Fat, Old, and Firebreathing

Posted in Feature on March 28, 2007

By Chris Millar

Welcome to Fatty Week! I was hoping we'd have two weeks to explore this humongous topic, but it likes we'll have to shoehorn all of our big-butted-beastie goodness into the one-piece spandex-suit that is the five-day work week. We don't have much time (or space), so we'd best start the shoehorning pronto.

For the past couple of days, we've been celebrating the pleasantly plump, the Rubenesque, the euphemistically-endowed – what we in the Magic world rather uncharitably call "fatties." They're the big, the bad, and the beefy, the kind of creature that needs three Dwarven Warriors to make it unblockable. I'm talking, of course, about wurms and dragons, elf mutants and aboroths, beasts and, uh, bringers. When these creatures sit around the house, they really, like, take up a lot of space. (It's not a particularly humourous situation, to tell you the truth.)

If you can remember back to "What If?" Week, you'll know that I'm a follower of the fatties, a chaser of the chubby-types, a connoisseur of the corpulent. My "Invitational submissions" were all enormous green monsters. What can I say? I like high-toughness creatures and I cannot lie. And not just green fatties, either. I don't care if you're red, black, purple, or green. Well, if you're purple, I don't think I could fit you into a Magic deck. At least not yet. But the other five colours are all fair game.

Some might call this fatty-love unnatural or even unhealthy. They might even *gasp* call me a Timmy! The horror! The truth of the matter is that my love of the 5/5 or greater has crossed a line. I've been suffering from what some made-up doctors are calling EDHD: Elder Dragon Highlander Disorder. As I've discovered, the only cure is more fatties.

What a bizarre affliction!

What is EDH?

Nicol Bolas
Unlike the Highlander format outlined by Ron Vitale in a recent feature article, Elder Dragon Highlander is a format designed for group games. Like many, I discovered the format through the writings of Level 5 Judge Sheldon Menery over at starcitygames.com (see his intro to the format and subsequent update).

The focus of the format is fun. If that's not enough f's for you, then I ought to tell you that a large part of the fun comes from flailing at each other with freakin' fatties. Now, I'm not going to talk about the history of the format, or strategy, mostly because I don't get a chance to play full-blown EDH games too often. However, when I get together with my friends to play some kitchen-table Magic, I play EDH-legal decks almost exclusively. I've found that my Elder Dragon decks, uh, "scale" well, and since most of our games involve whoever happens to be available at the time (which can be anywhere from 3-7 players), this is a good thing.

Here are the basic deckbuilding guidelines if you're looking to build an EDH deck:

1. Choose a Legendary Creature to be your "General." Despite the format's name, you don't actually have to choose one of the original Elder Dragons, although you'll definitely score style and/or nostalgia points if you do. You don't even need to pick a fat legend if you don't want to. You can go ahead and use Ben-Ben, Akki Hermit as your General. I'm not sure what kind of points you'd score in that case. Maybe pity points. The important thing is that each player uses a different General (if you picked Ben-Ben, you're probably safe here).

The General you choose is important for a couple reasons. From the official rules:

"The General's mana cost dictates what mana symbols may appear on cards in the deck. A deck may not generate mana outside its colours. Anything which would generate mana of an illegal colour generates colourless mana instead."

Phelddagrif
For example, if you were to play Phelddagrif (mana cost ) as your General, your deck may not contain any red or black cards. No card in your deck may contain red or black mana symbols or hybrid mana symbols that are partially red or black. Talisman of Dominance, life death, and Boros Guildmage are not allowed. Degavolver is doubly bad.

2. Your deck must contain exactly 100 cards, including the general.

3. Except for basic lands, no two cards in the deck may have the same English name.

Those are the deck construction rules in a nutshell. A complete set of rules (and how to play) can be found here.

For a more in-depth look at the format – including discussion of its rules, variants, strategies, and banned list – feel free to visit the home of EDH on the web, which is conveniently linked to one of the words in this sentence.

Why EDH?

In the last section of my "What If?" Week article, I had all of the invitationalists battling it out for the title with decks selected through the Auction of the Elder Dragons. The deck I "won" used Arcades Sabboth as its General. I always like to mix fact with fiction, so I chose to play one of my actual, real-life decks in the non-actual, completely made-up tournament! For reference, here it is again:

Arcades Sabboth

100 Cards

Why do I like to play this deck?

1. Flavour!

I enjoy building theme decks, but outside of tribal decks, I rarely seem to play them. I think I like my decks to be a little looser and freer than most theme decks permit, but at the same time, there's something I find very appealing about trying to capture a General's personality using only instants, sorceries, artifacts, enchantments, and other creatures.

