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Precon Upgrades for Coven Counters | $50 | Leinore | Kyler | +1/+1 Counters | Human Tribal | MIC


Disclaimer: the upgrades are at the bottom of the article, so scroll all the way down if that's the only thing you're here for. The rest of the article analyzes the precon and shows you how I chose my upgrades.

Midnight Hunt preconstructed decks have been revealed and with it comes another round of my precon upgrades. Previously we upgraded the Zombie Tribal precon, Undead Unleashed, and now we're back to upgrade the second precon, Coven Counters! We're going to do a thorough analysis of the deck, highlighting its goals and how well it accomplishes them, check out its deckbuilding fundamentals, identify its strongest and weakest cards, then use all that information to create a high-impact list of upgrades for under $50.

Coven Counters is a Selesnya deck that focuses on two themes: +1/+1 Counters and Human Tribal. The goal of the deck is to put +1/+1 counters on your creatures with cards like Mikaeus, the Lunarch, which fuels +1/+1 counter support cards like Elite Scaleguard and coven cards like Celebrate the Harvest. The Human Tribal theme of the deck focuses on counters as well, such as Kyler, Sigardian Emissary and Heronblade Elite, providing overlapping synergies between the two themes.

If you love the idea of a deck that merges together the themes of +1/+1 Counters and Human Tribal into a singular cohesive deck, then Coven Counters is the precon for you!

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The Precon List

Before we talk upgrades, let's take a look at the stock list to see what we're working with:

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Right out of the box, Coven Counters provides a ton of support for its two main themes: +1/+1 Counters and Human Tribal. I count 30 cards that care about +1/+1 Counters or scale up in power / activate coven, and 31 cards that are either Humans or support Humans. The deck is fairly split between its two themes and not as focused as Undead Unleashed, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but something we can enhance in our upgrades.

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Choosing Our Commander

Coven Counters comes with three commander options to lead the deck: the face card, Leinore, Autumn Sovereign, and two more in the 99, Kyler, Sigardian Emissary and Sigarda, Heron's Grace.

With the other precon, Undead Unleashed, it was clear which commander was best for the precon: Zombie Tribal with a strong Sacrifice subtheme. Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver was obviously the best of the bunch.

But with Coven Counters it's not that simple: there's an even split between cards that care about +1/+1 Counters and cards that care about Human Tribal, with tons of overlap between the two, but our commander choices are split between the themes as well. Leinore, Autumn Sovereign is a Human but supports Coven and +1/+1 Counters, while Kyler, Sigardian Emissary and Sigarda, Heron's Grace focus on Human Tribal. So which is best here?

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Leinore, Autumn Sovereign is a commander that I and many other people quickly dismissed at first glance, but honestly I think she's a lot better than she looks. She's the undisputed best Coven leader as she's an incremental draw engine, her +1/+1 counters make it easier to activate coven, and having 0 power is rare amongst creatures which makes it easier to activate coven as well.

Overall she's a super reliable leader for a deck looking to activate Coven and support +1/+1 counters and she helps the deck grind for a longer game with that steady card draw. However, while Leinore is reliable, she isn't explosive: her ability happens once per turn and isn't going to swing games around immediately. You're not going to be casting Leinore and then using her to win on your next untap step. This is a drawback but it's also a political benefit as she won't often draw heat from the table like more explosive commanders do.

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Meanwhile Kyler, Sigardian Emissary is the exact opposite: Kyler can and will end games if you get to untap with him. Casting an Increasing Devotion with Kyler out is going to immediately put 5-10 counters on him and make your army immediately start 1-shotting people. The power ceiling is undoubtedly much higher than Leinore and he can easily "gotcha!" an unsuspecting table. However, tables that know what you're up to will prioritize killing Kyler as soon as he enters the battlefield, which will make "doing the thing" much harder than, say, keeping Leinore on the battlefield doing her thing instead.

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Of the three, the only commander I would not recommend is Sigarda, Heron's Grace, as I think she simply does not offer enough to the deck to justify being in the command zone. She's fine in the 99 though.

So, which commander should you choose? Leinore or Kyler? The unfortunate answer is "both are great choices."

Choose Leinore, Autumn Sovereign if:

  • You want a deck more focused on Coven and +1/+1 Counters
  • You like incremental advantage, not an explosive "I Untap And Win" commander
  • You don't want a target on your commander's back

Choose Kyler, Sigardian Emissary if:

  • You want a deck more focused on Human Tribal and Go Wide
  • You want a more powerful, explosive commander
  • You don't mind having a target on your head

For this article, I'm going to do TWO upgrade guides, one for Leinore +1/+1 Counters and one for Kyler Human Tribal because I love doing double the work I guess. If you appreciate the effort maybe consider sharing the article or subscribing to the Goldfish Commander YT channel

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Analyzing the Precon

Now that we've glanced at the stock list and settled on our commander, let's take a closer look at the deck itself to identify what parts benefit the most from upgrades.

