Budget Deckbuilding: Selesnya United

Anyone who is a member of my old player group can vouch for my love of Fungi and Saprolings as a theme in Magic the Gathering. Hell, I did so much with those little plants that I was known as “Pilzmann” (German for mushroom man) back in the day. I did quite a lot of deckbuilding over the years, but token decks were really the one thing that I was known for. Whether it was a standard Convoke-focussed theme, a Black-Green deck with some insane card draw, or some weird build using “Dogpile” for maximum damage, I invested a lot of time making the most out of Saprolings. Which brings us to today’s deck: “Selesnya United”, a White-Green Preconstructed Deck using the power of the masses to pay for costs and kick some faces. White-Green Token Decks can really go a number of ways, and Ravnica’s Selesnya guild certainly helped make them that way. So, let us take a look at what the conclave has to offer.

To give you an idea of what we are working with, here is the list for “Selesnya United”:

Creatures (24):

2x Caregiver (W)
2x Elvish Skysweeper (G)
1x Selesnya Guildmage (G/W G/W)
2x Selesnya Evangel (GW)
1x Watchwolf (GW)
2x Centaur Safeguard (2 G/W)
1x Scion of the Wild (1GG)
2x Sandsower (3W)
2x Nullmage Shepherd (3G)
2x Conclave Phalanx (4W)
1x Dowsing Shaman (4G)
2x Root-Kin Ally (4GG)
1x Tolsimir Wolfblood (4GW)
3x Siege Wurm (5GG)

Spells (12):

3x Gather Courage (G)
4x Fists of Ironwood (1G)
1x Conclave’s Blessing (3W)
2x Scatter the Seeds (3GG)
1x Dryad’s Caress (4GG)
1x Overwhelm (5GG)

Lands (24):

11x Forest
10x Plains
2x Selesnya Sanctuary
1x Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree

And here is what WotC thinks you should do with the deck at hand:

The “Selesnya United” deck generates wave upon wave of creatures to drown your opponent under an ocean of Saprolings and their mighty friends! Token-making cards like Fists of Ironwood, Selesnya Evangel, and Scatter the Seeds can create a frenzy of Saprolings in no time. The convoke ability then lets you tap these creepy fungus monsters to help pay for gigantic creatures like Siege Wurm or crushing spells like Overwhelm. Early in the game, create creatures quickly and frequently, using every Saproling-generating effect you can. Feel free to play Fists of Ironwood on an opponent’s creature just to get the Saprolings! Early on, avoid attacking or blocking with your creatures if they won’t survive combat—it’s much more important to build up your swarm. Any life you lose to early attacks you can easily regain later with Conclave Phalanx. Once you’ve assembled your token horde, you’ll have three main ways to win. The first way is to use your tokens to put huge attackers into play. Thanks to the convoke mechanic, you can play Siege Wurm, a 5/5 trampler, for free . . . if you also tap seven creatures. Root-Kin Ally is another powerful creature with convoke. Tapping your creatures can both reduce its cost and make it enormous! Plus the more creatures you control, the bigger Scion of the Wild gets. A 12/12 Scion with trample from Fists of Ironwood can wreak late-game havoc. The second way to win is with Sandsower. It dominates the board once you have enough creatures, and it locks down your opponent’s creatures while the rest of your army attacks. The third way is to use Selesnya Guildmage, Tolsimir Wolfblood, or the well-named Overwhelm to give power and toughness boosts to all your creatures at once. You’ll win the game in one massive, unstoppable attack. After you’ve played the deck a few times, you might want to swap in more spells that go well with a lot of 1/1 Saprolings. The enchantment Glare of Subdual works like Sandsower, but tapping an enemy creature requires you to tap only one of your creatures, not three. From the Ninth Edition set, Glorious Anthem gives all your creatures a +1/+1 bonus, and Coat of Arms boosts creatures’ power and toughness for each other creature of the same type in play.

