Okay, so as of recently I have been spending a considerable amount of time playing EDH on MTGO. However MTGO’s form of EDH is not called Elder Dragon Highlander, it is instead called “Commander.” There are some significant differences between Commander and EDH that one needs to be aware of when designing a deck around the format.
First off, in Commander games are played between three to four players. The Client is unable to properly understand commander rules unless you play a three or four player game by choosing the Constructed || Commander Game Type and the Commander Play Structure. Unfortunately this means that you have to play in the Casual — Multiplayer Room and can’t play the game anywhere else in the client.
In EDH you cannot play a card unless it matches your Generals casting cost 100%. This means that it cannot have any mana symbols rules text or casting cost section that do not match what is in your Generals casting cost. This means that cards such as Thelon of Havenwood are illegal as Generals. However, in Commander, you are allowed to run a card that has mana symbols in their rules text that do not match your Generals casting cost, so long as their casting cost matches the Generals casting cost. This means that you can run any of the 5 of the Bringer’s in an appropriately colored mono, dual, or triple color deck, where as in EDH you would only be able to play them in a 5 color deck.
Some other key differences are the banned list differences. These differences are quite striking. First off, due to the fact that they have not yet been printed, in Commander not one of the Power Nine has been banned. Braids, Cabal Minion happens to be banned not just as a General (also known as a Commander) but as a card in the main deck as well. Grindstone is still banned in Commander, where as Painter’s Servant is not. Due to the Command Zone not having yet been introduced to Magic Online as of yet, Riftsweeper is still banned in MTGO’s Commander format. Despite Fastbond, Crucible of Worlds, and Strip Mine being an unbelievable force to be reckoned with in paper MTG, Fastbond is not actually in print in MTGO. As such it has yet to be banned in Commander. Neither Crucible, or Strip Mine are banned either at the moment. The following Cards are not in print on MTGO and thus not banned as of yet: Library of Alexandria, Metalworker, Time Vault, and Yawgmoth’s Bargain. Meanwhile the following cards that are in print in MTGO for whatever reason are not banned in Commander: Limited Resources, and Recurring Nightmare (They haven’t been banned yet; both have been released with the recent Exodus edition so have fun with them until March – MtGCP).
Ultimately, the biggest difference between EDH and Commander, comes in the form of a bug in the MTGO client. This bug makes it so the replacement effect that would allow the General to go to the exiled zone (yes Commander still uses the exiled zone) instead places the General in the graveyard first, and then only after it is in the graveyard gives you the option to place it into the exiled zone. This means that effects that trigger when a card is placed in the graveyard will always trigger before the general is exiled. So, cards like Progenitus are significantly worse in MTGO, where as cards like Child of Alara are significantly better.
My Deck: Brion Stoutarm;
When I first started playing MTGO in earnest, I decided I wanted to participate in the Commander community. So I had to decide on a deck to use for this purpose, at least to get me started. I decided to transition one of my paper decks into this format. The one I went with was my newest deck, Brion Stoutarm, The deck has some very interesting synergies while at the same time is a very potent deck. When I first started playing the deck on MTGO, I had a nack of taking players by storm and winning games quite often. I still win quite frequently, however not as often as I used to. One of the things I have noticed about myself, and that I need to work on, is that I often focus on the wrong player… the weakest link if you will. That needs to be changed if I am going to be able to stand any real chance in the Player Run EDH tournaments that the MTGO User DarkPrincess83 runs. The details of these tournaments can be found in this thread on the official WotC forums.
When I put the deck together, I had to decide on some things to cut from the paper list, as the paper list just wasn’t efficient enough, nor was it fast enough. Additionally there were just a few too many things that did not transition into MTGO due to not having been put into print as of yet.
The following is a list of cards I removed from the deck, along with the reason I removed them
- Shivan Gorge (basically, this card was too slow for this deck. What I mean by this is that the card requires you to invest mana into it every turn in order to do something. That is not something that a Brion Stoutarm deck really wants to be doing. It really wants to be focusing on dealing as much damage as efficiently as possible as fast as possible.)
- Keldon Megaliths (similarly too slow for this deck, plus it was very rare that it worked due to the deck not having any way to empty its hand reliably without actually playing threats.)
- Darksteel Citadel (Regardless of the Fact that this deck does run some land destruction, it really isn’t enough Land Destruction to really desire this particular land. Instead it is a particular type of LD that just would prefer that I run more basic lands.)
- Order // Chaos (There are definitely much better options than this card.)
- Soul Warden (This card has a much more potent big sister at 2 mana.)
- Reya Dawnbringer (Too expensive for what it does.)
- Fork (I don’t think this was nearly effective enough to warrant inclusion.)
- Boros Garrison (There was a better version of the card that doesn’t come into play tapped or cause a land to bounce.)
- Karmic Guide (not yet released on MTGO.)
- Congregate (not yet released on MTGO.)
- Mistveil Plains (decided to go with a dual land instead.)
- Mind Stone (in this particular case the Jitte is just so much better than mana acceleration in my opinion.)
- Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep (I wanted Eiganjo Castle instead for this deck, though after playing the deck a few times, I think I may end up going back to the Shinka as I have found the Eiganjo Castle to not really be all that relevant as often as I thought it would be. The only advantage it really offers is an additional white mana which is kind of important.)
