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Oops I broke it! Help!?

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

Experiment Gone Wrong
Miscalculation - Art by Jeff Laubenstein. © Wizards of the Coast

8 by 8 EDH - How To Fix What You Broke

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.

In this guide we will focus on the principles that will help you fix your deck when it starts feeling like you have broken it:

What to Expect

This guide focuses on the steps to take when things go wrong, as well as what to do to help avoid making those same mistakes in future.


  • No new principles, this is a refresher to help get you back on track


If you feel like your deck has problems then consider the following

  • Is it actually broken or was it just bad luck - use the 12 starting hands principle to check how reliable the deck strategies are

  • Writing up a strategy recipe following the Golden Recipe, will help balance your strategies and keep the deck focused on its priorities

  • If you constantly having land issues, there are a couple tricks to help

    • Use cheap artifact's to fix problems for you

    • Return to using 35 lands

    • Lean on a specific color to make a ramp+fixing strategy more reliable

  • Split decks that are overloaded, so that your cards find better more synergistic homes

  • Engines need a good strategy balance to function well, avoid making them too complicated (you don't need to try do everything, do just a few things really well)

Is It Actually Broken?

Before jumping into fixing your deck you should always consider the possibility that the deck is actually fine, but you were simply unlucky. One or two games not feeling right isn't usually enough evidence to justify a major deck change. Still, if you are concerned, you should run through the 12 Starting Hands Test.

The goal of this test is to deal out 12 starting hands (of 8 cards each) and then to rank the hands for how playable they are. The other key area's to look into while doing this is the mana curve within each hand (how many expensive vs how many cheap spells), and how many of each strategy you see (The 4 primary strategies are what ensure a deck is reliable and fun to play so just checking for these is all you really need to do).

If most (66% or more) of the hands you dealt out look fine, then it was most likely just bad luck. Repeating this process 2 or 3 times will give you an even more accurate measure of your deck's potential, but I find usually just 1 time is enough for me.

Situations to keep an eye out for:

  • too much or little of a strategy - remember the MVS (minimum viable strategy) and the Quantity vs Quality principle? These discuss the issue of having one/two-of cards or simply having too much of something in a deck. The 8-by-8 System aims to balance and limit your strategies so this doesn't happen. No less than 4 cards for any strategy, and stick to 4/8/12/16 cards of any particular strategy to avoid distorting the feel of a deck

  • out of place good stuff cards - sometimes we just throw something in because that's what everyone else is using, or in our minds we consider it a staple, but in reality it doesn't work or synergize well with the deck; this card deserves better, and I am willing to bet, there is a less popular (but way more synergistic) card that will love the opportunity to prove itself to you!

  • Trying to be too many different things - It happens to deck builders all the time, we have so many seemingly great ideas, and try put them all into the same deck... limit yourself to 4 primary, and 4 secondary strategies, no more. The other strategies deserve their own deck, trust me on this!

The Recipe

Out of sight, out of mind. If you can't see it, then it may as well not be there. Our minds trick us all the time, and its really easy to think your deck contains a certain combo or set of cards... but it doesn't, that was the other deck... Ooops? Write the Strategy Recipe down, for me I have spent hours and hours uploading my decks into Moxfield (probably because I am insane) but also alongside each, I add a primer with the recipe in it.

The recipe tells you what your deck plans to do, and how its strategies are setup. It literally just takes a few minutes to scribble one out on a piece of paper, and the Golden Recipe along with our Primary strategies (with their totals already assigned) means literally all you need to write down are 3-4 secondary strategies that tie into your commanders possible synergies. Seriously, go have a look, it really really helps!

Whenever you feel like you have made too many changes, or the deck is having issues, take it apart and organize it by strategy. I like to use the d20 life counter dice sometimes to track the totals, and I usually immediately spot weaknesses like:

  • oh no, where is all my ramp?

  • I shouldn't have relied on the commander for all the card draw/removal...

  • I need more protection!

Seeing is believing, and double checking makes sure. If you want your deck to perform well, you really should take some time to look through it again and refresh your memory about what is actually in there. Recipes are the quickest refresher, and also act as a baseline for you to return to if you deviate too much.

The Recipe's strategies should never tie you down to specific cards, always keep the strategies focused enough to know precisely what that subset is responsible for (don't just say big creatures... there's any number of those now...), but ambiguous enough that you will have enough cards to satisfy the requirements (too specific means less cards returned by the scryfall query...).

What's an Engine?

In the context of MTG, engines are basically like a super synergy. They are a strategy within the strategy that aims to leverage some kind of sustainable cycle of repeating effects to do so much more than just one thing at a time.

