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Fashionably Populate

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Casual Magic, Commander

Location, location, location. Often touted as the three most important things in business and real estate, they are equally important in Magic. There are a number of powerful lands for every color, from the two land mana acceleration combo of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth & Cabal Coffers, to the equally powerful Gaea”s Cradle, and even the most broken of all lands: Island. Primeval Titan might be unbannable if this basic land was banned instead. Land is often the least thought about portion of decks, especially for new Commander players.

A two color guild-themed deck can limit the number of options when discussing which non-basic lands to consider. A Selesnya Commander deck with a strong token theme is a good deck to use when considering how to approach a mana base. Limiting a deck to two colors keeps the number of powerful lands to a manageable number. Before land cards are considered, lets consider the non-land elements of the deck.

Green and white mana power Selesnya. This guild is driven to improve the community as a whole, at the sake of the individual if necessary. Selesnya draws support from nature, swarming its opponents and resulting in an Overwhelming victory. Translated to card mechanics, Selesnya cares about two main resources: creatures and tokens. Like all flavorful decks, this 100-card singleton deck will include the strongest cards that emphasize both elements of the game.

The deck is not subtle, shy, or sneaky. Make lots of creatures, attack with superior numbers of creatures, defeat the opposition. Creatures will die, but the guild will prevail.

The strengths of this deck include creating a large number of small creatures, creating a small number of large creatures, and the ability to repeat this process (following mass removal spells) as many times as necessary. Unlike a lot of creature-based aggro decks, Trostani’s deck has the ability to quickly rebuild. Cards that increase the power and toughness of creatures support this deck during recovery periods of the game. These “anthem” effects transform small Saproling, Spirit, and Wolf tokens into sizable creatures that will trade up with larger casting costs in combat.The constantly growing army will keep this deck from dying out during the mid and late game.

Know Your Role…

Selesnya”s strength comes in numbers. As appropriate for a green-white deck, Trostani has a lot of creatures and token producers. Your strategy: keep making creatures. Make enough creatures and no opposition will be able to stand between Selesnya and victory.

A single card can serve different functions in different decks. For example, Intangible Virtue gives your creature tokens 1/ 1 and Vigilance. In a sixty card Spirits deck in standard, Intangible Virtue can lead to an aggressive blue-white token deck. However, the same card’s primary function in this deck is to help recover after all of your creatures die. Two or three 2/2 tokens are able to provide a solid deterrent to being attacked or are able to trade with a larger attacker. The same two or three tokens as 1/1s are not as formidable. Most enchantments do not attack or block your opponents, but they can still have an impact on combat if their effect is large enough. Enchantments also are harder to kill than most creatures in Commander. Planar Cleansing will eliminate them, but the more popular Day of Judgment and Damnation leave this card type unscathed.

… And Shut Your Mouth!

Token producers are a fantastic way to get extra value from a card. Midnight Haunting is a three mana instant that puts two 1/1 Flying Spirit tokens into play. This can be played before you need to declare blockers to trade with a smaller attacker or chump block an otherwise game-ending attack. Another use is to play this on the end step before your turn, untap, and have two flying attackers that the other players did not plan around. The surprise diminishes, but the effect multiplies if a permanent can repeatedly make tokens. Jade Mage, Selesnya Guildmage, or the new Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage can all make tokens until your mana is spent. Tokens, especially larger 3/3 Centaur tokens, or the massive 8/8 Vigilance token from Grove of the Guardian are great to populate.

This deck is built to push the guild’s Populate ability. Rare is the turn where a Populate card will sit in your hand waiting for a token to be copied. The new mechanic is also stapled onto some classic effects. Trostani”s Judgment is Unmake Populate for three more mana. Pay six mana: permanently remove an opposing creature, make a new creature for your self. Value. Sundering Growth is a Disenchant for two mana! In a Commander game, this will always be a great late-game top deck. Copy my 8/8 Vigilance token, destroy your Gauntlet of Power (or Sol Ring, or Signet, there’s always an artifact in play).

Limited to One Hundred

Like all Commander decks, there are cards that did not make the final cut. Here are the four hardest cards to cut from the final list:

Glare of Subdual – This enchantment can tap creatures and artifacts for the low cost of tapping one of your creatures. This can prevent Grave Titan from attacking and constantly creating more and more Zombie tokens or it can make an opponent use their Sol Ring at an inopportune time. Glare is a strong enchantment from original Ravnica and might replace Behemoth Sledge (the current 100th card) if the Sledge does not pull its weight.

Rhys the Redeemed – Token decks usually love tokens with their tokens. Rhys” second ability is a form of super Populate. In fact, according to Mark Rosewater, an ability similar to this was tested as Populate. It was quickly determined that this was too good. If deck strength is more important than flavor, Rhys is a definite upgrade.

Sigarda, Host of Herons – Another green-white legendary creature that can save your token and creature army from sacrifice effects. Whether it’s sacrificing one creature to Diabolic Edict or en mass to All is Dust, Sigarda is an evasive threat that is hard to deal with. She”s another great potential addition to the deck.

Aura Shards – Repeatable artifact and enchantment destruction can be vital. Sundering Growth is currently filling this slot in the deck because it Populates. Aura Shards is anxiously waiting to go back into the deck if the new Disenchant is not powerful enough.

