The Eldritch Evolution Of Modern Combo

Pro Tour Champion Shaun McLaren knows that Eldritch Evolution is a dangerous card in a format full of scary combo decks! This week, he’s going to try to push these established archetypes over the edge into degeneracy for #SCGINVI weekend!

“Ach! Hans, run! It’s the Lhurgoyf!” – Saffi Eriksdotter, last words

Saffi Eriksdotter has died countless times already in the effort to save another creature (and combo off), and she’s about to do it all over again thanks to Eldritch Evolution.

It’s difficult for a new card to break into the unforgiving Modern format, but there are plenty of recent examples, including Kolaghan’s Command; Become Immense; Prized Amalgam; Nahiri, the Harbinger; and now Eldritch Evolution.

Eldritch Evolution is still finding its footing, since it hasn’t been legal long, but Jeff Hoogland has already had some early success with it in Kiki Chord, and Ari Lax has advocated for it in Abzan Company.

Today I’ll be sharing my takes on a couple of combo decks that Eldritch Evolution might just improve by providing a consistent tutor and easy access to a toolbox of hateful creatures.

First up, the evolution of Abzan Company.

Saffi Eriksdotter and Crypt Champion return!

The original combo deck that used these in Standard was called Project X, continuing the trend of terrible names for combo decks–a history which was kept on course this weekend thanks to Wizards of the Coast’s dubbing of the Grixis Control deck “Cat Pact,” which was a missed opportunity to call it “Cat Pacts,” which would make me less likely to cancel.)

Maybe this deck should be called Project X Evolved or Project E.C.S (for Evolution, Champion, and Saffi). Just to be cheeky!

The basic combo with Saffi Eriksdotter and Crypt Champion is:

Get Saffi on the battlefield or in your graveyard. Cast Crypt Champion, or search it up with Eldritch Evolution or Chord of Calling.

Sacrifice Saffi and target Crypt Champion to save it. Return Saffi to the battlefield thanks to Crypt Champion’s triggered ability. Return Crypt Champion to the battlefield thanks to Saffi’s activated ability. Repeat as many times as you want.

Also have on the battlefield (or returned with Crypt Champion) an Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit (to bolster all your creatures as big as you want), Blood Artist (to drain your opponent as much as you want), Viscera Seer (to scry as much as you want), or any other creature with a similar effect (Essence Warden etc.) and yadda yadda yadda, you win the game.

Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit is not just a bolstering bear; it also works to enable both of your main combos. It isn’t the greatest with Crypt Champion and Saffi Eriksdotter, since it doesn’t necessarily immediately win the game by bolstering your team infinite times, but that’s still pretty darn good.

Wall of Omens needs no introduction and is great with Eldritch Evolution, Collected Company, Chord of Calling, and for just smoothing out draws in general.

Wall of Roots is excellent with Chord of Calling and a decent sacrifice outlet for Eldritch Evolution. It’s also a good option to return with Crypt Champion, especially if you have Chord of Calling in hand, since it will provide a nice boost in mana and allow you Chord up a missing combo piece or Spellskite for protection.

The most exciting part of the deck is quite possibly Reveillark, since it does an awful lot. Not only is a bonkers value target to find with Eldritch Evolution that returns nearly everything in your deck, it also has infinite combos with Saffi Eriksdotter!

Imagine Viscera Seer and Saffi Eriksdotter are in your graveyard and you have Reveillark in hand. Evoke out Reveillark for six mana and bring back Viscera Seer and Saffi Eriksdotter. Sacrifice Saffi and target Reveillark. Then sacrifice Reveillark to Viscera Seer, and return Saffi (and another creature!) with the Reveillark. Boom, infinite scrying and return all your two-power creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield. Not too shabby.

Reveillark also returns both parts of the Saffi Eriksdotter plus Crypt Champion combo. If they are both in your graveyard alongside a Blood Artist or Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, you can evoke Reveillark, return Saffi Eriksdotter and Crypt Champion, return the Blood Artist with Crypt Champion’s ability, and immediately combo off.

Crypt Champion isn’t necessarily even all that bad when it isn’t comboing. It does a decent Eternal Witness impression, or an amazing Eternal Witness impression if you happen to actually be returning Eternal Witness. You can even keep it around if you cast it with red mana from Birds of Paradise. Just keep in mind it is a symmetrical effect and your opponent gets to return a creature as well, which can be particularly annoying if they have something like Spellskite to stop your Saffi Eriksdotter from targeting Crypt Champion.

The sideboard is a point of interest, since it’s so easy to cram in creatures that destroy certain strategies and then tutor them up. Also of importance is that the deck is very reliant on the graveyard, so being able to turn into a value deck post-sideboard that doesn’t rely on the graveyard could be important. Also, being able to deal with Grafdigger’s Cage will be essential, especially if the deck rises in popularity.

