Recross the Paths - The Scarab God
(The Scarab God | Art by Lius Lasahido)
Scales! - Ahem, I Mean - Brains!
Hello everyone, and welcome back to Recross the Paths, a series that helps commanders to be seen under a new light.
Today I'll be talking about The Scarab God. Ever since it emerged from the dunes of Amonkhet, this commander has been leading and reanimating hordes of Zombies. However, I think there's a more innovative shell for this legend, and I'd like to show it to you!
Stage One: The Deck
For obvious reasons, The Scarab God's EDHREC page is all about Zombies. What's not that obvious is that no one said things must remain this way. Therefore, what happens if we take Zombies away from The Scarab God and we substitute them with Dragons?
Step One: Dragons
There are two main reasons to choose Dragons here. First, Dragons are extremely cool. Second, they're Dragons, which means they're powerful creatures to reanimate. While lots of other Zombie theme decks focus a lot on The Scarab God's first ability, the Zombie life loss trigger, we'll focus more on the second ability and organize our deck around filling the graveyard with Dragons to later reanimate them.
Among our targets, those that care about entering or leaving the battlefield shine even more. For this reason, Dragonlord Silumgar, Keiga, the Tide Star, and Kokusho, the Evening Star are basically everything we can dream of.
Also, we should keep in mind that our reanimated Zombie Dragons can enter the battlefield at any point of the game, during any player's turn. This becomes extremely relevant when we think about otherwise mediocre cards, such as Black Dragon, Blue Dragon, or Icefall Regent, which are more powerful and extremely tricky when cheated into play at instant speed.
Step Two: Synergies and Payoffs
Dimir is not exactly the most popular color combination for Dragon strategies. Still, we can get our hands on some goodies. Dragon's Hoard is a staple in these decks, and Fearsome Awakening is usually lackluster, but it can shine again in a deck all about filling the graveyard quickly. Last, but definitely not least, Dominaria United gifted us Sivitri, Dragon Master, a powerful tool both on the offensive and the defensive end.
Dragons are also extremely good at flying, so it would be a shame not to take advantage of that. Gravitational Shift will allow us to pack a punch when attacking and receive less damage when defending, and Windreader Sphinx will function as a great drawing engine (and also reanimation target), especially in the late game. Lastly, Donal, Herald of Wings will grant us additional copies of our numerous nonlegendary Dragons.
Step Three: Graveyard-Filling
Our format is packed with excellent ways to tutor cards to the graveyard, with Entomb and Buried Alive leading the way. Still, alongside these powerful staples, I decided to run "manual" graveyard-filling cards, such as Flux. Effects like this can become even more useful when we want to both put creatures in the bin and look for answers to present threats.
Step Four: The Rest of the Deck
The rest of the deck is dedicated to mana production and interactions. Among these categories, there aren't many peculiar inclusions, but I can't understate how powerful some of the popular choices are, such as Crux of Fate or Haven of the Spirit Dragon.
Lastly, I didn't include any ritual effects, as I wanted to keep the deck more casual, but if you want to add some speed to your gameplan, you could switch some of the mana rocks for cards such as Dark Ritual.
Step Five: Complete Decklist
The Scarab God Dragons
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Stage Two: the Data Room
We’re now on to the last part of this deck tech: the data room. Was this deck idea actually unique? Let's compare the list against both the average Scarab God deck and against the average Dragon deck to see what we gained (and lost) in the process.
Step One: The Average Scarab God Deck
The Scarab God is an extremely popular commander, ranking fourth among Dimir commanders and 49th overall, with 5,984 registered decks according to EDHREC.
Since all the Dragons we included see play in less than 2% of the Scarab God-led decks, our attention can shift to another part of our strategy that is usually relevant in The Scarab God decks: graveyard tutors.
I was honestly surprised to see a graph like the one I got. On one hand, I wasn't expecting great results from Unmarked Grave and Final Parting. The first can't hit the numerous legendary reanimation targets, and the latter can be overpriced in many playgroups; on the other, the numbers for Buried Alive and Entomb really astonished me. I was definitely not expecting them to be hovering around a 20% inclusion rate. All in all, they're arguably the best cards in the format in what they do! On the same note, I was also surprised to see that just over one out of ten Scarab God decks included both cards.
Step Two: The Average Dragon Deck
Leading the way in popularity for Dragon decks is The Ur-Dragon. Therefore, let's see how well our Dragons perform against their similars.
The first thing we notice when looking at this graph is the inclusion rate of Scion of Draco. This is not surprising at all, given how well it performs in five-color decks, even when they're not dedicated Dragon decks. Anyway, I think it can be useful to look at the same graph without such a warping card.
Looking at all the other Dragons included, we can identify three main groups. The first one contains the creatures that are present in more than 10% of the decks. These cards already see some significant play, especially Dragonlord Silumgar and Ancient Silver Dragon, but they could definitely use some more spotlight.
Then, we have those between 10% and 2%, roughly from Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon to Junji, the Midnight Sky. These creatures are struggling, as they're usually good but not good enough to become widely played. All in all, if Dimir Dragons is to become an actual archetype (as Sivitri seems to indicate), these are the ones that will benefit the most from it, as their inclusion rate will skyrocket. Still, today's deck is exactly meant to grant them a home and perhaps pave the way for such a gameplan.
Lastly, we have the tail of our graph, the creatures that see play in less than 2% of the decks. These cards are in a bit of a limbo. Their future heavily depends on the Dragons that will be printed in the future. In fact, they'll be the most subject to substitution, given that their effects could be easily overshadowed by cards yet to be printed.
The Takeaways From Today's Article
- Surprisingly enough, not a lot of players care about The Scarab God as a reanimator commander. This is further confirmed by the low inclusion rates for cards such as Entomb and Buried Alive.
- Dragons are packed with good cards and receive further support every year. This helps in the innovation process, as there are more and more creatures worth being included in the decks. In this way, it's easier to personalize one's list without it being strictly worse than other decks.
- Few Dragons are either blue or black. On one hand, this allows us to give some space to those creatures that don't see play in usual Dragon decks. On the other, it means that some creatures may result suboptimal.
- We should take Sivitri, Dragon Master ' printing as beacon of hope for this archetype. It being printed alongside many other cards designed precisely for commander means that Dimir Dragons is definitely on the radar.
That’s all from me for the moment. I hope you enjoyed this deck tech, but now it’s on to you: what do you think of it? Would you have changed anything? Or there’s something you particularly liked? Most importantly, do you believe this was a true innovation? Let me know in the comments below!