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Other Peoples’ Decks: Cole’s Saskia

Uncle Sheldie is running back the Other Peoples’ Decks theme! This week, he highlights a singular Saskia the Unyielding Commander build with a bevy of legendary creatures! Don’t miss the four-color fabulousness!

I thoroughly enjoy featuring decks created by other Commander fans. It demonstrates that there’s more than one way to approach the format, and most importantly, that there is more than one goal to deck design. In competitive formats, there’s only winning. In Commander, style is important. As we’ll see, there’s a story to be told here.

Cole Giering is a fellow University of South Florida graduate with whom I’ve played a fair amount of Commander. He was also the Director at Bulls Radio when I did a lunchtime prog rock show called Brain Salad Sandwich. We also did a short-lived Commander podcast at the station until our various interests (and some technical difficulties at the studio) pulled us in different directions.

He’s currently serving as the Division Contract Lead for the Division of Community Health Promotion at the Florida Department of Health as well as being a second-year grad student, pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Health. Cole is a strong competitive player, but what’s more important is that his approach to Commander is consistent with our vision for the format. He understands, as we keep saying, that the secret of this format is in not breaking it. His decks are always tight and challenging without being over-the-top. He also has a deep, dark secret regarding Fact or Fiction, which you’ll just have to find out by playing with him. He’s simply one of those people who is good for a local environment; since he’s moved up to Tallahassee, we miss seeing him at the shop.

I wouldn’t normally feature other peoples’ decks two weeks in a row, but this time I thought it might make a compelling study of how theme decks might develop. Last week’s Hamlet deck from Will Ekstrom took the top-down approach of using source material’s themes and ideas to attach cards to. This week, Cole goes bottom-up and uses the cards themselves to craft the story. Let’s look at the list:

Saskia the Unyielding
Cole Giering
Test deck on 02-16-2017
Commander

Creatures (44)

Lands (33)

Magic Card Back


Instead of doing my normal breakdown of a deck, I’m going to let Cole describe it in his own words.

Saskia is described as the sole survivor of a massacre where her whole village was killed. Her warrior tradition, paired with the legend of her survival and forthcoming vengeance, attracted various followers to her cause. Hell-bent on revenge, she brings the fight to her enemies with some help from her advisors, lieutenants, ground forces, Gods, Angels, Dragons, and beings known far and wide for legends of their own.

Saskia is advised by a rag-tag group of specialists who each have their own twist on the way to victory. Azusa and Selvala help gather resources quickly to get more bodies to the front line. Reki and Captain Sisay find value in other infamous characters that make up the Legion. For more information about the battle, Saskia calls on the monarch Marchesa and the blind seer Tymna to delve deeper into what is needed. When the living world isn’t enough, Saskia looks to the afterlife through the likes of the elusive ghost council Obzedat and the resourceful Karador. When the battle requires a more direct approach to the afterlife, Meren and Sidisi ensure that those who fall in battle provide utility both now and later.

Saskia’s Warrior culture relies on the Gods for support while in the heat of battle. For more resources Karametra provides harvest for each new soldier brought forth. Alternatively, Athreos provides a passage back to the living for those warriors whose time isn’t quite expired. The Gods of battle inspire confidence and ferocity for Saskia’s forces. Nylea and Iroas grace the Warriors with added bonuses, whereas the reveler God Xenagos finds a champion in the moment for what could make any Warrior something of legend.

With the Gods come the winged Valkyries that protect and lead the ground forces. Sigarda and Archangel Avacyn give an added layer of protection in a pinch. Linvala comes in when the battle seems dire for stability. The Angels that know Saskia’s vengeance push her forces forward. Aurelia the tactician finds added opportunities where Gisela brings out the full ferocity of the Legion. Alongside the Angels are the Dragons that Saskia has recruited to her cause. Sisters Atarka and Dromoka help each other and grow the strength of the weaker members of the Legion. Yosei, the Morning Star attacks the opponent’s resources for tactical advantage.

There are infamous otherworldly members of Saskia’s Legion. Rumors of their legend proliferate through the Legion and the enemy forces. The warrior Ruric Thar and demon Rakdos provide more opportunities to pressure the enemy by either attacking their use of spells or paving the way for more of the Legion to enter into the fray. Through her quest for vengeance, Saskia has recruited some of the fabled Praetors from the nightmares of many. Elesh Norn and Sheoldred alone decimate the enemy armies while strengthening the Legion or denying requests for death. The reclusive Urabrask changes the tide of any battle through motivating the Legion for immediate action.

