The influence that Modern Horizons 2 has had on the Modern format is undeniable. The power level of the set has been absolutely tremendous, warping traditional deck construction rules that players had followed for nearly a decade. Unlike its predecessor, whose power was focused primarily within a small handful of cards such as Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, Urza, Lord High Artificer and the Force cycle, MH2 was more impactful across its entire spectrum. From the bombastic rares that define archetypes to flexible lands that every deck wants to get their hands on, all the way down to the commons that have reshaped the Pauper format, MH2 was the epitome of impactful. Today, we’re going to take a look at one of the slightly overlooked archetypes that the set unleashed into the Modern format, a powerful prison strategy that many players prefer to dunk on than to show respect. Let’s talk about Enchantress.
Budget Modern Enchantress by Darren Magnotti
Note: Each Modern deck covered in this series is built at the time of writing to a $150 budget. This is in attempt to keep things reasonable for those who are actually looking to buy into the format on the cheap while not skimping so much that the deck is completely without the power to keep up. Every deck showcased in this series has been personally tested and is being shown off for a reason, whether its the deck’s competitive aptitude, its ability to transition easily into a nonbudget version or its capacity to teach a newer player a vital skill required to keep up in today’s competitive metagame.
Selesnya Enchantress is a prison-style deck that aims to use a small handful of key enchantments and their synergies to prevent the opponent from being able to enact their game plan. The main theme of the deck is to assemble a large stack of various defensive enchantments in order to keep the player as safe as possible, which is where the strategy gets its nickname – Pillowfort. These enchantments are typically focused on shutting down the more typical forms of player-death, ie creatures attacking, though the deck is also capable of shutting down essentially any strategy after sideboarding.
While the deck is actually typically fairly strong, the archetype on the whole receives a lot of flaming from online communities because it strives to do the opposite of what most players would classify as a “good game” of Magic. The deck can be fairly salt-inducing, which also makes it really appealing as a budget strategy because when working within the bounds of a handicap, sometimes it’s better to take points where you can get them. If that means making an opponent salt off, well, a win is a win!
At its core, Enchantress falls under that classification of decks that want to achieve an end state thanks to the use of a resilient card advantage engine. While not incredibly popular these days, other such decks include the likes of Life from the Loam/Wrenn and Six decks, Thopter Sword decks such as Whirza, Asmo Food and to some degree Living End. For the Enchantress deck in particular, the engine consists of the namesake, Enchantress’s Presence and it’s mimic Sythis, Harvest’s Hand. These two allow the deck to churn through its library at turbo speeds, turning every nonland card in the deck into a cantrip, or sometimes two or three cantrips. To help cast this abundance of cards, the deck also plays the likes of Utopia Sprawl and Sanctum Weaver, which work to boost the mana output of the deck to incredible levels in the early turns of the game. Combining this surge of mana and card draw together allows the Enchantress pilot to effectively slap their entire deck onto the table with relative consistency.
To help further enable this card advantage machine to roll, the deck also plays a couple of defensive spells for its defensive spells. Sterling Grove prevents an opponent’s potential interaction from disrupting the process, forcing them to target the Grove instead of the thing that they want to go after. Destiny Spinner effectively fills the same role, except via the stack by making every card uncounterable. Think of these as a playmat, or the piece of rubber that helps protect the plastic that’s protecting your cardboard as you play. While playing with a playmat is definitely a nice luxury, it’s not nearly as essential to play the game as the sleeves or the cards themselves, but the difference when it’s included is certainly noticeable. It should also be noted that Sterling Grove is covering double duty with its ability to tutor up a missing lock piece. While this shouldn’t be relied on to find every necessary piece, it is sometimes required to trade the Grove for a Confinement, or one of the win condition cards.
Enchantress’s M.O. is a primary focus on safety. Solitary Confinement is the core to that defensive package, and the card that effectively stops an opponent’s progression dead in its tracks. It offers two “shields up” effects, both preventing damage and protecting the player from spells via shroud, for the low cost of skipping the draw step. This typically steep cost is paid by way of the enchantress effects, which will help to ensure that Confinement sticks around and always has fodder to be discarded. Solitary Confinement is not a fun card to have sitting across the table, and its resolution will often result in a concession.
