Part 3. The Midrange/Control deck
Oh yes! More writings on Verduran Enchantress! The next piece of the MEGA series! I know, you’ve missed it sorely the last couple of weeks (and my sincerest apologies for being so slow to write this piece. I guess life hit me, and forced me to spend my evenings watching stupid television shows and drinking Whisky, instead of writing stupid Magic articles and drinking Whisky).
But now we are finally here! We are about to look at some really nice decks – if I may say so – conjured up by none other than yours truly and the trifecta consisting of the immortalized kings among men, true Keldon Warlords among Kobolds, Christian Arent, Jonas Brincher Nielsen and Lasse Kramer Andersen.
You know the drill. I have ventured out to build playable, and – not least – fun, beautiful Old School Magic decks for each over-arching deck type. The catch? All decks has to include about 15 Enchantments and 4 Verduran Enchantress.
That last one is not a very tall order. As I have already mentioned several times, not only is Verduran Enchantress a very beautiful card, it is also a strong one. Given the right circumstances. Which is a removal-free zone with a steady stream of Enchantments off the top and a lot of time.
Let’s see where we will go today, as we try to build the best possible Midrange/controlChantress decks!
As always; first a definition
So, I guess we all have some kind of common understanding as to what a Control deck is. It is often a relatively slow deck that seek to control either the board (removal effects, often mass-removal) the stack (counterspells) or both, while drawing enough cards (course you Jayemdae Tome!) to suddenly have an extreme advantage and then win with some random creature, spell or land (damn you Mishra’s Factory!).
But what is a midrange deck?
I have come across two rather interesting definitions on the great Web:
“A typical midrange deck has an early game plan of mana ramp and control, but begins to play threats once it reaches four to six mana. A midrange deck will often seek to play a reactive, attrition-based game against aggro decks and a more proactive, tempo-based game against control decks. Colloquially, this is referred to as “going bigger” than aggro and “getting in under” control.”
“A midrange deck has no clear focus; instead, it adapts to the opposite role of whatever the opposing deck is playing.”
Right. I actually think both these – but especially the first – definitions are great, for what we want to do today, and for what we can do with the Lady in the Wild.
Often midrange is referred to as the fourth major archetype (along with Control, Combo and Aggro). I have instead chosen to bundle it together with control. There is some merit to doing this, while I think the term midrange refers to a newer sort of Magic, than what we play in Old School. I could have just left the term out, and called this ControlChantress, but I think that would also be a little off the mark, as several of the coming decks cannot be defined as pure control, at least not if compared to the mightiest of the mighty control decks in our format: THE DECK (dan, dan, daaaaaaaan!).
Well. Don’t put too much thought into it. It is not that important. I just wanted to make so many control-prison-midrange-ish decks, that I spread them out over two articles.
This means, that in this article we build decks that:
- uses the attack step to win;
- will not start attacking before turn 4-5 at the earliest (unless crazy starts full of power);
- has many different tools at their disposal to be able to handle and play against a wide range of foes;
- does not lock the opponent down
And that is basically the definition for midrange in my view. And for this article.
As always the goal is to build fun decks – possibly with great cards we don’t see too often – but we also have at least one deck, that we actually think has some merit to it, and that I would dare to recommend playing – even if playing for winning!
Playing midrange, we may even have more than one Tier1-contender! And we have an impressive 7 decks to look at today (no red cards, though)!
Just read on…
We fling ourselves right into the midst of it. Jonas Brincher – the guy who never leaves his house without at least one Verduran Enchantress in his pocket – of course has several lists of great Verduran Enchantress decks (this is the first of two in this article). This is one of his favorite to play. It eschews playing blue for playing cool white and green cards.
As I mentioned in the first MEGA-article, it is often as if Enchantress players in Old School feel an almost religious obligation to try to make the card and deck work. One of the guys I was thinking about, when writing that, was Jonas. I have seen him play this deck, or variations thereof, several times, but I have never seen him play it in a final. This doesn’t mean that he has ever given up the thought of playing this deck, and making it a contender. He keeps on tweaking, to find just the right amount of Force of Nature, Spirit Link and Avoid Fates in the deck.
But what is it that is so great about this deck?
