Hear the voice of the Bard

“Hear the voice of the Bard
Who present, past and future sees;
Who’s ears have heard
The Holy Word
That walked among the ancient trees.”

–William Blake, Songs of Experience, 1794

 

Today, I’m going to tell you all a story. Well, not really. I’m going to tell you about a Bard that’s going to tell you all a story. Actually, I’m going to tell you about a Creature in the Magic 2015 Core Set that’s going to tell you all a “story”. It’s Yisan, the Wanderer Bard!
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard is quite the interesting card. I like to compare him to Birthing Pod. Though both cards have their definitive strengths and weaknesses, both cards work in very similar ways. Each card has it’s pros and cons. Birthing Pod is slightly more difficult to get rid of, while Yisan doesn’t make you sacrifice a creature to activate his ability. Birthing Pod is slightly more splashable because you don’t actually need Green mana to cast or activate it, and it’s ability only costs 2 mana. In this sense, Birthin Pod is the better card, and honestly is. However, in Commander, we can only play one Pod, and you’re not guaranteed to get it every game. Yisan, as a Commander, is like a guaranteed Birthing Pod, and with something like a Seedborn Muse, Yisan gets out of control. Sure, you have to start off getting a one drop, but you don’t lose said one drop when you activate his ability a second, third, or fourth time. In this sense, he’s more so similar to Hibernation’s End, only better, as he doesn’t require a cumulative upkeep cost.

Birthing Pod   Hibernation's End

 

To build a proper Yisan deck, you have to make sure that you have creatures at all levels of converted mana cost. You need your one drops, your two drops, your three drops, and considering that you’re playing Green, you’ll want creatures in your deck all the way up to nine, ten, even eleven mana. At the same time, you want to think in the sense of utility. Much like Birthing Pod and Hibernation’s End, Yisan is a great facilitator for a Toolbox deck. We’ll also want to avoid as many non-creature cards as possible, though some will be necessary. Keeping all of these in mind leads to quite an interesting build. Packing all of the utility you can into a deck, while still packing enough of a punch to win the game can be a challenge, especially when building a mono-colored deck. So without further ado, lets jump into some of the ideas!

ONE

The one drop spot is surprisingly uncomplicated all things considered. There isn’t a lot of utility to be found in one drops, but that isn’t to say that it’s nonexistent. Placing some of your tools in this space allows you to start off where you need to be, beginning the game in a comfortable place.

Arbor Elf   Druid Lyrist   Elvish Lyrist   Elvish Mystic   Elvish Pioneer   Elvish Scrapper   Essence Warden   Llanowar Mentor   Magus of the Candelabra

Tossing a bit of Artifact and Enchantment control into your one drop spots in the deck is a solid idea, while placing ramp in this space turns Yisan into a ramp spell and allows you to play your larger threats earlier. My personal favorites here are your typical Mono-Green one drops. Your Elvish Mystic/Llanowar Elf type cards, Elvish Scrapper, and Elvish Lyrist are all decent ways to start off your chain, while cards like Magus of the Candelabra are late game bombs when paired with the right cards. Llanowar Mentor can help you avoid dead draws, discarding late game lands to make 1/1 creatures that still produce mana, effectively negating any downside, and Essence Warden can provide your deck with a small amount of endurance should the need arise.

TWO

Wall of Blossoms   Fauna Shaman   Gaea's Herald   Scavenging Ooze   Tajuru Preserver   Viridian Zealot   Riftsweeper   Scryb Ranger   Elvish Visionary

The two drops pack a bit more of a punch, providing us with further Enchantment and Artifact removal in the form of Viridian Zealot, as well as avoiding Counterspells via Gaea’s Herald and card advantage through Wall of Blossoms and Elvish VisionaryTajuru Preserver and Riftsweeper are other great choices, dodging or undoing creature removal, which is prevalent in this format. But the big player here is Scryb Ranger, which speeds up our chain by letting us use Yisan’s ability more than once a turn.

THREE

Azusa, Lost but Seeking   Dosan the Falling Leaf   Heartwood Storyteller   Loaming Shaman   Omnath, Locus of Mana   Dungrove Elder

Getting into our three-drops, we begin to see a bit more power in the cards we’re fetching. Cards like Dungrove Elder and Omnath, Locus of Mana can get very large very fast in mono-green decks, and tend to end games when left unanswered. Azusa, Lost but Seeking is a mono-green staple, while Dosan, the Falling Leaf sees more fringe play. However, in a deck centered around Yisan, you’re not worried about CASTING spells on your own turn, only fetching for creatures and putting them into play, giving you a distinct advantage over your opponents while he’s in play. Loaming Shaman is another good pick, allowing you to recycle valuable cards that you’ve already lost.

