Commander Deck Reviews – “Political Puppets”

Posted by zach - June 17, 2011 - Blog - 4 Comments

To check out the full decklist for “Political Puppets” look here.

InsurrectionOverview – I’ve based the order of these deck reviews on the interest shown in each deck (based on Google analytics search stats), and I’m surprised and delighted that “Political Puppets” has been saved for last. This deck is manipulative, chaotic, and, in my opinion a sleeping giant (all puns intended). There are only three creatures in “Puppets” that are bigger than 4/4 and two of them are possible commanders of the deck. The majority of creatures in this deck have been included not because they are big beaters, but because they frustrate the efforts of your opponents.

This is also the most spell-heavy of the five decks, and it is in those powerful spells that we find “Political Puppet”‘s win condition. The goal of this deck is first to hold off the opposing hordes with barriers like Guard Gomazoa
Guard Gomazoa
, Fog Bank
Fog Bank
, and Wall of Denial
Wall of Denial
that can take a licking and keep on… standing really still, then to play a game-ending spell like Insurrection, using your opponents creatures against them.

In addition to a number of walls, “Political Puppets” employs Windborn Muse
Windborn Muse
, Propaganda
Propaganda
, and Ghostly Prison
Ghostly Prison
as additional insurance policies. In a multiplayer game, your opponents are likely to take their damage elsewhere when faced with the prospect of having pay two generic mana for each creature that attacks you.

Commanders – Numot, the Devastator
Numot, the Devastator
is the token dragon in “Political Puppets” and while his ability to destroy two lands every time he deals combat damage doesn’t quite match the flavor of the other two commanders, it does add an additional element of control that will help to slow down your opponents. Keep in mind that the lands he destroys don’t have to be basic, so he’s a great way to limit what mana your opponents have access to by eliminating lands that produce multiple colors of mana.

The new commanders in “Political Puppets” are a truly strange pair. The primary commander, Zedruu, the Greathearted is a 2/4 for four mana that allows you draw a card and gain a life during your upkeep for each permanent you own that your opponents control. His second ability allows you a repeatable way to actually get your stuff to your opponents side of the board. For R/W/U he can give away any permanent you control. One thing to be very careful about when looking at “Political Puppets” is constantly distinguishing between “control” and “own”. The funny thing about the support Zedruu has in this deck is that he will often have permanents to target that you control, but don’t own. This means that you can take creatures from one opponent and give them to another – the idea being that no one wants to attack into a Fog Bank
Fog Bank
and so they’ll use their shiny new Akroma to swing at your buddy playing “Counterpunch”.

The final new commander in “Puppets” is Ruhan of the Fomori. Ruhan has really got me thinking. I feel weird saying that a 7/7 for four mana isn’t worth it, but my first thought was to be rather disappointed with this commander. If you actually use him as a commander, one or two trips back to the command zone will make his cost/power much more reasonable. His “drawback” of attacking a random opponent each turn is what makes me think twice. While I still don’t think he has what it takes to be a commander, I think that as “just another creature” his random attacks would make him less likely to draw hate from your opponents. He’s also a great candidate for Zedruu’s gifting ability, because even if he does happen to attack you, he’ll meet with a Fog Bank or Wall of Denial.

Finally, you should note that Ruhan is going to be a fun card in duels as his “random” drawback will be neither a drawback nor random.

Old Favorites – “Political Puppets” has an interesting mix of creatures. Many have defender, or are designed to give you chump blockers (Rapacious One
Rapacious One
) or provide you with time to sit back and wait for your opponents to play their major threats (Arbiter of Knollridge
Arbiter of Knollridge
). Spurnmage Advocate
Spurnmage Advocate
, Azorius Guildmage
Azorius Guildmage
, and, if necessary, False Prophet
False Prophet
will also provide comparatively inexpensive answers to your opponents dragons, demons, and elementals.

“Political Puppets”, in its endeavor to play nice (for at least a while), is a big fan of group-hug cards like Howling Mine
Howling Mine
. This is an oldie, but a goodie that allows each player to draw an additional card during their upkeep as long as Howling Mine is untapped. Skyscribing
Skyscribing
and Vision Skeins
Vision Skeins
are two more cards that will speed up your opponents draws, allowing them to fill up the board fast, and providing just enough in the way of bribery to keep them attacking each other instead of you.

Reins of Power

The two big game enders in “Political Puppets” are Reins of Power
Reins of Power
and Insurrection. The first is an Instant that exchanges all creatures you control for all creatures target opponent controls. In a multiplayer game this could mean that you don’t have to engage your own creatures in combat (and Zedruu can ensure that you don’t have any to trade in the first place), but more likely you’ll exchange with one player and use his creatures to attack a third. Insurrection is likely to be a game-ender every time it resolves. Because there are so many massive creatures in commander, odds are that if you suddenly control them all you’ll be able to spread around enough damage to at least mortally wound each of your opponents.

