Bo1 Standard Selesnya Lifegain Deck Guide: Healing to Lay the Hurt Down
Hello fellow gamers! Let’s talk about a strategy that has been around for quite some time. Some call this archetype “Soul Sisters” because of the namesake Soul Warden who enabled it. Many would argue cards styled after Ajani's Pridemate are the real star of the show. Truly it’s more of a peanut butter and jelly situation: Together they make one amazing sandwich. The core concept of course is playing a White Weenie-esque deck that tends to grow its creatures to epic proportions through gaining +1/+1 counters on life triggers. Fast-forward to Crimson Vow when this Spirit was spoiled: Voice of the Blessed.
Pretty much everyone knew it was a foregone conclusion that the life gain strategy was going to show up in standard. Voice of the Blessed is a straight-up upgrade to cards like Ajani's Pridemate in every way. One of the biggest knocks on Ajani's Pridemate was its lack of evasion. It’s well and good to have a 19/19 cat but when it can get chumped by any ole creature laying around it makes it difficult to close out games. Meanwhile Voice of the Blessed packs flying and vigilance (which are both quite easy to activate) and indestructibility (which is less easy to get).
The ultimate question is then, what amount of support does this strategy have in standard? The answer is it has a decent amount. We are certainly missing cards like Ajani, Strength of the Pride, Collected Company, and Heliod, Sun-Crowned that make this deck viable in Historic Magic. However, we have cards like Lunarch Veteran, Righteous Valkyrie and Prosperous Innkeeper that can do just fine as stand-ins.
I think that a mono-white version is viable, though only in BO1 since Wizards of the Coast made cards like Impassioned Orator and Hallowed Priest available in this format only. While I am using a few copies of Hallowed Priest I honestly do not think this deck needs them to be successful as we have Trelasarra, Moon Dancer as a fine replacement and we have a full eight copies of Soul Warden type cards in Lunarch and Innkeeper. However, I feel like Seleynsa build is more viable due to a few key cards, the aforementioned Trelasarra, Snakeskin Veil, Ranger Class and of course Prosperous Innkeeper.
No doubt the list I am about to show you skews heavily towards white but in my play testing I found that these select green cards performed so well it’s hard to justify the drop off in power just to get better mana consistency. That being said, Mana-consistency is not great in this deck. Branchloft Pathway is a wonderful card but Overgrown Farmland is often frustrating (more on that in the lands section). Anyway, here is the list:
Lunarch Veteran – This is a key card in your deck you really are looking to have either one of these or a innkeeper in your opening hand to enable your creatures that are pumped by lifegain.
Prosperous Innkeeper – See above. With the one caveat that this can occasionally help you fix your mana if you are lacking a second white source.
Righteous Valkyrie – Our deck runs 25 clerics making triggering the angel’s ability trivial. Righteous also offers the added bonus of changing your strategy, by buffing all your tiny support creatures and transforming from a going tall strategy to a going wide.
Voice of the Blessed – The best card in your deck the reason why you are playing this archetype.
Hallowed Priest – The worst of the bunch I have opted for two copies as this is even worse than Ajani's Pridemate as its starting stats are 1/1. It’s nice that it’s a cleric to trigger Righteous Valkyrie at least. So if we count the 4 copies of voice of the Blessed, the 3 copies of Trelasarra, Moon Dancer and the 2 copies of Hallowed priest we are running 9 threats that can grow to epic proportions. Coupled with 12 enablers ( Prosperous Innkeeper, Righteous Valkyrie, Lunarch Veteran) we have ourselves a pretty yummy PB&J sandwich.
Ollenbock Escort – Do you remember how good Selfless Savior was? Yeah, this is much like that with only minimal setup required, not to mention it has the added benefit of temporarily granting lifelink. Our deck is really focused around one objective: protecting and growing our life-pump creatures. Ollenbock Escort can actually check both those boxes.
Luminarch Aspirant – A good card in its own right as we all already know, but this also can help you enable Voice of the Blessed abilities with adding extra counters or can provide counters on other creatures to offer them Ollenbock Escort protection.
Snakeskin Veil – Ollenbock Escort offers us protection from destruction effects such as Doomskar but it is powerless to stop cards like Vanishing Verse. It is absolutely vital we protect our threats as we don’t have much of a plan B. Here is hoping that By Invitation Only doesn’t see much play
Valorous Stance – It is very convenient that this card can hit two of the biggest threats in standard right now: that is Goldspan Dragon and Ashmouth Dragon. In addition, this card offers a very useful secondary mode of granting indestructibility. In many cases indestructibility will be the more important of the two modes.
Ranger Class – This card is our plan B, it essentially the only form of card advantage that we have. Since our deck contains 29 creatures the third tier will be very helpful. It is also nice how the first and second tiers synergize so well with what we are doing. The wolf is another body to trigger Innkeeper and Lunarch while the plus one counters can help get Voice of the Blessed to that critical 4 or 10 counter mark.
I always think it’s important to talk about the mana base of any deck as that is really key. I hate to say it but I am not super happy with this mana base. I either get too much mana or not enough or worst of all having to play my lands tapped in a deck that really wants to curve out. Going Mono White could solve for some of this but I think the drop in power will be too much to handle.
In short, pray to the shuffler gods that your lands always end up the way you want them. I don’t want to scare you, 75 percent of my games this is generally the case but there is that 25 percent where you are just a little slower than you like.
