Selesnya Scute Swarm Retreat Standard Deck Guide
Scute Swarm is a card that fascinates me because I hear so many players on the casual side of the meta claim that it is extremely overpowered and singlehandedly caused MTG Arena to restrict the amount of tokens players can make. It is in virtually none of the top competitive tournament decks, so it could be that it is only overpowered in best-of-one because that’s where most of the player base lies in MTG Arena. I also spend a lot of time playing best-of-one games for my videos and I don’t think I have ever played against it either.
In fact, the only deck I had ever seen it in was in the Simic Mutate decks, and they have never really been a consistent top contender. That is until I stumbled across this little gem that went 7-0 in an Arena Open played by a player named NOON.
I thought this list looked awesome and was doing a lot of stuff I liked. Instead of waiting for a Mutate creature and trying to go off with Scute Swarm the way Simic does, this deck pairs the bugs with Felidar Retreat. This allows the deck to essentially “go off” with only 2 cards and consistent land drops. You don’t necessarily have to have Swarm and 6 lands because you get a cat and insect token or just an insect and put counters on your board and build an army. But it does get much more powerful after your fifth land drop since you get more Scute Swarms and put counters on them.
This deck also plays a few cards that would just never see play unless it was a draft deck such as Murasa Rootgrazer.
This little guy is a weird card and it’s hard find a home for it other than this deck. He ramps us, sure, but there are cards that do it way better and we don’t have to rely on untapping with it. What this beast does that other cards don’t is that it give us constant Landfall trigger fuel. If we brick and don’t have a land, we can tap him, bounce a basic back to our hand and then replay it to continue building our board.
There are also weird interactions you can do. There have been countless times where I made my third land drop, had Rootgrazer in play, but missed my fourth land drop with a Felidar Retreat or a Yasharn in hand. So, I could tap my lands to float mana, then use Rootgraizer to bounce a basic back, replay it and then tap it for my fourth mana. This little guy just does so much for this deck, and it can’t be understated.
After playing this deck a ton, I came to the following build:
All I have done is streamlined the deck slightly. I removed Vivien because there were already eight 4-drops. Eleven cards with mana cost 4 or greater made hands very clunky and slow. I replaced her with Scavenging Ooze, giving us a form of life gain, graveyard control and a threat all in one convenient package. We only run 3 because of diminishing returns, but it is just a fantastic card to have and if you are in Green and not playing it then I think you are doing something wrong!
I moved Glass Casket to the sideboard and trimmed one overall from the 75 because I think the card is fantastic, but worse than it was before. Wilt and Thrashing Brontodon are becoming more popular as a response to Esper Doom and not overly relying on it is the best course of action.
I also trimmed one Yasharn, Implacable Earth. Again, this is because of how clunky the card can be. It is a legendary 4-drop, thus drawing too many can be a death sentence. The only real relevance of this card is finding 2 lands, especially in Standard. In all honesty the only reason I play this over Cultivate is because in aggressive matchups a 4/4 body is just great. I am sure there are a couple homebrew decks that its secondary ability would be good against.
I added four copies of Migratory Greathorn because it fits in with our strategy finding a land upon mutating. We can put it on a Scute Swarm and make an army of 3/4 creatures which is great if we don’t have Retreat and game ending when we do. I think the downside to playing Greathorn is low.
Cards not included and why:
Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate: As I mentioned earlier, I just find her abysmally slow. I like that she can find a Scute Swarm or any other creature but 5 mana and waiting a whole turn to do that is a lot to ask for in this meta. The immediate 3/3’s are great, and I can easily see a spot for her in the sideboard but now is not the time.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: I have took him in and out of the deck multiple times because sometimes it just feels like you have ramped into nothing. Ugin is a fantastic top end to many Standard decks that can end the game on his own. This issue is often when we use his -X we lose our board as well, and if my opponent was not completely out of gas, they were able to follow up with a Elspeth Conquers Death or a Questing Beast that really punished me for it and ended the game.
Cultivate: I could easily see playing four of these in the spot of Yasharn, Implacable Earth and some other card. As I said earlier, the only reason I don’t is because the 4/4 body is so good in aggressive matchups.
Tangled Florahedron: Another card I would love in this deck if the meta wasn’t so aggressive. I am not sure what I would cut. Possibly Migratory Greathorn but I have really enjoyed it so far.
Baneslayer Angel: This was originally a 4-of in NOON’s list. So why would I cut it? Well that’s simple. In the ideal scenario against an aggressive deck where I have it out and my opponent has nothing, then it is the best card in the deck. Unfortunately, here in the real world, It only AT BEST trades with the bigger threats holding an Embercleave. Primal Might also makes Baneslayer look bad. If I was only playing red decks, then sure, 4 all day, every day. But I see too diverse of a field to justify 4 slots for a 5 drop when I don’t even think it is our worst matchup.
The Great Henge: This card is great. But I don’t think we play the right cards to make it good enough for us. Scute Swarm doesn’t trigger it with tokens. If we had room and was playing cards like Lovestruck Beast, then sure I could see it. But we don’t. Speaking of…
Lovestruck Beast: This card has become a standard staple. It almost seems weird to not be playing it. But it just does its own thing and doesn’t fall in line with what our deck is doing. It could be a great sideboard card against aggro. But I think we have enough for those matchups.
