This week I want to try something completely different. To be perfectly honest, I'd never seen a G/W deck played in Commander before Grand Prix Montreal a few weeks ago. I've seen tons of G/W/x, either Naya for giant creatures, Bant for Mystic Snake and Crystal Shard, or [card Teneb, the Harvester]Teneb[/card] colors for recursion and whatnot, but never straight G/W. The problem, as I see it, is that even though Green and White have some of the best utility creatures and bombs, there's not necessarily as much card advantage and resiliency as there might be if you were to add another color. Plus, this is a casual format and more colors are more fun, right?
That was before Grand Prix Montreal. While I was at the Grand Prix, I got to play a game with @GaddockTygue, and his Saffi Eriksdotter deck. Over the course of that game, he did some pretty disgusting stuff with Birthing Pod, utility guys, [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card] herself, and seemed to have a ton of fun playing! On top of that, Sun Titan is probably my favorite Commander card, bar none, and [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card] is a Sun Titan deck if I've ever seen one!
Now, the biggest problem that I have with Saffi Eriksdotter as a general is just how degenerate she can be if you're not incredibly careful during deckbuilding. There are so many incidental infinite combos within this color combination, most involving some combination of Reveillark, Karmic Guide, Sun Titan, and Nim Deathmantle, that it can be incredibly difficult not to "accidentally" win the game with random combinations of cards on the table. Now, I don't mind games where people combo off but I prefer not to if I can help it, so here are some of the things that I'm going to try to avoid:
- "Free" sacrifice outlets, like Martyr's Cause, Altar of Dementia, and Blasting Station. These let you go infinite with [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card] plus Reveillark, Karmic Guide, or Sun Titan.
- Ashnod's Altar. This goes infinite with Nim Deathmantle and almost any two creatures.
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast. Infinite persist combos aren't that interesting, and are almost all that Melira is used for these days. Granted, they also require a "free" sacrifice outlet, but I'd rather run a sacrifice outlet than a Melira.
- Mirror Entity. This card accomplishes the same thing as the other sacrifice outlets, but is easier to tutor for and recur in this color combination.
Now that those are out of the way, the question is: how is this deck going to win games? Green-White is great and generating two-for-ones, and recurring utility creatures that are good for a particular game state. Still, you need ways to generate card advantage outside of picking up half a card here and there. You can try to generate incremental advantage, but that's only good until someone plays a Rite of Replication or whatnot that undoes all of that work you'd just done. So what we need are some powerful engines that will lead to us winning the game if they aren't dealt with very quickly. These are the reasons to play this color combination, rather than expanding into another color:
- Saffi Eriksdotter (Commander)
- Birthing Pod
- Pattern of Rebirth
- Nim Deathmantle
- Survival of the Fittest
- Wild Pair
- Angelic Renewal
- Adarkar Valkyrie
- Perilous Forays
- Phyrexian Altar
- Enlightened Tutor
- Sensei's Divining Top
The goal here is to accomplish two things. First, you want to be able to find any creature in your deck relatively easily, and to be able to reuse those creatures over and over. Sacrifice outlets let you rebuy creatures with [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card] and protect your general and creatures from removal. Secondly, you want sacrifice outlets that let you go big without going infinite, and the ones I'm running hopefully accomplish that. Phyrexian Altar is the most dangerous sacrifice outlet here, because it is free and does some stupid things, but it doesn't easily go infinite with Nim Deathmantle. [card]Perilous Forays, however, costs mana, which limits the number of activations you get in a turn. It ramps up your mana though, and will get out of hand very quickly if it's left unchecked.
You've got Wild Pair, Birthing Pod, and Survival of the Fittest are your tutor engines, and will quickly take over any game in which they are left alone for multiple turns. Let's not even talk about when you get to do Birthing Pod tricks with [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card] and enters the battlefield creatures, or when you Wild Pair with Eternal Witness into Stoneforge Mystic!
Lastly, we've got Adarkar Valkyrie, Angelic Renewal, and Nim Deathmantle as back-up copies of Saffi Eriksdotter. In particular, I'd like to point out the insane interaction between Sun Titan and these cards, which basically make Sun Titan immune to removal. You can recur Sun Titan with Angelic Renewal or Saffi Eriksdotter, and then buy them back when the Titan enters the battlfield, or just protect it with Nim Deathmantle and sacrifice outlets, and use it to recur Nim Deathmantle when someone tries to disrupt you.
The goal of the deck is to use these engines to create an insurmountable position that is very difficult to disrupt, from which you can answer most new threats. We've looked at the tutoring mechanisms and recursion mechanisms, now let's look at the creatures that actually do things. I'm going to do things a little differently this week, and sort them by mana cost rather than function, and note their combined power and toughness (in parentheses), so that Birthing Pod and Wild Pair chains are more apparent.
If you've read any of my other articles, you know how much I love this card. The ability to tutor up whatever spell-land is appropriate for whatever situation you are in is incredibly powerful, especially in conjunction with something like Mistveil Plains to recycle your Strip Mines and Tectonic Edges.
And here's a ton of early game utility! Qasali Pridemage is absolutely insane in a Saffi Eriksdotter deck, letting you get in for early general damage and then double Naturalize later on for minimal cost. This is exactly the kind of cheap utility creature I want for [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card]. After that, Riftsweeper is a very interesting guy in this deck. For a deck that wants to run as many unique effects as possible, and wants to abuse the graveyard, you need something that can buy back key pieces so you don't get shut down by a stray piece of graveyard hate.
