This entry is part 5 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

In the last segment of the Ascendant series, we looked at Erayo, Soratami Ascendant, and how we could play with Erayo, as a suspend, time and clock themed deck, while avoiding the usual problems with early instances of Erayo’s Essence which results in a variety of discontent ranging from grumbling to homicide.  This week’s Ascendant is Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant.  For those who have never heard of Sasaya before (and justly so), Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant is a 2/3 Legendary Snake Monk that costs 1GG and reads “Reveal your hand: if you have seven or more lands in your hand, flip Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant.”  The flip side to this is Sasaya’s Essence, a Legendary Enchantment which reads “Whenever a land you control is tapped for mana, for each land you control with the same name, add one mana to your mana pool of any type that land could have produced.”

With Erayo, there was a mechanic whereby a number of spells could be cast ‘on the same turn’: suspend.  There didn’t have to be a lot of free useless rubbish to flip Erayo, and in exchange, the flip gets delayed and a theme developed at the very same time.  Sasaya is not so flexible.  There are no cards that let you cheat your way past the flip condition, where you can suddenly have enough lands in hand  (like a weird Memory Jar no one would play).  For Sasaya, you really will need seven lands in hand to get a torrent of mana from her enchantment side, and once that bridge is crossed it isn’t entirely clear where you’re going to spend all that mana; after all, you’ve still got seven lands in your hand.  So, when you’re flooded, you’re really flooded.


Solving these problems is fairly simple.  For the first one — getting seven lands into hand — is actually quite easy: play with a lot more lands than normal and play land-to-hand spells, preferably ones that get a lot of land like Seek the Horizon.  The second problem — what to spend the mana on — is a bit more tricky: the deck is going to need every non-land card to count for as much as possible and potentially win the game or stop a loss.  Threats are going to have to scale with mana in a particularly dire fashion.

What this amounts to is a linear combo deck of sorts.  Like other combo decks, the deck will almost entirely be dedicated to making one or two extremely powerful plays, and probably only superficially interact with other players until it throws a game ending spell.  Each of the cards in the deck will be highly specialized: it will be a land that helps flip Sasaya and creates overwhelming amounts of mana, it will be a threat of game ending proportions, or it will be card draw or library search which will find either of these.  Combo might seem an odd classification for the deck because it lacks other commonly thought of features (like the colour blue), infinite loops, or extensively unrecoverable back breaking plays, but it is a combo deck all the same.  If your group doesn’t like combo, they probably won’t like this deck — even if they don’t realize it’s combo.

The first problem is flipping Sasaya.  The ‘easy’ solution of playing more land is a simple task on its surface, but a more complex issue in actual practice.  To significantly affect a typical opening hand, the deck is going to be close to two-thirds land.  Further, the first slots are reserved for cards that search up more than one land.  The aforementioned Seek the Horizon provides three lands for a cost.  There are a whole series of cards that do this, like Journey of Discovery.  Journey of Discovery is an especially exciting card for this deck, because it retains its usefulness once Sasaya has flipped.  In the post-flip world, Journey of Discovery is easily entwined to search and play two lands from library.  Needless to say, extra land plays in the post-flip world are very powerful; there will always be lands in hand, and each land is powerful in the presence of its duplicates.  There are a few creatures can also help fill out a grip of lands.  The oft-maligned Hermit Druid finds its fair use here, and very frequently amounts to having the text “{G} {T}: Draw a card.”.  The time shifted green version of Sindbad, Fa’adiyah Seer is of use here as well.  A sorcery similar to Fa’adiyah Seer is the random but very profitable Mulch.  Mulch and Fa’adiyah Seer both provide better than expected returns here: the deck will have a lot more lands than the usual proportions, and these cards will generally pay well for it.  Finally, there is Realms Uncharted.  Much like Gifts Ungiven, there will be ways to abuse this (though, certainly not with the same effectiveness as the infamous Gifts).

Even though the preference will be to have all lands of the same name in order to maximize the advantage produced by Sasaya’s Essence, playing 64 forests is not actually a particularly great idea.  There are lands that can do something in the absence of a colossal threat, while forests in hand will always do very little (except flip Sasaya).  The fact of the matter is, having a threat in hand is going to be something of a shot in the dark.  Some lands, of course, double as threats and these will be the first for inclusion.  The hottest land outlet for a vast amount of mana is probably Dark Depths.  It’s a land for Sasaya’s flip purposes, it takes a lot of mana (or a Vampire Hexmage) to activate, and it is a fairly difficult threat to answer.  “A lot of mana” is subjective; most decks would not bother with this kind of payment, but with four forests, it will take a flipped Sasaya deck all of two turns to pay off the thirty mana price tag.  The other threat available in land form is more of an indirect one, in that it tutors for some pretty scary stuff: Eye of Ugin.  It takes a turn to untap, but the strength of Sasaya’s Essence can see it through: four forests and an Eye of Ugin can find and pay for any Eldrazi but It That Betrays.

While no other lands are as powerful threats as Dark Depths and Eye of Ugin, there are still other powerful lands to look to for small threats, defense and utility.  Earlier, I mentioned a Realms Uncharted package.  Typically, a Gifts Ungiven package would leave the person choosing few or no options for what would happen next, by tutor or recursion; it is well documented that game ending locks or combos can be tutored for with Gifts Ungiven due to the nature of graveyard play and tutors.  For this deck, Petrified Field forces your opponent to choose between Dark Depths and Eye of Ugin right away, or your choice of the two a turn later.  The fourth land could be any number of utility lands needed: Maze of Ith needs no introduction as a defensive land, Vesuva can destroy an opponent’s legendary lands, or abuse others (like Maze of Ith), or Terrain Generator lay out more basic lands, magnifying Sasaya’s power in the post-flip game.  There are other utility lands as well, that will be more dependent on the state of the game when Realms is cast.  Realms is perhaps a bit clumsy compared to Gifts, but a threat is a threat, and two lands for an instant puts us that much closer to flipping and leveraging Sasaya (and really, the comparison to a card banned for power alone ought to suggest that Realms is pretty good with a bit of planning).

