I was a long time big advocate of Patronage but I too like Commerce, buying the pikeman is fun. I still open patronage as now I think it is possible to build forbidden city, before the AI used to always build that now that I am probably playing a difficulty level down I can build it. Those extra two votes are big even if you never finish off Patronage. Opening social policies to be able to build the special wonder seems a viable tactic to me. I generally go all Tradition. Then my next one is often commerce, but I usually go back to Patronage at some point prior to opening Rationalism. Once I have rationalism open I usually industrialize and choose my ideology. I then cherry pick based on the situation in the world and what victory condition I think I can achieve. I want to optimize more for science or possibly play against type and go for domination, but most of my victories are diplomatic, patronage helps. Choosing the first ideology actually hurts diplomatic victory, usually the AI goes against you to get the two free traits. Sometimes I take the sea ideology as the AI player in the lead if I'm not the first to choose an ideology. Losing one trait is a small price to pay for gaining a friend and trading partner.