Challenge the Stats – The Selesnya Special with Mr. Matt Morgan
Welcome to Challenge the Stats! This series is based on the awesome EDHRECast segment that challenges overplayed and underplayed cards in EDHREC's data. Any data has biases, aberrations, and outliers, and it's our job to arm you with that knowledge. In this spinoff series, we'll pick out ten cards on a commander's page to challenge. But remember, these are merely suggestions, and card choices made by you, the deckbrewer, for any reason such as flavor, budget, art, or fun are always most important and are what keep our format unique and awesome.
This week, I'm doing a challenge that I'm currently jazzed about, and that's Selesya Token decks, and, of course, I had to consult with our resident Selesnya expert, Matt Morgan of the EDHRECast. Our challenge is tailored to go-wide token commanders, and since there are so many great options, it seemed weird to challenge just one, so we're going to do something we've never done before on Challenge the Stats: we're going to challenge an entire theme page!
There are nearly 2,000 Selesnya Token decks at the time of writing, and you can see how often the cards below are currently played in parentheses (%). All of these challenges are Matt-Morgan-approved, and you can see what he had to say about them in quotations and my less-quotable comments in plain text. Here we go!
1. Selesnya Signet (50%)
"It's easier to hate out artifacts, and getting lands on the battlefield is the safest way to ramp." – Mr. Matt Morgan
When we have access to green ramp, I just don't see a reason to have this over Three Visits, Rampant Growth, Nature's Lore, Search for Tomorrow, heck, even Steve; take your pick!
2. Esika's Chariot (32%)
"The attack trigger makes it much better, but it's about the quality of tokens and not the quantity of tokens. Copying a 4/4 Beast token is much better than a 2/2 Cat. "
Okay, this card is great. It's taking up this challenge slot as a signpost card. There are two types of Token decks that we're seeing, either big or small, and our strategy shifts depending on which we're using. Anytime we see Populate or the similar text on Esika's Chariot or Ghired, Conclave Exile, we can take that as a signpost that the card will shine a bit more in a "big token" deck. Any of these signpost cards are great candidates to refine our search with Advanced Filters on a specific Token commander's page.
3. Selesnya Charm (29%)
"It's not getting best rate, but you're getting flexibility, whether it's an exile effect, a blocker, or pushing damage through. There's always a relevant mode on this one. Charms in general are underplayed."
4. Pest Infestation (21%)
"Sets might be fighting each other for our attention, but compare it to the staple Rec Sage. They're the same rate, but when we have token payoffs, we're going to take advantage of Pest Infestation much more."
I know this is a new one, but I still think some folks are sleeping on it. There are two words in this card that take it from good to great, and I missed them both the first few times I read it!
The first is "up to", and that means we don't need legal targets for the artifact and enchantment removal, and we can simply pump as much mana into making Pests as we want to.
The second is "twice". Yep, I missed that it said "create twice X tokens," but, to be fair, the cards from Strixhaven were absolute homework to read. "Twice" makes Pest Infestation a phenomenal rate for token generation. Five mana for four tokens, eleven mana for ten tokens, fifteen mana for fourteen tokens, etc.
5. Harvest Season (22%)
"If you're getting three lands, that's a great rate. It's a little board-dependent, but it has a high floor and a VERY high ceiling."
One land onto the battlefield for three mana is just fine. Farhaven Elf is a solid card. Two lands onto the battlefield is already better than Cultivate or Explosive Vegetation. That's a reasonable floor, and anything more than that is border magical Christmasland territory.
6. Ohran Frostfang (16%)
"Giving your opponents a choice isn't bad if neither choice is good for them."
The Frostfang is one of the best underrated green draw spells out there, and it makes combat a nightmare for our opponents. The low inclusion rate is probably due to the restrictive price tag. Hopefully we see a meaningful reprint soon.
7. Throne of the God-Pharaoh (12%)
"It's effectively double strike for unblocked creatures. If four attacking creatures get through, that's 12 additional damage from a two-mana card. It gets even crazier when we use tap shenanigans like Glare of Subdual or Cryptolith Rite."
8. Scale Up
"11/10 in a go-wide deck. What are you doing with your army of tokens? We need cards that answer that question."
Scale Up came out in Modern Horizons and went largely unnoticed, only making it into about 1,500 total decks on the site. However, it's an effective finisher in decks that have a lot of small tokens. When the typical finisher options cost as much as they do these days, having an effective budget option is wonderful. Craterhoof Behemoth is $50. Triumph of the Hordes is $20. Finale of Devastation is nearly $40. If we don't have these already and are out of our price range, ScaleUp will get the job done!
"Also, it's a signpost card for go-wide, not go-big. Turning 1/1s into 6/4s is amazing, but turning 4/4s into 6/4s, not so much."
9. Saproling Symbiosis
Doubling Season, Parallel Lives, and Primal Vigor effects are insanely powerful, but let's consider the play pattern of Second Harvest and Saproling Symbiosis, not just as budget alternatives, but strategic ones as well.
When a powerhouse like Doubling Season or the like hits the battlefield, our opponents go into red alert. All eyes are on us even if we haven't created any tokens yet. They demand targeted removal or, lacking that, our opponents might opt to use player removal instead.
"There's an unseen price beyond the mana. You're putting a clock on yourself."
However, when we have a modest board of tokens and our opponents are confident we can't kill them, doubling our tokens at instant speed changes that math. It allows us to first establish our board without raising alarm bells and then, when our opponents think they're fine, suddenly our board doubles in size and we can swing in for the win.
The "instant speed" here is key because those tokens will have pseudo-haste.
Elven Ambush is a fantastic new instant-speed option for Elf decks. Parallel Evolution is another option at sorcery speed that's a symmetrical effect (pairs nicely with Crashing Drawbridge).
Matt also cautions:
"Watch out to not overload yourself when things are going right. You need cards that will get you out of bad situations. There's a line you want to find in your deck, and it's more art than science."
10. Wolverine Riders
I think this is getting slept on in general Token decks because it references Elves on its face. This card is phenomenal outside of Elf-Tribal Strategies as well. It's just a smidge less efficient than Tendershoot Dryad, but Tendershoot is so good that even a slightly "worse" version is still a fantastic card. Tendershoot is also ten bucks, and Wolverine Riders is just over a dollar, so it's a great budget option. That price has steadily been creeping up, by the way, so snag one before this precon-only printing becomes scarce.
Let's go to a decklist!
Matt's Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
Also, here's a link to my Mirri "Surprise Tokens" deck.
I Seles-need-ya to See This
Big thanks to Matt for being my expert consultant on this article! But now, we want to hear from you: are there any other cards you would challenge? Let me know in the comments below! As always, you can find me on twitter at @jevin_mtg, and you can find Matt at @mathimus55.
Exciting Challenge the Stats announcement!
I'm launching a Discord for you guys to get notified about what commander is going to be challenged next, and you can submit challenges that might make it into the article!
Join the Challenge the Stats discord here.
Vote on next week's Challenge the Stats below!
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