I know that I said I was going to focus less on Enchantments and more on Instants and Sorceries this year, so I came up with a compromise - I am only going to talk about Thesis Enchantments in products that are going to be available to the public after all of us have forgotten I spent the first few months of the year saying I was going to do that. Since Secret Lairs are pre-sold and only ship once you forgot you ordered them, we'll be deep into being an all-Enchantments all the time article series by then. Also, if that isn't the case, you'll have forgotten I wrote this article by then, so either way I'm clear. If you couldn't tell based on this preamble that serves as half apology half and half explanation, I'm going to do the Thesis Enchantment treatment for the Street Fighter cards. This will be fun because a few of these will be great to build around. Let's begin!
Blanka, Ferocious Friend
We have seen "target yourself" cards before, but never quite like this. Blanka is part Ixalan dinosaur, part Zada, part combo enabler. I should not have gone alphabetically, because Blanka is my favorite and it's downhill from here, a bit. So, is there an enchantment that helps Blanka unlock more of his potential?
It basically doesn't matter what you want to do with Blanka, you're going to need cards. If you draw too many and have to discard, you can play Underworld Breach. What does "too many" cards look like, anyway? You're likely to have one very good turn and go off with a bunch of Blanka triggers like I feel down in the corner and you're just spamming the punch button, hoping I get up dizzy or don't get up at all. True, you'll likely play some cantrips like Viridescent Wisps and Expedite, but turning every spell into a cantrip makes sure you can keep going off long enough to get the whole board. Bonus points if you throw a Livewire Lash on Blanka. You lose bonus points if you have a whole backstory where Blanka is actually the Guile-equivalent character from Street Fighter 3 somehow.
Chun-Li, Countless Kicks
You cannot convince me that this entire Secret Lair was not an excuse to print a Chun-Li card with multikicker. Is this Chun-Li a bad Narset or a good Taigam? It's hard to say. All of these Blue and White Legacy-tier cards I'm seeing in lists makes me think this deck will be tedious to build, but if I have to attack with any of the creatures in this Secret Lair, Chun-Li will be the most fun. So how do you spinning bird kick some ass in a Chun-Li deck? I'd cheat, personally.
While it's true that it's ideal to play Instants and Sorceries once and get them into the graveyard that way, thus getting some use out of them, Chun-Li doesn't require that you do that, making Mill a very attractive option. Self-Mill is the best Mill in a deck like this. True, Nexus of Fate and a few other cards get a little worse, but it won't matter when you cut through your opponents with a super buff commander that is fueled by cantrips and cards like Show of Confidence that your opponents will have to read. Fill that yard up and give yourself the best possible pile of Instants to cheat with.
Dhalsim, Pliable Pacifist
Reach tribal? Get your favorite Spiders ready to do battle because Dhalsim wants any and all creatures with Reach (Reatures, I call them) in his army. Drawing cards to keep your hand full is a nice bonus on top of you being able to battle with a bunch of under-appreciated creatures. Spiders in general have a lot of utility, are pretty tough to kill and are pretty affordable since not too many of them end up seeing Commander play right now. If we're going to find an Enchantment to build around, we'll want something that either rewards us for doing what the deck is already going to do, or improves it. I have a card that I think does both.
I considered a different Enchantment, Curse of Clinging Webs, but I ultimately decided that while that was good fuel for the deck, it didn't exactly reward you for doing Dhalsim stuff as much as enable it to a medium extent. You should play Curse of Clinging Webs in 100% of Dhalsim decks, but Assault Formation actually augments and amplifies the commander. Your Spiders are suddenly swinging as a 7/7 but a 3-power creature can't block them. Assault Formation transforms the deck, and even allows you to play some creatures with Defender, although once you fill the deck with good Spiders, you don't actually need anything with Reach and Defender that's bad when Assault Formation, a card you draw only sometimes, is out. Dhalsim luckily helps you dig deep into the deck and find your Formation. Luckily, the deck is fine without it, but Assault Formation can double or triple your damage output. Planning to generate extra mana so you can pump your team and looking at creatures with Defender helps you maximize Assault Formation and makes Dhalsim one of the more exciting commanders from this Secret Lair with its exploration of new design space and use of older, unappreciated creatures like Arasta of the Endless Web and Wildborn Preserver.
E. Honda, Sumo Champion
E. Honda, at first, looks like you're looking at another Doran type of commander and if you think that, re-read the card because Honda doesn't actually let creatures with Defender attack as though they didn't have Defender. Honda is a bad Dhalsim in a lot of ways, and lacking any color identity beyond White is even more challenging. Honda goes in the 99 of the Dhalsim deck, but if you're forced to build your own deck around Honda, you'd better latch on to something he does well and try to ignore all the ways he's deficient. One way to do that is to lean into what Honda is good at - pumping the team. In fact, maybe you want to make sure he lives long enough to do that more than once. There is a solution.
