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Upgrading the Coven Counters Commander Deck


When I first started doing written Magic content, it started with just a simple idea. The idea was to find ways to take the then newly released Challenger Decks and bring them up to the level of an actual Constructed deck. The idea for this came from me not really owning any real Constructed decks in paper at the time, having gotten into Pauper as a way to be able to play on a budget. At this point, though, I was looking to expand beyond that and wanted to see how I could do it starting from something readily available. I was still on a budget, too, so I was looking to make stopgap solutions along the way.

Every once in a while, I go back to my roots a bit by doing these cool deck upgrades. You might recall the one I wrote earlier this year for upgrading the Strixhaven Commander deck Prismari Performance. When I wrote about Lathril, Blade of the Elves with the release of Kaldheim, that also came from a place of wanting to pick up the deck and upgrade it. It shows, too, as many of the cards are the same or provide affordable additions, but the difference was I took that Commander and made a list from scratch.

With Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, I figured I would start going back to these a bit more often. With Commander precons being released far more frequently, and with a general quality update as well, this can provide fresh insights into the decks and ways to efficiently upgrade your lists. After all, while sites like EDHRec.com exist, they only go so far, and frequently show off the same staples over and over. They also don't really provide the degree of context that players might want when it comes to these decks.

Today I'll be looking at the Coven Counters preconstructed deck, breaking down the themes, and seeing where we can go from there. Lenoire, Autumn Sovereign, is a really cool commander, and I want to see what can be done with her. First, let's check out the original list:

Coven Counters | Commander | Wizards of the Coast

Right out of the gate, I'll admit I'm kind of baffled by this list. While the Undead Unleashed deck - which I'll talk about in a future article as well - provides a lot of strong and obvious synergy, Coven Counters ends up being kind of all over the place. It's obvious that the main theme is playing into the coven keyword, especially with its relation to Lenoire. The problem is that, in an attempt to play into that theme, it ends up dabbling into three subthemes and they never seem to work very well cohesively.

The first of these is +1/+1 counters. This one makes the most sense, as these counters can go onto anything and it works fantastically with coven. Going through the list, however, I found that it was frequently trying to make use of creatures that weren't human to make this work. The problem is that humans are another of the subthemes, and featuring cards like Enduring Scalelord and Verdurous Gearhulk end up feeling somewhat out of place, even if they end up fitting the theme a solid amount.

The last theme I've noticed is the very minor token subtheme. This mainly comes up with the three cards that each generate three tokens at once: Bestial Menace, Trostani's Summoner, and the new Somberwald Beastmaster. Kessig Cagebreakers, Custodi Soulbinders, and Curse of Clinging Webs all make a bunch of tokens too, and Hour of Reckoning plays as a wrath that takes down all nontoken creatures. The idea here is that it should leave you with enough creatures to deal with your opponents, but doesn't take into account that in Commander most players run a lot of tokens. Because this deck's theme doesn't lean too heavily into the token theme, either, you often lose a lot of your board as well.

In the end, everything feels kind of mediocre. Even the coven ability itself hardly shows up. Sure, there's cards that reward you for using multiple creatures with different powers, but aside from the commander, only three cards in the deck actually use the keyword. Of those three, only Stalwart Pathlighter is really any good. Dawnhart Wardens is a middling pump effect where any other anthem is just going to be better and Wall of Mourning often feels like an exceptionally mediocre method of card advantage.

As a result, when revisiting this list, I decided to shift the focus toward the +1/+1 counter theme with a greater focus on the humans tribal as well. The tokens often feel rather cumbersome with so little focus on coven, despite the name, and are generally best replaced with other things, while other cards can probably just come out entirely. Here's the refreshed list I came up with:

Coven Counters Revamped | Commander | Kendra Smith

The first thing I wanted to touch on is the lands. This is always one of the first things that gets touched on because, frankly, it's one of the easiest things to touch on. We usually have some spare decent lands floating around somewhere. Even if they're not that great, most collections have a few random ones slipped in somewhere from across the vast card pool of Magic. With this deck and the other Midnight Hunt Commander release, the land base was actually quite solid out of the box and is fairly respectable for a two color deck.

