Hey folks! We’re celebrating the Theme Weeks along with the DailyMTG site, which means that this week is Selesnya Week. It shouldn’t be hard to deduce, therefore, that I’ll be building a Selesnya Commander deck. Let’s get excited about the new set by picking a Selesnya commander from Return to Ravnica and building the deck around it!
Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
The Selesnya mechanic in Return to Ravnica is populate. Unsurprisingly, it’s a token-based mechanic that allows you to make a copy of a token you already have. It’s a bit different from convoke, the original Selesnya mechanic, in that it is best when quality of tokens is emphasized over quantity.
Don’t get me wrong—quantity is good, but populating 1/1s seems like a bad way to spend our mana. Instead of making lots of Saprolings, we should focus our efforts elsewhere in order to make best use of Trostani’s populate ability.
Trostani’s first ability shouldn’t be glossed over. If we have surges of 1/1 tokens entering the battlefield, we’ll be gaining some life—but what if we are consistently making 3/3s, 5/5s, or even 8/8s? Short of commander damage or an infinite combo, we’ll be hard to kill once we get Trostani and a token generation engine going.
So what else should we put in this deck? We’ve got a commander. How can we leverage him?
Key cards from Return to Ravnica
Obviously, we’re most excited about Return to Ravnica cards, so let’s talk about those first. What should we include?
If we’re going to be populating, let’s populate. Every turn. With Trostani on the battlefield, we should be populating every turn anyway, but an enchantment is often easier to keep alive. Additionally, this card doesn’t cost anything beyond its initial investment of four mana and a card. As long as it makes it a turn, we should be able to get value as long as we have a 4/4 or larger token to copy.
There’s always an artifact or enchantment to destroy. This card lets us do that and gets us a big new friend in the bargain. It even happens at instant speed, making it especially nasty in combat. Blow up your awesome aura or equipment and get an 8/8 I can use to block and kill your creature? Sounds like a great deal to me!
Eyes in the Skies
This one is notable because it’s an instant speed populate effect as well. The Bird is not really the important part of the card. Sure, it can block or whatever, or if you need a flying army, you can start populating birds—but making an instant speed 3/3, 5/5, or 8/8 can really turn a combat around, and since combat is the axis where this deck wants to interact, this could be a good one. Note that instant-speed populate effects can be offensive as well as defensive—an instant-speed populate at the end of the turn of the player who goes before you can change the tone of your next turn heavily.
Obviously a Constructed-playable card, this breaks combat open, no mistake. This can save you from a Wrath, be a really good Fog, or simply counter a removal spell—and populate! Not getting Plague Winded is pretty good, and I feel like this spell is a lot better than a spell like Ghostway, and not just because Ghostway won’t bring our tokens back. (Just ask PV what he thinks of Ghostway!)
Also an instant-speed populate effect, this one has a little more oomph. Exiling your opponent’s [card kokusho, the evening star]Kokusho[/card] is a great thing to do, for obvious reasons. Many popular effects like [card swords to plowshares]Swords[/card] and [card path to exile]Path[/card] that exile creatures cost far less mana, but have drawbacks. This one has a high initial investment but gives you a 2-for-1, and everyone loves a 2-for-1.
This is kind of a weird, selective Fog. Not too sure about it, but it does let us populate at instant speed and is therefore worth mentioning. It lets us let some creatures through and block ones we know we can kill. Not the worst, not the best.
Hooray, Rhinos! 8 power for eight mana isn’t awful, but I might leave this one on the sidelines if I run low on room.
It’s a Scion of the Wild with a little extra Selesnya flavor! This card has an interesting tension, as it focuses on both quantity (for its P/T) and quality (for the populate ability.) We’ll want to slap an equipment on this creature so that it can have some form of evasion. Without that, I’m sure it will get chumped rather often.
Normally I don’t recommend many equipment cards in token decks (Sword of the Paruns notwithstanding). But in this case, with beaters like this and large tokens to populate, we’ll want some way to get over, since we won’t be going “around” like traditional token decks.
This card is a nice segue because it is both a token generator and a populator. The great thing about this one is that once you make a Centaur, which admittedly costs a lot, you can send this nice lady to Discount Centaur Warehouse to pick up some new ones. Stop by your nearest Discount Centaur Warehouse today and build your very own army!
So where are we getting these big tokens anyway?
Here’s a good place to start. Get this guy out in public along with his twin brother (yes, I’m ascribing gender to this card—You know why) and start cranking out 5/5 tramplers. This guy will be a huge Limited bomb and a great Standard finisher, so make sure you have the cash as well as the mana if you’re interested in this mythic rare for your deck.