– Ravnica, City of Guilds “Selesnya United” THEME DECK PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

I have rarely seen a marketing blurb that managed to be on-point as much as the text above. The strength of “Selesnya United” lies in its ability to make Saproling tokens and then using them for all manner of things. Not all cards in the deck are equally successful at providing for the strategy, but I will give my opinions on that via the usual card-by-card analysis. Starting with the weakest creatures, we have “Caregiver” which needs to sacrifice creatures in order to prevent one damage, which is simply not good enough. If I have too many creatures and need to get rid of them via sacrifice, I can opt to use many different options, the easiest one being “Martyred Rusalka” from Guildpact to keep the opponent from attacking me at all. “Elvish Skysweeper” is fairly expensive effect-wise and has cheap competition in form of “Chainweb Aracnir” nowadays, but it is still an option if you cannot get flying creatures handled otherwise. At two mana, things are progressively looking better: “Selesnya Guildmage” is not overwhelming, but provides two “nice to have”-effects if you have the mana to spare. “Selesnya Evangel” is a cheap way to get more creatures onto the board and works well with cards like “Vitalize” due to the cheap mana cost of the effect. “Watchwolf” is simply a 3/3 body for two mana, but in the right decks it gains stat-boosts for being both a Green and a White creature and is a solid option to put onto the board early. “Centaur Safeguard” is literally a throw-away card since it heals when hitting the graveyard but not being worth playing in most cases.

The usage of strength in numbers comes after that: “Sandsower” can use creatures to tap opposing creatures; and is able to use creatures with summoning sickness for it’s effect, which is very nice. “Nullmage Shepherd” takes a similar approach of tapping your own creatures for effects, in this case casting “Naturalize” for tapping four creatures which is worth running at least one copy in my opinion. “Conclave Phalanx” comes with Convoke and can therefore be casted without paying the full cost in mana, but the effect of healing you for the number of creatures is not as interesting. Sure, you might heal for twelve or something, but there are better options if that is your goal and the card turns rather useless without ample creatures to count for the effect. “Dowsing Shaman” is an odd choice for the deck, but since he might be able to recycle “Fists of Ironwood” he could be worthwhile in the right build. “Root-Kin Ally” simply becomes big for creature tapping, but due to the lack of Trample definitely needs to get a copy of “Fists of Ironwood” to make the most out of it. “Siege Wurm” is a boring trampler, but since you could technically cast it for tapping seven Saproling Token you might keep it as a cheap beater. And then there are the two Rares: “Scion of the Wild“, which WotC already introduced as a major threat with enough creatures on board plus Trample, and “Tolsimir Wolfblood“, who can turn a board of small creatures into an army.

The “Spells” section can be kept short since there is not that much on offer. “Gather Courage” gives +2/+2 for either a Green mana or a tapped Green creature; but I normally go for more since token decks are not really known for their tempo. The WotC-text is completely right in terms of “Fists of Ironwood“: A “Raise the Alarm” that spawns more useful creatures for this deck (since you could technically use them with Fungi) which also happens to give Trample to a creature is just insane; and the reason why there are four copies of the card in “Selesnya United”. I am pretty sure that there are ways to make “Conclave’s Blessing” work, but I cannot really see a reason to why I would try that in a Token Deck with a completely different focus. “Scatter the Seeds” is another fantastic card again, giving you three more Saprolings rightaway. It is not unreasonable to think of a turn order like Turn 1: Creature for one mana, Turn 2: “Fists of Ironwood“, Turn 3: “Scatter the Seeds” by paying three mana and tapping the two tokens of “Fists of Ironwood“, which would give you six creatures. Not the craziest board imaginable, but with further support like “Essence Warden” or Fungi to sacrifice into like “Utopia Mycon” this might turn ugly real quick. “Dryad’s Caress” is okayish, but pretty expensive mana-wise, while “Overwhelm” is definitely a strong card to work with as it resembles an “Overrun” for more mana with Convoke.

