Hello and welcome to Sowing Salt, and boy do I have an article for you this week. As we all know, Conspiracy: Take the Crown is dropping, and boy is it hot! (I assume; as of writing we have only seen one card, but damn is she cool! Not that that matters however, as I have a cunning and devious plan.. A scheme, if you will.
These juicy spoilers getting your political bone all itchy? Need to scratch that with some intrigue and deception? I’ve got you covered. Politics is a running theme in Commander, or any format with more than two players. Though admittedly, some lend themselves more to manipulating politics than others. For example, anyone who thinks they can bargain with me toting an Azami, Lady of Scrolls out of the command zone can get out. As such, here is my top 5 commanders in the political arena. As always this is purely objective, although perhaps this week more than others (mostly due to their power being almost exclusively down to how well you can talk your way around a table). As always, Honorable mentions are present as well:
Ruhan of the Fomori: If you were to come to me and say, ‘Unmistakable, who is a good commander for being political?’ and I said Ruhan, I imagine I’d get a funny look followed by a swift punch in the jaw, so allow me to reiterate. Ruhan is very much a politicsy commander for the aggressive player. He attacks and advances the game, but who can complain that you’re singling them out when ‘Oh, it’s just random, that’s all’. Of course it may seem like a stretch, though there’s nothing stopping you from, say, going full Zedruu (Spoilers: More on that below) and donating some helpful things to alter who you can and cannot target; Say, Propaganda. Though while this doesn’t seem very good, he’s also very good on the ‘Pinball’ backup plan of giving him an Assault Suit and pinging him around the board, always attacking at random but never attacking you. Still not your fault, right?
Heartless Hidetsugu: A favourite of one of my Co-Authors, Hidetsugu is to politics what the Cold War was to… Well, politics. With enough time to set up, Hidetsugu can grind the game to a halt, people frantically searching for a way to answer him before you push the big, red button. Notable political swings can involve taking a hostage through a one-person effect such as Curse of Bloodletting and become a pseudo-mindslaver by threatening the kill on them; it may seem extreme, but you’re playing politics as red (More Spoilers: More on that later). How to survive his ability yourself is up to you, as Crazy mentioned in depth; Budget being a non-issue the cheapest way is perhap Basilisk Collar. Though, it perhaps says more about my character than anything to say that my personal favourite belongs to the simple grace of Glacial Chasm.
5) Zedruu, the Greathearted: The queen of Group Hug (or slug), she oozes politics through her ability to donate your permanents. She ranks this low however, as you will be able to do this precisely once per play group. Multiple times (at least twice) I have had Zedruu players in my playgroup, and twice they’ve managed to do their Zedruu thing, and shortly afterwards she got deconstructed both times, due to the fact that Zedruu decks carry a reputation for doing the same sort of thing; playing awful permanents (to the tune of Steel Golem or Aggressive Mining) and giving them to other people to mess with their gameplans. Most people don’t like this (most of the time, me included) and I often do my utmost to cripple the zedruu player. As do most people. Unfortunately quite fragile as she only benefits when Zedruu sticks; unfortunately minotaur-Ghandi does not make it much higher. That aside, she can make Illusions of Grandeur, Statecraft and Rust Elemental look very good when put in the same deck.
4) Phelddagrif – The king of Group Hug to Zedruu’s queen; Phelddagrif climbs slightly above the goat by virtue of 1) being a purple hippo that can fly, and 2) that his flavour of group hug takes significantly less time to set up. It takes a special kind of person to dislike winning enough to play this guy, as he’s the poster child of ‘Aggressively Second’, you either get hated out at the start or you play the politics game until your kingmakering abilities pushes one guy over the top. Try something different to the formula, like group hug until you assemble Temple Bell and Mind over Matter, will work precisely once, as a deck such as Phelddagrif only has room for one win condition. Usually packing generally beneficient symmetrical effects such as Minds Aglow and Dictate of Karametra, the Purple King climbs his way to number 4 despite a distasteful reputation as ‘kingmaker’ the act of helping one player beat the others.
3) Diaochan, Artful Beauty – Here is a good example of an effect that I wish would be used more often – Diaochan offers a ‘cruel to be kind’ sort of flavour to her decks; she taketh, then she giveth the ability for retribution. She is best used sparingly when you don’t have protection together – minimising the chance that the opponent you gave the free Murder too won’t flip it on the artful beauty – but once you can you can give decks a chance to fight back against threats that aren’t you. Hey monoblue player, that Iona, Shield of Emeria got you down? Let Diaochan take your Consecrated Sphinx and you can continue to play the game. Though the beauty of the ability is in the fact the first target’s controller doesn’t need to have the second choice. In the previous scenario you could kill the Iona, then the monoblue player could target something else of the Iona player’s in revenge! This won’t make a friend out of the Iona player, but could start a feud for Diaochan to capitalise on later. ‘Hey, you remember that Iona [Name of monoblue player] destroyed?’ The rest of Diaochan’s deck often involves heaps of protection and other political cards, such as Volcanic Offering and Stranglehold and packing multiple ways to combo out and win via Insurrection, Dualcaster Mage/Twinflame, or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker/Zealous Conscripts. Put these together and you get a mono red deck that plays politics, as opposed to takes a game hostage.
Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer: it wouldn’t be a politics deck without a bit of Fun Police UW. If you’re playing Gwafa, you’re not looking to win through commander damage. On the contrary, a 2/2 for 3 is pretty below board. What shines for his political exploits is his ability, mostly. The ability to remove a blocker/attacker is a powerful one, and one that can be sold for favours. Somebody want to beat down the combo deck? Say no more. A guy getting tired of your deals? Bribe his creatures and stop him from swinging. Gwafa is often played with Pillow Fort enchantments such as Martial Law or Propaganda, and the occasional Spirit of the Labyrinth effect to negate the slight upside to being bribed. It’s not taking down tournaments; but hey, does it need to?
Tasigur, The Golden Fang: …oh. right. Leader of the clan of glittering banana, the prince of deals, the fixer, the golden dragon neckchain. Tasigur’s power as a politician is surely spoken for with his Ban from Duel Commander, as delving away the bad options and forcing your opponent to choose the lesser of around seven evils is disgusting. Anecdotally, Crazy runs this guy as a more combo-centric commander, though in its inception it was run with plenty of cheap spot removal, at which point he would bargain with opponents on how to deal with problem permanents. Not only that, the commander himself proposes a win condition, as enabling infinite activations through infinite mana can put your entire deck in your hand, at which point it is easy to put down either a Laboratory Maniac + draw spell, or (Crazy’s choice) of generating a token for each player with Beast Within then hitting it with Reality Shift over and over, exiling every opponent’s deck. No matter how he is built, he is always a force to be bargained with at the table, easily securing this weeks top spot
Thats it for now guys, agree with my choices? Feel free to leave feedback, and if you enjoyed it be sure to like our facebook page. The Rain of Salt crew will be back next week with Careful Considerations: Take the Crown edition, so make sure not to miss out!
For now though, Unmistakable out.