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Whether you play casually or love competitive games, there will be times Commander will not be a free-for-all. The entire table knows you're ahead, and you're in their sights. How do you win this game? Turns out it may be easier than you think... at least, if you're clever about it!
It's Helpful to Not Start out as the Archenemy
"What is the Archenemy?" you ask. This is different than being the King. The King is merely the player who currently has the most control of the game. The Archenemy, however, is vastly ahead of the table, has unimaginable board presence or is about to combo off and win the game. It's also a term from a particular variant of Magic intended to be a one-versus-many format. When you are the Archenemy, the entire table is doing everything they can to stop you from winning.
Why Are You the Archenemy?
Pre-game, maybe you won the previous game, have a history of winning often, or are one of the better players in your group. This can have an adverse affect, making you the target of group hatred before the game even starts. It would always be better, and easier, to not have that happen. What about during the game? If you've taken a huge lead or are about to win, you have likely become the Archenemy.
A small part of the many reasons I advocate for playing more casual decks is precisely this reason. Playing only to win in casual games hurts your chances of winning by making you a target.
Are You Telling Me to Throw Games?
No, not at all. But I am telling you to consider other factors than "W" and "L." Ultimately, your ability to simply enjoy games of Commander without winning can boost your wins overall and should not be discounted from your general strategy. If anything, it helps when your opponents think you are a "casual Andy" for trying to pull off hard wincons, for example. A table that is in awe of your Triskaidekaphobia win probably won't hold it against you or feel like you "stole" a game off them. However, if you ever win on turn two or three, you will likely be targeted for many games to come.
Switch Decks Often
Some players tend to play the same deck because it is their "best" deck. This can create a situation where other players switch their decks specifically to fight you. Win with the same deck too often and you will see groups and tables start to target you more. Variety is not just the spice of life, but also a winning strategy. If others make meta build decisions around your deck, playing something else ruins their plan.
Perception Is Reality
This is the most classic trick possible, but simply talk about something else. Don't talk about winning last game or how often you've won. Talk about the weather, sports, your favorite boats... anything but the game. If someone else points out that you have taken control of the current game, point out how it's nothing compared to a movie you just saw this weekend, enter synopsis mode, and hope no one notices. There is a significant difference between true board state and player perception of the board state. Since perception is reality, use this to your advantage.
You may well be the Archenemy and, from a table perspective, they should be uniting against you if they want to win. However, just because you notice that it does not mean the entire table does. Don't do anything to ruin their (mis)perception.
Know When to Fight
When you get targeted by removal, quickly accept it and move on. Don't struggle, don't question. This appears to be pure psychology. If you "fight back," that means you're a threat. If you're a threat, they were right to destroy your thing, so, you're still likely a threat. But if you accept it and don't fight back, that shows submission. If you submit, it means you're no longer a threat.
Alternatively, if there is a significantly better target that is not yours, you do need to fight. Why? Because you can make a compelling case the other player might agree with. If a player can kill your thing or they can kill another thing someone else controls and draw a card, a third party can claim it's a better move. Getting other players to act on your behalf obfuscates your intentions.
Of course, you likely will reach a point where it's no longer a secret that you are, in fact, the Archenemy and the table is completely united against you. Or are they?
Alliances Are Meant to Be Broken
This is when you get to play one of my favorite Magic mini games, "Remember when?"
"Remember when they killed your commander? Remember when I gave you an extra draw?" Decks that are lacking on the diplomacy side will have a tougher time here, which is another reason diplomacy matters a lot in a primarily multiplayer format like Commander.
Even when you don't have a diplomacy angle to work, you can resort to history both recent and ancient. There's also good ol' fashioned lying. Freely recount the fact that player A won the last game, player B will betray the table the second you're dead, or player C is about to combo off, whether any of that is true or not! You don't need to convince the entire table to stop fighting you. Just one fewer player trying to kill you is usually enough to yield a fighting chance.
A Brief Story About a Mind Flail
I finally got a chance to bring this card to a casual Commander night, and it was amazing. I played a fully degenerate version with only Swamps and mana rocks. It was slow, but grindy. Then the moment every theft-based deck dreams of happened. One of my opponents was playing a Tasha, the Witch Queen deck that was full of theft effects, and I had just hit their Gonti, Lord of Luxury. On the following turn, I played their Gonti and hit Praetor's Grasp.
Play the Cards Right...
I could have searched for Demonic Tutor to end the game, but instead audibled to Diluvian Primordial. The most important card that I had access to was from the Tasha player's graveyard, Talent of the Telepath, and I used it to mill them into a Siphon Insight. Siphon then found King Narfi's Betrayal, which could potentially start the chain once again. That's six theft effects chained back-to-back-to-back. Talk about a heist! We all lost three turns later by getting attacked by lots of Spirits, but had a great time. The lesson? I made the right choice.
Everyone will remember my crazy combo. Everyone will remember the insane value I got from doing all the shenanigans. However, I will make sure to also remind them that I didn't win that game. In defeat, I will seek victory another time! When I next reveal Arvinox, it will be a very different version which I hope gives me a much higher chance of winning.
...and Play the Right Cards
When your back is against the wall, the final resort is to have the right cards to solve the situation. Here's where strategy gets a little tricky. If you always play the "best cards," you are training your opponents to correctly evaluate card and deck potential. If you jam EDREC top 100 cards into every deck, you are reinforcing threat recognition against you. It's hard to mislead or surprise other players if you are training them so effectively.
On top of that, playing against someone who usually brings casual, weird decks is completely different than playing against them when they are bringing their best. I know firsthand that it throws players off and that is mostly intentional.
Try not to load your deck for bear all the time. When you do bring your best, it will be a surprise to the table, which helps you win!
It's All in the Timing
It's very difficult to fend off three fully committed players who are working towards your defeat. It is far easier to avoid getting into that situation in the first place. If you do find yourself fighting the entire table at once, hopefully you are far enough ahead that you can quickly end the game. This is the most important concept when moving into an obviously strong position. Typically, the time to execute this kind of power shift is after a board wipe or when the rest of the table is tapped out. In either case, your master stroke generally cannot be stopped.
If this fails, however, the table tends to assess you as the biggest threat, and your days can be numbered. Your out at this time? Appeal to one of the players. Offer to be a Kingmaker. If you can convince them to let you live, you might be able to stage a sneaky comeback.
Who to Kingmake?
The player who would be in the lead if you were beaten is the most obvious choice. The alternative is the player who would be the one to finish you off, as only they can grant you that one extra turn. Diplomacy is, of course, the best move here.
This strategy can get you to go from eliminated to second place. Depending on the tournament environment, second place standing can be great, and is always a heck of a lot better than last. Simply not being killed off by the entire table is a victory in itself.
If You Can't Beat Them
Defeat in either case, however, may be inevitable. If you have already effectively lost, you might as well work towards winning the next game. Helping other players in your last desperate moments can be the boost you need to secure their help in the next one.
Well, it may be time to actually play the Archenemy format and deck build specifically for that game instead of regular Commander. The schemes are a really cool mechanic, and the one versus many nature of the format is very fun!
In closing, the number one tip to fight the entire table is very simple. Don't!