Selesnya, Simply Sublime

Written by Anthony Lowry on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Selesnya, Simply Sublime

Anthony Lowry

Anthony Lowry, also known as "Firebranded", is a rising player from New York City known for his open-minded deckbuilding prowess and knack for aggressive strategies. His most notable finish in his young career is an 11th-place finish at the StarCityGames Open Series in Washington D.C.

Editor’s Note: Legit MTG is participating in Selesnya theme week alongside Daily MTG and other websites in the Magic community. Look for articles populated with the green-white guild to join our regular features. And don’t worry. The other Return to Ravnica guilds will get equal treatment in upcoming weeks.

This prerelease was by far the most fun and exciting one I’ve ever attended. I tried out three guilds — Azorius, Selesnya and Rakdos — and wasn’t disappointed in any. The overall response of the format was very positive, and all of the guilds’ strategies looks fun and interesting.

This week is all about Selesnya though, and man, does it have a lot to offer. The populate mechanic is deceptively powerful. Cards like Eyes in the Skies and Sundering Growth aren’t going to impress anyone alone, but when you’re progressing your presence with Call of the Conclave, Thragtusk or even Moonsilver Spear, things can get out of hand very quickly.

An Aggressive Start

Return to Ravnica has so many things to offer in Standard. Almost anything will be awesome if you put in the work to make it awesome. I was happy to work with Selesnya in making a multitude of decks. Everything from Champion of the Parish, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice … Wait. Why don’t we just put all of these awesome creatures in one deck!?

Our goal is to attack as quickly as possible using powerful, cheap threats in Champion of the Parish, Knight of Glory and Silverblade Paladin, disruptive and resilient angles in Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Doomed Traveler, Fiend Hunter and Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice[/card], then topping it off with the immense power of Sublime Archangel.

Having the utility lands, Gavony Township and Grove of the Guardian, allows us to further increase our board presence. Rancor provides that extra push in damage, a way to break down Lingering Souls and stalemates, and abuse the first strike and double strike available. Some sideboard options include Martial Law to thwart Thragtusks and other large threats, Oblivion Ring for more general problems and planeswalkers, and Garruk Relentless, for more attrition-based creature matchups.

Talk about aggressive! We’re even giving War Falcon some playing time. The only “creature” in this deck that isn’t a knight or soldier is the centaur token from Call of the Conclave. That shouldn’t be too much of a drawback, though, and making a Watchwolf on Turn 2 is powerful enough to play in this deck, especially when we can follow up with an Ajani, Caller of the Pride or Silverblade Paladin.

Dryad Militant doubles as a hate card for graveyard shenanigans while still providing the offense we need to end the game as quickly as possible. I can certainly see cards like Giant Growth or Hunger of the Howlpack in this build to give your double-striking creatures a massive boost, but Rancor may just be the best tool for that job.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a leading candidate for the sideboard along with Riders of Gavony, which is amazing against Zombies and the mirror. Mayor of Avabruck can be effective against the slower decks, while providing more pressure.

By Popular Demand

We’re trying to use the strongest token generators we can find, and populating them. Simple as that. Entreat the Angels generally isn’t very exciting when you’re only getting a single angel for five mana. But here you can invite more to the party. Wayfaring Temple is an awesome populate engine, and I can definitely see Rancor replacing some Growing Ranks to push the damage and population.

I don’t know if we would want more Trostanis, but she is very strong and makes the deck come together on the top end. Some sideboard options include more Rootborn Defenses to protect against Bonfire of the Damned and Mizzium Mortars. An additional Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice can be helpful against the faster matchups, and Knight of Glory is an effective tool against Zombies.

Blink and You’ll Miss It

There are plenty of creatures in Selesnya that have powerful “Enters the battlefield” effects. I’m a huge fan of abusing these, whether it’s creating more creatures, getting rid of opposing threats, or just going “Cool story bro!” to your opponent’s offense. And I know just the tools to enable that …

This blink deck (locally nicknamed “The Josh Harris special”) was actually one of the decks I played with in preparation for our new Standard, and it performed very well. Centaur Healer is almost too good to be true for its mana cost and body, and using it in combination with Restoration Angel and Cloudshift will give aggro decks nightmares. Elvish Visionary allows you to get away with playing 23 lands, and blinking one isn’t the worst thing in the world. Borderland Ranger makes your Arbor Elves better by lowering your Plains count to one (although two is viable for your later spells). Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice makes another appearance, making your Restoration Angels and Cloudshifts even more potent.

