Hall of the Bandit Lord - Haste
    Flagstones of Trokair - Protection aganst land destruction
    Kor Haven - Protection
    Minamo, School at Water's Edge - Untaps your legendaries
    Reliquary Tower - No maximum hand size
    Shizo, Death's Storehouse - Give your legendaries "fear"
    Vesuva GREAT card. Helps fix your mana or it kills an opposing legendary land.
    Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth - Mentioned before in manafixing it also enables swampwalk against your opponent.
    Yavimaya Hollow - Regeneration

    Time to choose the rest of the cards

    Eighth - Short list of near universally good cards

    There are a few cards available to you that are welcome additions to nearly any EDH deck. Nothings ever 100%, but here is a short list of cards that are as close to 100% as it gets. No matter what your colors, strategy, or commander, these cards could very likely improve your deck, and you will see them a lot. There's no such thing as a universal "auto-include", but these cards are definitely worth at least a consideration when building just about any deck.

    Sol Ring - The undisputed king of early acceleration.
    Darksteel Ingot - Indestructible artifact mana accel and fixing.
    Coalition Relic - Artifact mana accel and fixing.
    Mimic Vat - Very few decks couldn't improve by running a copy of this powerhouse.
    Expedition Map - Fetches ANY land for you. Not just manafix lands, but powerful utility lands.
    Wasteland and/or Strip Mine - For killing problematic lands.
    Skullclamp - Slight pump, great card draw. Great for decks that make a lot of tokens or have a lot of creatures dying all the time.
    Reliquary Tower - No max hand size in a land. Pretty great unless, for some reason, you don't want large hands.
    Homeward Path - Great for protecting against creature theft.
    High Market - Also protects from creature theft as well as exile and tucking effects.
    Maze of Ith - Top notch protection for any deck.

    There are other cards likely suited to this list, but these are the ones you're going to see most often.

    *** Important Note - When you're looking at sections 9 & 10, pay close attention to how the card recommendations/choices specifically work with your chosen commander and the overall strategy of your deck, and make your card selections based on those interactions (remember... synergy, flexibility, and re-useablility).

    Ninth - Now take a look at the top 50 cards in your chosen colors HERE. This will give you some ideas about cards in your colors that are just all-around good in EDH.

    Tenth - Now take a look HERE. This is a database of decks for every general/commander. Look over the deckllists for your commander and see if they give you any ideas. Keep in mind that anyone can post a decklist here, so some of the decklists are pretty bad, but there are also a lot of good ones and you can often find very good interactions/synergies/combos in them.

    In the breakdown of your deck concerning number of Lands/Creatures/Other Spells, there is no one correct answer, but a good place to start is roughly 40/25/35 and then adjust things from there depending on the rest of your deck/gameplan. Most of my decks end up with 38 lands and about 4 or 5 artifact mana sources.

    There are a lot more topics you can explore when it comes to building a good EDH deck, but this will certainly get you headed down the right path.

    You should take a look at the banned cards lists. Commander is an informal format, but there are still some very "frowned upon" cards that you might want to avoid.
    Here is the official banned list for multiplayer commander. Look under "Social"

    Here is the thread with the French and MTGS banned list for 1 vs 1

    Remember, there is no single best way to build any particular EDH deck. In the end it comes down to how you want to play, and what you find fun. Not every card in the deck has to be a game winner. I often choose cards that could be improved on from a competitive standpoint, but I just find fun to play with.

    Now build the deck, and have fun!

    Now for a few extra/more advanced topics
    - Just in case all that wasn't enough for you and you want to dive a little farther into the EDH abyss.

    Special section on not being a jerk for casual play:

    This section applies mostly to casual play. If you're playing competitively, then play whatever wins you games, but a lot of EDH is played in casual groups and there are some cards and tactics that a lot of groups will frown upon. I mentioned this at the top of the page, and thought that it deserved a section of it's own.

    Keep in mind that all groups are different and there won't be many "universally" hated cards, but there are some pretty universally hated players because of how they use certain cards. Don't be a GRIEFER! Intentionally ruining other peoples fun is childish and deplorable.

    1) Don't try to "lockdown" the table - Some defensive/taxing effects like Ghostly Prison are fine, but when you cross into the realm of Stasis, Winter Orb, or a Strip Mine and Crucible of Worlds lock, nobody is going to enjoy the game.
    The other players at the table want to actually play the game, not just sit around passing their turn as you slowly grind away at their life totals.

