In early November 2001, I received a call from Mark Rosewater. I remember the timing because it was about a week after I returned from the hospital with my newborn son Jonah.
Mark asked if I would be interested in writing a weekly column for the soon-to-be-launched Magicthegathering.com. I was nauseatingly sleep-deprived, working full-time as the sole breadwinner in my family, and trying my best to obsess less about Magic, not more. But it was Mark Rosewater. Calling me. With a job offer. How could I refuse?
The Internet tells me that my last article for Magicthegathering.com was published on May 14th, 2007. Truth be told, I was barely playing the game at that point. I’d had a daughter (Lily), and my corporate career had skyrocketed. Sixty-hour weeks were becoming eighty-hour ones, and I was literally traveling all over the world for work. I hated doing it, but I decided to give up Magic and focus on more grown-up things.
In my heart of hearts, though, I always knew this day would come.
You see, I have kids, man. Kids grow. They get older. And—apparently around eleven years old in my son’s case—they start asking you to teach them to play Magic. Jonah had already gone through episodic obsessions with Pokemon (which was fun for me) and Yu-Gi-Oh! (which I hated), so I knew he would pick up the game easily. For Christmas this past year, I bought him all five M13 Intro Decks, and on Christmas Day, I taught Jonah how to play Magic: The Gathering. It was if my hobby life had come full circle.
In the last few months, I’ve played a lot of Magic.
Jonah and I are currently doing exactly what my wife and I did back in 1995 when we were new to the game. We have our cards from those five decks and have reconfigured them in almost every conceivable way to compete against each other. How big is his collection? Pff. Jonah’s only bought a small handful of booster packs with his allowance (and the delight at each new pack and what it might mean for his, say, “Red/Blue Annoying Deck” is really fun to see). He has no idea about Constructed formats, or what multilands he needs to make his deck better, or what a sideboard is. His entire world is a few hundred cards. Teaching him to play has been even more fun and rewarding than I expected and has rekindled my creative wonder.
And how have I channeled my creative wonder, you ask? Why, by signing up for a Magic Online account, of course!
Pick A Guild, Any Guild
Unlike Jonah, I’ve glimpsed the enormity of what Magic has become in my absence. While he’s been sleeping, I’ve been online. Mythic rares didn’t exist when I left. Neither did planeswalkers (literally the first time I drafted a planeswalker I didn’t play it because I had no idea how it worked). Heck, damage went on the stack the last time I played. There’s something comforting about returning to Ravnica upon my own return to the game, though the cards themselves were completely foreign to me when I first logged into Magic Online.
Because I’d had some exposure to M13, I started my online debut by doing a whole mess of M13 Booster Draft and Sealed Deck events. Eventually, I moved over to Return to Ravnica, briefly dipped my toe into Innistrad, and after a few weeks felt like I had my proverbial feet underneath me. Drafting is fun, but it’s not why I play Magic.
I play Magic to make my own Standard decks (in fact, for more on my rationale for why making original decks is so satisfying, check out the intro to this article). It is literally my only claim to fame when it comes to Magic. I make decks. That’s what I do.
The problem was that I didn’t know how much staying power this Magic Online thing would have for me, so I was reluctant to invest in a pile of expensive lands. Also, the sheer number of new cards was dizzying, and I was hoping to narrow my options. So I decided to start in about as basic a place as one can start: White Weenie.
For those who have read my (now ancient) previous articles, you’ll know that I’m a green mage at heart. I also have a fondness for what most people consider “junk rares.” I don’t know why I decided to start with white and such a straightforward archetype. Maybe there was something symbolic about a clean sheet of paper being white, or maybe it was a true restart and back to basics for me, or maybe it was the purity and simplicity of white’s flavor…
Here is my first Standard deck in almost six years. It’s straightforward and completely yawn-worthy, but it’s mine dammit. Do I think this deck will win the next Pro Tour? Absolutely not, and anyway I’ve never fancied myself someone who could give you that sort of advice. Instead, I’ve always been the Friday Night Magic guy, builder of decks just good enough to be dangerous. And I’ll say it again: it’s a deck from my own brain, born of trial and error. For me, Magic is most fun when I’m winning matches with my own home brew.