Temple Garden
Wooded Bastion
Overgrown Farmland

Most of the options for upgrading here are fairly simple. You'll end up looking to your typical cards like shock lands, filter lands, and even maybe some of the new hotness (in this case, Overgrown Farmland). Beyond that, it largely comes down to things like budget and whether or not you've already got the cards. Fetch lands, a Savannah, and powerhouses like Cavern of Souls or Gaea's Cradle might be great here if you have them, but I'm not about to tell newer players to drop hundreds of dollars on these. Essentially, they don't need too many upgrades, so you can upgrade your mana base as you see fit based on what you have. Temple Garden, Wooded Bastion, and Overgrown Farmland make very easy choices that you can easily pick up on a budget. As such, this lists mana base is more of a guideline than anything.

There was, however, one truly glaring omission in my opinion:

Gavony Township

Where on earth was Gavony Township in this precon?! It blows my mind that this card wasn't in here, in a deck that relies so much on varying power levels. Activate it to power up your creatures and then play more creatures that end up having different power levels while still continually buffing your whole team. Seems great! It's not like it hasn't been in a Commander deck before either as it was in Commander 2020! Oran-Rief, the Vastwood is a similarly exceptional inclusion (that was also just in Commander 2021), but at least I can understand the fact that most of the time it'll only pump half your creatures instead of all of them...though you could probably argue that that fits the deck's theme more.

With the actual list, though, I generally went with focusing on the +1/+1 counter theme a little more and also on the humans strategy. They kind of go hand-in-hand for the most part, and while there's still a few non-humans in here, they generally seem fewer overall and fit the theme more (see Conclave Mentor for a solid example here). The focus on counters also allowed for a handful of other strong cards into the deck such as Hardened Scales and Cathars' Crusade. In fact, Cathars' Crusade was the first card I added to this deck, as it felt like such an obvious inclusion. I'm almost baffled as to why it wasn't in the deck, but I can also kind of get it for the mess the counters management often makes in games of Commander.

Cathars' Crusade
Augur of Autumn
The Ozolith

I was also able to slip a couple cool coven cards that weren't in the original list for some reason: Augur of Autumn and Contortionist Troupe. Now, I get why Augur wasn't in here. It's become somewhat of a chase rare in the set (for as much as regular rares get anyways) and was probably left out on purpose. Contortionist Troupe being an uncommon and not being here feels a little strange. It's far from the greatest card on its own, but comes in as big as you want it and pumps your other creatures a little at a time. When you get +1/+1 counter doubling-ish effects in the mix, that can go a pretty long way.

Last but not least are a couple other small quality of life improvements. Hour of Reckoning was a pretty mediocre wrath effect, so tossing something like Austere Command in instead gives you a bit of the flexibility to do what you want. Cards like Katlida, Dawnhart Prime and Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter makes all of your creatures into mana dorks, which removes the need for some of the obnoxious precon cards like Somberwald Sage and gives you more flexibility to do what you want. The Ozolith gives you some extra protection with your counters and there's some extra counter granters too. I waffled on adding some card draw like Harmonize in the mix, but I figured the Commander probably does a lot on her own as is.

All told, I think this is a pretty cool and solid deck that's well worth your time to spruce up a little. You can do it fairly affordably if you'd like and you don't even need to change everything at once. In fact, as I was going through the list, I did hit a few spots where it felt like making cuts was a bit challenging, which I think is a testament to the improved quality of these recent decks. The core theme is a little muddled and, at least in my opinion, Lenoire is a little mediocre (I'd prefer the secondary legend Kyler instead, personally), but on the whole it's a fine deck. Pick up the precon, give it some tweaks, and try it out your next Commander night.

I'll see you all next time where I'll be upgrading the sweet zombie deck of Undead Unleashed. That deck is really awesome, and I'm looking forward to talking about it. Until then, I'll catch you around!

Kendra Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: Kendra Smith

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