The Hall of Illuminating Magic Decks



Bumping this thread in the hope that the next year may have a new submission that reveals odd, illuminating, or esoteric Magic mechanics for the Hall!


The Tentacled One
Oh, I'll definitely have more offerings in the near future. I've been getting into cEDH and some of the archetypes well-known to players in that environment, including some highly successful ones, do some pretty strange things. Haven't gotten around to presenting them in this thread, but it's coming.


The Tentacled One
So like I mentioned, I've been getting into cEDH (competitive 4-player Commander). Some of the decks that are notably rather strong in the cEDH setting are also highly unusual in other respects when it comes to how Magic decks work and what they do. The 100-card singleton constraint would, on its own, would seem to mostly rule out illuminating decks. But the combination of the 40 starting life total, the massive card pool, and the commander mechanic go some way to turning that around. Before I begin, I want to provide a brief note about cEDH and why I find it worthwhile. The competitive version of what was originally envisioned as a casual multiplayer environment has been much maligned. The thing is, casual EDH as a format is actually rather, well, bad. The format's "official" Rules Committee and Wizards of the Coast have repeatedly worked at cross purposes, with the Rules Committee making changes to guide the format one way while WotC prints new cards in commander products that pulls the format in a different direction. The ban list is haphazard and early iterations of it came with a constant caveat of something about how it was all just suggestions to help you out but if cards are a problem in your local playgroup, you should ban them. That pretense has since been dropped, but I've never known commander players to play primarily within a specific local playgroup that curates its own separate ban list. Essentially everyone is using the official list with all of its quirks. The format is rather broken and players run into problems of disparate power levels all the time. Sol Ring might not seem overbearing in a precon, but it's rocket fuel in a finely-tuned combo deck. In all of this unfortunate chaos, some players either with substantial investment in their decks or with proxies, focus on taking commander power levels to the extreme. And so they've got an extremely fast-paced format that is dymanic, with lots of interaction and different strategies. These decks aren't meant for casual commander games: they're not even optimized to beat the decks in casual pods! In general, a cEDH deck would be potent in a casual pod, but it wouldn't be the best weapon to take down casual games anyway. These decks are better optimized to battle each other, and in that context, maligning them strikes me as pointless. I think a lot of the hate thrown at cEDH is based on the incorrect assumption that the guy being a scumbag moron with a powerful deck trouncing local casual scrubs is using a cEDH deck. But he's probably not and his deck would probably lose badly against true cEDH decks.

I don't know how many of these decks I'll try to include in the Hall, but at least a few are ones I've found to be illuminating. Decks in cEDH run a gamut from ones that absolutely rely on their commander to ones that are basically 99-card decks and only have the commander as a distant backup plan. Surprisingly, neither approach is truly superior. Anyway, while this is primarily a casual site, I suspect that cEDH is one competitive environment that most of the people here would at least find intriguing to observe, although you may or may not participate in it yourselves...

Let's start with one I already touched on here at the CPA.

Deck Name: Chain Veil Teferi
Magic Format: cEDH
Insight: In 2014, Wizards of the Coast created special planeswalkers that are allowed to serve as commanders. Earlier that year, they'd made The Chain Veil, an artifact that lets planeswalker abilities be activated extra times in a turn. This deck exploits a loop in which Teferi, Temporal Archmage is cast from the command zone repeatedly, but generates enough extra mana to continuously pay the commander tax and recast it. The loop requires some sources that tap for 2+ mana and some knowledge of the counterintuitive rulings on the functionality of The Chain Veil, but this is the only loop I know of that exploits both a planeswalker and the command zone. The combo is successful in cEDH because it is a compact and flexible kill condition that can be assembled in multiple ways, so it forms the core of the most popular monoblue control-combo deck in cEDH.

