As Standard continues to undergo a process of refinement and optimization, its broad archetypes come into sharper focus. It’s difficult to claim we’ve seen the “best” or “finished” version of any established strategy in Standard—even a cursory glance across successful decks from recent events shows a huge amount of divergence in card choice even within specific archetypes. Further, the numbers in which specific cards are appearing in these decks also varies widely—look at the planeswalker suites in Golgari, or the creature suites (or lack thereof) in Jeskai!
One list that hasn’t yet shown its final form is Selesnya Tokens. Selesnya has put up good results at early Standard events, but never really proved itself as a clear top contender. Despite this, you can’t help but think that this deck is going places. With a critical mass of powerful go-wide synergies that can quickly spiral out of control, we’re still waiting to see what the best version of Selesnya looks like.
A lot of questions like these will be answered at the Pro Tour, and one of the wizards investigating these questions is Scottish WMC Captain and PT Dominaria Top 16 competitor Dani “Bruiser” Anderson. His take on the archetype has offered him enormous success while preparing for the Pro Tour, and even I managed to snag some wins with the list, so he really must be onto something here.
A lot of the 4-ofs are pretty self-explanatory. History of Benalia dumps power onto the board quickly for nice aggressive starts, and leaves behind relevant bodies to bridge to the late game—vigilance is enormously useful in a deck full of convoke cards. Flower // Flourish allows you to skimp on lands while being a potentially game-winning topdeck late in the game, offering incredibly valuable and flexibility. There’s little in the way of disruption, but Conclave Tribunal generally comes down for 2 mana—a bargain.
It didn’t take too long to figure out that playing anything less than a playset of March of the Multitudes is just wrong. The card is insane, stabilizing you marvelously and offering powerful snowball potential. The defensive applications of this card are ridiculous. It’s possible to sit back behind a wall of creatures, line up favorable trades, and before damage ensure that you have reinforcements ready to contest the board, replacing any that are lost in combat. Don’t underestimate this card.
Playing four copies of Saproling Migration, especially considering some of the 2-drops we’re playing in smaller numbers, might raise some questions. Consider this, however—turn-2 Saproling Migration enables a turn-3 Venerated Loxodon, meaning you’ll end your third turn with 8 power and toughness on the board. Saproling Migration also flips Legion’s Landing on turn 3, after which you can still play a 4-drop such as Ajani or Shalai. Saproling Migration may seem a little underwhelming, but it’s clear that the card is bonkers in this list, and all that’s without even considering the fact that it has kicker!
Filling Out the Curve
The 2-drop split is a little weird. Adanto Vanguard, Thorn Lieutenant, and Emmara are all powerful cards in their own right, but the numbers in which they appear is heavily metagame-dependent. Generally, both Adanto Vanguard and Thorn Lieutenant are essential in ensuring you have warm bodies for convoke cards, while Emmara is a relatively fragile 2/2. With a high concentration of 2-power 1-drops, 2-damage removal spells, and first-striking 2-drops, she’s not at her best. But in a longer game, Emmara can be paired with a convoke spell to effectively become a 1-mana, 3-power creature. Not bad.
Broadly speaking, Adanto Vanguard is for when you want to be aggressive, Thorn Lieutenant is for when you want to be defensive, and Saproling Migration is for when you’re not sure. Adjust the numbers accordingly based on what you expect to face. Additionally, the variety of 2-drops also adds to the utility of Ajani, as he’s more likely to have the appropriate tools for whatever job is needed of him.
Trostani is both an enabler and a payoff card—the perfect curve-topper in a tokens list. She powers up convoke spells. Specifically, she can often be used to chain into a Conclave Tribunal in that same turn. Ajani adds an important dimension to the deck, offering a payoff for going wide with his +1 ability, as well as some resilience to spot removal with his -2. Finally, Shalai provides protection from Settle the Wreckage, and will single-handedly win games with her Gavony Township mode.
The sideboard mainly targets aggressive decks, as well as Arclight Phoenix, a card expected to become a powerhouse of Standard. Being able to bring in a bunch of interaction will naturally slow post-board games down for Selesnya, which is perfect for building toward multiple, massive March of the Multitudes. Cards like Seal Away, Settle the Wreckage, and Baffling End help to contest the board against aggressive decks in a more focused manner, while the suite of powerful mythics bolster the tricky control matchups.
Baffling End comes in specifically for Wildgrowth Walker, a card that is incredibly difficult to race. Otherwise, we’re looking to increase the overall power level of the deck and build resilience against Find // Finality, hence trimming Saproling Migration and Legion’s Landing.
A lot of this post-board plan is a concession to Goblin Chainwhirler (in addition to the Fiery Cannonades they will probably bring in). Baffling End is just Terminate, and Lyra Dawnbringer only dies to Fight with Fire. Squire’s Devotion may look like a weird one, but slap that bad boy onto a Thorn Lieutenant and Mono-Red more or less folds on the spot. Finally, Knight of Autumn doesn’t just gain 4 life—it’s an answer to Experimental Frenzy.
It may look weird to bring in Vivien Reid and The Immortal Sun, but look at it this way—if they manage to answer one, then they’re dead to the other. Reducing our vulnerability to Deafening Clarion is the key to the matchup—deploy your threats accordingly. Knight of Autumn contests Seal Away and Search for Azcanta, and if they’re heavily committed to the Drake plan, Crushing Canopy is also a good option.
This post-board plan assumes that they will be bringing in Lyra Dawnbringer. If this is the case, contesting the air becomes a priority, and other situational top-end like Ajani and Shalai have to pay the price. (If they don’t have Lyras, keep in Shalai, and don’t bring in Crushing Canopy—you can also cut a second Conclave Tribunal for Carnage Tyrant.) Knight of Autumn answers their enchantment-based removal.
It’s critical to lower your curve against opposing aggressive decks. Look to trade creatures off and land a Squire’s Devotion on something like an Adanto Vanguard or Thorn Lieutenant. If they Seal Away a Thorn Lieutenant with a Devotion on it, you’re still left with two 1/1s, and they’re down a premium removal spell. Knight of Autumn—coming in off the bench once again—is great for either gaining life or blowing up a Seal Away or History of Benalia.
Maintain a proactive, aggressive approach in this matchup. Apply early pressure, answer their low threat density with exile-based removal, and seek to end the game quickly before their Drakes get out of control. Be sure you don’t get blown out by Fiery Cannonade or Shake the Foundations. Phoenix decks, in general, aren’t great against History of Benalia—it applies too much pressure too quickly, and Izzet spends a lot of time spinning its wheels with cantrips.
Adanto Vanguard is a complete embarrassment against Merfolk Trickster, which removes both indestructible and the +2/+0. Shalai, Trostani, and Ajani are, once again, concessions to keeping the curve nice and low—it’s all about maximizing early game interaction. Mono-Blue doesn’t have much of an answer to go-wide boards outside of Sleep, so over-committing is never really an issue here.
Selesnya Tokens should be well-placed in a field full of aggressive decks, and its Golgari matchup is more than satisfactory—two key attributes that position Selesnya favorably as we head into the Pro Tour. Whether this is the “best” version of the deck remains to be seen, but it’s certain that we’re a lot closer than we used to be!