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Governing the Guildless – The Selesnya Conclave
By Eric Turgeon
Coming Together

Three guilds down; seven guilds to go. The next stop on our little road trip around Ravnica brings us to a giant tree, home of the Selesnya. The Selesnyans are a guild of fellowship and unity. They believe in helping each other and strength in numbers. So now it’s time to see how many numbers they truly have. Let’s begin by taking a look at the cards already in the Conclave and trying to find the common bonds between them.

The biggest part of the Selesnya Conclave is unity. The word “conclave” itself means a meeting between people and the Selesnya show their unity by coming together quite often. Whether they’re meeting first thing in the morning or being bound by a single artifact, the unity of the Selesnya is their strongest suit and defines the guild more than anything else.

Although the Selesnyans have distinct soldiers and armies (we’ll get to those in a minute), they also stress the safety of their members and their lands. Cards like Centaur Safeguard and Guardian of Vhitu-Ghazi show how much value is put on protection, moreso than aggression. Even the common guild land is called a sanctuary.

Although the Golgari had the strongest link to farming, the Selesnya also touch on the practice. Many of their members are Saprolings, which appear to grow from plants. But unlike the Golgari, the Selesnya focus on the creation of new life, as opposed to the recycling of old life. For this reason, seeds are the focus of the guild’s cultivation and are mentioned on numerous guild-affiliated cards.

Finally, the Selesnya are a religious group. In Ravnica, they’re as close to a “good” religion as you’ll find, considering the Orzhov seem to be the only other religion in town. Numerous words, such as evangel, hierarch, and votary, have strong ties to religion, and therefore paint the Conclave more as a religion for its members as opposed to just a random group.

Now it’s time to figure out how to identify your average Selesnyan. The first and most obvious sign of a Conclave affiliation is the tree. The Selesnyans love their tree. They worship their tree. They live in their tree. As such, you’ll see the tree on their signet and anywhere it will fit on their armor.

Speaking of armor, before I started a careful examination of the Selesnya cards, I was under the impression that they mostly used wooden armor. After all, they use trees for everything else, so why not protect themselves with them? Actually, Selesnya soldiers use metal armor, just like most other guilds. In fact, they have some of the shiniest metal armor in Ravnica, but nothing specific that sets it apart from any other guild. To find the differences in Selesnyan armor, again, we’ll have to keep our eye on any trees that might appear on it.

Of course, not all Selesnyans are soldiers. These people usually fall into one of two fashion camps. The gentlemen of the guild will wear cloths with a prominent wooden look to them. The females, on the other hand prefer light, breezy attire. Most can be seen dressed in white, clingy fabrics that hang off their bodies, perhaps as a distraction for the males of the enemy guilds, who will no doubt be hoping for rain.

Another feature of Selesnyan attire is that of the crown. No guild soldiers actually wear a full helmet, preferring instead to wear crested crowns that wrap around their heads. I’m not sure if this is actually a good idea for head protection in combat, but it allows the Selesnyans to show off their long, luxurious hair.

So what sort of membership does the Conclave consist of? The bulk of the guild is humans, elves and centaurs, most of which are also soldiers or druids. Humans, of course, show up in all the guilds and elves in all the green guilds. Centaurs are divided between the Gruul and Selesnya and it’s pretty easy to tell the difference based on the last time they bathed.

Dryads are unique to the Selesnya and contribute quite a bit to the guild. Most dryad cards allude to them having higher positions in the guild, since the guild’s leadership consists entirely of dryads. Selesnyan dryads are always females and can be easily identified by their long, leafy hair and noticeable lack of clothing.

Two creatures that have a strong, yet less distinguished presence in the guild are wolves and pegasi. Both of these animals are used chiefly as mounts for other Selesnyans, but both appear in numerous Selesnya cards, fighting along with the rest of the guild.

In addition to wolves and pegasi, the Selesnya also use wurms in their armies. Almost all of the green guilds utilize wurms as well, but the Selesnya are the only ones who had the insight to armor their wurms. It’s hard to imagine how any giant, subterraneous creature could survive in the city without some shiny gold armor to protect its fragile body, whose only natural protection is giant plated scales. I supposed you can’t really argue with the results though, because that Selesnyan armor is what turns a crappy Battering Wurm into a trampling Siege Wurm and an untamed Streetbreaker Wurm into a giant freaking Autochtochtotthon Wurm. And no, I didn’t even bother trying to spell that correctly.

Although not a single creature in Ravnica has the creature type of saproling, we all know that these little guys make up the true numbers of the Selesnyan army. Cards like Pollenbright Wings, Selesnya Evangel, Selesnya Guildmage, Supply (of Supply // Demand), and Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree itself produce these critters in mass quantities. Other guilds use saprolings, too, but the Selesnyan ones are distinct in their crystalline bodies that are held together by viney strands.

