Aura decks are pretty popular right now—what with all the new enchantment theme fodder in Theros Beyond Death, it’s hard to imagine any Commander player, from the most entrenched to the newest adopters of the format, who hasn’t considered building one. I spent a lot of time thinking about Aura decks as I poked through the spoiler early on, but I wasn’t satisfied just building a deck I assumed would be at every table in a week or so.
No shade to those who put together a Bant Auras shell—I play my share of straightforward decks, and it’s fun! For some reason, though, I wanted my deck to be different. (When struck by this urge, it’s important to remember that “different” and “better” are not the same, and then continue forward from there.) So, I decided to build a deck full of Auras that I don’t want to enchant my own creatures with and subvert the idea of an Auras deck a little while still getting to play a lot of the fun payoffs. Let me show you exactly what I did!
First I took a look at a few Commanders. I considered some options: should I choose Esper for the more destructive black Auras? Should I build a Zur deck and assure everyone at the table that no, it’s fine, this isn’t THAT Zur deck? Maybe Elsha should be my choice to cast Auras from the top of my library? In the end, though, I chose to fly under the radar in the early game and play Tuvasa. That way, I could slowly reveal my game plan over the course of the game. Life’s more fun if you get to do the slow reveal, right?
So, with Tuvasa, my draw power comes from that second ability—the trigger. If I want my deck to be consistent, I’ll need some more Enchantress effects so that I can operate without Tuvasa in play.
Eight is, frankly, a lot, but if this deck is going to stay in the game, it’s going to need some significant draw power. I imagine that my individual cards won’t pop quite as hard as many others at the table, so I’ll just have to outdraw my opponents instead of out-powering them. Setessan Champion is my favorite of these, as it triggers on enchantments entering the battlefield instead of just being cast and costs less than its counterpart, Eidolon of Blossoms. Most of the others are fairly straightforward, with Sram and Kor Spiritdancer only triggering on Auras rather than our few non-Aura enchantments. Femeref Enchantress is a little protection against folks who choose to battle our Auras head-on!
Enchantresses aren’t the only cards I’m putting in to synergize with my Auras—I’ve got some more cards that might fly under the radar and appear as though they’re part of a normal deck.
Even if our Auras won’t grow our team directly, there are ways to make it happen more indirectly. Eutropia is an all-star here just as she is in Limited, providing evasion and buffs turn after turn, and Celestial Ancient works along the same lines despite not taking other creatures to new heights. Aura Gnarlid is an evasive threat that grows along with our bevy of enchantments, and when those enchantments make their exit, Starfield Mystic grows. Archon of Sun’s Grace doesn’t grow existing creatures, but it does give us a wider board, echoing Sigil of the Empty Throne—which I’m also playing. Finally, Nylea’s Colossus helps us go taller by giant-sizing our existing creatures.
Now that we’ve talked so much about the many wonderful Auras I intend to play, let’s get into the Auras themselves, starting with some fairly obvious ones—those I’ll use to take creatures from my opponents.
Three Commander classics with escalating costs. Control Magic and Treachery nab creatures, while Confiscate can take pretty much whatever I want. Since I’m not playing the biggest or scariest creatures around, I need some way to get my hands on combat-ready troops.
I can’t steal everything using Auras, so I’ll have to shut some things down by turning them into insignificant creatures without abilities or other types of objects altogether.
Whether it’s an Insect, a Fish, an Elk, or a Treefolk, it’s not whatever powerful monstrosity it was before, and that’s what matters. Similarly, Forests and weird moon lands don’t attack too well.
When even this well of transmogrification runs dry, I turn to more traditional effects to handcuff opposing creatures.
Arrest is perhaps the least noble of these three, but it’s the most easily castable. Faith’s Fetters hits any permanent type, which is easy to forget—I try to remember it when I see opposing planeswalkers or artifacts like Staff of Domination. Lawmage’s Binding does a good job of making Arrest look like a slower understudy—at least as long as blue mana is available, that is.
