Friday, June 15, 2012

All Hail the Queen

A couple weeks ago, I decided to make a Savra, Queen of the Golgari deck. That’s a bit random, for me, but there were a few reasons why I chose to go this route. First off, I just really wanted a deck that could play both Soul of the Harvest and Harvester of Souls. I believe I already demonstrated my odd love of dichotomy with the Vish Kal life/death deck, but the mirror-image pair of these two creatures just really appeals to me – partly because I love the aforementioned dichotomy of being opposite, yet the same. Also, they both draw me cards, which you all know by now I am powerless to resist! Playing creatures and killing creatures and drawing cards for both! What’s not to love.

Another bit of tech I had in mind that also drew me further into the B/G pair was this little trio:

Necrotic Ooze + Griselbrand + Sophic Centaur.

Okay, you probably see the first two and think, “yawn…” but then Sophic Centaur? What the hell even IS a Sophic Centaur? Well, folks, it’s a Spellshaper that gains us two life for each card in our hand… so now you see where I’m going with this, right? Dump both into the graveyard, drop Necrotic Ooze, and proceed to draw a  buttload of cards off the Ooze while then also using the same Ooze to gain twice that in life!

Say we still have 40 life when we pull off this play. We can pay 35 life to draw 35 cards, leaving us at 5 life. Then we pay four, tap the Ooze and gain somewhere in the ballpark of 70 life. At this point we can easily draw the entire rest of our library and still have some life left over. Of course, we’d deck ourselves in the process. I considered going with Damia to include a Laboratory Maniac combo win, but someone in my group already has a Lab Maniac/Damia deck, and it’s pretty cool but I didn’t want to steal his thunder by doing the same thing only way more broken (and probably, to be fair, kinda boring).

Now, we don’t actually need to draw 35 cards most of the time. Usually drawing 7 or 14, then gaining 20 to 30 life, or thereabouts, will be more than enough – but the potential for that kind of absurdity is still pretty compelling, no?

Anyway, I already have a prototype of the deck put together, but it was mostly just strung together from a bunch of different thought-processes, and has some problems with its various themes meshing well together. It does pretty much everything I want it to, just not well enough for my liking and has a bit of difficulty in establishing  a clear game plan early on.

I turned to the interwebs for help, as most of us do when stumped. The EDH forums were my first stop, as usual, but after doing a forum search for Savra decklists, none that I found really inspired me. Most looked solid enough, but didn’t really have room for the themes and tech I had in mind. The, while searching the Dear Azami archives at, I came across this list.

This was a list I could really get behind. I liked that it was designed to be as mean and competitive as possible - that meant I could start with a really strong, powerful list, and just scale back on the “douchebaggery” until I felt it was acceptable for my particular playgroup. I admired what the deck was built to achieve even if some of the specific cards and tactics were a bit too underhanded. Contagion locks? Not cool. I appreciate the effectiveness, but it’s not conducive to a fun time with friends. Still the framework of the deck, overall, looked far more powerful than most lists I’d looked at, and more importantly, seemed much more readily adapatable to what I had in mind. To put it simply, I’d have to change less about this list to get it where I wanted it than other lists I’d seen.

It was a bit outdated, in that it was designed and published well before Griselbrand was a thing, but it had much of the other “tech” I’d envisioned, such as the Bloodghast/Perilous Forays combo and a central Birthing Pod chain substrategy. These were just a couple of things I’d already considered when trying to assemble a list on my own, so to see all this stuff in one list? Perfect!

Except it wasn’t perfect, of course. I definitely had to put my own spin on things. Tune down the more dickish stuff, pump up the card drawing power a bit, and of course squeeze in the stupid Griselbrand stuff. First, let’s trim the deck back a bit, shall we?

From creatures, I made the following cuts:

Reassembling Skeleton: Redundancy with Bloodghast is cool, but since I’m not going for Contamination lock, I feel I only really need ‘ghast.

Withered Wretch: Not so much cut, just swapped out for Scavenging Ooze (I have the $40 card, might as well play it, right?)

Phyrexian Plaguelord: There was a time when cutting this guy from a B/G deck seemed downright heretical. But, I don’t think he’s actually critical here. Still probably good, but not critical. Right now that’s all that matters.

