Recently an old Magic friend got in touch. He hadn’t played Magic in a long while, but just like the Mafia, you can never walk away from Magic: The Gathering forever. You can set it aside for a while, but eventually it calls you back. Unfortunately for him, he’d gotten rid of his cards and was asking for some advice on how to get back into the game, and was particularly interested in Elder Dragon Highlander. Which reminded me that I had wanted to write something about “EDH Starter Kits” for a while.
For me, getting into EDH was like slipping on a comfy old shoe. I started playing Magic as multiplayer, another game for me and my gamer buds to gather round the big table, talk trash and drink beer, and while I eventually got into competitive dueling, my first love was always at the casual table. My collection started in 1994 and has been growing ever since, and though I’d sometimes trade away competitive staples after they rotated out of Standard (Type II), I’d nearly always hang onto favorites I knew I’d like to play in casual multiplayer games. Yeah, my Magic collection is an unruly mass of roughly a gazillion cards.
So, ever since EDH came along and hooked me as a format, all I’ve needed to do is dive into my mass of cards and come up with a fistful of fun stuff. However, not everyone comes to the format from that positionâ€”some folks have sold off their cards or given them away over the years, and some have just recently started playing Magic. EDH can seem a bit intimidatingâ€”after all, being able to play nearly every card ever printed makes it a bit overwhelming to know where to start if you don’t have a large collection. The beauty of EDH is that so many great EDH cards are incredibly cheap to buy or trade for as singles, so I thought it might be helpful to present some EDH “starter kits” where I suggest a general and some staples that will get you well on your way to an EDH deck for under $25, with just 20-30 more cards needed to finish up the deck. How does that sound? One of appeals of EDH is the fact that it’s a singleton format, which makes any random card you open a potential superstar for your deck. In other Constructed formats, the random Baneslayer Angel or Primeval Titan you open is either trade bait or just the beginning of a potentially painful journey (in time or money) in an attempt to scare up a playset. So crack some boosters to fill out your deck and jump into the next EDH game you run across!
First up, I’ll start with cards that go into any starter kit.
UNIVERSAL PACKAGE (21 cards, roughly $12)
Mana-fixing artifacts: Armillary Sphere, Darksteel Ingot, Fellwar Stone, Journeyer’s Kite, Mind Stone, Dreamstone Hedron, Everflowing Chalice, Pilgrim’s Eye
Utility artifacts: Sun Droplet, Illuminated Folio, Urza’s Blueprints, Whispersilk Cloak, Loxodon Warhammer, Power Matrix, Crystal Ball
Lands: Evolving Wilds, Rupture Spire, Terramorphic Expanse, Unstable Frontier, Dread Statuary, Tectonic Edge
EDH is all about having fun, and you can’t have fun if you can’t play your cards, so you need mana fixing, mana acceleration, and card drawing to keep the gas coming. While there are tons of really good — and relatively expensive — mana fixers out there, you don’t have to break the bank to do it, especially in EDH where the pace is a little more laid back. When you’re just getting started, these cards will be perfectly fine, but you’ll also find as your collection grows many of these cards will still make the cut. Just because they’re cheap doesn’t mean they aren’t still really good multiplayer cards.
On the utility artifactsâ€”I chose these cards to cover a variety of bases. Crystal Ball is nearly as great as Sensei’s Divining Top for a fraction of the cost, and I’ve got a copy in every one of my EDH decks. Sun Droplet is a great deterrent to wave away people attacking you with random dorks, and the more opponents you have the better it is. It’s not strictly life gaining, but it helps keep your life totals from plummeting too fast. Illuminated Folio and Urza’s Blueprints have a relatively hefty initial mana investment, but the activation cost is dirt-cheap, which is what you want in your reusable card-draw. Power Matrix and your equipment can help your creatures power up to fight even the biggest, baddest rares and Mythics your opponents might be fielding.
Now I’ll start off by presenting allied two-color packages to round out the kits, which together with the universal package shouldn’t run you more than $25 or so. Two colors give you a nice broad swath of cards to work with without straining your manabase too much. Depending on the reception of this column, I may follow up with enemy color packages and maybe some three-color packages if there is interest.
GREEN/WHITE PACKAGE (25 cards, roughly $13)
This is one of my favorite color combinations. It’s chock full of great cards and great utility, with plenty of splashy late game fun stuff.
General: Tolsimir Wolfblood
Tolsimir makes a great generalâ€”he’s flavorful, powerful, he brings along a potent attacker/blocker for the ride, and he’s cheap!
