A Case For Allowing Decks With More Than 99 Cards In EDH

Mike Carrozza • April 21, 2023

Battle of Wits | Illustrated by Mark Brill

Now Hold On a Second...


You must be wondering what the heck I'm doing writing an article that isn't a set review or my column, Am I The Bolas?

That's totally fair. I usually stay in my lane, which is giving my opinion when people ask for it. But here I am now, foisting this opinion onto my editors and telling them they have to pop this on the page or else they can expect a RAGAVAN HEAD IN THEIR BED!

The more I run from my Italian heritage, the more I become the self-fulfilling prophecy/stereotype.

I want to talk about deck size and how 100 cards isn't enough.

First of all, shut up. I can already hear some of you. "Those aren't the rules of the format!" "If it's not 100 cards, it's not Commander." "If you don't like this format, don't play this format."

Quit it for half a damn second and listen to why I think we should allow a range of minimum 100 cards to a maximum of 130. Do I have your attention? Don't go anywhere, I know you're tempted. For the next four minutes of your day, I will be making the case for you to accept that players should be able to decide to add more than 100 cards to their deck.

1. New cards

Commander is a singleton format where so much is possible. It's also a format that's become a huge focus of the Magic: the Gathering design team, which means we have been inundated and bombarded by Wizards of the Coast with super cool cards. Cards that demand to be tried in decks or have decks built around them, but at the rate we're getting cards, it has been happening to me more and more where I put a new card into a deck and swap it out for a newer card without getting to try it out in the first place. That's silly, and I know I'm not alone in this.

I also don't want to build a whole new deck just to play the newer cards. I want my Lyzolda, the Blood Witch deck to evolve, but I also want to keep the dumb cards that I thought were cool when I started the deck that give it life beyond functionality for me.

I'm also terrible at cutting cards, and when I brew decks, I end up making 135-card lists and have to trim from there. I get down to 105 or 107 before a new set comes out and pushes that back up to 115. Because it's no longer just a new set. It's a new set and the Commander precon cards and the set booster exclusive cards and the Universes Beyond cards.

The cards come out and they could be perfect for the deck and they deserve to be tried out before they're edged out by something else.

2. The range

I am proposing a range, not a new amount of cards that players need to abide by. Here's the fun part: if you hate this idea, you get to keep your deck at 100 cards. Wow, look at that! That's great, are you happy? Awesome. I happen to enjoy having my extra seven cards and added basics to make it 111. Let's have us a game. I can shuffle my deck and every game I play is varied, that makes me happy.

"What about mill players?" Well, yeah, they get the crap end of the stick here, but they've always had the uphill battle. I say that like I'm not part of them. One of my fave decks is my monoblue Oona, Queen of the Fae deck. It's a deck that does a bunch and rarely wins, but every time I play it, I have so much fun.

"What about cards like Genesis Wave" If a player resolves an infinite X Gen Wave or like an X-1 Gen Wave to keep a card in the library, how much more different will it be from if they flipped their whole deck. Players who do this or aim to do this currently aren't packing their 100-card decks with stuff that's any less scary than the ones that can join in. It just makes for more variety in decks that want it.

What other fears do you have about the range? Animate Library going to be a smidge more powerful? Come on, now.

3. The Why

If I'm doing this, it's because I enjoy the moving puzzle aspect of the game. I want my Commander games to be different every time. I want to see different cards interact with each other within a shell and without having to build essentially the same deck but slightly different. Certainly, you can appreciate that, right?

For example, I love my The Ever-Changing 'Dane deck. It's a deck that has a ton of big mana creatures that love to die, they get brought back, they die again, etc. There are so many goofy creatures that don't make the cut in the deck because at its core, I built it around the eligible Kamigawa Dragons and I'm not ditching any of them even if Kairi, the Swirling Sky will hit approximately one instant maybe 0.3% of the time, and the removal is just fine. That also means that when a card like Endless Evil came out and I wanted to fit it in to try it out, I did and then immediately slotted it out when Mondrak, Glory Dominus was released. I never got to play with Endless Evil. I never got to see the possibilities. I cut Aethermage's Touch for Wayfarer's Bauble. I cut the fun for the veggies.

I play for fun, I play to see cool interactions. I want that for myself and other players. There are too many cards that go unplayed or untested.

But what are the rules?

I want to give everybody I play with carte blanche to play their deck at however many cards they want to as long as they follow these principles.

  1. Starting with an obvious one, no tutors except for land ramp tutors. The fear people have about the deck size in my conversations with them are that every deck becomes a toolbox or those extra slots are for tutors. I agree, that sucks. I'm talking about adding cards for variety, you think I'm a tutors guys? The only exceptions are that you have a secret commander in which case you get to run two hyper specific tutors. And if you're building Battle of Wits, your deck size gets to be 250 cards and you're allowed to tutor for it and only it.
  2. You must be able to shuffle your deck comfortably and well.
  3. If you're running above 105 cards, you have to have a version of the deck where you can easily remove the required amount of cards from your deck to have it ready at 100 at any given time. This means having a list prepared and updated. There's pushback against playing over 100 cards, and since the rules are officially that decks must be 100 cards, you're breaking a rule and if somebody wants you to abide by them, you must.
  4. Make sure that about every two cards you add, you add a basic land. A big fear is that this will cause more non-games for people. This part mitigates that.
  5. You must be cool as hell.

Time to experiment

Increasing the deck size isn't a new thought experiment, but it has absolutely gained some traction in recent years. I absolutely attribute this to the influx of cards meant for our format coming at us at an increased rate. "I already have an Elves deck, I don't want to build another one, but I've already optimized it. This card just looks cool and I have a cool art treatment for it and I want to include it." Boom, 101 cards. Have fun.

I buy my sleeves and they come with 102 or 103 sleeves in the pack. I'm using all of them. If you don't like it, I'll make quick cuts on the spot, but truly, I will be clear, I really don't want to. The movement needs to start somewhere. I hope by this time next year, we up the amount of cards to 110 at least with the condition that no tutors (except land ramp) can be used if above 100.

Thanks for indulging me. If you're mean in the comments or on Reddit, I need you to know I don't care. If you're mad, stay mad but run your mouth elsewhere.

Mike Carrozza is a stand-up comedian from Montreal who’s done a lot of cool things like put out an album called Cherubic and worked with Tig Notaro, Kyle Kinane, and more people to brag about. He’s also been an avid EDH player who loves making silly stuff happen. @mikecarrozza on platforms