It all started on Twitter. I blame Bennie.
blairwitchgreen: Restrictions breed creativity, eh? @mtgaaron making 8 singleton decks sharing no cards. That means something like 600-700 unique cards.
davemassive: I bet we could make 8 Unified Construction #EDH decks.
blairwitchgreen: Good lord, that sounds incredibly time consuming! @davemassive I bet we could make 8 Unified Construction #EDH decks.
Well, that’s basically daring me to do. Double-dog daring I might add!
So it’s on.
What The 8 UC EDH Challenge Entails
According to the Tournament Rules: “With the exception of cards with the Basic supertype or cards with text that specifies otherwise, a team’s combined decks may not contain more than four of any individual card, counted by its English card title. (For example, if one player is using four copies of Naturalize in a Multiplayer Constructed tournament, no other player on that team may have a Naturalize in his or her deck.) If a card is restricted in a particular format, no more than one of that card may be used by the team. No players may use cards that are banned in a particular format.”
For EDH, this means that if you stack all eight decks from the Challenge on top of one another, you’d end up with a… well, an Octo-EDH deck, I guess.
Why I’m Writing About It Here
In any deckbuilding challenge that requires 700-750 individual cards, you can’t run completely on rares. And EDH isn’t a format about high-price rares anyway, if you ask me – most of the most fun and most flavorful cards I see in EDH are commons and uncommons. Rares that don’t see play in tournament formats (like Decree of Pain) are powerhouses in this format. Plus, since you can only run one of each card, there’s no pressure to trade for that playset of that expensive rare – if you have one, throw it in! So for those two reasons, EDH is a particularly forgiving format to players with budget constraints.
Second, I’m going to try and make one or two of the decks truly “pauper” and use as few rares as possible.
Now, on to the generals.
One of the key moments in creating an EDH deck is picking your general. There are two schools of thought: Pick a general that you like, and then build the deck around him; or pick a set of colors that you want to play, and pick a general to match. (I guess, technically, there’s a third category: pick a dumb five-color general so you aren’t constrained by one of the only real constraints to the format, but I think that’s lazy.)
(Unless you’re playing Atogatog and a Shared Fate deck filled with the worst stuff in Magic – but more on that later.)
Personally, I have three EDH decks that I play on a regular basis, and each of them have a specific reason for the general. I have Intet, the Dreamer which is more-or-less my “competitive” deck, with tons of enters-the-battlefield creatures, Survival of the Fittest, and the Kiki-Jiki / Pestermite combo just in case; the deck started because I wanted to use Intet’s ability to play the most ridiculous instants in the game – for free. (It’s not really like that any more due to the amount of regularity you hit someone with a General – but maybe it should go back to that.) I have Nicol Bolas, which was built mostly because I picked up the From The Vault: Dragons set and wanted to put that alternate-art Nicol Bolas to good use; it has a lot of the other Dragons from the set in a sort of Dragon theme. And I have Isperia the Inscrutable. This deck is the fallout from the infamous “well, if you make me an all-foil deck, I’ll play Magic with you” event that still molds a lot of my trading practices. Needless to say – Isperia isn’t a GOOD EDH deck, but it is a FOILY EDH deck. Isperia was chosen more because she matched the colors of the deck, and not so much because of her ability.
For the UDC Challenge, however, I wanted to make sure I was minimizing the amount of overlap between generals. I wanted each color to be represented evenly, and I also wanted the allied- and enemy-color pairs to be as evenly represented as possible, since that is a good way to add in cards that don’t have homes in other decks. I also imposed a “no mono color general” restriction on myself – half the fun of EDH is playing huge multicolor guys, and I find the mono-color decks pretty boring. I figured it would be safe to split it at four two-color generals and four three-color generals.
I also wanted at least one of the actual three-color Dragon Legends. Because… they’re awesome.
I started with the two-color generals. I knew I wanted Red-White as a color combination as I felt a good, inexpensive, aggressive EDH deck could be built out of those colors. I had originally thought Razia, Boros Archangel would be the choice there (seeing as there are only three Red-White legends) but I think Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran is a better choice – he pumps all your guys (including himself), and that works well with Red/White’s creatures like Ceredon Yearling or Goblin Legionnaire.
Locally we have a couple of guys who play enchantment-based EDH decks, and having a free way to punish them sounded like a good idea. Zur the Enchanter is almost always a target, and Doran aficionado Randy Tempelaar has a Rafiq of the Many EDH deck that requires Rancor to do it’s 21-general-damage one-shot kill. I’m going to build Ramses Overdark’s deck to focus on destruction and mayhem, to probably include some library destruction. He will not, however, have any counterspells. Does he look like a counterspelling kind of guy?
The third two-color general I picked was Experiment Kraj. I’ve seen some decks with him as the general online, and I think it would be interesting to fill up a deck with guys with activated abilities for the Kraj to copy. Blue/Green also has a nice +1/+1 counter them going on thanks to the Simics in Ravnica.
