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Thesis Enchantments Made Manifest

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Readers!

Through the power of positive thinking, reading "The Secret", getting on the wiki page for "The Secret" to get the Cliffs Notes version of how "The Secret" works, deciding that "The Secret" doesn't work and waiting for WotC to do a thing I wanted, I have manifested something I wanted into reality. I came up with the concept of the "Thesis Enchantment" because I had a tendency to build around an Enchantment as much as I do the commander, and usually they work in tandem nicely. If I were going to build Raggadragga, I'd throw Cryptolith Rite in that "Thesis" slot and have the rest of the deck serve a Cryptolith Rite strategy. The deck-builds itself to an extent - you add redundancy with Citanul Hierophants, maybe Earthcraft, Song of Freyalise, then you think about how good Seedborn Muse and maybe Wilderness Reclamation might be in a deck that can generate a ton of mana and suddenly you have a pile of 20 cards and the deck is a third built. If you add cards that synergize with both the Thesis Enchantment and the commander, you have yourself what amounts to a second commander, shuffled into the deck. I love building with a strong, synergistic Enchantment in mind. You'll forgive my elation when they announced Backgrounds.

Raised by Giants

This is a pretty sweet-looking Legendary Enchantment, but it's unclear from the card what a Background is. If you want to just throw this in a deck, go for it - it's an Enchantment and it plays like one, but it has other benefits. From the MTG Wiki -

Monocolored legendary creatures in Baldur's Gate have the ability to Choose a Background to customize your Commander. The bonus comes in the form of an ability your Commander gains or a boost to their Power/Toughness. Backgrounds contribute to the color identity of the Commander. In this way, they function similarly to partner.

Legendary Background cards represent the story that brought your commander to the point where we find them now. They were inspired by the backgrounds created for Player Characters in a game of D&D. The Flavor text is inspired by Dungeon Master's descriptions. The art doesn't feature true 'faces'. They are occluded or veiled or masked, to help players insert themselves or their commander into the art mentally.

If having a commander and a Background is too many pet cards to take out of a deck, you could always play a card that's both

Faceless One

Faceless One allows your Background to be your deck's entire color identity. I don't recommend this, but lots of people will do it, if only for the novelty.

Now Backgrounds are kind of like companions in a way, but more like "partner with" than "partner" because you have to use a commander with the ability to choose a background. This kind of keeps the ability to access the Enchantments contained within the set but allows the Enchantments to be used in the 99 of any deck, capping the power level and future potential broken interactions significantly. If someone made a crazy combo with a card from 2026 and Raised by Giants, whether the Background is in the deck or the 99 makes a huge difference.

There are 27 more Backgrounds and I intend to talk briefly about each one and the deck I'd build around it. By that I mean I'll do 14 this week and 14 next week because I don't want your eyes to glaze over. Sorted alphabetically, here is how I would use each Background as a Thesis Enchantment.

Acolyte of Bahamut

Acolyte of Bahamut

As long as your commander is in play, it serves as a kind of fair Dragonspeaker Shaman, which is cool and all, but what Dragon decks really need is a way to make their often expensive Dragon commander cheaper. Sort of the obvious choice here is to pair Acolyte with Ganax, Astral Hunter. It's obvious but that doesn't make it bad - a Red-Green Dragon deck that focused on treasure to ramp and pump out dragons, using cards like Rishkar's Expertise to keep the hand stocked and putting down a ton of damage would be very impactful. Saving two mana per Dragon doesn't sound like much, but, remember, Backgrounds are a card you'll always have access to - it's basically kicker for your commander. Two mana per turn adds up and if you're making tokens with Ganax, Old Gnawbones, and Xorn, you could find a way to kill them with the tokens entering or leaving play, which sounds rad. If you google this card's name in a week, I'm sure you'll find 1,000 Skanos Dragonheart lists, but I don't want to be mono-Green Dragons at all.

Agent of the Iron Throne

Agent of the Iron Throne

Obviously, a mono-Black Sivris, Nightmare Speaker deck that turns your sacrificing treasure into a Blood Artist effect is cool, but I actually like not going mono-color if I don't have to, so I recommend either Ganax again (I know, boring, but he just makes so much treasure!) or Jaheira, Friend of the Forest. Turning your tokens into mana-producers is great because there are so many ways to make tokens and double the number of tokens you make really intrigues me. Jaheira turns your Lotus Petal Treasure Tokens into Manaliths and that's pretty powerful. Best of all, when you do sac Treasure tokens, or sac creature tokens to something like Ashnod's Altar or Greater Good, you can win the game. Very cool.