- 4 Elite Inquisitor
- 4 Silverblade Paladin
- 4 Angel of Jubilation
- 3 Knight of Glory
- 4 War Falcon
- 4 Dryad Militant
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 22 Plains
I went 10-10 in tournament games in four online tournaments with this sucker, which was fine for a self-made, FNM-type deck. The deck didn’t embarrass me, and in most cases I had my opponents on their heels during the match. I’m always amazed by what real playtesting will uncover; given the many powerful cards in Standard, I never would have thought that War Falcon would be a card I wanted to keep in the deck even post-sideboarding. Yet the Falcon won me many games, including in tournaments. Arrest too was never useless. It’s nice to see cards like these shine even when my brain tells me that there should be other, better choices.
After some exposure to today’s Standard, though, I had a couple of observations. In four tournaments, I played G/B/W Restoration Angel, G/U Master Biomancer, Naya Humans (twice), Four-Color Reanimator, R/G Aggro, Four-Color Restoration Angel, and Jund Aggro. I’m not sure what you notice when looking at this list, but I notice three things:
First, it’s nice to see a diverse Standard environment where a) a lot of different archetypes can thrive and b) creatures win games. Admittedly, I’m already tired of Restoration Angel, Thragtusk, and Champion of the Parish. And yes, I’ve fantasized about a Standard without these cards. Don’t get me wrong: none of them feel particularly unfair, just annoying and better than other cards of comparable cost. Annoyance aside, it’s terrific to stumble back into Magic and find my favorite format in a healthy place. A pro-creature, combo-light Standard in which a lot of decks are viable is a happy place for me.
Second, I faced eight decks in tournaments and not one of them was mono-colored. In fact, only two of the eight decks were even dual-colored. That’s amazing to me and speaks to how varied and plentiful good multilands are in today’s Standard.
Finally, and taking this point further, the aggressive/fast decks I faced were all three colors except for one R/G deck. It occurred to me that if one could make an aggressive deck in three colors and have it reliably win tournaments, then I didn’t know why I was messing around with a monocolor deck. The reason to play a deck like Ajani’s Army is because you have an advantage of consistency over decks with a dicier mana base. Although I loved never having to think about the color of my lands, I didn’t feel a particular advantage over my opponents.
Which is all to say that I was feeling the strong pull to start messing around with two- and three-color decks.
As I mentioned, I’m a green mage at heart. At the same time, I had amassed an impressive white online collection. Since I guess I’m a practical green mage more than a purist, I decided to start with a G/W deck. Besides, green/white also always makes me think fondly of Limey, my only voyage into Extended PT qualifiers. Selesnya, here I come!
Fat Selesnya Is Born
Fresh off the (relative) success of White Weenie, my first attempt at a G/W deck was aggro. I tried two different versions. One was built around Wayfaring Temple, Precinct Captain, Call of the Conclave, Selesnya Charm, etc. The second version used Loxodon Smiter, Wasteland Viper, and Fencing Ace. Both used Rancor, Avacyn’s Pilgrim, and Deadbridge Goliath. Both were fun, with the second version slightly more reliable and successful.
One evening I was testing Travel Preparations, trying to decide if it belonged in a G/W aggressive deck or not, when my enthusiasm for an all-out, beat-you-down strategy started to wane. I can do aggro, but I’m better with utility and midrange decks generally (see that Limey decklist up there?). On a whim, I decided to just throw my favorite green and white cards all into the same deck and see what happened. Doing so slowed the deck down, but it also ensured I’d be happy to see every single card I drew. Here is the result:
Why does this deck make me immensely happy? Here’s why:
Avacyn’s Pilgrim – The only G/W Standard decks I can imagine making that don’t include Avacyn’s Pilgrim are either non-Human tribal decks or a control deck with lots of board sweepers like Terminus and Planar Cleansing. Even in these two cases, I would be tempted to include the Pilgrim. Particularly in a deck with fifteen three cost cards, Avacyn’s Pilgrim is terrific.
