Innistrad: Midnight Hunt hit Arena last Thursday, and it’ll soon be available to pick up in paper. Many people were happy to see Wizards move away from the body horror vibes of Shadows Over Innistrad, and aim for more of a folk horror feel. This set focuses on Werewolves, Zombies, and Humans, and has a number of cards that will become excellent additions to many Commander decks. The two Commander preconstructed decks are proving to be quite popular among the community, too; they’re not only on-theme for the season, but they’re well-built and full of excellent Commander cards!
Today, I’ll be taking a look at the Coven Counters deck, which looks to gain value through +1/+1 counters, playing Humans, and taking advantage of creatures with different powers.
New Commander Cards
Similarly to other recent preconstructed decks, Coven Counters is chock full of new cards for Commander. There are a whopping 17 new cards in the deck, and some of them could easily become powerful roleplayers in many different strategies. Here’s a breakdown of the most important new cards in this deck:
Leinore, Autumn Sovereign is the face commander of the deck, and she hints at the +1/+1 counter and coven themes. It’s relatively easy to enable Leinore’s coven ability, especially with the many ways you can alter creatures’ power with +1/+1 counters. Drawing just one extra card per turn can feel a little “small ball” for the usual shenanigans of Commander, but with a decent supporting cast of value creatures in the deck, it can feel like part of a well-oiled machine.
Kyler, Sigardan Emissary is the second-in-command in Coven Counters, and makes for a great Human-themed commander. As their power grows, so do of all the humans around them. The +1/+1 counter subtheme fits well with Humans, too, as many of them work with +1/+1 counters already, like Thalia’s Lieutenant. If built correctly, Kyler can be one of the strongest and most aggressive Humans commanders available.
White may be flush with ways to protect the board, but more options are always welcome. Stalwart Pathlighter is more aggressive than the likes of Rootborn Defenses or Unbreakable Formation, as it looks to protect your team during your combat step only. This makes it suited to aggro decks, but it will still be a player in Commander going forward.
You never see exiling effects for noncreature permanents in green, save for Masked Vandal or Fade into Antiquity. Based on that alone, Ruinous Intrusion will be in consideration for removal when brewing, and the +1/+1 counters effect will push it to the top of the list for decks that care for counter synergies. It may be a bit pricey to cast, but the decks that want this effect will likely have plenty of green ramp to help offset the mana cost.
Moorland Rescuer is a unique take on reanimation in white, and a strong recovery tool. You can really take advantage of the reanimation ability if you pump this Knight’s power, but it performs admirably with its base stats. It’s particularly good in a +1/+1 counters deck because of this: not only can you grow it to reanimate more, but creatures are usually smaller in these archetypes, so you can bring back more creatures with them.
Green is famous for its ramp (or infamous, depending on who you ask). So it’s not strange to see a powerful new mana dork in this deck. Heronblade Elite gives you powerful mana acceleration; they let you play more Humans, which in turn grows the Elite, and gives you more mana. It’s an efficient Human-themed payoff, and vigilance means it can get aggressive once it’s grown, without sacrificing its mana generation.
White is certainly not short on board wipes, especially with the printing of Vanquish the Horde. It’s not often that an asymmetrical wrath effect comes along, though, and they’re often the best choice for creature-heavy decks. Celestial Judgment is perfect for decks like this one, where it’s easy to alter the power of your creatures to suit your situation. With just a bit of setup, this can become white’s equivalent to Plague Wind!
Coven Counters Deck Review
Coven Counters certainly has the traditional green/white feel: an abundance of creatures, and a slew of ways to get aggressive with them! The +1/+1 counters theme feels like the strongest aspect of the deck, and the Human subtheme supports it well. Coven actually feels like the least powerful part of the deck: as it requires some setup and only triggers once on your turns, it feels more like a value package than a primary focus. Thanks to the flexibility of the other themes, it’s easy to keep it triggering very regularly, especially with Leinore, Autumn Sovereign being able to adjust a creature’s power with ease.
