Here’s how it’s going to work: There are a lot of cards in Time Spiral and Planar Chaos that look like a lot of fun to build around. Each week, I’m going to start with a concept and a two-color combination, and build that deck. For instance, this week’s article centers around one of the new “timeshifted” cards in Planar Chaos, Mesa Enchantress. By the end of this article, we’ll have a fully modified Enchantress deck.
Here’s where the fun part kicks in! Deckbuilding is an organic process. When you buy packs or singles, or trade for cards, you own them. If I build an Enchantress deck, the cards in this deck don’t just disappear when I decide to play a red/white Boros deck the next week – they simply are filed away in my collection. For 10 Decks in 10 Weeks, the starting point for each successive week’s deck will be the cards in one of the colors from the deck the week previous! This week’s deck is a green-white Enchantress deck. At the start of next week’s article, I’ll keep the green from this deck, ditch the white, and use that as a starting point for a green-red Wild Pair deck! (Foreshadowing!) At the start of the week after that, we’ll keep the red and start work on a red-blue Aeon Chronicler deck, and so on and so forth, until all ten color combinations have been covered!
One of the problems with soliciting reader feedback for Building on a Budget has been the inability to incorporate suggestions into current builds, due to the deadline between when my articles go up and when I have to get the next week’s article to Kelly Digges, our omnipotent and all-powerful editor. The great part about 10 Decks in 10 Weeks is that I can poll weeks ahead of time, and 100% do what you, the readers, want! So my homework assignment for this week is as follows:
I’ve just finished doing a green-white Enchantress deck, a green-red Wild Pair deck, and a red-blue Aeon Chronicler deck. Which color combination and card/concept would you like to see next? Remember: Deck #4 must contain either red or blue, and can’t be a repeat of a previous color combination. Give your suggestions in the forums or via e-mail (use the link at the bottom of this page!), and one of these suggestions will be the basis for Deck #4 of 10!
I’m pretty excited about 10 Decks in 10 Weeks, and I’m definitely happy with the first deck of the bunch: The Two Ladies.
The title of this article, “The Two Ladies,” refers to the two Enchantresses in Standard right now – Mesa Enchantress and Verduran Enchantress. Traditionally, strategies built around Verduran Enchantress have been weak. There have been very successful Enchantress builds in the past, but they were centered around Argothian Enchantress (an untargetable, two-mana creature) and Enchantress’s Presence (an enchantment itself). Verduran Enchantress has never been out of print (it’s been in Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, Revised, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Editions), but has never been the center of a successful deck without the help of one of the two aforementioned Enchantress cards. Why is that? Let me run down the reasons:
1) Verduran Enchantress is a 0/2 creature for three mana. While this in and of itself isn’t a deal breaker, it makes it essentially a dead card on the board without support. It’s also extremely vulnerable to creature kill – Argothian Enchantress was untargetable, which made it successful. Verduran Enchantress dies to a single Shock or Seal of Fire, not to mention Last Gasp, Sunlance (not applicable for Mesa Enchantress!), Volcanic Hammer, or the such.
2) At most times, there has been only one Enchantress-type card available for play. It’s tough to build a deck around a single card when you have about as much chance of not seeing that card as seeing it – especially when it dies quickly in most games you do see it!
3) Most enchantments won’t win you the game on their own. If it’s an Aura – Enchant Creature, you need creatures to put the enchantments on. If it’s a non-Aura enchantment, you need it to do something on its own – such as deal damage (Stormbind, Pandemonium), turn your lands into creatures (Life and Limb, Living Lands), or the somesuch. If you’re playing Verduran Enchantress, you need to devote a large amount of space in your deck to having enchantments – otherwise, why play her? But at the same time, having large amounts of enchantments means having fewer win conditions – and Verduran Enchantress herself has a hard time killing people.
Now that Mesa Enchantress is around, problem #2 is solved – eight Enchantresses means a much more consistent strategy. You have twice as much chance of seeing an Enchantress in any given game and a much higher rate of seeing them in multiples. The only problem is that these Enchantresses are both double-colored, and you want to be able to drop them on turn three, if you draw one in your opening hand.
To combat this problem, I decided to use Utopia Sprawl as my mana-accelerant of choice in The Two Ladies. There is a diversity of one-drop mana accelerators in Standard right now, including Llanowar Elves, Elves of Deep Shadow, Birds of Paradise, and Boreal Druid. Each has their advantages and disadvantages, but in this case we’re playing an Enchantress deck – why wouldn’t we want to play Utopia Sprawl?