Skeletal Vampire: Fits the theme along both axis –tokens AND sacrificing. Just a bit too expensive to be reliable, in my opinion.

Sheoldred, Whispering One: A great card, and a great fit, but something has to become Griselbrand, and I want to cut from the high-end of the curve for him. Once Griselbrand gets the banhammer (seems likely to me), Sheoldred has a good chance of coming back in.

Hermit Druid: Again, not really cut, but replaced by similarly-functioning Fauna Shaman. Tutoring for creatures seems more important to me, plus Druid is a bit too “easy mode” for my tastes. Starts to feel too much like a dirty combo deck with him in it.

Mitotic Slime: Another fine card, I’d be happy to play this if I had room… but I don’t.

Mycoloth: I dislike putting all my eggs in one basket. This “basket” always ends up getting Path to Exiled or something.

Skullmulcher: Subpar inclusion is subpar. This is a straight swap-out for Soul of the Harvest.

Rampaging Baloths: Another terrific card, but one I can live without.

Kamahl, Fist of Krosa: His main function here is to wipe out opponents’ lands in response to sweepers or Massacre Wurms. Not fun.

Grave-shell Scarab: Always tried to make this guy work, but he usually just underperformed by a significant margin.

From the non-creature sections, I cut the following:

Contamination: Dick move.

Attrition: Good, but probably overkill, plus I see a lot of Black in my metagame.

Phyrexian Arena: A great card, but I wonder why you’d ever include this in a Savra deck over, say, Graveborn Muse or Bloodgift Demon? In my case, though, I’m making this into Harvester of Souls.

Syphon Mind: Card draw is NOT going to be an issue, I think. Plus I don’t want people discarding fatties to this when I have Living Death in the deck…

Diabolic Tutor: Swapped out for Vampiric Tutor – it’s just miles better.

Liliana Vess: Fine choice, but I have other plans for this slot…

Exsanguinate: My group is already just sick of this card, especially in conjunction with Coffers/Urborg.

Death Cloud: I’ve been thinking a long time about trying this card out, but I don’t think this is the deck to do it in.

Explore: becomes Sakura-Tribe Elder. I’m convinced STE is just better anyway, but when our deck has a Sacrifice theme? One of these cards is synergistic with Grave Pact, the other isn’t… you do the math.

Life from the Loam: I think we probably want lands going into the graveyard, not coming out of it.

Natural Affinity: I love the idea of following this spell with Massacre Wurm. My friends might not love it nearly as much….

Explosive Vegetation: Meh, ramp is important, but I’d rather have something else… maybe Realms Uncharted?

Garruk Wildspeaker: I’m going with the G/B Garruk just because this is the only deck I have that can run him at the moment.

Lurking Predators: Great card, but… Spoiler: I’m also cutting Top.

Necrogenesis: Meh. If I think I need more GY hate, I’ll throw Withered Wretch back in. The tokens are nice, but, unimportant.

Grim Feast: Cute card, but not super important. I have better plans in mind for the life gain…

Sensei’s Divining Top: Meh.

Helm of Possesion: Cut only because I don’t have one, plus I needed a slot for Mimic Vat. So this is now Mimic Vat.

So, after cutting all of these cards, then adding in the things I already said were direct swaps, I have 17 slots available. I want to bump the land count up to 37 (36 is cutting it close, even with the ramp). And I want the appropriate Signet. That’s 15 slots to go.

I already know I need to add Sophic Centaur as part of the “combo” with Grizzelbees. The other life-gainer I wanted to add is Sword of War and Peace. Once we have our huge hands, this gains us tons of life too, but it’s a good enough card to stand on its own merits. Since we’re on the theme of equipment, Sword of Feast and Famine is also more than good enough to justify its inclusion as a “good stuff” card.

We’ve already got Fauna Shaman and Birthing Pod, but I’m gonna say f--- it and throw Survival of the Fittest in the mix. Sure, some of you might cry foul that I dissed Hermit Druid for being too combo-y and “easy mode” but, where Hermit Druid it a blunt hammer, Survival is a surgical knife.

