This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Kitchen Table Tactics
By J. Marshall

By J. Marshall

Welcome back to Kitchen Table Tactics. This week we’ll be talking about one of the new mechanics that came out in Born of the Gods: Tribute.  So although I will be ending the article today with a fun convoluted RUG deck that tries to make Tribute ‘good’ in EDH, it’s a mechanic that is built for politics and collusion.  Whenever a mechanic like this comes up, I think it’s worth having a little chat (over a pint).

 

Image courtesy of Brew Dogs

Image courtesy of Brew Dogs

 

 

‘Politics’ is always a contentious subject when talking to any playgroup.  Everyone has had an experience where the results of a political exchange has directly lead to their defeat.  As much as it stings it’s part of multiplayer.  The political decisions and strategies are the ‘impact’ plays in multiplayer.   In multiplayer it’s easy to come away with the feeling that your individual game-mechanic plays are over shadowed in the larger scheme, your carefully crafted hand and plan can fail randomly (not true).  When playing with multiple opponents you’re going to be faced with players with different strategies and goals, and in the wild west of eternal magic you (generally) cannot anticipate what their final goal is.  In fact the skills to traverse this social environment are more valuable than those directly related to Magic mechanics.  What this boils down to is:

In order to optimize your game-mechanic decisions you must optimize social-mechanic decisions.

 

I find politics to be that ‘extra something’ that makes multiplayer more interesting and dynamic.  Being able to adapt to a constantly changing field of play and political scene has made me a better player.  Politics is part of the fabric of EDH, it will vary from game to game and group to group, but it’s part of what keeps the games dynamic.  That said there is the dark side of the Force multiplayer politics: Collusion.

 

Collusion (n): A secret agreement, especially for fraudulent or treacherous purposes; conspiracy

Trade Secrets

How does this fit into our world?  In simplest terms, collusion is an agreement by two or more players prior to the start of a game to cooperate and work towards a mutual goal.  In my opinion there is a range Nessian Demolokof ‘douche-baggery’ that can stretch from ‘two players entering an EDH tournament with the plan of working together to ensure one player’s victory for a prize split (ultimate D-bags)’ to ‘3 players sitting down in a 10 player game all playing burn decks and declaring themselves as the Red Brotherhood and talking like Russians’ (funny and not really D-Bags).  When players collude it steals the fun from the game- people will get frustrated with those players and in a kitchen table environment designed to be friendly it’s just poor form.  In my opinion ‘collusion’ is something you should avoid, even in the case of the Red Brotherhood (of which I am a member).  Your playgroup will begin to assume that you and the collusion partner(s) are always working together.  This will lead to mistrust, early hate, and on the extreme refusal of playing with you. Proper deck construction and political jockeying can produce the same desired effect of collusion, without the negative impact that can spoil a game.  I should emphasis there is a big difference between a political exchange where two parties gain an advantage (example: Player A not paying Player B’s Nessian Demolok Tribute so that Ensnaring Bridge can be destroyed) and a predetermined arrangement (Trade Secrets is banned for a reason).

 

This concept of collusion brings us to the Tribute mechanic. The Tribute mechanic, and cards like it (Fact or Fiction, Intuition, Steam Augury come to mind), provide an opponent a decision that doesn’t directly affect them. This is different from cards like Browbeat and Lava Blister, where there is a clear “Give me what I want or pay the price!” decision (side note, these old school cards are fun in Gisela, Blade of Goldnight). The Tribute mechanic gives your opponent the choice of “Give me something I want, or give me this other thing that you can deal with” There is no direct penalty to your opponent regardless of the decision they make. On the flipside it’s very easy to see Player A asking Player D “I’m casting Oracle of Bones so I can cheat in Insurrection and kill everyone but you”.  An extreme example, however one I feel it is reasonable to illustrate how Tribute can be used (or perceived to be) for collusion.  This exchange is what makes the Tribute mechanic potentially a political mire.

Rule of Thumb:  If you have an effect that will directly eliminate a player from the game, you should be the only player aware of it. 

