Wash, Rinse, Retether

Posted in Feature on January 10, 2007

By Chris Millar

Black Wrath! Green Ball Lightning! Red Akroma! I'm pretty sure that Aaron is previewing a Purple Horseshoe (Crab). Maybe (definitely) not. O, what odds-enhancing trinkets Planar Chaos brings with it!

My preview card hasn't done anything indecent to the colour pie. What it does is in the colour it's always been in. You might've seen its granddad somewhere before, like on various banned and restricted lists. All right, you jackals, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. But since it's so fun to be a tease during preview weeks, I'm going to make you click for your card.

This is a bit more complicated than it appears, so here's the rules FAQ entry for the card:

* All the Auras return to play simultaneously. Whether an Aura can be attached to a creature is checked before any of them are returned and doesn't take into account any simultaneously returning Auras. For example, if Tattoo Ward (which gives enchanted creature protection from enchantments) and Holy Strength are in your graveyard and there's only one creature in play, both Auras are returned to play attached to that creature, then Holy Strength is put into your graveyard the next time state-based effects are checked.

* Auras don't need to say "enchant creature" to return to play. For example, an Aura with "enchant land" will return to play if there's an animated land for it to enchant.

Giant Solifuge
This means that enchant permanents like Confiscate and Faith's Fetters will only return to play if there are creatures to enchant. Enchant artifact Auras like Stasis Cocoon can return, but only if there are artifact creatures on the board. Auras that normally can't enchant a creature (like Utopia Sprawl and Paradox Haze) don't even leave the graveyard. This won't be relevant too often, but it does make a difference for cards like Femeref Enchantress.

There are a couple things to note. One, because you are just putting the Auras into play, and not playing them, the process doesn't target! You can therefore put the enchantments on creatures that can't be the target of spells or abilities, like my arch-nemesis and favourite punching-bag Giant Solifuge. What this also means is that you don't have decide which Auras are going to go on which creatures until the spell resolves. When you play an enchant creature Aura, your opponent can respond by destroying the creature you've targeted, causing you to lose both the Aura and the creature. With Retether, you can choose to put the Auras on some other creature.

Two, if you have no creatures when this resolves, but your opponent does, you will have to put the Auras on an opponent's creature. So the card has some potential to backfire. You can somewhat get around this by playing with Auras that have targeting restrictions like Spirit Loop, which has “enchant creature you control,” or Wurmweaver Coil, which can only enchant green creatures. There are other safeguards we can put in place, which I'll talk about in a second.

Shocked and Aura-fied

Gerrards_WisdomConventional wisdom suggests that playing with a lot of enchant creature Auras is a bad thing. By doing so, you run the risk of trading two of your cards (your creature and the Aura enchanting it) for a single removal spell from your opponent. Worse, if you can't keep a creature on the board, you run the risk of having more dead cards than the baseball hall of fame. Well, as I hope I've proved over the last year, you can have a lot of fun building and playing decks that are neither conventional nor, I guess, wise.

How can we build and/or play a Retether deck? Here's what I've been thinking:

Step 1: Get a creature into play.

Auras need creatures. The question becomes: Which creatures?

Untargetables. As I said, Retether puts the Auras directly into play, so you can put Auras on Giant Solifuge, Humble Budoka, and Zephid. Being untargetable also prevents your opponent from killing your guy with spot removal in response to Retether. Since you'll often want to play your Auras from your hand, I'd recommend playing with cards like Silhana Ledgewalker and Troll Ascetic (which can be targeted by you, but not by your opponents).

Rabid Wombat
“Penumbras.” You know, like Penumbra Spider, Penumbra Bobcat, Penumbra Wurm. All of these creatures require two removal spells to fully eliminate, one for the original and one for the black token copy. So even if your opponent has a removal spell and destroys your guy, you'll still have a creature in play. I would also put any creature enchanted by Elephant Guide or Griffin Guide into this category.

Creatures with Protection from X. Similar to both of the above, creatures with protection (especially from red and black) are tough for your opponent to remove, either in response to Retether or once you've piled a half-dozen Auras on to a single creature.

Enchantment Lovers. Some creatures have special interactions with enchantments in general or Auras in particular. A few examples include Auratog, Thaumatog, Phantatog, Faith Healer, Yavimaya Enchantress, Gatherer of Graces, Bramble Elemental, and the marsupial that needs to see a vet pronto, Rabid Wombat.

Of course, you don't have to play with “special” creatures. Any good and efficient creature will do.

Step 2: Fill the graveyard with Auras.

I'll break this up into two parts. First, how do we fill up the graveyard with Auras?

Filter ‘em. Blue is the king of card-filtering (drawing and discarding), with instants (Careful Consideration), sorceries (Compulsive Research, Careful Study), creatures (Thought Courier, Cephalid Broker), and enchantments (Compulsion) all doing the job. Red has Wheel of Fortune and its ilk, as well as Portal's Goblin Lore. Green has Greater Good. Black and white, meanwhile, have, uh, nothing I can think of.

Dredge ‘em. This is one of the most popular, easiest, least mana-intensive methods of filling the graveyard. Notably, Golgari Grave-Troll and Stinkweed Imp have been enabling decks based on Ichorid and Patriarch's Bidding, and they would also help to maximize Retether. My favourite Dredge card, Moldervine Cloak, seems like a bit of no-brainer, since it's a powerful creature enhancer that can also be used to dump more Auras into the bin.

Discard ‘em. There are many cards that allow you to discard a card for some benefit. Check out my Madness deck from last week, which used Trespasser il-Vec and Rakdos Guildmage. Other famous examples include Wild Mongrel, Zombie Infestation, Psychatog, and perhaps the best creature of all-time, Phantatog.

