Wallet Warriors: Mathas, Friend Seeker
Welcome back Wallet Warriors! Today we’re looking at a budget deck led by one of the new legends out of the Commander 2017 vampire deck. Mathas, Fiend Seeker! I was especially excited to start brewing with Mathas because he fits perfectly as the commander for one of my favourite “archetypes", Politics. While not a traditional archetype, this is a style of deck that I have loved for a long time. A political deck is intending to take full advantage of the multiplayer aspect of commander. You are using those skills you learned in debate class to make allies and root deep-seeded hatred towards your enemies. All the while, building up a nice fluffy pillow fort around yourself. Fair warning, winning with a political deck is not straight forward. You will need to think on your feet and be able to correctly assess the other players at the table to succeed. You'll need to show you’re willing to expend resources towards your allies goals to gain their trust, then, be able to assess when the correct moment to turn on them is. After all, only one player can emerge victorious.
Now, if you’re willing to march into battle with Mathas and seek some friends, this list will cost you just under $100, here it is!
*If you want to see the list separated into the groups I talk about. Click the link here.
The Best Offence is Staying the Hell out of the Way
Let’s start with how we’re going to stay alive. We’re running a lot of defensive pieces like Ghostly Prison and Orzhov Advokist for a few reasons. The first is they obviously disincentivize people from attacking us which makes it easier for us to convince them to focus on each other. Cards like Ghostly Prison are always surprisingly effective at deterring attacks because even if it is a mild inconvenience, your opponents are much more likely to attack the person that has no annoying tax attached to them. The second reason these cards are important is because we are going to be providing benefits to the players we deem useful. Making another player at the table stronger is a dangerous game so we need to build up a wall as some insurance in case they get out of hand. The final reason for including these cards is that we’re looking to go into the late game. Plan A is to get to at least second place, we’ll worry about what to do next when we get there.
A Little Nudge in the Right Direction
Commander players tend to lean towards not attacking if they have the option. This makes sense because you don’t want to leave yourself vulnerable to multiple opponents. However, we want them to be attacking. That’s why we have a few incentives in the deck to push people into the red zone.
Pain Magnification, Crown of Doom and Curse of Opulence are examples of cards that give our opponents benefits for attacking people that aren’t us.
Goblin Spymaster, Fumiko the Lowblood and Basandra Battle Seraph take away the option to attack from our opponents. However, they still get to choose who, this is where those defensive cards we just talked about come in.
Grenzo, Havoc Raiser and Disrupt Decorum use one of my favorite mechanics, Goad. This innocuous keyword not only forces our opponents to attack but they have to choose someone that’s not us! I’m really happy Wizards has brought back this mechanic even if it’s only on one card. I’m going to make the not-so-bold prediction that Disrupt Decorum will be a very strong card.
Even with the political charm of Justin Trudeau you will need to be able to backup your promises with tangible resources. We have ways to give other players cards with Sign in Blood and Bloodgift Demon. We can give away creatures with Hunted Dragon and Benevolent offering. We can even save their creatures with Cauldron of Souls. Remember to never give away anything for free though. Even if there is nothing immediate you want in the game, playing the long game and building up trust can be invaluable. Make promises and hold to them. If there is a threat that someone wants answered but it’s not doing much against you, strike a deal with them. Instead of just dealing with the threat and expecting gratitude, ask for something in return first.
We also have a few “nukes” in our arsenal. These are cards that target a single player and can be incredibly devastating. These are cards that are often more powerful in your hand than after they have been cast. The threat of completely annihilating someone's resources with Identity Crisis or Head Games can make your opponent's decisions much simpler when deciding to target your stuff with that removal spell or the other guy. These powerful cards also double as great win conditions once the table has been slimmed down to just you and someone else.
Controlling your Enemies and your Allies
When playing the political game one of the best ways to get an edge is to create allies. The easiest way to do this is to give them something they want. However, this is a tight-rope walk because the people you are choosing to help may not decide to be so helpful in the future. This is why we want some insurance against pesky traitors.
We’ve got kill spells such as Slaughter and Snuff Out for a few reasons. They can be used to deal with creatures coming our way. They are also useful for killing the creatures that Mathas has marked with his ability. Lastly, they can be fine political tools to either protect our allies or weaken our enemies.
We also have some board wipes in Merciless Eviction and Decree of Pain, among others, for when things get out of our control and we need a reset button.
Okay so we’ve gotten everyone else to kill each other. We’re left face to face with the last survivor that we’ve presumably been feeding resources. Now what? Well we’ve gotta have some trump cards to play that will hopefully win us the game. Tariel, Reckoner of Souls and Sepulchral Primordial pull threats out of our opponent's graveyard. Blazing Archon and Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts are big creatures that are also great on defense. Then we have our bargaining nukes in Identity Crisis and Head Games to destroy our opponents hands.
Ideally you don’t want to go overboard with your generosity and end up facing down a monster on your own. Part of the challenge piloting this deck is evaluating how much people are willing to help you for and giving them the bare minimum.
Ramp and Card Draw
There’s not much to say here but we’re running eight mana rocks since the deck has a pretty high mana curve and we have a few additional ways to draw cards. These cards are important but not interesting, let’s move on.
When going beyond the initial budget constraint, the first area you should look to upgrade, after the mana base, is the pillow fort. There are a lot of powerful defensive cards that happen to be relatively scarce. No Mercy and Michiko Konda are both great and efficient options for the wall we want to build.
Next you should definitely pick up a Toxic Deluge if you don’t have one already. It’s not only likely the best board wipe in black but arguably of the whole format.
Finally you’ll want a few more heavy hitters for the end game. Gisela, Blade of Goldnight does a lot of work in this style of deck as she acts as an incentive for opponents to attack each other as well as protection when they do decide to come our way and she is a great finisher.
Sheoldred, Whispering One and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite are both classic finishers and can definitely get the job done.
So with that, I hope I was able to convince you. Politics is something a lot of players overlook and I think is one of the most interesting parts of our format. You don’t need the best deck at the table to win. When you’re pulling the strings behind the scenes and sneak out of the shadows to swipe that win, you’ll likely be relishing that victory for at least a few play sessions.
Anyways guys, seeya in a couple weeks!
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