I don't want to go too much into engines in this article (I have some coming soon, hopefully that will cover this in detail) but its a valid concern when your deck is spluttering around and not carrying you to victory like you imagined it would. All I will say here is that engines should be cyclical and not depletitive (I made that up, but you should still understand it right?). If you are a Red mage, then you should really get what I mean. Fast burn, just do 20 damage and then you are all out of gas. That's not an engine, thats a desperate scramble for a quick win. In commander thats never gonna work due to the high life totals. So instead of a Lightning Bolt (one red mana for 3 damage to any target) that is temporary and gone in an instant, you want a Magmatic Force that deals 3 damage to any target on every upkeep until someone destroys it. The problem is cost, and getting to cast something that costs 8 mana! Thats where your primary strategies come in. You draw cards, ramp, and remove threats until the Force comes out and now you protect it to "keep the engine running". Here I mentioned a few necessary strategies:

  • card draw - to get to the elemental

  • ramp - to be able to cast it

  • removal - so that you remove other threats that might kill you before you succeed

  • protection - so that your investment isn't in vain and you can now lay down some pain continously

You can also add an amplify strategy to get the most out of the Magmatic Force, such as City on Fire, which triples the damage! Who doesn't want to be burning things for 9 damage at a time!?

Its simple enough that any Red mage can understand right? No?

Well just keep in mind that engines need strategies to support them, and you probably want to focus on one kind of engine in a deck to avoid needing too many different kinds of strategies that don't necessarily work well together.

I Have Enough Lands, maybe?

You ruined your deck because you kept removing lands, and now you mulligan 4-5 times every game... your POD is losing patience with you for spending half the time shuffling... and its just not working out! They have to now let you go, you have been voted off the island.

Remember the 8 by 8 EDH formula? 64 + 35 + 1? Yeah this is the baseline and for good reason. Check the numbers:

For a 99 card deck with 1 commander:

  • 64 spells is about 65% of the cards, leaving 35% for the lands. This is roughly 1/3rd or 0.333 of the cards are lands; if you have a hand of 7 cards, you would expect to see around 2 lands, and draw into one soon after

  • If you tilt this to 72 cards are spells and 28 are lands, then this may seem the same but the numbers become a bit worse; 0.2828 of the cards are lands, and its now less than 1/3rd chance to draw a land. Think of this as, your opening hands are more likely to only have 1 land and draw into 1 soon.

  • If you go the other way, say 40 lands and 59 spells, then its more likely to have 3 lands, and draw into one soon

Why is this problematic at the lower totals?

Fixing, becomes difficult. If you playing 3 colors, but draw just an island, you could struggle to cast anything. Only if you lowered your decks mana curve, and you are using some low cost rocks or artifacts to help you ramp or fix early does it make it okay to reduce land totals.

So why not go with more lands all the time?

Well this is to avoid flooding, or too many lands and not enough spells. Remember, the deck is shuffled and we are carefully managing our probabilities here. We are aiming for a that sweet spot of 2 lands in your opening hand on a regular basis.

35/36 seems to be the optimal for the current age of magic for casual play, and around 30 seems to be optimal for competitive play. It really feels bad when that pre-con comes loaded with 40 lands... thanks Wizards... we buy them for all those wonderful basics! Glad you are happy to oblige...

There are some tricks you can use to help your decks manabase out though, and it usually involves using some small cheap (1-2 mana) artifacts like signets or things like Brainstone, Wayfarers bauble or Inscribed Tablet to give you early actions. These typically sacrifice themselves and help you find that next land, and most players aren't Psychopaths who eagerly abrade them... so they always feel helpful (even in the late game). They also work in just about any build as they are completely colorless. So slip a few in (4+) and see how much better the deck feels. The 3 mana rocks are less effective for this, so avoid having too many of these.

But I Don't Wanna Take All My Favorite Cards Out!

I hear you, these are your beloveds, and you want them with you all the time. The thing is, the cards also have feelings too, and when you use them in-efficiently, they feel let down. (Yes I am personifying the cards! They talk to me while I sleep... I know things...)

Go sit and stare out a window for a moment and retrospect on how many cards suffer under the burden of a deck with no realizable strategy, every day. It is an untold plight of millions, if not billions of cards, desperately praying for a new home (and hopefully some good quality card sleeves. That uneasy noose of elastic, slowly etching into the unprotected raw edges... that's not dust you see, its their life blood rubbing off into oblivion. Scar's they will wear for life, from their eternal incarceration. Damp dark corrugated prison walls. Oh the humanity!

Just writing out a couple recipes, and finally processing that smidgen of paperwork, can liberate so many cards into strategy nirvana... oh if only...

All you need to do to help these poor poor cards, is to take out a pencil and paper, and to write up a simple recipe for a new commander. There's gotta be one lurking around in your mind, hoping you will notice it... so give it a try... build another deck... You really can't have too many...

Final Remarks

The main goal of this guide was to remind you how to apply the various principles within the 8 by 8 EDH System so that you are able to fix broken decks. The Strategy Recipe builds trust between you and your deck, its a signed agreement on which department is responsible for which type of work. Don't overload one department with too much work expectations, especially when there are so few employees. Oh wait, we talking about MTG cards here, not our day to day jobs :) The principles are solid and work in other area's of your life too.

Stick with the principles within the 8 by 8 EDH System to maintain balance, and make the effort to write down your recipes for future reference (because of how forgetful we are).

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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