Monday, July 25, 2011

Maintain Radio Silence, Await Further Orders

Content is going to be sparse at best for the forseable future. I am moving from a house into an apartment in less than a week, so the next two weeks will be busy with packing, moving and then unpacking... Then, after that, we'll be going through the nightmarish hell that is selling a house. We can't afford a realtor, so we're selling it ourselves. It's going to suck.

Once the move is complete, I should be able to generate SOME content, though depending on how much stress and work selling a house turns out to be, it may be pretty desolate around here for some time.

I am NOT giving up on the Blog, and I WILL return as soon as possible, and if I can at all manage it, I will provide some minor updates even during these hectic times.

At the very WORST I will be back in time for the Innistrad EDH Set Review, but I will make every effort to resume posting even sooner. For the next two weeks, though, expect nothing and you'll not be disappointed.

For now, I do have two deck-building-related things planned.

First, I am going to retool my Oros Equipment deck into a Jor Kadeen deck. With Kaalia, I don't realy need two WBR decks, so one must go. I've enjoyed the Oros Equipment deck, though, and conversion to a Jor Kadeen deck should make for a very similar deck overall, plus it gives me a valid reason to play Myr Battlesphere in a deck!

Second, I'm brewing a very mean Grand Arbiter Agustin deck. It's not going to be anything you haven't seen before, if you've seen a GAAIV deck. I have little new to bring to the archetype, but the archetype itself will be new to my playgroup. I have been a fan of Augustin for a long while, though never found a use for him. Well, recently my group decided to open the door for countermagic in our EDH decks. I'm not a fan of this decision, so I'm just going to take that as permission to build a rather rude deck I've wanted to make for a long time. I have resisted the temptation because I didn't want to be a dick to my group. Playing counterspells, though, sends the message loud and clear: they don't care if they're dicks to me, so I will treat them in kind.

If I have time to build, I'll have time to blog. So, even though I haven't really nailed down when, exactly, I'll be able to perform these deckbuilding activities, once I do, I will break my silence to post my lists... After that, depending on how things go with the house I may resume normal updates, or go back to semi-hiatus until the house is sold. We'll just see how it goes.

Please be patient, and check back every now and then, cause I promise that I am not gone for good... just very busy with Life at the moment...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Animar, Soul of Elements Decklist

So... now that the flurry of excitement and anticipation over the new Commander decks from WotC has died down a bit, people are settling into their new generals, having tried on some of the new Legends to see what fits and what doesn't.

Recently, I posted deck tech articles examining the preconstructed decklists and giving suggestions on how to tune them up, while keeping them fairly in line with the original themes and strategies, at least in spirit. One of the most exciting interactions, for me at least, was between the three Generals of the Mirror Mastery deck. Riku was the official designated driver of that list, but both optional wedge commanders - Intet, the Dreamer and Animar, Soul of Elements - had great synergy with Riku. Animar made your creatures cheaper to cast, freeing up the mana needed to copy those creatures, while Intet let you play all kinds of things for free, also allowing you extra mana for copying purposes.

Of all the decks, Mirror Mastery had the best overall synergy between all three of its generals. And as fun as Riku was - who doesn't love copying spells and creatures? - Animar always intrigued me far more. The most exciting games I played with Riku were those in which I landed an early Animar, and eventually I decided that Animar was just the better general overall.

Adding to that, one of the players in my regular playgroup kinda latched onto Riku as his new favorite commander, so I hardly got the chance to play my own build. This made it plainly clear that the only recourse was to switch tracks and morph my deck into an Animar build, which was something I was considering anyway.

I am still in the process of fine-tuning the deck, of course (I rarely leave any list alone, as tinkering and tweaking is one of the biggest draws of Magic to me). But, I feel like the list is very playable already, and truth be told it's as close to "complete" as it will ever likely be.

That said I am very interested in hearing ideas - Secret Tech, or just obvious stuff I somehow overlooked - so feel free to chime in on the Comments section.

Enough chatter, here is the list:

Animar, Soul of Elements

Phyrexian Metamorph
Mulldrifter
Aethersnipe
Consecrated Sphinx
Frost Titan
Phyrexian Ingester
Sphinx of Uthuun

Flametongue Kavu
Spitebellows
Inferno Titan
Bogardan Hellkite

Bloom Tender
Lotus Cobra
Fauna Shaman
Wood Elves
Farhaven Elf
Fierce Empath
Eternal Witness
Forgotten Ancient
Hystrodon
Garruk's Packleader
Silverglade Elemental
Acidic Slime
Silklash Spider
Primordial Sage
Primeval Titan
Spearbreaker Behemoth
Avenger of Zendikar

