Captain, My Captain: Tips of the Trade

At first glance, Commander/EDH can be very intimidating, with all the rules and regulations, and on top of that it’s Singleton. Many new EDH players may find it easier if they watch a few games and ask questions first- get familiar with the format and cards. I, myself, am one of those people. I discovered Elder Dragon Highlander when it first hit online as Commander. As a fan of Singleton I was immediately drawn to this new, very intriguing format.

The first thing I did was ask questions of the players more familiar with the format. I was given a link for reference but preferred to watch games play out. I did consult the link given to get a better understanding, but I needed hands on learning. When I had learned enough, I constructed my very first EDH deck with my favourite legend of all time: Braids, Cabal Minion (who is now banned, which saddens me). The deck was a very sick, very unforgiving Mono Black destruction deck. It was a blast to play, but I was always the first player to go.

Since those fateful days, I have made over fifty EDH decks, with some of the nastiest, oddest ideas I can find, many of which I am more than willing to share with anyone. As I stated in my previous article, I love to use oddball Commanders. It’s way more fun than using one that’s a little more obvious and overplayed (lookin’ at you, Rafiq of the Many).

In this article, we are going take a look at a few key cards that will make any good EDH deck’s wheels go round. You’ll also learn what cards not to use and what unconventional cards you can abuse in Singleton, all of which I have gleaned through much trial and error. Oh yeah, and I’ll share one of my newer favourite lists at the end.

Two’s a Crowd


First thing’s first; pretty much anything that lets you remove multiples of any card is utterly useless in all Singleton formats, ie: Cranial Extraction and Haunting Echoes. The same can be said for cards search for multiples with the same name like Llanowar Sentinel or Kindle. Playing with entirely one-of’s also means that cards that decks rely on (such as a Turn 1 mana creature) are not reliable.


There are a lot of cards that can speed up a good Singleton deck, depending on your colour(s). Green has straight mana acceleration, expediting your ability to play spells ahead of curve. Blue has draw power, which can increase the consistency and frequency of mana, also. With staple cards like Miraris Wake, Rites of Flourishing, Heartbeat of Spring, Gaea’s Touch just to name a few, mana acceleration shouldn’t be an issue. Also, thanks to the new Pre-Con EDH decks, Yavimaya Elder, a great mana fixer, and several other great cards are now available online.

If you aren’t using Green, I recommend you use mana producing and fetching artifacts: Gilded Lotus, Darksteel Ingot, Signets, Lotus Petal, Lotus Bloom, Mana Crypt, and so on. Mana fetch artifacts are really nice for non-Green decks as well. Wayfarer’s Bauble, Armillary Sphere, Wanderers Twig, and Sculpting Steel (to copy either one) are all very nice to have. Gauntlet of Power, Extraplanar Lens, and Solemn Simulacrum are great staples for any colour deck, especially mono coloured decks. White has a few decent cards for mana acceleration and fixing; Tithe, Land Tax, Knight of the White Orchid, and Kor Cartographer are a must have for any mono White deck. Balancing out your mana cost can help a lot, as well. You don’t want to have a high mana cost deck and not have enough lands. A decent EDH deck has anywhere from 30-45 lands, depending on what colour(s) you run and your mana cost. You need to have at least 5-15 mana fetching/producing artifacts, spells and/or creatures. Lands that help with ramping up or fixing mana production are nice too. Thawing Glaciers, Terrain Generator, fetch lands (in their many forms: Grasslands, Misty Rainforest, Panoramas) all help with fixing your lands and thinning your deck. Mana accel and fixing are so very, very important in this format.

Draw Power

I’ve seen games where a lot of people have complained about not having proper draw. To be honest, its their own fault;there are a lot of draw cards available online today! The majority of people don’t like to use Blue, as it makes them a target, due to the counters and theft attributed to the infamous colour. However, the ability of drawing extra cards s well worth the bull’s eye that will be painted on your forehead. Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora help so much in any deck that is willing to use Blue.

Not using the infamous colour? Tower of Fortunes, Planar Portal, Mind’s Eye, Spellbombs, Sword of Fire and Ice and others will help any deck out with a stable draw. The key to draw in any Singleton deck is that you help ONLY you. EDH is every man for himself, there is no 2nd place. Helping the enemy is not something you want to do unless you are hurting them in doing so. So with this in mind, Howling Mine and Font of Mythos shouldn’t be in your deck unless you’re running Underworld Dreams and/or Spiteful Visions. You should be very selfish with your additional drawing. But with all of this draw, you may want to include cards that will give you no maximum hand size: Spellbook, Reliquary Tower, or Graceful Adept, etc.


Creatures are another thing that should been carefully thought about. You need to add in creatures that will suit your strategy and/or theme. If you are using Oona, Queen of the Fae, you should consider running a faerie tribal deck. Using creatures with tribal synergy can be abusive in the right Singleton deck, especially if you are running a fast beatdown deck. Slivers are a very nice tribe to consider. They’re easy to build and run, you really can’t go wrong with a decent sliver deck. It’s can be lead by either Sliver Queen, Sliver Legion, or Sliver Overlord. Soldiers, merfolk, goblins, zombies, and elves are also very nice to run if you decide on a tribal-based EDH deck.

