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The Thesis Enchantments of Crimson Vow

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Readers!

I did NOT write this article already. I checked (I didn't check, but I thought about it) and I wrote the inverse of this article which was a distinct but nevertheless rich and important topic. I am referring to my previous award-eligible piece about which Thesis Enchantments should be included in decks built around every commander from Crimson Vow. Today, I'll be scouring Crimson Vow for interesting Enchantments that might make good build-arounds for other commanders. Not sure what a Thesis Enchantment is? I got you covered - check this piece out for the skinny on a new thing I came up with. Not sure if it's really a thing people other than me do? I invite your skepticism - I'm still working the kinks out but I think I may have tapped into a fairly robust underlying concept of my deck-building - something I always did without thinking. Now that I assume you're caught up on the terminology I'll be using here, does anything from Crimson Vow seem build-around-worthy? The answer, and this may surprise you, is complicated. Allow me to explain.

If you take a surface-level scan through a list of all of the Enchantments in Crimson Vow (for simplicity's sake, I'm excluding Enchantments that come into the world as Creatures are require work to make them into Enchantments), a bunch seem like they're obvious build-arounds. I organized the set alphabetically and when I looked at the first card, I checked the clock reflexively, assuming I was in for a long night. "If the first card in the set is an excellent build-around" I thought "then the set must be dense with them. I'm going to be at this a while." I put on a pot of coffee, which was weird because I wouldn't even drink coffee under duress and cracked my knuckles in a way that would indicate to anyone watching me that I was about to get started on a long project. Then, after doing a bunch of weird cartoonish act-out physical bits for, I hope, no one (I unplug my webcam when I'm not using it), I reread the card I thought was a great example of a build-around Enchantment.

Arterial Alchemy

What's not to love here? You can turn your Blood tokens into even more useful Artifacts, giving them an entirely new axis to help you win. In addition to card drawing, you can add to the damage you're dealing. Any Blood-based deck can use this, from Odric to Anje to ... well, those two. The thing is, for this to be worth building around, the rest of the deck has to support Arterial Alchemy. When you don't have Arterial Alchemy, you want to be equipping creatures and attacking with them. You want to draw Arterial Alchemy and have your deck work better, you don't want to be switching gears when you draw it.

If the deck plays differently without the thesis Enchantment than with it, I think that's an issue. I might not have written this exact point out, but I think it's necessary to make it. It's easy to get into the mentality that the Thesis Enchantment is the card that brings the whole deck together and once it's out, your deck can do its thing, and if that's the case, Arterial Alchemy fits the bill, right? You amass Blood tokens just playing Magic and then this comes down and you suit up and beat them bloody. Let me suggest that how narrow this card is might be the biggest problem with it. A deck that is good with this out has to be good without it, and if you're generating Blood tokens that don't do anything with this card not out, your deck will be built weird. You won't be attacking for as much damage without the equipment this card makes and if you are, the deck is kind of a mess. You don't want the deck to not work without your Thesis Enchantment because a lot of the time, you won't have it.

It's pretty clear I'm still fleshing this concept out, but the more I think about it, the more I think the best illustration is the juxtaposition of Burgeoning and Exploration. These cards in a vacuum fill the same role and perform similarly, but if you build the deck around one card and a separate deck around the other, you'll notice some real divergence. Burgeoning is very, very different than Exploration in terms of the plays it can enable, but it can't do any of those things in a deck not built to do them. You need to build with Burgeoning in mind - landfall triggers galore, cards like Ghost Town and Simic Growth Chamber, enablers like Retreat to Coralhelm. A Burgeoning deck is fine without Burgeoning out because you can accomplish some of the same shenanigans Burgeoning enables with cards like Sakura-Tribe Scout. Does Arterial Alchemy make you put the equivalent of Ghost Town in the deck? Does it make you replace the equivalent of Arbor Elf with the equivalent of Llanowar Scout? Your Thesis Enchantment is your world, in the sense that it has a ton of gravity and it will pull things toward it, pointing out the way you should build. Your Thesis Enchantment can be your whole world, but it can't be the Sun. None of this exists without The Sun, and you need your deck to actually play Magic and win without the Thesis Enchantment out. An Enchantment that doesn't make you change the deck at all when you add it isn't a Thesis Enchantment, it can't be. What are you adding to the deck and what are you taking out when you include Arterial Alchemy?

I'm going into this much detail because I needed me to explain this to myself. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the concept of the Thesis Enchantment but that doesn't mean I fully know what it all means. Writing about the topic made me get away from the original idea that sparked all of these articles - the fact that I think a Burgeoning deck plays differently from an Exploration deck. Synergy is necessary for a deck built around a Thesis Enchantment to work, but identifying synergy doesn't mean you have found a suitable Thesis Enchantment candidate - synergy is a prerequisite, not the goal. I never thought about any of this before because I had been starting with a Commander, looking at how I wanted to build around that deck and focusing on the Enchantment that makes that deck the best it can be. That's fine and none of that was wrong, per se, but my understanding was incomplete because I hadn't looked at it from every angle. It wasn't until I looked at Enchantments outside of the context of any commander and tried to find a deck for it that I realized everything I've typed so far.

