Like Lambs to the Slaughter

In my last series of articles, I discussed somewhat in depth the multitude of sacrifice outlets one could play in any color to produce a various number of effects. From producing mana to bouncing permanents, forcing your opponents to discard to ramping your lands and producing an army, the willingness to make sacrifices in order to further your cause can make a big difference in many games, but you can’t make those sacrifices without a few “sacrificial lambs”. However, these sacrifices don’t always have to lead to a loss of superior board state on your part. Often, the sacrifices you make turn the tide in your favor. There are a multitude of creatures, artifacts, and enchantments in Magic: The Gathering that return themselves from the graveyard to either the battlefield or your hand. By utilizing these cards, you can avoid damaging your board state or card advantage all while receiving the same benefits.

Typically, when sacrifice outlets that require payment in creatures are being used in a deck, you want to use creatures that naturally recur themselves in one way or another. This is not only a way to capitalize on your sacrifice outlets’ abilities, but also a way to maximize the value of “Enter the Battlefield” effects. For this reason, creatures with “Persist”, or its counterpart “Undying”, are typically high on the list of creatures you want to sacrifice. On the low end of the mana curve, creatures like Geralf's Messenger and Murderous Redcap are quick ways to deal some damage, while Kitchen Finks can gain you some much needed life. When it comes to larger creatures, ones like Woodfall Primus allow you to blow up problem permanents, Puppeteer Clique and Twilight Shepherd allow you to get back key creatures temporarily or even permanently, and Vorapede is simply a solid beater, becoming a 6/5 vigilant, trampler after he is sacrificed.

Keeping the mechanics “Perisist” and “Undying” in mind, two specific cards don’t necessarily want to be sacrificed themselves, however they are impressive and threatening enablers, turning every creature you control into a renewable resource.

First, is Mikaeus, the Unhallowed.

Mikaeus has two forms: The Unhallowed and The Lunarch, the prior being commonly considered the more powerful of the two. In his undead form, Mikaeus turns every non-human creature you control into an undying horde, allowing previously single-use enter the battlefield effects to be used again. That Rune-Scarred Demon? He undies. That Frost Titan?  Sure, he comes back as a 7/7. Bogardan Hellkite? Why the hell not? With Mikaeus, the Unhallowed on the field, almost everything you control comes back even stronger than before, as long as its not a human that is.

However, when we play Commander, as we’re writing our lists, we first look for the least restrictive cards we can find. And while the “non-Human” part of Mikaeus’s ability isn’t all that restrictive, it still counts. However, there is another option: Cauldron of Souls.

Cauldron of Souls

A hidden gem of the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block, Cauldron of Souls has become a bit of an All-Star in my experience. This five-mana artifact can essentially have the same effect as Mikaeus, though with the slight downside of lowering your creatures’ P/T, but I consider that insignificant in most situations. Sacrificing a creature to abuse an ETB effect at the cost of a -1/-1 counter isn’t that terrible of a deal. I’ve made this decision multiple times in Commander, choosing to weaken a creature like Mystic Snake in order to handle an opponent’s power play or giving a Shriekmaw Persist at instant speed with its Evoke trigger on the stack in order to snipe two creatures in one fell swoop.

These two cards can turn any creature in your deck into sac fodder, allowing you to blindside your opponents with unexpected shenanigans.

 

The second group I’ll mention are creatures without Persist or Undying who tend to take the spotlight. Many of these creatures such as Gravecrawler, Reassembling Skeleton and Bloodghast fit nicely within the curve of most sacrifice decks, being minimally mana intensive creatures. Unfortunately, most creatures of this type are Black creatures. However, there are a few Commander stars in each color who love the idea of martyrdom.

 

Yosei, the Morning StarKeiga, the Tide StarKokusho, the Evening StarRyusei, the Falling StarJugan, the Rising Star

Feared for their death triggers, the Legendary Dragon Spirits of the Kamigawa block have become infamous in the Commander community, even to the point of Kokusho being banned as a Commander.  With each of them unleashing a potent power upon their death, they find homes in sacrifice strategies quite often. The selling point of these creatures in this article is the fact that they span the color wheel, allowing any deck to run at least one of them should they so choose.

Academy Rector

Academy Rector is another key creature. Though it exiles upon death, it not only allows you to tutor for an enchantment, it also lets you put it directly into play! Can anybody say Eldrazi Conscription?

Homura, Human AscendantHomura, Human Ascendant

Homura, Human Ascendant has a death wish, however, your opponent’s creatures can’t take care of him for you and they’ll never willingly waste a kill spell to take care of him, so what better way to give him what he wants than to sacrifice him for the cause. Upon his death, he returns as Homura’s Essence, turning every creature you control into firebreathing dragons, and becoming somewhat harder for your opponents to handle. Why worry about a single 4/4 when you could kill him to make your entire team better?!

Junk Diver

Junk Diver is a recycler. He finds his value not within his body, being an inefficient three-mana 1/1, but within his ability to give you back your precious artifacts. Sacrifice him to an Ashnod's Altar to produce some colorless mana to cast that Nevinnyral's Disc or Oblivion Stone you’ll be getting back . Hell, you can even get back that Platinum Emperion or Blightsteel Colossus!

Seedguide Ash

Often overlooked for his unimpressive stats, Seedguide Ash is a personal favorite and he finds himself rather comfy in everything from Mono-Green lists to those tricky 5-color decks. His death trigger is great, allowing you to fetch three Forest cards from your deck and put them into play tapped.  Forest cards. I think we all know what that means. Shock lands and Original Duals are valid targets, as well as Dryad Arbor! Sacrifice this guy to something like Greater Good for some card advantage and fix your mana to your heart’s content.

Solemn Simulacrum

Perfect for any deck, and in almost every deck anyway, Solemn Simulacrum is a great card to ship to those sacrifice engines we talked about. Everybody likes to draw cards right? But this guy comes with an added bonus. He has both an ETB trigger and a death trigger, making him a perfect pair for either Mikaeus, the Unhallowed or Cauldron of Souls. Fix your lands, draw some cards, fix your lands draw some cards, value, value, value!

Vexing Sphinx

While somewhat costly because of his Cumulative upkeep, Vexing Sphinx isn’t a card to be scoffed at, as he’s still a 4/4 flyer for only three mana and his ability shouldn’t be overlooked. If you play draw effects in your deck, this guy can stick around for quite a while, and when you can’t pay for him anymore, he leaves on his own. Like a true gentleman, he leaves when his time comes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t prematurely kick him out of the party. By sacrificing this guy at instant speed, you can draw a good few cards. He also fills your graveyard a bit, making him perfect for those Mimeoplasm players out there.

 

We’ve covered some of the weapons, and hopefully I’ve helped provide you with some ammo, some ideas. As always, thank you for reading. Feel free to share this article with your friends and make sure to leave a comment below with feedback and ideas of your own. Thanks again!

 


 

Evan Erickson

Author: Evan Erickson

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *