Challenge the Stats – Saheeli, the Gifted

(Saheeli, the Gifted | Art by Ryan Pancoast)

The Saheeli School of Servo Engineering

Hello, and welcome to the EDHREC series Challenge the Stats, based off of the wonderful segment on the EDHRECast. In this series, we’ll challenge the inclusion rates of 10 cards in a deck on EDHREC. Our goal is to highlight cards that we think are seeing too much play or too little play and classify them as overplayed, underplayed, or sleeper picks (not showing up at all on the commander’s page, but really should).

Keep in mind that these suggestions are meant as considerations to accompany EDHREC’s data. However, inclusions made on account of flavor, budget, art, or anything important to you, as the deckbrewer, are always valid and are what keep our format unique.

(Icy Manipulator | Art by Titus Lunter | Animation by Geoffrey Palmer)

I was drawn to Saheeli, the Gifted as the underdog of the Commander 2018 precon face commanders. Like UrzaTron in Modern, Saheeli is an engine for casting enormous spells. She discounts the colorless mana in a spell by how many artifacts you control, so she’s often used to power out big artifacts, Eldrazi, or, my personal favorite, X spells, but we’ll get to them later. She does my favorite thing in Commander, which is to go really, really big without quite going infinite. I’ll be challenging cards that support Saheeli, so they can apply no matter which haymaker spells we choose.

When we Challenge the Stats on a preconstructed deck, we have to do things a bit differently to account for the “Precon Effect”. This is an EDHREC phenomenon where the cards included in a given preconstructed deck are over-represented on the pages of the commanders included in that deck, and cards that might be great inclusions for players to consider get washed out. As we did last time, this article will only challenge sleepers, as anything on the Cards to Cut section of EDHREC’s handy Exquisite Invention Upgrade Guide should be considered overplayed on Saheeli’s main page, and underplayed cards are anything on Saheeli’s main page that isn’t included in the precon (any cards without the C18 set symbol, as seen on our commander).

(Hangarback Walker | Art by Daarken | Animation by Geoffrey Palmer)

Sleepers

1. Indomitable Creativity (4%)

This is the only X spell I’m going to talk about, and that’s because it’s amazing no matter what style of Saheeli deck we’re playing. Saheeli ends up with a lot of little Servos, Thopters, Treasures, and other little tokens laying around. Imagine using all of those to power up Saheeli to cast Indomitable Creativity, which then turns every one of those tiny little tokens into potent artifacts and creatures from our deck. We will likely cast this for X = 10+ and immediately become the biggest threat at the table. Even hard-casting this for X = 3 to Polymorph three things is a decent rate and can get you ahead. With a Counterspell in hand, we’ll feel unstoppable! This is also flexible, since we can target an opponent to try to turn their biggest threat into a mana rock, or use it politically to try to convince an opponent to team up with us! Any deck that finds itself with extra tokens on the board and more potent creatures or artifacts in the library may want to consider Indomitable Creativity. Don’t be sad, little butter Servo, you will soon become a Steel Hellkite.

2. Treasure Map (4%)

Two things we want more of in this deck: one, little artifacts, and two, card draw to look for big spells for Saheeli discount with said little artifacts. Treasure Map does both of these things! Treasure Map is colorless card selection, ramp, and draw, so it’s worth consideration in decks that are looking for those things (cough cough mono-white).

3. Ghirapur Aether Grid (2%)

When we play Ghirapur Aether Grid, our opponents will go through the slow mental exercise of looking at how many artifacts we have and counting how much damage we can do to their face every turn, and then we can watch them start to sweat. Ghirapur Aether Grid is a sneaky card that scales well to Commander. There are times that this won’t do too much, but when our deck’s entire purpose is to keep track of our artifact count (and often a d20 won’t cut it), those times will be few and far between. We will consistently have a pile of Treasures, Thopters, Servos, Myr, Clues, etc. sitting on the battlefield, so the ability to weaponize those for three mana is amazing. Can someone please pair this with Smothering Tithe in a Boros deck? Maybe the Aether Grid could find a home in other artifact decks, like Breya, Etherium Shaper or Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain.

4. Curse of Opulence (2%)

I gush over this card all the time. It’s currently in 6,300 decks on EDHREC, but in Saheeli, it really shines. First of all, racking up Treasures with this Curse accelerates our artifact count to power up Saheeli. Secondly, taking the heat off of our Saheeli in the early turns can help a lot. Our Treasures can even count for two mana the turn we use them, as Saheeli counts the Treasures to discount a spell and then we can sac them for mana on top of that! All of these things combined can get us something big like a Myr Battlesphere very early in the game! Curse of Opulence just got a reprinting in Mystery Boosters, so it’s a great time to pick it up.

5. Sandstone Oracle (1%)

This deck is hungry for card draw because of its ability to ramp so well. Sandstone Oracle is a wholly underrated card that often refills our hand and then some. It does have variability, but think of how often a player has a Reliquary Tower and a hand of 10+ cards, or how often we’ve dumped our hand and an opponent has a full seven. A reasonable floor on the Oracle might be drawing two cards, but coming with a 4/4 flying body and adding to our artifact count is great for Saheeli. With a few artifacts on the board we’ll be discounting this to feel like the best Mulldrifter we’ve ever cast.

