Part 1. The introduction
So Enchantress decks has been around since Alpha. Or almost. At least Verduran Enchantress has been around since Alpha.
In the Old School metagame, we very rarely see the fine lady at the top tables. I think that is a pity. In this series of five, it is my goal to Make Enchantress Great Again. In short I want more Old School players to enjoy making Magic with this beautiful lady.
Because I am the megalomaniac I am, I have decided to build several decks within each overarching archetype of the game. Hence there will be an AggroChantress article, a Midrange/ControlChantress article, a Control/PrisonChantress one and finally a ComboChantress article.
To help me build the decks and playtest them as well as discuss what I am doing, I have allied myself with several Danish Old School Magic-players who all share the very delightful trait, that they have some experience playing this wonderful card.
But before we get to all of that, in this article, I will discuss Enchantress – the card and the deck-type – in broader terms, and maybe provide a little history lesson.
The one and only – the ladiest of the ladies
In my research to this article and in several conversations I have had with a wide range of Old School Magic-players it has struck me how often the guys playing Verduran Enchantress are really invested in it. For them, the Enchantress is not just another card. It is not just a potentially potent draw engine, nor is it simply a fun way to play something spicy. It is more than that. They really want to make the deck work. They really want to make her shine. One could say, that they often almost feel… wait for it… Enchanted!
Yep, I am a father of two little children, and I am not very well rested, while writing this. But I mean it. Often it almost feels like the Enchantress players see it as some kind of life’s work to build the optimal – or, let’s face it, just working – Enchantress deck.
And who can blame them. Look at this beauty:
“Some say magic was first practiced by women, who have always felt strong ties to the land.”
It is no secret that some of my all-time favorite Magic card arts are Lightning Bolt and Icy Manipulator. Apparently I have quite the affinity for lightning. But this artwork is also high on my list, and slowly, but steadily crawling ever further up.
I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about the woman on the card that is so enchanting (sorry, but it is the appropriate word here…). It has something to do with her hair being one with the forest, the rose, and her nails growing into the branches of the tree. She is very much one with nature. So natural, but also very powerful.
One could, of course also read a lot of sensuality or even sexuality into the painting. I don’t know about you, but I had quite the Danish language teacher at my school. She had some very juicy… interpretations of some of the classics we read. And this woman; just lying there, with nothing but sheets wrapped around her. And is that? Is that not smoke she is blowing out? And that rose? What could it possibly be a representation of?
I don’t know, but I would argue, that Serra Angel has quite the competitor in this lady. Maybe more subtle, but it is definitely there…
History of the Enchantress deck
Enough of that. Excuse my horrible art interpretation. I admit it is not my strong side.
So let’s face to something else. The history of the Enchantress deck.
I have read several places, by very gifted Old School content creators (here and here), that one of the first successful uses of the Verduran Enchantress was actually in a combo deck back in 1995 after Ice Age was released. The deck was all about playing out all your permanents and then starting to chain Regrowths into Timetwisters, at some point killing your opponent with – well, basically anything… We will get back to this in part 5: ComboChantress.
From 1995 on to about 1998 I haven’t been able to find anything really interesting in the Enchantress department.
But then this saw print:
Now that sparked some interest, turned some heads and ignited a new take on the archetype. Our natural beauties were dusted off, and put back into sleeves!
Enchantress became a thing in the Extended format, playing 4 Verduran and 4 Argothian Enchantresses. It was kind of an aggro/control deck often winning by drawing almost your entire deck, playing it, sacking it to Auratog and swinging in. You can find a (rather cool) sample decklist, as well as a tournament report, here https://articles.starcitygames.com/premium/yawgmoths-whimsy-19-enchantress-decks-in-extended/.
You could, of course, also just play and enchant Yavimaya Enchantresses and kill your opponent with some, “… not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn” ladies. (Yes, I just quoted Lady Galadriel. She is cool, and I believe she is quite the Enchantress. It is suited. I stand by it). https://www.mtgvault.com/platypusrexx/decks/extended-enchantress/
This aggro approach may not have been the first successful deck with Argothian Enchantress. There was also some deck with Survival of the Fittest. But it only existed for a very short time, before it got hit by the banhammer – simply for being too ridiculous. Maybe one should try these things out in Premodern…?
Anyway, in October 2002 another card was printed, to further strengthen the archetype:
Yep. That did it for our beautiful Alpha lady. She was shown the door. No more room for her in the decks bearing her name. She was simply outclassed. The printing of Enchantress’ Presence made the deck a force to be reckoned with. It also made sure, that when the Legacy format was born, an Enchantress deck had a place in it.
Since then several more enchantress effects have been printed, making it possible to even play the strategy in singleton formats like Commander and Canadian Highlander.
But it is still almost exclusively the Argothian Enchantress and the Enchantress’ Presence that see play in non-singleton formats. Only very recently another “Enchantress” sometimes joins the ranks, simply because it is absolutely ridiculously powerful. The Setessan Champion.
