For steady state high-confinement-mode (H-mode) operation, a relaxation mechanism is required to limit build-up of the edge gradient and impurity content. Alcator C-Mod [Hutchinson et al., Phys. Plasmas 1, 1511 (1994)] sees two such mechanisms—EDA (enhanced D-alpha H mode) and grassy ELMs (edge localized modes) , but not large type I ELMs. In EDA the edge relaxation is provided by an edge localized quasicoherent (QC) electromagnetic mode that exists at moderate pedestal temperature T < 500 eV, high pedestal density, and high edge safety factor, q 95 > 3.5, and does not limit the buildup of the edge pressure gradient. The q boundary of the operational space of the mode depends on plasma shape, with the q 95 limit moving down with increasing plasma triangularity. At high edge pressure gradients and temperatures the mode is replaced by broadband fluctuations (f < 50 kHz) and small irregular ELMs are observed. Ideal MHD (magnetohydrodynamic) stability analysis that includes both pressure and current driven edge modes shows that the discharges where the QC mode is observed are stable. The ELMs are identified as medium n (10 < n < 50) coupled peeling/ballooning modes. The predicted stability boundary of the modes as a function of pedestal current and pressure gradient is reproduced in experimental observations. The measured dependence of the ELMs’ threshold and amplitude on plasma triangularity is consistent with the results of ideal MHD analysis performed with the linear stability code ELITE [Wilson et al. , Phys. Plasmas 9 , 1277 (2002)].