You, Me, and Trostani Make Three
Selesnya is my favorite guild.
For the prerelease, I wore a Selesnya guild PAX shirt, had my Selesnya guild pin, Temple Garden play mat, Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage deck box, and white sleeves, and I consumed green Gatorade. Some might say that’s too much; no, I’m just getting into the spirit of the event. I’m all about the community aspect, I rarely try to do things for myself, and I believe in the law and order of nature. (Don’t pervert it like those sick Simic followers.) The color pie is a natural ecosystem, and I’m here to protect it from those who want to pervert it.
With this being “my” week, I want to build around our new leader: Trostani, Selesnya's Voice. I think she/they are a perfect fit for these two colors. I’ve already ordered my foil now for a Commander, and I want to see what I can do with this deck. But to do that, let’s see what she does:
Here are the important aspects of the card:
- Gain life for creatures entering the battlefield.
- Create copies of tokens, causing creatures to enter the battlefield, to gain you more life.
If this isn’t a hippie card, I don’t know what is.
Let’s maximize our use of her. To do that, let’s find some green, white, and colorless cards that fit into three categories: gaining life, token enablers, and the actual tokens.
We don’t have to worry about gaining life outside of her/them, because she/they is/are consistent enough to not put too much life-gaining cards in here. Let’s focus on the cards that work off life-gain triggers:
I knew that wasn’t going to be a deep list of cards. I’m very familiar with Cradle of Vitality and Well of Lost Dreams since both appear in my Brion Stoutarm deck. If I’m gaining life and I’m in white, these cards are included. Now let’s see the list of relevant cards that focus on your life total:
- Ajani Goldmane
- Ajani, Caller of the Pride
- Beacon of Immortality
- Celestial Convergence
- Celestial Mantle
- Eternity Vessel
- Invincible Hymn
- Serra Avatar
- Storm Herd
- Touch of the Eternal
With Trostani in play, cards like Serra Avatar and Storm Herd along with Ajani Goldmane and Ajani, Caller of the Pride’s ultimates act just like a Beacon of Immortality. And with Ajani Goldmane’s Avatar token . . . well, we’ll get to that in a minute.
Tokens have a long history with Magic. Green and white both have great abilities to generate and enable tokens. Before we can look at what we can actually populate, here are the relevant cards that can populate:
- Druid’s Deliverance
- Growing Ranks
- Rootborn Defenses
- Sundering Growth
- Trostani's Judgment
- Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage
- Wayfaring Temple
What I mean by “relevant” is that they are useful for Commander. Cards such as Coursers' Accord cost 6 mana, and there’s something I would rather do than just make two 3/3s. Even Horncaller's Chant, which makes two 4/4s with trample, costs a little much at 8 mana. If you’re going budget, they’re perfect. However, if I have my choice of cards, that’s not what I’m going with.
You’ll notice that all of the relevant cards are either instants, do something other than just populate, or have repeatable effects. All of these are important aspects in Commander. You want to get the most use of your cards, and having one-sided Fog effects (Druid’s Deliverance), Disenchanting something (Sundering Growth), or making a free token at the beginning of your turn (Growing Ranks) can help you keep your options open rather than keep you locked into something that’s unneeded at the moment. Obviously, you’re going to have to put tokens on the battlefield or populate doesn’t work. Let’s see how we can maximize our token usage before we get to the token creators themselves:
- Doubling Season
- Dual Nature
- Hour of Reckoning
- Intangible Virtue
- Leyline of the Meek
- Minion Reflector
- Parallel Evolution
- Parallel Lives
- Phantom General
- Rhys the Redeemed
You see some familiar card names here: Doubling Season, Parallel Lives, Rhys the Redeemed. Minion Reflector can do an okay copy effect of the nontoken creatures that enter the battlefield. Dark Ascension bulk rare Séance makes an appearance on this list. Board sweeper Hour of Reckoning can make use of the tokens you’re generating. A few just-double-everything-with-tokens cards Dual Nature and Parallel Evolution make an appearance as well. And there are a couple power-and-toughness buffs such as Leyline of the Meek, Intangible Virtue, and Phantom General. We might skip the last group because we’re dealing with a very specific set of tokens.
The Tokens Themselves
When given the opportunity to do anything you want, why should you do something small? A 1/1 Squirrel does practically nothing on the battlefield when you’re playing Commander. Twenty 1/1 squirrels get attention, however. But with populate, we can only copy one token at a time. I’m not going to copy a 1/1 when I can make something bigger. How big? I’m glad you asked.
