EDH 1, 2, 3 ... one CMC

Orren Mckay • November 8, 2019

EDH is a world of battleships and giants.  Big flashy spells with casting costs to match.  In this article I look at the smaller one casting cost pieces that help get us there.  Also, for the purposes of this discussion, I will be ignoring any cards with an "X" in their casting cost.

[Note:  this is completely unrelated to the whole topic, but I noticed that at the top of the first page of my notes for this post, I have written, "Infinite Primal Surge deck" along with small block of notes and possible card ideas.  I am not a fan of infinite combos in EDH, but everyone is plagued by demons at one time or another.  Zuran Orb is in the list of cards, so I think this one was going to get dark.]

Sol Ring

In any discussion involving EDH and one casting cost spells Sol Ring feels like the starting point.  WotC has put it in Commander products galore and it is currently in 76% of all EDH decks according to EDHREC.  I have gone hot and cold on Sol Ring.  Initially it went into every deck no matter what (except that time I built around Molder Slug ).  After a while I got really sick of drawing it late game as an effectively dead draw.  Not counting mulligans, you can only expect to have a Sol Ring turn one or two around 1 in 11 games.  Amazing for that game, but not so amazing drawing it turn 10 when you really need something better.  Having played for a while forsaking Sol Ring and then adding one to a deck again, it has gotten me thinking I was a bit hasty and overly harsh.  My current feeling on it is that it isn't an EVERY deck card, but it is definitely a "lots of decks" card.

Beyond Sol Ring I think that the seven 1cc generals are worth a mention (Mikaeus, the Lunarch doesn't count because of his "X" in the casting cost).  I tried an equipment based Isamaru, Hound of Konda deck as one of the first mono-white decks I built that profoundly disappointed me.  Being able to attack with your general on the second turn, possibly with equipment seems good on paper, but the level of aggression doesn't keep up with other players developing their boards.  I always ended up being quickly out-classed after a few turns.  

Not too long ago I tried a mono-brown budget Hope of Ghirapur deck.  It ended up back in the card boxes after a few games.  I think mono-brown's not my thing.  If you are curious about the deck, here's the list.    

Kytheon, Hero of Akros and Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter never much excited me as generals.  I've seen plenty of people singing the praises of Norin the Wary as a mono-red general, but I don't think I could ever play the types of decks I've seen suggested with him.  Zurgo Bellstriker is just kind of meh.  He doesn't seem to do enough to really be interesting as a general.  Rhys the Redeemed is probably the best 1cc general, especially if you are in a tokens-kind of mood.  He does a lot to support tokens and his most expensive ability can be exceptional later in the game.

DeathRite Shaman

After the generals, there are a number of cards worth mentioning.  Some for their amazing goodness, some for being overrated and some for simply being adequate. May as well start with the good.  Deathrite Shaman was a card I initially dismissed as not impactful enough for EDH.  Having now played it in a few decks, I understand how wrong I was.  Being a 1/2 is a non-trivial, making it much less likely for something to accidentally kill him.  The potential mana acceleration helps, but having a later game option to derail certain graveyard combos (and do a little extra damage to your opponents) keeps the card useful throughout the whole game.  Wayfarer's Bauble finds its way into almost any deck I have with basic lands to go fetch.  It's especially good in non-green decks where your accel is limited and you are relying on Solemn Simulacrum to do some of the heavy lifting.  Mana Vault combined with Voltaic Key (and the newer Manifold Key) can provide a solid mana boost early game to help get to the bigger fish in your deck.  Skullclamp has been good forever if you have creatures one toughness creatures to feed it.  It is actually so good, it is worth it to equip it to whatever creature you have in case it happens to die.  Sensei's Divining Top is a no-brainer.  Land Tax if you have access to white isn't far behind.

Serra Asc

Serra Ascendant can be a back-breaking card if you drop it turn one.  A 6/6, flying, lifelinker can change the flow of the early game all by itself.  The card can feel a bit unfair if your opponent begins beating on you with it on turn two, but it 's an excellent reason to not neglect the early game threat elimination options in your deck.  Speaking of early game elim, I don't know how I feel about Swords to Plowshares and Path of Exile.  Swords over Path obviously, but I have problems justifying such specific targeted removal in my decks.  In a multiplayer game, simple one-for-one trades hurt my soul.  There are times you have to make them but that doesn't mean they aren't painful.  Pongify and Rapid Hybridization are similar options in blue if you need them.

Wild Growth is a card that has really impressed me lately.  In a game like EDH where you want cheap mana acceleration Wild Growth is it.  You can drop it turn one and go into turn two with three mana.  In addition, after turn one, if you play it on an untapped land, it is effectively free to play that turn.  Rancor is another card that I feel could use more love in EDH.  It's a cheap, repeatable way to make a mediocre creature much better.  A couple of Mirri decks made me appreciate Rancor much more.  Reanimate is a cheap, powerhouse card.  Grabbing a creature out of any graveyard for one black and some life can be good at all stages of the game.  Cremate has been a personal favorite of mine for years.  It is the kind of card that is useful about 20% of the time, but when it is, it will leave your opponents traumatized as you take apart their graveyard combo and draw a card for your trouble.

I feel obligated to mention Pithing Needle.  I have a friend that plays this card in EDH and as much as it seems like it wouldn't be good enough in a multiplayer game, every time he has played it, it has had a big impact on the game.  This might be an example of confirmation bias similar to the fear some of my frequent opponents have for Cremate, but I did at least want to mention Pithing Needle to encourage a second look.  The same guy likes Relic of Progenitus.

