elcome to Enchantment Week!
I was certainly not at a loss for enchantment-themed submissions to talk about today. Theros is a world of enchantments, and plenty of decks I received could certainly be considered to be enchantment-themed. Some featured Gods en masse. Others showcased what the Ordeals could do. Several others dipped their toes into build-around enchantments like Possibility Storm and Dismiss into Dream.
But for today's theme, I wanted something truly enchantment-themed. Not something focused around creatures with enchantments, or devotion with enchantments, or anything of the sort. No. This week, it was time to work on a deck that absolutely wants to flood the board with enchantments.
I hope you have plenty of mana, because today I'm going to be talking about Sphere of Safety! Sent in by Keith Hensel, this deck takes advantage of the popular Return to Ravnica enchantment. Pay the mana necessary to scroll down— if you can.
Sphere of Safety | Art by Slawomir Maniak
Keith Hensel's Azorius Safety
The Battle Plan
This deck's primary battle plan: don't let battling happen!
On the surface, you have the trappings of a white-blue control shell. This deck can certainly counter and Sphinx's Revelation it up with the best of them. But if you look a little closer, you'll notice an enchantment subtheme—and the card Sphere of Safety holding it all together.
Sphere of Safety puts the brakes on your opponent's assault. If your opponent wants to attack, he or she can probably only get in with one creature (if that), and he or she can't afford to do much else afterward. And Heliod forbid if you have an Azorius Charm to send back that one attacker! While traditionally, control leans on spot removal and board sweepers to get the job done, here it takes a bit of a different approach.
The cost to playing Sphere of Safety is loading up on enchantments—but that's not too high of a price in current Standard. For example, Detention Sphere is a card this deck would absolutely play four of anyway. It's pretty easy to power up the Sphere—and once you play a second Detention Sphere, often you'll lock your opponent out of attacking completely.
Controlling the game with enchantments and taking over the long game is what this deck aims to do. Let's see if we can make it even better.
What draws me in about this deck and what am I a little more disenchanted with? Let's go through card by card and take a look.
Not only is it one of the build-arounds of the deck, it even gets better in multiples. The effects stack, and casting multiple Sphere of Safetys will lock most opponents out of attacking entirely.
Although Sphere of Safety does act in place of a board sweeper (and is a tiny bit of a "nonbo" with board sweepers, since the point of this card is to make your opponent's board irrelevant) I still would like to play a couple Supreme Verdicts. A Supreme Verdict can help buy you time to set up your Sphere if your opponent gets off to a quick start, and it also gives you a way you can find to reset the board in case your opponent has a way to remove your Spheres in the long game.
The only other note I'd put on this is that if your opponent has Detention Sphere in his or her deck, don't just go slamming all of these onto the table willy-nilly. Usually, it's going to be best to just sit on one and then save more in your hand in case they get Sphered away.
...and speaking of Detention Sphere, that's a card this deck certainly wants to play. It deals with any troublesome permanent for only three mana and even occasionally will contain multiple threats at once. And it sits around as an enchantment to boot! This deck definitely want to play the full four.
Azorius Charm has been a staple for many white-blue control decks for a year now, and it's not going anywhere. Cycling away when not relevant means you can find gas when you need too, and sending creatures back on top can really slow down the assault—in many cases, it's like a blue and white Doom Blade!
In this deck, it's particularly nice because if your opponent only sends in with one creature past Sphere of Safety you can use Azorius Charm to send it right back on top. That, combined with its ability to cycle away when necessary, makes me pretty happy to stick with four.
The attraction of these cards in this deck is that they're enchantment creatures, meaning they power up Sphere of Safety.
However, beyond that, they aren't actually all that exciting. Hopeful Eidolon is likely to not do much on the ground but get blocked by some creature that couldn't attack anyway, and a 2/2 flier for three mana isn't the kind of card I'm usually looking to play in Constructed. To make these guys even less exciting for this deck, I've now added a couple Supreme Verdicts, meaning that sometimes I'll accidentally sweep them away.