Over time, Saskia has been able to observe the ignition of a planeswalker spark in two of her lieutenants. Liliana and Nissa each found their spark in through unique methods but return to the Legion to assist in ways they see as best. Saskia’s closest friend and lieutenant is Thalia. Thalia’s unique talents can stem a battle one way or another. Being a brilliant tactician, she can position the Legion to specifically put the enemy at a disadvantage. Thalia is joined by her Lancers. Master of the pike, this knight also has an uncanny ability to recruit any member of the Legion to the front lines. An ability rivaled so valuable it rivals that of the notorious Captain Sisay. The Goblin duo of Grenzo and Vial Smasher specialize in the chaos of battle. Once in the thick of combat, the two of them can influence even the most stoic and seemingly unstoppable forces. The real tacticians of the Legion are the trio of Odric, Adriana, and Kamahl. The three each provide seemingly impossible advantages to the Legion. In the case of Kamahl, rumor has it that when he senses the end of the battle nearby, the ground itself fights by his side.

Within the heat of battle, death is always present. Saskia knows this all too well, as do her quartet of lieutenants who are regarded for their ability to work with and around the ending of a life. Kalitas and Gisa manage to turn enemy or Legion members into Zombies that fight loyally for Saskia. The artificer Feldon brings back the memory of those lost in battle with simulacrums that, to the untrained eye, would seem to be the legends themselves. Saskia looks to the cleric Ravos for insight to the workings of the passage god Athreos as well as tales of inspiration for the Legion. The noble Darien ensures that even if enemy forces breach the front line, there will be soldiers on the ground to ensure it doesn’t happen repeatedly.

Saskia is not one for trinkets, but she meets with her advisors in the room they have dubbed the Heroes’ Podium. It is there that the members of the Legion who are ready are called forth for battle. Saskia passes around her sacred helm that in her bloodline has added protection for the bearer if they have accomplished something of legend. The only magic that Saskia calls upon has a huge impact on the battle. Despite not being a sorcerer herself, the ability to reanimate the bodies of the fallen on both sides of the battle or reciting the war cry that her Legion only knows as the Titanic Ultimatum can be the difference between victory and defeat.

The deck is a clever balance of thought, playability, and creativity. I’d certainly be happy to sleeve it up (although I might find a replacement for that Yosei, but it might be okay, since there aren’t many ways to recur it). It strikes the kinds of chords we hope that Commander does for players everywhere. I’d love to see more of this kind of blending of game and story in future decks. I’ll probably even give it a whirl myself sometime in the near future.

A Short Personal Update

Those of you who follow me on social media saw that this week I completed the course of radiation treating my throat cancer. Since a number of you have asked about the process, I thought I’d give you a brief overview.

The first step is to create the radiation mask, which looks a bit like a fencing helmet that fits over your shoulders. It starts as a flat sheet of some sort of space age polymer mesh, which is then submersed in a warm water bath and then form-fitted over your face. It takes about a day to harden and is then used in each treatment. The mask’s function is to bolt your head to the table. They focus a powerful beam of radiation on the tumor, and the last thing you want is to be wiggling around and have them miss the target. There’s some give in the mask, so it’s not particularly uncomfortable—although I suspect that folks who are claustrophobic might have some difficulties. After the technicians make sure you’re correctly aligned, the treatment starts. It doesn’t take all that long, perhaps six to eight minutes. I remarked a few times that it’s not quite long enough to fall asleep. I had six of those treatments a week over five weeks.

In general, I don’t feel all that bad, but I’ll mention that I got only radiation and no chemotherapy. The treatments have had two major effects. First, I’m pretty tired most of the time. I have three to four strong hours in a day; the rest of the time, I’m either sleeping, reading, or watching TV. The second effect is that I’ve lost my sense of taste; actually, most foods taste kind of nasty. Fortunately, I can still swallow (which is the major problem folks with conditions like mine tend to have), so I can eat solid food. I make sure that I have one solid meal a day and then supplement with smoothies and protein shakes the rest of the time in order to maintain my weight.

The doctors tell me that the symptoms should get worse for the next week or so and then start to improve. I should be recovered back to mostly full strength in a month or so, and then we wait until the three-month point to see if it all worked. Thanks again for all the messages of support which you’ve sent over the last few months. Keeping a positive mental attitude is an important part of getting through something like this, and knowing that there are lots of folks rooting for me elevates my mood even on the darkest days.

This week’s Deck Without Comment is my own Saskia, the Unyielding.

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


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

SIGNATURE DECKS

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

THE CHROMATIC PROJECT

Mono-Color

Heliod, God of Enchantments; Thassa, God of Merfolk; Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead; Forge of Purphoros; Nylea of the Woodland Realm; Karn Evil No. 9

Guilds

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

Four Color

Yidris: Money for Nothing, Cards for Free; Saskia Unyielding;

Five-Color

Children of a Greater God

THE DO-OVER PROJECT

Animar Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Steam-Powered Merieke 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.”