6. Mana Geyser (1%)

The price of Mana Geyser has been steadily rising as Commander players have been realizing its value, and it’s currently in 9,200 decks on EDHREC. Ritual spells like Dark Ritual that produce a one-time burst of mana are often overlooked in Commander for more repeatable effects over a long game, like mana rocks, but Mana Geyser is so explosive that it deserves consideration. It has the potential to easily create oodles of mana, and for that reason is a phenomenal redundant effect for Saheeli. Imagine how often our opponents have most of their lands tapped on our turn!

7. Azor’s Gateway (1%)

Speaking of redundant effects for Saheeli, Azor’s Gateway is another excellent choice. I’m surprised this card is only in 2,000 total decks on EDHREC. Sure, it’s slow to flip, but the payoff is huge, and in the meantime, I’m never too upset about getting card selection, and for Saheeli, it helps our artifact count along the way. If we have some untapping shenanigans like Manifold Key and Unwinding Clock, it can flip in just a few turns and becomes even more potent.

8. Idol of Oblivion (1%)

Since we’re making lots of tokens, we’ll often be able to tap this little artifact to draw a card. For two mana, Idol of Oblivion adds to our artifact count and often draws a card a turn? Sign me up! We also have the flexibility of creating a 10/10 Eldrazi, and if we’re playing any copy spells like Rite of Replication or Saheeli’s Artistry to replicate giant creatures, cracking the Idol might be just the thing we need to recover after a board wipe. In other token decks the Idol is very relevant, and is almost a colorless two-mana Phyrexian Arena with late-game relevance, so consider it with generals like God-Eternal Oketra, Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, and Alela, Artful Provocateur.

9. Glaring Spotlight (0%)

This is a new pet card of mine. I love the flexibility of being able to both protect our creatures, make our opponents’ creatures more vulnerable, and potentially make our whole team unblockable to swing in for the Win. Similar de-hexproofing cards are played often in decks on EDHREC, such as Arcane Lighthouse (in 12,200 total decks), and Shadowspear (in 4,500 decks). Additionally, we’re likely to end up with a swarm of Servos and Thopters, and making them unblockable for a turn could prove deadly to our opponents. Another powerful colorless unblockable effect is Rogue’s Passage, which is in a whopping 57,000 decks on EDHREC, so Glaring Spotlight might warrant consideration in more decks, especially those that want to make lots of creatures unblockable at once instead of just one at a time like Rogue’s Passage.

10. Neurok Stealthsuit (0%)

If we’re running big creatures in our deck that want to attack, we might not want to replace the classics of Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots for this, but we probably want to consider running this alongside them. It doesn’t give us haste, but there’s a Counterspell for single-target removal stapled onto this Equipment. That activated Equip ability is one of the few that can happen at instant-speed, so this can effectively save any creature on our board from targeted removal, no matter who’s wearing the suit. It’s also quite a bit easier on the wallet than the Boots and the Greaves, making it a budget option. It’s only in 2,200 total decks on EDHREC, and I think that other blue decks might want to consider this, considering Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots are in nearly 100,000 decks each.

Let’s go to a list!

(Saheeli’s Artistry | Art by Wesley Burt)

Saheeli, the X-treme Couponer

Commander (1)
Creatures (17)
Sorceries (11)
Instants (5)
Enchantments (3)
Planeswalkers (3)
Artifacts (19)
Lands (41)

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The goal of this deck is to build up as many artifacts and artifact tokens as we can to power up a giant Fireball and burn the whole table for oodles of damage at once. One downside of not using big creatures as our haymakers is that we don’t build our board presence. We will have a swarm of tiny Thopters and Servos, but we may have to be a bit controlling until we’re ready for our big move. With that in mind, my favorite Fireball finishers are ones that are multipurpose; that is, we can use them early to midgame before we’re ready to burn the table to a crisp: Expansion/Explosion and Invoke the Firemind are great flexible spells. Our finishers like Comet Storm or Earthquake can double as board wipes earlier in the game as well.

One thing that has kept my interest with this deck is its flexibility. I am constantly swapping cards in and out to try them, and the deck generally works the same way. A few other cards to try out: Rite of Replication or other copy spells, Broodstar, Spell Swindle, and Brass’s Bounty. Keeping a Helm of Possession around to threaten to sacrifice a Thopter and steal one of our opponents’ creatures can be a great Pillow Fort tool. For alternate win conditions, try out Mechanized Production or Mirrodin Besieged. Also, this deck can absolutely work with a lower budget simply by swapping in cards that have similar functions: trade All Is Dust for a Chain Reaction, Curse of Opulence for an Izzet Locket, Hangarback Walker for a Nuisance Engine, etc.

This deck has made some really splashy plays and has been tons of fun to pilot. With any Commander deck, I think it’s important to set a personal goal for the game. Since we may only win 25% of the time, personal goals help us feel accomplished even when we lose. For this deck, good goals might be pumping X = 20 into a spell or controlling 20 artifact tokens at one time (level up – try adding 10 each time you play!).

What did you think about this Challenge the Stats? Were there any other cards you would have included? Let us know in the comments below!

(Saheeli, Sublime Artificer | Art by Hisashi Momose)

Jevin Lortie has been playing magic on and off since Portal. He was terrible at Magic as a kid because he built singleton kitchen table decks. He is a nutrition science grad student, so he always tells people to get a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables – especially ramples and drawnanas. You can see him ramble about non-magic topics at https://medium.com/@jlortie