The Top 5 Least Fun EDH Decks and Plays

Let’s be honest here: we all love to play Magic not only because we’re a bunch of analytical geeks, but because we’re a bunch of competitive analytical geeks. We like to win. We like to win a lot. But there’s winning in a way that leaves everybody feeling like they’ve fought a worthy and satisfying battle, and then there’s winning in a way that leaves everybody feeling frustrated, locked out and ready to give up on the game. What’s the key difference? Leaving aside play styles and personalities of the individual players, which obviously have a huge role, I think the big difference is interactivity.

Funny flavor text. Unfunny card.

Look, we play Magic in general and EDH in particular because we want to play our spells. We want to set up our battlefield. We want fuck with our opponents’ board if they start getting out of control. We want to bounce back when other people fuck with our own board. We want to pull off some fun tricks and admire other people’s fun tricks when they pull them off. In short, we want to play Magic. And Magic is at its core a game about using our resources the most efficiently based on the imperfect information we have. However, efficiency isn’t just about maximizing your own resources. Interfering with your opponents’ resources also puts you ahead. Locking down everybody else’s resources is a fantastically efficient way to win Magic games, especially in multi-player. But it’s not necessarily a great way to win casual Magic games, especially when the goal is to have a social, interactive experience.

That’s  why my list of unfun decks and plays center around a lock or complete resource denial. They deny other players a chance to respond through anything short of countermagic (and crazy as it sounds, not everybody wants to play blue) or the building of fairly dedicated hate decks. The game rapidly devolves into one player abusing triggered or activated abilities at every other player’s end-step, or taking 20 minutes to tutor the perfect combo while the rest of the table contemplates the viability of stabbing a bitch.

But before we get to the list proper, I’d like to present an Honorable Mention:

Decks that clear the board continually with sacrifice effects. Yes, I’m looking at you, [card]Savra, Queen of the Golgari[/card] and [card]Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker[/card]. Shirei decks are especially pernicious because those creatures keep. Bouncing. Back. They’re especially gross with [card]Possessed Portal[/card] or [card]Smokestack[/card] on the battlefield. Playing any creatures becomes an exercise of futility, and each turn starts to take 15 minutes each because the person running the Savra or Shirei deck sacs all their creatures at the end of everybody else’s turns to (take you pick) create mana, mill somebody, scry 1, put a -1/-1 counter on a creature, draw cards. And on. And on. And on. Try to tuck away the General with [card]Spin Into Myth[/card] and other such effects? Just sac it in response. And even if it’s tucked away, odds are good the player will be able to tutor it back out. Try to blow up the sac outlets? Oh look, have seven more, plus the ones you just threw into their graveyard are being dragged back into play with a combination of [card]Eternal Witness[/card] and [card]Phyrexian Reclamation[/card]. The only saving grace: dedicated graveyard hate will kill a Shirei deck and slow Savra down considerably.

And now, on to the list proper:

Candy’s Top 5 Least Fun EDH Decks and Plays

1. Mass land destruction. Especially one-sided mass land destruction, which can happen with a continually bounced/[card]flicker[/card]ed/persisted [card]Terastodon[/card] or [card]Sundering Titan[/card].  In one-on-one games, a continually bought back [card]Capsize[/card] targeting lands has a similar effect. This topic has been hashed and re-hashed by EDHers everywhere, but I’ll repeat it here: Land is the most basic kind of mana a player can have in a game of Magic, and having that resource stripped away makes the game disheartening to play for the majority of us. An adequate mana base allows us to cast spells. Casting spells makes Magic fun to play. No mana = no fun. It’s really that simple.

2. The vast majority of [card]Jhoira of the Ghitu[/card] decks. It’s not just the fact that Jhoira herself makes throwing out mass upon mass of fatties and big, expensive spells insanely efficient. It’s the fact that Jhoira is red (which means access to many, many land destruction cards) and blue (which means access to countermagic if you attempt to disrupt whatever horribleness is coming down the pike four turns or less from now). Well, that, and the fact that the creatures have haste once they come out of suspension. How do [card]Jokulhaups[/card], followed by [card]Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre[/card] and [card]Kozilek, Butcher of Truth[/card] strike your fancy? They don’t? TOO BAD THEY’RE COMING FOR YOUR FACE ANYWAY. I’m all for big walls o’ fat, and I’ve encountered one semi-fun Jhoira build that didn’t involve Eldrazi or exploding lands en masse, but most of them eat away at your soul because they’re both high-stress and kind of boring. Back when [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card] was still legal, Jhoira decks were even more insufferable than they are now.

