Arena Standard - Selesnya Titans 1.2

27 4 5 24
Midrange

War of the Spark has arrived and brought with it massive amounts of support for midrange strategies more than any other archetype. Between the gods, the finale spells and the massive influx of new planeswalkers the amount of midrange support and payoffs has reached new heights and Selesnya has received some new tools to tackle the format from a very different angle.

Selesnya midrange strategies throughout Magic's history such as legacy Maverick, the collected company decks of modern and Khans of Tarkir standard and the token decks of Battle for Zendikar standard embody a similar unifying game plan: Utilize value generating creatures and planeswalkers that also disrupt the opponents game plan and keep you alive long enough to eventually overwhelm them in board and value.

Unlike Gruul based midrange strategies which seek to pump out beefier, more aggressive creatures that try to close out the game quicker or Rock midrange decks which aim to deny the opponents with disruption and removal, Selesnya midrange plans are more attrition based, playing difficult to interact with efficiently creatures while generating long game incremental value that adds up over time.

The reigning Selesnya midrange deck of current standard has been a deck that focuses on trying to flood the board with their cheaper spells and then use their higher end spells, such as [[Trostani Discordant]] and [[Flower//Flourish]] to finish off the opponent. While this has proven to be a very capable strategy, players have adapted to it's presence and have learned to constrict it's effectiveness in the current standard environment.

This new deck tackles the field from a different angle. Instead of going wide as early a possible, we aim to go very big, very early. I call this deck "Selesnya Titans" because seeks to utilize quite a number of creatures that are essentially 6/6's that generate massive amounts of value and/or tempo. The first of which serves as the decks value generating haymaker:

{{God-Eternal Oketra}}

War grants Selesnya midrange access to two gods which cater to very different play styles: [[God-Eternal Rhonas]] and [[God-Eternal Oketra]]. Rhonas' massive board wide pump will be best at home in a deck that aims to put the pressure on early with beefy aggressive creatures and capitalize on the pump to cripple or outright kill the opponent. This caters to the Gruul approach to "problem solving" of reducing the opponent to a bloody smear on the floor as fast as possible and less to the Selesnya attrition, value generating play style. For that we have [[God-Eternal Oketra]].

[[God-Eternal Oketra]] is the first of our "Titans", representing a 6/6 for only 5 mana which creates free, robust bodies for every creature spell with a built in form of "protection". Untapping with Oketra threatens to quickly dominate the game with value and board presence that often wins games right there in a manner similar to [[Niv-Mizzet, Parun]] except for creatures and serves to win us grinding, board centric games.

Oketra wants a deck that has a very high creature count but also cheap to make her a consistent payoff. She also was not the only card to come out of War that desires a high creature density and this one serves as the true engine to power this deck:

{{Vivien, Champion of the Wilds}}

Vivien's newest incarnation, just like a lot of cards in this deck, seems to have completely gone under the radar of the War hype machine. Which is very strange because she may be one of the most powerful new planeswalkers to arrive. She actually reminds me of another format defining card that flew under a lot of people's radar:

{{Collected Company}}

Like company, [[Vivien, Champion of the Wilds]] creates card advantage and gives you a away to summon creatures at speed but approaches it from a different angle which gives her a different set of strengths that just like [[Collected Company]], makes her absolutely worth building around.

First of all she is a planeswalker but more importantly she's a 3 mana planeswalker in the best possible colour for deploying her quickly following [[Llanowar Elves]]. Her passive completely changes the dynamics of the game in your favor. Being able to cast your creatures at instant speed means you can play around counter magic by casting on the opponents end step and effectively gives all your creatures haste by doing so. This makes it hell for your opponent's attacks into your open mana.

Vivien also serves as a value generating engine. Her -2 allows you to [[Commune with Nature]] for 3 cards deep but rather uniquely, also teleports the card to a pocket dimension instead of your hand which, if a creature, can still be cast if Vivien leaves the field. This can be very advantageous as it protects that card from your opponent's prying eyes of the ever popular [[Thought Erasure]] or even an [[Unmoored Ego]] and allows you to play mind games with your opponent even if you whiff and just hide a land instead.

These two abilities give you excellent longevity and pressure against the control decks that have been plaguing standard. Her +1 understandably is somewhat underwhelming at first glance but combined with the creatures in this list makes for surprisingly solid offensive and defensive play to help maximise her lifespan.

