CUT! Introducing the EDH Deckbuilding Challenge

Travis Stanley • February 8, 2021

As Mark Rosewater once famously said, "Restrictions breed creativity."

Welcome to CUT, the series where we make those words into reality. Have you ever sat across the table from your opponents and thought "Oh, not this again!" as you play against the same powerful cards over and over? Then this series is for you! We'll take you on a journey through the creative processes of deckbuilders like yourselves as they rise up to the challenges to try and craft their greatest and most interesting decks.

I am your host Travis Stanley and I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I've played Magic for about 5 years, with Commander teaching me how to play Magic. Over the years, I have seen the same cards and decks over and over again, ad nauseum. This is my attempt to inject some creativity and new life into the format and maybe bring to light some cards lost to time. I am thrilled to introduce you all to different ways of deckbuilding, and to prove that an efficient deck is not always the best option. Because sometimes you fall in love with jank, and that's okay.

How CUT Works

Each week, three selected contestants will put their minds to the grindstone and test their metalcraft on adventurous deck ideas pertaining to the challenges set before them. After they have painstakingly researched and developed their masterpieces, you will decide who gets to move on to the next week and tackle new challenges in the face-to-face round. The top two vote receivers face off in a final round with glory, fame and prizes on the line. Who will find a spot next week, and who will be CUT?

Next week we will see the first three contestants tread the waters of our CUT competition and see who floats and who sinks. Before we get there, I thought I would give you a tour of the facility, a little preview, a spoiler if you will. Each episode, I will lay out three challenges for our Deckbuilders to accomplish, which might be something like:

  • Your deck must have at least 5 Elementals (Changelings don't count)!
  • Can only include cards from the "Pioneer" format
  • Can only have a max of 10 Mythic/Rare cards

The challenges will range and vary. Sometimes they will be thematically tied to a recent set release, or maybe to some long-forgotten set that hasn't seen much love from the Commander community. The challenges may even include things physically on the cards themselves! Nothing is off the playmat in CUT. Our lovely deckbuilders will have a certain timeframe to submit a decklist with a short explanation as to how/why they built their deck. They might try to woo you into voting for them, or maybe convince you why a card is the best thing they have ever found, and that's great! As long as they are following the restrictions and built their decks according to the challenges, it's all fair game! If I were to tackle this challenge myself, it might look something like this:

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

I went with Omnath, Locus of Creation to fulfill two of the requirements on one card (1 Mythic/Rare and 1 Elemental). That kind of shot me in the foot as I had one less slot for a mythic or rare down the road. Regardless, I chose Omnath because I believed I could get away with a landfall theme on the limited amount of "bombs'' I had access to and rely on the support cards that came out in Zendikar Rising and the Battle for Zendikar block. Needless to say I ended up leaning more towards Gates for mana-fixing, which meant diving deeper into the Ravnica blocks, which wasn't a bad thing! Some cards that I am extremely thankful for are the modal cards from Zendikar Rising. Having access to both sides gives them great utility in this style of deck. I decided to only play two as I had lots of lands and ways to ramp, but if I were to build it again I may have chosen to cram as many as I could in the deck. The hardest part for me in building this deck was honestly trying to remember what cards were Pioneer-legal (good thing Scryfall has that search option!)

That was an example of what to expect from the contestants moving forward. After perusing their decklists and judging them initially for what they chose, you get to hear their explanation, and it may win over you and your loving votes. As this is a competition, I do encourage you to choose your favorite deck, not your favorite person. Someday in the future we will have some fantastic and highly esteemed guests appear on this series and it may be tempting to just vote for whatever they have cooking, but this is all about the product, not the producer. It's about how creative one can be when put under the constraints of these challenges, so open your mind and I think you'll find that sometimes that the common that "bombed" in Standard might be the next "bomb" your deck is looking for in Commander!

I am happy to have met you all and am looking forward to our journey ahead. My sincere hope is at the end of each article you come away with at least one card or thought that made you think about what really makes a deck amazing. Remember, if you don't love it, CUT it!

Right! I forgot the challenges for next week!

Our first three contestants have been chosen, and in the next article you will see them tackle these challenges!

  • Can only include cards from the Standard format

  • Must have at least 10 artifact cards

  • Your Commander(s) can only be from Commander Legends

A bit of a softball for our contestants this week, but it's the opening pitch so it's only fitting. If you are interested in being a part of CUT please send an email to:

Thanks so much for reading and I'll see you next time!