Captain, My Captain: An Introduction to EDH

Introduced online almost two years ago, Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH, or Commander as it is called online) has been growing increasingly popular amongst players in the Multiplayer room. It’s not an uncommon occurrence to have five tables (four players per table) going at it at any given time.

But what is EDH and how do you play it? Well, in my first article, I plan on explaining the format and how to choose a Commander (or General as they are sometimes called outside the MTGO realm) that is right for you and build around it. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that if they buy expensive cards, put them in a “deck,” and start up a game that they will win. Well, if you’re strategy is to lose, then mission accomplished. You have to think each deck through (each card, even), find a comfortable strategy, and a mechanic that is comfortable for you.

Okay. So let’s break this down to the basics. In essence, EDH is a lot like 100 Card Singleton in that you can only play a single copy of any card beyond basic lands. There are some differences though.

Who’s The Boss?

The primary difference in EDH is each deck is built around a specific Commander: a Legendary creature you choose before the game starts. Your Commander starts off the game exiled, but can be played for its regular cost at any time. If for any reason your Commander would be placed in the graveyard, you may choose to exile it. Once exiled, you may replay your Commander for its cost plus two generic mana. This two mana is cumulative for each time your Commander is exiled. (Example: Your Commander is Rhys the Redeemed. The first time you play Rhys, you pay his printed cost. The next turn he gets killed, you choose to exile him, and may replay him for his cost plus two generic mana. The second time he dies, you exile him, and he now is his original cost plus four to replay. And so on, ad infinitum.)

These Colors Don’t Bleed (into other ones…)

Despite how cool the above format mechanic is, there are other limitations to the format beyond the Singleton rule. Namely, your deck must be the same color(s) as your Commander. If you choose a mono-colored Commander, lets say, Maga, Traitor to Mortals, you cannot use cards like Unmake (as it is has a hybrid mana cost including White). You can only play Black cards and artifacts (which will not produce any color(s) beyond those of your Commander’s). Hybrid cards like Beseech the Queen, however, is not off limits. Now if you play, Teysa, Orzhov Scion, you can play Unmake. (You can also have multiple Legends in your deck, as long as they are in color with your Commander. Also, depending on who goes first, you can choose a different Commander if, for whatever reason, it’s better based on what your opponents are playing.)


Politics are a crucial part of this game, the unwritten rules of conduct in all multiplayer formats. The player that poses the greatest initial threat is often the first to die. Strategies that are effective against eliminating a single opponent in a timely manner don’t really work the same way when you have two other people to eliminate on top of them. I would especially not encourage non-interactive strategies, as an audience of three is not the same as a single hostage. Cooperation and cards that offer mutual advantages are a great way to ensure your lifespan in EDH. Even though the end goal is to be the last player standing, your would-be foes can easily be allies in a pinch or to eliminate the biggest threat(s).

The Long Road To Victory

With each player starting off at a healthy 40 life, games are often looooong. Defeating a single opponent can be a time-consuming endeavor, so just imagine what killing three opponents involves. Even though it does take a lot of time, it’s very fun and interesting, especially if you sit with the right people. (A few of my favorites players to sit with are; tempesteye, charlesovery, Elbinac, and betzj.) Sound fun yet?


EDH uses the Classic card pool, meaning you can use all sets. Even though this format is relatively new it does have a decent-sized Banned list. The following cards are banned in both paper and online:


Does this look like the format for you? If so, look for me on Magic (DarkPrincess83), and I’d be more than happy to help you build a deck that suits you.

If you feel like braving the format on your own, I recommend a mono-colored deck, just until you get comfortable with the format. You get as mana struck as you would with a more complex color deck. Only after you play a few games and enjoy it, do I suggest that you try building around a two-or-more color Commander. Then you should be able to toy around with a few Legends and get ideas for decks. (I personally like to build with oddball Commanders: I have a Skeleton Ship deck.)

To give people ideas, I will be posting my own deck lists with each article here at The Academy. To start everyone out, I’d like to share my favorite deck: Ancient Chinese Secrets. It’s is cheap, easy to build, and fun… well for you, it will be.

Commander Ancient Chinese Secrets Click the arrow to download the above deck in .txt format

(To load a .txt deck into Magic: Online’s Deck Editor, click “Load”, select “Local Text Deck”, find the location of the downloaded deck file and double-click the deck.)

After working on this deck for weeks, this is the end result. At a glance, it’s your “typical Mono Blue Control.” Time Stretch, Time Stop, counter magic, and theft effects. You definitely wont be making many friends with this list, but, eh, the top does get lonely…

Ins and Outs

First off, every card has a purpose.

Since Blue has no land search, I put in a few land fetch artifacts and a lot of draw.

Horsemanship is a very nice ability, especially in Blue (think: flying First Class). Sun Quan, Lord of Wu gives ALL of your creatures this ability, which is why he is the Commander of the deck. Lu Xun’s ability is that of the Thieving Magpie, except it gives you the option to draw. Sun Ce, Young Conquerer‘s ability nice when you have to deal with indestructible creatures and such. When facing people with no Islands, Wu Warship is a very nice wall.

With all of this draw, Reliquary Tower with Empyrial Plate on a creature turns your Control deck into a semi-aggro style.

This deck is very manipulative and very consistent. The massive amount of draw provides tons of card advantage. The Gauntlet of Power and Extraplanar Lens will help you to be able to play a lot of cards, even giving your creatures a boost(thanks, Gauntlets). Have fun with this list. Play around with it until you are comfortable. Make it yours.

Once you feel you’re comfortable with the format, I’d like to invite you all to join me at Chaos, my EDH PRE (Player Run Event). Chaos is every Sunday at 2PM Eastern. Registration begins at that time and the games will fire an hour after at 3PM EST. Every week, I present the players with a new “challenge,” and they build decks accordingly. For example, for Chaos of December 6th, we had Pauper EDH, where everything was common, including the Commander. As hostess, I don’t get to play, so seeing awesome, original decks is very fun and cool for me. I welcome anyone and everyone to attend Chaos this Sunday.

Room: /join Chaos

Hostess: Me

Banned cards: Erayo, Soratami Ascendant

Sponsored by: MTGOTRADERS

Prize: Determined by the number of players/gift certificate to

Well that’s all for now, EDH fans and soon to be EDH fans! Check back every other Monday for more decks, tech, topics, and tips!

Catch ya next time,

Kaya (DarkPrincess83)

  1. This weeks challenge (the first I have had a chance to play in) seemed like it had good participation with 23 players. Unfortunately I may have been the first person out as I had a full grip and was tapped out when vicious shadows hit the table, 5 sacced creatures later I was dead – with Purity on the stack. Nice combo :D

  2. Blue does have a land search. A creature called Dreamscape Artist, which would be a terrific card in this deck.