Walker, Ravnica Ranger

Planeswalkers in their current form were not present during the first trip to Ravnica. Additionally, the two from the newest set will not work in this deck due to their colors. What Planeswalkers would increase the strength of this deck? Ajani Goldmane can boost creatures with 1/ 1 counters and “ultimate” to create another sizable token. Ajani, Caller of the Pride’s ultimate ability also results in lots of token creatures. Elspeth Tirel and Elspeth, Knight-Errant also increase the number of tokens in play with game winning ultimates in a deck like this. Gideon Jura is a fighter and could fit into a Selesnya deck, but his abilities do not mesh well with a token based deck. Nissa Revane is great in an elf deck, but not in a deck with a couple of creatures that happen to be elves. Garruk Wildspeaker and Garruk, Primal Hunter are also effective token-making Planeswalkers.

The current deck list lacks any Planeswalkers. This is primarily a flavor decision. Both versions of Garruk and both versions of Elspeth would be strong additions to the deck if game play is ultimately more important than flavor for you. The issue becomes what to remove for these new cards. Token producers like Selesnya Guildmage or Jade Mage could be replaced by Planeswalker cards that can perform the same task, but on a much different level.

Population

As stated earlier, this deck makes dudes, makes dudes bigger, and then attacks for lethal. A fun and flavorful deck, give Trostani, Selesnya”s Voice a try. This deck makes all the tokens and wins games for the honor of the guild. Remember: the guild is more important than any one member.

“For the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world.”
― Siddhārtha Gautama

Land Ho!

Now that the non-land portion of the deck is taken care of, the mana base must be addressed. Mana is the main resource that keeps the game moving. No land means no mana. No mana means no spells or creatures. Mana bases in Commander decks have the smallest card pool to choose from, but it determines who wins and loses a game more often than players realize.

The easiest (and cheapest) way to setup a mana base is to use all basic lands, separated into half Plains and half Forests. While straightforward, this can lead to games with five green spells in hand and only Plains on the battlefield. If you draw the wrong combination of lands, you will not be able to cast your spell and you will lose. The next step up the mana base ladder is common in all Magic formats: mana fixing. Mana fixing is a vast topic, but for the sake of simplicity, it means giving yourself the best option of having the colors you need, when you need them. Evolving Wilds is one example of mana fixing. Rampant Growth, Armillary Sphere, Boundless Realms–the list goes on and on, but the point is to ensure that the right combination of Forests and Plains are in play when needed. If you have the same five green spells and an Evolving Wilds in hand your next turn can have at least one Forest.

Dual lands mobile casino are another type of mana fixing. Dual lands produce two types of colored mana. You can start by cutting two Plains and two Forests for Selesnya Guildgate, Selesnya Sanctuary, Temple Garden, and Sunpetal Grove. Your deck still has the same number of lands that produce white mana and the same number that produce green mana, but four of them can produce either type. This flexibility is where mana fixing can become very valuable.

Some non-basic lands also have abilities when they enter the battlefield or after they are in play. Using a land slot to have a spell-like effect increases the overall versatility of your deck. Grove of the Guardian can produce mana until you are ready to make an 8/8 creature token. Stirring Wildwood is the green-white land from Worldwake. This cycle of lands are called “manlands” because they serve as a land, but can be turned into a creature that can attack or block. Oran-Rief, the Vastwood is another versatile land that can add 1/ 1 counters to green creatures every turn. Lands that serve a role beyond tapping for mana can be the key to transforming a good deck into a great deck.

Mana fixing and utility lands can be taken to an extreme. Most Commander decks need 39 lands (plus or minus two)–usually a mix of basic and non-basic lands. Some lands should produce two types of mana, and some mono-colored lands will be played for their abilities. The longer you play, the more value you want to get from every card. However, there is a point where this makes your deck lose to land destruction. While frowned upon in some playgroups, land destruction is a strong red ability. Cards like Blood Moon and Ruination can wreck a mana base built without enough basic lands. Depending on your play group, one combination of lands might be better than another.

Another factor when choosing lands is the theme of the deck. This deck is obviously based on the Ravnica guild, Selesnya. How true do you want to stay to your theme? If the deck is created to showcase Selesnya and Tokens, including Windbrisk Heights and Contested War Zone can subtly start to decrease the Selesnya/Ravnica feel to the deck. To most players this minor flavor discrepancy is irrelevant. But to Vorthos deck builders, the small inconsistency can reduce the enjoyment the deck provides.

The final question is often a new player”s first question: how much money do you want to spend on your deck? This might be better asked as: how much money do you have left to spend on land for your deck? Doubling Season is not in this deck, but it could definitely be added. The cost of other expensive non-lands (Mirari”s Wake) can add up. Additionally, non-basic lands can get pricey in large numbers.

Consider the previous factors as you look at the following three mana bases. The first has the fewest basic lands (seven total). In a playgroup devoid of Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon, Ruination and the like, the deck becomes significantly stronger. This is also the most expensive group of lands. The second group of lands reduces the number of non-flavorful and non-theme lands. To make this a more affordable option, the number of basic lands has increased to twenty. The third list is the most basic of all. All of the non-basic lands have been printed in a Ravnica block, and the only rare land is less than a dollar.

These three different lists of lands all supply the deck with 39 different sources of mana. The versatility and strength of a deck can increase exponentially with strong non-basic lands. Worse than absentmindedly throwing in 20 Forests and 19 Plains is not considering the impact of lands on the playability and power level of a deck. Land as a card type has probably killed more players than any other card type in Magic. Unfortunately, these deaths are usually self-inflicted and easily preventable. Increasing the quality and reliability of a deck’s lands will simultaneously increase the amount of fun a deck is to play.

Are there other lands that you would have included in one of these lists? Are there non-land cards that are not strong enough in flavor or game play? Do you have an idea for a deck but are not sure how to flesh it out? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.

Tom Lloyd III
Tom3MTG@gmail.com
@Tom3MTG

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