Frontline Medic – It took me awhile to warm up to Frontline Medic as more than an awesome Limited card. A white 3/3 for three mana is great, and I can often in this deck generate a pair of attacking creatures to go along for the ride (at which point, given the size of my deck’s creatures, my opponent is almost certainly on the defensive). I haven’t found real use for its sacrifice ability, but I’m comforted that it exists.
Loxodon Smiter – He’s incredibly beefy for his cost—beefy enough to survive a Searing Spear aimed up his trunk. I haven’t yet witnessed a ton of countermagic or discard in today’s Standard, but the fact that neither affect him is a blissful bonus. I love, love, love dropping the Smiter on the second turn, ideally with Rancor on turn 3. I’m tempted to announce “Let the smiting begin!” each time I play him, but, you know, that’s obnoxious.
Deadbridge Goliath – The first time I saw Deadbridge Goliath I blinked and had to read it a few times. 5/5 for four mana? And it creates its own Goliath-sized threat after it dies? Sign me up! I have yet to find a game in which I am unhappy to see this card in my hand.
Silklash Spider – Of all the cards I’ve listed, this is probably one of the two that made you go “Huh?” I’ve always liked Silklash Spider for its reachy blocking ability, its big butt, and the ability to swat things out of the sky. In today’s Standard, this means that the Spider can both block and swat Restoration Angel, and it wipes out entire hordes of 1/1 Spirit tokens (I do like Lingering Souls, though…cool card). Sure, this card will get sideboarded out a fair number of times, but I’m betting it will do so a lot fewer times than it stays.
Rancor – My deck isn’t really an aggro deck anymore. It’s more of a midrange Fatty deck than anything. That said, having 3/3s, 4/4s, and 5/5s is no fun if they don’t have trample. 5/3, 6/4, 7/5, and 4/7 tramplers, however, are no end of fun. I side them out whenever Rest in Peace comes into the deck, and every time I do a little part of me dies inside.
Call of the Conclave – Of all the cards in the deck, this is the one about which I’m the least certain. A 3/3 for two mana is good, and it gets a lot better with Rancor. I also like having a turn 2 play that doesn’t rely on Avacyn’s Pilgrim. Honestly, I wish I could find something more titillating, though, or something that somehow affects the battlefield in more dramatic ways. I’m sorely tempted to try Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage instead, except with the Guildmage I suddenly want Call of the Conclave back in the deck. Other cards I’ve considered here are Dawntreader Elk, Elvish Visionary, Fencing Ace, Gyre Sage, Knight of Glory, Pit Fight, Scorned Villager, and Selesnya Charm. Of those, I’m most tempted by Gyre Sage and Selesnya Charm.
Divine Deflection – I’m guessing that this is the second card that made you go “Huh?” There are some cards that just resonate with you, and Divine Deflection is one of those cards with me. When timed well, it is creature removal, creature protection, Fog, or burn. Timed really well, it can be all of the above. Both Divine Deflection and Silklash Spider give me something to do with hordes of mana (this too is why I’m tempted by Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage), and both are key ways to slow an opponent down while my big critters are working. What I particularly love is that after I’ve played this once, my opponents are thinking about it every time they attack or block.
(And yes, ironically if I was playing against myself, this would be a good target for Frontline Medic’s ability!)
Selesnya Keyrune – I really like all of the Keyrunes, and having a card that smooths my mana early and becomes a threat later is something I’m always happy to see in my hand—which, if you recall, is basically the goal of this entire decklist. It’s very helpful to have something that survives Supreme Verdict or Mutilate or other sorcery speed creature removal too. I wish it cost one less mana (and for this reason I almost made these Farseek), but I’ll take it the way it is.
Gavony Township – I’m guessing that the Forests, Plains, Sunpetal Groves, and Temple Gardens don’t need explanation. Gavony Township does. Once again, it’s a card that helps me late, making even a lowly Avacyn’s Pilgrim into a threat. It’s been so useful that I am willing to put up with the fact that it doesn’t produce colored mana. That said, it’s because of its lack of color that I haven’t included more copies or something like Grove of the Guardian.
