Magic the Gathering Commander Review: Political Puppets

Magic: the Gathering Commander Decks Reviews
Counterpunch
| Devour for Power | Heavenly Inferno | Mirror Mastery | Political Puppets

As of the writing of this, if you look at the secondary market values of each of the Commander decks, Political Puppets would be number one. If you look at the decks as a whole, it pains me to say it but I think this deck is the bottom tier. As someone who plays a lot of multiplayer Magic, politics plays a huge role in what people do or don’t do. So when this deck got described, I thought it was going to be awesome.

Make allies early by giving gifts that grant life and knowledge! With Zedruu the Greathearted as your commander, your foes will curse you as your friends grow stronger. Explore your inner puppeteer with a game-twisting masterwork of maniacal manipulation.

Then I played it and quickly realized how easy it is to get overrun by opponents with this deck and that all the political talk in the world isn’t going to stop a horde of demons, dragons and angels from crushing my skull like an overripe grape. So while the deck straight out of the box doesn’t impress me, there are bits and pieces of it that I still adore.

The dragon legend is Numot, the Devastator. Of all the Planar Chaos dragons, he’s the least exciting. Being able to nuke two lands can be useful, especially if they’re controlled by a different player, but in Commander that kind of recursive land destruction is frowned upon. He’s a big dragon, but his ability never does anything cool.

Randomness is one of my favorite aspects of Magic. Cards like Wild Swing are so delightfully weird that when the idea behind them gets expanded, I can’t help but grin. Ruhan of the Fomori continues the trend beautifully. Sure, I have no idea why he’s white and blue, but a 7/7 for only four mana is a bargain and the fact that he just relentlessly attacks every turn is quirky and fun and begging to be abused. And in duels, he always knows where to attack!

The intended Commander for this deck is Zedruu the Greathearted. A female minotaur that looks suspiciously like a goat, Zedruu on paper looks like a lot of fun. The four toughness means she’ll survive a lot of ground battles and her ability which can allow you to draw cards and gain life is tempting. Plus she donates things! But instead of donating all the mean parts and pieces like Jinxed Idols and Illusions of Grandeur, this deck just gives you extra lands. With guys like Bazaar Trader, this could be a lot of fun but the deck just doesn’t provide those options.

The two-colored legend in this deck is Nin, the Pain Artist. A small vedalken, I still don’t know if you use this to draw a bunch of cards or to try and deck your opponents. It’s an interesting card but not something I would want to turn into a commander unless I had a solid infinite mana engine.

Both new white rares are enchantments. Martyr’s Bond is a Grave Pact on steroids that makes everyone reluctant to touch your stuff or risk losing their own. It’s fun, quirky and a blast to abuse. Crescendo of War is an odder part that seems like it wants to be part of the Urza’s Saga song enchantments. It pumps up everyone’s creatures every turn on the attack – and yours when blocking. But as a card, it’s just too weird to do much outside of Commander.

Flusterstorm is a weird little gem that probably exists solely to mess with Legacy players and convince them that this set is worth buying. It’s also the reason this deck is valued so highly because Merfolk wants this storm counterspell! It’s a good card, but it has no place in Commander unless you’re playing against some awful combo decks.

Much like Ruhan, Chaos Warp is another card I adore. While I’m concerned it can get rid of enchantments, I just love the quasi-Polymorph ability in red. Sadly, other decks really want this card too so it’s driving up the price.

The final new card in the deck is Champion’s Helm, which reminds me a lot of Konda’s Banner. Being able to give +2/+2 and hexproof to any legend you control for only 4 mana is a great deal. I expect to see this become a staple of the format for years to come. I just have no idea why it came in this deck.

The rest of the Commander exclusive cards I’ve already talked about in the other reviews. But Command Tower is essential for the format now, and the vows are fun but I think I have enough of them. Spell Crumple and Soul Snare are auto-includes in their colors while Death by Dragons is fun, mean and more fun.

For reprints, this deck continues the trend of not really knowing what it wants to do. White offers Arbiter of Knowledge who just makes games take way too long, while False Prophet stops reanimating decks cold. Windborn Muse (Hi Bruce!) helps keep players from attacking you, while Austere Command is actually useful and Oblation is fantastic in this format. Note: the OWNER of the targeted card gets to draw, not the controller.

Blue offers up Chromeshell Crab as the only morph card in the deck which seems like an odd choice – especially since Bazaar Trader would have worked a lot better. Trade Secrets is fun in multiplayer while Reins of Power can really mess with someone’s combat math. It’s nice seeing something from Stronghold get reprinted after 13 years!

Red offers up the always amusing Wild Ricochet to fork and redirect at the same time, remember – it’s a MAY so if there is no target, you can just copy the spell for yourself! Also included is Insurrection, a card I hate with a passion but understand its appeal in multiplayer.

As the sole hybrid card, Dominus of Fealty is flying overhead swiping one item a turn. Sadly, Zedruu can only give things to opponents, so no overriding to keep stuff forever. Also, it’s a pain trying to get five red-blue hybrid mana in a three color deck. Also included is Brion Stoutarm as a potential Commander for those new to the format. His fling ability works great with Dominus of Fealty! Also included is a Howling Mine which actually makes sense because its one of the few cards in the deck you would actually be okay giving away.

The uncommons aren’t as exciting as I hoped either with a bunch of the cards being defending jellyfish and walls. Sol Ring and Greaves are present like always. The inclusion of Propaganda and Ghostly Prison (along with Windborn Muse) can make attacking you expensive, but given how slow this deck is people will spend the mana to beat you. Though Ghostly Prison with the alternate art looks stunning, while Flametongue Kavu’s alternate art doesn’t do anything for me.

The commons aren’t exciting with a lone Brainstorm carrying most of the weight. A handful of clash cards make me think they got put in this deck by mistake since Mirror Mastery would have benefited from them a lot more. As for lands, only five non-basics are included with the Ravnica bounce lands, a Terramorphic Expanse and an Evolving Wilds. That’s it.

As a deck, this just lacks the capabilities of really working in multiplayer. The defenses aren’t strong enough, there isn’t a win condition and there is nothing worth actually giving away! The concept sounds great and the secondary market price will make people think it’s the “best” but of the five, I’m the most disappointed by the deck that doesn’t really do anything except help everyone else play real spells and then beat you to death.

Political Puppets Decklist

General
1 Zedruu the Greathearted

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

Creatures
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 Jötun 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

Other spells
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