When it comes to value in the 99, Coven Counters is fairly decent. Many of the new cards are sought after, so their price tags are relatively high at present. You’ll also find a number of welcome reprints; Somberwald Sage, Gyre Sage, and Mikaeus, the Lunarch were all starting to creep up in price. Bastion Protector is the best reprint in the deck, however, with a price tag of nearly $10 for a copy. Alongside these more niche reprints, you’ll also find the classic staples: Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Swiftfoot Boots, and Talisman of Unity are all here, giving you a good foundation for the deck.
The total cost of the deck is roughly $100, which is about on par with other preconstructed decks around the time of their release, and equates to more than double the cost of the deck to buy as is. This means that Coven Counters follows the trend of the recent precons as both a sound investment, and a great start for any green/white deck.
In terms of power level, Coven Counters feels less powerful than the decks from Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, but roughly on par with the Kaldheim preconstructed offerings. It could still hold its own against the D&D decks, but it may struggle a little to keep up if they’re left unchecked. I’d have no concerns with playing this alongside any of the precons from the past year or two, but I would be mindful of the potential imbalance against some of the more powerful offerings.
Upgrading Coven Counters
In many ways, Coven Counters feels just like the other precons that came before it: it plays well, it feels synergistic, and there are no glaring problems. With that said, there is always room for improvement!
I generally tend to focus on one main theme when upgrading decks, and adding support for a subtheme where relevant. This deck is a bit unusual, as it has two relatively strong themes that tend to compliment each other well: +1/+1 counters and Humans. I’ll be upgrading these relatively evenly, to ensure they maintain their strength and to maximize synergies.
As I mentioned in the deck review, coven feels more like an incidental benefit than something you’d want to work hard to enable. Because of this, you can consider moving Leinore, Autumn Sovereign into the 99 and giving the commander’s seat to Kyler, Sigardian Emissary, to really boost the deck’s Humans theme. I won’t be doing this for the upgrade, but it’s a simple swap between the two, if you decide to go with it.
The main focal points for this upgrade will be:
- Improving +1/+1 counter synergies
- Human synergies
- Developing your board with tokens
Anything that doesn’t compliment either the main game plan or bolster any of the pillars of the upgrade will be replaced by something better suited.
+1/+1 counters is the primary theme of Coven Counters, and it can often feel like a tough strategy to effectively upgrade, thanks to pricey staples like Doubling Season. However, there’s a lot you can do to improve your counter synergies without breaking the bank!
Hardened Scales is a card that needs no introduction. Adding an additional counter every time you place one on a creature is an incredible effect for just one mana, and it’s a must-include in this deck. Conclave Mentor is a functionally identical effect on a two-mana creature; this gives you some redundancy, or lets you play both to really snowball out of control!
Board-wide counter effects are another way to bulk out your board with minimal effort, and Ajani, the Greathearted is one of the best affordable versions of this. His static ability to grant vigilance to your team is perfect to let you get aggressive while never dropping your defenses.
There are some great utility lands that can boost the counter theme, too. I’m surprised that Gavony Township wasn’t included in the base deck, given that it’s thematically on-point, but it’s a fantastic upgrade nonetheless! Karn’s Bastion is ideal for the deck, too; it’s less thematic, but a repeatable proliferate effect is exactly the kind of effect that can push this deck up to more juiced-up power levels.
The most common card type in the deck is creatures, and the majority of them are Humans. A number of them already reward you for playing Humans, like Heronblade Elite and Angel of Glory’s Rise; it stands to reason to lean more into this, especially when many Humans work well with +1/+1 counters.
Thalia’s Lieutenant is another board-wide counter effect that also benefits from Humans, both before and after it’s been cast. If left unchecked, Thalia’s Lieutenant can grow to absurd sizes, especially with Hardened Scales on board. It’s also one of the most efficient ways to add a lot of power to the table, turning a small army into a terrifying battalion for just two mana!
Katilda, Dawnhart Prime is Cryptolith Rite but for Humans, and with the added benefit of an attached mana sink. This Warlock can greatly accelerate your mana production and give you something to do with it, which happens to synergize beautifully with the counters theme. She’s one of the best upgrades for the deck, and well worth the investment.