I compiled a list of cards that create 4/4s or larger. I figured that this would be the cutoff for creatures that start to make a difference in Commander when you’re only copying one at a time (things such as Doubling Season and the like are ignored). They all make 4/4s or more with better ease than the 8 mana it takes for Horncaller's Chant to make two 4/4s.
If we’re looking for a best-case three-card combination, I’m going to point to no further than this example that was posted on reddit in r/MagicTCG last Friday:
Yeah. Awesome, right? Here’s how it works:
With Trostani and Doubling Season on the battlefield, you cast Ajani Goldmane. He comes into play with double the loyalty counters on him due to Doubling Season. (Loyalty counters only are doubled when the planeswalker enters the battlefield, not when you use their abilities.) With Ajani’s 8 loyalty counters, you can do his −6 ability, giving you an Avatar token with power and toughness equal to your life total. Doubling Season’s token and Trostani’s gain-life trigger (for this example, we’re going to start out with 40 life). Doubling Season goes on the bottom of the stack, and Trostani’s will go off first. Gain 40 life; you’re now at 80. Avatar token (from Doubling Season) enters the battlefield as an 80/80; Trostani’s gain-life trigger triggers again. You’re now at 160. Populate with Trostani by choosing an Avatar token. The third Avatar token enters the battlefield as a 160/160. Doubling Season’s token and Trostani’s gain-life trigger triggers again. Doubling Season goes on the bottom of the stack, and Trostani’s effect will go off first. Gain 160 life; you’re now at 320. The Avatar token from the populate with Doubling Season enters the battlefield as a 320/320. Trostani’s life-gain ability triggers again, and you gain 320 life; you’re now at 640. You now have four 640/640 creatures on the battlefield.
But that was just the best-case scenario. If you want to play with other token creatures, here are some cards I suggest:
Angelic Favor – Here’s a virtually free 4/4 flyer that you populate that can kill an opponent’s attacking creature.
Crush of Wurms – Having 18 power for 9 mana is a fun time, which seems to be a little better than 8 power for 8 mana. Bonus: Flashback for after your opponent Wraths away the board.
Budoka Gardener – You can only flip it when you have ten or more lands, which means you’re generating 10/10s.
Entreat the Angels – It’s gone down in price recently. If Trostani sees play competitively, these might shoot up. I’d suggest you pick them up now.
Grove of the Guardian – If you were a good Selesnyan, you would already have this prerelease promo, right? 8/8 vigilant tokens are pretty, pretty good.
Mimic Vat – Oh, I can copy my opponents’ creatures that die and keep populating them? I think I’ll take that Shriekmaw. Wait, you have a Kokusho, the Evening Star? Let me have him, and I’ll populate . . . stupid legend rule; now you all lose 10 life, and I gain 60 life, only to do it again next turn.
Ooze Garden – Or can I sacrifice your Kokusho token to drain everyone and make my own 5/5 Ooze token? Sure, that sounds great.
Phyrexian Processor – This one is just pure evil. After my life total is 10,240, I’ll pay 10,000 life and make a 10,000/10,000 token and be back up to 10,240. Oh, populate it? Sounds good.
Phyrexian Rebirth – Here’s another perfect Wrath effect to have in this deck. Your tokens all die, but they do trigger for the X/X Horror that you’ve brought into the world. That you can populate.
Titan Forge – There are some cards that also want a proliferate subtheme as well; this is one of those cards. 9/9s are tough to deal with. I mean, they’re no 10,240/10,240s, but they still make a difference.
Wurmcalling – The key with this card is the buyback. If you need to use it early in the game, it has the flexibility of being cast without the buyback. However, these Wurms can be really big later in the game.
You’re not getting a decklist today, but I want to give you a place to start. The main theme of making more counters has to rely on other creatures in the first place, something quite green and white. Wraths will blow you out, so Rootborn Defenses is going to come in key (indestructible isn’t regeneration). We might see some more populate cards in the Spring with “Sinker”; then again, we might not, and this is all we’re going to see. However, token cards will continue to be made, so there will be plenty of opportunities to use populate in the future.
As for now, experiment, and see what you like. Obviously, these are just suggestions about what to put in the deck. Make it your own. But not too different; after all: We are Selesnya.