You Lika The Juice? Unpacking The Political Puppets Commander Deck

Bennie tweaks the Political Puppets Commander Deck product by Wizards. This one’s a little tricky, since it involves wanting to give away your own permanents! Check out his upgrades and comment.

About every other week I’ve been going over each of the new Commander decks, “unpacking” the cards and explaining how I might go about updating the deck with additional cards. Keep in mind this will be different than how I’d go about building a deck around the Commander from scratch—the goal is to start with keeping the best cards in the deck and then replacing the other cards, basically trying to power-up the deck with minimum new cards to buy or trade for. Naturally, as time goes on, you’ll want to tweak and adjust the deck with more powerful and fun cards as you acquire them, but I hope this provides a good base for people just getting into the format!

Previously I’ve unpacked Counterpunch, featuring Ghave, Guru of Spores as the Commander; Devour for Power, featuring The Mimeoplasm as the Commander; and Heavenly Inferno, featuring Kaalia of the Vast.

This week I’m going to do Political Puppets, which is a funky deck that presents some interesting twists on the way you typically play Commander. Zedruu the Greathearted is the Commander, and here’s the decklist out of the box:

The concept behind the deck is based on Zedruu the Greathearted’s ability to hand off permanents to other players, and to let you benefit from that by drawing cards. Let’s see what cards we have to work with right out of the box.


These are the cards that nearly any Commander player will be thrilled to have in his card stock to build decks around. The beauty of the five Commander decks is that they are high on the staple count. Once you tire of playing a few games right out of the box and decide to cannibalize them for cards there is a treasure trove of good stuff here. Political Puppets has a large number of great staples!

Ruhan of the Fomori and Numot, the Devastator

These Legends provide alternate red/blue/white Commanders for your deck but don’t really play into the themes that Zedruu suggests. However, both Ruhan and Numot are efficient creatures for their mana costs, and will often find themselves in decks that support their colors. I’d keep Numot in the deck for sure; Ruhan’s mindless attacking might provoke people who would otherwise be happy to receive Zedruu’s “gifts” to use those resources to hit back. I’d keep him in your deck and observe how your playgroup reacts to him before benching him.

Brion Stoutarm and Nin, the Pain Artist

Both of these legends are also solid creatures for the cost with very useful abilities. Nin in particular gives another dimension to a Zedruu deck by providing gifts of cards to players.

Chromeshell Crab, Dominus of Fealty, Reins of Power

Dominus of Fealty is rather mana-intense and may not fit too well in a three-color deck, but he’s powerful enough to give it a try. Paired up with Zedruu and other ways to give gifts, I could see pairing up with someone who can sacrifice to steal problematic creatures and hand them over to another player to dispose of (such as a Blightsteel Colossus). The Crab and Reins of Power are generally useful and tricky blue cards most any deck can use.

Arbiter of Knollridge, Court Hussar

Creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities are nearly always decent filler in a Commander deck, especially if you have ways to use them over and over again.

Azorius Guildmage, Izzet Chronarch, Soul Snare, Spell Crumple

These are all solid utility cards, but Azorius Guildmage in particular will find lots of opportunities in most games to be randomly amazing.

Command Tower, Darksteel Ingot, Dreamstone Hedron, Fellwar Stone, Sol Ring

The epitome of format staples, they let you more reliably cast your other spells.

Vow of Duty, Vow of Flight, Vow of Lightning

I really love the cycle of Vows in the Commander decks, they are really well designed. Auras are traditionally pretty lame but there are certainly some good ways to find and reuse them if you have Auras you want to play with. I just love how these can neutralize threats to you while beefing up those threats for other opponents. Like, how many times have you had to kill something you wanted to keep in play because it was a threat to the big bad at the table, but you ended up having to kill it because if it turned your way you were just dead to it? It’s just a fantastic multiplayer design. With a Zedruu deck, in a pinch you can even “donate” control of the Aura to another player to protect them from attack and draw an extra card.

Fog Bank, Guard Gomazoa, Wall of Denial, Wall of Omens

Even if your game plan is to give gifts to other players and encourage them to leave you alone, if you’re wide open, people are going to take a swipe at you. Setting up some adequate defenses can make it easier for people to resist attacking you.

