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Commander Spotlight: Pinball Karona (5-Color Enchantress)


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Today I'd like to share with you the zany awesomeness that is Pinball Karona, my absolute favorite deck.

The original deck was based off of yugular's Karona primer, a voltron/pillowfort hybrid. The concept is to pillowfort, making it impossible for your opponents to attack you, then cast your commander Karona, False God. Suit her up and send her on a trip around the table, where each opponent can swing with her at anyone but you.

Karona comes out swinging with haste and hits like a truck: by herself she can do 8 commander damage (errata added her creature type as "Avatar") each turn; minimum 8 from you, and minimum 8 from each subsequent opponent that gets her on their turn — in a typical 4 player FFA, that's 32 commander damage being dealt just by herself by the time it's your turn again! Your opponents end up killing each other off for your amusement while you sit back and watch the carnage unfold while sipping a mojito.

The deck is wacky, hilarious, and utterly unique. You get to take janky throwaway cards like the Vow cycle from the original Commander products and turn them into integral powerhouse cards! How awesome is that?

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My version of the deck evolved into a 5-color Enchantress deck and did away with the Voltron cards (which I felt unnecessary) for more Control cards. My original Karona article is two years old now and we've gotten lots of sweet new additions in the deck since then. It's time for an update!

 

How It Plays

Pinball Karona is a pillow fort control deck built around Enchantress synergy. You play a ton of enchantments that stop your opponents from messing with you and your board. Then you cast Karona, False God and hand her over to your opponents so they can deal massive damage with her to anyone but you.

A typical game plays out like this:

  1. Ramp.
  2. Set up your pillow fort so you can't be messed with.
  3. Drop Karona, False God so she goes around the board dishing out tons of damage to everyone but you (pillowfort!).
  4. Watch your opponents kill themselves for your amusement while you casually sip a mojito behind your fort o' pillows.

The rest of the deck is a control deck with an Enchantress twist: you focus on enchantments to police the board, stop opponents from winning, draw tons of cards, and maybe run a couple extra game-winning combos just in case.

Sounds good to you? Then read on!

 

Roadblocks

The purpose of the pillow fort is to stop your opponents from attacking you and messing with your stuff. Keeping yourself out of harm's way is the first order of business. It also ties into your primary win condition with passing around Karona, False God: if your opponents can't swing at you with her, they'll swing elsewhere. That's when the fun begins!

I break down the pillow fort concept into two categories: Roadblocks and Rattlesnakes. A roadblock proactively stops people from messing with you, be it attacking you or targeting your stuff. They come in a few different varieties:

We also have some ways specifically to stop Karona, False God from swinging at us: the Vow cycle is super effective, the best three being Vow of Flight, Vow of Savagery, and Vow of Lightning as they each help Karona get in for damage and lower the chances that she'll die in the process. Homeward Path is another neat tech that you can activate should Karona swing at you, bringing her back to your side and nullifying the attack. Finally, Assault Suit was printed a year after my first article and is basically everything this deck is trying to do distilled into one card.

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Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes are visible warning signs you place on the board. While roadblocks proactively stop your opponents from messing with you, rattlesnakes are a known threat that are used reactively when hostile actions are taken against you. Your opponents should understand that if they mess with you, the rattlesnakes will enact swift vengeance.

Take a card like Seal of Primordium: it's a Naturalize that sits on the board. You can cast it early and let it sit on the board doing nothing in plain view of your opponents. Chances are your opponents have artifacts/enchantments on the table that they'd rather not transfer to their graveyard; that's fine, let them do their thing (within reason). But if an opponent messes with you, well, I guess an "accident" might happen where the seal gets popped and destroys something of theirs. What a shame!

Or your clumsy opponent decides to attack you and runs into your High Priest of Penance. Sadly, the priest does not survive this encounter, and with his dying breath one of the attacker's permanents are destroyed. A very unfortunate but preventable, "accident." Catch my drift?

The very best rattlesnakes the deck has to offer are Karmic Justice and Martyr's Bond. They're two excellent ways of protecting your stuff from removal, board wipe or otherwise. The opponent casts Bane of Progress wiping your board of enchantments? How unfortunate... for him. Justice demands retribution, and his Bane along with all his other permanents are destroyed in the process. How's that for a board wipe deterrent?

Options include: Karmic Justice, Martyr's Bond, Aura of Silence, Seal of Cleansing, Seal of Primordium, High Priest of Penance, Archon of Justice

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Attack!!!

You've built up your impenetrable fortress of pillows. You summon Karona, False God and send her off to start the carnage. You gaze down at the battlefield atop your fluffy battlements. To your dismay, you see your opponents choosing not to commit to all-out attacks; instead they cautiously keep back a defense so they "won't die." Lame!

Luckily for us there are cards we can play that force our opponents to attack with everything they've got. With our opponents forced to send their entire army at each other, we can resume sipping our mojito as our foes do all the dirty work of killing each other for us.

Fumiko the Lowblood is hands-down the best at this. My second favorite is Avatar of Slaughter because giving everything double strike is absolutely hilarious — plus the name, the art, the flavor text; it's so EPIC!

