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Budget Commander: Edric, Spymaster of Trest

Edric, Spymaster of Trest [CMD]

The Power of Politics

Commander is not like most other constructed formats. Most formats are 1v1 where you use your cards to defeat your opponent in a straightforward manner. Commander, however, is traditionally played as multiplayer free-for-all. You're not just using you cards to defeat your opponents, but you can also manipulate your opponents to use (or not use) their cards to aid you as well. That is the power of politics in Commander — a power you don't see elsewhere.

Politics is a sneaky, subtle power that is hard to quantify. It's easy to look at a raw power card like Maelstrom Wanderer and understand why it's good: you're getting a fat creature plus two more spells and everything gets haste for a reasonable casting cost. Lots of smashy-smash value. But then look at Intellectual Offering: it's basically Jace's Ingenuity, which is good, and it lets you untap things (probably paying for itself if you have mana rocks), but you grant opponents the same bonuses. Yuck, right? Why would you do that? It's hard to make the connection that helping an opponent is actually a benefit of this card, not a drawback. In many cases, by helping the weakest player at the table you're ensuring that you have a temporary ally that won't use his/her resources against you. It's also not uncommon that there's an opponent way ahead of everyone else at the table, and by aiding an opponent you help the table find answers to deal with your mutual threat. Either way this exchange benefits you, making Intellectual Offering way better than Jace's Ingenuity.

Because it's harder to identify and understand the political power of cards in Commander, I decided to focus this article on a political deck. In my mind, no commander is better suited for the game of politics than Edric, Spymaster of Trest.

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Greed is Good

Edric, Spymaster of Trest looks innocent at first. He's basically a cheaper Coastal Piracy that helps everyone instead of just you. That sounds kind of bad, right? I mean, yeah you get to draw cards, but so do your opponents! Who in their right mind would want to do that? (Shush, Phelddagrif — no one likes you.)

In a vacuum this isn't a great ability. But when you build your entire deck around the Coastal Piracy effect by jamming tons of little evasive dudes to draw you cards, suddenly you're getting a far greater benefit from Edric than anyone else at the table. In fact, decks built around him for 1v1 are so powerful that he's banned from Duel Commander!

Now as I've mentioned with Intellectual Offering, helping your opponent by drawing them cards has powerful political implications. Yes, you're helping your enemies, but in order to cash in that card draw cheque they are obligated to swing their army at your foes while leaving you alone. Not only are you preventing tons of damage from coming your way, you're also manipulating your opponents to deal more damage to each other for the sake of card draw — lovely, irresistible card draw.

Opponents that are unfamiliar of Edric, Spymaster of Trest's power will read the card and love you. They'll refrain from killing Edric and happily attack everyone but you. Why? Because YAY, FREE CARDS! But how about opponents that know about Edric's power? Foes that know that by attacking each other, they are playing right into the Spymaster's trap? Well... they'll also attack everyone but you. Why? Because YAY, FREE CARDS! That's the power of politics at its finest: even if they're aware of what's going on, no one can resist the allure of free cards. Greed is good my friends.


How it Plays

You can build Edric, Spymaster of Trest a number of ways. The most common method is balls-out aggro running as many cheap evasive creatures as possible to start drawing a ton of cards with Edric. Other decks use Edric at the helm of group hug decks, supplementing the spymaster's global card draw with other global cards like Howling Mine or Rites of Flourishing. You could also build him more as a control deck, using the spymaster's political power to keep the heat off you while you assemble your win condition.

For this article I will discuss my preferred version of Edric, which is a aggro/tempo/control mashup. I like running a ton of cheap evasive creatures to draw cards and back them up with lots of control cards to police the table. There's also a bit of an Elf and Faerie tribal subtheme; I wasn't striving for them, but it just so happens that many of the good Edric cards happen to be Elves and Faeries. This does, however, make cards like Spellstutter Sprite very effective here.

This version plays out like so:

  1. Play cheap evasive creatures.
  2. Play Edric, attack with your creatures, draw tons of cards.
  3. Keep playing creatures while using cheap counters and removal to police the board.
  4. Crush the opposition with your army!

Let's break it down:


Evasive Weenies

The first step of the deck is to play cheap, evasive weenies that are going to draw you cards off Edric, Spymaster of Trest. They are your primary draw engine and, later on, your main win condition.

The very best of these weenies cost a single mana and are unblockable. Gudul Lurker is a prime example of what you're looking for. They are the very best at recon, sneaking past enemy lines and gaining "intelligence" (card draw) with Edric. The next best are the other evasive 1-drops: flying (Scryb Sprites), or pseudo-flying (Treetop Scout). Landwalk is pretty good as well — if you're playing against three opponents, chances are at least one of them are playing the lands you can walk on.

Options include: Cloud of Faeries, Cloud Pirates, Cloud Sprite, Cloudfin Raptor, Eladamri, Lord of Leaves, Flying Men, Galerider Sliver, Gudul Lurker, Hypnotic Siren, Jace's Phantasm, Merfolk Spy, Scryb Ranger, Scryb Sprites, Spire Tracer, Treetop Scout, Triton Shorestalker, Wingcrafter, Zephyr Sprite

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Ramp Weenies

These weenies ramp your mana so you can play out your hand faster. After all, what's the point in drawing tons of cards if you're stuck casting them slowly? Best of all, these weenies can also swing in against undefended opponents to draw you cards with Edric, Spymaster of Trest.

