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Achieve Enlightenment with the Golden Recipe

Updated: Oct 15

Narset Enlighted Master
Narset, Enlightened Master - Art by Magali Villeneuve. © Wizards of the Coast

8 by 8 EDH - Diversity vs Quantity Principle

The 8 by 8 EDH System is a strategy first approach to EDH deck building that aims to build fun and reliable decks. The system is founded upon a few simple principles that help guide strategy decisions, making deck design and building much quicker and easier.

What To Expect

This guides focus is on the Diversity vs Quantity principle, which aims to achieve the following:

  • Explain what the principle is

  • Demonstrate how the principle sets the ground work for all 8 by 8 EDH Recipes

  • Reveal the Golden Recipe!


  • Primary vs Secondary strategy considerations

  • Commander isn't important for this guide, as we instead focus on the 8 by 8 framework

  • Strategy Diversity refers to the amount of different strategies in your deck

  • Strategy Quantity refers to the amount of cards in a strategy

  • When determining the optimal balance of Diversity vs Quantity with 64 spells, we end up with 8 strategies of 8 cards each

  • The Golden Recipe considers both the MVS Principle and 12 Starting Hands Principle along with using a Normal Distribution graph to work out how many cards we want in each strategy

  • Strategy modules can be "hot-swapped" to easily adjust decks for different playgroup metas

What is the Diversity vs Quantity Principle?

Lets consider some extremes of how we might decide to design our deck strategies. For these we will assume we are using the 8 by 8 EDH deck composition formula:

100 = 1 (commander) + 35 (lands) + 64 (spells)

All for One - Maximum Quantity

In this consideration, all 64 of our spell slots are allocated to just 1 strategy. So if our strategy is card draw, every spell in the deck draws us cards. We have no other strategies, so no removal or interaction, no ramp, no wraths or board state control, and very likely no win condition. Its clear that we will be very effective at drawing cards, but not be able to do anything else. This means our deck is very predictable, but only good at doing one thing. Anyone who has played a game of EDH knows how chaotic the battlefield can get.

Having too many cards of one strategy and not enough of another, is clearly a problem.

Its worth noting, that missing drawing a card from a particular strategy is simply part of the game of Magic. What we can do is balance our probabilities to increase the chance we get the card we need, but this doesn't mean we should over compensate by over-strengthening a strategy.

One for All - Maximum Diversity

In this consideration, every spell slot is allocated to a different strategy. This means that if we have 64 spells, then we have 64 strategies. Here the deck is essentially completely random and unpredictable. We can do anything, if we get lucky.

Having too many strategies (even if they are all balanced i.e. maybe you have 4 cards in each strategy but there are 16 strategies!) is clearly a problem,

The EDH battlefield is a proverbial "Catch 22" situation. You can't always have all the answers (even if you are a blue mage). Its better to focus on making a few strategies more effective, instead of trying to ineffectively do all the things.

Best of Both - Balanced Quantity and Diversity

Now that we saw what the extremes are, and the problems associated with them, lets consider what it looks like when quantity and diversity are both balanced with each other.

To do this, we need to find two factors of 64 that are closely matched (factors are numbers that divide cleanly into another number, so that there is no remainder). Luckily for us, 64 is the square of two identical factors!

8 strategies of on average 8 cards

8 x 8 = 64 A perfect middle ground! This is also where the 8 by 8 EDH System gets its name from.

Its worth noting, that this is still a guide, and it recommends 8 strategies as the maximum. I find that often I only need 6 or 7 strategies, so don't feel compelled to always have 8.

By inference, you can probably work out that not all strategies will have exactly 8 cards in them either. The MVS principle recommends we work in multiples of 4, and thus a strategy may have 4 cards, 8 cards, 12 cards and so on...

Meaningful Strategy Names

One thing I will caution here, is not breaking down a strategy properly into meaningful subsets. An example of this is having a strategy called "Creatures" and simply allocating 32 cards to it. This isn't a particularly useful metric. Sure you will probably have enough creatures in the deck to be effective, but you aren't really able to properly synergize with it like this.

