My name is Nick Prince. I'm originally from Minneapolis but have lived in Los Angeles since college, and after ten years of playing Magic competitively off and on and recently putting a lot of time into the game, I won my first medium-sized event in Las Vegas with my pet deck: W/G Tokens. Selesnya's won me a Classic, a PPTQ in the beginning of October, and—fingers crossed—will qualify me for the Pro Tour at an RPTQ in a couple months. At this point it will take a mountain to move me off of Selesnya before Ravnica Allegiance releases this spring. Simply put, the deck is versatile, proactive and powerful.
In contrast to how the Classic went, the SCG Team Open the day before was a total flop. After talking for weeks with Danny Batterman, my teammate for the weekend, Gerry Thompson, and the rest of my normal group chat who would almost all be at Milwaukee, the consensus we reached was that sweepers would be everywhere, and thus playing W/G Tokens would be bad. We all were pretty sure that mono-red was well-positioned, and most of us showed up to play Standard with it. Then in the Team Trios event I hit nothing but bad match-ups, and the only time I could win for my team happened when my opponent repeatedly took four damage from Risk Factor… while I had Experimental Frenzy out.
Tilted, I went back to the hotel room with my team to rebuild W/G Tokens and beg Mat'Selesnya to take me back. I'd brought my stack of "cards I might play someday in Selesnya" that I'd maintained in case I couldn't settle on anything else for the tournament or wanted to last-minute audible to an archetype I was more familiar with. I already had the maindeck I wanted for the metagame I'd seen (primarily Izzet and Golgari, not as much Boros/mono-red), and after about five minutes talking to Danny about the sideboard, I came up with my 75.
My list was designed to take advantage of what the metagame in Vegas actually looked like: decks built to stunt aggression with a big blocker or two before turning the corner, with few maindeck sweepers. Wildgrowth Walker or Enigma Drake might shut down Boros Aggro, but against a deck that can go wide and then overrun them, they're a lot worse, and when these same decks looked to transition post-board to handle the hard-hitting aggression of the Song of Freyalise build, Nullhide Ferox was a 6/6-sized curveball.
Additionally, there wasn't much Jeskai in Vegas. I'm not sure if most Standard players wanted to avoid the risk of a draw in Trios, where matches tend to be a little slower anyway, or they were afraid of all the aggro, but there wasn't much there. This was later confirmed the next day just looking around in the Classic, when I only saw a handful of copies. Because there were many fewer Deafening Clarions running around, I cut Venerated Loxodon. Without the need to permanently turn X/3s into X/4s to survive Deafening Clarion, there wasn't much use for Venerated Loxodon. It slows down the clock when Selesnya needs to race, and taps blockers down when it needs to defend.
After six rounds of Swiss, getting lucky to squeak into 8th place, and one instance of having to win all three games of the finals later (my tired brain punted a game I probably couldn't lose), I'd won the tournament. I hit more or less exactly what I'd expected throughout the tournament, playing against mostly Drakes and Golgari, with the added bonus of playing once each against Grixis and Esper. The Top 16 decks in the event are almost entirely Golgari Midrange and Izzet Drakes, and I was ecstatic to play against those decks every round.
The games themselves weren't very interesting; Nullhide Ferox beats all of them post-board. Drakes can't keep pace game one, and the goal is to take either of the sideboard games by pressuring them with two- and three-drops before winning with Nullhide Ferox or Trostani Discordant. Golgari is closer all three games, but their deck struggles with a 6/6 when Ravenous Chupacabra or Vraska's Contempt need six mana to kill it. Game one against Grixis is hard, but games two and three their marquee card, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, is a full-blown liability with its discard ability. And Esper… honestly, Esper folds to its own mana. Nullhide Ferox just makes sure the games don't go too long.
"But Nick, how do you sideboard with Nullhide Ferox and so many non-creature spells?"
1. Board out the bad cards. Saproling Migration isn't necessary without Song of Freyalise, for example.
2. Don't worry about it much beyond that.
Simply put, just like with playing sweepers in a deck with creatures, players are allowed to sequence their plays. Sometimes it means playing out the non-creatures first, which isn't too hard to do as they're mostly cheap: History of Benalia, Flower, and Saproling Migration all come down before Nullhide Ferox anyway. Sometimes it means biting the bullet and paying the tax. Conclave Tribunal can be discounted to minimize it, though, and most of the other spells are fairly cheap, so a two-mana tax is doable. And other times the Nullhide Ferox presents such a difficult-to-answer threat that it's fine to hold on to cards anyway without ever lowering the shields. March of the Multitudes works particularly well with Nullhide Ferox; they pay two mana to remove all its abilities, another 2-5 mana to kill it, and then Selesnya gets to drop a big March of the Multitudes, untap and Flourish or Trostani for the win.
