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A Philosophy

Hey everyone, welcome to my first article, hopefully of many. I wanted to use this article to explain my philosophy behind building EDH decks for Magic, as this will underpin a lot of what I want to write about in future articles, and it allows you folk to see what I am all about. Hopefully it might also explain why I wanted to write for MTGCasualPlay in particular!

A lot of people will tell you that cards like Sensei’s Divining Top or Sol Ring should be in every deck that you build but this is something that I fundamentally disagree with, for several reasons.

1) It Limits Creativity.

For me (and if people disagree then that’s cool), EDH is all about bringing out creativity in deck building, meaning that those crazy 9 mana Sorcery spells every one ignores for Standard, Modern etc to be played (for example Clone Legion from Dragons of Tarkir). If you include the same ten “staple” cards in every deck then you lose some of the room for that creativity to express itself.

I like to try and find alternatives to those cards, especially ones that make people go “What the hell does THAT do?”. It isn’t always possible, and the reason staple cards are what they are is because they are often the most efficient, or effective at what they do. But then again, I am not always looking for efficiency (hey, if you build a Goblin EDH deck, you are never likely to be efficient!).

2) It Get’s Expensive

Whilst Wizards of the Coast have been reprinting several of these cards in Commander decks in recent years, they are still pretty expensive to get hold of. A quick check shows that whilst Sol Ring can be gotten for around $3-4 (or ~£3 here in the UK), Sensei’s Divining Top is at least $30 (and varies between £18-23 here in the UK). If you have to buy a new one of these every time you want to build a new deck, then that is going to add up quickly.

It is possible to get similar effects (granted not quite the same) for much cheaper. One good example of this is replacing Sol Ring with Ur-Golem’s Eye. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that this is a swap that will make you a powerhouse, far from it: for a start it if a whole more for the same effect. However, Ur-Golem’s Eye is easily available for $0.20 or less, so it does make a viable alternative on a tight budget.

3) It Gets Predictable

This reason is one that can affect gameplay quite a bit. If every deck you build contains the same core cards, you make it very easy for your opponents to build a deck to simply hate out yours. In effect the core cards warp the local meta around them, and this can then become an arms race to out do one another. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but for a format that has some 15,000 cards available to it, it seems a tragic shame.

None of my reasons above are anything I would ever criticise folk for when it comes to building their decks, but it does explain the philosophy behind how I approach my decks. Sure some of them will have some of these cards in: lets be honest they are great cards! However, you may also see janky, weird cards in a deck list that contains none of these things. When you do, the above reasons will be why. I am lucky enough that my gaming group’s meta is pretty casual. Don’t get me wrong there are guys in it who will buy Shocklands and Fetchlands, and will certainly add in staple cards where they feel it is appropriate, but I do not have to compete against a core of cards in every deck, so it keeps things fresh and challenging at the same time.

What are your thoughts on staples for EDH? Do they improve the game? Do like them? Hate them? Let me know in the comments below. Next time out I am going to look at the first EDH deck I built (in it’s current form), to see ho it compares to this philosophy. Until next time!


  1. Hey Gareth, welcome to the team!
    Seems like you’re going to be the new Commander guy, so I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

    As it is, you’ve already managed to set the stage for your future articles and made me want to comment on what you have to say – not a bad thing!
    So here’s my two cents:
    This whole debate about staples seems rather pointless to me. On the one side, there are those who say: “Why not play the best cards for the job?” And I can understand that.
    On the other side are the people who say: “Man, that’s so boring! Let’s spice things up by leaving staples out of our decks! Different cards, yay!” And I can understand that, too.
    However, I don’t care for either argument as, in my opinion, it basically boils down to this: Do you like a card? Do you want to play with it? Then by all means, put it into your deck! It shouldn’t matter if others consider it a staple or not. The important thing is that you enjoy casting it.
    Of course, I can see the point that this might perhaps lead to difficult situations if you’re a total griefer and enjoy nothing more than annoying your fellow Magic players with evil stuff Stasis, Isochron Scepter + Silence/Counterspell/etc., Hushwing Gryff, Iona, and so on. In this case, maybe you shouldn’t play the card(s)? 😉

    Once again, good to have you!

  2. Hey Gareth! Definitely looking forward to some decklists and your philosophy at work!

    If I had to locate myself on your philosophy chart, I would say that I am somewhere in the middle. I do find myself leaning heavy on Tutors or other staples that have worked really well for me in the past. But, that being said, I also include a good chunk of cards that falls into your “What the hell does THAT do” category.

    Anyway, strong work and welcome aboard!

  3. Thanks for the comments guys, and the welcome too!

    I am really happy that there is some debtae on this, I really do think that a variety of opinion is a good thing, and I am not the sort of person who’s opinion is set in stone, never to move again.

    I am already looking forward to writing my next article, and I hope you guys enjoy that one too.

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