Comprehending Competitive – Multicolor in cEDH

Jake FitzSimons • March 21, 2022

Abrupt Decay by Svetlin Velniov

Competitive Color Breakdown

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Multicolor | Colorless | Lands

Welcome back to Comprehending Competitive, this week we’re going for gold with the finest multicolor cards cEDH has to offer. Multicolor is different to the previous reviews in that it isn’t actually a color. There’s no cohesive identity to these cards, so I won’t be going through the usual categories – tutors, combos, card advantage etc. – if for no reason other than how few multicolor cards are considered staples: just ten from a list of over 200.

Instead, I’ll take this opportunity to discuss each card in more detail, how and where to use them, and some ideas on why we don’t see all that many gold borders in cEDH.

As with previous reviews, the following draws information and insight from the cEDH Staple List which gleans data from the cEDH Decklist Database


Abrupt Decay

Alphabetical order conveniently places the cEDH’s most popular multicolored spell at the top of the list. In traditional EDH, Abrupt Decay can go wanting for targets, as many of the most troublesome permanents climb well above three mana. Not so in cEDH, where even non-naus players are trying to hone their curve down to a razor’s edge, and damn near everything is less than four mana. 

The three best card engines, every mana rock, the overwhelming majority of stax pieces, not to mention wincons like Isochron Scepter, Underworld Breach and Cloudstone Curio. It’s hard to imagine a boardstate where Decay isn’t relevant.

The uncounterable clause is great for fighting through interaction, but cards like Veil of Summer, Deflecting Swat and Misdirection provide some recourse.


Assassin’s Trophy

What Assassin’s Trophy loses in uncounterability, it gains in versatility. While most cEDH permanents are three mana or less, there are exceptions. Commanders like Kodama of the East Tree, Kraum, K'rrik, and Kenrith are immune to Abrupt Decay but vulnerable to Assassin’s Trophy. On top of that, crippling wheel payoffs, like Notion Thief and Smothering Tithe, and rarer wincons, like Helm of the Host and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, are handily dealt with for a bargain price of two mana. The ability to target lands also separates it from Decay, but this rarely comes up outside of Gaea’s Cradle combos or the dreaded Tabernacle.

The downside of handing the Assassin’s victim a basic land is similar to Path to Exile, but just like Path, it rarely matters unless cast on an opening turn. Against particularly greedy decks, there’s even a chance they won’t have a basic to search for!


Culling Ritual

The fact a board wipe that produces mana even exists is baffling. Culling Ritual is good for many of the same reasons that Abrupt Decay is: most permanents are cheap. The ability to destroy every single one on the board at the time is a seriously powerful effect, often much better than a traditional board wipe would be.

Add on the fact that you’re almost guaranteed to make back the mana you spent and more, and you have an oppressive format staple that can’t really be played around. You can’t just not develop your board out of fear of a Culling Ritual. It simply hits too much at once; trying to hold back resources in anticipation is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Best of all, producing black mana allows you to pay for an Ad Nauseam, Peer into the Abyss or Bolas’s Citadel. If you culled enough, you’ll even have mana leftover to play whatever you draw into.


Deathrite Shaman

Possibly the strongest one-mana creature ever printed, certainly the greatest dork ever printed, Deathrite ate a ban in Modern and Legacy for a reason. Thankfully, cEDH isn’t burdened with antiquated concepts like “balance”, so DRS is ours to abuse.

While Deathrite’s mana-producing ability won’t always work on your second turn, it’s quite likely. Beyond that, there are so many wheels and fetchlands – not to mention Mox Diamonds – running around that he quickly becomes a Birds of Paradise. Beyond the mana production, this effect can preemptively weaken Underworld Breach by chewing through its fuel, not to mention annihilating a poor Gitrog player’s Dakmor Salvage.

The Shaman’s second ability is great for ripping a Brain Freeze out of someone’s bin, and I’ve even seen the life drain bring down a player on Ad Nauseam who got a little too greedy with their life total. The final ability can put a stop to reanimation shenanigans or snipe a shuffler like Ulamog, although I’ve yet to see the lifegain make one iota of difference.

