Hey again everyone! Today we’re looking at another fun Historic deck, this time based around unreasonable amounts of lifegain! Today’s deck is Selesnya Soul Sisters. Enjoy!
For those unfamiliar with the archetype, Souls Sisters is a deck that is centered around cards legal in modern that cause you to gain 1 life any time a creature enters the battlefield. In modern, those cards are Essence Warden, Soul Warden and Souls’ Attendant. In Historic we’re using just Soul Warden and Ajani’s Welcome. The general idea is to overwhelm our opponent with lifegain, build a wide board and attack around them, or swing over their board with flyers.
The Soul Sisters
Like I mentioned, the main components of our deck are our full playsets of Ajani’s Welcome and Soul Warden. Ajani’s Welcome is a tough-to-remove source of lifegain, giving us one life every time a creature enters the battlefield under our control. Soul Warden is just a measly 1/1 so it can be knocked down pretty quickly but it allows us to gain life when any creature, including our opponent’s, hits the battlefield. With 8 copies of these lifegain generators, it’s not too far-fetched to assume that we’ll draw at least two every game. This positions us pretty well against creature-based aggro decks and allows us to run cards solely to take advantage of the lifegain triggers.
So, we’ve got a couple of lifegainers down on the battlefield and we’re racking up the life total, but you don’t win games of Magic by gaining life, right? Wrong! We have stacked our deck with creatures to take advantage of the lifegain and use it to advance our board state, tear down our opponent’s and eventually take the win.
First off, we have two copies of Angel of Vitality. It’s a 2/2 flyer for 3, but it adds 1 life to each of our lifegain triggers. This means if I have two Soul Wardens, when I play this creature I immediately gain 4 life. In addition, if I happen to have at least 25 life she turns into a 4/4, which is a pretty decent flying body for 3 mana.
Along those same lines we have 4 copies of Serra Ascendant. Under normal circumstances Serra Ascendant is simply a 1/1 lifelink for 1 white mana, but as long as we have 30 life – not a difficult task for this deck – it turns into a massive 6/6 Flying Lifelink beater for a single mana that is capable of soaring over the opponent’s defenses. This is a solid way for us to close out a game.
Our last beefy flying body comes in the form of 3 copies of Resplendent Angel. Anyone that played the last Standard format is familiar with this massive threat. A 3/3 flyer for 3, she comes with the bonus effect that allows her to make a free 4/4 Flying, Vigilant angel during the end step of any turn during which we’ve gained 5 or more life. For our deck this tends to be every single one of our turns and even some of our opponent’s. Left unchecked, Resplendent Angel generates a small army of game-ending flyers in a hurry, and for the admittedly hefty price of 6 mana can become a 5/5 Lifelink Flying beater on her own.
Our next payoff is a lifegain staple: 4 copies of Ajani’s Pridemate. In this deck, Ajani’s Pridemate is an answer-or-die threat that gains a 1/1 counter every single time one of our triggers goes off. This means that as soon as we play him he’s likely to grow to a 3/3, 4/4 or sometimes even bigger, and every time a new creature enters he just grows and grows. He is, unfortunately, easily blocked but he also serves as a robust blocker against aggro and is the perfect bait for a controlling opponent’s removal before we start landing our Resplendent Angels.
Our final payoff card is Ajani, Strength of the Pride. Our 3 copies of Ajani serve as Ajani’s Pridemate 5-7 in matchups where we want them but its true power lies elsewhere. Ajani’s ultimate is strange compared to most planeswalkers. It costs 0 loyalty, but only has an effect if we have 15 more life than our starting total. If we meet that requirement he exiles himself, but takes with him all of our opponent’s creatures and all of their artifacts. He is an extremely powerful 4-mana one-sided board wipe, and getting to 35 life actually isn’t that difficult with this list. Finally, if we are a little short on life he can cause us to gain life equal to the number of creatures and planeswalkers we have on the battlefield.
So we’ve got lifegain, and we’ve got a bunch of cards that take advantage of the lifegain, but playing one creature and gaining 2 life a turn isn’t exactly a compelling strategy. To really take the concept to the next level we’re going to need a way to generate a lot of creatures. Fortunately, we’ve got just the tools.
The first tool in our toolbox comes in the form of 3 copies of Dawn of Hope. Half lifegain payoff and half token generator, Dawn of Hope gives us a way to spend our mana when our creatures hit the battlefield. In addition, at instant speed for the low-low cost of 4 mana it can make a 1/1 Lifelink Soldier. This is obviously good for triggering all of our Soul Wardens and Ajani’s Welcomes but it also creates cheap blockers to throw in front of any of our opponents’ non-trampling threats. Finally, it creates a sense of inevitability against control decks. This is our strongest card in those matchups because unless they have enchantment removal we just generate small threats and card advantage every turn until we run them out of resources. We run only 3 copies because this card gets much, much worse in multiples.
