Do Your Worst - Izzet Auras
(Akki War Paint | Art by Jeremy Wilson)
There's an Aura About You
Hello, everyone! Welcome to another installment of Do Your Worst, where we take a popular archetype and find the most unusual home for it! I'm your host, Philomène, and in this column, we're looking at decks that should not be – or should they?
Today we're examining a specific type of enchantment decks: Auras!
Typically, this strategy wants to enchant one or more creatures with "local enchantments", or Auras, giving them various bonuses and boosts, to swing in for lethal damage. The Voltron approach seems to be the most popular way of doing this: put all your eggs in one basket, and one-shot people (usually with the commander). Alternatively, some decks want to go wide with a board of enchanted creatures, like Mazzy, Truesword Paladin.
Before we choose our worst color combination for this strategy, we have to know what we're not working with. What are the most played color combinations for Auras?
The commanders representing these color combinations are Galea, Kindler of Hope, Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice, Sythis, Harvest's Hand, Uril, the Miststalker, and Killian, Ink Duelist. Let's take the average decks for these five and determine the color spread of relevant cards:
The idea of building a Grixis Aura deck sounds novel, but it already exists! Technically, Curses are Auras, so we'll let Grixis go for now. Besides, I try to avoid three-color decks in this column anyway because they tend to be too easy! I know, I built Sultai Equipment in the past, but that was to spite all the Boros Equipment decks. Take that, Boros, strongest color combination in the format!
The question is, do we go mono-blue, mono-red, or Izzet?
You all read the title of this article, so I won't beat around the bush.
The reason we're going Izzet is because both mono-blue and mono-red have legendary creatures that care specifically about being enchanted. That doesn't really mean the archetype is supported in blue or red, but that makes the deckbuilding a little streamlined. Red has Valduk, Keeper of the Flame, where blue has Rayne, Academy Chancellor and Hakim, Loreweaver. They're not exactly popular commanders by any means, but still, let's see what Izzet has to offer.
Jokingly, one could say that Niv-Mizzet, Parun is a good Aura commander: attach Curiosity to him and win the game. Hah, hah. Seriously though, there aren't many Izzet commanders that care specifically about enchantments or Auras. Keranos, God of Storms could make a good Voltron body, since he's indestructible, but we need him to be a creature to attach Auras to him, and gathering the necessary Devotion might prove more difficult than we think. The new Ovika, Enigma Goliath could be interesting since it cares about noncreature spells, but seven mana seems a lot if we want to build around it. What about a Partner pair?
My first attempt was with Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh and Esior, Wardwing Familiar. Our favorite Kobold has three useful keywords, and Esior offers some additional protection. The deck had one problem, though. Roger's power and toughness wasn't growing fast enough (like Tuvasa the Sunlit would). You could say that's a good thing; if Roger grows too fast, then we might get targeted as the threatTM and get focused with removal. Still, we do want to be at least a little threatening!
After much testing, I ended up going for Livaan, Cultist of Tiamat and the Background Sword Coast Sailor. They're perfect! Livaan triggers on noncreature spells, which Auras are, bolstering her (or another creature's) power. Sword Coast Sailor giving unblockable looks scary, but it actually incentivizes going after the highest life total at the table instead of focusing one person at a time, which is a better play experience for everyone, in my opinion. They also curve nicely into each other, and the Background is an enchantment, which is synergistic with our gameplan.
Let's go Izzet Auras! But do we have enough pieces to make the deck work?
(Spoiler: yes, we do.)
Time to Get Attached
What are the best Auras in Izzet?
Thank you, Planar Chaos, for continually providing this column with cards that break the color pie. Auramancer's Guise is definitely one of our best Auras. Vigilance gives us good defense, so we'll play Eternal Warrior as well. Unquenchable Fury comes back in our hand if it goes to the graveyard, and it punches for some additional damage. Draconic Destiny is nice in a two-color deck because we can use any color of mana on its firebreathing ability. Drake Umbra, Octopus Umbra, Eel Umbra, and Pemmin's Aura can all protect our big creature from ill effects. We can get some additional power and toughness with Akki War Paint, Tilonalli's Crown and, obviously, Eldrazi Conscription.
We are an enchantress deck, after all. Do we get any synergies with enchantments?
Protean Thaumaturge is pretty much our only Constellation card. We'll be triggering it a lot, so we can keep copying the best creature on the battlefield. Third Path Iconoclast and Shark Typhoon can provide tokens when we cast enchantments, which is useful to counter edict effects. Firebrand Archer sprinkles a little damage on everyone, much like a Grim Guardian would do. With it on the field, we could technically cast Shimmering Wings a bunch of times and damage our opponents quite a bit! Bothersome Quasit can send scary threats away from us, and Rootwater Shaman can help us play our Auras at instant speed. Finally, Helm of the Gods and the new Thran Power Suit care about the number of enchantments we have in play.
