Pro Tour Phyrexia has come to an end, and after two days of Swiss rounds and the Top 8 games, Reid Duke became a champion of the event piloting a combo-control strategy that is intended to become more popular in the coming weeks, the Izzet Creativity.
However, the highlight of the tournament was the finalist, Benton Madsen , who not only reached the finals during his first participation in a Pro Tour - which he qualified through Magic Arena - as he did with an exemplary result in the draft and being the only undefeated player on the first day of the Swiss. And his deck for Pioneer strayed from the most famous archetypes, fitting almost into the off-meta category: Selesnya Auras .
Why Selesnya Aura was a good choice for Pro Tour?
Before we discuss the deck itself, it is important to understand the probabilities and causes of it taking Benton as far as he got in a high-level event like the Pro Tour.
After all, since Lurrus of the Dream-Den was banned, Auras has become an uncommon option for Pioneer, and despite receiving some fascinating supports over 2022, such as Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice And Generous Visitor, it was not enough to return to a Metagame for being too subject to disruption or too slow not to be ignored by more explosive decks.
What has changed then?
New Phyrexia: All Will be One Additions
The first point is that the allied manabase was quite bad prior to the second half of the past year, and gained two major additions with the Pain Lands and, especially, the Fast Lands in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, which allowed the deck to have faster plays without so many concessions at speed or life totals.
The second element that enabled Auras to resume its space was the launch of Audacity in The Brothers' War, functioning as a useful replacement and almost similar to Rancor - a staple for decks with similar strategy in other formats.
However, if there is a real reason for the return of the auras is that now Pioneer has a means of protection and recurring evasion in the form of a low-cost creature: Skrelv, Defector Mite literally does everything that the deck wishes, and as its ability does not offer protection , but a combination of words that acts as a pseudo-protection, but doesn't remove any auras attached, which turns it into an equivalent of what Mother of Runes is in other formats.
Skrelv, alone, can leverage not only Auras, but a dozen other archetypes that now have a one-drop with a recurring protection embedded to a body, And among the decks of this category - which include Heroic, Ensoul, etc. - Auras is the highest amount of "permanent power", making each turn that pass without the opponent winning the game or dealing with the threats you put on the board, be another turn where they risk losing the match on the way back.
An Unprepared Metagame
We cannot say that Auras was totally out of the radar, as it already showed some occasional results in the leagues and the first week of Challenges. However, it is remarkable that the Pro Tour Metagame and Sideboard choices were much more refined to play against attrition matches and avoid being run over by the Big Mana - a natural choice in a format where Rakdos Midrange and Mono Green Devotion are the best decks currently - and even punctual choices to deal with other famous strategies that require specific hates, such as Abzan Greasefang, were a bit neglected this weekend.
So, how could this Metagame behave against players who chose to play 'under' when these, in theory, would be too vulnerable due to the high number of removals present in the format? Benton's choice for Pro Tour answers this question by demonstrating that resilience and speed offset these when other archetypes are too concerned with attrition games.
Selesnya Auras has found the perfect timing between a powerful addition yet unknown as a Staple and a Metagame that didn't prepare enough to deal with a linear strategy that played under with an ever-growing threat every turn.
As its name implies, Selesnya Auras seeks to cast creatures and protect them, while using enchantments to turn them into threats. In other formats, this archetype has a good variety of creatures that have some form of embedded protection, such as hexproof .
However, in Pioneer, only Gladecover Scout protects itself on its own, the task of protecting the other creatures requires more slots than desired, and usually a black splash instead of green.
This has changed with Skrelv, Defector Mite - The Phyrexian insect has given Auras an enhanced version of Giver of Runes that not only guaranteed protection to creatures while remaining in play, but for not properly granting Protection, but Hexproof, gave some advantages compared to similar effects.
Now, without the need for access to black fof Kaya's Ghostform and with access to Gladecover Scout and Audacity in green, Selesnya Auras becomes the best available version of an archetype as old as Pioneer itself.
Gladecover Scout is one of the main historical one-drops of Auras and, on this list, is its main first-round play. A copy of it resolved means to be able to accumulate all your auras in it, as long as you guarantee ways of protecting yourself from sacrifice effects, such as Liliana of the Veil.
As already mentioned, Skrelv Defector Mite is the engine that allowed the rise of Auras and its other ideal first-turn play. In this case, not because you want to enchant it with your auras and attack, but because it ensures that your next drops will be alive, and they are essential to your game plan.
Generous Visitor is a threat that, with few auras, becomes too big very fast. Unfortunately, it is somewhat mediocre on its own and therefore does not deserve so many Maindeck slots unless you need to play in a faster and less interactive Metagame.
Their two-drops are the engines that enable the auras not to lose their breath: Sram, Senior Edificer is a staple since the main variants were still Orzhov or Mono White, and transforms the whole aura that you cast into a cantrip, enabling very long turns without a negative resources exchange from your hand. Sram tends to be the main target worthy protecting with Skrelv, Defector Mite.
Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice has given new air to the list since the release of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, as it allowed a small toolbox with specific auras for specific situations such as Kaya's Ghostform for protection, Hammerhand for an immediate impact on the board and Warbriar Blessing to deal with troublesome creatures.
In addition to them, we also have magic that guarantees a keywords soup: Audacity is the Rancor we have in Pioneer and performs its function wonderfully well, Sentinel's Eyes makes combat less punitive and can be recast from the graveyard, Cartouche of Solidarity guarantees another body to attack and block, and Gryff's Boon guarantees flying, almost always necessary to finish the game.
We also have a variety of one-ofs to b found with Light Paws, Hammerhand for an unexpected "combo-kill", Kaya's Ghostform to protect Light-Paws, Alpha Authority as an extra protection for the enchanted creature, Rune of Sustenance for Lifelink and Warbriar Blessing to deal with other creatures.
The manabase is also within the patterns for aggressive two color decks in Pioneer today, and the inclusion of Mana Confluence not only helps to increase consistency, but also allows us to cast some off-color Auras in case we draw them.
As in every list in which it is present, Jegantha, The Wellspring doesn't interact directly in absurd ways with Auras's strategy, but an extra creature and a powerful late-game sink without any deckbuilding concession, makes it a one decent option as a Companion.
Adanto Vanguard is a good option against Azorius Control and decks too focused on specific removal. Surviving Supreme Verdict makes it essential, as Sweepers are the most efficient way to deal with Gladecover Scout.
Extraction Specialist guarantees more attrition to Auras, using important creatures such as Skrelv, Defector Mite, Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice and Sram, Senior Edificer, and a 3/ 2 body with Lifelink performs some decent trades and/or becomes an easy clock with one or two enchantments.
Rest in Peace It is the standard answer to deal with graveyard archetypes such as Izzet Phoenix or Greasefang, and can guarantee some extra turns to its controller for the time your opponent wastes looking for a way to deal with it.
Portable Hole is a cheap and efficient method of dealing with small creatures and cleaning the path of possible blockers, as well as working against occasional hate pieces.
Boseiju, Who Endures has a variety of good targets in Pioneer today: Parhelion II, Enigmatic Incarnation, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Thespian's Stage and Manlands are just some of the many permanents it can deal with.
This is all for today.
Selesnya Auras will be a strategy that you can expect to see in Leagues and Challenges in the coming weeks until the Metagame adapts again, as it was just one of several changes that Pro Tour Phyrexia brought to Pioneer.
Thanks for reading!