Selesnya Aggro in Standard

Feature Article from Craig Wescoe
Craig Wescoe
12/12/2013 10:01:00 AM
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“Your flight has been cancelled.”

This was the message I inevitably got every time I booked and rebooked flights from Chicago to Dallas. My final effort to attend Grand Prix Dallas was a $900 one-way ticket leaving at 7am Saturday and arriving around 9:30am. I had no plan for getting to the site from the airport or even for returning to Chicago, but I had a great deck for the weekend and felt confident, so I was willing to pay a small fortune and figure things out as I went along. Alas, at 1:30am American Airlines sent me that same dreaded message I'd received all day: “Your flight has been cancelled”. I quickly looked for a flight that would still get me there on time and nothing was remotely feasible.

Looking back, I took a risk by not rescheduling for an earlier flight after hearing about the forecasted storm, and ultimately this resulted in missing a Grand Prix I really wanted to compete in. In an effort to get this sour taste out of my mouth that would otherwise linger for a whole month (since there are no pro level events for a month), I last minute booked a flight to Vegas for the SCG Invitational this weekend. By the time you're reading this, I've likely already begun playing round 1.

End travel disaster interlude

Today I would like to share with you the Selesnya deck I was going to play in Dallas, how to play and sideboard in the most common matchups, and what changes I would consider for this weekend.

Selesnya Aggro by Craig Wescoe
Main Deck
4 Banisher Priest
4 Experiment One
4 Fleecemane Lion
4 Mistcutter Hydra
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Voice of Resurgence
Creatures [27]
4 Advent of the Wurm
2 Last Breath
4 Selesnya Charm
Spells [10]
8 Forest (246)
8 Plains (230)
3 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Temple Garden
Lands [23]
Deck Total [60]

4 Boon Satyr
2 Last Breath
1 Scavenging Ooze
4 Skylasher
4 Unflinching Courage
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Vs. Monoblue Devotion:
IN: 4 Skylasher, 4 Unflinching Courage, 2 Last Breath
OUT: 4 Voice of Resurgence, 3 Advent of the Wurm, 3 Scavenging Ooze

I expected Monoblue Devotion to be the most played deck in Dallas, and it was. This version of the deck is geared to deal with the blue deck. We have hard to handle threats and answers to all their biggest threats. In testing I was crushing it.

Save a Banisher Priest or Last Breath for Master of Waves if possible. That is their best card against us. Also save Selesnya Charm for Thassa, God of the Sea. Post board try to save Unflinching Courage for one of our eight pro blue creatures (four Mistcutter Hydra and four Skylasher). We have eight ways to kill Master of Waves (four Last Breath and four Banisher Priest) and eight ways to kill Thassa (four Selesnya Charm and four Banisher Priest), so if we have a removal heavy draw we just start killing Tidebinder Mages and Nightveil Specters. Otherwise we just overpower them since our creatures are larger than theirs, and hold our removal spells for their two key threats (Master and Thassa).

While we are favored in game one, we are heavily favored in games two and three. Cyclonic Rift is usually their only way to beat us as long as we have a halfway decent draw. Second turn Skylasher followed by a third turn Unflinching Courage is probably my favorite line against them. Their only out to that is to Cyclonic Rift the Unflinching Courage mid-combat, Rapid Hybridization their own guy, and then block with the 3/3 green frog lizard. I considered leaving in Voice of Resurgence to lessen the effectiveness of these kinds of tricks, but the 2/2 body matches up so poorly against most of their cards that it's just not worth it. All of our other cards are excellent against blue and Voice is only decent (which sounds odd since the card was designed to be good against blue – specifically against Counterspells).

Vs. Orzhov Control:
IN: 4 Boon Satyr, 1 Scavenging Ooze, 2 Skylasher
OUT: 4 Banisher Priest, 2 Last Breath, 1 Soldier of the Pantheon

Blood Baron of Vizkopa is their best card and our plan is to attack into it with green dudes and Soldier of the Pantheon. If we pressure them early, they have to play into Selesnya Charm by blocking with Blood Baron the turn after they play it, which allows us to give our guy +2/+2 to kill it.

Save Scavenging Ooze until as late as possible. They'll have to exhaust their removal spells on whatever we play, so leaving Ooze until the end means we can make it a huge monster. The downside to this strategy is that it gives them time to exile it with Lifebane Zombie, so if the rest of the cards in your hand are spells, might as well play it in order to blank the zombie's triggered ability. If you're holding Boon Satyr or Mistcutter Hydra though, it's usually best to play the Ooze last.

This matchup is a little better than 50/50 pro-board, and remains about that post-board because both decks improve. The first game Banisher Priest is a good answer to Desecration Demon or to Pack Rat since they have less removal spells, but after board the Priest is a lot less resilient against all their removal and also tends to get exiled a lot by Lifebane Zombie since that is the first creature they generally play. It's just much better in game one, if for nothing else but to buy a turn to attack and then draw a removal spell away from our other threats.

