Evolving Saheeli Rai Combo in Modern

Parker Ackerman
August 23, 2018

    Toolbox decks are nothing new to Modern, nor are they new to me, or to the brew articles I write (as seen here, here, and here). Splinter Twin-esque combos are nothing new either, and putting one of those combos into a midrange value deck is pretty common practice at this point. However, using a Planeswalker as one of the most important pieces in either of these decks is rare, to say the least. The main decks that leverage a Planeswalker as a key part of the strategy are Tezzeret toolbox decks, and four-color Saheeli, also known as Saheeli Evolution. Today's list comes to us from Magic Online user Beakid. 

    Saheeli Evolution has a quick combo, a solid midrange game, and the tools to take down almost anything when it’s tuned to the right metagame. The main combo is to use Saheeli Rai’s -2 with Felidar Guardian’s enter-the-battlefield ability to create infinite Felidar Guardians in a single turn, and then swing in for the win. With the help of our many mana dorks, the deck can assemble this combo and win as early as turn three. Not too shabby.

   This list is a creature midrange deck at heart, making the creatures the main focus. Acidic Slime can help take out a wide variety of problematic permanents while also often giving us a 2-for-1 thanks to deathtouch. Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch fix our mana, with Birds being just slightly better at that job. However, Hierarch’s Exalted can never be overlooked, since it can account for a fair bit of damage over the course of a game. Felidar Guardian is a very important part of the deck, since it enables our infinite combo, retriggers enters-the-battlefield effects, and can effectively cost 3 if you blink a land. Acidic Slime, Eternal Witness, Militia Bugler, Reflector Mage, Reveillark, Wall of Omens, and even Renegade Rallier all get a boost when we have this card in the deck. Kiki-Jiki acts as another way to combo with Guardian, and can even be tutored for with Eldritch Evolution.

    Lotus Cobra can give us very explosive turns mana-wise, and Militia Bugler helps dig for creatures, generating a nice bit of card advantage and helping us dig for combo pieces. Eternal Witness lets us reuse some of our cards, getting back fetchlands, discarded cards, and any creature we’ve lost in battle. Reflector Mage is excellent for disrupting the opponent, and Renegade Rallier can ramp us, get back a creature that recently died in combat, or even act as a way to get back a recently sacrificed creature to an Eldritch Evolution. Reveillark generates an insane amount of value when blinked with Guardian or copied with Saheeli, Shalai protects us from burn and discard, and Voice of Resurgence and Wall of Omens are solid 2-drop value creatures.

    Saheeli is part of what makes this whole deck work. She allows for a turn three combo, generates value, and helps to make Oath of Nissa fantastic. Oath of Nissa, as I just said, is absolutely fantastic. People like to think of Ancient Stirrings as the green Ponder, but I think Oath gains that same title in this deck. It can find any card in the deck other than itself and Eldritch Evolution. The mana base is primarily made up of fetches and shocks, with Ghost Quarter to handle mana-hungry opponents, Horizon Canopy for a bit of extra drawing power in the late game, and some basics to fetch out from opposing Paths.

   In the sideboard, we have some pretty unusual cards as a lot of them are silver bullets, but with Eldritch Evolution, it becomes a nice utility belt. Eidolon of Rhetoric can slow down Storm, Burn, and other decks that rely on casting multiple spells each turn. Gaddock Teeg can help hold off decks that rely on huge payoffs like Tron, Geist of Saint Traft can give us a faster clock, and Izzet Staticaster can eliminate armies of tokens. Lightning Helix gives us a nice bit of removal combined with a 3 life cushion, Lone Missionary can work wonders against burn by giving us 4 life and a blocker, and Path to Exile gives us extra spot removal where it’s needed. Rest in Peace gives us an edge against graveyard-based decks, and Stony Silence does the same for artifact-based ones. Worship can help keep us alive even if we don’t necessarily deserve to be, making it difficult for the opponent to finish us off, since it isn’t likely that they brought in enchantment removal. Stonehorn Dignitary helps keep the opponent at bay by stopping individual combats. Some of the most useful applications are with Guardian, Kiki-Jiki, and Saheeli, since these all allow you to reuse the ETB effect.


  • Don’t get greedy. If you’re trying to stabilize against burn with a Saheeli in hand, it might just be better to grab that Shalai off of Evolution instead of a Guardian.
  • Kiki-Jiki isn’t just a combo piece. He can also grab extra ETB and leaves-the-battlefield effects like Acidic Slime, Stonehorn Dignitary, and Voice of Resurgence.
  • Oath of Nissa also fixes your mana, making it a strong play before Saheeli if you couldn’t normally play her.
  • One of my favorite plays with the deck is to sacrifice Voice of Resurgence to Eldritch Evolution, get a Renegade Rallier, and return a Voice to the battlefield. The line is a lot of fun, and adds a minimum of six power to the board.

Extra Spice:

  • Restoration Angel gives more ETB synergy, helps dodge spot removal, but unfortunately doesn’t combo with Saheeli. However, Resto does still go infinite with Kiki-Jiki.
  • Scavenging Ooze is a great beater/graveyard hate hybrid that also can be recurred with Rallier.
  • Glen Elendra Archmage is an evasive creature that can protect combo pieces and other miscellaneous creatures while also requiring multiple removal spells to kill.
  • Sun Titan is a huge beater that produces a ton of value and goes infinite with two Saheelis.
  • Pia and Kiran Nalaar is a popular red midrange card for good reason, and shines even more in this deck. It gives us three bodies, two with evasion, and access to some extra reach.
  • Tireless Tracker is an all-around great midrange creature, and is great with the number of lands we can play in a single turn thanks to fetches and Rallier.
  • Huntmaster of the Fells is a personal favorite that fits in very well here, gaining us life, giving us bodies, and applying pressure to the opponent. All-around a fantastic card.

Saheeli Evolution looks like a bit of a pile at first-glance, but plays very well and gives you a lot of interesting decisions as the pilot. It also has a lot of customizability, and can be tuned to play well in a wide-variety of metagames. The issue, like with some control decks, is when you overtune to the wrong meta. Despite this, the deck has a lot of strengths, and it can be tuned to fit not only the metagame, but the pilot as well, giving you an experience you’re almost certain to love. Give the deck a try, put your own spin on it, and you’re sure to fall in love.