Competitive Commander, or cEDH, is a Commander variant where each player builds and plays at the highest power level available. It is not a separate format from EDH, and uses the same rules and banlist. While most EDH games prioritize resonant gameplay experiences for all players with winning as a secondary goal, cEDH flips these roles: you play to win first and let the resonant gameplay experiences happen.
Unique Aspects of cEDH
- Rule 0 does not extend to house bans. - It is often said that there are no rule 0 conversations, but this is in error. You will find a lot of gameplay negotiations happening before a cEDH game, primarily to ensure that all decks are built to the same extreme power levels. However, house bans don't happen. The only banlist is the one provided by the Rules Committee. These conversations happen primarily to prevent pubstomping: there is nothing less interesting than a cEDH deck beating a pod of much weaker decks in a couple of turns.
- Different Social Contracts - The core of the cEDH social contract is that every play is made as a part of a good faith effort to win the game. This precludes things like kingmaking, spite and grudge plays that do not help you, and other intentionally suboptimal plays.
- A different political landscape - While there can be discussion about optimal plays, or if someone can interact with enemy game actions, the deal-making common in regular games of Commander is very rare in cEDH. Games of cEDH tend not to involve strategies such as politics or Group Hug that forge strategic alliances between opposing players. All alliances are tactical and transactional, usually lasting only until the stack clears. Additionally, in cEDH games, players are expected to cast spells and activate abilities to change the course of others' gameplay, rather than doing so with their words. For example, cEDH players tend not to saying things like, "If you attack me, I'll remove your Commander."
- Game Length - While most games of cEDH have an unusually low number of turns--the average game lasts four turns--these turns are highly interactive. There will be removal and counterspells played on most turns, including turn 1. Expect people to attempt to combo off early (as all cEDH decks contain game-winning combos that can be played very early, sometimes as early as turn 1) and the rest of the table to make every effort to stop it. While games are short in terms of turn counts, the stack may take a while to resolve, as responses are typical and numerous.
- Extremely Interactive - cEDH games are highly interactive, and often involve highly complicated board states. Some actions that are normally implicit or streamlined in games of Commander (such as the passing of player priority after spells are cast or abilities are activated) are much more closely observed in cEDH.
- Budget is not a constraint. - The reality is that most cEDH play does not happen in stores, but online and in private. As a result, it is very common for players to use playtesting tools to play cEDH rather than playing with real cards on authentic Magic platforms. This can extend to the extensive use of playtest cards to try playing (or to learn how to play) very expensive decks long before players attempt to purchase the cards for real. In general, the only time you'll see real card cEDH is as a side event at major tournaments. You probably won't see it at your LGS's Commander Night.
Misconceptions about cEDH
- cEDH players want to dominate pods. - No. cEDH games in the wild usually happen as a result of a fairly lengthy negotiation process. Not everybody has a cEDH deck, most people don't want to play against cEDH decks, and thus cEDH players tend to seek each other out actively. Attempting to play a cEDH list at a pod not on that same level will result in a boring experience for the cEDH deck pilot as well as a bad time for the rest of the table.
- Rule 0 does not exist in cEDH. - Quite the contrary. Rule 0 conversations allow cEDH players to identify each other within larger playgroups (like local game stores). The concept of house bans is rejected, but cEDH players don't want a subpar experience for anybody in the pod.
- cEDH is not about tournaments. - Few tournaments happen, and those that do wind up being very gimmicky and odd, as EDH is not designed for tournament play. Even cEDH players acknowledge this openly.