When it comes to cEDH decks, nothing is fair, and the most unfair colors are Grixis. That said, what’s the best commander to abuse them? Surprisingly, the answer is you most likely need two commanders that share their colors as that enable you to have different play patterns and more cards to work with.
Intrigued by what the deck may have? I just gave you a hint!
Kraum, Ludevic's Opus | Illustration by Aaron Miller
Pact of Negation
March of Swirling Mist
An Offer You Can't Refuse
Chain of Vapor
Culling the Weak
Red Elemental Blast
Force of Negation
Force of Will
City of Brass
Otawara, Soaring City
Spire of Industry
Sharkym02 from the Mox Masters event in January 2023, brings you this deck that placed third in a 128-person tournament.
Regarding cEDH, I think that commanders can be replaced by others who share the same colors and fulfill the same role. For example, a Grixis deck would be good regardless of the commander it runs, as the strategy’s main combo and core will likely be the same.
I bring this up because it then becomes a matter of selecting the commander that compliments the strategy the best, and for cEDH standards, Kraum, Ludevic's Opus plays a very significant role as it can draw you an extra card on each of your opponents turns once it resolves, providing you with the much-needed card advantage that the format requires where every player is just holding their guns to go off in the blink of an eye.
Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools, its partner, on the other hand, serves as an enabler for black that Kraum originally lacks, and while it doesn’t seem to have much impact on the board if it hits it, at first, you can easily tutor for a Skullclamp and start out valuing your opponents by using the tokens Tevesh will be creating each turn.
Mana rocks like Sol Ring and Mana Crypt play an essential role in accelerating players’ mana production, providing a significant advantage by allowing for faster and more explosive plays. These potent artifacts serve as reliable and efficient sources of additional mana, allowing you to power out this deck’s strategy quickly, whether it be casting game-changing spells, assembling powerful combos, or establishing a dominant board presence with their ability to generate mana beyond the usual limitations.
In cEDH games, Grixis tutors play a pivotal role as indispensable tools for assembling key combo pieces or accessing specific answers in a flash. These tutors, like Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, and Gamble, act as powerful resources to dig through the deck, ensuring consistency and enhancing the deck’s overall strategy.
By searching for vital combo pieces or essential interaction at critical moments, they become the backbone of the deck’s game plan, providing the means to swiftly adapt and overcome opponents’ threats while maximizing the chances of executing powerful game-ending plays.
The Counter Magic
Alright, so here’s the deal with this deck: it only focuses a little on interaction with your opponent. Instead, its main goal is to stack up some serious card advantage that’ll leave your opponents scratching their heads. Of course, you still have to ensure your combo pieces stay safe and sound, which is where a few well-placed spells come in handy.
Removal spells like Cyclonic Rift and Deflecting Swat shine as versatile tools that allow players to maintain control and protect their game plan. These spells serve a crucial role by swiftly and efficiently dealing with threats posed by opponents’ creatures, artifacts, or enchantments, creating favorable board states, or countering pivotal spells. With their ability to disrupt opponents’ strategies and provide valuable protection for their own resources, these removal spells become indispensable assets.
As far as card advantage goes, Mystic Remora and Rhystic Study assume a paramount role by offering players a consistent stream of additional cards, allowing them to maintain a substantial hand and outpace their opponents. These powerful tools create a taxing decision for opponents, forcing them to pay extra mana or granting the player a wealth of information and card advantage.
By providing a constant flow of resources, these card advantage cards enable players to dig deeper into their decks, find crucial combo pieces or answers, and ultimately gain a strategic edge over their opponents.
When it comes to win conditions for cEDH games, we’ve got some absolute game-changers like Thassa's Oracle and Brain Freeze. These bad boys take center stage and play a crucial role in sealing the deal. Thassa's Oracle, with its ability to win the game if your library is empty, and Brain Freeze, which can mill your opponents’ decks into oblivion (or be used on yourself to later win the game by casting the 2-mana merfolk), are the MVPs of victory. They provide that epic “I win” moments in a matter of seconds.
