Last post, we talked a little bit about political maneuvering in multi-player games. We covered the idea of incentives (through gift-giving, chiefly) and basically bribing your way to victory. Today we’re going to look at the other side of the coin, the stick instead of the carrot: diplomatic means of saying “BACK OFF! I’LL MAKE YOU FUN-SIZED!”
And because we are speaking of a multi-player format, the best threats can hit multiple targets or really turn the tide of the game at instant speed. The best political threats you can make effect the board as a whole.
Spot removal (and diplomatically relevant spot-removal) is going to be another post I’m afraid. It’s simply too much too cover in one go. Cards like Pongify, Beast Within and Afterlife are fine examples of conditional or politically viable removal options—you remove a threat, but you allow your opponent a chance to recover and don’t strip them completely of board presence. Better yet, they are cost-efficient and seldom reach the point of diminishing returns for your mana.
I’m restricting this list to colorless permanents, since a great deal of politicking and bargaining comes from the idea of ‘perfect and imperfect information’. An easy example of a game that uses perfect information is chess: all pieces are visible to both players at all times. There are no hidden variables like hands, card-draw or recursion (well, I mean unless you play the crazy-house variant in which case HIGH FIVE!). That being said, Magic is a game of constant imperfect information: each card you or another player draws has the potential to completely change the balance of power. So, to keep this simple, we are dealing with things that stay on the board.
Again, put down the pitchforks! And you, down in front with the chaingun—I’m actually impressed you can lift that. This blog is meant to be a few helpful suggestions on colorless diplomatic tools—sticks instead of carrots. Rest assured I will cover spells and other non-permanents later (after all bluffing and deception are key parts of politics as well).
Colorless Removal that Any EDH Deck can Run
Oblivion Stone One of the classics. With Oblivion Stone you can preserve key permanents before you wipe the board if you’re so inclined. Have a powerful ally you want to keep on your side, but need to slow down a tenacious foe? Preserve your friend’s creature THEN nuke the board. Doing so is expensive and a little risky but unlike many of the cards on this list, Oblivion Stone lets you choose what goes on the Graveyard Express. This utility cannot be overstated. For more fun with this staple, consider creating a Triad of Fates deck.
Nevinyrral’s Disk An old card but a goody, this card has been the block a few times. It has its fair share of disadvantages (coming into play tapped means you have to wait a turn before activating) but it hits all the major categories of threat. Expect to see this card patching some weaknesses in colors that traditionally don’t get big, all-at-once board wipes. I’m looking at you meaningfully, Green! For extra meanness, consider combining with Natural Affinity to threaten a grinding, horrifying stalemate unless your opponents back off. Or you could be selective and use it in conjunction with Jolrael, Empress of Beasts to lock one player completely out of the game. But by itself, the disk demands that others either deal with it or give you a wide berth until they can.
Powder Keg This card has been relatively overlooked in EDH. You can always pop it the turn it comes down to clear the board of tokens and 0 cost artifacts—not a bad investment for two colorless mana in a format where infinite token swarms aren’t uncommon. As far as I can tell, it’s one weakness is not being fetchable with my good buddy Trinket Mage. Even better, there are ways to tamper with the fuse counters (proliferate in particular comes to mind). Last but not least, this card creates an artificial source of tension in the game—people hurry to deal with it before it can cast down their Ghostly Prison, Land Tax or Ghave, Guru of Spores . Making people rush to deal with a perceived threat on a clock is one way to help them make bad or at least suboptimal decisions, to cloud their judgment. I’m definitely going to talk more about timing, pressure and perceived deadlines in a later article. I think that Powder Keg and it’s kissing cousin, Ratchet Bomb have interesting and useful designs and deserve to be seen more in EDH playgroups.
Steel Hellkite It’s hard being an artifact creature–every single color has a way to deal with you. The clanky dragon, however, makes up for its increased vulnerability with a powerful ability to clear away multiple nuisances with enough of a mana investment and successful attack. A must have for most EDH decks–the opportunity to both deal damage and possibly get multiple problems off the board while maintaining your own position is too good to pass up.
Unstable Obelisk A must-have for decks that have limited removal options and it also doubles as a mana-rock. True, it won’t fix your colored resources, but this is a minor drawback compared to the late-game relevance it can have.
Perilous Vault Ah, the most thorough of all the means listed here. This bad boy hits indestructible permanents, but that increased lethality comes with a higher price tag than most—it costs ten mana total to play this thing and trigger it in the same turn. But if you want everything gone and don’t care about having allies, this the card for you.
Helvault A bit of a niche card, but I find that after a couple of activations people become just as nervous as might what come OUT of the Helvault as what went into it. True, like many cards here it has expensive costs that cut into it’s overall utility, but the threat of returning ‘problem creatures’ at instant speed (or combo’d with one of the other cards on this list) can make people think twice about turning on you. I particularly recommend Greater Gargodon as a sac outlet.
Soul Conduit Nothing makes an Oloro, Ageless Ascetic more nervous than sitting pretty at two hundred + life and seeing you trigger this thing in one go. OK, MAYBE a turn one Stigma Lasher might make them more nervous but still, niche card. Soul Conduit really speaks for itself with its utility and power-games you can play with it–but like the last two examples, it’s a costly and risky play.
I’ll be back sometime next week with part three on politics in MAGIC. Feel free to add your comments below if you feel I’ve missed something.