I’m a Selesnyan mage at heart. Tokens, small creatures, and big swings are in my DNA, and I’ve had some sort of token deck in EDH for as long as I can remember. A few years ago I built Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice and had some fun with it, but It wasn’t well-tuned and was a more casual deck. I eventually decided to rework it when the Guilds of Ravnica set came out, and that led me to decide I had the wrong Commander to begin with.
I do get asked why I run Trostani, Discordant over Trostani, Selesnyna’s Voice, since my deck loves to Populate and Selesnya’s Voice has an activated ability that does just that. There are a few factors that ultimately led me to decide that the new Trostani should be my Commander, but first I want to go over what the deck wants to do and explain the idea of a mana curve.
Double Those Tokens!
Of course what token deck is complete without the holy trinity of Doubling Season, Parallel Lives, and Anointed Procession? If you’re running a deck that has the words “create” and “token” on almost every card, these had better be present. What’s really important here is where these cards fall in line for our mana curve. If you’re not aware, a mana curve is the concept of mapping out what cards a deck plays at each mana cost, with the intent that as more mana becomes available the deck should be able to use it productively. For example, Parallel Lives costs four mana which means we likely won’t get to cast it until turn three or four. If we stack the entire deck full of cards with four converted mana cost, we would have trouble making use of our mana on other turns. Turn four we’d get to play one spell, then another one on turn five, six, and so on. We would be unable to cast two spells in a turn until we had eight mana available, and by that time an opponent with a better mana curve would have a distinct advantage.
The idea of a mana curve is probably not alien to some of you, but if this is your first time learning about it then this Trostani deck can teach you why it is so valuable. Look at the decklist and examine the amount of spells it has in each slot. There are eleven spells for one mana and sixteen for two mana. That is 43% of the spells in the deck! There are only twelve total spells that cost five or more mana. This deck does things efficiently. That’s what I attribute its success to. No longer am I pondering whether to Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice before or after Parallel Lives. Instead I’m casting Parallel Lives as early as possible, then on the next turn casting Trostani Discordant and making four Soldier tokens. That is precisely why I chose Trostani Discordant over their prior form: Her less-restrictive mana cost is easier to cast, and she makes a great top-end payoff for all the supporting cards we want to cast earlier in the game.
Let’s Make Some Tokens
The tokens Trostani makes upon entering the battlefield are far from the only tokens we’re making in this deck. There are a ton of different token-generating options in Commander; I’ve sifted through them a ton of times, and I ultimately decided on the following rule: if it’s not at instant speed, it had better be really good. With that in mind, you might laugh at Call of the Conclave in this list, and I can’t say I blame you. For me, it’s a pet card that can generate a 3/3 for two mana. A few doubling effects might make it worth playing, but ultimately it could probably be cut if you were to take over this list. But other than that, here’s what I was able to decide on.
Raise the Alarm is a classic card. Two mana to make two bodies is a great value. This is a card that technically passes “the Lightning Bolt test” as it would require two bolts to remove both bodies, and it can be done at instant speed which lets us surprise our opponents when they are tapped out. In a game of Commander, making two 1/1s is nearly a laughable effect, but with our Commander and our token-doubling effects we’re going to have plenty of 2/2 bodies to throw around. Midnight Haunting is similar but instead gives us flying tokens (since we can’t run Lingering Souls in our colors) and Eyes in the Skies gives us another flier with the option to populate something scarier.
Those are baseline “measures” in the two to four mana slots. What else are we doing in those slots? Luminarch Ascension, once activated, is absolutely deadly. Promise of Bunrei turns the death of a single creature into four (or more) spirits! Voice of Resurgence, at the very least, makes a creature upon death that can scale up when we’re doing well. Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage has populate as an activated ability, which provides a lot of flexibility and is a good sink for any extra mana we have. Aura Mutation serves as removal for pesky enchantments and token generation at the same time. Advent of the Wurm continues the tradition Call of the Conclave set, creating more power and toughness than the amount of mana we spent on the spell.
For our mana sinks, we play March of the Multitudes and Secure the Wastes because both are instant speed and scale up to use all our mana. We can use them early in the game to establish ourselves, or wait until we’ve got a ton of mana to dump into them and overwhelm the battlefield. March of the Multitudes is even better if you have more creatures, thanks to convoke. Technically Dawn of Hope is a mana sink as well, since it can produce any number of 1/1s with lifelink, but for four mana each that card is used primarily for the card draw effect and we should only be making those tokens if we’re in a pinch.
As you can see, there’s plenty of ways to make tokens. We’ve already mentioned doubling them, so what else are we doing to optimize them?
Making 1/1 tokens can be underwhelming if we aren’t making a boat load of them. Instead of trying to go infinite or ramping into an absurdly large March of the Multitudes, we can instead make our 1/1s better. Trostani Discordant already has an anthem effect built into her; she gives all other creatures +1/+1. This makes the two 1/1 soldiers she creates into 2/2 soldiers. That is pretty good on its own, but if we spend a moment in the early game playing something like Gaea’s Anthem, our tokens will later thank us. Intangible Virtue is an incredible effect for our tokens. Giving them vigilance is not something that should be understated; having six or seven attacking bodies is much better in Commander when they can also block for us. Once we’ve gotten to the top end of our mana curve, Collective Blessing is a beautiful card to play. Giving our tokens +3/+3 permanently is amazing. Combine it with Trostani and you’re pumping out 5/5 bodies with little to no effort at all. I’ll quickly mention Song of Freyalise and Gavony Township here as well. These cards give us +1/+1 counters which aren’t technically anthem effects, but end up with similar results.
