Can an Enigma Drake Deck Still Be Competitive in Magic the Gathering?

If you’ve been playing Magic: the Gathering since around the Theros set, you may remember a card called Spellheart Chimera. So, Enigma Drake from Amonkhet (and Magic 2019) may look very familiar. Both creatures fly and their power is equal to the number of instant and sorcery cards in your graveyard. Whereas the Chimera has 3 toughness and trample, the Drake has 4 toughness, but no trample. Which one is better?

Spellheart Chimera decks weren’t exactly top-tier winning lists back in the day, but they were fairly competitive. They would win a local tournament here and there. They also performed decently on Magic Online. Being a three-mana creature, the Chimera could come down rather quickly and start swinging for some real damage. The trample was particularly effective. But, a simple Lightning Strike would bring it down. So, you had to time playing the Chimera correctly.

While the Drake has no trample, it has an extra point of toughness. This puts it out of range of a lot of burn spells and even some other removal. But, really, it’s the same card as the Chimera, especially when you consider there’s a creature in the same set that has great synergy with it: Cryptic Serpent.

This uncommon is actually seeing Legacy play, specifically in Delver of Secrets decks that play a ton of spells already! And it’s for good reason. Even though the Serpent costs 5UU to cast, his cost decreases for each instant or sorcery in your graveyard. It’s actually fairly easy (especially in Legacy) to get a 6/5 for 2 mana. While he doesn’t have trample, and is a fairly vanilla creature otherwise, that’s a lot of power for a tiny mana investment!

With Spellheart Chimera, you didn’t have another creature in Standard that could pair so well with him. But many solid spells entered Standard such as Magma Spray, Fiery Temper, and Lightning Axe. Not only can these spells do some quick damage, but also fill your graveyard. Fiery Temper is particularly good for Lightning Axe, since when you discard it, you can just cast it for its Madness cost.

Sweltering Suns is a version of Anger of the Gods that you can also cycle for a card, so it’s rarely a dead draw. (Note having 4 toughness saves the Drake from Sweltering Suns!) Standard would also have Anticipate to help filter through our deck to get the right cards, plus Cathartic Reunion and Take Inventory to draw cards and fill our graveyard, too. Censor is a great permission spell that can also cycle for a card, too!

Another creature that works well in an Enigma Drake deck is Bedlam Reveler from Eldritch Moon. He’s seen play in Standard, Modern and Legacy. Like the Cryptic Serpent, he also gets cheaper to cast for each instant and sorcery in the graveyard. Then, not only does he have prowess, but when he comes into play, he makes you discard your hand and draw three cards. While this sounds like a drawback, in this deck, it’s certainly not!

Here’s what an Amonkhet Standard Enigma Drake Deck would look like. Here’s a U/R Drake list on MTG Salvation. I’d have built it about the same way.

Creatures:

4 Enigma Drake

3 Bedlam Reveler

3 Cryptic Serpent

Non-Creature Spells:

3 Anticipate

3 Cathartic Reunion

4 Censor

4 Fiery Temper

4 Lightning Axe

2 Magma Spray

3 Sweltering Suns

4 Take Inventory

Lands:

4 Aether Hub

4 Spirebluff Canal

4 Wandering Fumarole

5 Mountain

6 Island

Of course, most of this list wasn’t Standard legal for long. But, looking at this list, I saw this being easily adapted for Modern. It would probably look something like this:

Creatures:

4 Delver of Secrets

3 Enigma Drake

2 Bedlam Reveler

2 Cryptic Serpent

Non-Creature Spells:

4 Serum Visions

4 Opt

3 Cathartic Reunion

4 Censor

3 Fiery Temper

3 Lightning Axe

2 Sweltering Suns

3 Lightning Bolt

Lands:

4 Spirebluff Canal

4 Wandering Fumarole

4 Steam Vents

4 Scalding Tarn

3 Mountain

4 Island

In this case, we turn it into more of a Delver-type deck, since you really want to have that creature down on Turn One. Also, unlike Spellheart Chimera, Enigma Drake is out of Lightning Bolt range. It’s also out of Anger of the Gods range, which is a common card for Modern. Likewise, Bedlam Reveler has 4 toughness to begin with, and the Serpent has 5. But while this deck wants all of these guys, we run fewer copies since we’re trying to get in early damage with the Delvers. Also, the Modern deck can run better draw power in Serum Visions and Opt.