Options include: Fumiko the Lowblood, Avatar of Slaughter, Grand Melee, Bident of Thassa, Warmonger Hellkite

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Ramp

We have access to Green, so you betcha we've got sweet ramp options!

For enchantment options we've got:

There's also the Magic Origins newcomer to Enchantress Herald of the Pantheon, which not only provides ramp but some life gain to boot! And don't forget Oracle of Mul Daya and her little sister Courser of Kruphix (not technically ramp, but an enchantment and sweet).

But the best ramp card for Enchantress? Possibly the single best card for Enchantress in general, something that heavily rewards you for playing the archetype? That's Serra's Sanctum friends. Bask in its glory! It's a bit of a pricey card, aye — thank you reserved list and speculation due to the Theros announcement — but holy moly is it worth picking up. The mana it generates is disgusting.

Other non-enchantment ramp includes: Cultivate, Kodama's Reach, Rampant Growth, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Nature's Lore, Farseek, Wood Elves, Farhaven Elf, Explosive Vegetation, Coalition Relic, Chromatic Lantern, Skyshroud Claim

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Card Draw

Do you like to draw cards? I know I do! In fact it's my favorite thing to do in Magic. Thankfully Enchantress has all our card-drawing needs covered.

Behold the Holy Five of Enchantress card draw: Mesa Enchantress, Argothian Enchantress, Verduran Enchantress, Enchantress's Presence, and Eidolon of Blossoms. These are the lifeblood of our deck: with them we shall drink deep from the well of card draw, never to thirst again. Play a card, draw a card, play a card, draw a card... perfect balance.

Other enchantment card draw options: Maelstrom Nexus, Sylvan LibraryFuture Sight, Rhystic Study, Mystic Remora, Compost, Greed, Erebos, God of the Dead, Phyrexian Arena, Well of Ideas

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Tutors

Need a card and need it right now? Well, we're in all five colors: we've got all the tutors available!

Conflux is another interesting card that acts as both a tutor and big card advantage. Eight is a lot of mana, but fetching five specific cards is very good.

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Disruption

Whatever strategies your playgroup employs that needs stopping, there's an enchantment out there that does what you need. Behold our wealth of options:

My absolute favorite hate card that isn't an enchantment is Torpor Orb. It shuts down combos and tons of creature value decks. Torpor Orb is probably the single best hate card you can pack into your deck if it doesn't hurt your strategy as well.

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Recursion

Our stuff will be destroyed. Thankfully, we've got a lot of powerful tools to bring the stuff we want back.

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Lands:

Some people say it's impossible to make a decent 5-color manabase on a budget. This is flat-out wrong: I've done so in previous Budget Commander articles and recorded the matches; it's not an issue. Yes, you have to rely on lands coming into play tapped more often and sometimes this delays casting a card you otherwise could've cast if the land came into play untapped, but that only really matters in the most competitive settings.

If you're on a budget, I would recommend all the Alara and Khans tri-lands, all the vivid landsEvolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse, Command Tower, City of Brass, Reflecting Pool, Exotic Orchard, and some life-gain taplands. Since Enchantress is heavy in Green, you can also use Green's early mana fixing to your advantage with cards like Fertile Ground, Trace of Abundance, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Rampant Growth, Cultivate, and Kodama's Reach.

On the other end of the price spectrum, ABUR duals + shocklands + fetchlands are the best money can buy.

 

Winning!

Our primary win condition is handing Karona, False God off to our opponents and letting them kill each other with her. Note that if an opponent has been established as the archenemy of the table, Karona can immediately deal the lethal 21 commander damage to them if you and two opponents coordinate a strike. Even if that doesn't happen, her commander damage adds up quick and you can use her to finish the job your opponents started.

Of course, sometimes Plan A doesn't go according to plan: if Karona bites the dust once, twice, three times, it may be hard/inefficient to keep recasting her. We'll need some backup plans.

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Deck List:

This is my current deck list. The list is constantly in flux, swapping in cards from my ever-increasing "Maybeboard" pile.

And the Maybeboard:

Here's a more budget-friendly version:

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The Good: Pinball Karona is an interactive and unique deck that has multiple angles to win the game. It fits well in both casual and semi-competitive playgroups, and powerful hate cards like Stranglehold and Stony Silence gives it a chance against the ultra cutthroat tables.

The Bad: Mass enchantment removal is annoying but not the end of the world thanks to mass recursion like Replenish to bounce you right back into the game. Exile effects are more problematic than mere destruction / sacrifice removal. The biggest pain to come across is Ruination: if your playgroup runs mass nonbasic land hate then you'd need a drastic overhaul of your mana base so you're not blown out by them.

The Ugly: How much I'm spending to foil out this deck.

 

That's All, Folks!

I'll be talking about Lands.dec in my next article, but after that, who knows? Let me know which Budget Commander you want to see next and I'll toss them into a poll for when we return to the Budget Commander series.

Follow me on Twitter @BudgetCommander for notifications on when the next article is up, updates on future decks, and input for what to work on next. Thanks for reading!


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