3, Feb, 24

Blame Game Provides the Cards This MTG Archetype Needed

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Article at a Glance

Well, they’ve done it again. What is it? A “forced combat” deck. We’ve seen this before. Battle for Baldur’s Gate had Draconic Dissent and Streets of New Capenna had Cabaretti Cacophony which were dedicated forced combat pre-cons. There have been numerous other pre-cons with excellent commanders for the archetype, and a few cards leaning into that theme as well. The question is, does Blame Game deliver anything new to this kind of deck’s strategy, and does it solve some of the fundamental problems this archetype faces?

Why?

The alternate commander of Blame Game, Feather, Radiant Arbiter is a pretty poor second appearance of Feather, the Redeemed. This card works with exactly six cards in the deck. The problem? Two of those auras Goad the creature permanently and probably should be put on an opponent’s creature. Two give a very minor +2/+2 and Vigilance or First Strike along with the provision that the creature can no longer attack you or a Planeswalker you control. Again, likely better on an opponent’s creature. Spectacular Showdown also comes with Goad and has an Overload mode, so at any more than three additional creatures, you don’t really need Feather’s ability if you want to go wide with it. Redemption Arc is left as a pretty bad option.

The best-case for Feather is mid-game with five or seven mana, so you can suit up one of your creatures and also multiple, different creatures that your opponents control. The circumstances seem a bit too unlikely.

Furthermore, you can get snake bit when your own Winds of Rath can’t kill one of their creatures that you enchanted. In some kind of Naya Enchantress deck, I can see this Feather being brutally effective but here? Not so much.

So Yeah, Nelly

Nelly Borca, Impulsive Accuser as mentioned is the latest in a string of forced combat Commanders. Combining the Suspect ability with card draw makes her different. The best part of Suspect is not the Menace ability, it’s the fact that the Suspect can no longer block. On top of all that, she Goads the Suspect. All of this combines positively. Not only are you forcing your opponents to attack, but you also make them want to attack optimally so they get to draw a card. Plus, you remove blockers in many situations so the table cannot conspire against you to eliminate your advantage. That’s something many of the current forced combat commanders don’t do.

The only problem with Nelly’s game plan is that you really want her attacking as much as possible. Four toughness is not unkillable. With no natural protection in the deck, you may be forced to throw Nelly away to keep the Goads rolling, but that costs you mana and cards. Furthermore, if the table wants her removed, she gets removed. You have virtually zero protection effects in the entire deck.

You may have Played this deck Before

There are a large number of specific reprints in this deck and, because of the theme, you may have played them all together already. Disrupt Decorum is a surprisingly effective card. When you add “also draw one card during each other combat phase” because of Nelly, you suddenly have a significantly more powerful version of the same thing you’ve tried before. Even though Decorum has existed with Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs before, Take the Bait offers you a new piece of tech for what the deck needs most; a way to win heads up. Note that in this situation, your opponent is likely forced to attack you twice and will generate a bunch of 3/3’s for the win. Even without the Tyrant, Take the Bait is a soft Fog or take an extra turn card. It also works with Selfless Squire to have a massive creature ready to hit them on the crack back.

On that same level Hot Pursuit gives you another massive tool to win the heads up match and it’s only two mana. This is probably the best card in the deck considering how it runs.

Because gameplay revolves around what your opponents are doing and utilizing the creatures they have in play, suffice it to say that games are varied. In one game I played Brash Taunter and nothing else. The other players picked away at each other and one of them made a 24/24. End of turn, Taunter fights it, I have the other player takes 24. Dead. My turn? Fight your 24/24, you’re gone. Sometimes you are at the mercy of what the other players are doing and sometimes you get a free win.

So it’s the Perfect Goad Deck?

In a word, “no”. The deck definitely has problems. Look at Mob Verdict. This card can easily be used against you. No, they cannot wipe your board but the table can conspire to deal up to four damage to one player’s field which could ruin your plans.

