There’s a new Magic format growing in popularity as a way for judges and players to pass the time between rounds, and today I am here to give you the scoop on this variant: Elder Dragon Highlander. It’s a twist on the popular Highlander format which usually adopts the classic “There can be only one” mantra towards deck building and only allows singleton copies of cards outside of basic lands, but EDH invents a new “General” mechanic and puts a Legendary creature at the head of a 100 card deck to battle in a multiplayer game! Each card must also be within your General’s “color identity”, aka the colors present in its casting cost, which provides an interesting deck building challenge. The games also include an even larger card pool than Extended, and the games go much slower as well so you can actually use your favorite bomb rares so I’m excited to give it a try!
The General: Chainer, Dementia Master
The iconic Generals that give the format its name are the Elder Dragon cycle, but I’d like to brew something a little different. I’ve had a lot of fun with Dark Ritual and Mind Twist decks in the past, so let’s see if I can come up with something that hearkens back to that play style. Since we need to face down 3 opponents rather than just 1, the single target spells are out and we’re going to try and reanimate creatures that make each of our opponents discard cards with Chainer, then reanimate the best things they discard and beat them down. Along the way we want to punish our opponents both for drawing and for discarding cards to make closing out the game easier, and just generally make their lives miserable.
EDH focuses on big splashy plays, which means we want to be able to be able to ramp our mana production up and get ahead of our opponents. This may seem difficult since we’re not in green, but black is actually secretly very good at this. While we don’t have ways to get extra lands in to play, Crypt Ghast, Magus of the Coffers, Nirkana Revenant, Caged Sun, Extraplanar Lens, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and Cabal Coffers all give us big bursts of mana, and Thespian’s Stage and Vesuva give us extra copies. This format also gives us access to Sol Ring !!!! so naturally we are playing it, and Ashnod’s Altar both gives us mana and lets us return creatures to the graveyard at instant speed for free so they’re not exiled by Chainer leaving the battlefield. I think this deck also wants a Soldevi Adnate, but I want to play it a bit before deciding what to cut for it.
The Card Draw
We’re pretty light on pure card draw but what we have can be very powerful, and we have a number of ways to straight up tutor. Urgoros, the Empty One and Geth’s Grimoire give us straight draw, and Viscera Seer gives us card selection. Razaketh, the Foulblooded, Rune-Scarred Demon, Sidisi, Undead Vizier, Demonic Tutor, Diabolic Intent, and Vampiric Tutor let us get exactly what we need when we need it. Finally we have Yawgmoth’s Will to give us a huge burst of advantage late in the game.
The Board Control
Some players have a real disdain for discarding their hands and are 100% going to want to murder us, but fortunately we have some great options for controlling the board and keeping them from being able to stick creatures. We have some straight up board wipes with Crux of Fate, Deadly Tempest, In Garruk’s Wake, and Decree of Pain (which can also draw us cards.) Scour from Existence, Meteor Golem, and Strip Mine deal with troublesome permanents. We also have a whole bunch of sacrifice effects like Butcher of Malakir, Sheoldred, Whispering One, Plaguecrafter, Pox, Smokestack, Dictate of Erebos, and Grave Pact to protect us.
The Pain and Misery
Finally we have a whole mess of cards to make our opponents suffer and attrition them out of the game. Our Specter-al army like Hypnotic Specter and Abyssal Specter give us a steady stream of discard, especially when paired with Larceny. There are also a host of enter the battlefield effects like Cackling Fiend and Burglar Rat that we can reanimate over and over with Chainer, and each of those discards can be massive damage as we start stacking up effects like Megrim, Liliana’s Caress, and Raiders’ Wake. On top of that we punish spell casting with Oppression and Painful Quandary, and drawing cards with Underworld Dreams and Fate Unraveler. Waste Not is an absolute all star in multiple directions. We also disrupt our opponents’ plans with Dark Deal and Teferi’s Puzzle Box, and our final form of FU is the Anvil of Bogardan and Chains of Mephistopheles combo, which is one of my favorites. Look I don’t know why this is so confusing for you, just read the text on the cards. Okay, fine, BROADLY this means you will never draw a card again, yes. The good news is I just drew into Gray Merchant of Asphodel and K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth so with this Altar and Chainer I’m infinite anyways, quite your whining. As Glen Jones famously said, there’s a finite amount of fun to have in any game of Magic, and I intend to have all of it.
Thanks for joining us for our latest kitchen table Commander deck! Make sure to keep an eye out for the other decks in the series! If you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.