Dear Azami: A Tide Of Humanity

Join Dear Azami for more excellent work on the new and incredibly fun four-color commanders! How would you work this deck into dominance?

Dear Azami,

My friends and I were all super excited by the Commander 2016 precons. As soon as the decklists were spoiled, we all knew which deck we were going to buy. For me, the combination of abilities, colors, and story for Saskia the Unyielding made the selection really easy. However, when it comes to actually upgrading the deck, I’ve found that working in four colors is very difficult because there is so much good stuff.

At first I wanted to build Saskia as a thematic Barbarians/Warriors deck to mirror my Queen Marchesa deck which is themed on the Roman Empire. However, Saskia is a Soldier, not a Warrior, Barbarian, or Berserker. I was pretty down about this for a while, until I realized that she’s also a Human! How awesome would it be to have Sigarda, Heron’s Grace; Alesha, Who Smiles at Death; and a bunch of Innistrad’s tribal Human synergies all together in one deck? I had already built Alesha before and currently have a pretty aggressive Sigarda Tribal Humans deck together. Unfortunately my attempts at synthesizing the three decks together has been…clunky.

Commander: Saskia the Unyielding

Resolute Archangel

Herald of War

Karametra, God of Harvests

Knight of the Reliquary

Silverblade Paladin

Mirror Entity

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

Recruiter of the Guard

Fumiko the Lowblood

Brutal Hordechief

Riders of Gavony

Ranger of Eos

Tymna the Weaver

Mogis, God of Slaughter

Ghoulcaller Gisa

Angel of the Dire Hour

Champion of Lambholt

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death

Primeval Protector

Wild Beastmaster

Urabrask the Hidden

Aurelia, the Warleader

Mentor of the Meek

Yavimaya Elder

Ravos, Soultender

Iroas, God of Victory

Odric, Master Tactician

Captain Sisay

Zhur-Taa Druid

Eternal Witness

Sigarda, Heron’s Grace

Champion of the Parish

Thalia’s Lieutenant

Den Protector

Tireless Tracker

Sylvan Reclamation

Realms Uncharted

Path to Exile

Abzan Charm

Boros Charm

Chord of Calling


Swords to Plowshares

Naya Charm

Rakdos Charm

Crackling Doom

Utter End

Shard Convergence

Divine Reckoning

Traverse the Ulvenwald

Tooth and Nail

Grave Upheaval


Shamanic Revelation

Expedition Map

Commander’s Sphere

Fellwar Stone

Sol Ring


Conqueror’s Flail

True Conviction

Beastmaster Ascension

Orzhov Basilica

Temple Garden

Skarrg, the Rage Pits

Sandsteppe Citadel

Ash Barrens

Grand Coliseum

Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion

Svogthos, the Restless Tomb

Gruul Turf

Windbrisk Heights

Terramorphic Expanse


Jungle Shrine

Rootbound Crag

Command Tower

Murmuring Bosk


Rugged Prairie


Ghost Quarter

Evolving Wilds

Wooded Bastion


Sunpetal Grove


Nomad Outpost

Savage Lands

Caves of Koilos

Exotic Orchard

Karplusan Forest

Rogue’s Passage


Krosan Verge

Sacred Foundry

Spinerock Knoll

Dragonskull Summit

Battlefield Forge

My biggest problem is start consistency. The deck is just weaker out the gate than the precon, and the opening hands frequently look unplayable. I know I probably need to drop the curve, but all of the six-plus-drop cards interact so well with Saskia I’m not sure what to cut.

Any advice you could give would be great! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.



While many of the other four-color commanders have myriad different possibilities surrounding them, Saskia the Unyielding has flown under a lot of people’s radar because of how straightforward she is. Play her, pick a player, smash for damage, win. (Or lose.)

I won’t be the one to argue a case for Saskia’s hidden intricacies or political potential, but just because she’s an aggro commander doesn’t mean that she’s weak. Far from it.

The Lands

Now, I’m going to be doing things a little differently in this article. Mostly by happenstance, most of the decks I’ve tackled in the past have solid manabases that only need one or two tweaks to get running properly, so it’s made sense for them to go at the end of the article. Not so here. The biggest complaint you had was that opening hands look unplayable, and almost always a complaint like that means there’s something drastically wrong with the mana in a deck.


Now, first off. With a few exceptions these lands are fine in a vacuum (looking at you, Svogthos, the Restless Tomb), but your color balance was way off and the unique nature of this deck means that lands that are normally fine have to come under much harsher scrutiny.

