EDH IMHO: Killin’ it

I mulled down to six, begrudgingly satisfied with my starting hand. Four lands, but all three of my colors, with a Wurmcoil Engine and a Recurring Insight. (If you’re in blue and you’re not running Recurring Insight…re-examine your life.)

As far as the hand goes: Not bad, not great. If I can get to six mana, I’m golden.


Oh wait, I started with six cards; I get to scry. Maybe I’ll get some help.


I go to scry, and I see my girl….

Hello, beautiful.

Suddenly I’m excited. I’m gonna get there. It’s gonna be all right. Oracle is awesome and….

Kill it with Fire! Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga Super Mario World Super Mario 64 Super Mario Bros. Super Mario 3D Land Mario Luigi vertebrate cartoon art
My friend Jaws Putrefys her to Bejeezus and back. See, Jaws has a rule. When he spots Oracle, he kills it on sight. Never explains why, doesn’t even think it’s always his best play; just does it. He’s a man of principles. So… Let’s talk about removal.

Welcome to EDH: IMHO. A diverse haven for passionate, casual weirdos who want to create stories with their friends through a game of Commander!This week will be our third in a four-part series about important questions you should discuss with your playgroup in an effort to have the most fun possible with your games. In week one of this series we discussed infinite combos, especially the kind that end up being win conditions. Last week, we talked about sharing the game with others, particularly when it comes to taking extra, or very long, turns.

This week, we discuss removal. There’s an argument, although I’m not going to make it here, that the purest form of casual commander would have no defensive spells at all. This argument would posit that a deck should be built to ONLY do its own thing. Let every deck, with its own ideals, clash in a strange tye-dye of psychedelic, hopeful dreams.

The problem with this idea is twofold. First off, games without any form of defense usually end up destroying that beautiful ‘interaction’ stuff we talked about last week. If you build your deck without removal, and only with one specific goal in mind, you might just be back to playing with yourself again.


The other problem is that when all of the decks play without removal, the one with the quickest and most efficient win-con will usually win on the spot.

In others words, without removal, you’re gonna get a lot of this:

In my honest opinion removal is necessary, in some capacity. As always discuss this stuff in your playgroups, but for me that isn’t really the question to discuss.

The question is this:

Question #3: What kind of removal is ok?

This is where the question begins to become a little more tricky. What line do you draw when it comes to defense?

And if really comes down to it, there is only one wing of defense that people ever really discuss in this regard.

Now if you really want to piss off your friends…tell them this is the best Counterspell art. Because it is. Come at me.

Counters! Everyone loves counters…except those that don’t.

Usually everyone is okay with Wraths and spot removal. Both of those are plays that interact with the board, and even if they nuke something you love (like my precious Oracle of Mul Daya) you at least played it. It may have died, but it hit the table.

For some reason, counters are different. There is an undeniable differences between having your creature countered and having it targeted by a Beast Within.

Why do you suppose that is?

If I had to guess, and this is only a guess, when you counter my spell it feels like you prevented me from playing the game. For a moment, we were prevented from playing magic with our friends. That might sound over-dramatic. But for me, when something is countered, there is a slight icky-ness that creeps into the game. An icky-ness that isn’t there with normal removal

A lot of you probably read that and said: “Well, just have counters for their counters.” Technically, you’re right. The only problem is that following this logic eventually ends in every EDH deck having blue, and most games devolving into counter battles.

Maybe that sounds AWESOME to you! If so you’re in luck: the format can do that. At the most competitive level it usually will!

But if you’re like me, the idea of a counter battle is more exhausting than it is exhilarating. Especially if most of your games end as soon as someone draws a bunch of cards and has Forbid.

Last week, when discussing long turns, I posited that a great question to ask is, “is this awesome more than once?” For me and my playgroup, when it comes to counter battles, the answer was no.

So about 3 years ago, we decided as a playgroup to limit a deck’s combined number of counters and non-land tutors (more on this next week) to 10.

Guess what happened? We had more fun. I know it seems crazy that Doom Blade feels so much more tolerable than Pact of Negation, but for us it is.

And not only that, we continued cutting counters even if we were already below our limit. Today, out of my 8 decks, I would say I run five counters, total. Three of those are Mystic Confluence, which I would say I use as a counter about 15% of the time.

As always, this is just the conclusion that works best for our group. The whole theme of this series is to talk; all I’m trying to do is give you some subjects to discuss.

Remember, your goal is to create games that are as fun as possible. That doesn’t mean ignoring removal, it just means working together to build decks that create the kinds of games you want to have, as a group.

Until next time: Find your Oracle….and kill it dead.


  1. I’ve found my decks have slowly and steadily had countermagic weeded out of them. Not because I did it purposely, but simply I’ve wanted to play other cards I enjoy in my decks and the counterspells are what I cut. I know all the Spikier players are going to have an aneurysm, but what can one do?

    1. I think what you described here is what happened in our playgroup. It is absolutely an un-spikey thing to do, but by nature, a spike’s goal is to win. The problem is, by nature, a casual commander player’s goal is NOT to win, its to create a fun game.

      That said, some players will read that comment and say that it’s the same thing, and the best thing about commander is that if their playgroup agrees, then they’re right. It all circles back to talking with your playgroup and deciding what is best for everyone.

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