5 Common cEDH Myths Debunked

Drake Sasser • October 20, 2023

Welcome back, readers! Over the last few weeks there has been quite a bit of discourse about cEDH on X (The Website Formerly Known As Twitter), and during that time I saw countless voices weighing in with perceptions of the format that varied wildly from all the games of cEDH I have played over the last five years. My conclusion, unsurprisingly, was that Magic players were once again doing what they do best: propagating lies about a format they have never played and framing it as an educated and experienced position. Given the repetition of the same myths repeated over and over again, I decided to do it like they do on the Discovery Channel and bust some of these myths.

Myth 1: Every Game Ends On Turn 1 or Turn 2

This particular myth holds some nostalgia for me, as it has been said about every Eternal format with a larger card pool than Modern by LGS players for the entire 20 years I've been playing Magic. It's no surprise to see this myth back in action being applied to cEDH the same as it has been to Legacy and Vintage and the like over the years. It's also no surprise that reality once again shows this to be extremely untrue. While it is possible that a game ends on either of the first two turns, this is relatively uncommon, especially in the cEDH metagame that is slowing down to the point where paying 7 mana to activate Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy is one of the most powerful things happening in the format right now!

Part of the beauty of cEDH, as with most Magic formats I've enjoyed over the years, is how much it varies based on pod composition and player execution. I've played games that ended on turn 2 where interaction flew from all players and multiple win attempts happen, I have played games that ended on turn 5 where players were holding tons of interaction waiting for someone to even dare attempting to win, and I have played games that ended on turn 15 where the table was constantly trying to solve the puzzle of stax pieces in play in order to find a window to even attempt a win at all. So while some games do end quickly, I find those games to be just as refreshing as the slog games that end on turn 6+ where everyone is about out of resources trying to rebuild to win again. Making the generalization that "every game ends on turn 1 or turn 2" is obviously false, yet surprisingly popular given how much I have heard it repeated about eternal formats over the years.

Myth 2: The Format is Oppressed by Thassa's Oracle

This myth is the most unique to cEDH and is another one that is just far from the truth in games I have played, which raises the question: where did this myth even come from? My assumption is that in order to fact check themselves, people who have not played the format much or at all simply look at the frequency cards that show up in decks in order to complain about something, yet if that were the metric, why not complain about the actual broken cards: Mana Crypt and Sol Ring? Not sure, but what I can tell you is that this is another reductive statement parroted by people that claim to hate combo, love brewing, or just hate blue.

The reality is that more games end due to infinite mana from Dockside Extortionist loops or Underworld Breach combos than Thassa's Oracle. Even there, however, recent developments have led to the format diversifying win conditions even further! Take the six decks I put forth as "Tier 1" in my most recent State of the Metagame article. The primary win conditions of each of those decks are as follows:

As you can see, only two of the six decks really rely on Thassa's Oracle as their primary win condition, and these are the best of the best decks! The win conditions get even more varied as you go further down the list, and while Thassa's Oracle is a compact package that does show up as a way to end games, it is not usually what the games are even about. Games where Ad Nauseam or Underworld Breach resolve are won by those cards, not by the eventual Thassa's Oracle that's used once an embarrassment of resources has been assembled. These players could win with any ham sandwich; it just happens to be the most compact. Infinite mana loops the story is very much the same there as well, once again showing that while Thassa's Oracle does show up in a lot of decks, the format is far from oppressed by it and that is fairly easy to see with only a few games under your belt.

Myth 3: cEDH Needs its Own Banlist Separate From Casual EDH

This is the first of the myths I'm here to bust that I see brought up by both experience and inexperienced players. While I believe it comes from a legitimate place of frustration with how the Commander ban list is handled, separating the ban list makes cEDH officially a different format from EDH, and that's actually a bad thing. The foundation of cEDH is that the "c" stands for competitive, and therefore shortcuts many of the "rule 0" conversations because you are here to win at all costs!

If we're playing competitively, then any strategy goes, and if it's a legal card or legal strategy in Commander then you are more than welcome to run it in a cEDH pod. So while it might appear on the surface that cEDH having a slightly different name makes it a different format, it's important to remember that cEDH is EDH; the only difference is the "rule 0 conversation" shortcut.

Once that is understood and established, it's clear that separating the ban list is generating a different format entirely, which you can already do! There are many other formats out there you can play, some curated by WOTC, others by fans, and if that's your goal, starting fresh akin to how Canadian Highlander got started is the way to go. Simply separating the ban lists defeats the point of cEDH entirely, and I suspect would do more to confuse prospective cEDH players than help anything.

Myth 4: cEDH is Prohibitively Expensive

Of the myths that we are busting here, this one holds the most weight. While it is true that owning entirely real cards for the average cEDH deck is a mid-to-high four figure number even if you don't play Timetwister, this has led to some rather obvious adaptations among high level cEDH play. In order to enable cEDH to be a better test of skill rather than spending money, all worthwhile, credible tournaments currently taking place for high stakes allow the use of playtest cards, or proxies, in their events.

While you can obviously always use proxies within your own playgroups, no one genuinely interested in playing the game would stop you from doing that, but the previous necessity for owning WOTC-printed versions of the cards was for sanctioned tournament play. In recent years, Commander tournaments have moved to using software solutions outside of WOTC's offerings and, with it, have instituted proxy policies of some degree to open up play to the most amount of people possible.

These efforts have led to a thriving tournament scene, both online and in-person, like has never been seen before in cEDH. Anyone that's interested in cEDH can do so both for stakes and with friends and those complaining about the price of the cards are mostly just making noise, not genuinely interested in playing cEDH.

Myth 5: cEDH is Not Social because Players Value Winning Above Everything

One of the chief points of misinformation through recent discourse about cEDH was this idea that the goals of cEDH run in direct opposition to the goals of casual EDH. The goals of casual play, being having fun in a social setting, were said to be incompatible with the coals of cEDH, which was said to be just winning at all costs. This statement is obviously false to anyone who has ever considered themselves a "tournament grinder" of any format, and events of all levels are heralded as being so great not because of any format or cards, but because of The Gathering of friends in a single location.

This experience, stated by LGS-goers and Pro Tour mainstays alike, mirrors all of my experiences playing tournaments of any kind, and cEDH tournaments are no different. Paper play in all forms has always been a social activity and the format of choice being cEDH is no different in that angle. The "tournament grinders" of cEDH have their own social circles and generally become good friends building upon the comradery of competition week-in and week-out. While winning is obviously the goal, and some amount of time and mental energy is spent working towards that goal, that does not remove the social nature of Magic: The Gathering, and each event will hold as much nostalgia for the players from the post-tournament dinner and hangs as the glorious wins.

My experience mirrors this perfectly, and I've made multiple lifelong friends through competing in tournaments of all levels, including cEDH, and the reason I stay playing cEDH, writing about cEDH, and making cEDH gameplay videos with Playing With Power all stems from the friends and connections made with both the people and the cards, even when playing to win all the while.

To those of you that have seen or heard these myths propagated in the past and let it stop you from giving cEDH a try, I hope you reconsider. To those of you that don't like cEDH, that is totally fine and valid, but don't go spreading myths about it. To the rest of us that are tired of hearing these myths spread around, share this next time you see someone spouting this nonsense! As cEDH is going through unprecedented growth, it's a shame some people are convinced away from the format solely off the back of easily busted tall tales. To everyone, thank you for reading!

Drake Sasser is a member of cEDH group Playing With Power, a commentator for Nerd Rage Gaming, and used to grind Magic tournaments on the SCG Tour.