Backup is on its way. Savra is an old favorite Commander from back before Commanders were even a thing and there's no way I'd want to mess with that kind of history. Could it be Sapling of Colfenor? Could it be Sisters of Stone Death? Would I be answering this call for assistance if it were?
So you say we should take the kid gloves off and game hard with Savra Queen of the Golgari? You had me at “hello.”
Lately I've been trying to answer the question of what happens when you jam as hard as you can. Ethics is one of my favorite subjects to consider and Commander an interesting universe when it comes to ethics: in some places the rules of the road are one thing and in another place it will work quite differently all underneath the same conception of what it means to play Commander and what the rules of the format are.
No one will disagree that a banned card is banned for example… but everyone has their own playgroup to keep in mind and every playgroup wants to jam one way rather than another. Sometimes this means the social compact bans other cards without having to think too hard about it or even consciously recognize the fact – Armageddon and Obliterate are two cards that come to mind as perfect examples – while others have a more liberal interpretation and want to game as hard as they can with more of a “Come at me bro!” state of mind.
So you say “Savra”... and “come at me bro!” are the rules of the road? How hard can we jam a Savra deck is a question I'd love to answer considering I have been having a lot of fun jamming a high-powered Animar deck that I now want to build in real life (but can't quite justify the $200 price tag on an Imperial Recruiter for) because the New York City playgroup that meets at Jim Hanley's Universe is a pretty high-powered environment as can be seen by one example of someone else's deck that plays there Omar Hernandez's Adun Oakenshield deck of Sneak Attack + Survival of the Fittest terror. We game hard. Someone new to our playgroup just showed up one day out of the blue for a Thursday game with an unsleeved deck and I worried that maybe the power level we were gaming at was too high... after all he was caught at a three-person table with Omar's retooled Adun Oakenshield deck and my updated Numot the Devastator deck trying out Zedruu the Greathearted as the Commander that week but with the same focus on a Sunforger-centered control game. Then he combo-killed us two turns after Omar's Myojin of Night's Reach wiped both of our hands.
We game hard .
I have a secret side project to answer the question of “What is the most broken thing you can do if you try?” that I am still exploring — an interesting question especially given that if I can definitively answer that there is a provable problem within the format I can bring it to the attention of the format's Rules Council. In the meantime I'm happy to work on making as brutally competitive of a Savra deck as you might want to game with.
First things first I ran the numbers and you're over: 103 cards because your twenty-six creatures are actually twenty-seven and your eighteen spells are actually twenty-one.
I then double-checked and saw this was still 99 and you just double-slotted Sadistic Hypnotist Scapeshift Explosive Vegetation and Recollect. Given that I also note a few other problems – mostly that just thirty-four lands is going to be just not enough – some of this is going to be sent back for retooling entirely and we'll see what we come up with from there.
Identifying the core of the deck is easy Savra suggests it all herself: Sacrifice for fun and profit. The interaction between Landfall and land-finders is an awesome one especially since I have never seen Perilous Forays pushed anywhere near as hard as you're getting it to work at here since it combos with a lot of your cards to turn into a massive mana multiplier.
Savra works very nicely at controlling the board for creatures but other permanent types she doesn't handle on her own. You have to outsource that or otherwise go with the “preventative measures” school of thought which with your ability to turn aggressively on other players' hands and mana bases to wreck their day seems to be the line of thought here. I'm down with this! After all you say this is for a jam-hard kind of playgroup. So as long as they are trying just as hard as you are to deliver low blows we can build a “consenting adults only” sort of deck and not worry whether any innocent bystanders get caught in the crossfire.
So a lot of the work you're asking for to my mind is philosophical: with the ethical question out of the way how do we streamline this as much as we can?
Considering that before I wrote about 99-card decks I wrote for several years about sixty-card universes and how to maximize efficiency is critical to success in Constructed formats I think I have good enough credentials to at least approach the question. So everything here is going to be asked to defend itself first and foremost and we are going to be looking for specific lines of play to build into the deck that might maximize efficiency even higher.
For example I note this deck does not have a Primeval Titan but does have a land-assembly theme in which you use Scapeshift to reset your manabase with things like the Urza lands providing more than their fair share of mana. Primeval Titan is likewise very good at giving you more than your fair share of mana especially if you search for two specific lands: Cabal Coffers and Urborg Tomb of Yawgmoth.
So some of this will be streamlining lines of play to the most powerful thing you can do – Black Market can make a ton of mana if you build it up that way but if you replace that slot with a Primeval Titan you get all the mana the next turn but with none of the work. It's not that I'm lazy I'm just all for doing the most you can do — so we'll look at efficiency and role for each of your cards and see if there is not anything better we can do.
Your manabase includes a fair share of sacrifice outlets a good number of land destruction effects and not quite as much color fixing as I might like. Your use of the Urzatron is very neat – Scapeshift can turn your manabase into a ton of mana – but you can use the more boring two-card combo of Urborg Tomb of Yawgmoth / Cabal Coffers that is much easier to assemble than the three-card Urzatron combo which will make it happen more often just with a little bit of tutoring going on (as well as opening the possibility for other cards like Primeval Titan to assemble it for you).
