Commander Showdown – Estrid vs Tuvasa vs Kestia

(Estrid, the Masked by Johannes Voss | Tuvasa the Sunlit by Eric Deschamps | Kestia, the Cultivator by Zezhou Chen)

Bantchantments

Bant has no shortage of famous commanders. Rafiq of the Many has been commander-damaging players’ socks off for over a decade now. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician helms phenomenally obnoxious stax decks all over the world. Roon of the Hidden Realm crushes enemies in the literal blink of an eye. Even Phelddagrif has made waves as a delightfully devious Group Hug commander.

However, none of those commanders capitalized on one of Bant’s specialties: Enchantress decks. From Mesa Enchantress to Eidolon of Blossoms, white and green make very special use out of enchantments, and blue tags along to give those strategies a powerful punch. Thus, when Commander 2018 brought three new fantastic Bant commanders into the fold, each one was more delightful than the next.

Estrid, the Masked revisited the wonderful Totem Armor mechanic from Rise of the Eldrazi. Kestia, the Cultivator brought back Theros‘s signature keyword, Bestow, for a fun new twist. Lastly, Tuvasa the Sunlit gave us a fairly classic enchantress ability on the actual commander, one who even turns into her own powerful win condition.

Each of these commanders is a delightful choice for a Bantchantments deck, but their abilities are so disparate that they each lead to a very different style of enchantment-based strategy. Which one is the best fit for you? Let’s find out!


Tuvasa Mufasa

Let’s begin with Tuvasa the Sunlit. Of the three options, Tuvasa’s ability is certainly the most straightforward, because it so closely resembles traditional enchantress cards like Verduran Enchantress and Enchantress’s Presence. The difference, of course, is that Tuvasa only draws you a card for the first enchantment you cast each turn, as opposed to every enchantment.

This restriction seems annoying at first, but it happily allows us to cast any type of enchantment spells we want, including ones with high mana costs. Drawing a card for every enchantment spell would incentivize us to play lots of tiny enchantments, like Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain and her army of zero- or one-drop artifacts, and I’m personally quite happy casting huge powerhouses like Sigil of the Empty Throne, or even perhaps a Sandwurm Convergence. Plus, as a happy bonus, Tuvasa gets +1/+1 for each of our enchantments, so she’s hardly a frail fighter.

In fact, to get better acquainted, let’s go ahead and glance through Tuvasa’s Average Deck according to the stats here on EDHREC

Average Tuvasa Deck

Commander (1)
Enchantments (31)
Creatures (18)
Instants (5)
Sorceries (6)
Artifacts (2)
Planeswalkers (1)
Lands (36)

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Enchantress decks are quite famous for their control-ish lines of play. By drawing so many cards, they can outpace their opposition in resource accumulation. They classically build up a huge defense, draw a bazillion cards, and eventually drop a win condition late-game to finally close things out. In fact, this is often why enchantress decks can afford to run so few win conditions in their decks; while some decks need twenty different cards for potential win conditions, enchantress decks might only run five game-finishers in the deck because they’ll draw so many cards that they’re sure to hit one eventually.

That process is fine, but it’s time-consuming. Luckily, Tuvasa serves as her own win condition. Remember, she gets +1/+1 for each enchantment we possess. We’re already planning on building up a fortress of protective enchantments, from Propaganda to Privileged Position, and Tuvasa turns our natural defense into the perfect offense. Before we know it, she could climb to be an 11/11 or more, knocking down enemies in just two attack steps – one if we manage to play Finest Hour or Helm of the Gods.

How do we ensure Tuvasa can get behind enemy lines? Surely they’ll have a huge defense as well? Even if they do, Thassa, God of the Sea will help guide our path. Whitewater Naiads and Rogue’s Passage can also do the trick just as easily, and Unquestioned Authority guarantees that Tuvasa will slide through the red zone with grace and equanimity.

Tuvasa has many enchantment-based win conditions available to her, but this is her most iconic, and the thing that makes her the most unique among the Bantchantress commanders. Her ability is classic, almost bordering on simple, but that means her deck gets to be straightforward and streamlined. Defend. Draw cards. When the time is right, use your commander to punch a hole through the enemy armies. If you enjoy that classic enchantress strategy, Tuvasa is the perfect fit.


Masking Your Feelings

Let’s move now to Estrid, the Masked, headliner of the Adaptive Enchantment precon, and a planeswalker with a smattering of nifty abilities.

