Commander Unstable Mutation: Coven Counters

Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Coven Counter is based on generating +1/+1 counters, off the commander and other sources, buffing the small creatures in order to deal combat damage.  This is inherently a bad game plan, especially without backup from things like proliferate, or counter doubling engines, and without a way to rapidly drop a lot of creatures so they can get buffed, and without really a way to benefit from dealing all this combat damage.

Leinore, Autumn Sovereign (MIC)

Leinore is an okay commander, card draw is nice and the coven trigger should be relatively easy to achieve.  She’s got 4 toughness, which is nice, but 0 power, which synergizes with her card draw ability, but since this deck focuses on dealing combat damage you’d ideally want her to be a hitter, especially to take people out with combat damage.

This is arguably the better commander, though lacking in card draw.  Run humans, buff your commander off humans, and beat your opponents down with 1,2, and 3 cmc creatures that are getting hugely buffed from the commanders +1/+1 counters.

Avacyn's Memorial (MIC)

This is a neat effect, and could be quite hilarious in something like a Sisay Weatherlight Captain deck, it costs 8, so you’d have to get her power up some how artificially instead of just by grabbing legendaries.  If you did though you could just wrath repeatedly.

Celestial Judgment (MIC)

I like this board clear, and obviously, this could be quite a powerful effect, but it costs 6, and you have the potential to lose some creatures as well.  It does synergize with the commander pretty well though.

Curse of Conformity (MIC)

This is a neat curse, though I think the way it would be the most powerful is to cast it on yourself and leverage some kind of 0/1 tokens into 3/3s.  For stopping a go wide deck it’s potentially powerful, but since it specifically exempts legendaries it wont serve as a substitute humility for commander.

Moorland Rescuer (MIC)

I think this is a cool creature, and it can go infinite because the clauses aren’t linked, the trigger goes on the stack, but since it isn’t an “if you do” you can then recur the rescuer in some way and still return the creatures to your battlefield.

Sigarda's Vanguard (MIC)

Double strike is powerful, and this could potentially give you a finisher, but its limitations and cost are pretty steep.

Stalwart Pathlighter (MIC)

This combos decently with the commander, and lets you swing no matter what, but since it’s conditional on it being your turn it’s of limited use in my opinon.

Visions of Glory (MIC)

In theory can make a lot of creatures, and I like the flashback cost reduction mechanic, but making a bunch of human tokens generally won’t do much aside from very specific decks that care about humans entering the battlefield, though obviously, Kyler, Sigardian Emissary does.

Wall of Mourning (MIC)

This is one of the better coven abilities in my opinion since it will net you 3 cards eventually.  But of course that’s fairly lame, in card draw terms, drawing 3 cards over 3 turns.

Celebrate the Harvest (MIC)

This is potentially a pretty big card, grabbing a ton of lands.  Elves ramp nicely into this, especially since the hierarchs exactly ability lasts until end of turn, and they have 0 power, you can pretty easily manipulate what powers you have between 0 power hierarchs and elves, and then “normal” mana dork elves that are 1/1.

Curse of Clinging Webs (MIC)

To me this is another curse to cast on yourself sometimes, to create a spider every time a creature dies.  Though if you know your opponents decks this could potentially net you a lot of spiders.

Heronblade Elite (MIC)

This is a sort of durdle card, but in that sense pretty powerful, generating huge amounts of mana for power is quite useful, and this one allows you to generate mana of any color, most of the tap for x mana equal to power only generate green mana, but for infinite combos like Pemmin’s Aura or Freed from the Reel, blue mana is required.  Also potentially quite strong with Kenrith, Returned King.

Kurbis, Harvest Celebrant (MIC)

I like this card and I think it’s too bad it doesn’t have partner, would make a great commander, potentially.  These “benefits from how much you paid to cast it” are really useful ways to manage commander tax.

Ruinous Intrusion (MIC)

This is potentially big, a bit pricy but you’ll almost always get value for blowing up the most obnoxious stax or powerful artifact on the board.

Sigardian Zealot (MIC)

This is potentially a huge buff, but it costs 5 and just buffs creatures, so for go-wide decks it’s a decent finisher, but requires a massive board state and then you’ll probably only kill one person.

Somberwald Beastmaster (MIC)

It’s 7 mana, but you can cheat it out as an ETB and creates 4 tokens.  Many things are linked specifically to creatures so anytime you are making a lot of creatures at once that is powerful, and there’s certainly power in having a lot of deathtouch.

Visions of Dominance (MIC)

This is one of the better visions cards in my opinion since casting it on a commander can pretty quickly give it +6 / +6 or more with the double cast, and put it into commander kill range pretty quickly.

 

On the whole, going hard on +1/+1 counters isn’t a terrible way to build, but it’s also not terribly strong either.  One plan is to use it go wide, buffing up a bunch of medium creatures.  But to get to 40 damage is going to mean that you need a lot of +1/+1 counters to drop on 2/2s and 4/4s, and you need to keep them on the board.  Granted there are some creatures that give +1/+1 for every +1/+1 they get, and other similar effects.  There are also counter doublers, like doubling season.  So okay, you can generate a lot of counters, and there are some cards that just care about counters, like Tayam, Luminous Enigma.  Tayam is in Abzan colors. Hm… hold that thought.

The second opportunity is to do something with the counters themselves, either by removing them with cards like Fertilid for value, or something a little more impactful like Sage of Hours or Zameck Guildmage.

But this all leads to my biggest problem with the deck: The colors.  Green/White just doesn’t really have anywhere to go with these counters aside from “go wide” and “hit them with small, buffed creatures,” which is a really terrible game plan in Commander.  It’s completely vulnerable to wrath of god and other board clear effects.  It doesn’t end games quickly and it provides a visibly threatening aspect on the table (sure to make you a target) and it lacks sufficient card draw; the core mechanic doesn’t draw you all that many cards, just one per turn.

Make this Abzan however (green/black/white), and it’s got black.  And thanks to including Black the deck suddenly has a lot of ways to use +1/+1 counters, and we get to include all the Shadrix stuff from Strixhaven (you know, the +1/+1 counter guild).  Or make it Bant (blue/green/white), and blue has a lot of ways to use +1/+1 counters thanks to the last few Ravnica blocks, or double them: Pir, Imaginative Rascal for example.

So to rebuild the deck I basically gutted it and turned it into a vehicle where elves power up hydras.

The new version has a bunch of elves for ramp, especially elves like Gyre Sage who keep getting bigger and keep tapping for more mana as they get bigger, letting you lay down truly huge threatening hydra creatures.  Cards like Shalai, Voice of Plenty and Leyline of Abundance can get truly out of hand this way.  If you can pay 6 mana to give all your creatures +1/+1 but that makes several of your elves suddenly tap for 1 more mana, you can keep doing it every turn.  Hydras that have 4 or 5 counters are them are far more rewarding to cast Biogenic Upgrade on.  Your basic gameplan here is very basic: Ramp Elves into more elves, start dropping huge hydras, and start swinging.  You’ve got some instants mostly to protect your creatures from board clear or targeted removal.  So don’t tap out entirely.

Thankfully the upgrade cards are relatively cheap, the precon would start you off at MSRP of around 40 and then maybe 150-160 for upgrades.

Next week we’ll be back to our regular schedule of deck write-ups, except the damned next set comes out in a month, which means, guess what, it’s already preview season again.

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