Don’t want to run a tribal deck? You can find synergistic creatures really easily. If you are running Green, whether its Mono Green or mixing it with other colours, I’d suggest including creatures that enhance the stats of your other men. Kaysa, and Meng Huo, Barbarian King can be very helpful in the right beat-down deck. The incarnation creatures (Brawn, Filth, Valor, and the like) can also give you a huge edge, although they are vulnerable to graveyard removal. If you play them, I’d suggest running Ground Seal, then creatures like Loaming Shaman or Genesis are basically useless. This is why you have think about which cards will benefit your strategy and which can render it bunk.


On to the next topic: Enchantments. Throwing a bunch of enchantments into a deck just cause they look or sound cool is not well… cool. So lets say you’re running Uril, the Miststalker. Since he has shroud, and big ups with every enchantment put on him, you’d want to run things that will enhance his stats while making him more difficult to deal with. Mythic Proportions would be a sick choice to put in the deck. Though it isn’t an aura, Miraris Wake would be another wonderful choice, giving you extra mana and your creatures a +1/+1 boost. Giving him double strike, flying, trample, or horsemanship would mean a swift endgame undoubtedly.

If you’re running Zur, the Enchanter deck, its a different story. As a Commander, Zur requires careful thinking. Usually he paints a giant bullseye on your chest that reads: “Kill me first, please.” A Zur deck generally needs to be swift and deadly, kinda like a ninja. If not, you will be killed… SWIFTLY. So think carefully about which enchantments you want to run and how you wish to run them.

Spell Cache

The last part of the deck you should carefully think about are the sorceries and instants. Blue is known for its counter-magic, theft abilities, ways to garner extra turns, draw power, and bounce. White for its artifact/enchantment/creature destruction, life gain, and protection from colours. Black for its destruction, discard, life loss. Green for its life gain, pumping creatures, destruction and shields. Red for burn and land kill.

Picking the proper spells falls on what type of deck you are trying to make. If you want to run a manipulative deck then I suggest running counters(Counterspell)/theft(Blatant Thievery)/extra turns(Time Stretch) with lots of draw (Ancestral Visions) to keep things in check. If you want a defensive deck, then you should run white or green, using Moment’s Peace or Holy Day or spells that offer protection from other spells. You want to be careful of making your deck lopsided. Running an even amount of spells, creatures and lands will help you immensely. Balance is the key to having a bad ass deck.

Theory in Practice

With everything we have discussed, I decided to post my 2nd favourite deck, comprised of many of the aforementioned goodies. I am still on the the Chinese Legend kick, and will be until I have a deck for each colour. This deck is called Chinese Kung Fu; meaning it can kick a lot of tail. Being Mono Green, this deck can pump out a lot damage and quick. The draw can be a little fuzzy, but the mana accel and creature production makes up for it. This is one of my favourite decks – it gets better with every tweak. Decks can suffer from over-editing. You know, throw the mana curve off or mess up the draw consistency. Not with this deck, it just keeps getting better.

Here is the current list. I do plan on adding Tower of Fortunes (I keep forgetting to get it when I buy cards), Thawing Glaciers, and Terrain Generator for faster mana production.

Chinese Kung Fu 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.)


With Meng Huo, Barbarian King at the helm, this deck can get big and nasty. Capable of pumping out incredible amounts of mana early in the game, CKF can stay head of the game. As I have previously stated, each card has its purpose, but in this case there are some that can be replaced. The Vulshok Morningstar is one of them. Life gain isn’t a must in this deck, but it’s a nice bonus, especially when using Tornado, which is a great board manipulator. It’s kinda out of the box for Green, but useful nonetheless. Drop a Seedborn Muse and go to town on a foe’s board. Just make sure you can pump out enough life to pay for the activation cost. Burgeoning… really cool card! It helps with the mana accel so much. It’s great when you’re flooded and have some high-cost cards in hand. Seedtime is more filler, but its so unconventional and fun that I have to use it. No one expects Green to take an extra turn! Harmonize is a staple card for any Green deck, which is deficient in additional card draw outlets.

The whole point is to make sure your deck has a point- it should be focused. I can’t stress enough to you that just putting a bunch of good, expensive cards together is NOT the way to go. You should seriously consider your strategy or theme. It’s way more fun and will deliver better results than the toss and shuffle of “a bunch good cards.”

Well that’s all for now EDH fans and soon-to-be EDH fans!

Till next time…Remember, Commander wants YOU!


  1. It is, which after reading it I was like whoa, however, its fairly consistent.
    Plus as I stated, I’m still playing with it. I add and take away everyday. Beacon would be a nice, yet expensive add.

  2. I love Mono Green so much. I played it in 100cs. So many bomby dudes that are cheap. Baru, Vigor, Woodfall Primus. Maybe I’m just a chubby chaser, but those are my favoritist mens of all times!!!

  3. Me too, thats why the list is ever changing. I get an idea and I act on it.I think its gonna evolve into a Baru/Kamahl deck soon. I love mana accel, and having the most mana out early in any format. lol

  4. OMG!!! This has long been a dream of sheer hilarity I’ve hoped to see to fruition! Catatattack!

  5. Oran-Rief, the Vastwood seems like it should be here.

    Also … have you thought about Snow-Covered Forests to tech-out your Extraplanar Lens? Keep all that mana to yourself : )

    ~ good read

  6. OMG, so its sick…ive added a top, the tower, and baru, and just dominated 2 monoblack and a U/r I also added mold shambler, but the deck was amazing!!!! DP, im proud of ya. though yes hunting cheetah and kamahl need a place, but screw the elf weaklings…