[Clarification: The author uses the term Duel Commander U.S. in this article. The format he is referring to is 1 vs. 1 Commander using the ban list found on mtgcommander.net.]
Hi! My name is Samuel Tremblay, and I am a Level 1 DCI Judge from Quebec. I am the newest member of the ManaDeprived.com team for the Commander and Pauper sections. I might also write some tournament reports on big events I get to judge to give an inside view of how it is to judge at Competitive Rules Enforcement Level (REL) and maybe convince some of you to begin the certification process!
I have been playing Commander for more than a year. I first built a $50 Bruna Voltron, which turned into a Grand Arbiter Augustin IV Control and finally ended up dismantled for the profit of a mono-green tribal Seton, Krosan Protector. Even after all this, those decks left me unsatisfied, so I built the right deck that uses the reanimate abilities of white, copy and control effects of blue, and ramping of green. It is called Derevi, the Empyrial Tactician, it is broken, and it is awesome. For more casual playing, I use Lyzolda, the Blood Witch. I really like how Commander lets me explore some of the insane interactivity between cards-something more complex, deep, and fun than just doing a lame combo in the regular sixty card formats.
But, Derevi is not the topic of my article. Today, I want to talk about Edric, Spymaster of Trest, the long forgotten, French banlist banned, Simic draw and ramp Edric.
Our favorite UG general was released with the first commander set, Commander 2011. Since it was not in any block or core sets, it was clearly cut out for EDH. Wizards of the Coast originally released those sets for multiplayer Commander games, so you can understand how awesome Edric was (and still is!) in a multiplayer environment. He basically says, “Fight each other and you will draw cards. If you attack me, you will not,” so he is a very political and interactive commander in free-for-all games.
However, some people started playing it in duels instead of casual multiplayer games. Its outstanding performances began then. A quick search on MTG Top 8 tells us that, prior to his ban, he got into 90% of every top eight in every tournament. He won first place of more than half of this 90%. If you do the math, it means that Edric won the majority of every EDH tournament that happened in Europe before he got banned. In fact, the Duel Commander Committee banned him with the release of Return to Ravnica, “hoping to give a second breath to the format so the actual meta gets more diversified.”
Let’s take a look at some European Edric lists, prior to the ban. The list below placed in the top eight of the Manila Duel Commander tournament held September 2012, three days after the official ban of Edric, since bans are only effective a couple of weeks after they have been announced.
Original FR Edric
As you can see, the list is pretty straight-forward. Around one third of the deck is creatures with evade or that can also counterspell, bounce, or steal other creatures; another third is for instant counter and bounce spells; and the final third is lands, with Edric being the 100th card.
The strategy here is very simple: cast an accelerator on turn one then pass the turn. On turn two, cast another accelerator and leave two blue mana open for any counterspell. Turn three, cast Edric, attack with one of your little guys to start getting card advantage, and leave two mana for the counterspell. Continue this plan for the rest of the game, getting more and more little guys, stealing your opponent’s uncounterable threats with Sower of Temptation or Gilded Drake, and drawing more counterspells, “return target” cards, and creatures until your opponent scoops or is at zero life. This is how the deck was played before to its ban in Europe. It was exceptional, since opponents always had to have an uncounterable Pyroclasm in every hand to fight the card advantage. The annoying part is that it was really easy to play. Just drop your guys, tap your mana correctly, counter the right spells and win.
But why I am telling you all this? Why should you care about an old commander from a European banlist while I am in America? This is just to make you realize that even in a meta where everything is slowed down (no Sol Ring or Mana Crypt and friends), Edric still beats everyone. Just imagine what would happen if someone had the brilliant idea of re-building Edric, but on the American banlist.
Duel Commander U.S. is a format that just should not exist. In the philosophy of the original EDH committee, it was a format designed to have fun in casual multiplayer games. To do so, they created a banlist that balances those free-for-all games you play with your friends. The problem is that, in those games, if you want to go all out or do something extremely broken, everyone will just smash you and you will lose in half a second. This explains the differences between the U.S. and French banlists: when someone plays a Sol Ring on his first turn, you instinctively want to focus on him, just as the other players will. However, when there are no “other players,” you are alone against that enormous mana advantage that makes your opponent jump from turn two to turn four in terms of available mana. Combine this with the fact that there are enough Sol Ring-type cards to have one in your hand consistently, and EDH becomes a race of mulliganing into a turn one accelerator. That is why the FR banlist was created.
