Everyone knows about aggro decks. I don’t usually cover those here. However, I do like playing with new toys, and discounting Lucent Liminid, Theros and Born of the Gods brought us something new.
Enchantment creatures in Theros block follow certain themes. In terms of story, they all originate from the deific realm of Nyx. Mechanically, they all either have bestow, acting potentially as Auras, or have global-enchantment-like abilities—such as Spirit of the Labyrinth and its similarity to Chains of Mephistopheles and Courser of Kruphix and its similarity to Lifegift. Oh, and then there are the Gods, but they fall into the latter camp.
My question I want to answer today was how to make their enchantment nature mechanically relevant in a game. Of course, it can be a vulnerability, as they now die to Naturalize and friends, but there are plenty of ways, if not in Theros, to make the enchantment type an upside.
The most archetypical enchantment champions are the Enchantresses, even having enchantment-based archetypes named after them. Argothian Enchantress, Mesa Enchantress, and Verduran Enchantress all draw us a card when we cast an enchantment, and Enchantress's Presence does the same without being a creature. Femeref Enchantress is very similar, drawing a card instead when an enchantment is put into our graveyard, and Yavimaya Enchantress takes a different route than the card-draw one by becoming large.
With these cards in mind, my plan became clear. You see, the greatest weakness of an aggressive deck is that, while it can have significant early-game board states and potentially deal a lot of damage, it can run out of proverbial gas, often losing to Day of Judgment–style effects or a couple creatures of slightly larger size.
For our experiment today, we’ll try to make up for that by using the enchantment type to our advantage.
- Creatures (31)
- 1 Argothian Enchantress
- 1 Ghostblade Eidolon
- 1 Heliod's Emissary
- 2 Ajani's Chosen
- 2 Nyxborn Shieldmate
- 4 Archetype of Courage
- 4 Boon Satyr
- 4 Eidolon of Countless Battles
- 4 Femeref Enchantress
- 4 Hopeful Eidolon
- 4 Leafcrown Dryad
Hopeful Eidolon and Nyxborn Shieldmate aren’t particularly aggressive creatures, but they are 1-drops, and those seem important for aggressive decks. While they certainly aren’t Goblin Guide equivalents, they do have the versatility of bestow, making them relevant as later draws. Our deck will have its advantages, but there are concessions that have to be made—much like infect-based decks can be powerful but have the drawback of having a limited arsenal of creature options, we have only so many enchantment creatures to work with.
Leafcrown Dryad isn’t the only 2-mana enchantment creature available to us in G/W, but Spirit of the Labyrinth would seriously stifle some of our later plans. A 2/2 for 2 is always nice, and it has the same bestow versatility as our previous little guys.
Boon Satyr is a strong card that has seen some Standard play. A 3-drop isn’t perfect for a super-aggressive deck—we’ll probably end up acting more in the midrange realm anyway though. Eidolon of Countless Battles is like a Yavimaya Enchantress or a Crusader of Odric or an Aura that grants their combined superpowers to one of our other creatures. He may be the strongest of our beaters here, but only if we have a solid board presence—either wide (with a bunch of creatures) or tall (with one big, Aura’d-up creature).
Archetype of Courage provides sweet value for only 3-mana. A 2/2 for 3 isn’t exciting—we’d much rather have Boon Satyr—but it can make blocking much trickier for our opponent. Our smaller guys still won’t be able to make it through, but double- or triple-blocking our larger creatures becomes a much less practical option when we can kill one or more blockers before they have a chance to deal damage. Additionally, the cheapest Archetype has huge upside while we’re on the defensive, allowing our double-blocks to take out armies of attackers.
Ghostblade Eidolon and Heliod's Emissary are both in as one-ofs. They definitely have potential power, but the Emissary costs 4 and is a little higher than I wanted to go for this deck’s curve. The double-strike Eidolon is a 3-mana 1/1, and that’s all there is to it. With a lot of pump effects, it could have a better shot at potency, but in this deck, we’d have to dedicate our bestow guys to it all the time. With one copy in the deck, that can be our plan when we play it on turn three, but with multiples, copies sometimes would be relegated to Aura status, and 6 mana is a lot to pay for any aggressive deck.
Ethereal Armor is a powerful card for only 1-mana, granting at least +2/+2 in our deck full of enchantment creatures. With an army of creatures and bestow Auras, this thing can provide a massive boost.
Then, we make it to our Enchantresses. While the previous portion of the deck was all about being an aggressive (or maybe midrange) deck, this is the part of the deck where we gain our card advantage. If we eat a Wrath of God, we’ll have cards in hand to refuel. If all our creatures trade off in combat, we’ll still have plenty of reinforcements.
I usually don’t worry too much about single-card prices when assembling the ingredients for my experiments. However, several cards in the above list are just so on-point despite their cost. Argothian Enchantress is basically the perfect card for this deck. It’s only 2 mana in a list with not many other 2-drops, and it replaces virtually every spell we play after it. She even has shroud to prevent our opponent’s removal from hitting the one creature we can’t replace (her). However, she’s super-expensive. I kept one in the list just to show her off as an option. Downgrading to Mesa Enchantress and/or Verduran Enchantress is an option, though they cost additional points of colored mana and lose shroud.
Argothian Enchantress, Femeref Enchantress is almost as good here. The fact that she’s a 2-drop puts her, in my opinion, way ahead of Mesa Enchantress and Verduran Enchantress, at least for a deck trying to be aggressive. She doesn’t have the shroud we liked, and she doesn’t draw the cards right away, but she does draw us the cards when they matter: when our creatures die. When our enchantment creatures inevitably die in combat (or to a Damnation), we are able to draw cards to replace them. For that reason, I upped the count of Femeref Enchantresses to replace her Argothian cousin and didn’t bother with their Verduran or Mesa counterparts.
Ajani's Chosen offers a different type of card advantage, giving us free 2/2 Cats—instead of cards—when we play our enchantment creatures. They are 4 mana, but they’re solid as 3/3s, and we can build a midrange game plan around one when we draw it.
The last couple cards his that expensive chord again. Sterling Grove is a very powerful card that protects our creatures from our opponent’s targeted removal. In that way, it’s like an extremely mana-cheap Asceticism or Privileged Position. It does have the downside of preventing us from enchanting our own creatures, which is especially a problem for the non-versatile Ethereal Armor. Fortunately, Sterling Grove gives us an out when we want to enchant something.
Archetype of Courage to Eidolon of Countless Battles to the one Ghostblade Eidolon—or even our other Sterling Grove so we can enchant stuff and then reapply shroud. It does have the downside of card disadvantage when used for that option, but the Enchantresses should make up for that—as should the versatility as either a shroud-granter or as a copy of any enchantment in our deck.
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