Mill ‘em. Players hate self-milling. Except players who've enjoyed combining Cephalid Illusionist with one of the en-Kor creatures. And players who like to use Mesmeric Orb alongside Aphetto Alchemist or Seeker of Skybreak. And those people who got Oath of Druids and Hermit Druid banned just about everywhere.

Eat ‘em. Pretty much the only kind of creature that could have a diet based on a magical energy-field are the atogs, like Auratog, Thaumatog, and Phantatog.

Wurmweaver Coil
Sacrifice ‘em. Faith Healer and Teferi's Care (aka Arenson's Aura) allow you to sacrifice enchantments for some benefit. There are also many enchantments that come with a built-in self-sacrificing mechanism, such as Wurmweaver Coil, Fire Whip, Crown of Awe (as well as the rest of the “Crown” cycle from Onslaught), Tattoo Ward, Floating Shield, Kithkin Armor, and Capashen Standard.

Cycle ‘em. A small category, with Improvised Armor and Dragon Wings being the most noteworthy.

Then there are some uncategorizable oddball methods of filling your graveyard with Auras, like Morality Shift and, uh, Gifts Ungiven.

Second, what Auras should we dump in the graveyard?

Comes-into-play abilities (including cantrips). While we're playing then recycling lots of Auras, we might as well have them do something on their way in. A number of enchantments have CIP abilities. There's the cycle from Ravnica, which counts Flight of Fancy, Galvanic Arc, Fists of Ironwood, Strands of Undeath, and Faith's Fetters among its members. Then there's the group of cantrip Auras, which includes the recent Pentarch Ward and Shielding Plax as well as Invasion favourites like Sisay's Ingenuity and Traveler's Cloak.

Magemarks. This cycle from Guildpact provides you with the most obvious of the Voltron-Assemble Aura combos. I'm sure there are others, probably involving Druid's Call and an arbitrarily large number of squirrels. Requiring a whole bunch of Auras to be in play in order to get your deck to work is not a very reliable game plan, but Retether changes that.

Giant-makers. Just simplify things: Make one of your creatures bigger with something like Serra's Embrace, Empyrial Armor, Ancestral Mask, or Shape of the Wiitigo, and if your opponent can deal with it, use Retether to make your next creature even bigger.

Negative Enchantments. Not all enchant creature Auras are supposed to go on creatures you control. Cards like Wanderlust, Control Magic, and Pacifism have been tormenting opposing creatures for years, and they could work well in a Retether deck. The only potential problem is that there's no guarantee that your opponent is playing with creatures. Of course, that can be remedied by using cards like Hunted Lammasu.

Step 3: Play Retether.

This is pretty straightforward. Add four mana to your mana pool, one of it white, and announce the sucker. You will do this most often during one of your main phases, while the stack is empty, although I have to say that the idea of using Retether as a combat trick (with the aid of Quicken or Vedalken Orrery) makes me chuckle.


Hand-to-Hand Wombat

While there are no Wombats online (rabid or otherwise), we do have a pair of their non-union, MTGO equivalents: Gatherer of Graces and Yavimaya Enchantress. Greenseeker enables the small dredge engine and can be used to pitch the enchantments directly. Silhana Ledgewalker and Penumbra Spider help prevent Retether from backfiring because they are difficult to remove from play, while Bramble Elemental can turn a Retether into a Saproling-fest, especially if you return a bunch of Fists of Ironwood. Since all the creatures I wanted to use were green, Wurmweaver Coil was a natural inclusion.

Moving the concept to the Extended cardpool gives you the granddaddy of all enchant creatures: Mythic Proportions. This also gives me an excuse to run Auratouched Mage, which quickly becomes a six-mana 11/11 trampler. This isn't very shabby at all. Neither are Wild Mongrel, Penumbra Bobcat, and Troll Ascetic. Shape of the Wiitigo acts as a backup Mythic Proportions, which, unlike, Wurmweaver Coil, can be fetched by Auratouched Mage.

Here's something a bit more combo-ish. We've got the Cephalid Illusionist + Outrider en-Kor (or Shuko) combo to fill the graveyard with Auras like Griffin Guide, Flight of Fancy, and Unquestioned Authority (which either grant evasion, draw you cards, or both). Then all you have to do is play Retether, put all the Auras into play, draw tons of cards, and swing with a massively pumped-up Phantatog.

Here's another aggro-y deck with a combo-y finish. As with the previous deck, you can just put a Griffin Guide on one of your two-mana guys and start beating down (Boros Swiftblade is pretty good here), using Fire Whip and Galvanic Arc to clear a path. Later in the game, you can sacrifice all of your enchantments to Auratog, Retether them in into play, and send of all that Whip and Arc damage straight to the opponent's head. Flaring Flame-Kin and Thran Golem fit right in as well.

It's not often that white gets a card with a lot of combo potential. I'm not sure how many mono-white decks I've built while writing this column, but early estimates suggest that it is zero. To remedy this unfortunate situation, I've put together a mono-white Retether deck that has the most combolicious finish yet: Stuffy Doll and Guilty Conscience. We've seen it before. It was one of the absurd combos in Mark Gottlieb's Magicthegathering.combos – Time Spiral Edition article. It fits nicely into a Retether deck because there's another enchantment that you'll want to put on a Stuffy Doll: Pariah. In the meantime, while you're setting up one of those combos, you can use Guilty Conscience and Pariah as “creature removal,” beat down with your white weenies and their Griffin Guides, feed Spirit Loops to the Kobayashi of enchantments, Auratog, or just enjoy total immunity to damage with a Pariah'd Voice of All.

Until next time, don't come undone!

Chris Millar

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