Unlocking Legacy – An Enchanted World

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Monday, March 3rd – Learn about a deck that’s ripe for beginners, rewarding for experienced gunslingers and endorsed by U.S. National Champion and brainiac Luis Scott-Vargas! Doug takes a look at Enchantress this week, exploring the ins and outs of the deck and presenting an inexpensive introductory deck for players who are new to the format. Learn general strategies and techy plays in this feature of Unlocking Legacy!

The last few weeks have been bizzy bizzy for me. Always one to live on the edge, I sent in all my law school applications just before the deadlines. I made a trip out to Missouri to visit schools and almost died several times in The Great 2008 Midwest Snow Storm 2: Judgment Day. I’ve been resolving a problem with Paypal involving someone breaking into my account and sending thousands of dollars of my money to people for, among other things, WoW accounts. If you’re reading this now, think if your Paypal password is unique compared to your other passwords you use. If it isn’t, I implore you to change it. I think the database of a forum I was on was compromised and that’s how these folks got it, because Doug Linn doesn’t get phished. Aside from dealing with a gentleman from American Express with a kind, Southern accent who sounded a LOT like Evan Erwin, it was a thoroughly annoying process to sort out and I hope other people don’t have to deal with it.

I’ve been planning a Legacy tournament in Ohio for the springtime and thinking about how to attract new players to the format. Readers of my articles know I’ve mentioned this issue before. How do you pull people in and show them the fun of the format, keeping in their budget and giving them a truly powerful deck? For friends who have lots of other Magic-playing buddies, it’s not difficult to grab your friend’s Tarmogoyfs and dual lands, another’s Force of Wills and toss in your fetchlands and have something worthwhile to play with. This isn’t everyone though, and I’d venture to say that a lot of people who want to begin to play Legacy are casual players who want a fun, but not overpowered format. These people may not know four or five other people with collections to support decks they want to play. They need something good, fun and inexpensive to play. Pondering on this led me to Luis Scott-Vargas‘ 4-1 deck from Worlds, the mightily under-represented Enchantress.

LSV explained the deck a bit during the Wizards coverage and I suggest you check it out if you haven’t already. The basic plan of the deck is to resolve an Enchantress effect, turning all of your other enchantments into guaranteed cantrips. You then resolve some lockdown enchantments and win in an avalanche of cards. Let’s take a look at a list:

This is LSV’s list with a few budgetary adjustments. I cut the Moats for extra copies of Oblivion Ring and Solitary Confinement. Thoughtseizes on the board were swapped for Duresses. If you have the cards, they’re better than the substitutions, but I think the deck gets along fine without them. Missing Moat is painful, no doubt, but I haven’t had situations where it has actually cost me significant games. Often, the extra Ring and Confinement will make up for the loss. Let’s take a finer look at the list.

The Enchantress effects are the engine here. It’s important to remember that they trigger upon casting the enchantment and not the resolution, so you draw even if the card is countered. This is highly important, as it means you can crank enchantments into a counter-wall from a control deck and still see cards. Counterbalance will still annoy you, but it will not stop the drawing part of the deck. Also remember that drawing from them is mandatory. You’ll lose two games from having seven enchantresses out and then drawing too many cards before you find Words of War and end up decking yourself. Then you’ll be more careful.

There’s an anti-aggro element in Solitary Confinement and Elephant Grass. Both cards are strong in that you can lay them down and get the effect for a full turn before you decide whether to keep them around. At times, chaining into Confinements with Sterling Grove will keep the cards coming and keep you alive long enough to get into a safe spot. LSV is a fan of the Grasses, and rightly so. As he explains in the YouTube interview, they completely stop Ichorid and Cephalid Breakfast combo kills and they dramatically slow down everything else. They’re the backbone of the deck and about as close to sacrosanct as you can get.