First, she can untap your enchanted permanents. This is a nice trick for your enchanted creatures, because they can attack and then untap after combat, never leaving your defenses down. Even better, it’s great for the Overgrowths and Dawn’s Reflections of the world, because she can tap your lands for mana, then untap them again for even more.

Second, she can outfit any of your permanents with a nifty Mask token, granting them some much-needed defense in case they come under fire. Bonus, that also means they’ll untap with her +2 ability.

Lastly, her ultimate allows you to Replenish, bringing back all manner of enchantments that managed to fall to an early grave. If you have a Nylea’s Colossus in play when this ability resolves, your opponents are in for a very bad time.

I’d like to jump right to a decklist for Estrid, but before I do, I have to acknowledge the Mammoth Umbra in the room, and that’s The Chain Veil. Yes, you can enchant The Chain Veil with one of Estrid’s Mask tokens, or any old Aura, really, and use Estrid’s +2 ability to repeatedly untap and reuse Estrid’s loyalty abilities over and over and over. Combined with the aforementioned land Auras, Estrid goes infinite very easily.

Not only that, but she’s also pitch perfect for a Stasis shell, locking down everyone else’s board while gleefully untapping her own permanents without a care in the world. These are excessively powerful options for Estrid, but there’s more nuance to her toolkit than sheer combo. Let’s avoid them for now, so we can dig deeper into her other optimal strategies. As such, let’s check out an Average Decklist:

Average Estrid Deck

Commander (1)
Enchantments (31)
Instants (4)
Sorceries (6)
Artifacts (3)
Creatures (18)
Lands (36)

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I think it’s important to note Estrid’s removal spells, which include lots of Wrath effects like Martial Coup and Phyrexian Rebirth. These don’t affect her as a planeswalker, and notably, they put bodies on the field to protect her. That protection is extra important, because Ghostly Prison and Propaganda effects, unlike Sphere of Safety, don’t tax creatures who attack your planeswalker.

Without the Chain Veil combo or the Stasis lockout, Estrid still has many paths to victory. Some are incremental; Sigil of the Empty Throne and Luminarch Ascension will eventually fill the board with an insurmountable number of Angel tokens. At other times, the win conditions are more blatant. Nylea’s Colossus, Finest Hour, and Heavenly Blademaster all appeared in the precon, and each of them puts in a lot of work. Just make sure you leave room among all those land Auras for some creature Auras to attach to those powerhouses, too!

That being said, none of these options set Estrid apart from the strategies available to Tuvasa. Tuvasa can also Hulk out with Nylea’s Colossus or assemble a flying wall of Angels with Sigil of the Empty Throne. That leaves us with two options to make Estrid more distinct:

  1. Lean into the combo/stax potential. The Chain Veil and Stasis or Winter Orb effects grow more enticing when we try to be more unique than Tuvasa. I’m sure many players will take this option because of its sheer potency, but for some, this is not an option, because combo and/or stax does not fit with their playgroup.
  2. Go for some big ol’ mana.

That last option interests me the most. Estrid’s great at masking her permanents, but she’s better at untapping them. Given the sheer number of land enchantments at her disposal, it is not at all difficult for Estrid to produce upwards of ten mana per turn. If you’ve a Serra’s Sanctum, you don’t need me to tell you how quickly the mana starts to get out of hand.

Naturally, Estrid could spend all her mana on more enchantresses, and then more enchantment spells, to draw even more cards, but she can also power all those resources into amazing high-cost spells. Quarantine Field looks fragile, but can easily be protected with Estrid’s Mask tokens or Sterling Grove effects, and Estrid has no problem snatching five or six permanents off the board with all that mana. Genesis Wave can throw a bunch of permanents onto the battlefield.

Better yet, how about repeatable mana sinks? Chameleon Colossus only takes a few activations before it gets very, very frightening. Heliod, God of the Sun can pump out an army of 2/1s, which doesn’t sound like much at first, but adds up over time, especially when paired with a Shalai, Voice of Plenty. Since these abilities can all be activated at instant speed, hold up mana for a Verity Circle and if it successfully deters attackers, pump that mana into a Centaur Glade before your turn.

Put simply, turn her into a commander version of Wilderness Reclamation. Try out Seedborn Muse and Awakening too, for good measure. For Estrid, combos and stax are just a stone’s throw away, but if you want to truly see the face behind the mask, untapping your lands for tons of mana each turn is a less obnoxious but wholly unique take on a fun and beguiling planeswalker.


Kestia is the Bestia

We now turn our attention to Kestia, the Cultivator, the least popular of the three Bantchantment commanders. In fact, we know right away that Kestia is quite different from her sisters just by looking at the Average Card Type Distribution pie charts at the top of her page.