Creatures: Qasali Pridemage, Krosan Tusker, Acidic Slime, Indrik Stomphowler, Yavimaya Elder, Deadwood Treefolk, Saffi Eriksdotter, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Masked Admirers, Stonecloaker, Archon of Justice, Mageta the Lion, Abu Ja’far
I’ve got a lot of utility creatures here, and Mageta the Lion is actually a pretty inexpensive Wrath effect that you should definitely pick up for your EDH toolbox. Abu Ja’far is also another often forgotten gem, something that’s great for waving off attackers, especially with a Power Matrix ready to have him jump up and give some leprosy to a flier too.
Other Spells: Lurking Predators, Greater Good, Invulnerability, Ray of Revelation, Kirtar’s Wrath, Wildfield Borderpost, Behemoth Sledge, Selesnya Signet, Cauldron of Souls
Lurking Predators and Greater Good are two incredibly potent enchantments in EDH, and both are very, very cheap to acquire. Next to Mageta, Kirtar’s Wrath is one of the cheapest creature-sweepers available. While Cauldron of Souls goes great in any creature-heavy deck, it’s particularly good here in conjunction with Mageta the Lion.
Add 27 basic lands and that’ll get you to 35 lands, and then all you’ll need are 27 more cards to round out your 100 card Tolsimir Wolfblood deck.
BLACK/RED PACKAGE (23 cards, roughly $13)
This color combination tends to be more about fun rather than utility unless you can spring for more expensive, colorless board sweepers like Nevinyrral’s Disk or Oblivion Stone. For this package, I decided to go with a linear goblin theme, since what’s more fun than a bunch of goblins?
General: Wort, Boggart Auntie
Wort’s got a great ability, and having fear gives her the very real potential to kill players with General damage (especially if boosted with equipment).
Goblins: Goblin Chieftain, Goblin King, Mad Auntie, Auntie’s Snitch, Battle Squadron, Boggart Mob, Frogtosser Banneret, Goblin Chirurgeon, Goblin Marshal, Mudbutton Torchrunner, Skirk Fire Marshal, Spikeshot Goblin, Stingscourger, Tuktuk Scrapper, Tuktuk the Explorer
Luckily for us, the three goblin lords are also pretty cheap, and they also provide some helpful abilities too. We’re also pretty fortunate that there are quite a few special abilities available to us on Goblins over the course of Magic history, especially thanks to Lorwyn block. Did you know that Battle Squadron has been errata’d to be a big, flying goblin? Check out the Homelands special Goblin Chirurgeon!
Other Spells: Moggcatcher, Dralnu’s Crusade, Goblin Warrens, Rakdos Signet, Veinfire Borderpost
Moggcatcher is simply awesome in a goblin deck, and though we can’t really afford Siege-Gang Commander to search out, Goblin Marshal isn’t a bad substitute, and searching out a Champion goblin at instant speed can be pretty handy too.
Add 27 basic lands and that’ll get you to 35 lands, and then all you’ll need are 29 more cards to round out your 100 card goblin deck.
BLUE/WHITE PACKAGE (29 cards, roughly $13)
Aaron Forsythe was the inspiration for this package; in response to my “ranking the generals” column he wondered why I wasn’t given Isperia more love since, with the right mix of cards, she’s a free tutor each turn. Since she’s a cheap general with a nice ability to build around, why not? The trick is to make sure that you have a pretty good chance to know a card the defending player will have in hand.
General: Isperia the Inscrutable
I made sure to load up with lots of fliers, especially “utility” fliers for Isperia to tutor up.
Creatures: Aether Adept, Archon of Justice, Augury Owl, Aven Mimeomancer, Aven Mindcensor, Clone, Dawnglare Invoker, Devout Witness, Draining Whelk, Galepowder Mage, Glory, Man-o’-War, Mulldrifter, Raven Familiar, Riftwing Cloudskate, Sphinx of Magosi, Stonecloaker, Thieving Magpie, Voidstone Gargoyle, Wispmare
Bouncers like Man-o’-War and Riftwing Cloudskate seem particularly good since you can bounce a flier to clear the way for Isperia to attack, and also know a card to name in hand.
Other Spells: Time Stop, Soothsaying, Glasses of Urza, Elixir of Immortality, Fieldmist Borderpost, Azorius Signet
Glasses of Urza is a card that I’ve been searching for in my collection of cards as something I want to make more use of in EDHâ€”you never know when you might stumble across some shenanigans you need to act on before the mana and/or cards come together! They’re obviously going to be golden with Isperia. Also, Time Stop is a very affordable card that’s invaluable in EDH, and should be in any EDH toolbox.
Add 27 basic lands and that’ll get you to 35 lands, and then all you’ll only need are 23 more cards to round out your 100 card flying legion of doom deck.
RED/GREEN PACKAGE (26 cards, roughly $13)
Not surprisingly, this is another favorite color combination since it lets me use a lot of my favorite Green cards! What’s particularly nice about Red/Green are the gold cardsâ€”the union of Red and Green tends towards making big, splashy, high-impact creatures, which are great cards to play in EDH.
General: Stonebrow, Krosan Hero
Stonebrow is cheap and high-impact, giving your attackers a boost the turn he enters the battlefield (assuming you have some tramplers who want to get it on).
Creatures: Acidic Slime, Borborygmos, Brawn, Deadwood Treefolk, Hystrodon, Indrik Stomphowler, Kavu Predator, Krosan Tusker, Masked Admirers, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Soulbright Flamekin, Spectral Force, Stampeding Wildebeests, Tattermunge Witch, Varchild’s War-Riders, Weatherseed Treefolk, Yavimaya Elder
While I included a lot of the same utility creatures here as I did in the Green/White deck, I also added in a bunch of trampling creatures too, since Stonebrow gets better the more tramplers you have around. Brawn and Soulbright Flamekin can spread the trampling love to some of the non-trampling utility creatures when needed. Stampeding Wildebeests trample and also do fun stuff with cards like Acidic Slime, Indrik Stomphowler, and Masked Admirers.
Other Spells: Greater Good, Lurking Predators, Starstorm, Word of Seizing, Gruul Signet, Firewild Borderpost
I was pleased that the trampling Weatherseed Treefolk was so cheap, since they go fantastically well with Greater Good (though not as well as they used to back in the “damage on the stack” days). Word of Seizing is a surprisingly awesome card that can let you take advantage of other people’s more expensive permanents and they can rarely do anything to stop you.
Add 27 basic lands and that’ll get you to 35 lands, and then all you’ll only need are 26 more cards to round out your 100 card trampling beatstick deck.
BLUE/BLACK PACKAGE (24 cards, roughly $13)
This is a tough combination to go budget, since there are so many fantastic multiplayer cards in Blue and Black that tend to be rare, and while some of them are cheaper, they don’t necessarily fit into the budget skeleton I’ve set up here. We can still find some nice themes with which to work.
General: Skeleton Ship
Heh, did you like my skeleton pun above? Skeleton Ship is a general I’ve wanted to build a deck around for a while, and this column has inspired me to do it sooner rather than later. Sure, you probably won’t be killing anyone with general damage, but you can do a lot of fun and nasty things along the way, especially since the Shadowmoor Cycle made -1/-1 counters “matter.”
Creatures: Clone, Draining Whelk, Mulldrifter, Body Double, Bone Shredder, Shriekmaw, Dusk Urchins, Giant Oyster, Soul Snuffers
Necroskitter would be great in here, but it’s rocking in at a surprising $2.50 so I didn’t include it in the package. I don’t imagine it would be too difficult to trade for one, and it would get a lot of mileage with your Skeleton Ship deck. Giant Oyster seems pretty fun in this sort of deck, especially since it seems you can use it to “clear off” -1/-1 counters on a creature if you want to, and I also like that you can Skeleton Ship your own Dusk Urchins for cards.
Other Spells: Time Stop, Thousand-Year Elixir, Thornbite Staff, Take Possession, Spoils of Evil, Syphon Mind, Crumbling Ashes, Blowfly Infestation, Serrated Arrows, Clockspinning, Dimir Signet, Mistvein Borderpost
Many of you probably know of my love for Thousand-Year Elixir, and it’s definitely a perfect fit for Skeleton Ship. Thornbite Staff also combos well with creatures that tap to do stuff, and allows your Skeleton Ship to mow down 1/1s no matter how many there are. Crumbling Ashes is a fantastic combo with Skeleton Ship to take down the really big guns. Since you’re throwing around -1/-1 counters, Clockspinning is always a handy card to have.
Add 27 basic lands and that’ll get you to 35 lands, and then all you’ll only need are 28 more cards to round out your 100 card tricksy “shrink you” deck.
I hope you enjoyed this exercise, and that some of you found it useful. For copy/paste ease, I’ll include each full package below as a list.
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
My current EDH decks:
Phelddagrif (carrots & sticks)
Tsabo Tavoc (Red & Black nastiness)
Reki, the History of Kamigawa (more legends than you can shake a stick at)
Korlash, Heir to Blackblade (brain-eating zombies, Commander)
Archon of Justice
Mageta the Lion
Ray of Revelation
Cauldron of Souls
Wort, Boggart Auntie
Skirk Fire Marshal
Tuktuk the Explorer
Isperia the Inscrutable
Archon of Justice
Sphinx of Magosi
Glasses of Urza
Elixir of Immortality
Stonebrow, Krosan Hero
Word of Seizing
Spoils of Evil
Jwar Isle Refuge