Anyone who plays in multiple groups, like me, has learned that most decks prove incapable of transitioning between playgroups. The strategy of owning multiple decks does help with this situation. However, if a player doesn’t want to carry around a metric ton of decks they may want to look for a different angle. Creating a judo style control deck that scales with opponents and uses opponents’ strengths against them is a tactic I use and recommend.
The Mishra, Artificer Deck that I put together based on the ideal of Judo survives by turning opponents’ strengths against themselves. The best way to think of the deck is as a conventional control deck. The only difference is that instead of strictly denying opponents resources, I use their resources as well as my own. The same elements of a control deck exist in this deck: creature control, stack manipulation, library manipulation, permanent removal, card advantage, and utility cards.
Instant speed spot removal such as Path to Exile and Terminate come to mind when we think of creature control. In addition, Hallowed Burial and Wrath of God-type effects are used when the board gets overrun with threats.
Judo decks swap out traditional spot removal for Control Magic spells and clones. To make the effect permanent, I recommend having sacrifice outlets to kill creatures that either are being stolen temporally or which have their Control Magic enchantments disenchanted.
One of my personal favorite Judo-style removal spells is Grab the Reins. It steals any creature and Flings it at someone or something else. Replacing wraths is a bit more difficult, due to fewer available substitutions. You can use mass stealing spells like Insurrection or Blatant Thievery, and I also rely on mass bounce spells to reset the board. It’s not a permanent fix, but it does give you some time.
Counter spells are kings of stack manipulation, but they aren’t the only option. The issue I have with most counter spells is that the player that casts the spell rarely gets anything out of it. Judo decks take another approach; they copy or redirect opponents’ powerful spells. Tired players casting Exsanguinate for 30 and winning the game? Well, if you copy Exsanguinate, your copy resolves first. Maybe next time they won’t rush out that game ending sorcery?
In EDH, Library manipulation usually means scrying effects, and tutors fill a similar role. In place or searching and rearranging your own deck, a Judo deck will do this to other decks. The downside is that you have to have a good understanding of how players usually build there decks in order to choose the correct targets for Praetor’s Grasp, Knowledge Exploitation, Acquire, and Bribery. The upside is that you don’t need many giant, game altering spells for your own library. This frees up space for other things.
Removal for non-creature permanents is important in almost every deck. Judo decks have two ways of dealing with non-creature permanents. They can either steal them or shut them down. Using a deck’s strength against itself doesn’t always mean you are stealing everything; it also means turning their strengths into weaknesses. If you are playing against someone whose entire deck depends on artifacts, playing Stony Silence shuts down the deck completely, while a Hellkite Overlord could turn their plethora of artifacts into a win condition.
Card advantage and utility are the same in Judo decks as they are in any other deck. Geting them to fit on theme it is good, but not necessary.
Strong decks are rarely strong because they are good in a vacuum. They are crafted to excel in a specific game state, and to create a state is at advantageous for them while disadvantaging opponents’ decks. This can create a form of card advantage.
Having a field of mana rocks with a Winter Orb out, or controlling several pieces of equipment when Humility is on the board are perfect examples of leveraging shifted game states. It is hard not to win when the environment is to your sole advantage. The same principle applies to Judo decks.
I made my Judo deck incredibly redundant. Every instant copies or redirects, almost every enchantment steals, and almost every creature copies another creature. That means when I put Possibility Storm into play, I know with almost certainty what effect I will be getting even if I don’t get the exact spell I am casting. On the other hand, opponents have little to no idea what might happen when they cast a spell. This redundancy means that the more random I can make casting spells and drawing cards, the better off I am in comparison to other players.
The judo deck has been incredibly fun to play. The lessons I have learned playing the deck are going to get applied to all of my decks. By making all of my control cards Judo-ish, I can start taking my decks to a wider variety of groups and still enjoy fun interaction. The test with this deck has been a resounding success, both for the effectiveness of the deck and the level of entertainment the games have provided for everyone involved. The precise list of the deck is not exactly useful, but here is the template I used;
- 1 Commander
- 38 Lands
- 13 Steal Permanents
- 7 Copy Creature
- 7 Copy/Swerve Instants
- 10 Artifact Ramp Spells
- 7 Game changing spells (Possibility Storm, Insurrection, ect.)
- 7 Steal from Graveyard
- 7 Steal From Library
- 3 Barely Themed Utility Cards (Steel Hellkite, Nim Deathmantle, Skullclamp for Mishra shenanigans)
Feel free to message me as always if you have questions.