So, I’m gonna get back into the swing of things by talking about something I’ve been trying to incorporate into my decks more and more as time goes on. If you’re familiar with Jason Alt, a long time writer for Gathering Magic, you’ll know about his 75% theory for Commander. The basic idea, without getting too far into it (if you’d like the full rundown, check out the article where he introduces the concept), is that 75% decks want to win 1 / X games, where X is equal to the number of players in the game. This can take a lot of forms, but one of my absolute favorite 75% concepts is the idea of using cards that scale with your opponents’ decks. What exactly do I mean? Check out the following cards:
Ah, these cards fill me with immense joy. They could be anything, and that’s the beauty of them. Clone is always a copy of the best creature on the table and will only be as powerful as the cards you and your opponents have played. If your opponents are playing stuff like Avenger of Zendikar and Avacyn, Angel of Hope, guess what? Now you have one too! If the best thing your opponents have in play is a Shivan Dragon, you have one of those too. I’ve had situations come up in games of Commander where a well-timed Clone effect turned the tide of a game and propelled me into the lead. For instance, I was playing a game with my Roon of the Hidden Realm deck, and I kicked a Rite of Replication copying a Baleful Strix. How good is drawing five cards, getting five 1/1 Deathtouch Fliers, and having fodder for your Evolutionary Leap sound? Pretty good, from my experience. Clone effects scale well to the power level of the group, which is what makes them very good cards for 75% builds. The added flexibility is also a plus.
However, the bulk of what I want to talk about is a little more invasive than simply copying an opponent’s creature. What’s the only thing better than having a copy of the best thing in play? That’s right! Having the best thing in play. Even if that means taking it from someone else! Magic, especially Blue, is chock full of effects that steal your opponents’ stuff, and that’s really all I want to do in some of my decks. Control Magic, the original and most iconic version of this effect, goes a step beyond leveling the playing field and lets you take the best creature for yourself. Cards like Volition Reins, Take Possession, and Lay Claim extend this privilege to any permanent, but the concept remains the same. You took something that belonged to your opponent and made it yours. If they didn’t want their cool, new toy taken, they shouldn’t have played it in the first place. All kidding aside, Control Magic effects are a great way to make sure your deck scales with the other decks at the table. Your cards are only as powerful as the cards your opponents play, so you aren’t in danger of playing anything too powerful for the table.
Bribery, I believe, is one of the most powerful versions of this effect because, rather than taking something that has already been played, Bribery tutors an opponent’s deck for the best creature and puts it into play under your control. How good does that sound? Bribery is an even more proactive version of the Control Magic effect, allowing you to jump the gun and deny your opponent the chance to even profit off of casting their big creatures in the first place. It definitely feels more evil than stealing something they’ve already gotten value off of, but stealing isn’t generally something people like having happen to them to begin with. Certain strategies rely on effects like Bribery to help them turn the corner and close out games. My Melek, Izzet Paragon deck has some win conditions, but sometimes those win conditions just aren’t enough and you need to steal one from your opponents. Bribery is more than happy to step in here, especially if you got to cast it off the top of your library and copy it!
On the other end of the reactivity spectrum, Desertion and Commandeer lay in wait for your opponents to cast a juicy target for you to steal. I’ve never done something that left me so conflicted as casting Desertion in response to someone’s bomb. Not only do you keep them from having it, but now it’s yours. They spent the mana and everything. That was their whole plan. You monster. (These are the things that go through my head when I cast Desertion). It feels so wrong, but at the same time it feels so right. Warning: People who don’t like getting their spells countered definitely won’t like it when you get the spell instead of them. Just some food for thought. Use at your own risk!
What? Did you think Blue was the only color that got to have fun with stealing other people’s things? Not by a long shot! Blue might be best at holding onto your opponents’ stuff permanently, but Red and Black have their own ways to take what isn’t theirs. Red is known for its Act of Treason effects, and one of the best of those is without a doubt Zealous Conscripts. (Yes, I know Insurrection is actually the best Red version of this effect, but it’s also a really boring way to end games once you’ve done a couple of times.) Zealous Conscripts let’s you take control of any permanent for the rest of the turn, which opens up the possibility of taking a Planeswalker that’s about to ultimate, or stealing a Maze of Ith that’s keeping you from attacking someone for lethal. You don’t get to keep it forever, but one turn is usually long enough. You’re just borrowing it, after all. Sarkhan Vol only lets you take creatures, but a repeatable source of Act of Treasons is something worth taking note of.
Then, there’s Black. Black doesn’t generally let you take things from in play (barring Enslave). No. Where Black’s power lies is in taking things from opponents’ graveyards. Cards like Rise from the Grave, Beacon of Unrest, and the like allow you to plunder the ripe graveyards of your opponents and reanimate a huge threat that you probably put there in the first place if you’re in Black. It’s less common for Black to be able to steal things from opponents’ graveyards than your own graveyard, but it’s so satisfying when you get to turn an undead version of your opponents’ threats against them.
And that about covers the basics! As always, this is just meant to be an overview of the topic. I’m sure there are cards and aspects of this that I haven’t mentioned, but the idea is to get the conversation started. So, go forth and take what doesn’t belong to you! (In the context of a Commander game, of course. Don’t actually go out and steal cards. That should go without saying.)
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