FOUR

Nylea, God of the Hunt   Citanul Hierophants   Elvish Piper   Oracle of Mul Daya   Spike Weaver   Yeva, Nature's Herald

Four counters is a pretty sweet spot to hit with Yisan, and it doesn’t take all that long to get him there if you play the deck right. At this point, we’re gaining a lot of value. Whether you’re “flashing in” a Spike Weaver to save your skin, or searching out Nylea, God of the Hunt to push damage through, Yisan on four seems like a good deal, even if it is for only one card. At this point, you have some serious options as to how you want your game to play out. Some four drops, such as Yeva, Nature’s Herald and Nylea, are more aggressive, where as Oracle of Mul Daya and Citanul Hierophants are more so set up for things to come. There are a good number of other creatures you can play in these slots, so pick and choose as you see fit. As I said at the beginning of the article, Yisan plays like a toolbox. You’re going to have a fix for just about any situation you can think of with this deck.

FIVE

Vorapede   Arashi, the Sky Asunder   Arbor Colossus   Deranged Hermit   Mycoloth   Seedborn Muse   Thragtusk   Wolfir Silverheart   Acidic Slime

If four counters is a good place to be with Yisan, then five counters is paradise. Five mana is a sweet spot for the Commander format in general, but for green it’s just that much sweeter. This is the point where we hit powerhouses like Seedborn MuseThragtusk, and Mycoloth, all of which are very powerful when you can pick and choose when to play them. The big key here is the fact that Yisan doesn’t cast these creatures, making them uncounterable. This is highly relevant with cards like Seedborn Muse that are all too often countered because of their threat level. Acidic Slime is, of course, another go-to good card in Green, being both removal for those problem permanents, as well as a profitable blocker in almost all scenarios. When it comes to blocking, Deranged Hermit is another fantastic choice, giving you multiple blockers with which to chump block as he enters the battlefield.

With five mana being a key point in your curve with a green deck, here are some additional thoughts:

  • Bellowing Tanglewurm is a fantastic way to push damage through against non-green players. Putting him into play at instant speed before blockers can make or break your combat step, forcing your opponents to either take the damage, or use up valuable kill spells for their own survival.
  • Green has a distinct lack of card advantage in creature heavy builds. It’s not unreasonable to fetch a card like Garruk’s Packleader to help refill your hand. Also, you’re playing mono-green, so cards like Nessian Game Warden can dig you pretty deep into your deck. Sometimes the quality of the card you draw is better than the quantity of cards you draw.
  • While playing Acidic Slime is always a good choice, you also have access to Indrik Stomphowler at this CMC. If your playgroup is big on artifacts and enchantments, consider playing both.
  • Seedguide Ash is phenomenal ramp. If you find yourself somewhat land short, feel free to use Yisan to fetch this Treefolk for chump blocking.

 

SIX

Rampaging Baloths   Hydra Omnivore   Soul of Zendikar   Bane of Progress   Hydra Broodmaster   Kamahl, Fist of Krosa

At six mana, we start to sacrifice some of our utility for a bit more brute strength. Once you’ve reached six counters on Yisan, you’ve probably already utilized the other creatures in the deck to further your cause anyway, so we need better ways to actually end the game. This is not to say that all of the six drops you can fetch are simply big beaters. Creatures like Bane of Progress and Soul of Zendikar definitely have their usefulness outside of swinging at your opponent’s faces. However, the six drop slots, in my opinion, should be more for actually winning the game. At this point, you’re getting close to the top of your curve. You’ll only have so many creatures above this point, so making your six drops count is crucial. Being a green deck, creatures like Soul of Zendikar, Rampaging Baloths, and Hydra Broodmaster are going to provide you with an army if they go uncontested, while Kamahl, Fist of Krosa is going to make your existing army pack a bigger punch. I believe the Hydra Omnivore speaks for itself.

 

From this point forward in your deck, your options are going to get a bit more narrow. At seven, you’ll probably play the typical green seven drops: Avenger of ZendikarGarruk’s HordeRegal Force, etc.

The same can be said for the eight drops: Craterhoof BehemothVorinclex, Voice of Hunger

Other than this, the deck should pretty much build itself. You simply want to insure that you have creatures at every CMC through your curve to fetch. You never want to fail to find on a Yisan activation. Building your deck in a way that you never run out of tools is an intiricate, yet simple process, as strange as that sounds. Once you know what you need, you know what to run. And remember, Yisan’s ability is both instant speed, and the creature he fetches cannot be countered. These are two of his key strengths, so make use of them.

 

Thank you for reading. Feel free to leave your ideas, comments, and questions in the comment section below. Your feedback is a valuable resource to us. And as always, keep Commanding.

 


 

Evan Erickson

Author: Evan Erickson

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