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Sing Us a Song; You're the Wanderer Bard

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I talk a lot about the “Rafiq Problem,” the tendency for some people to react to seeing a certain commander on your mat with the same amount of hostility no matter whether you have a 75% deck or a fully tuned deck, and therefore, I don’t advocate running a 75% Rafiq deck—no one will believe you. It’s a real problem, and it’s the reason I have never tackled certain commanders, such as Rafiq.

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard
There has to be an opposite circumstance, hasn’t there? There are some commanders that will always be underestimated, right? I think if a commander looks a bit durdly, people will assume you’re going to have a fun deck, or a theme deck, or that you’re playing to have fun. There is probably a way to use that to lull people into a false sense of security, but that’s not really what I want to talk about today. I’m a little more interested in looking at a commander that is so inherently 75% that pretty much any deck you build around him is going to be a 75% deck.

I saw Jonathon Richmond (@norbert88) asking on Twitter if anyone had built a Yisan, the Wanderer Bard deck, and it got me thinking: Is Yisan inherently a 75% commander? The new tuck rule does nothing to stop opponents from foiling your plans since any time he goes back to the command zone, you have to begin building your house of cards all over again. He seems slow and requires a lot of work for a player to really benefit. Will opponents underestimate you? Potentially. But also, this deck is pretty inherently fair since you are built around a card that takes a lot of work to get going and is a lot of times just worse than Fauna Shaman. I encourage you to play Fauna Shaman, but we all know that you can’t start the game with Fauna Shaman in your command zone. Also, this deck is mono-colored, and that limits us slightly, even if it is the best color in Commander. I think this is going to get us there.

Imagine my delight when I Googled “75% Yisan EDH” as I do every week to make sure I haven’t done a Yisan article before (you would be surprised how many times I have caught myself doing this; you almost got a second Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge deck) and found a 75% Yisan deck designed by someone else! SpootyOne on Tapped Out came up with this gem last summer, and it looks pretty saucy. Here’s SpootyOne’s (really?) list.

This has some really fun stuff going for it. I really like the idea of using Instill Energy and Umbral Mantle to go ham with Yisan, ignoring his drawback by making sure you can use multiple activations in a turn to minimize the drawback of ratcheting up counters slowly. I would like to pretend I would have thought about Instill Energy as he did, but even though it was one of the first sixty cards I owned (my brother and I split a Fourth Edition gift set—that takes me back . . . ), I had mostly forgotten about this card, although it’s pretty perfect for Yisan. I used to use it to untap Prodigal Sorcerer so he could zap my Fungusaur again. I don’t know how I ever thought I was a Spike . . . 

Instill Energy
Umbral Mantle

There are no real obvious cards to cut, either because they’re too durdly (who cares? This deck will be fun to play) or too powerful. If your commander is a little durdly and easy to disrupt, you almost can’t have cards that are too powerful for a 75% deck. Something like Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger is antisocial, sure, but we’re not excluding it on the basis of its power level as much as we are because it violates my own personal don’t-screw-with-opponents’-mana ethos. You want Vorinclex in your mono-green durdle deck? Jam it in there. Your friends might not be too happy with you, but if you’re doubling your mana to try to win with Helix Pinnacle as I like to, they may forgive you.

Absent obvious excludes, let’s look at the stuff I want to jam in the deck and just cut some stuff I don’t particularly care for to make some room. How does that grab you?

Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Helix Pinnacle

I want to double stuff. I like to double my mana, double counters, double triggers, double strike. If one is good, two is better. We talked about Vorinclex, and spells like Caged Sun and Mana Reflection exist and we’re well aware of them, but there is a doubly card that I don’t believe I’ve ever used before and would love to use in this deck. Can you guess? That’s right: Wild Pair. I have to make sure to put a lot of creatures with the same converted mana cost as each other to grab double answers for my activations.

Yisan has counters placed on him, so Hardened Scales is going to help you get there twice as quickly. Doubling Season will as well, and Doubling Season is good with cards like Avenger of Zendikar, Hornet Queen, and other saucy cards that we want to be playing anyway. Does it break my heart that Doubling Season is fun with Lux Cannon? Not really.

What would my Yisan list look like now that a year has passed and we have some new goodies to put in the deck? We have had a whole block come out, plus a new Commander set with a lot of mono-green stuff. Let’s take a look at what I’d jam if I built this deck today.

This seems good! Maybe it’s not doubly good, but at least it has more doubling stuff. Power Conduit is an interesting way to control the number of counters on Yisan to make sure you can find the card you need. The deck had Ferropede before, but that was clunky and unreliable. Remember to manage your triggers carefully and stack them advantageously so you don’t lose to your own doubling effects. I added the cards I discussed above to make the deck even saucier and added some cards I like. Being able to tutor up a Craterhoof Behemoth is saucy, but the tutoring here is very difficult to manage, requiring you to sacrifice just the right creature to Birthing Pod or have the exact right number of counters on Yisan. I feel that attenuates the power level quite a bit. It’s powerful but hard to manage—the perfect, happy medium. What could be more 75% than that?

Lux Cannon
Wild Pair

Have fun untapping Yisan with Umbral Mantle, jamming double counters on Lux Cannon, making a swarm of tokens with Avenger of Zendikar, drawing a ton of cards with Heartwood Storyteller, fetching a Woodfall Primus and Terastodon with Wild Pair, and in general doing big things. This deck is all about doing big things all the time, and I think we accomplished that.

Some cards I wasn’t able to slide in include Song of the Dryad and Genesis Wave. If you can figure out what to cut for those (a lot of the creatures I left in are for mana-curve purposes, and testing will tighten that up), feel free.

What do we think? Can we skew even more powerful? Did we go too far? Is my deck worse than the original one? Better? What has been printed in the last year that I should have considered and apparently didn’t? Your comments and criticisms are always welcome, so leave it below! That does it for me this week. Until next time!


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