Sunday, September 2, 2012

Selesnyeva - The Ghost of Ravnica Standard Future

Hello folks, and welcome back to Untap Target Player!

Last week, we looked at the relics of the past.  Tools and instruments used by our younger selves, the artifacts of Mirrodin and now, New Phyrexia, will soon drift out of memory.  Our talents will be moving forward towards a more cosmopolitan palette of color combinations and synergies.  Without a doubt, we are at the brink of a very exciting time in the Magic calendar, and this year even more so than normal.

If you couldn’t guess by the last couple of months here at Untap Target Player, I’m a fairly big fan of Ravnica.  A return to my roots, and I am super pumped.

Most deckbuilders have turned their attention from the artifacts and Phyrexian-powered combos and archetypes towards what the future could hold which, as of the penning of this post, is still a pretty big question mark. 

As a bit of a primer, we have been told the five guilds to be represented in the first set of the Return to Ravnica Block: Rakdos, Izzet, Azorius, Selesnya and Golgari will be first up to bat.  This is kind of strange for me; when sorting the order of multi-colored cards, I’ve always gone by Ravnica guild alphabetically by set.  So, my order is Boros, Dimir, Golgari, Selesnya, Gruul, Izzet, Orzhov, Azorious, Rakdos, and Simic in my binders and boxes, and that pattern goes the Alara shards too.  Guess I’ll have to change that.

Anyway, I’d like to look at one card that we’ve just been given in M13 to work with for the next year.  Frankly, I think this is a perfect time to print this card.  With the multicolored goodness of the next set, this card will apply to so many more targets and the flexibility the card provides will be the engine of an awesome aggro-midrange deck that uses creatures as freely and fluidly as spells!  I can’t stand it anymore, what’s the card?

Oh, Yeva.  You elegant, aggressively costed build-around-me.  Yeva is, among Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis and Odric, Master Tactitian, one of the less spotlighted legendary creatures from M13.  Krenko has gotten plenty of attention in Goblin decks and Talrand, well…he is the blue one, alright.

Although I’ve recently been riding the red train more often than I’ve been pulling into Forest Station, I am always happy to go digging in the woods for a good deck.  That being about the cleverest I can be this week, let’s get into the Yeva deck and what we’re looking to do.

Yeva is an on-curve, powerful combatant that can stop about any non-evasive creature for the same cost and live to swing the following turn.  Untapping with Yeva unlocks an enormous amount of possibilities, most of which being powered by other green creatures in your deck.  Resolving nearly any creature in your deck at instant speed should give you value.  Although she’s a lightning rod for removal, hard kill and powerful burn are about all that do it (you can flash her after sweepers.)  She’s very Vapor Snag resistant, and she puts your opponent on an intimidating clock. 

Surrounding Yeva with a toolbox squad of value-laden, effective green beaters seems like a reasonable gameplan, but with Ravnica coming up, maybe I can bend the colors a little bit while adding flexibility in spells.  White is a reasonable partner for green, so we’ll finish up there.  Now, what green creatures are amazing at flash speed?

Here’s the first blush of the deck.


Creatures (26)

2 Birds of Paradise
4 Elvish Visionary
3 Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
2 Trusted Forcemage
2 Borderland Ranger
3 Restoration Angel
3 Yeva, Nature’s Herald
2 Acidic Slime
2 Thragtusk
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
1 Soul of the Harvest

Spells (11)
3 Cloudshift
3 Rancor
3 Oblivion Ring
2 Garruk Relentless

Lands (23)
4 Sunpetal Grove
2 Gavony Township
12 Forest
5 Plains

Sideboard (15)
3 Safe Passage
3 Beast Within
2 Elixir of Immortality
3 Dismember
1 Elderscale Wurm
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
2 Stingerfling Spider

Deck Tech – Creatures

Birds of Paradise

Yeah, the Ravnica one.
My playset of Ravnica Birds of Paradise has served since me well since I bought them (for way too much), and just a pair of them make it in to Yeva’s team.  Providing ramp is their middle name while providing the seldom blocker for a Delver or flying machine.  As fragile as they come, I’m not a huge fan of the Bird in this deck.  I’d be half tempted to play some Elves, but the flying and possibility to splash for white, I’ll take my chances.  He’s also a cute flash in with Yeva for surprise ramp.

What happens when you Google "surprise ramp."
Elvish Visionary

"Let me be the best thing this deck can cast for two mana!"
Alright, honey, you got it!  She is a reasonable two drop, plays very well with the rest of the deck. Trading for something puts you a card ahead, and she takes pumps well.  Nothing bad to say about her!  Not very exciting but, eh, it takes all types.