Our next token generator is a bargain at just 2 mana. Raise the Alarm brings two 1/1 soldiers to the battlefield at instant speed. Now, 2 mana for 2/2 worth of stats isn’t necessarily a competitive-worthy pedigree but the real power comes with the ability to put two bodies on the board at nearly any time. This card is often used to generate a bunch of lifegain triggers on the opponent’s turn to either put us above the threshold to grow our Serra Ascendants and Angels of Vitality, or to gain us enough life to get a bonus angel from Resplendent Angel at the end of the opponent’s turn. It also just gives us two surprise blockers that our opponent couldn’t have prepared combat math for. This card was rarely used during its Standard run so nobody really expects it or plans for it. Because of this utility we run a full playset.
A token generator that did see a fair bit of Standard play is Trostani Discordant. 5 mana is a bit steep for our 23-land deck so we only play 3, but when we play her we definitely get our money’s worth. She’s a 1/4 that brings two 1/1’s with lifelink onto the battlefield with her, giving us 3 bodies for that price. She also pumps our board by +1/+1, turning all of our little tokens into reasonably sizable threats. She’s another must-answer card and will often times simply eat a piece of removal but because she leaves behind two tokens and has probably gained us 6+ life, we’ve gained plenty of value for our mana from the moment she hits the battlefield. Her final line of text is rarely relevant, but it can get us back a Pridemate or an angel stolen by the ever-popular Agent of Treachery.
The final non-land card in the deck is a doozy. March of the Multitudes provides us everything this deck wants and more. It’s not too tough to have quite a few creatures on the board with all of our early game drops and token generators, so convoking March of the Multitudes for X=5 or greater isn’t that difficult to achieve. We can do this at instant speed, and each creature that enters the battlefield will trigger all of our lifegain generators. It’s not uncommon to gain 10+ life off of this spell in addition to generating all of the lifelink blockers or attackers along with it. Often times March of the Multitudes will swing a game in our favor, buy a ton of time, or simply put enough pressure on the board to close out a game.
Worth a brief mention as always is our manabase. We have 23 lands: 10 Plains, 5 Forests, 4 Sunpetal Groves and 4 Temple Gardens. It’s incredibly important for us to make sure we can play our turn 1 lifegain generators so we don’t run any of the lifegain tapped lands even though they seem like they might be a good fit. Often times it’s worth shocking in a Temple Garden to stay on curve since we know that we’ll get that life back shortly from lifegain triggers. Keeping an opening hand without any green is often times okay because we don’t usually want to cast any green spells until after turn 4 or 5 and we only ever need a single green mana.
The most important thing about choosing whether to mulligan this deck is that if you have a hand without any one-mana lifegain engines, it’s a bad hand. Ideally you want two, but if you have a 7-card hand with just one and some payoffs like Dawn of Hope or Ajani's Pridemate then it’s probably okay. As mentioned before, as long as your hand has a plan that doesn’t need the green mana it’s actually okay to keep a hand without any. We have 13 green sources but only 6 cards in the deck that require green mana, so you are very likely to find the green source before you need it.
Similarly, keeping a two-land hand is actually okay as long as you have plenty of things to play with just two mana. The deck naturally buys itself a lot of time against faster matchups by virtue of gaining life and filling the board with 1/1’s.
Who’s the Beatdown?
You are usually. This deck contains almost no interaction whatsoever. 3 copies of Ajani are the only way you have to remove creatures outside of combat, and decks like Mono-Red are going to be looking to use their burn to remove your Wardens, Pridemates and Resplendent Angels before they get out of control. Against midrange decks you sometimes take a pseudo-control approach, playing 1/1’s to block their threats until you get enough life to blow up their board with Ajani, and that’s really the only time you’re ever playing control. Most of the time you’re just slamming down lifegain or angels and saying “answer this or I’ll just win”.
This deck is relatively linear and can be shut down somewhat by control decks with a lot of sweepers, but it’s incredibly fun once it gets rolling. The seemingly innocuous lifegain generated by Soul Warden and Ajani's Welcome is leveraged in really interesting ways to turn otherwise reasonable cards like Resplendent Angel into absolute powerhouses. If you’re looking for a fun way to dip into Historic or an easy-to-play deck for those Selesnya spell quests, look no further.
4 Ajani's Welcome (M19) 6 4 Serra Ascendant (M11) 28 4 Soul Warden (M10) 34 4 Ajani's Pridemate (WAR) 4 3 Dawn of Hope (GRN) 8 4 Raise the Alarm (M20) 34 2 Angel of Vitality (M20) 4 3 Resplendent Angel (M19) 34 3 March of the Multitudes (GRN) 188 3 Ajani, Strength of the Pride (M20) 2 3 Trostani Discordant (GRN) 208 10 Plains (ELD) 253 5 Forest (ELD) 268 4 Temple Garden (GRN) 258 4 Sunpetal Grove (XLN) 257