If you didn’t think of tokens when you heard me mention being a Selesnyan mage, then you probably thought of one of the other things Selesnya is known for: life gain. Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice has the ability to gain us life equal to the toughness of each creature that enters the battlefield under our control. That’s a nice effect on its own, but we should always ask ourselves: “what if it could be better?” Enter: Panharmonicon.
Panharmonicon is a wild card in this deck. Soul Warden and Soul’s Attendant are two of the best one-drops in our deck, and triggering them twice per creature is even better. Triggering Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice twice is even more ridiculous. If things are going correctly, we won’t be making 1/1 tokens: we’re making 2/2, 3/3 and 4/4 tokens. With the soul sisters, that makes no difference, but with Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice we get life equal to their toughness! And with Panharmonicon it’s twice that amount, per token. You’ll be above forty life at nearly all times, unless the table has decided you need to go now. I can only think of one thing to do with this.
When it comes to cards that state “you win the game,” there are only two that I play. The first is Helix Pinnacle, a card I play in my mono-green Yeva, Nature’s Herald deck (known as Green Meanies, likely to be featured in Mind over Commander in the future). The other is Felidar Sovereign. This cat beast just wants us to have 40 or more life; how convenient that in Commander we start at 40 life! Get that Serra Ascendant out of here! Felidar Sovereign lets us win simply for existing. And since we’re gaining a ton of life, staying above forty should be easy.
While we’re gaining all that life, why not amp up the ridiculousness to eleven? Archangel of Thune is absolutely stupid in this deck. Not only does each soul sister also trigger the archangel, but Trostani Discordant‘s tokens have lifelink! Talk about value! Archangel of Thune will take over the game the moment you play it. Expect immediate hate the second it comes into play.
Make them BETTER
Divine Visitation is one of my favorite cards that has been printed in the past five years. This card is busted. Any creature token becomes a Serra Angel. ANY CREATURE TOKEN. Raise the Alarm? Angels! Promise of Bunrei? Angels! Mycoloth? No, that one doesn’t work just kidding ANGELS. This card is wild and it rightfully sits at the top of our mana curve beside Trostani Discordant herself. With this card in hand, I have no issue deciding to play this first and then windmill slam Trostani Discordant on the next turn.
Mycoids and Miscellany
At the top end of our mana curve sit a few fun cards. Archangel of Thune and Divine Visitation were already covered in their respective categories, so let’s talk about some cards that don’t necessarily fit into a previous category but are still quite valuable in this deck.
I already hinted it at, but Mycoloth is really freaking good. It’s a card I almost never get to untap with; I’ve considered cutting him from my decks due to the fact that he receives such immediate hate, just like Archangel of Thune. I dream of the day I get to have a ten-counter upkeep while I control Divine Visitation.
Wurmcoil Engine is an iconic six mana creature that creates very valuable tokens upon death. We can double these with enchantments, and populate these tokens with our many populate effects. In this deck, Huatli, Radiant Champion can often be played, ticked up just once, and then create an emblem the very next turn for a permanent source of card draw. In a deck like this, we actually have to be careful not to draw ourselves to death with that emblem! To close out games, the classic Overwhelming Stampede will almost always get you a kill, or sometimes even multiple kills and a game win.
Lastly, we should briefly go over the other utility options in this deck. Classic spells like Wrath of God and Swords to Plowshares need no explanation: they’re the most efficient cards at what they do. Sylvan Library is the best card draw we can have in green, especially when we’re making a ton of life to spare. Harmonize is a great card draw spell, and I’ve already mentioned Dawn of Hope. Mentor of the Meek is a great card drawing creature early in the game, but he does lose effectiveness if we’ve gotten too many anthem effects out. Crush Contraband is basically a budget version of Return to Dust, plus its mana cost is less restrictive. Beast Within is universal removal, plus it can create a 3/3 beast for us if we’re ever in a pinch. I’ve never needed to do it before, but the fact that it is a possibility shouldn’t be ignored. Generous Gift could absolutely be included in this deck as well but I just haven’t picked up a copy yet.
The final card I want to mention is Chain of Acid. This deck as a whole doesn’t give much opportunity for politics. Sure, any removal spell allows for bargaining, but outside of the inherent politics of Commander there really isn’t any built into the deck. Chain of Acid is our one card that allows for bargains and politics. For four mana, we can destroy any noncreature permanent, but the person we targeted can copy the spell and continue this process. While it’s technically possible for this to result in everyone losing all their lands, most of the time it will be used to blow up a few pesky lands, artifacts, or enchantments that have been bothering the table. Revealing that you intend to cast this card acts as a great bargaining chip for stabilizing a game (preferably in your favor).
I absolutely love this deck. It embodies the strategies I love the most and is well-tuned enough to give most people a run for their money. It is one of the most well-thought-out decks I’ve ever built. If anything, I hope you’ve come to understand how to build a better Commander deck from this article. Understanding where your Commander fits into both your curve and the sequencing of spells is really what allowed this deck to become what it is. It’s more than just a deck enabled by its Commander: they exist in unison. That’s the Selesnyan way, but it’s also ironic considering the discord its Commander is in. Join me next time when I build Mirri, Cat Warrior curved-sword tribal.