Continuing in the name of preventing the opponent from playing the game, the deck also packs a tight removal suite. On Thin Ice is the primary component, which for one mana can remove any opposing threat with no downsides. Oblivion Ring plays a similar role, but with the additional capacity to remove noncreature threats as well. While this deck isn’t wholly focused on removing things, it is frequently necessary to snipe a key Murktide Regent, Omnath, Locus of Creation, or hammered up Esper Sentinel.
So the game is locked up and the opponent can no longer meaningfully make you lose the game. Now what? On occasion people will not concede to the lock, and while “opponent’s concession” may be the strongest win condition in the deck, it isn’t the only one.
Destiny Spinner is the simplest way to close out a game, via its second ability to create large creature-lands turn after turn. With one Sanctum Weaver activation, it’s fairly common to be able to make two to three lands into reasonably sized threats each turn. Between their girth and their trample, it should be short work for these lands to get an opponent to zero.
Sigil of the Empty Throne is also included for a similar role. This deck can frequently cast anywhere from four to 10 spells per turn once the engine has been assembled, and victory is well within reach when each of those is also spitting out a 4/4 flyer as well. While the final win condition isn’t exactly practical, it has happened to at least one Enchantress player at some point in the past where they’ve had to prevent themselves from milling out thanks to Hall of Heliod’s Generosity. Non-budget versions of the deck also include the likes of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for similar functionality, but the line is worth knowing about as a true last resort.
At the current Modern moment, Enchantress actually seems reasonably positioned in the competitive metagame. The deck is excellent at shutting down the myriad aggro decks in the format such as Affinity and Burn, as well as several of the creature-based midrange and combo decks like Hammer, Living End, Rhinos and Yawgmoth. It also boasts near-even matchups against the two big dogs, Murktide and Omnath, thanks to their similar reliance on creatures and relatively slow starts out of the gate.
One would think that with so many fair to good matchups in the format that this deck would see much more play than it currently does, right? Well, the reverse of that coin is that the deck has absolutely atrocious matchups against a good number of decks as well. Blue counterspell decks can be quite the challenge for the deck, especially when they rely on planeswalker threats instead of creatures. Decks like Tron and Amulet don’t particularly care about anything that Enchantress has going on, or have very easy paths to dismantling it as well, so an Enchantress player needs to hit a series of its best matchups to put up any reasonable performance instead of being one of those decks that has game against any opponent.
As far as the gameplay itself goes though, the deck did its thing quite well even despite the budgeted mana situation. Between the ramp package and the constant card draw, most of the common pitfalls of budget lists were fairly well negated, and the lock as well was quite strong against most of the opponents I faced. The deck is missing some of its key components from the non-budgeted version and their omission was certainly noticeable – mainly Blood Moon and fetchlands for deck thinning. However, the deck feels very cohesive and provides around 90 percent of what one might expect from the completed version. While the strategy definitely isn’t for everyone, there is a certain charm in using a deck like this that goes so far off axis from what the rest of the format is either prepared for or doing themselves that provides an incredibly unique play experience. This deck is an excellent choice for anyone looking to spice up their local Modern scene who isn’t against the idea of becoming the villain for an evening.
Modern Naya Enchantress by Shayde Erbrecht
Upgrading the Enchantress deck is fairly simple because a majority of the end result is already well under budget. As mentioned above, Emrakul and Blood Moon are some of the biggest omissions, which both help to shore up some of the deck’s worse matchups. Emrakul acting two-fold as a win condition is also pretty premium, because this deck can staggeringly create 15 mana without much effort. While a lot of very smart players will make sure to tell you that “The math just doesn’t make sense” when you mention deck thinning via fetchlands, they’re also a legitimate component to this deck’s nonbudgeted success. Most decks that are capable of drawing over 60 percent of the deck in a single game will regularly enjoy the benefits of this deck thinning method, pulling lands out of the way to make for more impactful draws later down the line.
Outside of these marginal additions, the rest of the real power in the non-budgeted version comes in the sideboard. Leyline of Sanctity is essential when facing various discard decks in the format, and Veil of Summer protecting the enchantments from key counterspells is basically a necessity in certain metagames.
That’s all for this one. One of my favorite things about this series is the exploration into some of these niche archetypes that attack the format in a way that no other deck can emulate. Gaining exposure to these smaller corner case decks is a great way to expand your horizons as a player and achieve that level-up moment when you can identify and figure out how your deck is meant to dismantle them. They’re also just great fun to mix up a local scene on occasion too. Until next time, stay safe, play smart and thanks for reading!