New Hotness – What is much more impressive than the creatures of Political Puppets are its sorceries, instants, and enchantments. Crescendo of War
Crescendo of War
is a great group-hug enchantment that gives all attacking creatures +1/+0 for EVERY upkeep that its in play. This will quickly make your opponents creatures monstrous. Of course, no matter how big they are they will still be penalized for attacking you. The pilot of “Political Puppets” doesn’t fear Crescendo because its likely to increase chaos, it makes opponents creatures bigger and more worthwhile to steal, and it gives you a blocking bonus in addition to the universal attack bonus.

Outside of exchanging control of creatures, “Political Puppets” also has a few spells that should make you stand up and take notice. Chaos Warp
Chaos Warp
is an instant that is likely to have a long-term impact on the way red decks work. For 2R it takes any permanent on the battlefield and forces its owner to shuffle it into his library. That permanent’s controller then reveals the top card of their library and if it is a permanent they put it into play without paying its casting cost.  This may not seem like a fantastic card to new players, but it gives red something that it seldom, if ever, has access to: the ability to eliminate ANY permanent. Red has historically been good at burning creatures and smashing artifacts, but this is an answer to any threat your opponent has on the board. I see this card being sold for major bucks in the next few weeks. Keep an eye out!

Martyr’s Bond
Martyr’s Bond
is… whatever the opposite of a group hug is. This enchantment will level the playing field by forcing your opponents to sacrifice a creature, land, artifact, etc. for each card of that type that hits your graveyard. Keep in mind that Martyr’s Bond is triggered by “creatures you control”, which means that if you’ve stolen some creatures from an opponent and they end up dying in combat, every other player will have to thin their ranks as well.

“Political Puppet”‘s two-color legend in Nin, the Pain Artist, who I suppose represents the dark side of politics. Beneath the charitable exterior of your empire is a 1984-esque torture department. I think you’re going to have to be careful about how you use Nin. Provided that you make her simply an answer to any attacks that come your way, I think she’ll serve to reinforce your early-game goal of watching and waiting, but if you get too aggressive with her, she’ll be shut down in a hurry. Perhaps, you could best employ her on your own creatures, hitting one of your walls for a few points to fill your hand every turn.

Finally, the last new card I’d like to mention is Champion’s Helm
Champion’s Helm
, a piece of equipment that buffs a creature slightly in addition to making them legendary and hexproof. This is a great way to protect your general, and, if people start to suspect that Zedruu isn’t as Great Hearted as you’re making him out to be, then he’ll need his own Pope-mobile to stay on the board.

Suggested Alterations – As much as I like “Political Puppets”‘ strategy as it is, I think that in order to commit to creature manipulation as your win condition, you might have to include the full line-up of Corrupted Conscience
Corrupted Conscience
, Act of Treason
Act of Treason
, Act of Aggression
Act of Aggression
, etc. While these single-steals don’t have the surprise factor or early-game political value that would be congruent with “Puppets'” current strategy, I think this deck is too powerful for your opponents not to catch on to your tricks pretty quickly.

Once you take this deck home and begin to play with your friends in a more casual setting, I guarantee that they will alter their decks to take the wind out of your sails. To play “Puppets” long term you’re going to have to be innovative and flexible, because no one likes being beaten in the face with their own creatures.

Verdict – Almost everything that “Political Puppets” does is designed to make it undesirable for your opponents to focus their firepower on you. If they do decide to send creatures your way they’ll have to pay to do so, or they’ll be met with nigh impenetrable defenses. Because the creatures in this deck tend toward the small side your opponents will be unlikely to waste a Terminate
Terminate
or Soul Snare
Soul Snare
on them. When you do finally commit to a substantial attack, it will likely be using creatures borrowed from your opponents and they’ll be forced to decimate their own forces if they wish to live through the assault.

It seems to me that your job in playing “Political Puppets” is to hunker down behind your defenses, allow your opponents to fight it out for awhile, then spring forth at the opportune moment to deal the lethal blow with creatures you’ve gotten on loan. You’ll have to be judicious about when to use Oblation
Oblation
and Austere Command
Austere Command
because if there are no creatures on the board, spells like Reins of Power and Insurrection become useless.

The first time you play “Political Puppets” you might have a big, surprise win, but don’t expect that to be the norm. Once your opponents have seen this deck win a few times, they won’t be nearly so generous about leaving you alone while they deal with “bigger threats”.

 

That’s it! That’s the last of our Commander deck reviews. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and I look forward to hearing how these decks work out for you!

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