Previews continue for Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, and as expected we’re seeing all sorts of cool new legendary creatures that will play great in Commander. Today I wanted to do a deep dive on one of them that I think might be flying under the radar: Saryth, the Viper’s Fang. This Human Warlock is a 3/4 for 2GG and has a lot of rules text, so let’s dig in:
This is an aggressive ability, making small attackers difficult to block with larger creatures that would otherwise easily block. But even better, deathtouch combines with trample to cut through blockers like a hot knife through butter. From Magic Comprehensive Rules 702.2c, “Any nonzero amount of combat damage assigned to a creature by a source with deathtouch is considered to be lethal damage for the purposes of determining if a proposed combat damage assignment is valid, regardless of that creature’s toughness.”
Further rulings on the interaction between deathtouch and trample explain: if an attacking creature with deathtouch and trample becomes blocked, the attacking creature first assigns damage to the creature(s) blocking it. Once all those blocking creatures are assigned lethal damage, any remaining damage is assigned as its controller chooses among those blocking creatures and the player or planeswalker the creature is attacking. However, since the creature has deathtouch, assigning even one damage to a creature is considered to be lethal damage.
So basically, if you’re building a Commander deck around Saryth, you’ll want some beefy creatures with trample to attack with, and if your commander’s color identity contains green and you’ve got a fair number of large trampling creatures in the deck, consider adding Saryth to the 99.
So basically, if your opponent wants to deal with any of your untapped creatures with direct removal spells or effects, they’ll need to deal with Saryth first. Notably, Saryth provides its abilities to all your other creatures but not itself, so you’ll want to include ways to protect Saryth.
This last ability is pretty cool because it can protect a creature of yours that’s tapped – perhaps from attacking – that’s lost the hexproof and is now vulnerable to pinpoint removal or effects. Want to crash in with your Lord of Extinction but Maze of Ith is crimping your style? Respond to the Maze activation with Saryth, untapping your giant Elemental and giving it hexproof. But wait, there’s more: you can untap a land you control if you want, and given how many awesome lands there are in Commander, this is like chocolate syrup on top of the icing on the cake.
Okay, let’s get cracking!
Creatures With Trample
First off, since Saryth gives all other tapped creatures deathtouch, the first thing I’d want to look for are ways to give all my creatures trample as well, and green has no shortage of those. Primal Rage, Garruk’s Uprising, and Nylea, God of the Hunt are sweet enchantments that do the job quite well. Then of course are some game-ending finishers like Titanic Ultimatum, Triumph of the Hordes, and the incredible Craterhoof Behemoth. Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar can eventually become a huge trampling threat, and giving it deathtouch makes it even scarier.
Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion has always underperformed in decks I’ve played it in—I’ve never seemed to be able to connect through blockers enough to be able to use its triggered ability, but perhaps in a deck alongside Saryth I might be able to live the dream. Similarly, with Hellkite Tyrant if your opponent doesn’t have six blockers available with Saryth on the battlefield, you’ll be able to punch through enough trample damage to get the combat damage trigger and steal all of the defending player’s artifacts!
Creatures With First Strike
Another ability that combines quite nicely with deathtouch is first strike, so combine with Saryth to assemble your own Glissa, the Traitor!
There are a few equipment cards like Bladed Pinions that can go into a monogreen Saryth deck, but you can easily toss Saryth in the 99 of other Commander decks with first strike creatures. In particular I like it with Radha, Heart of Keld, which has first strike when it attacks, and with Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist, which just naturally has first strike.
Creatures With Menace
But wait, there are more abilities that pair up nicely with deathtouch—like menace! Menace says the creature can’t be blocked except by two or more creatures, and if your attacking creature is tapped and has gained deathtouch from Saryth and has at least two power, if your opponent wants to block a creature, you’ll be able to take out both blockers.
Another angle to leverage the deathtouch ability is to make use of some spells or effects that fight or otherwise have your creatures deal damage to other creatures. Particularly nice are instant-speed effects that let you attack with a creature and tap it, getting deathtouch from Saryth, and then casting Inscription of Abundance, Dromoka’s Command, or Ram Through.
