Last week we talked about Background Enchantments and how half of them would make dandy new decks when paired with commanders from the new Commander precons. I don't want to try and deprive you all of the intro paragraph that I know you all love, but if you missed last week's piece, you should really go read it. If you didn't miss last week's piece, it was a week ago and you should really go re-read it so you have the full context before we launch into the second half of the 28 Backgrounds.
I kind of want to just pick up where we left off, especially since you read last week's article and you're champing at the bit. Good, me too. Let's build some decks.
Hardy Outlander is a power-buffing background, which is tough for the purposes of trying to spread these around a bit because we already had a power-buffing background. I want to do something novel with this that I didn't do last week. I could maybe get away with it if I didn't remind everyone to re-read last week's piece... the HUBRIS
You can buff a creature other than your commander, and the commander is one that should attack, which narrows our list of potential targets by a lot. I prefer good stats, evasion or, if we're really getting greedy, the unblockability we get from Alora, Merry Thief.
One idea, though it's mono-Green, is pairing this with a commander you definitely want to attack - Durnan of the Yawning Portal. Durnan must attack to trigger his Green Dig Through Time ability, so since we have to serve with him, why not buff him so he is more likely to survive combat? In fact, it would be funny to make a Hardy Durnan Voltron deck where all of the Green creatures in the deck buff Durnan. He starts out a Hill Giant, but he can get big pretty fast if you throw some equipment and auras on him. I like this idea a lot, actually.
At mythic rarity, you hope a Background delivers something a little extra, and this one delivers in a big way. This turns any commander into a lord, I think I'm not overstating that. Any creature that shares a type with your commander gets a boost and undying. There are a finite number of potential creature types in the 32 commanders with "Choose a background." Maybe make a Faceless One Haunted One deck you could make a B/x deck with all of the backgrounds in those two colors in the deck and you could animate the Enchantments to make them super lethal backgrounds. That's dumb, let's make an actual deck.
The best choice is clearly Gut, True Soul Zealot. Even though we've used Gut before, a Goblin and a Shaman will give us a deck full of efficient creatures, nice buffs and a ton of synergy. Shaman decks love to add Green and while I'd love to have access to some of those cards, we have plenty of powerful Shamans if just going Rakdos Goblins isn't enough value for you. Want to know how I know Gut is the right call?
Look what we have here, it's a way to tap your commander a bunch of times before combat. I hope nobody does anything unfair with that.
I think Inspiring Leader turns Zellix, Sanity Flayer from a deck that wins by milling into a deck that wins by killing. The small, incremental sources of mill that are too slow for Modern but which can give you a ton of triggers in a Zellix deck like Drowned Secrets or Jace's Erasure suddenly spawn tokens that are 3/3 rather than 1/1. Couple that with cards like Anointed Procession and Divine Visitation and maybe a pillow fort and you have a very cool deck. I'd obviously go Enchantress here, but you can add as many other creatures as you want - with Zellix you barely have to.
I've never played any of the Halo games - is this art accurate?
I'd like to tell you that Andy Dufrense found something more interesting to do with Iron Chef than build a Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion deck that doubled the number of +1/+1 counters it puts on its own creatures, but life is not a fairy tale world.
In my defense, this is a common and it's not supposed to be interesting. I hoped this might at least synergize somehow with Ellyn Harbreeze, Busybody but it doesn't. Have I made a deck with Abdel Adrian, Gorion's Ward yet? That could be fun, especially if you're blinking creatures and using The Ozolith and
Giant Fan Resourceful Defense.
Noble Heritage seems like a great way to get your opponents to beat up on each other, something I love to encourage. Making people attack shaves so much time off the game by reducing the number of blockers and by taking powerful utility creatures out of the game. This doesn't force them to attack each other, but it does incentivize them to attack not you in exchange for buffs, which is very useful. I thought about pairing this with Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy just to buy you some time to get your spells going. However, why shave turns off of the game just to add them back on? Remember, you're allowed to add counters of your own, so load up Baeloth Barrityl, Entertainer. I'm sure there is something more interesting to do with this, but that combination is so powerful I can't advocate doing anything less.
Welp, this is very, very specific to one of the commanders, which I guess is fine. Obviously, Durnan of the Yawning Portal is the name on my list as this background pairs even better than Hardy Outlander.
That said, this could be the first true Thesis Enchantment of the set because this requires you to build a deck that doesn't really synergize all that nicely with any of the commanders in the set. However, a Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy deck with cards like Past in Flames would be incredibly powerful, churning through cantrips and mana acceleration spells to fuel your turns. Adding a bunch of cards like Magmatic Channeler give the deck a ton of chip damage. Commune with Lava and the Lava will tell you that Archaeology isn't all destroying priceless ancient burial sites and melting Nazi faces, sometimes it's just about hitting Soulfire Eruption and using Matlab to calculate the damage.
