Leovold, Emissary of Trest

Posted in Card Preview on August 17, 2016

By Bruce Richard

Bruce's games invariably involve several friends, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

"I'm sure we can come to an arrangement."

The pass was practically imperceptible. We walked down the promenade and never once made eye contact. Our sides brushed each other on the packed walkway and it was done. She received her payment, and I had my information.

Leovold, Emissary of Trest, was new to the Paliano political elite, and everyone wanted all the information they could find. While I had other sources of information, I still knew very little about this emissary. I'd heard rumblings about a spymaster out of Trest, but this was definitely something different.

Once alone and back in my office, I was finally able to get a look at my first real information about Leovold, Emissary of Trest.

"Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions."

—Winston Churchill

A 3/3 for BGU is solid. This is a diplomat who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty! Leovold is big enough that your opponents are not just going to accidentally kill him off or ignore him as a potential beatstick. For Commander players, his cost of only three mana means you'll be able to cast him several times from the command zone.

However, an emissary, particularly one from Trest, must do something interesting! Just what is in that text box?

The search for information about Leovold is stalled. My multiple sources, normally so reliable, have dried up. Not only do I not have information about Leovold, but I have almost nothing on Queen Marchesa's activities or any other member of the royal court! Why my intelligence is so limited I don't know for certain, but I believe Leovold is somehow responsible.

"Speak softly and carry a big stick."

—Theodore Roosevelt

So let's get to the real deal, since we all know we are not running Leovold just to jam him into the red zone or even keep him back to block.

Games are decided through resource management. When you have access to more mana than your opponent, you can play more spells (or more effectively use your spells), and this can win games. When you draw more cards than your opponent, you are more likely to win games. One way to outdraw your opponent is to limit their draws. Leovold's ability is not perfect. Cards like Temple Bell still draw cards for most players since it will be the first card drawn for most players no matter when you tap it. That guy with the Rhystic Study can still get a card draw on each turn. Even the Consecrated Sphinx will still draw its controller extra cards, just not in the crazy amounts they're used to.

However, cards that let everyone draw a card on their upkeep or at some point on their turn are a whole lot of fun (for you) with Leovold. Howling Mine and Dictate of Kruphix (not "everyone cheers!") just got a lot better.

But the real key to abusing this ability lies with cards like Jace's Archivist, Windfall, and Whispering Madness. Everyone else discards a full hand of cards, then draws one while you refill your hand. That is resource management at its finest.

This can also turn you into a prime target. Whether you are playing in Conspiracy Draft or a Commander game, you can be sure your opponents will have ways to draw extra cards. And you are telling them "no." This is not going to go over well. You need to understand that your opponents are not going to be thrilled about Leovold and will either push hard to get him off the table or push hard to remove you from the game. It will be up to you to time Leovold's entrance to a moment when he isn't the prime target. When one player is drawing all the extra cards, though, suddenly playing Leovold will result in cheering around the table. The latter option is the preferred option!

My negotiations with Leovold have been miserably hampered by my limited information. And what is worse, every time I push on my sources to find something, Leovold seems to know even more! I am beginning to question the loyalty of my operatives. What other trickery could Leovold wield that every time I target him or his minions I find Leovold has discovered another of my secrets? This is madness!

"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

—Sun Tzu

Remember what I said above about resource management? This part of the card gives you a shot at a big payday. The obvious issue? Since it must be an opponent who targets your permanents, you are going to need some help. This is where your diplomatic skill—and some political savvy—can make Leovold shine. Sure, there is the occasional opponent who will carelessly target you or your stuff, but relying on that is a terrible idea. There are better options.

Option 1. Do nothing. Not really a "better option," but it is a way to go. This requires no effort on your part, neither in adding cards to your deck nor any political wrangling to encourage people to see the wisdom in targeting your things. Focus your deck on your opponents' limited card drawing and simply work to overwhelm them. When someone uses targeted removal on your permanents, you'll get a card to replace the lost permanent, which will be a nice extra for your game plan. That seems like a pretty solid plan, and you did nothing!

Option 2. Leave them no choice. You can run permanents that force your opponents to deal with them. Troublesome artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers will force your opponents to play spells to get rid of those cards. This will draw you plenty of cards as they try to eliminate the threats you've played.

My personal favorite is Spellskite. Normally you would use it to redirect a removal spell targeting Leovold, but you can also use it to save an opponent's creature and draw you a card. Imagine the political goodwill you will garner saving other people's cards while drawing your own! Since you'll be playing black and green, I assume you can find plenty of ways to bring Spellskite back from the graveyard again and again? Recurring card draw and making friends, playing Magic with you is just delightful! Misdirection, Willbender, and Meddle are just a few other options for redirecting spells.

Option 3. Pretty please! This is where you choose permanents that don't normally like to be targeted. Phantasmal Image and other Illusions are interesting options. Are your opponents going to target your creatures if they know you'll be drawing more of them, or other cards that could be even worse? Precursor Golem and a few Splicer creatures from New Phyrexia means that you could be drawing several cards!

Tokens are a solid group of creatures here, too. Most token creatures are pretty vulnerable, but Leovold gives you a little something extra for your trouble. Losing a token from Mimic Vat to draw a card seems like a great option. While your opponent would appear to be silly to kill the token, if the card it copies is dangerous enough...

Option 4. Diplomatic skill. This is where we see just how talented you are! Can your silver tongue earn you cards? There will be times when an opponent will want to help you out. Perhaps someone else is out of control and everyone is working together to take them down. Perhaps you are the lucky recipient of someone else's threat to another player. These are joyful situations, but other times, it will fall to you to show your opponents why it makes sense to let you draw cards. You can work out a one-time deal with someone to get you an extra card. You can enlighten an opponent about their threat assessment so they can see the value in giving you card draws. Or, you can "enlighten" an opponent about their assessment to convince them of this value. Perhaps you can threaten an attack to cajole. I'm sure you can think of something!

"Diplomatic immunity."

"It's just been revoked."

Lethal Weapon 2

Leovold, Emissary of Trest has a major Achilles heel: mass removal. This just fits his flavor perfectly! He is a diplomat. He is about pinpoint accuracy and incremental advantages gained over the long term. His weakness is all-out war. Leovold is not good with indiscriminate death, and being weak to untargeted removal (usually seen as mass removal) is perfect.

Ignoring the flavorful aspect, Leovold's weakness is particularly harsh in multiplayer games. Most multiplayer metagames I've seen are full of mass removal, so Leovold's second ability becomes a bit useless, and he himself is vulnerable. Your solutions? Being in blue means you likely have ways to counter a lot of the removal. Being in black and green means you likely have ways to bring everything you lost out of the graveyard and back into play. Leovold is a great card, but he is going to need help.

"Diplomacy, n. is the art of letting somebody else have your way."

—David Frost

As an emissary, Leovold is not really a leader to stand in front and inspire the troops, but I wanted to build a deck with him as the commander to see what it might look like. I included many of the cards mentioned above and came up with the decklist below.

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Enchantment (2)
1 Dictate of Kruphix 1 Pernicious Deed
99 Cards

Obviously the list is untested (a downside to keeping a preview card secret), but I like the look of it. I included Lightning Greaves even though this limits Leovold's card-drawing benefit. I thought it would still work well for other permanents, and I am nervous that I may end up having to recast Leovold many times. While it starts cheap, everything is expensive the fourth time you cast it.

Many of the cards in the list are there simply as "Good StuffTM" for the deck. I'm sure future versions will evolve with more and more cards fitting the theme. I can't wait to see how political each of you decides to take your deck!

Bruce Richard

@manaburned

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