Building A Successful Saskia

Sheldon yields to no one! Join him as he unveils the build he has planned for one of the most popular legends from the new Commander 2016 set!

The Commander 2016 four-color legendary creatures continue to excite and I want to get the Chromatic Project finished in short order, so next up on our hit parade is Saskia the Unyielding. Saskia is right up my alley—a creature that encourages you to get into the Red Zone as often as you possibly can.

First things first were to think about the thinking, as it were. Do I approach Saskia as Abzan plus red? Naya plus black? Jund plus white? All of them sounded like loads of fun. Of course, Saskia is also a Soldier, so there’s a tribal theme to be had. As I attempted with Yidris, Maelstrom Wanderer a few weeks back, I wanted to avoid just cramming all my favorite cards in the colors into the deck.

Taking a page out of the Do Over Project book, I wondered if I could make a deck without repeating any of the nonland cards from Yidris. There are a few green staples I wouldn’t mind having, some of the black graveyard stuff, plus the always useful Solemn Simulacrum (and who doesn’t want to just jam Panharmonicon into everything?), but we’ll take a run at avoiding any of the Yidris cards. There are certainly enough sweet cards in Magic to not have to resort the same 100 or so all the time. Of course, this idea would have been easier had I thought about doing all five decks this way before building the first one, but I’m pretty sure I can manage.

The strength of Saskia is being able to battle the open player while still damaging the pillowfort one. If there’s no hide-behind-a-wall player at your table, then the control player is the one to choose with Saskia. If they’re forced to expend resources on you, then they won’t have them to spend on everyone else. That’s definitely a win for you.

Approaching Saskia as Abzan plus red doesn’t seem like the right idea. Abzan (mostly Karador, Ghost Chieftain) decks are pretty grindy, and we want to be more aggressive here. Naya and Jund can both be relatively threatening, so either direction there is fine. I looked for a moment at my Rith’s Tokens deck to see if I could just swap out a few cards for sweet black stuff I’d want to put in, but that seemed a little cheaty. I also wanted to avoid some of the blinky shenanigans from my Rotisserie Draft deck, since that’s what I’ve been playing most of the last six months or so.

The real way to go here is to make sure there is combat and that it’s difficult for anyone to block. I didn’t want to go traditional methods here—Craterhoof Behemoth is strong and all, but it doesn’t really do much for Saskia’s ability, since Craterhoof Behemoth tends to just bash everyone anyway. I also considered Angel tribal. I discarded the idea for two reasons. One, I already have an Angel tribal with Trostani and Her Angels. Two, even though there are some sweet nonwhite Angels, it’s a heavy commitment to white, which, while not bad in its own right, is something that’s probably tougher in four-color than we want it to be. I’d rather spend a bunch of time battling instead of mana-fixing. Here’s the list:

Saskia the Unyielding
Sheldon Menery
Test deck on 12-08-2016
Magic Card Back

As mentioned, getting creatures turned sideways is the big thing here. I want to use the graveyard a little, but I don’t want much of a set-up like one would with the aforementioned Abzan plus red idea, but letting creatures do a little wandering in and out of the graveyard. They can be there, but we won’t plan for anything to be there long. As the build was going along, I saw that our mana costs were getting a little on the high side; instead of going back to the drawing board for something with a little more curve to it, I decided to run a few things that just put creatures onto the battlefield without paying their mana costs. It’s the kind of deck that probably wants Lurking Predators, and I almost succumbed to taking it out of Yidris, but in the end resisted the urge. Let’s take a look at the individual choices:

Creatures (18)

Angel of Despair: There aren’t too many control elements in the deck, so Angel of Despair and her badder brother, Ashen Rider, are there to take care of annoying permanents.

Ashen Rider: Of course, Ashen Rider takes care of them for good.

Bone Shredder: The perfect thing to have in the graveyard at all times for recursion with Sun Titan.

Burnished Hart: Since I couldn’t put Solemn Simulacrum in the deck, Burnished Hart is a fine second choice.

Champion of Lambholt: Especially with stuff running in and out of the graveyard, given just a few turns, Champion of Lambholt will likely make most of the team unblockable, which is exactly what we’d like (too bad we don’t have blue for Sun Quan, Lord of Wu).

Dust Elemental: I’m going to try to be a little cheeky with Dust Elemental, both as a way of saving creatures from battlefield wipes and getting the ones I want to recast for their enters-the-battlefield triggers. I’ve seen it used in soft locks with Hunting Grounds and Draining Whelk, but that’s not my style.

Hero of Bladehold: We want to attack. When attacking creates more attackers, I’m there.

Firemane Avenger: One of the other things we want to do is get potential blockers out of the way. A little life gain isn’t so bad, either.

Karmic Guide: I avoided a Reveillark / Karmic Guide / Saffi Eriksdottir package as a little too good-stuffy, but Karmic Guide to the rescue every now and again is fine.

Legion Loyalist: We saw the value of Legion Loyalist in one of our recent leagues. Chump blocks become useless, and damage is getting through.

Loxodon Gatekeeper: There’s a sub-theme in the deck of having opponents’ creatures enter the battlefield tapped. That way, no blocking!