Mana Birds (Birds of Paradise) and the swarm of one mana mana elves (Llanowar Elves, Elvish Mystic, ...etc.) rarely make the cut for one of my EDH decks.  They seem too fragile and not worth the cost of the card.  I can see using them in a cEDH environment, but I've never felt that they carry their weight otherwise.  The card disadvantage tutors, like Vampiric Tutor and Worldly Tutor very much have a place in decks, but the card loss doesn't make them auto-includes.  Brainstorm and the other blue cantrips are easier to include but I tend to cut these because I want more action cards.  That and I am probably culling from a list of 200 possible cards already.  Gamble and Faithless Looting do happen to be very helpful for red though, especially if you have a graveyard based strategy.

There have also been a number of cards over the years that I've tried to play that always ended up disappointments.  Vandalblast was the first one to come to mind.  Destroying one artifact is not very good in EDH.  Destroying everyone else's artifacts with the Overload seems like it would be good, but whenever I have had it in hand, I always wanted to do something else.  It can be devastating against certain decks, but I never had it pack the punch I felt it should.  Quicken and Scout's Warning (and Overmaster and Insist) always fail me.  I forget how bad they have worked out for me every now and then and one wanders back into a deck, then I have it in hand and it gets to fail me anew.  I like the idea of Tainted Strike.  It feels like it should be a good card, but in application it either gives someone not enough poison to kill them or it makes a lethal attack a slightly more poisonous lethal attack.  Blaze of Glory is like my own personal version of Charlie Brown trying to kick that football.  I pull it out of a binder every now and then (usually as part of some ill-fated mono-white debacle) and everything about the experience just makes me sad.

There are lots of one casting cost cards worth a look for EDH (around 2000 total).  I hope the above have given you some things to think about.  I will provide an update for my Golos, Tireless Pilgrim deck in my next article.  With that, I'd like to leave you with the list of notes I made for myself going through the list of all the 1cc EDH legal cards.  Not all of the cards are mentioned, but maybe my random comments will give you some ideas for things to try out.

Altar of the Brood - (combo)

Amulet of Vigor - + Thawing Glaciers.

Angel's Grace - planning to fail.

Autumn's Veil - anti-blue/black counter-counter spell.

Basilisk Collar - (no comment)

Benalish Hero - Go read the Arena novel.  Also banding.

Berserk - poison/general damage.

Blaze of Glory -  🙁

Blue Elemental Blast - Red Elemental Blast - too specific.

Boreal Druid - sworn enemy of Eyeblight's Ending and Chill to the Bone.

Burgeoning - not Exploration

Candelabra of Tawnos - Thawing Glaciers and so many other lands.

Concordant Crossroads - Mass Hysteria

Condemn - better before removed tucking commanders.

Cremate - ...

Crop Rotation - if you own a Gaea's Cradle.

Curiosity - Keen Sense.

Darkness - Holy Day, Fog, no red or blue one.

Deathmark - color specific.

Defile - for mono-black.

Divert - this one always fails me too.

Elvish Reclaimer - buy foils.

Essence Warden - Soul Warden, Soul's Attendant...

Expedition Map - Grab Cradle, Cabal Coffers, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.

False Orders - wins for most effort to make a thing work with current rules.

Flamecast Wheel - Xena, Warrior Princess?

Font of Fertility - why not Farseek.

Gilded Goose - Oko.  🙁

Gingerbrute - I bought foils for no good reason.

Giver of Runes - or Mother of Runes.  Meh for EDH.

Goblin Welder - this is definitely a thing.

Legion's Landing - I want this to be good but ...

Magical Hack - Sleight of Mind ... these were cards.

Merchant Ship - pirates always need prey.

Mirri's Guile - mediocre Sensei's Divining Top.

Mystic Speculation - neat!

Myth Realized - so many words.

Natural Selection - not, in any way, Brainstorm.

Orcish Lumberjack - crazy orcs.

Orim's Chant - not Silence in EDH.

Oust - should have been an instant.

Phyrexian Furnace - I always liked this one.  Way cooler than Scrabbling Claws.  🙂

Phyrexian Reclamation - Not sure why this doesn't see more play.

Porphyry Nodes - 150 times cheaper than Drop of Honey.

Prism Ring - WotC has tried versions of this effect for years.

Purelace - I'm glad the laces are gone.

Purify the Grave - Cremate is better.

Pyroblast - very pretty foil.  Also Hydroblast.  Still too specific.

Quest for Ula's Temple - this has to be tech for a special someone.

Retract - this seems like it should have a home somewhere.

Retrofitter Foundry - Wow!  This does a lot of ... things.

Revelation - Surprisingly irritating, especially for green. Feels like would be a better match in blue, like Field of Dreams from the exact same set.

Root Maze - seems like this card should have been white.

Sai of the Shinobi - why doesn't this do something with ninjas?

Savannah Lions - I miss the original art for this one.  So much nostalgia.

Sea Kings' Blessing - this was an actual card.

Shadow Rift - I have wanted to play this card for years.

Shrouded Lore - Forgotten Lore got color-shifted?  Why?

Sigarda's Aid - mono-white still makes me sad.

Soldier of Fortune - I always felt like WotC had plans for this guy.

Spectral Sailor - Flying Men meet power creep.

Spikeshot Elder - this guy needs some equipment.

Spore Frog - ...

Tel-jilad Stylus - plus Grenzo, Dungeon Warden.

Timber Wolves - green Benalish Hero.  Banding as well.

Tithe - seems good on paper, but less exciting to cast.

Ulvenwald Tracker - amazing with the right friends.

Urban Burgeoning - hmmmm.  I bought some foils of this one.

Vampiric Link - Spirit Link for black.  Also reminds me of Force of Nature from the old, old days.

Vendetta - cheap removal, but seems like there are better options for most decks.

Warden of the First Tree -  seems like so much work.

Weathered Wayfarer - this guy always seems to put himself out of work pretty quickly whenever I play him.