Well… First of all the looks of it. I really enjoy looking at Old School decks without blue cards in them. I know it may sound stupid – and don’t get me wrong, I almost always play blue cards myself – but it just seems more… right. More true to the format. More diverse! When you don’t have to save 10-15 spots for blue and other restricted cards, you suddenly have a lot more room, for cool cards from the yore. That is also one reason why I don’t auto-slam all the moxen in the decks I present in these articles.
Anyway. Jonas has been kind enough to do my work for me, so he has written some words about the deck and his love for the Lady in the Wild:
“I love Verduran Enchantress and Force of Nature, and have done so ever since my 11 year-old-eyes first saw Unlimited versions of both in the collection of an older friend. It was love at first sight. They are both iconic, beautiful and very powerful cards in their own way.
I have made several G/W Enchantress lists, played quite a few of them and discarded even more. The main concern about the Enchantress deck in any color, is that when having to pack those 12+ enchantments in the deck you must give up quite a lot of those “stables” that usually wins you the game. Not adding blue frees up some nice space for brewing and spicing things up, but still you need some wincons, and I want my Enchantress’ to be backed by an army of nature and divinity, so here is one of my more competitive yet fun and spicy versions of the G/W Enchantress called “Spice Girls” V. 1.1
It’s a quite classical and somewhat straight forward midrange leaning towards lategame strategy with some fun twists, that wants to deploy ramp/manafixing in forms of the Bird, Wild Growth or the Land Tax on the first turn, so that it can ideally get the Enchantress down on turn 2 and maybe follow up with a big threat on turn 3 or at latest 4 in forms of the Erhnams or Serra Angels.
Another way of playing it out after hopefully getting down a quick or at least on curve Enchantress is to follow her up with a range of cheap enchantments and get the draw engine going. The Sylvan Libraries help set up this plan.
I have played more “Enchantment heavy” builds with only 2 Disenchants and no Swords, but often find myself overrun by Factories, Lions, Serendibs and other nastyness, so here I have tried to beat the competition by going full white removal. This serves for quite an effective basic removal package keeping those early threats down and giving you time to build up your board and hopefully get the “Enchantress train” running.
Kismet slows your opponent quite effectively and the Power Leeches are amazing in an environment of endless artifacts tapping and activating left and right. Going into the later game the Skull of Orm and the Remove enchantments will give you a chance to bring back some of the “juice” to keep the lovely ladies satisfied and enchanting, and if you need to protect her. And trust me you do. Always keep an Avoid Fate close to you before you execute the masterplan and shatter the remains of your opponents by slamming down Force of Nature and perfecting life by playing your Spirit Link on it. They will run away screaming. Enjoy and Cheers.”
… Jonas right back in. But now in my words. He also shared a BG spicy brew list he played a in a Danish Spice Tournament – the LISC – Long Island Spice Cup. There are some rules for deckbuilding with a 7-point system and a very strong incentive to play cards, not otherwise often seen. I’d say, Jonas nailed it:
My take on a BG midrange Verduran Enchantress is very close to Jonas’ list, but being freed from the restrictions of the point-system I can take some liberties, Jonas couldn’t:
I only added some restricted cards, and removed some of Jonas’ signature cards (shh, don’t tell him! It is just because I don’t own as sexy a Force of Nature as he does!). I kept the VERY school-yardy synergy of Bog Wraith alongside Evil Presence, because it is cool, even though maybe not that good. But if you just once field a Wraith with UNHOLY Strength and your opponent has no means of blocking him. Damn it, dude, you want to feel that mighty again!
I may have gone too light on the threats in my list, but remember them birds are vicious, when imbued with Unholy Strength. I also agree that my deck is somewhat more boring to look at, than Jonas’ above list. But I like it none the less.
Actually, I must say this is one of my favorite decks of the entire article. Maybe of the entire MEGA-series. I admit, it is not very good in a powered, tier1-metagame, but it is one of the decks that most closely resemble something I could have played in my middle-school years. I simply can’t wait to play it in my non-powered play group once this idiot of a pandemic is over!
This list is heavily inspired by the one presented here. It is just such a great way to use Verduran Enchantress along with some of the strongest cards in the format.
The Greed and The Abyss should of course be Ifh-Biff Efreets. But alas, I cannot afford those anymore. And I didn’t want to hurt your eyes with proxies. Make what you want of my highly political choice of stand-ins…
In this list, it is easy to see how we have several different tools at our disposal.