False Prophet, Austere Command

Sometimes a passive defense won’t work, so when you’ve got to clear the decks, white provides some nice options. Austere Command is one of the most flexible options around, while False Prophet provides a “rattlesnake” card to wave off attackers unless they want the board wiped. False Prophet is a great card for some decks—especially those that don’t play a lot of permanents and have a way to sacrifice on demand—but a Zedruu deck usually wants to keep donated permanents around so I probably wouldn’t play it here.

Champion’s Helm, Lightning Greaves

Sometimes ungrateful, ill-mannered people object to Zedruu’s gift-giving, in which case it wouldn’t hurt to protect her from shenanigans.

Martyr’s Bond

This is a potent protective rattlesnake card that goes into just about any white deck.

Wild Ricochet

This is the kind of card that the Commander format was built for, so put one in every red deck and keep your eyes peeled for the kind of play that people will be telling over beers for years to come.

Azorius Chancery, Boros Garrison, Izzet Boilerworks

I consider the Ravnica-block bounce lands some of the best affordable color-fixing lands in Commander, with the lone drawback of costing you some tempo when you play them. However, there are some Commander play groups that play a very cut-throat style, and these sorts of lands are like catnip to those players, who won’t be able to resist pouncing with pinpoint land destruction and pressing that temporary advantage to try and take you out. I’d say most Commander players would find that sort of play distasteful and will generally save LD for specific threats like Gaea’s Cradle, Maze of Ith, and Cabal Coffers, but be aware that your mileage may vary depending on where you play.


These are also cards that nearly any Commander player will be glad to have available in their card pool to build decks from, though I think the cards are too narrow to be considered “staples.”

Zedruu the Greathearted

This is the sort of “build-around-me” Legend that will find little love outside of dedicated Zedruu decks. However, she’s powerful enough and unusual enough to warrant the effort.

Jotun Grunt

I’ve never personally used this card in any of my Commander decks, but it is a very large, very cheap creature with an ability that can prove handy against certain opponents who rely too heavily on keeping their graveyard stocked. A solid card to have in your deckbuilding toolkit.

Windborn Muse, Ghostly Prison, Propaganda

The best in permanent-based defense from token horde decks.

Chaos Warp, Oblation

When you need to get rid of a problematic permanent without totally pissing off your opponent, these are two solid choices.

Crescendo of War, Flusterstorm

Brand-new cards designed with Commander in mind. Crescendo encourages aggression and is better suited to a Ruhan deck than a Zedruu deck, while Flusterstorm offers nice defense against combo-minded Commander opponents who want to kill the table with the Storm mechanic—a satisfying, hero-making table-save from Brain Freeze.

Howling Mine

A staple in many groups right behind Sol Ring, Howling Mine is the perfect sort of card to use for Zedruu gifting.


Nothing can dig you out of a massive hole and possibly slam-dunk a win like Insurrection. The triple red might be a problem in a three-color deck, but totally worth making the effort.

Trade Secrets

Some people love Trade Secrets, some people don’t. I’m in the “don’t” camp since too often letting your opponents draw a bunch of cards is a terribly idea even if you’re drawing twice as many. I think Zedruu is probably drawing enough cards that you don’t need something like this.

Armillary Sphere, Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse

Decent but suboptimal mana/color-fixing.

Death by Dragons

A pretty cool multiplayer card that can certainly “rally the troops” against one player who’s pulled ahead. Back before they changed token rules this would have been a fantastic card for Zedruu since you would have technically “owned” all the tokens you gave to other people. Now it’s just an in-color interesting multiplayer card.


Flametongue Kavu, Goblin Cadets, Gomazoa, Plumeveil, Rapacious One, Spurnmage Advocate, Vedalken Plotter, Brainstorm, Breath of Darigaaz, Journey to Nowhere, Lash Out, Murmurs from Beyond, Perilous Research, Pollen Lullaby, Prison Term, Prophetic Prism, Punishing Fire, Repulse, Scattering Stroke, Skyscribing, Vision Skeins, Whirlpool Whelm, Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse

I was originally going to call this “the chaff” as in what’s left behind once you harvest the usuables from the deck but honestly, in Commander, just about any card can make the cut in the right circumstances. Perhaps the card plays into the theme you’re building around, or perhaps you’re going for style points.

If you want to know more about why certain cards ended up in one of these categories feel free to ask me in the comments below and I’ll explain my reasoning.


