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Unstable Q&A with Mark Rosewater
The Dos and Don'ts of Silver-Border Commander
Word of Command: Un-believable
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    @Underused Cards: pushing 14 DMG through could be game-winning, although I can also imagine a lot of board states where two 4/4s and two 3/3 tramplers have trouble getting the full damage through. As others have noted, at 5 CMC Regisaur is competing against a lot of other good cards including Thragtusk, Glorybringer, Kiki, etc... Proxy it up and let us know how it goes!


    I'm tuning up my own deck for this Friday, converging on something between Emzed and Lejoon's recent lists:As I mentioned in my last report, Strangleroot Geist was a generally solid performer that synergized with the deck's core. I still like the card, but as I looked for ways to improve my Affinity matchup, especially game 1, Qasali Pridemage edged it out as a potentially more valuable meta-pick. I think Pridemage is well enough positioned at the moment with the high amounts of Affinity, 8-rack, and Prison decks that a second copy could be alright. Its ability to snipe Vial in Humans/Merfolk/Taxes is also appreciated, and just getting in for an Exalted 3 damage against Jeskai is OK at supporting the tempo plan game 1.

    I'm also switching back to the classic 4/2/2 Dork formation. The triple Cobra lineup was an interesting experiment but as you might expect I wound up with hands polarized between explosive or clunky, and with the lowering of my curve it's OK to trade some explosiveness for consistency. Banking on T1 Dork -> T2 Evolve into Eidolon of Rhetoric seems like one of the most realistically relevant plays we can make vs Storm (although even this can be disrupted by Bolt, Remand, and Echoing Truth).

    One idea I wanted to bounce off you guys was swapping the SB Dispel, Helix, and Thalia for 3x Chalice of the Void as a proactive strategy for combating decks loaded up on cheap spells.

    Chalice could be good on 1 vs Shadow for Discard / Cantrips / Push / Shadow, on 1 vs Jeskai for Path / Bolt / Cantrips, on 2 vs Storm for Rituals / Manamorphose / Enablers (and maybe even on 1 in a pinch), 1-2 vs Burn, on 1 vs Lantern.. and then there are some (admittedly shakier) possibilities on the play like 1 vs Elves or 0 vs Robots or on 1 vs Tron.

    Obviously we can play Chalice on 1 turn 2, and with any ramp hit Chalice on 2 turn 3. The symmetry on 1 kinda hurts, although we'd like to curve Birds / Hierarch / Oath on T1 before Chalice if possible. Turning our Paths off against Shadow could be OK if they don't have any Shadows down yet.

    The symmetry on 2 doesn't hurt so much as this is a weaker point in our curve. Both 1 & 2 don't disrupt the combo core of Saheeli / Felidar / Evo aside from making it harder to play 2-drops to Evolve into Felidar. Conversely, Chalice on 1 generally turns off the most common cheap interaction that opponents use to disrupt the combo such as Thoughtseize, Path, Push, Bolt.

    Do you see merit in this approach, or is it too slow without Spirit Guide / too painful in its symmetry?
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    Thanks for the report, Emzed.

    I agree on adding a second Canopy (maybe over your 3rd Forest) before cutting to 21 lands. I just picked up two Canopies now that the price is coming down off of IMA. Alternatively you could try a manland like Ravaging Ravine?

    How have you liked Nissa, Vital Force in the side?

    Which matchups do you bring Worship in and how has it done?

    I’m waffling a bit on Spell Pierce vs Dispel in my own board. Dispel is better at forcing the combo through and remains active even in the late game — in this respect it’s a rather proactive counterspell. Conversely Spell Pierce can sometimes hit those early haymakers like Anger of the Gods and Karn which give us a bad time, and can even stuff T1 Thoughtseize if we’re on the play.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    Regarding Auriok Champion against Burn and Shadow:

    Champion’s reward ceiling in both matchups can be quite high, gaining 5+ life and blocking Burn’s guide or keeping a Shadow at bay while being tricky to remove. However, it’s floor can also be low in each matchup.