I would actually look to Dust Bowl before I would look to Ghost Quarter. Tectonic Edge is well and good as a budget-oriented Wasteland replacement but Ghost Quarter gives something back when you're trying to take something away while Dust Bowl can stick around to solve more problems and thus is the right card to get when you need to break up an opponent's big manabase when they have recursion elements to help reassemble it.
I like what the deck is trying to accomplish with its manabase enough that I want to try and get it to do it more if possible. To me half the justification in pulling the Urzatron out is that if we replace them with in-color lands those colorless mana slots open up for exploitation with something else — and I want to add Miren the Moaning Well to your lineup of Phyrexian Tower and High Market giving you yet another sacrifice outlet to help get Savra running.
I like cycling lands in general and would want all four in specific here so Polluted Mire and Slippery Karst want friends like Barren Moor and Tranquil Thicket. (I thought about five but don't quite want Blasted Landscape enough alas.)
With Strip Mine effects cycling lands and some fetchlands Life from the Loam screams as an awesome addition to your spells — especially considering how it works with (and can help power up) Worm Harvest all by itself. A little bit more in the way of fetchlands would help with color-fixing as well since each can count as your Overgrown Tomb. More fetchlands increases the chance of a drawn Life from the Loam being a card advantage engine all by itself and one that digs through your deck and brings you to that Worm Harvest you like to set up into while also giving you lands to discard to it. A self-assembling deck is a wonderful thing to have but Life from the Loam would need a little help so I'd want to build that help in.
Additionally if Primeval Titan is going to make the lineup I have found an awful lot of success with Mosswort Bridge. Adding a Mosswort Bridge to the deck allows a Primeval Titan to operate either as massive mana multiplier (get Urborg + Coffers) or function as additional gas by pumping up free spells. And getting to use it twice instead of once thanks to a Golgari Rot Farm? Sign me up.
I'm also of the opinion that you'd need thirty-six lands not thirty-four so I'm going to keep an eye out for extra cuts along the way and work with the idea that a bit more mana will be forthcoming.
In addition Pine Barrens would just be better as Gilt-Leaf Palace; presuming they both come into play tapped all of the time at least the Palace doesn't deal damage to provide you with colored mana. If you'd said you had a Bayou I'd say it was criminal to deny Savra the use of it but I don't have any Revised dual lands either so we'll go with the lack of it and move along rather than worry about it. Other improvements come first and give you more bang for your buck.
2 Slots not yet opened up.
Miren the Moaning Well
Temple of the False God
Golgari Rot Farm
Urborg Tomb of Yawgmoth
You'd be surprised how much more power and game you can add to a deck just by messing with the lands. The number of games you hit “unfair” mana will be going up since it's much easier to assemble a two-land combo than it is a three-land combo you've upped the mana count without needing to worry about flooding out (the two lands added both cycle) and sometimes just sometimes you'll go crazy with a Mosswort Bridge. All good things.
Starting with the artifacts it's time to put everybody up against the wall and see if they deserve to be shot. I have no problem playing literally any piece of cardboard – if it makes sense in the deck and works towards that aim it's hired – but you want efficiency and the underperformers have to get cut sooner or later.
- Birthing Pod – Part sacrifice outlet part awesome tutoring engine this is in fact the Survival of the Fittest “variant” I am most excited to see at work here. An easy keep.
- Helm of Possession – One of my favorite cards that I just don't get to add often enough. A sacrifice effect plus opponent creature theft? Savra has to love this.
- Ashnod's Altar – Added purely as a sacrifice outlet but good at its job. Not my favorite but worth having all the same for those times it lets you do something crazy in addition to “just” being an enabler. Endrek Sahr Master Breeder I'm looking at you!
- Spawning Pit – Another one of my favorite cards this time because it is not just a sacrifice outlet but also a potential source of token creatures for your army. Note that you're allowed to sacrifice token creatures as well as actual cards so if your tokens would die they're automatically worth half of a fresh token right off the bat. A card that should see more play than it does.
- Nim Deathmantle – Excellent recursion and a good card with your sacrifice enablers not just Savra. Worth noting that as far as Savra is concerned this turns the creatures black letting your nonblack green creatures force a sacrifice... sadly it overrides the pre-existing color or it would just be pure awesome.
- Cauldron of Souls – I think you can do better than this actually. I like building recursion into decks but don't like so much having to rely on a permanent sitting in play to do it so this isn't really doing it for me.
- Skullclamp – Obviously ridiculous.
- Lightning Greaves – Unlike the first two equipments I am not so sure this one's pulling its weight. Yes Lightning Greaves is often added to most Commander decks and protects your team captain in a pinch... but unless you're getting more than just the shroud out of it I tend to not think it's really pulling its weight. Your creatures average a very high price for somewhat low power so the haste isn't adding pressure and I think you can go without the Greaves readily enough. Your deck has plenty of play even if bad things happen to Savra so I'd say go without the safety net… Especially with as many sacrifice outlets as you have so you really only have to worry about getting Hindered or bum's-rushed neither of which Lightning Greaves does anything about anyway.
