Other Peoples’ Decks: Charlotte Sable’s Evil Yarok Enchantress

Can a Yarok, the Desecrated Commander deck not turn out broken? Sheldon Menery highlights an Enchantress-style build from CAG member Charlotte Sable!

Yarok, the Desecrated, illustrated by Daarken

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Enchantress decks have long been Magic favorites and have worked their way easily into the Commander lexicon.  Theros Beyond Death gave us quite a few new tools for Enchantress decks, so when Commander Advisory Group (CAG) member and super rules guru Charlotte Sable told me she had updated hers with nearly a dozen new cards, I knew it was worth featuring.

For some reason, Enchantress is an archetype that I’ve never really explored in any of the Commander decks that I’ve ever built.  What makes that weird is that many of my decks rely more heavily on enchantments than they do any other permanent type besides creatures.  I obviously like enchantments, so maybe it’s just that it’s been difficult to find the right spin on the archetype because it’s so popular.  After seeing friend of the show Brian David-Marshall play his Estrid, the Masked deck and checking out Charlotte’s, plus the cool new cards from Theros Beyond Death, I have a feeling that my lack of an enchantress deck might change in the near future. 

Back to Charlotte’s deck, here’s the list (and you can find all of Charlotte’s lists on TappedOut).  She’ll give you how it got here in her own words, and then I’ll offer my commentary afterward. 

Charlotte, ready to lay some wisdom on you

Magic Card Back

I was drawn to Yarok from the moment I first saw the card during Core Set 2020 preview season. I loved everything about it: its stats, its flavor, its abilities. I knew I wanted to build a deck around it from Day 1. However, I don’t like “good stuff” decks and Yarok is a commander that can be highly prone to devolving into good stuff without any sort of underlying theme.

With this in mind, I decided to take Yarok in a direction that I hadn’t yet seen done and started to build it as an enchantress deck that took advantage of Yarok’s ability to duplicate all sorts of triggers. The original inspiration was nasty enchantments like Polluted Bonds, Overburden, and Tainted Aether, but those cards aren’t very fun to play against and most of them fell by the wayside as the deck started to take shape. While it managed to become something good, it still felt too “good stuff” a lot of the time, since there weren’t a lot of good Enchantress payoffs beyond the the usual green cards. The deck needed something more to make it really come to life. It was around the time of this dissatisfaction that Theros Beyond Death was announced, and I knew that this set would bring a load of goodies for the deck. The deck was semi-mothballed for a few months, but once preview season for THB started, I knew that Yarok was going to get a huge shot in the arm.

What the deck actually got was beyond my wildest dreams as it allowed me to completely ditch everything good-stuffy and lean in hard on the Enchantress focus. Fourteen new cards from THB made their way into the deck and it’s hard to imagine all but a few of them ever being pushed out. Specifically, the cycle of Omens seems custom-made for this deck, as they’re cheap enchantments with good enters-the-battlefield abilities.

So what does this deck do? A lot. It does a lot. In addition to just being full of enchantment-based value engines to draw lots of cards, the deck is also really good at recurring and recasting things. Cunning Evasion, Riptide Chimera, and Shimmerwing Chimera all provide ridiculous amounts of value. I’d love to be able to squeeze in Species Gorger as well, but I haven’t been able to find the space yet. Acolyte of Affliction is another new card that provides good recursion. This card actually replaced Eternal Witness in this update since it’s much better to play on curve.

While the deck really goes crazy with Yarok on the battlefield, it runs fairly well without the commander and isn’t totally hamstrung if something makes Yarok unavailable.

While most people look at Yarok and just see its ability to double triggers, Yarok actually has a very good set of stats and keywords. Having a lifelinking commander can be really useful late-game, and it also gives extra benefits to pumping Yarok up. Also, getting a virtually painless Hatred kill out of nowhere is always a good time. Many of the Auras in the deck exist to protect Yarok, but can also make it very impressive in combat. I want to give a specific shout-out to Treefolk Umbra, which turns Yarok into a virtual 7/7 for three mana as well as giving totem armor. Also, can a deck really be an Enchantress deck without running Eldrazi Conscription?

In another attempt to keep the deck on theme and away from the mire of good stuff is the fact that I’ve eschewed artifact and spell ramp in favor of playing land Auras. These can ramp me just as quickly and also serve as good targets for the various Copy Enchantment effects if I feel behind on mana. In a recent game with the deck, I cast Dawn’s Reflection on a land, tapped that land to cast Copy Enchantment on another untapped land copying Dawn’s Reflection, and then copied it again with Estrid’s Invocation. Pretty good for a turn where I untapped feeling behind on mana.

The rest of the deck pretty much does what it says on the tin. It’s a great deal of fun to play and is powerful without being oppressive or threatening an infinite combo out of nowhere.

Cards that work particularly with Yarok in this deck include Necromancy and Dance of Many, both of which allow you to get two different things onto the battlefield.  Also, Doomwake Giant changes from a minor annoyance into a real powerhouse capable of wiping away whole battlefields of Demons and Dragons.

