Since first writing about it last year, I was finally able to get some more games in with my Syr Faren, the Hengehammer Commander deck. Unsurprisingly, this prompted some adjustments. The core of the list remains the same: it’s still a Peasant (or “Artisan”) deck with no rares or mythics in it, and it still centers around a strategy of big attacks and early aggression.

That said, a lot of the specifics are different. Several cards in the initial list were underwhelming, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from building Artisan Commander decks, it’s that when you hamper yourself with that kind of building restriction you have a lot less room for pet cards. If something doesn’t fit into your game plan or actively keep you from dying, it probably needs to go. At least, it does if you want to have an impact on the game!

Besides, since first building the deck we’ve seen a plethora of new sets come out, each with interesting options and upgrades; how could I resist tinkering?

Here’s where the list sits now:

Peasants of the Henge (v.1.2)

Commander (Artisan)

Deck by Ben Iverach-Brereton

For ease of comparison, here’s a list of the changes I made:

These adjustments were made gradually over the last several months, though the biggest overhaul happened back in February, just after the release of Kaldheim.

Changeling It Up

Kaldheim was surprisingly big boon for this deck. “Human” might not have been one of the set’s main tribes, but the changelings in it did a great impression of them. Their aesthetic also matched this deck’s style really well, making them a perfect fit. What’s more, because changelings are all creature types, they count as dinosaurs and dragons, which makes my Drover of the Mighty and Scaleguard Sentinels that much more consistent.

These changelings are good additions on their own, too. Guardian Gladewalker is just a Timberland Guide with more creature types, so that was an easy swap. Meanwhile Bloodline Pretender can grow into a very scary threat for very little investment. The benefits of those creatures are peanuts, however, when compared to the utility of Masked Vandal. This little 1/3 has blown me away in every deck I’ve put it in.

Seriously, if you can wait to cast Masked Vandal until you have a creature in your graveyard, this two-drop puts in so much work. The body is a decent blocker, and it happily gains the benefits of whatever tribal synergy you’re running. This makes it a solid inclusion in elves, slivers, saprolings, dragons, werewolves, humans, you name it.

Most importantly, when it comes into play it removes the most troublesome artifact or enchantment on the battlefield, as long as you have a spare body in the bin. It exiles it, by the way, so you don’t have to worry about any of that graveyard recursion nonsense. This is a get-that-Rhystic-Study-out-of-this-game-forever kind of card, and I can’t recommend it enough. Masked Vandal is effectively a two-mana Reclamation Sage that requires a tiny bit of setup to work. It’s well worth the slot.

A Glorious Anthem

In an effort to boost the toughness of Syr Faren so he can safely attack into a defending 2/2, I decided to add some anthem effects to the deck. Specifically Gaea’s Anthem and Brass Herald. These cards were printed as rares at one point, but they also have a few uncommon versions, like the ones from Time Spiral Remastered and Commander Legends. I’m using uncommon copies in my deck so I don’t feel like this is really breaking my “no rares” rule, though it’s not the first time I’ve faced this dilemma.

Brass Herald is one of those cards I’ve tried to make work in the past, but it fell short of my expectations. I have higher hopes here, not only because I have a large density of humans (twenty-two at last count), but because the overall curve of this deck is pretty low. That means the Herald isn’t fighting for its slot with several other high mana cards, and also means I’m more likely to deploy multiple humans at once for it to buff.

Giving your entire team +1/+1 isn’t usually as valuable in a “go tall” deck like this; having fewer big creatures in play means you don’t benefit as much as you would from a “go wide” token strategy, for example. Nevertheless, because Syr Faren buffs another attacking creature based on his total power, those bonuses end up stacking quite nicely.

Say Syr Faren is attacking with another 2/2 creature. Normally he’d buff his friend into a 4/4, and together they’d hit for six damage. With a Gaea’s Anthem is in play, Syr Faren gives the other creature +3/+3 instead. That creature was already attacking as a 3/3 thanks to the Anthem, which means the pair is now swinging in for nine damage instead. With the Anthem, the buffed creature becomes a 6/6, which is significantly harder to block profitably than a 4/4.

This math gets even better if you can chain the attack bonuses of Syr Faren, Gruul Beastmaster, and the latest addition to the team: Exuberant Wolfbear. Any combination of these creatures already hits like a truck, but adding in a Gaea’s Anthem makes it that much scarier, since it makes each subsequent boost that much bigger.