There will be more attacking creatures, and I’m willing to keep packing Auras into this deck if that’s what keeps them away from me. That’s a promise—no, it’s a vow.
If you’re ready to watch the world burn around you, put a Vow on someone’s best creature. All of a sudden, when they attack another player, they become the aggressor, and other players strike back at them… at least, that’s the best-case scenario. Worst case, that creature sits home on defense and people come for you. Well, regardless, I’m willing to give the Vows a try and see if they do what I want them to do. It’s been a while since I sleeved one up.
Not all Auras go on creatures. Some enchant players! I didn’t pack this deck full of Curses, partially because Bant has fewer and partially because I like the Bant ones less for their symmetrical natures. Instead, I stuck with one that will vex a single graveyard user.
If you’re on the receiving end of this Wheel as a Reanimator deck or similar, it’s less weal and more woe for you as your targets slip out of your grasp over and over again. Even worse, if you’re playing Rakdos, options for dealing with this card are limited. This one’s cuttable if you feel too mean shutting someone’s deck off, but remember it doesn’t empty the graveyard of cards already present, so it’s not so bad unless you lock them down with this on turn 2.
Let’s go back to Auras that go on creatures but take things in a more bizarre direction.
Okay, I know I promised only Auras that go on other people’s stuff, but their creatures will be better than mine, and I swear I will not put it on my own creature unless I have to. You played a Grave Titan, huh? Cool. Now all my creatures are Grave Titans that summon 2/2 Zombies when they attack. (It doesn’t affect tokens, so no unbounded loop here, thank you very much.)
That’s all seventeen Auras I managed to work into this deck… except when it’s not.
I expect to mostly copy Auras with this unless I have an Eidolon of Blossoms or Enchantress’s Presence on the battlefield. Playing this and copying an Aura will get around hexproof and shroud just like blinking one or returning one from the graveyard to the battlefield, but by the same token, it doesn’t get around protection or similar.
Okay, so now that we’re really through all the Auras, what happens when they aren’t already in my hand? What happens when I have the wrong ones? Well, I know I’m not usually a tutors person, but when playing a deck that is otherwise underpowered (look, I’m doing a lot of 1-for-1ing in multiplayer—that’s the opposite of power) I break my own rules.
Heliod’s Pilgrim will get any one of my seventeen Auras, and Open the Armory does all that plus nabbing the one piece of Equipment I slotted in. (Spoiler alert: it’s Shadowspear. That and Arcane Lighthouse both help dodge targeting restrictions.) Three Dreams, contrary to its flavor text, will be getting me three to harm, which is a little more fiendish. Sterling Grove and Enlightened Tutor are usually best used when you’re about to start your turn and are desperate to draw the exact card that will save you—watch out for those fetchlands, folks. Finally, Wargate puts an Aura (or anything else, but yeah, an Aura) directly onto the battlefield, again dodging hexproof and shroud.
Okay, so I’m playing six tutors for once. I didn’t stop there, though—I’ve slotted in a decent amount of recursion.
Hanna and Crystal Chimes bring enchantments back from the graveyard to my hand for reuse. Hanna might actually be too slow, but I love the Weatherlight saga, which is why she made it through my final round of cuts. Hall of Heliod’s Generosity from Modern Horizons echoes Volrath’s Stronghold, which is exactly what I want. Silent Sentinel and Sun Titan put enchantments right back on the battlefield, which is even more powerful. Creeping Renaissance is all about quantity, especially since it gets cast twice in the ideal circumstance. Retether… well, it’s powerful, and it only brings your own Auras back, so no concerns about symmetry like there are with Open the Vaults. It’s also a little easier on the wallet than Replenish, but if you want to double up, I won’t blame you. Calix, Destiny’s Hand is my budget-friendly option that also acts as card draw and removal until you hit the ultimate. Heck, you could run all three if you like.
I’ve blabbed enough about this deck. Come at me on Twitter (@RagingLevine) with your Aura lists, but first, look at the one I’ve put together. See you next time!