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Commander Top 10: Ghen, Arcanum Weaver

Go beyond Bant with your enchantment decks in Commander. Bennie Smith showcases his new Ghen, Arcanum Weaver deck.

Ethereal Absolution, illustrated by Eric Deschamps

Commander Legends has an eye-popping 32 brand-new multicolor legendary creatures we can build new Commander decks around, and I’m going to dive into a lot of them here every Saturday for the foreseeable future. Bookmark my StarCityGames.com archives right here and check back often; as of this writing I’ve covered Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist; Obeka, Brute Chronologist; Archelos, Lagoon Mystic; and Hans Eriksson so far. This week I’m diving into a very interesting new Mardu legend that cares about enchantments: Ghen, Arcanum Weaver!

This is a fascinating and bold new direction for an enchantments-matter theme.  In the past, enchantments-matter cards outside of the constellation mechanic largely clustered within the Bant color combination, with Estrid, the Masked being pretty much the best at pulling all those awesome enchantment themes together.

Since Ghen’s color identity only shares one color with Estrid, you can really explore a lot of interesting cards outside of green and blue, while still taking advantage of the powerful white enchantment synergy cards that you’re likely to find in Estrid decks. What we’ll be looking for are enchantments that do cool stuff when they enter the battlefield or maybe when they leave the battlefield; since Ghen is rather mana-intensive to activate and taps to do it, it’ll be best as a way to slowly grind value over time.  We can also use it to trade up cheaper enchantments for more expensive and more powerful enchantments that have made their way to the graveyard.

Okay, let’s get brewing!

1. Elspeth Conquers Death

When thinking about enchantments to use with Ghen, one of the first things I thought of were Sagas. These powerful enchantments have effects when they enter the battlefield, and naturally make their way to the graveyard to be brought back by Ghen’s ability. The best of the bunch is Elspeth Conquers Death, which answers a problematic permanent for its first chapter, sticks around to hose opponents’ noncreature spells for a turn, and then in its final chapter can bring back a creature or planeswalker from the graveyard.

When looking at the other Sagas in the Mardu combination, I didn’t find too many other ones that I thought would be fun for Commander.

The Birth of Meletis is a nice value grind, History of Benalia churns out some Knight tokens, and Rite of Belzenlok provides some Thrull tokens as fodder for the eventual Demon token.  You could trade off between Elspeth Conquers Death and Rite of Belzenlok each turn with Ghen to take care of the biggest threat while feeding your 6/6 flying, trampling threat with token creatures.

If you’re curious about why I’d play Elspeth Conquers Death and not The Eldest Reborn—I feel that there are ways to play around the white Saga (smaller creatures, hexproof, shroud) while The Eldest Reborn’s forced sacrifice is going to punish players who might be light on creatures or slow to recover from a battlefield sweeper.

2. Gravebreaker Lamia

The next group of cards I looked for were enchantment creatures since you could block with them if needed, and then sacrifice to Ghen’s ability to bring back an enchantment from the graveyard. Gravebreaker Lamia stood out since it will let you put a key enchantment into the graveyard to bring back with Ghen’s ability. I also like its lifelink ability tied to a decently sized 4/4 body.

I’ve picked a handful of other enchantment creatures with useful abilities and effects for Commander:

I particularly like how Nighthowler can be used as sacrifice fodder early on if you only have one or two creatures in graveyards, and then late-game after graveyards have been filled up Nighthowler can turn into a huge threat.  You could even draw it late, enchant Ghen with it thanks to the bestow ability, and kill someone with commander damage!

3. Starfield of Nyx

A lot of the best enchantments-matter cards are white, and we can make just as good use of them as the Bant color combination. One of the best is Starfield of Nyx. While Ghen’s ability doesn’t usually advance your battlefield presence, once Starfield of Nyx is in the mix, you’ll start adding more and more enchantments to the battlefield and can eventually start attacking with them. What I love even more is that Ghen can sacrifice Starfield of Nyx in case someone casts something like Wrath of God, so your enchantments are no longer creatures.

Starfield Mystic’s triggered ability works even better in this deck since you’ll be sacrificing an enchantment just about every turn you have Ghen on the battlefield.

4. Demonic Embrace

I also took a look at some Auras too; the usual weakness of Auras is that they end up in the graveyard when the creature they enchant leaves the battlefield, but you can always sacrifice them if the enchanted creature is going bye-bye to bring back another enchantment, and then bring the Aura back later when there’s a good target for it.  One of the best choices here is Demonic Embrace since you can actually cast it from the graveyard.  Plus, since casting it from the graveyard involves discarding a card, this is one way you can move an enchantment from your hand to the graveyard so that Ghen can put it onto the battlefield later.