You don't see many control decks sporting Trained Caracal and Wind Drake, and being enchantment creatures isn't a good enough exception. I'd rather play some more global enchantments that work better toward my controlling game plan to power up Sphere of Safety.
I love having access to countermagic in blue decks. It's nice to have the safety blanket of knowing that whatever your opponent tries to cast you can eliminate. And in a deck like this one, having some to rely on for when your opponent whips out a Detention Sphere or other card that could break your plan apart is a nice tool.
With that said, this is a deck that will end up tapping out a lot early on to cast some expensive main-phase spells. While I do want some countermagic available, I would lean toward two copies rather than three. That way, you're likely to see one in the long game, and having one early still affords you some versatility, but you're not clogged on them when you'd rather just be jamming permanents out there.
There's also a question about which countermagic you want to play.
While Render Silent fits the bill as a blue and white counterspell, the bonus the white mana affords you is situational at best. It's not often that cutting your opponent out of casting more spells in a turn will actually matter. While it's not bad and is worth looking at over Cancel, Theros brings us an even more exciting option: Dissolve.
Scry 1 is pretty valuable, especially when you're trying to find certain cards like this deck is. I'd rather have Dissolve's upside than Render Silent. Two Dissolves it is!
Pacifism definitely has some upsides in this deck. Being able to come down and shut down (almost) any creature for two mana is a solid play to buy you time in the early game. Then, later on, it functions as an extra enchantment for your Sphere. While it's not as good on creatures with activated abilities, it still plays a nice double role in this deck.
It does leave the board if you pull the trigger on a Supreme Verdict, but if you have to do that it is likely worth the cost. The key to any control deck is making sure you can survive the early game, and Pacifism helps you do just that. I don't want the full four because it's dead in some matchups and Azorius Charm already helps do something similar on the first few turns of the game, but I'm happy sticking with three here.
Ah, one of the most defining control cards in the format: Sphinx's Revelation. Whether finding you gas, putting you out of burn range, helping you hit your next several land draws, or just plain ol' ensuring you have answers to everything, Sphinx's Revelation is a staple.
The only question for me is whether to include three or four copies. Four copies means you can snowball them easier in the late game, Sphinx's Revelation into Sphinx's Revelation, to carry the game away. However, in this case, I think I want to stick with just three. This deck already has enough expensive stuff going on with it, and I don't want to draw a hand full of Sphinx's Revelations early when I just need to buy time. This deck already has some mana-intensive power plays.
I would like another draw spell that can work earlier in the game to help ensure this deck hits land drops and finds what it needs. Fortunately, there's just the card: Jace, Architect of Thought. Not only can he find you some extra cards, but his abilities are actually quite relevant. When the board is stalled out, you can always try and build up to his ultimate ability and put a game-ending force of creatures onto the battlefield. Sign me up for three.
Blind Obedience does a couple good things for this deck. First of all, it gives you another way to pick up a few extra points of life—putting yourself out of burn range after you've taken some initial bruises while setting up can be pretty important. Second of all, it's a cheap enchantment you can lay down early to help power up your Sphere of Safetys.
Third of all, pop quiz! What is a popular creature you really don't want to see cast against you if you're playing this deck?
Can you guess?
Heliod, God of the Sun is the kind of card that can close out the game. While he won't turn often until the late game unless this deck plays a few more cards (which you could do if you want to, using cards like Martial Law), he does several other positive things for the deck.
First of all, he's an enchantment for Sphere of Safety. Second of all, he makes tokens with which you can eventually overwhelm your opponent. But they're not just any kind of token: they're enchantment creature tokens! That means that for each one you make, it just becomes that much harder to attack through a Sphere.
Speaking of Heliod's tokens, the tokens are also a perfect roadblock with Sphere of Safety out. If your opponent has enough mana to send one guy through, a token can just jump in the way each turn and protect your life total.
Heliod is definitely a late-game card, so I'm happy with just two copies. That way, I can find one if I need to late, but I don't have to be too concerned with drawing several early.
