Selvala, Heart of the Wilds

Posted in Card Preview on August 19, 2016

By Cassie LaBelle

Cassie LaBelle is a freelance writer. When she's not at her keyboard dreaming up stories, you can find her playing with his cats, listening to records, or building yet another Magic deck.

I fell in love with the color green while opening packs of Seventh Edition in my childhood bedroom.

A friend and I had decided to split a booster box, and we were taking turns ripping off the foil and pulling out stacks of brand-new cards. About halfway through, I opened a pack and excitedly flipped to the rare slot. Starting back at me was Thorn Elemental—the biggest creature I had ever seen.

My mind ran wild with possibilities. Nobody else I knew had a creature that large! Oh, sure, a Goblin enchanted with Firebreathing might get there eventually, but there was something satisfying about the idea of dropping a massive creature onto the table and making everybody else deal with it. The corners of that Thorn Elemental became dog-eared by frequent play long before I moved on to a slightly more competitive stage of my Magic-playing life.

There's an exploration and discovery aspect to green's flavor, and it really appeals to the part of me that got so excited when I first saw that Thorn Elemental. Winning games is nice, but if I'm playing green I'd prefer to do it while assembling as impressive a collection of creatures as possible.

This is not a desire that easily translates to card form, though, which is why I was so blown away the first time I got to see the preview card I'm about to show you. World, it's time to meet Selvala, Heart of the Wilds:

From a character perspective, Selvala is both interesting and unusual. She's a member of the Paliano high court, a beloved champion of the common people, and one of Brago's closest friends and allies. During Brago's reign, Selvala spent a lot of her time exploring the wilderness in search of interesting animals that she could bring back to the High City. When last we left her, she had been thrown in prison for killing Brago in an act of mercy. Grenzo released Selvala in hopes that she'd kill Muzzio for him, but she escaped into the wilderness instead.

Both artistically and mechanically, it is clear that Selvala has stayed true to her roots as an explorer. Taking a look at the illustration, I love the firm yet casual way that Selvala has placed her hand on the back of her wolf. She is clearly in control of the situation, but knowing that does nothing to diminish the power and ferocity of the wild animal. There's a fascinating, almost incongruous tension in her pose, and it's reinforced by the fact that she is hiking through an urban setting while dressed for a long journey through the wilderness. Tyler Jacobson did a stellar job on this piece—he's done some of my favorites over the past few years, including Rattleclaw Mystic, Tightening Coils, and the alternate version of Pia and Kiran Nalaar.

Both of Selvala's abilities do an excellent job of showcasing her values. When last we saw her, Selvala was a green-and-white-aligned card with a parley ability that rewarded her controller for each player with a nonland card on the top of their library. She may no longer have white in her casting cost, but Selvala is still interested in giving everyone at the table a fair shot. If your opponent plays the biggest creature, she will let them draw a card. She's an explorer, remember—fickle alliances don't matter to her as much as collaborative discovery.

Luckily, the best way to mitigate this downside is also the most fun. Play bigger creatures! While I don't have complete knowledge of Fioran biology, Selvala's home plane appears to be home to all manner of interesting creatures. Wolves, Elephants, Rhinos, Hydras, and Wurms all made an appearance in the last Conspiracy set. If you want to look beyond that, Selvala might also be a good way to give a tribal Beast deck some much-needed focus. Just be sure to speak in a gruff voice about each increasingly scary monster you've summoned from deep in the heart of the wilds.

Of course, Selvala's second ability gives you the flexibility to go exploring all over the color pie. As we learned from Worldknit (my favorite card in Magic: The Gathering—Conspiracy), Selvala is interested in traveling beyond the boundaries of green mana in her search for interesting creatures. Want to summon the biggest Krakens in the multiverse? Have an affinity for gigantic Dragons? Always hoped you'd be able to cast that Chromanticore someday? Selvala has you covered.

Selvala also helps you avoid the biggest pitfall that comes with any "giant creatures" strategy: the frustration that comes when all of them are stuck in your hand. There aren't very many cards in Magic that can produce as much mana as Selvala can, and even on an otherwise empty board she can tap for two to get you started. Once you've got a big creature on the board, Selvala can generate a ludicrous amount of mana all by herself. I doubt she'd appreciate being used to help summon an Eldrazi titan, but Autochthon Wurm and Krosan Cloudscraper are giant monsters that I bet she'd enjoy seeing. Just don't forget to play them in the correct order so that you can draw that extra card!

And that just scratches the surface of the many flavorful ways you can play with Selvala. She's an Elf, so you can play her with any number of her brethren—including, perhaps, a gigantic Heedless One. You can combine her with a lot of mana ramp to emphasize the geographical-exploration aspect of her personality. You can even stick her in a deck with Worldknit and a bunch of really wacky creatures, as long as your opponents are okay with using conspiracies in your playgroup.

No matter how you choose to play with Selvala, Heart of the Wilds, I hope she helps rekindle the excitement that you felt the first time you saw a properly huge creature. Now go forth and summon the biggest thing you can!

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