Deck List (05/27/2019)

1x Teferi, Temporal Archmage

1x Academy Ruins
1x Ancient Tomb
1x Back to Basics
1x Baral, Chief of Compliance
1x Basalt Monolith
1x Blast Zone
1x Brainstorm
1x Buried Ruin
1x Chain of Vapor
1x Chrome Mox
1x Copy Artifact
1x Counterspell
1x Cursed Totem
1x Cyclonic Rift
1x Delay
1x Dig Through Time
1x Dispel
1x Fabricate
1x Fact or Fiction
1x Fellwar Stone
1x Flooded Strand
1x Flusterstorm
1x Force of Will
1x Gilded Drake
1x Gilded Lotus
1x Gitaxian Probe
1x Grafdigger's Cage
1x Grim Monolith
1x High Tide
1x Impulse
1x Intuition
1x Inventors' Fair
21x Island
1x Legacy's Allure
1x Mana Crypt
1x Mana Drain
1x Mana Vault
1x Memory Jar
1x Mental Misstep
1x Merchant Scroll
1x Misty Rainforest
1x Mox Diamond
1x Muddle the Mixture
1x Mystic Remora
1x Mystical Tutor
1x Narset's Reversal
1x Narset, Parter of Veils
1x Negate
1x Pact of Negation
1x Polluted Delta
1x Ponder
1x Power Artifact
1x Preordain
1x Pull from Tomorrow
1x Pulse of the Grid
1x Reshape
1x Rhystic Study
1x Rings of Brighthearth
1x Sapphire Medallion
1x Scalding Tarn
1x Sensei's Divining Top
1x Sleight of Hand
1x Sol Ring
1x Spellseeker
1x Stasis
1x Stroke of Genius
1x Swan Song
1x Tezzeret the Seeker
1x The Chain Veil
1x The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
1x Thran Dynamo
1x Time Spiral
1x Timetwister
1x Transmute Artifact
1x Trinket Mage
1x Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1x Verity Circle
1x Whir of Invention
1x Windfall


The Tentacled One
Deck Name: Gitrog Dredge
Magic Format: cEDH
Insight: So many. Where to start? A commander deck that is entirely reliant on a combo between the deck's commander and a specific card can be sufficiently fast and robust to compete at the highest levels of competitive play. This deck needs Dakmor Salvage to go off, but it can be so fast and can recover from disruption so well that it is a major threat in competitive EDH pods. This deck also demonstrates that Doomsday can be used to assemble a kill in a black/green deck, which is highly unusual and employs Doomsday piles unique to the deck. It uses Chains of Mephistopheles as a discard outlet for a combo, with its anti-draw aspect against opponents serving a secondary role, something I've never seen anywhere else. This deck is also demonstrates the most effective use of the Dredge mechanic I've ever seen in EDH. More broadly, this is was the first cEDH deck to break out with a heavy land-based theme while competing with the more prevalent blue/artifact shenanigans that otherwise rule the format. Surprisingly to me, this is also the first deck I know of to completely circumvent the "whenever you discard a card, exile that card from your graveyard" drawback of Necropotence. By looping with Dakmor Salvage and a discard outlet repeatedly, the deck can use Gaea's Blessing or Kozilek to reshuffle the graveyard back into the library while the triggers to exile discarded cards are all still on the stack. And if all that wasn't illuminating enough, this is the only deck I know of that sometimes exploits the Cleanup Step to sculpt a game-winning combo hand. Overall, I say as a combo enthusiast that out of all combo decks I know of across all formats, this one is the most complicated to pilot. The depth of options and the strange flexibility and sometimes counterintuitive lines of play make Gitrog Dredge perhaps the most fascinating experience in cEDH. Truly, boldly illuminating.