Coiling Oracle
Momir Vig, Simic Visionary
Simic Sky Swallower
Alloy Myr
Solemn Simulacrum
Duplicant
Artisan of Kozilek
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Ulamog of the Infinite Gyre

Pongify
Equillibrium
Tezzeret's Gambit
Rite of Replication

Warstorm Surge

Beast Within
Birthing Pod
Pattern of Rebirth
Momentous Fall
Greater Good
Primal Command
Overwhelming Stampede
Wild Pair

Prophetic Bolt
Vengeful Rebirth

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Garruk Wildspeaker
Sarkhan Vol

Izzet Signet
Simic Signet
Gruul Signet
Lightning Greaves
Mimic Vat
Akroma's Memorial

Breeding Pool
Stomping Ground
Steam Vents
Flooded Grove
Fire-lit Thicket
Cascade Bluffs
Simic Growth Chamber
Gruul Turf
Izzet Boilerworks
Scalding Tarn
Misty Rainforest
Kazandu Refuge
Rootbound Crag
Command Tower
Vesuva
Vivid Crag
Vivid Creek
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Llanowar Reborn
Novijen, Heart of Progress
Island x6
Mountain x5
Forest x7

LANDS

Let's start with the Mana base first, get it out of the way. My article on Riku already stated that colored mana was a huge priority and colorless-producing lands should be kept to a strict minimum. That hold true here, as well. Animar only reduced the colorless portion of the CMC of your creatures, so often times you will be subjected to some very stringent color requirements. I did the best I could with what I had, but obviously just run the best dual lands you can get your hands on. I chose the Ravnica duals to go along with the Zendikar fetches, the Shadowmoor/Eventide filter lands (absolute rock stars here), and the vivids and bounce-lands already included with the deck.

An odd thing about this deck: I've been playing three-colored EDH decks almost exclusively for years now, and I've always run EVERY Ravnica bounce-land in every deck, and never have I once doubted that this was wise. But, for the first time ever, I find myself disappointed with them in this deck. If I stick one Turn 2, it's great, but I absolutely hate seeing them any later. It's crucial that we stick Animar on turn 3 consitently, so we need the smoothest mana-base possible, but if I'm forced to drop a Ravnica bounce-land on turn 3 instead of casting Animar that loss of tempo almost guarantees that instead of setting the pace, I'll be playing catch-up.

That said, simply throwing in three more Basics doesn't seem any better. If I had the old ABUR dual lands, I'd definitely run those instead of the Rav Karoos (as opposed to "in addition too"). But alas, we work with what we've got.

The only colorless-only producing land I'm running is Novijen, Heart of Progress. I'm still not sure how good this will be over time, but it has come in handy once or twice. Oran-Rief is much better: cheaper to use, taps for green. But both are pretty key here. Dropping Llanowar Reborn one turn one or two is pretty good.

As you can see, I only have three utility lands that aren't strictly there for color-fixing, and all three of them are capable of putting +1/+1 counters on Animar. The only other ones I'd consider are High Market, Maze of Ith, and Reliquary Tower (I've had a few games where getting 10+ cards in hand was easy). But as stated, I'm minimizing the colorless producers, so Novijen amusingly gets the nod in favor of those usually-superior lands.

SPELLS

As for the non-Creature stuff, we obviously have a limited number of slots available, so competition for these spots is very fierce - we might make room for janky, underpowered pet cards in the Creature category, but in these slots, we need every single spell to have impact.

And what's more, most of them need to synergize with our creature-centric strategy.


For mana rocks, I've gone with the Signets as they produce colored mana. Sol Ring, while it's true that it is near-universal in EDH, has been cut for the simple fact that dropping a Turn 1 Sol Ring doesn't help us cast Animar any sooner than turn 3, nor does it fix our mana to ensure a turn 3 Animar. Unless it is followed by a Signet, that is. So I've opted for reliability and consistency over speed here. We can turn to creatures for our true mana acceleration.

Other artifacts included are those that best enable strong creature-based tricks. Mimic Vat, for instance, is one of the best EDH cards printed in recent memory, and it thrives in an environment laden with creatures. Lightning Greaves are fantastic for helping to protect our general, and also plays well with a number of other creatures, especially the Titans. Akroma's Memorial is just a big, splashy and fun way to win games out of nowhere. Turning your Primeval Titans into Akromas is scary, indeed. Birthing Pod is a neat way to find the right creature at the right time, and it also has the benefit of making your Mimic Vat even more broken. Whatever you sac to the Pod can be Imprinted on the Vat!