As for the sideboard, Rest in Peace is there to combat Reanimation and flashback tricks. Centaur Healers help slow down purely aggressive decks. Somberwald Dryad has proven to be surprisingly effective against opposing green decks. And that last spot? I had no idea, so I just threw in Faith’s Shield as a stopgap.
My typical approach when building a new deck is to play it around fifty games before changing it. In this case, I popped into the Just For Fun room of Magic Online and went to work. Now, the Just For Fun room isn’t going to be a very good representation of what I’d find in a Friday Night Magic or local Standard tournament because there’s everything there from the hardcore competitive to the silly to the draft deck. But these games allow me to get a feel for how the cards work together, what sort of strategies are harder to deal with than others, and overall how comfortable I feel piloting it.
After fifty games, I was surprised to find that the deck worked more or less as I expected. I was happy to see every card, pounded on most decks that didn’t seem “serious,” and stayed competitive with those that did. In fact, I decided I only wanted to make two changes:
+4 Gyre Sage
Every time I made a 3/3 Centaur token, I tried to decide if I would be happier to instead have one of the other cards I considered in this spot. Over and over again, I fantasized about Gyre Sage. Imagine the ability to drop a Sage on turn 2, then Frontline Medic, Loxodon Smiter, Deadbridge Goliath, and Silklash Spider. That’s not a crazy sequence of events, and it gives me a 5/6 mana-pumping monster. I also like the synergy with Gavony Township, though if I already have five mana available, I probably don’t need more via Gyre Sage. Still, I’m betting that she will fit better into the deck than “just” a 3/3 creature.
Once I started playing in online tournaments with Ajani’s Army, I started reading the occasional article on Standard. It was actually this piece from Cedric Phillips that convinced me to use Selesnya Charm in my sideboard. I still don’t know if this is the absolute best I could be doing with my sideboard, but that’s because I still don’t know Standard well enough to know what I’m likely to face.
Here’s the decklist I decided to take into a few online skirmishes:
I woke up early on Saturday morning ready to test my new deck in a real online Standard tournament. These eight-person tournaments are a lot like your typical Friday Night Magic affair, except there tend to be fewer homegrown decks and more uber-expensive net decks. I obviously prefer seeing the home brews, but as a way of testing my deck, there’s nothing better than net decks.
Here goes nothing…
Match 1, Tourney 1: U/W/R Control
Game 1: How do I adequately summarize this game? He burned and countered my guys while I kept the pressure on. I got him to two life, then six life, then four life, and he used Sphinx’s Revelation to recover each time. I killed three of his Restoration Angels thanks to Divine Intervention and Silklash Spider. I killed his first Aurelia, the Warleader. Then I killed a second one. We stabilized around turn 20, and as I whittled him away back to four life with two 1/2 Gyre Sages, he cast Sphinx’s Revelation for something like twelve and only left two cards in his library. His next turn he drew his penultimate card and used three Searing Spears to kill me. That description doesn’t do the game justice. It was about as epic a game as I’ve played in a long while, with both of us trading heavyweight blows.
Game 2: My first three turns were Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Frontline Medic, and Deadbridge Goliath. He missed his fourth land drop and conceded. And that, friends, was one of the least epic games I’ve played. Magic is funny sometimes.
Game 3: I wish this game were more interesting. He countered my Gyre Sage and Frontline Medic and then dropped Jace, Master Adept. I lost ten cards at a time from my library while he used what was left of his hand to kill or counter any guys I dropped. When he used both Searing Spear and Pillar of Flame to kill a Deadbridge Goliath, I ran out of cards and lost.
Hmm. “Here goes nothing” indeed. 0-1 in my first Standard tournament with my new deck. I hate that.
I realize that there is something acutely vulnerable about playing one’s own homemade deck in a Constructed tournament. It’s different than a Limited tourney where you can blame bad cards on your performance if you need emotional justification. In a Standard tournament, there are no excuses for bad cards. You picked them. You decided they were worthy of the battlefield. You are telling your opponents that you believe in them.
