Hey Commander players! There’s a new set upon us, and with it comes a brand new addition to the Command Zone, the Background enchantment.
While not many of these cards threaten to be game-breaking, and they’re tied to the pool of creatures with the ‘Choose a Background’ ability, having more enchantments in the Command zone on a regular basis is something to consider.
We already have enchantment creatures like the Theros gods, and the occasional outlier like Jacob Hauken, Inspector and Homura, Human Ascendant that transform into enchantments under certain conditions, and of course we all know cards like Rhystic Study, Smothering Tithe, Revel in Riches, Impact Tremors, and Doubling Season. So knowing what cards best answer these troublesome permanents can only help your game.
Let’s do a really deep dive. By colour. Starting with the best colours for Squelching enchantments, and moving down to black and red. How terrible could it be for those colours? We’ll find out!
As always, you can hover over a card’s name to see the card!
White has some of the best removal in the game, and plenty of it will hit enchantments. If you’re not already familiar with these cards, you should be.
White also has plenty of answers to permanents in general, like Prismatic Ending, Reduce to Memory, Generous Gift, Mangara of Corondor, Oblivion Ring, Skyclave Apparition, Council’s Judgment, Grasp of Fate and even Quarantine Field.
Similar to white, green is loaded on ways to Compost enchantments. From the very beginning, there was Tranquility, and Return to Nature has been regularly printed for years now. What’s better than those?
For targeted removal, green has the powerful Krosan Grip, Force of Vigor, Acidic Slime, Reclamation Sage, Boseiju, Who Endures, World Breaker, Thrashing Brontodon and even Masked Vandal for the tribal decks.
For dealing with all the enchantments, Back to Nature is a straight upgrade to Tranquility and instant speed. If you want to break the symmetry, there’s Primeval Light, Calming Verse (which I play a lot), and Essence Filter. Hush is a reach, but cycling can make up for a lot.
Green also enjoys having access to permanent answer card Beast Within, and while it’s mostly for problem Commanders, Song of the Dryads works just fine too. Woodfall Primus and Terastodon give you huge bodies along with your destruction.
Like with most cards, blue’s best option is to simply keep them off the table with a Counterspell. If 2 mana is too much, we also have Swan Song, Offer You Can’t Refuse, Force of Will, Force of Negation, Fierce Guardianship, Pact of Negation and Disrupting Shoal.
You can totally steal enchantments with high-cost stuff like Confiscate, Lay Claim, In Bolas’s Clutches, Blatant Thievery and even Commandeer, but if you really want to steal an enchantment, you should use the very cheap and rarely expected Steal Enchantment.
It’s already tough to top the power of the white and green cards so far, but a few multicoloured cards get there.
If you’re both white and green, you’ve got Aura Shards, Harmonic Sliver, Knight of Autumn, and Sylvan Reclamation. There are some cards like Sundering Growth, too, to give you no shortage of niche options.
White and blue yields mostly counterspells, but don’t forget the love and joy that can be spread with Fractured Identity. You can totally play Crafty Cutpurse and hoard all the tokens for yourself. You pirate, you.
Green and blue don’t do much against enchantments outside of the singularly excellent Trygon Predator.
White and black together provides a staggering amount of removal options, like Fracture, Mortify, Rite of Oblivion, Anguished Unmaking, Vindicate, Utter End, Merciless Eviction, Ashen Rider, Kaya the Inexorable, Despark, Vanishing Verse and Angel of Despair.
Green and black together also have plenty of great options, including Assassin’s Trophy, Maelstrom Pulse, Vraska the Unseen, Vraska, Relic Seeker, Abrupt Decay, Vraska, Golgari Queen, Windgrace’s Judgment, Gaze of Granite, Pernicious Deed, Sarulf, Realm Eater and Casualties of War.
The combos of blue/red and black/blue have nothing worth mentioning at this point other than chapter 2 of The Trickster-God’s Heist. Black and red are notoriously poor colours against enchantments, but together still have the half-decent Fatal Grudge. Less-than-decent are cards like Hidetsugu Consumes All, Rakdos Riteknife and Rakdos the Defiler. They can destroy enchantments ‘in theory,’ but probably won’t do it in a real game.
Several of the charms, like Treva’s Charm or Esper Charm, deal with enchantments as a mode. The same goes for a couple of the confluences like the new Cabaretti Confluence. Soul of Emancipation works too, but once you’re in 3 colours you have access to at least one of white, green and blue, and shouldn’t struggle that much with enchantments.
If you’re in five colours, and mana is no issue, you can try Legacy Weapon or The Kami War. Maybe even O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami. I’d hope you’re playing them for other reasons other than just to take care of enchantments.
After this it gets pretty rough. As bad as black and red are, at least there’re some colourless options to shore them up. We’ll start with those and work down.
Going totally colourless provides a few options, mostly with some drawbacks. Introduction to Annihilation isn’t cheap to cast and gives a card to whoever loses their permanent, but it’s an answer. Scour from Existence is more expensive, but has no conditions on it. Spine of Ish Sah is like Scour from Existence on a stick. Great with artifact cheating and graveyard shenanigans. Universal Solvent is a reach, but again, might give you some synergy that makes it playable.