First up are mana dorks: Llanowar Elves and friends. These creatures come out fast, hit open players for card draw, and can generate mana to play out your hand faster.

Similarly, creatures that put lands into play like Elvish Pioneer help you ramp out hard when you're drawing tons of lands off Edric, Spymaster of Trest.

Options include: Arbor Elf, Birds of Paradise, Bloom Tender, Boreal DruidElvish Mystic, Elvish PioneerFyndhorn ElvesJoraga Treespeaker, Llanowar Elves, Lotus CobraOracle of Mul DayaPriest of TitaniaSakura-Tribe ScoutSkyshroud RangerSylvan Ranger

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Utility Weenies

These weenies do a variety of things for the deck in addition to being cheap creatures that can get in there and draw you cards.

We've got graveyard recursion with cards like Eternal Witness, Den Protector, and Snapcaster Mage.

There's a multitude of countermagic available like Spellstutter Sprite, Spiketail Drake, and Cursecatcher. Two of my favorite new inclusions are Silumgar Sorcerer and Stratus Dancer.

Need something blown up? Reclamation Sage and Viridian Shaman have got you covered.

There's these and many more!

Options include: Cursecatcher, Eternal Witness, Glen Elendra Archmage, Icefeather Aven, Martyr of Frost, Phantasmal Image, Phyrexian Metamorph,  Reclamation Sage,Silumgar Sorcerer,  Snapcaster Mage, Sower of Temptation, Spellstutter Sprite, Spiketail Hatchling, Stratus Dancer, Trinket Mage, Viridian Shaman, Wirewood Hivemaster, Wirewood SymbioteSylvan Safekeeper 

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Being in Blue and Green gives you great control cards to keep your opponents from getting out of hand. Blue gives you access to countermagic and bounce, while Green takes care of artifacts and enchantments.

I value cheap, quick answers far higher than bomby expensive removal in this deck. My typical turn would be drawing 3-4 cards off Edric and needing to play a few cards to avoid discarding. The leftover mana would be used to hold up countermagic or instant speed removal for my opponents' turns, making a casting cost of 1-2 ideal to increase my chances of having enough mana to pull this off.

Coutermagic options: Abjure, Arcane Denial, Counterspell, Daze, Delay, Disdainful Stroke, Essence Scatter, Flusterstorm, Forbid, Force of Will, Mana Drain, Memory Lapse, Muddle the Mixture, Negate, Remand, Snap, Spell Pierce, Unified Will

Bounce options: Chain of Vapor, Cyclonic Rift, Snap, Submerge

Creature removal options: Pongify, Rapid Hybridization, Psionic Blast, Master of the Wild Hunt, Lignify

Enchantment/artifact removal options: Nature's Claim, Krosan Grip, Rain of Thorns

Everything removal options: Song of the Dryads, Beast Within

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Card Draw

Edric, Spymaster of Trest is your primary card draw engine but we can't rely on him too much. Despite the high chances of your opponents enjoying his company, Edric will still be killed either by targeted removal, or (more likely) global board wipes. The commander tax quickly adds up and we'll need alternative card draw options.

The most obvious addition are Coastal Piracy and Bident of Thassa, two cards that do exactly what Edric does for us. They fill the same role admirably.

We also need card draw that isn't dependant on dealing combat damage to opponents. We don't want to be caught in a position where our board gets wipes and we have no way to refill our hands. That's when we turn to non-conditional, always-good card draw options:

  • All hail the glorious Skullclamp! This format staple is downright silly with Edric. Turn all your weenies into two cards a pop! Broken card is broken
  • The not broken equipment, Mask of Memory, is still great because there's no shortage of evasive weenies you can equip to
  • I will sing praises of Mystic Remora in every Blue article I make from now until it becomes a $10 card and is reprinted as a foil with new art, because that's what it deserves
  • Rhystic Study is more of a tax effect but either way it's great
  • Treasure Cruise (and Dig Through Time for non-budget) is great because your graveyard will quickly be filled with weenies; might as well use them for something!
  • Old favorites like Concentrate, Harmonize, Tidings, Opportunity, or my favorite newbie, Intellectual Offering, all do a great job at hand refills with no strings attached

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Your army of weenies, while excellent at drawing you cards, aren't going to win the game any time soon by themselves. "Death By Nibbles" takes longer than you'd think! So here are some ways to steal games out of nowhere:

Another potent method of winning is chaining extra turns, like Time Walk. Unfortunately, almost all of these effects are outside the budget, but there is one staple for Edric, Spymaster of Trest that is tailor-made for him: Notorious Throng. You activate the prowl cost with the commander himself, making evasive weenies and taking an extra turn all for a discounted price! What's not to love?

Finally, if you're feeling cutthroat, you can run stax cards like Winter Orb, Tangle Wire, and others. With so many cheap creatures on the field (including many mana dorks), you can play through these cards while your opponents are crippled.

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Budget Lists



Upgrading and Fiddly Bits

The two biggest upgrades for Edric, Spymaster of Trest are: 1) better lands 2) more explosive ramp. The idea is to get out Edric and creatures as quickly as possible so you can start getting ahead of the table with card draw.

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