When we first looked at the topic a few weeks back, I dug into the theory behind the “Judo” deck and its applications. The details are here if you missed it the first time, but the general idea is that this deck archetype is all about reaction and redirection. The bread and butter comes once an opponent plays a threat; the Judo deck seeks to take that threat, twist it around, and redirect it wherever it sees fit.
Without going into a ton of detail this time around, this is a deck that thrives on capitalizing on opposing action. If you’re the person who loves to cram a boatload of mana acceleration and ramp into Avenger of Zendikar or Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, this isn’t the deck for you. If you want to take someone else’s Kozilek and toss it into another player’s face while punishing the Avenger of Zendikar player by killing his plant tokens and dealing him damage in the process, this is your deck.
Lately, I’ve done a lot of rethinking my position on EDH as a format. This is documented all over this blog, as well as over at StarCityGames.com, but while the main thrust is that while I’m more accepting of some of the other more competitive takes on playing EDH, my main enjoyment is derived from playing the game. I like winning a game here and there as much as the next guy, but I’m far more interested in what happens during the game, rather than how it ends up. I used to be the guy pushing threats as hard as I could, but let’s face it – everyone does that.
No…the fun is in working the system.
After a series of less-than-fulfilling games that tended to end with someone creating a massive token horde when the rest of the table finally exhausted their answers, I decided that I needed to go all the way with the theme and see what was possible. I decided to start with arguably the most infamous example, Sheldon Menery’s Ruhan of the Fomori deck that he affectionately refers to as “You did this to yourself.” He’s presented quite a bit of coverage on the theory behind the deck, and how it plays out in the games he frequents. I thought it would be interesting to build the deck, test it out in my own metagame to see what works and what doesn’t, and try to tweak things to bring it ultimately more in line with what will work for my play groups. I’ve begun the process (more or less), and have some insight on what seems to work and what needs some changing.
Ruhan was my first change. Sheldon chose Ruhan due to the random nature of what it brings to the table; it’s a decent source of general damage, but it arguably stays below the radar because it never actually is your choice on who gets attacked until you’re down to one-on-one.
I decided that isn’t particularly compelling, and it doesn’t really fit theme, and chose to go over to Zedruu the Greathearted. Also not completely thematic, but it provides the deck with a much-needed shot of card draw, and some additional staying power from the lifegain. There are a ton of symmetrical effects in the deck, such as Angel’s Trumpet and Powerstone Minefield that can do what you want them to on any other side of the table as well as your own.
The real gist is that I’m hoping for a better option than either one to come along sometime in the near future, but this does the trick for the time being.
Thirty-six lands is kind of a bare-minimum for a non-green deck, and this one in particular is strangely short on mana fixers. The first few times I shuffled this deck up, it was a pretty serious challenge just to find the correct mana to do what I needed it to do. Mix in some X-spells, and I have no idea how this thing is supposed to ever be in the right position to do what it needs to do, unless everyone just leaves it alone all the time.
I’m still trying to figure out some ways to fit in more lands to up the count overall, but I made some functional upgrades to smooth things over. Vesuva came out for Thespian’s Stage right off, and while I’m waiting to pick up some shocklands, there’s an extra Island, Plains, and Terramorphic Expanse. Those will stay after the shocklands arrive, so I need to find some extra space elsewhere to fit all of this real estate in.
I decided to go a bit deeper into the theme, while trimming some iffy things in the process. New Prahv Guildmage seems pretty weak, so I swapped it out for Glarecaster, which is spot-on theme-wise and actually provides a nice chunk of protection, removal, and deterrence all wrapped up in one package. Likewise, Boros Reckoner came out for being too inconsequential, and Thada Adel, Acquisitor stepped in to pick up the pieces.
One of the changes Sheldon already made was to pull Tamiyo, the Moon Sage for Burning Earth, and this is a change I fully agree with. Burning Earth is capable of dealing a tremendous amount of damage in EDH, and while it may end up being ‘one of those cards’ along the lines of Vicious Shadows, I’m going to keep it in for now to see what it can do.
To give you an idea of some of the enjoyable punishments this deck can dole out, I was able to play Angel’s Trumpet, and follow it up with Powerstone Minefield against Mr. P, who was playing my Melek, Izzet Paragon deck. He had both Talrand, Sky Summoner and Young Pyromancer in play, and anything he did would result in a token that would deal him damage the turn it showed up, and then die to an attack the following turn, or else keep dealing him damage instead. This is the core of the Judo gameplan; passive protection that doubles as a threat and removal and forces bad plays.
(For the record, Angel’s Trumpet is the best card ever against Avenger of Zendikar, provided there’s no haste involved…)
Anyway, I made a strategic change to the mana rocks, pulling Mind Stone for Chromatic Lantern to improve the fixing. Once I have the shocks, Tithe might make its way back into the deck to back up Land Tax as well.
Again, Sheldon had already pulled Martial Law for Reins of Power, which is another change I adopted. The detain thing just doesn’t seem strong enough in EDH, and Reins gives the deck, which is already short on creatures, a decent finisher and good solid chunk of flexible protection at instant speed.
Mindslaver is just one of those cards that I’m past at this point. It’s simply never fun, and while I understand Sheldon has pulled this in recent days for other options, the decklist as it stands includes both it and Academy Ruins, and that’s a no-no in my book. I opted to run Divine Deflection instead for another shot of instant-speed combat trickery/removal/protection.
Lastly, Final Judgment became Akroma’s Vengeance, and Sleep (another card I don’t think is strong enough in this format) became Shining Shoal/[card], rounding the list out with a final bit of redirection.
At this point, the deck just needs some seat time to see if it’s good enough to stand up to my metagame in the subversive way that I want it to. There are cuts to be made to fit more lands, and I really want to see some additional [card]Misdirection effects (Wild Ricochet!) in there as well, but we’ll see how things go. I’m nervous about the draw engine, as this thing just stalls out without a solid feed of additional cards. And there’s a serious shortage of creatures as well, which remains to be seen if it is mitigated by the tricks the deck packs.
Time will tell, but I’ll get some seat time with this thing as soon as I can and bring some results. It’s capable of some pretty interesting plays and interactions, and if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary to bring to the table these days, it’s worth a look.
A quick P.S. note-
No changes to the Commander Banned and Restricted List this time around seems about perfect. This format is doing well, and nothing desperately needs to go. The “official” support for sideboards is gone again, which really is the biggest news. Sorry folks – your Cunning Wishes are worthless once again.