This build can be soft to control and heavy midrange strategies, so it’s important to add something that helps your offense in the sideboard, like Ajani, Caller of the Pride. Loxodon Smiter is awesome against decks trying to run Liliana of the Veil, Rakdos’s Return and similar effects. If you aren’t sure what to expect, then having a Nevermore or two could ward off what you weren’t prepared for in Game 1.

Touched by an Angel

I also want to share the deck I may ultimately play for the TCG Diamond 5k in Hartford, Conn. Many strategies in our new Standard involve awesome creatures. Lotleth Troll, Thragtusk and Geist of Saint Traft are among the main threats people want to play with.

My goal was to build the best Thragtusk deck. It’s no secret that the creature itself is amazing, so I wanted to abuse it as much as possible. I came up with something similar to the above decklist. I wasn’t very happy with it though, since I couldn’t beat opposing Lingering Souls, and a Jace, Architect of Thought protected by them. I also found myself fighting really hard in Thragtusk fights, even with Restoration Angel. So I decided to go bigger than Thragtusk.

Armada Wurm fit the six-drop slot, making the best Broodmate Dragon impression I’ve seen in a long time, so I added three of those. I still wasn’t happy, and wanted to go bigger. But I had no idea what could be better than casting Armada Wurm.

Until I cast this for the first time:

I wasn’t sold on Angel of Serenity for a very long time. I felt she was very overrated for her cost, and giving your opponent the ability to recast creatures isn’t the best thing in the world. Then I realized just how hard it is for decks like Zombies to come back from a resolved one, and how it can singlehandedly put you back into a game. The ability to chain Angels is definitely important, especially when you get caught in the previously mentioned Thragtusk wars. Games can go very long when that happens, and she breaks that stalemate.

Of course, I’ll find any excuse to play “hyooj” creatures, and there’s no way I’m going to play them the turn they’re supposed to be cast.

We’re requesting a bit of assistance from Orzhov and Golgari, but it’s for good reason. Lingering Souls gives us time to get to our desired endgame while Vault of the Archangel provides more creature removal and can make enormous life swings. I don’t think I’ve ever been dissatisfied with having one, or even two Vaults on the battlefield, especially when I’m trying to deal with a large threat. A few people suggested I try playing a maindeck tutor like Diabolic Revelation or Increasing Ambition, which makes sense. Being able to find multiple Angels, or even a sweeper that you need, is definitely worth the turn.

Terminus is the sweeper of choice because it ignores undying and regeneration.Entreat the Angels was also something I wanted to play, but it’s really difficult to find room for it and it’s pretty embarrassing against Mizzium Mortars.

The current iteration does have problems with ramping on Turn 2, and the only other noncreature ramp spell I could find was Mana Bloom. Casting Mana Bloom for one isn’t the worst thing if you can Ranger’s Path the following turn. You can still get to six mana this way provided you hit all of your land drops. Even if you don’t, it puts you into Thragtusk territory. The Selesnya Keyrunes double as ramp spells. I’m not sure if playing four copies of Woodland Cemetery is correct. I’m not playing that many black spells, and I have a ton of ways of finding black mana. I can see shaving one or two of them for a third Cavern of Souls or just another Forest.

In the sideboard we have some utility planeswalkers in Garruk, Primal Hunter and Vraska, the Unseen. Having this combination works better than two Vraskas and one Garruk, mostly because Garruk is just going to draw you cards, resulting in a higher chance of him dying. Most of the time, I’ll want to use Vraska as a Vindicate once or twice.  Sundering Growth is an awesome Naturalize that can incidentally progress your board while dealing with random Chromatic Lanterns, Oblivion Rings and Detention Spheres.

Martial Law is for opposing Thragtusks, Angels of Serenity and other large, singular threats. Deathrite Shaman is primarily for Zombies, but being able to pick off Unburial Rites and Angel of Serenity targets is certainly helpful. Sigarda, Host of Herons is mostly just a brick wall that a lot of Zombies and Geist of Saint Traft decks have difficulty getting through. Elderscale Wurm is mostly a trump to the decks that skimp on hard removal, and can help you stabilize against a lot of random decks that aren’t ready for it. This may be better as an Angel of Glory’s Rise, but I’m a bit skeptical.

This is a good starting point for those looking to go bigger than anyone else. May your hearts remain pure, and your board states populated!

Thanks for reading!

~Firebranded
Twitter: @aulowry

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