 

Wrath Full Art

Sorry about your Llanowar Elf, but it hit me for 1.

So what this means is without this ‘please give me X so I can deal with Y’ the Tribute mechanic can just give you a slightly larger creature susceptible to removal instead of the effect you were trying to get.  In many eyes that makes this a bad mechanic in EDH.  Players start with 40 life, and creatures typically are a high investment with potential of getting killed by sweepers cast not necessarily meant for them (casting a sweeper to kill Platinum Emperion with Lightning Greaves, will kill a ton of mana dorks).  So it takes a lot to make creatures good in EDH, yet alone those where their primary effect is left in the hands of an opponent.  So how do we make the mechanic usable with proper deck construction?  Well, I’m here to make you think about Tribute in a different light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First lets look closer at what Tribute does:  Nessian Wilds Ravager (and all Tribute Creatures) has two modes, it either enters the battlefield with +1/+1 counters, or you get your effect (presumably the one you desired).

Nessian Hydra

There are several effects that we can implement that can dissuade an opponent from having a creature enter the battlefield with counters.

 

1)    Doubling Effects.  Doubling Season and Primal Vigor now make our Hydra an 18/18 if Tribute was paid.  For 6 mana, that’s an excellent investment!

2)    Evolve.  Tribute is a replacement effect.  What that means is the Hydra will enter the battlefield as a 12/12.  In the case of our Hydra it would probably evolve most creatures anyways, but for smaller tribute creatures this can make paying tribute a less enticing choice.

3)    Warstorm Surge and Pandemonium.  Channel your inner Michael Bay.

4)    Clone effects.  By cloning our Tribute creatures we can have our opponent have to make a difficult decision twice.

 

These three series of effects makes your opponent’s decision less clear. Now consider our Oracle of Bones scenario again, but this time with Warstorm Surge and Doubling Season in play. “Will you pay Tribute?” becomes a debate where the between taking 7 damage from Warstorm Surge(followed up with a 7/5 haste) or rolling the dice to see what spell will be cast. Add a Fathom Mage to the equation and I’m not sure I want the free cast either!

 

Image Courtesy of wall.alphacoders.com

Image Courtesy of wall.alphacoders.com

The best part of this series of cards is that they are already good in EDH, what these tribute cards do is feed off of them and become much better.  If anyone played our good friend Nessian Wilds Ravager at the prerelease/release party you know the fun of catching your opponent in that “Oh shit, I don’t want them to have either” moment.

 

So to close out today here is my Riku of Two Reflections Tribute EDH deck! Riku is the perfect general for what we’re trying to do here. He gives us access to red, blue, and green.He clones our Tribute creatures, and in the case of Oracle of Bones he can copy the massive spells we’re attempting to cast. The hope with this deck is that you can manipulate your opponent into giving you what you want with proper multiplayer politics and deck construction.

Image courtesy of iplaythisgame.blogspot.com

Image courtesy of iplaythisgame.blogspot.com

 

 

A few thoughts about the deck, beyond the strategies I described above (Note: these cards also have synergy with the evolve strategies):

1) Effects that care about +1/+1 counters: Bramblewood Paragon, Plaxcaster Frogling, Rage Forger. This family of creatures gives us minor bonuses to our Tribute creatures giving them additional effects instead of giant vanilla creatures.

2) Ways to use the +1/+1 counters: Zameck Guildmage, Sage of Fables, Give // Take. These three cards can turn the +1/+1 counters on our Tribute creatures into card advantage.

3) Bounce/Flicker Effects: Horned Kavu, Shivan Wurm, Deadeye Navigator, Crystal Shard, Ghostly Flicker, Erratic Portal. None of these cards should be a surprise to anyone playing a Deadeye deck, but their utility applies here as well.

 

 

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I hope you enjoyed this perspective on politics and collusion.  If you like the deck, give it a spin, or incorporated some of the ideas into one of your existing decks, let me know!  Do you have any questions, or an alternative format you’d like to show off?  Contact me at kitchentabletactics at gmail dot com. Or on twitter @KTT_Magic

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