Speaking of buffs, I’m kicking myself a little bit that it took so long for me to add Rhonas’s Monument to this deck. In hindsight it’s such an obvious choice, but it wasn’t until I was reviewing my list and thinking about the Monuments in my Firja deck that it finally clicked. Of course a mono-green deck would want an artifact that makes its creatures cheaper, and of course it would want a repeatable way to grow its commander that also gives him trample!

Well, it’s in here now. Better late than never.

Quite Alluring

One of the most effective elements of my Syr Faren deck is buffing up a “lure” creature that forces everything to block it, smashing that creature into my opponent’s blockers, then watching the pieces fall. This deck doesn’t have any board wipes, but if I can make a big enough Prized Unicorn it doesn’t really need them. (That said, this list would be a good home for Monstrous Onslaught at some point, provided I can find a spare one kicking around my collection. Hm….)

Regarding the “lure” creatures, I mentioned in my last article about the deck that Golgari Decoy would be a good upgrade to the list. At first I thought I’d cut Prized Unicorn to make room for it, since the cards are virtually the same, except the Decoy can also be Scavenged from the graveyard for counters. As it turns out, it was Nath’s Elite that was underperforming.

In theory, the larger body of the Elite would have been better, since it would be more likely to trade with something by itself, but in practice the higher mana cost meant I basically never cast it. It turns out you really want to your sacrificial creatures to cost as little as possible.

To that end, it was a pleasant discovery when I stumbled across an old copy of Shinen of Life’s Roar while I was sorting. It has an even cheaper casting cost than the Unicorn or Decoy, and can even be discarded as a one-time lure if the situation calls for it.

I haven’t had the chance to try it yet, but I especially like the idea of channeling the Shinen onto an opponent’s creature after it attacks someone. The ability doesn’t have to target a creature I control, after all….

Parting Ways

Every new addition means making a cut to the list. A few of these were easy, though I’ll admit I was a little sad to see any of them go: Byway Courier, Hyrax Tower Scout, Crossroads Consecrator and Untamed Kavu were all fun, flavorful cards that never really did anything when I cast them. As much as I’d like to keep them around, I’d rather have my deck make a meaningful impact on the outcome of a game. Running these spells was cute, but resulted in too many do-nothing draws.

Some other cuts weren’t as straightforward. Destiny Spinner, for instance, is a good answer to counter-spells, and is a human with above-average stats for its mana cost. In theory it’s a great inclusion. I don’t have many copies of this creature, though, and I decided I could make better use of it in my Siona auras deck instead. That list needed a bit more help, and could actually benefit from Destiny Spinner‘s activated ability. I’m happy with my decision; it was an ok creature in this list, but hasn’t really been missed. Alongside Siona, however, it’s a veritable win condition!

Similarly, Temur Sabertooth is one of those cards that’s solid on its own, but that doesn’t really fit with what this list is trying to do. The Sabertooth benefits a lot from a density of enters-the-battlefield triggers, and while there are a few good ones in here, the deck focuses a lot more on attacking. Bouncing my creatures back to my hand is a common strategy I employ… it just didn’t feel right here.

I’ll be honest, this is one creature I could see finding its way back into the list at some point; it’s solid, and I know it can generate a lot of value. The deck seems to function without it, though I’ll certainly keep it in the back of my mind.

Small Upgrades

A lot of the swaps I made were for cards that did similar things, but did them a little bit better. This helped keep the deck feeling the same, while gradually improving it.

Flying creatures are a problem for this deck. Ideally, I want humans with reach to counter them. That’s one of the big reasons Webweaver Changeling was such a useful inclusion in the first version of this deck. It’s also why I initially included Geist Trappers, though the latter never quite lived up to the task. I would have preferred a creature I could search up with Mwonvuli Beast Tracker.

Luckily, I was able to open a copy of Halana, Kessig Ranger from Commander Legends a little while ago. She checks all of my boxes and then some; she’s not only a human with reach, she’s a repeatable source of removal, which this deck also has in short supply. Perfect.

Normally Elvish Visionary is a fine card, but if you don’t have a way to make use of its 1/1 body it’s not really worth the slot. Aristocrats decks and elf decks both love it. Here? Not so much. Giving that same creature a mana ability, on the other hand? Well, that changes things. Sure Llanowar Visionary is one more mana to cast, but it’s mana well spent; you don’t lose out on the card draw, and it allows you to accelerate your game plan. What’s not to like?