It’s also the second-best suited of the five cards for getting either double-green or double-white on turn two, behind the decidedly non-budget Birds of Paradise. Let’s imagine that it’s your first turn and you’ve got a Forest, a Plains, a Mesa Enchantress, and one of these one-mana accelerators in hand. Here’s how your game plays out:
Llanowar Elves: Turn one Forest, Llanowar Elves. Turn two: No double-white.
Boreal Druid: Turn one Forest, Boreal Druid, see above!
Elves of Deep Shadow: More of the same.
Utopia Sprawl: Turn one Forest, Utopia Sprawl naming white. Turn two Plains, Mesa Enchantress.
So at this point, we have twelve cards for the deck – the eight Enchantresses and the four Utopia Sprawls. Let’s solve problem #3 – the need to have both threats and enchantments in the deck, at a critical mass. In Time Spiral, there were several enchantments that return to your hand if they go to the graveyard from play. In white and green, these are Spirit Loop and Aspect of Mongoose, respectively. But how do I ensure sending these two enchantments to the graveyard for recursion?
To round out the deck, I wanted to add enchantment-based removal. White has an abundance of these, most of which are variations on Pacifism. After consulting with Gatherer for choices, I decided to go with Temporal Isolation and Faith’s Fetters. Faith’s Fetters is one of the best removal spells printed in recent memory, because it can not only just about deal with anything, but it gains you life in the process, which buys you time and tempo.
My other choice, Temporal Isolation, was inspired by Auratog. Most people are not playing with shadow creatures, which means that if I have a creature with shadow, it’s essentially unblockable. One of the problems with Auratog is that it does not have any sort of built-in evasion, such as flying or trample. My opponents can simply chump-block it all day long. With Temporal Isolation, I have a creature-removal spell that can also double as a win condition! If I put Temporal Isolation on Auratog, I can swing past all my opponent’s defending creatures, wait until blockers are (not) declared, and then sacrifice Temporal Isolation to Auratog before damage is put on the stack, allowing it to become huge.
The last nonland card I put in the deck was Seal of Primordium, as a catch-all solution to enchantments and artifacts. It combos with Verduran Enchantress and Mesa Enchantress, so it’s advisable in this particular deck over alternatives such as Disenchant or Naturalize.
Game 1: Darkher0 (B/R Rakdos)
This is not an auspicious beginning, as I draw a hand with three Forests and all White cards. I decide to keep it, and end up dead six turns later to Rakdos Pit Dragon and Jagged Poppet, having never drawn a single spell I could play all game.
People ask why I include games like this in my articles, considering they are one-sided blowouts. Well, there’s a lot to learn from these types of games! If getting shorted on colors happens often, do I need to fix the mana base of the deck? If this happens to my opponent, is my deck fast enough to be able to take advantage of their slow start, or do they have time to draw into their colors and stabilize? Given what I did see during that game, would my deck have been able to win had I drawn my colors? Even though this game lasted six turns and I never drew a spell, I started taking notes for building my deck – I might need to fix the mana, and I would have had a chance if I had drawn a Plains (I had two Faith’s Fetters and a Temporal Isolation in hand), so the problem was definitely the mana and not the spells.
Game 2; Armstrong36 (G/U Simic)
This was the first game in which the deck hummed. I got a first turn Forest and Utopia Sprawl, which led to a turn-two Mesa Enchantress, turn-three Verduran Enchantress, and turn-four Auratog with Spirit Loop. This enabled me to start giving Auratog +6/+6 on turn five while drawing seven cards a turn (my regular draw plus recurring Spirit Loop three times), which Armstrong36 could not keep up with. Eventually I drew Temporal Isolation and came in with Auratog for the win.
After just two games, I realized I needed at least something that could turn my Enchantresses into offensive creatures. The natural solution for this was a card that just missed the cut in my initial build: Moldervine Cloak. Moldervine Clock turns any 0/2 creature into a respectable 3/5 beatstick. It is also dredgable, which means that if I do not have an enchantment in hand, but have an Enchantress or two on the board, I can bring back Moldervine Cloak and be assured of moving my Enchantress draw-engine forward!