Before I go over matchups, I will just say most of all the matchups you play against seem at least even. This is a very grindy deck that can just go off and win with a Scute Swarm and a Felidar Retreat as stated above and “Oops” its way into a win. Most matchups will just come down to “does our opponent have the out.” I will still discuss key things to look for in each matchup.
Gruul / Mono Green
|+3 Glass Casket||-4 Lotus Cobra|
|+2 Giant Killer||-4 Migratory Greathorn|
|+2 Thrashing Brontodon||-1 Felidar Retreat|
|+2 Elspeth Conquers Death|
I think this matchup is even and it doesn’t change after board. Yeah, they can have insane starts and curve out in our face. But we can do the same. The big key is not letting them curve out into The Great Henge. Use whatever removal you must keep Lovestruck Beast and Kazandu Mammoth off the field. If the Henge is in play remove it ASAP. I cut Lotus Cobra because it is a terrible blocker, attacker, and a magnet for the Bonecrusher Giant. I think we are better off just adding removal and being a midrange deck. Migratory Greathorn is basically a free 2-for-1 for them if they remove it so I don’t even bother. I cut 1 Felidar Retreat because it is slow, and we are bringing in 3 and 5 drops so trimming some of the higher CMC cards helps negate the clunk factor.
We bring in Glass Casket to help slow them down and remove Lovestruck, Mammoth and Bonecrusher. Giant Slayer does the same thing, but doubles down later to keep whatever is biggest tapped down. Thrashing Brontodon blows up Embercleave and The Great Henge while being a great blocker. Elspeth Conquers Death removes whatever we need since most of their deck is CMC 3 or more. Bringing back a blocker or threat should also not be overlooked.
|+2 Elspeth Conquers Death||-4 Kazandu Mammoth|
|+1 Heliod’s Intervention||-3 Scavenging Ooze|
|+2 Thrashing Brontodon|
This matchup is grindy, but another matchup that is even. If they just have all the outs, then they just have all the outs. But this matchup swings in our favor post board in my opinion because we bring so much to the table. The Doom decks do as well, but they have a lot of cards that just do nothing and can end up just shuffling through their deck while we answer what they have and apply pressure.
I cut Mammoth because while it is the most power we can have on a single creature, that’s all it is. You might think cutting Greathorn is the response but I don’t think so. My reasoning is that Greathorn dodges a lot of their removal outside of a kicked Bloodchief’s and Hagra Mauling which they don’t normally run and if they do it is in small numbers. It is also worth noting that if you have Scute tokens already in play and mutate on one you have effectively divided your threats so that Extinction Event is no longer a blowout because Greathorn and Gemrazer (post-board) are even CMC while Scute Swarm is Odd. This is worth remembering and looking out for.
I also cut Scavenging Ooze because it just doesn’t have a lot of targets here. I bring in Elspeth Conquers Death because it takes care of basically everything in their deck. Heliod’s Intervention can be used in the late game to clean up the board when we have fallen behind. Gemrazer can mutate on a Swarm and replicate an army of 4/4s with trample or just pop problematic artifacts and enchantments. Thrashing Brontodon is just efficient removal and a good-sized threat.
|+3 Chainweb Aracnir||-4 Migratory Greathorn|
|+3 Glass Casket||-1 Yasharn, Implacable Earth|
|-1 Felidar Retreat|
This matchup is one I markup as bad both pre and post-board. They really punish our less impactful cards and remove or counter anything that could pose an issue while applying a good clock. I think the Lurrus Rogues is harder than the bigger Rogues match. But neither is something I look forward to playing with this deck.
I cut Greathorn because it is just too easily punished with removal or a counter. Yasharn, Implacable Earth is big slow and clunky, and Felidar Retreat is just slow and easily punishable by a Brazen Barrower bounce or just getting countered. Often the single 2/2 a turn is just bad against their blockers and flyers.
I bring in Chainweb Aracnir as it is a great blocker and threat we can escape and use our milled graveyard as a resource for. Glass Casket is just good removal. Yeah, they can bounce it but we can recast it. I often cast these on any Rogue in play when there is a threat of them flashing in Zareth San, the Trickster. Otherwise I always get the immediate threat or Lurrus.
- Targeting Bonecrusher Giant with Glass Casket or Elspeth Conquers Death does not cause you to take 2 damage.
- With 2 drops always prioritize Lotus Cobra.
- When you control Murasa Rootgrazer always remember if you can to keep a basic in hand to use with his ability to sneak it in at instant speed.
- Rootgraizer can ramp you to your 4th land drop even if you miss it! Tap and float your mana, then you can bounce a basic with the Rootgrazer and replay it to get your 4th mana!
- You can also use Murasa Rootgrazer to bounce basics. Don’t be afraid of doing this because if you draw another land you can use it to sneak the basic back in.
- Remember, against Extinction Event decks to try and divide up Scute Swarms and mutated Swarms since the mutated Swarm’s CMC will be even while a vanilla will be odd.
- If you have a Yasharn, Implacable Earth and a Felidar Retreat in hand, always lead with Yasharn since casting a vanilla Retreat is low impact until you can get triggers from it. It is smart to cast. Leading with Scute Swarm over Yasharn is optimal if you can cast retreat and still make the land drop.
I really love playing this deck and it has become a fan favorite over on my stream (which you should totally follow me on *cough*). I hope you enjoyed this deck as well! Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube, we are closing in on 100 subscribers which would be awesome to reach before the end of the year. You can also follow me on my social media which is linked below! Until next time, Hero out!