Luminate Primordial: Creature control is a thing, and I confess to a weakness for the Primordials.

Molten Primordial: Hey, can I borrow that for a minute? I swear I won’t bash your face with it.

Pawn of Ulamog: With the mana cost of creatures being a little high, I figured that some Eldrazi Spawn or Scion tokens would be nice to get that little burst. Pawn of Ulamog can create quite a few in the right situation. In the event of a big board wipe, those tokens can get you back up and running again.

Restoration Angel: With some good enters-the-battlefield triggers, Restoration Angel will be an all-star. Sure, it can’t do anything with Angel of Despair, but Ashen Rider is no Angel.

Seedguide Ash: Until the very last minute, this slot was a ramp spell—I was debating between Far Wanderings and Search for Tomorrow—but then I remembered Seedguide Ash will get three Forest every time. In a four-color deck with a bunch of subtyped lands, it’s the right call.

Sepulchral Primordial: If I’m going to mess around with my own graveyard a little, it seems only fair to mess with yours as well.

Siege Behemoth: We want damage to get through, and Siege Behemoth ensures that will happen.

Sun Titan: I also love the Titans. There are only a few things which will normally return via Sun Titan—the aforementioned Bone Shredder and the always lovely Burnished Hart.

Tornado Elemental: Tornado Elemental is here for both its ability to clear away pesky fliers and just shoot its damage past any defense.

Wilderness Elemental: This might qualify as this week’s hidden gem. It’s an old favorite from the early days of the format, and even in the early parts of the game, it can get rather large rather quickly. I also considered Ayumi, the Last Visitor, but didn’t find room.

Legendary Creatures (14)

As I was adding creatures, I didn’t realize at first how many of them were legendary. I nearly came off my low-tutor stance and put in Captain Sisay. As I’m physically constructing the deck, if there is a card or two I can’t find, she might end up making an appearance.

Athreos, God of Passage: I mentioned only wanting my creatures in the graveyard for short periods of time. Athreos helps that be very short.

Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder: Creatures with double strike—especially if they have trample—can get deadly very quickly. I don’t expect too many commander damage kills with Saskia, but you never know. A little buff here, a little buff there, and things get smashy.

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight: Especially in a game in which anyone is playing Clone variants, Gisela can lead to insanely large amounts of damage. I like that she protects me as well. It would have been very easy to make this a Boros deck splashing green and black because those R/W creatures love to battle.

Iroas, God of Victory: You’ll have to have twice the number of chump blockers if you don’t want to get mauled here.

Karametra, God of Harvests: There are loads of creatures to cast and loads of Forest and Plains to fetch. I also suspect that Karametra will frequently be battling.

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed: Remember the part about not staying in the graveyard long? I had to go back to make sure nearly all the creatures were non-Human. There are few enough to not worry about it. I considered something which also moves around counters, but thought that was getting just a little too janky.

Nylea, God of the Hunt: Trample is kind of a low-budget unblockable, since it means chump blocks don’t happen that often. The extra ability is nice, but I don’t know how often I’ll use it.

Odric, Lunarch Marshal: What I love about this Odric is that creatures get the abilities when Odric’s trigger resolves, meaning if there are ways to give creatures any of the listed abilities in response to the trigger (like with Angelic Skirmisher, which was late on the cut list), they still count.

Odric, Master Tactician: I’d think this version of Odric would be pretty popular with the troops, since most of what he’s going to do is give everybody the day off from blocking. So either nobody blocks, or everybody blocks the creature with deathtouch. Either way, everybody hurts.

Ravos, Soultender: What Ravos does is simple enough—make your creatures bigger and brings back the dead. I was initially attracted to the fact that his power is two, making him good Reveillark fodder (see also the late cut of Phantom Nishoba), but we didn’t go down that road.

Tajic, Blade of the Legion: I like indestructible, and I like that Tajic is going to be battling as at least a 7/7 most of the time.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar: Slowing down creatures is one thing; not letting someone have an available Maze of Ith right away is icing on an already-delicious cake.

The Gitrog Monster: There might not be enough fuel in the deck to make The Gitrog Monster worthwhile, but we’ll give it a run. Gitrog’s presence might mean that Sun Titan brings back lands more often than he might in other decks, but I don’t think I’ll be sad about that.

Tymna the Weaver: I can’t imagine too many combats after which I’m not drawing some cards. There’s generally always at least one person open, so while in many other cases it might not be worth hitting them for just a little damage, Tymna pays dividends off even the lightest tap.

Artifacts (8)

Birthing Pod: One of the few tutors I permit myself, Birthing Pod gives me something to do with the creature I just borrowed with Molten Primordial.

Dragon Arch: A cheap way of getting one of the thirteen multicolored creatures onto the battlefield, many of them way more expensive than I’d like to cast.

Deathrender: I’m not sure I’ve ever played Deathrender, but I’m thinking that it might require more sacrifice outlets. We’ll see how the deck plays to make a determination.

Grim Monolith: With some expensive spells, a little boost to maybe get one of them out early can be just what the doctor ordered. Resisting the urge to also play Seedborn Muse.

