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What Makes a Commander CEDH Viable?

Devon has been playing Magic since 1994. He is an enthusiastic player who mainly enjoys the Legacy, Vintage, and Competitive EDH formats.

After writing a few articles about the viable CEDH commanders, I received a lot of questions from people asking if their favorite commander was, in fact, CEDH viable. I received so many such inquiries that I decided to write a completely separate article about what it is that makes a commander good in a competitive setting.

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The Bar

Thrasios is the number one commander in CEDH. Whenever you are deciding on a commander, you always have to ask yourself if Thrasios can just do what you want in a better way. But why does Thrasios set the bar for cutting-edge commanders?

First of all, Thrasios is a two-mana creature. This makes him very easy to cast very early in the game or very easy to cast and then use his ability in the same turn.

Secondly, he is a 1/3. Although this might not seem super relevant, it's actually pretty important. He can block Tymna, the Weaver and most creatures that a Tymna deck would be attacking with. This is important largely because these types of decks depend on being able to connect with Tymna or other small creatures early on to keep pace with card draw. These decks largely depend on the fact that most decks in CEDH play very few, if any, creatures.

Thirdly, his ability is the perfect mana sink to generate value and win the game. He is a combo enabler because once you have infinite mana, you can draw your entire deck and set up your win condition. He can also be used early for incidental card advantage.

Lastly, he is a partner commander. This means that you will have access to three or four colors when combined with another partner commander. This gives him a lot of flexibility and allows him to be a commander for all types of strategies.

When we look at any other commander, we need to analyze them through the lens of a metagame where Thrasios is really the king. In this article, we're going to compare several commanders and find out why they might or might not stack up as a cutting-edge competitive commander.

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Urza, High Lord Artificer

To demonstrate the process we use to evaluate commanders for CEDH, we are going to use the example of a newer commander from the Modern Horizons set, Urza, High Lord Artificer. When Urza first came out, there was a ton of speculation and hype about how good of a commander he would be for CEDH. But why all of the hype? What about this commander makes him particularly good?

Base Stats

For a long time, creature stats weren't important at all in CEDH. Since Tymna-based creature decks have become so prevalent, we have started to look at creature stats as more of a bonus. Being a 1/4 is pretty important because Urza can capably block any of the partner commanders.

A four-mana cost is completely acceptable for a commander as long as there is a real payoff for casting them. Typically a four or five mana commander needs to be a combo enabler, an engine, or a tutor. Luckily for this commander, he essentially can fulfill all of these roles.

Abilities

Urza has some very nice abilities for competitive EDH, and those abilities are really tuned to a specific strategy that already exists in the format. Let's look at his abilities a little more closely:

His first ability is nice in the sense that you get an artifact right away to use with his other abilities. This can help propel your combo forward once you get him out.

His second ability is very good. It allows you to turn all of your artifacts into mana rocks that completely bypass the effects of Null Rod or Stony Silence, which are the main hate cards against an artifact-based deck. This directly solves a lot of the hate you're going to run into.

The third ability is nothing short of amazing. Thrasios is already a huge player in this format because of his ability to turn infinite mana into infinite card draw. Urza pretty much has the same ability with the added bonus of facilitating the generation of infinite mana with his second ability. All of this in a single card that is always accessible from the command zone.

For an example of how Urza is used in a deck, see this primer and decklist:

Urza Power Scepter

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Muldrotha, the Gravetide

Muldrotha is a commander that I have been asked about quite a bit. It seems that many people really like this commander and really want her to be a top contender.

Now, Muldrotha is definitely a commander that sees play in CEDH. However, she really only sees play in one archetype and is actually kind of rare. She would really be described as a fringe CEDH commander. But why is that?

Base Stats

Muldrotha is a 6/6, and would probably be the largest creature on the battlefield. Unfortunately, it's almost never worth paying extra mana for 6/6 stats in this format because by the time the commander damage becomes relevant, the game should already be over.

While there are six-mana commanders that feature in CEDH, they typically end the game immediately (like Prossh). It's a very hard sell to spend six mana on a commander that, admittedly, provides a lot of mana but does not immediately win the game.

Stax

Probably the best shell for Muldrotha would be a stax gameplan with a combo finish. Stax decks will slow the game down enough that you will have time to use the value that your commander generates over a long game. Muldrotha also adds a lot of resilience to your stax as you put destroyed pieces back into play over and over.

You will not be able to depend solely on value in this format. After all, most of the top decks are running Ad Nauseum, which will allow these decks to instantly catch up to you in value.

Here is an example decklist with primer for Muldrotha:

Make No Gravetide (Muldrotha Midrange)

Meta Game Considerations

Another major consideration when looking at commander viability is the current metagame that exists in CEDH.

First of all, your choice of commander might be very strong but is overshadowed by another commander that does the same thing better. A perfect example of this is how Prossh has been overshadowed by better and better options over the past few years. First came General Tazri, then Niv-Mizzet Reborn, and now the First Sliver.

The second major consideration in the current format is the existence of Ad Nauseam. The current format is completely warped around either using Ad Nauseam or fighting Ad Nauseam, and there are certainly commanders that fit better in that kind of environment.

Lastly, there seems to be a trend pushing combo decks away from going all-in and focusing more on interaction with a more resilient combo win. This trend has made pure combo decks less viable. This is why you see a lot less Arcum Daggson or similar commanders that seek to win in a very linear way.

Is My Commander Good?

So is your commander good? You will need to consider the following questions to make that determination. Your commander doesn't need to fulfill all of these criteria, but they should certainly check at least some of these boxes:

  • Does my strategy keep pace with the types of decks I'll see in CEDH?
  • Is my commander part of a linear, but hard to interact with combo?
  • Does my commander do more for that strategy than another established commander?
  • Is my commander mana efficient? Does its power justify its cost?
  • Can my commander be cast consistently through disruption?
  • Is my commander good, even if the main gameplan is off the table?
  • Is my commander a MUST ANSWER card in the format?

Conclusion

Commander players really put a lot of thought into their favorite commanders, and it can be a real downer to hear that your commander isn't a tier-one competitive choice.

The good news is that you can definitely use almost any commander, with the right power level of cards, and make a deck that can at least be a player at the table. Just because it's not tier one, it doesn't mean you can't play it anyways.

CEDH is a highly-tuned format that really pushes commanders to the cutting edge. The top level of these commanders really possesses a specific set of qualities that make them rise to the top of the CEDH meta.

By the way, if you're wondering where I get my decklist information from, it's all on the CEDH Decklist Database. This allows you to look up all sorts of decklists and primers that are relevant to CEDH.