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What Not Caring About Sythis Taught Me About 75%



This isn't an article about Sythis. You're going to get confused later when you see a Sythis decklist, but I assure you, this article isn't really about Sythis. If I wanted to write an article about Sythis, I would have done so weeks ago. So, decklist aside, this is an article about why I didn't build a Sythis deck sooner and why my approach to deck-building is impossible to predict, even by me. It's going to be a bit of a journey, but I promise it will be worth it and, yes, you can have my take on Sythis at the end. I imagine you can already guess that it will contain Glare of Subdual, but if you can guess that, can you guess why it took me this long to write about Sythis? I couldn't either.

What IS Sythis?

Sythis, Harvest's Hand

Sythis is this. This is Sythis. Sythis is an Enchantress that can go in your command zone, and that's a very good thing. Do I want Sythis in the 99 of a deck or two? Yep, already made that change to those decks. So why is a card that seems so tailor-made for my Enchantment-heavy builds not doing it for me? Isn't access to an Enchantress right away something I will never not want? I don't need to talk about what's great about Sythis and a deck built around Sythis - I feel like you reading this card and brainstorming a bit coupled with the list I come up with can speak volumes about Sythis' strengths. It's the weaknesses that have me worried and which caused me to skip building a Sythis deck altogether.

Sythis is two colors.

Sythis is in Green and White, which seem like very natural fits for an Enchantress deck. You have the bulk of the Enchantresses, the land enchantment mana ramp, and some of the card selection in Green and you have the token generation, pillow fort and tutors in White. Gold gives you cards from Privileged Position to Sterling Grove to Mirari's Wake. The deck should be pretty lean and fast and put you in the driver's seat early, right?

That's all true, but what's missing from this two color combination is anything I find satisfying. The bones of a deck are there, but without another color, you're just a bones deck. Anyone who has played Dungeons and Dragons with a low level character and encountered a group of Skeletons knows that bones can do some damage, but they crumble under pressure. This is going to belabor this metaphor a bit and I apologize for that but a deck of all bones lacks muscle. Muscle (I regret this metaphor already, why am I doing this to us?) helps the bones move and provides some punch to get the job done. You can find some of that in Green and White, but the stock Sythis lists I'm seeing are making a ton of tokens and hitting them with Craterhoof or... actually there basically isn't a second thing. Take it from me, Starfield of Nyx is a double-edged sword and it's not that reliable a win condition.

In fact, the only Enchantress deck I've made in the last year, Ghen, Arcanum Weaver, doesn't have any Green in it at all and I was much more excited to build it than I was looking at Sythis. Does that mean Enchantress decks function better with no access to Green than they do without access to a color that isn't Green or White? I don't think that's true- my Ghen deck is very clunky and I have been fiddling with it a lot and it's not perfect. However, it at least plays differently than you'd expect an Enchantment-heavy deck to run. You do interesting things - you can gift them one of the lich-adjacent cards like Nefarious Lich or Midnight Oil through various means, and that's a relatively new axis for Enchantment-heavy decks to function. In fact, Blim and Ghen coming out close to each other almost made me build both - Blim was the commander I always wanted Inniaz to be.

Dabbling with Black taught me that the best payoffs for the nonsense Green and White let you do in an Enchantress shell are outside of those two colors. I like making the table deal with Painful Quandary or Mind's Dilation. Access to Blue or Black or even Red would give Sythis some... sigh, muscle. I mean, belabored metaphor aside, the word muscle is evocative enough on its own. You need another color to get the job done unless you're doing it the way Green and White always does it, and that's boring. I don't want to build another Craterhoof deck and I don't want to have to get super wacky for the sake of not building a stock deck because I don't like to suggest builds I wouldn't play myself.

Neither of those colors is Blue.