Every Commander deck benefits from a bit of graveyard recursion, and this list especially wants ways to get back its big buff spells like Aspect of Hydra and Vines of Vastwood. Once and Future did a decent job of that; since this is a mono-green deck, casting it with Adamant was trivial, allowing me to get back a couple of cards. Even so, it was clear at first glance that Timeless Witness was a big improvement over the instant.

For the same cost you still get a card from your graveyard, but you also get a human body on the battlefield. The new Witness also doesn’t exile itself like Once and Future, meaning you could potentially get it back with Eternal Witness or Haunted Fengraf as part of a small value chain or a loop of perpetual blockers.

Failing all that, Timeless Witness can be Eternalized from the graveyard for one last Regrowth trigger and a big 4/4 body. It’s worth noting that despite being a zombie, the Eternalized token is still human, so it will still benefit from the deck’s tribal synergies. Even better!

The addition of Timeless Witness to the deck also made me feel better about my recent cut of Woodland Sleuth. I love the art and flavour of the Sleuth, but it can be frustratingly unreliable; a creature needs to die on your turn for it to do anything, and even when it does you need to luck out if you’re hoping to get a particular creature back.

A lot has to go right for this scout to be good, and unfortunately this deck just doesn’t have a good way to make it more consistent. A sacrifice package would certainly help, for instance, to guarantee that its Morbid ability triggers, but I’m not sure it would be worth it.

Landing On the Right Cards

Playing with this deck, I’ve discovered just how awkward colourless lands can be when your commander costs double green. In a mono-colour deck I think there’s room to include a few colourless utility lands, but I need to be more selective about the ones I pick.

For example, this deck is quite content playing the majority of its spells during its main phase, so there’s really no need for Emergence Zone. I could have opted for another basic Forest in its place, but opted for an extra desert instead; Cradle of the Accursed might not cast Syr Faren on turn two, but it can become a zombie token or fodder for my Hashep Oasis if I flood out. It’s a trade off, but one that’s proven far more useful in this deck than the one-time Vedalken Orrery of Emergence Zone.

As for Zhalfirin Void, I actually really like it. That said, I always seemed to draw it at the most inconvenient times. Path of Ancestry fills a similar niche, since both are lands that help with card selection, but crucially the Path can add green mana. This already makes it a step up from the Void, but the fact that it can scry more than once each game is another a big point in its favour. It does come into play tapped, which can be a bummer. That said, because it’s one of the only lands in this deck that does so, it’s not as big a concern.

A Familiar Place

Our recent return to Innistrad presented me with several new humans to consider for this list, though only a few of them caught my eye: Contortionist Troupe has potential as a flexible creature (ha!) that can slowly buff the team. Sawblade Slinger could provide some additional artifact hate. And both Laid to Rest and Cloaked Cadet could provide repeatable card advantage. These all seemed fine, but none of them felt much better than what I was already running.

Surprisingly, it was Reclusive Taxidermist that ended up making the cut. I’d been looking at Horizon Seeker from Kaldheim as a way to consistently hit my land drops, and while I still like that idea, I decided I would be better off with another mana creature instead.

It does make me more vulnerable to board wipes, since a wrath that destroys my mana creatures would set me back a lot more than if I’d spent my time boasting for Forests. Still, the Taxidermist doesn’t require me to put any creature in harms way to develop my mana, and I only need to pay for it once.

That’s all well and good, but what really caught my eye regarding the Reclusive Taxidermist was how similar it was to the other cheap mana creatures in this deck. Just like Werebear and Drover of the Mighty, the Taxidermist can potentially become a big creature in the late game, when attackers and blockers are more important than having extra mana.

Granted, this deck doesn’t exactly stock its graveyard, so turning the Reclusive Taxidermist into a 4/4 isn’t all that reliable. Even so, if the fall back plan is “be a regular mana creature,” that’s probably fine; the deck could probably do with some extra acceleration anyway.

The Second Draft is Always Better

Syr Faren still packs as big a punch as always, and with the tweaks I’ve made to the list, he’s even better at it. Despite being a pile of commons and uncommons, this deck sets the pace for the table, and quickly puts everyone else on the back foot. The changes I’ve made give this list a little more oomph, make it a bit more consistent, and give it more staying power than it had before. All in all, I feel like I’m moving it in the right direction. Even better, with all these adjustments, I’ve still maintained the spirit and style of the original list, despite replacing nearly a fifth of its cards.

I don’t think I could ask for more.

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