In the first few articles in this series I am going to try to explain the thought processes I went through when I designed my EDH decks.
An EDH deck is supposed to be a work of love in my opinion. These decks are perhaps the single most customizable decks in all of the various formats of Magic the Gathering combined. This is because the pool of cards one has access to when designing one of these decks is so large that they have a nearly infinite supply of cards from which to draw from, with very few exceptions.
The deck I am going to be discussing in this first article, was my first and is currently one of my favorite EDH decks I have put together. This deck is my Sedris, the Traitor King, Elder Dragon Highlander deck. One of the most important things to realize when designing a Sedris EDH deck, is that the majority of Sedris decks are going to be reanimation based decks. Those that aren’t just aren’t using their General’s ability to its fullest potential and probably would be better off using Garza Zol or another Legend as their General. The text on Sedris that makes him perfectly suited to reanimation is as follows:
Each creature card in your Graveyard has Unearth 2B. (2B : Return the card to play. The Creature gains Haste. Remove it from the game at the end of turn or if it would leave play. Unearth only as a sorcery.)
Now, when one designs a Sedris deck there are a variety of things one has to consider. The first thing one has to consider is the overall strategy that one is going to follow as outlined below:
Beatstick Reanimation: This basic strategy follows the premise of dumping large creatures that are usually prohibitively costed mana wise into your graveyard. Once they are in your graveyard you will use a variety of tools in the deck to reanimate these cards. This strategy can be extremely potent in 1v1 games, so long as the opponent isn’t able to race you too well. The idea in this scenario is to load your deck with lots of cheap cards that allow you to fill your graveyard as well as lots of cheap reanimation spells thereby ensuring that you are able to get a big fat beatstick onto the field before your opponent can do much about it.
187 Control: This strategy focuses on playing, reanimating, and bouncing various creatures with a wide variety of utility effects that trigger as they enter the battlefield or leave the battlefield (187 is the code that’s used in California to denote a murder. Original 187 creatures – MtGCP). This strategy has some vulnerabilities, but is overall extremely potent as it tends to run faster than the “Beatstick Strategy” due to the fact that many of the 187 creatures tend to have lower casting costs than many of the beatsticks. However this strategies primary weakness is that it has no true win condition.
187 Beatstick Combination: This strategy combines the two above strategies into a much more balanced whole. It uses beatstick creatures with 187 abilities (such as Bogardan Hellkite and others) to maintain board presence while at the same time providing a much more powerful reanimation suite. This is personally the approach that I took when designing my own Sedris reanimation deck.
Now that we know the strategy we are going to follow, we have to decide on the basic outline of the deck. First things first, we are playing EDH. Which means that since we are using Sedris, the Traitor King as our General, we are only allowed to use cards with the Red, Black, and Blue mana symbols anywhere on those cards.
I did a search on Magiccards.info for all cards with the phrase “enters the battlefield” which fall under the colors of Red, Blue, and Black” and whose power happens to be 5 or greater. The Results can be found here. Some good cards on that list include the following: Bogardan Hellkite, Ebon Dragon (1v1 only), Malfegor, Thunder Dragon, and Thundermare. Those are just some good examples of really powerful creatures with 187 effects. However keep in mind that to fill out this deck we are also going to need weaker creatures with 187 effects as well. Some such creatures include Trinket Mage, and Mulldrifter as well as Shriekmaw and possibly even Nekrataal itself after whom the 187 effect is named.
I am going to outline some of the cards that did and did not make it into the deck, starting with cards that did not make it into the deck. They are separated by categories as to what was supposed to be in the deck.
Not Powerful Enough for this deck:
- Flametongue Kavu, Spitebellows — When I was first designing this deck these cards were both suggested to me. However I quickly realized that many of the creatures run in EDH were often too large for either of these cards to be of any use against them. Either that or the creatures would be immune to regular damage. As such I rejected these cards out of hand.