Finally we have Saffi Eriksdotter. Her big draw with Eldritch Evolution is how easy the combo is to assemble with her, and how few card slots it takes to have access to it. You can cast Eldritch Evolution using Saffi, find Crypt Champion, return Saffi, and immediately start comboing off if you already have Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit out.

Saffi Eriksdotter also has a very solid ability for the deck, even when she isn’t comboing. She’s comparable to Selfless Spirit, and in a lot of cases much better.

Wall of Omens about to die? Okay, Saffi it to bring it back and draw a card.

Kitchen Finks with a -1/-1 counter on about to hit the bin? Bam, Saffi to the rescue. Have a fresh and clean brand new Fink.

Eternal Witness? Ha! Saffi it, bringing back Eternal Witness, and then bring back Saffi. You accomplished nothing!

Can Saffi Eriksdotter possibly do any wrong?

Well, she does have one teensy tiny issue that needs to be fixed.

She doesn’t work right.

She barely works at all right now.

Saffi Eriksdotter is bugged on Magic Online.

Her sacrifice ability to bring a creature back just does nothing.

Worse still, she’s apparently been glitched like this for months, even though a Google search won’t tell you anything about her being completely and utterly broken.

Not that Saffi was a card that saw much play before… but still.

Now she might be broken in a good way, so it would be a really good idea to fix her being broken in a bad way.

Abzan Company was already in the running for “winning” the prize of least playable deck on Magic Online award, since its main combo involves scrying though your deck and gaining “infinite” life, which takes approximately three billion years to do online.

This new version of Abzan Combo is officially the least functional deck on Magic Online, and it’s winning by a landslide. We did it!

“When target creature.” might be good enough against Phantasmal Image, but it’s not good enough to combo off with Crypt Champion. Of course, there is still plenty of value to get from a broken Saffi Eriksdotter for an industrious player. You can still sacrifice Saffi Eriksdotter in response to Living End to trigger Blood Artist, or exile Bridge from Below, and of course bluff an opponent silly enough to think that Magic Online understands what the card is supposed to do.

There’s also extra value to adding a blue splash for Glen Elendra Archmage and calling the deck BUGged Saffi.

Don’t drag me into this.

Seriously, though, before this turns into a Magic Online rant, which we’ve all heard a million times, hopefully Saffi gets fixed soon, and it’ll be possible to see if Saffi actually pulls her weight in the deck when she works right.

Let’s move onto Eldritch Evolving a deck that will hopefully be a little more functional at the moment.

I’ve written about Combo Elves before, but I think Eldritch Evolution really helps the deck out.

The deck, as it’s currently configured, is very focused on comboing as quickly as possible, so having access to another efficient tutor should improve speed and consistency.

The converted casting cost of the bulk of your Elves is very low, but everything important is still easily evolved into.

Wren’s Run Packmaster can be found off the two-drops and is the best Eldritch Evolution target when you’re comboing off with Intruder Alarm on the battlefield and want to make infinite Wolf tokens.

Glen Elendra Archmage is going to be great against other combo decks or if you just want to fire off an early Eldritch Evolution to protect you when you do try to combo off.

Village Bell-Ringer might be a tad fancy but is perfect to Eldritch Evolution into when you’ve cast Beck and have Heritage Druid on the battlefield but no Intruder Alarm. Then start casting a bunch of one-drops and Dwynen’s Elite. Normally you’d eventually run out of steam, since the deck doesn’t have Nettle Sentinel, but Village Bell-Ringer could untap a ton of Elves for a massive boost of mana and allow you to continue comboing.

Imperious Perfect is great with Intruder Alarm, but not great if it’s summoning sick, so it’s a nice Eldritch Evolution target if you’re planning on casting Intruder Alarm the next turn, since just one mana Elf or Dryad Arbor will allow you to make infinite Elf tokens.

Ezuri, Renegade Leader replaces Craterhoof Behemoth as the “I have a bunch of Elves on the battlefield but nothing to do with them” tutor target, since it’s easy to search up with Eldritch Evolution.

The sideboard gets much more powerful, since your tutor targets aren’t limited to green creatures anymore. Take your pick of any cheap hateful creature that hoses down any deck in Modern and you can make a case for including it.

Evolution Revolution

I’m looking forward to casting some Eldritch Evolutions in Modern. I’ve only scratched the surface of possibilities, and each creature that gets printed opens new opportunities.

As you go forward, just make sure to cross your t’s and dotter your Saffi’s.

“Saffi, wait for me…. until you’re not bugged anymore.”