It Ain’t Easy Being Green

It’s probably safe to say that UW Control was the deck of the weekend, putting a bunch of players in the top eight of GP Dallas-Fort Worth and winning the SCG Standard Open. That means that, after the deck with maindeck green hate like Tidebinder Mage and the deck with a bunch of Doom Blades, we can now add the deck with a bunch of Supreme Verdicts to the top tier of decks that Green struggles to beat in this format.

It ain’t easy being green in this Standard metagame, but it is not hopeless either. In ninth place at the SCG Open in Oakland, we find this interesting Green deck:

[deck title= Junk Monsters by Trisha Thomas]

[Creatures]
4 Elvish Mystic
2 Fleecemane Lion
2 Scavenging Ooze
3 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Loxodon Smiter
2 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Desecration Demon
3 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Abrupt Decay
3 Doom Blade
3 Hero’s Downfall
2 Putrefy
2 Thoughtseize
[/Spells]
[Lands]
3 Forest
2 Swamp
4 Godless Shrine
3 Golgari Guildgate
3 Orzhov Guildgate
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Temple Garden
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Dark Betrayal
2 Devour Flesh
2 Golgari Charm
2 Selesnya Charm
2 Skylasher
2 Sin Collector
2 Mistcutter Hydra
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Employing a strategy similar to Rock decks— that is, disrupt your opponent with efficient removal and discard, then create card advantage with utility creatures and finish with some bigger dudes that you ramp into with a few mana dorks—Thomas took this deck almost into the elimination rounds, despite seemingly having some card availability issues. If you copy this deck, the Orzhov Guildgates should be replaced by Temple of Silences, unless you are planning Saruli Gatekeeper shenanigans against Mono Red (you really shouldn’t be).

Regarding the Rock strategy, this deck is a little light on the “create card advantage with utility creatures” aspect. Aside from Polukranos, it mostly creates virtual card advantage by stranding removal spells in the opponent’s hand with its hard-to-kill creatures. This is not a bad plan at all, but I’d probably push it a little further, as the Desecration Demons feel a bit out of place now.

Here’s what I would suggest:

[deck title= Junk Monsters by Jay Lansdaal]

[Creatures]
4 Elvish Mystic
2 Fleecemane Lion
2 Scavenging Ooze
3 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Loxodon Smiter
3 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Reaper of the Wilds
3 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
3 Abrupt Decay
2 Orzhov Charm
4 Hero’s Downfall
3 Thoughtseize
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Forest
2 Swamp
4 Godless Shrine
3 Golgari Guildgate
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Temple Garden
3 Temple of Silence
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Dark Betrayal
1 Thoughtseize
1 Devour Flesh
1 Golgari Charm
1 Selesnya Charm
2 Sin Collector
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
3 Mistcutter Hydra
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

The first thing I did was add more cards that fit the Rock plan, like Reaper of the Wilds. I also tried to move away from all the two- and three-ofs. This deck does not have many ways to smooth out its draws, so I’d rather make them more consistent than hope to draw the right card at the right time.

I moved the Obzedats to the sideboard, as I don’t think you can reliably cast them on time in this predominantly green, three-color deck. This will cost you against aggressive decks. Against control decks, this doesn’t matter as much, and you can bring them back in. This let me cut the Selesnya Guildgate for a Forest as well, helping you cast your Elvish Mystics on turn one more often.

I also switched up the removal spells. Doom Blade seems fairly poor right now, with the top decks with creatures in the format being Mono-Black and Mono-Blue. Blade would normally be fine against blue, but it is fairly important now to kill Nightveil Specter, which is black. Orzhov Charm kills everything, and you can actually cast it, but it comes at a cost. With a bunch of shockduals and Thoughtseizes, your lifetotal is pressured already, so I wouldn’t want too many. Ultimate Price is also an option. It doesn’t kill Nightveil Specter, but it does work against Mono-Black, and the extra Abrupt Decay helps take care of Boros Reckoners and Frostburn Weirds. Hero’s Downfall is simply the best removal spell in black right now, so I don’t see why you wouldn’t play four if you’ve got cheaper removal spells to cover for its only drawback, costing three.

Thoughtseize is also awesome, and I would not want to play a deck with this many black sources and not have the full four in my 75. To accommodate this and to make room for the Obzedats in the sideboard, I played with the numbers there as well: more copies of the effects I want often, less copies of the narrow effects.

Still, I’m not quite sure how well this deck holds up against Mono-Blue. Perhaps we should play something more hateful to be able to attack with green monsters again? Take a page out of the Hulk’s book and get really angry in able to smash some sea gods and wave masters? Take a look:

[deck title= Selesnya Monsters by Craig Wescoe]

[Creatures]
4 Experiment One
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Fleecemane Lion
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Banisher Priest
4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Mistcutter Hydra
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Last Breath
4 Selesnya Charm
4 Advent of the Wurm
[/Spells]
[Lands]
8 Forest
8 Plains
3 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Temple Garden
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Last Breath
1 Scavenging Ooze
4 Skylasher
4 Unflinching Courage
4 Boon Satyr
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

According to Wescoe, this deck “destroys” Mono-Blue. It sure looks like it was built to be a royal pain to play against if you’re on all-Islands, with eight protection from blue creatures in the 75. Last Breath is a very important role-player here, providing a removal spell that deals with problematic creatures like Pack Rat, Nightveil Specter, and Master of Waves, which otherwise might get out of hand. Banisher Priest helps a lot here too, taking care of the bigger threats, just like Selesnya Charm.