- Crystal Ball – Not as good as Sensei's Divining Top and I'm less sure that your deck would want both. More dedicated controlling decks can benefit from a long game with a Crystal Ball in play — but I think you'd rather just have the shot in the arm of power without having to invest an actual card in so doing which means Top to me.
Also conspicuous in its absence is Sol Ring; you're playing a deck with enough expensive cards to really benefit from the early speed and you clearly value acceleration enough to want Explosive Vegetation so Sol Ring should be on your list of priorities. So between the Sensei's Divining Top and Sol Ring we've made three cuts and only two additions with the caveat that whatever we're replacing your Cauldron of Souls with will be asked to be a hard worker and include some element of recursion back to the deck.
Next up we'll look at your other miscellaneous noncreature permanents the enchantments and planeswalkers. Liliana Vess and Garruk Wildspeaker both suggest themselves very neatly; I tend to not like Garruk too much these days but given you both like ramp and can actually benefit from an Overrun effect he's actually working quite well here unlike most of the decks I start with him in only to end up cutting him quickly. What can I say? I'm a harsh critic and don't play token-oriented strategies most of the time.
- Grim Feast – I recently cut this from Chris's Ghave Guru of Spores deck and was sad to do so because it's an awfully interesting card and one that doesn't see enough play in Commander. His was more of a pure control deck though so all it was doing was being lifegain for lifegain's sake and wasn't really piggybacking off of any of his cards as it was not so removal-heavy. In your deck however life has a use: it can be converted into Savra sacrifices. Considering that you can both ably trigger it and clearly benefit from it it's not “just lifegain” but part of a working engine… so I give it the thumbs up even if it does just gain life. You convert life into other resources so it's doing good work here.
- Attrition – A repeating removal effect plus a sacrifice enabler. An obvious keeper.
- Grave Pact – Copies Savra's effect and lets you do a lot of work to keep enemy creatures suppressed at the proper time. Just an excellent black card but also strongly in-theme it was never on the chopping block.
- Phyrexian Arena – Card draw. I always favor more draw not less so again not in question.
- Necrogenesis – Token creation plus some graveyard suppression. Good with everything you're good at doing and a cute combo against stacked graveyards with Ashnod's Altar as the activation is reduced to “free” if you don't need the token. Food for your army sets up Living Death good card is good.
- Black Market – Not as hard a worker. As I'd said above if the line of play you're reaching for is “assemble a whole bunch of mana” Primeval Titan does that job for you in one comes-into-play trigger and without having to jump through hoops or losing the mana if a board wipe happens to remove it from play. Cut to be upgraded.
- Lurking Predators – This is actually not as great of a deck for Lurking Predators but Lurking Predators is still free creatures a fair enough portion of the time that it's worth including in any deck fielding more than twenty creatures. Not as impressive as it could be but still good. Adding a Sensei's Divining Top will improve it a fair bit as well.
- Perilous Forays – A sacrifice outlet that benefits permanent mana and (as you said) awesome with Landfall triggers that can just let you pull all the basics out of your deck. Sadly you're down to just ten of those but if you need to accelerate from five to more than fifteen because twelve just isn't enough it's probably not going to be Perilous Forays' fault. Cute and effective enough to keep.
- Greater Good – A sacrifice outlet plus card draw. Both good things.
- Centaur Glade – I follow that you want another token-maker but don't think this is actually worth the high price to get the tokens. It costs nine mana to make the first dude and that's not cutting it for me. Garruk does the same job at four mana and doesn't ask for any the next turn either. To be replaced.
That's two more cuts and a solid set of sacrifice outlets and some decent card advantage effects already built into the deck. That's seven permanent sacrifice outlets already plus three more in your lands which means that ten out of your 99 cards can be used to trigger Savra over and over again and thus you can reasonably expect to have one or the other of them with some consistency even before counting creatures into that... which you only sort of can since things with legs can have them cut out from under them. Triggering Savra should be easy enough to do so let's focus on what the rest of the deck is capable of doing and go from there.
Instants and Sorceries are up next and this is actually where I start to dig into things pretty hard. Part of this is probably just play-style and building for a non-specific playgroup. And even “picking on them” I only wanted to substitute six cards (some of them for things that looked very similar to themselves) so it wasn't just me being harsh.
- Recollect – In a deck without Regrowth presuming price is no object the one mana cheaper could be very important during a game. It's not as big of a deal on turn 20 or when you're buying back a cheap spell… but if the card you need is already an expensive one or is a Tutor because the card you actually need is still in your deck that one mana can completely change the validity of a line of play. Alternatively if it's not the mana that matters for the same price you can get Eternal Witness and have a body while you're at it. Building more layers into the deck after the fact it became clear that Eternal Witness does a lot that Recollect doesn't so the Witness gets the nod.
- Explosive Vegetation – Not my favorite card but it is quite effective at what it does. No complaints here though I do often find I take this card out in favor of cheaper acceleration effects. You have enough acceleration overall that you just want every one that's good enough to play and Veggies is on the list.
- Scapeshift – Oh to see “fair” uses of Scapeshift put to work! In this case Scapeshift only assembles Urborg/Coffers sets up a free spell with Mosswort Bridge gives you a repeating sacrifice outlet and a repeating land-kill effect plus boosts future teams with Oran-Rief the Vastwood while protecting you with Mystifying Maze. Did I mention it even replaces itself because you can get a cycling land plus Golgari Rot Farm? Now it does! It's mostly here to ramp up your Worm Harvest it actually does a lot of interesting things and am pleased to see a surprising use of the card that I didn't expect to. Well done sir well done. Even with just four lands you can get Twilight Mire Temple of the False God Urborg Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers and have access to eight mana on turn 5 so long as you make your land drop so this actually gets to count as acceleration too… And unlike your Urzatron setup you still have a ton of colored mana when you do that.
- Decree of Pain – Awesome card-drawing Wrath of God effect is awesome.
- Living Death – I worried that this was a win-more card until I read that under current wordings you sacrifice with Living Death not “exchange” and so this very reliably should be buying back all of your dead creatures and giving your opponents absolutely nothing left over after which is a good deal. One of the swingy staples of the format but also one I tend to find others play more than I do – I want a little less set-up to the effect. That said your Commander and what you're doing already sets it up well and you have support cards working on graveyard suppression so it should work without taking too much work.
- Primal Growth – It's not needed just for another way to get a sacrifice effect and not impressive enough compared to Cultivate in the late game to justify playing Primal Growth instead. What your ramp does on turn 3 is more important than what your ramp does on turn 10 so we'll add the more boring card.
- Ambition's Cost – Ambition's Cost is an odd duck at an odd mana cost and that's actually the sole reason it's going to get cut here. because for just a little bit more you can get a lot more and for half the price you can get almost as much. At four mana you have to ask whether Ambition's Cost would be better off as Harmonize… and a fair portion of the time the answer will be “yes.” Instead asking whether this wants to be Night's Whisper or Promise of Power the answer obviously leaned to Promise of Power especially since you have enough life-gain working on the side to make the life payment on any of them not a big deal. The option to entwine and get another threat is good and it's even a black creature at that for Savra to care about but really it's just one more black mana for two more cards and the brawnier card rules the day.
- Exsanguinate – I tend towards wanting to cut this. But then I see you with Endrek Sahr and Ashnod's Altar plus I don't get to keep saying you have a sufficient quantity of life-gain if I cut them all so this gets left alone despite my twitch reflex to cut Exsanguinate from almost every deck of mine that I've ever added it to. You get enough out of the life-gain to justify it and can ramp to it enough for it to be dangerous so it's good here (and I'm not used to seeing it be good!). What can I say? I'm a pessimist. Good card is good.
- Explore – Underused and very good. The small things matter a lot and I am glad to see this here.
- Worm Harvest – Very important to the deck and something already being bolstered with other additions like Life from the Loam. This is a key engine card to be built up even further not cut.
- Natural Affinity – The hilarity you expect to ensue clearly justifies this card. Worth noting to me is not just the Massacre Wurm interaction but the fact that you're already good at leveraging creatures off the table; against an opponent who tends to turtle up and waits to play big spells this lets you punish their creatureless ways by going after their lands with Savra. This is more important to me than your statement gave it credit for — and so the question became “Can we get any more of this?” and the answer to that was “Yes!”
- Suffer the Past – Some lifegain I will cut. This is that card. I don't think you need the extra way to touch an opponent's graveyard and it doesn't do quite enough for me as either a source of life or as a Fireball for me to love it enough to keep it. Cut.
- Insidious Dreams – Too much investment for not enough reward. Tutoring is good but good tutoring is better and I'd rather have one good tutor than the ability to turn three cards into two tutors. Considering how much you can get out of searching for just one card – your best lines of play are things like “Primeval Titan” or “find Worm Harvest” – you should invest in a more reliable tutor.
- Barter in Blood – Easy board control that happens to trigger additional sacrifices with your Grave Pact effects online. Never in question.
- Demonic Tutor – Good card is good.
- Kodama's Reach – Just the right mix of ramp and card advantage enough so that I want the second copy you're allowed to play.
- Syphon Mind – Included more for its card drawing aspect than for its disruption effect. Effectively this is intended to be an Ambition's Cost that discards the opponents' cards instead of costing you life… And that's all upside. A solid black card worth including.
- Bitter Ordeal – If you need to attack a combo deck attacking the resources they have to work with is better than attacking their deck overall. There is definitely that awesome Commander feel that you get when you point a Jester's Cap effect at someone's deck and tell everyone just how you're going to neuter it… but there is a higher correlation between resource denial for things they've already drawn than for their potential future access in most cases. We'll earmark this as a card that can attack those resources (or at least another tutor that lets you find one that does) and go from there.
That gives us six slots from the spells plus two from the enchantments and one left over from the artifacts. Taking for granted that two of these were already used to buy more land slots that leaves us with seven slots to work with. Given that I have the benefit of getting to do all of this on a spreadsheet before I talk about it I know two of those slots are going to go to a creature spell as Black Market is being swapped out directly for Primeval Titan (as your massive-mana-maker) and Eternal Witness (as your new Recollect). That leaves us five slots to fill:
- Cultivate – The efficiency replacement for Primal Growth. You always get two lands just not always right into play.
- Diabolic Tutor – The efficiency replacement for Insidious Dreams. It could be Beseech the Queen instead with reasonable aplomb as you should be able to cast it for three mana and get the right spell most of the time — but between occasionally needing your most expensive spell (Decree of Pain) before you're ready to cast it and the fact that Beseech the Queen can occasionally punish you for all the colorless lands you choose to play the safer route was selected. I did however really want to Beseech the Queen of the Golgari.
- Life from the Loam – Gets land drops when you need them cards when you don't and is prone to churning through your deck to access all of these resources which gives you access to new and more interesting lands for free... and works with some of the self-assembly aspects the deck already has like the Retrace on Worm Harvest. It's great with your Strip Mine effects good just with a fetchland to help get enough mana going and can set up a solid end-game just like Scapeshift can all while being a card drawer and occasionally nuts with Sensei's Divining Top to boot. A whole lot of action for you and a good way to make sure Worm Harvest is always working.
- Contamination – You wanted a nut-shot? Here's the nut-shot. You'd cut it previously but considering that it's something that can hose a combo deck sometimes the low blow is worth taking. Worth noting is the fact that you actually have no way to make green mana with Contamination out so you're aiming to use it to punish combo players and buy you time not just to lock down a game. It does that too but given how easy it can be to wriggle out of it you shouldn't be relying on it as a one-card lock mechanism – and you shouldn't be listening to complaints that it's a low blow when Oblivion Stone can answer it in any deck and any artifact that taps for colored mana lets them wriggle loose and turn it into a liability on you instead.
- Death Cloud – Nut shot #2. Especially with Life from the Loam in your deck you should be very good at recovering from a Death Cloud and Death Cloud is likewise on the class of cards that lets you meaningfully hinder a deck that doesn't use the red zone to achieve its goals. Not everyone is going to roll over to Savra and your host of Grave Pact effects and Death Cloud answers a lot of problems with a kick to the nards.
- Additionally I put the following cards on my “consideration” list:
- Malevolent Awakening – A good way to “juggle” as this is a sacrifice effect that lets you turn pure mana into effective sacrifices and can be good for the mid-to-late portion of the game.
- Beast Within – This is just a versatile instant-speed removal spell… But you need one. Your deck is sorely lacking in ways to interact with a non-creature permanent on someone else's turn and Beast Within handles most of the common problems adequately. I've left the deck on more of a “preventative measures” standpoint instead so you'll do a lot of your dream-wrecking on your own turn and asking if they can deal with it rather than keeping up three mana and a prayer to the deity of your choice.
- Nature's Revolt – This was another way to go after people's lands but this one was both stoppable with a Disenchant effect and prone to do bad things to you at the wrong time. Between both of these facts the happiness I got out of remembering this obscure card existed was faded away by the sadness of seeing all of your lands die to Wrath of God and I left it on the bench. Other ways to go after lands more reliably went after just their lands which was why Natural Affinity + Massacre Wurm was so appealing in the first place.
- Death Mutation – For the lulz. A little too expensive even for my tastes but funny when it works. I like efficiency a bit too much to suggest gaming with it even if it would be a good token producer. Centaur Glade instead got replaced with “another even more efficient token maker” but this one did come to mind and bring the laughs with it.
- Regrowth – I added this originally instead of Recollect just for pure efficiency — but a later pass through the deck added some tweaks that made it clear that Eternal Witness is better. Regrowing stuff is still pretty good though.
- Sadistic Hypnotist – True story: the first time I played a Legacy Grand Prix this creature was in my sixty and was actually awesome for the same reasons you're using it. I was discarding Basking Rootwallas to Survival of the Fittest and powering up Gaea's Cradle to cast this bad boy turn 3 against combo decks and he works just as well at neutering Commander combo decks as he did at handling a Legacy one. If you didn't have him already you would by the time I was done with you...
- Withered Wretch – A possible “efficiency” keep despite the fact that I want to shift it over to a less efficient version. I like Scavenging Ooze for a bit of size and lifegain on the side — but in addition to requiring two mana to activate it also isn't a black creature for Savra and we all know the forced sacrifice (not the lifegain to make it “free”) is the part that really matters. Additionally Nezumi Graverobber can similarly perform the job again at two mana and this time on a black creature but with the extra upsides that come with flipping to Nighteyes the Desecrator. Mana efficiency wins for you here though especially since it can be so very difficult to get Graverobber to flip after the early turns of the game.
- Sangromancer – A new favorite of mine as well for Commander this is a non-trivial amount of life and a good way to go about getting it. I don't like lifegain in general…. but I'm happy with lifegain for a purpose and Sangromancer works hard to keep Savra working without depleting your life total. Having an effect like this takes all the strain off of wanting to have both black and green creatures at the same time to sacrifice so you don't have to start reaching for Shambling Shell just to combo with Savra.
- Skeletal Vampire – Batman! Token creatures plus free beneficial sacrifices all on the same card. An easy addition.
- Phyrexian Plaguelord – Mostly included just for his sacrifice outlet status he's a fine sacrifice outlet and can help put tokens to work if something bad happens to Savra. Good enough for me.
- Butcher of Malakir – Another Savra replacement or even just awesome when you get multiple effects operating at the same time. Clearly in-theme.
- Deity of Scars – This one's not in-theme just “in-color.” Five hybrid black/green mana is difficult with all the colorless lands you're playing so this five drop is actually more like a seven — more if you want to regenerate it. It's not quite good enough just on its beater status so this is a free slot ready for the claiming.
- Grave-Shell Scarab – The dream card to combo with Savra and enough mana to keep you happy. Clearly fits the deck.
- Visara the Dreadful – I like Visara really I do. But you don't really need Visara. When Plan A is active you should just be able to push on with the plan and keep the board clear… and when Plan A is not active you need a better Plan B than keeping Visara alive. I have a better Plan B in mind so Visara gets cut even if she is good at taking control of a board. You didn't say you love her but you don't really need her either so I'll put someone else to work.
- Mold Shambler – Only cut because of the fact that I envision wanting to Birthing Pod for an answer to a problem permanent and being sad that your only answer happens to only work if you paid the kicker cost. The number of times that will come up should be considerably more often than the number of times you needed to target a planeswalker especially since those are already vulnerable to the “man + kill your blockers” plan.
- Dimir House Guard – Not quite good enough as a tutor and not good enough (or really necessary) as a sac outlet. We've already replaced the tutor effect with Diabolic Tutor so you'll still have the same access to cards like Birthing Pod that this got and we've added more sac outlets so you'll still be covered just fine.
- Bloodghast – Cute tricks abound and a black creature you can sacrifice over and over again does a lot of work for you.
- Endrek Sahr Master Breeder – I wanted to cut it. Then I decided to stop pretending he wasn't awesome in your deck and decided to leave him be and find more things that looked like him if possible. The things you can do with this guy and Ashnod's Altar is kind of sick.
- Fleshbag Marauder – Perfectly in-keeping with the overarching plan of making everyone sacrifice stuff and also a black creature that sacrifices itself if that is what you want. A hard worker with Savra out and just a hard worker without too: not a lot of other cards out there kill one of each of your opponents' creatures and this one is easiest to recur.
- Rampaging Baloths – Cute with your Landfall sub-theme like the Perilous Forays trick but it's also just a powerful token generator in a deck that likes making tokens. Never in question.
- Creakwood Liege – Another one of the few ways to generate both black and green token creatures. Not impressive but definitely effective and the Anthem effect is not to be underrated when you have as many token producers as you have access to.
- Farhaven Elf – I don't like this ramp effect as much as I would others so I see this as a free slot. If you'd like you can say that he died to become a Sol Ring and call it an improvement.
- Mycoloth – A fairly effective token generator. In.
- Havoc Demon – A fuzzy-focus card that makes me wonder what problem he was intended to solve. Having failed to find an effective answer other than that he's decent with all the sacrifice effects you already have access to I'm looking at this slot to tighten up your themes instead of provide another possible sweeper effect. I don't think you need more help of the kind this guy is offering.
- Anowon the Ruin Sage – Slow-motion sacrificing. I'm not terribly impressed and would rather find a card that doesn't have to wait until your turn to force the sacrifice if instead you can get something with a more immediate effect. For two more mana you can get Sheoldred Whispering One who just has to be a nutty addition to your deck. Swapped for Sheoldred and a massive improvement.
- Skullmulcher – I'm not in love but it's card drawing that works with your themes. I'll put the beer goggles on and let you keep it.
- Vulturous Zombie – Just here for its size and effectiveness but unlike the Deity it's actually good at his job and eminently castable so it stays.
- Reassembling Skeleton – Cute tricks abound. Never in danger of being cut I know what he does with Skullclamp in play.
- Massacre Wurm – Cool combo card plus a possible game-ender at the same time. Not going anywhere.
- Mitotic Slime – I'm also not in love with this card but it does provide an awful lot of sacrificial bodies and he puts up with a lot of rough treatment. Seems fine.
- Yavimaya Elder – This card I am in love with just for the pure shot of raw card advantage it provides. You were playing this guy whether you put him in your list or not... thankfully you did so we both get to look clever.
That's seven cuts plus we have two more slots open from above with known substitutions coming in. Everything should make a little bit more sense when you can see the engine I happened to sort of quietly assemble in here for you...
- Primeval Titan – Just pure power since it assembles Urborg/Coffers can get a bunch of land destruction effects to grief the combo players out of the game or just go for some card draw and utility by chaining two uses of Mosswort Bridge together while you're light on gas. A ton of ramp a ton of card advantage a ton of bricks to drop on your opponent's head. Boring? Maybe. But powerful as hell and you said for me to turn it up to 11.
- Eternal Witness – Your replacement for Recollect. It's still three mana but this time on a body and bodies are the easiest thing for you to recur as you'll see in just a bit...
- Genesis – Remember the “Loam Hard” plan and how I said you could just focus on that and it'd be like drawing a ton of cards for free? With Genesis + Eternal Witness as well as Worm Harvest at a certain point all that work dredging and churning through resources willy-nilly gives you access to powerful graveyard effects and with Witness + Genesis you don't have to worry about wasting your best cards — you're just planning on drawing them later if you happen to mill them. Sure you aren't playing Survival to search for it and discard it at the same time but you have enough ways to find it and a deck full of sacrifice outlets can't really worry too much about how he's going to get in the graveyard.
- Sheoldred Whispering One – An “efficiency” replacement for Anowon because she fires off Edicts immediately during their upkeep instead of having to wait until yours to do something. On your upkeep though she definitely does something and that something is yet another layer of card recursion that should give you both extra power and a better ability to bounce back from board sweepers.
- Acidic Slime – Your efficiency replacement for Mold Shambler. The Slime can hit everything the Shambler could except planeswalkers can actually kill an artifact creature and works off Birthing Pod as well as from your hand. The body isn't as important as hitting the right things; thus Slime over Indrik Stomphowler. Plus the Slime being able to trade with any ground-pounder is more in keeping with your defensive requirements than a 4/4 anyway.
- Avenger of Zendikar – Remember how I said you could do better than Centaur Glade for a green token producer? I was right. And I only thought of him because you said that landfall guys were good in your deck... I've been glossing over this guy for most of my decks lately so it took me a while to even remember that he'd actually just be awesome in yours.
- Grave Titan – Another powerful token-maker this one is just a powerhouse of efficiency and cranks out more black creatures to sacrifice and force opponent sacrifices for no mana while you're at it. I love Skeletal Vampire but this guy's just on a level above and happens to also close a game out pretty quick – he starts at ten power for six mana and adds four more power a turn if you just need to beat down.
The last two slots I'm a little proud of going old-school a little here one with a popular Commander card I'm surprised you forgot the other with one I've been trying to find a home for in a deck since forever now.
- Kamahl Fist of Krosa – Sure sure. “Overrun guy in a token deck”? You're real clever Mr. Writer-Guy. However that's not why he's here: he's here as a second shot at Natural Affinity because he can take an opposing board with no creatures and actually hit that board with your Plan A since you're so good at keeping creatures off the table. He happens to also be an Overrun effect for your token deck and can serve as Wrath protection since a few green mana untapped means they can't wrath without taking a blow to their manabase. You wanted more ways to beat up on degenerate people that weren't vulnerable to Savra's Plan A and Kamahl does just that.
- Hermit Druid – In your deck a one-card combo. Part of the reason for cutting back your basic land count was working this guy in; he's not here for the degenerate use he could be trying for... after all you have basic lands in your deck. Ten basics means he'll (roughly on average) flip past nine cards and put one in your hand and a few times of doing that should find you quickly assembling Genesis + Eternal Witness Genesis + whatever creature you need right now and a powerful Worm Harvest that he just so happens to fuel himself by both putting a land in your hand... and plenty of nonbasics in your graveyard. A Hermit Druid on turn 2 that isn't killed just nets you a ton of resources to work with plus a free land drop each turn to boot. Your playgroup will come to know this guy as “kill that damn thing right now!” and that is the kind of fear you want to be building into a deck. He seems so innocent. He does absolutely everything you want since by himself he just makes the rest of your deck self-assemble into your ideal mid-game.
I also want to tell you my almost-ran's I think you would find it very amusing... and might even actually decide to move some of them into your deck if you liked them enough. Most of them weren't put in because there is such a thing as too cute so we'll start with the most too cute of them all:
- Nim Devourer – A.k.a. “during my upkeep BB: edict you all.” The fact that you can use this ability multiple times during the upkeep nearly sold me on it but then I just went with brawnier token-making creatures instead of the cutest trick ever. But it was sooooo cute.
- Sengir Nosferatu – This one was cute too. Another Bat-plus-Vampire combo this one blinks into bat form and the bat sacrifices itself to bring the Vampire back so four mana whenever let you get a free sacrifice while you were at it. Perilously cute; cut for Grave Titan for the obvious reasons.
- Braids Cabal Minion – I ended up having to choose between this and Contamination in my own mind and went with the meaner card that was harder to remove. Braids can do some rough stuff — but like you said it's a rough room. Ultimately when bad things have to happen to good people Contamination would stop more people more reliably so I went with that.
- Bone Shredder – Pinpoint removal that happens to sacrifice itself when you fail to pay echo. Nearly added anyway because it's cool with Genesis — but if I'm willing to cut Visara because I don't think you need the effect this is just more cute and just as unnecessary.
- Shriekmaw – Ditto but this time with the sacrifice during the evoke trigger instead of waiting until your next turn. Still don't think you need pinpoint removal though this one is adorable.
- Cemetery Reaper – It's just good at making tokens and very nearly won the scuffle for Withered Wretch's slot. Unfortunately it only exiles creature cards from the graveyard so it doesn't do Withered Wretch's job as well as Withered Wretch does. With that same restriction already on Necrogenesis I didn't want to double up the same weak points so this didn't quite make it for me. It might still prove better than Mitotic Slime or something else on your B-team but I didn't push him in quite hard enough you may still want to yourself.
- Jolrael Empress of Beasts – Another way to expose an opponent's lands to Savra's less delicate treatment and an excellent way to punish anyone at all when a mass sweeper happens. But it costs too many cards to do it compared to the same task when given to Kamahl so Kamahl won out... helps that he also does it without summoning sickness if you have mana to spare.
This completes the puzzle of 99 cards and gives you the following decklist:
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Bloodghast
- 1 Butcher of Malakir
- 1 Creakwood Liege
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fleshbag Marauder
- 1 Genesis
- 1 Grave Titan
- 1 Grave-Shell Scarab
- 1 Hermit Druid
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 1 Mitotic Slime
- 1 Mycoloth
- 1 Phyrexian Plaguelord
- 1 Primeval Titan
- 1 Rampaging Baloths
- 1 Reassembling Skeleton
- 1 Sadistic Hypnotist
- 1 Sangromancer
- 1 Skeletal Vampire
- 1 Skullmulcher
- 1 Vulturous Zombie
- 1 Withered Wretch
- 1 Yavimaya Elder
- 1 Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
- 1 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
- 1 Sheoldred, Whispering One
- 5 Forest
- 5 Swamp
- 1 Barren Moor
- 1 Bojuka Bog
- 1 Cabal Coffers
- 1 Dust Bowl
- 1 Evolving Wilds
- 1 Gilt-Leaf Palace
- 1 Golgari Rot Farm
- 1 High Market
- 1 Marsh Flats
- 1 Misty Rainforest
- 1 Mosswort Bridge
- 1 Mystifying Maze
- 1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
- 1 Overgrown Tomb
- 1 Polluted Mire
- 1 Slippery Karst
- 1 Strip Mine
- 1 Tectonic Edge
- 1 Temple of the False God
- 1 Terramorphic Expanse
- 1 Tranquil Thicket
- 1 Twilight Mire
- 1 Verdant Catacombs
- 1 Miren, the Moaning Well
- 1 Phyrexian Tower
- 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
- 1 Ashnod's Altar
- 1 Birthing Pod
- 1 Helm of Possession
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Spawning Pit
- 1 Attrition
- 1 Contamination
- 1 Grave Pact
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Grim Feast
- 1 Lurking Predators
- 1 Necrogenesis
- 1 Perilous Forays
- 1 Phyrexian Arena
- 1 Natural Affinity
- 1 Barter in Blood
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Death Cloud
- 1 Decree of Pain
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Diabolic Tutor
- 1 Explore
- 1 Explosive Vegetation
- 1 Exsanguinate
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Life from the Loam
- 1 Living Death
- 1 Scapeshift
- 1 Syphon Mind
- 1 Worm Harvest
As always for your participation in this week's Dear Azami you will find in your email box a $20 coupon to the Star City Games online store to potentially help pay for any replacements and substitutions you might want to make. The cards I suggested as additions have the following prices for your consideration:
|Golgari Rot Farm||$0.49|
|Temple of the False God||$0.49|
|Kamahl Fist of Krosa||$1.99|
|Sheoldred Whispering One||$3.49|
|Miren the Moaning Well||$3.99|
|Avenger of Zendikar||$4.99|
|Urborg Tomb of Yawgmoth||$11.99|
|Life from the Loam||$14.99|
|Sensei's Divining Top||$14.99|
As a bonus this Andy happens to be Andy from CommanderCast and the weekend before this got posted he and I discussed Savra Queen of the Golgari for the upcoming Season Three of CommanderCast which can in the future be found at http://www.commandercast.com. We recorded a talk about this deck – both his original version and my suggested changes and all the places it could go in between – for Episode Two of the upcoming fourth season of CommanderCast which should be going up in just a few weeks from what I grasp of their impending schedule. So if you like bonus content in addition to the occasional bonus I post on my Facebook Public Figure Page you can find more about this Savra Queen of the Golgari deck by pointing yourself towards CommanderCast.com for Season Four which begins on September 19th according to their current schedule.
Episode Two should thus be September 26th keeping to that schedule making September 26th Talk About Savra A Lot Day. I can only hope that Episode One is faithful to Talk Like A Pirate Day but we'll have to wait and see.
And hopefully after our talk about the deck for Episode Three subsequent episodes will feature happy exclamations of how Andy used this new and improved version of Savra Queen of the Golgari to pummel his friends and eat their faces. I for one look forward to hearing all about it and I'm sure Savra has quite a few fans of her own all by herself...
-- Sean McKeown
Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? We're always accepting deck submissions to consider for use in a future article like Josh's Elephant-themed Phelddagrif deck or Edwin's Dakkon Blackblade deck. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azami includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to the StarCityGames.com Store!
Email Sean a deck submission using this link here!
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