Deck List (05/30/2019)

1x The Gitrog Monster

1x Ad Nauseam
1x Ancient Tomb
1x Assassin's Trophy
1x Autumn's Veil
1x Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1x Bayou
1x Bazaar of Baghdad
1x Beast Within
1x Birds of Paradise
1x Bloodstained Mire
1x Blooming Marsh
1x Burgeoning
1x Cabal Ritual
1x Carpet of Flowers
1x Cavern of Souls
1x Chains of Mephistopheles
1x Chrome Mox
1x City of Brass
1x City of Traitors
1x Command Beacon
1x Command Tower
1x Crop Rotation
1x Crystal Vein
1x Culling the Weak
1x Dakmor Salvage
1x Dark Confidant
1x Dark Ritual
1x Darkblast
1x Deathrite Shaman
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Diabolic Intent
1x Doomsday
1x Dryad Arbor
1x Duress
1x Elvish Mystic
1x Elvish Spirit Guide
1x Emergence Zone
1x Entomb
1x Exploration
1x Forest
1x Fyndhorn Elves
1x Gaea's Blessing
1x Gaea's Cradle
1x Gemstone Caverns
1x Golgari Grave-Troll
1x Green Sun's Zenith
1x Grim Monolith
1x Harrow
1x Hermit Druid
1x Homeward Path
1x Imperial Seal
1x Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1x Lake of the Dead
1x Life from the Loam
1x Lion's Eye Diamond
1x Llanowar Elves
1x Llanowar Wastes
1x Lotus Petal
1x Mana Confluence
1x Mana Crypt
1x Mana Vault
1x Marsh Flats
1x Misty Rainforest
1x Mox Diamond
1x Nature's Claim
1x Necromancy
1x Necropotence
1x Noose Constrictor
1x Oblivion Crown
1x Overgrown Tomb
1x Petrified Field
1x Polluted Delta
1x Praetor's Grasp
1x Putrid Imp
1x Rain of Filth
1x Ramunap Excavator
1x Riftsweeper
1x Skirge Familiar
1x Snow-Covered Forest
1x Snow-Covered Swamp
1x Sol Ring
1x Squandered Resources
1x Stinkweed Imp
1x Strip Mine
1x Summoner's Pact
1x Swamp
1x Sylvan Library
1x Sylvan Scrying
1x Toxic Deluge
1x Twilight Mire
1x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1x Vampiric Tutor
1x Verdant Catacombs
1x Wall of Roots
1x Wild Mongrel
1x Windswept Heath
1x Wooded Foothills
1x Woodland Cemetery
1x Worldly Tutor


The Tentacled One
Deck Name: The Epic Storm Version 8.5
Magic Format: Legacy
Insight: This has proven to be my favorite competitive decklist for any tournament format in a long, long time. I've been avidly following Storm decks for the Legacy format ever since Legacy was first announced in 2004, and this is the first time I feel like we've got a viable list that properly captures the flow of a classic Storm deck without needing access to Power 9 cards. I've been watching some replays of MTGO Leagues with lists like this one and I've been struck by just how dissimilar the style is to TES or ANT in Legacy as of a year ago. It's actually more reminiscent of the golden days of Vintage TPS. Wishclaw Talisman, Veil of Summer, and Echo of Eons are all brand new 2019 inclusions and they come together to make a deck that is lightning-fast and also interactive. I'm excited to see where this might go in the future.

Deck List (12/09/19)

4 Burning Wish
4 Wishclaw Talisman
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Veil of Summer
2 Defense Grid
1 Chain of Vapor
1 Ad Nauseam
1 Echo of Eons
3 Rite of Flame
4 Dark Ritual
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
4 Mox Opal
3 Chrome Mox
4 Polluted Delta
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
1 Badlands
1 Bayou
1 Swamp

3 Hope of Ghirapur
2 Crash
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Echoing Truth
1 Chain of Vapor
1 Rite of Flame
1 Infernal Tutor
1 Grapeshot
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Echo of Eons
1 Pulverize
Deck Name: Transcension
Magic Format: Pioneer
Deck Presentation Link (Moxfield)
Insight: With the return of Wish to the Standard format environment, it is possible to construct a Pioneer format deck with an effectively unlimited number of possible endgame states, utilizing Gyre Sage with Verdurous Gearhulk counters and the abilities of Hyrax Tower Scout and Temur Sabertooth to generate unbounded mana of any color through Llanowar Envoy or Paradise Druid once Llanowar Visionary has recursively drawn the library protected by Dragonlord Dromoka. Using the triggered abilities of Greenwarden of Murasa or Loaming Shaman allows recursively casting Wish to cast all the cards in the deck sideboard, allowing the deck to do anything and everything that the entire format legal set of cards together is capable of doing.


