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Jun 01 2015

My First Article For MTGCasualPlay – And A Primer

Introduction

Hey all, cailtis (KALE – tiss) here for the first time on MTGCasualPlay.com. For simplicity’s sake, my alias online has been shortened to just “cail” (a nickname for a nickname, if you will), so that make addressing myself easier :). I am a student in the United States with a long-standing relationship with games of all sorts — I have had family members within the video game production and software industry, I have groups of friends to play several PC games with online, my extended family for board/card games for family functions, and of course — my playgroup for Magic and other tabletop games. As a more reserved casual player now, I mainly just play EDH but I still enjoy sealed and draft events for new set releases and the like.

My interest in EDH lies within similar incentives that most others play — we planeswalkers like to create and test decks, find card interactions, build themes, and assemble ridiculous board states that simply are not feasible in any other format setting. My favorite color combinations within the format has to be Sultai (BUG) with Esper coming in for second. My favorite commander since my first game in the format has been [card]Damia, Sage of Stone[/card] and will probably remain her for a really long time (essentially until another Sultai general is printed with her kind of versatility and resilience). I also like to name my decks based off of tunes that come to my head when I think of the atmosphere of the deck (“Am I Evil?” by Diamond Head for a WB deck, for example).

Now let’s sling some spells, already!

You Want To Build What?

My first deck to present to this platform is my 5-color monstrosity, called It Ain’t Like That (named after the Alice in Chains song of the same title). It is perhaps the most exploratory list I’ve created thus far, primarily due to the amount of risks that were taken to streamline its victory potential — it’s a deck idea that could have been (and has been) played much more conservatively, but with less variance and less intrigue overall.

I hadn’t yet built a deck that focused on capitalizing on one specific card type yet. I looked at enchantment-oriented decks, and they all were lame voltron-style aura-stack decks or combo-wacky builds fronted by [card]Hanna, Ship’s Navigator[/card] or [card]Zur the Enchanter[/card] that had a bit too much firepower for my liking. Previously-made “enchantress” decks I looked for inspiration either were geared towards aggressive tutoring and comboing, or pillowforting and then spamming ways to play and buff tokens. The latter deck had the right idea, but I disliked rolling the dice on trying to win with tokens — it would also force me to allocate a great deal of cool enchantment slots to stupid anthems or similar enchantments. I wanted to explore the variety of global effects that non-Aura enchantments could offer — I was intrigued by somehow including cards like [card]Quest for Ancient Secrets[/card] and [card]Possibility Storm[/card] in the same build for wide versatility. I needed all five colors… removal, mana and hand fixing, board control, defense, and a way to win. Jank was born.

Some Challenges

Progenitus 5 Color Control EDH Deck Primer

What enchantments in every color didn’t provide me was time and agility. On top of the typical challenges for builders of 5-color decks (obtaining the necessary mana fixing, balancing tempo with card/graveyard advantages, unifying a theme), I had given myself the added inconvenience of having to balance these sorts of needs with perhaps the most underrated and inflexible permanent type in the game of Magic. Enchantments with Flash (useful enchantments, at that) were few are far between, and it appeared that my old-trusted reliance on countermagic and permission-denying instants was no longer any help. I was forced to reevaluate the balance the ability to prevent defeat and the ability to avoid defeat.

There are few 5-color generals that would directly benefit this deck theme. In the least, [card]Child of Alara[/card] can be used as a last-ditch equalizer for hairy boardstates, and with indestructible effects on the field, this baby can pull off a one-sided board wipe. But alas, the chances of that are incredibly slim. Hell, the chances of being able to pop the death triggered ability are fairly unpredictable for this deck as is. [card]Scion of the Ur-Dragon[/card] was also considered as an evasive beater and also to shuffle sometimes, but [card]Soothsaying[/card] and cascade deck-manipulation was too infrequent… and, you know, [card]Soothsaying[/card] can already shuffle. [card]Progenitus[/card] was ultimately chosen, but it’s clear there is really no clear commander choice for a deck of this type.

