MtG: Building an EDH/Commander Deck for my Sister (+WTF is EDH??)

Dear readers, dear friends of the fascinating Magic: the Gathering CCG!

I am immensely pleased about the sudden interest and enthusiams for said game my sister has been showing lately (see previous posts) and I am especially happy, that Nora also expressed interest in playing the awesome Commander Format (formerly known as “Elder Dragon Highlander” or EDH in brief), which started out as an obscure fan-made alternative way of playing Magic and which has only relatively lately been picked up by Wizards (of the Coast) and elevated to an official tournament format and dedicated Commander sets (preconstructed decks) have been released in 2012 and 2013, each of them coming with cards especially designed for the new Commander format. Here an example:

I applaud Wizards of the Coast for this wise and awesome move, reconginzing the popularity of a fan format, picking it up and turning it into something official, even desigining and publishing dedicated Commader Format cards as the one seen above.

So since Commander is played quite often over here in the “nerd-cave”, my sister wanted to have a  go at Commander/EDH (I will just call it EDH in the following) as well. I really welcomed this and was so pleased with my sister’s interest not only in MtG in general but also specifically in EDH, that I ordered her one of those awesomer EDH decks, which contain a ton of really great and valuable cards, such as awesome reprints of costly, old cards like this one…


…as well as 3 oversized foil commanders, being quite powerful and very much playable right out of the box.

The deck I bougth for Nora is fully in German, which will make it so much easier to play for my sister who knows only a few odd bits of English – this being the reason why I bought the below preconstruced deck for her instead of just building an EDH deck from my extensive cards collection, which is mostly in English language.



Incidentally, the “Ausweichmanöver” (Evasive Maneuvers in English – if you want the full, unaltered card list you can check it here. Just scroll down a bit as the above deck is at the bottom of the page) deck was the cheapest of the Commander 2013 Edition preconstructed decks AND it is my sister’s favorite three color combination (green – white – blue, as you can see in the picture) – that is just perfect. With Nora’s permission (she is not home Monday through Thursday due to work in a nearby town) I opened the pack yesterday, sleeved and modified it a bit, taking  out some of the more complicated cards, in order to make my sister’s headstart into the world of EDH a bit easier, swapping some cards with better replacements I had handy, as well as removing the multiplayer-oriented cards, as we aren’t really into 3+ players games in general ove here.

Below, I will present you with the modified Evasive Maneuvers EDH deck, which is going to be Nora’s first deck in this awesome format, and which should be regarded as a work-in-progress, as it could be improved even more. My card modification options were quite limited as most of my cards are in English language and I wanted to add German cards only, to remove the language barrier for Nora.

But first I want to answer the question some of my readers might be having for quite some time:

“WTF is EDH anyways??”

Well, dear reader, I have posted many articles on Commander / EDH decks already but never actually provided you with any info about how EDH actually works. To make up for that deficit, I shall try to explain briefly what EDH is all about and how it works:

First off you need to build a deck of course. Deckbuilding for EDH follow these rules: You need a 100 cards deck, 1 Commander + 99 cards that make up your actual deck. Each and every card can be included exactly once in your 99 card deck (there is a ban-list but most cards, no matter how old and/or powerful are allowed) except for basic lands, which are unlimited. Your commander card must be a legendary creature and its “color identitiy”, the colors featured in the commander’s casting cost, determines which colors you will be allowed to include in your deck. Let us look at an example: The Commander in Nora’s EDH deck:

If you chose Derevi as your commander, the cards in your deck may only have green, white and/or blue mana symbols on them (that includes not only the casting costs but also the mana symbols in the text box etc. With Derevi I could not play a Karplusan Forest for example, being neither red nor black, but having a red mana symbol in its text box) and you would not be allowed to run cards with any red or black mana symbols anywhere.

And this is how it is played: Your 99 cards deck is shuffled and you draw 7 cards at the start and 1 per turn just like normal, but your Commander is placed in a special location on the playing field, the so called “Command Zone”. So the Commander is not shuffled into the deck along with the rest of the cards but sits in your Command Zone and can be summoned from there any time, provided you can pay for his or her costs. When the Commander dies or is exiled, you may return him to Command Zone and can cast him or her again from there any number of times. HOWEVER, each time beyond the first time you summon your Commander from Command Zone, you must pay an extra 2 generic mana in addtion to the Commander’s native casting cost. For example your Commander died 2 times and you summon him the third time from Command Zone you’d have to pay for his or her printed casting cost + 4 generic mana.

