It wasn’t long after a member of our testing team had declared Selesnya unplayable in draft that I tried the archetype for the first time (partly because I wanted to prove him wrong) and I was rewarded with a 3-0. I had a hunch that people were just drafting it wrong in Guilds of Ravnica draft, as they attempted to draft a midrangey convoke deck with lots of big creatures. I do agree that this approach leads to an unplayable archetype.
I seem to have struck gold with my approach of eschewing any expensive cards and just drafting an efficient aggro deck with lots of combat tricks. I have now drafted it 6 times in competitive single-elimination drafts on Magic Online and sit at an impressive 15-3 record with the archetype!
Today I will share with you my draft strategy of this very underrated guild.
The 6 infamous decks
Selesnya is open in many drafts
First of all, let me precede this by mentioning that I don’t force Selesnya. I have it ranked 3rd among the guilds, and still prefer Boros to Selesnya. So I will still need a reason to be in the guild, which can be opening a great rare or identifying that Selesnya is wide open so that the good cards will come to me.
These decks might look like they have more rares and good cards than you normally expect out of an average Limited deck, and this explains part of my success with the archetype. But remember that I don’t just go Selesnya out of the blue and get lucky with the cards I open and get passed.
Either I see that nobody else is in Selesnya (relatively common, as the guild isn’t very popular) and move in, expecting to get all the good cards opened at the table. Or I open a great rare and that is the reason why I’m Selesnya. I believe that if I open Emmara, Soul of the Accord, March of the Multitudes or Trostani Discordant it’s correct for me to pick it and try my best to force Selesnya. The on-color rare will provide me the incentive to be Selesnya over other guilds and the archetype is unpopular enough that this will generally work.
So here are the six decks I’ve drafted:
You will notice some trends here. All of them have some powerful cards as explained above, they all have low curves, four to six combat tricks, multiple 1-drops and I aggressively put my convoke cards low on the curve when showcasing a deck.
This is how I like to draft these decks. You will notice that I don’t run any expensive convoke cards (except for that one last minute addition Siege Wurm), no Sumala Woodshaper, no Generous Stray.
Obviously these decks don’t prove that Selesnya can win without rares, but I have seen my friends do it, so I am a believer. Do remember that an average Selesnya deck will be worse than an average Boros deck, so you do need a reason to be in the archetype (red being closed is a good reason).
Can you smell what the Dane’s cooking?
One archetype that I’ve always liked to draft in any Limited environment is green-white two-drops and 1-mana tricks. It hasn’t been viable for a long time, but finally we once again have a set where getting tons of 2-drops is fairly trivial and where we have access to a good 1-mana trick in both white and green, Take Heart and Pack’s Favor, as well as Might of the Masses at uncommon.
You might not think of Pack’s Favor as a 1-mana card, but in a good Selesnya deck it’s comparable to Giant Growth, often even costing you 0 mana!
When drafting Selesnya, you’d want to prioritize cards in this order: Bomb Rares > Premium Uncommons > Healer’s Hawk > Removal > Flower // Flourish > good curve fillers > combat tricks > Rosemane Centaur > mediocre curve fillers
As you can see, some cards deserve a category for themselves. And yes, I do pick Healer’s Hawk over Luminous Bonds once I know I am in Selesnya. A Selesnya deck without Luminous Bonds is still much better served than one without the Hawk.
The only removal spells you can really play are Luminous Bonds and Conclave Tribunal, but they aren’t really vital. Oftentimes you can just replace them with more tricks and it’s not the end of the world. Righteous Blow is better off in the sideboard, as it’s oftentimes just a bad combat trick (still okay to maindeck one), and our creatures are too small to utilize Prey Upon. Demotion does work in the removal slot, but is a much lower pick and is often boarded out.
Flower // Flourish is another irreplaceable card. You can play it instead of a land as it is essentially just like a Selesnya Guildgate, but instead of being a useless topdeck in lategame it can be a very useful tool once the board stalls or you plan to swarm them out.
I like to have up to 3 Rosemane Centaur in my deck and consider it relatively important, but they usually table, so I don’t really bother picking them early. What you really want to do with these is play 1-drop, 2-drop, turn 3 Centaur. These decks usually only have small creatures, so it’s nice to have a sizeable body. It helps you develop a board quickly even if you can’t play it turn 3, and has vigilance which is very important for Pack’s Favor. Also note that Venerated Loxodon is just Centaur on steroids, but has a similar play pattern.
