Why would anyone want a collection for sales? AKA The strategies I have found don't work...

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I'm trying to create an automated clearance/sale collection. So the basic strategy is to have it add anything with a compare at price greater than 0. Ok cool, that will work as long as I never ever have a compare at price for anything that isn't on sale. Which means that I cannot put a compare at price in when I create the product and have to go and manually add it to each product when it goes on sale. 


So I went and did just that. I manually added the compare at prices to the items that had been put on sale.


Next problem: there isn't a way that I have been able to find that will filter variants. Most of the products on sale have multiple color variants, and not all of the colors are on sale. The problem there is that even though the variants that are not on sale do not have a compare at price listed they are still put into the collection. 


Isn't a sale/clearance area a basic function for any form of retail? Any help here would be tremendously appreciated!!