3. Permanent countering effects. Some of the most popular iterations:

a) [card]Erayo, Soratami Ascendant[/card]  + [card]Arcane Laboratory[/card]. Step 1: Play four insanely cheap instants in a row. Flip Erayo so she becomes Erayo’s Essence. Step 2: Search/transmute for [card]Arcane Laboratory[/card] and cast it. Step 3: Duck the chairs and cards being flung in your face.

b) Countertop: The classic iteration of this is [card]Counterbalance[/card] and [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card], but really, any sort of effect that lets you dig through your library works, too—in some ways, [card]Descendant of Soramaro[/card] is even more pernicious because it lets you dig even more deeply. The combo effectively becomes 1 (or 1U): Be a dick. Counterbalance and Top abuse are two of the biggest the reasons why I include [card]Krosan Grip[/card] in all of my green decks, no exceptions.

c) [card]Dovescape[/card] + [card]Guile[/card]. Now, I, personally, find the chaos of Dovescape by itself kind of hilarious, but once you throw Guile out there…. No. Just…. No. The existence of the [card]Dovescape[/card]+[card]Guile[/card] combo is reason enough for you to keep a [card]Boseiju, Who Shelters All[/card] ready to roll in your sideboard.

Awww, who doesn't love a one-sided Stasis lock? (Unrelatedly: this might be the most hilarious artwork in the history of Magic. Ever. Apparently, pure unmitigated evil is represented by a furry in a jackal suit and clown in a pointy hat fingerpainting a wall.)

4. [card]Stasis[/card]-style locks that force you to skip your untap steps, or that force you to untap only one or two mana sources per turn. The most infamous of these is probably the Pickle Lock: [card]Brine Elemental[/card] and [card]Vesuvan Shapeshifter[/card]. The people who run this lock inevitably wait until that one point in the game when most of the people at the table are completely tapped out, and then proceed to make sure nobody else gets an untap step. Ever. EV. ER. The fact that this combo is somewhat more disruptible than many others makes it a tiny bit more bearable, especially if there are any white players in the playgroup—there are an awful lot of cheap white exile spells. There are other iterations, of varying degrees of awfulness: [card]Hokori, Dust Drinker[/card], [card]Static Orb[/card] and [card]Winter Orb[/card] also aim to starve opponents out.

So here’s an all-purpose tip: if you’re playing an EDH game like a particularly sadistic siege, in which you don’t bother slinging rocks at the castle ramparts but opt for poisoning the wells and making sure the city’s inhabitants don’t get food for months, your strategy is probably enraging and frustrating your buddies more than it is endearing you to them.

5. And speaking of Stasis-style locks: [card]Arcum Dagsson[/card] decks tend to run them. They are legion, and they are insanely easy to achieve because of his tutoring ability. [card]Mycosynth Lattice[/card] + [card]Kill Switch[/card]. Masses of mana artifacts + [card]Winter Orb[/card]. (Special Guest Star: [card]Back to Basics[/card].) And then there’s the blow-up-everything-in-the-world-except-your-stuff combos. [card]Darksteel Forge[/card] + [card]Mycosynth Lattice[/card] + [card]Nevinyrral’s Disk[/card]. Arrrgh + Mwwwarrgggh + AUUUUGGGHHHHHHHH I GIVE UP I’M NEVER TURNING A CARD SIDEWAYS AGAIN.

These are my personal peeves. What decks and deck archetypes have you run up against that have made you want to tear your hair out?

33 responses to “The Top 5 Least Fun EDH Decks and Plays”

  1. I would just like to remind Candy and everyone else in our playgroup that I have sworn a sacred oath to never bounce my Terastodon in anger against simple mana-producing lands ever again.

    Your artifacts and enchantments are still hosed, though.