Estrid and Tuvasa’s pie charts are nearly identical, with 18 creatures and 31 enchantments apiece, but Kestia averages 26 creatures and 23 enchantments. EDHREC classifies enchantment creatures (like Nylea’s Colossus) as creatures, rather than enchantments, so there are certainly more enchantments in her deck than it first appears, but the higher density of creatures is very important.

Commander has a relatively estranged relationship with the combat step; many folks won’t even bother attacking until their final turn, after they’ve amassed a gigantic army and cast Overwhelming Stampede to wipe out the entire table in one go. Attacking incrementally throughout the game can leave you vulnerable to multiple opponents, which deters aggression. As a result, Kestia, who rewards constant, incremental combat, is left by the wayside.

Kestia has one of the most peculiar abilities we’ve seen on a commander in quite some time. Whenever an enchanted or enchantment creature you control attacks, she draws you a card. She also can Bestow herself onto a creature, giving it a sizable buff. (Note that her Bestow cost does not replace or evade commander tax.)

Kestia’s ability is too awkward for a Voltron strategy. She prefers that you go wide with multiple Nyx-infused creatures, and besides, when she’s an Aura, she doesn’t bequeath her commander damage to the enchanted creature.

As a result, this is the perfect opportunity for enchantment creatures like Archetype of Imagination to shine, along with fellow Bestow creatures like Eidolon of Countless Battles. Plus, who can forget powerhouse Auras like Bear Umbra and Ancestral Mask? Kestia makes up for the potential downside of Auras – losing out on card advantage when the enchanted creature dies and the Aura goes to the graveyard – by immediately giving you more cards in hand.

Kestia’s EDHREC page has a pleasant balance of enchantment creatures and great enchantments… but to be frank, I’m not convinced it’s heading in the right direction. Many of the Bestow creatures are underwhelming even in Limited, so they feel very low-impact here in Commander.

Rather than looking at an Average Deck for Kestia, let’s try something a little fresh:

Kestia, the Brainwasher

Commander (1)
Enchantments (28)
Sorceries (4)
Instants (7)
Artifacts (1)
Planeswalkers (1)
Creatures (22)
Lands (36)

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Why cast your own creature and then slap an Aura on it when you could just cast a single Control Magic and get an enchanted creature right away? Inspired by Hypnotic Siren, I’ve stuffed the deck with tons of creature-stealing enchantments, from Persuasion to Illusory Gains to Biting Tether, turning enemy ranks against their owners. These provide you with an army of enchanted creatures, so Kestia will draw cards all the way to the bank.

Control spells like these are a great 2-for-1, simultaneously removing a creature from an opponent’s side of the field and providing you with one of your own. Why Clone when you can just steal? In EDH, the most popular removal spells are creature-based, such as Swords to Plowshares and Supreme Verdict, so if your enemies are going to destroy something, it’s likely they’ll have to remove their own creature, rather than your mind-controlling Auras. To set you back, they also have to set themselves back.

Even Mind Harness and Domestication, which have restrictions, can do excellent work against specific commanders. Stealing an enemy commander can often lock some folks out of their strategies completely. Any creatures you can’t steal you can just blow away with a Winds of Rath, keeping your army of brainwashed creatures perfectly intact.

Obviously Control Magic effects can’t take up the entirety of the deck, so what do we have for support?

God tribal! At least, kind of. The Theros Gods are indestructible, and once Kestia shows them enough Devotion, they become an indestructible army of card-drawing machines. Some of their Devotion counts are high, but I’d much prefer my enchantment creatures to be fragile because they’re sometimes regular enchantments instead of the alternative, where they’re fragile because they’re a 1/1 Hopeful Eidolon.

Once you do get the Gods active, they get very scary very quickly. First of all, they’re never going to die in combat, which means they’ll relentlessly grind down your opposition. Second, if you have Heliod, God of the Sun in play, they can indestructibly attack and defend, securing your safety. Third, they’re surprisingly ripped. Nylea, God of the Hunt is a 6/6 that gives your army trample. Even the peace-loving, grass-growing Karametra, God of Harvests is a whopping 6/7. For all their fluff and bluster, when it comes to combat, the Gods don’t mess around, so they’re a great add for Kestia.