    2) Don't randomly "reset" the game just because you can - Wrath effects are not only useful in edh, they are necessary and a valid tactic, but some people get the idea that it's funny to try and completely reset the game every time they get the chance with cards like Worldpurge, Sunder or Armageddon. Lot's of people get really upset about Land Destruction in general, and mass land destruction especially. LD cards have an important place in competitive edh, and is a hotly debated topic in a lot of casual groups. Get a feel of the group before using it extensively.

    3) Shaharazad - One of the most controversial cards in magic. My own personal feeling is Do Not Run This Card... Ever! Some people are ok with it, but a lot aren't. At a minimum, ask your playgroup how they feel about it. I'll personally leave the table if someone plays this card.

    4) If you're going to search your library or an opponents library for cards, do it quickly - Tutors and theft cards are fine, and tutors especially are crucial to a good edh deck, but don't make everyone wait for several minutes while you make up your mind on what card to choose. If you're not familiar enough with the cards to make a quick decision, then you have no business having the card in your deck.

    6) Pay attention to the Game! - If you're busy texting or making trades during everyone elses turn, then you have to "catch-up" and re-evaluate the board every time it's your turn and it wastes everyone elses time. If you're not interested in the game, then don't play.

    Avoiding Excessive Upkeep (do you really want to work that hard at a game?)

    Coming Soon

    Over-reliance (or under-reliance) on your Commander:

    A very important but often overlooked concept in EDH, is Over/Under reliance on it's commander. This is a tricky balancing act. You've probably built your deck around the strong points of its commander (which is good), but what you have to keep in mind and ultimately prepare for is "can my deck do it's job and win without the commander". Life expectancy of most commanders on the battlefield is extremely short, and thanks to spells like Condemn, Spin Into Myth, Hinder, and Bant Charm, he may get tucked into the library never to be seen again 'til the next game He may get rendered useless by a Faith's Fetters, he may get stolen by Gather Specimens, or he may just get killed every time he hits the board. Now while you can use tutors to go get him back from the library, it's best to have your deck built in a way that can support your battle plan without the commander at all. If your deck needs creature recursion to be effective, and your commander is your main source of recursion, that's great, but have some extra recursion in the deck for when the commander isn't around.

    A more subtle point is the flipside - that while your commander isn't always around, it's usually around, and thus you don't need as many cards that are redundant in function with your commander as you might think. The most common example is that if your general is a big flying beater like an angel or a dragon, you don't need twenty other angels or dragons in your deck. (It's reasonable as a thematic choice, of course.) Creature counts can be lower than you might expect in say, an equipment-based deck, because you normally have at least one guy to put stuff on - your commander.
    Last edited by Blackjack68: 9/29/2012 3:19:19 PM
  • #3
  • #4
    5 star post.
    The only thing that I notice that MIGHT be missing would be Land Destruction under playstyle, but that's an arguable point, as it could very well be categorized under "control" or "disruptive" as well.

    Also, Mods: if you've got your eyes open, this needs stickied.

    Thanks, Heroes of The Planes! You guys are great!

    Actual Truth:
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    Anyone who disagrees with "Jack from NC" is an idiot."-The Dead Weatherman
  • #5
    It's ok for a first-timer. I won't get into tiny details like card choice, but there are lots of small stuff I found lacking, though.

    -limited resources is banned anyway, no need to mention it.
    -your commandments start as demands (which is what a commandment is), but eventually they're just words or fragments and not really commmandments, per se.
    -a lot of your later tenants seem more like types of cards and not really commandments at all. Your removal section doesn't really say much of anything except that removal is important. There's no mention of mass vs targeted, instant vs sorcery, or even how powerful tuck is vs straight destruction.
    -I would hardly call evasion as important as removal. The whole commandments section seems like you just kept going until you ran out of ideas.
    -voltron and general damage are basically the same thing. It's not as though people make an entire deck around general damage and then don't have any way to increase its power.
    -putting "choosing your colors" ahead of your general section seems to indicate that you're suggesting people pick their colors before they pick their general, which I think is a bad choice. Personally I'd put general selection first, or at least mention that choosing your colors/playstyle/general can be done in any order. Also, the commandments don't seem to apply until you get to card selection so it didn't need to be first.
    -you drop "politics" on the table and then run away and never explain it or mention it again.
    -in mana, you seem to be focusing on the different types of duals/tris, which is all well and good, but then you bring in one 5-color land (rupture spire) and ignore all the better ones, like forbidden orchard (best land in the format? I vote yes), city of brass, vivids, exotic orchard, etc. if you don't want to cover 5-colors, leave them all out.
    -you don't have any utility lands except possibly urborg listed. I guess that might be your own decision.
    -the top 50 list sucks for making focused decks and a lot of the decklists are pretty bad. But I guess that's just my opinion.