Nim Deathmantle: I believe I’ve also never played this, and being that it’s really my kind of card, I wonder why not.

Quicksilver Amulet: At least where I play, artifacts get blown up less often than creatures, so that’s why this isn’t Elvish Piper.

Sol Ring: My inclusion of Sol Ring on the list means that you should jump to your favorite Commander forum and take up an intractable position on one side of the ban-it-or-not argument.

Sword of the Animist: Most hidden gems are a little older, but this one from Magic Origins flies enough under the radar that I wonder why we don’t see more of it. I’d think about putting it in a token deck in which you don’t care that much about any individual token, but throwing it into battle just to get a land is always the right choice.

Enchantments (6)

Blind Obedience: Another cog in the machine of making blocking more difficult. There’s also that extort thing going on.

Elemental Bond: I love Garruk’s Packleader, but as I mentioned earlier, my environment is sometimes hostile to creatures. Elemental Bond does the same thing, but tends to hang around longer. Note that with Garruk’s Packleader, the draw is optional; with Elemental Bond, it’s mandatory.

Hunting Grounds: Maybe I’m going wrong here and should include this in a deck that also has blue and bounces creatures back to my hand, but it seems like fun.

Mana Reflection: With the expensive creatures, mana doubling makes sense.

Mirari’s Wake: Ditto.

Sneak Attack: Alternately, paying just a single red mana to get a creature battling is grand as well—especially with Mikaeus, the Unhallowed on the battlefield.

Instants (5)

Cauldron Dance: Continuing the theme of putting creatures onto the battlefield for not a lot of mana, Cauldron Dance is definitely a hidden gem. There are times you can play it defensively—imagine Sepulchral Primordial in the graveyard when sometime attacks into you—but for the most part, I suspect it’ll be a major offensive weapon in my arsenal.

Eerie Interlude: I like that Eerie Interlude lets you choose which creatures you save in response to a battlefield wipe, since there might be a thing or two you want to go to the graveyard (especially if you have that Cauldron Dance in your hand).

Faith’s Reward: Sometimes your stuff gets blown up. And then you bring it back and all is right with the world.

Savage Beating: I didn’t want too many things that offered extra combat steps, since that seems like the almost-too-obvious version to go with Saskia, but delivering the Savage Beating every now and again is good for the soul.

Summoning Trap: Counterspells get played in my local environment, but there aren’t too many of what I’d consider counter-heavy decks. I suspect that I’ll pay full mana for Summoning Trap most of the time.

Sorceries (6)

Growth Spasm: Ramp plus a Spawn isn’t quite as good as Ramp plus an extra land, but it’ll do.

In Garruk’s Wake: One of the best ways to make sure no one can block is for them to not have creatures.

Rampant Growth: I’m pretty sure there isn’t anything to say about Rampant Growth that hasn’t already been said, save for the fact that it anagrams into Mr. Tong Warpath, which by all rights is what I should name the deck.

Ranger’s Path: Skyshroud Claim is in Yidris, plus it’s really hard to come by in foil.

Recross the Paths: With the relatively large creature spells in the deck, Recross the Paths should pay great dividends.

Tooth and Nail: Since there is no two-creature kill combo (like Craterhoof Behemoth and Avenger of Zendikar), I suspect the most likely scenario for casting Tooth and Nail probably involves Restoration Angel and either Sepulchral Primordial or Ashen Rider—but the real answer is that the battlefield state will determine what comes out.

Planeswalkers (2)

Domri Rade: This card is admittedly the fantasyland pick—since the deck isn’t particularly defensive, I doubt I ever get enough loyalty counters to get the emblem, but sometimes stuff just works out.

Xenagos, the Reveler: Since I’m playing Garruk Wildspeaker in too many decks, Xenagos, the Reveler is my choice for a rampy planeswalker.

This is one take of many which occurred to me for Saskia the Unyielding. With any of the four-color commanders, you could spend loads of time exploring different variations on themes. While we’re going to do our next Commander Rotisserie Draft with each of them, it would be quite something to have all five players build their own version of the same commander and see what happens.

This Week’s Deck Without Comment is Trostani Do Over.

Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:


Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers; Kresh Into the Red Zone; Halloween with Karador; Dreaming of Intet; You Did This to Yourself;



Heliod, God of Enchantments; Thassa, God of Merfolk; Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead; Forge of Purphoros; Nylea of the Woodland Realm; Karn, Beatdown Golem


Lavinia Blinks; Obzedat, Ghost Killer; Aurelia Goes to War; Trostani and Her Angels; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind; Zegana and a Dice Bag; Rakdos Reimagined; Glissa, Glissa; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club; You Take the Crown, I’ll Take Leovold; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever;

Shards and Wedges

Adun’s Toolbox; Animar’s Swarm; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky; Demons of Kaalia; Merieke’s Esper Dragons; Nath of the Value Leaf; Rith’s Tokens; The Mill-Meoplasm; The Altar of Thraximundar; The Threat of Yasova; Zombies of Tresserhorn


Children of a Greater God


Animar Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Mimeoplasm Do-Over; Phelddagrif Do-Over; Rith Do-Over; Ruhan Do-Over

If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”