Boon Satyr is especially nice in this matchup because bestowing a creature means it can tangle with Desecration Demon or with Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and if you time it right you can take out a large chunk of the opponent's life total and thus put them on the back foot, rending their Underworld Connections and Thoughtseizes much less useful while also forcing them to immediately exhaust their removal on anything we play. The Satyr can also jump in front of Blood Baron of Vizkopa during combat as a surprise blocker. Advent of the Wurm is the preferred trick here, but either works.

Also remember that Selesnya Charm kills Desecration Demon, so it's not always correct to make a knight token, though sometimes it is to evolve the Experiment One and to protect our larger creatures from Devour Flesh. Ask yourself, “What's my plan if he casts Desecration Demon?” Voice of Resurgence and Selesnya Charm are the typical answers, though in game one Banisher Priest is also common.

Vs. Esper Control or UW Control:
IN: 4 Boon Satyr, 4 Skylasher, 1 Scavenging Ooze
OUT: 4 Banisher Priest, 2 Last Breath, 3 Selesnya Charm

Pressure them early and then play around Supreme Verdict by holding open mana for end step flash creatures such as Boon Satyr or Advent of the Wurm, or to a lesser extent Skylasher or Selesnya Charm. I decided against Rootborn Defenses mostly because all it did was protect my early threats. I would much rather just apply a bigger threat during the end step (Boon Satyr or Advent of the Wurm) since these are good end step plays even when they don't have the verdict. Also, unlike my block constructed list, we do not run Call of the Conclave, which makes populating less likely to come up.

Post board our plan is to overwhelm them with an unending stream of threats, many of which are resilient to their removal spells (pro blue, regenerate, voice, flash, bestow, etc). From the perspective of the control deck, it's just too hard to leave all the windows closed. They need specific removal spells at specific times to deal with our creatures, and it's usually too difficult for them to accomplish. Post-board they get Fiendslayer Paladin which is pretty strong against us, but we still have plenty of ways to fight through it. A card worth considering is Glare of Heresy in the sideboard. It's good at dealing with Detention Sphere, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and sideboarded Paladins. It is also stellar against the White Weenie decks (Orzhov and Boros).

 Voice of Resurgence
Store QTY Price  
Comic Lair 1 $9.06
Yougettoomuchmail 1 $9.45
Friendly Magic 3 $9.99
Meatcake Gaming 1 $10.00
PandaDelight 1 $10.00
Moonbase Market 2 $10.10
Noble inc 1 $10.10
Arcadian Marketplace 1 $10.43
Wild Things Games 3 $10.47
oOOoOphidianMagic 4 $10.53
Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Voice of Resurgence Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Changes to Consider for this Weekend

I've been experimenting with some new cards since last weekend and these were the advantages and disadvantages of the borderline cards worth considering:

Elvish Mystic over Soldier of the Pantheon is a change I've been for the most part happy with. Mystic allow us to get out Wurms and Hydras out quicker and allows us to play a more green-centric mana base to support Boon Satyr, Advent of the Wurm, Scavenging Ooze, and Witchstalker. If we decide some combination of these green-intensive cards is more valuable than Banisher Priest, then the Mystic is worthwhile. Even if we do go with Priest, Mystic still might be better.

Speaking of these heavy green cards, Boon Satyr is exceptionally good against all the control decks. It pressures Jace and plays around Supreme Verdict. It's the exact opposite of Banisher Priest, which is great against White Weenie and Monoblue Devotion but pretty terrible against the control decks.

Witchstalker is very similar to Boon Satyr in that it's great against control and not so good against aggro. It is a bit less pronounced though. It's a little better against aggro and a little worse against control. So it's more of a hedge than Boon Satyr.

Skylasher is great against Monoblue Devotion, especially in conjunction with Unflinching Courage, and it is also very reasonable against Esper since its flash ability plays around Supreme Verdict and its protection from blue ability plays around Azorius Charm and Detention Sphere. It's a great target for Boon Satyr in any matchup outside of White Weenie, and even in that matchup it trades with most things, including Daring Skyjek.

Polukranos, World Eater is a card I thought might be great. It answers Master of Waves and Lifebane Zombie while being big enough to attack past Blood Baron of Vizkopa. In testing, however, it was too slow and not worth the cost of sitting in our hands uncastable in the early turns or if we're choked on mana. It is not nearly as good in this deck as Advent of the Wurm, though I'm still considering it as the last one-of slot if we decide to run four of every other card in the 75 and 23 total lands.

Loxodon Smiter is also a generic body that pumps Experiment One and can be curved out with Elvish Mystic. It's not especially good or bad against anything.

Glare of Heresy is a great sideboard card against White Weenie and is also pretty strong against the UW and Esper Control decks, killing Detention Sphere, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, or sideboarded Fiendslayer Paladin (or in some cases Soldier of the Pantheon).

