Tag Archives: Strategy

Deck Analysis – Radha, Heir to Keld

Hi again folks,

Well the votes are in and as you can see from the lovely lady with the extra head above me, the deck you want me most to talk about (thanks to the people out there that voted!) is Radha, Heir to Keld. I have this deck built at the moment, but it’s unique amongst my decks in that I already have a stack of cards I want to put in, and I’m not really sure what direction I want to push her in.

Radha is somewhat unique in another way; I’ve only read one Magic novel in my entire life, and that is the Time Spiral novel in which Radha plays a reasonably large part. In the novel Radha is all fire and action, and is obsessed with proving her worth through battle. It’s also revealed that she has the beginnings of planeswalker spark, although that obviously doesn’t go anywhere (Hey WotC! Let’s see a R/G Radha, Planeswalker of Keld!).

My original thoughts were to make a pretty basic Red/Green aggro deck, using Radha’s ability to make mana in the combat phase to power Tricks™. Unfortunately the “new” rules changes (this is an old idea 😛 ) mean that the mana she provides is generated and must be used during the Declare Attackers step, which reduces the surprise value somewhat. Actually it reduces the surprise value to nil, which is a real downer….

What I’ve ended up with is a Red/Green kinda aggro semi-tribal Elf/Warrior/Beserker mess, including such all stars as Lovisa Coldeyes and Raging Goblin. (OK so the Raging Goblin is in there because I love me some Raging Goblin…) I’ve played it a few times and as soon as it runs out of steam – and it does that fairly quickly – it’s full of 2/2’s and 2/1’s and 3/3’s that everyone can pretty much ignore. (My Damia deck has a similar problem, but for a different reason – it’s full of mana dorks to help me get to Damia ASAP – but once they’re in play, they tend to be somewhat irrelevant.)

The other idea I had is a super ramp deck (Radha is a mana source, after all) and build up to massive X spell after massive X spell, preferably assisted by Radha’s mid-combat mana-adding ability. Most of the spells in the “sideboard” are these X-spells; but there are some in the deck already as well, along with such cards as Rosheen Meanderer. (Who, you may note, is not an Elf, a Warrior, or a Beserker. I is good at the theme decks!). The other, similar but different, option is to build an EDH version of “Elfball” – a deck which utilises a ton of mana producing elves, and ways to untap them, to build up to arbitrarily large amounts of mana and use a Fireball (or Comet Storm, or similar) to take out the entire table at once. I have some of those cards in here as well.

The list as it currently stands is missing a lot of good Warriors – most notably Imperious Perfect, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, and Bramblewood Paragon. Apparently I’m also good at the giving away playables… I swear I have them in the Black Hole that is my hobby room… somewhere… but I’m still looking for the last kid I sent in there to get something for me.

I’ve done a bit of searching (on mtgsalvation and mtgcommander) for other Radha lists, and there are a few popular archetypes for Radha decks. For some reason the most common one I can find is a combination mana ramp/land destruction build; since Green and Red have the best LD spells, I guess. This is a type of build that interests me about as much as pulling my own fingernails out with a pair of pliers; if I had to sum up my personal EDH philosophy in one phrase it would be:

Let people play their deck

(For the record, yes I run decks with counterspells and creature destruction and board control. I run Faerie Trickery, but not Forbid. If you can’t see the philosophical difference between those two spells, this blog ain’t for you 😉 )

Other types of Radha decks floating around are:

  • A quite cool and tricksy Life from the Loam/Crucible of Worlds/Seismic Assault/Storm Cauldron deck (but really, this could be any R/G general)
  • Goodstuff Aggro/Ramp… accelerating into Avenger of Zendikar and friends. How exciting!!!
    • Having said that I did find one deck which had quite a cute idea with Birthing Pod, Weatherseed Treefolk and/or Shivan Phoenix; basically you can pull every 6 or 7 drop out of your deck (one per turn) since the Treefolk and the Phoenix just keep coming back
  • Elfball (as described above, and in more detail below)
  • Elf-without-the-ball – all the big mana but only used to power out more and more Elves, usually killing with Ezuri or Kamahl, Fist of Krosa (not that he’s an elf)