All My Favorites In One Big Mess

I got to play enchantments. I got to play control. I got to play politics. I got to play some resource/tempo denial like stax decks. I got to sit behind an unanswerable pillowfort wall. I could also win, or put up at least one hell of a fight. Perhaps the greatest success of sitting down with this deck every week with my playgroup (I try to crack it out for at least one round on our weekly game night) is its ability to play almost entirely on the main phase of my turn — allowing me to enjoy the social aspect of casual EDH play (one of my other favorites of bringing the planeswalkers together every week to play) like no one else — but also interact with the board, experience successes and failures, and even unleash some chaos every now and then on the battlefield.

Deck Composition and Goals

It Ain’t Like That is built almost entirely out of enchantments — with only a few exceptions for the blow-out [card]Enduring Ideal[/card], [card]Avacyn, Angel of Hope[/card], and a little mana fixing. Almost every spell in the deck is played during the player’s respective main phase. A typical opening hand consists of lands and either a controlling global enchantment or a shielding global enchantment, possibly both. A defensive strategy of deploying self-interested defenses is first displayed which aids the player in avoiding fire from across the table. As the match continues, enchantment effects stack up and opponents are given less opportunities to cast spells, respond to the player’s spells, and attack through the player’s network of pillowfort-like walls. The deck succeeds when it can establish a boardstate seemingly untouchable by the opposing planeswalkers — a grindy win is then revealed through the use of upkeep-based damage or swarms of growing token armies. Most enchantments in the deck provide utility in protecting the player, controlling the actions of the other players, or providing the means to theoretically win.

The Deck

[deck title=It Aint Like That: 5-Color Enchantment Control]

[A Commander]

*1 Progenitus

[/A Commander]

[Fixing and Advantage]

*1 Awakening Zone

*1 Eidolon of Blossoms

*1 Phyrexian Arena

*1 Soothsaying

*1 Enchantress’s Presence

*1 Honden of Seeing Winds

*1 Mana Bloom

*1 Chromatic Lantern

*1 Erebos, God of the Dead

*1 Dream Halls

*1 Enduring Ideal

*1 Maelstrom Nexus

[/Fixing and Advantage]

[Removal]

*1 Seal of Cleansing

*1 Nevermore

*1 Doomwake Giant

*1 Aura of Silence

*1 Spreading Plague

*1 Tainted Aether

*1 Detention Sphere

*1 Necrotic Plague

[/Removal]

[Rattlesnake]

*1 War Tax

*1 Karmic Justice

*1 Lilting Refrain

*1 Cloud Cover

*1 Mogis, God of Slaughter

[/Rattlesnake]

[Protection]

*1 Ground Seal

*1 Sphere of Safety

*1 Mystic Barrier

*1 Spirit of Resistance

*1 Privileged Position

*1 Honden of Cleansing Fire

*1 Propaganda

*1 Dega Sanctuary

*1 Elephant Grass

*1 Story Circle

*1 Sterling Grove

*1 Ghostly Prison

*1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope

*1 Solitary Confinement

*1 Ivory Mask

*1 Indestructibility

*1 Exquisite Blood

*1 Copy Enchantment

*1 Collective Restraint

[/Protection]

[Recursion]

*1 Wheel of Sun and Moon

*1 Quest for Ancient Secrets

*1 Faith’s Reward

[/Recursion]

[Denial]

*1 Possibility Storm

*1 Stony Silence

*1 City of Solitude

*1 Eidolon of Rhetoric

*1 Blind Obedience

*1 Honden of Night’s Reach

*1 Rule of Law

*1 Arcane Laboratory

*1 Stranglehold

[/Denial]

[Grinding Damage, Combat]

*1 Citadel of Pain

*1 Necra Sanctuary

*1 Honden of Life’s Web

*1 Assemble the Legion

*1 Honden of Infinite Rage

*1 Sanguine Bond

[/Grinding Damage, Combat]