    • One day, I’m going to [card]Crib Swap[/card] that goddamn elephant, and I’m going to DANCE WITH JOY.

      • Maybe I should run Riftsweeper. Bounce him, shuffle that goddamn elephant back into my library, then bounce my Fierce Empath to find that goddamn elephant all over again. THERE IS NO ESCAPE.

  2. I’d also like to confess that at one time, I built and ran That Savra Deck. And then one day, I looked into my friends’ eyes after winning another game with her, and saw not only a desire to punch me in the groin, but complete and immense boredom. That’s when I decided to re-tool my Savra deck entirely.

  3. I actually ran Obliterate in a Bosh deck more than able to make the mana to hard cast it. In over 50 games I never cast it once. The only times I had it and could cast it I didn’t need it, and the times I needed it I either couldn’t draw it or couldn’t cast it at all. So it’s now sitting in my rarebook waiting to be traded to a Jhoria player most likely since they’re the only ones who routinely run it.

    Aside from that I run a Sek’kuar deck with a heavy sacrifice/creature lock them via sac outlets and Grave Pact/Butcher of Malakir, yet it doesn’t automatically get massive hate from anyone when I get that combo online, I also don’t start abusing it until someone decides they want to disrupt what I’m doing, then I clear every creature off the board, making a 3/1 hasted token for each one of them.

    Anyway point trying to make there, even soft locks can be interesting and not inherently unfun, provided they’re not played to be unfun. I’m capable of outright demolishing a board by infinitely recurring Woodfall Primus, I choose not to unless I know I’m going to win within 1-3 turns of doing so. I can make 50billion 1/1s in the span of a few seconds, and do so reliably, but I generally choose not to simply because it isn’t that fun. And on the rare chances I do get god hand, I’ll play it out, combo off, and then start picking up and shuffling and tell everyone else to just play for second since ending a game 10 minutes in because of a lucky infinite combo just doesn’t sit well with me, but ignoring a play that epic doesn’t either.

  4. Yeah, but the problem is that as fun as it may be to win on turn one, no one else gets to have any fun. And the true measure of the quality of an EDH deck isn’t how often it wins, or how fun it is to play, it’s how much fun your opponents have playing against it.

  5. you forgot turn 5 Sliver Overlord win. turn one: mountain, turn two: forest and heart sliver, turn 3: gemhide sliver, turn 4: mana echos, turn 5: Overlord, search a two drop sliver tap gem and heart to play it, repeat until all mono color slivers are on the field namely, sedge, sinew, fury, might, blade,shadow/shifting, bonespliter, frenzy, brood, magma.

    swing for over 21 commander dmg

    • Your doing that wrong, what you need is to tutor for legion and queen, grab a heart sliver whilst you are at it and using Gemhide and Doubling Season, you can just go ahead and grab an infinite number of sliver tokens off the queen, if you are nasty you give them all trample then kill everyone instantly. (you can do this turn 7 if lucky)

  6. just throwing this out there on the whole countertop situation u do know that if the player with counterbalance has a 3cmc card on top of the library they can counter ur krosan grip right?

      • Split second only nerfs spells and activated abilities. Counterbalance is a triggered ability. However, that said, Grip makes Counterbalance pretty terrible, because you can’t Top (or otherwise manipulate your library at instant speed with a spell or activated ability) in response to the casting–you’d have to lucksack your way into countering the Grip.

        • Which is why experienced legacy counter-top players always say to leave a 3 cmc spell on top of your deck (oblivion ring or ensnaring bridge anyone?). You can always use your top to move things around after they cast the spell.

  7. I had a friend that runs a Dagsson deck. It is incredibly unfun to play against. It pissed me off once to the point that I jumped out of my seat, threw my cards on the table, and preceded to tell him how much of a conceited bastard he was. He didn’t understand why I was so angry. We’re no longer friends.

  8. had a friend play the blow-up-everything-in-the-world-except-your-stuff combo. i played Venser, Shaper Savant…targeting his darksteel forge and it quickly became blow-up-everything-even-my-stuff-and-rage-at-your-face-cause-i-dont-have-enough-mana-to-counter-that-shit.