Ratchet Bomb is one of Selesnya's few answers to Master of Waves and it is also reasonable against White Weenie (on 1 or 2 counters usually). It is also not terrible against the control decks since it kills Detention Spheres, or eventually Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Jace, Architect of Thought, or Elspeth, Sun's Champion – mostly just Detention Sphere though.

Pacifism stops Boros Reckoner, Thassa, God of the Sea (kind of) and also Lifebane Zombie (again, kind of), but is a bit conditional in that it only keeps the creature from attacking or blocking. It also keeps the creature on the battlefield to increase their devotion.

Time to Feed is conditional in a different way. It kills the creature but at the expense of losing our own unless we have a large creature o the battlefield. This is a strong answer to Master of Waves and a reasonable answer to Lifebane Zombie and even Blood Baron of Vizkopa (or Stormbreath Dragon for that matter). Like most removal spells, it's pretty horrible in the control matchups. It's one of the least reliable removal spells against the aggro decks, but also one of the few ways to deal with specific threats such as Master of Waves.

Card-by-Card Breakdown against the Field

In order to determine which cards should be in our 75 and which cards in our 60, let's consider a list of all the cards in the above list (from part one) or under consideration (from part two) and evaluate how good each card is in the four most common matchups. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being best) against: Black Control, UW/Esper Control, Blue Devotion, and White Weenie (W/R, W/B).

Threats: B UW U WW = total
Experiment One: 4 5 4 4 = 17
Soldier of the Pantheon: 3 4 3 3 = 13
Elvish Mystic: 4 4 4 4 = 16
Voice of Resurgence: 5 5 2 4 = 16
Fleecemane Lion: 3 3 3 4 = 13
Scavenging Ooze: 4 4 2 3 = 13
Skylasher: 3 4 5 4 = 16
Boon Satyr: 4 5 3 2 = 14
Witchstalker: 4 4 2 2 = 12
Loxodon Smiter: 3 3 3 3 = 12
Advent of the Wurm: 5 5 2 3 = 15
Polukranos, World Eater: 4 3 2 2 = 11
Mistcutter Hydra: 4 4 5 2 = 15
Banisher Priest: 2 2 5 5 = 14
Selesnya Charm: 4 2 5 4 = 15
Last Breath: 2 1 5 3 = 11
Glare of Heresy: 0 4 1 5 = 10
Ratchet Bomb: 1 2 4 4 = 11
Time to Feed: 2 1 4 4 = 11
Pacifism: 2 1 2 4 = 9
Unflinching Courage: 2 2 4 3 = 11

Based on the above chart, I decided Banisher Priest and Boon Satyr were each worth running main deck, even at the expense of having to play four guildgates. This may be wrong, but at least it gives us the highest power level of cards. I came up with the following 75 and sideboard plan:

Selesnya Aggro Update by Craig Wescoe
Main Deck
4 Banisher Priest
4 Boon Satyr
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Experiment One
4 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Scavenging Ooze
4 Skylasher
4 Voice of Resurgence
Creatures [29]
4 Advent of the Wurm
4 Selesnya Charm
Spells [8]
8 Forest (246)
7 Plains (230)
4 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Temple Garden
Lands [23]
Deck Total [60]

2 Glare of Heresy
2 Last Breath
2 Ratchet Bomb
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Time to Feed
3 Unflinching Courage
2 Witchstalker
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

Vs. Monoblack Devotion
IN: 2 Scavenging Ooze, 2 Witchstalker
OUT: 4 Banisher Priest

Vs. UW/Esper Control
IN: 2 Glare of Heresy, 2 Ratchet Bomb, Scavenging Ooze, 2 Witchstalker
OUT: 4 Banisher Priest, 4 Selesnya Charm (maybe leave in two Selesnya Charm over the Ratchet Bombs)

Vs. Monoblue Devotion
IN: 2 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Last Breath, 2 Time to Feed, 3 Unflinching Courage
OUT: 4 Voice of Resurgence, 4 Advent of the Wurm, 1 Scavenging Ooze

Vs. White Weenie (Orzhov or Boros)
IN: 2 Glare of Heresy, 2 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Last Breath, 2 Time to Feed
OUT: 4 Mistcutter Hydra, 4 Boon Satyr

The two hardest parts about this method for deck tuning are: (1) intuitively evaluating each card's merit in each matchup on a 1-5 scale, and (2) figuring out which main deck and sideboard configuration yields the maximum total points for each matchup. For the first one I feel I did a fairly good job after having done lots of testing in each matchup these past two weeks, and even if I missed a few points for the second part, I'm at least close to optimal because each matchup looks very good post-board and reasonable to good main.

This has been an interesting experiment. I have no way to know how things would have gone with the first list in Dallas, but I'm excited to see how they go in Vegas with the second one.

Craig Wescoe

@Nacatls4Life on twitter

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