Even with her activated ability, Katilda may still leave you with excess mana. What better way to make use of it than to dump a full army onto the battlefield? Kindred Summons is an enormous spell, but will reward you for maintaining your board state. If you’re stuck in a board stall, this will almost always serve you much better than any board wipe. If you’re pulling ahead, this will often seal the deal. One of Commander’s biggest draws is that you get to cast huge, splashy spells, and Kindred Summons is the perfect one for this deck!
Many of the creatures in the deck have some inherent value, but it’s important to ensure that you have repeatable value to keep up with the rest of the table.
Maja, Bretagard Protector is a board-wide anthem effect, and rewards you for hitting your land drops by giving you more Humans. Her pseudo-landfall ability means she’s particularly effective when played before cards like Celebrate the Harvest; if you plan accordingly, she can become an army-in-a-can with very little effort.
Similarly, Felidar Retreat can easily snowball out of control and take over the board. This is one of the better incidental payoffs in the deck — it can be used to add bodies to the board, or it can quickly grow your team for a surprise alpha strike on an unsuspecting opponent. It’s also harder to remove than a creature, making it much more reliable for longer, more grindy games.
Herd Baloth, a relative newcomer from Modern Horizons 2, is another great way to give you extra value for simply executing your game plan. You’ll never be short of a spare +1/+1 counter to place on it, so it’s child’s play to turn Herd Baloth into another one-card army!
There are a few cards that either don’t fit exclusively into one of the previous headings, or deserve their own section because of their incredible utility.
There’s already a reasonable amount of protection in the deck, but Basri’s Lieutenant is certainly worth a card slot. While he’s on board, your opponents’ wrath effects are rendered mostly useless: most of your creatures will have counters on them, so a board wipe will simply replace them with 2/2 Knights instead! The Lieutenant’s protection from multicolored also protects him from a lot of removal in the format, like Assassin’s Trophy, Anguished Unmaking, and Terminate.
Repel the Abominable can be a huge blowout in combat, thanks to its convenient wording. Since most of your creatures are Humans, this will usually act as an asymmetrical Fog. This gives you the ability to make combat into a nightmare for the opponent, or you can even use it to fizzle a Blasphemous Act! It has a lot of utility in this deck, and is well worth the card slot.
As if this deck didn’t put a lot of strain on your dice collection already, it’s about to get a lot worse. Cathars’ Crusade is one of the best possible finishers for counters decks, often snowballing out of control from the second it hits the board. It’s one of the more pricey upgrades, but it’s one of the most important cards when it comes to finishing power.
The Full Upgrade
Below is a list of all of the cards I removed, and the full list of upgrades I added to the deck. As I explained earlier, anything that doesn’t directly enhance the primary game plan was replaced with something more suitable. Some cards, like Biogenic Upgrade, are just too inefficient or low-impact for the average game of Commander; these were also swapped out for more fun and impactful spells.
- Gavony Township
- Karn’s Bastion
- Hardened Scales
- Conclave Mentor
- Katilda, Dawnhart Prime
- Repel the Abominable
- Thalia’s Lieutenant
- Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- Ajani, the Greathearted
- Armorcraft Judge
- Basri’s Lieutenant
- Felidar Retreat
- Cathar’s Crusade
- Herd Baloth
- Maja, Bretagard Protector
- Kindred Summons
- Temple of the False God
- Kurbis, Harvest Celebrant
- Swiftfoot Boots
- Curse of Clinging Webs
- Dawnhart Wardens
- Orzhov Advokist
- Yavimaya Elder
- Citadel Siege
- Custodi Soulbinders
- Bestial Menace
- Curse of Conformity
- Biogenic Upgrade
- Dearly Departed
- Death’s Presence
- Somberwald Beastmaster
- Trostani’s Summoner
The total cost of this upgrade is roughly $40-50. This is the sweet spot in Commander to me: the power-to-dollar ratio is at its highest around this price point, and can be easily tweaked to increase or decrease in power as you see fit. If you like this deck, you can buy all the upgrade singles at the same time as the preconstructed deck, saving you time as well as money.
Scott is an Irish content creator and the Head of Budget Magic for the Izzet League. He focuses on affordable decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, particularly ones that stray from the mainstream. When he’s not writing about his favorite decks, he can be found talking incessantly about them on Twitter and on The Budget Magic Cast.