Mathas, Fiend Seeker - Politics and Judo

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Post by cryogen » 5 months ago

Introduction

While politics in Commander is a fairly known concept, judo may not be. Judo refers to the martial art in which you use your opponent's strength and momentum against them in order to defeat them. Judo differs from "theft" in that theft effects can broadly be used against opponents, but also used to your advantage (such as using a Acquire to take someone's Guilded Lotus. Judo is strictly using your opponent's cards in order to harm them.

The goal of this deck is two-fold: First, you create a board state that does not threaten your opponents though a combination of playing innocuous cards and deterrents which encourage them to attack someone else. Then, you manipulate combat in order to make your opponents eliminate each other and themselves, leaving yourself in a position to eliminate a single opponent.

You might like this deck if:
  • You like playing control but don't want to be labeled "that control player"
  • You enjoy the social part of Commander and want to use that to your advantage
  • You want a deck that doesn't just turn creature sideways or tutor up a combo to win
If this is a deck style you want to explore but want to use different colors, Arcades, the Strategist, Angus Mackenzie, and Rubinia Soulseeker are common Bant options which open you up to Fog effects and blue control spells. In Esper Sen Triplets and Merieke Ri Berit can serve as a starting point.

The Deck

Mathas, Fiend Seeker - Politics and Judo
Approximate Total Cost:

About the Deck

Deck Choices. As you look at the deck, you'll see that there are many cards which are quite mediocre and have upgrades (such as the checklands, Darksteel Pendant, and Terramorphic Expanse). There are two reasons for this. The primary reason is that I want to give every appearance that I am not a threat. "Hey don't worry about me, I couldn't even afford shocklands and proper fetches!" "Pendant isn't bad, it's just a scry 1, it's not like I'm spinning the top every turn." The secondary reason is that I really enjoy playing this deck at my league because it can usually net me a decent number of points, so I only run one single tutor in the deck in order to guarantee that I can get that point every game.

Deck Breakdown. The deck can be largely broken down into three parts (four if you count lands): Defense, combat manipulation, and general utility. The defensive cards are pretty much all the permanents with the exception of the mana rocks and a couple of utility artifacts. These are the cards which sit on the board and say "hey you know you could attack me if you want, but do you really want to attack me? What about that player over there?" While some of them can't help but draw attention to themselves naturally, they should for the most part be cards that an opponent won't care about as long as they don't attack me. The combat manipulation cards are the instants and sorceries which change the way combat operates, either by redirecting damage, preventing it altogether, changing combat math, or messing with the declare attackers step. Finally are the utility cards, which is where I lump in removal and small benefits for me that don't fit the first two categories.

Playing the Deck

The most important things I'm looking for in my opening hand are lands and mana rocks, followed by defensive cards to build up my little protection fort. It is almost always the correct answer to play Mathas as early as possible in order to start getting bounty counters. One of the weak points of the deck is that it can run out of gas and start top-decking, so getting bounty counters out as soon as possible will help keep your hand full, make land drops, and make your opponents realize the benefit to not attacking you or killing Mathas. An opponent that draws extra cards is a happy opponent that isn't looking to make you an enemy (yet). I tend to spread around the counters roughly evenly, except that I draw attention to scary creatures by giving them extra counters, and all board states being equal, I'll draw attention to the player with more cards in hand or more available mana by putting counters on their creatures the most.

With a decent draw and a balanced game, you should by the midgame hopefully find yourself in a situation where you have an average amount of mana, a medium-sized amount of cards in hand, and a small board state. Your hand should consist of a little pillowfort, a little removal, and one or two reactive cards. Here is where you have to start weighing your options and making opportunity costs. Do you spend four mana to cast a No Mercy or hold that mana up? Do you recast Mathas or wait a turn? As the game progresses this question becomes more important, because you might have a few different reactionary spells and the other players start to notice that you have a full grip of cards and are leaving open seven mana. Every situation is different, so you have to weigh your options and determine how a "worst case scenario" will affect you and whether you can reasonably afford to let your guard down for one turn in order to advance your board state.

The late game is what makes and breaks the deck. Here is where you shift gears altogether into defensive mode. Hopefully most of your hand is reactionary spells, so you should be constantly checking damage on board, life totals, and calculating every possible scenario for eliminating an opponent. Your opponents might be a little worried about your ability to mess with them, so that can help get them to lower each other's life totals by attacking each other instead of you. If possible, wait for opportunities to outright eliminate an opponent rather than just weakening them, as this can cause them to shift their focus to you (rightfully).

Deck Weaknesses

The biggest weakness the deck has is against decks that don't generally win by turning creatures sideways. Most of the gotcha! cards are ones which are creature based, so against a spellslinger deck you're going to have a harder time winning. Therefore, you should try to eliminate that player first when you get the chance. If you are in a meta that is heavy with these types of decks, you may want to tailor the deck with reactive cards against spells, or consider a different deck altogether.

The other weakness is the mana. These colors are not traditionally known for their ramp, which makes mana rocks much more important. If you aren't concerned about the image your mana base gives you, then it would make sense to make upgrades to the lands as you can.

Individual Card Discussion

The first thing you probably notice when looking at the list is that there are some pretty subpar choices. Darksteel Pendant over Sensei's Divining Top??? Checklands? Terramorphic Expanse? These are all intentional choices, and affording the better cards isn't a factor. The reason is that players with scary boards or expensive cards are typically viewed as a threat, even when they shouldn't be. Therefore, we add a subconscious layer of politics by playing these weaker cards. Remember, the overall goal is to give every possible reason for your to be ignored because you aren't a threat.

The deck itself can be broken down into four parts: deterrents, combat tricks, general removal, and utility.

Deterrents:
Crawlspace - makes getting attacked more manageable, and since it only affects you, large armies can still swing elsewhere
Farsight Mask - you wouldn't think that this would pull a lot of weight, but players don't generally want to swing with a random creature and give you a card. And if you do draw cards off it, you'll be better poised later on to manipulate combat
High Priest of Penance - pulls double duty because people don't want you to destroy something of theirs, or can be used as a political tool "if you attack me with X I can blow up Y". I've yet to live the dream of responding to an alpha strike with Gideon's Sacrifice. One day... one day
Ophiomancer - repeatable deathtouch blocker or sacrifice fodder
Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker - this effectively shuts down players with small board states, and dear god don't play something like Blood Artist
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs - makes attacking me more expensive. Still waiting for someone to swing alpha strike expecting to eliminate me, fog them, then get them on the backswing with all my new ogres
Ogre Slumlord - Like Ophiomancer, this makes deathtouch blockers
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts - blocks most things on the ground, makes you reconsider attacking in the air, and can safely swing for damage
Curse of Opulance - you could attack me, or you could attack them and get some mana
Ghostly Prison/Sphere of Safety - makes it harder to get attacked by many things at once
Righteous Aura - paying 2 life is so much better than taking 6 damage
Vow of Lightning/Vow of Malice - literally makes something (usually a general) unable to attack you
No Mercy - see Teysa
Chronomantic Escape - almost a pet card, I just think it's fun. It does come in handy a surprising amount of times
Kor Haven/Maze of Ith - damage prevention

Combat Tricks:
Selfless Squire - fog on a stick that also prevents damage for the entire turn
Gideon's Sacrifice - Basically a fog effect, but can be combined with High Priest for extra value
Outmaneuver - this can be used politically to get someone to swing a certain way
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Post by Jivanmukta » 5 months ago

This seems like a good fit for Alms Collector. Smothering Tithe as well, but I guess you're trying to draw less hate?
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Post by cryogen » 5 months ago

Smothering Tithe definitely draws attention my way, although I love that card. Would Alms Collector be for just general draw, or for the bounty counters? Because each counter creates a single draw trigger, so there's no synergy there.
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Post by Jivanmukta » 5 months ago

Felt like more of a thematic choice than one that exactly works with the general, limiting opposing strength and gaining value from it instead. It's also just a sweet card.
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Post by rogerandover » 5 months ago

Have you considered Backlash/Delirium? Fits the theme nicely.

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Post by cryogen » 5 months ago

rogerandover wrote:
5 months ago
Have you considered Backlash/Delirium? Fits the theme nicely.
I have not.....

I do like Delirium better because it doesn't have the additional cost of tapping it, so I can wait until a creature attacks me to decide if I want to use it. I'll have to remember to add this to my maybe pile (along with Hatred, which is sitting on my desk).
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Post by Ulka » 5 months ago

Cryo Im glad to see others using mathas!

a few cards I have loved dearly in my list are:

Queen Marchesa: Enabling Monarch at a table is huge for me as often I find players sit back too often and arent abusing the fact most edh players hold thier board back too much. The best part of Marchesa is that often we dont want to tbe the monarch and with the death touch assassins we can force unfavorable blocks and cash in our bounty counters.

Goblin Spymaster: this little Bonaparte enables the attacking apect of the game and incetives so much shenagians in the game I love.

The last two are basically the same: curse of shallow graves and curse of disturbance. Make zombies and basically provide bodies for mathas to cash his bounties on.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Post by cryogen » 4 months ago

Ulka wrote:
5 months ago
Cryo Im glad to see others using mathas!

a few cards I have loved dearly in my list are:

Queen Marchesa: Enabling Monarch at a table is huge for me as often I find players sit back too often and arent abusing the fact most edh players hold thier board back too much. The best part of Marchesa is that often we dont want to tbe the monarch and with the death touch assassins we can force unfavorable blocks and cash in our bounty counters.

Goblin Spymaster: this little Bonaparte enables the attacking apect of the game and incetives so much shenagians in the game I love.

The last two are basically the same: curse of shallow graves and curse of disturbance. Make zombies and basically provide bodies for mathas to cash his bounties on.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for the feedback! If memory serves me correctly, I did run the Queen at one point, but I can't remember why I cut her. Worth revisiting. Goblin Spymaster is interesting, but I'm not sure the effect is something I want except to sandbag late in the game when I can take exploit it. Something to consider for sure. Lastly I did run the Curse of Disturbance along with some other ones, but found their effects to be too marginal to have any real sway over the opponents.
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Post by DrSeaMonster » 4 months ago

So I also have a Mathas that I've had for quite a while. It started out as an Oros. That's how old it is. Here's some thoughts based on my version of the deck.

For example, I've found that Curses and Vows underpreform, so I've mostly cut them. I do run the white, black and red Hunted creatures, though. I've found those are pretty fun. And while I'm giving things away, Bloodgift Demon and Humble Defector are nice political tools.

Have you considered Spurnmage Advocate? That's fun for playing politics.
As are Spectral Searchlight and Victory Chimes, it's surprising how much longevity you can earn yourself for sharing mana with other players.

Head Games is great when you really want to shake up the game state, give one of your opponents the perfect hand of cards? Classic. Of course you can also follow that up with a Mindslaver or Worst Fears if you want to be cheeky.

I do have a problem with Master Warcraft, though. I used to run it until I realized it didn't work the way I hoped it did. The controller of those creatures still decides -who- those creatures are attacking, so you can't use it to force one opponent to attack another. Boldwyr Intimidator is a better way to mess with who's blocking what.

You've got Ghostly Prison and Sphere of Safety, but I also use Norn's Annex and Blazing Archon. While my opponents aren't attacking me, Luminarch Ascension can get counters fast. And if you're careful, you can build up a private air force while everyone else squabbles with each other.