Finally, the guild is rounded out by a host of less prominent creature types, such as elementals, elephants, spirits, and a plant hydra. These creatures won’t have a huge impact on guild numbers, but it’s important to know they’ve gotten their foot in the door, so it won’t seem like such a stretch when I decide to include twelve other plant hydras in the guild, as well. Not like that many exist, but you know what I mean.

Before we start sorting out the additional Selesnya membership, let’s take a look at the guild’s environment. All of the guild’s lands are very large structures, which embrace sunlight and incorporate nature heavily into their designs. The Selesnya Sanctuary and Temple Garden both also have a cathedral-like feel to them, revealing the guild’s leaning toward religious service.

Alright. Now let’s use all this knowledge to find out where some more unguilded cards belong!

Ivy Dancer and Dryad Sophisticate
I see no reason not to lump the two unguilded dryads in with all their fellow dryads. In addition to sharing a creature type, these ladies also share the trademark long leafy hair and noticeable lack of garments, with Ivy Dancer preferring the clingy white robe look, while Dryad Sophisticate goes for the more sophisticated skin-tight wooden bathing suit look. Both dryads are also adept at sneaking across certain lands, much like the dryads that make up the Chorus of the Conclave.

Dromad Purebred
What the hell is a dromad and why would anyone want one? I suppose, aside from being a great last pick in a draft, a dromad purebred is also a trusty beast of burden and clearly capable of protecting its master. Protection and safety are primary duties to the Selesnya. The flavor text quote from a Selesnya initiate is just the straw that breaks the dromad’s back.

Doubling Season
Everyone’s favorite combo card could fit in a lot of different guilds. Enhancing the Simic’s grafting or the Gruul’s bloodthirsting seem like great places to make use of a doubling season. And imagine how well it would work with a Witch-Maw Nephilim! But as the art on the card clearly shows, Doubling Season is intended to provide an additional growth spurt for the Selesnya’s saproling harvest.

Freewind Equenaut
Conclave Equenaut is clearly a member of the Selesnya, so it’s safe to assume her freewind sister hails from the same guild. Guilded Pegasus riders are only shown on a few cards and all of them Selesnya. Additionally, the Selesnya have the best archers, and don’t need to rely on those fancy-shmancy flaming weapons that the Boros embrace.

Storm Herd and Mistral Charger
Of course, if you’re going to mount an army of pegasi, you’re going to need a place to get them. Storm Herd may not have an official guild affiliation, but their existence clearly helps one guild and one guild alone. Naturally, if a pegasus strays from the herd, like Mistral Charger, it’s just that much easier to rein in and put to work.

Brace for Impact
I had a bit of trouble figuring out what was going on in the art of this card at first. There’s a loxodon, who’s got a hammer pulled back and ready to strike, so my first impression was that this is a first person point of view and the hand in the lower right corner belongs to the caster, who needs to brace for the impact of the incoming loxodon hammer. But upon closer inspection, you can see that the impact is happening already, between the blade of the viewer and the brace on the loxodon’s wrist. Therefore, the elephant is the one bracing for impact and from there, it’s easy to guild-sort the card. The bracing loxodon has a pretty clear Selesnya tree symbol, visible on his forehead, that plants him inside the guild.

Oathsworn Giant
Giants are typically associated with Boros or Gruul, so I was naturally inclined to place this card in the Boros camp. His ability of strengthening an army can logically be considered as a part of either the Boros or the Selesnya. The clue that led me to group him with the Selesnya was ultimately the art, depicting the giant walking a pet wolf. Watchwolf and Tolsimir show us that big wolves like that are exclusive to the Selesnya and therefore this giant must be a member for having a pet like that.

Hunted Lammasu
Do you remember my logic for putting Hunted Horror in the Dimir? Well, following the same reasoning, I’m putting Hunted Lammasu in the Selesnya. Being hunted by a black creature tells me that the guild of the Lammasu isn’t associated or allied with anything black and only the Selesnya fit that description.

Stone-Seeder Hierophant
A human druid could fit in with any green guild. However, nothing about this card leans anywhere near the general philosophies of the Golgari, Simic, or Gruul. That leaves the Selesnya to fight with the mysterious Cult of Yore for the rights to this awful card. It’s really a crapshoot at this point, but many cards associated with the Cult of Yore allude to the past and a time of greater simplicity. The hierophant doesn’t seem to care about that so much as she just cares about making things grow.

Festival of the Guildpact
Damage prevention can go onto any white card, and cantrips, although intuitively blue, are thrown onto all the colors. That leaves only the flavor of the card to determine the proper guild. Obviously, it’s a festival celebrating the signing of the guildpact. That means that only guild members would be excited about it. The Boros might stop fighting to avoid bad luck, but they wouldn’t show up to a festival instead. They’d probably hang out in their fortress, planning a battle for the next day. The Orzhov are highly unlikely to mix it up with all the common folk and the Azorius probably spend more time planning and making the rules of the festival than actually attending it. That leaves the Selesnya, who actually would enjoy a nonviolent celebration and festive gathering.