[Lands]

*1 Sandsteppe Citadel

*1 Opulent Palace

*1 Command Tower

*1 City of Brass

*1 Hallowed Fountain

*1 Overgrown Tomb

*1 Temple Garden

*1 Stomping Ground

*1 Blood Crypt

*1 Rootbound Crag

*1 Drowned Catacomb

*1 Dragonskull Summit

*1 Sunpetal Grove

*1 Isolated Chapel

*1 Glacial Fortress

*1 Hinterland Harbor

*1 Reliquary Tower

*1 Nomad Outpost

*1 Breeding Pool

*1 Arcane Sanctum

*1 Watery Grave

*1 Sacred Foundry

*1 Steam Vents

*1 Godless Shrine

*1 Wooded Foothills

*1 Windswept Heath

*1 Bloodstained Mire

*1 Tolaria West

*3 Plains

*2 Forest

*2 Swamp

*1 Mountain

*1 Island

[/Lands]

[/deck]

A Game Plan

Maelstrom Nexus 5 Color Commander Deck

What the deck effectively does for the first few turns is fix its own drawing power, find the colors and lands it needs to play early-game walls (actually fairly easy with fetching and triple-color lands), and play those early-game walls. It should be established around the table at this point too that your deck is simply “just another shitty pillowfort deck”. The middle of the game is designed to observe the threats currently on board, investigate who currently have targets painted on their heads, and establish a more specific game plan… depending on your draws here, one might have to resign to a more grindy game that relies on seeking political alliances and paying attention to little upkeep effects. Ideally, drawing into one of the “punter” cards (the last couple in the “Fixing and Advantage” section of the decklist) ([card]Enduring Ideal[/card], [card]Maelstrom Nexus[/card], [card]Dream Halls[/card]) at this stage in the game will fast forward you into the late game as a real contender for last man standing. This is also usually accompanied by one’s first few cloak effects for their rather-large commitment to the board ([card]Sterling Grove[/card], [card]Privileged Position[/card]) and the first (if not the few first) globally-controlling enchantments of the player’s game, that will warp the tempo of the match in the player’s favor ([card]Rule of Law[/card], [card]Possibility Storm[/card]). Sadly, sometimes the player can be gunned down during this mid-game stage as well, either due to being preyed upon by a more aggressive player that is simply trying to move the game along or due to a far too aggressive start (remedied by holding excess walls and oppressive control elements in hand for later — don’t overextend!).

The late game is usually the fun bit for this deck. Where the beginning parts of the match allows me to lean back in my chair and play backseat conscientious objector, I now lean in on the table and the poker face comes out. There is longer any mistaking it; the deck can steal a win at this point, and its boardstate says no different. If opponents are still too concerned with each other (perhaps an explosive [card]Genesis Wave[/card] is resolved or something similar), precious time here can be made to either recover from an enchantment wipe or fill in the necessary holes in the player’s boardstate for inevitable victory. In the perfect boardstate, two different cloak effects compliment one another so that no enchantments on your board can be targeted at all; a fallback trench of protection is held within either an indestructibility-giver or a clutch [card]Faith’s Reward[/card] cast. Engines to draw cards, gain life, vomit tokens, deal damage, and the like will be in place and will continue to stack on top of one another. Lastly, a negation of combat or any damage at all (the infamous [card]Solitary Confinement[/card]) is set in place so that a pure feeling of doom sweeps the battlefield and disheartens your opponents. Ultimately, this deck never has seen a victory firsthand; despite this, it still has the ability to win a grindy victory, which is all opponents need to see to scoop after fully realizing the extent of your untouchable board state.

Suggestions For Establishing The Lockdown

– Make sure to only cast [card]Enduring Ideal[/card] when you are ready to search up the last one or two pieces of an invincible board — protection is priority!

