Popping The Hood On My Saskia the Unyielding Deck

Commander mastermind, Bennie Smith, returns with another deep-dive, this time featuring his Saskia the Unyielding deck.

Saskia the Unyielding, illustrated by Anna Steinbauer

Commander 2016 had some banger new legends for Commander fans to build around, and while the open-ended partner legends have gotten a ton of attention over the years, the four-color legends were eye-popping!  Here they are in order of popularity on EDHREC:

Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice Breya, Etherium Shaper Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder Saskia the Unyielding

Atraxa is head and shoulders more powerful than the other cards and everyone at the time had Atraxa decks built almost immediately.  Ever drawn to the path less traveled, I built and explored the other four decks; Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis quickly became one of my all-time favorite commanders (and I wrote about it a couple weeks back here), but Saskia was a close second.  The color combination covered most of my favorite Commander cards and I constantly tinkered with the cards in the lineup, but I never felt like the deck really gelled. Saskia’s abilities lends itself to an aggressive strategy, but a 3/4 body for four mana gets outclassed so quickly in a typical Commander game.

A couple years ago I was about ready to retire Saskia when two things happened. First, the Secret Lair: International Women’s Day dropped, and it featured sweet new art for five female legendary creatures, and half of the cost of the drop was being donated to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. One of them was Saskia:

Around the same time, I wrote an article called No Guts No Glory: Epic Storytelling in Commander where I explored playing high risk, high reward cards in my decks. In particular, cards that have a powerful, discounted effect but also cause you to lose the game at the beginning of your next end step.

Final Fortune Chance for Glory Glorious End

I felt like I had to keep Saskia together to give her sweet new art cards a place to call home, and felt like maybe the deck was the perfect home for these No Guts, No Glory cards. This way, even when I lost with the deck (and I lost a lot), I was bound to create some epic stories along the way.

And it worked!  The new art is badass, and the No Guts, No Glory cards helped pull off some wild game plays, even a couple on stream. But I did – still – have a tough time ever winning with the deck. I mean, winning isn’t everything, but I do like each of my Commander decks to win occasionally.

So lately my resolution for keeping the Saskia deck together started wavering again, and I was pondering what to do about the situation. Should I try to juice it up with high powered cards?  That didn’t feel like the right approach.

The solution hit me recently with all the new Human tribal support cards that have showed up in this year’s Innistrad sets and Commander decks. Black, red, green and white covers pretty much all the best Human and tribal support cards, so perhaps this was the way: keep the No Guts, No Glory cards but layer in great Human cards and tribal support cards to help the deck scale up over the course of the game and have a real shot at winning, while still having the crazy “you lose” cards in there for epic storytelling.

I thought it would be fun to share where I’ve landed; let’s dig in!

Human Tribal Humans

Kyler, Sigardian Emissary Rick, Steadfast Leader General Kudro of Drannith Heronblade Elite Thalia's Lieutenant Katilda, Dawnhart Prime Devout Chaplain

The first thing I went looking for were Humans that had “Human” in their text box, and found room for most of the best ones in the deck. I’ve had Rick, Steadfast Leader sitting in a deckbox ever since cracking open The Walking Dead Secret Lair drop, but finally building a Human tribal deck meant that it was time for Rick to join the party. All of your creatures having first strike and vigilance is a heckuva one-two punch for a Commander deck, though I imagine some scenarios where choosing lifelink will be clutch. General Kudro does a ton of work, acting as a tribal lord, turning the screws on graveyard strategies, and occasionally trading a couple small Humans to destroy something big and bad. Thalia’s Lieutenant is great early or late game, which is pretty awesome for a two mana card.

Katilda, Dawnhart Prime is the new Innistrad card that I was most excited about; giving each of my Human creatures the ability to tap for mana is big game in Commander where high impact cards are often quite expensive. Especially if my team has vigilance thanks to Rick, that’s just good clean fun!

Other Tribal Support

Angel of Glory's Rise Haunting Voyage Sigarda, Heron's Grace Laid to Rest Sigarda, Champion of Light Blackblade Reforged

I was a little torn about including Angels in my Human deck—I tend to be a purist when it comes to choosing only creatures of the same type for my tribal decks—but the three Angels I’m including here are just way too good not to include.  Plus, having some creatures with flying to protect against other fliers is going to be helpful. 

I used to play Fecundity in my old-school multiplayer decks, so having a one-sided one for my Human deck that can also occasionally gain me life has me stoked about playing Laid to Rest.

