The Top 5 cEDH Decks for Beginners

Callahan Jones • February 9, 2024

What Makes a Good Beginner cEDH Deck?

Competitive Commander is a shockingly complicated format. While it is technically based in a casual format that is relatively accessible, four players all using 100-card singleton decks with a vested interest in winning can get intense quickly. One of the ways to alleviate some of the issues you may have in adapting to this environment is choosing the correct deck. You can choose one that plays to your strengths, one that will teach you something about Magic or the cEDH metagame, or you can just try to keep your head above water.

I've selected decks that I think check boxes in all three of these categories for many players. I've also looked for decks that won't ask you to bear too much of a cognitive load, at least on average. All of the decks I've selected, save one, should often give you fairly clear paths as to what card you should be deploying and what actions you should take every turn, especially through having a Commander-focused gameplan. There is one exception, though; we'll get to that later.

It's important to remember that in your first few games of cEDH that you play (or in my case, every game I've played for 5+ years), you'll mess up, miss things, or not understand what's going on entirely. That is part of the process. Focus on learning everything that you can and you'll come to find that things aren't so intimidating after all. Without further ado, let's jump into my deck selections!


Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow (Yuriko Tempo)

The classic recommendation for new players, Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow is a Commander that presents a fairly straightforward plan in powerful colors. You first two turns will nearly always play out exactly the same: playing a one-drop evasive creature on turn one while commander ninjitsuing out Yuriko on turn two to get your first trigger. From there you'll want to continue attacking with her and other Ninjas and maximizing her triggers to draw cards.

Yuriko has always been a fan-favorite cEDH deck for a reason, as her ability to provide card advantage while damaging your opponents is a fun and powerful prospect. Additionally, she got her first big upgrade in quite a long time with the printing of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, which granted her with a range of new creatures to slot in for more trigger value. Unfortunately, as I was recently reminded of on Twitter, this set was already released two years ago and the deck has not seen much meaningful innovation in the time frame since.

Don't let this lack of innovation stop you from giving Yuriko a shot, though. Her two-color nature means that she can be built for relatively cheap (monetarily) and won't put brain-intensive mana handling on the menu for your already confused first few matches of cEDH. Adding to that, since she is Dimir in color identity you always have the win-now button option of playing Thassa's Oracle in combination with either Demonic Consultation or Tainted Pact.

You can also play relatively safe in many games, sitting back and doling out damage to your opponents, the resulting card flow also making sure you have the right counterspells when needed to stay alive. Playing with Yuriko requires patience and taking a deep breath from time to tie while also identifying the best places to attack; if that is what interests you, pick this commander up for your first try. We don't have a full Yuriko primer on Commander's Herald yet, but you can read an exhaustive breakdown of all the best ninjutsu enablers right here.

Yuriko Tempo by KOKO, WizardAdept, Yuriko_Discord

Yuriko Tempo by KOKO, WizardAdept, Yuriko_Discord

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Commander (1)
Sorceries (7)
Instants (24)
Lands (26)
Creatures (31)
Artifacts (9)
Enchantments (2)

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Dargo, the Shipwrecker / Thrasios, Triton Hero (Temur Dargo)

Moving from two-color to three-color options, we have the varied-approach midrange deck Dargo, the Shipwrecker andThrasios, Triton Hero! Dargo & Thrasios is honestly one of the strangest decks that I'm aware of in cEDH in that it isn't that focused of a core concept but just gets tons of wins anyways. Many of the lists that I would recommend are based more around utilizing Dargo than Thrasios, with the format's top commander of yesteryear being relegated to a background role. It should be noted: paying four mana for one card is not a good exchange rate!
Dargo's power comes from his extremely cheap cost. His cost-discounting mechanic (which also counts previously sacrificed Dargos from the turn) discounts his commander tax, making it trivially easy to cast him over and over for a single Red mana investment. This makes him useful with cards such as Greater Good and also makes it a viable inclusion in Dockside Extortionist & Temur Sabertooth loops. Once you make infinite mana, you can kill your opponents with something like Goblin Bombardment.

The hard part of this list to learn is figuring out exactly how  you're going to kill your opponents from a given place in a game. Since this is a toolbox midrange deck, you'll often have many options given to you for tutor targets or similar. Practicing quick decision-making in these scenarios will benefit you greatly while playing other decks in the future. Also, since this Temur list is so flexible and situational in build, you'll be able to get plenty of practice experimenting with cool new cards, if that piques your interest!