Planeswalkers are not necessary, but I happen to like them. Haste is essential to the success of this deck, and Sarkhan Vol does a fine job of showing up Fires of Yavimaya. He is far more potent for only a single mana more. Garruk is also a superb supplement to any creature-intensive strategy, fixing and ramping mana with his +1, while winning games with his -4. Finally, Jace the Mind Sculptor is simply too powerful to pass up, but he is subtly more relevant that you'd think here. Typically, in EDH, I find his -1 ability of unsummoning a creature to be near worthless, but in this deck it's actually more relevant. I still prefer to just Brainstorm every turn, but removing a pesky blocker, or even bouncing one of our many ETBF-effect creatures is wonderful too.

Overwhelming Stampede and Rite of Replication are hold-overs from my Riku build, but obviously are well-suited to a deck packed to the brim with strong, powerful Creatures. Either spell can simply win games on the spot, even without Riku to copy them.

This deck packs a small host of powerful Enchantments. Pattern of Rebirth is a fun way to dissuade an opponent from killing Animar or some other important creature, but even if they do, Pattern will see that you have the means to punish them for it.

Greater Good is one of the most powerful draw-engines ever printed, and it's not even Blue, or Black! This deck will fold to one or two Wrath effects, if you don't find a way to keep your hand full. Greater Good lets us convert creatures that are about to die anyway into more cards with which to rebuild.

Of the remaining three, it's tough to say which Enchantment is the most powerful. Wild Pair likely gets the nod, though. I carefully tweaked and adjusted the creature selection of this deck to ensure that virtually every creature on the list has at least two or three Wild Pair targets, many of them with utility effects. This makes Wild Pair a repeatable tutor effect as well as a card-advantage engine. For every creature you play from your hand, you wind up with an extra one in play.

Equilibrium benefits from having many, many creatures to cast and the reduction in cost Animar gives. But the nice thing is that it allows you to recycle and reuse your ETBF utility creatures like Mulldrifter and Acidic Slime over and over, while adding counters to Animar all the while.

And who could resist Warstorm Surge? A Pandemonium that only works for you? Very enticing, very powerful in a deck capable of dropping several large creatures every turn.

Vengeful Rebirth and Prophetic Bolt are also hold-overs from Riku. Prophetic Bolt is just a pet card of mine, and I am loathe to cut it from any deck that can play it. That said, it's been awkward the few times I've drawn it - often, it is correct to just cast more creatures instead of a middling burn spell. However it can provide us with a creature when find our hand full of lands and non-creature spells.

Vengeful Rebirth is a necessary evil, though. Eternal Witness is really our only other form of graveyard manipulation, so the Rebirth stays in for now.

For my card-draw spells, I chose two: Momentous Fall and Tezzeret's Gambit. The Gambit is a good way to dig for creatures while proliferating to "cheat" an extra counter onto Animar. It's nice if you have a Planeswalker out, too, but mostly it's just here for the Animar interaction. Momentous Fall is clutch, as one of our few sources of life-gain, and it happens to be a powerful draw spell too. I don't recall ever getting fewer than five cards and five life from it, and at Instant speed, no less! Eat it, Blue mages.

Rounding out this section is Primal Command and two oddball removal spells in the form of Pongify and Beast Within. URG is a bit short on options when it comes to hard removal. Red has burn, but most of it is underpowered in this format of fatties. Beast Within and Pongify both have the benefit of being very versatile answers with an almost laugable "drawback" of granting a 3/3 token to replace whatever was destroyed. It should also be noted that either card can be used on one of your own creatures or permanents to draw and extra card if you have Garruk's Packleader on the board. Sure, circumstances would have to be grim for that option to be appealing... but what counts is that it's there at all, and sometimes drawing one single card can be the difference between winning and losing.

Primal Command is just a good, all-around utility spell, but you'll almost always want to choose to search for a creature as one of your modes. The others all have their uses and are great to have, but tutoring for creatures is powerful in this deck - so much so that I'm strongly considering adding Worldly Tutor. This deck rarely does anything before casting Animar, unless it's to drop a Signet. Casting Worldly Tutor on turn 1 or 2, to ensure you have a cheap creature to cast immediately after Animar hits is crucial.

Brutalizer Exarch, a card I pretty much poo-pooed in my EDH set review of New Phyrexia, is also worthy of consideration here. It's already won over many fans who think I judge it too harshly. Perhaps I'm right about it in general, but this is one deck where I think it can shine. My only gripe in the first place was that it was a tad too expensive for what it did. Animar makes him cheaper, so casting him for 4 mana seems perfectly fair while casting him for 1 seems downright broken...

And that brings us to the real heart of the deck: Creatures.

CREATURES

Creatures are Animar's lifeblood. Without them, there is no compelling reason to have him as our general, or cast him at all. And the more creatures you cast, the better Animar is.