And trust me, playing a rogue deck in a tournament will garner all sorts of critiques from opponents. If you win, people will shower you with praise for your wit and creativity. If you don’t, well…expect a rough day—both externally and from your inner voice. It’s like showing up at a middle school dance wondering if you picked the right outfit and not knowing what others will think of your dance floor moves. There is an art to deckbuilding, and having your art on display is scary and has been for every artist in every medium of every generation.
Still, I had to believe I had my opponent scared in that last one, right? Silklash Spider and Divine Intervention were the stars of game 1, a game in which I took his best shots over and over and still almost pulled it out. I thought I should try again…
Match 1, Tourney 2: Bant Enchanted Humans
Game 1: This game was over faster than I could blink. He got out Geist of Saint Traft and then enchanted it with Spectral Flight and Ethereal Armor. Huh? Two swings and I was dead. I had an Avacyn’s Pilgrim and Loxodon Smiter on the table.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to side out in this matchup, so I dropped my four Rancor (I wasn’t going to outrace him, I figured) for three Selesnya Charms and a Centaur Healer. I maybe should have put in Somberwald Dryad in hindsight.
Game 2: He got out two Fencing Aces and a couple of Avacyn’s Pilgrims. I waited until he enchanted his Aces—the first one with Gift of Orzhova and the second with Ethereal Armor—and then use Oblivion Ring on them. Meanwhile, I had two Pilgrims of my own and Frontline Medic attacking each turn. A Deadbridge Goliath showed up and that was game.
Game 3: While I amassed a Gyre Sage, Avacyn’s Pilgrim, and a Loxodon Smiter, he got Nearheath Pilgrim with three (!) Rancor and a Gift of Orzhova on it. I used Divine Deflection to kill it, and it took him two turns to draw another creature. He loaded it up again with enchantments, and I again used Divine Deflection—this time to deal lethal damage straight to him.
Yay! What a weird deck to get my first tournament win against, but that’s a bit of pot gossiping about kettle, I suppose.
Match 2, Tourney 2: G/R/W Restoration Angel
Game 1: I had two terrible hands and mulliganed down to five. The hand had two Forests, two Gyre Sage, and a Silklash Spider. I never got another land while he beat me down with Huntmaster of the Fells and Wolfir Silverheart. When I finally drew Sunpetal Grove and got a Loxodon Smiter, he had enough mana for Mizzium Mortars with overload to kill my side and kill me the next turn.
I sided out four Rancor, three Silklash Spider, one Deadbridge Goliath, one Frontline Medic, one Loxodon Smiter, and one Gyre Sage for four Centaur Healer, three Selesnya Charm, and four Somberwald Dryad. This was clearly a mistake since I thought at this point he was playing aggro.
Game 2: Yay Divine Deflection! This game started with me having a Loxodon Smiter and him having a Loxodon Smiter. Me using Oblivion Ring on his and him using Oblivion Ring on my Ring to get back his Smiter. I got Gavony Township and now was Smiting more impressively than him, and a Deadbridge Goliath joined the party. He got Restoration Angel and Boros Reckoner. I used Divine Deflection once to kill his Angel and Reckoner during an all-out blitz and a second one to kill him during my second all-out blitz.
Game 3: … Unless I stink at playing. The game went pretty much as expected, with us trading early Smiters and me getting Gyre Sage and Deadbridge Goliath. He dropped Boros Reckoner and another Smiter. I did the math and realized that on the next turn I should be able to attack for the win thanks to Divine Deflection in my hand. I swung for the fences, he blocked just as I expected and…wait for it…I was one mana short. He was at one life and on the next turn could attack with Kessig Wolf Run for the win. If I had waited a turn, I am 99.9% sure that I would have won instead. Le sigh.
Small consolation: the guy I lost to won the tournament. Still, I hated that I let my deck down. In fact, I hated it so much that I decided to try one more time.
Match 1, Tourney 3: B/R/W Control
Game 1: I wasn’t sure what he was playing in the first game because he got stuck on two lands and could only play a Blood Artist. I got Frontline Medic and Loxodon Smiter with Rancor on it. I Oblivion Ringed his Artist, and he conceded.