I wouldn’t play any cards that cost 5 or more, unless they’re 5-mana Convoke or Trostani Discordant. Still unsure if Bounty of Might and Camaraderie are great or terrible due to this.
I aim towards 16 lands, and of course even less if I have Flower // Flourish. One of the decks above even has only 14 lands!
Getting on the board early
I aim to get around two to four 1-drops when I draft Selesnya. Three is a good number for supporting Rosemane Centaur, but they also just help you get in damage early, be good bodies for mentor and help out with Pack’s Favor. This is my ranking of them:
1 Pelt Collector
1 Healer’s Hawk
1 Haazda Marshal
1 Hunted Witness
We already know how good Healer’s Hawk is, and since Selesnya cares about just having cheap creatures, it’s even more important here.
Haazda Marshal might look bad, and it’s certainly miles worse than the hawk, but it’s kind of like a mini-Emmara. It works very well in a deck with lots of creatures, a low curve and a slew of combat tricks, as once this guy gets to attack multiple times, it will be worth it. Also, the token comes into play untapped so can be used with Pack’s Favor and Rosemane Centaur!
Hunted Witness is certainly less than desirable, but when you need 1-drops, you need 1-drops. Play it if you lack 1-drops and have multiple Centaurs and/or 2-power mentor.
We can get a lot of these
This format has so many reasonable 2-drops – partly thanks the hybrid ones – that it’s usually quite easy to get lots of them, so don’t prioritize these too high even though you want six to eight in this archetype. My ranking is:
1 Emmara, Soul of the Accord
1 Sunhome Stalwart
1 Kraul Harpooner
1 Conclave Guildmage
1 Chamber Sentry
1 Skyline Scout
1 Vernadi Shieldmate
1 Bounty Agent
1 Fresh-Faced Recruit
1 Ironshell Beetle
1 Devkarin Dissident
1 Tenth District Guard
As you can see there are plenty of options to choose from, and even the bottom two are still totally serviceable if you need to fill up your slots.
I think Emmara, Soul of the Accord is absolutely busted in this deck, as we have both combat tricks to let it attack, as well as plenty of cheap convoke to let it sit back and generate tokens. This deck also takes advantage of wide boards very well, as with combat tricks you can usually just alpha strike every turn, eventually overwhelming them.
I might have put Vernadi Shieldmate too high as it usually goes later than some of the other options, but it’s just really important to have a couple of these, as they make Pack’s Favor so much better. Being able to tap out for a creature precombat and attack with everything while still leaving up your combat trick because of vigilance and token makers is frankly absurd. Also it’s nice to have a 2-drop you can always play even if you’re missing either one of your basic lands.
Ironshell Beetle also fulfills an important role, as it can sometimes just pump up Healer’s Hawk on curve, or buff a mentor creature while either receiving the counter back or just hanging around for your convoke cards. It works exceptionally well with Parhelion Patrol.
Here the curve gets difficult
Now it gets a bit murky to describe the optimal curve, since now convoke cards start kicking in. With enough 1-drops I do consider Rosemane Centaur a 3-drop often enough that you skimp a bit on this part of the curve. Also just combat trick plus another 2-drop is a more than fine turn 3. And this is good, since Selesnya‘s 3-drops are less than exciting, because green provides virtually nothing.
1 Roc Charger
1 Ledev Champion
1 Knight of Autumn
1 Blade Instructor
1 District Guide
1 Sworn Companions
1 Sprouting Renewal
1 Wary Okapi
1 Ledev Guardian
1 Centaur Peacemaker
Of the average choices, I’d vastly prefer to have one of each, instead of multiple of any of them. Sworn Companions is the one that works best in multiples, as it has synergies with Parhelion Patrol and Flower // Flourish, but it can often be too low-powered.
Wary Okapi is actually better than it looks, as I mentioned before the vigilance is key.
I’d aim for three to five real 3-drops from this list, leaning towards more if you have fewer Centaurs.
