Convertible Commander: Sakiko, Mother of Summer

I went down a bit of an internet rabbit hole this last week – always dangerous. I’m in the process of building a few new Commander decks IRL, so I looked up which commanders were most popular. That led me to what the most popular commanders to play against were, which became a much more interesting question. Like many Commander writers out there, I’m interested in the social contract and what makes Commander a different format from the more competitive ones, and one aspect is that we generally are searching for a fun experience, rather than necessarily just winning. So what commanders make for fun games for the whole group?

The interesting result was, unlike the best commanders (Zur the Enchanter, Rafiq of the Many, Sharuum the Hegemon, Meren of Clan Nel Toth, and Kaalia of the Vast all made appearances), there is little consensus about the most fun to play against. A few folks suggest classic group hug-style commanders like Braids, Conjurer Adept or Phelddagrif, while others hated those commanders. But most people agree with two ideas: 1) any well-piloted, very strong deck makes a fun challenge, but 2) an unusual commander where you have to ask what it does because you’ve never seen it before means the game will likely be surprising and enjoyable, because no one but the creator knows the angle the deck will take. So let’s look at a truly rare commander today.

Sakiko, Mother of Summer

Yeah, I had to read it again too.

Anyone who’s done snake tribal has possibly come across her before, but otherwise, not too likely. Let’s leverage this weird ability to do some really fun stuff. So we’ll call her Sakiko, Mother of Summer Hydras.

Gaea's Revenge
Let’s start with a line of play. On turn two, we drop a Sword of the Animist. Turn three, we play Kodama’s Reach, putting a land in hand and an extra on the ‘field. Turn four, we play Awakening Zone. Turn five we have 7 mana if we sacrifice our Eldrazi Spawn, but we use only 6 and cast our commander. Turn six we have access to 9 mana. We use 7 of it to play Gaea’s Revenge, The rest to equip our Sword, and hit someone for 9. We now again have access to 9 mana, so what the heck. We play Primordial Hydra set on 7.

We want to ramp, because getting our lands out and having lots of mana anyway will help Sakiko cast bigger hydras. So in addition to 40 lands, we’re running some of the favorites — Cultivate, Wood Elves, and Peregrination to name a few. Boundless Realms is here, mostly because it’s so much fun if it resolves and we get to untap. Caged Sun is wonderful in mono-colored decks.

We do need cards in our hand. If we have nothing, we can keep adding to the board state. So we’ve got some big and some little ways to keep the cards flowing. Soul of the Harvest is close to a staple in Green decks now; adding a cantrip to every creature we play is real. Elemental Bond and Garruk’s Packleader are similar. Shamanic Revelation and Regal Force, on the other hand, draw a massive grip when we’ve got some dudes out. Even if they just draw us two or three, that should be enough to keep gas flowing to the hand.

We’re going to make some really big dudes and attack with them to win. But it’s tricky, because if opponents let small creatures through to save mana or preserve a blocker for something worse, they learn they’ve given us mana to make something much bigger. The X spells can snowball out of control pretty quickly.

Polukranos, World Eater
We’ve got a few creatures which can take care of pesky artifacts or enchantments. Polukranos, World Eater kills a few creatures when it Monstrifies, which could be for a whole lot. Silklash Spider will shoot down armies of angels, or, something I feel like we’ve been seeing more often recently, flocks of birds trying to pretend they are extras in a Hitchcock revival. Mostly, though, we just want to be on the offensive — make them answer us, not the other way around. We can’t outrace something like Krenko, Mob Boss, but we’re often going to be deploying absurd threats way ahead of time, so they’ll have to spend their time dealing with our threats. It’s just nice to be able to destroy an annoying Eldrazi Monument or something.

The trick here is to ramp into the commander, then play a creature or two with haste (how often do we get to play Strangleroot Geist in Commander and not think it’s completely goofy?) to hit early, then windmill slam our first Hydra. With luck, that will last a turn so we can start getting more absurd each turn. Ultimately, something like Decimator of the Provinces can come down and finish everyone off for us, if they haven’t just died from hydras smacking them upside the head every turn. The deck is fun and smashy, and should be fairly unexpected from a commander most people haven’t heard of.

But what to do to make for a different experience without changing too much? We’ve got a Mono-Green shell which makes a bunch of mana, something we know Green does well. But rather than going massive, let’s go wide with it, shall we? We can take out most of the hydras and add in these 11 cards, turning us into a token smash deck.

Wolfbriar Elemental
Mana becomes a little less important here, since we’ll get rid of many of our X spells, but we’ll still need a good chunk to cast some of our bigger stuff. An ideal line of play would be to stick a Hornet Queen, then get some damage in to make some more mana, then play a Wolfbriar Elemental. Next turn, we follow up with Craterhoof Behemoth or Overwhelming Stampede or something and just smash. We could also do a Pathbreaker Ibex into Hooded Hydra for as many as we can get, then play Beastmaster Ascension the following turn. We can leverage our Eldrazi token-making enchantments to help us along. If we get really lucky, we might be able to kick Verdeloth the Ancient for a bunch and have a bunch of Saprolings. Parallel Lives gives us a bump.

Some of the Eldrazi Titans would be reasonable choices for this deck with or without the optionboard — even things like Pathrazer of Ulamog or Artisan of Kozilek. Doubling Season would be reasonable for the optionboard; I won’t put Doubling Season in decks on principle because I hate that card. Something like Sword of Feast and Famine would give us even more mana in that second main phase when we really need it, and Primal Rage or other cards which grant trample to the entire team might be worth an inclusion. I liked where this landed, but there also is an argument for Sol Ring, just because it could make the first few turns way more explosive — Sol Ring into Explosive Vegetation means 7 mana on turn three. The lack of evasion may be a problem in some metas, so things like Bellowing Tanglewurm and Thunderfoot Baloth joining with Nylea wouldn’t be bad. Some haste-granters, too, like the classic Lightning Greaves or the budget Chariot of Victory, would make it less painful to cast some of the hydras without having the benefit of the extra mana yet.

This deck won’t be the most competitive thing around, but it is a blast to play and can be really explosive. It also really will surprise your opponents — they’ll have no idea what you’re going to do, and when a 16/16 hydra is suddenly bearing down on them, it’ll be a thing to behold.

What would you do with this commander? And what commanders do you like to see your opponents flip when you’re sitting down to a game? Let us know in the comments!

Until then, make them Green with envy at the size of your hydras.

Commander 2017 is now available for Preorder!