Tipping the Scales: A Standard GW Counter-based Deck for Magic: The Gathering

“Hardened Scales,” by Mark Winters. © Wizards of the Coast.

Today’s Magic: The Gathering column is a green/white build I’ve had in mind ever since “Khans of Tarkir” was released back in November. The white-aligned clan, the Abzan Houses, emphasize a defensive posture based around counters. This ties nicely to the Heroic mechanic of the Theros block and the gradual “build up” nature of green/white creature armies.

The keystone of this deck is the one-drop enchantment Hardened Scales, which gives us a bonus +1/+1 counter any time a spell or ability gives a permanent counter to one of our creatures. Scales is by no means as mighty as the fabled Doubling Season, but a free counter each time we cast a spell or trigger Heroic is sure to put our army over the top at an accelerated pace.

Now, there are plenty of green creatures in Theros block who grant multiple +1/+1 counters each time their Heroic ability is triggered (such as Staunch-Hearted Warrior), but most have a higher converted mana cost than their white counterparts. That’s fine for the long game, but I wanted this deck to build up quickly.

Without further delay, let me introduce “Tipping the Scales”:


hardenedscales“Tipping the Scales”

Creatures (24):

Instants (10):

Enchantments (4):

Lands (22):

Sideboard (15):


The theme of “Tipping the Scales” is one- and two-drop creatures who will rapidly grow into heavyweights due to Heroic triggers and counters. The supporting pair of Abzan Falconers and Tuskguard Captains add flying and trample, respectively, to everyone who has a counter. Phalanx Leader serves as the “Oprah” of the team. Coupled with multiple copies of Hardened Scales, each time Phalanx Leader is hit with a spell, we add at least one to three additional counters in an average game.

Fleecemane Lion is our ahead-of-the-curve two-drop whose Monstrosity trigger can easily be ballooned in size with additional copies of Scales on the field. Favored Hoplite and Feat of Resistance offer valuable protection to keep enemy hands off your forces. Fabled Hero serves as our beater. Our playset of Warden of the First Tree, while not a source of counters, is a simple one-drop who can grow to be a heady threat on their own.

Our Strive cards, Nature’s Panoply and Solidarity of Heroes, give us the option of pumping as many counters to our Heroic friends as we can muster. They’re good as one-offs early on while providing a good investment of abundant mana later in the game.

The sideboard contains a few reactive cards: Erase for enchantments, Banishing Light for troublesome permanents, and Plummet for dragons and other flyers. Ajani Steadfast‘s second ability mirrors that of Phalanx Leader for extra counter shenanigans. Nyx-Fleece Ram is a stalwart defensive player and always welcome in any white-based deck I play.

What do you think? Does the build need a better balance of instants to justify the theme, or is the balance right on the mark? How would you adjust the composition or pace for play at your next Friday Night Magic? Please share the in comments below.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

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