Otherwise, it’s a pretty straightforward GW deck, with efficient beaters and some combat tricks. I would like to fit one or two Rootborn Defenses or something into the sideboard to help with the Supreme Verdict matchup, but I don’t know what we can cut. It’s kind of sad we need four Skylashers in the board on top of four Mistcutters in the main, but a green mage has got to do what a green mage has got to do.

If we go back to the SCG Open results, we see another green deck, but this one did make the top eight: Kibler’s GB Aggro deck in the hands of Zacarias Milton. From what I’ve heard, Kibler has since moved away from the aggro aspect to a more midrange version of the deck, which looks like this one he played in an eight-man online:

[deck title= GB midrange by Brian Kibler]

[Creatures]
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Reaper of the Wilds
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Thoughtseize
3 Abrupt Decay
2 Devour Flesh
1 Golgari Charm
3 Hero’s Downfall
1 Putrefy
3 Read the Bones
2 Vraska the Unseen
1 Primeval Bounty
[/Spells]
[Lands]
8 Forest
4 Golgari Guildgate
2 Mutavault
4 Overgrown Tomb
7 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Dark Betrayal
2 Doom Blade
1 Golgari Charm
4 Mistcutter Hydra
3 Pack Rat
2 Ultimate Price
2 Underworld Connections
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Looking at this list, I start to wonder—are Reaper and Polukranos better than Desecration Demon and Grey Merchant of Asphodel? Are Scavenging Ooze and Sylvan Caryatid better than Pack Rat and Nightveil Specter?

This deck looks a lot like Mono Black, and it seems to play out similarly as well, but it has a worse manabase to be able to play some cards I’m not even sure are better than the black alternatives. Putrefy over Hero’s Downfall? What artifacts are we destroying? Elixir of Immortality? Hammer of Purphoros?

I do like Abrupt Decay, and I probably would play Polukranos over Desecration Demon if it didn’t ruin my manabase, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. See? It’s not easy being green…

Maybe, just maybe, we should build a better Green Devotion deck than the combo version we have available now, which was made popular by Mihara. You see, the combo deck has issues beating Mono-Black and Mono-Blue because you invest a lot of cards into getting a Polukranos or Garruk online, only to have it meet a Hero’s Downfall. You slam that Arbor Colossus, and they tap it down with a Tidebinder Mage. The deck is light on threats because of the large amount of mana guys and planeswalkers. Planeswalkers are often considered threats themselves, but when every deck has four Hero’s Downfall or four Detention Sphere, and even the blue decks have more creatures to attack your walkers with than you have available to block, maybe they are not that well positioned now.

Let’s try something different:

[deck title= Mono Green Devotion by Jay Lansdaal]

[Creatures]
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Experiment One
4 Kalonian Hydra
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Skylasher
3 Reverent Hunter
4 Witchstalker
3 Nylea, God of the Hunt
3 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Boon Satyr
2 Mistcutter Hydra
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Pit Fight
1 Bow of Nylea
1 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
[/Spells]
[Lands]
18 Forest
4 Mutavault
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
2 Ranger’s Guile
1 Pit Fight
2 Skylasher
1 Time to Feed
2 Nylea’s Disciple
2 Arbor Colossus
1 Boon Satyr
2 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
1 Mistcutter Hydra
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

This deck is built a lot more like the current Mono-Blue decks than like the combo deck with multiple Nykthos. Here, your payoff is getting a bunch of undercosted beaters in Nylea and Reverent Hunter, while also playing actual good creatures (like Scavenging Ooze and Polukranos) alongside hate-bears and hate-giants(?) (like Skylasher and Witchstalker). This at least sounds better than the creature base of Mono-Blue, which gets to play hits like Judge’s Familiar and Frostburn Weird alongside its hatebears.

The number of creatures you play tries to overload the removal spells black and control decks have access to. Almost every creature in this deck demands an answer, or it threatens to kill you fairly fast.

While Nylea might not be as good as Thassa, giving your other creatures trample is fairly good in this list too. Your creatures easily outclass anything other than Desecration Demons or opposing green creatures, so trample lets you get a lot of damage in.

After game one, you can even board in the extra Garruks and Nykthos if your opponent is not playing a removal-heavy deck, giving you the possibility to “go combo” as well. Perhaps a three Mutavault and two Nykthos split main is a good idea as well, so you can go up to three Nykthos after board.

Against Blue, you become a dedicated hate deck, with four Skylashers, four Witchstalkers and three Mistcutters that, together with the fight spells, should be able to punch through your opponent’s defenses while keeping them off of devotion for Thassa.

I hope you liked this look at a color that struggling a bit in Standard right now. There’s plenty that can be done with it still, and even though the metagame might look stale, new decks or variants on existing decks are still popping and doing well. (Just look at the WB Human aggro that the Channel Fireball crew brought to Dallas). Keep brewing and find that hidden gem!

Jay Lansdaal
iLansdaal on Twitter and MTGO

Late edit: I just noticed that Brian Kibler also built a deck like the Mono-Green Devotion deck and has videos of it up on StarCityGames. Noticeable differences are that he does not have Nylea or any planeswalkers. Instead, he has cards like Mutant’s Prey, which I didn’t even remember existed. He also has Plummets in the board, which could be a good idea if Nightveil Specter and Stormbreath Dragon turn out to be a problem.