Out of respect for our Alpha lady in the wild, I will refrain from posting a picture of the Champion. Showing off such extreme power creep within a single article would very possibly embarrass her. I can’t get myself to do it…
So, the Enchantress strategy actually has quite the pedigree. It has, in various forms, and basically all major formats (except for Vintage – or at least, I haven’t been able to find any relevant, successful decklists), been a deck to consider, when packing your backpack to go to the local gamestore or bar to play some games. It still shows up here and there in Legacy top8s. https://www.mtgtop8.com/archetype?a=91
I honestly don’t think there are many other defined strategies that have seen competitive play from 1995 until today. Only archetypes like Combo, Aggro and Control can be compared. But those are fundamental archetypes, not strategies. Enchantress as a strategy is not in the same way fundamental, but it certainly has a greater history in the game, than I actually realized before setting off to write this. The only other strategies I can think of that comes close in pedigree are Burn and Reanimator. But burn is – in my view – closer to being an archetype. And I don’t think Reanimator has seen as much success over as long a period of time.
Now I get why the players and brewers who always strive to make working, winning Enchantress decks in Old School are so dedicated! History demands their work! The damsel herself demands it!
And this series is my official plea to join the brotherhood of Enchantress players and brewers out there.
What to learn from history?
To kick of my series of Enchantress decktech, maybe it would be a great idea to reach out to above history, and maybe learn a thing or two.
First of all, it is pretty obvious that – apart from the very first decks – the Enchantress strategy has seen the most success in a midrange or controllish shell. It makes sense, as most of the Enchantments, you would want to play, are rather slow permanents who will in some way or another try to control the game. And the card in the center of it all costs 1GG. That is a midrange CC if I ever saw one.
We won’t learn anything here, as we will build decks within all major archetypes.
The Enchantress decks wasn’t really great, until the printing of Argothian Enchantress and hence the possibility to play more than four Enchantress effects. Unfortunately, we can’t play more than four unless we cheat.
And that may prone the question: Why even play Verduran Enchantress in Old School, if not only for the kicks and unadulterated spice? Well, because the card is a draw engine. That is not something we see a lot in our format. There are only a handful of playable cards able to give you real card advantage, and playing an Old School match is a brutal fight for resources. Drawing extra cards is rare, but very potent!
And that forces us to ask a related question: What is the optimal number of enchantments in an Enchantress deck?
Well, that, of course, depends…
In a deck with 8-10 enchantress effects (where four of them are even enchantments themselves) the enchantress strategy is overwhelmingly the focus of the deck. We can only play four and thus have to accept the fact, that we will play a lot of games, where we simply will not draw one. Therefore we should consider playing fewer enchantments, and only treat the Enchantress strategy as a secondary focus, or a simply an occasional engine. But that would also make the Verduran Enchantress worse, when we get to play her, because she won’t draw us any cards.
Quite the conundrum!
I think a safe bet is to play at least 15 enchantments, if you want to actually draw some cards off the Enchantress, once you draw and play her.
When browsing through some of the historic decks from Extended and Legacy, 15 don’t seem entirely out of place.
These are a girl’s best friends
In Old School I would argue that Verduran Enchantress has some very good friends, and you have to have some good reasons not to play them. These cards:
And, to a lesser extent, these
I know I will probably get some raised eyebrows for the Avoid Fate, and I know there are two blue enchant creature cards, that can help protect our Enchantress (Anti Magic Aura, Spectral Cloak), but I think Avoid Fate is the best option, we have, to protect her. And it also protects our precious enchantments. All for the cost of one G. I know it is not a very played card, but I will probably stuff it in almost all the decklists to come in this series, because: for our Enchantress to draw us some cards, she has to be alive!
Besides these, some of the most impactful or great enchantments in our format are these:
Also, of course, Moat, Chains of Mephistopheles, Nether Void, Lich, Drop of Honey, but unfortunately I don’t own copies of these (and probably never will).
There are a total of 163 different enchantment cards when playing Swedish banlist as I do. That is not a lot to go on. But I believe there are enough relevant enchantments to build several decks of each major archetype.
The interesting thing about the Enchantment card type is, that this is where we really start to cheat. Think about it: it is the Enchantments that break the rules of the game: Makes creatures able to attack the turn they enter play; removes the untap step; makes lands produce an extra mana when tapped; allows you to play more than one land a turn; makes everything cost more mana and so on.
Besides the great cards already mentioned, with enchantments we can: damage opponents…
… dismantle creatures…
… “kill” lands…
… And we can even make our own creatures stronger:
There are, in other words, a lot of options to be played with, when playing with enchantments. And if you even draw a card each time, you play one of these cards; you are in very good shape.
This bodes well.
About the rest of the series
So, as I already mentioned, the series will be in five parts. You are almost through the first one of general chatter. The next four articles will be decktechs with 2-3 different takes on Enchantress decks for different archetypes.
The next one will be on Aggro Enchantress, then Midrange/Control, then Prison and lastly I will write something about Enchantress combo deck and wrap the series up.
In each of the articles I will make sure to explain why I make the different choices, and – as mentioned – I will consult with experts. The decks will primarily be theoretic exercises, as I probably wont have time nor opportunity to test them all thoroughly. I will try to test them, when possible.
An important note: I strive to make playable, or even good decks, but I also think it is rather boring always to start a decklist with every restricted card. So I will try to refrain from doing that in every deck. There will be one deck in every article that is the “Tier1-wannabe”. Those decks will be fully powered.
I am not sure when the different parts will be published, but I imagine it will be during the coming months. I have to buy some more weird cards for the decks, and the European postal system seems to be a bit off these days.
Part 3. The Midrange/Control deck
Part 4. The Control/Prison deck
Part 5. The Combo deck