Just like [[Collected Company]], in order to get the most reliability out of her you need to maintain a very high creature density. But unlike [[Collected Company]] she doesn't demand you keep the cost of those creatures below 3 mana and there was recently a rather potent 4 drop that also sought home in a creature dense shell and is Vivien's new best friend:

{{Nullhide Ferox}}

Ever since this walking wall of text was released it has failed to find a real home in standard as it placed a restraint on the deck builder few are willing to pay: to run as few non creature spells as possible to avoid clashing with its drawback.

Not this deck though. At 27 main deck creatures and the 7 of the 9 non creature spells being cheap enough that one can reasonably pay the tax if absolutely necessary, this deck welcomes it with open arms, allowing Ferox to basically function as a 4 mana [[Frost Titan]].

Ferox also happens to be in an excellent position to tackle the meta especially when combined with [[Vivien, Champion of the Wilds]] to combat control. The two make for a terrifying combo. A flash Ferox can play around counter magic, board sweepers and block and kill anything trying to attack into your open mana. It's discard effect has also only grown in relevance with the rise of Grixis strategies, often securing the win when summoned for free. It also happens to be a magnificent target for Vivien's +1, becoming the ultimate attacker and defender.

The Titan sized 6/6 bodies don't stop with Oketra and Ferox though as a couple of old friends have returned in a new form to serve our creature dense strategy perfectly.

{{Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves}}

This may be the most bafflingly strange reception to a card of this power I've seen in a very long time. With so many fixating on the wolf tribal effect and believing that it needs to be in a tribal deck to be good when it is in fact outstanding just on its own.

For those who don't get why its effect applies to any wolves is because the first incarnation of Tolsimir, [[Tolsimir Wolfblood]], has been a popular commander for years and if the effect applied just to Voja it wouldn't make for another very good commander to continue his legacy. With this effect he literally spawns his own new commander archetype, a Selesnya Wolf Tribal deck with decent creature removal, while still being a powerhouse for standard.

And a powerhouse he certainly is. Looking at him should remind us of a number of previous standard defining cards. [[Flametongue Kavu]], [[Thragtusk]] and [[Huntmaster of the Fells]] all immediately jump to mind and if the idea of a Flametongue Thragtusk doesn't excite you, your standards need to be reassessed.

[[Thragtusk]] and [[Huntmaster of the Fells]] both served as the core of the extremely powerful Jund decks of Return to Ravnica standard for a reason: they were the perfect mid game stabilizers. They served as excellent roadblocks to aggressive strategies, creating multiple bodies and gaining life, while also representing tough to remove efficiently threats for control decks. Tolsimir does exactly that and then some.

The trait that really makes him worth the investment is the ability to do 3 damage to a creature by having Voja fight it. Normally one of the big draw backs to playing Selesnya is the lack of creature removal options compared to the Grixis colours. [[Dromoka's Command]] was one of the most dominate cards in standard for it's time and while it had other niche modes, the vast majority of the time it was used for the +1/+1 counter and fight mode.

Tolsimir does that while leaving behind at least one 3/3 body and the potential for another 3/3 body if Voja can survive. This does everything you want to against an aggressive deck: remove a creature, create a solid board presence and gain you life. This serves as an excellent partner to Oketra: Oketra is there to secure the grinding long games and Tolsimir is there to secure the aggressive short games.

Tolsimir does come with one major drawback which is that both he and Voja are legendary to avoid flooding the board with multiple copies. This was clearly added for balancing reasons to give it some downside. But that legendary drawback can be leveraged into an upside with another powerful new addition from that turns Tolsimir into an [[Inferno Titan]] classed beating:

{{Mobilized District}}

We have not had a good man-land in standard for some time and this is one of the best reasons be playing one and two colour decks. This particular man-land also happens to synergize greatly with this deck since it totals 4 individual legendaries, 5 if you also count Voja.

This makes it very easy to get the activation down 2 mana or less, which can be achieved with a single copy of Tolsimir and Voja. This turns Tolsimir into a pseudo 5 mana [[Inferno Titan]] that can come down and eat a creature then swing in for a devastating 9 damage with just a single [[Mobilized District]].