ElfBall (from someone who clearly doesn’t know how it works)

The general idea with the old-school Elfball lists that were floating around in casual land since forever is that you use an Elf that taps for a lot of mana (typically Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary or Wirewood Channeler) and some way to continually untap him that costs less mana than he produces, making an arbitrarily large amount of mana and Fireball everyone for the win (hence ElfBall). Most of the decks I’ve seen in action splash blue for one or both of Pemmin’s Aura or Freed from the Real, as they only require a single mana to untap. In red and green, your options are limited somewhat:

  • Umbral Mantle (requires the creature to tap for at least four mana)
  • Sword of the Paruns (ditto)
  • Aggravated Assault

There are other ways the ElfBall works as well; the most common that I’ve found is to make an infinite storm count by using Cloudstone Curio and Heritage Druid, along with two other one-drop elves. It works a little like this:

  • Have Cloudstone Curio in play, and Heritage Druid either in play with one other one-drop Elf, or in your hand with two other one drop Elves.
  • Play the Elf in your hand (Storm 1)
  • With the Cloudstone Curio trigger on the stack, tap three Elves to make GGG
  • Return a tapped Elf to your hand
  • Play that Elf (Storm 2, GG in mana pool)
  • Return a tapped Elf to your hand
  • Play it (Storm 3, G in mana pool)
  • Return the last tapped Elf to your hand
  • You’re now back at stage one – You have two untapped Elves + Curio in play, and a third in your hand

Things get even wackier if one of your Elves is Nettle Sentinel – because it untaps itself when you play another Elf, you don’t need to return it to your hand. This means you make green mana out of the deal, which leads to infinite storm, and infinite green mana (essentially it’s another way to ElfBall). Finish off with your choice of Ignite Memories or Grapeshot (or Haze of Rage or Hunting Pack if you’re feeling weird, or Volcanic Awakening if you’re feeling like a dick…)

ElfBall Pros

  • It’s about the only way to make Elves relevant in EDH
  • It comes out of left field (at least the first few times)
  • It’s reasonably resilient
  • It doesn’t require the combat phase to win
  • I don’t play a lot of combo – this will only be my second combo deck (the first being Animar, which is more a U/G creature deck with some combos in it. It has a grand total of 3 red cards, as I write this, and two of them are only there to give haste to my team.)

Elfball Cons

  • It’s not particularly interactive. This of course applies to most combo decks
  • It needs all it’s pieces (and it needs lots of pieces) at once which means either a) tutors, or b) lots and lots of waiting
  • Being R/G, it won’t have a lot of ways to protect itself
  • It’s much harder to get the right bits assembled when only one of them is in the deck.
  • It will pretty much play out the same way every game

Another option is…

Warrior Tribal!

There are some great Warriors in Magic. The vast majority of them are in Green and Red. This seems relevant, since Radha is herself a Warrior. (As an aside there are 5 legendary G/R warriors. A 4/4 First Striking, Legendary Landwalking lass for 6, a 4/6 Rampage: 1 for 6 (wow…), Radha, A 3/4 guy who comes with his twin for 6, and a 4/4 Trampler for 5, with a mid-combat pump. Radha seems best to me, although a couple of these guys could sneak in.)

