- +1/+1 Counters
- Humanity Fights Back
- Time To Win
- Powering The Deck Down
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Innistrad might be a world full of Magic the Gathering's scariest, evillest monsters and fates worse than death itself, but there is a light to it. The many humans surviving on the plane regularly come together for protection, faith, and even celebrations of their numerous, small victories over the night.
One such human is Torens. Once a deserter from the Cathars – Innistrad's primary human line of defence – Torens was known for his rescue of the cursed woman Eruth and for defeating the nightmarish Umbris both he and Eruth were to be sacrificed to. Now he's a champion of the people and, armed with his Solar Mace, defends the poor right across the world.
This week, we're building Innistrad: Crimson Vow's Torens, Fist of the Angels.
Torens, Fist of the Angels is a 2/2 Human Cleric that costs one generic, one green, and one white. He loves the training mechanic, which gives a creature with training a +1/+1 counter whenever it attacks alongside a bigger creature. Not only does Torens have training himself, he'll make a 1/1 human soldier with training whenever you cast a creature spell. With that in mind, we're going to be making the kind of deck Selesnya makes best: +1/+1 counters and lots and lots of creature tokens, with a hint of human tribal thrown in there to make things interesting.
We're in green, ramp's going to be easy-peasy. Cultivate, Kodama's Reach, and Migration Path are obvious inclusions, but we're also going to run a Harvest Season.
Harvest Season lets you search your deck for as many basic lands as tapped creatures you control, and put them straight onto the battlefield. This deck doesn't just like us to go wide with tokens, it likes us to attack with them too. Having lots of tapped creatures at all times makes Harvest Sason a fantastic addition.
With white, we can also make use of Archaeomancer's Map and Keeper of the Accord. Keeper of the Accord in particular is brilliant, as he'll give us lands and humans if we're lucky. The problem with white ramp in general is that they become pretty useless once you're caught up or even ahead of everyone else. Fortunately, Keeper of the Accord is a human, so at least he has some synergy.
It's one of the game's most expensive cards, but Gaea's Cradle is definitely a card to consider if you can. This deck goes wide with lots of creatures all attacking at once, so making a massive amount of green mana from them is very helpful.
Though they're not the best colours for drawing, we can still get some pretty decent ways to get card advantage.
Esper Sentinel is good for most white decks, but he's outstanding in Torens. He's going to get lots of +1/+1 counters on him, which can make the price your opponents pay to prevent your draw way, way too high to justify. He's also a human, which adds some good synergy with other things going on in the deck.
Beast Whisperer, Shamanic Revelation, Inspiring Call, and Armorcraft Judge are also solid here. The latter two draw cards based on how many creatures with +1/+1 counters you control, which could mean some serious card advantage with little effort on your part. Inspiring Call also gives those creatures indestructible until the end of the turn, making it a good board wipe insurance policy.
Deepwood Denizen is great. While it first costs five generic and one green to draw one card, as you get more creatures with +1/+1 counters on them the cost can be reduced right the way down to one green mana.
Even though he doesn't say so directly, Torens is a +1/+1 counters Commander thanks to his heavy use of the training mechanic. Finding ways to bolster up those counters, or fun ways to use them for other things, is a big part of his strategy.
First, the doublers. Whether it's doubling counters through Branching Evolution, Conclave Mentor, and Hardened Scales; doubling tokens with Parallel Lives and Anointed Procession; or doubling both with Doubling Season, having twice as many humans and counters can quickly swamp the table.
Cathars' Crusade is an absolute must. Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, you put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control. On top of speeding up the growth of your creatures, it also assures you don't get stuck in the awkward position of having all creatures have the same power, turning off any training triggers.
For creatures that give huge amounts of +1/+1 counters, you can't go wrong with Victory's Envoy, Shalai Voice of Plenty, and Mikaeus the Lunarch. On a smaller scale, Orzhov Advokist is always a cool political piece to run in counters decks, dangling the carrot of counters in your opponents' faces to stop them from attacking you.
We'll be drowning in counters, so why not put in a few other ways to use them? Hamza, Guardian of Arashin makes all other creatures one generic mana cheaper for each creature with a +1/+1 counter you control and can help you flood the board with expensive creatures way earlier than anyone else.