Furthermore, in EDH each player starts with 40 Life instead of the regular 20 and there is an alternative win condition: Either you reduce your opponent’s life from 40 to zero or you inflict a total of 21 “Command Damage”, that is damage your Commander inflicted on your opponent. So even if a player has a zillion life, they will lose the very instant your Commander inflists the 21st point of Command Damage.

Well that is EDH for you, in a nutshell! Hope this was to some degree educational to some readers who are not yet familiar with this amazing, alternative way of playing Magic: the Gathering and I encourage any and all MtG fans to give it a try some time. EDH has a lot going on for it, and I could write a whole essay on that, but (at least for now) I will spare you and instead move on to Nora’s Work-in-Progress EDH decklist, which is just the slightly modified “Evasive Maneuvers” preconstructed deck.

So first the decklist, then a few thoughts on the deck, as usual!

Nora’s First EDH Deck (Work-in-Progress):

NOTE: The cards I added are marked in GREEN! 😀

Commander: Derevi, Empyrial Tactician


Sakura-Tribe Elder 1G

Mistmeadow Witch  1U/W

Sunscape Familiar 1W

Quasali Pridemage WG

Farhaven Elf 2G

Eternal Witness 1GG

Stonecloaker 2W

Fiendhunter 1WW

Flickerwisp 1WW

Thornwind Faeries 1UU

Wall of Denial 1WU

Carven Caryathid 1GG

Stoic Angel 1GWU

Rafiqu of the Many 1GWU

Angel of Finality 3W

Lu Xun, Scholar General 2UU

Aerie Mystics 4W

Karmic Guide 3WW

Acidic Slime 3GG

Indrik Stomphowler 4G

Azami, Lady of Scrolls 2UUU

Mulldrifter 4U

Roon of the Hidden Realm 2GWU

Rubinia Soulsinger 2GWU

Murkfiend Liege 2 G/U G/U G/U

Skyward Eye Prophets 3GWU

Arcanis the Omnipotent 3UUU

Woodfall Primus 5GGG


Swords to Plowshares W

Reciprocate W

Otherworldly Journey 1W

Reprisal 1W

Confound 1U

Arcane Denial 1U

Abolish 1WW

Aethermage’s Touch 2WU


Steelshaper’s Gift W

Time of Need 1G

Cultivate 2G

Borrowing 100,000 Arrows 2U

Breath of Life 3W

Resurrection 2WW

Saltblast 3WW

Kirtar’s Wrath 4WW


Darksteel Mutation 1W

Lignify 1G

Journey to Nowhere 1W

Oblivion Ring 2W

Steel of the Godhead 2W/U

Control Magic 2UU

Finest Hour 1GWU


Sol Ring 1

Skullclamp 1

Selesnya Signet 2

Simic Signet 2

Swiftfoot Boots 2

Lightning Greaves 2

Loxodon Warhammer 3

Basalt Monolith 3

Darksteel Ingot 3


Elspeth, Knight Errant 2WW

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes 3GW


6 x Forest

7 x Plains

6 x Island

Command Tower

Rupture Spire

Transguild Promenade

Opal Palace

Faerie Conclave

Secluded Steppe

Temple of the False God

Evolving Wilds

Terramorphic Expanse


Azorius Chancery

Selesnya Sanctuary

Bant Panorama

Seaside Citadel

Azorius Guildgate

Simic Guildgate

Selesnya Guildgate

Seijiri Regfuge

My Thoughts on the Deck:

Well as you can see there is a lot of green in the above card list, as I found many ways to improve the deck, removing all multiplayer-oriented cards, some cards that may be to difficult for a beginner like my sister Nora and replacing some cards with better alternatives, altogether in an effort to focus the deck a bit more on the two major themes of the deck: One being “flickering” creatures (removing them from play temporarily and bringing them back at end of turn) and the other being dictated by the Commander: Derevi, Empyrial Tactician. Let us look at her once again:

So the second theme would be tapping and untapping permanents, mostly done via Derevi, who, especially designed for the new Commander Format, is so awesome, I cannot resist to talk about her a bit:

Derevi is a great deal at the cost of just GWU (3 mana), being a Flyer with some kickass abilities. The first lets you tap or untap any permanent when she enters the battelfield or whenever one of your creatures deals combat damage, which begs for including cards that have great effects when tapped (but more on those later). The awesomeness could stop right there but it does not and Derevi has another kickass ability, only relevant in EDH. No matter how many times she got destroyed or exiled or whatnot, you will always be able to summon her from your Command Zone for exactly 1GWU. No more, never-ever. That is pretty darn badass in EDH!