Withstand
This combat-oriented card could mechanically fit in well with the Boros or Selesnya, but the soldier depicted in the art is clearly affiliated with the Conclave. Notice the crown, instead of a helmet, and the smooth armor without any signs of the Boros star. Despite the quote by a Boros guildmage lauding the merits of a good defense, the action in this card clearly shows a Selesnyan soldier making use of the spell.

Predatory Focus
Don’t let cards like Withstand and Brace for Impact fool you into thinking that the Selesnyan army just gets the crap beaten out of it all day long. They are quite capable warriors and have a few tricks up their sleeves to lead a successful attack. One such attack is using Predatory Focus, which seems, by the name, to be something more akin to the Gruul. However, the art focuses on a Selesnyan soldier (notice the crown and long hair) focusing in on the task at hand and preparing a targeted kill.

Gatherer of Graces
Mechanically, there’s nothing that ties Auras to any particular guild, including the Selesnya. That leaves us with a human druid, who doesn’t have any signs that lean particularly in one direction or another. Well, maybe there’s one sign. The gatherer is holding a gnarled staff, very similar to other staffs that show up frequently in Selesnya art, such as the Selesnya Guildmage and Pollenbright Wings. That’s enough for me to group her with the green and white guild.

Blessing of the Nephilim
Obviously, being blessed by a nephilim helps a lot more if you’re part of a guild, a nephilim or a Transguild Courier. Nephilims don’t bless themselves and it seems obvious by the art, that a Courier is not the beneficiary of that particular blessing. The soldier look suggests that he’s either Boros or Selesnya. Flavorfully, I’m thinking that the Selesnya come a bit closer to standing by the nephilim ideology and therefore gain the benefit of a little ancient spirit help.

Leyline of the Meek
There’s only one guild that actually favors helping the less fortunate. It also happens to be the best guild at creating token creatures. Meek + Tokens = Selesnya.

Ursapine
The Gruul and Selesnya are the only two green guilds that have a strong inclination towards combat. Everything about Ursapine, from ability to flavor text, suggests that he’s a combat-friendly creature. The soldiers pictured certainly don’t resemble the sort of barbarians found in the Gruul, making it highly likely that Ursapine is helping to supply the spears for Selesnyan soldiers.

Celestial Ancient
Although I can’t really prove it, I feel that enchantresses would be a part of the Selesnya if they lived in Ravnica. Here, we have a white, flying spirit with an ability much like a Yavimaya enchantress, except that it benefits all creatures instead of just itself. That sounds pretty Selesnyan to me.

Sprouting Phytohydra
Aside from the Golgari, the Selesnyans are the best farmers in Ravnica. Cultivating a plant that’s very defensive in nature and has the ability to create an eternal supply of tokens also fit in with the themes of the guild. Being home to the only other Phytohydra in Ravnica seals the deal.

Sandsower, Nullmage Shepherd, andScion of the Wild
I saved these guys for last because they’re tough to explain. Flavorfully, none of the three cards belong with the Selesnya. The Sandsower should be unguilded; the Shepherd and Scion both favor the Cult of Yore. Even though looking at the cards, the first impression might seem like Selesnya, clues in the art and flavor text show that they really don’t fit in to the guild. So including them would be a slippery slope and allow us to tie, flavorfully, a lot of other cards from the Cult of Yore into the Selesnya. However, mechanically, the Selesnya link is undeniable. The Selesnyans thrive on having more creatures in play and each of these cards exploits the numbers that the Conclave is capable of producing. After reading the article, “Completing the Conclave” by Aaron Forsythe, it’s apparent that each of these cards were designed to be tools of the Selesnya. Since they’re all mentioned by name in the article and currently not assigned to another guild (unlike Veteran Armorer and Concerted Effort, which I refuse to move), I’m going to plop them in with the Selesnya and try to ignore the impact they have on the rest of my decisions.

Sword of the Paruns
If I’m going to group three cards with the Selesnya based solely on mechanic and disregarding flavor, I may as well add a fourth. The Sword wasn’t printed at the time of Aaron’s article, but mechanically, it fits in with the Selesnya as well as the previous three cards. Its ability to make an entire army of creatures better based on the state of one creature shows the type of unity only found with the Selesnya. The picture also depicts the smooth and shiny armor most commonly found on Selesnyan soldiers.

And that wraps up my analysis on the Selesnya Conclave. Hopefully, it won’t take me so long to analyze the next guild, as we move on to guildpact, starting with the most fun guild of them all!


References and other Helpful Websites:

Group Think by Mark Rosewater

Completing the Conclave by Aaron Forsythe

Selesnya Style Guide

Saproling Style Guide

Life in the Big City by Rei Nakazawa

Urban Flavor by Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar

Gatherer

Dictionary.com

Google

Read More Articles by Eric Turgeon!

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