The Only Control Deck in the Semifinals
While Enigmatic Fires didn’t have the most impressive showing at Pro Tour: Phyrexia when compared to other decks, it did take Derrick Davis to the semifinals, where he fell to the eventual champion Reid Duke on Izzet Creativity. So, how did Derrick find his way to the Top 8? What is Enigmatic Fires, and why was his build of Enigmatic Fires able to take him to the semifinals?
Coming into the Pro Tour, Enigmatic Fires could be considered a contender in the format. Recently, it has done well in challenges and has floated between “D” and “B” Tier for quite some time on the PlayingMTG.com Pioneer Tier List. Always present but never in the spotlight.
A Quiet Path
Qualifying from the U.S. Regional Championship, Davis is a player who enjoyed playing Control prior to picking up Enigmatic Fires, posting strong finishes with Azorius Control on the NRG Circuit. He then won the MOCS Pioneer Showcase Challenge last week – qualifying him for the Showcase Qualifier – with Engmatic Fires. With a few adjustments to the list, he then submitted Enigmatic Fires for the first Pro Tour since pre-COVID.
For the most part, Derrick’s Journey was one that occurred behind the limelight of the camera. Quietly, Davis’ Day One concluded at a very respectable record of 5-3 with a positive record of 3-2 in Pioneer, defeating Rakdos Midrange twice and Izzet Creativity whilst falling to Rakdos Sacrifice and Gruul Vehicles.
In Day Two, Davis accumulated victory after victory, defeating Mono-White, Izzet Phoenix, and Rakdos Midrange while drawing two matches with Izzet Creativity. With his 12-4 record, he entered the Top 8 as the eighth seed, facing Shota Yasooka playing his best matchup: Rakdos Midrange. With this matchup being incredibly favored, Davis successfully piloted his deck to a 3-0 sweep to win the match. He then faced Reid Duke on Izzet Creativity, falling to him in four games 3-1.
Enigmatic Fires is a reactive, “tap-out”-style control deck that uses its cheap, yet effective, enchantment removal spells to control the battlefield while looking to resolve one of its namesake enchantments in Enigmatic Incarnation or Fires of Invention. From there, the deck looks to utilize enchantments with powerful enter-the-battlefield effects and turn them into creatures that take over the game. The deck recently got a massive boost from Leyline Binding allowing the deck to cheat out a game-winning creature into play such as an Agent of Treachery or a Titan of Industry.
When comparing this build to other various Enigmatic Fires builds, there are a few things that stand out. The first being the near total omission of black spells from the deck.
The Effects of Four Colors
When going into a metagame that can be targeted, like the Pro Tour, Derrick Davis chose a build of Enigmatic Fires that fights many of the proactive decks in the format. Cutting black enables the deck to take a leaner build than that of a five-color variant. This allows the deck to play fewer lands that come into play tapped and forego Mana Confluence, which reduces the amount of incidental life loss. While there are some black sources in the deck in Savai Triome, these are simply additional Sacred Foundrys that come into play tapped, but allow Leyline Binding to be cast for one mana.
Another benefit to only playing four colors is that these builds tend to focus on the speed and raw power of Enigmatic Fires, as it looks to get its gameplan enabled as quickly as possible. While this plan can hurt when playing against decks that are either looking to control the game or to combo their way to a win, the majority of the field was looking to apply pressure. This can be shown in some of the card selections such as Wolfwillow Haven – which can enable a turn-three Enigmatic or Fires – and the lack of Omen of the Sea. Omen of the Sea is a great card for when games go long, as the ability to scry becomes more relevant. However, with the pace of the format this past weekend, the stronger card filtering of Bitter Reunion became much more important.
Innovation and Looking Beyond
Derrick Davis’s build of Enigmatic Fires has given the deck a new direction of where to go next that may cause other pilots to reconsider some card choices. For example, many players tend to run only one copy of each creature. Davis decided to play a second copy of Moon-Blessed Cleric and Glasspool Mimic. This allowed him to be able to tutor up key enchantments multiple times while also being able to go down to 32 lands (from the standard 33 lands in the five-color build). In addition, Davis also showcased the power of Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines on camera, while also reintroducing some old favorites to the deck.
The first of the reintroduced old favorites was Cavalier of Dawn. Cavalier acted as a catch-all, since it was able to remove nearly anything on the battlefield while being a brick wall that is nearly impossible to attack through. In addition, it was also a part of arguably one of the smartest plays of the entire Top 8: destroying itself to get back a Leyline Binding in order to protect Davis from Reid Duke’s potential combo. While Cavalier has fallen out of favor since the printing of Leyline Binding (as Binding can answer anything on the battlefield), the ability to recur a removal spell with flash makes it a card that should be considered more in the future.
While Cavalier of Dawn adds another powerful enter-the-battlefield, one of the best ways to fight Enigmatic Fires is with an opposing Elesh Norn. Denying any form of enter-the-battlefied effects, there are very few cards in the deck that answer it. Hanged Executioner is one of the more flexible choices that can answer it and other hard-to-interact-with threats. While the interaction didn’t come up during the semifinal match, had it been on the battlefield while Reid Duke was trying to combo, it would have stopped his combo, as it can exile an opposing creature at instant-speed.
Lastly, Derrick chose to play Destiny Spinner as his two-mana Enchantment Creature. While it may not have as high of a floor when compared to Spirited Companion, it is a card that has a much higher ceiling and stops countermagic, which is one of the weaknesses of this build. As such, having a relevant creature that can be tutored up through Enigmatic Incarnation via Chained to the Rocks or by Moon-Blessed Cleric is extremely important when it comes to some of the trickier matchups.
Enigmatic Fires is a toolbox deck that rewards deck construction and metagame knowledge. If built correctly and in the right hands, Enigmatic Fires has the power to take down any level of event whether it be the Pro Tour or a local FNM event. This deck has a gigantic pool of cards available to it which makes it a viable option into nearly any Pioneer meta.