When I was watching the StarCityGames.com Los Angeles Open coverage on Sunday, my brother asked me if I had any friends playing in the event. I said that I knew some of the players; later, he asked if any did well. When I checked, it turns out that my teammate, Lou Christopher, split to win the whole thing with Enchantress. Congratulations, Lou! My team has been kicking around with Enchantress for over a year, so it was nice to see our work pay off. It’s a quirky deck that can be built for a lot of different situations. Its greatest strengths are a robust draw engine and some really show-stopping killer cards. However, Enchantress suffers from several problems — counterspells can be quite good when aimed properly, and the deck has to take a few turns to gather steam.
Enchantress benefits from a metagamed deckbuilding style. Stephen Menendian has been doing some fascinating work lately on building composite decks based on what matchups are to be expected. Check out his most recent article on CounterTop to get a sense of it. His steps are, quoted from his article:
Identify the expected metagame. Draw up a list, in order, of the archetypes you expect to face. One way to do this is to simply break down your entire metagame.
Build a version of the deck designed to beat each of the major archetypes in the metagame.
Begin to build a composite list by synthesizing your decklists. First, put into a “composite” list all of the unanimous card choices or all of the cards that showed up in every version of the deck. Then, include all the cards that made it into this list in a majority of your decklists.
Choose a tiebreaker to select the rest of your decklist by matchup importance. In doing so, be sure to give greater weight to some decklists you expect to face in the Top 8 despite their frequency in the metagame as a whole. Also, when choosing among final cards, make sure that you give some weight to the fact that you want internal synergies.
Build your sideboard to fill gaps and address matchup weaknesses. Use cards that showed up in Step 2 here. Make sure you have functional sideboard plans. You don’t want to go into a tournament with more sideboard cards for a match than you have the capacity to sideboard in.
Drawing from Jared Sylva metagame breakdown posted in the LA coverage, we know the most common decks in the room were:
Ad Nauseam Tendrils — 12
Goblins — 11
Aggro Loam — 8
Fish — 8
Naya Zoo — 7
Belcher Combo — 6
Dredge — 6
NO Bant — 6
Threshold — 6
StifleNaught — 5
Faeries — 4
Red Deck Wins — 4
38 Land — 3
B/G Rock — 3
Bant — 3
Countertop — 3
Dragon Stompy — 3
Esper Control — 3
Mono Black Control — 3
Reanimator — 3
Survival — 3
Other — 32
Jared noted that no archetype made up more than 10% of the metagame, which makes gunning for specific decks challenging. I was surprised to see only eight Aggro Loam players, especially after its recent strong performance. I wonder whether availability of Mox Diamonds played a role in its scarcity. The five most common decks add up to representing 46/146 players, or roughly a quarter of the metagame. Aiming for those five in our composite is a good goal.
At this point, I’m going to skip to Step 4 for a moment while I indulge in a bit of builder’s cheating. Step 4 asks us to weigh decks based on whether we’ll see them in the T8 and consider their role in the metagame, even if they are common or scarce. To that end, I’ll own up that Enchantress has a beast of a time actually beating combo. I will be mostly disregarding combo (ANT, Belcher) in this writeup because to build to beat them involves overloading on narrow and slow cards that will distort the rest of the deck. ANT and Belcher mostly sat at the middle tables on Sunday, so if Enchantress gets a good start, it avoids most of the combo decks. Similarly, while Goblins was the second-most common deck in the metagame, most of the problems it presents can be dealt with as one would handle Zoo, so I have merged that in my analysis. My list of decks to beat was:
When we move to Step 2, we’re looking at how to beat each of these decks. This is the point, also, where I caution you against loading up Gatherer and finding every Enchantment in the game to use as tech. Sure, Drought hoses Goblins (kind of), but it’s mostly a waste of time to find techy cards because they’re so narrow. The closest I came to picking real bullet cards was considering Null Chamber, but it is both slow and hard for you, as a builder, to work around because you have to run different win conditions. Enchantress has a very simple core strategy: not die, then find some way to kill an opponent.
The “not die” solution happens in several stages. There are early cards, like Elephant Grass and Runed Halo, cards that can buy a little bit of time. There are also “lock” cards like Solitary Confinement and Moat that can become impossible to stop. The key to setting up one of these later locks is to realize the dual power of Sterling Grove. The obvious power of it is that it Shrouds your board and finds cards like Moat; the other part is that many opponents do not realize the Shroud part, nor do they consider that two Sterling Groves on the board completely negate spot removal, since they share Shroud. Thus, opponents who have card selection spells (like Ponder) often go hunting for removal cards (like Trygon Predator) and find their spells ineffective when they want to use them. Double Grove is one of your best post-sideboard protections against cards like Krosan Grip, so if you have time, it’s good to assemble that.
Speaking of assembling combinations, Enchantress players (myself included) often have a challenge in figuring out when to transition from “not die” to “win.” This is because once the deck gets rolling, it’s easy to go find one of your protection Enchantments and then another, then draw some cards, then try to lock out the opponent. When you are playing, ask what an opponent can do to you if you devote your current resources to finding a kill condition and executing that instead of setting up Solitary Confinement. It’s a thought process that will sharpen your awareness of how much time you have to win versus how much time you have to stay alive.
As far as win conditions go, my team is in disagreement over the best kill cards. It’s what Matthieu Durand called in our forums a “rich man’s problem.” That is, when you are at a point when you can transition to winning, most of the kill cards are equivalent. At that point, we have to evaluate minor differences in the cards to settle on what we want to kill with. The best options are probably Sacred Mesa, Sigil of the Empty Throne, and Words of War. I leave it to you to figure out which one(s) you like the most and then run two copies of them.
I assembled scratch-paper lists of tuned decks to beat specific matches; afterward, you will find a list of the unanimous cards.
Building against Aggro Loam
If I am building Enchantress to beat Aggro Loam, I need to consider its strategies. It has two big attack plans: big monsters and a repeatable draw engine. As the game progresses, I am unsure of whether who has inevitability. Enchantress can certainly set up a lock, but if Aggro Loam runs Burning Wish, it can get Reverent Silence and completely rebound. With Life from the Loam fueling a cycling land draw engine, it can find and deploy Burning Wish efficiently. If the deck is running Maelstrom Pulse, the solution then becomes to find a Sterling Grove to protect a lock piece, necessitating another Pulse from the Aggro Loam player.
The big monsters don’t scare me as a player; Enchantress can handle them with Runed Halo, one of my absolute favorite Enchantress cards. That buys time in the early game to start drawing a lot of cards or get a later-stage lock in place. Further, the Wastelands from Aggro Loam don’t do much against Enchantress, since it runs close to a dozen basic lands. I see the games usually ending early in Aggro Loam’s favor or going late and being a race to who can see more cards per turn. To that end, a card that shuts down Aggro Loam’s engine marvelously is Ground Seal. I don’t usually run the Seal, but in this case, I think it’s a fine choice. For a win condition, I favored Sacred Mesa here because it can produce an army of chump blockers if we’re just attempting to live for awhile.
Building against Zoo
Zoo is a challenging deck to face because the plan against a lot of aggro, getting Moat, loses to their burn. Since they have a lot of different threats, Runed Halo loses a lot of its power. I don’t want to use that card to shut down Lightning Bolt blindly, and naming their creatures is fine but getting Confinement going is better. Qasali Pridemage is a lot less dangerous than you would think. First, it is a slow answer; the earliest time they will hit something with Kitty Pryde is on the third turn. If they hit an Enchantress’s Presence, you can go for another lock card. Sometimes, Sterling Grove makes even popping the Pridemage a bad plan, since Enchantress can go get any business it wants in response.
From Zoo, their greatest threat is a fast start. A Steppe Lynx into a Wild Nacatl and a Chain Lightning is blazingly fast and hard to combat. Your unlikely asset here is Chrome Mox, speeding the deck up and allowing for first-turn Argothian Enchantress and more turns of Elephant Grass. Your goal is to land an Enchantress effect and a Solitary Confinement and have enough cards to fuel the Confinement for a long time. Past that, you’ll want the usual Sterling Grove protections. This is one match where getting a comprehensive lock is preferable to racing almost all of the time.
Building against Merfolk
Merfolk can apply a lot of pressure around the fourth and fifth turn. While their mana denial is mostly dead, they do have counterspells and can stop that early Enchantress to leave you hanging. Fortunately, most lists have no answer to a resolved Moat. Thus, building against Merfolk involves creating a deck capable of consistently resolving a Moat as soon as possible. This can be accomplished with City of Solitude shutting down pitch counters or Enlightened Tutor hunting down the Legends card. I’m very comfortable with the matchup. You can also go the route of attempting a Choke–Elephant Grass lock, which is an option if you don’t have a Moat or you end up with Choke in your final list. It’s a good postboard consideration, too. For win conditions, I suggest Sigil of the Empty Throne. Sacred Mesa can make blockers against Fish and Words of War can kill early merfolk, so they’re worthwhile, but the Sigil can make monsters that can straight-up race Merfolk and are nearly unkillable by them. If you can’t make a Moat, making Sigil is the best secondary plan.
Building against CounterTop
In our testing, we found Counterbalance to be a staunch opposing card. Most of your threats sit in the two- and three-cost range, so it can really hamper you. This is where Replenish comes in handy. We also found that Aura of Silence did a good job of killing Counterbalance and stopping later ones, though it’s a bit expensive and many Counterbalance lists run more three-cost guys now to flip. Choke is obviously insane and City of Solitude can stop their most threatening strategy. That strategy, by the way, is to just counter your win conditions. They have four Force of Wills and you usually have two win cards plus X Replenishes. If you are Counterbalanced, be very careful to not lose all of your kill cards or you will be decked. City of Solitude is immensely helpful here.
Countertop also runs Trygon Predator, which can dismantle your board. In testing, though, I found that with Runed Halo, you can stop the Predator easily. You can also outrace it by setting up Sterling Grove and Solitary Confinement, which Predator cannot punch through. This is a match that rewards tight play, but it’s in the Enchantress players’ favor because of your access to blowout cards like Choke.
The Composite List
Here’s the core that I assembled:
2 Kill Cards
2 Serra’s Sanctum
18 other lands
From here, you can add in incidentals like an Enlightened Tutor, more Replenishes or similar cards. For example, Ground Seal is also amazing against Dredge because it shuts down their combo kill with Dread Return, making it and Elephant Grass another lock against them. I feel like you have to run either two Choke or two City of Solitude maindecked, since blue is actually a big deal, and I lean towards City (though it’s narrower) because it shuts down pitch counters. Further, cards like Noble Hierarch and the increased basic land counts in Bant CounterTop decks make spinning a Sensei’s Divining Top possible. The final list I came up with was:
4 Argothian Enchantress
4 Enchantress’s Presence
4 Elephant Grass
4 Runed Halo
2 Sigil of the Empty Throne
2 City of Solitude
3 Chrome Mox
4 Wild Growth
4 Utopia Sprawl
2 Solitary Confinement
4 Sterling Grove
1 Oblivion Ring
I’ll come out with it and say that I love Runed Halo, but you can shave two copies for Ground Seal, which I was close to doing. I have several more white sources than most Enchantress decks to fuel the Halo, so if you cut some number of them, replace a Plains with a Forest. I’m unsure of Horizon Canopy is worth it. I haven’t found its effect that great and you can’t put Utopia Sprawl on it, which is uncomfortable if it’s your first land of the game. The list closely resembles Lou’s deck, which makes sense because both decks were built for a similar metagame. If you’re going to adapt Enchantress for your field, go through the composite process and map out what’s really important.
Your sideboard should have cards that fill in gaps in matches, but it should also pack Karmic Justice. This is the single most important sideboard card there is for the deck and should come in against most decks that are capable of countering your spells while blowing up permanents. It makes a lot of calculations unbearable for an opponent — for example, do you Maelstrom Pulse the two Runed Halos and lose your two attackers to the Justice? Do you go for Reverent Silence when you know it will Obliterate your board? It’s an unfair card and you should pack three on the sideboard.
If you’ve done metagaming with Enchantress, share your thoughts in email or on the feedback forum! The deck is a reader favorite and I’m always happy to discuss it with people. I’m happy to see decks like this perform well, since it emphasizes that Legacy is a pretty deep format. Congratulations again to Lou, who proved that testing a deck for a long time and being really comfortable with it is the surest route to victory in Legacy.
Until next week…
legacysallure at gmail dot com