The deck runs several “silver bullet” cards, such as Aura of Silence and Sacred Ground. The latter is proof against Smokestacks and other nasties. Remember that though you choose what you sacrifice to Smokestack, the effect is controlled by the opponent, and so Sacred Ground means that you are not likely to get smoked out. Think of the City of Solitudes as your Duresses. If one resolves, an opponent cannot even so much as activate a fetchland during your turn. Against blue opponents, it’s often one of the first things to try and resolve– even if you cannot punch it through, it still absorbs a counterspell.

There are several general utility spells as well. Sterling Grove can set up near-locks with Solitary Confinement or Moat and is generally a foil to any enchantment hate you’re likely to see from a sideboard. Don’t be afraid to blow it to go get a strong enchantment. When you’re in the late phase of the game with several Enchantresses out, it’s good for finding your win condition. There’s also the newly unbanned Replenish here, playing mostly fair. You won’t draw cards from the enchantments coming into play, but it’s still an amazing beating whenever it resolves. Bringing back countered enchantments against Threshold or recurring Elephant Grasses against Goblins makes Replenish plenty powerful. Another trick involves using Replenish to sneak cards past Chalice of the Void or Meddling Mage to get around their prohibitions.

The win conditions for Enchantress are varied historically, ranging from Rabid Wombat and Ancestral Mask in the early days, to Rancor on Auratog to other even wackier kills. Some players use Words of Wind to bounce an opponent’s entire board, but I think the Words of War is easily supported thanks to Utopia Sprawl and has the advantage of winning the game in a very short order. Sacred Mesa makes a mini-combo with Serra’s Sanctum and sometimes, you’ll find that you just use a Sacred Grove to find it and show your horses to the opponent. With the Mesa, remember that the upkeep trigger is stackable, so you can make a new pony and then kill it so you don’t lose a horse that’s overcome summoning sickness. Both of the cards serve as excellent mana sinks as well; you might find your Sanctums generating seventeen mana in the later game, so knowing that either card can absorb all the excess mana is helpful.

On the sideboard, we’ve got some backbreaker enchantments. Leylines need no real explanation, so we’ll go on to Choke. The anti-Island enchantment is your primary card to resolve post-board against blue decks. Just about nothing with Islands can survive Choke hitting the board, and it, with City of Solitude, are your strongest cards in those matches. Against Threshold, many games in testing resulted in Threshold trying to set Meddling Mage to Choke or resolving a Tarmogoyf and then getting either to stick through Oblivion Rings, failure meaning straight-up losing to Choke.

Karmic Justice serves as a go-to card when you need to take out bullets like Sacred Ground from the maindeck. They are the ultimate anti-Tranquility card as well. If an opponent destroys any enchantment, including the Karmic Justice itself, they’re bound to be back on cards. Sticking one against a Tranquil Domain-playing Goblins player forces them into a Catch-22 of destruction.

The deck supports powerful enchantments and a strong strategy, but that’s not the only reason to play the deck. Firstly, it’s very cheap to build. Savannahs are the unloved dual land and most of the other Enchantress components have come down in price over the past year or so. The deck can be had, if one is wise to shopping, for around $200, less if they can borrow cards like Windswept Heath from friends. There are two downsides to committing to the deck this way though; first, it’s unlikely that friends will have the components like Argothian Enchantress to lend you, and secondly, investing in the deck is mostly a dead end. You cannot use the cards for much else, the way you can if you invest in blue dual lands. That said, the components have retained a decent price due to the casual market, so cashing the deck out again won’t lead to tear-inducing experiences.

Enchantress is especially good for beginning players because it’s perceived as a fair deck that has familiar strategies. It doesn’t run the hated Islands and it has a really Johnny kill condition. Players get to lock down the board, draw lots of cards and then Shock the opponent to death. There’s no swinging with Darksteel Colossus or equipping Sword of Fire and Ice, so it’s not too Timmy, but I think it’s a fine introduction to what’s possible in Legacy. The deck is also difficult to disrupt when it gets rolling; there’s not linchpin card that, if countered, causes your house of cards to fall. I like that the deck is both simple to play and difficult to play perfectly; you can learn a lot from just goldfishing the deck.