But then I couldn’t come up with a fourth two-color general… and I realized that, by picking out all the two-color generals first, I was really going to hamstring myself when it came to picking out the three-color generals. So I switched tactics…
Adun is cheap (costwise), cheap (pricewise), and has an ability that can actually be quite relevant in EDH. Fill up a deck with creatures that have a goes-to-the-graveyard ability (like Sprouting Thrinax) or have sacrifice effects (like Yavimaya Elder) and you can get some pretty nice recursion going. Adun will probably be my reanimation guy, since putting creatures in the graveyard with cards like Corpse Connoisseur or Buried Alive just makes them easily available to Adun’s ability.
I wanted to have a deck that was a little more control-oriented, and Ertai will be the guy to fit that bill. I’m thinking of making him a little more enchantment-oriented rather than focusing on the “sacrifice a creature” part of his ability; Blue-Black-White has lots of good enchantments like Treasure Trove, Ghostly Prison, Phyrexian Arena, and all those Pacifism variants that will allow me to control the pace of the game and, when necessary, provide a timely solution to a problematic spell or creature thanks to Ertai.
Mayael, the Anima
I’ve been meaning to create a Mayael EDH deck for quite some time. There just is no better feeling than putting giant monsters into play, at instant speed. It’s why I run Winding Canyons and Vedalken Orrery in various EDH decks. And Green/Red/White is a great color set for giant creatures – Bogardan Hellkite, either of the Akromas, Verdant Force – I would be willing to pay 6 to plop those into play from my library. My plan is to pack as many five-plus-power guys into this deck as possible, and use mana acceleration to be able to hardcast the big boys if need be. Mayael’s not exactly sturdy, if you know what I mean.
At this point, I remember I want at least one ACTUAL Dragon Legend for this challenge. At this point, I’m actually EVEN on colors (three of each) so I’m free to pick any of the dragons I want. The problem is, I’m starting to overlap my ally color pairs a little too much. If I pick one of the Legends dragons or one of the Invasion dragons, I’m going to start clogging that up even further, and this is probably because I picked three “shard” ally generals earlier on. I feel like I have to pick one of the Planar Chaos dragons – and I’m okay with that, because I really like those dragons. They do see a lot of play locally, though – I have Intet and I know Teneb, the Harvester and Numot, the Devastator both have their presence felt now and again. I pick Vorosh because I like the color set, I’m low on Green/Black even though I’m heavy now on Blue/Black and Blue/Green, and I think Vorosh could be a force to be reckoned with if he’s not immediately controlled; in a multiplayer game, for instance, he could quickly turn auto-lethal if he gets a few hits in.
The problem then is that I’m left with Red/White as the last color pair. Seeing as how both Blue/Black and Blue/Green are a bit heavy, I decide to sacrifice the cool stuff I can do with Experiment Kraj to give me a little more leeway in choosing the last two generals.
In the interest of doing silly things, I pair Red and Blue (a heretofore unpaired enemy pair) and decide to set up Jhoira with as many ludicrous things to suspend as possible. I’m immediately thinking dumb stuff like Eternity Vessel and Akroma’s Memorial. The real challenge will be the overlapping “ridiculous” things I want to suspend with Jhoira versus the “ridiculous” things I want to play out of my library with Mayael. But that’s all part of the game, right?
This leaves me Green/White, and rather than make everyone at the table miserable with Gaddock Teeg or play recursion silliness with Saffi Eriksdotter, I’ve decided to make the last EDH deck one for what has to be my favorite card of all time: Jasmine Boreal. Back when she was legal in Standard thanks to Time Spiral, I would play Jasmine as the fifteenth card in EVERY sideboard I made. Just my absolute favorite. I don’t know if it’s the ludicrous stats (4/5 for 5? Please!) or the vanillaness or the fact that she looks like Lindsay Lohan with a frickin’ NINJA STAR… okay, it’s definitely the last one. But I’m thinking that this is a great deck for various pump effects and all the vanilla creatures I can muster. Muraganda Petroglyphs never looked so good!
You can see by looking at the generals I’ve chosen that EDH is NOT an expensive format – the two most expensive generals are the two from Legends ($5 apiece) and that’s probably based solely on how hard it is to find Legends these days – as they are allied-color generals, you could easily replace them with generals from more modern sets like Sygg, River Cutthroat or Kresh the Bloodbraided. As I said earlier, it’s a very forgiving format for players with smaller collections, without impacting the fun of playing it.
Feel free to post up in the forums what cards absolutely MUST be in these decks – and, if you feel like it, which generals you think would be better choices.
I’ll continue on as I try and build the eight EDH UC Challenge decks, and I may have some Standard to talk about as well, as I’m planning on trying out a new deck at Friday Night Magic this week.
Until next week…
dave dot massive at gmail and davemassive at twitter and facebook