This entry is part 3 of 23 in the series Savor That Commander Flavor

Hello, and welcome back to the last part of my tri-facto pilot series “What’s in a General?” Last week, you might remember that took a stab at explaining what sort of person you might be depending on the general you’re using, as well as the build for that general.
We continue the stabbing by taking a look at three more possible personalities that you may or may not have had the pleasure of seeing in your own local play group.

The last personality we looked at was the uninteractive combo player. While you may be switching it up to a more socially interactive deck, we all know that there’s a guy who lives off of the social interaction. You see him sitting down, and the first card he slaps down is his Edric, Spymaster of Trest.

This guy knows how to walk, talk, and deal. He casually points out plays you could make, makes suggestions that sound obvious, and whines about how his board position won’t stay around because “so-and-so’s just gonna board wipe anyway”. His tactics are subtle, and his tongue is made of silver. He can be down to four life against two other people and still live long enough to pull a victory from out of nowhere.

He is sly. He is clever. His name is Mr. Political. *KRAK-A-THOM*

Commanders like Edric and Maralen of the Mornsong don’t need to attack to be effective, they just stand around and let others fight for them. With promises of tutoring and card draw, they entice their opponents to smacking each other instead of attacking their owner, all while subtly building up their own board position.

Though any player can play politics (I play with someone who is especially good at it), these types of generals really enhance their capabilities because they help back-up the “reasons you shouldn’t be attacking me” speech, and you really don’t feel bad for going along with it. Of course, that only lasts until its just the two of you left. By that time, they’ve built up a board position strong enough that whatever advantage you had just became irrelevant.

If you make it clear that they’re your first target, however, you better hope the others at your table are as strong-willed as you are. If you left someone else alive before you started attacking them, there’s a chance you’ll suddenly be doubled teamed as “the threat”. They’ll coerce the third player into stopping you, not under the pretense of them staying alive, but under the terms that if they don’t you’ll be winning the game in the next few turns or so. Weaker players fall for it, and end up getting dragged into a grind-it-out match with Mr. Political as each struggles to take the lead.

With only a weakened player as his last opponent, Mr. Political wins, saying every turn how he’s just going to die, as if he knows that being pessimistic will affect his luck for the better.

As with the Ghave-combo deck I mentioned last week, these decks also have the potential to be turned into something else. If you’re the type of player who likes helping everyone out, then maybe you’re a group hug kind of guy. Maybe you filled out your Edric deck with Howling Mine effects and just want everyone to have a good time.

These players tend to be nice guys who are alright with helping out the weaker players, and are usually worth getting to know. Chances are that this will be the player most likely to offer help and advice outside of the game too. Unlike Mr. Political, he’ll make suggestions for what you can do out of a desire to help you get better, rather than because its expressly better for his long term game plan.

Not restricted to just Phelddagrif, I’ve also seen Riku of Two Reflections and Zedruu the Greathearted used as group hug commanders. I’d be wary of Zedruu though. She’s been known to hand out things you’d rather not have.

Perhaps you’re the type of guy who  saw cards like Olivia Voldaren as a chance to play a special kind of control deck. Most Esper commanders are generally the card of choice for the person who takes it upon themselves to control the game state, but I’m not talking about straight-out control. Rather, I’m talking about players who use generals like Merieke Ri Berit as a means to steal creatures and other resources.

These types of players play the “Akito” style of magic that turns an opponent’s strength against them. They have incredible patience as they wait for their opponent to slip up, before stealing and turning your own creatures against you.

They restrict themselves from playing aggressively by playing a creature-lite deck. They don’t have to when their opponents will provide them with all of the creatures they could ever need. Instead, they’re free to load their decks with redirection spells (like Wild Richochet), and other effects meant to piggyback off of what you’re doing. Always waiting, they know that their turn will come soon, since chances are you’ll crack before they do. I recently learned that the hard way.

As I’ve said before, I’m not the type of player who waits for other people to make their move. I need action, and I need it fairly often. In the early stages of my Olivia deck, I was in a game against a Captain Sisay toolbox deck and an Isperia the Inscrutable deck. With the game at a stalemate, and a horde of stolen creature, including Gaddock Teeg, I was in complete control.

But I was growing impatient. Both players had flying blockers that could stop my creatures, and the only way for me to start putting on pressure was to start swinging with an unprotected Olivia. I rationed, however, that if either one had some form of spot removal in their hands, they would have used it by now.

The moment I had all of my attackers declared, Olivia was slain with an obscure Rebuke. With my vampiress gone, my opponents suddenly had their armies back and killed me within the next two turns.
I learned an important lesson that day: People don’t like it when you steal their stuff, even when it’s legal. If you don’t care though, you can have a great time by stealing any Consecrated Sphinx that his the table.

Rubina Soulsinger is a card that was similar to Merieke, but wasn’t nearly as effective. That’s changed with the flicker effects that are now available from Avacyn Restored. Cloudshift and Restoration Angel give you the option to keep the creature permanently once it’s been flickered. Combining the angel with Deadeye Navigator means that creature stealing never has to end! Avacyn, Angel of Hope, herself, goes great with Merieke.

In the game of Magic, you have the opportunity to play anything you want (within certain rules). Maybe you want to play Batman. Playing toolbox means having the answer to everything, and being prepared for anything. This may or may not come complete with a spray can of Giant Shark repellent. In this case, generals like Captain Sisay might draw your eye. People who use this type of general often tend to work around the singleton nature of EDH by being able to pull whatever it is they need at any given time. Note that while simply having a lot of tutoring effects in your deck doesn’t necessarily make you a toolbox player, the two overlap often.

The toolbox player likes to be prepared. This is the type of guy you can usually count on to have a swiss army knife handy for even the smallest of obstacles. Need a can opener? He’s got you covered. Need some nail clippers? He’s already got them out for you. Need to borrow $5? Try asking someone else, because odds are he spent his last dime on the awesome swiss army knife.

Isperia the Inscrutable and Kaho, Minamo Historian are both pretty good candidates for tool box players, but any general who’s primary effect is to tutor should be watched like a hawk. Toolboxing means that they can find their win conditions much more readily than you can, and that will mean bad things for everyone if left unchecked.

One combo in particular is the infamous “Mindslaver lock-down” that Sisay herself can put you through. Once Mindslaver has been sacrificed, Mistveil Plains is used to send Mind Slaver back to the deck for Sisay to tutor up, repeating the whole process.

So what does all of this analysis lead to? It leads to knowing just what your commander wants to do before you start building your deck, as well as getting an idea for what everyone else will want to do before the game’s even begun. I tried to build a token deck with Rith, but she’s better as an alternate win condition. I tried making a token deck with Ghave, but he comboed out too often for my taste. I tried attacking with Olivia out of zealous impatience and I was blindsided by obscure removal. I played against a tool box player and…well, let’s just say I’ve still got holes in my head.

If you have any questions, comments, or ideas, feel free to share in the comments below or email me at wiehernandez(at)gmail(dot)com.
Join me next week when I introduce newbies to the concept of color identity and how it governs commander.
Until then, beware the Mindslaver.

Series Navigation<< Savor That Commander Flavor 02 – What’s In a General Part 2Savor That Commander Flavor 04 – Color Identity Conundrum >>