– [card]Solitary Confinement[/card] is arguably the strongest catch-all protection card to cheat into play or to fetch for. Don’t forget to have another way to draw cards before casting though! ([card]Honden of Seeing Winds[/card] or [card]Enchantress’s Presence[/card])

– Didn’t think enchantments had counter magic? [card]Lilting Refrain[/card] would beg to differ. Get that bad boy down ASAP. An ability that counters is even more evasive that casting a spell! It’s our only counter though — don’t forget to use it as a political tool if possible, but it should be used strictly for interrupting a spell that will cost you the game.

– Don’t forget devotion figures and the mana symbols on your permanents — [card]Spirit of Resistance[/card] + [card]Maelstrom Nexus[/card] is sick tech.

– [card]Dream Halls[/card] can usually just instantly pull a win if there is a strong draw engine in place already — stacking protection at that rate is just too insane.

– [card]Progenitus[/card] can and has been hardcasted before. Unless your group has sacrifice-based tech show up commonly for threats like him, the Soul of the World can sometimes just beat your opponents hard enough to win that way. After all, you probably only need to swing 3 times or less on one or two opponents.

A Conclusion

This deck still may get some tweaks in the future — I found myself making adjustments as I typed out this decklist, after all. Overall, it’s a terribly fun deck that capitalizes on subtlety to draw out hilariously dynamic boardstates. At its worst, you get to enjoy a casually-paced game full of laughter while other players are having to worry about every little nitpick — cards in hands, bombs on the board, and so on. For the player of this deck, It Ain’t Like That. We only need to worry about doing stuff on our turns during our main phases — anything else is icing on the cake. At its best, we get to frolic in the successes of such an effortless game. Sometimes we’re even granted a win with [card]Progenitus[/card] — disregarding the failures of our main plan of attack. It Ain’t Like That succeeds at placing some of my most important priorities of gaming first in EDH – variance, fun, socialization, and casual competition.

That sort of sums up my first primer and my first act for this site — how did I do? Does the deck suck? Please give me feedback and constructive criticism in the comments below!

-cailtis

9 comments

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  1. Wally D.

    Great first article Cailtis! I am still staring at this decklist. I have never, ever, seen anything like this before. 5 Color Enchantments? Whoa, that is cool. I also dig all five Hondens in here. Love those cards!

    Definitely something I would love to play (but not play against) as I do love to drink and chat in between turns.

    IMO, Enchantments are the permanent type that players pack the least amount of removal for allowing a deck like this to durdle, durdle, lock, scoop, win.

    Again, well done sir!

    1. cailtis

      Thank you Wally D.! Yes, perhaps some of the best moments of this deck happen to be realizing how much more relaxed it plays in comparison to other possible decks at the table (allowing for, yes, drinking and outside tomfoolery to occur).

      Enchantments are sneaky guys, easily. Besides a couple noteworthy ones that seem to always hit the table from time to time ([card]Mirari’s Wake[/card] and [card]Rhystic Study[/card] for example), they are easily the most subtle permanent type, and with good reason — they seem to do the least when they hit the board and focus their power on passive effects and niche activated abilities. The only weakness here is that is seems that Wizards has started to treat removal against artifacts and enchantments as one in the same (despite Green being the only color to fit that bill on the color pie, for example), so many times when people pack for janky artifact combo decks now, they also prepare themselves for my enchantment deck — which is no fun. And Hondens are sick! A possible direction this kind of build could take is more abuse of upkeep effects with cards like [card]Paradox Haze[/card] and the like, to compound advantages of a strong board investment just by having it stay there for turn after turn.

      1. Wally D.

        That’s crazy, I was thinking [card]Paradox Haze[/card] when I seen all five Hondens. But then I looked at the low number of “During your Upkeep” enchantments and didn’t even bother recommending.

        I am one of those that have taken notice to enchantments and started packing more removal for them… Most of my green builds are looking at including [card]Bane of Progress[/card] now-a-days.

