Dragon’s Maze: Strength of Selesnya Review (Part 2 of 2)
With only one Event Deck to choose from, Sam and I took a page out of our reviews for the Premium Deck Series and decided she’d get to have her pick of an Event Deck from the previous set, Gatecrash. Naturally, she went for the ferocious Rally and Rout, the Boros deck, and it was with no small trepidation that I shuffled up and prepared to take my Selesnya to battle. Here are the notes from our engagement.
I open my account with an Evolving Wilds, cracking it to go find a Forest. For her part, Sam begins just as slowly with a Boros Guildgate. Back to me, I drop a second Wilds, grabbing the deck’s lone Swamp. Sam gets the first beater on the board with a Firefist Striker.
Now turn 3, I add a pair of 1/1 Spirit tokens with a Lingering Souls. Sam drops a surprisingly-relevant Ash Zealot, turning it sideways to hit in for 2. Back to me, I then play a Grove of the Guardian, using it to help fund a Wayfaring Temple. Sam responds by beefing up her army, first with a Boros Elite then a Truefire Paladin.
Now turn 5, I stick a Rancor on the Temple and attack in for 5 with it. Sam opts to take the damage, going down to 15 and letting me populate another 1/1 Spirit. I then add two more with another Lingering Souls and end the turn. Although I might have hit harder if I’d cast the Souls prior to combat to beef up the Temple, I’d wanted to keep the mana up for a Rootborn Defenses just in case. Back to Sam, she counterattacks for 7 with the Striker, Elite, and Paladin, using the battalion to deny one of my Spirits the ability to block. I opt to take the full damage on the chin, falling to 11 after she pumps the Paladin. She then adds another Boros Elite and passes back.
Lamentably, my turn 6 is a blank, but when Sam senses vulnerability and sends in the side for 8, I’m ready. I block her Elites with my Temple and a trio of Spirit tokens, then chump the Paladin with a single Spirit. I then play the Rootborn Defenses, making my side indestructible and populating a new Spirit (though it’s too late for it to participate in blocking). Sam’s attacking force is routed, with the Elites headed for the graveyard. She replaces her loss with a second Truefire Paladin and ends the turn. Back to me, I summon a Doomed Traveler, attacking in again for 9. The Temple’s combat damage trigger fires off, and I get another free Spirit as I leave Sam at 6 life. Sam then turns all three of her creatures sideways- both Paladins and the Zealot. I chump all three, two with Spirits and one with the Traveler. The latter dies and replaces itself with a Spirit, so I’m not too far down. Sam then summons a Skyknight Legionnaire for defense, then blows two Pillars of Flame killing Spirit tokens.
Sam leads off with a Boros Elite, while I fetch a Swamp with my Evolving Wilds. Next turn she attacks in for 1, after which I fetch a Plains with a second Wilds. Although she appears to be getting off to a slow start, her turn-3 Silverblade Paladin soulbonded to the Elite looks to let her catch up some lost ground, and she drops me to 17 with an attack from the Elite thanks to its newfound double strike. For my part, I splay Lingering Souls for a pair of Spirits and pass.
Now turn 4, Sam plays a Boros Guildgate and attacks with both of her creatures, hammering me for 6. I then flashback Lingering Souls, dropping an Intangible Virtue to give them all +1/+1 and vigilance. I attack with the earlier pair for 4, then end the turn. Back to Sam, she next summons an Ash Zealot, turning all three creatures sideways. I triple-block her Paladin with Spirits, trading two of them for her one creature. Taking 4, I’m now down to 7 life. For my part, I attack with the remaining two Spirits to bring Sam down to 12, then play Call of the Conclave for a 3/3 Centaur token (now 4/4 with Virtue).
Now turn 6, Sam next adds a Sunhome Guildmage and Firefist Striker, passing the turn as she builds up. I attack for 8 with all three tokens, and Sam opts to accept full damage as she falls to 4. Back to her, she then goes for the alpha strike with all four creatures, using the Striker to ‘falter’ my Centaur. Undaunted, I then play a Rootborn Defenses, populating another Centaur to replace it, then respond with a Selesnya Charm to give me a 2/2 Knight token. It’s a complete blowout, with all four of Sam’s creatures dying to my ambush. At 4 life, she’s done for next turn.
I’m back on the play for our final match, but Sam’s got the game’s first creature in a Boros Elite. Still, I raise her a 3/3 Centaur token with a next-turn Call of the Clonclave, and Sam answers with a Doomed Traveler and Slayers’ Stronghold.
