Verduran Machine Head

Wednesdays have become the go-to meetups for the foogies in Oslo. Somewhere between a handful to a dozen spellslingers are wont to gather at the local pub Gaasa ("The Goose"), occasionally substituted by a brewhouse a few steps removed from the city center. But this week it was Gaasa, and I was itching to sling some cards again. Dadgic style.
Local Magic dads Audun, Thomas and Hardy shuffling it up.
I'd been dabbling with the idea of Enchantress Ponza for a year or so. Enchantress was actually the original plan for the deck that warped into Mycosis Fungusaur at the Horrible Horse gathering last year. Never got the chance to sleeve up the Verduran ladies though, neither before nor after. They've been staring at me from the binder for quite some time now.
And what a lovely stare.
Whenever I start to build a deck these days, I begin by looking in the binder to see what is on the bench. And once a deck is assembled - if I really enjoy it - I'd be hard pressed to move cards from away from it. Most cards in Project M, Adventure Island, MonoGreen and Red Atog are off limits. I start to care about these decks and the cards in them; dissecting them for parts to please some new flame somehow makes me feel uneasy. I guess those kind of ticks is how you end up with eight Sol Rings and nineteen Mishra's Factories without having any that you feel comfortable trading away. These fellas have homes now, and I'd be damned if I were to evict them without proper form. So if I am to move cards from an existing deck, even for play testing, I would need to have a good reason. "Black Lotus would be good in this deck" is not a good reason. "I'll temporarily move these Sylvan Libraries from Adventure Island instead of spending $500 to buy copy 7-10 of the card" is solid enough though. If I can't reasonably play the new deck without the card, and I can restore the original deck in five minutes, I'm mostly game. It is a weird kind of "Proxy-10" approach to building, where the "proxies" are cards that are earmarked for other decks.
I would have to make one proper proxy for the evening still, as it appears I only own three Blights. An old house rule for playing Tribelander with team SquattelHaups stated that we could proxy any card as long as we were somewhat inclined to eventually get the real version, and the card we used as a proxy was more expensive than the card we proxied.
This means that power is off the table here. If the deck would be really fun, I guess I could add some spoilers later if I for some reason wanted to get an extra edge at a tournament setting, but for now it's budget brewing.

Let's start with a playset of Juzam Djinns.
Yay! Budget!
So Juzam may not be the most obvious inclusion in Enchantress. That's because everyone keeps building Enchantress wrong. Juzam should be the default wincon in every deck. I guess one could play something like Su-Chi or Sengir or perhaps even something more relevant for the Enchantress plan. I could also freeze my Christmas gifts in salt water and throw socks at people on the bus. But it would all be strange actions far removed from common sense and etiquette.

There was a discussion on what the name "Machine Head" meant on the last episode of All Tings Considered. (The episode is something of a masterwork in hilarity btw, given that you enjoy 85 minutes long ironic inside jokes. Bryan and Svante raised the bar with this one.) I must agree that Machine Head - alongside "Machine Gun" and probably "Artifact Toolbox" - is a deck name that hardly paints a clear picture for me either. But to quote myself in April 2013: "I don't really remember when or how, but many years ago I read about a deck that was noted to have "playsets of both Juzam and Birds" ("birds" not "bop", as in the mid 90's people hadn't invented abbreviations yet; wog was still referred to as wrath and no one called wheel of fortune "wof" or something like that). As I recall, the deck was called Machine Head, a name that now implies a red-black deck, but back then created images of Terminator Juzam in my head."

So my - very loose - definition of Machine Head is a deck with green and black that play ramp permanents into Juzam. I think I've only used the name on this blog before in combination with mana denial strategies; i.e. "Machine Head Ponza". I'd probably place the archetype somewhere in between The Rock and Train Wreck in my mind. I realize that this may not make sense on a consensus scale. But right here, four Birds and four Juzams means Machine Head, and Machine Head sounds rad.
Machine Head it is.
Then we need some mana denial. We're building Ponza after all. I was dabbling a lot with Kudzu first, but never really got it to work. So the denial suite turned out as 4 Blight, 3 Evil Prescence, and two Icy Manipulator for gravy. In addition to Juzam, I wanted some more wincons, and Underworld Dreams seemed like gas with Enchantress. The only issue was the mana cost. To mitigate the heavy color requirements from both green and black, I decided to only run colored lands, even cutting Strip Mine from the list. That may be a bad idea in general, and in a Ponza in particular.
I marked one of my Forests with an "S" to represent that that card could have been a Strip Mine. And yes, both times I drew it I would rather have had it be a Strip Mine ;)
Sylvan Library turned out awesome every time I goldfished the deck, so I upped the number to four. With a playset Sylvan, some hard requirements on colored mana, and no ramp in form of power, I also sleeved up three Untamed Wilds. It turned out to be a pretty great card in this context.

This is what I ended up with:
Verduran Ponza, v1.0
There are very few one-ofs, but other than lacking the miser topdecks, the deck plays really fun. Drawing a bunch of cards and playing Juzam is beautiful in its own right. I was ready for opponents.
But first, via the local pinball arcade to register a runner-up highscore at Medival Madness. 63 million on a rusty machine. Starting the evening feeling pretty fly as 90s fanboys go.
I started my first game against Kenneth by playing turn one Sol Ring into turn two Juzam. It was a quick affair, but clearly attributed more to fluke and the supremacy of Juzam than a testament to the enchantments. We kept rolling.
Gaming hard.
Value town.
I played against a few different deck, most of them on the lower tier of the spectrum. And damn. The deck loses hard to Underworld Dreams. It also struggles with burn and lightning. I even lost a game as a result of Demonic Torment on Juzam Djinn; that was a new one. It may take some time before this one reaches the "wins as much as it loses" mark.

The main issue is that we don't have any removal. The deck is brilliant against the goldfish (as most piles are wont to be), but the mana denial plan isn't strong enough to keep the opponent off threats, it only slows them down. And once they do land a wincon, we can't really take care of it. So I guess either stocking up on more denial, perhaps even take a plunge towards a Nether Void, or add white for removal. With white we also get access to gas like Moat and Spirit Link. Moat may combo badly with Juzam though.
Audun at one point punched me out with some combination of Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore and Artifact Possession on my Icy Manipulator. That dude can really take you to the shores of imagination.
So I guess it is back to the drawing board for a while. I really believe there is more to the Enchantress though, and I'm in no mood to give it up yet. It is after all supremely satisfying to draw three cards of an Evil Presence.


  1. I'm the same way - the idea of moving cards between decks gives me a nervous twitch. Not every deck needs power and LoA (just Sol Ring). Good luck with the build!

  2. Oh yeah Machine Head was that red-black ...Standard? deck at one point (Invasion block? Seem to recall Thunderscape Battlemage). I knew there was something in the back of my mind confusing me.

    On Enchantress, I do believe that there's a servicable mirrorball hybrid. I have a list I hadn't gotten to try out yet (it's quite far down the list), but mostly mirrorball with wild growth over mana vault and enchantress over some chaff, making it a bit slower but more resilient, especially against control.

  3. Yeah, it think it was Standard; played Flamethongue Kavu and Phyrexian Scuta ("the new Juzam") as the two cards I mainly recall (would not have managed to name the Battlemage if we were in a quiz session).

    Enchantresscombo sounds really spicy, would love to see a list in action down the line :) I think my next attempt with Enchantress will be GW, more on the control side of things.


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