It’s time to put this series to a rest. At least for now. I do have some suggestions I want to mull over and test with my own playgroup which I might cover in the future. An example is the “EDH with Planeswalkers for commanders” variant, which I personally find extremely interesting. That said, it’s not technically a variant, since it offers different deck construction rules, and I’ve focused on variants you can play by simply picking up your regular EDH deck and sit down and play, usually with some different win conditions.
I will be starting my new series in two weeks, and you can help me with that! Read on till the end to find out how! For today, I want to go over and do a little retrospective of my series, with a brief summary of each variant for you readers to use as future reference when deciding on a new variant to try with the group. Each variant comes with a brief summary and my opinion on how fast and how fun they are, compared to regular EDH games of equal sizes. I then open up the Uncompetitive Arena one last time to bring you my very on favorite commander who incidentally have been successful in all of these variants, and present an EDHREC generated deck by this very commander.
My inaugural article on this site was also about probably my favorite out of all these variants. This is a pretty complex 5- or 6-player game where each player is secretly dealt a role card at the beginning of the game. Each role has a different win condition and will play out the game quite differently. The variant is extremely political, with players constantly jockeying for position and favor with the monarch player (this has nothing to do with the Monarch mechanic, you can refer to the player as King, or Queen, or President, or Mayor, or The Big Cheese, it doesn’t matter.) I recommend playing creature-based aggressive decks or control decks for best results and most interesting games.
Is it fun? It is a lot more fun than a six-player game of EDH, at least if no other variant is used. Kingdoms spices things up just right, and the politics add several layers of tactics throughout the game. Read the article linked above, and try it with your friends!
Is it fast? Kingdoms can be a much faster version of a six-player EDH game than regular EDH. It often is, seeing as how even five-man EDH games can slow to a glacial crawl. If the Bandits get the jump on the Monarch, the game can be over very quickly, and even if they don’t, the games tend to move along a bit faster than regular EDH.
This is a five-player variant that wins time by lowering the amount of players who need to be eliminated to finish a game. In regular EDH, you win when all your opponents are knocked out, in Pentagram, you win by knocking out your two designated opponent, and you know right from the get-go who these are! You and four friends sit around a table in the shape of a pentagram (or a pentagon, for the less demonically inclined), the people next to you are your allies, the people opposed to you are your opponents.
Is it fun? The inherent politics of this variant makes it exciting right from the get-go, and the fact that it’s quicker than regular EDH means you can fit in more games in a single night! Fun!
Is it fast? It’s often times quite a bit faster than regular five-player EDH, since only two players are usually needed to be eliminated before you can crown a winner instead of the regular four.
Perhaps the easiest to explain rules-wise: you attack to your left and block to your right and “chase” each other around the table. This is a simple but flexible way to play, you can mix things up further by adding “ranges” to spells, by counting points via eliminated opponents and so on.
Is it fun? Chase is just as fun as regular EDH, and the twist adds something to many games. Politicking is done on a very different level than regular EDH or either of the variants above, however.
Is it fast? Chase takes about as long as regular EDH, though sometimes the turns are considerably shorter since the restricted attacks means threat assessment is a lot easier.
My first, and so far only, two-parter deals with the very flavorful but sometimes quite clunky Planechase EDH variant. In Planechase, another deck of specific Plane cards is added and used to both add global effects and flavor to the game. It’s a barrel of monkeys full of fun most of time time, but it can also get very frustrating.
Is it fun? It depends a lot on your group. If your group is very cutthroat, very competitive, they won’t take kindly to the new layer of variance added by the Plane cards. If your group is into casual chaos fun, they will love Planechase!
Is it fast? Heck to the no. Planechase EDH typically takes a lot longer than regular EDH, though there are exceptions. See my guides for what Plane cards you want to avoid to keep the games within at least the three hour mark!
This is an excellent introduction to the format for newer players. Team them up with experienced planeswalkers to guide them through a game or two, and then let them run free and frolic in the format. Two teams (or even three teams, we’ve done it in my group) team up with a higher-than-regular shared life total and share turns as well.
Is it fun? This is great fun in the right setting. If players play with decks optimized for this variant I imagine it’s quite broken, but if players just use their regular decks, some wacky things tend to happen and the games get pretty exciting.
