Competitive Color Breakdown
Welcome back to Comprehending Competitive; today we’re singing the cEDH blues.
Capable of combos, consistency, card advantage, and the best interaction in the format, blue is dripping with powerful cards. There’s very little it can’t do. In fact, according to the staple list gleaned from the cEDH decklist database, it has more staples than red and white put together. Here’s an overview of just what makes it so potent:
Starting with its greatest weakness, blue is tied with white as the worst acceleration color in cEDH. There just isn’t anything playable to speak of. is an exception, but it comes with strict deckbuilding costs. Of the seven mono-blue decks on the database, only three run it, and it’s absent elsewhere.
There’s a possible future in which blue gets an Island equivalent of the way green got , at which point I think Tide would become a format-warper. But until then, the tide’s out.
The two best card advantage engines in cEDH are blue. They even rhyme. Rhystic and Mystic are cards that take unique advantage of the multiplayer nature of Commander. As long as your opponents want to progress their board and develop their gameplan, these two will keep your hand healthy.
You’ll often hear cEDH players repeat “don’t feed the fish”. This is sage advice, akin to “bolt the bird” as a rule of thumb to steer by. comes down so quickly and provides so much advantage that ignoring it is fatal.
is more complicated. Unlike Mystic, it won’t leave until someone removes it, and it hits every spell type, not just noncreatures. Playing around Rhystic is a complicated dance, but broadly speaking, pay for it as often as you can. If you don’t, you’re handing the game to whoever it is that keeps asking if you’ll pay the one. If you’re playing blue in cEDH, you want to run both almost 100% of the time. didn’t become the most popular blue card in the format by accident.
The above cards aren’t actually card advantage, they’re more like card selection. All three are common in many lists on account of the consistency they provide. Selection and deck manipulation go a long way in cEDH for the same reasons they do in other eternal formats. Unassuming, but powerful.
Blue is one of two colors with high-quality wheels. For just three mana, you can refresh your hand and put an end to any graveyard strategies at the table in the case of Sheldon Menery called wheels “the unhealthiest thing in Commander.”. There’s a reason
Frequently paired with and to combo out for the win.
One of the easiest ways to produce infinite mana in the format. You just need these two and enough nonland permanents to make three mana.
Timetwister isn’t strictly a combo piece, but it’s crucial in enabling “winconless decks”. Rather than running a hard win, winconless decks will instead recast their entire library infinitely, never running out of cards thanks to .
While is the best of three, Jace and Labman show up occasionally. With and , removing your entire library couldn’t be easier, hence the domination of these wincons. Without question the strongest wincon in the whole format.
In conjunction with mana-positive rocks, will generate infinite mana. Horror recently usurped as the go-to creature for this effect. is often used in creatureless decks to cheat Hullbreaker into play.
Usually paired with or for a game-winning damage loop, or for a repeatable source of card advantage.
is both combo piece and tutor, as it will not just tutor for combo pieces, but make a pile that forces opponents to give you what you want via redundant effects or recursion cards.
Where to start with blue counters? Just like in traditional EDH, one of blue’s greatest strengths is the unparalleled power to interact on the stack. The sheer amount of redundant pieces means any blue deck can run a dozen viable counterspells before sacrificing quality for quantity.
The above five constitute the most popular counterspells in cEDH. Few decks with access to them will eschew them. While they all have their own pros and cons, they share ruthless efficiency. Three of them are regularly played for free, and the cost of is almost never paid as the caster will often save it to protect their game-winning turn.
Digging deeper, these are the next five most played. While they are slightly more conditional, they remain efficient and effective at interacting with what cEDH decks want to be doing. Take . It’s nothing exciting in traditional EDH, but I’ll never be able to stress enough just how crucial every last drop of mana is in cEDH. Players will stretch their resources to breaking point to run out an Ad Naus or a Culling Ritual, and it’s rare they’ll have 3 mana to spare.
You’ll notice nowhere above is the namesake for the entire card type: itself. You’d think a two-mana unconditional counter, the fifth most popular card in the entire format, would have a home in cEDH, but it doesn’t even manage to crack the top twelve blue counters.
is completely outclassed by . It’s one of those rare cases where a card really is “strictly better,” courtesy of 2009’s rule change which removed mana burn. Furthermore, most decks have access to additional colors with their own cheap interaction. Cards like , , and are uniquely suited for the cEDH meta, and their speed is valued over ’s broad utility. It even has competition with worse counterspells! You’re more likely to run into a than a .
