Sift Through Sands - Asmira and Yasova

Wes Stuckey • June 27, 2022

Evolutionary Leap | Art by Chris Rahn

The Aristocracy of Swamps

Do aristocrats decks require black cards to work? Can any color outperform engines like Viscera Seer and Bitterblossom? Some would say that it isn't aristocrats without black, but I reject the notion that any strategy in Magic requires a certain color. That being said, EDHREC shows us that, well, all the most played aristocrats commanders run black. However! That just makes what we're about to do much cooler and makes me way more of a hipster. In this week's Sift Through Sands, we're going to be exploring building aristocrats without black with two off-color, underplayed legends: Asmira, Holy Avenger and Yasova Dragonclaw.

Our Picks

Asmira, Holy Avenger and Yasova Dragonclaw are both balanced and aggressive commanders who, when built around, lead their decks to victory in unique ways. Asmira, a gorgeous card from a classic set, Mirage, scales on each end step as our creatures die. This turns sacrifice outlets into +1/+1 counters, letting our flying Angel swing through for commander damage. In a different vein, Yasova is an aggressive, low-mana-value creature whose ability we can exploit by sacrificing the creatures she temporarily steals. Together, these commanders can lean into sacrifice and create interesting aristocrats decks. First, let's look at our Asmira list!

Holy Aristocrats, Batman!

Playing Asmira

Our Asmira list is a weird one. Early game, we want to get our ramp pieces and cheap outlets in play using Growth Spasm, Dawntreader Elk, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and the like to get lands quickly. Our cheaper sac outlets, like Ooze Garden, and our utility cards, like Qasali Pridemage and Fecundity, are all things we're happy to see early game, and all of them retain their usefulness later on after we play Asmira.

As we assemble our pieces, many of the creatures in the deck start to become incredible threats that help pump Asmira's power and toughness. Heartmender recurs itself every turn cycle, and works well with our other Persist creatures and Cauldron of Souls. The deck runs a lot of recursion, with the standouts Saffi Eriksdotter and Enduring Renewal (one of the most underappreciated combo pieces in EDH) allowing us to do some ridiculous things. Defensive control cards Spore Frog, Fanatical Devotion, and Yosei, the Morning Star become unbelievably powerful combined with repeated recursion, ever increasing Asmira as a threat.

The core of this deck is in the general sacrifice outlets, self-recurring creatures, and recursion, all of which are more present in Selesnya colors than one may expect. Altar of Bone, Phytotitan, Hymn of Rebirth, and others all keep the deck running. Standalone threats, like Hunting Grounds and Bonehoard, make the deck difficult to contain, and synergistic cards, like Awakening Zone, keep us in the game.

While Asmira takes aristocrats and focuses on repeating triggers with recursion, Yasova looks for one-off powerful effects or permanent theft. Let's look at our list.


Commander (1)
Artifact (11)
Creature (22)
Enchantment (12)
Instant (10)
Sorcery (9)
Land (35)

Playing Yasova

Yasova comes down quickly and is hard to stop when she starts rolling, as our opponents' defensive or utility creatures become easy fodder. While we ramp, assembling our Voltron pieces, like Hero's Blade, Guardian Augmenter, and Unstable Mutation, give Yasova a boost that greatly expands her theft ability. Some of our Equipment, like Skullclamp, Grafted Wargear, and Eater of Virtue, can be attached to the creatures we steal as we find our sacrifice outlets. Later on, big boosts, like Shape of the Wiitigo, Hydra's Growth, and Fractal Harness, make Yasova extremely dangerous.

Yasova will be in our opponents' sights all game, so finding ways to work without her is important to the deck's success. Callous Oppressor, Seasinger, and Zara, Renegade Recruiter are all excellent ways to gain control of our opponents' creatures. Utility pieces, like Quandrix Command, Temur Charm, and Trap Essence have open-ended applications that make them strong inclusions.

Most important to the deck's success is the aristocrats pieces. We have plenty of sacrifice outlets in the deck, each with important synergy. Grafted Identity can let us steal any creature after taking a mana dork with Yasova. Industrial Advancement filters our deck to cheat a creature into play, no matter how big they are. Geralf, Visionary Stitcher and Dracoplasm turn temporary control into permanent tokens, all while keeping the creatures we steal out of opponents' control.

Aristocrats Package

Although black offers a plethora of ways to benefit from sacrificing creatures, Asmira and Yasova both have ways to gain larger payoffs from various aristocrats pieces. In both decks, the presence of enchantments and other utility cards with sacrifice effects make them feasible. These cards are in both decks:

These cards are all green (apart from Demonmail Hauberk), but many of the blue, red, and white cards in the decks also work well in aristocrats decks. While black may be the mainstay of these strategies, plenty of cards can be added to the mix or focused upon to make effective decks. In particular, two of the Gods printed in Battle for Baldur's Gate, Myrkul, Lord of Bones and Bane, Lord of Darkness, enjoy having a plethora of sacrifice effects.

Building off-color for Asmira and Yasova was a lot of fun, and I want to hear about your experiences doing the same! Do you have any decks whose archetypes are usually found in other colors? Do you think black is necessary to even call a deck an aristocrats deck? Is Riftstone Portal the best mana-fixer ever? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Until next time.

The untenable Wes Stuckey is the jankiest Magic player to roam the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (their first brewed deck was Blind Seer "old cards"). By day, they work in circulation at one of the city's many great libraries. By night, you can find them slinging spells, running campaigns, and listening to music with friends and the cat.