Lorwyn block really is the star here; it gave the Warrior tribe a lot more late-game punch with the addition of Giant and Treefolk Warriors (as well as Goblins, Elves, and Elementals). There are 68 Green and/or Red Warriors in Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block alone! They did need the help though – there are only 183 Warriors in the rest of Magic history, and most of them are…. sub-par (Akki Raider, looking at you here…)

After going through the list, these are the ones I thought may actually be worth playing:

Elf Warriors

Allosaurus Rider
Bramblewood Paragon
Elvish Skysweeper
Elvish Vanguard
Imperious Perfect
Joraga Warcaller
Lys Alana Huntmaster
Nath’s Elite
Nettle Sentinel
Talara’s Battalion
Winnower Patrol
Wren’s Run Packmaster
Wren’s Run Vanquisher

Goblin Warriors

Bloodmark Mentor
Boggart Ram-Gang
Goblin Bangchuckers
Goblin Wardriver
Zo-Zu the Punisher

Elemental Warriors

Brighthearth Banneret
Inner-Flame Ignitor
Nova Chaser (if enough Elementals)
Vengeful Firebrand

Giant Warriors

Boldwyr Heavyweights (requires Stranglehold?)
Boldwyr Intimidator
Countryside Crusher (requires mana acceleration, or some way of getting lands from graveyard to hand or play)
Furystoke Giant
Hamletback Goliath
Hotheaded Giant

Treefolk, Human, Troll, Vampire, Cat, Wolfir and Snake Warriors Oh My!

Ambassador Oak (brings an Elf Warrior friend!)
Champion of Lambholt
Falkenrath Marauders
Hunted Troll
Jedit Ojanen of Efrava
Kargan Dragonlord
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Markov Blademaster
Matsu Tribe Sniper
Nacatl War-Pride
Petrified Wood-Kin
Sosuke, Son of Seshiro
Splatter Thug
Viridian Zealot
Vulshok Battlemaster
Wolfir Silverheart
Zealous Conscripts

While it’s not a particularly impressive list, there is some potential there. However, I think a lot of the work will be done by only a few of the creatures; notably Bramblewood Paragon and Boldwyr Intimidator. Everything else either makes more creatures, or make themselves or others bigger. There’s a distinct lack of evasion, which I guess for Warriors isn’t a huge surprise.

Aggro decks in EDH just plain don’t work – there is one aggro deck I can think of in our playgroup that is any good, and it’s a G/R Stonebrow deck that ramps up to big trampler after big trampler, usually with Savage Beating (THE most appropriately named card in all of magic) to finish. Having a bunch of 3/3’s and 2/3’s simply doesn’t cut it against the haymakers most EDH decks are throwing around, and that’s before the somewhat inevitable board wipes. So in order to make a tribal deck work, you have to be able to FINISH HIM!!

So, I thought to myself… what if I could combine the two decks? Have an Elfball Tribal Warriors mashup?

Such a deck would have a game plan kinda like this: In the early game throw out some threats in the form of Warrior beatdown, as well as a fair bit of ramp-age (turns out that word needs a hyphen, otherwise it’s just rampage, which is kind of appropriate I guess). In the mid game it’ll prey on targets of opportunity while setting up for the Big Finish, which will be a large X-spell of some variety. Cards like Earthquake in this scenario are fine, since if the early game has gone well I’ll be on more life than anyone else.

For this strategy (and I use that term loosely) I’ll have to cherry pick only the very best Warriors, and the ElfBall cards which are essential to creating large amounts of mana – although it must be noted that I don’t have to have the ability to go Infinite – if I get to X=20 or so, that should be more than enough. First let’s look over the Warrior list above for cards which also work in ElfBall:

Nettle Sentinel.

Hmm. This could be harder than I thought. There are a few good Warriors which can act as mana sinks for Arbitrarily Large Amounts Of Mana (Wren’s Run Packmaster, Joraga Warspeaker, Boldwyr Intimidator, Inner-Flame Igniter (sort of), Vengeful Firebrand, Kargan Dragonlord (although he “only” needs RRRRRRRR)). The trouble is, if I draw all (or worse, only some of) my Elfball stuff too early, I have nothing to do in the early game. If I don’t draw it at all, I’m just going to sit around with a bunch of outclassed creatures. Still it’s not all doom and gloom. I think I can build enough resilience in – without resorting to a bunch of tutor effects – that Fun Times will be had. So, this will be my initial build:

General: Radha, Heir to Keld

Warriors: (sorted by converted mana cost)

  1. Elvish Skysweeper, Joraga Warcaller, Nettle Sentinel
  2. Bramblewood Paragon*, Brighthearth Banneret, Goblin Wardriver*, Kargan Dragonlord*, Matsu-Tribe Sniper, Varchild’s War-Riders*, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Viridian Zealot*
  3. Boggart Ram-Gang, Champion of Lambholt*, Imperious Perfect*, Inner Flame Igniter, Markov Blademaster, Mirri Cat Warrior, Zo-Zu the Punisher
  4. Ambassador Oak, Hunted Troll, Lys Alana Huntmaster, Sosuke Son of Seshiro, Vengeful Firebrand, Wren’s Run Packmaster
  5. Nath’s Elite, Stonebrow Krosan Hero, Vulshok Battlemaster*, Zealous Conscripts*
  6. Nacatl War-Pride
  7. Allosaurus Rider, Boldwyr Intimidator, Hamletback Goliath

*Cards I don’t actually own… Champion of Lambholt incidentally makes all my dudes unblockable if I cast an infinite number of Elves in a turn. Handy!

I considered Nova Chaser here but I only have three other Elementals – not good odds.

Counting that up we have 32 Warriors. Pretty good numbers for a semi-tribal deck, and still plenty of room to add the ElfBall pieces. So far, so good! Adding to that, Elfball pieces (remember, I’m not trying to go infinite, but simply Large™

Combo Number 1: Infinite Mana: Rofellos Llanowar Emissary, Elvish Archdruid, Priest of Titania, Wirewood Channeller, Umbra Mantle, Sword of the Paruns. Finish with Comet Storm, Earthquake, Hurricane, or something else that gets everyone at once, preferably at instant speed.

Combo Number 2: Infinite Storm Count: Cloudstone Curio, Heritage Druid, any two other 1-drop elves (currently Elvish Skysweeper, Joraga Warcaller, and Nettle Sentinel). With Nettle Sentinel this also gives me Infinite G mana. I’ll have to put in more here – getting Heritage Druid and 2 out of the other three one-drops in play at once seems pretty unlikely. Candidates are: Arbor Elf, Centaur’s Herald, Copperhorn Scout, Elvish Lookout, Essence Warden, Gladecover Scout, Greenseeker, Joraga Treespeaker, Llanowar Elves (and maybe Fyndhorn Elves), Quirion Ranger (this guy is a shoe-in, given the next category), Skyshroud Ranger, or Taunting Elf (although he probably wouldn’t survive long enough!). That’s 12 more to choose from. After the infinite storm, I will have Grapeshot, Ignite Memories, and Hunting Pack (hopefully with a haste enabler like Fires, see “Other bits” below…). I really want to throw Haze of Rage in here, but without something else to help it out, whatever dudes I have (that will be infinitely large power, but no more toughness than normal) can just be chump blocked.

“Combo” Number 3: Big Enough: Rather than generating an “arbitrarily large” amount of mana, this uses the mana producers from Combo 1 above to generate merely “enough mana to kill you all”; Quirion Ranger, Wirewood Lodge, Magewright’s Stone, Scryb Ranger, Seeker of Skybreak, Seize the Day, Thousand Year Elixir, Wirewood Symbiote.

The idea here is that I have approximately 30 cards to work with after including the 32 Warriors above; after a little jiggering around this is what I’ve decided on:

ElfBall Package, sorted by Converted Mana Cost:

0. Wirewood Lodge
1. Essence Warden, Fireball, Hurricane, Heritage Druid, Joraga Treespeaker, Llanowar Elves, Quirion Ranger, Skyshroud Ranger, Taunting Elf, Wirewood Symbiote
2. Comet Storm, Fault Line, Grapeshot, Magewright’s Stone, Molten Disaster, Priest of Titania, Rofellos Llanowar Emissary, Rolling Thunder, Scryb Ranger, Seeker of Skybreak, Squall Line
3. Cloudstone Curio, Elvish Archduid, Sword of the Paruns, Thousand Year Elixir, Umbral Mantle
4. Wirewood Channeler
5. Aggravated Assault, Ignite Memories
7. Hunting Pack

Altogether that’s 62 cards. That’s what you get for trying to shoehorn two different decks into one – ideally I want to run 35-37 lands (the curve is reasonably low) so I have zero, one, or two cards left… and no real way to deal with anything my opponents are doing (short of killing them dead, of course).

This is what the deck looks like so far (I added Stomping Ground, Rootborn Crag, and Basics).

I’m tempted to call it there and play a few games with the deck as it is; partially because I want to see if it’ll work at all, partially to see if I need to add things like Fires of Yavimaya, and partially because this post is nearly 3,000 words long and has taken me nearly a week to write 😀 (That also explains the somewhat sporadic card tags… If you need to see what a card is click the link in the previous paragraph and just hover over the card name 🙂

What do you think? Does the complete lack of meaningful interactions with the rest of the table kill this off? Does the complete lack of mana ramp sink this deck before it takes off? How can I play a Radha deck without Bang Veggies!? Stay tuned! Comments as always, welcome!


Posted by on November 23, 2012 in Challenge of Doom, EDH/Commander


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What a dilly of a pickle! – NOW WITH POLL

I was playing my Savra deck last night and had a bit of a realisation moment; I’m a bad deckbuilder. OK, I may be overstating things a little there, but let me elaborate. I had the following opening hand:

Verdant Catacombs, Crypt of Agadeem, Svogthos, Stinkweed Imp, and some other stuff. Play and crack Verdant Catacombs (getting Overgrown Tomb). My second turn draw; Life from the Loam. “Man I’m good at this game” I think to myself as I cast it and get the Catacombs back, drawing a Swamp for turn 3. I cast Stinkweed Imp, thinking there’s nothing wrong with a bit of early defence… then the Nicol Bolas player to my right plays Consuming Vapors… and then Bojuka Bog’s me. Brutal, but effective. SO effective, in fact that I pretty much do nothing for the next 5 or 6 turns. This is when I come to the realisation I alluded to above. Bogging a graveyard which contained only a Life from the Loam and a Stinkwed Imp should not have stopped me in my tracks, but it surely did. I came to the following conclusions:

  1. My decks all love doing stuff
  2. I tend to put in cards that “do stuff” ahead of cards that “do nothing” (I’ll define that term later on)
  3. If someone manages to stop me doing stuff, I’m back to doing nothing
  4. (not really relevant to this particular game, but) I need to put 1 or 2 (or 5) more lands into all my decks
  5. In order for point 4 to not result in me going “land, go” in the later game, I need to put more card draw into all my decks
  6. More lands + more card draw = less stuff!!! But see point 1!

Hence my dilly of a pickle (of a jam). As far as I’m concerned, spells that say “draw X cards” are do nothing cards. In Savra, I have things like Skullmuncher, Skulltap, Culling Dais and Carnage Altar, which are all pretty good card draw, if you have creatures. Which I didn’t.

Thing is, my decks are already 35-40 lands, plus some “do nothing” cards. If I were to put in the lands I probably need, plus the draw/selection spells to get me past all my new lands, they’ll be about 50% do nothing… which means half the game (to my thinking) will be wasted!

What do you think, gentle reader? Should I bite the bullet and make my decks better, at the expense of doing less stuff? Or should I leave them as is, and just realise every now and then that I’ll get stuck like I did with Savra?

Very keen to hear all y’all’s opinions on this 🙂

Edit: Now with super-poll action!


