Day 2 DanNation – Getting Started in EDH

By Dan Green

In the past few months, I’ve noticed an unexpected surge of popularity in the local area in what is possibly my favorite Magic format, Elder Dragon Highlander, or EDH for short. If you don’t know about this fantastic format, bear with me for a bit and I will hopefully answer all your questions. When Paradox first started holding EDH “tournaments” (there really isn’t much competition involved) about a year and a half ago, following the very first get-together we could rarely get enough people to even play a single big-table game. Recently, though, I’ve had tons of players, new and old alike, talk with me about their EDH decks and ask for games or deckbuilding ideas. EDH is a great format because it is entirely about having fun – it is laid back, multiplayer card slinging at its finest. If you have a crazy combo that is simply too mana-intensive for any constructed format, EDH is the place where you can make it happen. There is tons of freedom in card choice and you can build almost any deck you want. It seems appropriate to give a little primer on this format which is picking up so much steam in our area. If you are new to this format, hopefully after reading this you can get to work on putting together a deck and having some of the most fun you’ll have playing Magic with your friends.

EDH Deck Construction

For those who have never heard of Elder Dragon Highlander and those that need a refresher, I’d like to explain what this format is all about. Elder Dragon Highlander is a typically multiplayer Magic format, meaning you can play one on one, but the most fun will come from a table of four to six players. An EDH deck is 100 cards total, one of which must be a legendary creature. At the beginning of the game, you select a legendary creature in your deck to be your “General”. The trick is that every other card in your deck must be either colorless or contain no colors that are not your General’s colors. For example, if your General is Rafiq of the Many, every card in your deck must be either colorless, white, green, blue, or some combination of those. You can have no cards that are black or red in your deck. Additionally, if a card has a mana symbol in its text box that is not a color your General shares, that card cannot be in your deck. This only applies to mana symbols specifically, not any other color words. Thus, in a Rafiq of the Many deck, you cannot have an Elves of Deep Shadow, but you can have Birds of Paradise or Wild Nacatl. Finally, in an EDH deck you can have no more than one of each card except basic lands. This is where the Highlander in the name comes from – there can only be one.

Special Rules in EDH

You can't play Elves of Deep Shadow unless your general is both green and black.

Players start an EDH game with 40 life. At the start of a game, after you have selected and announced your General (which often simply boils down to throwing it down on the table for everyone to see – no need to be formal about it), each player removes their General from the game in a special “Command Zone”. Your General is really the centerpiece of your deck – any time you could normally cast your General, you may cast it from the Command Zone as if it were in your hand. Additionally, any time your General would be put into a graveyard or exiled from anywhere, you may choose to put it back into the Command Zone. For each time you choose to put it back into the Command Zone, though, you must pay an additional 2 colorless mana to cast it again. So if your General has been put into the graveyard 5 times in a game and moved to the Command Zone each time, to cast him again you will have to pay an additional 10 colorless mana. Even though it can get extremely expensive to continually recast the same creature, there are several very good reasons for keeping your General in play. Not only is your General very likely to be the card that the rest of your deck revolves around in its combos, but you can finish an opponent off much faster using your General – in EDH, if you deal 21 combat damage to an opponent with the same General, that player loses. This is typically termed “General damage”. Note that it must be the same General doing the damage – you can take 5 General damage from Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer, 12 General damage from Dromar, the Banisher, and 4 General damage from Zo-Zu the Punisher and not lose. But if that nasty Brion Stoutarm gets in for 21 or more combat damage on you, you are out of the game. Also notice that this rule only applies to combat damage – so while Heartless Hidetsugu is a great General, he doesn’t almost instantly win the game when you activate his ability.

As far as mulligans are concerned, there are two options for doing mulligans, and it is up to your playgroup to decide which one you want to follow. The traditional mulligan rule is one free mulligan for everyone, then the rest are as normal. The other common option is called the “Partial Paris” or “Brittany” mulligan. If you want to use this option, each player can choose to set aside any number of cards in their hand, draw that many cards minus one, and then shuffle the set aside cards into their library. You may continue this process any number of times. Either option works, though the Partial Paris mulligan is the one recommended by the EDH community authority. Keep in mind also that if you are playing a multiplayer game, as is the usual procedure for any multiplayer format, the player going first still gets to draw a card.

Banned Cards in EDH

There are several cards that many players consider to be simply too powerful in EDH that are generally considered banned. The banned list for EDH consists of anything banned in the Vintage format, minus Shahrazad, plus these cards. The total list of cards that are not allowed to be played in Elder Dragon Highlander is as follows:

Amulet of Quoz
Bronze Tablet
Chaos Orb
Contract from Below
Demonic Attorney
Falling Star
Jeweled Bird
Tempest Efreet
Timmerian Fiends
Ancestral Recall
Black Lotus
Coalition Victory
Gifts Ungiven
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Library of Alexandria
Limited Resources
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Mox Sapphire, Ruby, Pearl, Emerald and Jet
Panoptic Mirror
Protean Hulk
Recurring Nightmare
Sway of the Stars
Time Vault
Time Walk
Worldgorger Dragon
Yawgmoth’s Bargain
Painter’s Servant

Additionally, Braids, Cabal Minion is banned from being a general, but may still be used in a deck.

Now you should know just about everything you need to know to play this incredibly fun format. If you have any more questions, you can find a lot of help from other players at your local gaming store, or you can refer to the following website:

My next article will go into detail on how to pick stronger cards to play in EDH. It really is a totally different format than any other constructed format, so it should be enlightening for a lot of players who are new to the format!

Until next time,

“Day 2” Dan Green