Since the recent ban announcement, Pioneer has felt a little bit more diverse and a bit less stale than it previously had. Obviously, there are bound to be a group of decks within the top echelon of the format, and Azorius control, Rakdos midrange, Abzan Amalia Benavides Aguirre combo, and Izzet Phoenix still seem to make up that top tier. However, there are lots of different decks that are all quite capable of putting up excellent performances from week to week.
One deck that has been rising in popularity over the course of the last few weeks has been none other than five-color Enigmatic Incarnation. Typically, these decks are highly proactive, playing a bunch of value-oriented Enchantments with the goal of landing Incarnation and getting to tutor up some awesome haymakers during your end step. To help accelerate out these Enchantments, usually these decks make use of Fires of Invention.
While powerful, these Fires of Invention decks do naturally lack Instant-speed interaction, making them quite weak to combo decks. On the flip side, the sheer value and board presence they are capable of generating gives them a great edge against midrange decks. In order to help on the interaction front, one player in yesterday’s Magic Online Pioneer Challenge took it upon themselves to make some major changes to the ordinary Incarnation shell.
Rather than playing entirely proactively, this new version meshes the draw-go play patterns from Azorius control with the over-the-top potential of Incarnation decks into one archetype. Let’s take a closer look at this unique approach.
Enigmatic Incarnation Package
Much like the Enigmatic Fires lists of old, this decklist utilizes some immensely powerful Enchantments. First and foremost, there’s a playset of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Fable is a naturally strong card on its own, generating a Goblin token with a strong ability right away. Fable also pairs nicely with Incarnation, though, providing a three-mana Enchantment that digs for Incarnation and can be sacrificed to find a potent four-drop, such as Omnath, Locus of Creation or Heliod, the Radiant Dawn to return Fable from your graveyard to your hand.
The best card to pair with Incarnation, however, is absolutely Leyline Binding. Binding fits both the control plan and the Incarnation plan quite well. It provides early interaction for problematic threats, but as a six-mana Enchantment, it can be sacrificed later to Incarnation to find Atraxa, Grand Unifier or Agent of Treachery to help end the game.
Azorius Control Package
The main Enchantments to sacrifice within this deck are Fable, Leyline Binding, and Omen of the Sea, all of which are decent cards in their own rights. While Fable and Incarnation are proactive cards, almost every other card in this deck is reactive, which differs drastically from previous Incarnation decklists.
Much like typical control decks, this archetype makes great use of board wipes like Temporary Lockdown and Supreme Verdict to help against aggressive decks. Yorion, Sky Nomad pairs perfectly with Omen of the Sea, Lockdown, and Fable, providing additional value as an elite Companion.
Once you are able to stabilize the board, you can begin playing much more reactively by interacting on the opponent’s turn. Cards like Get Lost, Make Disappear, and Dovin’s Veto are cheap pieces of interaction that you can leave up. If the opponent casts something potent, you can respond. If not, you can sculpt your hand with Omen of the Sea and Memory Deluge.
Eventually, if you can find a good window, you can slam Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, draw a card and untap two Lands, then hold up any combination of Dovin’s Veto, Get Lost, and Leyline Binding to protect your powerful Planeswalker.
Adapting to the Opponent
Where this deck gets a strong edge when compared to either traditional control decks or more ordinary Incarnation decklists is with its ability to adapt according to the matchup. Against aggressive decks like Boros Convoke, the combination of Temporary Lockdown and Yorion can be quite difficult to beat. Temporary Lockdown can also be a devastating card for Abzan Amalia combo to deal with.
However, in matchups like Rakdos midrange, having access to Enigmatic Incarnation is a huge boon. Rakdos decks historically have a tough time answering Enchantments, and Enigmatic Incarnation threatens to run away with the game singlehandedly. Leyline Binding helps keep problematic cards like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse in check, and if you manage to get Atraxa into play, the game likely ends on the spot.
Against combo decks like Lotus Field combo, running a playset of Dovin’s Veto as well as a few copies of Mystical Dispute out of the sideboard gives you a fighting chance. Not to mention, Enigmatic Incarnation can find Archon of Emeria as a silver bullet when necessary.
In this sense, by meshing two archetypes together, you have a better shot at beating a wider variety of different strategies. By abandoning Fires of Invention for counter magic and other Instant-speed disruption, your chances of winning against combo decks goes up significantly. Meanwhile, the Incarnation package allows you to more reliably close the game against Creature-based decks.
Issues with Consistency
Of course, this doesn’t mean this strategy doesn’t come with its downsides. Likely the biggest issue this style of deck has is with its consistency. Much like traditional Incarnation shells, this deck plays a lot of individual cards that aren’t the best to naturally draw. For instance, drawing cards you’d like to tutor with Incarnation, like Atraxa or [Gloomshrieker[/tooltips] isn’t ideal.
Sure, Fable can help mitigate this issue to a certain extent by letting you convert those cards into different ones with its Chapter II ability, but this isn’t always reliable. On top of that, your Enchantment count for Incarnation isn’t super high, especially when considering the fact that you might not want to sacrifice Temporary Lockdown. While traditional Incarnation decklists make use of Up the Beanstalk and Nylea’s Presenceto keep your gameplan as streamlined as possible, this variant is much more reliant of Omen and Fable to get things going.
Furthermore, you can definitely suffer from drawing the wrong half of the deck in specific matchups, especially in game one when you don’t know what your opponent is playing. Cards like Temporary Lockdown and Dovin’s Veto, for example, are quite specific in their effects and can range from excellent to nearly useless depending on the matchup.
What’s nice, though, is that even though the Incarnation and control gameplans can conflict with each other at times, many of the cards in the deck are strong with both gameplans. Omen of the Sea and Leyline Binding are great with Incarnation, but also work nicely with Teferi and allow you to leave up open mana to react to your opponent. Overall, this deck is surprisingly cohesive despite showcasing two archetypes in one. Could this deck be on the verge of a breakout? Only time will tell.