Posted by on March 9, 2012 in EDH/Commander


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Prison Rules, EDH, and having a good time (ooh err)

There’s been a bit of discussion lately in our playgroup, and in the wider community about how Commander “should” be played, and whether certain lines of play are appropriate to the format. In particular, whether it’s socially acceptable to take another player out early, or to focus on one player to the exclusion of the other players in the game. This came up partly, but I should point out not only, because of the game I reported on last week, in which one player was taken out very early (turn 6 or so) but the rest of the game took around an hour. In our group we call this “Prison Rules” for reasons which I hope are reasonably clear to the audience…

The question is, is this an OK way to play? I’ve since been told that my Omnath deck isn’t fun to play against, purely because it focuses on one player until they die, then moves on to the next, instead of spreading the damage around, like most of my other decks do. I can understand that; if you’re the first one to be chosen* then you definitely run the risk of sitting on the sidelines for a long time watching the others, and of course that’s not fun.

(*for whatever reason – I’d like to point out that I usually attack the strongest player, while in last week’s game the Omnath player, who wasn’t me, chose the weakest player simply because Omnath killed him off immediately. At that point the other two remaining players tried – unsuccessfully, in the end – to take Omnath down.)

Thinking some more about the way Omnath plays led me to the conclusion that all General Damage based decks must play that way; if I hit all 3 players at the table with my General, and they’re all another hit away from dying to it, of course they’re all going to come after me! In that case, it simply makes sense to take out as many players as quickly as you can, in order to give them the least chance to retaliate. This is how I built Omnath – when it’s running good it kills one player per turn until the game ends (this is almost how it worked last week – it killed all three players in a single hit, and the last two in consecutive turns, but there was a big gap between the first kill and the second).

EDH is, first and foremost, a casual format. “Graveborn Muse” over on, opined that casual means:

Casual Magic means you care about how much fun your opponents are having.

Now that is a definition I agree with 100%, and the comment that my Omnath deck isn’t fun to play against has got me thinking that maybe I need to take it apart and rebuild something else – although personally I did have fun playing against it, as I desperately tried (and almost succeeded) to stop a 400+ power monster from running me over.

So the question for the day (500 words in!) is this:

Does focussing on one player mean that you are not playing socially?

Like virtually everything in life, I would say “it depends”. There are times where it’s obviously the correct thing to be doing; you have a board full of dragons, and That Guy Over There has a Pernicious Deed in play, with 5 mana currently available. You’re going to lose your team unless you take him out (or down) before he untaps; I believe you should attack him while the attacking’s good (and then make a deal with him to not blow the Deed while you attack other people, a point on which I’ve already discovered I differ from the most of the rest of my group; they’d rather force the Deed and rebuild on their own turn).

However, if you’re attacking the same guy again and again simply because he’s open, while it may be the smart thing to do from a winning-the-game perspective, it is almost certainly affecting his enjoyment of the game, and maybe you should hold off and let them play for a while. Yes, that drags the games out. But (and I’m sure I’ve said this before) aren’t we here to play the game? The best play in a sanctioned Magic tournament is not always the right play in an EDH game. (Notice the difference between “best” and “right” here). Having said that, if two players in the game are enjoying beating on each other as hard as they can (say for example, Terastodonning 12 lands from the same player…..) then go for it!

Now I’m not saying “don’t take out the threat” or “well, maybe I’ll just sit back and watch everyone else play then” either – you have to be enjoying yourself as much as the others around the table – but what I am saying is that we’re playing a non-sanctioned format, around a kitchen table (or equivalent), for fun and kicks.

Is there a place for so-called tight play in EDH? Yeah, I think so – but only if the rest of the table agrees. In the future I’ll be taking a look around the table and seeing who I’m playing against (both players and decks), and then select a deck accordingly – if I’m up against Kiku, Sisay, and Progenitus, then I’ll bust out a “good” deck. If I’m playing against Cat-Lady Sisay, 5-colour Angels, and Hazezon Tamar, then maybe I’ll shoot for Mayael, or Garza Zol, or Tolsimir, decks which are entirely capable of taking out a game, but in a much less focussed way.

