Lessons Learned In Last Weekend’s $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifier And What I’m Playing In The Next One!

Historic just keeps on changing, and Brad Nelson wants to help you keep up!

Collected Company, illustrated by Franz Vohwinkel

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of finally finding some time to play in and stream some of the wonderful SCG Tour Online tournaments being run on MTG Melee. It was my first true dive into the new Historic format after the inclusion of the Mystical Archive cards, and I have to report that it did not disappoint. The format seems to be in an exciting place right now as the decks of old are finally finding some competition thanks to Strixhaven and cards like, well, Brainstorm! That’s why this week, I’m going to break down Selesnya Company – the deck I ultimately chose to play in the $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifier – while also going over my first opinions of the format. 

Now, things didn’t start off with Selesnya Company. I mean, I did have to qualify for Sunday’s main event after all. After playing in Hunter Pence’s Sweatsuit Invitational, I was chomping at the bit to stream some more tournament Magic, so I looked towards the first couple satellites for inspiration. After seeing Akihiro Mikami’s 5-1 Simic Company list, I made a few changes and registered this decklist. 

Now I had no idea if Simic Company was a good deck or not when I chose it as I had no time to really try it out before registering for the third satellite. I was just excited about the possibility that Decisive Denial was finally the maindeck-able card that green stompy has always needed to interact with both creature and non-creature matchups. As it turned out, the card was in fact great, but the archetype not so much. Even though I won all of my matches, none of them were against the format’s top decks, and after about ten matches, I predicted they were all going to be bad matchups. 

Thassa’s Oracle Arclight Phoenix Kor Spiritdancer

Dimir Tainted Pact (Lurrus), Izzet Phoenix, and Orzhov Auras (Lurrus) seem to be a cut above the rest. Part of me felt this last weekend, but another part of me just didn’t want to play any of them. Luckily for me, the hero Christian Calcano took down Saturday’s Insight Esports 3K Historic Open with a different Collected Company deck. Did I ever tell you I love Collected Company?

Now, Selesnya Company isn’t new. No, this ugly looking deck has been around for weeks now. Don’t get me wrong I love this deck, but I don’t think a single person has laid this one out and thought “wow, this looks amazing!” Besides Llanowar Elves, all of the deck’s early plays aren’t turning any heads. On top of that, it’s playing more Standard-legal three drops than even any Standard deck plays. It’s a hot mess! A good, hot mess. 

Who would have guessed, Brad Nelson likes the green midrange deck more than the other best choices! At this point, it’s not even a joke when I say I’m a sucker for a good midrange deck. I don’t know what it is about this one, but still I fell in love. Usually I need at least black or blue cards to compliment the green, but with each passing year, these white creatures keep leveling up. 

Elite Spellbinder

I expected Elite Spellbinder to be good, but even still it exceeded my expectations. I think that’s because I didn’t take into account the color pie-bending aspect of the card. Sometimes you won’t leave your opponent enough time to pay the additional two mana, so effectively your Selesnya deck got to play discard. That’s pretty messed up, and clearly something that needs to be taken seriously in a format where combinations of cards can be so important. 

Archon of Emeria Reidane, God of the Worthy Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Elite Spellbinder is backed up by a slew of great, white creatures designed to slow an opponent down. The plan is for the green creatures to have time to do their job, but honestly these cards can hit pretty hard as well. It doesn’t take all that long for a combination of them to finish a game with an opponent just staring at a handful of cards that they can’t deploy fast enough. 

After playing with Selesnya Company, even though my results were worse than my small sample size with Simic Company, I could just tell it was a stronger deck. Selesnya Company is inherently stronger against the other two-color Company decks, and has a much better chance at disrupting decks like Orzhov Auras and Izzet Phoenix. Where the deck truly suffers – the Jund Sacrifice matchups – so do the other Company decks. 

Here’s what I ended up registering for the $5K Strixhaven Championship Qualifier. The tournament started strong with me winning two mirrors and a match against Mono-Black Aggro, but then the wheels fell off with three straight losses to Dimir Pact Combo, Izzet Phoenix, and Orzhov Auras. Sigh.

Now, I did learn a lot from this tournament plus all of my time on the ladder with this deck. For starters, I was far and away too focused on the mirror and other Collected Company matchups. 

Declaration in Stone Glass Casket

Glass Casket is far and away the best removal spell to play against a slew of matchups except for one; Izzet Phoenix. It’s here that a card like Declaration in Stone is significantly better as it can not only exile multiple copies of Arclight Phoenix, but also is one of the only ways for Selesnya Company to remove Stormwing Entity. 

For now, the community seems split on whether Izzet Phoenix is a problem or just another fine deck in the metagame. It did have a pretty great past weekend so the switch from Glass Casket to Declaration in Stone should be made if that translates into more pilots. Don’t make the swap if Izzet Phoenix doesn’t break into the top three most played decks though as it is a significant downgrade in a lot of other matchups. 

Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate

I played a single copy of Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate in my sideboard last weekend for a very specific reason: the mirror. You’re justified in scratching your head at this one as it’s not even a powerful card in Standard anymore. It’s also extremely likely for one player in the mirror to absolutely demolish the other one thanks to the powerful tempo plays the deck has with three mana. Sometimes you just can’t beat an opposing Archon of Emeria, and they run you over while all your lands enter the battlefield tapped. 

Sometimes getting absolutely run over in mirrors is exactly why cards like Vivien can be good card choices. It sounds counter intuitive, but the reality is you can’t win every game. Trying to win every game will lower your deck’s overall power level as you try to have cards for every reactive situation and you lose sight of preparing for the games where both players don’t have top draws. Sometimes the Selesnya Company mirror will devolve into both players just staring at each other with a bunch of creatures in play, and a card like The Great Henge or in this case Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate can be exactly what you need to break the whole game wide open. 

Reidane, God of the Worthy Valkmira, Protector’s Shield

I almost cut this card from my sideboard, and still might, but I think it’s too important to have access to it for the eventual return of sacrifice strategies. Mayhem Devil is very good against decks like this which makes Valkmira so powerful. You can argue the front side Reidane’s are also good against control decks, but honestly they have enough cheap removal that it never plays out the way you want. Well sometimes it does, but it wouldn’t be enough of a reason to keep the card. I guess having both reasons is enough justification for now. 

Here’s where I’m currently at with the deck. Not much has changed. As of right now the card I’m currently testing is Deafening Silence against Orzhov Auras. I wish I could definitively say right now whether it’s good or not, but that’s difficult to do with a card you don’t want to play more than one copy of against a deck that has hand disruption. 

Reidane, God of the Worthy Rhonas the Indomitable Rest in Peace Deafening Silence

I think this is a great time for me to change subjects for a brief moment to discuss a theory I’ve been trying to articulate for about a year now. Creatures in Magic are continuing to get more and more powerful. With each passing year they gain more spell-like abilities, but are still abusable with creature-based shenanigans. Take Agent of Treachery for example. We’ve seen ‘Mind Control’ spells like that for years, but it became too powerful when you were able to search them up with Lukka and blink them with Yorion. 

Nowadays, there’s so many options for creatures that decks like this one don’t have to worry about the diminishing returns that legendary creatures come with. This is especially true in a deck that plays Collected Company! Also, the same can be said about cards like Rest in Peace and Deafening Silence. Sure, more copies will be good in some situations or matchups, but drawing multiples can also lead to bad spots against prepared opponents. 

It’s just something to think about next time you’re working on a deck, and please by no means think this is somehow a hard and fast rule. Especially with cards like Nissa, Who Shakes the World or Embercleave. Some Legendary cards are fine to draw multiples of, and others end the game making any additional copies irrelevant in a large subset of games. 

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, Selesnya Company. Honestly, that’s all I really have on the deck. I think it’s going to continue to play a role in Historic, but time will tell. As I mentioned before, Orzhov Auras, Izzet Phoenix, and Dimir Tainted Pact look to be the best decks in the format, and we’ve yet to see any fallout from them trying to beat each other. Depending on how all that plays out, we may see other decks fending for the “best of the backups” slots. Until then, those who want to play Company decks should still do so, and I think this is the best of them. 

A Quick Look At Standard

This weekend’s SCG Tour Online Satellites and Strixhaven Championship Qualifier is Standard. Now, I wanted to write about my experiences with Selesnya Company, but at the same time, didn’t want to leave you hanging for what to play this weekend. That’s why I thought I’d just leave you with the decklist I’ve been playing the most with, and what I’ll most likely be playing on Friday in Satellite #3. 

This is very similar to what I wrote about last week, and truth be told, I haven’t had much of a reason to stop playing this deck. I’m nervous about going back down to a single copy of Redcap Melee, but I wanted another Saw It Coming for the Sultai Ramp (Yorion) matchup. 

Scorching Dragonfire

One would think I could remove a Scorching Dragonfire from my list, but something tells me that Naya Adventures is going to gain popularity this weekend. 

Grzegorz Kowalki posted this on social media a few days ago, and while 9 of his matches were against an account that just scoops right away, the masses might not know that. Something interesting that he’s done is moved Drannith Magistrate to the maindeck which works VERY well with Elite Spellbinder. This is something a deck like Temur Adventures needs to respect as Drannith Magistrate was already very effective against the deck. For now, I just can’t reduce the number of Scorching Dragonfires as they are still very effective against Mono-Red Aggro, Boros Winota, and Dimir Rogues. 

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got this week! Be sure to look for me this weekend on Twitch as I try to play in SCG Satellites and the Insight Esports Historic Open. If I do see you, say hi in chat!