It's always a good idea to have a few backup creatures in case something happens to Livaan. Valduk, Keeper of the Flame stands ready, and can do some work even if he's only enchanted by one or two Auras. Champion of the Flame can get big pretty fast, and when Thassa, God of the Sea comes online, she can wear Auras very well, and she can make herself unblockable if for some reason we want to attack someone who is not at the highest life total. If everything falls apart and all our precious work goes into the graveyard, Storm Herald can come to the rescue and punch through for the final bit of damage.
Help, I'm Already Out of Aura-ble Puns
That's all very exciting, but can we still ramp, draw cards, and interact with the board in synergistic ways?
We don't have access to the usual enchantment ramp, like Wild Growth, but let's see what we can do. Dowsing Dagger and Sword of the Animist are not Auras, sadly, but will still trigger Livaan and will work nicely with our Voltron strategy. We're planning on attacking every turn, so why not get some Treasures while doing it? Shiny Impetus and Sticky Fingers will help, and the latter gives us a little bit of extra evasion for added flexibility in our attacks.
This feels like cheating, but I'm not going to shy away from two powerful enchantments that draw cards: Mystic Remora and Rhystic Study. After that, blue gives us access to a lot of draw on combat damage, like Curiosity, Curious Obsession, and the new Combat Research. Tavern Brawler follows our gameplan exactly and lets us access an additional card each turn. Still in the impulsive draw department, Kami of Celebration is a nice, self-contained way to see more cards and grow our board with +1/+1 counters. Security Bypass and Monastery Siege offer more card velocity. Plus, we can choose Monastery Siege's second mode should we need the protection.
Blue comes to the rescue yet again. Witness Protection and Imprisoned in the Moon are both Auras that can remove a problematic creature from the board. If we can't remove it, why not take it for ourselves with Corrupted Conscience, or bounce it with Sigil of Sleep? How about some jank: Latulla's Orders comes down at instant speed and gets rid of scary artifacts, and Galvanic Arc is just a Lightning Bolt at sorcery speed for three mana that gives us first strike. It could be worse! Then we have Chandra's Ignition as a board wipe and finisher.
We have some neat ways to protect our gameplan besides Counterspell. We already have the Umbras, Pemmin's Aura, and various ward abilities from Monastery Siege and Thran Power Suit, and Propaganda will deter any attacks coming our way, for a while at least.
Now for the real bangers. We don't have much recursion in this deck, so we really don't want all our Auras to fall off our commander should she die. Fumble lets us save her and attach our Auras to another one of our creatures! But wait, there's more! Scarab of the Unseen is an insurance policy that you can play early and use at the right time to return all your precious Auras to hand. It also replaces itself by drawing you a card at the next upkeep! How neat.
The haste on Footfall Crater will be useful when recovering from removal. Livaan is a Shaman, so Harmonic Prodigy will double her trigger! Kediss, Emberclaw Familiar will spread our love around the table. Enchanted creatures count as Modified, so Akki Battle Squad will help us go face an additional time each turn.
Now, let's see this pile of cards in its entirety!
😇 The Dragon With a Sailor's MouthView on Archidekt
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Unquenchable Fury | Art by Livia Prima
Hip, Hip, Aura! (Sorry, this pun only works in French.)
Look at us! We did it. We have 37 enchantments in the deck, and 28 of them are Auras. I'd say mission accomplished. Here are some heartbreaking notable exclusions!
By now, you all know I love jank. But the deck still needs to function and be able to hang at a reasonable power level. I would have loved to play cards like Academy Researchers and Iridescent Drake, which are pretty nasty with Eldrazi Conscription, but the consistency just isn't there, and they are otherwise pretty underwhelming backup creatures. Aura Thief is awesome when it works, but when no one else is playing enchantments, it's just a four-mana 2/2, and that's just not good enough. Clout of the Dominus looks like an auto-include, but shroud is actually pretty bad in our deck, since we want to target our stuff with Auras and our commander's ability. Lastly, Forgeborn Oreads and Whitewater Naiads are Constellation payoffs that are just too expensive for what they do.
And there we have it! How would you build an Izzet Auras deck? Did I forget to include an awesome card? Is there any hidden synergy that I missed? Should I have stayed with Roger and Esior as the commanders? Let me know in the comments below! I'm Philomène, and this has been Do Your Worst. See you next time!