But, even with Animar's cost-reduction ability, we need to ensure that we have plenty of lands in play and of the right colors. No small amount of thought went into my selection of mana-fixing and ramping creatures. As a rule, I generally loathe playing creatures that generate mana themselves, such as Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves. When an opponent casts a Wrath to get rid of some giant threat, it kinda blows when they also happen to take out one or two of your lands in the process. No, creatures like Wood Elves and Silverglade Elemental have proven far more effective and reliable: loosing the creature itself doesn't also cost you a "land".

But for this deck, I feel the need to make an exception to this rule. Oh, we still want Wood Elves and many more land-fetchers, but there are three mana-makers that I feel are worth the risk: Lotus Cobra, Bloom Tender and Alloy Myr. You can follow a turn-two Bloom Tender with a turn-three Animar, and still have 3 mana open to drop Wood Elves, Mimic Vat or an evoked Mulldrifter. Bloom tender lets you untap and cast a Primeval Titan (or his Frost or Inferno brothers) on turn four.

Lotus Cobra, I shouldn't have to sell you on. If it stays in play for two turns, it's highly likely you'll have made your two-mana investment back plus interest. Any longer and it'll probably win you the game.

The third one might raise some eyebrows. Alloy Myr is, in the world of EDH, a strictly worse Darksteel Ingot, a strictly worse Coalition Relic. Hell, in most decks, the little Myr would be worse than Mind Stone. But, I chose him for this deck because he can easily - very easily - be a free Coalition Relic. Casting him puts a counter on Animar, so even if he doesn't live to tap for mana, he still likely made one or two creatures cheaper for you. Trust me - he might seem like rubbish, but he has been golden for me here.

These three fine specimens are supplemented by: Coiling Oracle (the only creature in the deck that CANNOT benefit from Animar in any way, yet is still undisputedly worth running), Wood Elves and his bastard stepbrother Farhaven Elf, Solemn Simulacrum, Silverglade Elemental and of course the Primeval Titan himself.

Solemn Simulacrum is probably not surprising - he sees a massive amount of play in the format. What makes him such an interesting choice, for me, is that this is the only deck with access to green mana that I play him in. Why? Well, because when I have access to green I can easily pay three mana or even two for what Solemn does for four mana. Green just has better options. I chose him here, though, for the same reasons as Alloy Myr - he can be free to cast, netting me a land AND another Animar counter. Also, he fits a sweet spot in the mana curve for Birthing Pod purposes, but he's also a crucial piece in the Wild Pair puzzle, Pairing up with Mulldrifter, Momir Vig or other such goodies.

Fierce Empath and Fauna Shaman are fantastic creature-tutors (very important!). If an unwary opponent happens to allow you to Fauna Shaman up a Momir Vig, well... I like your chances.

Eternal Witness is a big fat "DUH!" here.

Forgotten Ancient is also pretty obvious, but he lets you cheat savagely, basically granting Animar counters for EVERY spell played, yours or your opponents, creature or not.

Hystrodon, Garruk's Packleader and Primordial Sage are all phenomenal card-drawers. Packleader might look odd, but the single G in the top right means you can easily cast him for one mana, and follow him up with something big enough to trigger him. Hystrodon can be played face-down as a Morph for free, if Animar has three counters or more.

Primordial Sage has an awkward P/T total, so Silklash Spider was the only suitable mate I could find him for Wild Pair, but I was needing something to ward off Akromas and various Dragons. The Spider is already good enough, but the fact that I needed a Wild Pair mate for Primordial Sage is also compelling.

Spearbreaker Behemoth is another way to keep the deck from rolling over and dying to a single Wrath of God. Simic Sky Swallower is just a "good stuff" inclusion in most decks, but here he can also Wild Pair for one of your three Titans.

Duplicant and Phyrexian Ingester both supply us with some much-needed creature removal, and such a purpose similarly suits Flametongue Kavu and Spitebellows. Or, of course, the dread Bogardan Hellkite.

Aethersnipe can temporarily remove an obstacle and is much more cost-efficient at 3 mana or less.

Phyrexian Metamorph does whatever you need it to do. Simple.

Mulldrifter, Consecrated Sphinx, and Sphinx of Uthuun keep your hand full of stuff to do.

And, finally, we come to the biggest and the meanest - the Eldrazi. I liked Artisan of Kozilek enough to keep him around - this deck doesn't have access to Karmic Guide or Beacon of Unrest, so we make do with a nine-mana version of Karmic Guide. Except you won't often need to pay all nine mana. Sometimes, with a little luck he can even be free. As can his big, Legendary brothers Kozilek and Ulamog. Emrakul should have no trouble staying banned now that Animar is here.

I've also considered It That Betrays as well, but without access to stuff like Grave Pact and Barter in Blood, he looses some of his appeal. Then again casting him for half-price or even less gains him back some of that appeal...

