EDH Tool Chest: Mardu Political Burn
Have you ever had issues with threat assessment in your playgroup? Ever played some value cards only to be hated off of the battlefield? Have you ever tried to play politically only to wind up helping everyone but yourself? Look no further than Mathas, Fiend Seeker and Queen Marchesa!
While both have their own unique approach to political play, the general tool chest I'm presenting today will be more or less the same. With it, you'll hopefully be able to build the political EDH deck of your dreams.
Our goals here are to protect ourselves and create situations where powerful opponents become your allies strictly via constant threat and benefit analysis. This tool chest will contain combos, but the primary win condition is through simultaneous life gain and burn.
These are your primary ways to play throughout the game and will be the triggers for your win conditions. Pestilent Spirit turns all of your damage dealing instant or Sorceries into removal cards, so spells like Electrickery become a lot spicier, especially against a strategy that goes wide without creating tokens. Soulfire Grand Master and Firesong and Sunspeaker get you into your life gain strategies, the latter feeding into even more burn damage. This will drive a need for a lot of small damage dealers that can go off quickly and frequently.
One of the most well-known combos in Commander history debatably goes a little something like this: if you gain life or you cause life loss of any sort with both of these cards on the battlefield, one card's effect goes off. This is followed by a board state check before the next trigger goes off on the other card. A lot of people have said that this results in an infinite combo but it would appear that according to the rules - "If a player has 0 or less life, that player loses the game as a state-based action. See rule 704. 118.7" - that once an affected player has zero or less life between each trigger, the state-based effect of the player losing happens. That means the next trigger cannot go off and the loop is interrupted. Follow the link if you want to read up a little more on the rulings for this.
This is kind of brilliant but will see you as an immediately huge threat that can eliminate with reckless abandon. Look to end the game quickly once these enchantments hit the board. It shouldn't be hard. A mere Shock can finish a player off if they don't have a Disallow or something to counter the spell itself in hand. This is where the next pieces come in handy...
Guttersnipe and Electrostatic Field help with your burn no matter what spell you play, and regardless of whether those spells get countered. This will allow you to apply pressure no matter what you're doing. I could go on about these cards, but I think their use is pretty clear and simple.
You'll want plenty of protection from creature and combat-based damage, and these spells are some of the best options. Annex especially, as it will actually ping a player for damage should they not have access to white mana. This is essential to set up any kind of politics going forward, just in case someone predicts what you're up to and tries to aggro you out of the game early on.
Of course, no political deck is complete without political cards to perfectly set you up for the kind of play you need. What you're looking for are cards that tell the pod that you're willing to pass out benefits if they do what you tell them to. If they don't, they miss out on the benefits. In a game of EDH, this can be key to your success. You'll want to play cards like this after you've laid down your protection but before you start laying down win conditions.
One of the more isolated win conditions in this tool chest. Since you'll be gaining all kinds of life anyway, you may as well throw this down. That way you can basically take a player out of the game once you pass 50 life. It's a pretty cool and concise way to win a match, especially if you're playing a two-player matchup.
With the setup I've laid out, these can be the coup-de-grace: taking a big swing from an opponent and throwing it back in their face. There are plenty of these that only dole out damage to creatures. That's fine so long as you have Pestilent Spirit out as a means to get around combat tricks. Most of your big bads will need to get around Indestructible though. Stuff like this will definitely keep players almost always guessing as to when an answer for a large attack is coming, which is something they'll already be questioning considering you should be pressuring them out of attacking you with Ghostly Prison and its ilk.
Of course, you're going to want your full suite of the usual suspects when it comes to removal, prison effects, and burn spells. Personally, I would slot in a bunch of spells that would pit one against the other, especially those that might save another player's rear from a major attack like Take Vengeance and potentially lean someone in your favor.
We also can't forget spells that would help you get into mana you need, but black has plenty of answers to that equation and you should already be running the full gamut of mana rocks. Crypt Ghast might be a nice slot for something like this, but Magus of the Coffers might fly under the radar a little more.
If you want to change things up and go with a more creature-based strategy, you may want to consider these cards as they will take a more vampire-focused strategy that works well with Mardu in general.