    Against Burn we usually want to lead with green mana — ideally a basic forest — so landing WW on T2 often means shocking yourself and a net loss of life until three more creatures have entered the battlefield. Essentially you have to hit T1 Forest, Dork -> T2 Plains and then have a full grip of low costed, ideally token-producing creatures to follow.

    Additionally, Temur Battle Rage is making a resurgence in Shadow decks, so depending upon a pro-black creature to block and keep yourself alive can lead to blowouts if you’re not careful.

    Champion also doesn’t do much against a lot of other T1 decks and is a bad topdeck. Maybe the next best thing Champion could do would be buying a turn against Empty the Warrens. And then even if you do get the infinite life combo off decks like Affinity, Ad Nauseam, Tron (others?) have ways around it.

    The last thing I don’t like about Champion is that she has to already be on the field before you play your second Felidar, rather than Evo-ing for Champion when you happen to have two Felidars (which is the more probable scenario).

    With all of that said I’m still open to the possibility of her being good and look forward to more results.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    Next question: how has Glorybringer performed vs Affinity?

    In theory we’re usually winning with the combo here rather than racing beats unless we line up a really good sweeper, snipe plating, or stick Stony/Kataki. Conversely, Glorybringer is aimed at tapping out to race beats or act as sorcery-speed point removal rather than blocking. To be fair, Exerting away a Vault Skirge or Steel Overseer can sometimes be enough to make racing viable (and yes copying/flickering GB makes it much better but I’d prefer to focus on average value of GB alone), but a Ravager on the field makes sorcery-speed point removal kinda bad, too. I could see Glorybringer being “OK” to decent game 1 before being boarded out for Gearhulk, Angel of Sanctions, or some other cheaper sweeper / interaction.

    Is this similar at all to your experience or am I offbase here?

    My Blood Baron replacement options right now look like:
    Rec sage to main
    Restoration Angel
    Baneslayer Angel
    Angel of Sanctions

    Again, targeting Affinity, Jeskai, and Burn. P&K sounds best atm but I’m still figuring out if there’s a comfortable manabase that’s up to the task of RR with Rhino.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    @maniospas how did Acidic Slime perform in your testing a while back? Is it maindeckable? The reward ceiling seems good -- it could potentially help with Affinity G1, catch random hate pieces, and also fill in for Blood Moon a bit, which is attractive to me right now -- but the reward floor of a 2/2 deathtouch is not very exciting. My gut feeling is that it's probably not worth running but I thought I'd check with you just in case.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    Kambal’s a great suggestion, but I think Kambal shares the same issues of mixed matchup performance and mediocre core synergy that Baron has, so I would probably prefer to run it in the side, possibly over Thalia (exchanging asymmetry for a loss of Rallier synergy is tough).
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    ~20 person FNM report:

    I was first playing around with 1x Rhino and 1x Kiki (with a more red manabase) and eventually decided to ease off of red in order to commit to black more. With that in mind I added Overgrown Tomb on top of Bosk (over Gavony), added a second Rhino. Going 5 color pushed me to remove Blood Moon and try Unified Will again to tackle Big Mana per Lejoon's suggestion.

    For the top end I decided to try out Blood Baron, which in theory should provide a very difficult to remove stabilizing top-end against Shadow, Jeskai, Burn, Humans, and possibly Taxes.

    Lastly, in keeping with the very aggressive direction afforded by the Rhinos I wanted to try 2x Strangleroot Geists over my previous lists's Qasali Pridemage and Selfless Spirit. The thought here was that Evolving Geist into Rhino provides another very aggressive line in addition to Voice into Rhino. I was hoping Geist would chip in for early damage and harass the opponent into Pathing him. Alternatively, when he's outclassed by large midrange threats he could simply protect Saheeli by blocking twice compared to Wall only blocking once.
    Match 1: Affinity (1-2)
    -G1 I keep a reasonable but not accelerated hand and die to his T1-vomited robot army
    -G2 I play Explosives for X=2 to take out both Vault Skirge and Plating. It also conveniently takes out my Voice so I can get a 5/5 Elemental. This buys me time to play Rhino into blink Rhino with Felidar, and win on beats.
    -G3 I mull down to an unaccelerated 5 card hand, can't remember the details. Scry into Explosives. T1 Explosives for 0, T2 detonate to wipe out most of his attackers. He rebuilds faster than I can get anything going, though, and takes G3.
    SB: -3 Voice, -1 Courser, -1 Finks, -1 Rhino, -1 Blood Baron || +1 Gearhulk, +2 Fiery Justice, +1 Explosives, +1 Reclamation Sage, +2 Stony Silence

