Mind Bend - Grixis Cursechantress
(Curse of Bloodletting | Art by Michael C. Hayes)
Aura is a Four-Letter Word
Those wound tightest are first to unravel.
- Fraying Sanity flavor text
Enchantments are an oft-forgotten permanent. Decks pack oodles of ways to kill creatures and artifacts, but few, if any, for enchantments. That's not surprising, considering that two whole colors out of the color pie, black and red, have virtually no direct ways of dealing with these pesky permanents, save for some new initiatives like Mire in Misery.
It's therefore no wonder that enchantment-based decks have a small but noticeable foothold in the general Commander landscape. EDHREC lists over 3,000 Aura decks (Auras being a subtype of enchantment that enables certain flavors of Voltron strategies), and the straightforward Enchantment Theme boasts a healthy 2800+ decks, itself. Of course, I'd expect some overlap between Auras and the more general enchantment theme, but the fact still remains that these strategies are populous.
Those numbers are nothing to scoff at, and you should always be prepared to see an enchantment deck sitting across from you every now and then. If there's one thing that is true about these enchantment decks, it's that you're probably going to see them in either green, white, or often both. Why? Because of cards like Satyr Enchanter.
If there is anything that is true about enchantment decks, it's that they come packed to the gills with effects that draw you cards whenever you cast enchantments, and they are almost all green or white.
But this is Mind Bend, the article series that breaks down the conventional notions of the color pie to forge new ground outside the confines of the already established. This time, we're building an enchantment deck in Grixis - everything but green and white.
A World of Enchantment
Before we appease the now nameless (at least story-wise) Nicol Bolas, we need to know how exactly a traditional enchanted Commander deck conducts its wizardry. What better way than some old fashioned EDHREC stats?
The Enchantments Theme page on EDHREC offers a few observations. The first observation is about popular commanders. Of the top five, all are white, only one has red (the five-color Golos, Tireless Pilgrim) and surprisingly, only two have green. Tuvasa the Sunlit being the lone green representative outside Golos.
What gives? Didn't I just say that enchantment decks are at least green and white? If you look at the sheer numbers of decks that fit the theme, Tuvasa takes the crown with over 600 decks on EDHREC. Trailing behind is Daxos the Returned at just under 400. By numbers alone, green and white are much more represented here.
Still, our top Commanders are skewed into Esper. That is, until you scroll a bit further down the page.
Looking at High Synergy Cards and Top Cards paints a much more green-and-white picture. Half of the cards in the High Synergy section include white, and half include green. The High Synergy section contains only one lone blue card, Estrid's Invocation, and no black or red cards. None. Expanding this to include Top Cards to the mix reveals basically the same results.
What the data tells me is that blue and black are support colors. The top five High Synergy Cards all draw cards for playing enchantments and are all squarely green and white. It isn't until we reach the #12 card on this Theme Page that we see a card that doesn't directly reference enchantments: Ghostly Prison. 16 out of the 28 cards in the combined list provide some benefit for you casting or having enchantments. Other cards fit the following criteria:
Pillowfort - Keep your opponents from attacking you.
Ramp - Make more mana with enchantments.
Taxes - Make people pay more for parts of the game they want to do.
Draw - Self explanatory.
To sum up, an enchantment deck's goals are as follows:
- Steamroll advantage by drawing numerous cards off of each enchantment cast. This mitigates blowouts from board wipes as well. Rebuilding is simple.
- Turn speed bumps into insurmountable peaks and valleys. Constantly tax the board to slow their plans down, and encourage action elsewhere. By the time they put their sights on you, they don't have the resources to keep up.
However, one thing I'd like to ask is, "Where's the win condition?" The only card along this axis in that amalgamated list is Starfield of Nyx, and that requires four other enchantments to get online. Digging for cards via draw is obviously key. You play less wincons, but drawing more cards increases your odds of find them.
Grixis, Is This
Unfortunately, Grixis doesn't have a murderer's row of "Enchantresses", cards that draw you more cards for playing enchantments, like the namesake Verduran Enchantress (first printed all the way back in Alpha). We'll have to draw cards some other way, as well as replacements for the other strategical components that comprise a traditional Enchantress strategy. Let's get Grixis-ing.
Drawing it Out
First, let's replace the Enchantresses. Thankfully, there are a plethora of fantastic enchantments that will draw us cards on their own, without need for follow-up. We have Commander stalwarts Phyrexian Arena and Rhystic Study, but there are a few that folks might not be as familiar with.
Fevered Visions might be lambasted for being a Howling Mine ripoff, but it does two other things for us. First, we get a card before anyone else, something that most Howling Mine imitators don't do. Second, we get incremental damage against greedy opponents.
Kumena's Awakening gives everyone a card on our turn, meaning that we get a chance to play and react first. Then, later in the game, only we get to draw. Not a bad deal. Another good enchantment along this vein is Well of Ideas, immediately replacing itself (plus one), and putting us slowly ahead in card advantage. Sound familiar?
Since we're in Grixis, the home colors of Bolas, we can get a little evil, right? Narset, Parter of Veils, when combined with these Howling Mine relatives, means that we draw those extra cards, but everyone else is left out. Plus, she shuts down egregious uses of Blue Sun's Zenith. All this and she can dig for another enchantment? Welcome aboard, Narset!
A Crash Curse
So we've dealt with a workaround for the traditional Enchantress draw engine. How about step two of the typical enchantment deck? Let's start warping the game to our will! For that, a little cursing might be necessary.
That's right, Curses! The enchantment subtype dedicated to making your opponents suffer various maladies throughout the game! Let's add a few that gum up our opponents' plans.