    WUB Merieke Ri Berit BUW
    GWU Phelddagrif 1 2 3 4 UWG
    BR Kaervek the Merciless RB
    B Chainer, Dementia Master B
    WUB Sen Triplets BUW
    BG Sisters of Stone Death GB
    WUBRG Scion of the Ur-Dragon GRBUW
    GWU Angus Mackenzie UWG
    R Kumano, Master Yamabushi R
    WB Teysa BW
    U Higure U
    B Geth B
    WUBRG Child of Alara 1 2GRBUW
    R Zirilan R
    U Arcum U
    UR Nin RU
    BRG Sek'Kuar GRB
    U Teferi U
    G Melira G
    GU Edric UG
    BG Glissa GB

    GUB Knacksaw Clique BUG
    RWU Sunforger UWR
  • #6
    the section on the commanders looks great. great thread.

    Quote from Sheldon
    Yeah, complaining about getting beaten by Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician is pretty sad.
  • #7
    darcanegel, I will incorporate a lot of that. I'll try to get some of it done before I fall asleep. Some of the things though, I feel are best left to later discussions, and not really crucial for the first-time builder. I want to keep the guide fairly short, hitting the main points and not going into extreme detail.

    Added a subsection about Tribal.

    Jack from NC... added a tidbit about LD under Stax and Control.
    Last edited by Blackjack68: 12/27/2010 2:57:49 PM
  • #8
    Now this is a good guide! Needs moar stickies.
    45% Johnny, 40% Spike, 15% Timmy

    Current Decks:
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    GWUJenara CiPGWU
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    xAffinityx (starting)

    Ha! That's a good one.
  • #9
    Nice! This is one of the best EDH primers that I have seen.
    (Retired from MTG for good.)
    RUG Riku, Two is Better Than One
    UB [PRIMER] Wrexial, Classic Control
    RG Radha, Ramp's Theme Goes With Everything

    Quote from Xtol
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  • #10
    Artifact Mana-Fixing and signet section deserve a separate (new) section under the title "ramp" as many of the strong EDH decks I've seen run between 10-16 of these guys. In both multiplayer and 1v1, fast ramp into explosive plays/big stuff make or break games. Most of the strategies listed in your guide would attest to this.
  • #11
    I noticed your section under Tribal archetypes left out Slivers. Did a Sliver run over your dog, or something? XD

    Artifact Mana-Fixing and signet section deserve a separate (new) section under the title "ramp" as many of the strong EDH decks I've seen run between 10-16 of these guys. In both multiplayer and 1v1, fast ramp into explosive plays/big stuff make or break games. Most of the strategies listed in your guide would attest to this.

    This is a great suggestion. Mana rocks are great for when your strategy just takes too long to get off the ground. The Marble/Sky/Charcoal/Fire/Moss Diamond cycle is great for monocolored generals, as are the various parts and appendages of Ramos(Tooth, Eye, Skull, Heart, and Horn). The Signets are great dual-fixing as are the Cameos, and to a degree, the Talismans from Mirrodin. The Shards' Obelisks are amazing for 3-5 color decks as well.
  • #12
    Sensei's Divining Top should prolly be removed from the list of "card draw" things, since you said that card advantage is good, while Top is not card advantage.

    Indestructibility isn't really "evasion."

    Other than those(Sorry for the nitpicking xD), it was a great post. Smile
    If someone ever asks how they can get into EDH, I'll show them this thread.

    EDIT: There's also an out-of-place apostrophe in Reanimator. :p

    Last edited by ScaryWookie: 12/27/2010 10:14:44 PM
  • #13
    I consider Mimic Vat to be an All Star in EDH!

    Recurring awesomeness and comes back with Sun Titan (another all star) and Academy Ruins in case it gets blown up. So gooooood.
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  • #14
    Quote from GwafaHazid
    I noticed your section under Tribal archetypes left out Slivers. Did a Sliver run over your dog, or something? XD

    That's not funny, brah. My friend's dog was devoured by the hive as they escaped from Otaria. Not cool, not cool.

    Grin Anyway I really enjoyed reading through this. You touched on all the things I usually touch on when introducing the format to someone. Well done Blackjack. Just keep editing and soon you'll have a most sticky-worthy thread.
  • #15
    Ok, I got some sleep and I'm back at it. Thanks for all the positive (and constructive) feedback.