Mwonvuli Beast Tracker

Beast Tracker is watching you search.
Here is the beginning of the vision.  Mwonvuli Beast Tracker’s ability is so wide open; you can fetch so many cool things with her!  Sideboard included, she will have targets for every static ability she carries, and flashing her in basically equals a tutor.  Playable on three with two points of power puts her in a place of prominence in this pile!  P…potentate!

Trusted Forcemage

Prepare to open up a thimble of whoop-ass!
Although Druid’s Familiar and Grand-daddy Silverheart are much higher on the power scale, Trusted Forcemage has the advantage of being played at a very relevant point on the curve, pumping an Elvish Visionary or a huge trampler all the same.  The +1/+1 is also relevant against burn.  Flashing it in to save your Yeva from combat damage or a burn spell is a bit like a permanent combat trick.  In this regard, she does a much better job than Yeva’s own forcemage.

Borderland Ranger

I liked Civic Wayfinder before he was cool.
This guy is a blessing, even in a two color deck.  Thinning the deck by one helps me stay in the action by drawing live, fixing for that stubborn Plains I need, or simply guaranteeing I land drop on time is really awesome for a common green Scathe Zombies stapled to (effectively) a Safewright Quest.  Certainly the least exciting at instant speed, he still provides an invaluable service, and I thank him for it.

Restoration Angel

The incredibly undercosted Humiliation Angel is the only mono-white creature in the list, but she pulls her weight like a Korean bodybuilder.

I'm glad he doesn't have Flash.
Restoration Angel blinks any of your precious ETB abilities for card advantage.  Even blinking an Elvish Visionary is exciting, but more than that, she can protect your MVP from Incineration or Dismemberment.  There’s no shame in casting her alone or even just to untap a creature.  The solid surprise should put you firmly ahead while adding a serious, evasive threat to the board.  She already comes with flash, too, so her non-green liability is irrelevant.  You will just about always be happy to rip her off the top.

Yeva, Nature’s Herald

The lady in green, she is central to the deck’s success, hence her inclusion in triplicate.  Her susceptibility to removal also justifies including that many copies of a legendary.  Cast her, untap, and ride that flash wagon to victory!

Acidic Slime

Time to ride the Ooze Cruise!
This toolbox Ooze does everything you need it to; the Beast Tracker can find it, Yeva can cast it instantly to deal with a noncreature problem, and its deathtouch ensures it trades or goes unblocked.  Blinking her with the Angel is vicious AND delicious.  Try it for yourself.


"Always carry Pacifisms."
Thragtusk, the Backbreaker.  That should have been its name.  I’ve seen Thragtusk in a lot of decks, but every time my opponents cast him, I’ve been able to shrugtusk him off, still smashing for lethal or burning it away like so much chaff.  That being said, this card works very hard in a deck with a fair amount of other creatures.  Having support is what makes Thragtusk an all-star, and after seeing someone cast Yeva then flash in a Thragtusk in Sealed, I decided that may be the most busted offense I’ve ever seen in green.  Pairing him with the Angel is obviously great, but he does a ton of work on his own and he can pull you from the depths of defeat for just five mana. 

Sigarda, Host of Herons

Them: “I cast Barter in Blood.”  Me: “OK, flash in Sigarda.”
Oh boy!  SIGARDA!  When I reached that moment of epiphany as I realized her outstanding synergy with every piece of this deck, I peed a little.  Sigarda, or affectionately by some, “Buttercup,” is a very synergistic card that is not only searchable with the Tracker, but she’s also green to meet Yeva’s requirement.  Resolving her against a non-sweeper deck is very much game over.  Five flying power for five mana that can’t be burned, bladed, plummeted or murdered, she careens over your opponents’ defense or plants herself squarely as a wall against Delvers, other Restoration Angels and big ground pounders, too.  This highly efficient Angel is the genuine article and she is utterly game-defining.  I have never seen anyone else besides my friend Drew cast one, and I’m still trying to figure out why.

Soul of the Harvest

“BRAURRR-oh hey there, little fella!”
This super synergetic and super cute addition to the deck was an easy choice.  Blinking, flashing and searching all make him a great curve topper.  A huge body makes him a solid finisher and an awesome surprise blocker, stuffing all but the most determined of ground guys.  He is an excellent draw engine, providing instant card draw with Yeva out and a steady stream of self-replacing green guys.  Although susceptible to removal, it will take your opponent’s most dedicated hatred to kill this gentle giant.



Restoration Angel lite: no creature, much cheaper!
This blinking spells acts a dodging reactive spell to protect your creatures from spot removal, an untapping mechanism, or as a rebuy of the target’s ETB ability.  Synergetic, cheap and relevant, this may retire to the sideboard after game one, but it sure does the job while it’s there.


This reprinted relic makes even my shrimpy creatures a formidable weapon, and blinking it off allows me to put it on a more relevant creature.  The best creature enchantment in Standard, its undercosted power is a welcome weapon in what is basically a tricky green deck.

Oblivion Ring

I always imagine a crackling electric hum when I cast this.
O-Ring, as most everyone calls it, provides relevant and on-time removal for any problem permanents.  It’s a great enchantment and the only semi-permanent removal in the mainboard, so it had to be quality.  Another good reason to be in white!

Garruk Relentless

Garruk’s name in 2013 will be “Google Creatures.”
Easy to cast and able to pick off your opponents smaller creatures, he works hardest on his flipped side, where he can turn in spent creatures or irrelevant tokens into a powerful search engine (hence the bad joke.)  His final ability is not to be underestimated either with 26 creatures filling the deck’s stables.


With the lands, I had to make a couple choices; after some deliberation I chose land simplicity.  Four fixing lands, no fetchers and two utility lands in a boat of basics.  There are namely several lands I left out, namely Cavern of Souls and Razorverge Thicket.  Cavern, although a staple in most creature decks, meets an awkward predicament here of having seven creature types to support (nine, if you include the sideboard).  This means that, after casting your initial creature that fits the color, it might as well be a colorless-producing nonbasic.  The ability to create the color is irrelevant, and the creature count is high and balanced enough, I can probably outcast their counters with other threats.  Also, I don’t have any, but…but that’s irrelevant.  Razorverge is awkward in decks with a lot of 4+ drops.  Drawing a Razorverge with three lands out is very awkward, and there’s not enough important stuff to cast below three that matters terribly.  I’d rather just play basics.  The Rangers and Birds can fix for me.


The sideboard is fairly flexible, but its design is fairly specific; Safe Passage is a solid card against any deck with Mountains, namely ones that contain Bonfire of the Damned, a card we are very weak against.  It also protects from burn and sour combats.  In the end it’s a fancy Fog, but it does its job surprisingly well.  Beast Within is a great catch-all for a light-threat deck that can resolve powerful, must-answer threats like planeswalkers or powerful creatures.  It can also act like Oblivion Rings 4-6, clearing out enchantments, artifacts or even a troublesome land.  It’s also surprisingly effective against a low land count deck, so never forget that.  As I always say, “if a land drop they miss, you should cast this.”  Also, this deck is pretty good at swatting away an opposing 3/3 Beast, so don’t be afraid to cast it.  Yeva’s waiting.  Elixir of Immortality is a utility artifact against burn, mill and long controlling decks.  There is very little graveyard interaction, so shuffling up your graveyard gives the Beast Trackers more gas.  Dismember is a have-to-kill-it spell that is good against lightning fast aggro decks like mono-green infect and combat-based decks.  Its applications are admittedly narrow, and the inability to cast it without sucking one-fifth of your life is not very attractive, but it is an answer when you need it. 

Elderscale Wurm and Stingerfling Spiders are Beast Tracker targets that act as their own win condition or destroy problematic flyers, respectively.  Elderscale Wurm is a nigh-unburnable safety net against combat-oriented/burn decks and a massive beatstick.  Blinking it returns your life to seven as you slip out and back into its lifesaving grasp and return (or maybe life-suspending deathgrip, as it is a wurm), perhaps caused by a Blood Artist trigger or a Phyrexian-paid spell.  Stingerfling Spider picks off Restoration Angels, Thundermaw Hellkites and even pesky Lingering Souls tokens.  It can also be cast in response to a Geist of Saint Traft attack, killing the angel and stuffing even a Sword-laden Spirit.  Not bad!  Blink him for maximum awesome.  Finally, Garruk, Primal Hunter, acts as a one man army against a creature-hate deck, continually adding threats to the board and providing card advantage for a draw hungry deck with big creatures.  Although anti-synergetic with the other two Garruks, Little Garruk dies frequently enough that I’m not concerned with having one marooned in my hand.

Playtest – Wednesday Night Magic

Last week, I had nearly fleshed the deck out.  As they called for round one at Bluegrass Magic last Wednesday, I hastily borrowed from a kind Magic buddy, Michael, who himself was sporting his cool Turbofog deck, and sleeved up the lent cards, tossing my proxied notecards aside.  I was still sleeving as I set across from Glenn, my first round opponent.  After patiently waiting a couple minutes while I finished, we went to work.

