Challenge the Stats – Sapling of Colfenor
(Sapling of Colfenor | Art by John Avon)
Let's Get Sappy
Welcome to Challenge the Stats! This series is based on the awesome EDHRECast segment where we pick out ten cards for a commander that we think are overplayed, underplayed, or sleepers to challenge EDHREC’s data. Always remember, dear reader: card choices made by you, the deckbrewer, for any reason such as flavor, budget, art, or fun are always most important and are what keep our format unique and awesome.
Last article, readers voted on Sapling of Colfenor.
About half of Sapling players are doing Treefolk Tribal, which makes a lot of sense given that Treefolk typically have low power and high toughness, synergizing with Sapling's attack trigger. Sapling also wants us to do an oops-all-creature/Umori build to take the most advantage of its ability (check out DougY's article on this!). This works really well since Treefolk are big and need a lot of support creatures.
I love the deckbuilding restriction of only one nonland card type, so our challenges will be leaning into that and will hopefully help whether you're rocking Treefolk Tribal or just a creature-heavy deck. Also, keep in mind that Sapling fits perfectly in the Witherbloom design space of gaining and losing life, so there is a lot of potential for new cards breathing life into this old commander.
Thanks to our resident Sapling player, DougY, for consultation on this list.
We're going to challenge the data from all 105 Sapling decks at the time of writing, and you can see how often those cards are played in parentheses (%). Here we go.
1. "Holdover" cards
We only have one overplayed challenge, but it's a broad category. These are cards that are lingering in decks even though we've gotten significant upgrades. This might be due to brewers wanting to keep their decks checked at a certain power level, or slotting in a new card like Yedora, Grave Gardener while keeping a holdover card (which allows their deck to stay in the current EDHREC data). Regardless, it's my job to point these out so new Sapling players are at least aware of this phenomenon and can do with that information as they wish! Let's do a mini-listicle.
- Putrefy (59%) – It's tough to compete when we have Beast Within, Assassin's Trophy, Mortality Spear, etc.
- Maelstrom Pulse (21%) – Not being an instant can really hurt. But hey, if your group has token decks, you might just want it.
- Murder (14%) – It's fun to say "I murder your creature", but it's easy to see much better options; Baleful Mastery, for one.
- Solemn Simulacrum (15%) – While this used to be a staple, it's now mostly used in decks that are willing to pay four to ramp, which green is not. We now have access to many other great creatures that can ramp (more on that later).
- Soul of the Harvest (12%) – This might make the cut in an "all creatures" or budget build, but if we're not restricting ourselves that much, we have much better options with the advent of Beast Whisperer, Guardian Project, and The Great Henge.
- Golgari Keyrune (25%) – Keyrunes are pretty outclassed these days by better creature-ramp or more efficient artifact ramp. If you find deathtouch to be a strong deterrent, maybe you keep this in, but you could also run Leyline Prowler or Deathcap Cultivator and have that effect on a creature.
- Worldslayer (29%) – This seems to be in just because our commander is indestructible. Any other board wipe on the page would be preferable, and the current trend seems to be towards less board wipes nowadays. We can even run creature-based wipes, such as Bane of the Living and Deathbringer Regent.
2. Heartwood Storyteller (28%)
This jolly Treefolk is a win on multiple fronts. Don't be too worried about giving our opponents cards: we'll make sure that we come out ahead because of Sapling's inclination towards an extremely high creature density. Heartwood is often a group hug card, but when we're breaking the symmetry as hard as we are in this deck, it's going to be a group hug psych out for our opponents! Sure, our opponents might draw a few extra cards, but we'll gain political favor and more cards than any of our opponents. It was sitting at ten bucks for a long time, simply due to the fact that it wasn't ever reprinted, but thanks to Time Spiral Remastered and the mysterious List, it's now under a dollar!
3. Hua Tuo, Honored Physician (12%)
Hua Tuo synergizes exceptionally well with our commander. We'll bring back the best card in our graveyard to the top of our library right before Sapling's attack trigger, ensuring that the card goes right into our hand! Combined with our commander, Hua Tuo's tap ability is essentially a repeatable Regrowth.