The top of the Selesnya curve
I prefer two to three 4-drops in my Selesnya decks. We gotta keep the curve low. You can add more if you don’t have any centaurs. This is my ordering:
1 Nullhide Ferox
1 Beast Whisperer
1 Conclave Cavalier
1 Inspiring Unicorn
1 Parhelion Patrol
1 Rampaging Monument
1 Wild Ceratok
1 Siege Wurm
Caveat: Rampaging Monument is only good when you have 6+ multicolor cards.
It’s apparent that Conclave Cavalier is busted, but it can be hard to cast in a deck with just 8 of each basic land. So if you have these, prioritize Flower // Flourish and Selesnya Guildgate. Normally I don’t like Guildgates in Selesnya as I want to play a low land count, have 1-drops and usually no double-cost. Also, it competes with Flower // Flourish, but in this case I’d run it.
You should try to play Inspiring Unicorn in a deck with lots of combat tricks and a low curve. It is truly wonderful
What really powers Selesnya in Draft
I’d like to fill up my six to eight noncreature spells with mostly tricks. So you need a lot of these, but luckily most of them table very often. I think the fact that Pack’s Favor always tables is singlehandedly what makes Selesnya viable. Don’t @ me.
1 Assure // Assemble
1 Might of the Masses
1 Pack's Favor
1 Gird for Battle
1 Take Heart
1 Integrity // Intervention
1 Status // Statue
1 Righteous Blow
As long as you have followed the recipe so far with a low curve and a decent amount of vigilance, I have not yet found the limit of how many Pack’s Favor you can play. I’ve had 4, so that seems like a good number. The card goes very late, is super underrated and you should draft as if you know you are going to pick up multiples.
Gird for Battle is very situational and isn’t really a trick, but it can range from unplayable to great depending on your numbers of Healer’s Hawk, Sunhome Stalwart and Parhelion Patrol.
How to beat other guilds postboard
This article has been very thorough, so if there is a card I didn’t mention, it’s because I don’t want to play it. I’m just going to mention that Dawn of Hope is obviously a great card, especially if you have Healer’s Hawk. Now nobody can get at me for forgetting a good card!
One thing I do think Selesnya is decent at is sideboard options. Here is a quick guide to some of them:
These cards are key against aggressive decks, as they oftentimes have a very hard time beating the lifegain. You get to shift your deck in these match-ups to a midrange deck that trumps the aggressive deck. You can do the same thing against Boros, especially on the draw.
This one goes very well with the sideboard plan of bringing in those lifegain creatures against Boros, as you will get to a spot where you have enough creatures that are bigger than theirs and can actually utilize this card.
Against removal heavy decks with lots of walls rather than x/1s it’s actually reasonable to bring in some of these instead of some tricks and try to grind. Especially if you have a trump enchantment like a Dawn of Hope or a splashed Experimental Frenzy (out of the board, wouldn’t splash this maindeck. Never splash in Selesnya).
This is a weird one, but an important tool for your worst match-up: the Selesnya mirror!
Since most Selesnya decks haven’t got the memo and draft these big midrange decks with lots of lifegain creatures maindeck and easy ways to stall up the board, they usually just end up stomping over your small Selesnya deck.
So you have to be prepared. Bring in Siege Wurm and Worldsoul Colossus, and try to get the game to turtle up in a boardstall. This way, once you draw Join Shields you get to alpha strike and leave the opponent in ruins almost no matter what happens.
This card can be important when you are up against removal-light Selesnya and Golgari decks. If you strap this on a Healer’s Hawk, Sunhome Stalwart or Parhelion Patrol, it can just singlehandedly win the game.
The rest of the sideboard options are usually fairly straightforward, like bringing in situational removal against the right targets and lining up your creatures stats better against their creatures. Beware of Mephitic Vapors and Cosmotronic Wave postboard, so don’t be afraid to lower your amount of x/1s. This is also where 2-drops that didn’t make the maindeck cut, like Devkarin Dissident and Tenth District Guard, gets to shine.
Assemble the Conclave
As you might have noticed, green doesn’t actually provide that many cards for this archetype. The color is generally pretty poor in Guilds of Ravnica, and this is one of the reasons I just prefer Boros to Selesnya. But there is some value to be in the color if everybody else keeps underrating the key cards for my strategy.
Definitely don’t force Selesnya or think it’s the secret best strategy. It’s just not. But now that you know how to properly assemble this weapon it’s certainly a useful tool to have in your arsenal.
This article was written by Simon Nielsen in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com