Enhancing Your Game

Posted in Beyond the Basics on May 24, 2017

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Some card types in Magic are integral, showing up every game as the cornerstone of decks you build.

Creatures, for example, are used by almost everyone. When deck building, you don't usually have to ask the question "Should I put any creatures in my deck?" It's a known quantity that you're going to want some to win.

Others, though, show up more sparingly.

Artifacts certainly don't get used by everyone, especially when artifact-heavy sets like Kaladesh aren't around. Planeswalkers can be right or wrong for your deck depending on what's available.

And then there are enchantments.

Enchantments don't show up in every deck. Zooming in even further, we end up at Auras, which show up even less often than normal enchantments. And as we continue to zoom and enhance like we're filming CSI: Amonkhet, let's direct the lens specifically at Auras that enhance the creature they're enchanting—so not cards like Pacifism, since those are just removal spells in disguise.

That slice of Magic, my friends, is what I want to look at today.

This type (well, subtype, really) of positive Auras can pack a big punch if played properly—but can also propagate plenty of problems if errantly put down.

When should you play these "enhancement Auras" in your deck? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of doing so? What should you be looking for in a good enhancement Aura?

Let's hop into it!

The Aura Dilemma

Auras are fun. There's nothing more viscerally satisfying than slapping down a big enchantment on your creature and in the same motion sliding it 90 degrees as it slices at your opponent's life total.

Auras are also dangerous to play with.

The inherent problem with Auras is this: they are natural card disadvantage.

If you put down an Aura like Consuming Fervor, you're spending one card for zero cards in return.

Now, that in and of itself is not a deal-breaker. After all, creatures are usually card disadvantage the turn you play them as well, and almost everyone uses those! But the real problem is the two-for-one potential.

In Magic, you want to try to never lose two cards to your opponent's one card. Why? Well, simply put, if you keep doing that, you are going to run out of cards far before your opponent!

Putting an Aura on one of your creatures opens you up to getting two-for-one'd. Any removal spell suddenly eats two of your cards: both the creature and the Aura on it! Even a bounce spell is cause for consternation, as it makes the Aura fall off.

As a result, Auras have picked up kind of a bad reputation. Perhaps you've heard advice as extreme as "don't play Auras" from players in the past.

But that, also, is ignoring the whole picture. Some Auras are quite excellent—you just have to know what to look for.

For example . . .

Built-In Benefits

Some Auras, like Consuming Fervor, are just there to pump up (and eventually down) your creature. But many, many Auras have found ways to provide benefits right away—and this is where Auras really start to shine.

For example, you have probably seen some of the five Cartouches staring you back in Amonkhet packs.

These are all pretty playable picks for your Limited deck—and it wouldn't surprise me if Cartouche of Solidarity or Cartouche of Zeal saw some Constructed play. What's the difference here?

They provide a spell-like effect right away!

Unlike many other Auras, which only enhance your creatures, these act like a spell that leaves a permanent bonus to a creature. They mitigate the two-for-one problem. As long as your opponent doesn't remove the creature in response (which you do have to be careful of), you're perfect.

Take Cartouche of Knowledge, for instance.

This one draws you a card immediately, completely removing the two-for-one problem. You've granted your creature evasion and +1/+1 for two mana and no cost of cards.

Doing one better, check out the Cartouche of Strength.

This is actually one of green's premier Limited commons, acting as removal. With this Aura, you can kill off an opposing creature—how the tides have turned!

And that doesn't even factor in returning any Trials on the battlefield to your hand, like Trial of Strength, which is a huge advantage in and of itself!

These kind of immediate spell effects give you a bit of oomph that make playing Auras a lot more attractive. But they're far from the only way to do it.

Cards like Angelic Destiny or Rancor, for example, come back to your hand, meaning you don't have to worry about losing them. Cards like Sixth Sense offer you card advantage over time. If you feel like you can get at least two card draws out of Sixth Sense, it's definitely worth including in your Draft deck.