Agent of the Shadow Thieves

Agent of the Shadow Thieves

This is admittedly pretty weak as it forces you to pair it with a commander you want to attack with and I NEVER want to attack with ANY of my creatures. What if they block? What if they have Aetherspouts? Now my potential blockers, my precious babies who I'd never block with because I want to keep them safe, those potential blockers, what if they're tapped from attacking? I'm vulnerable!

I'll get over it with the help of Wilson, Refined Grizzly. If I'm required to attack with my commander and this card puts counters on it and grants it abilities, I'm going to go full Bear Voltron. Swords, Auras, support creatures - the deck will play the commander and background on curve and start serving out damage early.

I considered Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion, and that's a legit move as well, although Orzho voltron worries me. The best way to keep creatures alive in those colors is auras that makes it indestructible which are costly in early turns and spells like Kaya's Ghostform. I prefer to Bear down and give them a grizzly death.

I kind of like the idea of Karlach, Fury of Avernus, but you're never playing Karlach on curve and Rakdos has no ramp. I don't need another Rakdos deck with no way to play 11 mana for its commander who keeps dying, I have 3 of those already.

Candlekeep Sage

Candlekeep Sage

Well, we don't want to be paying commander tax here so the obvious choice is Alora, Merry Thief. Alora gates herself, which draws you two cards with Sage out. Alora can be paired with a ton of Rogues who do cool effects when they deal damage or ETB like Thieving Skydiver and Thada Adel, Acquisitor. Alora is by far the best choice for Sage, which is good, but it's basically the only choice, which is bad. Still, if you're playing small, efficient Rogues with good ETB abilities and gating them to rebuy their ETBs, you will have a lot of fun. Steal their lands with The Omenkeel and use them to play out your Rogues with an Equilibrium or Cloudstone Curio in play so that you can rebuy those triggers. Mono-Blue isn't ideal, but this is going to be a LOT of fun to build. In fact, I think I know what I'm writing about next week.

Clan Crafter

Clan Crafter

Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion seems like the perfect pairing for this and maybe some treasure token shenanigans. Blue has no trouble copying artifacts, and all of those copies can pump your commander into lethal range, using the power of Azorius to protect your one threat until it completely dominates the board. Play a ton of Artifact creatures like Solemn Simulacrum to sac to Crafter for value. These are already Voltron colors and giving a Voltron deck that double counters a card draw outlet seems fantastic.

Cloakwood Hermit

Cloakwood Hermit

The most fun I imagined having with this was with a kind of creature I rarely use but should use more - Amber Gristle O'Maul. Discarding the creature cards will trigger Cloakwood Hermit which means you can churn through a ton of cards and put creatures and spells with Flashback into the yard. The tokens you get from Hermit will make sure you draw the max with Amber's trigger, letting you passively build up a bit of an army or at least maintain the ability to hit every player so you can use your mana to dump your hand playing spells. A combo deck that is just Amber and Hermit and a ton of cantrips and stuff isn't the kind of deck I play, but making sure Amber survives combat to keep you drawing 3 a turn will help you chew through your deck to find your Past in Flames or Underworld Breach. This is out of my comfort zone but I said I'd build decks with more Instants and Sorceries, so here is my chance.

Criminal Past

Criminal Past

This mostly doubles Skanos Dragonheart's ability, meaning his background is that he used to be a criminal. He still is, but he used to be, too. I think that's powerful, and might be moreso if Skanos had evasion of some sort, but I don't want to build Golgari Dargons per se, so I have to dig a little deeper.

Baeloth Barrityl, Entertainer, on the other hand, has an ability that scales with his power. He goads creatures with power less than his and then he makes treasure when they die from being forced to swing into a bigger creature. Where has this card been all my life? Lots of entertainers have criminal pasts, but what's perhaps most criminal is me wanting to make another Rakdos deck where the kill-on-sight commander starts at five mana and I have no real ramp other than a bunch of dumb mana rocks. Oh, and the huge pile of treasure Baeloth makes. OK, I'm building this.