Game 2: I was right, though I should have kept the Spiders in the deck and not added the Charms. He once again got Blood Artist, but this time he had more land and also dropped Cartel Aristocrat and Doomed Traveler. I started with Avacyn’s Pilgrim and Loxodon Smiter and then Selesnya Keyrune. I Oblivion Ringed his Artist and then used a second Ring on an Intangible Virtue he put on the table. He cleared everything on the battlefield except his Aristocrat and my Keyrune thanks to Blasphemous Act. I kept attacking with the Keyrune and then put another Pilgrim and Frontline Medic on the table. He played and flashbacked a Lingering Souls.
I attack with my three critters to put him at eight life, sitting at six life myself. I had two mana and a Divine Deflection in hand, and he had his Aristocrat and four Spirit tokens. He drew and played a land. My hope was that he did what he does, which is attack with everything. I Deflectioned for one damage at his head, and with one life remaining I won on the next turn. Whew.
Match 2, Tourney 3: B/R Aggro
Game 1: He cast Rakdos Cackler and Guttersnipe, and I countered with two Frontline Medics, one of which had Rancor. He burned away my guys, but not before I forced him to chump block with his Guttersnipe. He played Desecration Demon, and I had Silklash Spider. I wiped away his Demon with my Spider, put two Rancors on him, and swung for the win.
It’s funny that I sided out what just won me game 1, but I take out four Rancor and three Silklash Spider for four Centaur Healer and three Selesnya Charm. I figured I needed to survive first and that I may never get to cast the Spider if I’m not careful.
Game 2: He again got a Rakdos Cackler, plus Ash Zealot and this time two Desecration Demons. I had a Frontline Medic to block his Cackler and used Selesnya Charm on one Demon and Oblivion Ring on another. I got a Selesnya Keyrune, and he hit a land glut while I beat on him with one 3/3 and kept the other back as a blocker. He cleared the board with Blasphemous Act (which I assume was in his sideboard), and the next turn he cast Rakdos Shredder and another Zealot. I activated my Keyrune on his next attack, but he had Searing Spear to kill it. I died.
Game 3: My opponent was vocally frustrated about drawing all burn and no creatures. He had Pillar of Flame, Mizzium Mortars, and Searing Spear, and he killed my first Gyre Sage, my second Gyre Sage, my Frontline Medic, and my Centaur Healer. He’d emptied his hand, though, and by that time I had Loxodon Smiter and Selesnya Keyrune smacking on him. He tried his last Mizzium Mortars, and I used Divine Deflection to kill him. Wow, was my opponent not happy about that. Good thing Magic Online has a language filter.
Woo! The finals!
Match 3, Tourney 3: Naya Aggro
Game 1: He came out blazing with Ash Zealot decked with Rancor, Burning-Tree Emissary, and Hellrider. I had an Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Gyre Sage, and Selesnya Keyrune. The real insult to injury was that he used two Selesnya Charms to exile my two Deadbridge Goliaths. Selesnya Charm! On me!?! Anyway, I killed everything but his Zealot, and he bloodrushed Ghor-Clan Rampager for the win.
Game 2: I kept a dubious hand of five land, one Gyre Sage, and one Deadbridge Goliath. It worked out okay since I was able to play the Sage, Frontline Medic, Goliath, and Somberwald Dryad on turns 2 through 5. He had a Boros Reckoner and then Hellrider. Both stared at me meanly until Zealous Conscripts (!) showed up, took my Goliath, and attacked me for a boatload. I blocked his Hellrider with my 3/4 Sage, we traded my Medic for his Conscripts, and I took eight damage.
The next turn I attacked with my side and dropped him to five life. He then attacked with his sole remaining creature—Boros Reckoner—and emptied his hand of Ghor-Clan Rampager and Boros Charm (giving his guy double strike) for the win. Oh how I wished I had a Divine Deflection in hand, or had seen an Oblivion Ring, or…you know…anything except the land I kept drawing.