Arcades Sabboth

For instance, Arcades Sabboth is like a 7/7 flying Castle. As we all know, snakes love to inhabit flying castles. I read that in a Magic article at some point, so it must be true. Or maybe I wrote that in an article. Either way, the flavour is undeniable. In truth, I figured that Arcades's Castle-effect would go well with a swarm of tokens. Since all of the best snakes are in Arcades's colours, and since I had a single copy of many of the Kamigawa block snake-lords (as well as a Captain Sisay to find them), I decided that making snake tokens would be the way to go. Now, some of these cards aren't particularly good, but they fit the theme. Besides, isn't it just fun to say, "Who wants to trade me a Boa Constrictor? Oh, and a Pemmin's Aura to go along with it?"

2. Bigger = Better

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that bigger decks just have more stuff in them. To me, more stuff equals more fun. Focused constructed decks often use something like ten unique cards. EDH decks use something like sixty. This gives you a great excuse to use cards you've never really played before because you've had "better" alternatives. If you want to sweep the board of creatures with some regularity, you won't be able to use four Wrath of Gods. You'll have to go into your trade-binder and dust off a Wave of Reckoning, a Retribution of the Meek, or a Harsh Mercy.

Another thing I like about big decks= is that you can squeeze in a bunch of little toolboxes, or find space for little pockets of synergy. Tutors that restrict what you can find (like Captain Sisay and Riptide Shapeshifter) have long been favourites of mine, because they encourage you to use cards that you wouldn't normally use. All of a sudden, it seems worthwhile to use a single spellshaper or moonfolk (like Mageta or Uyo) or include a legendary creature with a situational ability like Major Teroh.

3. Not Too Big = Even Better

Someone around here (I can't remember who) suggested that "restrictions breed creativity." This is equally true of designing cards and designing decks. One thing I like about EDH is that the restrictions that come with the General and the 100-card limit give your deck some focus. More importantly, they tell you when to stop. My first Highlander deck was a blue-green Elf deck. At least, that's how it started. Pretty soon I was trying to add one copy of every elf ever printed as well as every blue or green fatty that I could get my hands on. It didn't take long before I convinced myself that I didn't need to limit myself to two colours since I was playing so many fixers, and the deck just grew and grew. It eventually became completely unshuffleable, it stood up to about eye-level when I played it at the kitchen table, and I needed a long-box just to store it. That was when I hit rock bottom and decided to reign in my excessive deckbuilding. EDH was just the thing I needed to get through this dark time.

Large and Totally the Boss

Of all of my EDH decks, the following is probably my favourite. The General is Palladia-Mors, who is probably the most straightforward of all the Elder Dragons. As a result, the deck is pretty straightforward as well. It's full of what Anthony Alongi termed "gorilla" cards – sweepers like Savage Twister, Desolation Giant, and Starstorm, as well as huge, board-dominating creatures like Bosh, Iron Golem and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa.

Palladia Mors

Of course, it does have a few tricks up its sleeve, most of them coming courtesy of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. There are enough creatures with comes-into-play abilities (Eternal Witness, Indrik Stomphowler, and Flametongue Kavu) and goes-to-the-graveyard abilities (Yavimaya Elder and Penumbra Wurm) to keep the goblin shaman busy. Tornado Elemental and Deranged Hermit are also fine Kiki-targets. If you have the time and the mana, you can even set up specific combos with Congregation at Dawn.

Palladia-Mors

100 Cards

This is the deck pretty much as it stands right now, based on the cards I own and the cards that I have available. I'm sure there are some no-brainer omissions, and there are plenty of cards that I'd like to make room for if and when I acquire them.

Introducing the Bloodsucking Ice Queen

The great thing about allowing non-Elder Dragons to be a player's General is that each new set brings new characters to focus on. Being a gold creature certainly opens up your options. This is why the Ravnica guild-affiliated legends (like Borborygmos, Tibor and Lumia, and Experiment Kraj), as well as the Planar Chaos dragons (like Teneb, the Harvester and Numot, the Devastator), are fine choices for anyone trying to build an EDH deck. Another recent addition to the list of potential Generals is Coldsnap's Garza Zol, Plague Queen. Here's my attempt at a Garza Zol deck. It's pretty theme-y.

Garza Zol, Plague Queen

The Evil Board of Shadowy Figures

1 Garza Zol, Plague Queen
1 Szadek, Lord of Secrets
1 Mirri the Cursed
1 Crovax the Cursed
1 Ascendant Evincar
1 Baron Sengir
1 Shauku, Endbringer
1 Mistform Ultimus

Those crazy vampires! Always cursed and always plotting something together. Somehow, they still haven't managed to expel Mistform Ultimus from their ranks.

