The Kitchen Table #390 - Why Selesnya Is My Favorite Guild
With us setting up shop in Ravnica for the next year a lot of players and writers are looking back at the first visit. Some are dusting off their old Ravnica cards to use with the new cards. Others are finding space for the newest cards in their old decks sort of a reverse pattern. More are actively buying or trading for the old cards in order to stock up. We saw the same thing in Scars of Mirrodin block and I would not be surprised if we see it more heavily with Ravnica. The plane of Ravnica is fonder to many hearts than Mirrodin.
Lots of people have a favorite color. As someone who has played since 1994 I've played every color and combination of colors for as long as I can remember. I have no favorite color. My banner deck is a deck with all five colors but it was originally a black/green/red Standard legal deck built around Sneak Attack green beef and Living Death. It evolved over time into the deck I currently have. When you've played this long you have an affection for every color and its quirks.
I used to have a least favorite color combination. Here is a quote from an article I published here on SCG a long time ago. I had gone to the Scourge Prerelease near Detroit Michigan. I ended up 10th and I built a deck around two bomb rares: Glarecaster and Kamahl Fist of Krosa. This tournament report was published by me on 5/20/2003. That's a long time ago! Here is what I said when I considered adding white to the green I'd already pulled out: "Unfortunately green/white is my least favorite color combination of all time. Ah well let's roll with it"
Why did I quote the above? I just finished a research paper for seminary and you have to show your references. (It's weird but I remember pretty much everything I've ever written so I remembered that line without having to check to verify if I had said or which article it was in.) Plus I wanted to prove that although I didn't have a favorite color or color combination I certainly had a least favorite one.
Green and white were an icky color combination. They were boring together. Here's a color whose most powerful spells Wrath of Gods worked against the other color's heavy creature theme. Green had a lot of sucky cards too: Fogs Giant Growths Web and more. Its big beef was there and cards such as Child of Gaea or the recently printed Silvos Rogue Elemental were the beginning of new green but we had yet to arrive at an era when green got a lot of beef for cheap.
In fact cards such as Ravenous Baloth were considered so good because it was a 4/4 for four mana not because of the sacrifice for life gain. This was an era when green didn't have great creatures its themes were often weak and these weaknesses meant that it just didn't suit white. It worked well with red solidly with black and adequately with blue but with white? It was a weak and boring color combination.
But then something happened.
Ravnica was printed.
And I fell in love.
The last became first and the first became last.
When you look at the four guilds in Ravnica clearly Dimir was made for me. While I've never liked the theme of milling opposing cards transmute was tailor-made for an Abe. I already played blue and black together heavily so this gave me a bunch of tools for the chest. Of tools. Boros was boring and its keyword sucked. I preferred my white and red decks to be combos built around Earthquake and protection from red creatures or Aether Flash and creatures with high defense from white. Burn and turn baby! Golgari was solid and I enjoyed its cards and mechanics. But for some reason logic failed me. I don't know why but the guild of community called to me. Its cards were an evolution in the relationship of the colors and my affection for them began.
Let's look at some of the Ravnica cards that changed me forever:
Loxodon Hierarch – This proved that a 4/4 creature for four mana was no accident with the Baloth. It became the new standard. It also increased the value of the card in question a lot by giving it two useful abilities. This was a great card to demonstrate the power of the color combination.
Selesnya Guildmage – This was my favorite Guildmage. I liked the Dimir one second most. It turns out that having mana open to threaten a Giant Growth like effect actually makes opponents play around it as if you used it. It was marvelous. Then add in the spitting out of creatures and you have quite a powerful Guildmage.
Doubling Season – Let's not forget that one of the biggest casual hits of all time is in these colors in this set.
Seed Spark – Ironically I didn't like convoke that much but the cards in green and white from this set were incredible. This became my default green/white Disenchant effect for years. I still play it. This is the Orim's Thunder or Dismantling Blow of these colors.
Recollect – Since it's just one color I have no idea if it's technically Golgari Selesnya or whatever you want but the reprinting of a Vintage restricted card for just one more mana was astounding to me.
Three Dreams – This remains a strong card to put in aura-based decks. See also Faith's Fetters and Fists of Ironwood—both are very useful in casual play. Also Dowsing Shaman is solid but I don't want to make a category for all four of these cards so we'll put them here.
Congregation at Dawn – Not card advantage but the card quality more than made up for that fact.
Primordial Sage – One of my favorite underplayed cards for a long time was this Spirit. Again its mono-colored nature implies it is not just for Selesnya but when you consider it along with all of these other awesome cards you understand the point.
Civic Wayfinder – Although now eclipsed a bit by some newer stuff it's still an amazing card at what it does—fetch a land and provide you with a 2/2 dude. This was an amazing card for the time. Farseek and Birds of Paradise are also in this set for mana purposes.
Carven Caraytid - As someone in love with Wall of Blossoms this was an amazing card to my mind. It still is!
Privileged Position – This remains one of my favorite enchantments for multiplayer of all time. I played it in many combo decks as protection for the combo and I've rocked it in other decks just to keep my stuff from dying to targeted removal.
