Commander Deck Review – “Counterpunch”

To check out the full decklist for “Counterpunch” look here.

Chorus of the Conclave

Overview – “Counterpunch” is B/G/W deck that has lots of answers to your opponents big threats including creatures that don’t care if they bite the dust, along with several ways to bring them back when they do. Obviously the “Counter” here doesn’t indicate blue spell-denial, but instead the plentiful +1/+1 counters produced by everything from Aquastrand Spider and his graft ability, to Ghave’s spore-changing powers and Chorus of the Conclave’s game-ending “pay as you go” option.

This going to be the deck of choice for those of you who loved the “Spike” theme way back in the Tempest block. “Counterpunch” packs a lot of token generators along with some of the best removal in any of the Commander decks. Also, there is a great sub-theme here of creatures with deathtouch, like Hornet Queen
Hornet Queen
and Deadly Recluse
Deadly Recluse
, and a number of others that will eliminate a threat based on a comes-into-play ability, like Shriekmaw
, Monk Realist
Monk Realist
, and Dark Hatchling
Dark Hatchling


“Counterpunch also has just a bit of mana acceleration in Cultivate
, Sakura-Tribe Elder
Sakura-Tribe Elder
, and Yavimaya Elder
Yavimaya Elder
, which will let you fill your side of the board quickly, while also providing fuel for expensive, but powerful spells like Storm Herd
Storm Herd
, Hour of Reckoning
Hour of Reckoning
, and Nemesis Trap
Nemesis Trap

Commanders – It’s really a shame that Rith, the Awakener
Rith, the Awakener
is the dragon that puts saprolings into play – flavor-wise he would fit into this deck much better than Teneb
Teneb, The Harvester
, whose conditional ability brings a creature from a graveyard into play under your control.

Both Teneb and Karador
Karador, Ghost Chieftain
bring a bit of black reanimator flavor to this deck, which, to me at least, seems to conflict with the much more central theme of using the graveyard to produce counters and tokens with cards like Scavenging Ooze
Scavenging Ooze
and Necrogenesis
. Hex
and Hour of Reckoning, however, will ensure that there is plenty of graveyard fodder for all.

Aside from the slight flavor/consistency issues Karador is a decent commander, though the fact that he was the first one spoiled has made me become less enthusiastic about him as I’ve shifted my excitement to the other commanders as they’ve come out in turn. Karador is expensive, but his casting cost is reduced by 1 for every creature in your graveyard – something that seems to me to again conflict with the token theme, but what do I know?

Ghave, Guru of Spores, the third possible commander for “Counterpunch” is a lot more exciting to me. I think he’ll be the chosen commander of this deck by many players at Saturday’s event and that he’ll be a staple of future commander builds. Your opponents will have to think twice before wasting a card to destroy him as you’ll have ample opportunity to use all his counters before he returns to the command zone. Each time he comes into play he’ll be restocked with five counters and ready to enlarge your army or buff up a critical creature.

Nantuko Husk

Old Favorites – One of the biggest surprise returns in “Counterpunch” is Skullclamp
, a card that was banned in its own block, and Standard, along with being restricted in Legacy. It’s an incredibly powerful card, especially when you have a lot of throwaway 1/1’s lying around. If you haven’t seen Skullclamp in operation before, you should know that in a situation where you have a board full of saproling tokens, Skullclamp’s text is effectively: “(1), Sacrifice a creature: Draw two cards”.  If that seems insane to you, then you’re sane.

Nantuko Husk will also give you a great way to use any spare hornets, saprolings, or pegasi you find. He’s a great early game creature, one that your opponents will always be afraid to leave unblocked. His comrades in black, Shriekmaw and Dark Hatchling will help clear the way for him by destroying creatures when they come into play.

Sigil Captain
Sigil Captain
is another great creature that plays well with tokens. His ability allows you to put two +1/+1 counters on any 1/1 that comes into play under your control. These counters in turn can be manipulated by Ghave (to create as many 3/3’s as you have spare mana). Sigil Captain is also a great pairing with Symbiotic Wurm
Symbiotic Wurm
, a 7/7 that puts seven 1/1’s into play when he hits the graveyard. It’s worth Doom Blading
Doom Blade
your own Symbiotic Wurm if the Captain is in play in order to produce an army of 3/3 insects.

New Hotness – There are several new non-legend creatures in “Counterpunch” that are worth noting. Celestial Force
Celestial Force
, a 7/7 for five generic and 3 white mana allows you to gain 3 life during every upkeep. Unless your opponents are able to deal with the elemental within a turn or two, you’ll have a sizeable life-advantage that will allow you the buffer you need for an alpha strike.

Scavenging Ooze is an early game creature that has the potential to be as powerful as  a Nantuko Shade, or even more so. The ooze is a 2/2 for 1G and his pump ability exiles cards from a graveyard in return for +1/+1 counters and life gain. If you can find a way to give this bad boy some sort of evasion, he can be a game-ender all by himself.

Hornet Queen
Hornet Queen
and Acorn Catapault
Acorn Catapault
are two new cards that continue the token theme. The Queen brings with her four 1/1 tokens with flying and deathtouch, while the Catapault deals one damage to target creature or player, then puts a 1/1 squirrel into play under that player’s control.

“Counterpunch”‘s new bi-color legend is  Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter, a 5/5 flying, lifelink vampire who eats tokens for breakfast, and, of course, metabolizes them into +1/+1 counters. He’s got the same flexibility as Nantuko Husk, but also has built-in evasion, lifelink, and the ability to use his counters for another creature’s detriment as well as his own benefit.

Suggested Alterations – This deck is pretty darn solid as it is. There are only a couple additions that I’ll suggest to you, and after that you can let your imagination run wild. The first is to try out cards like Contagion Clasp
Contagion Clasp
with a repeatable Proliferate ability. These could dramatically increase the number of 1/1 counters that you have in play. Also, token deck standards like Doubling Season
Doubling Season
, Sprout Swarm
Sprout Swarm
, and Verdeloth the Ancient
Verdeloth the Ancient
would provide some great support as well.

Finally, it wouldn’t hurt to throw an Overrun and/or a Triumph of the Hordes into this deck in order to ensure that your token army will crush any opposition it meets as you swing for the kill.

Verdict – One of the things I like most about this deck is the fact that moving counters around gives you a great way to spend your mana in the late game. Harmonize
and Skullclamp will allow you to draw a few cards, but for the most part this deck will do well after its initial surge on account of the fact that counter manipulation gives you a huge advantage over your opponents when it comes to combat flexibility.

As with “Devour for Power” this deck has some great synergy and, perhaps even more than the other Commander decks, the flexible needed to ensure a victory regardless of what cards you’re drawing – and that’s really where an EDH deck shows its worth.

“Counterpunch” has the potential to be a ton of fun, but be sure to bring a big bag of counters, dice, tokens, etc. You’ll need them.

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