This is my kind of deck.  It does cool things without doing it in a way that other decks do.  Sure, it’s an Enchantress deck, but to me that just means “use enchantments to draw cards,” although it’s obviously more than that—like the big buffs you get from cards like Ancestral Mask.  The rest of what the deck does tickles my fancy. 

I’m particularly fond of using Yarok as a combat monster.  Having deathtouch and more importantly lifelink makes the seemingly unimpressive 3/5 into a force opponents have to deal with or get eliminated with commander damage (all the while keeping you alive).  The aforementioned Ancestral Mask can make that happen in a big hurry, sometimes in a single shot.  Strength of the Fallen—especially with the double Yarok trigger—can also come out of nowhere for a big blast.  I had also missed Hatred on my initial perusal of the list, and wasn’t aware of it until I read Charlotte’s narrative.  It’s a clever choice that will definitely catch people by surprise. 

I’m also a fan of the “bouncing a creature back to your hand during upkeep” mechanic like we get from Roaring Primadox or Stampeding Wildebeests, so Riptide Chimera and Shimmerwing Chimera also resonate with me.  Given the added flexibility of getting back an actual enchantment in addition to a creature just ramps up the value.  The best bouncy enchantment, however, might be Cunning Evasion, which I confess I had to look up.  In a deck that makes its bones on enters-the-battlefield triggers with those enchantment creatures, the card means you can attack into unfavorable circumstances and not have to worry about getting blown out.  Even a slight combat advantage becomes big unless you have too many creatures to cast again. 

Totem armor is a criminally underplayed mechanic in the format, especially given that battlefield sweepers are common.  I was happy to see rarely played cards like Octopus Umbra and Snake Umbra alongside the well-known Bear UmbraOctopus Umbra is just such a Commander-only card (and I don’t mean from a legality standpoint) that I want to see more and more people playing it.  Maybe we can start an Octopus Umbra club or something. 

Herald of the Pantheon only has a home in specific decks, and this is exactly that kind.  It seems like small value, but when a card reduces costs of spells, even of a specific type, it’s like having an extra land on the battlefield for each spell you want to cast during a turn.  The lifegain becomes incidental, but will eventually pile up.  The only downside I see is that it’s not an enchantment creature, which means that it’s tougher to protect or perform shenanigans with—but that’s a very small downside.

Bramble Sovereign piqued my interest.  In addition to engaging in your own tomfoolery, it can clearly be used as a political card.  If there are creatures that need to get got and someone casts Shriekmaw or Bone Shredder, you can double them up.  Same goes for any other creature which has an enters-the-battlefield trigger which destroys something, whether that’s Acidic Slime or Reclamation Sage.  You might be careful letting someone have two copies of Mulldrifter, but a pair of Flametongue Kavu can take down all but the biggest of monsters.  I also considered the possibility of Bramble Sovereign as a rattlesnake or maybe some kind of dagger.  I had dreamed about killing someone with a second copy of a creature that made them lose life, but research down that line didn’t yield too many possibilities with cards that actually get played in the format (here’s to you, Eviscerator). 

Also, Panharmonicon.  It’s a good card no matter what.  In this deck, it’s bordering on hilarious.

There are very few cards in the deck that I would consider replacing.  Assassin’s Trophy probably tops the list, not because it’s a bad card, but because one-for-ones, even somewhat strong ones, don’t cut it for me in Commander.  I’d prefer to put a sweeper of some kind in that slot, whether that would be a nice Decree of Pain or In Garruk’s Wake.  The mana cost is obviously quite different, but the deck doesn’t seem like it’s so tempo-driven that you have to worry about it.  I’d go for the big, splashy effects.  Extinguish All Hope seems like the really obvious choice here, wiping out nearly everything and keeping most of your team alive. 

I’m also not sold on Acolyte of Affliction, although I’ll trust Charlotte’s experience with the deck.  Bonus points for finding a replacement for a format staple like Eternal Witness.  I’d just want my (nonenchantment) recursion to be better in order to take advantage of it over and over, like it would in a Karador, Ghost Chieftain deck.  I suppose with Muldrotha, the Gravetide in the deck (a techy choice as one of the 99), it will pay additional dividends.  As far as replacements go, there’s the silly idea of Day of the Dragons (which might be a little too blue-intensive), giving you a team of Dragons to bash with and then getting all those enters-the-battlefield triggers again.  I also like the card as pseudo-vigilance; letting your team attack and then bringing in the Dragons afterward to provide a pretty solid defense.  An old-school Enchantress classic, Frog Tongue, might serve, although the deck looks like it already draws enough cards.  There are always other format staples like the various Gods, but it does my heart good to see that Charlotte has avoided them here.

This is just a fun deck and representative the heart of the Commander format.  It does really cool things without being broken or taking the game completely away from the other players.  It’s the kind of deck that I can see myself either asking her to borrow or just copying whole-hog and sleeving up myself. Kudos to Charlotte for the build and thanks to her for sharing it.

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