Political parties have been a contentious part of United States politics since the founding of the nation. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison wrote about their concerns and the benefits of “factions” on the political stage in the ninth and tenth Federalist Papers. They began a heated debate that years later led to the formation of what we know as the party system. This system may not have originated in America, but the foundation that the United States system made was influential on a global scale.
Parties with electronic music and much less rich white guys in suits are more appealing, but alas, we do have a reason for forming these conglomerations of talking points with legs. Similarly, there is a lot we can learn about Magic: the Gathering’s factions (color identity and creature tribes) from political parties. Our color and tribe factions in EDH are directly tied to our commander. It becomes important while playing games to consider how your faction affects the what and how you play. Political Parties create uniform support, something important for synergizing a commander with a creature tribe, and politically, in Commander, your color and tribe create expectations that are not dissimilar to how political parties do so in governments. Mono-red The Ur-Dragon (from the upcoming Commander 2017 set) and Ezuri, Claw of Progress Elves will be our political parties for these topics.
Synergy is our primary reason for creating uniform support. Politically this means using the voice of many to empower those representing them, thus creating a more powerful system for all involved. Strategically, this means having your cards work toward a unified goal. Synergies are essentially naturally occurring if you use enough of the same type of creature or enough similar effects from a color. If you use elves that pump one another, then each elf you play adds to the value you get out of your first synergizing elf. Synergy is great, we get that. However, let’s peel back the first layer of simple tribal synergy and see what we have beneath that.
Most dragons identifying with red means we can have a focus that could benefit us greatly when used with Caged Sun. An extremely powerful card that almost never sees play in five-color decks that we get to use because of our color preference. Creating boatloads of red mana with Caged Sun or Gauntlet of Power means our fire-breathing abilities stapled to many dragons get supercharged!
Elves are usually low power, low cost, and often come in the form of mana dorks like Elvish Mystic. That means they work especially well with Ezuri, Claw of Progress. Surprisingly there are only 28 decks for the commander listed under the Elves theme tab on EDHREC. This seems like untapped potential despite the obvious creature subtype similarity. These elf decks often wield the ultra-powerful card Paradox Engine, but little discussed yet is the enormous potential that card has with the new Commander 2017 set cards Kindred Discovery and to a lesser extent Gather the Kindred. With Paradox Engine and Kindred Discovery in play every elf you play untaps all your other elves and draws you a card. Not to mention anytime you attack with your wall of elves you draw a card for each, busting open the door for another wave of elves. Once you’re done there Gather the Kindred gets you an elf out of your deck for each elf on the field (given you even have enough left!)
Choosing your political party generates a mountain of history behind it from where to gather arguments. Your opponents gain a basic knowledge of what your arguments could be before you walk into a debate. This is not as bad as it seems. You also gain a wealth of knowledge about what your opponent can assume from you. You can craft your arguments better if there is already a baseline for you to know about what your opponent can use against you. Shoring up your weak arguments is easy when you know your opponents attacks, creating a system that is more solid than if you were going in with a brand new strategy or philosophy.
This is exactly how it works with the magic color pie. You know your color’s weaknesses, and because of that, you can craft a deck that effectively shores up those weaknesses. This is why running two or more colors is so great; blue with green means you have the creature count that you need while still maintaining a card advantage with the blue draw spells. Professional players often play the best decks too, despite their weaknesses being a known factor, because if they play well enough they can avoid the weaknesses inherent in their strategy. To play effectively you must realize that you don’t want to run all of your elves into a big sweeper. They will save it until it’s most effective for them, and if you play correctly it never will be as effective as they wish. Understanding that your opponent knows your strategy must always be an important part of how you play.
A similar thing can be said for tribes. Elves go wide, but can start to get stomped if there are too many Earthquake effects or large creatures (like maybe dragons). Playing commanders that help with your weaknesses rather than play into the same theme can be very effective. Ezuri, Claw of Progress helps immensely with your tiny creatures. You can go tall and wide. Similarly, ensuring you retain equity with your little mana dorks is important. Elves decks play lots of card draw usually and as already discussed, Kindred Discovery helps that along as well. Playing elf after elf will make your opponent rather beat their head against a tree than see another wave of pointy-eared dorks.
Dragon’s largest weaknesses I don’t think has been effectively maintained until this new release of The Ur-Dragon. Dragons don’t have a proper mana curve. You have to wait until turn 4 at the earliest in most cases before you start your game. Compared to elves this is laughable. Who wants to face down an ever growing wall of elves with just a couple dragons? The Ur-Dragon’s Emminance ability means you can start your game with a turn two mana rock, and then a turn three, four or five-cost dragon, like Glorybringer. Making the deck mono-red ensures that you don’t have mana issues if you were going for your turn three dragon, another instance of being able to shore up weaknesses.
I hope you had as much fun reading about dragons and elves as I did writing about them. For me, the spoiler week isn’t over, but by the time you read this you will have a better grasp over what the final products will look like, and likely whole decklists. There are probably great cards I didn’t think to or couldn’t have known to include in these lists. Please add any suggestions for these decks in the comments (since I plan on building The Ur-Dragon like the one listed), and I would love suggestions for future articles. Until next time, stay political!