As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 card draw; cards that net you 2+ cards in hand
  • 8 targeted removal; split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal and countermagic
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 graveyard recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors; higher budgets I recommend more tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 
  • 1 finisher; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.

Let's see what the rough ratios are for Coven Counters and how it compares. I count:

Coven Counters is a deck that skimps on decks fundamentals to jam a critical mass of creature buffs and combat tricks. The idea here isn't to grind out the table in card advantage, but rather to play out a couple creatures, beef them up with counters, drop something that makes combat extremely favorable for you like Odric, Master Tactician, and then protect your investment with cards like Unbreakable Formation. You're encouraged to play conservatively, smack the scariest threat while keeping a low profile, and then eke out the win with a combat trick.

This style of deck is very much not my style of play. I love lots of card draw and grinding out the table with card advantage. For people who regularly watch Commander Clash, I would label this deck a Richard or Tom deck instead, if that makes sense.

Unfortunately for people who identify with Richard/Tom playstyles, I'm the one upgrading the deck, and I find having only 4 sources of card draw simply appalling. I will do my best to upgrade a deck up to my standards without losing the essence of what this precon is.

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Individual Card Analysis

Now that we've taken a look at the deck's ratios, let's take a deeper dive into the individual cards and identify the strongest/weakest of the bunch:

37 Lands. 37 is a good land amount given the deck's mana curve. The lands here are generally above-average: we've got untapped mana fixing with Canopy Vista, Command Tower, Exotic Orchard, Fortified Village, and Sungrass Prairie, which is a high amount for a precon. Path of Ancestry is my favorite land here, amazing in Tribal decks. We also have three solid ramp lands with Blighted Woodland, Myriad Landscape, and Krosan Verge.

But you know Temple of the False God is already cut in the upgrades.

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14 Ramp. Three of the ramp cards here are lands, which aren't the most mana-efficient but are essentially free. 14 ramp is overall a good spot for this deck which contains quite a few 6+ mana haymakers. Most of them are very solid -- Avacyn's Pilgrim, Knight of the White Orchid, and the usual reprints of Sol Ring and such. The only ramp spell I don't like is Growth Spasm, which is an extra mana for a Rampant Growth that comes with a 1/1 eldrazi. I think it was chosen to help trigger Coven but it's not worth it.

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5 Card Draw. The card draw here is all good, a nice mix of incremental and burst draw. The only problem is that I want more. At least Leinore, Autumn Sovereign defaults to the command zone, but even so, gimme more, please.

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5 Targeted Removal. We've got staples, Swords to Plowshares and Beast Within. I also like the new card Ruinous Intrusion in a +1/+1 Counter deck. Return to Dust and Curse of Conformity probably should be swapped out though.

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3 Board Wipes. The wipes here are sweet. Celestial Judgment lets you keep some of your own creatures which is definitely worth some extra mana. Cleansing Nova is flexible. Hour of Reckoning would be good too if this deck has more Tokens, but as-is it's the weakest.

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3 Graveyard Recursion. The recursion cards are some of my favorites in the entire deck: Eternal Witness is a classic, Angel of Glory's Rise is one of the best cards you could run in Human Tribal, and Moorland Rescuer is great. No complaints.

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1 Flexible Tutors. Precons usually don't run tutors because their main purpose is to be picked up and played by new players and tutors add more complexity than their worth when you aren't familiar with a deck. However, WOTC made an exception for Moonsilver Key which is usually fetching Sol Ring or a basic land I guess? I dunno why it's here honestly.

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1ish Graveyard Hate. Curse of Clinging Webs is disappointing. The lack of graveyard hate is disappointing. I guess this was a conscious choice not to hamstring Undead Unleashed when the precons are played together but we definitely need to fix this in upgrades.

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5ish Finishers. The deck is loaded with ways to get lethal combat damage through, but the very best has to be cards like Kyler, Sigardian Emissary and Kessig Cagebreakers, which can push lethal damage through without much effort.

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The Verdict. The deck has lots of great cards, but we need better graveyard hate and card draw.

Upgrade Goals

I have some specific goals when upgrading the deck:

  • Add graveyard hate
  • Add better ramp
  • Add better removal
  • Add more card draw
  • Enhance the +1/+1 Counter theme
  • Enhance the Human Tribal theme

And we're doing 2 upgrades, one for Leinore and one for Kyler!

$50 Upgrades w/ Leinore

Disclaimer: Card prices are volatile and may be different at the time you read this article.

Here's how I'd swap in $50 worth of upgrades with Leinore leading the deck. If you want to upgrade on a smaller budget then just makes less swaps.

In Out Reason
Diligent Farmhand Talisman of Unity Great Human ramp.
Ulvenwald Tracker Death's Presence

Great Human removal.

Katilda, Dawnhart Prime Curse of Conformity

Insane Human ramp.

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar Citadel Siege

Crazy good Human token generator.