And Insurrection is a great choice. They never see it coming, at least for a while. I've got one friend who's become paranoid that I always have Insurrection at the ready with this deck and am gonna cast it at any point.
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Post by DrSeaMonster » 4 months ago

One thing I do really like about your list is Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts and No Mercy. I think I'll be slotting those in.

I think I'll be cutting Bitter Feud and Sower of Discord for those two.
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Abzan aligned, Timmy/Johnny with a Vorthos activated ability.

Commander decks: Karador. Riku. Savra. Vorosh. Teysa Karlov. Kenrith. Balthor the Defiled.
Radha, Heir to Keld. Nath. Atarka, World Render. Saheeli, the Gifted. Zacama. Zurgo Helmsmasher.
Samut, Voice of Dissent. Grimgrin. Muldrotha. Ertai, the Corrupted. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Elsha. Glissa, the Traitor.

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Post by cryogen » 4 months ago

DrSeaMonster wrote:
4 months ago
So I also have a Mathas that I've had for quite a while. It started out as an Oros. That's how old it is. Here's some thoughts based on my version of the deck.

For example, I've found that Curses and Vows underpreform, so I've mostly cut them. I do run the white, black and red Hunted creatures, though. I've found those are pretty fun. And while I'm giving things away, Bloodgift Demon and Humble Defector are nice political tools.

Have you considered Spurnmage Advocate? That's fun for playing politics.
As are Spectral Searchlight and Victory Chimes, it's surprising how much longevity you can earn yourself for sharing mana with other players.

Head Games is great when you really want to shake up the game state, give one of your opponents the perfect hand of cards? Classic. Of course you can also follow that up with a Mindslaver or Worst Fears if you want to be cheeky.

I do have a problem with Master Warcraft, though. I used to run it until I realized it didn't work the way I hoped it did. The controller of those creatures still decides -who- those creatures are attacking, so you can't use it to force one opponent to attack another. Boldwyr Intimidator is a better way to mess with who's blocking what.

You've got Ghostly Prison and Sphere of Safety, but I also use Norn's Annex and Blazing Archon. While my opponents aren't attacking me, Luminarch Ascension can get counters fast. And if you're careful, you can build up a private air force while everyone else squabbles with each other.

And Insurrection is a great choice. They never see it coming, at least for a while. I've got one friend who's become paranoid that I always have Insurrection at the ready with this deck and am gonna cast it at any point.
Well that really sucks about Master Warcraft. I've been playing it wrong this entire time.

Those are some good cards you listed. Sounds like your deck is more of a kingmaker deck? Do you find yourself getting attacked because of Luminarch Ascension? I try to avoid cards that make me get attacked.

Also, do you plan on posting a list at some point? I'd like to see what direction you went.
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Post by DrSeaMonster » 4 months ago

If your defenses and bargaining are good enough, they'll overlook Luminarch Ascension, I find. I once won a game entirely due to an unanswered bunch of angels and a timely Worst Fears.

My version is derived more about manipulating the game state, highly political, can play kingmaker, but can also backstab at the last moment.

I'm away from home right now, but I'll probably post a list tomorrow morning.
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Abzan aligned, Timmy/Johnny with a Vorthos activated ability.

Commander decks: Karador. Riku. Savra. Vorosh. Teysa Karlov. Kenrith. Balthor the Defiled.
Radha, Heir to Keld. Nath. Atarka, World Render. Saheeli, the Gifted. Zacama. Zurgo Helmsmasher.
Samut, Voice of Dissent. Grimgrin. Muldrotha. Ertai, the Corrupted. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Elsha. Glissa, the Traitor.

Oathbreaker: Ral, Storm Conduit/Teleportal.

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Post by DrSeaMonster » 4 months ago

Oh darn, this totally skipped my mind! Had a busy weekend.

Let me get that list for you.
Decklist

Commander


1 Mathas, Fiend Seeker

Instants


1 Sudden Spoiling
Approximate Total Cost:

As you can see, it's highly political, manipulates the game state a lot and can easily play kingmaker.
But it's got a few nice hidden daggers for taking the throne yourself.
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Abzan aligned, Timmy/Johnny with a Vorthos activated ability.