If Saryth is in a deck with access to red, you can’t beat Brash Taunter’s synergy there. Untapped, Saryth gives it hexproof in addition to being indestructible, and then when you tap it to fight something it’ll gain deathtouch. Nice Lord of Extinction you have there; it’d be a shame if something happened to it!
Thinking about Brash Taunter got me considering other creatures that tap to deal damage. The one point of damage from Syr Carah, the Bold and Endbringer becomes lethal with deathtouch. How about Goblin Sharpshooter? Well, that combines with Saryth to pretty much mow down every creature you can target that your opponents control.
With our return to Innistrad, Saryth might breathe new life into Daybreak Ranger, which can tap to deal two damage to a flying creature, and with deathtouch that’ll kill pretty much everything. Master of the Wild Hunt also appreciates the return to Innistrad with its Wolf synergies.
Saryth does a superb job of protecting a lot of “must-kill” creatures that otherwise would draw pinpoint removal fire once it hits the battlefield. In particular I’m thinking of Elder Gargaroth, which generates incredible value so long as it lives long enough to block or attack; since it has vigilance, it won’t lose the hexproof from Saryth when it attacks. Sun Titan is a similar sort of value engine that also has vigilance. Seedborn Muse will untap all your tapped creatures during each player’s untap step and make them all hexproof again.
I’m kind of digging Masako the Humorless alongside Saryth so any tapped creatures have deathtouch, which makes them potentially lethal blockers even while tapped.
Creatures with Tap Abilities
Creatures with tap abilities are great with Saryth since you can block a creature and then tap it for an effect and gain deathtouch from Saryth. But also, Saryth can be activated to untap the creature to get an extra activation if you want. Prime Speaker Vannifar springs to mind, with Saryth letting you “Pod” twice in a turn. Or get multiple activations from Yisan, the Wanderer Bard. Saryth will slot right into the 99 of a Roon of the Hidden Realm Commander deck; since it has vigilance, Saryth will give it perpetual hexproof until you tap it for its ability, and even then Saryth can untap it in response to a removal spell.
Mana ramp is powerful in Commander, so creatures that tap for multiple amounts of mana are particularly sweet with Saryth’s untap ability: Circle of Dreams Druid, Incubation Druid, and Llanowar Tribe.
Tap or Untap for Profit
I’m thinking of some other ways that you can tap or untap for profit to take advantage of Saryth. Traxos, Scourge of Kroog is a big monster for just four mana, but it won’t untap unless you cast a historic spell. No worries, legendary Construct—Saryth has your back even with all those spines! How about Clackbridge Troll—if an opponent sacrifices a creature at the beginning of combat to tap it down (giving you three life and a drawing a card), you can still untap it with Saryth and get in there.
Reveille Squad is a card I think about putting in decks, but sometimes you need to attack with it and then its triggered ability won’t happen since it’s tapped. If you’ve got access to Saryth you get to do both!
Saryth is a Human, so if you’re playing a Human deck you might want to pair Saryth up with Sanctuary Lockdown. Block with one or more Humans, tap them with this enchantment to tap down a potential blocker your opponent controls, and Saryth gives them deathtouch so the blocked creatures will die.
If you’ve got a lot of small creatures alongside Saryth and Mossbridge Troll, you can declare blocks and then tap enough of them to total power ten to give Mossbridge Troll +20/+20 until the end of turn, and your blockers will now have deathtouch.
Saryth untaps lands too, so let’s look for cool lands to untap! In particular lands that enter the battlefield tapped get extra value with Saryth on the battlefield; for instance, play Mosswort Bridge tapped, get the hideaway trigger, and then you can untap it and potentially use it the very same turn. Similarly, you can use Krosan Verge and Vesuva right away. Squeeze extra mana out of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or Lotus Field.
Lastly, since Saryth so selflessly gives to other creatures, let’s take a look for ways to protect Saryth from an untimely end. Swiftfoot Boots is particularly awesome here since it also gives Saryth haste. If the deck has access to white there are some amazing creatures that pair marvelously with Saryth such as Shalai, Voice of Plenty; Mother of Runes; and Sigarda, Heron’s Grace.
So, what do you think of Saryth, the Viper’s Fang as a Magic card? Are you going to play it as a commander or in the 99 of some other Commander deck? What other cards work great with it?
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