Last updated on August 9, 2022

Jeweled Lotus - Illustration by Alayna Danner

Jeweled Lotus | Illustration by Alayna Danner

Commander (and Magic in general) absolutely exploded over 2021. New ways to play the game, new cards, and even the growth of new sub-formats like cEDH have come along with it.

Today I want to focus on cEDH, otherwise known as competitive Commander, and get you educated on the format is, what makes it different from casual EDH, and how to get started.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

What is cEDH?

Swan Song - Illustration by Peter Mohrbacher

Swan Song | Illustration by Peter Mohrbacher

cEDH, or competitive Elder Dragon Highlander, refers to a sub-format of the popular Commander format that’s specifically targeted towards competitive cards, decks, and players. cEDH is known for having much more cutthroat playstyles and strategies that almost always revolve around an infinite combo to win the game.

There aren’t any official WotC rules for cEDH so there’s still some room for rule 0-type changes at your local game store. Commander has a wide variety of cards available which makes a long list of combos and styles that are generally “unfun” or overwhelmingly powerful. Since EDH is meant to be a casual format, these high-power decks and strategies have been grouped into their own category so that players know what they’re getting into and don’t get run over.

Who is cEDH for?

cEDH is a format meant for competitive players who are experienced in the world of both Magic as a game and Commander as a format. cEDH is not meant for newer players who have yet to learn and understand the complexities of the stack, how various interactions work, or how to sequence infinite combos.

Despite sounding extremely scary, cEDH is a very friendly and open format, at least in my experience. While cEDH players want to win and will do anything to get there regardless of fun level, they’re not monsters who hate happiness. If you’re somebody who’s been playing a lot of Commander but see your decks getting increasingly more powerful and competitive as your game knowledge and deckbuilding skills improve, it may be time to consider swapping to this sub-format.

cEDH vs Casual EDH

cEDH and casual EDH both have powerful cards and strategies and at the end of the day have the same official banned list. But the primary difference is that cEDH uses a lot of fast mana artifacts, free counterspells, and a bunch of tutors to accomplish its win condition not only extremely efficiently but also consistently.

Many casual playgroups ban certain cards for their own good, and these types of cards are the typical targets. Tutors allow for the player to get their 2- or 3-card combo pieces consistently, which allows them to confidently win before turn 5 or 6. Most casual decks don’t even become a threat until then because of a lack of fast mana and consistency.

cEDH is a multiplayer format just like casual Commander. This means that the decks need to not only assemble their combos but also protect it (and themselves) from three separate opponents incentivized to stop them. This means a combo or strategy that kills all opponents is better than something that kills one at a time.

It’s for this reason that decks that win through traditional combat are less popular and successful. Protective resources are better spent in cards like Force of Will or Veil of Summer rather than Wrath of God or Damnation because of this.

cEDH Ban List

Balance - Illustration by Kev Walker

Balance | Illustration by Kev Walker

cEDH doesn’t have any banned cards that aren’t already banned in casual Commander because cEDH uses the same banlist as established by WotC. That said, cEDH isn’t sanctioned or organized play so players can ignore or add to the banlist all they want. Just make sure your friends are cool with you running Ancestral Recall before they see it on the stack!

Where to Play cEDH

cEDH (and Commander as a whole!) really exploded in the last two years despite the distress the pandemic has caused. There are plenty of ways to play the new format including events at your LGS, online leagues, MTGO, and more! Let’s go over a few ways to play.

Your LGS

My LGS started “Commander Mondays” featuring both a casual and competitive event. This exploded in terms of popularity and constantly attracts well over 50 to 60 players each night, including a dozen or so for cEDH. This type of event expanded to the other game stores in my state and quite possibly to one near you. If not, make it a point to bring it up with the store management and your friends. Getting events to fire (especially if they’re free or have a low entry fee) is surprisingly easy if you bring some players to the table.

My suggestion would be to talk with some regulars who are interested in showing up on a certain night every week. Then present the idea to the owners or whoever runs events at your store. Make it a point to bring up the lower player count of four instead of eight, the low entry cost which attracts more players, and the ability to sell more preconstructed decks as a result.

MTGO

Magic Online (often referred to as MTGO or MODO) has every format you could ask for, and Commander is no exception. There are regular 4-player pods as well as 1v1 play. But MTGO does put a time limit on your play so infinite combos that theoretically work but take a long time might not be as practical. The platform also has a learning curve when it comes to the interface but it’s pretty easy to use once you get the hang of it.

