As much as we love to play MTG, this beloved game can be deeply frustrating and salty at times. Part of this comes from the very nature of the game having win and loss states. After all, no one wants to lose. Beyond this fact of life, however, MTG also has a plethora of cards that are just unfun to play against.
Due to the existence of these cards, several MTG formats have a stigma for producing incredible amounts of salt. While inherently a casual format, typically, Commander, when the intended play experience is not communicated clearly, can be one of the worst offenders for this. As bad as Commander can be, however, there is another format that seems almost unapproachable for many MTG players: cEDH.
As the name gives away, cEDH is the ultra-competitive variant of Commander. Boasting incredibly complex and expensive decks, cEDH is certainly not easy to get into. Not least because of the stigma around it. Thanks to recent discussions from MTG players, however, it appears this stigma may be misplaced. In fact, it could be completely untrue.
The Salt Factory
Between board wipes, Stax effects, and blue mana, opponents in MTG can ruin your day in all manner of ways. Thankfully, in most formats, these cards aren’t too prevalent, as they’re often too slow and inefficient to keep up. In Commander, however, these deeply frustrating and salty cards can absolutely shine.
Typically, Commander is one of the most enjoyable and creative formats in all of MTG. Allowing for near-limitless expression, the format is chockablock with pet decks and interesting combos. On the right table, these decks all get to interact and have a great time with one another. When played in the wrong setting, however, these decks can spend several hours getting bulled into submission.
Unfortunately, for players looking to have a good time, it’s incredibly easy for this to happen. This is partly due to how oppressive cards such as Winter Orb can be included in literally any Commander deck. More problematic than this, however, is the wide breadth of decks available in Commander. As mentioned, some of these are very casual and insular, only interacting with themselves. Other decks, however, play to win and don’t care about playing nice.
In order to have the best chance of winning, typically, in Commander, players will want total control over the battlefield. Subsequently, board wipes and land destruction like Armageddon are incredibly useful. While definitely effective for the caster, playing against these cards is utterly soul-crushing.
Since more competitive and win-driven decks tend to use these cards more prevalently, it’s easy to see why cEDH could be the worst of the worst. After all, surely the format’s decks are actively trying to ruin your day. Technically, this is true, however, as many MTG players recently pointed out, this isn’t as bad as you might think.
Spurring on this discussion, Reddit user u/hypsophobia recently stated they simply “don’t understand cEDH…” Within their post, Hypsophobia claimed this was due to how the defies expectations. Rather than players getting relentlessly salty at one another, Hypsophobia’s experiences were bizarrely friendly.
“It’s just a paradox. Things my friends and I would get really salty at, like Armageddon, just seem to trigger compliments or laughter. Turn 3-5 wins are common, which is another thing my normal playgroup would scorn. I try not to act salty. I’m more shocked they’ll just shuffle up and play again.”u/hypsophobia
Perplexed by these interactions, Hypsophobia turned to Reddit to ask if this was normal. Thankfully for curious players, the answer to this question, for the most part, is a yes. As pointed out by Reddit users such as u/Kyleometers, this is due to cEDH changing the nature of the game.
On casual Commander tables, everyone playing has their own plan about how to win. Some players will build a board, others will meticulously set up a combo, and some may disrupt their opponents. In cEDH, however, everyone is playing to win as fast as possible. Due to this, it’s entirely expected that players will use devastating cards to disrupt one another and end the game swiftly.
“Nothing is a ‘faux pas’ if everyone is trying to win. Much like how if you lose to Blood Moon in Modern, that’s just a facet of the game. It’s not unfair, you got got. As the kids say, ‘skill issue’. And yes, a lot of people enjoy the game like this.”u/Kyleometers
Beyond mitigating salt from having your game plan ruined, cEDH’s inherently competitive nature also fixes casual Commander’s balancing woes. Rather than it being an opponent’s fault for bringing the wrong style of deck, in cEDH, getting stomped is on you. As a result of this, every game is a learning experience, which teaches you to play around threats, counters, or just build a better deck.
While this self-reflection is important, ultimately, it doesn’t wholly mitigate every last grain of salt. As pointed out by u/batatapala, regardless of format, MTG can be plenty salty all on its own, especially in competitive settings. Going on a losing streak, for instance, is never nice to experience, as is true of being mana-flooded. Sadly, cEDH doesn’t fix this as a format, as there’s ultimately no escaping the luck of the draw.
Choose Your Friends Wisely
At the end of the day, while cEDH may not be as salty as its reputation, it’s hardly mandatory you start playing it. If you enjoy Commander with your table, you’re free to keep playing that, just as you are with any format. If you’re being driven mad by your games, however, you don’t need to immediately jump to a different format.
Instead of taking the nuclear option, it’s a lot easier to talk to your playgroup. By doing this and implementing the all-important Rule 0, players can curate an ideal and enjoyable environment. Failing that, if you can’t beat them, join them and beat them at their own game with a truly toxic Stax nightmare.