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Counter Signaling


I like to see Standard players using “our” cards in their decks. I mean, the cards in the new sets are for everyone, but let’s not pretend every card was designed with Standard in mind, some of them just scream “PLAY ME IN COMMANDER!” and play them in Commander we do. Sometimes cards like Panharmonicon and Paradox Engine are so nakedly powerful that a faster Standard format finds ways to use them. And why not? We play cards like that for a reason — it feels like cheating. Sometimes even REALLY slow cards like Hornet Queen or Seasons Past make it into Standard and that’s a LOT of fun for me. Other times, cards that feel like Commander cards but which were obviously designed for both formats get a lot of attention and it makes me think doing Commanderesque stuff in Standard could turn a few more people on to Commander. Do you like how Winding Constrictor interacts with Walking Ballista? Well, what if I told you it could interact with an entire deck? What could possibly be a better endorsement for Commander?

While all of that was happening, some other ideas were churning around in the old domepiece. Something happened this week that I didn’t expect but won’t pretend doesn’t delight me. A card from Commander 2016 that no one seemed to have been excited about got a HUGE boost in interest, seemingly overnight.

If you’re not entirely certain what you’re looking at, this is the graph of viewership frequency on EDHREC, sorted by the card’s “rank.” If Meren of Clan Nel Toth was the card people searched for the most that day, its rank would be 1, if people searched for 7 other cards more often than they searched for Atraxa, Praetors' Voice, its rank would be 8. The card we’re seeing get a huge surge here may surprise you — it’s Tymna the Weaver. For whatever reason, people seem to be suddenly excited about a card that draws you cards and gains you life. Who knew?

Tymna the Weaver
All of the hype around Winding Constrictor of late coupled with the new hype around Tymna made it pretty clear what I had to do. I was going to build a deck with both of those cards in it, but how? Well, I had a few choices since that would involve me adding Green to the deck. I could add Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix, Thrasios, Triton Hero, Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper, or Reyhan, Last of the Abzan. Since I’ve brewed with all of those cards except Reyhan already, and Reyhan lends herself particularly well to counters, it seemed pretty clear how to build the deck. I wanted to take advantage of growing my creatures the way Abzan does well (As a dedicated Vorel of the Hull Clade player, I refuse to say Abzan does it best, but I will concede it does it well) and makes sure I hit them every turn so I can get the full benefit of drawing with Tymna. I also want to do stupid combos when I can, so adding cheese like Mephidross Vampire and Rite of Passage seemed sweet in a deck with Triskelion and Ballista if I could get extra counters with cards like Hardened Scales. Not all of those cards work together 100% perfectly, but with a pile of advantage in the deck already, you’re bound to at least grind out some value even if you’re not going to live the “machine gun their board” mike-trike dream all the time.

So what does a dirty Abzan counters deck look like if we’re optimizing it for Tymna to make sure we hit them and hit them often? We are going to want to make sure we’re not leaving ourselves vulnerable if we’re doing two things our opponents won’t like — hitting them and drawing a lot of extra cards. How do we protect ourselves but still manage to inflict some punishment? Let’s take a look.

8 Minute Abzan ? Commander | Jason Alt

Rite of Passage
Is this going to work like I want? It’s a little hard to tell on paper, but this deck does have a lot going for it.

A lot of the infrastructure of the deck is Abzan stuff from Khans block and it’s all designed to work together. A lot of the rest of the “gap fillers” are cards like Scavenging Ooze and Spike Weaver that might not be specifically designed for Abzan decks but which fit right in. I wish we had a few more ways to add counters to creatures which don’t get them innately, but it’s pretty likely that this drawback caused me to focus a little bit. No Cauldron of Souls for me, just all beatings all day. Forced to focus on playing to the strengths of Abzan creatures rather than trying to foist shenanigans onto them, I had to cut the clunktastic Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, for example. We’re not a deck that is going to Tooth and Nail for Mike Trike but if we get it naturally, don’t feel bad about mowing their board down like they’re a bunch of filthy animals who you’re welcoming to keep the change. (Does that reference scan? It’s been a few decades).

Winding Constrictor and Hardened Scales are going to do some work here, as is Rite of Passage. Since we’re being encouraged to attack a lot, our attacks are going to be profitable no matter what since Rite of Passage grows our creatures if they’re blocked but survive. Rite and a counter doubler also lets us grow Ballista or Triskelion by having them shoot themselves for a profit, allowing you to grow them big enough to murder everyone. Again, we’re not tutoring so we’ll have to draw the combo, but Tymna is going to pitch in and try to help us with that.

All in all, I like where this deck ended up. It let me reconcile two ideas I had bouncing around in the old noggin (the popularity of Constrictor and the popularity of Tymna) and it lets me put +1/+1 counters on stuff. This may end up being even more fun than my Vorel deck, although Master Biomancer is pretty hard to beat when it comes to decks like this.

What do we think? Would you have gone deeper on the modifications? Did I cut something obvious? Is something in here not supported enough? Would you have gone an entirely different way? Leave it in the comments section. Until next time!

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