Three Cards Deep: The Good, The Bad, and the EDH Ugly

Check out part two of my three-parter on “politics.” This week, the forced group dynamics.

When WotC started printing cards with Commander on their minds (with a capital “C”), we got more obviously political cards and things geared towards a group dynamic. The Advocates giveth even as they taketh away, cards in the Siphon Thing cycle scale up as they affect more opponents, and more recently, the Primordials hit each opponent (to be fair, the lack of the text “up to” on the primordials makes them far less political.) Take another step in obviousness, and you get mechanics like Join Forces, Tempting Offer, and Will of the Council.

This week I’m presenting three cards that fall into that last category of political design:

  • One is Rad: It’s awesome, perhaps even surprisingly so, a card you’d be just as happy to see an opponent slam down as you would to rip it off the top.
  • One is Bad: It’s a bogeyman. Take a trip to frown town with these fun suckers, whether you’re casting or being tortured by them.
  • One is Sad: The let down you realize you usually don’t want to cast.

Rad – Shared Trauma

I think I’m almost alone in loving this card, but here’s why. Unlike with Tempting Offer (It’s not that tempting. Experts agree, unless you’re getting Cradle, never take the offer.), this mechanic is a little more complex because superficially, everyone gets the same exact benefit. Draw the same, land tutor the same, mill the same. But you sculpt your deck around maximizing the effect, so it’s not actually symmetrical. That dynamic is interesting.

Shared mill is also sweet because if you just jam it for seven or whatever, and nobody else pays in, you’re probably pumped to flip an average of 28 cards. Dig into that fuel with your graveyardy deck.

Verdict: It’s interesting, you’re happy either way, and you get to try to weedle people into doing what you want.

Bad – Exsanguinate

This will be short. I don’t need to rehash annoyances with the most powerful Drain Life effect printed for multiplayer; and it is explicitly for multiplayer. “Each opponent” does something tells us they had large tables in mind.

Just to be explicit, spells that win the game for 10+ mana aren’t necessarily problematic. I tend to agree with Sean/@SwordstoPlow that once a player reaches 10 mana, they’re at the “I could try to win the game at any second” threshold and should be treated as a threat accordingly. However, Exsanguinate represents a win-scenario that is very simple to put together (have mana >= lowest two players’ life totals and Esxang in hand), and as such players do it. A lot. I’m tired of seeing it.

Verdict: I was once making a joke about it to a newer player, he said “What’s that card,” and the other two at the table quickly shushed me to avoid risking another new player in the group playing the card.

Sad – Malignus

Everything about this is neat. The name is good, the mediocre Photoshop art feels campy, and it’s unpreventable large amounts of damage. Perhaps most importantly from a fun perspective, it’s power changes to scale with the game, kinda like an opposing foreshadowing of the Dethone mechanic. It encourages you to not knock down the player with the highest life total. (Hence, political).

Then reality comes crashing down. Gigantic dudes without evasion, abilities, or immediate effects have to be suuuuuuper efficient. Obviously he’s fine in Brion Stoutarm because of the high power-to-mana-cost ratio. But when I’ve drawn him in Radha or Aurelia, the malignant energy is often the last card I play out of my hand because it’s just too low impact.

Verdict: I wish he had haste instead of no damage prevention. TurboFog players beware I guess.

Conclusion: This was a tough one because most of the cards with explicitly political mechanics don’t see much play so they’re just meh. I wish I had been able to think of one that always led to arguments at the table, but none are really that complex. Thoughts?