        1. cailtis

          Ugh yes, my playgroup went through a U/G/x goodstuff phase where none of us wacky builders could stick any utility enchantments/artifacts due to that monster. Great card but I have to say it gets very frustrating playing across the table from Riku/Roon/Mimeoplasm commanders that just spam (and then recur) ETB-monsters that wreck boardstates.

  2. Kuchisama

    Hey cailtis,

    I might be a little late to the party but welcome to the team anyways!

    This was a mighty fine read that laid the foundation for what we can expect from you in the future – and I have to say, I’m looking forward to it!

    I’ve always liked enchantments myself but have never seen anything like what you’ve done here. Having played Magic since somewhere around 1995, I was really happy to find your deck list full of old school cards like Cloud Cover, Dega Sanctuary etc.

    Ah, the nostalgia…

    Again, great article!

  3. Brakkin

    Cailtis,

    First off great post, I am just getting back into playing after retiring from magic back in 2001, and have been bouncing around the idea for an enchantment EDH deck. Someone from my group mentioned Hanna but in researching I came across your post. This seems like it could be a lot of fun, I have been researching different commanders and what seem the most popular for enchantment themes are Zur, Ertai, Bruna, GAAIV, and I commented on this Hanna post, and he mentioned I should put a comment on here for you: http://www.mtgcasualplay.com/hanna-ships-navigator-edh-deck-pillow-fort-combo

    Not sure that Zur or Bruna are the right fit as I am not an overly aggressive player, GAAIV gets a lot of hate making you an early target, Ertai seems decent for Counterspells. My play group consists of an Empress Galina (he either turns all of our permentants legendary and steals them all, or does infinite mana combo’s to mill our decks) and runs really heavy in Counters and artifacts, not that fun to play against but hey… Then there is a Jeleva deck that goes infinite and mills everyone out of cards, then there is a Aurelia deck focusing on angels atm, though she is considering switching to Kaalia…

    I currently just have the Daxos precon right now and would like something competetive mainly vs Empress as he wins almost every game, and every time I put out my commander he steals it… Any ideas for me?

    1. cailtis

      Hey Brakkin, thank you for your comment.

      I could recommend a number of different kind of decks that feature enchantment themes but there’s no question you’ve either seen most of them already or are currently doing your research on different kinds of decklists. There’s a variety of decks that play with the enchantment card type differently for each one, so I’m not sure what your favored playstyle/deck theme would be.

      One of the reasons I built this 5c enchantment deck too was to use cool and quirky “global” (non-Aura) enchantments in a way that wasn’t totally void of synergy or theme. It’s also very different from other decks using the enchantment card type, as most enchantment-based decks in EDH are Aura-related because of how rapidly Auras can synergize with fundamentals like Commander Damage and permanent protection.

      For example, like you suggest, Bruna and Zur stick out as aggressive because they capitalize on attacking, bonuses from Aura enchantments, and support with lockdown, whereas someone like Uril is pure Aura enchantments. GAAIV and Hanna are commonly used as commanders that keep the long-term game in mind, and use lots of ways to restrict the development of opponents’ boards and hands. Dark Ertai always interested me because his ability acts as an additional control element, but I’m a bit apprehensive with him too, because his ability requires a decent amount of support (resolve enchantments, resolve Ertai, activate and resolve ability) and, at the end of the day, forces you to spend a card for the effect anyway (and can only be used essentially once every time you untap). If there was an easier way to spam enchantment cards onto your battlefield I’d consider him moreso, but for now I think his ability is best used with creature tokens and other ways to sacrifice creatures for the ability with little to no cost.

      Tell me about the kind of enchantment deck you’d like to build. You say it needs to be competitive, but only against Galina? Are there any other mechanics or playstyles you’d like to explore? Having these answers may help me give you a more personalized recommendation :).