And all this on the same one-drop that can be cast with two different types of mana. Absurd.


Eladamri’s Call

Eladamri is one of six creature tutors on the staple list and the only multicolored one. There’s not much nuance here, it does what it says on the tin. I wouldn’t call it the best creature tutor because “best” is nebulous, but it’s certainly the cleanest. No topdecking, no sacrificing a creature, no restrictions as to what you can get with it. 

More so than ever before, cEDH is awash with powerful critters used in myriad combos, and Eladamri’s Call is one more way to find what you need when you need it. 


Lim-Dûl’s Vault

The tutor that isn’t a tutor. A card selection tool that doesn’t even cantrip. It might be unpopular in traditional EDH on account of how long it can take an inexperienced or less competitively focused player to execute, but the sheer power of digging this deep and sculpting the top of your deck at instant speed is cEDH incarnate. 

At its worst, Lim-Dûl’s Vault acts like a more painful Vampiric Tutor that dodges Opposition Agent. That alone is incredible, but in rare cases where you anticipate seeing more than one of the cards thanks to a card advantage engine, you can get lucky and find a set of five with two or more cards you’re looking for. Lim-Dûl’s is at its best in Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, where it’s almost guaranteed to create a pile of fatal flips. 


Neoform

Neoform might be the most interesting card on this list. Don’t let the simplicity of trading one creature for a new one with a marginally higher mana value fool you into thinking Neoform is anything less than busted. Any deck with access to Neoform naturally has access to dorks, the perfect fodder for finding two-mana creatures.

When you think of a powerful two-drop in cEDH, I’m guessing you think of Thassa’s Oracle. A good thought, and Neoforming with a Demonic Consultation in hand is a solid use for it. But Thoracle has company.

Dockside Extortionist, Drannith Magistrate, Gilded Drake, Dauthi Voidwalker, Dark Confidant, Grand Abolisher, Phantasmal Image, Collector Ouphe, it’s an impressive list. You’ll never lack for a creature to bring into play, and that’s not to mention the variety of quality of three-drops!

Neoform shines brightest paired with Tasigur, the Golden Fang. In the last two years, Tasigur has received a deluge of powerful seven-mana creatures that he’ll happily Transmute himself into, monsters like Hullbreaker Horror, Toxrill, the Corrosive, or Koma, Cosmos Serpent. Each have their pros and cons; what matters is that you cheated them into play. 


Notion Thief

Notion Thief is good in cEDH for the same reasons it’s good in traditional EDH: if you want to play Magic, you want to draw cards. There are no decks I know that don’t have at least one card with “draw a card” somewhere on it. If an opponent puts a Notion Thief into play, you’re not just losing your additional draws, you’re actually handing them to your opponent. Your Rhystic Study becomes useless, your Esper Sentinel (remember, that’s not a “may” trigger) becomes a liability, and cantrips become can’trips. If you suspect an opponent is running Notion Thief, you’d better think carefully before casting a wheel into open mana. Let’s just be thankful it’s four mana and not three, and it only steals the draw instead of turning them into Treasures. Can you imagine?

Thief never looks as good as it does in the infamous Opus Thief lists, where it’s just one of many cards designed to break parity on wheel effects. Sheldon Menery claims that wheels are the unhealthiest thing in Commander, and I think its cards like Notion Thief that bring him to that conclusion. Hullbreacher and Leovold weren’t put on the banlist by accident.


Thrasios, Triton Hero & Tymna the Weaver

For all we hear of the terrible two, the clearest examples of how broken the Partner mechanic is, I still find it remarkable that these commanders make it onto the staple list. The only other Legendary Creature in this category is Birgi, God of Storytelling, and it has nothing to do with how popular she is in the command zone.

