$50 Budget Counters Commander Upgrade – Coven Counters

There’s one more precon to upgrade from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt before I start writing about other things and thinking about how soon the next set release is. That’s right, it’s time for the second and final $50 precon upgrade for this set and this time we’ll be doing a budget counters Commander build. As always, I’d like to remind you of a couple of things regarding my budget articles:

  • $50 has a different impact on different people, but given that it’s less than the price of a triple-A console game release, I think it’s a price many will be willing to pay for hours of entertainment, which a Commander deck should provide.
  • I’ll be using prices from the ChannelFireball Marketplace to track our costs, specifically the lowest available Near Mint price at the time of this writing. I apologize if listings have changed since then, but that’s just part and parcel of a budget article.

Today, we’re looking at Coven Counters, headlined by Leinore, Autumn Sovereign. Here’s the deck list right out of the box:



Coven Counters Precon

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*Editor’s note: Sigardian Zealot is missing from the list above due to a database error.


Well, would you look at that? We have a strong Humans theme, a strong +1/+1 counters theme, a lot of early creatures and a largely strong land base. I had to work hard to spend our money – harder than I have in the past – so it’s safe to say that, even with a 3.85 average mana value without lands, this is a solid precon. That said, we’ll be swapping out 23 cards, starting with 12 creatures. Don’t worry, we’ll be putting 10 back to keep the creature count mostly intact.



Header - Creature Cuts

I know these cards support our +1/+1 counter theme, but I’m not sold on them here. Kurbis is a decent scaling threat, but I’d rather find some efficient creatures we can play and attack with early – same for Custodi Soulbinders. Orzhov Advokist affords too much benefit to opponents even when we’re breaking the symmetry, and I’ve never been impressed much with Enduring Scalelord in practice.


These aren’t the most impressive coven payoffs. The Wardens just don’t do enough, and while Wall of Mourning is a decent card draw engine, it’s a 0/4! Now yes, I know how coven works, but decks like this want to attack with creatures. We have a much more important zero-power creature: our commander!


Somberwald Sage

For the same reason as Wall of Mourning, Somberwald Sage goes – and we’re putting something much stronger in to replace it.


Herald of WarDearly Departed

Neither of these are particularly effective Human payoffs – Dearly Departed has to die before you get value on your Humans with it, which is a lot to ask of a six-mana card, and Herald of War is better in an Angel deck where the slow, ramping reduction accrues more utility.


I know these are instant coven, but they just cost so much and these tokens are definitely not Humans.


Yavimaya Elder

I love Yavimaya Elder, but for the mana you’re spending, it’s a little bit in the past.

Now here, let’s stop and talk a little about optimization and what that means. These articles are written for people who want to make their decks stronger and more streamlined. That’s not every deck, and that’s not every article. I’m not saying you should never play Yavimaya Elder, or any card you like. I play a lot of cards in a lot of decks that I love even though they’re “suboptimal.” Heck, I play some of them because they’re suboptimal. They’re offbeat. They’re different. Different is fun for me. You should do what is fun for you and your playgroup, but I think everyone who likes Commander should try, or at least consider trying, playing something themed, clunkier, less streamlined. You can look forward to an article on how to do that very, very soon.


Header - Creature Additions

For now, though, let’s talk about the 10 creatures coming in.


Champion of the Parish (DDQ) Intrepid Adversary (MID)
$2.30 $5.99

Champion of the Parish plays into the Humans theme and the +1/+1 counters theme simultaneously, and guess what? So does Intrepid Adversary! For just one mana, Champion provides a growing threat, and for a lot more mana, Intrepid Adversary does a much better job at being big and terrifying than the creatures we cut in that slot.


Luminarch AspirantEvolution SageRishkar, Peema RenegadeRenata, Called to the Hunt (Showcase)
Luminarch Aspirant (ZNR Promo) Evolution Sage (WAR) Rishkar, Peema Renegade (JST) Renata, Called to the Hunt (THB Showcase)
$2.30 $0.61 $0.55 $0.18

Let’s put more counters on our creatures! Luminarch Aspirant starts things off right and helps get Coven going by distributing them as you like, and Rishkar does a great job of turning counters into mana. Renata hands out counters as creatures show up, which helps Evolution Sage grow them to ridiculous sizes. By the way, Rishkar is our Somberwald Sage replacement.