  4. Brakkin

    Cailtis,

    First thanks for the quick reply! Its hard to say what kind of build I am looking for as i haven’t played since back in 2000. I do know that I have always loved control and counterspells, my deck I ran before I quit was a horseshoe crab deck with an enchantment “Tap this creature do 1 damage”. I have never been one to be the all out attacker but would rather sit back and play the board and have the option to control what gets cast and what doesn’t. So not sure in the direction to go now, I do like enchantments but not sure what the best option for me is, thats just where i have started I suppose.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    1. cailtis

      I, like you, am a control player myself, and my enchantment deck was essentially a culmination of a new interest/exploration (five color, restricting myself to enchantment-theme, etc.) alongside a long-standing favor of control/late-game playstyle. I found that I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone (Esper, Dimir, and Azorius colored control decks) but also find a lot of fun in exploring new cards, new strategies, and new color mechanics at the same time.

      Blue, black, and white are perhaps the most control-oriented colors (roughly in that order) and white and green are probably the most strong colors for powerful on-their-own enchantments, so I definitely would look into Esper and Bant color schemes then if your pursuits are: blue-based control elements (countermagic) and powerful enchantment cards! Ertai, despite my criticisms in my last comment, does seem worth a shot if you are dead-set on countermagic — he now seems like the immediate choice based off of what you have said, but I’d also like to say that you may appreciate looking a bit further before confirming your choice.

      A few commanders that we haven’t talked about before:

      Dead Daxos ([card]Daxos the Returned[/card]) is an up-and-coming enchantment general in EDH as of the Commander 2015 product release this past fall. He’s really not my playstyle, I don’t think, but if you are looking for a sort of grindy control shell that rewards you for playing enchantments, he looks good. His ability can be reused time and time again and potentially transforms from an ability that provides blockers to an ability that fuels you with late-game threats.

      Heliod is an enchantment general we haven’t talked about either, even though he has gotten relatively popular in the last couple of years. He, himself, is an enchantment for what it’s worth, and if you are sporting cards that are “enchantments-matter” — i.e. reward you for having enchantments — Heliod can spam enchantment dudes for value. Control wise, this is heavily reliant on the deck itself, but Heliod is indestructible which is worth noting.

      Pharika is one that randomly came to mind if you’re wanting to stay in the UBWG colors for best control-and-enchantment fun, but she’s mostly just cute and I’m not sure if she’d be justified heading a enchantment deck. She has built-in graveyard hate but also a way to give you enchantments (see: Heliod). Also like Heliod she is indestructible and an enchantment. She seems a bit more flexible and toolbox-y than Heliod if enchantment-matters is your game (and is some absolutely great colors for a good blend of removal and enchantments), but if you’re looking for a more direct and to-the-point enchantment synergy deck, Heliod and others have her beat.

      Beyond these, we’ve talked about the other enchantment-themed generals already so we’re probably left with pseudo-synergy generals like Zedruu: you can donate non-Aura enchantments as a political game, to provide protection against a common enemy, or even to donate self-destructive enchantments to wreak havoc. I can’t think of many more after this, that are directly beneficial to enchantment-control strategies.

      If you like Horseshoe Crab/Aura-type shenanigans, you may look into possibly using Bruna as a sort of “lightning rod” for cool and useful utility Auras, or even another general.

      At the end of the day, if you’re throwing down money on a decently-invested EDH deck, you’re going to need insurance that it’s a deck that you’ll actually want to shuffle up and play. I recommend googling around for some lists that you’ve been looking at for decks and import them to an online playing platform (like Cockatrice) and draw some hands, play some games, and evaluate what you do and don’t enjoy about the decks. This will inevitably grant you some insight into what kind of cards and mechanics you repeatedly enjoy seeing in games and which one’s you don’t enjoy seeing in games. The great thing about this process too is that it will tell you how prominent of a role you will want certain themes to be in your deck: for example, if you are findings yourself not wanting to summon your general often, perhaps the choice of general is less important to you — but you started to shy away from decks that at least give you the chance of playing countermagic. I hope this helped and hope to hear back when you build what you want!

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