But I wasn’t bitter. I lost in the first round, second round, and third round of three eight-person Standard tournaments. Overall, my game record with Fat Selesnya was 9-8, with an incredibly bad play by me keeping it from being significantly better. I was quite happy with my deck.
After a whole mess of games, I had a few observations about the deck:
- I really do love this deck, and the only thing it doesn’t do that I wish it did is draw cards. Even an Elvish Visionary or something would make my day. I’m not desperate enough to add a card like Garruk Packleader, but that’s the sort of card I wish were in there.
- Gyre Sage is definitely a better choice than Call of the Conclave, but it also tempts me into bad plays. For example, it’s turn 3, and I have a Gyre Sage on the battlefield and a Gyre Sage and Loxodon Smiter in hand. “Ooooo!” I think, “If I play my second Sage this turn and my Smiter next turn, they’ll BOTH get a counter!” That’s dumb. I should play the Smiter, attack with my 2/3 (or play Rancor on my Smiter if I have it), and commence the face smashing. I still like the card, but I can try to get too tricky with it.
- I liked Divine Deflection before. I positively love it now. I can’t think of a single game in which I was unhappy it was in my hand, and I can think of several games in which I was praying to topdeck it. I still think a fourth copy is one too many, but I’m tempted.
- You know what card feels the most odd in my deck at this point? Rancor. Don’t get me wrong—Rancor is terrific and makes my deck all kinds of scary. Overall, though, it has the least utility of any card in the deck. It can only be used one way: Hulk Smash. I’d like the cards in Fat Selesnya to be a little broader than that and to help save my bacon if my bacon needs saving. I wonder if Selesnya Charm might be better in this slot after all.
- As I played the deck casually, it suddenly occurred to me: GARRUK RELENTLESS! It’s got everything this deck would want. It’s versatile, acting as creature removal, creature creator, creature searcher, and creature pumper. As worst it’s a sorcery that reads “3G: Deal 3 damage to target creature,” which I would probably play in the deck as is. The fact that it can do so much more and also absorb opposing damage is just wonderful. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it until the eleventh hour, but it’s perfect, perfect, perfect.
- Frontline Medic is darned good and is a big magnet for opposing creature removal. Do I need four copies of him, though? I’m not sure.
- I can’t tell exactly, but I think this deck fares slightly better against control decks than aggressive decks. It might be the way I play, though. Because each of my critters can be scary, I can outmuscle control decks with just enough tricks to eke out a win. Against aggro, I can’t decide whether to play defense or race them, usually opting for defense and coming up short. Either I need to change the way I play against speed or have a better sideboard for it.
- Speaking of which, my sideboard still feels…not quite right. I like the Rest in Peace and Centaur Healers. My preference would be to have three Somberwald Dryads, not four. If the Charms make it into the maindeck, what do I do with those last four sideboard slots? I have no idea. I’m thinking I’ll try Prey Upon against aggressive decks since my creatures are almost always bigger than theirs. Either that or Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice.
Armed with all of those thoughts, here is the deck I will bring to my next online tournament:
Finally, there are, oh, just a few cards that have me tapping my lip because they feel like they somehow belong in this deck but don’t exactly fit. I think it was the discovery of Garruk Relentless that had me take a more comprehensive look at the cards in Standard. None of the cards listed below unseat what I have above, but any of them could easily find a place:
Acidic Slime – Acidic Slime really only belongs in a deck that can reuse it over and over again. Still, its versatility is attractive to me. I can’t see it bumping any of the current cards in the deck, but it definitely fits my deck’s vibe.
Armada Wurm – He’s the fattest fat Selesnya can deliver, and six mana for two 5/5 tramplers is very enticing. If I didn’t love Silklash Spider so much, these or Sigarda, Host of Herons would probably take that slot.
Bramblecrush – I am a huge fan of Creeping Mold. My guess is that if the deck turned into more of a control deck that these would have a place. As it is, Bramblecrush is a little too defensive and passive for the way the deck is currently configured.
Gideon, Champion of Justice – Is there a downside to using Gideon in this deck? I don’t see one, except maybe that I would need to reliably find two white mana.
Grove of the Guardians – As I’ve already said, I need colored mana too badly, but this would be a fun and useful addition for sure.
