The Scrambleverse — Enchantment Creatures
Hello again fellow Planeswalkers! Back again with another episode of The Scrambleverse, where we embrace the jank, create the unexpected, throw off our opponents, and, of course, scramble the game. Before we start, I just want to thank everyone who read and enjoyed my previous article, I got numerous great comments and feedback! This time around we cover a theme that is very near and dear to my heart and my history in Magic. As I said in my last article, my introduction to Magic involved college, a draft, and a sizable purchase of cards from a random dude on Craigslist at a gas station, all during the release of Theros. As someone who enjoys Greek mythology, I immediately enjoyed the themes within this new plane, including the bestow mechanic and enchantment creatures. So, for this article I decided to go back to my roots and build a deck centered around those themes.
Who is the Commander?
To begin, let’s start with the commander. We know we want it to be enchantment focused and to capitalize on that theme, so let’s look at the common enchantment commanders. Our three big contenders are Daxos the Returned; Karametra, God of Harvests; and Zur the Enchanter. All three of these commanders have a LOT to offer for the enchantment theme. However, when we take a look at the available enchantment creature options, there are few to begin with, and even fewer that I would consider playing. In order to make a deck around this theme it seems like we might need to try playing more than two colors. Let’s take a closer look at what Zur has to offer, especially when considering most of the enchantment creatures within Esper colors are, in fact, fetchable with his ability.
Let's talk about Zur as a commander in general for a second. As I previously mentioned, Zur is commonly played in an enchantment-matters deck, having 15% of his decks listed under that theme, and 8.5% of his deck falling under the auras theme. He likes to surround himself with auras and protective enchantments, as well as control the board. However, Zur's ability also allows for a significant amount of versatility. He is seen as one of the strongest competitive commanders due to his ability to fetch combo pieces, specifically the card Doomsday, allowing for very quick, sudden wins. On the less competitive side, my friend McGee has one of my favorite Commander decks I've ever seen, which is Zur cycling, where he fetches Astral Slide as soon as possible to start doing ridiculous shenanigans. Zur is even listed on EDHREC as being a common curse commander, which I find hilarious! Zur can do a lot of crazy things, and this theme definitely falls in that category.
The enchantment creature theme provides a very interesting and unique way to play Zur that isn't seen in any his the other themes. Across the board Zur decks run 10 creatures on average, even less in more competitive builds. However, this build offers the potential to turn Zur into a creature-focused deck, similar to the way Yisan, the Wanderer Bard is built, though with some obvious and significant differences.
As we go into the process of deckbuilding, I’m primarily going to focus on the cards that are unique to this build. Because it is enchantment focused, you will see a lot of enchantment-matters cards in the final decklist at the end that are also present in common builds of Daxos the Returned and Zur the Enchanter. This includes things like Mesa Enchantress, Sigil of the Empty Throne, and Sphere of Safety. So without further ado, here are some of the ways we will evaluate our bestow creatures.
What Do We Fetch?
There are two things Zur allows us to fetch in this deck: enchantments and enchantment creatures. While we could search out several bonkers enchantments, this build is more interested in enchantment creatures. The non-creature enchantments Zur fetches for us are cards common in other enchantment-matters decks. Things like removal, protection, or value. One enchantment that puts in a lot of work, is As Foretold, which allows us to bestow for free if we have enough counters. Other than that though, we are primarily going to focus on the enchantment creatures.
Let's start by narrowing down the enchantment creatures to just the ones we can fetch with Zur in our colors. We see that there are 30 available options, though most probably won't see play outside this theme. When we do this, we can see there are 30 available options. Unfortunately, most are not playable in Commander, though they become semi-playable in this theme. Zur can fetch these 3-cmc enchantment creatures and put them directly onto the battlefield. Because of this, the creatures we choose to fit this role need to be able to have some form of impact even when they aren't being bestowed upon another creature.
“But Christian, you need to cast bestow creatures to use bestow. If we use Zur to grab bestow enchantment creatures, aren’t some of them going to be useless?”
Yes, this is a drawback we have to manage. Not only are we fetching bestow creatures that we cannot bestow, but we are also fetching them during the combat step, which means they can't attack. Why is this important? It means that we are going to need to plan ahead, thinking about what we are going to want for the following turn. We can divide these 30 creatures into four categories: not playable, semi-playable, and playable.
- Not Playable: The nyxborn cycle, which are mono-colored enchantment creatures that just give a power and toughness bonus, aren't going to be worth playing because they're otherwise just vanilla creatures. Other creatures that fall into this category are ones that have abilities that just aren't very significant in a game of Commander. For example, Crystalline Nautilus may give a creature a +4/+4 bonus when enchanted or be a 4/4, but its ability makes it and whatever it bestowed very vulnerable, making it not playable.
- Semi-Playable: We then have creatures like Ghostblade Eidolon, which has a minor impact on the board when fetched, but can change the tide of the game or give significant abilities to enchanted creatures when bestowed. Another example would be something like Hypnotic Siren, which doesn't do much when fetched, but can be used to take an opponent's best creature on the board. Semi-playables like this are also better with things that let us bounce creatures to our hand, then being able to bestow them.