True story: playing a three-way game with this deck, I had managed to get Animar high enough that I ended one turn by dropping Ulamog for zero mana. Passing the turn, one of my two opponents played Evacuation (as no one was fortunate enough to have real Wrath handy). So I began my next turn with no permanents in play, save my lands. I ended THAT turn by casting Ulamog for 1 mana, meaning I cast 10 creatures before him. Without Alloy Myr, Solemn Simulacrum and Phyrexian Metamorph - all cast for free just to get another counter on Animar, this turn would not have been possible.

Yes, the deck is weak against Wrath-heavy decks, but you can easily subvert that by using some counter magic - I'd suggest Venser and Draining Whelk for starters. Also, you can supplement the Spearbreaker Behemoth with other Indestructibility-granters like Eldrazi Monument.

It might also be fun to see if you can go "all creature" and cut everything else to make room for more creatures. I don't know if that's wise or if it'd win many games, but if you're fortunate enough to play in a group that tends to undervalue Wrath effects, you could very easily make them regret that evaluation, playing a deck like this.

Well, that's all for now. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lunch Puppets: Zedruu the Greathearted Deck Tech

Well, crap. I had intended this to be my 4th of July post, as we're looking at a Red, White and Blue deck. How fitting that we should explore the most patriotically-colored deck as we celebrate our nation's birthday by blowing up some fireworks made in China. 

But alas, even though I had this post written well ahead of the weekend, and all it needed was some pretty pictures and card links, I was just too busy over the holiday to get around to finishing this article. Oh well. It's here now, so you'll get over it, I'm sure.


 We are finally at the endgame; the last deck to cover is Political Puppets. I put this one off until last because I still haven’t actually piloted this deck in a game (and the convenient holiday timing). I’ve played all the others, but this one held little appeal to me as a player. I’m a pro-active kind of player, and this is a sit-back and wait kind of deck. Even my control desk tend to be less defensive and more up-front in their intentions than this deck.

A friend of mine has played with the deck a few times, and he is a far more cautious, defensive player than myself. He even plays his aggro decks far more defensively that I would. Case in point, we both have Rafiq of the Many decks, and while I usually throw out Rafiq the second I hit four mana, he rarely runs out his general until he feels safe doing so – after I’ve already used a couple of removal spells and I’m down to 1 or 2 cards in hand.

My point? After a couple of games with the unmodified list, even HE complained that the deck wasn’t pro-active enough, didn’t have enough threats, just didn’t DO enough. I figure if even he, a far more cautious player than myself, got bored with the deck, then I would have zero chance of having fun with it. Fortunately, though, while the deck looks terminally boring to play, I’m interested in theory and deckbuilding enough that the prospect of tuning this deck has plenty of appeal to me!

But since this style of deck is not my forte, I must tell you that a good deal of the ideas here will have come from people in my playgroup or the folks on the forums. Just so you know… consider credit given to the interwebs and my friends!

So, starting as always with the original list, let’s hit it:

1  Arbiter of Knollridge
1  Azorius Guildmage
1  Brion Stoutarm
1  Chromeshell Crab
1  Court Hussar
1  Dominus of Fealty
1  False Prophet
1  Flametongue Kavu
1  Fog Bank
1  Goblin Cadets
1  Gomazoa
1  Guard Gomazoa
1  Izzet Chronarch
1  J├Âtun Grunt
1  Nin, the Pain Artist
1  Numot, the Devastator
1  Plumeveil
1  Rapacious One
1  Ruhan of the Fomori
1  Spurnmage Advocate
1  Vedalken Plotter
1  Wall of Denial
1  Wall of Omens
1  Windborn Muse

1  Armillary Sphere
1  Austere Command
1  Brainstorm
1  Breath of Darigaaz
1  Champion's Helm
1  Chaos Warp
1  Crescendo of War
1  Darksteel Ingot
1  Death by Dragons
1  Dreamstone Hedron
1  Fellwar Stone
1  Flusterstorm
1  Ghostly Prison
1  Howling Mine
1  Insurrection
1  Journey to Nowhere
1  Lash Out
1  Lightning Greaves
1  Martyr's Bond
1  Murmurs from Beyond
1  Oblation
1  Perilous Research
1  Pollen Lullaby
1  Prison Term
1  Propaganda
1  Prophetic Prism
1  Punishing Fire
1  Reins of Power
1  Repulse
1  Scattering Stroke
1  Skyscribing
1  Sol Ring
1  Soul Snare
1  Spell Crumple
1  Trade Secrets
1  Vision Skeins
1  Vow of Duty
1  Vow of Flight
1  Vow of Lightning
1  Whirlpool Whelm
1  Wild Ricochet

1  Azorius Chancery
1  Boros Garrison
1  Command Tower
1  Evolving Wilds
12  Island
1  Izzet Boilerworks
8  Mountain
8  Plains
1  Terramorphic Expanse

Okay, so we have here is a deck that appears to be a mix of Group Hug, Chaos, and Political style cards. Lots of defensive spells and incentives for your opponents to attack anyone but you. I can’t believe they managed to put Ghostly Prison, Propaganda and Windborn Muse into this, but thankfully they did.