The beauty of Token decks is that you not only have lots of tools to work with, but you can also go multiple directions in terms of playstyle. For healing purposes, you can go with “Soul Warden“, “Essence Warden“, “Soul’s Attendant“, or “Suture Priest“, all of which will spiral out of control rather rapidly; which explains their prices as Commons. “Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy” can take the spot of “Scion of the Wild” as a straight upgrade with lower mana cost and Shroud while “Champion of Lambholt” makes herself basically unblockable after playing a few creatures. “Twilight Drover” can be an interesting option for a deck that actively sacrifices its tokens. “Mentor of the Meek” is quite nice for controlled card draw, while “Fecundity” allows most token decks to draw ludicrous amounts of cards. “Mirror Entity” can turn your small tokens into a devastating army, while “Gigantomancer” takes a similar approach but spends your mana differently. “Cadira, Caller of the Small” can add lots of Rabbits to your already existing token force. And the suggestions from the WotC are also quite good: “Coat of Arms“, which is rather expensive from a financial standpoint, will turn your creatures into big beaters if they share a creature type, while “Glare of Subdual” is a personal favorite of mine and will allow you to completely stunlock a sizeable amount of players by simply tapping creatures.

All in all, I would say that “Selesnya United” is a package worth buying if you see it in a hobby store and want to play the color-combination. However, the question is more of a “how much” rather than a “should I”? So, let’s take a look at the value of the cards: “Tolsimir Wolfblood” has a price trend of 0.67€ at the time of writing while “Scion of the Wild” has been power-crept and is easily available at 0.05€. The deck has some useful cards like the playset of “Fists of Ironwood” or the two copies of “Selesnya Sanctuary“, but those are not exactly worth much with most cards not really breaching the 0.05€ threshold. But in the end, you get one solid deck with lots of potential and the one foil Ravnica, City of Guilds basic land, which is probably worth the price of 10€-15€. Only problem is that the trend seems to sell the deck for at least twice that much, with offers starting at 29.90€ at the time of writing, which is definitely too expensive for what you get in the end. However, if you can pick “Selesnya United” up for a tenner and are interested in playing the deck, I feel like it would be a sound investment.

3 thoughts on “Budget Deckbuilding: Selesnya United

  1. As is, this is pretty much as good as Theme Decks got I think. Good flavour, fitting the faction nicely. I feel it’d be fun to play, feels distinct from other precons in this colour combination, and could certainly win games too.

    I’d certainly always advocate that people just buy singles to recreate these, and personally I typically just build them as originally sold. But a lot of good ideas for people to launch off with too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree. Selesnya is a flavorful guild that is represented nicely by its cards. And the Preconstructed Deck is definitely one of the better ones.

      Regarding the singles part: I tend to agree, but people that do not do that much card buying/selling online sometimes happen to make easy mistakes that cost them quite a lot more. I agreed to buy cards for some on my friends and one of them wanted to help me out, looking for a trader with some of the stuff he was looking for. Only problem was that the trader he found is situated in Greece, which would have added about 8€ to the postage. Stuff like that can easily happen. And buying the prepackaged box in a store means that you have to spend less time assembling the deck from random traders, so seeing the product in a store for a reasonable price can still be a valid option since it sometimes still ends up being cheaper than the cost of the cards + the postage + the time you spend getting it all together.


      • Yeah, that’s certainly a factor as well. For all the extra postage I ended up paying collecting cards from different online stores and individuals locally I probably should have just ponied up and got everything from Card Kingdom, terrible exchange rates and international shipping costs be damned. Though the International aspect is certainly a factor: places aren’t actually allowed to sell me sealed product. WoTC rules. So for me the most cost effective option, other that hoping I can find some other weirdo with large amounts of 20 year old bulk, is saving up and spending US$200 at once to qualify for free shipping!

        I am extremely jealous of Card Market being a thing in Europe, but it is also pretty overwhelming with all these sellers located all over the place. A mate has recently scored a pretty amazing post-doc position in Denmark so I think I’m going to start sending stuff to his University office for him to bring down to me next time he flies back for a visit! :)

        Liked by 1 person

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