Contrary to 1-on-1 formats, removing one opposing player in a game of Commander does not inherently result in a win. Instead, the goal is to be the last player remaining.
There are numerous ways in which a player can win a game of EDH, either by removing their opponents or by satisfying Alternate Win Cards.
Types of Win Conditions
Alternative Win Conditions
- Alternative Win Conditions (colloquially referred to as “alt win cons”) refer to a suite of specific cards that alter the normal conditions for victory through satisfying specific conditions or achievements (see rule 104.2b). Rather than achieving victory through removing opponents or being the last remaining player, alternative win conditions cause the player to win on the spot so long as the specific conditions of the card are met.
- Some examples of popular alternative win conditions in EDH are:
- Combat is a common win condition in EDH, whereby a player eliminates opponents with creature-based combat damage. Combat-centric decks (such as aggro or Tribal Decks) utilize creatures to lower opposing life totals to 0 (see rule 104.3b), and thus remove them from the game through use of the Combat Phase. Given the multiplayer nature of EDH, paired with 40 point life totals, combat-based decks typically try to employ some means of scalability to deal increased damage through creature combat.
- As a win condition, combo decks seek to resolve a sequence of cards that interact in ways to either win the game or remove opponents all at once. This can be done by assembling a specific series of cards that create repeatable loops that result in the removal of each opposing player. Combos can also be employed as a win condition in non-infinite ways, such as Storm-style decks which seek to chain multiple spells together that combine to eliminate enemy players, or by producing a non-infinite synergy that is still powerful enough to reduce enemy life totals to 0.
- Commander damage is a win condition unique to EDH, as it emphasizes the use of a commander. As part of the format, the rules states that: “A player that's been dealt 21 or more combat damage by the same commander over the course of the game loses the game.”¹ Since players can be removed from the game by accruing 21 points of combat damage from the same commander, decks can use their commander’s prowess in combat (often by pursuing a Voltron strategy) whereby the commander itself is used as a primary means of removing other players and thus achieving victory.
- If a player has 10 or more poison counters, they lose the game (see rule 104.3d). Notably, poison counters are placed on a player, not on objects. Inflicting ten poison counters upon an opponent thus removes them from the game, and is used as a viable means of player removal and win condition. Players can get poison counters through cards with the keyword Infect (e.g. ), Poisonous ( ), or cards that otherwise produce poison counters (e.g. ). Additionally, the Proliferate mechanic can also be used to increase the number of poison counters on an opponent without dealing combat damage.
- If any player attempts to draw a card from an empty library, that player loses the game (see rule 104.3c). Players can therefore remove opponents by targeting their libraries rather than their life totals, a strategy called mill. Mill decks may employ cards that put cards from the top of a player’s library into their graveyard ( ), put them into exile ( , or even use combo cards to eliminate libraries entirely.