Scrying Sheets and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea each shore up a big difficulty with a green deck of this style: card draw.  Other lands that will help us flip Sasaya are Ghost Town and Jungle Basin.  While each of these is not spectacular in terms of post-flip mana production, they either get an extra land in hand to flip Sasaya, or maintain early game tempo without ‘losing’ lands in hand, respectively.

The final category of lands will be manlands for running interference or sneaking in cheap shots after a board wipe.  While it might be easy to flip Sasaya, the presence of a threat to dump mana into is not certain.  To this end, Dread Statuary, Gargoyle Castle, Stalking Stones, Treetop Village and Zoetic Cavern can serve as chump blockers that minor utility creatures may have trouble dealing with.  Zoetic Cavern in particular is not required to be played as a land, and thus does not take up the usual one-land-per-turn bottleneck.  Urza’s Factory can produce a steady stream of chumps to serve as blockers, sacrifice bait for Sheoldred, Whispering One, or similar difficulties.  The very fact that this card can effortlessly churn out little guys in this deck will make people question whether they should bother attacking you (though, this should not stop you from building them up if you have the chance).

To take a further stab at trying to get threats and lands into hand, card draw will be the answer.  For green, one-sided unconditional card draw is not particularly common; Harmonize and Sylvan Library are as free and easy as it gets.  Since we hope to have a large hand, the ‘bad’ versions of Library of Alexandria get the nod: Magus of the Library and Scroll of Origins each draw cards for relatively cheap in the incredibly likely scenario that we’ve been playing turns as “land, go.”  The other draw spells will be Howling Mine effects.  Of note among these is Rites of Flourishing which gives an extra land drop.  The hope with howling effects is that the Sasaya deck comes out ahead of the other decks: the lands we draw will be far more powerful than any opponent’s lands, and the threats we draw will similarly be more powerful.  Of course, if you draw nothing but lands, this falls apart, but that’s combo.  The final notable piece in the draw package is Abundance.  Being able to say “non-land” to any card draw in this deck vastly increases the likelihood that a colossal workable threat will get drawn when needed.  If that wasn’t reason enough, it interacts with Fa’adiyah Seer and Sylvan Library to avoid the downsides of these cards by replacing the draw effect.

The point of jumping through all these hoops is to throw threats that scale with mana in disastrous ways for our opponents.  The poster children for this line of thinking are Gelatinous Genesis and Wolfbriar Elemental.  Each of these can use as much mana as can be paid into it; the more, the better.  Gelatinous Genesis scales particularly well; at 25 mana (that’s 5 forests and a flipped Sasaya), a small table could be crushed under the weight of a dozen 12/12 ooze tokens.  If you wait another turn (to a whole 6 forests), you could have seventeen 17/17 oozes, which would surely envelop tables of moderate size.  Another scaling threat is Unyaro Bees (and potentially its cousin, Killer Bees), which becomes a colossal beater with evasion if Sasaya is flipped.  It is distinctly possible that fairly early in the game, players can be killed by bees in two swings, or less, if they lack blockers.  Finally, there is the terrifically expensive Planar Portal, which is somehow worth the price even to other decks without the capacity to generate the kind of mana Sasaya does.  The cost is not negligible to any deck, even this one, but the benefits if unanswered are well worth the price: this could be a Gelatinous Genesis, or any other threat, every turn.  There are many cards that would seem to be worthwhile, like Omnath, Locus of Mana.  Yet, some of these lack evasion, and may be endlessly chump blocked.  Genesis Wave similarly fails; many of the cards that are meant to be winners like Wurmcalling or Gelatinous Genesis simply get discarded off the top.  Threats must be carefully chosen for their capacity to win on their own.

Is your local scene prepared for a monogreen non-infinite combo deck?  I’ll let you, the reader, decide.

Decklist
General:
Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant

Creatures:
Hermit Druid
Fa’adiyah Seer
Magus of the Library
Krosan Tusker
Yavimaya Elder
Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Unyaro Bees
Wolfbriar Elemental
Ant Queen
Nemata, Grove Guardian
Verdeloth the Ancient
Terastodon

Artifacts:
Scroll of Origins
Howling Mine
Font of Mythos
Planar Portal
Armillary Sphere
Oblivion Stone

Enchantments:
Rites of Flourishing
Sylvan Library
Abundance

Sorceries:
Seek the Horizon
Journey of Discovery
Gaea’s Bounty
Mulch
Harmonize
Life from the Loam
Gelatinous Genesis
Wurmcalling
Green Sun’s Zenith
Tooth and Nail

Instants:
Realms Uncharted
Rending Vines

Lands:
Dark Depths
Eye of Ugin
Petrified Field
Maze of Ith
Arena
Jungle Basin
Ghost Town
Scrying Sheets
Mouth of Ronom
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Dread Statuary
Gargoyle Castle
Stalking Stones
Treetop Village
Zoetic Cavern
Urza’s Factory
Strip Mine
Vesuva
Reliquary Tower
Terrain Generator
Tranquil Thicket
Slippery Karst
Blasted Landscape
Homeward Path
High Market
40 Snow-covered Forests

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