As for removal, blue is much better than modern color pie theory would have you believe. Both and serve the same function, answering whatever you come across. While a 3/3 token would be a downside in other formats, it’s rarely relevant in Commander, much less cEDH. is the new kid on the block for the same reasons, with the added option to answer artifacts.
Last are bounce spells. While only temporary solutions in traditional EDH, cEDH moves so quickly that a single turn of tempo is often all you need. is the most popular example of this, as it can bounce a problem permanent or work as a pseudo-ritual in conjunction with mana positive rocks – as long as you’re happy to lose your lands.
A small aside: is a bogeyman in traditional EDH, endlessly singled out as a card that needs banning. While it sees cEDH play, people learning the format are sometimes surprised to find the Overload ability is rarely used. It’s almost flavor text. It’s just not very often you’re going to have seven mana lying around. When you do, Cyclonic should win you the game or at least answer a stax lock, but it’s been losing stock recently as it can’t target your own permanents. Like the growing popularity of , the reason is .
Blue is not often thought of as a stax color, but it has two effective pieces. One of which is the only planeswalker to ever see long-term cEDH play in the 99 (though I admit is beginning to prove his worth). shuts off mass draw effects, be they opposing engines, wheels, or . Paired with your own wheel, you have a game-ending two-card combo. It’s even card advantage. I’m just thankful she isn’t a creature with flash that shuts off additional draws altogether. Can you imagine?
is another powerful, albeit rare, tool. CEDH manabases are comprised of non-basics, and even mono-color decks will dip into a smattering of utility lands. If you can resolve a B2B, you’ll shut down almost every other land in play. While this won’t guarantee a win, it’s an asymmetrical stax effect with a crippling result.
While black has the best tutors by far, blue is likely second. This is because blue can tutor for instant and sorceries as easily as it can artifacts, providing a wide variety of accessible tools.
While they vary in cost and target, tutors are tutors. Whether you’re hunting for the perfect counter, the bounce spell to answer that stax piece, or the final piece for your combo, blue can find it for you. CEDH decks, particularly blue ones, are loaded with powerful instants and sorceries, so you’re never going to be without targets.
While artifact tutors are more deck-specific, there are no shortage of decks that rely on them for victory. is the most famous example of this, but is just as good at it. Combo pieces like or are common targets, but they’re just as good for grabbing fast mana.
Muddle deserves special mention as not only a passable counterspell but a versatile tutor. Rather than restrict you to card type, Muddle is concerned with CMC. Thankfully, cEDH is awash with broken two-drops, so Muddle is always relevant. Transmute also gets around counters and won’t trigger cards that care about spells being cast.
Ah . If there’s one card that makes hold back tears every time I see it, it’s Drake. In cEDH, Drake is the most effective answer to problematic commanders. Killing, exiling, bouncing, all other removal will send the target to the command zone. Drake is different. Having a Drake played against you can be the last time you ever have control over your commander. For just two mana, you can have your entire strategy flushed. Alexa, place sadness on the stack.
has always seen some amount of play due to its versatility and barely noticeable drawback. But since 2019, it has essentially become Dockside 2.0. is so ubiquitous and meta-warping that this two-mana “copy anything” has become “copy target Goblin Pirate”. Sans Dockside though, Phantasmal can become a , a , or even a for the win. Hey, I’ve seen it happen. I’ve even seen a particularly desperate player target a as a last-ditch attempt to find interaction.
Either side of this Crimson Vow creature might have been playable in its own right, but having both together is incredible. Uncounterable noncreatures will protect your wins and help you stop everyone else’s.
Blue In Review
Blue in cEDH is the whole package. Acceleration and stax are the only things blue isn’t suited for, both flaws that can be solved with the addition of a single extra color. The depth and diversity of the card pool alone mean that even if no new blue cards were printed for three years, it would still be a premiere cEDH color. It might be the best color in cEDH, but that’s a debate for another article.
If you want to dive deeper and learn more about what blue has to offer, I suggest looking over the collaborative cEDH list, or the iconic Urza Poly
Tyrant Lobster deck. The mono-blue cEDH discord is also an invaluable resource for aspiring blue mages.
Speaking of colors that start with the letters B and L, next week we’ll be wading through the great black swamp. Life is naught but a resource…