It had to end eventually. I’ve had a fun run at SCG Daily, taking the Ascendant cycle and dissecting each of them, but both my time and cards run out today. After looks at Erayo, Homura, Kuon, and Rune-Tail, there is only one fliptastic Ascendant left: The enigmatic Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant.
Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant
Normally, if I looked at a card and saw that two of its three mana was of a single color, I would caution the need to keep my decks mono-colored or near-mono-colored. In Green, however, colored mana symbols matter a lot less thanks to Birds of Paradise, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Kodama’s Reach and the line. Green has no trouble with mana-fixing, and three mana isn’t much for any deck to play. So at least on cost, Sasaya is fairly easy as long as I keep my deck at least half Green.
For my three mana, I get a 2/3 creature. Again, for any other color I would say this is pretty respectable. For Green, though, it’s decidedly sub-par. Trained Armodon and Gnarled Mass are vanilla 3/3s for the same price, and neither of them suffer from any legendary rules. On the other hand, I guess Sasaya can beat up Rune-Tail in a Monk-fight, and a 2/3 is a threat that my opponent can’t ignore for too long.
The best thing about Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant is its creature type. While Kuon’s creature type matters a little, and Erayo and Rune-Tail’s matter very little, Sasaya’s creature type is significant. Kashi-Tribe Elite, Patron of the Orochi, Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro, Seshiro the Anointed, Shisato, Whispering Hunter, Sosuke, Son of Seshiro, and Sosuke’s Summons are not only Snake-focused cards, but are popular Snake-focused cards. No one’s running out to play Patron of the Moon, but lots of folks hold Sachi, Seshiro, Sosuke, and Sosuke’s Summons in high regard.
At least in terms of the creature half, then, Sasaya looks decent. It’s not a big body, but it’s not pathetic. It’s not super-cheap, but it’s certainly not expensive. Best of all, it’s a creature type that will matter in a lot of decks. Not bad at all…
If You Have Seven Or More Land Cards in Hand….
…and then all of those Sasaya flip-dreams I have come screeching to a halt. That is one tough flip trigger. I not only need seven cards in hand – which is a pretty impressive feat for any green deck – but those seven cards have to be lands? Even worse, the condition involves me revealing my hand to an opponent, so if I have a special-secret card I’m hoping to use once Sasaya flips, my opponent will know.
Ugh. You have got to be kidding me.
There are really only two ways to get seven cards into my hand. The first is to put them there from my library. I can do this by either drawing massive amounts of cards or by using Green’s land-thinning cards. In the massive-drawing plan, I probably use things like Ideas Unbound, Thirst for Knowledge, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, Ambition’s Cost, Howling Mine, Etched Oracle, Kami of the Crescent Moon, or maybe all of the above.
In other words, I want to draw lots of cards. I’m not talking about cantrips that replace themselves; I’m talking about grip-filling cards of massive proportion. Of course, if all I use is card-drawing, then I also want a deck with a high percentage of land.
Green’s land-thinning cards are probably an easier route, especially since they come in the same color as Sasaya. Journey of Discovery, Kodama’s Reach, and Journeyer’s Kite are all good. Even better are two gems from Saviors: Elder Pine of Jukai and Seek the Horizon (which, sadly, isn’t arcane to trigger the Elder Pine). I’m pretty sure any Sasaya deck I make is going to use some of these cards to support whatever other plans I have to fill my hand with land.
The second way to get land in hand is to return my own land from play. Green is great at getting lots of land onto the table – check out my Rune-Tail deck from yesterday, for example – so then all I need to do is find a trick to bounce that land. Moonfolk of all shapes and sizes are good in this regard (hello, Meloku the Clouded Mirror, how are you?), as is Trade Routes, Soramaro, First to Dream, Oboro Envoy, Palace in the Clouds, and all of the "sweep" cards.
Far and away the worst news about Sasaya is how difficult it is to flip him. One positive point is that if I manage to get seven cards in hand – lands or no – I can take advantage of a host of cool Saviors cards. Okina Nightwatch, the Maro cycle, and the Descendants are scary. Presence of the Wise is impressive. Death of a Thousand Stings and Spiraling Embers are viable win conditions. Ivory Crane Netsuke and Scroll of Origins will always trigger….
….You get the idea. That’s small comfort given the deck gymnastics I’ll need in a Sasaya deck, but it is a comfort.
The other good news about Sasaya is that his trigger is the only one completely under my control, since it involves an activation of revealing my hand. That means that once Sasaya’s Essence is on the table, I have absolutely no fear about playing Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant.
The card gets downright weird when looking at its enchantment half. With Sasaya’s Essence on the table and a small cohort of land, I should be able to cast anything – and I do mean anything – in my hand. If I just drew twenty cards thanks to some weird Azami/Intruder Alarm combo, then I can flip into Sasaya’s Essence and play them that same turn without the need for Spellbook. That’s how crazy Sasaya’s Essence is. It’s probably the most explosive mana-producer ever printed.
Which is odd only when I realize I have seven lands in hand. Don’t I want them on the table? Maybe Azusa, Lost But Seeking or Patron of the Moon can help me here, or maybe I don’t care about the lands in hand because of how much mana I can already produce. Like Rune-Tail and Kuon, though, it’s a weird pair of abilities. With Kuon, I want to kill my own creatures in order to kill more creatures (including my own). With Rune-Tail, I want to gain life in order to win with creatures. With Sasaya, I want to hoard land in hand in order to produce lots of mana. Like I said: Weird.