- Playable: On the other hand, something like Nighthowler or Eidolon of Countless Battles could be a massive creature on the field, or it could be a massive enchantment buff if bestowed. Outside of bestow, playable enchantment creatures will have significant board presence and EDH-relevant abilities, such as Thassa, God of the Sea, Aegis of the Gods, or Archetype of Courage. One that I want to particularly note that is fetchable, is Riptide Chimera, which allows you to bounce your enchantments that you fetch to hand. This is going to be really important for those game-changing bestow cards!
What Else Do We Want?
While it is important to be able to fetch a lot of creatures with his ability to maximize the use of our commander, it is also important to include ways to ultimately win the game with bombs. The stronger creatures that we will run are the other Theros gods in Esper colors, as well as the black and blue archetype creatures that buff what we have on the field. In addition, we will also include Doomwake Giant, who acts not only as a big enchantment creature, but also as a pseudo-board wipe if we can get enough cheap enchantments onto the field in a single turn. In addition, we will also be running Celestial Ancient, which does the opposite. Instead of giving -1/-1 to all creatures, it gives all of your creatures +1/+1 counters for each enchantment you cast. We will also run Cathars' Crusade since it triggers whenever Zur fetches an enchantment creature. Constellation is a really good ability considering that not only are we casting a lot of enchantments, but also all of our creatures will trigger constellation as well. Grim Guardian is a great example of a constellation creature we can fetch with Zur.
We will obviously require some utility cards as well for this deck. Crystal Shard fills a similar role to the Riptide Chimera mentioned earlier, which will allow us to bestow creatures we fetch with Zur. We can run a few board wipes, including Extinguish All Hope which will specifically keep all of our creatures alive, some counterspells, and some generic removal. Lastly, we want some ways of recurring our enchantments, including Replenish. That pretty much covers everything!
Reviewing What We've Built
Now that we have everything we need, let's take a look at our actual decklist:
Zur BestowView on Archidekt
I really like how this deck turned out. It's fun, it's goofy, and it's going to do silly things. Despite this, it could definitely be made more competitive, though after looking at many of the ways to improve its power level, I noticed that the theme and style of the deck significantly shifts away from the bestow mechanic. That's because bestow and enchantment creature are, at their core, fairly weak mechanics. Which once again means we need to revisit the Rafiq Problem, or in this case, the Zur Problem. As mentioned before, Zur is a well known powerhouse in Commander playgroups, having a very strong presence in Commander games. It can fetch win conditions easily, and do ridiculous things with enchantments, making games harder for other players. How do we go about convincing people that this deck doesn't go full-throttle trying to win as fast as possible, but is rather a weaker but still tuned deck built around a fun mechanic?
Politics of Playing the Game
In my last article, I talked about some of the ways to do that with Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder with a deck that is still pretty strong despite not being built to the commander's fullest potential. I actually discussed this with my playgroup and the responses to how they would approach this was pretty similar to those methods previously described. Especially with this deck where a bunch of the cards are low-powered commons and uncommons, you can simply show your opponents some of the cards in the deck, though that ruins some of the fun of the surprise. You can also go about comparing it to other Commander decks in the playgroup, tell them you are testing out a new deck you expect to be at a lower power level, or just tell them exactly what it is. One thing I do want to touch upon is something a member of my playgroup, Mike, said:
"Sometimes making a big deal about how your deck is not a big deal has the opposite effect of what you want to do. Sometimes you just need to die a villan for others to realize you were the hero all along."
We all know that player who comes into a game and says "my deck isn't good," so you proceed with underpowered decks to match it before absolutely getting wrecked by an optimized and tuned deck. Because of this, people can naturally be suspicious, and there is a point to where defending your deck's power level can go overboard. A lot of this comes down to social interaction and your ability to politic through a game. Sometimes you have to show them how the deck plays and be hated out in the process before people realize you were never the threat. While this can seem to be disheartening and shut you down from the game, it's always important to try to not hold hard feelings or grudges between games, or to base opinions off of how other people played against you in the past. Just because some people were mistrusting of a deck's power level, doesn't mean you should go into the next game with a stronger deck and only target the person who previously targeted you the most. Try the deck again, explain why your deck did what it did or didn't do what it was supposed to, and try to talk your opponents into giving you another chance! If this still doesn't work and you are continually hated out solely based on the commander, then it sounds like your playgroup as a whole is reluctant to try new decks. Either way, do your best, and embrace the jank!
The Cleanup Step
Hope you all enjoyed this episode of the Scrambleverse! I want to thank my playgroup who helped give advice and opinions on this deck and everyone who gave me great comments on my previous article! What did you think of this deck? How would you make it better? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
I have several ideas coming up for future articles, including Kess, Dissident Mage Politics and letting opponents make decisions, Ramos, Dragon Engine upkeep tribal, Saskia the Unyielding where you only target yourself, and Child of Alara awakening and land creatures! Do you have any ideas for weird, unconventional builds for well known and developed commanders? Let me know in the comments!