Oh, they're really giving me the goad goods this set. I'm happy about it, and I'm happy that I can do some goading outside of a Mono-Red deck. That's excellent news as I don't want to build like 50 Baeloth decks and call it an article. There really isn't a bad choice here - you can build any number of decks that make enough creatures to ensure you're hitting them all every turn so that you get max value from this background. I love the idea of using Viconia, Drow Apostate to encourage you to be really reckless with your swings since you can get those fallen soldiers back. Creatures like Plaguecrafter do a lot of work in those sort of scenarios, and if you're getting back blockers that die, you can win the war of Attrition. You can even play Attrition, it seems really good in this deck.
Raised by Giants
There are a lot of commanders outside of this set that would think this card was hilarious, but if you want to be using cards in the set, there are a bunch of obvious ones. I really like this with Wilson so you can start threatening lethal with a trampling Bear. However, stacking up 13 toughness on Vhal, Candlekeep Researcher is awesome and can generate you a ton of mana. What do you do with that mana? Whatever you want, as long as you're not casting spells. Use some of it for Umbral Mantle and figure out the rest later. Infinite colorless mana that can't be used to play spells can go into a Helix Pinnacle, just sayin'.
Scion of Halaster
This is a common, but this is actually pretty good with Viconia, Drow Apostate and Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy. This is actually just kind of a decent card in the vein of Mirri's Guile, though you'll be required to keep your commander alive, which isn't always easy. No one is desperate for this common to be busted in Baldur's Gate Limited or anything, this is just a fairly solid effect that costs you very little to have access to and which pairs with a few of the commanders in the set. Building around this is the same as building around the commander of the deck it's in, though, which isn't great as a Thesis Enchantment but sometimes you just want to Ponder.
Volo, Itinerant Scholar essentially exists to put into play his eponymous journal then do nothing for a while until it builds up enough counters that you can use Volo to draw a bunch of cards. In the meantime, I like the idea of Volo stealing the lives of other creatures and mimicking them until he dies and you can recast him to draw cards with. Adding another color to the mix would be sweet, but a clone tribal deck is something I've been wanting to try. A pile of clones, a bunch of cool Blue creatures with good ETB effects and four puffy shirtsleeves in the command zone. I do believe we've got a stew going.
Burakos, Party Leader is a very, very D&D card, which is not... like super a compliment. Party is one of the worst mechanics and putting it on a card makes a lot of people's eyes glaze over. That's too bad, because Burakos is a beating and he can be the missing member of any party because he is a bunch of creature types. You might not want to sac Treasure tokens to ping people, but isn't it nice to have the option?
Sword Coast Sailor
One thing I don't love is being forced to attack and, worse, being forced to attack AND deal damage for a commander to do anything. I really tend to avoid cards like that. Since there are so many in this set, this is a great way to make sure you get through unblocked and live to do some more combat later. There honestly isn't a bad pairing for this, but I particularly like the spiciness of pairing this with Livaan, Cultist of Tiamat. Having a creature with Mega-Prowess become unblockable seems very powerful and with Izzet being the colors of easy mana and full grips, you're sure to punch them real hard. Livaan is more dangerous than I thought at first glance, and if you can take out the Archenemy with one punch, so much the better.
There isn't necessarily a bad venue for this but there isn't really a great one, either. But, like with Scion of Halaster, this is a pretty decent repeatable effect to get every turn for 0 mana. People play cards like this and I would encourage people to pair this out of Red if you do build with it. I can't see myself building with this per se, but if I had to, I like the idea of Big Bomb tribal with Jaheira, Friend of the Forest. If this pumped toughness, I'd consider Vhal, Candlekeep Researcher while I was at it.
This turns your commander into basically a fair version of Adeline, Resplendent Cathar. Have you seen how much value that card generates? This makes your commander make tokens, and like a third of them thrive under those conditions. Make Soldiers that can become bears in a Halsin deck. Make fodder for Shadowheart and Gut or turn Ellyn into a card sifting machine. This background absolutely rules, and the tokens decks you could make by upgrading your commander will really appreciate always having access to a token generation card. I think this is perfect and I'd try and pair it with Green if possible, but there really aren't any wrong answers.
I think we managed to find at least one great candidate for future Thesis Enchantment in here. I came up with a few good ideas, one of which I'll pursue next week. I had some laughs, broke up a giant, unwieldy list into 2 manageable ones and even got this article turned in on time this week. All in all, I'm glad they decided to give us some space to play around with that won't irrevocably ruin EDH as a whole and I'm glad that some of these cards are genuinely very good and playable. Speaking of good, it was good of you to read this and I thank you. Until next time!