Perilous Forays – Being able to sacrifice a creature for a land for just one mana a pop was incredible way of squeezing value out of everything from a chump guy to a Saproling token. Another incredible card from these two colors from this one set.
Chord of Calling – This great Selesnya card enabled me to grab any card from my deck and throw right onto the battlefield. It's the only convoke card I often played.
Glare of Subdual – This is not something these colors do that often and locking down a creature for a simple tap of one creature is incredibly valuable.
Tolsimir Wolfblood – This was a card that just stuck with me. It felt very much like it was from Legends in the first set. It had the quirkiness of an early legend but it didn't suck. In fact I loved it so much that I made it one of my first generals for an EDH deck and found space in one of my iconic decks Equinaut. (Which also adapted the next card.)
Watchwolf – All of the above cards are great for showing the new green and white but this was the selling feature. Never before had I ever been as excited for a vanilla creature and only once more would I ever be again (Indomitable Ancients). This remains a perfect card to this day. It was the banner of Selesnya and a new age for creatures.
Just consider how many good great or fantastic cards were in these two colors in Ravnica. My blue/black or red/white would not be nearly as useful. This was where the new awesome was. The staggering amount of amazing cards in these two colors sticks with me even to this day.
There had already been a handful of green and white card that I liked but never enough. I liked Eladamri's Call Mystic Enforcer Mirari's Wake Captain Sisay and Fleetfoot Panther. Now I had a whole new injection of awesome!
Selesnya began a new thing in me. My least favorite color combination was enhanced to a spot of honor near the front. Now after Ravnica block it would never actually be my favorite color combination but it's in the top three. Like I said above I don't have a favorite color but color combinations are ordered in my mind. My two colors from favorite to least favorite are:
I'll play any color in a deck if it works but this is where my allegiance is today. Because of one set Selesnya jumped from 10 to 3. That's a good set!
Now it's gotten some help over the years. If green and white had not had any extra help we'd be back where we started. Let me show you some of the powerful stuff it's gotten later just using both these colors. This list is in alphabetical order
Knight of New Alara
Knight of the Reliquary
Oracle of Nectars
Rhys the Redeemed
Shield of the Oversoul
Sigarda Host of Herons
This list includes only those cards I deem really good for casual and multiplayer and does not include just decent cards such as Steward of Valeron or Wheel of Sun and Moon. That's all great stuff. Just by comparison here are the great cards in another two-color combination I'll pick randomly since Ravnica block. I roll dice and see red/black:
A much smaller list. Both have cards that dominated formats such as Blightning and the Blast versus Knight of the Reliquary and the Pridemage. Both have good cards for casual land. But one list is just downright better (and longer!) than the other.
The team of green and white is a combination whose power has endured. No longer do I have to worry about weak or overcosted beef. Instead I have a table set with the cheapest fat in the game. I can add the new awesome cards such as Kitchen Finks and Fracturing Gust to the great cards from Ravnica and spice up with cards from before like Mirari's Wake. Then add all of the powerful cards from my colors. Toss in Eternal Witness and Tooth and Nail. Grab Akroma Angel of Vengeance and Avacyn Angel of Hope. Both Wall of Omens and Wall of Blossoms are available. When you add these cards together in a pot you get a deck that truly is a threat to all aspects of the game.
You have mana ramp recursion the most powerful creatures in the game mass removal removal of every permanent type mass creature making potent enchantments nasty recursion and more. Except for countermagic discard and burn you can do basically anything. From Swords to Plowshares to Krosan Grip to Bramblecrush to Wing Shards you can blow up stuff with accuracy. You also have very accurate sweeping removal.
Want to blow up all lands? You can do it. Want to blow up just artifacts and enchantments? You can do that. What to blow up only artifacts or only enchantments instead? You can do that. Want to blow up nontoken creatures or creatures with power four or more or nonwhite creatures? You can do all of that. Want to exile all creatures? That can happen. Want to put them all into their owner's deck? We can do that too. Want to have the ability to be flexible based on need? Sure we can do that. Want to destroy just all flyers? We've got that. Want to make a bunch of 1/1 Soldiers while you blow up all of the other creatures? We can even do that for you.
Like I said this color combination does it all except counter spells burn and discard. Since you can blow up anything that hits the board while protecting your team from anything targeting you by your foe it's not like the inability to counter stuff matters that much—it's rare that you even care. Burn doesn't matter much when you have all of this creature and planeswalker removal. Discard isn't even always played in decks with black so it's not like you need it. Plus the one weakness this color had a lack of raw card drawing is gone now that green has Soul's Majesty Harmonize Momentous Fall Hunter's Insight and many more card drawing tricks.
This is the era of Selesnya. Enjoy it!
P.S. If you really want to read it the Scourge Prerelease article is here. This Scourge tournament report has two controversies in it
If you want to read more about Equinaut here is the most recent article explaining it. It was published in November of 2011 so it's still fairly up to date on the status of the deck.
We are Selesnya. Because we understand the power of "we."