cEDH: Interaction in a Slower Meta

Harvey McGuinness • March 30, 2024

The average cEDH game has gotten slower. Turbo decks, Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh and Silas Renn, Seeker Adept chief among them, are seeing record lows, both in terms of the number of people playing them and their average winrates in top tournaments. Meanwhile, midrange decks have seen a resurgence in both popularity and success, both with comparatively newer decks, like Atraxa, Grand Unifier, as well as the time-tested ones, like Blue Farm. With that in mind, how can we prepare ourselves for this slower meta beyond just abandoning turbo in favour of something a little more resilient? First off, we need to reexamine interaction: from counterspells to removal, it's time to put everything under the microscope.

The Threats

Much of cEDH's threats are recognized as such because they satisfy the principal that "this card does something immediately." Whether that's an instant like Brain Freeze or a creature like Dockside Extortionist, most everything worth dealing with has, for most of the format's history, been something that needed to be dealt with on the stack in order to summarily address it.

While this is certainly still true of most game-ending threats, this principal ignores the modern prevalence of value engines. Rhystic Study, Trouble in Pairs, Talion, the Kindly Lord, all of these present very real issues but are valuable under the premise that they exist for a while, not for a turn. Even The One Ring, which ushers in a cloud of protection and often draws at least a card when it comes in, is potent in the long run, but not as much immediately.

This extended value may be the key to value engines' successes in our slower meta, but it is also their downfall if properly exploited. Unlike the environment of turbo, one of "do or die," value engines propagate a format where interaction can be deployed at any point of the threat's existence; on the stack, the turn the threat comes down, or much later. 

The Answers


While cEDH is definitely slower, it's important to recognize that it is still a fast format. Shifting from wins and losses on turn three to turns four or five is massive from a percentage perspective, but that doesn't necessarily translate to a terribly expansive absolute number of opportunities to untap and draw targeted removal. Therefore, countermagic, if you can play it, should absolutely be the focus of your interaction package. Removal is far more valuable and usable than it once was, but that shouldn't be mistaken so as to overshadow countermagic. Play both.

Now, with that out of the way, what countermagic should we play? Rather than a suite tailored to just instants and sorceries, we need to branch out a bit. Gone are the days of Dispel and Miscast being mainstays of most blue decks; it's time to revisit Delay and Spell Pierce.

First up: Spell Pierce. It may tax by one mana less in comparison to Miscast, but in a world with players tapping out for four-drop and three-drop noncreature threats (*cough* Rhystic Study *cough*), being able to hit artifacts and enchantments on the stack has never been more valuable. If you haven't already tried Spell Pierce out but are on Miscast, then I highly encourage you to give it a go. There's more to be afraid of then Ad Nauseam and tutors, after all. 

As for Delay, I know two mana is scary in cEDH, but I promise this one is worth at least thinking about, especially if you're still on Mana Drain. First off, while it may only abide by its namesake and slow down a spell by three turns, it's important to recognize that, as I mentioned in the blurb about cEDH still being a fast format, three turns is often enough to effectively counter a spell. Odds are someone will win before a Delayed spell resolves, so when you read "suspend" you can effectively errata that to "counter."

Secondly, unlike card-type limited counterspells, like An Offer You Can't Refuse, Delay hits all the threats in the format, no restrictions. Worrying about a Mystic Remora? Gone. How about Dockside Extortionist? Delay hits that too! Plus, as a little cherry on top, Delay's exile clause doubles as graveyard removal if you're worried about Breach-style recursion situations. Like I said, two mana is a lot, but Delay puts that extra colorless to work.


Alright, on to cEDH's road not traveled: removal. Outside of green (a distinction I'm making due to green's lesser prevalence in the meta at the moment, outside of Kinnan), the status quo for removal is essentially Chain of Vapor, Snap, Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Lightning Bolt, and Cyclonic Rift. These are all great cards, don't get me wrong, but how many of them hit noncreature threats? Less than half, and this is where we run into our issue. Odds are, if a midrange threat has hit the table, then the piece of removal your deck does run isn't going to cut it. Sure, you can exile a Talion pretty easily, but how are you going to handle that resolved Rhystic Study

Some tried and true contenders for this include the likes of Resculpt and Fragmentize, both of which have an important range of noncreature targets to consider (as well as creatures, in the case of Resculpt).  That being said, they both also have significant downsides limiting their use, so let's take a look one-by-one at these considerations.

First, Resculpt. Similiar to Delay, Resculpt costs two mana, but makes up for it with an incredibly useful exile effect which can hit not just creatures, but artifacts, too, and at the ever-important instant speed. While exiling creatures is about as good as destroying them in cEDH, there is one particularly noteworthy example which comes to mind as a creature to exile: Dockside Extortionist. Just as we discussed with the Underworld Breach reference in the case of Delay, there are some cards which really just shouldn't be allowed to be recast by our opponents, and this pesky Pirate's enter-the-battlefield effect most assuredly puts it in that category. 

Another important usage of the exile clause comes in when thinking about Resculpt's number-one artifact target, The One Ring. Most players don't think about it because it's never the target of removal, but The One Ring is indestructible, so, once resolved, it's really just up to exile effects, like Resculpt, to permanently deal with it.

Fragmentize, on the other hand, is a lot more limited but twice as efficient. No colorless requirement, just a single white mana get you a sorcery-speed destruction spell for any artifact or enchantment with converted mana cost four or less. While this means The One Ring is a legal target, don't be fooled: that pesky indestructibility rears its head here, so odds are that Fragmentize will be used far more consistently as enchantment removal. But, as I mentioned before, more and more enchantments are popping up on cEDH tables, so a one-mana removal spell for the likes of a resolved Rhystic Study or Trouble in Pairs is worth eyeing. 

Now, it's here that I need to make an aside to cover the elephant in the room: green. Green has access to far more efficient removal spells for noncreature threats, from Haywire Mite to Pick Your Poison, so why am I recommending things like Fragmentize in their stead? Given the status of the format right now, there's just not that many decks running green in the first place. If you are, though, then my advice of increasing removal most definitely still applies to you, and given green's expansive toolkit you're certainly in a stronger position to capitalize here. Check your deck for Haywire Mite. If you aren't already on it, find a copy; it hits just about everything.

Wrap Up

Longer games mean boards have a tendency to get cluttered up as more and more spells resolve, so it's important that we retool our decks to keep up with this mess. Permanents that say "whenever a player..." are all the rage right now, so don't lose out on them. Pack your removal, keep them in check, and don't fret when they inevitably hit the board. We have more time to respond now, so it's up to us to use it. 

Harvey McGuinness is a student at Johns Hopkins University who has been playing Magic since the release of Return to Ravnica. After spending a few years in the Legacy arena bouncing between Miracles and other blue-white control shells, he now spends his time enjoying Magic through cEDH games and understanding the finance perspective.