One of the projects I have been working on lately is a (perhaps vain?) attempt to tune up Selesnya Aggro.
My thinking is that Abzan supported a spectrum of styles from Midrange Planeswalkers, to full-on Control Planeswalkers and Removal, to of course the Rakshasa Deathdealers and Fleecemane Lions of Abzan Aggro. Why not Selesnya?
The most successful style of Selesnya in recent months is of course the glacial -- but colossally powerful -- GW Devotion strategy; second-to-last in a long line of decks relying on Voyaging Satyr and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, GW Devotion combined the inevitability of Mastery of the Unseen with the table-snapping heavy hands of the green top-end.
Selesnya Aggro draws on similar motivations as the well-established Abzan Aggro and Craig Wescoe's brand spankin' It Girl Ojutai Bant; it just tries to investigate if we can do something similar with fewer (and maybe more consistent) colors.
Credit where credit's due: I got on this track influenced by the great Eternal deck designer Ashok Chitturi who has recently torn up his local scene with a similar deck.
Here's my take:
The weirdest cards are probably the three Blossoming Sands (which used to be four Blossoming Sands). I previously had 25 lands, like most Abzan Aggro decks, but found myself flooded a little too often. That said, I think I actually like 25 lands and am probably going to revisit this.
The contrapositive to the Blossoming Sands is the complete absence of Mana Confluence. I know that is an almost auto-include in some decks like this one, but I was especially influenced by the Red Aggro win at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir when making my initial decisions around this card (or not). I am perfectly willing to start off a little slower in some games in order to not auto-lose games to a deck that I predict to be popular at the Regional PTQs (that I can definitely win under most circumstances).
This deck tops up on five mana with Whisperwood Elemental. I think that is reasonable given the precedent of Wingmate Roc in Abzan Aggro and some Boros decks. The interplay between Whisperwood Elemental, Mastery of the Unseen, and the two megamorph threats gives this deck quite a bit of subtlety and complexity that might not be intuitive for an aggro deck.
Why explore a strategy like this to begin with?
The first reason is Dromoka's Command. Wow this card. It's punishing to so many strategies, but not necessarily in ways that make it stick out like a sore thumb. I mean the card is obviously a self-contained route to card advantage against Courser of Kruphix decks; but it's also weirdly good against Elves.
You ever have one of those games where they start on an Elvish Mystic and you kind of don't like that on account of starting on a Voyaging Satyr. Whatever, you think; how bad can this be? You play your Satyr. Then they go "give my Elvish Mystic +1/+1 and kill your Satyr" then they attack. Then you play your next Satyr, and then they do it again?
At this point you're down two Voyaging Satyrs and they're down two Dromoka's Commands; so it only seems like a one-for-one and a one-for-one so you can't really verbalize why this is so effin' bad for you. Except it is. You're also down five life...to an Elf. And oh yeah, you're playing a Ramp deck, so you kind of needed those Satyrs to cast your four and five-drops. Oh yeah!
Dromoka's Command counters burn spells...in a variety of ways! It mixes up creature combat and lets you cheat through combat. It can block Goblin Rabblemaster, and in a pinch even give you the Formidable you need for your Surrak, the Hunt Caller. All-in-all just a great card that can get percentage on decks with Whip of Erebos, Jeskai Ascendency, or Courser of Kruphix without having to dedicate space to main deck Erase or whatnot.
The other reason I thought this deck could be exciting is that you can play with threats and answers that line up well against Esper Dragons. One Valorous Stance and a Boon Satyr can go a long way to making catch up cards like Crux of Fate not catch up very much at all.
All-in-all I think Selesnya Aggro is potentially a very good deck, but, admittedly, I don't know that my version is 100% there yet.
That said, I've put quite a few hours behind the strategy over the past couple of weeks and I think you'll agree that there are some really good head scratchers that can come out of even a straightforward-looking aggro deck.
As with the past couple of weeks, we are going to do three scenarios. One of them is pretty easy but all of them are a little bit tricky.