What I'm most proud of at this point, much more than actually playing the deck, is being able to consistently retool Selesnya for an expected metagame. When built correctly, the deck plays itself and has access to lots of Easy Buttons™️. The list I played in the Classic could flip an early Legion's Landing for a mana advantage, dump 8+ mana of cards on turn 4 with Song of Freyalise, play multiple History of Benalia, play Trostani Discordant on a big board, have Shalai, Voice of Plenty plus access to six mana, or cast March of the Multitudes into Flourish. But the list of cards to consider week-to-week is extensive, and they do not all work against the same metagames. Here's what I've got in the W/G Tokens box currently:
Flower // Flourish
Emmara, Soul of the Accord
Shanna, Sisay's Legacy
Tocatli Honor Guard
Knight of Grace
Dawn of Hope
Song of Freyalise
History of Benalia
Knight of Autumn
Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Karn, Scion of Urza
Settle the Wreckage
The Immortal Sun
I have an approximate shell of what I'm looking for in the deck to preserve as many of the deck's strengths as possible, but which specific cards and curve I want changes based on the metagame I expect. Certain cards work better in batches. Knowing which groups of cards work well together or which decks they're better against has made the deck very flexible week-to-week while maintaining the same general strategy. It also has the added benefit of impacting sideboarding; when you board out some cards, others lose value as well, and knowing this has drastically improved how I look at the whole 75.
Below is a list of the various themes/subthemes I've found, though I'm sure it's not every way to build the deck either. Keep in mind that it's possible to sideboard between these versions with a maindeck and sideboard that is built to take advantage of transitioning post-board.
In all of the deck's iterations, there's pretty much only one constant:
History of Benalia is the best card in Standard. It's the rare card where the best copy is actually the second or third copy. If the deck has Plains, play four History of Benalia.
A big part of why four History of Benalia is non-negotiable is that the three-drop slot is Selesnya's weakest part of the curve in terms of other options. There really isn't a ton to do at three; green's best three-drops are Steel Leaf Champion, which is impossible to cast, and Jadelight Ranger, which doesn't work at all with the deck and is tough on the mana. White's are History of Benalia, Resplendent Angel, and a difficult-to-cast card in Benalish Marshal. Benalish Marshal is playable without Flower // Flourish, but it's not great. Flower requires Forests to fix mana, and taking time off to cast Flower to find Plains means not casting Benalish Marshal on three or having fewer creatures in play. Rosemane Centaur is big, and both players gaining 4 is usually much better for the player who also gets a 4/4, but it usually isn't what the deck wants.
Key cards: Venerated Loxodon, Trostani Discordant
The builds from the beginning of the Guilds of Ravnica Standard format looked to capitalize on two of the biggest payoffs in Selesnya: Venerated Loxodon and Torstani Discordant. This build is more midrange because the curve is higher, and the deck frequently taps lots of its creatures with Venerated Loxodon. It aims to build a board presence both big and wide. A more midrange build does better against control, but is slower and has a tougher time racing. Golgari also tends to be the better midrange deck, so figuring out how to win that matchup is key. Because the midrange Selesnya deck has a much higher mana curve, the deck tends to have fewer Legion's Landing, which makes Saproling Migration weaker as well.
This version performed well early in the format, and had some good numbers at the Pro Tour, but has otherwise not shown up much. That said, it is still very powerful.
Key cards: Song of Freyalise, March of the Multitudes, Saproling Migration, Legion's Landing, Shanna, Sisay's Legacy
The card I've built a reputation around now, Song of Freyalise, is an amazing game-one card that creates unloseable races when the opponent can't sweep the board. Make sure to play a lot of two-drops with Song of Freyalise. I typically run four Saproling Migration and seven other two-drop creatures. The goal is to play a two-drop on two, and then play Song of Freyalise on turn three plus another two drop, so that you can dump multiple cards in play on turn four, setting up the turn-five kill when Chapter III hits. Izzet Drakes, Mono-U and Golgari cannot beat most starting hands with Song of Freyalise and some two drops.
I would never play Song without Saproling Migration and March of the Multitudes. Emmara, Soul of the Accord tends to be absurd with it. Pro Tip: Chapters I & II of Song of Freyalise are "until the beginning of your next turn," allowing her to block and make a token after if needed. Legion's Landing works well with all three of these cards, so the number of cards under two mana ends up being pretty high. Because of that, I tend to go to 21 land and four Flower // Flourish, but because Song of Freyalise frequently gets sided out and the curve tends to get higher post-board, I sideboard a land as well to compensate for the adjustment in the deck's mana curve.
Sideboards with Song of Freyalise need to be built with all of these shifting factors in mind: make sure that there are enough powerful cards to bring in to replace Song of Freyalise, a two-drop that isn't pulling its weight, and often a Legion's Landing for when they can bring in multiple sweepers.