It doesn’t take much for me to put Blackblade Reforged in any of my Commander decks, but the fact that so many of my Humans are also legendary makes it an incredibly easy call here.

Humans Protecting Humans

General's Enforcer Saffi Eriksdotter Stalwart Pathlighter Selfless Glyphweaver Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero Moorland Rescuer

I’m a big fan of creatures that help save your team from removal spells, and a fair number of them are also Humans such as Saffi Eriksdotter and Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero. General’s Enforcer making all legendy Humans indestructible is awesome!  Selfless Glyphweaver does a pretty good Dauntless Escort impression while staying on tribe, and its backside makes for a clutch battlefield sweeper late in the game (assuming I can muster triple black in a four-color deck).

I really love Moorland Rescuer from the new Midnight Hunt Commander deck, especially if I’m able to boost its power before it dies.

Other Nifty Humans

Fynn, the Fangbearer Saryth, the Viper's Fang Halana and Alena, Partners Samut, Voice of Dissent Sigardian Zealot Torens, Fist of the Angels Reckless Stormseeker Adeline, Resplendent Cathar Maja, Bretagard Protector Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder

Torens, Fist of the Angels didn’t capture my attention when I first saw it, but seeing it in action on Magic Arena has me much more excited about it. Add to the mix Adeline, Resplendent Cathar and Maja, Bretagard Protector and we have the makings of a solid token creature army!

Fynn, the Fangbearer and Saryth, the Viper’s Fang are both individually decent cards but if they ever both make their way to the battlefield at the same time you can potentially knock someone out with poison counters without that dirty feeling you get from playing Triumph of the Hordes.

No Guts, No Glory!

Final Fortune Glorious End Chance for Glory Angel's Grace Sundial of the Infinite Stunning Reversal

I talked about these cards above, but I’m also including a few cards that I can utilize to keep me from losing the game outright to my own spells. Stunning Reversal is a card I’ve been dying to play since it came out in Battlebond, and I just know that it’s going to lead to some great stories when I do.

Sunforger Package

Sunforger Terminate Despark Swords to Plowshares Demonic Tutor

Everyone knows Sunforger is an awesome card, and what makes it even better in this deck is that I can use it to tutor up any of my three No Guts, No Glory cards, as well as getting Angel’s Grace to keep from losing. I wanted to include a few other utility spells to be able to fetch up too, and went ahead and included a Demonic Tutor in the deck mostly as a way to search up Sunforger.

Card Draw

Leinore, Autumn Sovereign Mangara, the Diplomat Greven, Predator Captain Augur of Autumn Grim Haruspex Realmwalker Skullclamp Tome of Legends

I’m thrilled that there are so many Humans with card draw or card selection attached to them, particularly the new cards Leinore, Autumn Sovereign and Augur of Autumn. Realmwalker counts as a Human too!  And I’m so looking forward to equipping Blackblade Reforged to a legendary Human, then sacrificing it to Greven, Predator Captain when he attacks for a Hatred/Stroke of Genius hybrid effect.

Mana Ramp

Reclusive Taxidermist Humble Naturalist Tireless Provisioner Shaman of Forgotten Ways Nature's Lore Three Visits Sol Ring

Nature’s Lore and Three Visits are incredible mana ramp in this deck, being able to search up any Forest rather than a basic land means you can find Indatha Triome to fix three of the deck’s four colors. I also really love the new Reclusive Taxidermist, which is a perfectly playable Human that taps for any color mana and is a 1/2 for two mana, but the extra text on the text box means that it’s a decent draw for the late game too. Plus, I happened to open the Dracula series version Quincey Harker which makes it even better.

Shaman of Forgotten Ways is a great way to cover the varied colored mana cost of your Human cards, and its formidable ability expensive but isn’t out of the question with Katilda, Dawnhart Prime.

Other Interaction

Sungold Sentinel Graveyard Trespasser Shadowspear Blasphemous Act Tibalt's Trickery

Sungold Sentinel and Graveyard Trespasser provide excellent bodies with always welcome graveyard removal options. Tibalt’s Trickery is a one more card I chose for its epic storytelling potential. 

Here’s the decklist as it currently stands:

Saskia the Unyielding
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 12-11-2021
Magic Card Back

Here’s how the deck graphs out, thanks to our friends at Archidekt:

So, what do you think of Saskia the Unyielding? Is there anything you would play with it that I didn’t mention above?

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my paper decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews. 

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!