- Synod Sanctum (and company) — While the ability to save a card from the unearth mechanics drawback is highly intriguing, the ability in and of itself is not as useful for anything other than saving creatures from Sedris. For this purpose I decided against utilizing these cards for this deck since they would in many cases just be dead cards.
EDH Fun, but not for this deck:
- Elder Mastery — this card, while very potent in many cases is also highly vulnerable. If the creature it is attached to should die, then the enchantment dies with it. As such while the effect is worth running, losing that effect makes me not interested in running it.
- Genju of the Falls — this card, while intriguing, is simply not potent enough to make it worth running. The card makes a land vulnerable to both land destruction and creature removal, which I am not to keen on having my lands be vulnerable in such a way. As such I quickly rejected this card.
- Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker & Pestermite — Many people feel that every EDH deck in existence needs to run at least one Infinite Combo. I am one of the few people who disagrees with this sentiment. I would not be heart broken if someone decided to run a modified version of my list using the Kiki-Mite combo. However I am not a fan of infinite combos and refuse to run this combo if at all possible.
Was tested in this deck, but found lacking in potency:
- Browbeat — I have found that when one is playing Browbeat that just about ANYONE will pay the 5 life cost instead of letting you draw 3 cards. As such, browbeat simply is not as potent in EDH as it could be.
- Dragon’s Claw — I ran this card in the deck for a few weeks, until I was able to replace it and the other cards like it with the more potent artifact-equipment spells such as Lightning Greaves, Sword of Fire and Ice, and Loxodon Warhammer.
- Frozen Solid — The only thing I was ever able to accomplish with this card, was to temporarily stall a Azami, Lady of the Scroll deck. As such, this card has officially been replaced with the infinitely more potent Pithing Needle.
- Patriarch’s Bidding — This card, while powerful in its own right, just doesn’t play as effectively in this deck as does Living Death. Where as Living Death can act as a pseudo Wrath of God on occasion, this card can just as frequently backfire on me as it can help me win games. As such it is no longer run in this deck.
Cards that are great in Multi-Player Games:
- Blood Tyrant — This is possibly the best beat stick in existence for use in games with 3 or more players. The card can single-handedly wipe out an entire table if it is not answered quickly.
- Malfegor — Serves as a one sided wrath so long as you have enough cards in your hand to wipe out an entire opponents field. The added benefit that this cards drawback feeds Sedris and the other reanimation spells in this deck helps a bunch as well.
- Kagemaro, First to Suffer — This card serves as a highly political tool. People will start arguments over whether or not you should use his ability to blow up the table or not. He is a really decisive tool and quite fun.
- Rhystic Study — Perhaps one of the single most hated tools in multi-player games. This card can single-handedly create so much card advantage that it is nearly impossible for you to lose a game if left unchecked.
- Sedris, the Traitor King — He enables you to reanimate cards for a single turn with haste, which enables a major alpha strike for that turn. The trick is knowing when to use him to your best advantage.
- Hell’s Caretaker — Turns your creatures that are in play into reanimation spells. It is quite useful and can combo with just about any other creature. In a pinch it can feed off of itself to reanimate another creature.
- Makeshift Mannequin — Instant speed reanimation is nothing to shy away from. This card while creating a vulnerable reanimation target enables you to create a blocker during your opponents turn, even if you didn’t currently have one.
- Dread Return — Reusable reanimation is nothing to be ashamed of. This card is highly powerful and is definitely something that should be considered when playing this deck.
- Living Death — Acts as a pseudo wrath as well as providing you with a new supply of creatures to fill the field. It is highly potent. The trick is knowing when the best time to utilize this card happens to be as it affects all players equally.
- Torrent of Souls — This card acts as both a reanimation spell, and an alpha strike enabler. As such it is highly useful and variable. So use it wisely.
- Liliana Vess — Only really a reanimation spell if or when you manage to activate her ultimate ability. However if that is possible, she becomes this decks single most powerful reanimation tool as she grants you the ability to reanimate and gain control of, every single creature in every single graveyard in the game.
- Bogardan Hellkite — This card is included in the deck for two main reasons. The first being its 187 effect; the second being the fact that it serves as an incredible beatstick.