I can only see two reasons for playing Sasaya’s Essence over, say, Heartbeat of Spring. The first is to win with an X spell like Fireball and/or Blaze. That’s not sexy, but it’s pretty darned effective when I can tap for thirty or more mana. The second reason is to play ridiculous cards like Aladdin’s Ring, Beacon of Tomorrows, Darksteel Colossus, Sekki, Season’s Guide, Tidal Kraken, Endless Swarm, Sway of the Stars, Clockwork Dragon, Iname as One, the Myojins, Obliterate, or The Unspeakable. This reason obviously has a lot more sex appeal. Of those choices, I probably see the most potential in Endless Swarm, Sway of the Stars, Obliterate, Clockwork Dragon, and Iname as One. In fact, let’s explore some of these ideas…
Usually I start my deck brainstorming by thinking of mono-colored decks first, then allied-color decks, then opposing-color decks, then five-color decks. I don’t know… it’s just how I think. Sasaya is weird enough, though, that this approach isn’t as useful. Instead, I find myself focusing on what I want to do with Sasaya’s Essence and working backwards.
The first and best option, it seems to me, is Obliterate. Obliterate can’t be countered and it blows up the entire world other than Sasaya’s Essence. Even better, I just established that I have seven land in hand, meaning that I can easily recover from an Obliterated world. Myojin of Infinite Rage makes a nice back-up plan as well and adds some duplication to Obliterate’s effect. The rest of the deck involves Green’s land-thinning cards, some card-drawing, and some token defense. Here is what I’ve played with mixed results online:
It’s a weird deck, and one of those packed-full-of-rares-but-rarely-works sort of decks. When Sasaya’s Essence flips, though, look out.
If I go the Fireball route, I think I want to use Elder Pine of Jukai (maybe with Soilshaper as a backup plan), Loam Dweller, Kodama’s Reach, Hana Kami, Seek the Horizon, Traproot Kami, and, um…. I don’t know what else. With enough mana-fixing, I could also see adding Patron of the Moon (a Spirit, which Azusa is not) and Myojin of Seeing Winds. That sounds like a mess of cards, but my guess is the deck would hang together okay.
Endless Swarm sort of feels like cheating with Sasaya’s Essence. I hoard land in hand, flip Sasaya, use the massive mana to cast Endless Swarm (hopefully I’ve dropped a Spellbook or something similar beforehand), and then I produce upwards of seven Snakes a turn. I would worry about auto-lose cards like Night of Souls’ Betrayal or Reverence – which probably means using Oblivion Stone, Kami of Ancient Law, or some other non-casting way to kill off enchantments. To speed up the kill, I could use Orochi Eggwatcher, Coat of Arms, or Seshiro.
Speaking of Seshiro, Sasaya probably fits fine into a weird Snakes deck. Sakura-Tribe Elder, Kashi-Tribe Elite, and a bunch of legendary Snakes are obviously part of the deck. Maybe I should splash blue for Trade Routes and Meloku (who I can fetch via Time of Need).
The problem is figuring out why a Snake deck needs so much mana so as to make Sasaya a centerpiece of the deck, rather than just a cute trick the deck can take or leave. Patron of the Orochi turns a ridiculous amount of mana with Sasaya’s Essence to a near infinite amount. If you can find a way to use infinite mana in a Snake-ish way, go for it.
Another card I’ve mentioned is Iname as One. Most people look at Iname As One and figure they’ll never get the "if you played it from your hand" ability and are content with the big body and the "leaves play" ability. With Sasaya’s Essence, though, twelve mana is easy. The deck would need all of the usual Green land-thinning cards, maybe with Howling Mine and Ambition’s Cost thrown into the mix. After that the deck is full of huge Spirits, the likes of Myojins, Iname As One, Bounteous Kirin, Kokusho, Kuro, Masamuro, and hey, maybe even Thousand-Legged Kami. Time of Need is probably in there, too.
Sort of along the same lines as the Obliterate plan is the Sway of the Stars plan. What I particularly like about this idea is that once I’ve flipped into Sasaya’s Essence, I’m primarily shuffling a handful of lands into my library for a new set of cards. Given the truckloads of mana I can produce, I can see floating enough mana to play out a lot of what I draw from the Sway, too. Let’s see… Solemn Simulacrum, Thieving Magpie, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Meloku… Oh my!
Journeyer’s Kite is a card I probably haven’t discussed enough when it comes to Sasaya. It’s slow, to be sure, but it complements things like Journey of Discovery and Seek the Horizon to get to seven lands in hand quickly. I don’t see any reason to keep the artifact deck I have in mind away from mono-green, unless it’s to splash an Island for Fabricate or a Mountain for Bosh, Iron Golem. Of course, Darksteel Colossus, Aladdin’s Ring, Altar of Shadows, and Clockwork Dragon (my favorite Sasaya artifact) would all be fair game, too.
Finally, there are Moonfolk. Patron of the Moon is terrific for a Sasaya deck – not only because I can actually cast it, but also because it helps dump land into play once I’ve flipped into Sasaya’s Essence. Meloku the Clouded Mirror is silly-good in any deck – but imagine the chaos that Oboro Envoy, Soratami Savant, and Soratami Seer. Heck, Soratami Mindsweeper becomes a real threat to end the game in a Sasaya deck.
Those are a few ideas, but I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface with Sasaya deck ideas. I’m happy to have ended with the Orochi Ascendant (even though I was just proceeding alphabetically), because I think it is in many ways the most complex and difficult Ascendant to ponder.
I hope you’ve had fun these past five days as I’ve picked apart an entire cycle of cards ad nauseum. I’m sure to do it again sometime, given another shot at SCG Daily.
Think hard and have fun,