MTG Arena

While MTGA doesn’t have Commander thanks to limited cards on the application, it does have a similar format known as Brawl. Brawl is a 60-card singleton format with one commander card and includes all sets in Standard at any given time. Historic Brawl is an identical format with all cards from Historic.

Spelltable

Dockside Extortionist - Illustration by Forrest Imel

Dockside Extortionist | Illustration by Forrest Imel

Spelltable is an official Wizards website that allows multiple players to play paper Magic over a web browser through their webcams. This is a truly incredible tool that works surprisingly well and allows for long-distance play with paper collections!

You can even ID cards on the cam that you may not know and aren’t able to read by double clicking on them. This allows you to pull up an image of the card and see exactly what it does without having to ask the player and disrupt play.

Spelltable is also easy to set up; just log in through your WotC account, create a room, link it to the other players, and you’re all set! Having some form of VoIP communication is basically required so keep that in mind. Most players just use Discord.

Playing with Power Patreon League

The ever so popular Playing with Power YouTube Channel hosts a monthly Patreon-only cEDH league in their Discord. It even includes prize support for various types of competitions including most wins, most games, most original deck, and more!

This is a great way to get some cEDH games in with a money-backed incentive to win, especially if your LGS doesn’t have anything available.

PlayEDH Discord

The PlayEDH Discord is a free and friendly way to find pods of varying power levels to join ranging from low to max as well as thousands of players waiting to play. All you have to do is join the Discord, agree to the rules, and submit your deck to be ranked.

All decks need to be manually reviewed by experienced EDH players and then given a ranking in order to play. This helps ensure everyone is playing on an even level and nobody gets run over by a deck three or four tiers higher than theirs. Oh, and of course, proxies are allowed!

cEDH Nexus Discord

The cEDH Nexus Discord is a similar Discord to PlayEDH. It’s another hub for specifically competitive EDH players to coordinate pods and tournaments through their voice channels. It’s nowhere near as popular as PlayEDH so it may take a bit longer to find a pod of players with similar decks and experience but it’s definitely a community you want to be a part of. The owners have even removed Patreon roles upon lowering operating costs which shows some good will for the community as a whole.

cEDH Decks

A wide variety of cards results in a wide variety of decks and commanders being used at the highest level. While there is some meta-decking and some commanders are more popular than others, the cEDH meta is a very heathy one and has a diverse range of strategies and combos to choose from.

Urza, Lord High Artificer

Urza, Lord High Artificer - Illustration by Grzegorz Rutkowski

Urza, Lord High Artificer | Illustration by Grzegorz Rutkowski

Urza, Lord High Artificer was one of the most popular commanders on its release and it’s still a popular and powerful choice today. This list wins by taking advantage of Polymorph to consistently tutor out Hullbreaker Horror. This means that you can generate infinite mana through Urza’s outlet and bounce all non-land permanents and spells to their owner’s hands if you have multiple mana rocks that you can repeatedly play to bounce through the kraken’s abilities.

This infinite mana paired with the right cards can win by milling all of your opponents with Timetwister, creating infinite 2/2 birds with Swan Song through Dramatic Reversal, or creating infinite Construct tokens by bouncing Urza with Chain of Vapor.

This deck has a serious learning curve but is extremely fun to pilot and win with. There are plenty of resources for the deck including the Playing with Power primer.

Kenrith, the Returned King

Kenrith, the Returned King - Illustration by Kieran Yanner

Kenrith, the Returned King | Illustration by Kieran Yanner

Following the ban of Golos, Tireless Pilgrim in Commander, Kenrith, the Returned King skyrocketed in popularity as the go-to 5-color commander.

This deck is quite literally a cEDH pile. It has just about every relevant tutor, tons of different combos, and easily has your opponents saying, “wow that pile of stuff is actually really good.” Your primary combos are with Dockside Extortionist, creating infinite Treasures and milling your opponents. There are far too many lines to reference here so I’ll just go over the main ones, but be sure to check out this primer to fully educate yourself in case you plan on building the deck.

If you’re looking for a less competitive EDH list led by Kenrith, we’ve got that, too.

Thrasios, Triton Hero & Tymna the Weaver

Tymna the Weaver - Illustration by Winona Nelson

Tymna the Weaver | Illustration by Winona Nelson

Tymna the Weaver is currently one of the most popular partner commanders, mostly because of the lack of creature removal in cEDH combined with it being a card advantage engine. This is a classic partner commander pairing as Tymna gets you value while Thrasios, Triton Hero works as an outlet for your mana combos. It also gives you access to both blue and black which are incredibly important colors in cEDH, as well as green and white as excellent secondary colors.

