I sent Craig an email asking what I should write about. He responded that I should look at the competitiveness of eight-man Extended single elimination events on Magic Online and also examine online Standard. I will — but first I have to stop wasting all my online time playing a trio of silly — but totally fun — decks. I'll write about one of those today — and it's still relevant because Guildpact won't appear online for couple of weeks.
I have a “gauntlet” of standard decks. Several are close to competitive — but I can't get enough dual and pain lands. I have on average 1.6 of each. I have zero Shivan Reefs which means my versions of URzatron - Magnivore and Eminent Domain sucks — the more so since I have one Magnivore and three Wildfires. Since I own one Glare of Subdual and just one Yosei my versions of Ghazi-Glare and Greater Good are also somewhat lacking.
Since I cannot make any of the Tier 1 Standard decks I have concentrated on building around the rares I do have playsets of. Since that includes at present only Birds of Paradise Zur's Weirding Story Circle Uba Mask General's Kabuto Journeyer's Kite and Verduran Enchantress that is somewhat limiting. I've tried building around Uba Mask and I own zero Adarkar Wastes so Zur's Weirding is out. That leaves Verduran Enchantress and Birds of Paradise.
Don't worry — the article is not about Enchantress decks. It just starts there.
I built a couple G/B aggro decks and aggro-control decks around the Birds. The aggro decks are nothing special. I also have one running Dimir House Guards Nantuko Husks Nezumi Graverobbers and my pair of Grave Pacts which is brutal if it gets going — but nothing that other people haven't written about. Ditto the G/B/W version.
Other people (with one exception) have not written much about Enchantress — probably with good reason. Since the first couple of Verduran Enchantresses were a gift from a reader (hoody hoo!) shortly after I got online and my first painland was a Brushland I have built and played Enchantress a lot. I have a “reasonably tuned” version now. Here's a list (with the usual caveat — I don't own more copies of Brushland Temple Garden etc. and yes the deck would be better with those. The second caveat: The standard StarCityGames.com deck format uses the phrase “recommended by
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Carven Caryatid
- 1 Dowsing Shaman
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 4 Verduran Enchantress
- 2 Yavimaya Enchantress
- 2 Kodama of the North Tree
Some Quick Notes
The Ghostly Prisons are amazing against aggro decks and especially Selesnya decks that don't pack Glare. Even Ghazi-Glare with its two Seed Sparks is not going to outrun the Prisons easily — and if they kill the Prison you can just sit behind Worship (well until you deck yourself.)
Molting Skin is great. It helps keep the Enchantress alive which is a big problem. (Argothian Enchantress where are you!?) It also can be recurred and recast frequently which can restart the card drawing engine. Before Molten Skin appeared in Saviors I used to use Cage of Hands as the recursive element — and that is even slower.
Moldervine Cloak is good too — especially on a Birds. If I owned more I would play them — but I never seem to open them and no one ever passes me any in Draft. Hardly surprising is it?
The main problem however was that the deck didn't really do anything. It could get some insane card drawing going at times — but all it could draw into was a miserable Genju or a North Tree. It could win on occasion but it was never anything special — and after sideboard it often rolled over to cards that got rid of the Enchantresses. At that point it was just a bad North Tree/Worship deck.
Enough Enchantress. I also tried playing around with some of the other quirky archetypes since bad rares are far easier to get than good ones — especially when your budget is totally taken up with getting the duals.
For example I had three Forbidden Orchards online — and a pair of Hunted Dragons. Normally these cards are highly questionable — but not in Warp World decks. Warp World has each player count all the permanents they own shuffle their permanents into their libraries then reveal that many cards and put all the permanents so revealed back into play. What makes Forbidden Orchard and Hunted Dragon interesting in Warp World decks is that although the opponent gets control of the tokens the controller of the Forbidden Orchard or Dragon actually owns the tokens — so they get the permanents.
Here's an example. Assume that the two players each control the following:
World Warper owns twenty permanents. Pyromaniac owns seven. Moreover since Pyromaniacs deck is probably about one third burn spells and the like when the Warp World resolves Pyromaniac is probably going to reveal four or five permanents. Since the Warp World deck is going to be almost all permanents it is going to put about twenty into play.
If everything goes well those twenty permanents will include an Anarchist and enough lands to produce 5RRR - in which case World Warper will cast Warp World again. Assuming that some of the permanents included either the Orchards or the Hunted Dragons the odds are that World Warper probably controlled more than twenty permanents before the second Warp World.
After the second Warp World I typically found myself with about thirty permanents in play — and my opponent with very few. More importantly at some point I would get the single Heartbeat of Spring into play and would store lots of extra mana making going off again and again easy. Very shortly my opponent would own zero permanents I would have forty to fifty and I could kill them with hasty Dragons and Galvanic Arcs to the head.
Here's an early decklist:
When it worked it worked pretty well. It was slow annoying and relentless — a flashback to the old Renounce Bargain decks from days of yore. When it went off it really went off.
The problem was that the deck could have some serious problems going off. It could get really bad draws — lots of useless enchantments lands etc. Even including multiple Carven Caryatids wasn't enough to power through bad draws and bad draws were often fatal.
So I had these two cool decks that just didn't work. One drew like crazy but had nothing to draw into. The other had this amazing recursive combo but it just couldn't draw it consistently. Neither was good enough for even semi-competitive play but both used about twenty of the same favorite cards.
It was a real stumper.
At times like this I like to read from the Good Book. I often find solace and helpful advice in its words. I did this time. I pondered and I asked myself... “What Would Harry Potter Do?”
Actually Harry had no fricken idea what to do since Hermione wasn't there to tell him.
(Note: for those objecting that Harry Potter doesn't qualify as a good book it is one reference practically every StarCityGames.com reader will get. You have to write to your audience. If you really want good as in enjoyable books check out any Terry Pratchett novels. My favorites are probably Reaper Man the one where Death gets fired and grocery carts herd people into killer shopping malls or Good Omens where the antichrist arrives on earth but is accidentally switched at birth. Both are highly recommended but lines like “What Would Death Do?” just don't work as well.) [Good Omens is especially tasty. — Craig sauntering vaguely downwards]
Okay enough padding — time to combine the decks. The result is Warped Enchantress. I like this deck — I almost played it at States last fall. Thank gawds they needed me as a judge.
I should state up front that I do not recommend this for winning tournaments. Warped Enchantress does not do well against decks with a lot of countermagic or against decks that can find and cast Cranial Extraction quickly. It is a lot of fun to play however and is reasonably fast (with a bit of practice) in the paper version. Online it involves a lot of dragging and clicking and you have to be really good with the interface to avoid timing out in sanctioned play.
Here's the deck:
- 2 Anarchist
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Carven Caryatid
- 2 Hunted Dragon
- 3 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 4 Verduran Enchantress
- 3 Wood Elves
On to the dreaded card by card:
The deck's signature card — and the only reason it works. What you have to remember is that Warp World is probably going to increase your number of permanents — and decrease your opponents permanent count. Cast it early and often — even if you don't go off you should improve your relative position. However you only need three. It is an eight mana sorcery — having one in your opening hand is not that much of a benefit.
He has only one function: to recur the Warp World. You really only need two — more is overkill.
Getting beaten down with tokens is no fun. Getting beaten down with tokens you provided is worse. This gives you time to set up.
Helps draw you into what you need keeps you alive and most opponents are unwilling to waste cards killing it. Not insane but really valuable against all beatdown decks.
These can stop early attackers and buy time against damage-based decks. They also shut down most problem permanents from Greater Good to Glare of Subdual. They also provide a lot of life gain — if you Warp World a couple times you often see a twenty point life swing.
A secondary win condition — and something I often drop on one of my opponent's creatures in order to kill another one. Typically Galvanic Arcs do the first nine or so points to opponents — and the Hunted Dragons finish them off. Galvanic Arcs can also be used to kill the Carven Caryatids so that you don't deck yourself with forced draws once you start chaining Warp Worlds.
Heartbeat of Spring
This powers chaining Warp Worlds. If it appears even once you can generally fill your mana pool and have no problem casting subsequent Warp Worlds. One is enough — you never want to cast this until you can use it first. Once you start going off however it will often appear.
They are two permanents for three mana — and you get a mana back when you tap the Forest. That's quite good — and they would be great if they could fetch a R/G dual land. In a couple of weeks they will be able to do so. If only they didn't die so easily.
Birds of Paradise
You need many colors to make the deck run. Options like Fellwar Stone or Signets are not quite as useful — although Boros Signet is almost equal — and definitely one of the best low-cost alternatives.
They are not perfect but they are mana fixers/accelerators. They top the alternatives — Civic Wayfarer for example does not put the land into play. The only card I would play over the Tribe — if it were legal — would be Fertile Ground which could trigger the Enchantress. On the flip side — Elders block (once.)
Pinecrest Ridge et al
These lands are really bad so they are cheap to get. However they work perfectly when you are going off. Unlike painlands they won't kill you (and the first time you Warp needing to tap lots of painlands could indeed do you in.) Unlike most of the other two-colored lands they don't come into play tapped. Unlike Tendo Ice Bridge you can get colored mana more than once. They work just fine when going off and I have never had trouble with their staying tapped when I need them. Of course if I owned better lands they might well be gone.
This is the other answer to decking yourself with forced draws. Stack the draws from the Caryatids under the Galvanic Arcs let the Caryatids die the put them back into the library and draw them. It is also pretty decent against Nightmare Void and other annoying graveyard recursion effects.
Early on they provide tokens that count for you during world warping and can hold off attackers. After warping the world a couple times any fliers your opponent may still have will be wearing Faith's Fetters and the Dragons can fly over for the last twelve points. Two to three seem fine — and are also your win condition if someone resolves Cranial Extraction naming Warp World.
She serves two main functions. First with a dozen enchantments she does draw cards. Not a ton but enough. The second function is to distract the opponent — I have even had an opponent cast Cranial Extraction naming the Enchantress the turn before I went off with Warp World.
What didn't make the cut
Fellwar Stone was close because it does not come into play tapped but it often provides the wrong color. Civic Wayfarer is okay but only when you cast it: getting lots of extra lands into your hand when warping is not useful. Loxodon Hierarch was also not valuable enough to keep — in nearly every case Faith's Fetters was more useful. Finally non-permanents like Lightning Helix were also somewhat lacking since revealing them after a Warp World means one less permanent in play.
Finally I do have a sideboard. It is transformational — something to use if the opponent looked capable of siding in counters or Cranial Extraction. In my case it was a mix of Genju of the Cedars Kodama of the North Tree and whatever other fast beatdown creatures I owned. However I should also note that I almost never used the sideboard. I primarily play this deck in the casual decks room — and only play single games. Even in matches I generally find that the opponent just concedes rather than play against the deck again.
Here's a great example if everything that is right and wrong about the deck. It's the first game I played with it online. I was playing with just three Forbidden Orchards and another random land because that's what I had. My opponent was playing a fast Red deck with Frenzied Goblins - and Loxodon Warhammers. He got in some fast beats and dropped my to low life levels. I got out a Ghostly Prison and then a second. Enchantress hit play then died to stray voltage. Eventually I got to the point where I had Warp World in hand then two but was short of mana — and my opponent was close to killing me. I kept ripping temporary outs (Carven Caryatids Faith Fetters which had to target the attacker not the Warhammer etc.) Finally about turn ten my opponent was at thirty-three life. I was at four. I ripped Heartbeat of Spring. Since I had eight or nine lands but only two that produced Red that allowed me to fill my mana pool and cast Warp World. I got about twenty-five permanents my opponent dropped to ten. However Heartbeat was in play again so I filled my mana pool to the brim (including tapping all those so-bad-they're-good Pinecrest Ridges for colored mana and tapping the Forbidden Orchards and letting the tokens resolve) then Warped again. Now I had thirty odd permanents two Faiths Fetters and an Anarchist — while my opponent had seven permanents. After I finished dragging all the auras onto permanents and putting all the comes-into-play triggers on the stack and fetching lands with the Wood Elves etc. I was back in my first main phase with seventeen mana in my pool and Warp World in hand. Only one thing to do...
By the time I had my mana pool nearly empty my opponent had one Mountain two guys both covered with Faith's Fetters and a Loxodon Warhammer which was equally Fettered. I had two Warp Worlds and two lands in hand three cards in my library and two cards in my graveyard. My life total was at twenty-six and my opponent's was down to seventeen.
We were now almost fifteen minutes into my first main phase of my tenth turn. My long suffering opponent typed “I'm really bored. :( Your deck rocks though. :)” Then he conceded.
I have a screen shot. With seventy-odd permanents in play all the icons are really tiny — small enough that they are almost impossible to read onscreen. That makes it perfect for reducing further like into clip art in an article. Better yet if you want a copy I'll fax it to you. Just email me your number.
I built it. I “tuned” it. I like it — and now I am done with it. I can move on to writing seriously about competitive Standard play.
Warped Enchantress was winning the vast majority of its games (in the Casual Decks room.) It is also one of the most annoying decks to play against that I have ever created (and that's saying something — check my archives if you disagree.) I promised myself I would never play it again - then last night I played a different deck in the casual playroom. When I won my opponent challenged me to a rematch. I chose another deck. When I won that he challenged me again and again. I won most of the games and he kept getting excited about all of my different decks. We had some nice conversations. Finally I responded to his challenge by playing Warped Enchantress.
I have never heard from him again.
You'll hear from me again. We can hear from you in the forums.