Game 3: Odysseyman (Slivers)
He gets Gemhide Sliver and then Firewake Sliver. I get Gatherer of Grace and put Spirit Loop on it, then Utopia Sprawl a Forest. This lets me drop Auratog and Aspect of Mongoose, and I hit him for 11 with the Auratog, dropping him to 8 (he took a hit from the Gatherer) and bringing me to over 30 life thanks to Spirit Loop. He’s built up a couple of more Slivers (Spinneret and Might Sliver), but I have Temporal Isolation in hand, and I’m all primed to kill him the next turn. Unfortunately for me, this is when he drops Essence Sliver and then beats the poo out of me for 19! Talk about a turn-around – suddenly I’m facing down a horde of 4/4 Spirit Linked Slivers, and I have no chance of pouring enough damage in to swing for that much life in a single turn at this point. The next turn he drops Two-Headed Sliver, and within another turn I’m dead to Might Sliver number two.
Just to note: this opponent’s screen name is actually Anon – this is not someone who I am keeping anonymous! He gets double Boros Recruit. But I shut them down with one of each Enchantress (how often do I get to say that?). He drops Boros Swiftblade, and I drop a third Enchantress and a Utopia Sprawl, refilling my hand (take that, Harmonize!). He gets down Skyknight Legionnaire and beats me for 4, but I put double Moldervine cloak on my Enchantresses, draw six cards, and attack for 6. He swings again, and I play Faith’s Fetters on his Skyknight, draw three cards and gain 4 life, and swing in for another six. He drops Icatian Crier, and I drop another Moldervine Cloak on my Enchantress (making it a 9/11), play Temporal Isolation on it, and then drop Seal of Primordium so I can swing past his guys, destroy my own Isolation with Seal, and hit him for lethal damage.
Game 5: Taluuke (G/R Haste)
I get turn-one Utopia Sprawl for white, which leads to turn-two and -three Mesa Enchantresses. He gets Primal Forcemage, and I throw Temporal Isolation on it to draw two cards. He answers with a 7/4 Giant Solifuge, dropping me to thirteen. I get Gatherer of Graces and put Moldervine Cloak on an Enchantress, allowing me to swing back for 3. He swings in with his Solifuge, and I block with my Gatherer, wait for damage to stack, and then sacrifice the Temporal Isolation on his Forcemage to regenerate my 1/2 guy. Remember – while Gatherer of Graces only gets a bonus while enchanted by an aura, you can still sacrifice any aura you control to regenerate it!
He drops a second Primal Forcemage, and I hit that one with Faith’s Fetters and then drop a third Enchantress. He plays a second Giant Solifuge, and that one comes across for a whopping 10 damage, bringing me to 3 life. I don’t have an enchantment in hand, so I sacrifice Moldervine Cloak at the end of Taluuke’s turn to my Gatherer of Graces and then dredge it so I can be assured of drawing three cards (triple Enchantress) instead of one card (an unknown). This nets me two lands and an Auratog, but luckily Taluuke has no haste creatures to drop the following turn. This allows me to resacrifice and redrege, this time netting Temporal Isolation and Spirit Loop, allowing me to come in for lethal damage with Auratog.
He gets turn-two Veteran Armorer, turn-three Unholy Strength, turn-four Nightguard Patrol plus Holy Strength. Before you know it, I’m down to four life (eight, but he accidentally misclicked on the Veteran Armorer on one attack, which missed four damage that I otherwise would have taken). I do stick two Enchantresses to the board, and then start taking out his creatures with Faith’s Fetters and Temporal Isolation, both of which are insane when you attach Inspiration to their normal effects! He drops Stinkweed Imp, but I get Auratog and a third Enchantress and put Spirit Loop on the Auratog. After a Faith’s Fetters on his Stinkweed Imp, Edgewood Dirk is reduced to chump-blocking my Auratog, while I draw thirteen cards a turn looking for a second Temporal Isolation. I find it the following turn and finish off the game.
Out of the 15 games I played this week, this next one was probably the closest, hardest match of them all. I’ll let the play-by-play of this match speak for itself.
Game 7: T_COLLINS (R/G Land Destruction)
Turn 1: Forest
His Turn 1: Mountain, Suspend Greater Gargadon (10)
Turn 2: Selesnya Sanctuary
His Turn 2: Remove counter from Gargadon (9), Forest, Volcanic Hammer me (17-20)
Turn 3: Plains, Mesa Enchantress
His turn 3: Gargadon (8), Forest, Stone Rain my Sanctuary.
Turn 4: Forest, Utopia Sprawl on Forest (+1 card)
His turn 4: Gargadon (7), Mountain, Giant Solifuge (13-20)
Turn 5: Moldervine Cloak on Enchantress (+1 card), Plains
His turn 5: Gargadon (6), Stone RainForest with Utopia Sprawl (Frown!), Gruul Turf
Turn 6: Plains, Auratog
His Turn 6: Gargadon (5), Forest
Turn 7: Spirit Loop on Mesa Enchantress, Selesnya Sanctuary, swing – he blocks with Solifuge, and sacrifices it to the Gargadon (4) so I don’t gain life.
