Growing Ranks; art by Seb McKinnon
Selesnya is the green-white guild from Ravnica. It believes strongly in harmony and nature, creating perfectly ordered gardens and spreading their word in the hopes of uniting the world in one mind and purpose. Your challenge this week is to design a card for the Selesnya guild. It must be green and/or white, though it can be any card type except for legendary (as legendary is reserved only for the guild leaders themselves).
United We Stand
The majority of Selesnya’s strategy can be summed up as creatures, and lots of them. Selesnya is almost defined entirely by its love of token creatures, creating both the most total token creatures and the widest variety of types of tokens among all the guilds. Almost any card you design which makes one or more token creatures would fit Selesnya perfectly, ranging from Grove of the Guardian creating a single huge 8/8 Elemental to Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree continuously creating small 1/1 Saproling tokens. Complementing these creatures are effects which play on Selesnya’s strong sense of community and cooperation. For example, your design could power up a single creature while also providing some support, as Fists of Ironwood and Pollenbright Wings do. Or, it could power up multiple of a player’s creatures, whether defensively like Privileged Position or more offensively like Collective Blessing or Common Bond.
Epitomizing the feeling of working together, you could also design a card which scales in power with the number of creatures a player controls, for example Scion of the Wild or Chorus of Might. Finally, leading the way for all of these token creatures are some of the most efficient creatures on Ravnica, from the cheap Watchwolf to the expensive and huge Risen Sanctuary which help give Selesnya a way to break through defenders and help the usually smaller-sized tokens.
Of course, Selesnya also has some mechanics it likes to use that aren’t just creatures. As the green and white guild, Selesnya is particularly adept at
- Using enchantments
- Destroying artifacts and enchantments
- Gaining life
For using enchantments, Selesnya primarily cares about Auras. It uses powerful Auras of its own as well as has access to support like Bramble Elemental which gives Auras a little extra value in Saproling tokens, and Dowsing Shaman which allows reusing Auras.
On the other side, Selesnya is also adept at destroying both artifacts and enchantments. Something to note however is that Selesnya often gets an extra effect when it destroys an artifact or enchantment. The best example of this being Seed Spark which both destroys an artifact or enchantment as well as creates Saproling tokens.
Life gain in Selesnya is similar to the artifact and enchantment destruction in that it is rarely on its own. If you want to design a life gain card for Selesnya, try combining it with any other effect Selesnya uses, such as efficient creatures for a card like Centaur Healer or Auras for a card like Unflinching Courage.
For new design space, one more experimental idea I had is making tapping matters, similar to the cards Stonybrook Schoolmaster or Veteran of the Depths. Cards which tap creatures to pay for costs such as Glare of Subdual and Selesnya Evangel already work particularly well with having a lot of token creatures, but could also potentially open up another area of design with creatures that have abilities that trigger whenever they become tapped.
A Token Effort
There are two keywords I want to look at that both focus on helping or supporting the token strategy.
Selesnya’s first keyword is convoke, an ability which allows players to tap creatures to help cast a spell, with each creature tapped paying for one mana. Convoke is really flexible in how it can be used, from allowing combat shenanigans with cards like Gather Courage to allowing players to power out huge creatures like Autochthon Wurm, or effects like Conclave Phalanx which scale based on the number of creatures a player controls.
One other type of card you could design which works particularly well with convoke are protection-type cards, whether in the style of Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi which is a huge 4/7 to block with, Scatter the Seeds which creates three tokens to block with (or use to convoke more spells), or Chant of Vitu-Ghazi which completely reverses all damage for a turn.
Supporting convoke is also fairly straightforward. Design a card which creates multiple creature tokens. Simply put, more creatures means more mana from convoking. Another possible way to help support convoke is effects which untap multiple creatures, such as To Arms! which allows players to both use creatures to convoke with and also attack, block, or convoke another spell.
Selesnya’s second keyword is populate, an action ability which creates a copy of a token creature. Cards which use populate should usually have some way of helping ensure that populate actually matters. The simplest way to make sure populate works is to design a card which creates a token, and then populates, making sure that players can at the very least make another of whatever type of token the card itself makes.
Another way to help ensure that populate matters is by making the populate cards more useful in the late game, when players are more likely to have creature tokens to copy. For example, Druid’s Deliverance is most useful late in the game when it prevents a lot of damage, and can easily be held until a player has a token to copy. Support for populate is fairly simple. Design cards that create tokens.
Note that something Return to Ravnica does wonderfully in this regard is that the tokens that cards create all feel meaningfully different from each other, so players still have some choice in which token to copy. Sometimes players want an extra Bird from Seller of Songbirds, or sometimes players will want an extra Centaur from Centaur’s Herald. If you design a card which creates token creatures, I recommend either searching through the tokens from Return to Ravnica, or sticking to tokens with a single keyword ability to keep them simple and also give players a meaningful choice about which token to copy.
My design this week began with trying to find a way to support a tapping matters theme without specifically requiring other cards to matter, while also still feeling like a Selesnya card. What I ended up with is a creature which gets stronger by tapping another creature to help it, and which also helps the tapped creature to play up the Selesnya spirit of cooperation. And as a nice little bonus, giving two cooperating creatures a +1/+1 counter for 1GW also leaves it a little reference to Common Bond.
Hopefully Conclave Visionary lives up to the Selesnya guild. And hopefully I’ve provided some ideas to help you design your own Selesnya card for the contest. As always, I’m eager to see what all of you come up with. Until next time, may you find harmony in your every design.