Hopeful Intiate from Innistrad: Crimson Vow can be scary. Paying two generic and one white mana, and removing two +1/+1 counters from among any creatures you control to destroy an artifact or enchantment at instant speed? Yes, please.
One of the biggest threats in this deck is Champion of Lambholt. She gets a +1/+1 counter whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control while preventing any creature with power less than hers from blocking your creatures. She makes your opponents utterly open to attack while also being a massive, scary creature in her own right.
And, of course, you need The Ozolith. An artifact that inherits the counters from any creature that dies, and then lets you put them onto something else is excellent insurance against removal or board wipes. This is especially true when combined with something like an Iridescent Hornbeetle, which makes 1/1 insects equal to the number of +1/+1 counters you've put on creatures this turn, to build up your board way faster than anyone else.
Humanity Fights Back
While not strictly a tribal deck, Torens does have many human-tribal-like qualities to him, so we're going to lean into it and include some cards that love humans.
To start small, Champion of the Parish is always fun. Whenever a human enters the battlefield, put a +1/+1 counter on the Champion. He's an excellent way to ensure the training tokens Torens makes always have a creature to train off of, as he will always be bigger than the humans Torens makes.
Kyler, Sigardian Emissary and Thalia's Lieutenant are kind of similar in that they both get bigger whenever a human enters the battlefield under your control while also conferring some sort of benefit back to them. Kyler's the obvious superior one, with humans getting +1/+1 for each counter on Kyler, but Thalia's Lieutenant – which puts counters on humans when she enters the battlefield instead – isn't something to trick your nose up at.
To use your humans to make big mana, try Heronblade Elite. Whenever a human enters under your control, you put a +1/+1 counter on Heronblade Elite, which can then tap to make mana equal to its power.
It's a confusing card to track, but Coat of Arms is an awesome artifact that gives each creature +1/+1 for each creature it shares a type with (three humans will get +2/+2 each, while 50 would get +49/+49 each, for example). This work with humans, sure, but there are a good number of insects too, thanks to Iridescent Hornbeetle, its tokens, and Duskshell Mentor. As a simpler, less explosive alternative, Vanquisher's Banner gives a chosen creature type a flat +1/+1 alongside some much-needed card draw.
This is a controversial choice, but Rick, Steadfast Leader from the Walking Dead Secret Lair (or its in-Magic-universe reprint coming next year) is something you'll definitely want for this. A fantastic human tribal Commander in his own right, Rick can give your humans your choice of two from first strike, vigilance, and lifelink. He also buffs humans by +2/+2 if you control at least four, to make it even better.
Time To Win
This deck doesn't do anything massively flashy to win, it's just a matter of throwing your humans against your opponents until they die. To achieve that, we're going to use some of Selesnya's customary win conditions.
We've got the Champion of Lambholt to make your creatures unblockable by all but the most enormous creatures, and Sigarda's Summons can turn your creatures into flying Angels to add an extra layer of evasion. Even with just one of those out it's possible to get the win just by crushing your opponents until the mass of humans you control.
If neither of those are available, you've always got Craterhoof Behemoth and Akroma's Will to brute-force a win. Craterhoof Behemoth in particular, can be nasty if you've got a lot of tokens ready to swing, although Akroma's Will is a straightforward win with even a more modest number of creatures under your control. If all else fails, chuck out a Triumph of the Hordes and take everyone out through Infect damage instead.
Powering The Deck Down
For once, we didn't intentionally add any infinite combos (though it was very tempting to add a Herd Baloth to go infinite with Cathars' Crusade). That doesn't mean there aren't ways to make this deck more enjoyable for lower-power games, though.
Gaea's Cradle is a clear and immediate cut. There's a reason it's so valuable (outside of being on the reserve list), and with the number of creatures we'll be making it's just way, way too good.
Aura Shards is another thing to cut. While artifact and enchantment removal is core to green and white, being able to rid the board of any standing in your way just by plopping a few creatures down is overly oppressive for lower-power tables. This is especially true when we already have potent artifact and enchantment removal with Hopeful Initiate.
Maybe consider cutting The Ozolith too, as it's a level of redundancy a slower table can have troubles dealing with. Forcing someone to wipe the board and then destroy your Ozolith before you get a chance to put those counters on another creature is a big ask.
For the full list of this deck, check out its Moxfield page.
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