What is this document? What is it for?
This is a description of cEDH as a handful of passionate players and advocates understand it; we're no central authority. We want this document to describe cEDH, not prescribe what it should or must be.
This Philosophy document will grow and change as the cEDH metagame and mindset grow and change. If you have suggestions, please let us know!
What does cEDH mean?
cEDH is an acronym for competitive Elder Dragon Highlander, or competitive Commander. Today, cEDH refers to both a mindset and metagame.
Where did cEDH come from?
Around 2008, Magic players designed decks to "break" Commander. These decks included some of the most powerful cards, combos, and strategies from Magic's history. Over time, more Magic players who enjoyed brewing and piloting these decks shared their enthusiasms online. Communities formed digitally and in person, including /r/CompetitiveEDH —and the name cEDH stuck. Fourteen years later, "Want to play some cEDH?" is a question frequently asked in playgroups, game stores, and events all over the world.
What is the cEDH mindset while playing?
The short version: To make only the plays that increase your chance of winning.
When shared by everyone at the table, this mindset creates puzzle-like Commander games in which every decision is important and reasonable. cEDH is Commander, so players frequently discuss each other's gameplans and work together to stop win attempts. This mindset is also meant to eliminate:
spite plays (i.e. hurting an opponent while you're losing);
random decisions (e.g. rolling dice to choose who you attack);
kingmaking (i.e. deciding with your game action who wins);
and conceding the game to deny an opponent an advantage.
In an average cEDH game, all four players get to meaningfully affect the game. This is why many Commander players feel that cEDH games are fun, fair, and respectful experiences.
What is the cEDH mindset while deckbuilding? When should we say a deck is competitive?
Each card in a cEDH deck should make that deck more powerful, consistent, and efficient so that its player can regularly affect the game as early as Turn 1. The fun of cEDH deckbuilding is figuring out how to meet that goal with the commanders and strategies you enjoy.
While some cEDH decks seek to slow the game down and win past Turn 5, most cEDH decks will be able to assemble and protect a winning condition within the first five turns. Some decks can attempt wins as early as Turn 1. Broadly speaking, cEDH decks have one of three speeds (or “tempos”):
Stax decks seek to slow the game down. They usually play more disruptive permanents than other decks. A card you'll often see in stax decks: Rule of Law.
Midrange decks can win early, but also have ways to thrive in a slow game. They usually play more instant-speed disruption than other decks. A common card in midrange decks: Sylvan Library.
Turbo (or storm) decks seek to win as quickly as possible. They usually play more proactive spells than other decks. A common card in turbo decks: Ad Nauseam.
You can learn more about the patterns in cEDH decks at cedh.guide/decks and cedh.guide/stats.
What is the cEDH metagame?
The metagame, essentially, refers to what everyone else is playing.
The cEDH metagame is made up of the collection of decks you'll often play against in your local group, online, or in a tournament. While there isn't one definitive metagame for cEDH as a whole—“the” metagame is made up of many smaller metas from all over the world—you should expect to see the most powerful, popular, and up-to-date cards and strategies whenever you sit down to play.
Reading the cEDH Decklist Database and watching cEDH content on YouTube will show you this metagame in action. And playing, of course, is a great way to learn.
What's the gist of cEDH?
Playing cEDH is a way to play Magic skillfully, build decks that quickly and consistently work, practice being a good sport, make meaningful decisions, and meet new players.
Though this document is a work-in-progress, we hope it's helpful. If you have any suggestions, please let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!