If you’re so new to cEDH you haven’t heard tell of these titans, a quick explainer. Both commanders provide card advantage in the command zone – arguably the best trait for a commander to have – and require minimal deckbuilding cost to take advantage of. Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow might provide more draws over the course of a game than Tymna or Thrasios, but Yuriko asks that you fill your deck with ninjas. Tymna only asks you have creatures, and Thrasios that you have mana; two things almost any strategy can accomodate. Add the fact that Thrasios works as an infinite mana outlet, and you have two incredible commanders. Then add the fact that they can be paired with any other legendary with partner, both refining your strategy and providing access to additional colors, and you have what are surely the strongest commanders ever printed.

It’s for this reason that they take up such an unusual amount of meta space. Over 10% of the decks on the cEDH database contain Thrasios and over 12% contain Tymna – almost exclusively in the command zone. This level of saturation might be off putting to some, but I personally appreciate how flexible they are and the diversity of decks that they can helm.


Honorable Mentions

The following cards are either just shy of being considered staples, or cards that have fallen out of favour as the format has changed.


Dovin’s Veto

Dovin’s Veto has a lot going for it as an uncounterable counter, but suffers from the fact it can fall flat as a defensive spell. When trading interaction, your opponent might not be able to counter Veto, but it’s likely that their counter can hit whatever it is you were trying to resolve in the first place. We see less of it today as better, leaner counters have since been printed. One of two cards that saw less play courtesy of Deflecting Swat.


Fire Covenant

A one-sided board wipe at instant speed for a competitive price. I’ve long felt Fire Covenant is underplayed, but I see two major obstacles. Rakdos+ decks tend to favor proactive strategies and explosive openings, and Covenant is better suited to a reactive deck. Worse, Deflecting Swat can change multiple targets. Swat is so ubiquitous that Covenant carries a serious risk, but it’s great when it goes unanswered.


Witherbloom Apprentice

Golgari just won’t quit. Witherbloom Apprentice hasn’t quite lived up to the initial hype over its combo with Chain of Smog, but only because there’s already so much competition for two card combos in multicolor decks. Still, in Golgari and Abzan brews, Witherbloom can put in a lot of work.


Vexing Shusher

If the hybrid rule ever changes, I predict Vexing Shusher will become a lot more popular. For now, it’s a powerful effect but not a common one. It’s fallen out of favor over the last two years courtesy of cards like Allosaurus Shepherd and Deflecting Swat, both cheaper and more versatile ways of protecting the spells of red and green players. Still, when you don’t have access to blue, Vexing can help you have a say in counter wars.


But Why So Few?

The relatively short list of multicolored cards above might seem surprising given the general consensus that more colors equals more power, but its not access to multicolor cards that makes multicolor commanders powerful. It’s the ability to balance out the weaknesses of one color with the strengths of another and combine both to create something greater than the sum of its parts. 

The low curve of cEDH also means many cards just don’t have the mana cost to warrant being in multiple colors. One-mana spells make up a significant portion of the format’s staples, and bar one, none are hybrid. If nothing else, even in a format with as perfect mana as cEDH, it’s much easier to cast a spell requiring only one type of mana than two or more. 

Another reason so few make the list is a simple case of numbers. Staples are determined by popularity rather than raw strength, and when there are more decks with black than there are black and green, it’s inevitable that there’ll be more total black cards. Speaking of black and green, it’s remarkable that the four most popular multicolored cards are all Golgari. I have no theories as to why that is, beyond the fact that Golgari’s mechanical themes of removal and mana production are inherently competitive, translating perfectly to a cEDH context.


Don’t Get It Twisted

Having said all this, I don’t want to give the impression that multicolor cards aren’t powerful in cEDH. They’re just more narrow than their monocolor counterparts. In fact, some of the best cards in a specific deck can be multicolored. See Derevi, Empyrial Tactician in Najeela, Veyran, Voice of Duality in Krarkashima, and Fighter Class in Koll for evidence of this.

Those are just my theories though, and I encourage you to share your own if you have more insight. For now, thanks for reading Comprehending Competitive, and stay tuned for a future instalment where we’ll go over the brown artifact staples.


 



Jake FitzSimons is a writer from Sydney and a Magic fiend. He's either the johnniest spike or the spikiest johnny, nobody is sure which. When he isn’t brewing or playing cEDH, he can be found writing, playing piano, and doting on his little cat.