Conclave MentorTuskguard CaptainArmorcraft Judge
Conclave Mentor (M21) Tuskguard Captain (KTK) Armorcraft Judge (JST)
$1.20 $0.10 $0.10

More synergy! Tune up the counter application with Conclave Mentor, add trample with Tuskguard Captain to go with flying and first strike from Abzan Falconer and Ainok Bond-Kin, and of course, draw some cards with the Armorcraft Judge.


Beast Whisperer
Beast Whisperer (Resale Promo)

This deck needs consistent card draw, and Beast Whisperer is the easiest way to get that on our budget.


Header - Noncreature Cuts

So far we’ve spent $15.23 and we’ve cut two more cards than we added. Let’s correct that imbalance, cutting six noncreature spells and adding eight!


Moonsilver Key lives in the Wanderer’s Twig zone – cool and thematic, but not terribly powerful. Growth Spasm is a nod to coven, of course, but the Coven we really care about is our zero-power commander’s effect. 


These are cool cards, but they’re not on theme for us.


Bestial Menace

Coven-in-a-can – but the amount of amazing five-mana creatures we have in this deck is staggering, and not being connected to Humans or +1/+1 counters or doing much to pay us off, this had to go.


Hour of Reckoning

We’re not a token deck, so I’ll replace this with a more thematic Wrath.


Header - Noncreature Additions

Okay – here’s the eight card package coming in to fix everything.


Rampant GrowthSelesnya Signet
Rampant Growth (MM2) Selesnya Signet (RAV)
$0.37 $1.20

Growth Spasm can sit on the sidelines- give me that two-mana acceleration. That’s what I prefer when I optimize.


Akroma's WillFelidar Retreat
Akroma’s Will (CMR) Felidar Retreat (ZNR)
$5.46 $1.83

I love cards that can win me games. Akroma’s Will can do it all at once with a commander in play, while Felidar Retreat takes a minute. Imagine all the triggers on Felidar Retreat with Celebrate the Harvest! Counters for everyone!


Bala Ged Recovery (ZNR) Rite of Harmony (MID)
$3.30 $1.83

Let’s get some cards and use our graveyard! Bala Ged Recovery helps up the land count a little while pulling back a key piece from the graveyard if necessary, and Rite of Harmony is, in its way, wrath insurance – one card now buys you resources to deal with the loss of two or three you play this turn, plus some extra value in the late game off the flashback.


Austere Command
Austere Command (CMR)

I told you I could do better than Hour of Reckoning! It may not get as low cost-wise due to not having convoke, but it does let you keep a bunch of low-cost creatures around with counters stacked up on them. 


Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar (MB1)

And you thought I forgot about zero-power creatures! If you really need some, Nissa has you covered – plus, she distributes all those good +1/+1 counters across your board. A perfect planeswalker for this deck!


Header - Land Changes

We’ve now spent a total of $32.58, leaving the traditional $20ish for lands. Let’s swap out five lands! We’re way overstocked on Plains based on the number of white mana symbols around, so let’s cut one along with these four: 


Selesnya SanctuarySungrass PrairieTemple of Plenty

What can I say? I’m predictable, and I love to cut lands that enter tapped or don’t work well alone. Maybe I’m wrong on Sungrass Prairie and friends, but I wouldn’t cut Wooded Bastion here, so you tell me.


Temple of the False God

We’ve been over this – the ruiner of opening hands must be cut! If you like this card, that’s cool, but unless you have a sweet thematic reason to run it, I don’t recommend it.

So what comes in? Let’s take a look at these five fantastic entries.


Branchloft Pathway (ZNR Extended) Overgrown Farmland (MID) Sunpetal Grove (M12)
$3.10 $3.30 $4.10

These are some fantastic duals that will see play in this deck or any number of Selesnya decks in the future. I love to do a little collection-building in these articles.


Karn's BastionGavony Township
Karn’s Bastion (WAR) Gavony Township (C20)
$4.09 $2.30

Add counters with Gavony Township or proliferate them with Karn’s Bastion – the whole point is the same, right? You want bigger creatures and ways to spend mana effectively in the late game, you’ve got them.


Header - The Final Deck List

We’ve now spent $49.47 on 23 cards, and I think we’ve done a pretty darn good job. Our average mana value ignoring lands is down to 3.5, which is definitely more appropriate for the low-to-the-ground combat-focused deck I’d like this to be. I think we’ll be drawing cards and attacking for huge numbers in no time! 

Here’s the full deck list. See you next time with something much, much less optimized – but perhaps, more fun.


Upgraded Coven Counters by Eric Levine

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Planeswalker (1)
Cards 98

*Editor’s note: Sigardian Zealot is missing from the list above due to a database error.


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