Commander decks: Karador. Riku. Savra. Vorosh. Teysa Karlov. Kenrith. Balthor the Defiled.
Radha, Heir to Keld. Nath. Atarka, World Render. Saheeli, the Gifted. Zacama. Zurgo Helmsmasher.
Samut, Voice of Dissent. Grimgrin. Muldrotha. Ertai, the Corrupted. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Elsha. Glissa, the Traitor.

Oathbreaker: Ral, Storm Conduit/Teleportal.

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Post by DrSeaMonster » 4 months ago

cryogen wrote:
4 months ago
Well that really sucks about Master Warcraft. I've been playing it wrong this entire time.
Ignore my error in the rulings forum.

Regardless. Brutal Hordechief is a way that actually can manipulate blockers in Mardu colors. Ideally combined with some Goad type effects.
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Abzan aligned, Timmy/Johnny with a Vorthos activated ability.

Commander decks: Karador. Riku. Savra. Vorosh. Teysa Karlov. Kenrith. Balthor the Defiled.
Radha, Heir to Keld. Nath. Atarka, World Render. Saheeli, the Gifted. Zacama. Zurgo Helmsmasher.
Samut, Voice of Dissent. Grimgrin. Muldrotha. Ertai, the Corrupted. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Elsha. Glissa, the Traitor.

Oathbreaker: Ral, Storm Conduit/Teleportal.

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Post by cryogen » 4 months ago

You know I actually got a copy of Hordechief for the deck but never put it in. Maybe because the cost was so high. One thing is that by the time I hit 5 mana I'm really trying to hold up 3-5 mana for pretty much the rest of the game, so there's a huge opportunity cost to running and casting high cmc cards. Nice list though, I can definitely see the direction you've gone.

You mention goad. You should test Disrupt Decorum. That card messes with people so hard.
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Post by DrSeaMonster » 4 months ago

I need to get some goad into this deck.
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Abzan aligned, Timmy/Johnny with a Vorthos activated ability.

Commander decks: Karador. Riku. Savra. Vorosh. Teysa Karlov. Kenrith. Balthor the Defiled.
Radha, Heir to Keld. Nath. Atarka, World Render. Saheeli, the Gifted. Zacama. Zurgo Helmsmasher.
Samut, Voice of Dissent. Grimgrin. Muldrotha. Ertai, the Corrupted. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Elsha. Glissa, the Traitor.

Oathbreaker: Ral, Storm Conduit/Teleportal.

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Post by cryogen » 4 months ago

DrSeaMonster wrote:
4 months ago
I need to get some goad into this deck.
There's also an Act of Treason one that steals a creature, then gives it back with goad. I'd love to see an enchantment with an activated ability to goad a creature.
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Post by DrSeaMonster » 4 months ago

Should I cut Sphere of Safety? I don't have that many enchantments in the deck.
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Abzan aligned, Timmy/Johnny with a Vorthos activated ability.

Commander decks: Karador. Riku. Savra. Vorosh. Teysa Karlov. Kenrith. Balthor the Defiled.
Radha, Heir to Keld. Nath. Atarka, World Render. Saheeli, the Gifted. Zacama. Zurgo Helmsmasher.
Samut, Voice of Dissent. Grimgrin. Muldrotha. Ertai, the Corrupted. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Elsha. Glissa, the Traitor.

Oathbreaker: Ral, Storm Conduit/Teleportal.