The Vows are great, too, despite the fact that the Red and White ones are the worst of the bunch. They just make so much more sense in this style of deck. They are highly political cards, and so this deck can utilize them effectively.

Gilded Drake is notably absent, which sucks, but it is one of the first cards I’d consider for a deck like this.

Brand, also, is one of the more obvious cards that should come up when discussing a Zedruu deck, though the card is much weaker since M10 rules changed how it interacts with tokens.

Crescendo of War makes less sense in this deck, although it does have a symmetrical effect so that the controller of the card doesn’t really matter – you can donate it to any other player without effecting the board state very much (though the BLOCKING part only helps the controller, that’s much less significant than the Attacking portion).

Another card I have a problem with is Prison Term. You can neutralize a threat, then donate the enchantment somewhere else, but the problem is that whoever controls the enchantment can move it to another creature, and you have no control over where it goes at that point. Basically, you'd be giving the inmate the keys to his own cell. I’d rather have something like Faith’s Fetters here.

Journey to Nowhere is in, but Oblivion Ring isn’t? Definitely need to fix that. Exclusion Ritual is another fine choice, and it’s especially fun to use it on a Primeval Titan or Lightning Greaves… you know, something that’s likely to be in every deck.

One strategy is to give “gifts” that have drawbacks, like, say Steel Golem. Give Steel Golem or his big brother Grid Monitor to a player and he’s suddenly unable to cast creature spells. However, virtually every EDH deck ever runs some kind of High Market or Greater Good or Fleshbag Marauder… etc. It’s not likely to stay on the table long at all, so it’s questionable as to whether this type of strategy has any real merit. Regardless, I’ll be content to suggest some cards along these lines anyway, and let you all sort out what works and what doesn’t. Cool?

So along the “poison gift” route, the two cards I am capable of thinking up without needing input from the web are Jinxed Idol (also Jinxed Choker, but I count that as one idea) and Bronze Bombshell.

Oh, well, that’s not counting the entirely-way-too-obvious Illusions of Grandeur and Delusions of Mediocrity!

Other ideas I’ve seen are: Form of the Dragon, Taniwha and the lulz-worthy Forced Fruition.

These sorts of cards aren’t likely to gain you any political favor, though. Remember, you want to try to make people WANT to attack someone other than you, and annoying the shit out of them with these sorts of “gifts” will not achieve this goal. That said, the Jinxed artifacts are pretty appealing for the simple fact that they have built-in ways to be “re-gifted”, so your original recipient can dump his Jinxed Idol on some other poor schlub. I think these cards can lead to some funny situations and if you can make your opponent’s laugh then you are doing something right.

Another category of spells is the symmetrical effect permanent, like the aforementioned Crescendo of War, but Howling Mine is easily the poster-child for this sort of thing. Things that have exactly the same effect for everybody, no matter who controls them.

Some ideas include: Font of Mythos, Hive Mind, Wild Evocation, Knowledge Pool (make sure no one’s playing Teferi, though!), Oath of Lieges, and World Queller. Basically, anything that helps or hurts the entire table equally will suffice. But be mindful of the political ramifications of each card you include and donate – giving someone a World Queller means there’s a pretty good chance they’ll name “Creature” just so they can sacrifice they World Queller and where would that get you?

Same thing with Lich's Tomb – while it could be funny to donate this to a player about to take damage from an attack, they’ll just sac the Tomb among their other permanents, but if the damage is high enough that might still set them back a great deal.

Hive Mind and similar cards tend to be too random and chaotic to predict, and they could easily just wind up annoying players or creating rules-nightmare game states, but Chaos is definitely one direction you can take this deck if you like.

Thieves' Auction and to a lesser extent, Warp World have the same kind of feel to them, and could play well enough in a chaotic Zedruu brew.

Loxodon Peacekeeper is a pretty interesting card for this deck – it gives itself away, so you don’t have to use up mana to donate it, but it’s not big enough to be likely to bite you in the ass later.

Bazaar Trader is another way to get free Donate effects for Creatures, Lands and Artifacts at least.

I also like Puca's Mischief here, which is something I don't get to say very often!

Cultural Exchange might be of some value as well.

Starke of Rath can help keep the board clear of scary things, but also is likely to slow the game down too much, possibly leading to long boring games, at least until someone realizes Starke can kill himself!

