Vorthos Deck-Building – Selesnya Standard

I bet you’re expecting a set review today, aren’t you? A beautiful article full of smart quips dissecting the art and flavor text of our beloved homecoming to Ravnica. Unfortunately, I must disappoint. Trick, director of the mothership, recently dropped a full list of theme weeks over the coming months.

While Vorthos loves walking paths others dare not tread, this is one instance in which we should be joining everyone else—if not leading. That means no set analysis today. Check out next week’s article for awesome reviewage, and enjoy today’s new take on Vorthos Deck-building.

My first thought was to fill this space with some stories on Earth’s real-life Selesnyans: the Japanese. (Think about it: sacrifice of the individual for the greater good, concept of religion, and they even manicure their gardens.) I’ve done a lot of personal storytelling lately, however, so I discarded that idea. Then, I thought of my recent Commander article on Rakdos. There were calls to do the entire cycle, and what better excuse than theme weeks? Finally, I remembered my promise at the end of that very same article:

I know a number of people were clamoring for decks other than Commander in my last article. With our return to Ravnica, you can bet I’ll be sure to satisfy those desires in the near future.

While I’m not abandoning the idea of doing all five—and eventually ten—guilds in Commander, I value keeping promises. Selesnya is set up well for the coming Standard environment, so let’s capitalize on that and make a deck that is both flavorful and possibly competitive. I say possibly because there’s no telling where the metagame will end up just a few short months from now.

All right, too much talking. Let’s do it!

The Selesnya Conclave

Collective Blessing
The basic strategy for a Selesnya deck in Standard might seem fairly obvious thanks to their new mechanic populate. Not only that, Innistrad block has its own share of token support in white. But this is Vorthos Deck-building! We can’t be satisfied with such a simple idea.

Why does Selesnya love tokens? Because they care about community. Because they care about growth. There’s a lot more we can take from those ideas.

When building the deck, I kept this in mind, and I ended up with a deck that cares about creatures, but also the prosperity of nature. Ramp cards, mainly in the form of creatures, will smooth out the mana and allow you to cast bigger creatures sooner. In addition, a community wouldn’t be complete without all kinds of critters. So, we have everything from 1/1s to 8/8s, giving the deck the ability to apply pressure at all points in a game.

The Cast

Arbor Elf
Arbor Elf, Avacyn's Pilgrim, and Borderland Ranger These are fairly self-explanatory; we need mana ramp, and we want creatures. These provide us with both. While Arbor Elf and Borderland Ranger hold generic flavor that can fit into Selesnya, Avacyn’s Pilgrim seems as though it was designed with the guild in mind—though they might have chosen a word other than pilgrim.

Selesnya Keyrune Here’s more ramp, but instead of a creature, we have something slightly more difficult to remove from the game. It also doubles as a 3/3 when needed.

Loxodon Smiter This is not exactly the most flavorful of Selesnya’s new cards, but who can argue with a 4/4 on turn two?

Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage A bear is never horrible in a deck full of creatures, and her abilities will come in handy when there’s extra mana available. Her second ability will be extra-spicy in combination with Armada Wurm, Thragtusk, and Grove of the Guardian.

Armada Wurm The Wurm is one of the deck’s many bombs we want to be ramping into. Having 10 power worth of trample damage is going to beat most decks that don’t have a Wrath within arm’s reach.

Wolfir Silverheart
Wolfir Silverheart Here’s another big guy we want to put on the field as soon as possible. While a werewolf doesn’t exactly scream Selesnya, his ability sure feels like it. It also has the bonus of making your small, mana creatures into something formidable.

Collective Blessing Speaking of turning your creatures into something formidable, let’s meet our final bomb. While we could’ve gone with a Collective Blessing deck, I opted for once again being a bit more subtle. Selesnya isn’t just about pumping up creatures, so we’re avoiding that focus. However, it’s still an awesome card that fits into the deck in both flavor and power.

Thragtusk Sure, it’s already garnered a lot of talk and publicity, but its abilities create another Selesnya impersonator. You’re giving us a token and life? Yes, please!

Fiend Hunter This doesn’t carry spectacular flavor, but I can see Selesnya training special forces to eliminate those they view as heretics. This deck lacks removal. Perhaps it does not require much, but to keep the flavor at as high a level as possible, we’d rather have removal attached to a creature. Oblivion Ring would be great in terms of power, but it doesn’t evoke Selesnya in any significant way.