At its core this is an incredibly aggressive deck, and that means that you cannot, under any circumstances, afford to spend the first four turns fumbling to get your mana right, so lands that were especially awkward in the early-game got cut. Chief among these are the two bouncelands you were running. Combined with other taplands and your aggressively low number of basics, these can easily set you back from casting spells for two turns, and that’s a cost you can’t afford.

The filterlands are getting cut for similar reasons, as it’s all too easy to imagine opening hands where you’ve got all your colors… if only you had the right land to make your Rugged Prairie not just a Wastes. That’s a problem that you’d always draw out of eventually, but I’m not interested in “eventually” here.

Most of the other cuts are to reduce the massive amount of damage you were set up to take from your own lands, make sure more lands enter untapped, or both, in the case of Murmuring Bosk and Grand Coliseum.

The two utility lands are getting cut for different reasons. Skarrg, the Rage Pits is getting upgraded to a much better if similar card, while Svogthos, the Restless Tomb is just getting swapped out for a basic because, in all the years I played with it, it’s never been anything but a massive letdown. Despite being in one of my favorite decks for five years, the only time my copy of Svogthos turned into a creature was when one of my opponents decided to use Kamahl, Fist of Krosa on it in response to a Wrath of God.

So, yeah…


Other than making sure you had equal access to all your colors, my priorities here were making sure that your lands would come in untapped as often as possible and cause you as little damage as possible. In commander, that means the M10/Innistrad checklands and making sure that the basic land types are in as many places as possible. (It’s possible that you actually want the Scars of Mirrodin/Kaladesh fastlands, but I don’t think this deck is quite that fast.)

You already had two of the requisite shocklands, so I didn’t feel too bad about completing the cycles. They’re pricier than the painlands you were already running, but in the long run these will cause you much, much less damage in any given game. And that will mean you win games you would’ve lost.

Mana Confluence and City of Brass are the only painlands I’m happy with you running, as they give you any of the four colors you need, whenever you need, and enter the battlefield untapped. They don’t have an option to painlessly tap for colorless, which isn’t ideal, but we can’t have everything.

Finally, Kessig Wolf Run is replacing Skarrg, the Rage Pits as a much better way to push damage through in the late-game. This shouldn’t be too surprising, but it’s well worth the upgrade.

The Creatures


Let’s start with the obvious ones. You have one target for Ranger of Eos. In the whole deck. Now, I’ll be adding some one-drops, but nowhere near enough to justify running this tutor.

Similarly, Karametra, God of Harvests is a five-mana delayed ramp spell in an aggressive deck that doesn’t have many cards that cost more than five mana. So… what’s she doing here? I’m assuming she’s a holdover from one of the old decks that got mashed up to make Saskia, but she really doesn’t belong here.

Mogis, God of Slaughter has always been a weird card. Especially compared to the other Gods, he scales so poorly to Commander that he’s barely worth considering. Either side of his effect is just so weak in this format.

Resolute Archangel is pretty easily the weakest six- or seven-drop that you’re running, and while it’s a fine card, it just doesn’t compare to the other options out there.

Captain Sisay only has a handful of targets to tutor for, and there are even fewer now. Without a dedicated package of effects to go get, there’s just not much point to running her.

And finally we get to Ghoulcaller Gisa, a card that I can only really describe as “okay.” [Take it back.—Ed.] She can be quite powerful with Equipment and team-boosting effects, but you’ve got none of the former and precious few of the latter. Give that her tokens don’t interact with any of your tribal powers, I think it’s better to cut her rather than dedicating slots to build around her.


Soul Warden and Soul’s Attendant fill an important role by providing a steady trickle of lifegain that often goes ignored by the table. They aren’t as flashy as something like Resolute Archangel, but if you get one of them down early, it can easily gain you even more life than a big one-shot effect ever could.

Now, you want this deck to be Human tribal, so I did everything I could to add the few actual Human lords that are out there. Riot Ringleader, Hamlet Captain, and Mayor of Avabruck might be a bit motley, but they’re cheap, efficient threats that boost your whole team, and that’s what this deck needs.

Thraben Doomsayer and Hanweir Militia Captain continue the theme of cheap engines, although these focus on steady steams of 1/1 tokens for your other cards to pump up. Westvale Cult Leader can also get pretty huge, which this deck welcomes happily.

The Spells


To start off with, I’m cutting some of your ramp spells. They’ll be replaced later, but I’m not a fan of Realms Uncharted and Shard Convergence in this deck, mainly because they’re ways to definitively fix your colors… after turn 4. By the time you can even think about casting these, you already want to have several creatures down and smashing face. Worse, these compete with the same converted mana cost slot as Saskia, so you absolutely want all of your colors before you hit four mana.

Also, they all require green to cast, so if green is the color you’re short on, they won’t help at all. That’s the same reason that I’m cutting Farseek, despite its amazing interaction with the shocklands.

Divine Reckoning is a card that I like a lot, but not here. This deck is mostly about going wide, not building up a single unstoppable monster. That means most people will have a creature that’s better than your best creature, especially when you factor in that Saskia isn’t a terribly large monster in terms of stats. I agree that you want a flexible battlefield wipe, but you can do better than this.

The three charms that I’m cutting, Abzan Charm, Naya Charm, and Rakdos Charm, have a lot of flexibility but a lot of that flexibility is tied up in mode that don’t really apply to the format. Abzan Charm is mostly just an overcosted removal spell, Naya Charm a weird Falter and Fog combo, and Rakdos Charm a one-shot graveyard hate spell. The other modes have such limited application that I’m not really sold on them, and given that there were more important effects I really wanted the deck to run, the Charms wound up being the most disposable slots available.


When it comes to flexible battlefield wipes, Austere Command is king. Most of your forces cost three or less, so you can leave your army largely unscathed while taking down a bunch of format-defining six-drops and an artifact player’s whole battlefield. Or you can just kill all creatures if you need to.

Haze of Rage is coming in as an innocuous late-game finisher. Storm and buyback mean that it’s pretty easy for this spell to represent a near-permanent buff of +6/+0 or more to all of your creatures, every turn. With an effect like that in place, even a few 1/1 tokens become a deadly threat very quickly. It’s not the flashiest finisher, but unlike something like Insurrection, Haze of Rage can also function perfectly well in the early-game.

The Artifacts


More edits to your mana fixing package. Expedition Map is fine, but I needed to make room for fixing that actually ramps you.


I shouldn’t have to go too in-depth on why the signets are good, but the relevant parts for this deck are as follows: they’re fixing that comes down on turn 2 and any one of them will almost always let you cast your commander on turn 3, and they can filter any kind of mana into the colors they produce, unlike the filterlands that I cut earlier. And they aren’t reliant on you having green in order to cast them, so you don’t absolutely need a Forest in your opener.

As for Door of Destinies, you’re a tribal deck based around a small, cheap tribe. This will let your small creatures from getting outclassed in a drawn-out game, which is something you’re definitely in the market for.

The Enchantments


Don’t get me wrong; I love True Conviction. It’s been my game-ender of choice on many occasions. But triple white can be pretty rough for this deck, and when it came down to whether this, Gisela, or Aurelia would be the high-cost card getting the axe, True Conviction was the obvious choice.


Again, don’t get me wrong. I know that you had a curve that was a little too high and lowering it was important (just look at the changes I made to your creatures), so adding a seven-drop seems a little off-kilter. The thing is, Debtors’ Knell doesn’t need to be cast on-curve. It isn’t the last card you throw onto a clogged battlefield to press those last few points of damage through and finish an opponent or the whole game. What Debtors’ Knell does do is give you an endless grind of card advantage that isn’t really comparable to anything else. The biggest flaw of aggressive decks is that they run out of steam and flounder, but when you get your best creature back every turn at no cost, it becomes almost trivial to recover from battlefield wipes, and pretty much every trade becomes favorable to you.

Putting it all together, here’s the finished decklist:

Saskia the Unyielding
Levi Byrne
Test deck on 11-28-2016
Magic Card Back

And the additions, sorted by price:





Riot Ringleader


Hamlet Captain


Golgari Signet


Orzhov Signet


Gruul Signet


Haze of Rage


Boros Signet


Hanweir Militia Captain


Thraben Doomsayer


Soul Warden


Soul’s Attendant


Kessig Wolf Run


Mayor of Avabruck


Isolated Chapel


Clifftop Retreat


Woodland Cemetery


Mana Confluence


City of Brass


Door of Destinies


Overgrown Tomb


Blood Crypt


Debtors’ Knell


Godless Shrine


Austere Command


Stomping Ground




The changes add up to $99.15, which is higher than I try to keep to for most of these overhauls, but that’s what happens when you need to completely overhaul a four-colored manabase. As always Jake will receive $20 in store credit to StarCityGames.com to help him make these changes. If the cost of shocklands is prohibitive, either the painland cycle or the Scars of Mirrodin and Kaladesh “fastlands” would be solid although not ideal options for this deck, and (with the exception of Blackcleave Cliffs) are available on a much lower budget than the shocklands.

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