On a final note, ramp is extra-extra-extra-important for this deck. Stealing creatures with Yavimaya’s Embrace and casting huge Gods like Kruphix, God of Horizons isn’t easy on the mana base, so the deck has an abnormally high mana curve. Even casting Kestia a second time could run you up on mana. Luckily, it’s okay if we take our time in the first few turns to play bunches of ramp spells, because that’ll give our opponents time to run out creatures we want to Mind Control!


Cards to Consider

Before we wrap up, I just want to mention a few extra cards that could be worthwhile for each of these commanders. These don’t show up as very popular on their EDHREC pages, but probably should.

Tuvasa

  • Enchanted Evening: This card is bonkers expensive, and so are many of its best synergies. If you’re on a budget, Tuvasa can play perfectly fine without them. If you want to get very extremely nasty, though, this enchantment turns Tuvasa into a one-hit kill. Even better, it combines with Aura Thief, Calming Verse, and Cleansing Meditation for utterly devastating results.
  • Privileged Position: Not a cheap card either, but since it just got reprinted, it’s better than it used to be. Enchantress decks are capable of protecting their board with this obnoxious five-drop, and then protecting this obnoxious five-drop with Greater Auramancy, rendering their entire table untouchable, perfect for Tuvasa to hide behind until she’s ready to smack enemy life totals with a 24/24 unblockable fish slap.
  • Mystic Remora: Speaking of fish, this is a budget option that definitely warrants more play. It’s a single mana, Tuvasa instantly draws you cards for it, and it can draw many more over the course of its lifetime. Tons of value for a single blue mana.

Estrid

  • Sunken FieldYeah, this one is weird, but it’s also very annoying for your opponents. If you do decide to lean into the big mana Estrid strategy, don’t avoid the tiny land Auras like Urban Utopia and Unbridled Growth, even if they don’t produce extra mana by themselves; Estrid will untap them and make them produce extra mana for you, so every little step counts. In the meantime, Sunken Field will keep your opponents on their toes.
  • Bant CharmThis deserves to see more play in Bant decks generally, but since Estrid is playing it the least of these three, she’s the one who gets the nod. This spell is exceptionally versatile, so don’t sleep on it.
  • Dueling Grounds: Since most of the Propaganda effects don’t protect Estrid, this is a more reliable way to mitigate aggression toward your walker. Along the same lines, Mystic Barrier is surprisingly effective.

Kestia

  • Flickering Ward: Frankly, this is recommended for every enchantress deck. It’s just so useful to recast this for more draw triggers and to reset the protection against the color of the newest big baddie on the field.
  • Aura of Silence: This is one of the best white cards in the format, and it’s even better in a deck with Eidolon of Blossoms. It stops artifact decks and enemy enchantresses dead in their tracks, and can be fired off at any moment. It’s unreasonable that this doesn’t show up on Kestia’s page at all. It’s not an enchantment creature or an Aura, but it doesn’t matter, because that’s just how good it is.
  • Copy Enchantment: Yes, Estrid’s Invocation is strictly better, but don’t forgo this classic. It’s criminal that the Invocation shows up in 58% of Kesita decks, but Copy Enchantment doesn’t show up at all. I know it’s great to recast the Invocation for additional enchantress triggers, but two is better than one.

An Enchanted Evening

Bant has three capable and compelling commanders, each with a fresh take that prevents too much overlap and gives them each a unique flair. Tuvasa the Sunlit rewards the classic pillow fort enchantress style we’re all familiar with, speeding up the end game as her own win condition. Estrid, the Masked can easily slide into degenerate synergies, but also opens the door to an intriguing enchantment-based ramp strategy with tons and tons of extra mana. Most unique of all, Kestia swaps defensive enchantments for aggression, and while her EDHREC page shows that players haven’t yet tapped into her full potential, her prospects are nothing if not enticing.

So, which of these decks is right for you? Do you want to brainwash your enemies to reap Kestia’s rewards? Do you prefer to hide behind droves of protective enchantments until your 21/21 Merfolk can sneak past your opponents? Does it sound more fun to enchant every land in sight and use Estrid to untap them all for a bazillion mana? Or are you a monster who likes to Stasis lock your friends to their slow, miserable deaths?

Oh, and which commanders would you like to see on the next Commander Showdown?

 

Cast your votes, or leave a comment below! Write-in candidates are always welcome.

Til next time!

Joseph Schultz works in a library by day and shuffles libraries by night. He hosts the EDHRECast with Matt Morgan and Dana Roach over at http://edhrecast.libsyn.com/ and has recently taken over as Editor for the articles here on EDHREC! He was also born exactly one year before Magic: the Gathering, which he thinks is probably some kind of sign. Follow @JosephMSchultz on Twitter!