Following the banning of Field of the Dead last week, there was no question in anyone's mind as to what archetype was now tier 1: Simic Food. With the easiest way to go over the top of Oko gone, there was no clear threat to Simic's supremacy in the format, especially after it had, arguably, done better than Field of the Dead decks at Mythic Championship V.
People were going as far as suggesting maindeck color-hosers for the Food mirror match. Players at MCV had already started playing maindeck Aether Gust, but adding black to a deck playing both Gilded Goose and Paradise Druids was a small price to play Noxious Grasp in a heavily blue-green format.
With the metagame so inbred, however, and potentially cutting maindeck countermagic, I chose to go an entirely different direction with an old favorite of mine: March of the Multitudes.
The plan of the deck is simple: play creatures for the first three turns of the game and either play a free Venerated Loxodon on turn three or March of the Multitudes on turn four or five, followed up with a Flourish or Unbreakable Formation to attack for the win.
While the popular name for the deck has become Selesnya Adventures, this is first and foremost a March of the Multitudes deck. Edgewall Innkeeper is an incredibly powerful card, but over relying on it in a format where Oko, Thief of Crowns absolutely dominates the early game without much effort is mostly a recipe for disaster. I think Selesnya Adventures as a strategy is quite good in this format, but one of the weakest decks I still see people playing is Golgari Adventures. That deck was a legitimate metagame call in a world of Field of the Dead decks, but now it gets stomped on by Simic Food because it lacks any way to overpower them.
Edgewall Innkeeper is best when it allows a deck to have a strong early game presence without sacrificing cards to do so. Most decks playing fourteen one-drops and trying to curve out turns one through four will run out of cards if they meet any resistance, which in turn gives them very little ability to play a grindy game of Magic. Edgewall Innkeeper, though, makes each other card cantrip, so that after playing several cards for the first three turns, the Selesnya player still has five cards in hand. The card also eases redundancy. Between Edgewall Innkeeper and Once Upon a Time, the deck is remarkably consistent at what it does: creating a wide board presence incredibly quickly, and then winning through either Venerated Loxodon or March of the Multitudes.
In fact, the only games I was losing prior to the Arena Mythic Championship Qualifier were the hands where I drew too many convoke spells, and not enough finishing blows. Venerated Loxodon is very powerful on turn three, but after that is very lackluster. It also occasionally combines pretty poorly with three cards in the deck: Lovestruck Beast, March of the Multitudes and most importantly… itself. In other white aggressive decks, Venerated Loxodon is a four-of because the first one is so critical that you need to maximize the chance of drawing it in the first eight to ten cards or you will likely lose. In an Edgewall Innkeeper/Once Upon a Time deck, though, the deck consistently sees so many more cards than the average aggressive deck that you can get away with fewer than four copies of any card that doesn't work well in multiples, like Venerated Loxodon. The first one doubles the power of most creatures in the deck and plays a free 4/4… the second usually just slows the deck down. March of the Multitudes on the other hand is the perfect way to utilize every resource the deck has at its disposal, from lands to creatures and pump spells. It is both a payoff and an enabler for the deck's strategies.
It is also conveniently a strategy that is powerful against Simic Food. Simic is naturally very good at playing one card a turn for the first few turns, and ramping into powerful spells, but it has trouble handling wide battlefields, as it showed against Field of the Dead Zombie tokens. Playing one-for-one removal against a deck that has so many cheap creatures and few critical pieces is a bad plan against most of the deck, and utterly useless once March of the Multitudes has resolved. In fact, there are so few ways for Simic Food to stop a resolved March of the Multitudes that I quickly realized that if they didn't have the mana to counter it, then it was probably right to cast the spell during my own main phase. Against the pure Simic variants, or game one against Sultai, I frequently play it the first time they tap out and the March would be reasonably large. Frequently, it is just game over for the opponent.
Ultimately, March of the Multitudes is why this deck is so well positioned. Even against the Sultai Food lists, there are typically only between one and three ways to remove an army of 1/1 Soldier tokens from the battlefield. The week leading up to the event, I only lost one match against an Oko variant.
While the shift to play Sultai seems like it may be difficult for Selesnya, especially when Noxious Grasp is ostensibly a hate card for green and white… it mostly doesn't do much against this deck. Sure, it can kill Edgewall Innkeeper or Venerated Loxodon, but trading down on mana and cards is typically not relevant against Selesnya. Further, as long as Edgewall Innkeeper is allowed to draw at least one or two cards first, it's okay if Innkeeper dies because it means that the Sultai deck is not playing a Paradise Druid or Oko, Thief of Crowns on their turn, slowing their development.