Having to attack with your commander to make it do stuff is sort of loose if you ask me. I like the option to kill someone, and with only 21 damage to boot, with your commander, but I don't like being forced to deal damage or even attack in order to trigger their cool ability. If I'm forced to attack, I'm going to do it safely, and returning Honda back to where he started after triggering his attack bonus works wonders. Big creatures can be spirited away to safety and anything that has a "must attack" trigger suddenly gets way more activations than usual. Don't leave home without it.
Guile, Sonic Soldier
Guile was the most powerful character in most versions of Street Fighter 2 and mastering his 10 hit combo that ended up with a dizzy opponent taught me to master the cross-up, something that hasn't worked on a non-computer opponent since the Clinton administration but which was great for bewildering arcade-goers back in the day. I'm the one left bewildered at how pathologically fair Guile is and how silly I feel trying furtively to break him. Guile is fair and we're going to have to live with that.
Fine, if Guile has to be fair, at least make him a real threat. Go Voltron and Flash Kick their heads off with a buffed commander. You're not going to benefit much by stockpiling more than 1 extra charge counter a turn so stuff like Inexorable Tide doesn't seem worth building around as much as it's worth including. I think Guile Voltron is likely how I'd build. I looked at a LOT of candidates - besides Inexorable Tide I considered Ion Storm, Teleportation Circle, and a few others. I kept coming back to basically not caring a ton about Sonic Boom since it was nearly impossible to get value from and decided to focus on Combat. If I must attack, a creature with Lifelink, Indestructible and Unblockable is a solid choice.
Ken, Burning Brawler
Ken CHEATS. It's right there on the card - the phrase "Without paying its mana cost". An unmodified Ken deals enough damage for you to cast Seize the Day and dome them again - how perfect is that? We're only able to cheat the cost of Sorceries, though, so we'll want a lot of them which doesn't leave much room for Enchantments and doesn't leave ANY room for an Enchantment that doesn't want you to play a lot of Sorceries. My solution? Lean into it.
What's better than a free Sorcery? Two free Sorcery. It's not the best thing, but it is twice as good and twice as good, I hear, is what Magic players love. Team up with Feather to really stack up value. Apart from Blanka, Ken is the commander I'm most excited to build.
Ryu, World Warrior
I've seen Street Fighter characters that beg you to rack up big combos but for Street Fighter's signature character to have a nonbo with his own abilities feels like a miss. Ryu benefits from having a large power and has an ability that forces you to play larger and larger creatures in order to keep growing him, otherwise half of him is shut off. I'm not a huge fan of this card and building around it would be pretty difficult. That said, we can double the effectiveness of his second ability to make up for the first one being a bummer.
Now you don't have to choose between hitting a creature or player - you can do both and always draw the card. Repercussion turns every creature that participates in combat into a liability and Ryu makes sure the ones who don't participate in combat become one, too. This is as good a synergistic build-around as I can find - you can try and mitigate how bad his Training ability is, or you can double down on the second ability. Ryu is disappointing to me but I love a good Repercussioning so I may end up building the deck anyway.
Zangief, the Red Cyclone
Zangief was the first character I ever beat Street Fighter 2 with, largely because his big hit box made it very possible to spam jump kick into sweep kick and if they closed the gap for you, you could just grab them, something my joystick flailing and button-mashing ass managed to pull off when I really needed to. Was I using Zangief optimally? No, suppose not, but I don't build EDH decks optimally, I build them to maximize fun and if my deck can be half as much fun as it is to beat an arcade game when you're like 8 years old, I win. Zangief is the most obvious to build around and I don't mean that as a compliment, but that obvious thing to do with him DOES seem like fun.
I know it's not super ideal to suggest 2 cards from the same cycle and it's even less ideal when that's 2 suggestions out of 8 total. If you're upset, here, play Guile as an As Foretold proliferate deck. Steel of the Godhead is cool in Guile, but Gift of the Deity is devastating in a Zangief deck. Indestructible, must-be-blocked, deathtouch - Zangief even gets beefier in the bargain. Like I said, this synergy is so obvious it is barely edifying to read about it, but it IS a lot of fun to make your commander into a bear-fighting murder machine.
That does it for me, readers! I don't know about you, but I got myself so psyched up writing this article that I'm going to start gathering the cards to build all 8 decks and play them against each other. It's a lot of work, but I have between 9 and 12 months before the Secret Lairs are in my hands, which should be enough time. Join me next week where I assume New Capenna will be fully previewed and we'll be talking about the next product after that. Join me, won't you? Until next time!