Last week I began exploring some of the blue cards from Magic Origins as there seemed to be quite a bit of overlap between its artifact theme, enchantment theme, and devotion theme. In theory, if one could combine two or more of these themes into a single deck, they would have a new deck. Artifact blue had existed in the old Standard and it was sure to evolve with the new toys from Origins. The question wasn't if, but how.
Since then, the Pro Tour showed us pretty loudly that the how was to be some form of a blue/red artifact shell. Shrapnel Blast and granting your artifacts haste proved to be too strong to throw away in favor of some devotion stuff. That makes sense. If you have enough cards to fill out an entire deck with one strong theme, that deck is going to be more consistent than a deck with two or more themes. There are still times to meld themes together. For example, there might not be enough cards to support an entire deck of one theme, or maybe there is a card or two that really rewards you for both themes.
To further elaborate, Eidolon of Countless Battles is a card that checks both your creature count and your aura count. While you can build around it using just one of those two types, finding cards that occupy both spaces might be best. In this case, we would turn to bestow cards which get to be both an aura and a creature, prolonging the effectiveness of Eidolon.
But there certainly can be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen and that might have been the case with my monoblue list last week. For reference:
This list is supporting not one, not two, but three themes and while there is a ton of overlap with plenty of cards dipping their toe into multiple pools, we still might be stretching ourselves thin. Looking at that list, the only card I am worried about devotion for is Thassa, God of the Sea. Thassa happens to be an enchantment, which furthers another theme, but is it worth being monoblue for the upside of more consistent Thassas?
Thassa is definitely strong and we have seen it built around before, but when cards like Nykthos and Master of Waves are no longer in the picture, are we doing more harm than good? If nothing else, I wanted to explore some additional routes to take the enchantment aggro idea. First, there was the task of even seeing if it was worth it. Blue has some pretty strong aggressive enchantments and unless other colors offered the same, they might just drag us down rather than synergize in a meaningful way.
I wanted to go through and take a look at every nonblue enchantment that caught my eye for this kind of deck. It turns out, there are actually quite a few, so rather than making you go look them up yourself, here is a list I generated from my search. The big part is the nonblue enchantments. The next part is nonblue enchantment synergies that are inherently not enchantments themselves.
Aegis of the Gods
Archetype of Courage
Bow of Nylea
Break Through the Line
Courser of Kruphix
Dictate of Erebos
Dictate of Heliod
Eidolon of Blossoms
Eidolon of Countless Battles
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Ephara, God of the Polis
Ghirapur Aether Grid
Hammer of Purphoros
Heliod, God of the Sun
Herald of Torment
Keranos, God of Storms
Mastery of the Unseen
Sigil of the Empty Throne
Spear of Heliod
Starfield of Nyx
Strength from the Fallen
Whip of Erebos
Hero of Iroas
Herald of the Pantheon
Odunos River Trawler
You won't find too many expensive cards on this list as I figured they naturally did not work as well with Helm of the Gods, which is my true inspiration to even be exploring this concept. Plenty of cards on that list probably won't work at all, but they at least piqued my interest. Other cards probably do work, but need some other kind of shell to really get them anywhere.
For anyone who playtested with the list I posted last week, you probably noticed that Helm of the Gods is deserving of Constructed attention. That card crushed some matches on its own and other times combined with something else for the full blowout. Cloudform is often the best thing you can throw a Helm on to, but the card just transformed so many other cards into threats and often snuck through tons of damage due to cheap costs on both fronts. Because of these things, Helm of the Gods is very much where I want my focus to be, rather than going bigger and slower with something like the constellation decks of old.
Turning to the Darkside
One thing I did notice as I compiled that list was that black seemed to offer the best of the aggressive black enchantments. Gnarled Scarhide and Spiteful Returned are both mainstays in my Monoblack Aggro decks and they would certainly work in this shell. Spiteful Returned as a 4/4 is even more annoying than as a 1/1. Additionally, Nighthowler, a card I have used many times in graveyard strategies, makes for another solid enchantment creature.