Kaya’s Ghostform, Benevolent Blessing, and Gift of Doom seem like great Auras to help protect Ghen or another threat you want to fortify. You can also work the timing of the triggers for Gift of Immortality — when the creature it enchants dies, you can bring the creature back from the graveyard and then, before the next end step when it would normally return attached to that creature, use Ghen’s ability to attach it to some other creature if you want.

Footfall Crater caught my eye as an enchantment you can cheaply cycle away in the early game, then eventually bring it back with Ghen to enchant a land you can tap to give a creature haste and trample when there’s something large and scary you want to use it for.

Glistening Oil and Spirit Loop are particularly great Auras in this deck since if Ghen sacrifices them they return to your hand to be cast again.

5. Fires of Invention

Any nongreen Commander deck is going to struggle to find enough quality ways to mana ramp, and I’m including most of what you’d expect but the hottest tech for ramping your mana in this deck is an enchantment – Fires of Invention, recently banned in Standard! 

One bit of pressure in a Ghen deck is being able to cast enchantments from your hand while also holding up three mana for Ghen’s activated ability, but once Fires of Invention hits the battlefield you’ll be able to cast two spells for free while leaving up mana for Ghen!  Sure, it’s going to shut down any instants, but most of the interaction in this deck are sorcery speed or can be brought out at instant speed from the graveyard with Ghen.

6. Pariah

Enchantment-based removal seems particularly great in a Ghen deck since you can bring it back from the graveyard at instant speed with Ghen, and one of the best in this regard is Pariah—if someone attacks you with overwhelming force, slap their best creature with Pariah to prevent all that damage and hopefully kill that creature. Hm, playing Pariah makes me want to find room for Brash Taunter!

I’ve included a few other enchantments that do good removal work:

7. Ethereal Absolution

We’ve included cards already that create tokens, and I thought it would be good to lean further into that—making small creatures that can attack or block while doing enchantment shenanigans sounds perfect.  Ethereal Absolution is my favorite of the bunch since it boosts your team while shrinking your opponents’ team, and seriously puts a hurting on their one-toughness creatures. The exile effect is a nice way to keep your opponents’ graveyard shenanigans in check one card at a time, hopefully netting you a flying Spirit token most of the time.

Omen of the Sun is nice since it gives you the tokens when it enters the battlefield, which means it’s ready to be sacrificed to Ghen and brought back later. The trigger for Ajani’s Chosen is nicely worded so that you get 2/2 Cat tokens whenever an enchantment enters the battlefield, even using Ghen’s ability.

8. Extinguish All Hope

I wanted to include some other removal options outside of enchantments because sometimes you need a different tool for the job.  Instead of Wrath of God or Damnation, I decided to go with Extinguish All Hope since a good number of my creatures are enchantment creatures. This will be particularly awesome if we’re at the point of the game where Starfield of Nyx has animated a fair number of enchantments that can attack after we cast Extinguish!

Here are the other removal spells I’ve made room for:

9. Court of Grace

The Mardu color combination provides lots of good options for raw card draw and card advantage, including some that are enchantments, but one of the ones I’m most excited about is Court of Grace, a new card from Commander Legends

Making yourself the monarch means you’ll get to replace it with a card drawn right away, and even if the monarchy is taken away getting a 1/1 flying Spirit each upkeep is going to be very useful to blocking some of the worst creatures on the battlefield. But thanks to Ghen activations, we can put this into the graveyard and then bring it back during our opponent’s end step so that we become the monarch and during our upkeep can make a 4/4 flying Angel token, which is much better at protecting the monarchy.

Treacherous Blessing, Phyrexian Arena, and Liliana’s Contract are all excellent enchantment-based card draw spells that we can leverage with Ghen’s ability, while Mangara and Sun Titan provide just raw card advantage.

10. Angelic Renewal

I’ve a few slots left over so I filled them with some good utility enchantments, and a fun one is Angelic Renewal.  This cheap enchantment can protect Ghen from dying, and then later be brought back with Ghen’s ability to do it all over again.

Omen of the Dead gives you a Raise Dead trigger and then provides an enchantment to sacrifice to Ghen’s ability. Authority of the Consuls hoses opponents’ creatures with haste, and Agent of Erebos puts a serious crimp in any graveyard deck’s style.

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:

Ghen, Arcanum Weaver
Bennie Smith
0th Place at Test deck on 11-28-2020
Commander


Here’s how the deck looks graphically, thanks to our friends at Archidekt:

You’ll note the mana production is balanced between the three colors while the mana requirements are basically all black and white with barely a dash of red, but I’m okay with this since I want to be able to cast and use Ghen as early as possible and that requires one of each Mardu color.

What do you think?  Are there any cards I’ve overlooked?  If you see any new cards from Commander Legends that should find a home here, let me know! 

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

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