With a loose understanding of how Thesis Enchantments ideally function, I scoured the list of Crimson Vow cards, and at first, it seemed like there were a lot of good candidates. The truth is, a card needs to do more than synergize with the other cards in the deck, in order to be an effective Thesis Enchantment, the card has to inform the other card choices you make for the deck. If you can swap a card out and swap it in and the deck plays the same it did before, you haven't done anything except optimize your Enchantment slots. Don't get me wrong - that's a worthwhile endeavor, but it's also not what we're trying to do here. So, with all of that said, is there anything in Crimson Vow that qualifies?

Laid to Rest

Laid to Rest, added to either a Humans deck or a +1/+1 counters deck will reward you for at least taking a look at whether you wanted to add more cards of the other type to that deck. Adding a few humans to Eutropia or Pir and Toothy or perhaps building Leinore rather than Sigarda will be rewarded in the games where you draw this card, but you won't be punished overly much for making those changes in the games where you don't draw it, especially given the synergy between these two subthemes in Midnight Hunt. Laid to Rest is, admittedly, a pretty weak card. I'm not building with this card in mind, although I will likely include it if I'm building Katilda or something like that. The point here isn't that a Thesis Enchantment needs to be a flashy mythic, though it's often a powerful card. The point is that a good Thesis Enchantment will warp the deck around itself, causing you to add cards that synergize both with the Thesis Enchantment and that synergize with other cards that synergize with the Thesis Enchantment. Realistically, with lands, mana rocks, must-include creatures and utility Instants and Sorceries, you're looking at about 40 slots in a given deck to give the deck its identity, and changing 5 or 6 of those is very significant.

An issue with the very powerful Enchantments in the set is that they are very narrow. A Blue/Black Zombies deck and a deck built with Necroduality as the Thesis Enchantment are identical decks. Hallowed Haunting is powerful and it unites Spirits and Enchantments (though not enough to offset what you lose by Spirits decks traditionally not having Green, forcing you into either a weak build or a weird one) but it doesn't really change your build behavior much unless you want your deck to be a real mess.

I think that there is really only one card in the set that checks all of the boxes - powerful enough to be worth building around, impactful enough that you will alter your strategy to include cards that synergize with it and utilitarian enough to work with multiple different commanders. Readers, behold all of the Thesis Enchantments from Crimson Vow.

Glorious Sunrise

Sunrise is generally pretty good, but it can reward you a lot for doing specific things. If you replace cards like Llanowar Elves with Arbor Elves, you can get six mana from a Forest instead of 3. You can just draw a card like it's a Green Phyrexian Arena. You can have a mini Overrun every turn. Generating additional combat steps triggers Sunrise again, rewarding you for including cards that do that. It may not be the most powerful Enchantment ever, but if you include this card in the deck and make a few choices between otherwise very similar cards (compare Llanowar and Arbor Elves the way you compare Exploration and Burgeoning). The card itself is pretty good (though five mana is a lot and this isn't seeing as much play as its designers hoped, I imagine) but what's even better is changing a few of the cards in your deck to include cards that are functionally similar to the cards they replaced but which synergize much better with this and every card that synergizes with it. It's not a total rebuild - rather your Thesis Enchantment informs your choices but doesn't leave you with a non-functioning deck should you not draw your Thesis card.

So, what did we learn? I learned that I need to tighten up my definition of Thesis Enchantment (or any other type of permanent, realistically) a bit because it isn't enough for the card just to synergize with the deck. If it's not informing the other cards in the deck and is merely thrown in because it synergizes with the commander. A Thesis Enchantment should synergize with the commander, sure, but it needs to do more. If you change all of your Mountains to Snow-Covered to include Glacial Crevasses, it's tough to say if Glacial Crevasses is your Thesis Enchantment. Include Sunstone, Crucible of Worlds, Glacial Chasm, and Mouraug and Skred, you've got yourself a Thesis Enchantment. The more cards you add that are good when you don't have your Thesis Enchantment out but better when you do, the better job you did selecting and building around it.

That does it for me this week, readers. This was a long one, but I hope you found it informative. I'll keep dialing in my thoughts on this topic if you keep reading. Next week we'll be looking at finding a good Thesis Enchantment candidate in a recent set and picking the commanders based on the Enchantment and not the other way around. You won't want to miss it. Until next time!


Commander HQ: Decklists and Strategy for Innistrad Crimson Vow's Legendary Creatures!

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