At the end of the day (and, thank goodness, approaching the end of this article!) EDH is about having fun. Nobody should be stressing about should I be making this play or that play – we’re here to have fun (I hope!) and if you’re spending too much time worrying about the meta-meta-game (which is what this has been all about!) you’re probably thinking too hard 😀 EDH is (in theory) about haymakers and crazy plays, and focussing on one player, or more precisely the type of play that leads to focussing on one player, almost inevitably leads to the opposite kind of game. Think Big! Do Dumb Things! Enjoy Yourself!


Posted by on January 9, 2012 in EDH/Commander


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Who do I attack? You’re (probably) doing it wrong

Disclaimer before I start: I’m no expert on this either, and there’s a better than even chance I’m doing it wrong as well!

Threat Assessment in EDH

Over the last few months there have been numerous threads on numerous forums about how Person X’s playgroup is always attacking the wrong person (usually because they attacked Person X), and Person X – let’s call them Steve – thinks that everyone else has some kind of personal vendetta, or something.

That sort of thing does happen (check out this post in DJ Catchem’s blog for an excellent example of it), but I personally subscribe to the theory “never assign to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity” (you’d be surprised how correct that statement is!). It’s entirely possible that Steve is being attacked because he is perceived to be the biggest threat, or he’s the nearest person, or has the least complicated board, or talked last (<— yes, really. “I always attack the first person to talk” is a strategy – and I use the word loosely – that has been used in our playgroup.)

What I hope to achieve in this article is to give you an idea of my thought processes, and more importantly, why I think that, when it comes to who I target in any given situation. I’m not saying this is the One True Way of threat assessment, but I like to think that I’ve got a pretty good system going on and one that has served me well, and results in the kind of EDH games that I want to play.

Note that these points apply to free-for-all games; for alternative formats (Star, Emperor, and so on) the theories are subtly different.

Attack the player in the strongest position, most of the time

So straight off the bat this one’s going to cause some disagreement. There is a school of thought that says “if everyone attacks the strongest player, all the time, all that happens is everyone is dragged back together, and games last forever”. In my opinion, this is the desired result. You get to play more, you get to see more of your deck, everyone is involved for longer… Quite frankly I don’t see the downside to playing more Magic.

I have a couple of reasons for playing this way:

  • If you don’t attack the strongest player, but attack someone else, you are effectively making the strongest player even stronger than they already are, by weakening one of their opponents.
  • If you do attack the strong player, you are sending a message to the rest of the table that perhaps they need to think a bit about who they should be attacking.

Who is the strongest player, anyway?

This is the $64,000 question. The method I use to determine the strongest player is something like this:

Very Early Game (Turns 1-3): No one, really. Concentrate on getting your own gameplan into action.

Early Game: Whoever is on the most life gets a few early beats, if it doesn’t leave me too exposed.

Mid Game: This part of the game lasts the longest and is also the hardest to figure out who the actual threat is. Is it the guy with 30 2/3 plant tokens? Usually, yes… but maybe you have a Lightmine Field or Ghostly Prison stopping him from attacking you. Is it the guy with 15 Mountains, a full grip of cards, and Kiki-Jiki in his Command Zone? In our group the answer is definitely yes, but it may not be in yours. I usually try and assess (sometimes without much success) to determine who the biggest threat is by using the following, in this order:

  • Capability of killing the whole table in the next turn or two (e.g. Warp World, Combo)
  • Capability of killing me in the next turn or two
  • Capability of wrathing the board, if I care about such things.  (Which I usually do… I tend to play creature decks)
  • The highest life total, if I can attack without being attacked back for lethal in return

If no one meets these criteria, then usually I don’t attack. As always there are exceptions though; if I have a Nether Traitor, I may as well attack someone with it, because it’s not going to do any good on defence.

Late Game:  In the late game, my priorities change a little. If someone can be taken out, I usually do it. The late game is where the true haymakers start flying, and someone on 2 life can just as easily kill everyone that’s left out of nowhere as someone on 30 life.