Call of the Conclave & Courser’s Accord
3/3s aren’t huge, but they’re bigger than Saprolings. Centaurs are a pretty awesome tribe in that they’re rather neglected. I was thinking of building a Centaur tribal deck to battle against my fiancée’s fish-themed [card lorthos, the tidemaker]Lorthos[/card] deck, and this just makes me more interested in that. Wacky tribal goof-off decks aside, I’m sure Courser’s Accord has a place in this deck even if Call of the Conclave doesn’t. (And it might!)
How big of a token do you want? Get the mana and make it, then populate, populate, populate. This card is okay, but as you’ll see, I think we can do better with a certain Time Spiral rare…
Grove of the Guardian
This is the big hit. We can make a big 8/8 to populate with this wonderful land. No evasion, sure, but we can fix that easily with some other cards. It’s a prerelease promo, so you should be able to get one rather easily.
Normally I’m not an advocate of anthems, as I say all the time, but a +3/+3 anthem really does some work. The bigger your tokens are, the bigger the tokens you make with populate are. This is another quantity-driven card, but I think we can take advantage of it.
A one-mana creature that keeps our flashback-crazy opponents from, well, going all Izzet on us? Awesome! You don’t really want your opponents abusing the graveyard, since green and white are much worse at it in general than the other three colors—well, at least among the kinds of cards we’ll be playing. Cards like this will take that advantage away from your opponents.
Rest in Peace
Again, let’s get those graveyards outta here! No Debtors’ Knell, no scavenging or dredging, no Yawgmoth’s Will, Praetor’s Counsel, Life from the Loam, Past in Flames, Xiahou Dun—this will erase the advantage those cards have. Cards get exiled instead of ever hitting the graveyard. As long as that’s not something we’re wasting deck space trying to do, we’ll be well served to run this one.
Notable Non-RTR Cards To Consider
Step 1: Pay life.
Step 2: Make big tokens.
Step 3: Gain life from those tokens with Trostani.
Step 4: Populate big tokens.
Step 5: Gain life again!
Soul Foundry, Mimic Vat
Start pumping out Wandering Temples or Armada Wurms. Then populate those. Success! Wandering Temples will, at a certain point, make more of each other, and the Armada Wurms, well—that’s just tons of tokens. Wurm army!
Parallel Lives, Doubling Season
Mainstays in any token-based deck, these cards are very important to us. Doubling Season can be a bit expensive to acquire, but having what is, at minimum, a second copy of Parallel Lives is worth it.
Loxodon Warhammer, Behemoth Sledge, Sword of Vengeance
We need ways for our big creatures to be relevant. Equipment cards that give some sort of evasion—in this case, trample—will help those creatures hit home hard.
This one doesn’t give evasion, but it can protect Trostani or give a newly-populated token haste to let it swing in ASAP.
I can’t imagine not wanting this in a creature-heavy deck.
Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang
This legendary sword makes a 5/5 flying blue Dragon token. What ever shall we do with a flying 5/5 blue Dragon token? Oh, gosh, I don’t know…
What was that Slime card earlier? I’ve already forgotten. This is the very same card, but with buyback! And it makes Wurms instead of Slimes. Whee!
Okay, sure, it’s weird, but any power-boosting effect plus this card lets you upgrade any of your tokens into a bigger Ooze. Let’s look at the how:
1) Make a 5/5 non-Ooze token.
2) Play Collective Blessing, upgrading our 5/5 into an 8/8.
3) Use Ooze Garden, sacrificing the now-8/8 token to make an 8/8 ooze.
4) Collective Blessing means that 8/8 is actually an 11/11.
Blade Splicer, Master Splicer, Maul Splicer, Sensor Splicer, Vital Splicer, Titan Forge
This little package gives us some cute Golem synergies to work with. I don’t know how good these will be, but I think they have some solid value. Titan Forge seems like the worst of the bunch, so I won’t include it, but the Splicers are likely to serve us well in terms of making some badass tokens. Great with Soul Foundry or Mimic Vat too!
Need a big token? This will provide. Of course, it will provide at the cost of all of the creatures on the battlefield, but if we blast the board away and have a big Horror we can populate, we’ll be doing well.
Stomp stomp stomp. The bigger they are, the harder your whole team stomps. This has been an all-star in my goofy Snake tribal Seshiro, the Anointed deck on MTGO, and if it can make that horrible pile win, it’s probably even better in a real deck!
Okay, okay. I won’t bore you by listing every card in the deck, but I will bore you by listing the deck out!
Commander: Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
Avenger of Zendikar
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Rhys the Redeemed
Entreat the Angels
Green Sun’s Zenith
Grove of the Guardian
All right! Put this (or something like it) together and get Trostani-ing! Some of the cards in the list, especially the dual lands and such, are a bit expensive, so feel free to downsize some of that if you need to.
Join me next week for Themeless Theme Week, when I theme a theme deck on themelessness! Thanks for reading, see you next time, and have a great prerelease!
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