Round 1 – Glenn (Goblins)

A first turn Goblin Arsonist sent a clear signal about his strategy.  I played out some creatures and his aggressive team of Goblin Wardrivers and Krenko slashed at my life total.  I shrugged off some removal with Cloudshifts and O-ringed his Shrine of Burning Rage while he couldn’t activate it and I stabilized.  Although some Goblin Grenades sagged me close to death, my Restoration Angel plugged away hard at his life total while Yeva kept his smaller army at bay.  In game two, he got two Shrines out and I sorely regretted siding out my Rings.  One remained in my hand, so I locked up one, but direct damage kept me on the ropes.  A clever block put me at 8, which naturally matched the counters on his Shrine as he untapped.  In game three, he didn’t have a lot of board presence, but he was able to throw his Krenko’s Commanded Goblin Tokens at my face, bringing me to two.  Thragtusk thundered in, bringing me to 7.  He ran a token into my Thragtusk next turn and Brimstone Volleyed me to two again.  A second Thragtusk was waiting in hand, and after resolving that and a sideboarded Elderscale Wurm, I was able to close the match up.


Safe Passage and Elderscale Wurm were crucial in that matchup.  Safe Passage is an absolute must against any aggro deck; the single stop is often enough to throw off their tempo, and it does act as a blanket Stave Off against burn.  Elderscale Wurm ensured safe combats and burnout prevention. 

Round 2 was up shortly afterward, and I sat down across from Jeff for this middle round of three.

Round 2 – Jeff (Mono-blackish Midrange)

Jeff shuffled up an almost all black stack and I kept an awkward hand of 6.  Playing a bird and an Elvish Visionary, he played Ravenous Rats, Liliana of the Veil and Smallpox, shriveling my development.  Thankfully, he was only able to make some Lingering Souls tokens and plug me for a couple turns as I just went land, go.  I finally resolved a couple big creatures, including Sigarda, and the game shifted heavily in my favor.  Game two saw him getting poorly colored land, being unable to resolve the Phyrexian Obliterator in his hand.  After realizing that even if he did resolve it, Sigarda would protect me, I decided to not worry about it and still went on the offense, crashing him out of the match.

Garruk, Primal Hunter came in from the sideboard and proved to be an allstar, completely locking him up in game 2.  What an excellent singleton!


The final round was up, and I was feeling great about the deck.  I put my stuff down across from Chris, my final opponent for the evening.

Round 3 – Chris (Esper Midrange)

An unflipping Delver represented his entire offense in game one, and my killer hand opened up into a turn three Yeva; his removal didn’t fare well against me, and I overwhelmed him quickly.  In game two, I got stuck on land and a single Bird came down for me.  His army of Geist of Saint Traft, Restoration Angel and a Beast Within token smashed me into dust within about five turns.  In game three, he took a turn suffering under too little land.  I hit an Acidic Slime, hitting his Darkslick Shores and depriving him of two colors of mana.  As he hadn’t seen either this match, he quipped, “you know, Acidic Slime and Restoration Angel would make a great combo!”  I looked in my hand, where the borrowed Restoration Angel stared back.  “It would be,” I muttered.  I cast the Angel the following turn and effectively locked him out of the game.


As Wednesday is a free tournament, I simply received a prize card from a selection of promos that the shop owner displays week to week as prizes.  I picked an extended art Mwonvuli Beast Tracker to complement the deck. 

I was very pleased with how the deck played and was continually impressed with the combat presence Yeva created while also creating an air of uncertainty in my opponent.  My hand was nearly always more than half full, and only on one occasion did I actually just run OUT of gas.  The deck has the pressure and consistency to be a powerful deck, and I’m looking forward to working on it.  The underperformers surprised me, namely Rancor and Garruk Relentless.  Also, three Beast Trackers is one too many; eventually you run out of targets, and it isn’t a great Blink target.  Garruk, Primal Hunter was MUCH better than his less ambitious self, and I decided to remove Google Garruk in favor of a single Primal Hunter mainboard.  Mana was not a problem, and only once did I wish I had a Razorverge Thicket and it ended up not mattering, so that was the right (or at least irrelevant) decision, too.  

The beauty of this deck is it’s supposed to be a work in progress.  This deck is a little loose right now, and there is tons of room to grow.  It can support more colors, more power and greater flexibility, but the cards just don’t exist yet.  With the rotation into Return to Ravnica, we will receive cards from Selesnya and Golgari colors.  This deck has the fixing and the power to support three colors without a problem, and the interactions those new cards will create will only make this deck better.  It’s encouraging that this deck and, namely Yeva, work so well even at a nearly mono-colored level.  Imagine how good it’ll be with a whole new set to add!

Hopefully I will be able to play this pre-rotation deck in Friday Night Magic this weekend, at which point I’ll update the post to reflect that list and those matches.  I’m also brewing two weird updates on old archetypes, so one of them will show up next week.

Also, in a brief Pack to Power update, I got rid of that Nicol Bolas for an Isolated Chapel!  The Chapel is in exceptionally high demand, so I should turn it quickly.

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker (M13) - $5.99

Isolated Chapel - $9.99

Net Change - +$4.00

Until then, don’t forget to untap!

- Matt H


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