A really sweet deck that has emerged recently in Standard is White-Black Control. It’s unusual for control decks not to play blue, given blue is the color with access to the best card draw and permission spells, but this deck can still play a slow, controlling game with plenty of interaction without playing blue at all. Two really important pieces of sacrifice fodder in this deck are Eyetwitch and Shambling Ghast. Both these cards are one-mana 1/1s that provide a bonus when they die, either snagging a Lesson card from your sideboard, sniping an opposing x/1 (or trading up against a two-toughness creature) or providing a Treasure token for a little mana boost. The deck relies on them heavily for the early game, and they’re still useful as the game goes long.
Seeing this deck in action made me think about other cards that you actively want to end up dead – sacrifice fodder, I suppose you could call it, or just cards that you’d rather were slain on the battlefield instead of sticking around. From old Aristocrats decks to weird Modern combos right through to today’s sacrifice decks, there are a lot to get across!
Mardu Aristocrats was a big deck back in one of the best Standard formats of all time, Innistrad–Return to Ravnica. Tom Martell won Pro Tour Gatecrash with the deck, which used cards like Lingering Souls and Blasphemous Act to manage the board in addition to Falkenrath Aristocrat to get in for damage as a finisher.
The innocuous little one-drop that held it all together, however, was Doomed Traveler. Doomed Traveler came down on turn one and did everything the deck wanted: it clogged up the board, left a body behind after a Blasphemous Act and most importantly, provided two pieces of sacrifice fodder for cards like Falkenrath Aristocrat.
I vaguely remember Sam Black, one of the masterminds behind the deck, describing Doomed Traveler as either the best or most important card in the deck. It’s not the flashiest or most powerful card, but when you see a Doomed Traveler on the opposing battlefield, you know your opponent is about to get up to some kind of nonsense.
Whether it’s EDH or Legacy, no one wants their Veteran Explorer to stick around for very long. Unusually, however, your opponents are often in agreement with you – they also want the Veteran Explorer to die as quickly as possible. It’s nice to see that in a game that is so adversarial, pitching mages from across the multiverse against one another, a card like Veteran Explorer can bridge the divide and bring people together.
In Legacy, Veteran Explorer used to play a part in some lower-tier non-blue decks, such as Abzan Maverick, where it was used to flashback Cabal Therapy. It seems to have fallen out of favor in recent times, though – I couldn’t find any Legacy decks that still play it these days, unfortunately.
In EDH, however, oh my goodness. There’s nothing better than someone else playing a Veteran Explorer on turn one and then obliging them with an attack so they can chump block. Lands for everyone! See what’s possible when we just work together?
Once upon a time, Modern was dominated by a Krark-Clan Ironworks combo deck that won by… well, er, it would try to… um, hang on. It was a deck whose principal game plan was… okay, look, honestly, I don’t really know how KCI Combo worked. A lot of artifacts would be moved around between the hand, battlefield and graveyard, a lot of mana would appear from… somewhere… and eventually they’d win the game because I dunno, their opponent would get sick of watching them move pieces of cardboard around.
One second. Let’s do some research and figure this out.
Matt Nass was famous for playing this deck to great success, and did an unreasonable amount of winning with it. In his article, he lays out all the various ways the deck could cycle through its combos, and as you can see, Myr Retriever was a big part of that. You’d sacrifice the Myr Retriever, along with cards like Scrap Trawler, to loop cards through your graveyard and back into your hand at a net mana profit.
From there, you could loop stuff over and over to… hm, well, again, I’m not sure. There’s a Pyrite Spellbomb in there somewhere, so that probably has something to do with how you win. Anyway. The deck was mystifying to many, but it was so good in the hands of those who could unravel and understand its combos that Krark-Clan Ironworks was eventually banned.
Much like a turn-one Doomed Traveler, a turn-one Stitcher’s Supplier is an immediate indication that your opponent is up to no good. This card is so good at what it does, it’s unbelievable. For one mana, you get to mill six cards, soak up a little bit of damage, and even – if your deck is built that way – benefit from having a 1/1 to sacrifice to something or other.
Dredge, Reanimator and any other strategy that wants a nice full graveyard is always going to be interested in a card like this. The fact that these decks can sometimes be soft to aggro means that Stitcher’s Supplier offers a huge benefit as a 1/1 to chump block early that also aids your game plan.
While it does see a little bit of play in Legacy and Modern – and even in Vintage, in Hogaak decks there – Stitcher’s Supplier does the bulk of its work in Historic. There, it fuels reanimator decks looking to cheat out Serra’s Emissary on turns three or four, and also puts in work in Rakdos Pyromancer. There, it fills the graveyard for Dreadhorde Arcanist and to fuel Kroxa, while also providing a body for Village Rites. What a card.
The most famous, and for many the most frustrating, piece of sacrifice fodder in recent times is assuredly Cauldron Familiar. This cat has been popping in and out of Witch’s Oven ever since Throne of Eldraine dumped a bunch of ridiculously powerful cards on us two years ago. Jund Sacrifice decks paired the cat and oven combo with Mayhem Devil in Standard, and the result was an incredibly powerful deck that has happily moved on to Historic since then.
For those – like myself – who aren’t a fan of the deck, it can be horrendous to play against. There are so many clicks involved in each iteration of cycling a Cauldron Familiar through a Witch’s Oven, and it can be interminable to play against. Not only that, but the fact that a Collected Company on a board that’s empty except for a Witch’s Oven can quickly turn into game over, if they flip the right cards.
Cauldron Familiar was eventually banned in Standard, but as I say, that didn’t slow it down. The deck is still a force to be reckoned with in Historic. They say cats are supposed to have nine lives, but I don’t know how many millions of times Cauldron Familiar has been sacrificed and brought back from the dead!