Minions and Housepets

1 Moroii
1 Sengir Vampire
1 Soul Collector
1 Repentant Vampire
1 Skeletal Vampire
1 Stalking Bloodsucker
1 Vampiric Dragon
1 Vampire Hounds
1 Vampiric Tutor

Legendary Sidekicks

1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
1 Godo, Bandit Warlord
1 Balthor the Defiled
1 Fumiko the Lowblood
1 Lyzolda, the Blood Witch

These guys are mostly just "utility" creatures. Ink-Eyes works well with board-sweeping and Szadek-milling. Godo fetches Tenza, which is more like Garza's Maul in this deck. I've always like Fumiko with vampires, what with her low blood and her ability to taunt enemy creatures. Lyzolda just so happens to be a Blood Witch, which is the kind of witch that vampires really like.

Bloody Good Fun

1 Bloodfire Dwarf
1 Bloodfire Kavu
1 Bloodfire Colossus
1 Bloodshot Cyclops
1 Blood Speaker
1 Bloodletter Quill
1 Bloodstone Cameo
1 Innocent Blood
1 Barter in Blood
1 Blood Rites

More Ophidians

1 Dimir Cutpurse
1 Shadowmage Infiltrator
1 Ophidian

Of all the creatures that draw you a card when they deal damage to a player, Garza Zol is definitely the fattest. Don't tell her that, though. These three are more slender, but just as effective.

Who Drinks the Blood of the Blood-Drinkers?

1 Novijen Sages

This was Sheldon's suggestion and I think it's brilliant. The card isn't bad on its own, but once your vampires (especially Szadek) start accumulating counters, the Sages become quite amusing. Your vampires drain the life-force of your enemies, while the mutant advisors do their thing and drain the life-force of your vampires.

Don't Avoid These!

1 Phyrexian Plaguelord
1 Plague Spitter
1 Traveling Plague
1 Plague Wind
1 Plague Spores
1 Endemic Plague
1 Swallowing Plague

Garza Zol is the Plague Queen. She's gotta have some plagues. How about seven of them? Plague Spitter is like Garza Zol's little lap dog, while Endemic Plague allows the rest of the vampire cabal to designate Mistform Ultimus for cannon-fodder duty.

How many Demons can you fit in Toolbox?

1 Woebringer Demon
1 Havoc Demon
1 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
1 Reiver Demon

Um, so, yeah. Demons. They're kinda like vampires, in that they're big, black, and fly a large percentage of the time. These guys ended up in the deck due to my years at the Free Association School of Deckbuilding. You see, a Blood Speaker seems like someone that vampires wouldn't mind having around. Blood Speaker fetches Demons.

Kagemaro, First to Suffer
Admittedly, this is more like a screwdriver set than a toolbox. They all do the same thing (kill creatures) in slightly different ways. Woebringer Demon is like a slow-acting, reusable Innocent Blood, the kind of card that gets better with each additional player. Kagemaro and Havoc Demon both care about creature toughness, but Kagemaro's self-sacrificing allows him to be recurred more readily, while Havoc Demon can swing for five through the air if you don't need the board swept. Reiver Demon, meanwhile, can only destroy non-black creatures, but doesn't care about toughness. Depending on what the board looks like, I can easily imagine fetching any one of the four.

Clobberin' Time!

1 Tenza, Godo's Maul
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Fireshrieker

The Utility Closet

1 Jilt
1 Grab the Reins
1 Beacon of Unrest
1 Seal of Fire
1 Seal of Doom
1 Oversold Cemetery
1 Collective Restraint
1 Rhystic Study
1 Mind's Eye

The Most Exciting Part of the Deck!

1 Rakdos Signet
1 Dimir Signet
1 Izzet Signet
1 Mind Stone
1 Darksteel Ingot
8 Swamp
7 Mountain
5 Island
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Polluted Delta
1 Terminal Moraine
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Urborg Volcano
1 Salt Marsh
1 Watery Grave
1 Blood Crypt
1 Shadowblood Ridge
1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse
1 Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace
1 Kher Keep
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Volrath's Stronghold
1 Arena

All together now:

Garza Zol, Plague Queen

Instant (3)
1 Vampiric Tutor 1 Jilt 1 Grab the Reins
100 Cards

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at the format. I have some other decks in the works, based around Vaevictis Asmadi, Chromium, and Intet, the Dreamer. Once I get my hands on a Vorosh, the Hunter, I'll be building a deck around him, too. If people are interested, I can definitely revisit EDH at some point in the future.

Until next time, I'm not sorry that I got fat.

Chris Millar

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