This represents a serious problem for control decks as they are multiple bodies that are difficult to remove and require minimum investment of resources to mount a serious threat. [[Mobilized District]] is even good defensively as it doesn't come into play tapped and has vigilance.

This does come with a minor drawback of being a colourless land which means we cannot get too greedy with our colours which is why we are base green and splashing white. Fortunately there is another overlooked new elf, to help our mana woes and accelerate our game plan.

{{Paradise Druid}}

There is some debate on whether to run the new [[Paradise Druid]] or [[Incubation Druid]]. Initially I was sold on the spiritual successor to [[Sylvan Caryatid]] for one reason: consistency.

I want my turn 2 mana dork to give me mana on turn 3 reliably more than I care about the prospect of pumping 5 mana into it for it to die to *insert removal name here* and essentially give my opponent an extra turn for little cost.

After playing with it I realised that [[Paradise Druid]] brings so much more than I expected and will never look back. For starters, having 2 power and hexproof makes it a very solid and reliable blocker capable of not only accelerating me to my juicy 4 and 5 drops but also keeping me alive while trading with many aggressive creatures.

But what surprised me the most was that when combined with [[Mobilized District]], they became an extremely reliable way to threaten or kill exposed planeswalkers. The most common control planeswalkers right now are the Teferi twins and [[Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God]]. All who tick up to 5 loyalty and can be picked off by the combination of the two which throws a wrench in their plans to fuel their late game. 

No good Selesnya midrange deck would be complete without 4 copies of an excellent removal spell: [[Swords to Plowshares]], [[Path to Exile]], [[Dromoka's Command]] and [[Declaration in Stone]] have been all stars in their respective Selesnya decks. While we certainly don't have anything like that we do have an interesting new option from War:

{{Prison Realm}}

There is an impressive number of excellent [[Oblivion Ring]] options already in standard with [[Conclave Tribunal]], [[Ixalan's Binding]] and [[Baffling End]]. But after careful consideration [[Prison Realm]] stands out as the best option for this particular deck.

[[Conclave Tribunal]] best fits in a list that aims to go wide early which we aren't seeking to do compared to mono white or Selesnya Tokens. Both Tribunal and Binding also function extremely poorly with Nullhide Ferox as this deck aims to operate around up to 5 mana the majority of the time. And [[Baffling End]] has always been more of a sideboard card against aggro and rather useless against control.

[[Prison Realm]] hits the 2 most relevant card types you would want to [[Oblivion Ring]] anyway 95% of the time and we have a full playset of Knight of Autumn combined with Vivien Reid to tackle artifacts and enchantments. It only costs 3 mana which is reasonable enough to still cast if a Ferox is out. It also works extremely well with [[Llanowar Elves]] to act as potential turn 2 removal if necessary and the scry 1 is an excellent bonus, allowing us to cover an Oketra faster or ensure better hits with Vivien.

With the new cards and the haymakers covered I'll cover the familiar faces that act as the glue to keep everything together.

{{Llanowar Elves}}

No midrange green deck would be complete without mana dorks and [[Llanowar Elves]] along side [[Paradise Druid]] allow us to catapult ahead of our opponents. With this degree of mana acceleration you can comfortably assume to see most of your spells coming down a turn earlier, sometimes 2 turns as turn 3 Oketra and Tolsimir's are a very real possibility and playing a game with a turn 2 Vivien is one of the most powerful things you can do against any deck, especially control.

{{Merfolk Branchwalker}}{{Jadelight Ranger}}

[[Merfolk Branchwalker]] and [[Jadelight Ranger]] serve as excellent early game creatures to transition into the midgame by smoothing our draws for more lands or threats, being respectable bodies to delay or pressure the opponent, having excellent synergy with Oketra, allowing us to recover her faster from the top of our library, to ensure better Vivien hits and drawing us free [[Mobilized Districts]].

{{Knight of Autumn}}

Originally tested in the deck as a 2 of, [[Knight of Autumn]] has been upgraded to a full playset after viewing the current meta. Simic Reclamation was already the worst match up for the deck but there is currently an abundance of enchantments being run in the current standard and makes for a fantastic silver bullet who can be found with our Vivien's.

{{Vivien Reid}}

After further testing 2 [[Vivien Reid]] have earned a place in the main deck to assist with the abundance of grindy resource match ups currently in standard. Capable of drawing most of the deck and assisting with eliminating the plague of enchantments in the current meta and problematic fliers while occassionally becoming win condition with her ultimate.