- Kor Haven (Unfortunately not released to MTGO as of yet)
- Brightflame (This is too expensive for what it does, and Austere Command is infinitely better).
Okay with the list of cards that I took out of the deck for the MTGO experience complete, now I want to elaborate more on the synergies in the deck. There are quite a few different ones to take a look at:
This one is fairly interesting. Basically the idea is to create a bunch of Tokens, and then destroy them all somehow while Vicious Shadows is in play. This will trigger a chain of damage to all of any one, or even all of your opponents that could potentially win you the game. I managed to win at least one game off the back of a Vicious Shadows, my own Kher Keep, and an opponents Token generator, thanks to a timely Wrath of God.
World Queller & One of the Above Token Generators
World Queller can be quite powerful as a form of removal. I have found him to be one of the best removal spells in white as of late. However to be able to operate at his fullest potential, he absolutely requires a token generator of some sort to be able to deal with creature threats every turn (Tokens are not a card type. But creatures, which are tokens, are – MtGCP). He also has a rather large target on his head, so don’t be surprised if he gets killed relatively quickly.
Serra Avatar & Wall of Reverence
Wall of Reverence can really combo with any of your large creatures. However it works the BEST when combined with Serra Avatar. The reason for this is that you are basically getting a permanent Beacon of Immortality every single one of your end steps. This can be quite potent, and can lead to people quitting games all on its own. Add to the fact that along with your beacon of immortality effect you are also getting a monstrous creature to go along with it, and you are set up for a victory should an opponent not have a blocker of some sort 😀
This isn’t so much a combo as a synergy. Basically what you want to do is suspend Benalish Commander for as much as you possibly can, and then on the following turn, cycle Decree of Justice. This thereby allows you to have the maximum number of Soldier Tokens as possible when Benalish Commander comes into play, thereby potentially making him rather large.
As far as this deck’s ability to win… there are a few key strategies that the deck tends to follow.
- Victory by Overwhelming Forces. Basically the idea here is to get a field large enough that you can beat down all of your opponents within a few turns. This is best accomplished with Luminarch Ascension or even Decree of Justice when cast instead of cycled.
- Victory by Might. Basically here the idea is to get a few Titans onto the field and swing in with overwhelmingly large creatures that the opponent cannot deal with. Ideally in this instance you want Predator Dragon, Hellkite Charger, one or two of the Akroma’s, Greater Gargadon, and / or Serra Avatar. Unfortunately this deck doesn’t directly have a means to give creatures Trample, however both Akromas come with trample built in, additionally all of this deck’s Dragons have flying (and all but one have haste, even that one has flash) and the Gargadon and Avatar are just so large that most people will only be able to chump block them for a few turns before attrition wins you the game.
- Victory by concession. Basically in this case, you aren’t truly winning, but the program doesn’t know that. The idea here is to force your opponents into such an unwinnable situation that they have no other choice than to concede the match. This is best achieved with the various life gain cards in the deck, most notably the Wall of Reverence and Serra Avatar combo outlined above. However even a single Serra Avatar flung at an opponent off the back of a Brion Stoutarm can be devastating to opponents sitting across from you.
There are several people out there who feel that life gain in Elder Dragon Highlander and by proxy Commander is obsolete due to the fact that we have things such as Commander and General damage. The thing I have discovered is that it is rarely the Commander or General themselves that is the win condition in many decks. As such, taking General or Commander damage is not really an issue. However outracing your opponents does tend to be an issue quite often, as such, life gain can be quite a potent answer to many of the decks that exist out there.
Personally I prefer decks that utilize at least some form of life gain. Either that or have some means of providing superior card or field advantage to press through against the opponent. This can be seen in both my Ob Nixilis, and Sedris decks, and even more so here in my Brion Stoutarm deck. Lifegain while not the sole focus of this deck, does present an interesting counter strategy to many of the decks that do exist in EDH, and I have won several EDH games because of life gain.
Every EDH deck that has life gain should have some other strategy to win with other than just life gain. For this deck it is the beat down approach or the combo approach. However for others it may be something else entirely. Not every deck can be the same when it comes to life gain and its alternative win strategies. The problem with life gain in paper EDH is that there is no time limits to speak of. As such you really can’t stall out your opponents. And on MTGO, despite their being time limits, the problem I have encountered with this deck is that it often takes an enormous amount of set up. So by the time you are ready to sit back and coast your way through the rest of the game, your timer has already run to critical levels making that a rather difficult prospect. Ultimately alternative strategies of winning are key to this deck which is why the heavy beatsticks are included.
All told this deck is incredibly fun to play. Despite not being able to win every single game, the fun is not necessarily in winning with it, so much as playing the deck. That is why I enjoy it. Every time I play it, new challenges arise and I always enjoy facing these new challenges with a bright outlook and having a fun time with my new opponents (Click here for the full decklist).
Also, I want to give a shout out to Zahey who was the first person I encountered on MTGO to compliment me for these articles on here. He was running a Grixis Reanimator deck that was based more or less on my Sedris Reanimator deck list that I posted a while back 😀