- Thraximundar — Serves as both a beatstick, and a reusable removal spell all in one package. As such he is a highly sought after prize in this deck.
- Inkwell Leviathan — This card simply is the epitome of big, bad, and ugly. This card will throw your opponents for loops as they try to deal with it. The problem for them is that only mass removal in most cases can stop this card. That or untargeted removal such as edicts. So dealing with this threat is highly difficult to achieve. Add to that the fact that he has Trample and Islandwalk and he becomes highly difficult for many opponents to deal with.
- Bladewing the Risen — Not truly a beatstick in and of itself, but this card is really more of a beef enabler. Use him to get large creatures into play, and then to pump those creatures for lethal damage when possible. He is a very versatile Dragon.
- Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni — Can often sneak past an enemies defenses on its first attack, and steal one of their creatures while at the same time doing some damage. On subsequent attacks this card can be quite annoying. Throw in the fact that this card has regeneration and we have a killer set on the loose.
- Keiga, the Tide Star — A beatstick that will oftentimes be left to roam the board because having it on the field is oftentimes better for the opponent than should they kill it, due to the fact that killing this card often results in the theft of an opponents creatures.
There are other reanimation tools that this deck can utilize, such as Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, and Puppeteer Clique. However the ones outlined above tend to be the best and most powerful ones that this deck has at its disposal in most situations. These Reanimation tools will often swing games in your favor. However there is some strategy to using some of these.
When setting up to use a reanimation spell, it actually helps to have a creature in your Graveyard to reanimate. To that end, there are several spells that are suggested to help with filling ones Graveyard with creatures. They are as follows:
Fact or Fiction — 3U — Reveal the top five cards of your library. An opponent separates those cards into two piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other into your graveyard.
Frantic Search — 2U — Draw two cards, then discard two cards. Untap up to three lands.
Intuition — 2U — Search your library for any three cards and reveal them. Target opponent chooses one. Put that card into your hand and the rest into your graveyard. Then shuffle your library.
Thirst for Knowledge — 2U — Draw three cards. Then discard two cards unless you discard an artifact card
Entomb — B — Search your library for a card and put that card into your graveyard. Then shuffle your library.
Buried Alive — 2B — Search your library for up to three creature cards and put them into your graveyard. Then shuffle your library.
These cards help fill the grave, but don’t necessarily completely do the job. Some forms of the Sedris deck actually run mill cards such as Traumatize and Glimpse the Unthinkable in order to mill their own deck in an effort to fill their graveyard with targets for the purpose of reanimation. I personally find such a strategy to be utterly futile, and extremely risky in many situations.
Ultimately the deck can be designed several different ways. However my personal method of designing the deck follows a very strict method. There are a few slots that are open to meta calls, but the following is a rough skeleton of the deck list that I am currently running:
- Bladewing the Risen
- Blood Tyrant
- Body Double
- Bogardan Hellkite
- Hell’s Caretaker
- Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
- Inkwell Leviathan
- Izzet Chronarch
- Kagemaro, First to Suffer
- Keiga, the Tide Star
- Puppeteer Clique
- River Kelpie
- Trinket Mage
- Venser, Shaper Savant
- Cryptic Command
- Entomb / Intuition
- Fact or Fiction
- Frantic Search
- Makeshift Mannequin
- Thirst for Knowledge
- Buried Alive
- Cruel Ultimatum
- Demonic Tutor
- Diabolic Tutor
- Dread Return
- Living Death
- Profane Command
- Torrent of Souls
This listing leaves the deck with approximately twenty-one slots available to choose for non-land spells that are dependent on ones meta game. As well as Thirty-four slots available for a person to choose their land based cards as they want. These empty slots will be what makes ones deck unique and their own.
There are a few cards from Zendikar that I am toying with possibly adding to the list of cards that may be of use in this deck. Most notably is the card known as Rite of Replication. That card when coupled with many of the cards in this deck can be quite brutal to say the least.
Click here to view my version of this deck.