    Match 2: Skred Red (2-0)
    -G1 I cautiously fetch up 2x Forest and Plains, and have 2x Birds and Cobra out while he plays Koth and Eternal Scourge. I chip away at Koth.. he grinds by blocking with Scourge, exiling it with Progenitus, and re-casting it. He topdecks a Blood Moon which does nothing to either of us. At some point I assemble the combo and he scoops.
    -G2 I keep a hand with Murmuring Bosk and Sacred Foundry as lands, but it also had something like Lightning Helix, Thalia, Felidar, Saheeli, and Evolution. I gamble that maybe he took out some or all Moons out after it was such a bad topdecks last game. In retrospect this was probably too risky but it turned out to be right. I lead tapped Bosk into Thalia, he plays Scourge. Thalia taxes him once or twice but eventually I run her into Scourge so that I can play Saheeli while stuck on 3 lands. He sets up with both Koth and Chandra, shielded by Scourge. Fortunately I land Rhino, then Saheeli and -2 to copy Rhino, pointing one Rhino at each Planeswalker. He burns out Saheeli and next turn I evolve a Cobra into a second Rhino, and follow it with Thrun. He scoops.
    SB: -1 Blood Baron, -3 Path || +1 Gaddock, +1 Thalia, +1 Thrun, +1 Helix

    Match 3: Affinity (1-2)
    -G1 was a rare grindy game against Affinity due to a bit of flooding on his part. I Path his counter-loaded Vault-Skirge and then next turn play Strangleroot evolved into Rhino, flickering Rhino next turn. Good beats.
    -G2 I kept an enticing but ultimately poor hand of Stony Silence, Hallowed Fountain, Plains, Birds, Oath, Fiery Justice, and Evo. I thought "I'll stick a T2 Silence and I've got 3 chances to draw into one of my 18 green lands... then I might catch up with Birds and Fiery Justice. Nope. T2 Silence works but I draw only green spells and no lands off the top for the next ~6 turns (lol). A Battlecry-buffed Inkmoth infects me for the win.
    -G3 I mull away several hands with no action until T3-T4.. finally getting down to a 4 card hand with 2 lands, Bird, and Path. I Path his Plated Skirge, draw into Fiery Justice. Meanwhile he's played Overseer and is tapping a couple other robots out of Justice's reach, animating Inkmoth. On my turn I take out Overseer with Justice I can't hit Inkmoth with sorcery speed and Master of Etherium is too large. I die a few turns later.
    SB: -3 Voice, -1 Courser, -1 Finks, -1 Rhino, -1 Blood Baron || +1 Gearhulk, +2 Fiery Justice, +1 Explosives, +1 Reclamation Sage, +2 Stony Silence

    Match 4: Storm (0-2)
    -G1 on the play I had the combo in hand, T1 Bird into T2 Saheeli, T3 I copy Voice and cast Felidar, which he remands. The free Elemental Tokens sit there sadly as he Storms off on his own T3. So close.
    -G2 on the play I also have the combo. T1 pass, T2 Cobra, T3 I helix his Baral, T4 Felidar is remanded and stick a Bird, T5 Saheeli. He Bolts my Bird EoT, lands a second Baral at the start of his turn, and Storms off into Grapeshot.
    SB: roughly -1 Blood Baron, -2 Rhino, -1 Courser, -1 Finks, -1 Voice || +1 Eidolon, +1 Thalia, +1 Helix, +1 Unified Will, +1 Explosives, +1 Gearhulk

    Overall takeaways:

    Strangleroot Geist -- I really liked Strangleroot and I think I'll keep him in for now. I was never playing against Path decks so I didn't get to see his bait potential but he did more or less what I wanted in terms of early pressure and Evo value. I was slightly worried about the GG casting cost but I didn't run into any issues tonight, at least.