His turn 7: Gargadon (3), Skargg, the Rage Pits, sacrifice Forest, Forest, Mountain to play Gargadon, hit it with Skargg, swing for 10 (3-20). Kird Ape.
Turn 8: Second Moldervine Cloak on the Enchantress, second Spirit Loop on the Enchantress, swing. He blocks with Kird Ape, but I gain 12 (15-20).
His turn 8: Swing with Gargadon, give it +1/+1 (5-20), Mountain
Turn 9: Forest, Utopia Sprawl on Forest, second Mesa Enchantress, swing for 6 (gain 12) (17-14).
His turn 9: Pass.
Turn 10: Temporal Isolation on Auratog, move both Spirit Loops onto him, swing for lethal.
This game is a perfect example of why you should never give up when you’re playing a match. It’s not over until your opponent kills you (or locks you down with Mindslaver and Academy Ruins), so even if you’re at 1 life facing down lethal damage there’s always a chance you can draw/play what you need to mount a comeback!
He gets stuck on three mana, and drops a morph. I get a quick draw with double Enchantress, Auratog and Spirit Loop, and he is forced to chump block my Auratog with his morph – which ends up being Fortune Thief, a creature to which my deck has no answer! Thankfully he never had double red or I would have just plain lost outright. However, since he’s stuck at three mana, I get to kill him in a hurry.
You may notice that my killing comes from either Moldervine Cloak or Auratog in most of the above game logs. At this point I’d realized that Gatherer of Graces, while decent in theory as a sacrifice outlet, just wasn’t cutting the mustard at all. Out it went.
One of the problems I was facing with my Enchantress deck, believe it or not, was drawing too many cards! There frequently were turns where I was drawing 13-19 cards a turn, and ended up having to discard a majority of my hand (how often do I get to say that, when it doesn’t involve an opponent’s discard spell?) at the end of my turn. Was there a way to capitalize on this? There sure was!
Enter Retether. Retether puts Creature-based Auras directly into play, which means it won’t trigger Enchantresses. However, if I’m discarding 6-7 Enchantments at the end of my turn, why not bring them all back at once on Auratog, assuring one quick, fatal strike? It also lets me get double-pump out of the enchantments on the board. If my Auratog is enchanted by Moldervine Cloak, and my opponent’s creature is enchanted with Temporal Isolation and another with Faith’s Fetters, I can sacrifice all three to give Auratog +6/+6, cast Retether, put the Cloak back on Auratog (+9/+9), gain four more life, and swing again, sacrificing the two defensive enchantments after blockers are declared to give Auratog +13/+13 total, just off of three enchantments!
Game 9: cp70 (B/W Pauper CIP deck)
He gets Ravenous Rats, Whitemane Lion, Aven Riftwatcher, and Shrieking Grotesque. I get Mesa Enchantress (which is Last Gasped), and then Auratog with Moldervine Cloak. He throws Pillory of the Sleepless on my Auratog, but I answer with two Enchantresses and then sacrifice my Cloak to the Auratog to dredge like crazy. As my life slowly drops down I get a second Auratog to the board. I then sacrifice Moldervine Cloak to give Auratog +2/+2 during my upkeep, dredge it, play it on my ‘Tog again, sacrifice it again (+4/+4), and play Retether, getting back double Temporal Isolation, Moldervine Cloak, and Spirit Loop. Play Seal of Primordium, attack. After no blockers, I have Moldervine Cloak (+7/+7), I sacrifice both Isolations and the Spirit Loops (+13/+13), double Utopia Sprawl (+17/+17) and the Seal of Primordium (+19/+19) to deal 20 damage in one turn with Auratog. Ka-Pow!
He gets turn-one Norin the Wary, turn-three Primal Forcemage, and turn-four Pandemonium. I drop Auratog with Moldervine Cloak, but he plays a spell to blink Norin, killing my Auratog (Norin comes into play at a 5/4 creature). He then plays another Norin, blinking the first and dealing 5 damage to me. He swings with Primal Forcemage, Momentary Blinks it, and then almost hits me for 10 with the other two Norins, except for a misclick that stacked Pandemonium before Primal Forcemage, leaving me at two life. However, I draw nothing on my next draw step, and die.