Fauna Shaman and Stoneforge Mystic, while very powerful, aren't really that interesting. Stoneforge Mystic only has two targets in the deck, Nim Deathmantle and Sword of Feast and Famine. Fauna Shaman, on the other hand, has tons of targets, but is a fairly generic engine and tutor.
- Loyal Retainers (2)
- Flickerwisp (4)
- Knight of the Reliquary (2)
- Yavimaya Granger (3)
- Yavimaya Elder (3)
- Eternal Witness (3)
- Wood Elves (2)
- Stonecloaker (5)
- Fiend Hunter (4)
- Mangara of Corondor (2)
Now here's where the creatures start getting interesting! Sure, there are some generically good cards like Eternal Witness and Knight of the Reliquary, but there are some awesome interactions here! Flickerwisp does cool stuff with your various ETB creatures. Stonecloaker is sort of like Flickerwisp in that it enables you reuse ETB effects, but it's also an awesome source of targeted graveyard hate that can be very difficult to answer. Yavimaya Granger is the first of several echo creatures that play well with [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card], and Yavimaya Elder fills a similar role, though I'm pretty sure you're up a hundred cards if you [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card] a Yavimaya Elder
Fiend Hunter and Mangara of Corondor fill similar roles; they provide repeatable, exiling removal when combined with a sacrifice outlet. You stack their ability, then sacrifice them, and can buy them back with [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card] or Nim Deathmantle some other similar effect.
Lastly, Loyal Retainers is a very interesting creature in this deck. Combined with [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card], you can infinitely loop the two in and out of play, to take advantage of something like Soul Warden, Caller of the Claw, or Asmira, Holy Avenger. I don't run any of these, but I certainly wouldn't blame you for it!
- Oracle of Mul Daya (4)
- Dust Elemental (12)
- Solemn Simulacrum (4)
- Loaming Shaman (5)
- Academy Rector (3)
In contrast to the three drops, the four and five drops are pretty uninteresting. Of these, Dust Elemental is probably the most exciting. You can go get Titans off of Wild Pair, at instant speed, even! You can rescue your creatures from removal, and just bounce Dust Elemental to reuse the effect.
Beyond that, we've got some generic utility creatures, some ramp, and the two best cards in the deck, Karmic Guide and Reveillark. Both of these cards let you do absolutely stupid things with [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card], basically making you [card Wrath of God]Wrath[/card]-proof, and allowing you to easily abuse some of your best creatures and engines to dominate the mid- and late-game.
- Steel Hellkite (10)
- Brutalizer Exarch (6)
- Sun Titan (12)
- Deadwood Treefolk (9)
- Sunblast Angel (9)
- Twilight Shepherd (10)
- Wurmcoil Engine (12)
- Yosei, the Morning Star (10)
- Primeval Titan (12)
And here's the crux of the deck. You're typically going to end games by abusing powerful six drops with abilities that trigger on entering the battlefield or dying. To that effect, we've got Sun Titan, Primeval Titan, Yosei, the Morning Star, Twilight Shepherd, and Wurmcoil Engine as cards that can easily win the game if you can back them up with protection and set them up properly. These cards generate so much card advantage over a single turn, much less multiple turns, that any of them can end a game pretty easily. Yosei, the Morning Star is, in particular, the easiest and most brutal way to end games, since you can pretty easily lock multiple players out of their untap steps while you beat them down with whatever guys you have in play, as long as you have a sacrifice outlet.
Next we've got some utility removal, like Brutalizer Exarch, Steel Hellkite, and Sunblast Angel. Acidic Slimes are nice and all, but sometimes you need to go a little bigger, and these cards let you do that. The fact that Steel Hellkite and Sunblast Angel are relatively one-sided is certainly something you can use to generate card advantage and to play the politics game.
- Woodfall Primus (12)
And the curve topper, Woodfall Primus, is a card that the deck is sort of built around. Cards like Oran-Rief, the Vastwood or Gavony Township make Woodfall Primus incredibly difficult to deal with; you can also protect him with Saffi Eriksdotter or Angelic Renewal. And the best part? Every time the table tries to deal with him and fails, you're up two cards! What's not to love?
The last two things that this deck needs are some utility answers, and some mana acceleration. This deck is very mana hungry, with expensive creatures like Woodfall Primus and [card Primeval Titan]Titans[/card], and expensive recursion engines like Nim Deathmantle. The more mana the deck has available to it, the more dumb things it can do to dominate a table. Here are the support cards I picked out:
- Akroma's Vengeance
- Austere Command
- Aura Shards
- Krosan Grip
- Privileged Position
- Oblivion Stone
- Wrath of God
- Miraculous Recovery
- Tormod's Crypt
The board sweepers actually play a very interesting role in this deck, because most of them will end up being one-sided. [card Saffi Eriksdotter]Saffi[/card] protects your key creatures from sweepers, and so these are much more about generating board presence than about removing problematic creatures and permanents. Beyond that, you've got some powerful utility spells like Krosan Grip and Tormod's Crypt, some protection like Privileged Position, and some straight up bombs like Genesis Wave. Let's add a manabase to this and the final list will look like this:
[deckbox did="a128" size="small" width="560"]
So, if you're interested in playing a deck with endlessly complicated board states, this is probably a pretty good choice. The sheer volume of options that you have at any point in time is staggering, and gives you tons of opportunities to leverage your ingenuity and familiarity with your deck, and turn those into wins. There's a ton of space for customization, and the deck has a lot of play and flexibility to it, so that you can impose your own play-style on it.
As always, I'm interested in your feedback! If you've got any comments, suggestions, or decks you want looked at, give me a shout!
@cag5383 on Twitter