    Siege Rhino -- This guy won me most of my games in conjunction with Felidar blinks and Saheeli copies. I was very happy with two copies.

    Blood Baron -- Never came up and got boarded out. Still theoretically sweet but he didn't line up with my matches today. I'll try to test further but with the speed of my meta I think an argument could also be made for capping the curve at 4 drops.

    Sweepers -- a couple weeks ago Fiery Justice got me a game-winning 3-for-1 against Merfolk. This week its sorcery speed stumbled against manlands and the robots grew out of its damage range. I'm thinking of replacing one Justice with Staticaster (which hits manlands but is even worse against growth effects), Pontiff, Sweltering Sun, Wrath of God, or something else entirely. Open to suggestions here.

    Unified Will -- this time there was a moment where I had a Cobra out and my opponent had Baral and I had to wait a turn and play Bird to have more creatures and reactivate Will. Never got a chance to play it after that. Still not in love with this card, but I haven't had a chance to play it against Tron or Titanshift yet.

    Thalia -- Just OK vs Skred. Got into a small situation where her symmetry hurt us but it worked out. Still potentially sweet in a wide range of matchups so I will probably keep for now and assess further. Other hatebear options include Kitesail Freebooter and Meddling Mage.

    Murmuring Bosk -- I'm leaning towards Godless Shrine + Overgrown Tomb over Bosk since tapping Bosk for black still pings you and you often need to mull an opening hand with Bosk.

    Cobra vs Hierarch: Cobra allows me to threaten the T3 combo without leaving Saheeli open on the Board T2 and provides a critical number of 2-drops for evolving into both Felidar and Rhino. It's also nice to have another 5 color dork for casting black cards. It is a little less smooth / consistent than all 1-drop dorks, and makes T1 Dork > T2 Evo into Eidolon less common, though. Always been a tough choice.

    Moving forwards:

    Our shop now has 3+ regular players on Affinity, Storm is on the rise, and Shadow has become less common, mimicking some of the global meta trends. I'm thinking about ways to further tune the deck to target Jeskai & Affinity, with a better plan for Storm as well (thoughts?). Meanwhile Big Mana strategies seem to be very low here relative to global meta, perhaps kept in check by all of the fast decks running around... guess that's good for me and helps validate my current choice of Rhino over Blood Moon.

    Sin Collector seems potentially sweet for Jeskai, maybe too slow for Storm? Not sure.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    Interesting, no more Kiki but keeping Chord + Resto?

    And no other 5+ CMC Evo targets in the main?
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord

    What is your plan (and Win Rate % if you have the data available) against Jeskai for your recent decklist? In my experience so far they disrupt the combo long enough to turn the corner with Cryptic Command + Geist + Burn + Colonnade pretty much every time, forcing us to fall back on an aggressive Rallier/hatebear-centric tempo plan to get under them if possible. Meanwhile your recent list goes further in on the combo and away from aggro-tempo with Resto / Kikki and Walls / Coursers. Do the extra combo pieces translate to useful improvement in successful combo rates (and thus Win %) or do you just side out Kiki and Walls / Courser games 2/3?

    Also, how has Unified Will performed for you in this matchup? I can see the value in pushing your own combo pieces through interaction but I've also had games where they've kept the spell turned off by having more creatures on the board.

    And my last question got missed before we shifted to the Blood Moon conversation -- is your plan against Aggro just to combo faster than they can kill you? I've found having some sort of sweeper beyond Gearhulk (such as Fiery Justice) one of the most important parts of my SB, but perhaps that is meta specific.

    I could potentially test a list very similar to yours this Friday. My most common matchups are Burn, Jeskai, Grixis Shadow, and Affinity. I imagine that this is close enough to the global meta right now that I don't need to tweak the list much but if you think it could be further tuned I'm open to suggestions.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    @Lejoon: I like the Chord in the side with the E-Wit > Resto > Kiki chain as plan B when Evo is bad.