This deck has the standard Grixis mana base that’s gonna be its core foundation. I’m talkin’ about four sweet sets of dual lands like Underground Sea and Volcanic Island that’ll give it the flexibility this deck needs to work its magic. But that’s not all, let’s not forget about those few utility lands thrown into the mix for those special moments when you may need an extra edge like Otawara, Soaring City.
You can approach the matches in multiple ways, but since your deck is more combo control-oriented, you’ll likely assume the controlling role at first. This is done by sitting on removal and searching for cards like Mystic Remora and Rhystic Study that can provide you with more cards to play throughout the turns. This helps you to find your key combo pieces, tutors, and win conditions to surprise the whole table and win the game.
Each deck is different, and understanding their combos, especially in cEDH, is critical to get the most out of it. Here, I have listed the most common ones you can use: your bread and butter to win games.
Narset, Parter of Veils + Windfall: This is a devastating combo that might not win you the game on the spot, but it’ll leave your opponents with only one card in their hands after it assembles. After that, and with a hand full of cards, it should be easy to win the match.
Since this is a cEDH deck, it’s almost mandatory that it has infinite combos, so from here on, the combos are the ones you need to warn your opponents about, just in case your table may not agree to play against.
Demonic Consultation + Thassa's Oracle: For only 3 mana, you can win the game. You need to first play Demonic Consultation, naming Thassa's Oracle. Since you won’t have it in your library but rather in your hand, you’ll exile your deck, then you cast and resolve Thassa's Oracle to win the game. Simple! Other variations of it can be accomplished by replacing Demonic Consultation with Tainted Pact.
Underworld Breach + Lion's Eye Diamond + Wheel of Fortune: This creates infinite looting and card draws (as well as for your opponents), and it can be used to search for your combo pieces and eventually, find a Brain Freeze to win the game. How it works is that with Underworld Breach in play, you crack Lion's Eye Diamond to add 3 red mana, replay it for free by exiling it from your graveyard, cast Wheel of Fortune, and do it all over again.
Underworld Breach + Lion's Eye Diamond + Brain Freeze: This is a variation of the previous combo, except this time you’ll be self-milling in order to win the game with a Thassa's Oracle or to mill someone out thanks to the storm count that eventually happens.
Competitive EDH decks are perfectly tuned to play as intended with the cards on the list, and replacing some for a “cheaper” version of it will likely decrease its performance. Still, I also acknowledge that some cards may be hard to find, so here are some replacements you can get your hands on.
Archmage Emeritus is a card I love as a replacement for card advantage engines like Mystic Remora because most of your deck is built around instant and sorceries and slamming Archmage Emeritus onto the field means that each of your other spells draw you a card.
Goblin Electromancer may not be a mana rock, but it can act as one and be better as it significantly reduces the amount of mana you need to pay to cast your spells.
Of course, the cEDH deck isn’t only the other option to get this deck built, but you can pair your main commander with other partners to get access to different colors outside of black.
For example, with Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools, you get access to black when you pair Kraum, Ludevic's Opus. But when your pair it with Tymna the Weaver, you gain access to black as well but also to white. A color that can be used to play cards like Drannith Magistrate, Esper Sentinel, or Smothering Tithe.
Another option is to run Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa as a partner to gain access to the previously mentioned good white cards, but also to powerful mana dorks like Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise to gain a boost in terms of mana development and speed.
Swan Song | Illustration by Peter Mohrbacher
As you read, this deck offers a dynamic and synergistic playstyle, blending spell-slinging and token generation. The partnership between Kraum, Ludevic's Opus and Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools brings together two powerful commanders with distinct abilities that complement each other’s color palette to gain access to complementary spells such as tutors, removal, and countermagic.
This one is a compelling deck, but I want to know. Can it be even better? Are the other partner options more useful than Tevesh? Let us know in the comments.
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