Hello and welcome to Svogthir’s Study: a place to appreciate Golgari in Commander.
When I saw which Commander was up next in my own arbitrary order I felt a pit of dread rise in my gut. It wasn’t that I was worried about writing about this card. Rather I was concerned with confronting my own failure before my queen.
Savra, Queen of the Golgari is one of my all-time favorite Commanders. She enables so many things I love about Magic. She plays well with token strategies while also leaning into a stax game. She helps to keep you alive while also converting your life total into a weapon. While not cheap, Savra is far from an expensive Commander and she can be used as soon as she enters the battlefield. Heck, she doesn’t even enable her ability which means you have to build around her – something I love about Commander. Savra is a perfect example of an open ended legend that provides a myriad of possibilities.
And that is where I failed. Savra is my Commander White Whale. I love the card but every time I try to build around her I get pulled in a million different directions. Compare that to some of the more recently released options. So many Commanders from the past three years shout from the rooftops of Markov Manor what you should be doing. Savra, by contrast, is a utility player. You can play up the sacrifice theme with cards like Smothering Abomination or Priest of Forgotten Gods or go huge with Living Death or Krav, the Unredeemed. While she isn’t Meren (thank Pharika), she helm a Birthing Pod deck and heck, she plays great with Fiend Artisan. Or maybe you want to focus on that life payment and you run Font of Agonies and Vilis, Broker of Blood. Perhaps you want to play with the fact she looks for black and green creatures and load up on Creakwood Liege, Izoni, Thousand-Eyed and Pharika, God of Affliction. I’ve tried all of these and none of them seemed to work. I wanted to do everything and as a result I did nothing. And so I took apart my Savra deck, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do in service of the Undercity crown.
I am not sure why but as of late, I have looked more and more at stax style decks. I think this blossoms from a desire to force interaction while also seeking to take full advantage of said interaction. Before we went on lockdown, I would frequent a Commander game where folks had relatively high powered casual decks. These decks were often optimized to some degree but aside from countermagic and board wipes, there was not a ton of interaction (in my view). In order to keep up I started bringing decks that had universal interaction – cards like Grave Pact. I would seek to break the symmetry of universally painful effects in an attempt to come out ahead. Now that I am playing with a different group of folks via webcam, I have toned down the stax in some decks. I think Savra was a victim of this shift in that I didn’t want to have so many decks focused on locking my opponents out of playing the game. That being said I believe Savra makes an excellent stax Commander. You have a pseudo-Grave Pact in the Command Zone and there are plenty of ways to sacrifice creatures for minimal cost. Throw in an Ogre Slumlord and now you are coming out ahead in the exchange. You could go even harder and add Darkest Hour to turn cards like Awakening Zone into the best Innocent Blood of all time.
Savra Stax suffers from many of the problems inherent in making yourself the archenemy, namely that everyone is going to be coming for you. While it is possible to effectively protect your life total you’re lacking the power of a card like Meren of Clan Nel-Toth to make up for the resources you are investing to keep the table clear. Meren, for example, will keep your board populated while Savra requires some more work to really break that parity.
So where am I going with Savra next? Well, I used to have a Seton, Krosan Protector deck that was both Elf and Druid tribal. And considering that I have tried to make Nath of the Gilt-Leaf (and yes, Sadistic Hypnotist) work for years and have a newfound crush on Miara, Thorn of the Glade, I’m going to build Savra Elves. This is forcing me to look at my old flame in an entirely new light. Now I’ll have the opportunity to bolster my life total sky high thanks to a bevy of Elf tokens flying around. I can lean harder on some other ways to sacrifice creatures including an old favorite in Death Pit Offering. Abomination of Llanowar seems like a stellar fit in this deck since yes, creatures are going to be dying left and right. I also get to play a small Aristocrats theme with Poison-Tip Archer and Nadier’s Nightblade. I also get to try out using Skyshroud Poacher to fetch out Izoni. Finally if I am being realistic this finally provides me a chance to pair Cryptolith Rite with Death Cloud.
Long live the Queen!
Treasured Find: Deathless Knight