Black felt like the natural color to add, especially considering it was an excuse to play with my favorite card from Origins: Demonic Pact. Here is what I came up with:
The mana here might be too unruly with a full playset of Darksteel Citadel in it, but I wanted to maximize the artifact count for now just to make sure Ensoul Artifact does something. Because this list is so much more enchantment dense than the monoblue list, we usually want to be using our Helm of the Gods as actual equipment. They provide such a huge boost in stats that turning them into 5/5s is actually the less desired output.
If we mark Helm as an undesirable target for Ensoul, we get down to just Hangarback Walker, Bident of Thassa, and then Darksteel Citadel, of which Citadel is arguably the strongest play as it is indestructible. We made a small concession to this already by cutting down Ensoul Artifact to a three-of, but it could be possible that we want to move away from it altogether.
It is pretty nice to have the more aggressive early game that this deck provides compared to other colors. Having 19 "creatures" that are all two or less mana and great bearers for a Helm of the Gods just allows you to put the pressure on that much faster and makes cards like Brain Maggot more of a permanent answer to something as the game has a chance of ending before the opponent ever gets their prize back.
It Ain't Easy Bein...
Black offered probably the most aggressive options for this list, but it was certainly not the only color to have enchantment synergies. One of the more appealing cards out of Origins for this kind of strategy is Herald of the Pantheon. In the right deck, Herald is a two mana play that accelerates you while also keeping your life total high. This makes it quite the threat against both aggro and control. It may not be an enchantment itself, but we have some number of slots to flex with here.
Additionally, green has three of the strongest enchantment creatures in Standard in Courser of Kruphix, Eidolon of Blossoms, and Boon Satyr. Our mana curve looks like it will go up as a result of these, but with a little mana acceleration and cost reduction, we can speed out threats in a different manner. Additionally, the card advantage and life that these cards provide you with allows you to stay competitive in games that go longer, especially against control.
With so many three-drops in this list, especially having eight with GG in their costs, Elvish Mystic feels like an essential addition here, even without filling in the enchantment role. I also added a little more mana in the form of Rattleclaw Mystic as deck lacks two-drops now that Ensoul Artifact isn't in the mix (due to a dramatic drop-off in artifact count).
While I have not gotten in more than a dozen or so games with this list as of yet, I can say that the early game can come out a little clunky. You have so many three-drops that even if you manage to curve a few cards out, you are often casting one spell a turn for a few turns until your mana can truly develop. Also, because your mana relies somewhat heavily on your creatures living, a timely removal spell or sweeper can really set you back.
That all said, when the deck gets rolling, it punches out quite a bit of card advantage. This is nice as a way to gain a second-wind after your first surge of aggression might have failed. This version of the deck takes advantage of Thassa's activated ability, even though it might struggle at times to actually get her into creature form, which is why there is only a single copy. Also, if you have never bestowed a Boon Satyr on to a Cloudform that was actually an Eidolon of Blossoms, let me tell you that you're in for a treat.
Worth noting in the sideboard is the small Strength from the Fallen package here for against control. We might even want the fourth copy of Kruphix's Insight.
Getting Rid of the Blues
This list might need some removal in the maindeck, but at least for testing purposes I wanted to first see how robust the enchantment engine could be. We get more rewards for enchantments by turning to nonblue colors. In this case, both Underworld Coinsmith and Eidolon of Countless Battles give us incentive down the path we already wanted to go, which is awesome.
Unlike the blue enchantment decks, evasion is not nearly as plentiful in black/white, but we do have some nice reach in Spiteful Returned, Underworld Coinsmith, and Demonic Pact. This means that getting a player to five or six life is a real favorable situation to us, almost as if we had red in our deck. On top of that, we have a lot of life gain in the list to help us stabilize against aggro and Turn the Tide. Hopeful Eidolon is especially cute here as a nice one-drop to work with Helm and then a powerful aura later on. We actually have enough life gain here that we might want to consider additional copies of Mana Confluence.
Spear of Heliod is a clutch addition to this deck as it is an additional way to make our creatures big. Between Helm, Spear, and the various bestow creatures in the deck, you can't really expect anything to stay small for long.
One way or another, I expect Helm of the Gods to make it into Standard play before Theros rotates in a few months. There are too many powerful enchantments to exploit right now and we can't necessarily say the same thing for Battle for Zendikar, so might as well have your fun now! Until next week, thanks for reading!