While I'm on the topic of Gods, a card I have added a single copy of to this deck is Thassa, God of the Sea. As I mentioned earlier with Dissolve, scry 1 is pretty strong in this deck, and doing it every turn especially so; the game will hopefully go on for a while. Plus, Thassa is an enchantment as well.
While Thassa is unlikely to turn on and become a 5/5, and being legendary means I absolutely don't want to draw two, playing her as a one-of is plenty reasonable in this deck. She's not an integral element of this deck's game plan, but she is a nice tool in the toolbox in case you draw her.
Ætherling is a great way to close out the game. It's the kind of card I always like having one of to find late. The difference between having one and zero Ætherlings in your deck is tremendous, and being able to find it as the game drags on and you Sphinx's Revelation into Sphinx's Revelation is huge. However, it doesn't help turn the tide against beatdown or midrange if you find yourself in a rough spot.
I'd rather go down to one Ætherling and then play Elspeth, Sun's Champion as my primary finisher of choice. Not only is Elspeth a finisher, but she also does a tremendous job of protecting your life total by creating three Soldiers each turn. If you need to buy time, she's your lady.
She also kills off Stormbreath Dragon! Elspeth gives you a pretty nice way to lop off that dragon's head—and if you have Blind Obedience or a high enough Sphere of Safety so the Stormbreath Dragon can't attack the turn it enters the battlefield, you might not take any damage from the protection-from-white monster at all!
How many Elspeths? Well, Elspeth is game dominating by herself. While I don't want to have a hand full of her, I really do want one to lay down on the board come turn six. I'm happy with three.
With all those changes noted, that brings the deck to:
Gavin Verhey's Music of the Spheres
Now, there are certainly many ways you could take a deck like this. If you wanted to reach out into another color, red gives you Chained to the Rocks and Assemble the Legion for enchantments, as well as some versatile cards like Turn & Burn and Mizzium Mortars. (Which also happen to deal well with Dragons.)
Or, on the other hand, you could also go green. You would gain access to ramp enchantments like Verdant Haven and Mana Bloom alongside Nylea's Presence.
And, of course, there will be plenty of other enchantment goodies for decks like these as the block unfolds...
But regardless of whichever path you may take, have fun with Sphere of Safety! It's always interesting to pair old cards with new ones, and taking advantage of Sphere is certainly one of them. Enjoy!
What were some other decks that had an Aura of excitement around them this week? Let's take a look!
Eddie Taylor's BUGWalkers
Matthew Gottshall's Mono-White "Enchantress"
Itou Kazunari's Wasteland Story
Josef Hedlin's Gutterfire
Keisuke Onoyama's Chimera the Library Eater
Joe Gorman's White-Black Humans
Kevin Culp's Esper Control
Qoarl's Devoted Ratimator
Joséphe Montanez's Neo-Jund Midrange
Mike Read's Orzhov Control
Joseph Peterson's Izzet Glass Cannon
Krysto's Devotion to Naya
Next weekend marks Pro Tour Theros! It will be exciting to see what comes out of that. And, since the Pro Tour is no doubt going to set the Standard stage and neither you nor I will know what has happened at the Pro Tour at the time I write my article, let's take the week afterward off from Standard to focus on something else exciting with Theros: Modern!
Here's your mission:
Format: Post-Theros Modern
Restrictions: Build a Modern deck that features at least one card from Theros
Deadline: Monday, October 7, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (The specific numbers below are arbitrary, so please don't feel a need to use them—it's just how an example of how a decklist should look when laid out.)
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
I'm excited to see what Modern innovations you all come up with using Theros! I'm sure there are some crazy ones out there...
In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or feedback on this article or deck, either post in the forums or send me a tweet and I'll be sure to take a look.
I'll be back next week with a competitive look at Theros Standard for the Pro Tour. Talk with you then!
When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he wanted a job making Magic cards. Ten years later, his dream was realized as his combined success as a professional player, deck builder, and writer brought him into Wizards R&D during 2011. He's been writing Magic articles since 2005 and has no plans to stop.