Grove of the Guardian
Grove of the Guardian Why not four? A two-color deck can handle four colorless lands for sure, but it would be a bit strange for Selesnya to have four Groves. In addition, our goal is to be ramping, not taking away lands. Losing one isn’t a big deal, but any more than that, and we might not be able to cast our big spells.

Selesnya Guildgate and Evolving Wilds Honestly, you can just go with four of whichever you prefer. I want to add flavor wherever I can, and this is an easy way to do it without sacrificing much.

Forest I’m a huge fan of both Yeong-Hao Han’s and Anthony S. Waters’s Forest from the new and old Ravnica sets, respectively. Use whichever Forest suits you as long as you’re using a Forest from Ravnica. If you don’t, watch your back for the Vorthos police!

Plains Something about Yeong-Hao Han’s lands speak to me. I’d go with his Plains, or Richard Wright’s classic that was printed in both Ravnica blocks. Sadly, none of Ravnica’s Plains are truly Selesnyan, so if you find one from an older set that works you have my blessing.

The Deck

As you can see, I’ve skipped a sideboard. There are some cards, such as Sundering Growth and Dryad Militant, that would work quite well, but I’ll let you fiddle with that once we start seeing actual decks in the new Standard.

Cutting Room Floor

Increasing Devotion
Gather the Townsfolk, Increasing Devotion, Intangible Virtue, and Lingering Souls All right, let’s get the elephant out of the room first. I think a tokens deck is perfectly viable in the new Standard. However, I think it would be much stronger as a B/G/W good-stuff deck, and that’s just not okay with Vorthos during Selesnya Week. (Heck, I shuddered at Mike Cannon’s inclusion of Deadbridge Goliath on Monday.) If your aim is to win a tournament, go ahead and build that deck. I wish you the best of luck!

Gutter Grime This was originally in the deck when I thought there would be more populate cards. I don’t think the flavor fits perfectly, but it’s good enough to work if the deck actually wanted the card.

Elder of Laurels Selesnya values elders, especially those who take care of others. This guy would be a great finisher in any Selesnya deck with extra mana. Sadly, there just wasn’t room.

Geist-Honored Monk Similar to Avacyn’s Pilgrim in naming flavor, this guy comes with bonus mechanical flavor—another tough cut.

Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Mikaeus, the Lunarch If you’re looking to build a Selesnya weenie deck, this guy should be an auto-include.

Parallel Lives This is another great card for Selesnya. Double populate? Yes, please! There just wasn’t enough token making in the final deck to justify a slot for this.

Silverblade Paladin This is another good card for Selesnya weenie.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben She would probably be in my sideboard. She works so well in creature decks, and she speeds up your clock.

Ulvenwald Tracker This guy has enough flavor—though I’d want more to call him an auto-include—to justify his inclusion. He’s probably the first card I’d call upon if I felt the deck wanted more removal.

Vorapede This is a big bomb that just lost out to the other bombs thanks to lack of Selesnya-centric flavor—not that Armada Wurm contains much more.

Garruk, Primal Hunter
Garruk, Primal Hunter I toyed with putting Garruk in the deck. I really wanted to. In the end, I decided planeswalkers had no place in a guild-themed deck unless they were associated with the guild. Garruk doesn’t exactly embody the whiter aspects of the guild either.

Ajani, Caller of the Pride Ajani is a much better fit in terms of flavor. Again, he’s not directly associated with Selesnya, so he was cut.

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice I imagine some people will be a bit angry I left out Selesnya’s acting guildmaster. I just couldn’t imagine populate being strong enough to last in the upcoming Standard environment, and that’s exactly the type of deck where she (they?) would really shine.

Primal Surge A deck with all permanents? Check. I really wanted to make this a one-of in the deck, but let my better (i.e. Vorthos) senses rule the day. The flavor of the card feels a bit too much like Gruul to justify adding it to the deck.

That’s All, Folks

That went a bit longer than I had planned, but we managed to avoid any Mark Rosewater–length comparisons. Did you enjoy hearing about every card and their reasons? Or would you prefer a slightly shorter article with fewer cards highlighted? Let me know in the comments, the forums, or on Twitter.

Join me next week when we dive into the pool of flavor that is our return to Ravnica.