The Sideboard

Selesnya decks historically have had access to some of the best sideboard options for their respective formats and ours allows us to give us extra gas against control or to become the control deck against an aggressor.

{{Vivien Reid}}

1 more to further bolster our longevity against control with even more gas.

{{Lyra Dawnbringer}} {{The Wanderer}}

Lyra comes in and replaces Oketra against aggro and Izzet Drakes. [[The Wanderer]] also comes in against Drakes, burn and generally any red deck that relies on burn based removal or that will likely have [[Rekindling Phoenix]] in games 2 and 3.

{{Baffling End}}

Here to combat any of the aggressive creature decks.

{{Single Combat}}

[[Single Combat]] is here primarily to combat decks that are trying to go very wide, in particular Azorious Aggro and our Selesnyan Token brethren. 

{{Kraul Harpooner}}

Coming in to assist against Mono Blue and Esper Midrange to stop [[Thief of Sanity]].

{{Remorseful Cleric}}

Cleric comes in as our graveyard hate that can be found with Vivien's. It primarilty comes in to assist against Simic Reclamation decks by nuking their yard to dramatically deny them midgame resources and stop them from going off while providing regular chip damage. It is also useful against Izzet Phoenix and Esper control who tends to rely heavily on their Azcanta's and Insights to stay in the game.

 

Place in the meta

So with that long winded analysis out of the way the question remains. Why this approach to Selesnya midrange instead of the token based strategies? Because the token approach tends to feel like house built on matchsticks, where if you fail to establish a foothold early your late game payoffs feel very underwhelming. This deck instead stands on more solid foundations, who's late game can also stand on it's own merit of being Titan sized bodies with added value.

This deck also LOVES to fight both Esper and Grixis control and their midrange variants with cards that are tough to remove efficiently or generate a lot of extra value, can play around counter magic and sweepers and severely punish attempts to destroy your hand with discard effects.

You also have strong match ups against the other midrange decks in the field. Unlike Selesnya Tokens, you have the means to press on even in the face of heavy removal and board sweepers and can create a resilient defense against aggressors with a robust number of sideboard tech options to adapt to what the field can throw at you, having some of the best options to combat Mono Red after sideboard.

For me though the biggest reason is that the deck is a lot of fun. [[Vivien, Champion of the Wilds]] creates a massive dynamics shift with interesting mind games to play with your opponent which when combined with explore and scry effects grants you the ability to manipulate your draws to sculpt the game in your favor. It maintains a fast pace to pressure your opponent while also having the means to play the long game which I believe many others will enjoy too.

*Detailed sideboard guide is coming once the meta settles down a bit. 

Comments

2 comments

Risendragon
Seems interesting, but as a fellow write-up person: be a bit more succinct with your summary next time! This took a while to process and analyze.
Beethoven
Seems hella interesting, i'll try it out in the following days and follow-up with some feedback. Completely agree on the new Vivien being super good card though.
Last Updated: 06 May 2019
Created: 05 May 2019
2810 161 2

Mainboard - 60 cards (16 distinct)

Creature (27)
$0.70
$2.85
$0.23
$3.62
$3.22
$14.27
$0.25
$0.45
Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (4)
$0.20
Land (24)
$4.28
$0.19
$6.00
$0.19
$0.76
Planeswalker (5)
$16.95
$2.79

Sideboard - 15 cards (7 distinct)

$10.49
$0.89
$0.25
$0.25
$0.35
$16.95
$0.37
Main/Sideboard Rarity Count
4 10 24 9 0
0 7 4 4 0

Mainboard - 60 cards (16 distinct)

3 Merfolk Branchwalker
3 Jadelight Ranger
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Knight of Autumn
4 Nullhide Ferox
3 God-Eternal Oketra
3 Paradise Druid
3 Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves
4 Prison Realm
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Plains
4 Temple Garden
9 Forest
3 Mobilized District
2 Vivien Reid
3 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds

Sideboard - 15 cards (7 distinct)

3 Lyra Dawnbringer
2 Remorseful Cleric
2 Kraul Harpooner
3 Baffling End
2 Single Combat
1 Vivien Reid
2 The Wanderer

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