Game 11: Kwisatz_Haderch (U/G/B Control)
He gets double Birds of Paradise and Scryb Ranger. I get Auratog, and put Moldervine Cloak on it, and then start going nuts with Spirit Loop. He uses Stonewood Invocation to try to block with a Scryb Ranger, but my ‘Tog gets much bigger thanks to Utopia Sprawl and Moldervine Cloak. I sacrifice Moldervine Cloak to try to dredge, but he plays Extirpate on my Cloak, removing it and all other copies in my deck from the game. This allows me to go nuts with Spirit Loop, and after I draw a second ‘Tog, he’s reduced to chump blocking both of my creatures each turn to stay alive. Eventually he runs out of creatures and dies.
Game 12: PlaytheShovels (U/R Wizards)
He gets down two morphs. I Faith’s Fetters the first, but the second is a Willbender, sending my Temporal Isolation at my own Enchantress. I play another Isolation, then an Auratog. I try to Moldervine Cloak, but he flips another Willbender, making his guy a 4/5 creature that can’t deal damage! He then plays Teferi, but I start going nuts with Auratog and Spirit Loop. Eventually he gets Wipe Away, but I draw Aspect of Mongoose and continue my Auratog shenanigans. When he taps down to a single blue to drop and morph a Willbender at instant speed, I sacrifice all the enchantments on the board to give Auratog +14/+14 and play Retether for the win.
Even though I’ve found one way to use 17 cards in hand, I still want more. I decide to add a third color to the deck, red, to take advantage of Stormbind. Stormbind is another enchantment that can trigger an Enchantress, but it also solves my problem of not being able to kill any creatures. With an Auratog and an Enchantress on the board, I can play Spirit Loop, draw a card, discard a card to deal two damage, sacrifice Spirit Loop, replay it, draw a card, and deal two more damage. With multiple Enchantresses, I can deal even more damage. This gives me a solution to pesky utility creatures (read: Fortune Thief) while also giving me more game against Aggro decks.
To make room for the Stormbinds, I take out the Seal of Primordiums. They haven’t been too useful in playtesting, so they were the natural cut. I also add four red mana sources, which combined with the four Utopia Sprawls, should be enough to cast Stormbind.
Game 13: KUSHLORD (U/W Control)
We both end up stuck short on mana and discarding, but I break out of it first by drawing a second Plains and dropping double Mesa Enchantress. All the time, I’d been discarding Moldervine Cloaks and Spirit Loops, and he concedes when I play Retether to make a pair of 3/5 Spirit Linked creatures against his empty board.
He drops an early Festering Goblin and follows with Dauthi Slayer and Sangrophage. I hit the Sangrophage with Temporal Isolation and the Dauthi Slayer with Faith’s Fetters, then draw into Stormbind. He drops Nantuko Husk, making it difficult to work my Stormbind to kill his guy! He compounds the issue with a Plague Sliver. I eventually work around to clearing his board with a second Faith’s Fetters and the Stormbind, but this leaves me with no cards in hand. He then drops a second Plague Sliver and a Nether Traitor, and he beats me down to zero over two turns.
Game 15: Flinxie (U/G Aggro)
I get double Enchantress and Auratog, and quickly start swinging for seven cards and 7 damage a turn. I draw Temporal Isolation within a couple of turns, and finish him off quickly.
Quick tips about The Two Ladies:
1) Remember that both Verduran Enchantress and Mesa Enchantress trigger when you play an enchantment spell. This means that even if your enchantment is countered, you will draw a card! By the same token, you need to play the enchantment to draw a card – if you cheat the enchantment directly into play using Retether, you will not draw cards for the enchantments being brought directly into play from your graveyard.
3) Both Aspect of Mongoose and Spirit Loop go to the graveyard before returning to your hand. This means when their return-to-hand ability triggers, your opponent has an opportunity to remove these enchantments from the game. Watch out for Extirpate and Tormod’s Crypt!
4) Each instance of drawing a card from an Enchantress is resolved one at a time. So let’s say that you have three Enchantresses in play, and cast Aspect of Mongoose. All three Enchantresses will trigger, and you will draw one card, have a chance add abilities/spells to the stack (if they are instant speed), draw the second card, have a chance to add abilities/spells to the stack (if they are instant speed), and then draw the third card. This is important if you are short on enchantments, and need to dredge Moldervine Cloak (this came up several times in my playtesting). If you have Auratog and Moldervine Cloak in play, you can draw your first couple of cards with Enchantresses, see if you get an enchantment, and if not, sacrifice the Moldervine Cloak and dredge it so you can have another enchantment in hand!
Before we go on to next week, here’s a new poll, and the result of the last three polls. See you next week for part two of 10 Decks in 10 Weeks, with red-green Wild Pair!