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Commander Rebuilt: Goat Hug

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Would you rather be loved or feared? Would you rather be a master of diplomacy or a commanding dictator of destruction? Zedruu offers you that choice. Players must do some soul-searching before they reconstruct the Political Puppets Commander deck. You must select a direction: Do you take the path of righteousness or slip into darkness?

There are three general ways you might rebuild the rwu Zedruu deck. You could follow the theme assigned from the box. Right out of the box, Political Puppets is a slick combination of gift-giving and brutal retractions. You can offer tempting bribes and political presents to your opponents during multiplayer games in exchange for various in-game courtesies, a ceasefire, or fringe benefits. However, the deck is rife with cards that can retract the presents, often transforming past allies into new enemies.

When playing the sealed version of Political Puppets, I would often ask my opponents to start the bidding for my gifts. Auction winners offered up truces, protection from other players, or redirection/cancellation of future spells or abilities aimed at harming my goat-headed Commander. In exchange, I would bestow a Vow of Duty or gift them a spare Mountain. It pays to have generous friends. However, alliances shifted along with game states. If my allies faltered, became too vulnerable, or failed to fulfill an in-game contract, I was forced to cast Oblation on my gift. Players might want to drop Venser, the Sojourner into this type of build. The planeswalker will allow you to gift permanents, and simply add a loyalty counter for the retraction of your charity. The resulting political dance of gifts given and promises broken makes for a really cool theme. However, Commander players have long memories, and the political hijinks might carry a magical politician only so far. Eventually, you will lose the election or find yourself impeached, staring down an angry table of opponents looking for reparations.

Choosing a New Path

Rather than playing the game of give-and-take, players might choose simply to play the gift-giving game. In prior articles and Web videos, I have championed a multiplayer deck construction style called Group Hug. Group Hug decks typically are built with no apparent win condition. The aim of the Group Hug player is not to win the game of Commander, but rather to act as a catalyst in order to generate fantastic game states and to restore balance through generous and helpful gestures. A Group Hug player might pack cards like Tempting Wurm, Hypergenesis, Gate to the AEther, and Show and Tell in order to provide other players a chance to cheat in their spells. Rather than viewing others as opponents, the deck type seeks to collaborate as a team to achieve outstanding, memorable moments.

Group Hug decks let players draw a bunch of cards, search their decks, and ramp up the land counts as the multiplayer Commander games spiral into a dreamy oblivion. While I have traditionally built my Group Hug decks using the purple hippo general, Phelddagrif, the Political Puppets commander had me whistling a more patriotic tune. The archetype was primed to move into rwu with Zedruu the Greathearted leading the charge. The she-goat’s ability offers you a chance for charity. You can donate your permanents in a purely benevolent way. If you have a beneficial extra creature, give it to a friend. Do you have some extra lands or a nifty artifact? Make it a gift.

Imagine inheriting a steady stream of great creatures, extra lands, choice artifacts, and enchantments during your next round of Commander. Players love to join in games with a Group Hug player. The games are friendly and fantastic, and often you are able to help new or struggling players stabilize while promoting interactivity and fun. Our local Commander league offers a “sportsmanship” award for players who demonstrate great social interaction and promote fun. Occasionally, I shelve my more competitive decks and rock the purple hippo for a few weeks, and everyone seems to enjoy the games. Every once in a while, players complain about drawing too many cards or the fact that players can cheat in giant creatures on turn four, but the archetype is a true winner. It gives players a new way to play Commander. Playing in the role of catalyst and promoter of fun is a nice change of pace. If you have not tried it out, rebuilding Zedruu in a friendly way may be the perfect move.

A Darker Direction

Maybe benevolence is not your style? Do you hate the political games and broken promises inspired by the original Political Puppets deck? Well, there is a third, darker direction in which you can take the Zedruu deck. You can start reconstruction on the Zedruu the Darkhearted deck by asking a question: What are the worst permanents in the game of Magic that a player could ever control? You know, the ones that make you cringe? Here is a short list of r, w, and/or u cards that I never want to see on my side of the field:

Top 10 Evil Presents

Each of these permanents make terrible gifts. Unfortunately, most folks won’t have the option of throwing out these bad eggs. Once you saddle an opposing player with these albatross cards, they will have to find some removal to break the curse of your evil presents.

Not only can the darker version of Zedruu use her ability to impose these plagues upon opponents, but you can pack your deck with lots of donation effects that fit this theme to ensure the “hot potato” cards don’t end up in your hands when the music stops. Consider sleeving up selections like Puca's Mischief, Bazaar Trader, Custody Battle, Cultural Exchange, or Juxtapose along with cards already included in the preconstructed deck, like Chromeshell Crab. These cards will complement Zedruu’s ability when she is disposed.

