Conditions Allow - Lena, Selfless Champion EDH

Ben Doolittle • June 1, 2021

Lena, Selfless Champion by Lucas Graciano

A Knight in Shining Armor

Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, the article series where I take a legendary creature with a drawback and try to turn it into a strength. Mono-white has had an interesting journey in Commander, often struggling to translate its strengths in 60-card formats to multiplayer. Nowhere else is that struggle more apparent than on Lena, Selfless Champion. So how can we go about building Lena EDH?

Lena, Selfless Champion sits in an interesting position. She feels like a token commander, but specifically wants you to have non-token creatures in play. More specifically, she wants you to have small creatures in play, to protect them with her sacrifice ability. With three opponents and a total of 120 life points to chew through, winning through combat damage seems unlikely. Additionally, if a board wipe does get through Lena, Selfless Champion, she doesn't rebuild on her own. You'll need a steady flow of cards to play creatures and keep pressure on our opponents.

Stronger Together

Let's start with that first problem. Any Elf or Merfolk tribal player knows that the way to win with 1/1 tokens and small utility creatures is Anthems. White has access to a number of creatures that give all your other creatures +1/+1. That specific wording is actually really important in this case. If Benalish Marshal gave all creatures you controlled +1/+1, then it would buff itself out of range of Lena, Selfless Champion's second ability. Because it only buffs other creatures, Lena will always have greater power, and therefore be able to protect your valuable lords.

White has access to plenty of non-creature anthems too, including the card type's namesake, Glorious Anthem. I'm going to stick to creatures, however. Lena, Selfless Champion wants us to have at least three or four creatures in play when we cast her. Playing Benalish Marshal, Kongming, Sleeping Dragon, and Angel of Invention on curve into Lena gives you a total of forty power on board, or thirty-four if you have to sacrifice Lena, Selfless Champion to prevent a board wipe.

It isn't all about power, though. Some of these lords have utility effects, like Angel of Jubilation slowing down Aristocrats decks, and Always Watching granting vigilance. My favorite is probably Celestial Crusader. Flash lets you use it as a combat trick, while split second gives you some ability to interact on the stack. Righteous Valkyrie is a new card that could point us to another popular set of creatures for mono-white.

Sisters In Battle

Soul Warden is a popular card across multiple formats. Just like in other formats, you can pair Soul Warden with Archangel of Thune and Heliod, Sun-Crowned to buff your creatures and quickly threaten to end the game. The extra life also provides a buffer against other aggressive decks, ensuring you can outlast your opponents in a game of attrition.

If the game goes that long, however, we'll need to protect our creatures with Lena, Selfless Champion's sacrifice ability multiple times. The +1/+1 counters from Archangel of Thune and even Serene Steward are key not just to dealing damage, but to avoiding re-casting Lena as well. Cauldron of Souls is usually used to protect whole battle fields, but we only need it to protect one creature. With Suture Priest or any other lifegain creature, in play the +1/+1 counter from Serene Steward negates the -1/-1 counter from persist, and lets you continually loop Lena, Selfless Champion to make tokens and protect your creatures. Just keep in mind that this won't protect Lena herself from a board wipe. Sacrifice her with Wrath of God on the stack and she'll re-enter play before it resolves.

That's where Together Forever and Sigil of the New Dawn come in. They won't return Lena to play directly, but paying six mana is better than paying eight, or ten. Sigil of the New Dawn also doesn't require you to have +1/+1 counters on your creatures, so it's much more flexible. That's also why Luminarch Aspirant makes the cut. It doesn't require you to have two other creatures in play, a Soul Warden and Archangel of Thune, to remove the -1/-1 counters from persist.

Monument Sisters

The core of this recursion strategy is Soul Warden, and other creatures with the same effect. To support it, we'll need plenty of other creatures to cast, to ensure we can always gain life when we need to. Thraben Inspector and Wall of Omens help us dig through our deck, while Giver of Runes provides protection against targeted exile effects, which Lena can't handle alone. Ranger of Eos is perfect, since it searches directly for your best creatures.

This is also the perfect place to play creatures you can cast multiple times. Whitemane Lion can return itself to your hand every time you cast it, letting you get as many enters-the-battlefield triggers as you have mana for. Whitemane Lion can also return other creatures to your hand, either to save them from removal or to re-buy a more valuable effect. Dust Elemental lets you have the best of both worlds, though. It can return itself and two other creatures, letting you continue to draw cards with Thraben Inspector, all while generating life with Soul's Attendant.

As long as we're casting creatures, we might as well get some additional value from it. Because of all the anthem effects in the deck, Mentor of the Meek can quickly stop drawing cards. Luckily, Bygone Bishop and Hazoret's Monument love seeing you cast and recast the same creature multiple times. Oketra's Monument even makes this cheaper, and produces tokens in case Lena, Selfless Champion ever becomes uncastable. The real backup commander of this deck, however, is God-Eternal Oketra. Her zombie warriors are naturally 4/4's, making them much more threatening in combat without any support.

Final Notes

In order to make sure Lena, Selfless Champion doesn't become uncastable, though, I'm going to include as much ramp as I can. Along with staple mana rocks like Mind Stone, I'm going to include less popular options like Ur-Golem's Eye as well. Having four mana spells that ramp you for two is powerful, especially since mono-white won't usually see a ton cards. You want each individual piece of ramp to produce as much mana as possible.

With a few extra pieces of card draw, Skullclamp on Lena, Selfless Champion is very good, this is the full decklist.

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I expected Lena, Selfless Champion to be difficult to build with, but I think there's a lot of potential in this deck. If you can regularly cast Lena at least once or twice, the tokens and anthem effects can definitely get the distance. The Whitemane Lion creatures provide the deck a ton of value by powering some of the best value engines available in mono-white, and being pseudo-card advantage on their own.

But what do you think? Is Lena, Selfless Champion an interesting commander, or just too expensive for what she does? Let me know if I overlooked any cards that have performed well for you in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.