Since I mentioned it earlier, I’ll go ahead and try Realms Uncharted, see if it works out okay. Seems good with Worm Harvest.

I also want to err on the side of caution for now, so I’m gonna add a bit more spot removal. Beast Within and Putrefy are great Instant-speed answers that don’t rely on trickery like having Grave Pact in play, etc. Meanwhile Shriekmaw is too good and potentially synergistic to pass up. All three go in.

For some early defense, I find Vampire Nighthawk do be vastly underrated. In.

Another good defensive card is Sudden Spoiling, which is fine on it's own (just because no one ever really sees it coming) but also combos nicely with Massacre Wurm to be a Plague Wind with life loss thrown in for kicks.

I cut some of our “army in a can” token-makers, so I need to restore that segment of the deck with some choice I just happen to prefer over the initial inclusions. Bloodline Keeper is a bit slow, but very powerful once he gets going. Plus he’s just a badass vampire. Also, Nath of the Gilt-leaf can be decent on his own, or combo with Sadistic Hypnotist to nuke all of my opponents’ hands at once.

I simply cannot build an EDH deck without Duplicant, so he’s in.

Finally, we have just 4 slots left. Two of them automatically go to Beacon of Unrest and Profane Command – they’re two of my favorite Black spells and I never leave home without them! Both happen to actually matter in this deck, as Beacon is always good when our Plan A involves killing every single creature that hits the table (except our own, of course). Profane Command is both a generally versatile and powerful spell, but also a key replacement for Exsanguinate as a mana dump.

Just because I want another big, stupid game-ending bomb, I’m going to try out It That Betrays. He just fits too well with the Sacrifcing theme going on in the deck, plus there’s a narrow chance we can reanimate him into play early game.

Finally, to add some more reliability, I’m going to add Dimir House Guard. We already have a number of tutors, but DHG gets a number of very important spells, most notably Grave Pact, Necro Ooze and Creekwood Liege, just for starters. If that isn’t needed, he’s just a good sac outlet. The number of times in my Magic history that I’ve gone: “Play House Guard, sac everything, Living Death” is just absurd, so he’s another card I almost never exclude from any deck that can play him.

That leaves us room for 37 lands. I pretty much ignored the mana base in the list above, and rebuilt it from scratch, though I expect there will be significant overlap between his list and mine.  The tough part, for me, was reigning in my love of non-Basic lands. We need plenty of Basics for the Bloodghast+Perilous Forays engine to be worth running, so I wanted to make sure not to hamstring that key pieces of tech. Here’s what I came up with along with the full decklist:
That’s pretty much the deck. I expect I will need to tweak things here and there. I don’t know if I have too little removal, or too much. The number of tutors might make it “consistent” or they might make it “repetitive”. Consistent is fine, but repetitive is boring and predictable, and become easier to beat the more my group plays against it. It That Betrays might be an awesome game-ender or it might just be overcosted chaff. Sadistic Hypnotist will almost certainly break backs and win games, but might make someone flip the table in rage (it has that effect on me, so...).

Also, I wanted to find room for Blood Artist and Falkenrath Noble to supplement the whole “killing you while I kill your creatures” angle. I will playtest and tweak accordingly, but those a just a few of the things I really want to try and add at some point. It just involves getting some games in to see what works and what doesn’t.



  1. I really like the Necrotic Ooze combo. I'm thinking about building a 60 card deck based around it after reading this.

    Interesting decklist overall, especially your decision to cut the Top. I guess I'm not at the stage yet where I would be ready to cut cards like that from my lists.

    Though it might be like a "must play with Duplicant" kinda thing with me.

    Great deck. I'm still waiting to see your take on Gisela though! =)

  2. Hi, I have a Savra deck too and well, I would like to share my thoughts with you.

    First of all you may swap your general for Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, I know is a Savra deck but they become usually consistents and Nath gives you token for sac and if you tutor for sadistic you're gonna win, probably. I also like to run 1 cmc sac engines like carrion feeder or viscera seer, if you get carrion feeder + gravecrawler you get a nice combo with sac effects, also if you add phyrexian altar you just go infinite ETB or dies.

    Well, i like a few cards in your deck, maybe I'll try them, thanks for sharing.