Simple question: Does an Azami, Lady of Scrolls play differently as a commander than Lady Caleria or Lady Sun? I mean, besides the fact that they all incorporate the honorific ‘lady’ into their title and while fictional possess two x-chromosomes?
Of course they do. It’s about knowing and understanding your general’s strengths and motivations.
Allow me another question. Does a deck with Heartless Hidetsugu as commander handle differently than Captain Sisay or Pianna, Nomad Captain? (Sadly, EDH has yet to print a Captain Falcon card, but I’m a patient man. I know it’s coming down the pike–maybe in Battle For Zendikar?)
Shut up, I can dream, damnit.
Of course the cards above handle differently. It’s all about how you alter your mind-set to fit your general. What we’re going to be talking about today is an under-appreciated aspect of EDH: role-playing and using your general the way it wants to be used. Let me give some obvious examples:
Rakdos, Lord Of Riots is not a diplomatic card. Rakdos wants to party, not talk. Rakdos just finished making horrifingly-non-consensual love to a building and is so high he believes his hand is in fact a Peruvian professor of economics. He wants to attack, attack and then burn down an orphanage while cackling insanely. To play Rakdos efficiently (there is a truly great article on how to do so on this very site, as a matter of fact) you have to forsake diplomacy and run screaming and naked into the battlefield with no regrets and your reproductive organs bared to the wind (figuratively speaking). Why? Because Rakdos rewards aggression with a huge decrease in creatures casting cost–he’s having a party and all the multiverse–especially the Eldrazi–are invited! To play Rakdos and other ‘exploding’ decks, you need to take big risks for big rewards and have no regard for your own safety. You have to be OK with the concept of loss and instead play for the theater of it–to see how many players you can drag, burning, down with you.
Zur, the Enchanter Like Rakdos, Zur wants to attack. Unlike Rakdos, Zur has at least a few drops of ‘give-a-damn’ in his brain and so attacks with the intent of solving problems. Breathing problems. Zur wants to pillow-fort, or that failing, go for the quick win with Necropotence. Again, in contrast to the approach used by Rakdos, that means the timing of Zur attacking must be exact—too soon and people will dog pile on him or worse tuck him. Too late, and you can’t recover lost momentum fast enough. In order to get the most out of Zur and other combo/control decks, you need to be composed, focused and be keenly attuned to the board state–especially cards in hands of your opponents and the amount of mana available around the table.
Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer For some reason, I imagine Gwafa with a incredibly offensive gangster-accent. “‘Ey, buddy. Howsabout you draw yourself a nice card and take a powder, see? No need for something–tragic ta happen to you.” As a general who isn’t terribly combat oriented and has an activated ability, to use Gwafa efficiently you want to trigger his abilities at the beginning of other players end step, invest heavily in card draw and generally be as opportunistic as possible in your dealings with other players. You should probably be slippery and obsequious, you did choose a schemer as a commander afterall.
EDH relies a lot on flavor, unique interactions and being forewarned to your opponent’s likely strategy. A cunning EDH player will pick a middle-of-the-road or even sub-par general to allay suspicion and color his opponent’s perception of him in a group format. This tactic will be elaborated upon later and in greater detail.
This was a briefer article than I would have liked, but never fear! I shall return with more stuff later this week!