EDH Political Science — Duel to the Death

World at War

When the world is thrown into the chaos of multi-sided war there is an air of unpredictability. Each country is attempting to get an edge on the enemy, but is ultimately only concerned with survival. During the last World War, there were the Axis and Allies, but each country fought multiple fronts against multiple enemies. The United States fought in the Pacific and in Europe, and Germany was surrounded by western Europe and Russia. This chaos is what we are used to fighting against when playing a game of Commander, but there is another battle that happens. After World War II the pieces of a broken world were left in the hands of fewer major powers. What happens when you are left with a single opponent?

We have discussed Cold War politics in this series before, but this time I want to get a little more personal. We have discussed what happens when there is a battle between superpowers in a full pod, but how do those dynamics change when others have left? There are a few key points in the struggle for power as the political stage transitions from a multipolar climate to a bipolar one. How do you stay in the game? What edge can you gain against your opponent? Finally, how do you supplant the other power?


Cheating Death

Like in many previous articles, representing our ideas in-game is most effectively represented by designing a new deck to pilot. Our starting point is longevity. Which commander will give us the longest staying power to get to the end? Some of the best staying-power we can manage comes in the form of graveyard recursion. Meren of Clan Nel Toth is one of the most popular commanders on EDHREC, and for good reason too. She has powerful recursion engine, building over time, and experience counters never going away means you never lose your progress.

Recursion isn’t the only way to stay until the end. Keeping the board clear and under control is a powerful aspect of any Meren deck. Grave Pact keeps most boards in check and wreaks havoc on Voltron strategies. This type of longevity is great, but we want something that will have a major impact and breathe life into the game later as well. I’m looking at Living Death. Of course, we are sending our best stuff into other players graveyards also so we need a package to help this out. Picking out a few pieces that we can pick up randomly but don’t bog down our card selection for the rest of the deck is great. Hour of Promise to snatch up Bojuka Bog if needed is powerful, Glissa, the Traitor with Nihil Spellbomb and to incidentally get back other graveyard cards works well, and smattering in Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Scavenging Ooze, or Deathrite Shaman is value regardless.


Deal with the Devil

When coming to the end, facing the last player what gives you that edge to win. Our current value engine has no purpose to it except to play in perpetuity. When we pound on the table with our shoes yelling “we will bury you!” We want it to mean something. What better purpose could we have than serving the dark overlords of the multiverse? I suggest we become a Shadowborn Apostle and give into demons.

With the apostles, we will run some important pieces to work alongside them. Bloodbound March and Thrumming Stone give us more chances to recur or run into our demon-summoning brethren. Westvale Abbey doesn’t get tutored up by the apostles but having any chance to summon Ormendahl, Profane Prince is a worthwhile endeavor. Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker is so powerful that running the apostles with him is a Commander deck all on its own. The advantage we run when assembling these humans to sacrifice themselves is creating a toolbox of (usually) flying beefcakes with powerful side effects. Razaketh, the Foulblooded is likely the most common card to fetch out since it makes each of your apostles into Vampiric Tutor of sorts. Ob Nixilis, Unshackled hoses opposing tutors, and Demon of Dark Schemes steals anything relevant. There is a lot here to gain and a lot of edges to eke out before the opposing player does.


Finish Them… Fatality!

What’s most important in the end is how you can get there. Our list so far is deadly, but sometimes that isn’t enough. You face off one another in mutually assured destruction. Any move you make could bring your empire tumbling down. Great ways to close out the game here is to use what you have to your advantage, numbers. You have plenty of fodder, but they could become much more than that when playing Craterhoof Behemoth. Pathbreaker Ibex performs a nearly identical role, and Coat of Arms could supercharge an opposing human or two, but numbers should be on your side.

Numbers can’t solve every problem. The answer to that issue is hiding in almost every Meren of Clan Nel Toth deck already and is part of the reason I picked this strategy. Blood Artist and the various redundant effects are huge life swings when you can sacrifice six Shadowborn Apostles on a moment’s notice. This piece of the puzzle to close out games is simple but should not be overlooked. Meren has one of my favorite attributes of any commander and that is varied win conditions. Drain, go wide or beat down with demons are all solid plans.

Here I added a few value cards that may be good enough from the Commander 2017 set for the light tribal focus; Kindred Dominance and Kindred Summons. There are quite a few flex spots here, especially if you don’t follow some of the things I went with. There is a large potential for the toolbox set up here. Demons are powerful and come with some amazing upside if you pay your dues.

The idea for this article came about while facing down a Miri, Weatherlight Duelist Voltron list in a pod a few weeks back. I was surprised to see that deck to be the last one I had to face off against. It was underpowered against three of us, but near unbeatable one on one. I wanted to explore how you get to that situation, and what you can do to win from there. I hope to hear your opinions on how you fair in the final bouts of a long game. What do you do to survive and how do you plan on winning when you get there? What do you think of my list, and what can I improve? I will be on hiatus for a little while, but I hope to see you soon in the comments and I’m sure I’ll be back with another article sooner or later. Stay savvy and stay alive.

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Rick is a professional bookseller, writer and gamer. He could be battling international trade atrocities with his Bachelors Degree in International Studies, but he would rather be playing games of magic, running game night at the bookstore, playing an insidious dungeon master at a convention, or talking and writing about any of the above.