Consider breaking the strategy up into maybe 2x 16 card strategies instead, maybe flying creatures and trample creatures. This lets you now consider trample related synergies or flying related synergies in other strategies eg. when a flying creature deals combat damage, draw a card. As you know you have 16 flyers, you know also that this can work. You would have had to otherwise guess without being a bit more specific in the strategy name.

The Golden Strategy Recipe

In the world of statistics, there is a very famous graph in the world of statistics called a Normal Distribution or a Bell Curve (click the link for the Wikipedia article). It has many applications in many area of analysis, and I am going to use it here for helping determine the Golden Recipe. I won't go into to many details about why its so popular, as that would be an entire series of guides on their own.

Here is what one looks like (image sourced from the Wikipedia article linked above):

I know this looks scary, but don't worry too much about all the "Phyrexian", I will simplify this for us!

If you remember in the previous guides, we covered the 12 Starting Hands principle and the Minimum Viable Strategy principle and determined the following:

  • 12 cards is considered a good strategy total

  • 4 is the minimum strategy total to be considered viable

  • Strategy adjustments must always be made in multiples of 4

If we apply these guidelines along with the Diversity and Quantity principle and arrange them in a Normalized Distribution we end up with the following:

Normalized Distribution of Strategies

Its not a perfect Normal Distribution and is technically more linear and I am sure there are better ways to get the strategies to match the bell curve more closely but the point here is are carefully balancing our totals with respect to priority.

For the middle 16 card strategy(D) I prefer to think of it as actually a 12 + 4 card strategy (hence the split colouring). Typically I use this as the Removal + Wrath strategy.

If we sort these into highest to lowest 8 by 8 EDH Recipe we see the following:

  • 16 cards Strategy D1 and D2 (highest priority)

  • 12 cards Strategy C (higher priorities)

  • 12 cards Strategy E

  • 8 cards Strategy B (medium priorities)

  • 8 cards Strategy F

  • 4 cards Strategy A (lower priorities)

  • 4 cards Strategy G

These total up to 64 cards, 8 total strategies with on average 8 cards per strategy, balanced to fit a Normal Distribution.

By following the Normal Distribution, and our other principles, we have ended up with what I refer to as the Golden Recipe. This distribution of strategy and quantity helps balance out our probabilities with their respective priorities in the deck.

I would recommend this as the template to be used when building any deck, and from this we can make further adjustments depending on our commander(s) abilities and the other themes/mechanics you aim to build around.

Take some time to try this out:

  • Grab any commander

  • Write down the strategy totals as listed above

  • Now assign an Strategy Names to each (based on what you think are important for that commander)

In the my next 8 by 8 EDH guide, I will tackle the concept of Primary and Secondary Strategies. Keep your Recipe that you wrote down here, and then compare it with the priorities I outline in this next guide.

Strategy Modules

One of the benefits of working with strategies in this way, is that you can "hot swap" strategy modules in and out of a deck. This helps you increase/lower power levels, adjust your favourite build with different ramp/removal packages when battling in different metas (meta refers to the current popular cards people in a particular pod/group like to play with).

I will address power levels in a future guide, and also go into greater detail about how to fine tune your strategy modules for different playgroups.

Final Remarks

Strategy design is an economic balance between diversity and quantity. Its much harder to build decks when you are uncertain about how many strategies you can use, or how many cards you need to make them work. The 8 by 8 EDH System solves these all these uncertainties up front by telling you precisely what your limits are. Starting of designing a new deck with the Golden Recipe gives you a series of universal strategy totals with which to allocate strategies to. Its simple enough to prioritize the strategies, and allocate more important ones to higher totals, and lower priority ones to lower totals. Strategy modules can then easily be mixed and matched to find out what is the most fun or effective to play with for the given metas of your playgroups.

In the next article we will be looking into the Strategy Priority Principle, and how fun is the best measure of deck success!

If you haven't already, you may want to checkout some of the previous articles in this series:

You may now be wondering a bit more about other ways the 8 by 8 EDH System can help you build better decks, and I hope to explain more in some upcoming guides, so make sure you subscribe/follow @intothe99podcast on YouTube and Instagram to keep up-to-date!

Thank you for taking the time to read this guide, and I hope that you found it helpful! You can find me on Instagram as well as a bunch of my decks and 8 by 8 EDH Recipes (in the Primers) on Moxfield if you do have any questions @thunder.emperors.command

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