Notable Card Exclusions
This is going to be a somewhat sizable list as there are a lot of ways to take this deck.
Charmed Stray (BO1 Only) – If this card had evasion I would be all about it, the fact is that you are rarely going to get the opportunity to grow this by playing multiples and even if you do a 2/2 or 3/3 life link is just not that scary.
Cleric Class – I see a lot of white life gain decks using this card. The extra life gain is hardly relevant (if it caused a separate life gain trigger that would be a different story) but gaining two life points versus one on your Lunarch Veteran is generally not going to sway the outcome of the game. Meanwhile the other modes are so mana intensive it is really not worth the resources spent to activate them. Not to mention each non-creature you place in your deck robs you of an opportunity to trigger your Lunarch Veteran and Co.
Paladin Class – I love this card I do, but we are not going wide, we are going tall. Making the multiplication effect far less impactful.
Traveling Minister – I think this a fine card but it bugs me that this cleric’s ability is sorcery speed (honestly was that really that much of a balance issue WOTC?). I am so trained to wait until combat is entered and blockers declare to activate abilities that I have found myself missing this. Also, it prevents you from leaving this up as a potential blocker and then triggering it on the opponent’s end step.
Soulmender (BO1 only) – Very much like a Traveling Minister except blessedly its ability is instant speed. I think it’s a fine card but we have precious few slots and I am not sure this is impactful enough.
Intrepid Adversary – I have experimented with this card. I love the fact that it has lifelink but two things have made me abandon this card. 1) we are not going wide so the pump effect is less impactful 2) we have very little mana in this deck and we will be lucky to get more than one kicker out of Intrepid Adversary.
Kabira Takedown – Another decent card to consider but the fact the land comes into play tapped is tough. I could see going down to 22 lands and playing these, but they slow you down in a deck that is tempo oriented and where removing threats is generally not the impediment to victory.
Impassioned Orator (BO1 Only) – Another Soul Warden effect since we are running 12 of these already this is the weakest of the bunch but if you decide to cut green this would replace Prosperous Innkeeper
Fateful Absence – I think Valorous Stance does what we want better because of its dual mode, chances are if you are facing a creature deck your creatures will outclass theirs and the fact that Voice of the Blessed has flying AND vigilance makes it great on offense and defense.
Kor Celebrant – At least this cleric has the true Soul Warden ability in that it triggers on any creature entering the battlefield not just your own, the three mana price take makes this a tough pill to swallow considering our curve stops at three mana and Righteous Valkyrie is quite a bit better.
Selfless Glyphweaver – I have considered this card a few times as another form of protection but the three mana price take has had me steering clear thus far.
Inscription of Abundance – This card checks a lot of boxes for us – as all three modes are highly relevant, the biggest knock is the 5 mana cost to get full value.
This is a best-of-one guide so we will be eschewing a sideboard primer and sticking with helpful notes on the most common matchups.
Mono Black control
I faced this deck a ton recently and it’s definitely hard to beat as they have a ton of small creatures that gunk up the lanes and superior card advantage. Your best hope is to have protection for your Voice of the Blessed for the inevitable board wipe. Try not to overextend. Ranger Class can be really important to let you match them in the card advantage department.
Have not seen Dimir Control much lately. But it will play very similar to Mono Black Control except you will be able to sneak in some early damage as they don’t have many if any small creatures. Your few creature lands will also figure largely. Ranger Class is also key here.
Mono Green Stompy
I love this matchup; your creatures are going to quickly outclass them and you can offset their early aggression via life gain. Being able to protect your big threats from Blizzard Brawl or Inscription of Abundance with Snakeskin Veil or Ollenbock Escort will generally win you the game on the spot.
Mono White Aggro
Ollenbock is less effective against this deck as they have ways around indestructible, so snakeskin can be huge here. I would say this match favors you as long as you can get your flyers online and protect them. It could be a slow, grindy fight though as they have ways to block your Voice of the Blessed (Clarion Spirit tokens) but Righteous Valkyrie will help you power through as well.
Snakeskin again will be your key card here, though Ollenbock is still relevant against direct damage Spells and red sweepers. Valorous Stance will be huge here – the other side of Smoldering Egg is by far the bigger threat because he can start sniping all your support cast. Finding and protecting Valkyries as well will certainly help you win.
Pretty good matchup for you except if they can get Squad Commander, they have limited ways to block flyers and limited removal and your life gain can help you win in a race.
Tips and Tricks
- Whenever playing Voice of the Blessed consider how you will protect it and what removal your opponent could be playing. For example if I see an opponent lead with a snow covered forest I am more apt to play my Voice of the Blessed on turn two. However if they lead with Red or Black mana I am more likely apt to wait until I can keep up Snakeskin Veil mana.
- This deck is very much able to trade life to buy time. Avoid the temptation to chump-block or trade with your Lunarch Veteran and Prosperous Innkeeper unless you absolutely must as they are just as important as your Voice of the Blessed.
- Remember that Luminarch Aspirant can work great in conjunction with Ollenbock Escort to offer protection. I especially like to place a counter on Righteous Valkyrie.
- Obviously, the ideal turn-one play is Lunarch Veteran. It is really hard to take a mulligan in this deck as it does not really have built in come-from-behind mechanics, usually I like a hand that has at least one each of my PB&J sandwich (One Lunarch Veteran and one Voice of the Blessed type card).
Thanks for reading and good luck!