    Having access to both Kiki for combo and Rhino for beats is reaally tempting, but the manabase still has me a little uneasy. I like having access to a lot of basics to keep the Blood Moon plan reliable against Tron / Titanshift and my matchup vs Burn less painful. Having lots of fetches to feed Rallier / Cobra is also good. I’ll think about this trade-off more.

    The only sweeper you’re running is Gearhulk — have you been faster than Aggro decks?


    In the mean time, one card I wanted to bring up for discussion is Wilt-Leaf Liege.

    Liege doesn’t have an ETB ability, but in theory Evolving into Liege could immediately add a lot of power to a board with some combination of Voices/Elementals, Pridemage, Gaddock, Rallier, Finks, KotR, Rhino, and so forth. If that sounds too “win-more” you could also imagine Evolving Voice into Liege on an otherwise empty board to get two 4/4s capable of surviving Anger, where the usual plan of Voice into Rallier/P&K/Huntmaster would be vulnerable.

    Furthermore, copying Liege lets you stack the anthem effects for a pretty nasty alpha strike. But even if you just have Saheeli and Liege that’s still swinging with two 6/6s.

    The discard protection is a nice plus. Thoughts?
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    Thanks for the write up!

    How did you like 8x 1-CMC dorks?

    Could you give any more detail on KotR and Baneslayer’s performance? Roughly what kind of board or game state did they do well in for what matchup, if you can remember?

    Are you still 100% solid on Angel of Sanctions?
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    With less than a day to go I would just fill the flex slots with whatever you’re most comfortable and familiar with for the RPTQ. I have a fear that one of these days I will sac a creature to Evo, search through my deck a couple times, and then realize the creature I want isn’t in my most current version. XD
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    I agree with your point on Titan’s awkwardly niche compatibility with Evo. I’m not sure how much I agree that you need to be winning in card advantage for it to be good.

    I do think it’s worth noting that even if Sun Titan 100% whiffs on his ETB a 6/6 Vigilance body is very well positioned in the format of 5/5s. Have you played with Baneslayer Angel yet? It’s more compatible with Evo and doesn’t rely on the GY while still trading well with 5/5s. The flip side is that it’s another 5 CMC card that can die to removal without generating any value.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    I adore Spell Queller but I don't think it's right for this deck. Since you can only Evolve and Blink at Sorcery speed you won't be able to counter anything unless you're hardcasting Queller from your hand, and we usually don't want to hold up 3 mana. Queller is also only good when the opponent has no removal, and in this scenario we would typically be clear to combo out anyways.

    For the moment I've cut all blue from my list aside from Saheeli to make casting cards like Glorybringer, Blood Moon, and Fiery Justice more consistent and the manabase overall less painful. If you really want to take advantage of blue the best cards are Reflector Mage, Glen Elendra Archmage, Izzet Staticaster, and Unified Will/Negate. If you want to go really blue (likely at the expense of any RR cards) I've wanted to try Vendilion Clique for a while, which presents flying pressure like Spell Queller but its ETB is more compatible with Evo / Blinking, and its disruption doesn't come undone in the face of a removal spell.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
  • posted a message on Saheeli Evolution/Chord
    I haven’t seen any Dredge at my shop in the last couple months (thus the lack of hard GY in my board). Against Burn I would consider mulling a hand that has 2+ shocks, nothing to answer a Guide before turn 3, or a curve that is dependent on a dork sticking to function. My previous list with Walls and Huntmaster was essentially pre-boarded against Burn and performed very well outside of some Burn nut-draws... not sure how much game we lost here, I need to play against it again. Being able to blow up Eidolon with Pridemage is a a nice little consolation, at least.

    If I’m playing with Helix I generally try to fetch Stomping Ground followed by Plains unless I have a dork that I believe will stick. I hold the Helix back and develop my board first unless there’s a high priority combo piece or Lord that really needs to be picked off.
    Posted in: Deck Creation (Modern)
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