A totally underrated but extremely playable card is mana rock Unstable Obelisk. Costing 3 mana and only producing 1 colourless isn’t great, but a banked removal ability that hits almost anything is great to have around. For now, this should be considered for a lot of red and black decks.
Several of the big Eldrazi are answers to permanents, either with the Annihilator ability, or with a nasty on-cast trigger, like Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. To a lesser extent, Bane of Bala Ged is like a kinder Annihilator, if there is a such a thing. Void Winnower blocks some enchantments from coming in at all. These cards are often really expensive, have massive mana costs, and abilities that plenty of players really hate to play against. They might be worth it for you, but they might not. And only the Ulamogs are effective are choosing a target.
For the Golem fanatics, who use janky Commander Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer, and fans of artifact creatures in general, we have Clay Golem and Meteor Golem. The Meteor Golem goes really well with blink effects to reset the ETB trigger, and can be cheated into play with something like Goblin Welder to get around the casting cost.
You don’t have to be colourless to get a lot of value out of both All is Dust and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. As there are currently few colourless enchantments, these are pretty effective at sweeping them away.
More of a reach, but still counting as sweepers that can hit enchantments are Blast Zone, Engineered Explosives, Ratchet Bomb, and Steel Hellkite. All are playable, just not that easy to make work. Even harder to make work is Worldslayer. But if you can figure out how to use it….
For sleepers, we have Damping Engine, Ward of Bones, and Avarice Totem. The Engine creates headaches because of all the counting, the Ward costs 7, and the Totem can just be given right back, but leveraging these cards might be one of the few options you have.
Willing to try anything? Mirror Golem can get protection from enchantments, which is… something.
If you’re at this state, it’s time to look at exactly what black and red have. Be brave.
It’s bad. There’s Feed the Swarm. That’s a start. From there…? Black at least has plenty of card draw and tutor spells to find the very few options. Like the following.
I’ve been corrected (Jun 24) on missing Ghastly Death Tyrant. It’s newish. Not sure why I missed it, but Gatherer is my SE of choice, and it’s mostly up-to-date. Anyway, it’s expensive, but it is totally an option.
We can lump all of the various discard spells together. Cards like Thoughtseize can take care of enchantments before they hit the board. Hymn to Tourach offers a lot of discard at a low price and can surely hit enchantments. But they fail to address them once they’re in play.
The ‘edict’ style of card, named for Diabolic Edict, extends to enchantments. Cards like Debt to the Kami, Extract the Truth, Invoke Despair, Mire in Misery, and Pharika’s Libation. These are all terrible options, but if opponents are only running a few enchantments, might get there. Luckily, most have a second mode to choose.
Less specific edicts which can hit any permanent include Phyrexian Obliterator, Archfiend of Spite, Choice of Damnations, Curse of the Cabal, Tergrid, God of Fright // Tergrid’s Lantern, Torment of Hailfire, Torment of Scarabs, and Undercity Plague. There are a few generally playable cards in there, but counting on them to remove a problem enchantment is not a good strategy.
If the enchantment bothering you is a damage-dealer, you can get creative with a card like Hellish Rebuke. But that’s a meta choice.
An even more meta choice, and one that’s probably going to get some comment, is Bitter Ordeal. Hopefully it hasn’t come to that.
At least that’s the end of the black cards. Brace for red.
Red has two real options, Chaos Warp and Wild Magic Surge. And they’re not really answers, considering they might result in something worse. But they’re cheap and flexible, and they remove an enchantment from the table, at least temporarily. I’m not sure why Audacious Swap had to ignore enchantments, but it did. Boo, Wizards.
Speaking of temporarily, there are a few cards that can borrow enchantments, hopefully long enough to sacrifice them or something. Cards like Frenzied Fugue, Word of Seizing and the excellent Zealous Conscripts.
Colour hosers Active Volcano, Anarchy, Omen of Fire, Pyroblast, and the classic Red Elemental Blast offer some pretty good utility against enchantments of those colours. It sucks to put a card like Red Elemental Blast in a Commander deck. Especially in those games where there’s no blue at all. But these cards might suit your meta, or just have so much upside, that they’re worth a look.
Even more sad are red’s versions of the edict effects. Cards like Akki Underminer, Capricious Efreet, Crack the Earth, Earth-Cult Elemental, Misguided Rage, Silverclad Ferocidons, Storm Fleet Arsonist, Tyrant of Discord, and Whims of the Fates. The cards themselves aren’t all sad. Some are pretty cool. But this is what passes for red trying to answer enchantments.
One other thing I’d like to mention are a pair of cards that really stick it to red players. Priest of Iroas and Thunderscape Battlemage are both cheap, simple, anti-enchantment cards. In red. But colour identity prevents either from being played without white or green in Commander. Which sucks.
Enchantments are powerful, versatile and now come more often from the Command Zone. Answers are needed, but are concentrated in white, green and blue. Black and red struggle with enchantments. Colourless cards provide some relief, but only go so far. Recent printings Feed the Swarm and Wild Magic Surge have greatly increased black and red enchantment interaction, but it’s still terrible that we can only point to 2 cards in this way. If this continues to be the case, it’s tough to imagine black, red and black/red decks being any kind of a player in Commander when they can be shut down or outvalued so easily by so many enchantments. I hope future printings address this issue, and soon. Thanks for reading!