To Be (Mean) or Not To Be?

That is the question for our rebuild. After outlining the three general styles that players might use for this deck (political give-and-take, benevolent/catalyst, and darkhearted gifts), I thought we might be model, Commander citizens and work up a “Goat Hug” version of the Zedruu deck intent on sharing positive gifts and building a prosocial, interactive experience. You can’t really knock players who choose a different path (bunch of meanies!), but there is a certain appeal to playing a deck focused purely on fun and shenanigans.

Cheapest Lands Possible

Group Hug players get a huge financial benefit. They are not really trying to win, and often are not forced to tune the mana base to competitive perfection. My original Group Hug deck used a cool mix of enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands, basics, and a few cool nonbasics that might run a player about $15. Last week’s article outlined a very different style of deck with a land pool that tapped the wallet, so this Goat Hug deck can be a truly refreshing financial bailout for strapped gamers.

Keepers: Out of the Box

Upgrades

Total = 34

These tweaks maintain our ultra-inexpensive mana base but provide a bit more color-fixing. I also like the flavor addition of both Homeward Path and Springjack Pasture. Homeward Path has a very Group Hug feel. It nullifies theft cards and can be used in a pinch to prevent damage or stop the attack of a borrowed or stolen creature. Bribery is a huge card in our local meta, and Homeward Path is the absolute answer.

I liked that the original Political Puppets deck only contained thirty-four land. The decks that packed in forty-one land were way too mana-intensive. Thirty-four seems like a solid number. The amount of card draw will keep the deck running smooth once you are online. If you are not too concerned about budget, or just have one chillin’ in a binder, you could pack in Maze of Ith (or its worse counterpart, Mystifying Maze). This card can let you play hero as needed by preventing the death of your collaborators.

Gifts Given: Keeper Creatures

There are several creatures that we will keep from the original Political Puppets build.

We will keep fourteen (including Zedruu) of the original cast. Nin, the Pain Artist is a sweet new addition to Magic! He fits well with Pulsemage Advocate and the ilk. I love the concept of donating walls to opponents. You give them protection and gain some cards and life when Zedruu is onboard.

New Benefactors

Total = 26

The add-on, benevolent creatures either give your opponents extra cards, gain a little life, or help create fantastic game states (à la Braids). Gifts are great. The “Hunted” cycle of creatures can be used to give some additional creatures to one opponent, while Zedruu donates the hunted Phantasm, Troll, or Dragon to another. These guys seem thematic and fun. I really like cards like Wall of Shards and Ghosts of the Innocent and was surprised to see they missed the original list. Handing out extra life and preventing damage can be some great political presents! There are a few cards that can keep the party rolling (like Reveillark after removal) or Gwafa Hazid to hold a giant threat in check.

Artificial Mana/Fixing

Total = 7

You have to put yourself in position to do all the nice things built into this deck. A little artifact ramp and color-fixing will ensure that the deck is playable and keeps up with the occasional competitive builds that make it to your tables. We have a solid start in the Political Puppets deck and get to throw in a couple of spicy additions in Gilded Lotus and Coalition Relic.

Artificial Card-Draw

Total = 4

Nothing makes games more fun than breaking the card-draw rules of Magic. Allowing players to draw extra cards is always appreciated, and we supplement Howling Mine with Group Hug favorites Horn of Greed and Font of Mythos. For Saturday Night Live fans, the deck definitely needs more cow—I mean, Temple Bell.

Protecting the Goat-Woman

Total = 4

With the addition of Darksteel Plate, you can make sure that your half-woman, half-goat Commander sticks around on the field for many generous contributions. I like the new Champion's Helm and the addition of M12’s Swiftfoot Boots as a replication of Lightning Greaves.

Folks might also want to bump Gate to the AEther and Oblivion Stone, and might go planeswalking with Jace Beleren. When you pair these three Group Hug favorites with the aforementioned artifacts, we end up with eighteen cards.

Instant and Sorcery Hugs

These nine cards do some utility work, can be used for the benefit of the table, and might help you pilot your deck in an effective manner. I will suggest these additional nine cards in order to “Hug it out.”

Total instants and sorceries = 18

Enchanted Hugs

Total = 4

I love the new Vow cycle and find them to be outstanding in Commander. Oath of Lieges is a natural selection for this type of deck and will protect players from the dreaded “mana-screw.” These last four cards round out our hundred-card Goat Hug list and will assist our other ninety-six cards in generating a great play experience. There is always room for improvement, and you are certainly encouraged to modify decks with cards you love and that serve your personal deck-building goals. Take this baby for a spin and leave us some feedback in the comments section or in the forums. Thanks for reading!

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