In Constructed formats, the risk of getting two-for-one'd is rampant since decks have access to much higher-quality removal and board sweepers. So, usually, Auras in Constructed need to provide some kind of card bonus or extreme protection to be worthwhile.

Cheap-to-cast Auras, like the aforementioned Cartouche of Zeal and Cartouche of Solidarity, also tend to be the ones most likely to make an impact in Constructed, mostly in aggressive decks that can use an efficient, inexpensive card to play.

Why aggressive decks? Well, There's a good reason for that.

Punching Through

Generally, positive Auras fit in an aggressive deck far better than a controlling deck.

A controlling deck wants to take its time, not open itself up to two-for-ones, and keep a lower creature count. It doesn't need to win fast.

On the other hand, the aggressive player usually needs to be willing to take risks and push damage through quickly. Especially in Limited, where your opponent is restricted on the number of removal spells they have, a well-timed Aura can run away with the game.

Let's look again at Consuming Fervor.

This doesn't provide you card advantage. In fact, it's poised to remove your own creature over time! But what it does provide you is this: a ton of extra damage.

Let's say you play a 2/2 on turn two then play Consuming Fervor on turn three. You're smashing in for 5 damage, and your opponent probably can't block it very well. The next turn, you can crunch in for 4 more with that creature and your opponent still probably has poor blocking choices here. This one card's enhancement has dealt 5 damage for one mana—plus letting your creature attack when it may not have been able to otherwise!

Always remember: the best kind of card advantage is when you remove all of your opponent's cards everywhere simultaneously by making them lose.

Sudden evasion can also not be underestimated. Cards like Madcap Skills have been all-stars in the past because of how much damage they represented: suddenly, your opponent couldn't block and you hit for 3 extra damage!

I am probably one of the largest Goblin War Paint enthusiasts alive. There's something to be said for attacking with a creature out of nowhere—or creating a 4/4 threat on turn three.

With that said, while it can be right to take risks with Auras early, you can also try holding them for a few turns and seeing if you can bait out your opponent's removal spells elsewhere. If they blow the one or two removal spells they have on something else, that helps make the coast clear for your Aura to come down and dominate the board.

These kinds of cards don't lend themselves that well to control decks—but in aggressive decks they are worth considering. You usually don't want more than one or two in your Draft deck, but they can come around late and be quite playable. Keep your eyes open for them!

Truly Enchanting

Enchanting creatures has been around since the beginning of Magic—and we've come a long way from the days of Holy Strength.

Hopefully, this advice helps you tune into which Auras to check out and which to keep passing around the draft table. Certainly don't ignore them . . . especially in Amonkhet Limited! Cartouches can be quite impactful.

Have any questions, thoughts, or comments? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send me a tweet, ask me a question on my Tumblr, or send me an email in English at Beyondbasicsmagic@gmail.com.

Have fun, and I hope this enhanced both your creatures and your game alike. Talk with you again next week!

Gavin
@GavinVerhey
GavInsight

Latest Beyond the Basics Articles

BEYOND THE BASICS

October 26, 2018

Playing One-Drops in Limited by, Gavin Verhey

Creatures that cost one mana are as old as Magic itself. Savannah Lions. Llanowar Elves. Mons's Goblin Raiders. And 25 years later, well . . . some things about Magic are still true. ...

Learn More

BEYOND THE BASICS

October 11, 2018

Do(n't) Play Lands by, Gavin Verhey

One of the very first rules you learn when you start playing Magic is that you can play a land every turn. We learn right away the benefits of playing a land each turn as we move from cas...

Learn More

Articles

Articles

Beyond the Basics Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All

We have updated our terms of use and privacy policy. Click the links to learn more.
We use cookies on this site to personalize content and ads, provide social media features and analyze web traffic. By clicking YES, you are consenting for us to set cookies. (Learn more about cookies)

No, I want to find out more