Apart from "muscle" cards like Mind's Dilation, Blue gives us access to something we desperately need in an Enchantress deck, and that's countermagic. I run a lot of it and I seem to be tempted to add more of it. The simple truth about playing an Enchantress deck is that if someone draws Merciless Eviction, they will cast it right away, and they will name Enchantments and you're going to do nothing the rest of the game. Not having a plan for Merciless Eviction is a recipe for disaster. When I say "disaster" I don't mean "you lose" I mean everything but like 6 basic lands is removed from the game and you're going to stare at the Replenish in your hand and it's going to stare right back at you. You're not just going to lose, you're going to lose in a way where you watch 3 people play Magic without you. Sythis helps you rebuild slightly faster but the game is basically over for you if they Eviction. Having a plan for stopping a career ender makes me feel more secure - I hate bringing a deck with such a glaring weakness to a game.

Neither of those colors is Black or even Red.

I have built quite a few Enchantress decks without Blue lately but they all rely on putting a lot of Enchantments into the graveyard where they're safe from Eviction. Red and Black are great colors for having cards in the 'yard and Replenish is more of a proactive than reactive card in those decks. Just Green and White means your deck is going to be pillowforty, it will lack ways to stop them from wiping your board, which is fine, but it will also lack ways to be aggressive enough that a wipe isn't inevitable and it will lack ways to fill your yard so that you can actually use cards like Open the Vaults. Even if they Eviction my Ghen deck, I replay Ghen and any Enchantment and I'm right back to making their lives hard with Polluted Bonds. A 'yard is a second hand with White's ability to bring Enchantments back from the dead, but you need to be stocked up and Green and White don't do that well at all.

There has to be something more interesting we can do with a deck so good at drawing cards. If you've never played Enchantress before, which is understandable, it's difficult to overstate the value of that first Enchantress. You draw a ton of Enchantments early and you have to weigh how many you want to develop the board with versus how many you sandbag to make sure you can smooth your draws once you get that first Enchantress to stick. Having access to it in the command zone is a huge game changer for this type of deck - you will very consistently start drawing a bunch of cards right away. If I am going to forgo Court of Ambition and Stolen Strategy in favor of drawing more cards that aren't Court of Ambition or Stolen Strategy, am I spinning my wheels or is there something I can put in there using these colors that make it worthwhile?

Green and White gives us plenty of combos, some of them that can generate a ton of tokens or a ton of mana under the right conditions. If we don't want to be just another Craterhoof deck, can we find something the do with this deck that reward us for drawing a lot of cards? In being unable to decide which combo to add, I decided to add all of them.

Green and White gives us Squirrel Nest/Earthcraft, it gives us Heliod/Ballista, it gives us Siona/Shielded by Faith and it gives us Karametra plus creatures. Tutoring for any of those combos wins us the game, but we can sit on our tutors to the extent that we even play any and let the fact that we're going to draw an absurd number of cards carry us. There ARE finishers in Green and White and I'm going to play all of them so there are multiple paths to victory (so I don't get bored). If we were worried about a lack of muscle earlier, let's get as swole as we can.

Sythis, Harvest's Hand | Commander | Jason Alt

This looks pretty combo-trastic. Hungry for more? Feel free to jam Archangel of Thune and Spike Feeder to start. Archangel of Thune is actually quite good in the deck, and if you add a few lifelinkers (maybe as few as one more) then it makes sense to add the Aetherflux Reservoir this deck badly wants.

Cloudstone Curio is a card I use a lot but it's good here. One-mana Creatures that are also Enchantments can draw you a lot of cards with Curio and I think that's neat. Cloudstone and Cloud Key are our only artifacts, unless you count Ballista, and that's all we need. Mana rocks are for quitters. Did I want to add Helm of Possession, you know, like a crutch? Yes, but I got over it.

Was this piece as cathartic to read as it was to write or does that never work? I've logged a lot of hours (because I make the game take longer) with Enchantress decks and I can tell you that scooping to an Eviction feels bad, but also that I encounter that card less than I used to and maybe this deck can win quickly enough that they don't get it. If you get pantsed, well, at least you have an Enchantress in the Command Zone, so pop that Flickering Ward with the Eviction on the stack and rebuild your empire. I mean, or get trampled. Either way, you won't be unhappy for long, and isn't that what Magic: The Gathering is all about? That does it for me, readers. Until next time!

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