    Quote from equilibrium
    Artifact Mana-Fixing and signet section deserve a separate (new) section under the title "ramp"

    Agreed... working on it now.

    Quote from GwafaHazid
    I noticed your section under Tribal archetypes left out Slivers. Did a Sliver run over your dog, or something?

    Lol'd. I honestly didn't think of them... I never liked them much Wink I'll add them.

    Quote from Fade_To_Black
    Sensei's Divining Top should prolly be removed from the list of "card draw" things, since you said that card advantage is good, while Top is not card advantage.

    Yeah, I'll add maybe "draw smoothing?" to the section and throw in crystal ball.

    Quote from Fade_To_Black
    Indestructibility isn't really "evasion."

    There's also an out-of-place apostrophe in Reanimator.

    I actually did consider the evasion part, with shroud too, but I figured it was removal evasive, so I left them.

    And I'll fix the apostrophe too Wink

    Quote from Secularon
    I consider Mimic Vat to be an All Star in EDH!

    And I agree 100%. It's in every one of my EDH decks. I added it to the "commonly seen cards" in its most relevant deck styles, and to the "Universally good cards" section that I just added.
    Last edited by Blackjack68: 12/28/2010 4:08:53 AM
  • #16
    I think it should be noted that blue has an answer to just about every situation as the eternal blue card pool is VERY deep.

    Also, I think it should be noted that some decks that use land D as a sub theme either recur the land D to remove all mana sources, or use it as a means of gaining the tempo necessary to win.
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  • #17
    Quote from fistsofthor
    I think it should be noted that blue has an answer to just about every situation as the eternal blue card pool is VERY deep.

    Also, I think it should be noted that some decks that use land D as a sub theme either recur the land D to remove all mana sources, or use it as a means of gaining the tempo necessary to win.

    Agreed, I'll do it.
  • #18
    Great primer but there is one glaring oversight. You didn't list Goblins under the Tribal section when they are probably the most popular and/or powerful tribe in all of magic and there are at least 3 very powerful commanders (Kiki-Jiki and either Wort among others).
  • #19
    sweet primer, glad someone one finally did it right.

    i love your first line Smile

    hope a sticky soon follows
  • #20
    Quote from Calprinicus
    sweet primer, glad someone one finally did it right.

    i love your first line Smile

    hope a sticky soon follows


    Quote from Mongol
    Great primer but there is one glaring oversight. You didn't list Goblins under the Tribal section when they are probably the most popular and/or powerful tribe in all of magic and there are at least 3 very powerful commanders (Kiki-Jiki and either Wort among others).

    DOH! I meant to put goblins in there and it slipped from my mind at some point. Thanks for catching that, I'll fix it right now.
  • #21
    This primer is fantastic. For a new EDH/Commander player (of which there will be MANY in the coming year), this is gold. I have already emailed this to a buddy who's excited about the precons.
    :symg::symr::symu: Riku of Two Reflections [Primer]
    :symu::symr: Melek WheelStorm
    :symw::symg: Trostani Enchantress (updated 6/5)
    :symg::symr::symu: Unexpected Results.dec
    blue mana Thada Adel Stax WIP
  • #22
    Quote from SuperSonik
    This primer is fantastic. For a new EDH/Commander player (of which there will be MANY in the coming year), this is gold. I have already emailed this to a buddy who's excited about the precons.


    Updated - Did some cleaning up, expanded on the manabase section and added a section for utility lands.
  • #23
    I would add Brittle Effigy and Duplicantto the "universally good cards" because colorless removal is really good for a lot of decks that don't have access to strict removal spells. And Mind's Eye is good in pretty much any multiplayer EDH deck also.

  • #24
    Brittle Effigy is exiled when you use it, so it's a one shot deal. I don't even think it's in the same league as Duplicant, personally. Recurring it is just insane.

    As for Mind's Eye, pretty much every color but blue can run it happily. If you have Future Sight, who needs Mind's Eye? :p
    :symg::symr::symu: Riku of Two Reflections [Primer]
    :symu::symr: Melek WheelStorm
    :symw::symg: Trostani Enchantress (updated 6/5)
    :symg::symr::symu: Unexpected Results.dec
    blue mana Thada Adel Stax WIP
  • #25
    You have phyrexian arena listed under sacrifice outlets under the land section.
    Good primer. Sending a link to a friend to help him get started.

    amazingly epic sig courtesy of DarkNightCavalier at Heroes of the Planes.
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