For a magic player, the beginning of a new format is filled with uncertainty. This choice is made exponentially difficult when the formats gets completely overhauled by banning numerous pillars of the format.
RIP UW Flash.
Week 1 I decided to play it safe and play the Jeskai Saheeli deck. It was powerful and did not care too much about the text on other people’s cards. My testing on MTGO went relatively well and I sleeved up a boring stock version for my week 1 PPTQ.
I ended up losing in the finals in the mirror. Something felt slightly off about the deck though. You were playing 8 cards in your deck that were bad in your strategy overall. Sometimes you would draw multiple of these pieces and be unable to control the game. I decided to scout the SCG results to see what some of their better players were playing. I noticed many players opting for the 4 colour Saheeli deck over the Jeskai version. I appreciated that it made better use of the combo pieces and they were real cards in the deck. I did not like their mana and some of their card choices were questionable to me so I decided to just keep playing Jeskai Saheeli and tune it.
Then this happened to me on MTGO
I got a Deep-Fiendin’
I had what I thought was full control over the game then my opponent cast Elder Deep-Fiend. Knowing this one card was in my opponent’s deck made me completely shift my perspective of this matchup. If we are ever at parity and they emerge this and tap me out I can just die or they can kill me with an enormous 5/6 creature. This lead me to drop this league and immediately start brewing a 4 color Saheeli deck.
I hated the mana bases from the other lists and they were all playing questionable cards. I turned to a local player named Elliot Fortier (shoutout quota met) who is one of the best deck builders I know. He was like a chef. I just gave him the ingredients I wanted to include in the deck and he turned it into a masterpiece.
So, what makes this deck good.
Pressures Your Opponent’s Removal
This Standard is a lot about creatures and honestly outside of the control decks most decks only run 6-8 removal spells total. This means they usually can not kill all the creatures you play. You give your opponent the decision on whether to kill your midrange high value creatures like Whirler Virtuoso or Rogue Refiner or save their removal to ensure they don’t die to the lethal combination of Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai. What people seem to not realize is that Saheeli Rai is a lethal combination with most of the creatures in this deck. If you have a Rogue Refiner in play and a Saheeli Rai in play you can minus Saheeli to copy Rogue Refiner and ask your opponent if they would like to take 6 and let me draw a card and accrue energy or kill my refiner and risk dying to the combo by following it up with a Felidar Guardian. Once Saheeli is in play this deck is an nightmare to play against.
The Deck Is a Good Combo Deck and a Good Midrange Deck
When you think of Jeskai Saheeli it is fair to say that the deck is a good control deck and only a medium combo deck. That deck tries to take advantage of the fact that once you have relatively full control you can try to combo with little risk of losing by putting shields down. 4 color Saheeli is a blend of two strategies that is very good at both.
Like the 4c Rally decks that could balance being a combo deck and a midrange deck this deck is capable of both. Rogue Refiner is obviously great value as it has a good body, replaces itself with a card, and gives you energy. Whirler Virtuoso is the only way to utilize your energy aside from fixing your mana which means that you will usually be making 2+ thopters with it making it a high rate of return for a 3-mana card. I am usually not a big fan of Whirler Virtuoso but when it is the only energy outlet it becomes an absolute all-star.
Unlike in Jeskai Felidar guardian is almost always a good card that you would potentially play even without the existence of Saheeli Rai. The ability to blink oath of Nissa is the most appealing because it doesn’t get blown out by removal and nets you the best permanent in your top 3 cards.
The deck also does not easily run out of gas since a lot of the cards are two for ones. Another factor is that the deck only plays 21 lands so you will usually be drawing spells later in the game. The 4 Attune’s being a land and energy means you usually don’t even mind drawing these late because it can mean another thopter with Whirler Virtuoso.
Now the card that I think everyone else was and still is missing. The card I think changed this deck from being a good deck to the best deck.
It’s not obvious at first how much of an impact this card can have to an entire deck but the way it makes games play out changed the dynamics entirely. It serves two large purposes, to tap all your opponent’s lands and combo kill them with ease or to tap all their creatures end of turn and completely change a race. This is the card that breaks the two most important matchups in Standard. Jeskai Saheeli and GB delirium. Against GB you can race them by attacking for a little bit while they attack you. On the turn you would take lethal damage you can emerge deep fiend tap all their creatures and very likely kill them on the back swing. Against Jeskai opponents desperately clutching their removal and counterspells to stop your combo you force the issue. If you have the combo, they are likely dead no matter what they do. If you don’t either your creature resolved and you have free reign to copy the deep fiend and hit for large chunks of damage of play out all your value creatures without fear of counterspells or removal. This advantage is a game changer.
Now, let us briefly touch on the removal in the deck.
Even in a deck without the ability to produce a lot of energy harnessed lightning is good. In this deck, it just kills almost anything so it is an obvious inclusion in the deck. Shock serves double duty as a cheap and efficient removal spell for aggressive decks and as a way to interact with the Saheeli combo. Nahiri, The Harbinger is a great removal spell vs GB and a great way to turn your extra lands, dead removal or irrelevant spells into fresh cards. It also can kill some trouble some enchantments and artifacts for the deck and because it I capable of doing a few jobs well is why it earns an inclusion in a deck that it seems slightly strange in.
The unsung hero of the deck is probably the mana and how good it is. This deck has basically completely cut white and is playing Spirebluff Canal over Inspiring Vantage (why were people playing that in the first place is beyond me). This makes it easier for you to cast all your spells. It does suck that we aren’t playing any Spell Quellers because that card is incredibly powerful but If it makes the entire deck function worse the card is likely not good in the deck. The white is reduced to just 5 actual lands that tap for white with some ways to find them and the white cards are reduced to just Felidar Guardian and a couple cards in the sideboard (Nahiri, The Harbinger as well but we also have Oath of Nissa for that). This change means that you do not need to play cards like prophetic Prism just to fix your mana.
The sideboard is not as well refined as the main deck and therefore is more malleable based on your expected metagame. There are some cards that are Auto-includes at this point to me.
Bristling Hydra is so much better then it looks. I think going forward I want to include 3. The card performed very well vs GB and was obviously lights out vs control. Many games were decided in my testing against control the second I landed the hydra.
Negate is great vs a bunch of decks and has always been a powerful sideboard cards to help you against all control decks and to beat sweepers so always include at least two of them.
Confiscation Coup is very well positioned right now. The card does some twisted things vs GB. Combined with the fact you already have some energy enablers means that this is just mind control vs them. I would always play 1 and consider playing 2.
Everything else is up for grabs though. I like to have a total of 3 ways to interact with artifacts in the sideboard so cards like appetite and fragmentize are good considerations. Mardu vehicles can be a hard matchup for this deck so a lot of the rest of the sideboard should be looking for cards that can be used against Mardu. I am not sure if radiant flames are the way to go but they do kill a lot of your creatures so you are usually not going to sweep sway a bunch of your creatures. I have been liking Oath of Chandra in the deck and will likely be playing at least 1 of those. Playing additional Planeswalkers in the sideboard is usually good to combat midrange and control decks so they are a safe bet.
The main deck will stay the same for the foreseeable future until someone convinces me to change something. I am always open to new ideas. This is the best deck I have ever played a week before the Pro Tour and if you are playing in the Pro Tour I truly feel this deck is a couple weeks ahead and that once people find out how good Elder Deep-Fiend is again it will be one of the pillars of the format.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on social media.
One final note. I keep a list of every player who makes me go through the whole combo on MTGO.
As of now there is only one person:
Yuky, you are a jerk.
Thanks for reading.