Now turn 3, I miss my first land drop but still manage an Intangible Virtue, letting me swing in with the Centaur token for 4. Sam chumps with her Traveler, giving her a 1/1 Spirit token of her own. Back to her, Sam then misses her own land drop, but still swings in for 1 with the Spirit before playing a replacement Doomed Traveler. Next turn, I again send in the Centaur, and again Sam shoves a Traveler in front of it. I finish with a Lingering Souls to get a pair of 2/2 Spirits, then pass. Sam still whiffs on land, but gets a pair of Human tokens with a Gather the Townsfolk.
Now turn 5, I send in all three tokens for 8. Sam chumps the Centaur with a Human token, going down to 16 from the Spirits in the air. Sam’s next turn is a blank, after which we repeat the outcome of the last turn’s attack with my Centaur running into her second Human and the Spirits carving her up for 4. Finally, Sam hits a Boros Guildgate, giving her (delayed) access to Red mana.
Turn 7 sees me relentlessly attacking with my tokens. This time Sam uses a Spirit to chump, going down to 8. Back to her, she plays a Truefire Palandin and Firesfirst Striker after topdecking a Mountain. At the end of her turn, though, I cast Advent of the Wurm to get a 5/5 trampling Wurm token. Back to me, I throw everything into the red zone. My Centaur is blocked by the Boros Elite, and my Spirit gets chumped by hers. Sam’s Striker and Paladin are used as damage soaks against the Wurm, but two Selesnya Charms to make the Wurm a 9/9 seal Sam’s fate.
Thoughts & Analysis
Glasgow Celtic had a marvelous run this season in the Champion’s League, even beating Barcelona at home and only losing a draw at Nou Camp at the very death of the game. Although this year’s Barcelona squad showed some weaknesses, it still displayed some incredible play on the pitch. For those unexposed to the world’s game, Barcelona play a possession game with a roster deep with players possessing extraordinary ball-handling skills (see: Messi, Lionel). Celtic had to weather an unrelenting tempest, making the very most of what few opportunities it could eke out.
While playing Strength of Selesnya, I was reminded instead of another of Celtic’s opponents this year, the one that eventually eliminated them from the competition: Juventus. The “Grey Lady” employed a very different style of football. Rather than dominate possession and subject the opposition to withering attacks, the Juve system was lethal on the counterattack. Confident in their ability to defend, they would invite the opposing team onto them, dispossess them, and then streak back upfield before a defense could be properly mounted. Although Strength of Selesnya emplys elements of both teams, it was the blowouts it was capable of when turning a defensive performance into an offensive opportunity that most stood out in playing it.
The linchpin of that facet of the deck was Rootborn Defenses. Although underwhelming at the Intro Pack level, in a deck dedicated to populate with the ability to grant vigilance to the side with Intangible Virtue, it was a start performer, almost the maindeck removal you’d want to see. It should be said that Sam’s Boros deck was particularly susceptible to it; the low toughness many of the Boros creatures have make them particularly susceptible to getting killed in the red zone by small, indestructible token creatures. Nevertheless, it gave the deck a very unpredictable nature that made attacking into it an oft-times unnerving affair.
That was just one of the little surprises that greeted me as I piloted the deck. I wasn’t entirely certain what to expect from it, other than a strong reliance on the red zone. The synergies to the deck were very strong, and I particularly enjoyed the instant-speed token trickery and the Intangible Virtues. This is a deck that packs in a ton of support for its mechanic with a great deal of focus, but that isn’t to say there aren’t a few whiffs. I found the “supplemental enchantments” of Parallel Lives and Growing Ranks to be a bit greedy. Neither of them do anything when they hit the battlefield, and I very seldom found myself with mana and time to spare here. If I wasn’t tapping out to add additional threats to the table, I was keeping my options open for an ambush defense. These were a touch too fancy, and could easily be replaced for a couple more Advent of the Wurms.
Still, this is a superbly-constructed Event Deck. While as always your mileage may vary depending on the meta at your local Friday Night Magic (or wherever you take it), I was particularly impressed with the deck’s ability to hold its own against the ultra-aggro Boros. When Sam blew me out of the water in our pre-match friendly, I feared the worst, but if you can stabilise on the table you’ll likely start to outpace your opponent. We didn’t touch the sideboard either, and in this matchup those Centaur Healers were looking fairly tempting. Overall, this is one we recommend.
Hits: Three more rares gives the deck a stronger feel; great usage and support of the populate mechanic, which can be surprisingly strong; tremendous fun with some very good card choices; deck’s manabase well-constructed, if just a touch slow
Misses: Deck can be slow to get moving, though it can be a juggernaut once it does; a few too-fancy card choices dilute the efficiency of the deck
OVERALL SCORE: 4.65/5.00