With Guilds of Ravnica finally upon us, it's time for me to share the deck I'll be playing in Week 1 of Standard. Obviously it is Selesnya Aggro. It combines some of the best cards from the new set with some of the best cards to survive rotation. Here is my list:
Now let's talk about each of these card choices.
4 Temple Garden
2 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden is the best and allows us to cast Llanowar Elves on the first turn followed by History of Benalia on the second turn (off another white-producing land on turn two). No other land in the deck (or in the format for that matter) allows for a second-turn History of Benalia.
Beyond the obvious four copies of Temple Garden, we needed to maximize for two things. The first is white sources for History of Benalia. We need to be able to reliably hit two white sources early in the game. In order to accomplish this, we need 18 white sources. The second is that we need to maximize for first turn untapped green sources for Pelt Collector and Llanowar Elves. Ideally I want 12 sources for this, but I think we can really only afford 10 in this deck. Lastly, I included a pair of Guildgates because we really need to hit two sources of each of our colors each game, and we need to do so fairly early because we are a tempo deck that is really punished for not being able to deploy its threats on time.
4 Conclave Tribunal
2 Assure // Assemble
4 History of Benalia
Conclave Tribunal is an extremely powerful removal spell in this deck. Since we have early creatures to curve out with we can cast it at a pretty extreme discount, usually costing anywhere from two mana to zero mana if we want it to. It often allows us to cast a creature and remove the opponent's in the same turn. And it works especially well with History of Benalia because you can tap both Knight Tokens to convoke it. And of course Emmara, Soul of the Accord was made to convoke.
Assure // Assemble is an interesting card. It allows us to rumble into combat with just about any creature in nearly any combat situation without much worry. It also protects our best creature from a lot of removal spells in the format. If the opponent casts a sweeper such as Cleansing Nova, we can save our best creature. Or if we have six mana, we can end step cast Assemble to instantly (quite literally) rebuild. It is also an excellent mana sink when we are flooding and it works great with all our pump effects, whether Veteran Loxodon, Shalia, Voice of Plenty, or even History of Benalia since the tokens are Knight Tokens.
Speaking of which, History of Benalia is our final spell. I called it the best card in Standard and I am sticking with that assessment. The mana requirement is a bit heavy, but I think it is worth it. Selesnya has some powerful Knights too, which make the chapter three ability that much more powerful. And Temple Garden and Llanowar Elves allow us to cast it on the second turn some amount of the time. Each of these things increases the overall value of History of Benalia.
4 Pelt Collector
Pelt Collector is basically the newer version of Experiment One, except it triggers on creatures entering or dying. It also gains trample if it gets big enough. It's a really powerful card in this deck since we plan on curving out with larger and larger creatures each turn.
4 Llanowar Elves
This allows us to curve into Knight of Autumn on the second turn, which is almost Loxodon Smiter (or even better if the opponent leads with Search for Azcanta for us to blow up). And if we have Temple Garden, it can allow for second-turn History of Benalia. It also lets us cast our larger threats a turn sooner and gets us to six mana, which is the sweet spot on this deck since six allows us to play Assemble or activate Shalai. Just remember to use Llanowar Elves to convoke Veteran Loxodon rather than tapping them for mana to cast the Elephant so you get the +1/+1 counter.
2 Emmara, Soul of the Accord
Emmara, Soul of the Accord is a pretty solid two-drop on its own just for attacking, but also the best creature for convoking. Given that we have eight cards with convoke in the deck, we definitely want to run some copies of this card in our deck. We would run four copies if it weren't legendary, but drawing multiples seems really bad for this deck. One play that is really strong is cast this on the second turn and then using it to convoke on the third turn and then using the token and Emmara to convoke out Veteran Loxodon on the following turn. Making tokens to convoke with and then granting those tokens a bonus from the Elephant is quite the combination.
2 Shanna, Sisay's Legacy
Shanna, Sisay's Legacy works great with the token production of the deck and is good in general in a deck with this many creatures. It's obviously no Voice of Resurgence, but it can do a reasonable impression of the Voice of Resurgence Elemental Token.
