Aikido

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'Aikido' is a strategy in Commander that seeks to use an opponent's own power against them. The term refers to the Japanese martial art of the same name, which prioritizes one's own defense and redirects the momentum of an attacker. Aikido decks may be built as a deck's main gameplan, or included as a smaller subtheme within a deck.

Aikido cards tend to be centralized in red and white.

Popular Cards & Commanders

Common Aikido spells include:

Commanders that commonly employ Aikido playstyles may include:

Strategy

Aikido is best described as a manipulation of an enemy's own momentum. Decks or cards that employ an Aikido strategy rely upon their opponents to make the first move, such as a powerful attack, and will respond with a spell or ability that turn that attack to the Aikido player's benefit, often by redirecting the negative effects back to the attacker. They may also force a negative effect from one opponent to be redirected to another opponent instead.

Some Aikido cards explicitly require an opponent to make an action before they may be used, while others merely require an opponent to have a large number of a specific type of resource, such as creatures, lands, or cards in hand, and then confer negative effects to that opponent for each of those resources, potentially even by allowing the Aikido player to use them instead. Even copying an opponent's very powerful sorcery spell, so that the copy of that spell resolves first, can be deemed an Aikido strategy, as it takes advantage of an opponent's power and twists it to one's own benefit. This is distinct from theft strategies, which are generally more proactive in their manipulation of enemy game pieces.

Aikido cards are also occasionally used in Group Hug strategies, which actively provide enemies with additional resources that Aikido cards may be able to manipulate later on.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Aikido cards use an element of surprise to manipulate powerful opponents into accidentally acting against their own self-interest. They are particularly powerful against game-ending plays, such as lethal attacks or high-mana-cost spells, since they are not usually expensive cards, and can take advantage of work that other players have spent their time and mana assembling. Aikido cards allow a player to appear defenseless, which may invite their opponents to commit more heavily to an all-out play, in turn leaving themselves defenseless against the Aikido response.
  • Aikido decks scale directly to the power level of their opponents, fitting squarely within the 75% Theory ethos, as they rely upon those opponents to become most effective. This helps avoid discrepancies in terms of power level, as an Aikido deck is unlikely to overpower an underperforming deck, but will also rarely be defenseless against powerful opponents.

Weaknesses

  • Because Aikido cards usually rely upon opponents to make the first move, they may do very little on their own. If opponents are not making grandiose actions, there is little for an Aikido player to capitalize upon. Aikido decks trade the manipulation of enemy momentum at the sacrifice of their deck's own momentum; where an Aggro deck would be able to make short work of enemies with minimal board states, an Aikido player would take much longer to eventually defeat those opponents, which may give those opponents more time to find cards that will help them fight their way back into prominence.
  • Aikido also relies heavily upon having the right cards at the right time, as their cards tend to be tailored or specialized to niche situations. For instance, the card Deflecting Palm is useful against one large enemy creature, but useless against a wide army of small creatures, or against Spellslinger decks. Though Aikido spells may be devastatingly powerful in the right scenarios, they have a unique window of opportune timing that, if missed, makes them much more ineffectual.