4. Creatures That Blow Things Up
We have a smattering of options for removal stapled onto creatures. Since our commander wants us to have creatures and we're in the best creature reanimation colors, I want as many of these effects as I can get. Sapling is a deck that we're going to love playing in casual pods, so we're happy to sacrifice some instant-speed removal for synergy. Let's go over some of my favorites now.
- Murderous Rider – Hey, instant-speed removal on a creature! Win-win!
- Ravenous Chupacabra/Shriekmaw – Sorcery-speed removal on a creature. Just one win.
- Caustic Caterpillar – This cute little grub has a wonderous rattlesnake bite, letting our opponents' powerful artifacts and enchantments rot in their hands for fear of destruction.
- Thrashing Brontodon – Caustic Caterpillar with a big butt.
- Reclamation Sage – Solid removal that shines when you can utilize the body.
- Gemrazer and Sawtusk Demolisher – When our commander has indestructible, Mutate becomes a more appealing mechanic. Gemrazer gives reach and trample, and protection from fliers is something this deck needs to keep in mind.
5. Crashing Drawbridge
Courtesy of EDHREC writer DougY, this is a superb challenge, as Crashing Drawbridge needs to see play in many decks! Giving your whole team haste on an artifact creature that can go in any deck should be a consideration in any creature-based deck that doesn't have access to red.
6. Creatures That Ramp
We now have so many options for creatures that ramp us, it makes us take a second look at the ramp staples, like Cultivate (56%), Rampant Growth (33%), and Explosive Vegetation (25%). These seem much more appealing when they might also be a card drawn from our commander!
- Sakura-Tribe Elder (45%)
- Wood Elves (17%)
- Farhaven Elf
- Springbloom Druid
- Beanstalk Giant
- Elvish Rejuvenator
- Yavimaya Granger
- Veteran Explorer
- Viridian Emissary
- Dawntreader Elk
- Diligent Farmhand
7. Whisperwood Elemental
Here's a budget mythic to pick up. Whisperwood Elemental manifests a card on our end step. That'll be like drawing a card according to the percentage of creatures in our deck, since we can flip them up by paying their cost if they're a creature. Then, if anyone wipes our board, we can sacrifice the Elemental to manifest a card for each nontoken face-up creature that died. This not only "draws" us a handful of cards, but also gives us blockers in case our opponent kept their board and is now moving in for an alpha strike.
8. Lands That are Also Creatures
Lands that Sapling hits off her attack trigger don't go into our hand, but creatures that are lands on the back will! I'm talking about the Zendikar Rising MDFC lands! There are three from that set that we can play: Blackbloom Rogue, Kazandu Mammoth, and Tangled Florahedron. All of them are solid value for our commander, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the Florahedron. That little guy has found a home in every green deck I own. I should also mention that Dryad Arbor (11%) works in this same way, and just had a reprint, which brought its price down.
9. Duskwatch Recruiter
The front side draws us cards, and the back side discounts our creature spells, both of which are amazing abilities. We won't really get a choice which side will be flipped, but I would predict most often it will be the front side, since it's more likely players are casting two spells a turn than no spells a turn. Pick this one up before it spikes for the upcoming return to Innistrad.
10. Creatures That Tutor to the Top
Sapling combines wonderfully with these tutors, turning them from a top-of-the-library tutor to a directly-into-our-hand tutor. Brutalizer Exarch is expensive, but it has a nice removal mode to balance it out. Mwonvuli Beast Tracker can only get certain keywords, but we can get some very relevant creatures, and very slightly build-around to make sure we can get removal, draw, defense, or whatever we need. Silhana Wayfinder digs through our top four to find something for Sapling, and coming down on turn two can smooth out a rough opening hand.
Let's go to a decklist!
What did you think about these challenges? Are there any other cards you would challenge? Also, I'm taking requests for next week's Challenge the Stats in the comments below. As always, you can find me on twitter @jevin_mtg or shoot me an email @ email@example.com.