Okay, so I’m going to walk through how I’d go about updating this deck with my own collection. Here are the cards I’d keep from the original build:

1 Zedruu the Greathearted
1 Azorius Guildmage
1 Brion Stoutarm
1 Chromeshell Crab
1 Dominus of Fealty
1 Fog Bank
1 Goblin Cadets
1 Guard Gomazoa
1 Izzet Chronarch
1 Nin, the Pain Artist
1 Numot, the Devastator
1 Ruhan of the Fomori
1 Flusterstorm
1 Vedalken Plotter
1 Wall of Omens
1 Austere Command
1 Champion’s Helm
1 Chaos Warp
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Howling Mine
1 Insurrection
1 Journey to Nowhere
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Martyr’s Bond
1 Oblation
1 Reins of Power
1 Sol Ring
1 Soul Snare
1 Spell Crumple
1 Vow of Duty
1 Vow of Flight
1 Vow of Lightning
1 Wild Ricochet
1 Azorius Chancery
1 Boros Garrison
1 Command Tower
1 Izzet Boilerworks

One interesting thing about the original build is the relatively low land count—just 34, which seems incredibly low considering the fairly high mana-curve and just how mana-intensive Zedruu is. Perhaps the developers relied on dropping a land every turn, fueled by Zedruu… and while I appreciate a Commander deck design that focuses heavily on its Commander, I have found sometimes you won’t have him in play early or for very long, especially if your opponents are overly paranoid about receiving Zedruu gifts. With that in mind I’ve upped the land count some.

Here are the new cards I’ve added to the deck:

Some of these cards help support Zedruu by giving your opponents some of your permanents outside of Zedruu activations. Others are Zedruu gifts of a more nefarious nature to give to those who are less appreciative of the good stuff.

Brand is a great card that lets you be a bit more generous with your giving, all the while knowing you can yank bank the gifts at a moment’s notice should you need them. The freaky Stylus is a great Zedruu-specific rattlesnake card that can let you give someone something threatening while making sure it doesn’t come back and hurt you. It’s also a great way to go ahead and take back that Illusions of Grandeur you gave to your opponent and tuck it back in your deck.

As you draw cards your opponents are going to be nervous about what sort of shenanigans Zedruu is going to be up to (understandably so). Beyond the Illusions/Zedruu trick, here are some other handy ways to keep your life total buffed. Wall of Shards is even more fun—say you’re giving an opponent life to help him recover from someone’s brutal attack, give him the Wall with Zedruu and maybe he’ll return the favor.

A little extra removal never hurts. Oblivion Ring is particularly fun because once you’ve removed something from the game it doesn’t matter who controls the Ring—might as well be one of your opponents, right?

A card like Zedruu demands a lot of cards dedicated to the strategy… so it would be a shame to have Zedruu keep dying. Here are a few extra ways to keep her around.

More mana is always useful, and I chose a few more that produce colored mana to help fuel Zedruu’s activated ability. Spectral Searchlight in particular can supplement your gift-giving, if you hand over something that your opponent needs mana to use, Searchlight can provide it to them if you want.

All are great cards to include in any Commander deck. Trinket Mage in particular has a couple juicy targets, such as Pithing Needle—a card that, like Oblivion Ring, can come down to turn something off and be gifted by Zedruu.

Alright, Nin is just so much fun I just had to keep her around and give her some fun toys to play with. Yes, Spite Mare baby!

This deck is pretty color-intensive, so I think the Vivid Lands (plus Reflecting Pool) can help things. Exotic Orchard will nearly always provide at least one of the colors you need unless everyone else sits down with green/black decks.

Here is the final decklist:

The mana curve is righteous, and the mana mix is about perfect. If you have old-school dual lands like Tundra, Plateau, Volcanic Island, Sacred Foundry, Steam Vents, and Hallowed Fountain they would certainly tighten up your mana and make multiple Zedruu activations easier.

There are certainly more cards you can add to the mix and make a “meaner” Zedruu deck, but I figure just a handful is fine to dole out as “revenge” gifts.

So what do you think? What would you do differently? Let me know in the comments below, or hit me up on Facebook.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend everyone!

Take care,

starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I’ve also created a Facebook page where I’ll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!

I’ve started a blog, it’s not Magic-related, but you may find it fun to read and comment on. I update at least once a week so check on it often and let me know what you think!

New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: