Four Color Saheeli (Deck of the Month)

June 9, 2018

 

 

Hello, I’m Riley, and welcome back to another Deck of the Month. This week we’ll be focusing on what I believe to be the biggest roadblock to new players entering the format, and for good reason. Not just any deck can stake a claim as being the most feared, and most hated deck in Standard as recently as this one can. This month, we’re looking at the format's premier combo deck: Four Color Saheeli.

 

4 Felidar Guardian

4 Renegade Rallier

4 Satyr Wayfinder

3 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow

 

4 Saheeli Rai

1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

1 Gideon of the Trials

 

4 Oath of Nissa

2 Search for Azcanta

 

3 Dig Through Time

3 Fumigate

3 Lightning Strike

1 Abrade
 

4 Flooded Strand

4 Windswept Heath

4 Wooded Foothills

2 Cinder Glade

 

2 Prairie Stream

1 Canopy Vista

1 Forest

1 Island

1 Mountain

1 Plains

1 Sunken Hollow

 

Sideboard

 

3 Arashin Cleric

2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

2 Reflector Mage

1 Abrade

1 Authority of the Consuls

1 Caustic Caterpillar

1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

1 Disdainful Stroke

1 Glorybringer

1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow

1 Radiant Flames

 

The main attraction to this deck, and the reason it works so well is undoubtedly the combo itself. The ability to kill with two cards on turn 4 is immensely threatening, but that’s the very ground level of what this combo can do. With the increased presence of quick cheap answers to the combo in the format, the ability to go for the combo transitions from the primary win condition to more of a midrange threat to absolutely punish any deck that leaves their shields down after turn 5. Simply the knowledge that at any point you could just slam the combo is so much of a threat that decks have to choose between tapping out for maximum tempo, and possibly getting ran over by a Saheeli and a couple cats. What this amounts to is a zero investment massive tempo advantage forcing your opponent to play about two or three turns behind where they should be.

 

None of this would work however without a proper backup that your tempo advantage is building towards. In my opinion the best card in the deck to capitalize on the already existing tempo advantage with more tempo is Renegade Rallier. Because of how many colors we’re playing, we will almost always have a fetch to turn on revolt, as well as a target in the graveyard to get back, whether it be a fetchland, or one of our two drops, those being Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Satyr Wayfinder. With cards like this, and the synergies between them from filling up the graveyard and pulling things out of it, we can generate more effective card advantage than control. This is before even getting to our top end threat of Ishkanah Grafwidow, which also acts as another payoff for building up the graveyard. Six power and eleven toughness over four bodies, all with reach is an amazing way to absolutely shut down aggro, and dodging push and cast down also make it a good threat vs control.

 

Creatures aren’t our only threat though. Along with the four Saheelis for the combo, we also have a couple flex slots that usually house any of an array of different planeswalkers, or more removal such as extra abrade and radiant flames. These are just some additional value threats that help control the board, gain some effective life and even more tempo, as well as both acting as removal and a potential game ender.  

 

These value engines, supplemented by even more digging effects such as Oath of NIssa and Search for Azcanta, are what allow the deck to play the nearly guaranteed advantage state better than almost any other deck in the format. Not only do these cards perform well on their own, but they all combine with Felidar Guardian to get even more value out of every single card in the deck.

 

Ultimately the force that keeps this deck together is its synergy. All the moving parts work excellently as cogs in a machine that just keeps grinding out value. Nothing in the deck looks particularly imposing on its own, but in the context of the entire deck it can snowball out of control surprisingly fast. When the first Wayfinder lands it’s not such a big deal, but when that Wayfinder allows an Ishkanah to have delirium on curve, or a Renegade Rallier to pull back more value out of the graveyard it can spiral out of control fast. All this synergy is great and all but it would be nothing if you couldn’t dig to it. Fortunately we happen to be in a format which is the home of the most effective digging tool barring tutors in magic history, that also works wonderfully with our graveyard themes. Dig Through Time is quite simply an excellent card, especially in a deck that appreciates its effect as much as this.

 

It’s not all good for Saheeli however. Unlike during the decks run in Standard where only Mardu stood in the way, there are several bad matchups in Frontier. The most prominent of these matchups is Atarka Red. The combination of an extremely fast clock and targeted burn that can rip the combo apart, Atarka serves as the primary predator of most Saheeli strategies, even beating versions specifically designed with the matchup in mind such as Black Saheeli, which cuts green in favor of a more controlling strategy using more planeswalker win conditions. No version of Saheeli can race Atarka, and very few can slow it down enough to stand a chance.

 

On the other side of the spectrum, Control is the natural prey of Saheeli. The graveyard synergies make countering creatures much less impactful, and the value provided by cards like Renegade Rallier is just nearly impossible for control to overcome. Midrange is in a similar situation, but for different reasons. The eternal threat of comboing off, combined with a powerful midrange engine of your own makes it very difficult for midrange to outgrind you without tapping out. In the middle of this spectrum is white based aggro, specifically because of Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Authority of the Consuls. Blue White Humans and Abzan both run Thalias and can run Authority, and they allow those decks to play on curve without worrying about the combo. By effectively negating the main strength of the deck, this matchup ends up about even because a single wrath just solves the problem.

 

While Saheeli is definitely good, it has absolutely fallen from its place as the hyper centralizing force it was in standard. Now it’s just a very good meta call with a solid plan in an unknown meta if need be. If this is the last barrier holding you out of the format, I would encourage you to give it another chance. Frontier is ultimately the ideal home for Saheeli, with the format complimenting the deck and vice versa. Next month will be a deck that recently got quite a few new pieces, Elves!

 

 

 

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