Which brings up a good point. Creatures are one of the most fragile and short-lived permanent types in EDH. Wrath effects, sac outlets, and targeted removal are all very common in most EDH decks, so giving away creatures might not get you very far. The more powerful/expensive that creature is, the more likely some other opponent is going to kill it.

Donating lands is probably a much safer route, as land destruction is somewhat less prevalent in EDH, and people are less likely to use up a spell to kill a land you donated to someone else.

In light of that, cards like Land Tax, Knight of the White Orchid and Weathered Wayfarer are quite good. This helps you keep up on your land drops while donating a land will help ensure your Land Tax is always active each turn. It’s just too bad we aren’t in Green for the various “play and extra land” effects like Exploration.

The “Hunted” creatures from Ravnica are a nice choice, too. Hunted Dragon, Hunted Lammasu and Hunted Phantasm are all ways to give away some extra stuff, and earn  you some political points.

One idea I read about online involved giving someone a bunch of tokens with Hunted Dragon and Hunted Phantasm, then donating a Bronze Bombshell, and using Mirrorweave to turn all their creatures into Bombshells for massive damage. This is a clever and funny way to win, if you’re down to one opponent, but I’m not sure how reliable it actually would be.

I do like the idea of just running Mirrorweave for the vast array of interesting plays it can lead too. You could gain massive political favor from one opponent, if your Mirrorweave turns his handful of 1/1 tokens swinging at an opponent into lethally large dragons or something. Or the reverse, you can save an opponent from the brink of doom by ‘Weaving a horde of attackers into less threatening 0/1 Plants.

Master Warcraft is a card that just never really does what you want it to do, or think it should do, in my experience. 99% of time, it’s just a 4-mana fog that you have to cast before you even know if you’re going to be the one attacked or not. I suppose, if you have a Propaganda out, and player taps out completely in their pre-combat main phase, you can Warcraft them into attacking, but they won’t be able to pay to attack you, so they’d be forced to attack someone else.

But that’s likely to bite you in the ass, as both the target of the Master of Warcraft AND the player he was forced to attack might wind up allying with each other to take you down. As much as I want the spell to be good, and I see why it was included, it’s really just pretty terrible and should be cut from the deck, if you want to actually play this as a political deck.

Here’s a nasty idea: donate a Celestial Dawn to a player with no White in his deck. Unless he has an artifact that can kill Enchantments like, say Oblivion Stone, or maybe All is Dust, he won’t be able to cast anything but artifacts the rest of the game! Don’t do this, though, as that’s just a total d-bag move.

A much more innocuous approach is to just cast middling ETBF effect stuff, and then Donate it. Cast a Mulldrifter and give it away. Cast Oblivion Ring to remove a threat, then give the O-Ring to someone else. If you drop a Flametongue Kavu to kill an opponent’s creature, give him the FTK to replace it. Whatever you killed was probably more scary than a 4/2, but at least they have SOMETHING left….

Spitebellows and Spitemare are fun defensive creatures, capable of warding off an attack or two.

Putting Pariah on a Stuffy Doll, or any indestructible creature might be a plan. Worship is pretty good too, especially if you throw in a Kher Keep or something that can just poop out a creature token at instant speed to ward of an attack. Ideally, though you won’t be low enough on life to really need this particular line of defense. However, if you do find your group likes to pick on you for playing Zedruu, this tech might come in handy.

Delaying Shield is funny. Statecraft is just plain AWESOME. Best when held back until it’s just you and one other opponent, then you drop this and donate it to your remaining opponent. If they have run out all their Enchantment hate, they’re probably screwed… unless they have a combo-kill.

Which reminds me… Rule of Law and Arcane Laboratory are both in-color and are symmetrical effects! If you have a combo-player in your group, donate one of these to that player, just to really irk them! Here, have this card that hoses you!

Tsabo’s Web is another hoser of sorts, cantriping for you then you just donate it to whoever is least likely to have a sac outlet for it. Same with Spreading Seas if you just need to shut down someone’s Cabal Coffers or something.

The defenses in this deck include a number of walls. Many are just “meh” because of the fragility of creatures anyway. I do like Wall of Denial, though, and I also like Wall of Reverence. Wall of Omens makes the cut because it’s a cantrip that you can donate early on and not worry about getting hit with it. The rest of the walls  you’ll be torn between wanting to donate them but needing the defense! So I cut the walls back to just those three: Omens, Denial and Reverence.

I’d definitely like to have a Swords to Plowshares and a Path to Exile in here, to back up the great rattlesnake card Soul Snare.

False Prophet is a great inclusion, and likely to stay in the deck. Archon of Justice is very similar but more versatile, and more surgically precise.