Augur of Autumn Curse of Clinging Webs

Insanely good Human card advantage engine.

Devout Chaplain Return to Dust

Repeatable Human removal.

Beast Whisperer Hour of Reckoning Great card draw engine.
Sigarda, Champion of Light Biogenic Upgrade

Human buff plus card draw.

Kogla, the Titan Ape

Bestial Menace

Repeatable removal plus Human protection.

Kabira Takedown

Plains

Flexible removal.
Khalni Ambush Temple of the False God

Flexible removal.

Bala Ged Recovery Forest

Flexible recursion.

Camaraderie Moonsilver Key

Huge burst draw.

Rishkar's Expertise Growth Spasm

Huge burst draw.

Gallows at Willow Hill Trostani's Summoner

Repeatable Human removal.

Cathars' Crusade Somberwald Beastmaster Ridiculous anthem and +1/+1 Counter synergy.
Arcus Acolyte Enduring Scalelord

Great +1/+1 Counter and Coven support.

Conclave Mentor

Dearly Departed

+1/+1 Counter doubler.

Incubation Druid Verdurous Gearhulk Great +1/+1 Counter ramp.
Evolution Sage Sigardian Zealot

Amazing +1/+1 Counter support

Fertilid Sigarda's Vanguard

Repeat +1/+1 Counter ramp.

Nils, Discipline Enforcer Kessig Cagebreakers

+1/+1 Counter protection.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar Heron's Grace Champion

Just a good Human stax piece.

Armorcraft Judge Custodi Soulbinders

Great burst draw with counters.

Forgotten Ancient Yavimaya Elder One of the best +1/+1 Counter generators.
Hamza, Guardian of Arashin Stalwart Pathlighter

Huge ramp.

Collective Effort

Dawnhart Wardens

Flexible removal and counter support.

Together Forever

Bastion Protector

Counters and protection.
Bretagard Stronghold Forest

Counter support.

Castle Ardenvale Plains

Makes Humans.

Idyllic Grange Plains

Counter support.

Oran-Rief, the Vastwood Forest

Counter support.

Here's how the cuts look in lists.

Additions:

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Cuts:

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And here's the deck with the upgrades installed:

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$50 Upgrades w/ Kyler (Human Tribal)

Disclaimer: Card prices are volatile and may be different at the time you read this article.

Here's how I'd swap in $50 worth of upgrades with Kyler leading the deck. If you want to upgrade on a smaller budget then just makes less swaps.

In Out Reason
Diligent Farmhand Talisman of Unity Great Human ramp.
Ulvenwald Tracker Death's Presence

Great Human removal.

Katilda, Dawnhart Prime Curse of Conformity

Insane Human ramp.

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar Citadel Siege

Crazy good Human token generator.

Augur of Autumn Curse of Clinging Webs

Insanely good Human card advantage engine.

Devout Chaplain Return to Dust

Repeatable Human removal.

Beast Whisperer Hour of Reckoning Great card draw engine.
Sigarda, Champion of Light Biogenic Upgrade

Human buff plus card draw.

Kogla, the Titan Ape

Bestial Menace

Repeatable removal plus Human protection.

Kabira Takedown

Plains

Flexible removal.
Khalni Ambush Temple of the False God

Flexible removal.

Bala Ged Recovery Forest

Flexible recursion.

Camaraderie Moonsilver Key

Huge burst draw.

Rishkar's Expertise Growth Spasm

Huge burst draw.

Gallows at Willow Hill Trostani's Summoner

Repeatable Human removal.

Cathars' Crusade Somberwald Beastmaster Ridiculous anthem and +1/+1 Counter synergy.
Giant Killer Enduring Scalelord

Human removal.

Cathar Commando

Dearly Departed

Human removal.

Crashing Drawbridge Verdurous Gearhulk Mass haste is amazing in this explosive deck.
Saffi Eriksdotter Ainok Bond-Kin

Protection is great.

Mentor of the Meek Sigarda's Vanguard

Mentor can draw tons of cards in this token deck.

Maja, Bretagard Protector Kessig Cagebreakers

Amazing Human token generator.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar Elite Scaleguard

Just a good Human stax piece.

Reverent Hoplite Custodi Soulbinders

Great Human token generator.

Increasing Devotion Yavimaya Elder Best Human token generator
Call the Coppercoats Juniper Order Ranger

Good Human token generator.

Collective Effort

Dawnhart Wardens

Flexible removal and counter support.

Visions of Glory

Abzan Falconer

Great Human token generator.

Here's how the cuts look in lists.

Additions:

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Cuts:

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And here's the deck with the upgrades installed:

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Next Up: Budget Werewolves!

Two years ago I made a Budget Commander for Werewolf Tribal. Now that Midnight Hunt is out it's time for an update, and since the price of Werewolves more than doubled since the first time I wrote about them it's uhhh gonna be an interesting challenge for sure! Tovolar, my love, why must you make me work so hard?

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