Commander Spotlight: Tsabo’s Decree

As a casual multiplayer format, Commander sees quite a bit of politicking. Players continually strategize, weighting when to strike and when to hold back. They constantly reevaluate allegiances of convenience, and, often, make a verbal case why another player should – or shouldn’t – do something. Players utilize a host of tactics, from the overt threat to subtle mind games. Whether it’s trying to avoid  their own demise, or trying to spur someone to action against a perceived greater threat, this discourse is an inescapable part of multiplayer gaming.

It’s also why some players don’t enjoy it, and that’s perfectly understandable too. (For example, Mark Rosewater, head of Magic R&D, is very public about how he’s supportive of multiplayer, but that he personally doesn’t enjoy it.) With one opponent, it’s wizard chess; a singular foe to focus on. With six, it’s a chaotic melee of moves and countermoves.

Play these long enough though, and you begin to see patterns of behavior emerge, such as the decision someone will make to attack and/or kill the only player without blockers, simply because they can. Or, should a player not succeed at delivering a fatal blow, seeing the next player finishing the job.

There’s the idea of throwing a wrench into things simply to see what happens.

There’s the scorched earth logic that if you have no chance of winning and are going to be knocked out shortly, you might as well take as much as you can with you. Likewise, there’s the choice of forgetting all about the larger picture and focusing on eliminating the one player who slighted you, knowing it’ll likely cost you the game.

And there’s always the option to punish someone for playing a style that you simply don’t enjoy. Prefer to win by spellcasting? Punish creature decks. Hate crafty mages? Smash them with insurmountable creature damage.

“What friend? You are my only friend.”

Those are just a few. There are many, and the types and volume of such tropes will depend on your play group. One of my personal favorites is a trope I call Beni, after the impish character from the movie The Mummy. In it, he states the now-iconic line, “It is better to be the right hand of the devil than in his path.”

In Magic parlance, this is when the player most suited to stop the person with the strongest board advantage at the time instead allies themselves with that person in order to take down other players, rather than resist. It’s advantageous in the short term, but just like Beni in the movie, it rarely saves them in the end.

I make it a habit to punish people who pull a Beni.

Today we have: Tsabo’s Decree

Name: Tsabo’s Decree

Edition: Invasion

Rarity: Rare

Focus: Creature Destruction / Discard

Highlights: As far as Black wrath effects go, Tsabo’s Decree isn’t necessarily the most potent. Black has a number of ways to kill everything for around the same cost. What the Decree does do is only affect one player. Sometimes you want to Mutilate the world, and sometimes you just want to ensure one player’s demise. Tsabo’s Decree has a number of versatile uses all the same:

– It’s a huge anti-tribal card. If a player is using a tribal deck, or even just several creatures of the same kind, it hits them on the battlefield and their hand, assuming the “tribe” isn’t Saprolings. (But in that case take the token wipe all the same.)

– It can be used as an (albeit) expensive spot removal. However, it offsets that cost by being able to get rid of hard-to-remove Commanders or other pesky critters.

– It’s instant speed, which allows you to time it however you wish as to maximize punishment.

– Lastly, to reiterate: it’s singularly-focused for one player. In Commander, this often isn’t the way to go as far as board wipes are concerned. Sometimes though, it is useful to not turn a Balkan skirmish into a total World War. The fact that Tsabo’s Decree only guns for one player can make it a useful card for aforementioned political reasons.

Sometimes those Benis get their just deserves all on their own. Other times, though, a card like this can do the trick for you.


Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.

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