For token decks, we have Trespasser's Curse and Curse of Death's Hold. Trespasser's Curse punishes an opponent for putting out too many tokens by draining them for each creature that hits the board. Death's Hold makes sure that those tokens don't stick around too long, and makes armies flimsy.
Got a player who's too focused on accruing card advantage? Then Curse of Fool's Wisdom is going to hurt them good. It's not like I have a Windfall in the deck to hurt them even more. Oh wait, I do. (Cue supervillain laughter.)
Voltron got you beat? Curse them and their commander with Cruel Reality. Decks with few creatures will really break under the strain. For the pesky control player, make them die twice as fast with a well-deserved Curse of Bloodletting. Not so smug when your life total starts at practically 20, now are you? Curse of Bloodletting also hits on another aspect of the enchantment strategy: encourage action elsewhere. Double damage makes another player a tasty snack for those creature decks.
Adding to this, Curse of Stalked Prey, Curse of Disturbance, and Curse of Verbosity all make your opponents far more enticing to swing into.
As a surprise to me, there aren't many taxing Curses out there in Grixis. To fill that role, why don't we just make it hard for our opponents to do what they like without us getting some added benefit, just like that Commander all-star Rhystic Study?
This section is dedicated to all the awesome non-Curse enchantments that will certainly feel like Curses across the table.
Bitter Feud plays a similar role to Curse of Bloodletting, but also can encourage awful alliances or downright annihilation. Psychic Possession makes that card-advantage-seeking opponent think twice about casting, well, Think Twice. Plus, even though you might shut down your draw step. Kumena's Awakening will still get you two cards, one for you and one from your opponent.
Followed Footsteps can make you many, many copies of the best creature on the board, whether it was originally yours or not. Painful Quandary is what it says on the card: a really painful quandary. Watch life totals melt and hands disappear as players struggle to cast cards.
However, the ultimate non-Curse Curse is Captive Audience. In and of itself, Captive Audience is a crippling win condition that can knock out a player rather quickly.
Card draw, some Curses, and a cadre of near-Curses isn't enough to make a deck. However, Grixis affords us some really sweet tech for our strategy.
The biggest issue with Curses is the inability to move them around, especially if a player is going to lose the game. Not to mention the times when someone really wants to destroy your honest enchantment. That's where bounce spells come in handy.
What's a bounce spell? Anything that returns a permanent back to hand. Think Boomerang.
First, we have the identical, but differently named Blink of an Eye and Into the Roil. Both can return your Curses to hand for two mana, and draw you a card to boot for an additional two. As an added bonus, you can at least temporarily stop a threatening permanent on someone else's board, if necessary.
Cloudstone Curio is a free way to pick up your Auras, allowing you to re-Curse another player: simply cast another enchantment, then pick up that Curse for placement elsewhere.
If you're facing down an Austere Command set on enchantments, Paradoxical Outcome comes to the rescue to pick up your Curses and draw you some cards.
Recent Flood of Tears was a card I missed during Core Set 2020, but is a great sweeper here, giving you the ability to replay a nasty curse while wiping the board. If only it was an instant!
Twice as Nice
Let's get even trickier, shall we? Blue offers four cards that can copy enchantments already on the battlefield: Copy Enchantment, Estrid's Invocation, Mirrormade, and Clever Impersonator.
What's so great about these enchantment Clones? First, we can copy any of our card draw enchantments to dig further into the deck. Second, we can play one-to-one with another player's best permanent. Hey, nice Avacyn, Angel of Hope over there. I'll just cleverly impersonate that, thanks!
The best reason for these clones is that we can double-up on Curses. Wanna make someone take four times the damage with Curse of Bloodletting? Cast a Mirrormade! The Magic rules say that when a copy of an Aura would come into play, we get to choose who or what to attach it to, as long as the choice is legal.
What that means is that we can also spread the love with a Cruel Reality on each player! Having fun yet? Oh yeah, and you can totally make more copies of Captive Audience. Why leave one opponent alone to suffer? Heh heh heh.
Of course, we have to throw Theros a few flavor bones, given that this is an enchantment deck.
Agent of Erebos will make graveyard decks shudder with each enchantment we play, and it will make our in-house EDHREC necromancer Joey Schultz a very sad (but still very well-coiffed) man, indeed.
Doomwake Giant adds to the token hate, and gets ridiculous with Followed Footsteps, picking off even beefy creatures if given enough time. Thoughtrender Lamia does more of the same to opponents' hands.
Also, yes, I've included Curse auto-includes Accursed Witch and Bitterheart Witch because they're perfect for this strategy.
Curse Other Grips
At the helm of the deck, I chose Crosis, the Purger. Grixis doesn't have a commander that fits the theme perfectly, but Crosis is a great beater that can really ruin someone's day with one swing. Aim it at an opponent cursed with Curse of Bloodletting and they only have a turn to survive!
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Playing this deck will not make you friends if you start slapping Curses left and right with little regard. Tact is necessary. Knowing when and where to place a Curse could mean life or death.
Use that 40 life as a resource and be open to take a few hits. However, don't be afraid to Blasphemous Act or Damnation when necessary. Stay low, and explode when the moment arises. Knowledge of other players' strategies is a must, as the right Curse can set the right opponent back, but be a dead card when attached to the wrong target.
An Enchanted Evening
If there is anything to take away from what I will now dub "Grixis Cursechantress", it's that we shouldn't be afraid to dabble into card types that don't seem suited for the colors you want to play. There may be small interactions you might not see until you start digging. If not for this article, I might not have realized how great bounce spells can be for a Curse deck.
Enchantments might be overlooked at the table, but I hope I've helped bring them to light. Now go out there and cast some Auras!
Come back next month for more mind-bending builds!