Your main method to victory is casting Thassa’s Oracle (or having a Jace, Wielder of Mysteries) with an empty library. Despite this generally narrower way of actually winning, there are many ways to get there in the list.

Generating infinite mana with Isochron Scepter and Dramatic Reversal plus some mana rocks is the most common and wins you the game with Thrasios, Triton Hero in play. Alternatively, Freed from the Real with either Bloom Tender or Faeburrow Elder goes infinite just as easily.

What’s the Best cEDH Deck? Who’s the Best Commander?

There is no “best” cEDH deck because your playstyle and what you play best seriously impacts what commander or strategy is best for you. In terms of “S tier” cEDH commanders, you’re looking at a few options.

Any partner pair with Tymna the Weaver is particularly good, especially Thrasios, Triton Hero. This basic combination of value engine and infinite mana outlet just works well, especially when you have four whole colors to choose from.

Kenrith, the Returned King

Kenrith, the Returned King makes the cut for the same reasons as Tymna and Thrasios. Having all legal cards as options for your deck can really help with consistency thanks to blue’s card draw, black’s tutors, and disruption from all colors.

It also gives you access to a wider range of win conditions and lockout pieces which helps you win more games overall. Having your commander be one of the best infinite mana outlets also helps since it gives you multiple ways to assemble and use combos.

Slivers are an excellent option and a rarer one in my experience. Headed by either The First Sliver or Sliver Overlord, these creature-based combo decks get out of hand quickly and can even with through strict combat if you manage to disrupt your enemies game plan quickly enough.

I actually wrote a deck guide on this exact commander and strategy. I find this list extremely fun and rewarding and it often catches my opponents off guard with its speed and power level. But it does have a fairly high budget requirement with very few replacements. So if your store or playgroup isn’t proxy-friendly, maybe stay away from this one.

Getting Started with cEDH

Don’t let the long list of expensive and powerful cards scare you off from one of the most fun formats in all of Magic. Despite its intimidating name and playstyle, cEDH is a very welcoming format that is often proxy-friendly to those who can’t afford $1,000 staples like Timetwister or dual lands.

One of the easiest ways to get into the format is to evaluate what Commander decks you already have. If you’re rocking one of the precons it may be more difficult than if you’re already playing with a Breya, Etherium Shaper artifact list.

The first buy-in to the format is the most expensive and hardest part. There are tons of cEDH staples that go across nearly all decks, so you’ll likely have more than half of the most expensive staple cards for other decks if you end up buying into one of the various tier 1 decks. This gives you some wiggle room to brew and swap decklists much easier, which adds to the fun of the format.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular and expensive cards in the format. You probably have some of them in your collection already, which may make the leap into cEDH easier.

cEDH Communities

There are a lot of cEDH communities and groups to join for a variety of reasons. Many of them help organize online leagues, individual pods, trades, decklist suggestions, brewing groups, and more. I can’t stress enough how fun it is to be a part of one of these active and positive communities. Not only will it make you a better Magic player but it absolutely enhances your experience in the format.

The cEDH reddit is a popular subreddit with a somewhat active userbase. This is a great place for seeing newly-published cEDH articles and theory crafting. This isn’t necessarily great to find games to join; it’s more useful for longform discussion and questions.

The EDHREC website publishes daily articles on cEDH and Commander in general. These range from deck techs to data-driven suggestions and even “top X” rankings of cards you may have never even heard of. These are a great read and especially good for a cEDH-focused audience.

The cEDH Nexus Discord is an excellent community of over 600 members. You can join casual and competitive pods to play in, test yourself against a ranked ladder, and get deckbuilding help and suggestions from fellow players.

The PlayEDH Discord is an even larger Discord community focused on all levels of Commander play. You can get your deck ranked by an EDH specialist so you can be placed into power-level accurate pods for the best play experience. There’s also some great deck suggestions and even IT help for when Spelltable or your webcam go down and you need some assistance.

Commanding Conclusion

Cyclonic Rift - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Cyclonic Rift | Illustration by Chris Rahn

There you have it, your own personal cEDH format guide! What do you think? Are you going to race to a secondary market and order the decks I listed above? Let me know down in the comments or over in the Draftsim Discord.

Do you like cEDH as a subgenre, or do you think it’s too competitive and ruins the “for fun” aspect of Commander? I’m a fan of cEDH, but only if those participating in it clearly mark themselves and don’t just pub stomp the casual players looking to have a fun time in a more casual setting.

But that’s it from me for today. Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!

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