So with this deck I chose to go with one of two general winning strategies I see in “EDH therory” – I divide EDH decks into those which try win by means of dealing 40 regular damage asap (or more if your opponent has life  gain, which is pretty common in EDH btw) and those which just try to inflict 21 Command Damage as fast as possible. With a fast, easy and always cheap to summon Commader with evasion I went with the second approach and there are many cards that support this strategy, like the “diabolic duo” Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots, which give your Commander not only Haste but also protection in the form of Shroud (Greaves) or Hexproof (Boots), Loxodon Warhammer and the awesome Steel of the Godhead, which is a 3 casting cost Enchantment which will give Derevi +2/+2 and Lifelink and, best of all, make her unblockable, so not even your opponent’s flyers and Reach creatures will be able to prevent you from dealing Command Damage. “Bant Exalted” trump cards Rafiqu of the Many and Finest Hour will make a Command Damage victory possible in like no time, as both have “Exalted” (giving a Creature attacking alone +1/+1 each) and Rafiqu gives a lone attacker, Derevi, Doublestrike and Finest Hour, an Enchantment for 1GWU, will give you a second combat phase when only one Creature (again it would be Derevi in the best case) attacked. If you have Steel of the Godhead attached to Derevi and both Rafiqu and Finest Hour in play and attack with Derevi alone, you will deal 24 points worth of UNBLOCKABLE (thanks to Steel of the Godhead) Command Damage in just one turn. That is pretty fudging awesome if you ask me.

There is much trickery involved in this deck such, either made possible by Derevi’s primary ability or in hte form of flickering Creatures with awesome “comes into play” effects, of which I added a ton to the deck.

A great, great target to untap with Derevi’s ability would be…

…for instance. Basalt Monolith would be a good target as well, tapping for 3 mana and maybe I should add a Mana Vault for Nora too, which is pretty much the same as Monolith, with the big and important difference that it cost only a tripple of Monolith’s cost (1 generic mana).

Furthermore, you got a ton of cards that let you “flicker” a Creature – remove it from play and return it at end of turn – and I added a ton of Creatures with amazing CIP (Comes-into-Play) Effects such as Eternal Witness, which lets you retrieve a card from your graveyard repeatedly as you’ll be flickering her in and out with cards like Mistmeadow Witch. You can also use your flickering cards as great ways to protect your Creatures from any harm, escaping anything from bounce, exiling, over pinpoint destruction to mass removal. You can even flicker a Creature out and cast your Kirthar’s Wrath. All Creatures will be destroyed and you will have a huge advantage over your opponent as the Creature you flickered out will return to play unharmed at end of turn, maybe even triggering some awesome CIP Effect. Besides Eternal Witness, there are some other amazing CIP Effect Creatures like Carven Caryathid which draws you a card whenever it enters the battlefield (and being a modest defender at 2/5 for 1GG), like Acidic Slime which destroys a Land, Enchantment or Artifact upon hitting the playing field, or like über-awesome Woodfall Primus (go ahead take a look if you can take the awesomeness!! 😉 ), which destroys any one non-Creature Permanent (and yes, that includes nasty Planeswalkers) whenever he comes into play.

There is much much more that could be said about this deck, like the odd fact that it features 3 white cards that reanimate Creatures from your graveyard, which is peculiar, but I will leave it at that.

Overall I think this deck has great potential, applying both early pressure with a quick, cheap and easy to summon Commander with a very much abusable effect, and featuring a lot of control elements as well and includes many great and useful card interactions,  mainly based on the combination of flickering your own CIP Effect Creatures etc.

Well I hope I did my job right and will be able to present my sister with a powerful (at least full of potential) very first EDH deck when she comes back home tomorrow. I futhermore hope that what I did with the original deck will be fine for her and Nora won’t mind my overly enthusiastic and hasty deckbuilding/deck-tuning efforts. Of course we will try to refine and improve the current deck list as presented above, which is, and I have to emphasize it again, a work in progress, together, as I am sure about one thing: There must be a ton more cards that would make for kickass combos with both the flickering and the tap or untap permanents aspects already strongly represented in the deck!

If YOU can think of some cards that would go well with either aspect, please do share them in a comment, as my MtG card knowledge is only ALMOST encyclopedic and I have a huge hole in it when it comes to anything after the Zendikar block.

So, dear readers, all that remains for me to say is the usual gamer-nerds greeting:

Happy Gaming!






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