24 Forest

Creatures (31)

1 Burning-Tree Emissary
1 Dragonlord Dromoka
1 Greenwarden of Murasa
4 Gyre Sage
1 Healer of the Glade
4 Hyrax Tower Scout
1 Llanowar Envoy
4 Llanowar Visionary
1 Loaming Shaman
4 Paradise Druid
1 Reclamation Sage
4 Temur Sabertooth
4 Verdurous Gearhulk

Other Spells (5)

4 Shared Summons
1 Wish

Example Sideboard, in this case capable of exiling all cards in all decks from the game, finishing with Glorious End:

1 Altar of the Brood
1 Bomat Courier
1 Commune with Lava
1 Elderfang Disciple
1 Flood of Tears
1 Glorious End
1 Jodah, Archmage Eternal
1 Leyline of Anticipation
1 Mnemonic Betrayal
1 Scour from Existence
1 Sentinel Totem
1 Soul of the Harvest
1 Structural Distortion
1 The Great Aurora
1 Villainous Wealth
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The Tentacled One
Deck Name: Doomsday (Anthony Harrison)
Magic Format: Premodern
Insight: Doomsday piles can be an esoteric aspect of Magic gameplay, and this is the only example I've seen in which the deck's default pile and only apparent win condition is to loop Doomsday repeatedly. While many Doomsday piles yield infinite loops, the card Doomsday itself is normally only used to set up the pile initially. For this deck, you use an initial Doomsday to set up a pile that contains a second Doomsday, and infinitely chain the Doomsdays together, shrinking your life total until it oscillates between 1 and 2 as Ebony Charm slowly kills your opponent.

I've seen Future Sight used in Doomsday decks before, but this deck is all-in on the Future Sight + Doomsday interaction, with some of the more traditional Doomsday archetype cards apparently used to ensure that a Doomsday pile can be set up to get Future Sight online even if it isn't already present. I do not follow the Premodern format or know very much about it, so I am not really sure how this plays out in actual games, although the decklist hints at some resiliency and proactive disruption, as well as looking to be a pretty fast combo deck. To the best of my knowledge, this style of Doomsday deck was never assembled in older formats when the cards in this deck were still new. It would have been impossible in Extended because Dark Ritual was banned in 2000 and some other key cards (Lion's Eye Diamond and Ebony Charm in particular) would have rotated out before Future Sight would become available. I doubt that anything like this was done in Type 1.5 or Legacy, and my instinct is that it wouldn't be quite as reliable as DDFT (Doomsday Fetchland Tendrils) lists from around 2004.

It seems that the popularization of a throwback format with a unique cardpool hit on an opportunity to push the Future Sight + Doomsday synergy to a fascinating extreme.

Deck List (01/31/2020)

1 Ebony Charm
1 Rushing River
4 Dark Ritual
4 Lim-Dûl's Vault
2 Cabal Therapy
4 Doomsday
4 Duress
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Future Sight
2 Darkwater Egg
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Lion's Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
2 Island
2 Swamp
3 Peat Bog
3 Saprazzan Skerry
4 Polluted Delta
4 Underground River

2 Cabal Therapy
2 Coffin Purge
4 Defense Grid
2 Hurkyl's Recall
2 Rushing River
3 Infest
The DD deck is OK, in Premodern that is, but the deck has a hard time beating any red deck because of burn spells and Mogg Fanatic and loses to GY hate e.g. Tormod's Crypt.