I’ve been jamming a ton of Leagues in preparation for Grand Prix Milwaukee. In fact, yesterday alone I tested six competitive Leagues on #MTGArena (come watch live playtesting most evenings). I learned a ton about the direction the format is heading in preparation for the weekend.
The biggest takeaway from yesterday’s grind session was the raw number of White Weenie decks I was paired against, round after round. If the competitive Leagues are any predictor of future paper trends, I’d wager G/W will be a popular choice this weekend. Also, there was a ridiculous amount of stream chatter discussing G/W (builds, plans, tech, etc.), which tells me that G/W is one of the current edges of innovation.
Join me as I take you through the various builds of this emergent archetype and discuss how to play with and against the forces of Selesnya.
Think of Selesnya As a Big White Aggro Deck
There’s a lot of overlap between Boros Aggro (White Weenie) and Selesnya, but the biggest difference isn’t so much the colors as the game plan. White Weenie has more redundancy of cheap, synergy threats, whereas Selesnya has the same focused beatdown core but bigger, more powerful, “go wide” drops in the endgame.
To illustrate what I’m talking about, here’s an aggregate “stock G/W” list I have been running through Leagues to great success:
Let’s talk about the similarities first:
White aggro decks are built upon this potent core. These are extremely powerful, effective, and efficient spells that help white decks gain traction as they advance their board. In particular, all of these cards are “sticky” in the sense that they can’t be easily answered by one card (Deafening Clarion) and allow white aggro to advance their board without becoming overextended and thus vulnerable.
One of the common (and false) perceptions is that these horde based white decks crumble to sweepers, such as Clarion:
“No swarms a-loud.”
Those who make such an assumption about Selesnya Tokens crumbling to a single Clarion are in for a rude awakening, because the matchup is actually much closer than I would have thought.
G/W has a lot of cards that can either live through or play around 3 damage to all creatures. Clarion will always be a great card against G/W, but we must recognize that G/W has built-in ways to play through and around Clarion to mitigate the damage.
More Than One Way to Build a G/W Deck
I was reading Friedman’s sideboard guide for Izzet Drakes this morning and had to chuckle when I came to the G/W section, which basically said: There are too many competing builds to have a stock plan. Board for what you see!
Another great reason to tune and play a Selesnya deck this weekend is because there isn’t a consensus best version yet, and people might not have a plan that lines up well against your build and sideboard plan.
Let’s take a look at a couple of different builds of Selesnya that have had success in the past few days:
Kenta Harame, 24 pts at PT Atlanta
Kenta’s deck is designed to go wide. VERY WIDE!
Kenta’s version of the deck is nicely set up to go significantly bigger than opposing beatdown decks. It largely blanks 1-for-1 removal by creating a swarmy sea of large tokens.
The upside is that the list has advantages in aggro mirrors (which I think will be popular this weekend), but has the disadvantage of being less insulated against sweepers like Clarion (which might also be popular).
G/W has a “pick your poison” element where it can be built to gain and/or sacrifice percentage against different types of decks, but the choice of how to leverage those percentage points is on the deck builder. Choose correctly and get a bunch of good matchups. Choose poorly and get a bunch of bad matchups! So, choose wisely or gravitate toward the middle.
Batutinha, 5-0 in an MTGO Competitive League
Same colors, very different strategy.
The idea here is that the deck is just going to play the strongest stat-line creatures up and down the curve and outclass an opponent on the battlefield. The deck does suffer from playing “fair” Magic, but I think the raw power of each individual card compensates and insulates some of the traditional pitfalls of playing one card a turn and hoping it sticks.
“All my rowdy friends are coming over tonight.”
The deck also plays a whopping six planeswalkers to help gain traction and avoid overextending into a sweeper.
Long live the king!
I wrote an entire article about my reaction to Carnage Tyrant when it was first printed almost a year ago. It’s such an unbelievable card, and I’m not surprised to see that it has become a really important piece to the Standard puzzle.
Standard was a little too unbalanced in favor of banned decks and red decks in previous seasons for Carnage Tyrant to shine, but in a reasonable format like the one we have now, the card has become the signature control and midrange wrecker it was always destined to become.
Selesnya Isn’t Just One Deck—It’s a Range of Strategies
We’ve looked at three of the signature ways to build and play a Selesnya deck. The key is to build around the powerful core White Weenie cards and accent a particular angle to gain an edge against other more straightforward builds and/or control decks.
There are obviously different ways to achieve this result. One is by going wide (tokens). Another is by going elite (powerful creatures and planeswalkers). A third option is to do a little of both (my aggregate list).
The key is to recognize that G/W is potentially poised for a monster weekend and to prepare accordingly. If the competitive leagues I’ve been grinding are any indicator of paper results, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Selesnya well-represented and having success at events this weekend.