Bennie’s Yisan, the Wanderer Bard

Abe pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in Commander after being inspired by fellow EDH author Bennie Smith! Abe explains how to stray away from running into the same old boring Commander cards again and again!

What happens when you just don’t have the deck stock for a perfect iteration of that Commander deck you want to build? What if your cards are tied up in
other decks? What if you just don’t own a lot of cards? Or what if your games are getting a bit stale from the same ol’ Commander cards? Don’t worry,
there’s a lot you can do!

I’ve written a handful of articles around a Next 100 project. The idea is to take a popular Commander choice from EDH, build a prototypical deck around it
with all of the good stuff you’d expect, and then set that deck aside and build a brand new deck without repeating any card other than the Commander and
the basic lands. Not even Command Tower or Sol Ring will stay in.

That was a fun idea to build some new decks and push my creativity. You can build great decks without using the “Greatest Hits of Commander.” But I wanted
to do a little more. What if I took decks other writers on SCG wrote, and then used that as my First 100. I would end up building a newly minted deck with
the same general but with a new slate of cards to go with it!

Bennie Smith writes some great stuff. His comments and ideas have inspired several articles of mine through the years. I had this idea, and I was just
waiting until the right article came along–and there was Bennie! He wrote this lovely deck around Yisan, the Wandering Bard ( http://www.starcitygames.com/article/28858_The-Path-Of-The-Wanderer.html). It was wonderfully flavorful and full of great stuff like Hornet Nest, Saber
Ants, and Nightshade Peddler. All of the fun stuff you’d expect from Bennie! I e-mailed him and he was more than happy to let me use his deck as a
springboard for my Next 100 project. (Note that this project is not about saying that I could build the deck better than Bennie. Quite the
opposite! I was inspired; I want to build a deck like that too!).

A while later I sat down to build my Next 100, and my Internet was down. I didn’t have a great memory of all of the cards Bennie used. So for about thirty
minutes or so, I built the first quarter of my own, perfect Yisan deck. I had about twenty-five cards or so when the Internet began working again. I
checked his decklist, and we had only duplicated five cards (Birthing Pod, Indrik Stomphowler, Reclamation Sage, Yavimaya Hollow and Eternal Witness.)
Awesome! I yanked those cards and began to build a Yisan deck using a lot of Bennie’s ideas.

Now, this project won’t work if I spin my version of the deck in a different direction. For example, suppose Bennie had a Nath of the Gilt-Leaf deck that
ran Waste Not, Megrim, Syphon Mind, and other discarding fun. If I just looked at that deck, and then subbed in a black/green elf deck instead, that’s not
very useful. Other than a few tools, very few cards would duplicate in your best elf Nath versus your best discard Nath.

So I need to make my Yisan deck have some similar space to Bennie. Now, that doesn’t mean I can’t use some different angles of attack, but the concept
should resonate.

How do I build a similar Yisan deck without some of the classic cards Bennie used, like Acidic Slime, Eternal Witness, Sol Ring, Lightning Greaves or
Birthing Pod?

Like this…

Sure, I wish I could have had Birthing Pod, Reclamation Sage, and such. But this deck


First of all, my deck also has a flexible tutor package beginning at one mana (actually, zero if you count Dryad Arbor). From one on up we have a variety
of creatures to Bard out of our deck and right onto the battlefield. And since I’m doing that for Yisan, it only makes sense to include Hibernation’s End
for the same purpose.

We have mana-makers and land-fetchers (Elvish Mystic, Yavimaya Elder, Wood Elves). We have utility stuff like Wall of Blossoms, Masked Admirers and Elvish
Visionary that can draw cards. We also have Fauna Shaman, Scavenging Ooze, Ohran Viper, and even the reach/deathtouch blocker of Thornweald Archer to pull
out of the deck to keep back flying beats. See also: Sedge Scorpion. This gives us a flexible package of stuff to Bard into play.

I did manage a pair of fun tricks. Take a look at Baru, Fist of Krosa and Nessian Game Warden. Because I am running 35 Forests (and Dryad Arbor too), I can
make these guys work well. Baru almost always gets to pump the team without investing mana, and the Game Warden can dig deep in order to find a friend for
your hand.

This also gives me a great opportunity to discuss turning a weakness into a strength. In my project, Bennie used many of the nonbasic lands I would
otherwise want to run, and therefore, I have a large amount of Forests. You might be facing this too; perhaps you don’t own a lot of special lands for your
Commander decks. That’s fine! Turn that into a strength of your deck by finding cards like these that work well with your large number of basics. You can
toss in Dungrove Elder or Scourge of Fleets or Strata Scythe.

Where Bennie used a lot of untapping to churn out some multiple activations for Yisan, I could only dip in it a bit. He used the good stuff, from Seeker of
Skybreak to Thousand-Year Elixir. So I just dipped my toe in with Puppet Strings and Magewright’s Stone, and then I looked at duplicating the ability
instead. In went Illusionist’s Bracers and Rings of Brighthearth. One of the points of the Next 100 project is that Magic is so deep and has so many cards
that you can often hit the same goal with different cards and do just fine.

I also tried to include some creature protection to keep out Yisan, so in went stuff like Whispersilk Cloak and Asceticism.

I felt that my version of the deck needed some backup creature fetching. Without the massive amount of protection that Bennie had for Yisan, I wanted to
dip into things like Green Sun’s Zenith; Elvish Piper; Dramatic Entrance; Defense of the Heart; Garruk, Caller of Beasts; and Natural Order. This gave me
reliable ways to bring out the right creature for the situation no matter what was happening to my Yisan.

Since I had these cards, I pushed and added some expensive tutor targets, so in went Worldspine Wurm. Now, this isn’t a Tooth and Nail or Natural Order
deck. I didn’t want to push that too much and have five or seven nasty big guys to drop really early. Yisan is nicer than that, but I felt it worked to
have one Worldspine Wurm and also a Panglacial Wurm to tutor out anytime I had the extra mana (just made sense seeing how often this deck searches its

A few cards were added to help the team. Did you counter my creature? I can bring it back with Genesis! Did you sweep the board? Cauldron of Souls to the
rescue. Kill one of my dorks? Reincarnation!

I fleshed the deck out with some mana fetching and card drawing. And that’s a deck!

You could add in things like Thragtusk, Arbor Colossus, Yavimaya Sage, Spearbreaker Behemoth, Umbral Mantle or Terastodon. Tooth and Nail or Pattern of
Rebirth are intriguing as well.

I hope that you enjoyed today’s look at a Next 100 project of another author! What are some cards I missed? Did you find any ideas in here that you want to
try out? Let me know!