Control Magic and Copy Artifact are just very strong! Swords to Plowshares is always crazy good. Serendib Efreet needs no mention and Ifh-Biff is actually a lot better, than what it gets credit (and playtime) for. Especially with a Spirit Link attached to it. Spirit Link is also great on the Serendibs. And it can act as a semi-removal as well as make our Sylvan Libraries actually draw us extra cards.
As we all know, Mishra’s Factory is a very strong card. Imagine it being indestructible. Yep, that is exactly what Consecrate Land does, and this is no small feat!
And then, of course, I have to mention Remove Enchantments. It is just really a great card in this deck. If you have Spirit Linked your opponents turn two Su-Chi but have later found your Ifh-Biff; When you have Copy Artifacted your Mox, but suddenly sees a Chaos Orb; If your Consecrate Land or Control Magic is on the wrong target; Or simply if you have one of your Enchantresses out and want to draw a handful of cards. Remove Enchantments is your man!
I can see arguments for upping the number of Control Magic and maybe Copy Artifact (depending on your meta), and you could most certainly add some Disenchants or maybe Energy Flux to the main. Sylvan Library may be a bit too much as a 3-off and if you can find room for it, maybe some countermagic would be a good advice – again, I have to mention Avoid Fate. Braingeyser is left out because there is already a lot of card-draw going on in the deck. But Braingeyser being Braingeyser, it should probably be in there somewhere. Finally Moat could most certainly be added, but I don’t own any, and they stop your indestructible Factories.
I’d say this is Tier-contender. Maybe not Tier1, but if you join an Old School Tournament with these 60 (and 15 more in the side) in your backpack, you are not only in for some fun and challenging games, you are also probably in for some wins. It is not a bad deck, and the Verduran Enchantress is actually an important centerpiece, although the deck can easily play without her.
This is a deck I have been working on for quite some time. Some weeks ago a deck very similar to what I was brewing was played by Gordon Anderson at his Wak-Wak channel – it’s the “Blue Enchantress” deck featured here.
This is where we are really starting to lean on the heavy control decks. This deck will win by attacking (at least most often), but it has a lot of other plans, and it really tries to control the board with and by all means.
I have two versions of the deck: one that splashes black for restricted cards and Animate Dead; and one that is purely UG.
The black-splashing version leans on Animate Dead to either also steal dead creatures from opponents grave, or to simply recur Trisks to kill your foe off (Skull of Orm fetches your Animate Dead right back). It is very similar to Christians deck below, but with a heavier control plan. It is probably also worse than Christians deck…
The UG version has an important Transmute Artifact package, and wants to copy Chaos Orbs until the opponent cries. Or simply play and copy a lot of Icy Manipulators, maybe even killing the opponent by tapping his Psychic Venomed lands. That is fun!
The UG deck is more controlling and close to being a prison deck (but there is no actual prison, and we still very often kill with our own creatures, or copies thereof). Of course the optimal version of especially the UG deck, would include more moxen, but, as mentioned, I find it rather boring to always add all the moxen, so I try to only play the on-color ones in most of these decks.
There are some nice Synergies in the decks. Time Elemental is a great card, that can do all sorts of tricks together with Copy Artifact, Control Magic, Animate Dead, Triskelion and not least Dance of Many (for those not in on the joke: when you play Dance of Many a trigger goes on the stack, creating a token of a creature, if you Time Elemental Dance back to your hand before resolving the trigger, you get a “free” token, that doesn’t die when Dance of Many leaves the battlefield, because that happens even before the token comes into play).
I would prefer the UG deck (which, coincidentally I am also only one Triskelion short of being able to play in Sweden! Nice!). I am not sure which version is the better, but if I want to play BUG, I would probably play Christians deck below instead. I am, however, convinced that both decks will stand a fair chance at winning games at your local pub. If you just remember to bring some Counterspells and Blue Elemental Blasts for your sideboard, this is a real deal!
This is a deck Christian Arent has developed and played to some success (LINK). It is also probably the closest we will get to a Tier1-deck in this article, in other words, I present to you this evenings Tier1-Contender ™:
There is an immense beauty – and Greed – to the list. Yes, exactly, pun intended. When I asked Christian, if we could ditch the fourth color, he replied: “But white is just so… comfy…” Truer word has probably never been spoken. Disenchant and Swords to Plowshares are just so powerful. Oh, also Balance. But I still think it looks very greedy. And it gets worse, as not only Verduran Enchantress, but also Counterspell/Mana Drain requires double colored mana to be cast. I imagine we must have some awkward situations sometimes, wanting to counter something in turn 2, and cast Enchantress turn 3. But Christian was rather convincing that it hadn’t posed a real problem for him, when playing the deck. You can see Christian play a slightly different version of the deck here.