But fortunately for Enigma Drake, he’d get yet another shot in Standard, making another new friend in an old Goblin favorite.

Enigma Drake in Magic 2019 Standard

Still, could an Enigma Drake deck be competitive in Standard? Despite getting some more tools in Hour of Destruction, it didn’t really happen during Amonkhet block. It didn’t really do much during Ixalan block or Dominaria, either. But, it was reprinted in Magic 2019 and gained a valuable ally in Guttersnipe!

Finding out that Enigma Drake was in M19, I decided to look and see if someone actually built a deck with these two. In fact, I found a U/R Spells list on Tappedout (deck list unfortunately no longer available) that fit the bill perfectly!

Creatures:

4x Enigma Drake

3x Guttersnipe

Instants:

2x Abrade

3x Censor

3x Disallow

3x Hieroglyphic Illumination

3x Lightning Strike

4x Magma Spray

3x Opt

3x Supreme Will

Sorcery:

2x Banefire

Land:

9x Island

7x Mountain

4x Spirebluff Canal

4x Sulfur Falls

Enchantments:

2x Search for Azcanta

2x The Mirari Conjecture

Artifacts:

2x Primal Amulet

This deck would lose a ton to the October 2018 Standard rotation, but it gave a much different approach to the deck. It has Cycling elements that replaced the Madness elements of the Shadows Over Innistrad/Eldritch Moon sets. Guttersnipe gives the deck an extra burn component, which is really helpful.

This deck also has a powerful endgame with The Mirari Conjecture to copy a big Banefire and Primal Amulet to speed up your spellslinging and give you another way to copy spells. It’s a pretty sweet build.

But alas, it would lose so much so soon…

Enigma Drake and Kiln Fiend in Modern

I always felt strongly that there would be a space for the Drake in Modern. In fact, a Modern deck with Enigma Drake would become competitive. But it took a rather different approach.

In Modern, Enigma Drake made a couple of new friends: Kiln Fiend and Thing in the Ice. It resembles a Kiln Fiend / Nivix Cyclops deck in Pauper, one of the better decks in that format. Here’s a list that has gone 5-0 in matches in several competitive Modern leagues on Magic Online.

Creatures

4 Kiln Fiend

4 Thing in the Ice

1 Young Pyromancer

3 Enigma Drake

Non-Creature Spells

2 Dive Down

1 Gut Shot

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Mutagenic Growth

4 Serum Visions

4 Sleight of Hand

1 Vapor Snag

1 Disrupting Shoal

4 Manamorphose

4 Temur Battle Rage

Enchantment

1 Blood Moon

Lands

2 Flooded Strand

3 Island

1 Mountain

2 Polluted Delta

4 Scalding Tarn

4 Spirebluff Canal

2 Steam Vents

Sideboard

2 Ceremonious Rejection

2 Dispel

2 Flame Slash

3 Abrade

1 Negate

1 Young Pyromancer

2 Blood Moon

1 Enigma Drake

1 Jace, Architect of Thought

To save a little money, the 4 Sleight of Hand could be replaced with 4 Opt, which wasn’t in Modern yet.

Basically, Enigma Drake becomes a back-up plan to Kiln Fiend. It also is out of reach of Lightning Bolt, which the Fiend isn’t. Whereas Kiln Fiend requires you to cast a lot of spells to do a bunch of damage in one turn, the Drake turns your spent spells into power. So it’s a really nice synergy you can’t do in Pauper, since Enigma Drake is an uncommon.

Yes, Enigma Drake is a competitive Modern card. I still like my sort of midrange brew that I had early on, but this Kiln Fiend deck is really sweet.

What do you all think? How would you build an Enigma Drake deck?

Writing words, spreading love, Amelia Desertsong primarily writes creative nonfiction articles, as well as dabbling in baseball, Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, and whatever else tickles her fancy.
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