Saheeli, Sublime Artificer is one of the most exciting cards from War of the Spark simply in terms of the number of homes she has accessible to her. Both her abilities naturally lend themselves to a variety of different homes, and her mana cost being both cheap and readily castable helps support this too. More than anything, though, there's some real pedigree to her triggered ability:
One of these cards is restricted in Vintage, another spent a long time being a key threat in multiple Eternal formats, and the third was the card that arguably pushed Krark-Clan Ironworks over the top in Modern. Even Murmuring Mystic, the worst of this list, has been a powerful sideboard card in Standard ever since it was released. The ability to make 1/1s off various noncreature spells is just inherently powerful, letting you cascade value off whatever it is you are building your deck to want to do anyway.
This is probably the most obvious starting point for Saheeli in War of the Spark Standard. Izzet Drakes was already interested in playing Murmuring Mystic in some small number, and Saheeli's ability to come down earlier and not clog up the deck with four-drops lines up very well. She is a bit worse against aggressive decks than Murmuring Mystic, since you don't get the resilient 1/5 body, but starting the steady stream of 1/1s a turn earlier can still buy you some breathing room. Against Esper Control, though, having a threat that doesn't just fold to Kaya's Wrath allows you another angle of attack, forcing your opponent to have a Vraska's Contempt at the ready if you ever resolve her.
Most excitingly, here we see her activated ability in action for the first time. Izzet Drakes has occasionally toyed with Maximize Velocity as a one-of to help kill opponents out of nowhere with a giant, hasty Drake, essentially opening a different avenue of attack in a deck of decidedly non-hasty creatures. It turns out Saheeli comes with this card essentially baked in, as having a Saheeli on the battlefield allows you to cast a Drake and then turn any of the Servo tokens you have sitting around in to a pseudo-hasty copy of said Drake. It is remarkably terrifying that a Saheeli on the battlefield could result in a ten-damage flyer coming at you out of nowhere like this.
If you're looking to take advantage of the "Maximize Velocity" mode of Saheeli, Thief of Sanity seems like a very appealing card to have alongside her too.
- 2 Liliana, Dreadhorde General
- 3 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
- 1 Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord
- 2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Just like with Crackling Drake earlier, here we see Saheeli threaten to turn a Servo token into a Thief of Sanity for a turn, meaning that you can gain a Thief trigger the moment one hits the battlefield despite its summoning sickness.
Part of the problem with Saheeli's activated ability is that it inherently doesn't play well with creatures' enter-the-battlefield abilities. I think Hostage Taker is still too strong not to play, but we definitely see this Esper Midrange deck move away from a card like Deputy of Detention with this in mind.
I could see Saheeli finding a home in a Dimir Midrange deck too due to her strength with Thief of Sanity, but I love the idea of her working alongside Hero of Precinct One. She triggers the Hero on Turn 3, making a 1/1 you can chump-block with to keep her unharmed, and then when you untap, every multicoloured noncreature spell now generates two 1/1s from the Saheeli-Hero tag-team.
Even better, though, is if you have a Servo token sitting around later in the game that you can turn into a copy of Hero of Precinct One with Saheeli's activated ability, and then things get very silly with every spell you cast, flooding the battlefield with 1/1 bodies. These bodies working alongside Liliana, Dreadhorde General to create a wall of defense and a stream of card advantage that is almost impossible to battle through on the ground, and in addition, the 1/1s ensure you never have to sacrifice a relevant creature to Liliana's -4 ability.
Experimenting with Artifice
One of the aforementioned Herald of One-Ones is Sai, Master Thopterist, who just so happens to work well with Saheeli. They both trigger off noncreature artifacts and then both make artifact creatures for the sake of other cards that care about artifacts. Unfortunately I suspect we simply don't have the card pool in Standard for this to be viable at the moment, as it's really hard to get the sort of critical mass of artifacts you need currently – when trying to put a decklist together, I was having to seriously look at Scrabbling Claws or Traveler's Amulet to have enough cheap enablers. Still, these two cards have very similar wants, as well as helping form a powerful gameplan alongside The Antiquities War, so this package is something to keep an eye on should some playable, cheap artifacts enter Standard.
It's not hard to make a deck with a slightly lighter artifact sub-theme, though. Saheeli's Servos can make Karn, Scion of Urza's Contruct tokens quite imposing and then Saheeli can have her Servos imitate these gigantic Construct tokens on a key turn to push a lot of damage your opponent's way.
- 4 Karn, Scion of Urza
- 2 Liliana, Dreadhorde General
- 3 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
- 2 Tezzeret, Artifice Master
There are a few different ways to build this, depending on what removal package you want to surround the core of Saheeli, Karn, and Treasure Map with. Azorius gives you access to Cleansing Nova as the best available sweeper that doesn't force you to play a third colour, whilst Izzet means your cheap removal spells can be Shocks and Lightning Strikes that you can proactively cast to get Servos with Saheeli against decks that aren't presenting targets for your removal.
I ended up settling on Dimir instead for a few different reasons. One is simply having access to Thief of Sanity again, at least in sideboard games, as that card still just seems incredibly potent to me paired alongside Saheeli. Discard spells, especially getting to maindeck Thought Erasure, allow you to force through a planeswalker against control decks whilst naturally playing well alongside the tap-out style gameplan this deck is carrying out.
However, one of the most exciting cards in this list for me to see in action is Massacre Girl. It's easy to look at her and assume she is anti-synergistic with Saheeli since she kills all your Servos, and this is true from one perspective. Seen from a different angle, they actually synergize together, as if you have even a couple of Servos on the battlefield when you cast Massacre Girl, it's easy to imagine these Servos dying, starting a chain reaction that causes Massacre Girl to kill every other creature she can see. This sort of chain reaction means that suddenly black control decks don't need access to white mana in order to have a sweeper that can actually take down problematic creatures like Carnage Tyrant.
I feel like it would be a crime to post an article about a cheap Young Pyromancer variant and not give a few words to the older formats. I'm not really familiar enough with Vintage to provide a home for Saheeli there, though it's hard not to smile at the idea of turning a Servo token in to a Black Lotus or letting a Mox become a hasty copy of the Blightsteel Colossus you just Tinkered up.
In Legacy, though, finding a home for Saheeli is fairly intuitive. Pairing her alongside Young Pyromancer helps set up the same sort of explosive turns that can be seen in the Esper Midrange list I posted earlier, this token creation being ideal for when your deck needs to grind. Meanwhile, Saheeli threatening to come down and turn a Baleful Strix into a copy of your Gurmag Angler for a turn can kill people from out of nowhere.
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer may initially seem unassuming, both due to being an uncommon and due to her activated ability not seeming as immediately flashy as we might expect from a planeswalker, but I think she's actually a very exciting addition both to Standard and potentially even to wider formats, and among the most fascinating planeswalkers in the new set. Her triggered ability is just incredibly strong and, provided you can figure out ways to gain value from her activated ability, I expect she should find a good home in time. I am excited to see exactly where that home ends up being.