Finally, Shanna, Sisay's Legacy is extremely vulnerable to sweepers but is the absolute fastest card for racing with Song of Freyalise. She is essentially unkillable in the mirror, and only Finality or sideboard cards like Ritual of Soot or Golden Demise can get kill her from Golgari. And until she dies, she is frequently just the largest creature in play. There was a period of time in October when the top decks were Golgari, Selesnya, Mono-U Tempo and Mono-Red and Shanna, Sisay's Legacy was an excellent card that none of them could beat easily.
Key cards: Karn, Scion of Urza, Vivien Reid, Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, Settle the WreckageThis is a common sideboard plan, reminiscent of the old Mardu Vehicles one-two punch of "present an aggro deck game one and slam haymaker Planeswalkers game two," but can also have some elements of a Planeswalker-centric control deck maindeck with Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants.
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants is almost a subtheme unto himself, dictating that the deck play enough two-drop creatures for the -2 ability to grind opponents out. Against Jeskai, it's a way to put Thorn Lieutenant out of Deafening Clarion range or make Adanto Vanguard terrifying. Returning creatures creates an immediate impact on the board, and the ultimate can eventually win the game even if it isn't the most impactful. Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants requires the deck that move a little bit away from tokens, and Song of Freyalise and Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants have natural tension as well. Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants can't return the card that synergizes best with Song of Freyalise—Saproling Migration—and isn't a creature for Song of Freyalise. Typically the deck can't accommodate both, which limits which Planeswalkers a Song of Freyalise deck can sideboard into.
Right now I'm strongly considering Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants. The card is best against Golgari and Jeskai, and post-Milwaukee, Jeskai is on the rise. Add in the fact that Golgari just apparently never drops below 20% of the field and Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants looks worth playing.
Even without Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, though, Vivien Reid and Karn, Scion of Urza are completely reasonable post-board Planeswalker options.
Karn, Scion of Urza's ability to start at six loyalty makes him nearly unkillable in a deck that regularly has more creatures than the opponent. The frequent claim that Karn, Scion of Urza +1s to draw land isn't much of a drawback here. Between Flourish, Shalai, Voice of Plenty, and March of the Multitudes, Selesnya has plenty of mana sinks. Post board, Selesnya often becomes more W/G Haymakers than Tokens as well, and more lands to play more threats is a solid way to transition to the late game.
Vivien Reid works well in Selesnya as well, typically out of the sideboard. Her biggest draw is how she naturally handles fliers. If Boros Angels or similar decks pop up, the Planeswalker package with Vivien Reid gets very attractive, and in the mirror, eating Conclave Tribunals is excellent. The Shota-style Grixis decks can also be quite weak to her, with six big fliers to Plummet. She is also the cleanest way to answer Niv-Mizzet, Parun, which is worth noting.
With multiple Planeswalkers post-board and the ability to create fairly wide battlefields, Settle the Wreckage is an incredibly attractive card. March of the Multitudes naturally disguises the card a little bit, but if even if you played with Settle the Wreckage face-up, an opponent doesn't have many ways to play around it anyway when a Planeswalker is on the battlefield and tokens render small attacks ineffective.
Notable cards: Lyra Dawnbringer, Shalai, Voice of Plenty, Resplendent Angel
The Boros Angels package is mostly replicable in Selesnya as well. Shalai, Voice of Plenty might not hit as hard as Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice, but Shalai, Voice of Plenty has natural synergy with the rest of the deck and actually protects Lyra Dawnbringer. Resplendent Angel is a respectable three-drop that can fill in part of the curve anyway, and the deck is short on threes to begin with. Together, these angels can form a cohesive subtheme that opposing decks aren't used to from Selesnya. Some Magic Online lists really push this theme as the main strategy with Toctali Honor Guard, but I'd rather go with a couple maindeck Shalai, Voice of Plenty and the ability to board in Lyra Dawnbringer. In Vegas, I moved one Lyra Dawnbringer to the maindeck to make some sideboard space since I wasn't playing Venerated Loxodon anyway and didn't want to play four Trostani Discordant.
My biggest piece of advice is to build with plans in mind and to not get too married to any one plan specifically. Many cards don't work well together, and other than History of Benalia, there are no sacred cows. Switch cards, experiment, and don't be afraid to kill your darlings. If you do, the deck will reward you.
Unfortunately for me, the next time I get to play Standard for a major event isn't until the RPTQs next year. W/G Tokens is a deck that has a lot of flexibility and raw power, but requires adjusting it to the metagame week-to-week with specific plans with its cards, and that's a challenge I enjoy more than the games itself. I'll probably still sneak in some leagues with Selesnya before then, even if I should be practicing Modern for Oakland and Portland, just to keep Mat'Selesnya happy.