2 Knight of Grace
Depending on how prevalent black is in Standard, I can see the correct number for Knight of Grace being anywhere from zero to four copies. My hope is that black is popular enough for us to play the full four copies because it has excellent synergy with History of Benalia, but we don't want too many two-drops since Llanowar Elves will accelerate us past this spot on the curve whenever that is our opening play. And our other two-drops are pretty good. If black is popular, maybe replace Shanna with the last two copies of the Knights or find a way to lower the curve to go up to eight two-drops.
4 Knight of Autumn
Ideally we want to cast History of Benalia on the second turn, but Knight of Autumn is a more than reasonable backup plan. She is excellent at pretty much any point in the game and in any matchup, and she provides a level of utility that is quite welcome in this deck. Between her and Conclave Tribunal, we have plenty of answers to artifacts and enchantments. Between her and Shield Mare and Lyra we have plenty of life gain, too.
2 Conclave Cavalier
Much like with Knight of Grace, Conclave Cavalier is another card that is dependent on the metagame while making History of Benalia stronger. If opponents play a lot of destroy effects, especially sweepers, this card is excellent. I could see running the full four copies except that Shalai is also very good in this deck and is also easier to cast since we won't always have the right mix of mana for Conclave Cavalier to resolve it when we want to.
2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Shalai, Voice of Plenty gives us some welcomed protection against Settle the Wreckage and also some evasion and a great mana sink ability. I think it is likely a mistake not to play a couple copies of Shalai.
4 Venerated Loxodon
Venerated Loxodon is a card I see a lot of people overlooking or skimping on and I'm not sure why. To me it feels like an obvious four-of in this style of deck. I want to draw it early and I want to draw multiples. It is one of our biggest payoffs and is our primary anthem effect. On the play it can also protect our Llanowar Elves from Goblin Chainwhirler.
2 Shield Mare
This is for any of the red aggro decks that always exist. The Horse lets us gain life and acts as a blocker that is difficult for them to get past while also punishing them for trying to Lightning Strike it out of the way.
2 Baffling End
Baffling End is great against any other aggro deck. We don't want to Overload on removal spells since we are a creature deck, but a pair of these will be quite welcomed in the matchups where they have lots of targets.
2 Vivien Reid
If eight main deck Disenchant effects weren't enough, we have two more in the sideboard with Vivien Reid! It's more for the plus ability that should find us a creature with each activation, although it is also a very useful way to kill an opposing Lyra Dawnbringer.
2 Nullhide Ferox
It's possible these are better as two more copies of Vine Mare, but I want to try Nullhide Ferox out. They are a huge blowout against Nicol Bolas, but just as a six-power creature for four mana they are strong, especially against decks that can only deal with a creature of that size with expensive removal spells such as Vraska's Contempt.
2 Vine Mare
Against decks without a lot of blockers but loaded up with removal spells, this one can kill an opponent by itself in just a few attacks while leaving multiple removal spells stranded in hand. It's basically the best way to punish someone for loading up on removal spells against our mostly creature deck.
2 Conclave Cavalier
Similar to Vine Mare, this also punishes opponents for having too many removal spells, but instead of leaving them stranded with point removal in hand, this one mitigates sweepers such as Cleansing Nova. So while Vine Mare is better against Grixis colors, Conclave Cavalier is better against Azorius.
1 Lyra Dawnbringer
Lyra Dawnbringer is a big lifelinker that have great synergy with Shalai, and so any time those things are what we want in a matchup, having access to the first Lyra is useful.
2 Trostani Discordant
Trostani Discordant is the one I suspect most people will want to play main deck. Depending on the metagame that may prove to be correct, but I'm starting it in the sideboard. It is excellent in midrange matchups where the anthem and the extra bodies are both relevant. It's pretty bad against aggro decks and decks with sweepers, though, so I basically just have them in the board for midrange matchups.
There are a few other cards worth considering, and the numbers can be adjusted as noted depending on the metagame considerations mentioned, but this is how I would build Selesnya for Week 1 of Standard. We don't have Voice of Resurgence this time, but we do get History of Benalia.