Cultist of the Absolute

Cultist of the Absolute

Erinis, Gloom Stalker puzzled me for a long time. I like the ability a lot but wasn't sure how to take best advantage. The thing is, I looked at Erinis the way a Simic player would - I love Crucible effects. Saccing lands to Zuran Orb, resetting Glacial Chasm, using Dust Bowl - all of these beautiful uses for lands, so little time. The thing is, though, that Errinis can bring back creatures if those creatures are lands when they're in the graveyard. If you play cards like Dryad Arbor, suddenly the drawback of Cultist is attenuated a ton and what you have is an on-curve 6/6 flying, deathtouch, second deadlier deathtouch creature with Ward - pay 3 life. You can hit someone for 6 commander damage on turn three if you play a mana dork turn one and then you sac the dork. Maybe on-curve isn't the best way to play it since Cultist can force you to sac Erinis, but there are a lot of ways to make your lands into creatures and your creatures into lands and doing those shenanigans in parallel to just doming people for almost a third of the commander damaged they can handle starting as early as turn three means they must answer you.

Dragon Cultist

Dragon Cultist

I struggled with this one, but ultimately decided that, like most of these, I was going to make a Rakdos deck. Really the only good pairing for this seemed to be Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar. Shadowheart can get a ton of value from the free tokens that Cultist spits out and keeping your hand full ensures you can deal 5 damage one way or another. If you have to sac a creature, sac a free one.

Dungeon Delver

Dungeon Delver

Unfortunately, I really don't have anything more clever to do with this than pair it with either Safana or Imoen. That's boring, but this card is boring. Boring doesn't always mean bad, but the thing is, a card that's so narrow that it only has one use is boring even if it's good. This honestly feels like a waste of a background because it tells you exactly how to use it and you can't even be cute and do something else with it. You have to put this in a dungeon deck, and the best dungeon deck isn't even helmed by a commander with "Choose a background" so what are we even doing here?

Far Traveler

Far Traveler

If you want obvious, throw this in a Lulu deck, but I don't want obvious per se. I like this as a way to make sure you don't take damage from Sarevok, Deathbringer. Force everyone else to have to come up with a way to make something leave the battlefield on their turn. Also, Sarevok basically turns removal spells into Sorceries, which is really cool to me. People really have to change how they play with Sarevok out, and I like the disruption to their strategies, especially when you can insulate yourself from it with this Background. I'm into it.

Feywild Visitor

Feywild Visitor

This makes free tokens when you hit them, and while there are a lot of uses for those tokens, the fact that this makes flying creatures makes me really want to pair this with Halsin, Emerald Archdruid. Halsin can quadruple the damage output of your Faerie Dragons. This is a little weak compared to some of the other uncommon Backgrounds but I like some value and a Simic color Flying Men deck is a great venue for this combination. Call the deck "Bear Force One" - you're welcome.

Flaming Fist

Flaming Fist

Rashad Yn Bashir is a White creature, which almost disqualified him, but I noticed that he says "double" on him and this says double, also. Double double their... toil, something something trouble. Look, I'm not firing on all cylinders in the pun department right now because I'm having a hard time not mentally compiling all of the really ridiculous 0/11 for two mana White creatures sitting in draft chaff from over the years. You're going to absolutely dumpster people if you get the initiative and you start flattening people with 0/14 creatures. It's going to be hilarious, and giving your commander double strike so he can end the game with a well-placed resolution of a card like Aegis of the Heavens is hilarious.

Guild Artisan

Guild Artisan

I'm vexed by this a bit. This seems a little clunky in EDH to not be designed for Limited, but in Limited this is a card in a Red deck where you need to have the least life and if Red has the least life, Red is losing so I don't know. This doesn't synergize with any commander a lot, it synergizes with all of them a little. The few I liked with this were Red commanders. I don't mean to punt on this one, especially since it's the last of part 1, but I really can't think of anything interesting to do here. The commanders that can make use of spare tokens usually have a tap ability like Sivriss, Nightmare Speaker. Gut, True Soul Zealot is an obvious pairing here, but another mono-Red deck that makes tokens isn't what is going to excite me. I don't know, do any of you love this card?

This ended on a bit of a whimper so let me spend a paragraph talking about how much I am excited to build the Candlekeep Sage Alora deck. I think some of these backgrounds can be bad because they have to have bad cards in booster packs because of Keynesian economics or something? I don't know, I fall asleep any time someone tries to explain to me why we have to have Chimney Imps in the world. What I do know is that a lot of these Backgrounds are more powerful than I think because I forgot to judge them in the context of drawing them every game, and small, guaranteed boosts to your game can outpace large, swingy, very inconsistent ones. Let's do the other half next week, shall we? Thanks for reading part 1 - until next time!


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