The game of Commander is a political one. Deals are made and broken, decisions on who to attack and who to help are made, and Kings and Queens are eventually crowned. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but our format of Magic is definitely the only one where diplomacy is a real skill that will up your game.
To some it’s the bane of their EDH existence, whereas to others it’s what separates us from the 1v1 crowd who only like to mercilessly crush their opponents, while Commander players like the sudden but inevitable betrayal that comes with multiplayer Magic.
So for those of you/us that love the political game – that intangible ability to convince your opponents you’re not the threat, or make them protect you – and would like to deck build around this key aspect of multiplayer, I’ve got some commanders you may want to consider.
What better way to wheel and deal with opponents than to actually just give them your stuff?
Donating in Magic is a unique and interesting ability reserved for very few cards. Zedruu is the only commander with the ability and is a ton of fun to use. If you want to stay political with the Christmas Goat, I’d suggest you don’t run cards like Illusions of Grandeur or Steel Golem. The political Zedruu is all about making allies, not enemies, and for that you need to be donating things your opponents will actually want. Make deals in your favour, gain life, and draw cards until you find the cards you need to stick them in the back with the goat-knife!
Gwafa Hazid seems like a more offensive card in that it basically removes creatures from the game, but the way to use Gwafa is by allowing your opponents to draw cards at the cost of a creature, or acting like the weapon of the player who’s the highest bidder.
Nin is very similar to Gwafa Hazid in that it can remove creatures and let your opponents draw cards, so the same type of ideas apply. Don’t kill anything until it’s a problem for you unless someone else needs you to and will reward you happily. These generals also tend to need a pretty healthy defensive strategy so your jilted opponents can’t just kill you right away.
Kraj is well known as a degenerate Simic +1/+1 commander that quickly accumulates some amazing abilities as you spread your counters around your own creatures. Don’t underestimate the ability to buff your opponents creatures when they need it though. Sure, a measly +1/+1 counter doesn’t seem like much, but when you have the deck built around it and include graft cards like Plaxcaster Frogling and Helium Squirter, you can really start doing your opponents some favours, which of course is the number one way to ingratiate yourself to those who might otherwise wish to do you harm.
When you’re talking about group hug in Commander, Phelddagrif is generally the first general to come to mind. With a whole host of helpful abilities it stands to reason that the legendary hippo is a also a prime candidate to pull off some political maneuvers. Players tend to keep around the people who help them out in a game and Phelddagrif helps in a lot of different ways.
Not your typical hug-style political commander, Queen Marchesa creates politics in a new and unique way: by bringing in the Monarchy. When you’re the Monarch you draw an extra card on your end step, but you may lose it if someone successfully deals combat damage to you. So whether you’re the monarch or not, people have incentive to attack, and when incentives are in place, that’s the best time to start talking with people about attacks.
Four colour commanders naturally allow for so many combinations of cards and strategies that just about any one of them is fine for anything. But K&T are the ones who deflect enough hate away from you that it gives you plenty of time to work the political angles of convincing your enemies that they need you in order to drop extra lands or draw cards.
Politics are an important part of the multiplayer game no matter what commander you choose. Should you pick the lay-low strategy or trash talk the table till they all attack you, it’s all politics. Making sure you have a handle on it during the game is all you can do, but if it’s a skill you’d like to work out and make stronger I’d suggest any of these commanders as excellent options to up your game.