Prisoner’s Dilemma is an interesting card, but at the end of the day it doesn’t do anything. 12 damage, even doubled to 24 won’t usually take someone out of the game. This card should have had a higher mana cost but done far more damage so that it really causes a dilemma and not merely an inconvenience. Game theory on this is settled, on average you’re supposed to work together. Sure, many tables will gleefully sabotage and snipe at each other and sometimes one or two players take 12 while one or two players take nothing. The problem is the card takes your entire turn and does not represent lethal, even with double damage. Fun? Somewhat. Spicy? Maybe the first couple of times you cast it. But it’s not effective at all. Remember that one versus one situation? This becomes five mana deal four damage. That is a worse rate than Lava Axe. In 2024 how can this be?

On top of what I would suggest are relatively dead cards, there are some weird decisions. The deck runs Brash Taunter, Boros Reckoner and Gideon’s Sacrifice. You know what is a great card to combine with them? Blasphemous Act.

While I try to recommend cards that are a little bit more exotic, off the beaten path, and unique, it’s impossible not to want to add Act here. Furthermore Stuffy Doll is an excellent second copy of Taunter and works with Act and Gideon’s. You can easily remove Darien, King of Kjeldor because it’s just weird here. When are you taking huge amount of damage? The deck runs Deflecting Palm, Comeuppance, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Selfless Squire, and Gideon’s Sacrifice. It also doesn’t have spells like Earthquake.

The deck runs Exotic Orchard. Why? In a two color deck? Did you know that Angel of the Ruins is in this deck and it can Plainscycle…for a basic Plains? That’s right, there is not a single “Mountain Plains” in the deck. Not even a common, enters tapped, Sacred Peaks. The Naya deck, Deadly Disguise, does include that land though. This is a “plain” error and at least it can be fixed for very little cost.

Etali, Primal Storm is a powerful card. Why is it in the deck? No idea besides “good cards are good.” However, if you’re playing Boros good stuff, why are you playing Nelly Borca, Impulsive Accuser when you can play Winota, Joiner of Forces? You’re playing Nelly to mess with combat. Maybe suggestions like Akroan Horse and Varchild’s War-Riders just make more sense for this type of deck even if they are not the strongest cards.

Cards to Consider Instead

Nelly needs a Whispersilk Cloak. This lets her attack and accuse to her heart’s content never being afraid of the consequences. This can also turn into a way to win that one versus one when you have a huge Selfless Squire that needs to be unblockable. While you already have Rogue’s Passage a second effect is helpful.

Meanwhile, Doctor Who has a bevy of interesting additions that the deck certainly wants to consider. The Sound of Drums is an excellent re-usable Goad effect and it also has good synergy with Feather unlike the other auras. Laser Screwdriver seems to be playable everywhere for all the different utility it provides. Finally Sontaran General appears to be a perfect partner in crime for Nelly. With Haste, you can quite easily achieve battalion and Goad three creatures! Nelly helps by Suspecting a fourth creature, taking away multiple blockers.

Finally, Argus Kos, Spirit of Justice is so good for the deck it makes you wonder why it’s not included. Absolute auto include. You can easily substitute out Anya, Merciless Angel. Even though it’s an interesting card, it has got nowhere near the synergy that Argus has.

The Final Verdict?

I have a confession; I have played more than one forced combat deck. Starting with Marisi, Breaker of the Coil, trying out Firkraag, Cunning Instigator and eventually settling on Xantcha, Sleeper Agent, I’ve gone around the color pie with options. Right now Xantcha is fairly well tuned and consistently gets to a heads up situation but far too frequently cannot seal the deal. Hot Pursuit and Take the Bait both look like excellent ways to win.

The Feather include, along with some questionable cards, may have made the stock version of Blame Game a bit underwhelming, but the slightly better designed Goad cards are a big step in the right direction. For fans of the archetype, you may have played this type of deck before and there’s not that much value in trying it again. But if you’ve never played a forced combat pre-con before? This is easily the best of the bunch.

Read More: MTG Deadly Disguise is Properly Piloted by a Legendary Bear

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