Speaking of goldfishing, you’ll find that many matchups consist of just that. LSV rightly puts Goblins in the lopsided category. There’s not much they can do in the first game to stop you if you have a decent start, as Elephant Grass and Utopia Sprawl mitigate their swarm and mana-disruption strategies. Similarly, control decks have to contend with strategy-trumps like City of Solitude and Replenish. You’ll catch both strategies with dead cards in hand, as most decks play some element of creature removal, yielding several dead cards in the first game. The Achilles heel of the deck is the combo match; Solitary Confinement is too slow against dedicated storm combo and the three Duresses on the sideboard help, but I’m not going to sugarcoat the match. Elephant Grass shuts down Empty The Warrens, so you’ve got that early out, and you can also bank on not many people playing combo (at Worlds, there were, I believe, two storm combo decks in the whole room).

Against most decks, the strategy is the same. Stick an Enchantress effect on the board, spin through your deck at a fast rate and then when you have hopefully two or more Enchantress effects, play Solitary Confinement to really take control. The later game consists of getting Serra’s Sanctum into play. Exploration will help this happen during the one or two big turns where you’re reaching a critical mass. With the Sanctum in play, you can fund Sacred Mesa or Words of War and pay for things like Solitary Confinement and Oblivion Ring to tie up loose ends. Most of the time, you’re stalling until you get a lock in place; don’t try to aggressively combo off in lieu of securing a stable board position. For example, don’t play Ground Seal for the extra card when another Elephant Grass will save you several points of life and buy a turn or two.

As I mentioned before, there are lots of tricks to learn in the deck. Laugh it up that it took me several games to realize that Argothian Enchantress can desperation block. It is, in fact, a creature! I also made liberal use of the new DCI policy allowing players to put tokens on top of their deck to remind them of things. Remembering upkeep triggers like cumulative upkeep or discarding is essential and will cost you games when you forget. Take the opportunity to use this new ruling to your advantage.

Enchantress is an excellent choice for large events where players cannot accurately predict its appearance. In a weekly Legacy tournament at your local store though, you can expect to run into serious amounts of sideboard hate if you do well. Keep this in mind; Karmic Justice is good, but sometimes it doesn’t land before an opponent resolves Serenity or Tranquil Domain and ruins you. Going up to four copies of the bounce-back enchantment, along with the fourth Replenish, would be warranted if you think players are gunning for you. The tables can turn the other way as well, since you can support hosers like Suppression Field (Survival decks) or Spiritual Focus/Compost (discard/black heavy decks).

As the deck can handle a lot of randomness with ease, thanks to Solitary Confinement, time spent in testing should be dedicated to the Threshold match if one is pressed for testing opportunities. The key to a positive matchup there is knowing what to play around and what not to; it’s often fine to play around Daze, for example. Similarly, baiting the counters from their hand is a fine art. I would deign to say you have a positive matchup, but I’d easily endorse an even match. In testing, the matches were often solved by who went first in the first game. Interpret this as you will. You have powerful tools against Threshold, but they pack very disruptive strategies, including CounterbalanceSensei’s Divining Top from the sideboard. Abrogating their counters by not walking into Daze is one of the keys to solving this, as getting an Enchantress effect through is how you pull out wins.

While Enchantress won’t make big flashy wins or play with busted cards like Lion’s Eye Diamond, it’s incredibly redundant and fun to play. It’s an easy introduction to the format and a strong contender for experienced players. It’s relatively inexpensive to build and easy to customize for an expected metagame. If you have the opportunity, give it a try.

If you’re interested in seeing Enchantress matchups and game walkthroughs, post to that effect in the feedback thread and I’ll be happy to write up a match report so you get a sense of the finer details of the deck.

Doug Linn
Hi-Val on the internets

Special thanks to the posters in this thread at The Source. If you can’t find an answer here, you can probably find it in that thread.