All of these things can change, depending on the game state. Sometimes (say in Mono-White Sliver Equipment) a particular permanent will be bad for you, and no one else cares about it (Aura Shards) and if you have no answers in your hand (or worse, deck) you have to take that player out.

The idea here is to be flexible. You want to make the plays that result in you having the best chance to win the game, but at the same time, you (in theory…) also want everyone else involved in the game and having fun – after all, EDH is a social/fun format, not a win-at-all-costs, always-make-the-tight-play competitive one. (Yes, this is merely my opinion. It is, however, also the opinion of the creators of the format, and more importantly, the vast majority of the players of the format as well.)

As an illustration of that difference; in competitive, sanctioned magic, it’s always the correct play to take a player out, if you are able to. One less competitor means one less thing to worry about, and you can concentrate on the next victim. In EDH, there are very few things more frustrating than getting taken out early and then watching for another hour while everyone else dances around each other, especially if you were taken out because you were the easy target. If you were the easy target, it’s usually because your deck is misfiring. If you’re sitting across the table from some guy who has 4 land, missed his last 3 land drops, and has done literally nothing the last 2 turns, chances are it’s not because he’s sandbagging a strong position – it’s because his deck is screwing him over. Leave the poor sap alone!

Likewise, I’ve seen that people overuse their removal, firing it off on the first available target, even if something bigger is just around the corner. If you have your Swords to Plowshares in your hand, don’t waste it on an opposing general (unless that general is about to do something stupid!), wait for the Indestructible Killing Machine of Death, or the Infinitely Recurring Card Advantage Engine. The same applies for wraths (and wrath variants) – sure, they’re usually sorcery speed, but wrathing simply because there are creatures on the board is short-sighted and a waste. Timing is everything in this game, and it’s important to get “value” (as much as I hate that use of that word) out of every spell you play.


There is a time and a place for revenge in EDH. I consider that revenge is a dish best served red-hot, as brutally as possible, and then – and this is the important bit – moving on. To illustrate with an example that happened with me a few weeks ago; I’m playing Animar, and the person to my left is playing a very bad “prison” style Hanna (dubbed “the deck that doesn’t do anything… no, the deck that does nothing” by it’s creator). On turn 2 I suspend a Riftwing Cloudskate, then on turn 4 I cast Animar (the theory being that the Cloudskate comes in next turn, Animar gets a free counter and I get a hasty flier). Hanna Hinders Animar. Now, I have no particular hatred for “tuck” and I believe that any decent deck should either be able to function without its general, or have some way of getting it back (both of which are true in my Animar deck). However, at the time I considered that Hanna wasn’t my enemy and I said as much to the player multiple times. When he countered Animar however, he made himself my enemy. The next turn I bounced one of his lands with the Cloudskate, and then used Reap and Sow to destroy another one, setting him back two turns compared to the rest of the table. After that, however, I pretty much left him alone, focussing on what I did consider to be the real threats. The story DJ Catchem tells in the link at the top of this post however, is a completely different thing. To carry your revenge over from one game to the next game, to target a player simply because of what they did in that previous game – that is, in my opinion, uncalled for and unnecessary.

It’s a fact of the game that people will destroy your things, steal your things, or counter your things. By all means exact some revenge, but use your head and don’t do it for the rest of the game, or to the exclusion of the real threat at the table. If you were the real threat (see my Mayael game report from a couple of weeks ago), then you should not be surprised when the table comes after you!


In summary, I think it pays to think about who you attack/what you kill – you shouldn’t kill everything “because you can” as that will just invite hate from the rest of the group. Save your removal and counters for things that are truly important (i.e will take you out of the game), and attack those people who are the biggest threat to you, at whichever stage of the game you’re in. The most important thing to remember is this:

Everyone is there to have fun and everyone is there to play the game!


Posted by on October 31, 2011 in EDH/Commander


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