Is it fast? Two-Headed Giant is a lot faster than regular EDH most times, despite the higher life total. Since only half as many turns are taken and only one (sort of) player needs to be eliminated, the games can be over almost as quickly as a regular game of Magic.
Perhaps the most complex out of all of the variants, but it also invites to very engaging, very political play. Players are dealt secret roles, but two of them are actually open information as soon as the game starts. The other three are either teamed up with one of the players who have an open role, or they’re the neutral player. This is quite similar to Kingdoms in the aspect that players win via alternative win conditions rather than the regular ones. As with Kingdoms, I suggest creature-based decks utilizing combat for most engaging gameplay.
Is it fun? Yes, very, and very complex. To grasp most of the nuances, you need a lot of experience with the format. Suggest it the next time you play, I can almost guarantee you won’t regret it.
Is it fast? The fact that two roles are known and also known foes to each other means two or more players are usually coming out strong out of the gates immediately. Games can end a bit quicker than regular five-player EDH, but don’t need to necessarily. I’d say it’s more or less the same, but Secret Partners is a lot more interesting and engaging most of the time.
And that’s it! Click on each link to go to the article with the full details, pick your favorite and start slinging spells!
In my day job, I teach at a Swedish upper-secondary school. As such, I was pretty taken by Dragonlord Ojutai when it was spoiled and the backstory became known. Some time after Dragons of Tarkir was released, my friend built a Dragonlord Atarka deck and I followed suit with Dragonlord Ojutai to mirror him. We even got custom-made playmats featuring drawings of the dragonlords!
I built my deck to be a “Teacher” deck, focusing on cards that deal with tutoring, knowledge, concentration, and so on, but it more or less just turned into straight Blue-White after some time. The theme felt muddled after a while, but I still carefully announce what permanent gets to sit in the corner when I cast Detention Sphere and I still refer to Council’s Judgment as “bringing in the student council for their opinion”.
Let’s have a look at EDHREC’s take on the commander in question.
This list is quite similar to my own in that it’s a fairly straight-forward aggro-control build with Dragonlord Ojutai as a premiere finisher. I don’t like everything about this average-generated deck however, Brave the Sands does too little for the deck and there are way better vigilance outlets in my opinion – most notably Vow of Duty which is one of my favorite cards in my deck and sorely missing from this one. Tragic Arrogance and Divine Reckoning are both good pesudo-sweepers that leave the commander alive. I also really like the old combo of Land Tax + Scroll Rack, especially seeing as how the latter has some synergy with the commander.
What makes Dragonlord Ojutai so neat in these variants is that he has the ability to play the long game while being in the proper colors for interacting with most things your opponents want to do. There isn’t a single permanent type that blue-white can’t deal with, and you always have the back-up of countermagic. On top of all of that, Dragonlord Ojutai himself is a monster when he’s left alone, especially with Vow of Duty, Sword of Vengeance, or Ring of Thune which not only grants him vigilance to make him a lot harder to stop, it also allows him to kill in three hits.
Always remember to ask your opponents, as you hit them for that 21’st point of commander damage: “Did you learn your lesson?”
With this installment, Uncompetitive Spirit is concluded for now, and I will move on to a new series. And for this to be a success, I need your help, dear reader. My new series is called General Medicine where I will take a look at your EDH deck, run it through our own EDHREC analysis, add some twists and turns of my own, and present your deck with an analysis for the world to see, right here on this site! Sounds exciting? Want your sweet brew featured (as in, picked apart, analyzed, and written about – it’s not as scary as it might sound!) in my series? Here’s what you do:
To my delight, I’ve already gotten a number of submissions for the column – and I must apologize to anyone who has e-mailed: I haven’t had the time to sit down and write proper replies to everyone yet. If you haven’t yet sent in a deck for me, there is still time! I will not be using some sort of first-come, first-served policy, I will be choosing the most interesting deck and I will also look at the best write-ups! Make sure you read the submission guidelines above, and take your time when writing me your e-mail; the better the write-up, the higher the chance I pick your deck! And if you’re not picked this time, fear not – I will be keeping any unused lists and write-ups in my log, from which I will pull the nuggets every time.