Kessig Cagebreakers – It’s one mana more than I want to pay for a 3/4 who needs to attack to do cool things, but I do like the Cagebreakers in this deck if there were room. Goodness knows I often have creatures littering my graveyard. It’s got nice synergy with Frontline Medic, too.
Lambholt Elder – I love that it’s a way for this deck to actually draw cards, and I think I could keep the Silverpelt Werewolf alive long enough for me to get some card drawing out of it. What I hate is that Lambholt Elder is a 1/2 for three mana. A 2/2 I can live with, but a 1/2 is just anemic enough for me to leave it out of the deck.
Mikaeus, the Lunarch – He’s decent early and terrific late. He’s a little like a Gavony Township with legs, which is very, very appealing. If I wasn’t using Garruk Relentless in the decklist above, I’m pretty sure I would put Mikaeus in that slot.
Miming Slime – Silly idea? Maybe, but I’m pretty sure this would almost always be a 4/4 or bigger. The problem is that I don’t really need a big creature that comes out after turn 4 unless is does something to change the battlefield. Call of the Conclave is almost as big and comes out reliably on turn 2.
Revenge of the Hunted – I want trample, and I like Golgari Decoy. Put them both together and my sense is that this card would end a lot of games. I also think I could cast it for six mana without needing to rely on its miracle cost. The only issue is that I absolutely need a creature on the battlefield, making it a touch too narrow for me.
Sigarda, Host of Herons – There’s a lot to like about Sigarda. She’s big. She flies. She can’t be targeted. And occasionally she’ll stymie someone with Devour Flesh or Barter in Blood. As I said above, I’m tempted by either her or Armada Wurm in the slot currently occupied by Silklash Spider.
Silverblade Paladin – I loved it in my Ajani’s Army deck, and it’s even scarier here. I just don’t like the mana cost. Also, it seems too aggressive for what I’m trying to do here, though I know that’s a weird sentence to write.
Thragtusk – As much as I hate playing against the beefy bugger, he does seem perfectly made for Fat Selesnya. I don’t have a way to reuse its effect (like, say, Restoration Angel), but if I did this would feel like a no-brainer.
Villagers of Estwald – I like two things about the Villagers. First, they probably trigger Gyre Sage twice. Second, Howlpack of Estwald has a butt bigger than four, which means it survives Mizzium Mortars. That’s pretty good for three mana.
Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage – I’ve mentioned it before, but I do think the Guildmage fits into what I’m trying to do with a G/W midrange deck with utility. The problem is that a deck with this card in it wants Call of the Conclave too. With those in the deck, I start wanting Wayfaring Temple, and then the deck is morphing into something else. This is what I think of as a “watershed card”—an addition that begins to pull the deck in a different direction by its very existence.
Wolfir Silverheart – So tempting, but do I really need my big creatures to be even bigger? If I knew they had trample, yes. Without trample, I think there are better choices. What I really like about the Silverheart is how it makes even Avacyn’s Pilgrim scary.
And with that, I guess I’m back into Magic. Jonah’s interest is waxing, not waning, and in the past month I’ve taught four friends of his to play (I’m envisioning 5th grade booster drafts in the near future). As long as he’s enjoying the game, I’m pretty sure that I will spend my late evenings and early weekend mornings online tweaking decks and playing in Standard tournaments. I can already feel the sleep deprivation kicking in.
As always, I’m completely open to constructive thoughts on the deck, including what cards you would add and why and any similar decks you’ve seen be successful. Keep in mind two things as you’re giving feedback. First, remember that I am still brand spanking new to today’s Standard. In writing this article, I tried to read what archetypes are good these days and became completely befuddled. I’m not sure I still understand what Jund, Bant, Naya, and Esper mean. My hope is that my articles will only get better as I learn more and more about today’s incredibly diverse Standard. And second, remember that this is #FNM fare.
Off I go to start working on other multicolor green decks. If there’s a second tome in the making, it will be because some of my tinkering has spawned a fun deck I’m not seeing online.
May you create your own Magic-playing kids,