Solitary Confinement is a nice way to turtle up, once you have Zedruu online and drawing extra cards.

Venser the Sojourner is a cool way to get back stuff you gave away, if the person you gave it to starts to use those gifts against you.

Avarice Totem probably bears looking at. This, plus Elixir of Immortality and Pithing Needle make a Trinket Mage package worth investigating.

Now we come to the hard part. Ideally, even if you are playing a political deck like Zedruu, you’re playing with the hope and intent of winning. How is a deck that just gives all its stuff away supposed to win?

WotC included a couple of good clues in the form of Insurrection and Reins of Power. Usually, either spell is only ever going to be enough to kill one guy, so you’re better off trying to just stay alive until you are down to having one opponent, then use one or both of these to kill him.

The beauty of Reins of Power is that you can donate all your creatures to one player, then “swap” with him so that you have everything and he has nothing.

Other cards that function along these lines include Twist Allegiance  and Blatant Thievery.

Other big-mana spells like Storm Herd and Rite of Replication can be swingy enough to win games.

In fact, here’s a funny combo idea that could kill a whole table: Storm Herd, Hive Mind, and Suture Priest. Probably not worth the risk of running Hive Mind, unless you can drop it, the Priest and cast Storm Herd all in one turn. But, it is a way to kill the whole table.

Or you could just play a gigantic Comet Storm. If you wind up running Mana Flare, you could easily kill two or three opponents with a good Comet Storm. If you play a bunch of games with this, and find that you reliably have more life than any other player most of the time, a plain ol’ Earthquake can get the job done just as well.

Repercussion can combo with Earthquake to kill multiple players, too. Just make sure everyone has plenty of creatures via Hunted creatures, Forbidden Orchard, and judicious use of Zedruu’s donate ability, then drop Repercussion and Earthquake for a bunch. It’s likely to only work once, but that first time, no one will see it coming!

Wincat, aka Felidar Sovereign is a great choice to auto-win if you run a fair amount of countermagic or some other way to protect him long enough to win you the game.

Brion Stoutarm is good here, not big enough on his own to scare anyone, but if you happen to drop Dominus of Fealty and start grabbing other big threats and flinging them at their former controllers, he can do some serious damage.

It’s worth running an Izzet Chronarch and maybe Mnemonic Wall or Call to Mind to get back your big game-winners like Insurrection, if you fail to get the job done the first time.

Time Spiral is probably a necessity, too, along with Elixir of Immortality, because you can easily draw through most of your deck with Zedruu active. So, it’s important to have a way to restock your library if the game goes on too long. Plus, Time Spiral can hose graveyard decks and decks that try to sculpt broken hands with a bunch of tutors, or that draw 20 cards and drop Reliquary Tower.

I cut the new Celestial Force from whichever other deck it was in, and put it in Zedruu. It’s a decent beater at 7/7 but not so mighty that people panic when he hits the board. He can swing once or twice, usually, before people start to think of him as a real threat, and he’ll gain you quite a bit of life in the mean time.

Beacon of Immortality is a card that I expect to see in a lot of Zedruu decks, but then again maybe not. It might encourage people to run stuff like Sorin Markov, Magister Sphinx, or Infect stuff to get around your ridiculous life gain. Still, I can’t see Storm Herd in a deck and not think that Beacon needs to be here, too!

The land base needs a bit of work. The first thing I would recommend is Homeward Path. It can occasionally just win a game for you, if you’ve got a bunch of donated guys out and you just suddenly take them all back. But it also just keeps folks honest, hosing stuff like Geth, Lord of the Vault and Bribery. It’s pretty great to have if someone tries to attack you with any creature that isn’t their own, Homeward Path will send it back to its owner’s side of the battlefield, removing it from combat, and probably teaching that player a lesson about biting the hand that feeds.

Next up is Reliquary Tower. Just run this, damn it, but do NOT donate it!

Kor Haven, Maze of Ith, Mystifying Maze and Prahv, Spires of Order are great defensive lands (well, Prahv is too expensive to be good, but it’s still somewhat playable). Forbidden Orchard is a good pick of course. Undiscovered Paradise and Rainbow Vale are amusing, but I’m not sure how worthwhile they’d be. Contested War Zone also fits the mold but can put an aggro deck or a token deck too far ahead to be good for you or anyone else.

Mostly, I’d just run duals and stuff like Command Tower and Reflecting Pool, because Zedruu is a lot like Riku in that he needs gobs of colored mana, so you can only afford to run few colorless producers. I’d limit them to Homeward Path, Reliquary Tower and two or three of the defensive lands mentioned above. The rest should all produce colored mana. The filter lands from Shadowmoor/Eventide are top-notch and highly flexible.