During the Mythic Championship Qualifier, I played against Sultai Food, Bant Food, Simic Food, Golgari Adventures and Four-Color Wolves. My losses were to Sultai Food when my deck completely imploded between mana issues and Once Upon a Time, and the Four-Color Wolves deck which seems… very well suited to handle aggressive decks between Wicked Wolf, Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves and Garruk, Cursed Huntsman. And because the tournament format is incredibly brutal, two losses early meant that I was out of the competition.
My biggest recommendation for the deck is to mulligan fairly aggressively. Keep hands that have either Edgewall Innkeeper and Adventure creatures, one of these and a Once Upon a Time to find the missing piece, or the ability to play an early Venerated Loxodon or March of the Multitudes such that it doesn't need to draw a few extra cards off of Edgewall Innkeeper.
My second recommendation is, don't be afraid to hold on to Edgewall Innkeeper. On the draw, or against decks that could actually have turn-one removal, it is okay to wait to play Innkeeper until turn two or three when it's guaranteed to draw at least one card, even if they have a removal spell.
This matchup is a joke. There are a couple things to know that can help make it even better, though.
Again, there is basically nothing, and I mean nothing, Simic can do to beat March of the Multitudes if it resolves. I've been trying to just get it out as fast as possible, and main phase it if they're tapped out on my turn four or five just to make sure it resolves. They can bring in Voracious Hydras, which kill Innkeeper more effectively, but then they're playing a bad Murder instead of a big trample threat so I think the point is pretty moot. The only thing I care about post-board is setting up big turns with March of the Multitudes + Veil of Summer or Flower // Flourish + Veil of Summer. Just be careful about Aether Gust (though that's just a temporary measure).
Because we typically only need to stop one counterspell, there isn't much need to draw more than one Veil total. Additionally it isn't hard to resolve while Simic needs to tap out to keep from getting run over. Finally, Aether Gust doesn't care about Veil of Summer for the most part, so I don't feel the need to bring in three Veil.
On the play I don't feel the need to protect Innkeeper and would rather go as fast as possible, while on the draw it can be useful to pick up the Innkeeper in response to Wicked Wolf to get ahead on cards instead of relying just on tempo.
Against Sultai, it is usually best to wait to play March of the Multitudes until their end step, in case there is Massacre Girl. It is much easier to rebuild a few creatures into a big March later than it is to rebuild after committing a March of the Multitudes. Frequently, if possible, it is best to hold on to a Giant Killer to answer Massacre Girl if they have it on the turn you are already leaving up mana for March of the Multitudes, just in case.
Against Esper Dance, Venerated Loxodon plays into Kaya's Wrath too much. All the one-drops are still good because they make Doom Foretold look terrible when it's just getting a one-drop and then dying to Knight of Autumn. Because so many of their answers are expensive, you're just trying to get a few creatures down and then force a Wrath out of them, or force them to Wrath into open Unbreakable Formation mana.
Turn three, to dodge Wrath, it is basically always preferable to put three-drop Gideon into play than any more creatures. The game almost always ends with Castle Ardenvale getting in the last couple points of damage or a Questing Beast after they Wrath again. Conclave Tribunal comes out because it makes Doom Foretold look very good.
Against the Fires decks the idea is the same here with sideboarding, but they have Deafening Clarion instead of Kaya's Wrath so it's harder for Unbreakable Formation to be good. If you have to choose, hit the Guild Summit over the Fires of Invention with Flaxen Intruder or Knight of Autumn.
If they have countermagic, bring in Veil of Summer of course for Shepherd of the Flock, which is just a mediocre attacker. This matchup can be trickier because unlike the other control decks, they actually pressure you relatively quickly and in the air. The good news is their deck doesn't operate at instant-speed very well, so Gideon Blackblade is almost impossible for them to kill and Questing Beast can often take a planeswalker down before they kill it.
Honestly the only concern here is not getting run over, or losing Innkeeper without drawing cards. Glass Casket helps with that. Make sure not to leave yourself dead to Embercleave. For the most part they struggle a lot with you just going wide, and their creatures are smaller than Lovestruck Beast.
Frankly, this is just a race to six mana to Flourish 'em. It's entirely possible you shouldn't waste time with Glass Casket and just continue to advance your own game plan, but sometimes you're on the draw and need to make sure they aren't drawing a fistful of cards off of Innkeeper.
The critical March of the Multitudes turn is turn five. The goal is to build as wide of a battlefield the first four turns to make the biggest possible March, and then Flourish turn six.
My best advice for the mirror is to win the die roll.
I'm bringing this to my local PTQs this weekend, so when I say that I both believe in and would recommend this deck, I am putting my money where my mouth is: I ordered storybook versions of all the cards. The deck has a powerful curve, the ability to grind opponents out, and a sideboard that lets it turn into a deck full of sticky threats. If you're sick of Oko, Thief of Crowns mirrors, try trusting in Mat'Selesnya.