Dargo Thrasios by PIGUET

Dargo Thrasios by PIGUET

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Commander (2)
Instants (23)
Lands (28)
Artifacts (16)
Creatures (19)
Sorceries (6)
Enchantments (5)
Battles (1)

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Tymna the Weaver / Kraum, Ludevic's Opus (Blue Farm)

From three colors up to four! This sans-green list is one of the most, if not the most, popular competitive EDH decks. Jumping straight to Tymna the Weaver and Kraum, Ludevic's Opus is something of a bold move, I would say, but it is a defensible one. It's the deck I would recommend if you're coming specifically from playing Modern or Legacy as your main Magic background. You get to play a wide range of the most powerful cards in the format, missing only green cards (which I would personally consider to be the worst of the five colors). You have two very strong card advantage engines in the command zone to fall back on, ensuring that you have options. Your mana mix will be difficult to navigate at times but still not as tough as if you were playing Najeela, the deck I used to recommend to more advanced players. All of your cards represent game-impacting action, ensuring that you'll have a solid, powerful play to make on every one of your turns, even if it's just developing more mana for the future and drawing a couple cards in the combat step.

In this mix of the most powerful cards, you have a range of win cons, with the most complex being winning through other people's goodies thanks to Mnemonic Betrayal. Honestly, when you're first learning the format, I would recommend excluding this card from your deck until you get a bit more of a grasp on things and then reintroducing it when you're ready to visualize complex lines from three different graveyards. Underworld Breach and friends will hold you over until then, I'm sure.

If you want to dive deeper into the world of Blue Farm, check out An Introduction to Blue Farm right here on Commander's Herald!

Blue Farm by doomdg

Blue Farm by doomdg

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Commander (2)
Instants (30)
Lands (28)
Artifacts (14)
Creatures (15)
Sorceries (7)
Enchantments (4)

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Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy (Big Flips)

Returning to the two-color well, we have the ultimate Simic menace: Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy. That's right: you can't even escape playing with or against green and blue in combination in the most powerful games. Kinnan is a great choice if you enjoy doing big Timmy things, which is to say making a ton of mana and cheating huge creatures out of your deck onto the battlefield. By doubling all of your nonland permanent sources of mana, you're immediately put onto easy street with just an artifact or three in play.

Once you get the gravy train rolling, it's trivially easy to activate Kinnan over and over, putting cards such as Nezahal, Primal Tide or Hullbreaker Horror into play for free. Speaking of Hullbreaker Horror, you can use it, Tidespout Tyrant, OR Basalt Monolith to create infinite mana, easily winning the game from that state. Kinnan being so cheap and so central to the deck's plan also makes this deck a much less decision-heavy option than several of the others listed here. It doesn't hurt that it keeps taking down cEDH tournaments.

If you're looking for lessons, Kinnan is one of the few cEDH decks that, when the game goes long, can threaten combat damage wins thanks to the power of the huge creatures that it can cheat onto the battlefield, so be ready to learn how to attack well. It's just that easy.

To learn more about Kinnan in depth, read An Introduction to Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy!

Kinnan by TwAnG

Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy by TwAnG

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Commander (1)
Creatures (28)
Instants (17)
Lands (25)
Artifacts (18)
Sorceries (6)
Enchantments (3)
Battles (1)
Planeswalkers (1)

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Moxfield


Finally, the Best Choice: Whatever Deck You Want to Play

This may be a bit cliche, but I will say that the best cEDH deck for any beginner is whatever will grab them and keep them playing cEDH. Maybe some of the above decks I've outlined appealed to you, maybe they didn't. I find that, when is slogging through your first few games, awash in confusion as to what is going on or why people are making the decisions they are, it helps to have something by your side that you're truly interested in. You don't have to steer by cEDH tier lists when you're learning. 

Maybe that's the combat-damage-focused Slicer, Hired Muscle. Maybe you want to kill people with a Minotaur Pirate. Want to control the entire table while drawing a lot of cards? Niv-Mizzet, Parun is the one for you. At the end of the day, it's important to win in Competitive Commander; after all the point is that we're aiming to win rather than for the idealized communal EDH play experience. However, I think that before fully focusing on chasing Victory®, you have to figure out how to have fun while exploring what is intrinsically, ironically, a quite casual pursuit. Thanks for reading. Enjoy yourself out there.



Callahan Jones is a long time Commander player who mostly dabbles in cEDH these days. Formally a member of the Playing with Power cEDH content team, now you can find him talking about Magic and Gamecubes on Twitter.