Apart from maybe shaving a color, I didn’t have many suggestions. The deck is strong. It is perfectly capable of playing and winning without ever seeing an Enchantress, but if a Lady lands on our board, the deck can practically go off!
It is basically a pile of very strong cards, with a whole lot of synergies between them. When I asked Christian what he would consider changing, he uttered the words that almost every Old School deckbuilder whispers to himself once – or twice – in a while:
“This deck could probably be optimized – for example by adding a couple of Living Artifact.”
Yep, we all know the feeling. Through sweat and tears, shaving and optimizing on our 60 cards, we find ourselves with a list, but not quite the list. We almost always end up at the same feeling: How to find a spot or two for Living Artifact?
Joke aside, Living Artifact would probably be a good idea. Some way to gain life would be great, because games with this deck can easily go long. There are not a lot of options in the Enchantment department. Alongside Living Artifact, we have Dark Heart of the Wood and Powerleech. The first one requires us to kill our own Forests, which is not a great deal in this deck, but Powerleech could be an option (though another double mana-requirement may not be what we are looking for).
When playing white we do, of course, also have access to Spirit Link, which could also work. But I think Living Artifact is probably the best idea. If you are to build the deck, the Living Artifacts should replace cards that are not Enchantments, I’d say. We are a bit low on the Enchantment-side with only 12. I think I would ditch a land and a Counterspell. This change would make the deck slightly more Enchantress/Enchantment dependent, but we have to cut something.
Special mention: Sleeping Beauty walls deck
Right – this is not one of the Tier-decks. At least not any Tier my five-year-old can count to.
But it is nice – and it is something as rare as a budget Old School deck!
A walls deck!
Walls surrounding our beautiful lady in the wild? I love it. It is not my creation – I saw the deck here: Timmy The Sorcerer on YouTube.
I made a couple of minor changes to it, and because I don’t own any Swords of the Ages, I added a couple of Force of Nature and a Skull of Orm (to get back the Animate Wall if one of my Wall of Swords or Canivorous Plants has failed in showing who is boss).
This deck is not that great in terms of power. I admit it. But oh my I like it. There is just a great feel to it. The Enchantress as the sleeping beauty in the middle of the Wild, surrounded by walls until she is able to awaken the Force of Nature! It is great story-telling in a deck.
I would say, though, that maybe Spirit Link is not the correct card here. It is great on the Force, but it seems underwhelming all in all. I think I most often want to use it as semi-removal instead of putting it on one of my walls. That seems sub-par. But of course, if you are fielding an Animated Wall of Swords with Spirit Link, you are just flying head-first all the way to valuetown!
If you are looking for a way to play a walls deck, give this a shot. If you want to win the next derby, keep looking (and don’t play a walls deck – unless you also pack some heat in the Sideboard).
What a great pile of piles of cards!
These are beautiful decks, if I ever saw beautiful decks. They are actually also rather playable all of them (okay, maybe not the Walls-deck…). Of course the ones with blue cards in them are closer to tournament-winning potential than the others, but they are also less spicy, and will raise less eyebrows in admiration and awe.
There is no doubt that Verduran Enchantress fits MUCH better in a midrange-controlish shell, than in the aggro shell we looked at last time. This comes as no surprise, but the difference is rather astounding. These decks are actually functioning – and the Enchantress can play a vital part, and form an important engine in all of them. In the aggro decks, she was more a liability, I am afraid.
I regret not posting a single red card in the above 8 (EIGHT!) decklists. I thought of building something, but there are simply not that many great, red Enchantments, and in a midrange shell I don’t even want to play the fiery color for the possibility of casting deadly X-spells. Cards I thought about building around include Blood Moon, Manabarbs, Smoke or even Raging River, but as these are the most interesting red Enchantments for a midrange deck, I guess you see why I didn’t venture further down that road. Maybe in the next MEGA-article on prison decks…
Thanks for reading! Please share your midrange Enchantress decklists, or tell me where I am wrong in the above lists.
Please find the other parts of the MEGA-series here:
Part 4: The Control/Prison deck
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