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Post by cryogen » 4 months ago

DrSeaMonster wrote:
4 months ago
Should I cut Sphere of Safety? I don't have that many enchantments in the deck.
Probably. I like it better than Windborne Muse, but you probably average a more expensive Ghostly Prison. I'm also not a fan of Karmic Justice. I keep trying to force it into decks and it is always disappointing. Ymmv
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Post by DrSeaMonster » 4 months ago

cryogen wrote:
4 months ago
DrSeaMonster wrote:
4 months ago
Should I cut Sphere of Safety? I don't have that many enchantments in the deck.
Probably. I like it better than Windborne Muse, but you probably average a more expensive Ghostly Prison. I'm also not a fan of Karmic Justice. I keep trying to force it into decks and it is always disappointing. Ymmv
Sure. Is there a better effect than sphere of safety I can run? I recently slotted in Dread, Teysa Envoy of Ghosts and No Mercy after seeing your list.

How do you feel about Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker?
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Abzan aligned, Timmy/Johnny with a Vorthos activated ability.

Commander decks: Karador. Riku. Savra. Vorosh. Teysa Karlov. Kenrith. Balthor the Defiled.
Radha, Heir to Keld. Nath. Atarka, World Render. Saheeli, the Gifted. Zacama. Zurgo Helmsmasher.
Samut, Voice of Dissent. Grimgrin. Muldrotha. Ertai, the Corrupted. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Elsha. Glissa, the Traitor.

Oathbreaker: Ral, Storm Conduit/Teleportal.

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Post by cryogen » 4 months ago

DrSeaMonster wrote:
4 months ago
cryogen wrote:
4 months ago
DrSeaMonster wrote:
4 months ago
Should I cut Sphere of Safety? I don't have that many enchantments in the deck.
Probably. I like it better than Windborne Muse, but you probably average a more expensive Ghostly Prison. I'm also not a fan of Karmic Justice. I keep trying to force it into decks and it is always disappointing. Ymmv
Sure. Is there a better effect than sphere of safety I can run? I recently slotted in Dread, Teysa Envoy of Ghosts and No Mercy after seeing your list.

How do you feel about Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker?
Hmmm... maybe this list isn't up to date either. I run her, unless I cut her. She is a great rattlesnake that punishes you for pinging effects like Purphorus and Blood Artist.
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Post by DrSeaMonster » 4 months ago

My mistake, you do have her. I think I'll be slotting her into mine in place of the sphere.
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Abzan aligned, Timmy/Johnny with a Vorthos activated ability.

Commander decks: Karador. Riku. Savra. Vorosh. Teysa Karlov. Kenrith. Balthor the Defiled.
Radha, Heir to Keld. Nath. Atarka, World Render. Saheeli, the Gifted. Zacama. Zurgo Helmsmasher.
Samut, Voice of Dissent. Grimgrin. Muldrotha. Ertai, the Corrupted. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Elsha. Glissa, the Traitor.

Oathbreaker: Ral, Storm Conduit/Teleportal.

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cryogen
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Post by cryogen » 4 months ago

Change log to make the deck list accurate, as well as continuing to flesh out the OP.

+ Strionic Resonator, Queen Marchesa, Selfless Squire, Gideon's Sacrifice, Delirium, Wild Ricochet, Hatred, Single Combat

- Wall of Souls, Karmic Justice, War Cadence, Curse of Exhaustion, Blaze of Glory, Chaos Warp, Oblation



(Note: deck list was short one card)
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Post by DrSeaMonster » 4 months ago

What are you getting the most often from strionic resonator?
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Abzan aligned, Timmy/Johnny with a Vorthos activated ability.

Commander decks: Karador. Riku. Savra. Vorosh. Teysa Karlov. Kenrith. Balthor the Defiled.
Radha, Heir to Keld. Nath. Atarka, World Render. Saheeli, the Gifted. Zacama. Zurgo Helmsmasher.
Samut, Voice of Dissent. Grimgrin. Muldrotha. Ertai, the Corrupted. Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Elsha. Glissa, the Traitor.

Oathbreaker: Ral, Storm Conduit/Teleportal.

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cryogen
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Post by cryogen » 4 months ago

I think so far I've only used it on Mathas, but scrolling through my list I could get some good value (under the right circumstances) with:
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