Now that you can fully understand how broken the Duel Commander U.S. is, combined with how overpowered Edric was in Duel Commander FR, let’s get to the decklist I want to bring up today. It is not my original brew, nor is it anyone else’s. It is just a melting pot of YouTube streamers and friends’ actual decks. Here I present to you Edric, EDH’s James Bond!
New Turbo US Edric
The main difference between the old and new version of Edric I am presenting you today is the loss of tempo for control. With only 20 instants and sorceries against 32, the deck packs a lot more control cards. We do not play Delver simply because it only has evasion and hits for three each turn; it is just not good enough. It interacts with nothing and is not a good turn-one drop. You always want to play an accelerator turn one. Cloud of Faeries, for example, is in every way superior. It has the needed evasion Delver could have; it is “free” so you can keep a counterspell open; it can untap Gaea’s Cradle to generate more mana; it can be equipped with Skullclamp to draw cards; it helps towards flipping Erayo; and so on. Its utilities are almost endless. That is what every card in the deck should look and work like. It is a giant toolbox that you have to pilot according to what your opponent does.
Let’s take a look at the main strategies of the deck.
1) The tempo game
This is a game that looks like the old Edric. You play some creatures and then counter or bounce everything your opponent plays so you can keep triggering Edric, drawing more cards each time. Because you draw so many cards, you will draw enough answers for everything your opponent plays. This kind of game is achieved when you have a starting hand heavy with counter and bounce. Having Force of Will, Unified Will, and Mana Drain will, for example, make this kind of game really easy. Unlike the old Edric, you can do some insane stuff like casting Deranged Hermit and copying it with Phantasmal Image to draw a ton of cards the next turn, while having a bunch of 3/3s to block.
2) The turbo game
This is what every green deck is capable of: generating enormous amounts of mana very early so you can drop your threats sooner than your opponent. In this game you will counter only the spells that are disturbing or game-changing, so do not worry about having only one or even zero counterspells in your opening hand. What is important is having a combination of mana elves, Sol Ring, Chrome Mox, Mana Crypt, Ancient Tomb, and so on, so you can play something that costs five or more on turn two. Yes, that will generate a lot of card disadvantage on your side, but having two cards in your hand and Tezzeret that searches for a Sword, Jitte, or Winter Orb by turn two is really overwhelming for your opponent.
3) The land destruction game
The oldest and most unpleasant strategy in Magic: the Gathering: destroying your opponent’s mana base. This is kind of a “complementary” strategy that you will use alongside another one. It consists of abusing Strip Mine and Wasteland with a combination of Eternal Witness, Phantasmal Image, Regrowth, Crucible of Worlds, and Oracle of Mul Daya so you can cripple your opponent’s lands for good. By doing this he will always be one mana short, and you will keep hitting with Edric and generating card advantage. This is also easily achieved with Terastodon, which can be cheated into play with Natural Order or hardcasted with all the mana generated by this deck. This gets very funny because, regardless of how many permanents you destroy, your opponent will be ripped off anyway. Yes, this is not funny but we are talking about being competitive, aren’t we?
This is just a brief exposé of what the deck can do. In my opinion, it is the best U.S. deck Commander has to offer. With a great pilot, it can beat almost anyone. One of my friends finished second in a tournament because his opponent top-decked a Cavern of Souls while he had Force of Will in his hand and had previously mulliganed to four cards. Over the next turns, he got nothing to bounce or steal the creature in around 20 cards drawn, so he lost his final round.
On a final note, casting Psionic Blast on an almost useless creature will not always seem very smart, but if it lets you draw one more card, keep Edric alive, and prevent your opponent from equipping a sword it will be worth it. You will have to make plenty of those weird tempo-based decisions, so do not worry about them; each one pushes you towards winning your match, if correctly done. I hope I have given you a taste of the deck’s power and that you are going to give it a try. I also hope that you have learned some new stuff on the format, because I did while writing this article.
See you again on more EDH/Pauper awesomeness,