One or Two? Talion, the Kindly Lord in cEDH

Memo • August 16, 2023

Talion, the Kindly Lord by Justyna Dura

The new spoiler season for Wilds of Eldraine started off with a cEDH banger: Talion, the Kindly Lord. This new Dimir commander has a very unique ability, which leads to the 1-million draws question: which number should we name to draw as many cards as possible? 

I think the only two reasonable considerations regarding cEDH are one or two. Sure, Rhystic Study, Fierce Guardianship, and Wheel of Fortune are prominent cEDH staples, but in comparison to the other two choices, the number 3 seems to be strictly worse, because there just aren't nearly as many spells that would trigger Talion, if we name 3. This is even true in casual EDH, where the best numbers will be the smaller numbers.

Going Over the Numbers

Before I dive into my experience of the first dozen games I played with Talion, let's look at the data we have available.

The popular "cEDH staple Cards" Moxfield list from nullmage (excluding commanders like Rograkh, Malcolm or Najeela) shows 80 spells (naming one) vs 62 spells (naming two), which gives us a preliminary idea about the sheer number of spells that will trigger a Talion draw. 

Unfortunately, many of those spells are seeing less play than they once did. When was the last time you saw someone cast a Ponder? In this Orcish Bowmasters economy!

That's why we should also take a look at the most successful decks in the format and how they influence our decision on which number to name. Take "The Cookout" for instance, a recent cEDH tournament hosted by Eminence Gaming. The top five decks were as follows:

Decks Naming 1 Naming 2
Tymna & Kraum by Brian Coval 28 29
Najeela by Devrik203 29 25
Tivit by Goldsabertooth 23 26
Rograkh & Silas by Bryant Cook 25 26
Thrasios & Bruse Tarl by Thedanbrown 28 15
Total: 133 121

At first I was dissatisfied with the outcome, because as we can clearly see, naming one is only marginally better than naming two.  Yes, Dan Brown's version of Thrasios and Bruse Tarl seems to play almost double the amount of spells that would trigger Talion if we choose one, but the overall conclusion should still be that the difference is marginal and insignificant. 

Data vs. Experience

Lacking enough data to feel confident about the right answer, I sleeved up the deck and played my first couple of games. As of today, I've played 12 games in mixed pods vs. different win conditions. Some games ended on turn two, others on turn 10. 

I named two in the majority of those games, because the data didn't show me an obvious winner. Besides that, 2 was the number everyone else was recommending. Naming two will trigger on Ragavan, Tymna, Najeela, Kinnan, Dockside, Underworld Breach, and many more spells! 

My reasoning behind always naming 2 was very one-dimensional: my gut told me that two should be the right number if the data doesn't show a clear winner. As already mentioned, two hits a lot of the prevalent commanders and other popular staples. I quickly noticed that this evaluation wasn't quite right.

I tracked the relevant spells and ended up with the result of 112 spells (naming one) vs. 94 spells (naming two). Although one came out ahead again, I still don't think the difference is significant enough to make a final call on what to always name. 

My Recommendations Moving Forward

First off, unless you are leaning into Clone effects, like Sakashima the Impostor or Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, you're not going to notice much of a difference between one and two, they're just that close. It can be dependent on turn order, pod composition, and on which turn Talion comes into play. One important premise we need to understand, though, is that because of the fact that we are usually mulliganing for an early Talion, we want to refuel our hand as soon as possible to keep up with the other players and be able to stop early win attempts from faster decks. 

If we are going first or second and have a turn one Talion, I would probably recommend naming one to draw a couple of cards off of Mystic Remoras, Mental Missteps, Sol Rings, Mana Dorks or topdeck tutors. One is most definitely also the right call if you are facing interaction heavy decks like the partner pairing of Rograkh & Silas Renn or Armix, Filigree Thrasher & Kraum, Ludevic's Opus. If you suspect a stack war to break loose, one is also the better choice. Silence, Swan Song, Pyroblast and all the other cheap interaction spells will give you the draws you need to hopefully come out on top. 

If you are facing decks that need a little bit of setup to develop and have commanders that will trigger Talion, I'd probably lean into naming two. Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy, Tivit, Seller of Secrets or the partner pairing of Tymna, the Weaver and Kraum, Ludevic's Opus come to mind. Naming two will allow you draw off of some of their mana rocks and development spells to keep up with those higher colored decks and their arguably better card quality.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that naming one or two also depends on the kind of Talion deck you are playing and the way you expect the game to play out. There are some vastly different, first brews out there. Some brewers like me try to slow down the game with cards like Grafdigger's Cage and Weathered Runestone. Others like to go fast with cards like Ad Nauseam. If you are leaning into going fast and just want to draw as many cards as possible on the first couple of turns vs those midrange decks I just mentioned, 2 might be a solid option to name. You will hopefully untap with enough cards to push through before they get to outvalue you. 

Due to Talion being brand new, my dear friends Martin, aka Snuske, and Loren, aka MTG_HotDog, and me are currently still testing a lot of cards. We will most likely settle on some kind of adaptive control version that seeks to utilize tempo plays and devastating stax pieces to buy enough time to close out the game. This leads me to believe that we want to name one the majority of the time, because our opponents will use their cheap interaction spells to fight back. You can check out our current list (as stated, work in progress) here:

Memo's Talion, the Kindly Lord cEDH

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Commander (1)
Instants (23)
Lands (29)
Artifacts (19)
Planeswalkers (4)
Enchantments (5)
Creatures (10)
Sorceries (9)

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Memo is a cEDH brewer, coach and tournament grinder who got back into Magic in 2020 with the release of Ikoria. Due to living in Munich, Germany he mainly plays online cEDH events which has led to many empty coffee mugs and top finishes.