Conditions Allow - Hans Eriksson

(Hans Eriksson | Art by Ryan Pancoast)

Such a Fine Day

The cold weather has well and truly set in, but that doesn't mean we can't look forward to spring. That magical time of rejuvenation, when melting snow gives way to the first flower buds of May, no matter how bleak the weather is now. Just make sure that you pay attention for signs of bears, moose, or worse in the woods nearby, lest you end up like today's commander, Hans Eriksson.

Hans Eriksson functions similarly to Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow. He draws a card on attack, with the potential to deal big chunks of damage, albeit to one player at a time. Unlike Yuriko, however, Hans will also deal that amount of damage to himself by fighting the creature he brings into play. We're going to need plenty of ways to protect this jolly giant from his own good mood.

If we can protect Hans Eriksson, we can deal a frightening amount of damage very quickly. His EDHREC page comes with an aggressive lineup of big creatures and top deck manipulation. Cream of the Crop sets us up for massive hits with Terror of the Peaks and Warstorm Surge. One card in particular from Hans' page that stands out, however, is Hua Tuo, Honored Physician.


Is Anyone A Doctor?

Hua Tuo, Honored Physician appears in 56% of the Hans Eriksson decks in the database, but those decks aren't taking full advantage of Hua Tuo, or the graveyard. With enough creatures in the graveyard, Hua Tuo, Honored Physician becomes a free Worldly Tutor every turn. Gruul might not be the first color combination you think of when someone says 'reanimator deck', but there is more precedent for it than you might think. 

Hua Tuo, Honored Physician and Feldon of the Third Path are powerful commanders in their own right, but each also serves as perfect support for Hans Eriksson. Hua Tuo sets up the top of your deck before combat, while Feldon brings your creatures directly back into play. If we compare Hua Tuo’s EDHREC page with Hans Eriksson’s, they are remarkably similar. Lurking Predators, Cream of the Crop, and Call of the Wild all appear in a high percentage of decks for both commanders. There are even similarities between those two and Feldon of the Third Path. Blightsteel Colossus is popular among all three, although Phyrexian Triniform hasn’t caught on outside of mono-red.


Making a Token Effort

It definitely should, though. Both Phyrexian Triniform and Worldspine Wurm leave behind tokens when they die, so we won’t have to worry about retaliatory attacks when we sacrifice them. Wurmcoil Engine does the same, while Hornet Queen protects us against decks running a lot of fliers. Ancient Stone Idol is another creature that we can pick up from Feldon of the Third Path that leaves behind a token with significant power.

These tokens also help us to dig through our deck. If none of the top fifteen cards of our library are impressive, we can sacrifice Worldspine Wurm to dig another five deep with Cream of the Crop. Greater Good simply draws those cards, while Altar of Dementia puts them straight in the graveyard. This can be risky if we don't have Hua Tuo or Feldon in play yet, but Reclaim and Noxious Revival give us the chance to recover. We can even pair them with Isochron Scepter to mimic the good doctor's effect.

Creature tokens are also very, very good with the best sources of damage in our whole deck. I compared Hans Eriksson to Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow at the start of this article, and Terror of the Peaks is what makes that comparison possible. It effectively gives the creatures that Hans brings into play double strike. If we can sacrifice that creature on the same turn, it could be dealing triple damage, and we'll have the tokens left to block with. With Hua Tuo, Honored Physician in play, we can do that every turn.


Observe All Posted Warnings

Of course, this doesn't work if Hans Eriksson goes down in his first fight. Luckily, we have plenty of tools to protect our commander and keep the creatures flowing. Hammer of Nazahn and Magebane Armor are the perfect Equipment for any expeditions into Lhurgoyf country.

Going hiking with a companion is also a great way to stay safe. Anara, Wolvid Familiar protects Hans even from herself, just like Vigor. Vigor is probably the best protection effect that we have, since it also allows Hans Eriksson to grow into a game-ending threat as he continually fights our other creatures. And we don't even have to worry about him eventually beating them, because we want them to hit the graveyard.

You are probably familiar with Heroic Intervention, but we can look to older mechanics to protect our commander, too. Asceticism offers hexproof to all our creatures, and can regenerate any of them if someone tries to Wrath of God all our tokens away. If you plan to rely on Regeneration to protect Hans, however, keep in mind that the fight happens as part of the resolution of his effect. This means you'll need to regenerate Hans Eriksson before you flip the top card of your library.


Run, Hans! Run!

But what if you don't want to wait until your turn to put big creatures into play. You don't have to. Since we're not wasting mana by casting our creatures, we can spend it on Call of the Wild or Zoologist, instead. Impromptu Raid is a great option as well. Since our creatures leave tokens behind, having to sacrifice our creatures in the end step isn't a downside anymore.

By far, the best card in any Hans Eriksson deck is going to be Lurking Predators, though. Much like Rhystic Study, Lurking Predators will make your opponents hesitate before they cast any spells. This goes doubly if you can put a creature on top of your library with Hua Tuo, Honored Physician in response to the trigger. Having out Seedborn Muse lets you do this during each player's turn. You could also activate Feldon of the Third Path every turn, which might be even better. Feldon gives you the death trigger on Wurmcoil Engine for free, and it doesn't risk it getting stuck anywhere other than your graveyard.


Final Mentions

That covers the core of the deck, but I want to go over a few less flashy, but no less impactful, cards. Courser of Kruphix and Radha, Heart of Keld are excellent at setting up the top of your deck, especially with a high land count. They also make Nissa, Vastwood Seer much better, ensuring she hits a land instead of drawing Worldspine Wurm by accident. Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention Neyith of the Dire Hunt. She will usually draw an extra card when Hans Eriksson attacks and makes our big creatures even more devastating in combat.

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Hans Eriksson seems like a difficult commander to build around. Having to fight big creatures can be difficult to work around, but if this deck gets going its not actually necessary to have him on the field. Call of the Wild and Lurking Predators do a reasonable impression, especially with Hua Tuo, Honored Physician and Feldon of the Third Path bringing creatures back from the graveyard instead of relying only on the top of our library.

But what do you think? Does changing the focus of the deck to the graveyard make it stronger, or weaken it? What cards have you found work well with Hans? Let me know in the comments.

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.