  9. Sometime new EDH players go through a learning process of the social interactions of Magic games. A friend once played a deck packing Survival of Fittest – Genesis, plus Kiki Jiki – Elephant that blow up everything plus Obliterate plus Voriclex.

    Games with him always evolves to the point where it is 1 vs everyone else and he got so frustrated that HE wanted to quit the format. Then finally he learnt that if you built a deck that blows out everyone then thats the heat you get. He decided to tweak the deck.

    Fast forward to next session and he played Insurrection to take out another player who was threatening the table with Eldrazis and he became the people’s Champion!!!

  10. I love MTG, and playing decks that take time to set up, and then blow up and kill everyone in one move. I also like having the deck full of control that I stop just about every deck listed above. To get off it takes time.

    The only thing I have problems against is turn zero, one, and two wins. I can stop turn three decks about 25% the time.

  11. It seems most of these decks are in blue. I have the Elf Commander deck from 2014 and the Oloro deck from 2013. I’ve played commander on two occasions because I can only play at the lgs. I’ve played maybe 6 matches because of this. I know not a huge sample size but I don’t play because of blue decks. It’s not fun when blue decks combine STASIS, with STATIC ORB, with CRAWLSPACE and WARD OF BONES and then win with the combination of Jace to untap 4 islands when we can untap either none of our land or 2. Then get enough mana to cast OMNISCIENCE then play ENTER THE INFINITE. Do these player not understand that it is not fun. Yes they win but they only win because no one else is playing. My turn and third opponent plays went as follows draw, pass turn for 5 turns in a row then blue opponent just goes off. In the game when we went after him he just complained like a little baby that we were attacking him. Heaven forbid he didn’t win ever time. why do people play these decks?

  12. After a recent game…I am ready to no longer play with any blue decks. Love the article and to add to your list: Vorinclex, Cyclonic Rift…and some others I was too angry to memorize.

  13. What are your thoughts on excessive search decks? I couldn’t possibly tell you how fun it is to play a game of MTGO where your opponent has 5 minute turns due to constantly searching their library.

  14. So do you get upset and have new pet peeves every time a person uses some ingenuity and comes up with a great combo or some very synergistic pieces? This article really amounts to “wah wah I hate when people win”.

  15. I hope, against hope, that your next 100 games are against Derevi-style Stasis, Skittles style rushdown, Karador Stacks, and Hanna Humilty/Paradox Haze.

    Perhaps then you will understand that fun is entirely subjective, and that, in this moment, you are being a shit.


  16. Huh, reply mechanic is strange. My replies are targeted at Gregg.

  17. I have a Dragon Deck centered around Scion of the Ur-Dragon and Land ramp. 4 instants and 10 sorceries for ramping basic and non-basic lands. Tutor lands like Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse. 10 mana rocks.

    Turn 3 Scion.

    Turn 4 Nicol Bolas to the face (Thanks to Kessig, or the 8x 2-cost trampling instants, assuming they have flying critters).

    Turn 5 Balefire Dragon to boardwipe any remaining critters.

    Turn 6 Toolbox whatever you want to finish them.

  18. All decks that are “I win because I say so ” basically decks. These are decks with a bunch shrouded hexproof and indestructable cards that often have a “you can’t lose opponents can’t win” kind of cards. I don’t mind so much cards that have you win on a stipulation like The cheese stands’s funny and requires some doing to accomplish. Or even Triskadekaphobia.

  19. I have a friend who has this mono black deck with that commander from 3 Kingdoms that works kinda like eternal witness and he runs no thing but board wipes, land destruction, hand destruction, tutors, combos, and lockout cards. Like dude. We get it. You know how to build a spiky deck. Why not build something that doesn’t use every single spike black card ever printed outside Yawgmoth’s Agenda and Griselbrand, maybe, put your mind to a deck that doesn’t autopilot into a combo that kills everyone at once with 90% win rate?

  20. Hey, So I’m thinking about creating a Squirrel deck… While it is kind of gimpy I have a lot of fun playing against it… because, well, Squirrels! I’m thinking of running a few cards to replace the infinite combo ones on my sideboard, but what do people in general think about squirrel decks?