Given the ebb and flow of time, Magic is a constant evolution. The best deck last week may not be the best deck this week. And even if the same deck is still the best deck, the current iteration will always be different. Just look at Caw-Blade, a dominant Standard deck that was constantly in flux. Spell Pierce, Gideon Jura, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of War and Peace, Jace Beleren, Divine Offering and a plethora of other spells entered and exited, changing how the deck crushed its foes.
This leads us to an interesting conundrum: is there any reason to change a deck if you don’t have to? As the old saying goes, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. If a deck does reasonably well and occasionally places, why bother changing it?
To answer that question, maybe we should ask the opposite. If a deck is not working, and hasn’t placed in months or even years, clearly there could be a better version. In December 2011, Caleb Durward turned heads when he fought and did well at an SCG Open with Mono-white Stax, a deck that hadn’t done well in a long time. But this is all dependent on the metagame and she is a fickle mistress. Caleb only bothered looking at the deck because he felt it could exploit holes in the metagame.
Brian Braun-Duin wrote a great article about how to update Merfolk for Legacy, and while Fish is still a decent choice for the current metagame, I want to go farther. Let’s look at an obscure deck and see if we can’t make something pretty. This deck will always be in my heart of hearts, as I actually got the deck’s namesake card in the first pile of cards that someone gave me when I learned to play Magic.
Enchantress By Melissa DeToro, 39th at SCG Worcester
That’s right. I’m one of those weird Magicians who likes to cast Argothian Enchantress. Deal with it. The above list is fairly typical, so now we have a good starting base to alter because Enchantress hasn’t been doing well at tournaments.
This is an exercise in tinkering and the first question we should ask is: what does the deck do? Or, even better: how do we win? Knowing what a deck does allows us to tinker with the deck and evaluate cards that help us achieve the game plan. Enchantress wants to lock the opponent out of the game by sticking a Solitary Confinement and drawing enough cards to keep it going.
Author’s Note: This is not the same question as “What is the win condition?”, because those could vary greatly. When trying to win with the Dragonstorm deck, the win condition is usually Bogardan Hellkite. But the deck wins by building a storm count of three and then casting Dragonstorm.
Another great question to ask when evaluating a deck is: what does this deck lose to? This is a harder question to answer, especially if you have never played the archetype. It forces us to look at the holes in the deck. If decks in the metagame are doing exactly that, we are going to have to adjust the deck. And sometimes it might be better to not even bother.
The typical Enchantress does really well in a slow, grindy control metagame where Jace, the Mind Sculptor thrives. The decks it loses to most often are combo decks. Enchantress has no way of fighting Storm particularly well and folds to Show and Tell or Sneak Attack plus Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. It does marginally better against Griselbrand, but not much. And it also happens to lose to random Qasali Pridemages.
Call me Captain Obvious, but these decks seem to be dominating the top tables recently and they probably won’t be going anywhere. This is not good for your typical Enchantress list. Now, of course, we could go about fighting the enemy and adding things to fill in those gaps, but these are pretty big holes to fill. Legacy’s metagame is much more regional, meaning that you will find more combo decks in certain areas and more control decks in others. Enchantress may be viable for where you are, but on a grand scale like the World Legacy Championships, you have to expect the best decks.
So let’s do something else. What if we added Force of Will? This would certainly solve some of the deck’s weaknesses, but then we get to the problem of needing blue cards and the fact that Force of Will is not an Enchantment. Out goes Argothian Enchantress and Enchantress’s Presence. But can we draw enough cards to keep Solitary Confinement going?
Sure we can. This is Legacy.
Recently, there has been a UW Miracles deck running around, but I thought we might try to adapt it to Enchantress. This was actually my second attempt at tweaking the deck (the first list is below) and I think there might be something here. Transforming it into a Counterbalance deck immediately gives it a shot against combo. Being able to stop all their rituals is nothing short of awesome and along with Force of Will and Daze, this should seal up most games. And by adding blue we also get Brainstorm, the best card draw spell in Legacy. I also wanted to give Trade Routes a shot, considering how well it works in the deck.
The best Enchantment in Legacy right now is Humility, but you can’t play it in traditional Enchantress due to it being a nonbo with Argothian Enchantress. But we can play it here! All those creatures will look rather silly as 1/1s. Nice Show and Tell + Emrakul, bro. Humility gets worse when you fight against decks already capable of powering out a bunch of 1/1s like Elves, Goblins or Thopter/Sword. Humility also gets a lot worse when all you’re fighting against are Stoneforge Mystic, Snapcaster Mage and Batterskull.
How We Win
Same as Enchantress, locking an opponent out with Solitary Confinement. But here, we have multiple ways to do this. Trade Routes will let us draw cards and when combined with Land Tax can draw a ton of cards. Also, Life from the Loam does a really good job of making sure those discarded lands and fetchlands keep coming back for more.
Our Win Condition
What Beats Us
Cavern of Souls and AEther Vial: These cards allow a few decks to get around Counterbalance. Sometimes they also just get off to such a fast start that we can’t recover. Your best bet in game 1 is to stick Humility as soon as possible.
Qasali Pridemage: We still can lose to random cat wizards, but this isn’t as bad as the regular Enchantress lists. We now have countermagic and Swords to Plowshares. The same strategy applies as with the AEther Vial decks, but at least these decks are kind and give you more time to land Humility. Be prepared to fight over their Thalia, Guardian of Thraben since she makes you a turn slower.
Pithing Needle and Cursed Totem go a long way in shutting down a lot of the problem creatures we may come up against. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is an excellent way to fight the control decks. Krosan Grip will stave off Batterskull and will go a long way in putting us ahead in the Counterbalance mirror match. Vendilion Clique can fight combo like no one’s business and Terminus can shore up any decks packing Nimble Mongoose or Knight of the Reliquary. Last but not least, Relic of Progenitus clears graveyards like no one’s business, helping you beat any deck trying to utilize the ‘yard.
I really like the above list and feel it’s pretty solid in the metagame right now. But what if you still want to cast Argothian Enchantress? Never fear, I feel your need for small, green druids and I have a second list:
This list is a complete brew, and I love it. It doesn’t take long to see the ties to the original list, but I went ahead and eschewed white for blue so we can add Force of Will. Let’s take a look at the changes:
Green Sun’s Zenith: Pay three mana, go fetch Argothian Enchantress. Seems legit. This also lets us accelerate by Zenithing for Dryad Arbor on turn 1 to play one of our three-mana Enchantments on turn 2. Believe me, when your opponent casts Empty the Warrens and you play Propaganda, it feels really good. This also allows us to have a cool sideboard trick where we can cast Natural Order into Progenitus. Nothing says “sacrifice me” like a two-mana green druid with Shroud.
Exploration: Not commonly seen in Enchantress lists (it does pop up from time to time), this lets us accelerate from one mana to three in a hurry. And once we get our deck going, replaying all those lands we bounced with Words of Wind will be crucial.
Propaganda: The bane of all creature decks, most decks in Legacy can’t get around multiples of this card. And the less creatures we have attacking us, the better. Propaganda gets the nod over Elephant Grass because we don’t want to have to worry about the Cumulative Upkeep cost which the traditional list is more prepared to handle.
Rhystic Study: This card’s cousin, Mystic Remora has been crushing Vintage for a while and I think it’s time for this card to shine. No one will ever pay the extra one mana, so you can imagine drawing a card every time our opponents cast a spell. And that’s a lot of card draw. When you combine this with Words of War or Words of Wind, expect your opponent’s tempo to be slowed to a crawl.
How We Win
By making sure our opponent’s tempo is slow to non-existent.
Our Win Condition
Words of War and drawing a ton of cards.
What Beats Us
Jace, the Mind Sculptor: Control decks can out control us. A lot of our cards don’t even affect them. Games 2 and 3 get a lot better when we reposition ourselves to fight them better.
Griselbrand/Emrakul decks: They can still outdraw us, but we have a lot better chance of bringing the fight to their doorstep.
Tendrils of Agony: Game 1 is slightly better but not much, due to our overloading on dealing with creatures. Post-sideboard, things can get a lot better.
Krosan Grip will be our best friend, beating Choke, Batterskull, Counterbalance and so much more. Due to our reliance on Enchantments, we can play Compost, Ground Seal, Chill, Carpet of Flowers and Back to Basics. Relic of Progenitus reigns supreme here as well. Natural Order plus Progenitus and Jace, the Mind Sculptor shore up the control matchup. Flusterstorm can help us fight Storm/High Tide combo.
I hope this process gave you some ideas for what to do with your favorite archetype. You can do this in every constructed format, including Commander. If there’s a deck or archetype you want me to look at in the future, just let me know.
P.S. After I submitted this article, MTGO player Gainsay took fifth in the Legacy MOCS with a modified UG Enchantress list.
— Kevin Castle
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