For as long as there has been an Argothian Enchantress with which to fuel the engine, there has been an Enchantress deck on the fringe of Legacy playability. Often “discovered” by the Pro community just prior to a major event, and hailed for its usage of cards like Solitary Confinement and Moat to shut down the strategies of the opponent, the Enchantress deck is always appealing, and very rarely the correct choice for a tournament. It defines the idea of a metagame deck, structured in a way that is capable of attacking the major decks in the format from a different angle than they are prepared for, but not flexible enough to be a contender in and of itself. It has varied in its playability over the years, but has never fully disappeared—and though there are plenty of Tranquility effects in Legacy, they haven’t been prominent enough to keep a good Enchantress down.
Jorge Anderson – Legacy Kiel 1/3/14
With the one-two punch of an enchantment-based block in Standard and the printing of a new enchantress in Eidolon of Blossoms, Standard has the potential to see a new version of Enchantress. While the Eidolon lacks in certain characteristics when compared with Argothian Enchantress (most notably lacking shroud and double the mana cost), Argothian was so far above the curve it isn’t reasonable to expect to see another like her again. Still, there are fringe benefits of the Eidolon as well, and in a much weaker card pool than Legacy, the Eidolon has a chance to shine.
The first bonus of Eidolon is in the fact that it actually replaces itself. It can be part of the engine, rather than existing outside the engine as Argothian does, because the cantrip engine begins with the Eidolon, rather than requiring a second card to get the engine going. As an enchantment creature itself, additional Eidolons really get firing, because they’ll trigger each other when played. Third, they trigger not when you cast an enchantment spell, but whenever an enchantment enters the battlefield under your control, which is important in a block where enchantment creature tokens abound. Finally, the fact that the Eidolon is a 2/2 creature, rather than a 0/1, means you have the ability to close a game out with the Eidolon as an attacking value creature, rather than being forced to use it as a static ability on “legs.”
I’ve dug deep into the available Standard card pool to give you a few ideas for decks using the Eidolon as a focus. Each takes a different approach to the engine, and I think there’s something here for each type of mage.
This version, in what is perhaps the most akin to the traditional Enchantress shell, intends to play out as many enchantments as possible, loading up a single land with enough mana bonus enchantments to allow Urban Burgeoning and Prophet of Kruphix to untap it twice per turn cycle. This allows you to generate tokens with Heliod with each untap, and generate more cards via Eidolon (remember, the Eidolon triggers since the tokens are enchantment creatures). The issue with this deck, of course, is that a Pithing Needle on Heliod is basically game over, and with the addition of Deicide to the card pool, relying strictly on a God as your win condition is going to be less advisable.
I imagine you can’t get much more aggressive than this in an Enchantress shell, which makes me slightly concerned that you’d empty your hand before you’ll really be getting your engine online. This deck can also never beat UW control in a million years. What I like about this list is that it incorporates some of the cards I’d like to see in a deck with Eidolon in a fashion that doesn’t make sense in a more controlling or combo-oriented list. Hero of Iroas makes “going off” much cheaper, but doesn’t make sense in a deck not intending to attack. The same is true of Boon Satyr, which allows you to draw cards at instant speed if you want to, but doesn’t advance your game plan when not attacking for the win. Perhaps the fact that nearly every creature in this deck can be bestowed on another will give it some resiliency to wrath effects, but my guess is that overcommitting to the board is a byproduct of the function of the deck and that it will end up being a worse GW midrange (which is already pretty not-good).
My third concept is based around the idea that there has to be a real constellation deck out there. When looking through the Journey into Nyx spoiler, three constellation cards jumped out at me:
Thassa’s Devourer: While capable of killing an opponent at any life total, Devourer has no immediate impact on the board. It also requires more enchantments (somewhere around 25) to kill an opponent than many of the other cards do. This has the potential to be difficult to accomplish. Though it is a creature, which I would prefer it not to be, all of the constellation cards are, so it isn’t a specific drawback to this compared to others. Devourer has a higher toughness than others on this list, which does make it more complicated to kill.
Grim Guardian: Guardian requires less enchantments to kill with, under the assumption that we’re not trying to beat multiple Sphinx’s Revelations. In that case, we’re better off with the Devourer, though there may not be much hope with either. This requires you to play out between 18 and 20 enchantments, which is a bit more doable. As a 1/4, Guardian still survives most commonly played removal spells. The Guardian is also the cheapest mana cost of the win condition creatures.
Forgeborn Oreads: Potentially the most impactful in terms of what it can do to a board state, the Oreads also attack for the most on their own. They require the same number of enchantments as the Guardians, but also have the most restrictive mana cost and the lowest toughness of the win condition creatures. They die to Shock, or any variation thereof, which makes me hesitant to rely on them.
This list is the one I would be most inclined to play myself, and it feels like the most interesting of the three.
This deck also happens to be the one I’ve constructed a sideboard for:
In this build, you’re using Sphere of Safety as the best Moat impression you can find, and are attempting to just cantrip into as many enchantments as you can while draining with Grim Guardian. The combination of Commune, Auramancer, and Bow of Nylea gives you some selection prior to getting an Eidolon online, and having a full set of Hopeful Eidolons to both block early and strap a Karametra’s Favor onto allows you to ramp up to your high end more efficiently. I don’t love playing the Hopeful Eidolons, as they tend to be miserable in the midgame, but having an additional one-mana enchantment to act as a kind of pseudo-Birds that cantrips for cheap when you have an Eidolon of Blossoms is fine. Font of Fertility is another not particularly exciting way to accelerate but the fact that it is a one-mana enchantment is enough to get a second look. It’s a bit better than the Urban Burgeoning we used in the first list, because we aren’t using our mana on both players’ turns.
We have an interesting sideboard package, which is dictated almost solely by the fact that I want to use Ajani for more than just a card advantage engine. What better way to make a mockery of the “gain 100 life” ability than to pair it with Sanguine Bond? Probably far too cute to be playable, but I’d like to give it a shot. Sanguine Bond has some potential to be useful in this deck beyond simply comboing with Ajani, though as another card that has no board impact, a restrictive cost, and a marginal impact unless it just wins, I’m not all that excited about it on its own.
Overall, I think Eidolon has a ton of potential, even if it doesn’t end up breaking the format. Theros block appears better set up to exploit drawing cards when enchantments are around than nearly any before it, and when focused on the block from this perspective it truly reminds me of Urza’s Block—the parts of the block they didn’t accidently make absurdly broken, anyway. It will be well worth keeping an eye on this Eidolon as we move deeper into the large-pool Standard of summer, and remember it once we finally get out of the oppressive weight of Return to Ravnica block’s high-powered card pool. Until then, draw some cards and have some fun!