Per usual, I'll ask you to give your responses in the comments below, where we'll comb them for winners come Flores Rewards Friday.
Scenario One: Outwit
● Nine life● Four cards in hand -- Dromoka's Command; Surrak, the Hunt Caller; Temple of Plenty; Windswept Heath● Zero cards in graveyard● Five lands (three Forests, one Temple of Plenty, one unbroken Windswept Heath)● Six creatures -- Elvish Mystic, Deathmist Raptor, two Whisperwood Elementals, and two face down 2/2 creatures; one of the 2/2 creatures is a land, and the other is a Fleecemane Lion
● 17 life● Zero cards in hand● Three cards in graveyard -- Draconic Roar and two Wooded Foothills● Six lands in play (one tapped)● Thunderbreak Regent (tapped), Deathmist Raptor, and Elvish Mystic for creatures
The Draconic Roar got our Deathmist Raptor early for a turn two zinger; we eventually bought the Deathmist Raptor back by flipping a face down Whisperwood Elemental off of our first Whisperwood Elemental.
As far ahead as we look on the battlefield, the opponent has probably got to be feeling pretty good about himself. Otherwise why would he have swung? He's at a colossal 17 life, and looks to be a couple of chump blocks from racing with that Regent.
It's your draw. Play turn six.
Scenario Two: Outplay
Totally different game, still against RG Dragons...
● Five life● One card in hand -- Windswept Heath● Four cards in graveyard -- two Windswept Heaths and two Dromoka's Commands● Seven lands, all untapped● Six creatures -- two Elvish Mystics, a face up Deathmist Raptor (4/4), a face down Deathmist Raptor, a Whisperwood Elemental (5/5), and one more face down 2/2
● Nine life● Two cards in hand● Five cards in graveyard -- two Roasts, Wooded Foothills, Deathmist Raptor, Thunderbreak Regent● Five lands including a Haven of the Spirit Dragon● Stormbreath Dragon (tapped), Hornet Nest, and Elvish Mystic
The opponent's four lands are tapped this turn for the Hornet Nest and the Elvish Mystic.
At the end of the opponent's last turn we flipped up an Elvish Mystic (off of Whisperwood Elemental) that bought us back two Deathmist Raptors. We took them both face down and had enough mana to flip up the one, which is why it is 4/4. That Whisperwood Elemental has been a Workhorse this game by the way. It's a 5/5 because of beating up his Thunderbreak Regent with Dromoka's Command.
There are a lot of ways we can lose this game quickly, but we're still obligated to make the best play we can with the resources we have.
We've just drawn Windswept Heath. Man! Play turn 8 anyway.
Scenario Three: Outlast
Sometimes Magic is just about surviving. Maximize your chances of surviving by playing turn five.
● Four life● Five cards in hand -- Deathmist Raptor, Dromoka's Command, Forest, two Windswept Heaths● Two cards in graveyard -- Dromoka's Command and Deathmist Raptor● Four lands● Zero creatures...but a Mastery of the Unseen
● 20 life● Five cards in hand● Two cards in graveyard -- Goblin Heelcutter and Zurgo Bellstriker● Three lands in play● Foundry Street Denizen
We obviously didn't have a creature-heavy draw this game and that allowed the opponent to get in for a ton of damage with weenies including a dashing Goblin Heelcutter. We stabilized with our first Deathmist Raptor, if you can call four life stable.
It certainly ain't lookin' good.
You've just drawn that second Windswept Heath. Play turn five.
You've got your marching orders Make the Play Monday fans:
1. Play turn six2. Play turn eight3. Play turn five
Play them all into the comments below for your chance at fabulous prizes!
For reasons that will become apparent on Flores Rewards Friday TCGplayer will be giving away extra prizes this week!
So instead of two $25 TCGplayer gift certificates, there will be three winners!
Sound good? Make your best plays, comments below, etc.
See you Friday.