Mechanically Minded - Voting

(Paliano, the High City | Art by Adam Paquette)

Let’s Put it to a Vote

Whether you vote for Pedro, Kodos, or somebody else, this is the article for you. Today on Mechanically Minded, the series where we build decks around mechanics using the wisdom of EDHREC, we're doing some voting.
Voting isn’t technically a mechanic; it’s a game action in which players do exactly what you’d think: vote for a particular outcome. Let's build around it and see what happens.


Voting first entered Magic with 2014’s Conspiracy. As the game’s first multiplayer booster set, this keyword action was perfect. It personifies the politics of the format, encouraging players to win opponents over to their side and to offer favors in exchange for votes. Voting appeared on cards with Will of the Council, a fancy term that simply means all players vote for one of two possible outcomes. The outcome with the most votes then occurs, with ties usually being settled slightly less in favor of the caster. You’ll see it on cards such as Magister of Worth and Bite of the Black Rose.
Voting returned again in 2016 with a sequel set to the original Conspiracy called Conspiracy: Take the Crown. This time it was reimagined as Council’s Dilemma: players still vote for one of two possible outcomes, but each outcome occurs once for each vote cast in its favor, rather than a one-or-the-other outcome.


Our Elected Leader

Now that we’ve settled on our "mechanic", it’s time to pick our commander. As we so often do, I recommend heading to the trusty Themes section. Let’s start with the Politics theme. It’s not exclusively about voting, but being defined as “cards that encourage interaction and discussion among players” puts us pretty darn close.
When it comes to voting decks, many players opt for this commander:


Voting cards are mostly found in Esper, so this makes good sense. However, I think we can find something a little more interesting than a dude who makes his living chilling in the command zone.
If I learned anything from 2012’s Speilberg film Lincoln, it's that great facial hair comes in many forms. Also, a great way to earn votes is to bribe people. So, since no legendary creature specifically references voting, we might instead elect one that lets us reward our opponents in exchange for votes, which made me think of the Goat:

Maybe not the GOAT, but definitely a Goat. Zedruu has always been one of my all-time favorite commanders, and I’ve never had the privilege of writing about her. She was pretty much a shoe-in for this article...
...until I recalled a certain new commander from our latest set.

Kenrith has to be our commander. Notice that each ability benefits all players or a player of your choice, meaning we’ve got five different ways to bribe our opponents for votes. In addition, Kenrith gives us access to all five colors, rather than only three.
Being a king means he doesn’t need our vote, but he gets it anyway.


Voting Cards

Now that we have our commander, it’s time to explore our central theme. Again, I’m heading to the Politics theme for ideas.


The first three voting cards we see are three of the best. Plea for Power almost always turns into a draw three, which is pretty nice for four mana. We usually want the extra turn, though, even though we usually don’t get it. In this deck, however, we’ll get it way more often since we can offer voters a reward in return.
Same goes for Split Decision, a powerful card in and of itself. One and a blue to counter any instant or sorcery is nice, and the same cost to copy it might be even better, depending on the circumstances. The drawback, of course, is that you don’t know how the council will vote. Again, that’s where our bribery comes into play.
Finally, Magister of Worth can be very powerful in one direction or the other. If one player pulls farther ahead of all others, you’ll usually get people to vote for condemnation (which leaves you with the Magister). In the late game, players will more likely vote for grace. Keep that in mind when you play it.
Let's examine a few more powerful voting cards:

First off, Capital Punishment offers a lose-lose scenario for our opponents (just look at the picture!). We’re trying to work cooperatively with them to maximize our voting cards, so I wouldn’t recommend playing too many similar effects. However, I'll make an exception here because mass sacrifice and mass discard effects are sweet.
Next up, Coercive Portal. It’s usually a personal Howling Mine, and that’s already pretty good. The option to wipe the board makes it great. To be honest, you probably won’t convince players to vote for the latter option no matter how well you bribe them. Still, it’s a nice option for the table in case one player gets too out of hand.
Finally, Council's Judgment. This oddball card is already outstanding as an exile spell (it weirdly gets around hexproof and protection, since it doesn’t target). It’s even better when it exiles two nonland permanents, which it can do when players split the vote evenly. I recommend doing your best to orchestrate this.
Of course, there are many more voting cards to be included in our final list. However, I think it's time to move onto another supplementary subject that will reinforce our politically-minded deck.


Extra Bribery

Now that we know what we’re voting for, let’s find some additional bribery tools. Kenrith offers many, but in this deck, I think a few more should do well. Some examples:


Intellectual Offering (and the entire Offering cycle, for that matter) is cool because you can bribe several players with one card. Drawing three cards is legitimate upside, but I like the untapping clause for bribing purposes even more. Why? Because you will appear to be doing an opponent a favor without actually giving them a significant advantage. Maybe they now have extra blockers or get to activate a tap ability a second time, but that’s fine. We gain their favor for future votes without giving them too much free stuff.
I doubt Selvala, Explorer Returned is the mutton-head who thought of Parley, but it is her signature mechanic. And hey, it works. We give our opponents free cards, plus we potentially get free mana and free life for our troubles.
The entire “Hunted” cycle also works well in this slot, but I picked Hunted Phantasm because I think it’s the best of the bunch. Five 1/1s is a lot to give, but a 4/6 unblockable for three is too good to pass up.


Rigging the Vote

Now, when it comes to voting, some votes simply must go our way. Sometimes we can’t afford to mess around with bribing our opponents. Fortunately for us, R&D offers several options that tip the ballot in our favor.


I think it’s pretty clear what you’re doing with Brago’s Representative. There’s also a near-identical copy of it from Conspiracy: Take the Crown called Ballot Broker, and we’re totally playing both. Those additional votes help us push through our agenda or even possibly split the vote, as in the case of Council's Judgment.
Illusion of Choice is a low-cost, low-downside way to fix the most important votes. I think it’s excellent in tandem with high-upside cards like Coercive Portal and Selvala's Stampede. However, it’s probably best with the aforementioned Council's Judgment. Assuming there are three other players at the table, you can vote for the four nonland permanents you like least and exile them all. Now that’s judgement.
Grudge Keeper is the weakest of the riggers, though it’s on-theme and highly flavorful. Though the two life isn’t all that much, it’s a decent punishment for those who don’t vote our way.


The List

Kenrith for King

Commander (1)
Creatures (20)
Instants (10)
Sorceries (17)
Artifacts (9)
Enchantments (7)
Land (36)


Final Votes

In the early game, do some favors for your opponents. Give their commander haste and trample, offer them some free life, or maybe even give them a card or two. However, always make sure you name a price. Make them promise to vote for Pedro (or replace Pedro with your name if your name doesn’t happen to be Pedro). Then, in the late game, cash in those favors for big-time voting spells.
Of course, don’t expect players to honor their word every time. For those who renege on the deal, go after them with furious retribution. This will show both them and the rest of the table that you take your deals seriously. If you properly decimate oathbreakers, your playgroup will be less likely to break promises with you in the future.
Likewise, don’t ever promise a future favor in exchange for a present vote without delivering on the promise. If you do it once, your opponents will never trust you to keep your word again. So don’t do it! Both these concepts are already valuable, but they become even more valuable for this deck because we need votes.
Happy voting!

Kyle A. Massa is a writer and avid Magic player living somewhere in upstate New York with his wife, their daughter, and three wild animals. His current favorite card is Titania, Gaea Incarnate. Kyle can be found on Twitter @mindofkyleam.