Return of the (Feasting Troll) King

With the Zendikar Rising Championship, the current Standard format showcased a variety of decks that are the pillars of the current metagame. From the over 150 players, Scotland’s Brad Barclay emerged victorious, piloting control decks in both Standard and Historic. While he went undefeated with the underdog Azorius Control in Historic (my hero) he also put up an impressive x-0 record with Dimir Control in Standard. 

Top 8 Standard Results:
1 Dimir Control 
2 Gruul
1 Dimir Rogues
3 Mono Green Food
1 Esper Yorion 

Next, let’s look at the X-1 or better Standard decklists:
5 Gruul 
1 Mono Green Food
1 Dimir Rogues 

Finally let’s take a look at the metagame breakdown as a whole: 

There was definitely no shortage of Basic Forests at the Zendikar Rising Championship. While Gruul and Food are by no means the same deck, aggro and midrange respectively, they do share something in common: Lovestruck Beast and The Great Henge. Both decks utilize early ways to abuse slamming the nine mana artifact in play, aiming to bury the opponent in card advantage, as early as turn four. Worth noting overall, however, is how these decks and others fared against each other over both days of competition. 

Source: Twitter

This matchup matrix, courtesy of the amazing people at @MTG_Data, shows us some interesting insights about the Zendikar Rising Championship. The deck with the highest win percentage was Rogues, followed by Esper Doom Foretold, with Gruul trailing close behind. Mardu Foretold was the worst performing deck, and surprisingly, Mono Green Food came in with the second worst win percentage. It’s worth noting, however, that these numbers are also influenced by how many copies of the deck were played, as Food was almost twice as popular as Esper. Overall, this data might indicate a move in future weeks towards Dimir Rogues and Esper, with Gruul still taking its place as one of the top three most played archetypes in the metagame as a whole. What does this mean for Mono Green Food going forward? Before we answer that question, I first want to talk about this article’s main focus. You guessed it:

Feasting Troll King is probably my favorite non blue or white card in the current standard format, for a fitting number of reasons. First the card has strong inevitability, as it can withstand a wrath or trading with a creature in combat to only be reanimated as soon as it’s your turn. It has some of the highest states of creatures in standard, even larger than Elder Gargaroth at a similar mana cost. Vigilance makes it both an indomitable attacker and blocker. The card also pairs incredibly nicely with Witch’s Oven, Trail of Crumbs, Gilded Goose, and Castle Garenbrig. While I’ve been set on casting Shatter the Sky and Elspeth Conquers Death in standard, I inevitably keep losing to this monster of a card that is so resilient to multiple types of answers. Shattering a Feasting Troll King only for it to reanimate the following turn (and triggering Trail of Crumbs three times) is not an ideal exchange for any control mage. 

The only real constraint to Feasting Troll King is its mana cost; quadruple green is not the easiest to cast without Castle Garenbrig in play, so the card is locked into a base (mostly) green deck. The card’s quality is then constrained by the other 56 cards supporting it. While Feasting Troll King is not the end all, be all of standard creatures, it certainly is a powerful threat that’s a hallmark of the Mono Green Food deck, which has broken through as one of the current Standard’s powerhouse strategies.

While Mono Green Food is the premier Troll King strategy, I think it’s worth revisiting a previous deck that put the likes of Gruul in its place. 

Ondrej Stratsky piloted this list to the finals of the October ChannelFireball Pro Showdown, inevitably falling to LSV’s Dream Trawler-infested Azorious Yorion. Taking inspiration from the base of this list, focusing on Gilded Goose, Skyclave Apparition, Trail of Crumbs, and The Great Henge, we can adapt this deck to the metagame formed by the Zendikar Rising Championship. 

Here’s where I ended up: 

Selesnya Yorion is by no means a player in the current standard, but it has strong potential to be. The deck initially struggled with Dream Trawler in the earlier days of Standard, leaving Azorious Yorion to take its place in the spotlight, if only for a brief weekend or two. There are a few reasons why Selesnya Yorion may be the next midrange deck to come out on top in the current format. 

  1. Mono Green Food sucks vs Rogues – Rogues, you know, the best performing and third most played deck this past weekend? Mono Green gets the crap beaten out of it by Soaring Thought Thief apparently. However, with a little help from Glass Casket and Skyclave Apparition, you can deal with some of Rogues’ more pressing creatures, also preventing them from returning to the battlefield from an Agadeem’s Awakening or a Lurrus. Be sure to bring Chainweb Aracnir along to the fight and along with some milled Feasting Troll Kings, you’ll have tools at your disposal to return from your graveyard. While the matchup may not completely flip you in favor in the Rogues matchup, these changes will better prepare you. 
  2. Have you read Skyclave Apparition lately? – Skyclave Apparition is by far the best white card in Standard, and might be one of the best white creatures ever printed for that matter. Skyclave Apparition deals with a number of threats, from Brushfire Elementals, to Lovestruck Beasts, all the way to Doom Foretolds. Apparition steals them all. Apparition gives you a surefire way to take control of the board in the early game, and is live in pretty much every matchup except Dimir Control, unless you tag a Mazemind Tome or Solemn Simulacrum. 
  3. Lovestruck Beast – Circling back to one of my main observations at the start of this article, Lovestruck Beast is your key to windmill slamming a Great Henge as early as turn four. Henge and Beast by themselves are too good not to play, especially together. If you’re a base green deck in this format it just seems totally incorrect to build a deck without Henge, so you might as well pair it with its best friend. 
  4. Yorion, Sky Nomad – There are actually a substantial number of targets you can flicker with Yorion in this deck. The most obvious are Skyclave Apparition and Wicked Wolf, but things get really out of hand when you flicker an entire board with The Great Henge in play. Yorion is a huge tempo swing in any midrange creature matchup, allowing you to potentially steal away your opponent’s board while casually drawing a couple extra cards. Worst case scenario you refuel on food for your Trail of Crumbs or get an extra activation out of an Elspeth Conquers Death. 
  5. Feasting Troll King – The troll, the myth, the legend. Troll King being so powerful in the Mono Green Food decks makes it a new addition to the Selesnya variants. While I’ve talked about this card to great extent, it’s worth noting that it’s an additional card to reanimate in the face of rogues. It’s a powerhouse card that can end games on its own, and its synergy combined with Trail of Crumbs and Wicked Wolf make it a powerful new addition to this forgotten archetype. Although you can’t power out a Troll King as fast as you can in Mono Green Food, turn five being the quickest with the potential for turn 4, it felt like an easy include with Rogues being so popular. 

While these green midrange strategies might be weaker vs the likes of Temur Adventures and Dimir Control, with Gruul and Rogues putting up a 50% win percentage, we may see a decline in these strategies over the coming week. It’s worthy to note Barclay “winning” the Standard portion with Dimir Control (although the actual record was x-x) might lean players to play it regardless of how it stands in the metagame. 

Other than that Mazemind Tome, Vivien, and Garruk all pack a punch against the various control strategies, with cards like Shatter the Sky and Casket slotting in vs the Gruul decks. I also wanted to lean more on The Great Henge in this deck, which is why I included four Lovestruck Beast. This list isn’t as flashy as some of the original Selesnya Yorion decks, but it’s more focused on powering out threats as opposed to trying to string together the Charming Prince + Yorion loop or play less-impactful cards like Omen of the Sun or Llanowar Visionary, which can’t even block a Brushfire Elemental!

White also has access to a few cards that might prove useful in certain matchups.

Mono Green Food had a 27% win percentage this past weekend versus Temur decks. While there’s virtually no way to stop a Genesis Ultimatum from being cast, Containment Priest might be the clean answer to counter the best card from the Temur side. You’ll still have to Glass Casket, Apparition, and Elspeth Conquers Death your way through hardcast Edgewall Innkeeper and Terror of the Peaks, but Containment Priest can prevent some of the more powerful things that the Temur deck is capable of. It also might have some fringe benefits versus reanimated Feasting Troll Kings or creatures entering from opposing Yorion triggers. 

With Mono Green Food being so popular Heliod’s Intervention has a bevvy of targets, shutting off the engine of Trail of Crumbs or The Great Henge and can allow your Elspeth Conquers Death to freely conquer any opposing Feasting Troll Kings that may be seeking a timely escape through Witch’s Oven. 

With the recent results Feasting Troll King is without a doubt a dominant player in the current Standard. Going forward I’m sure Mono Green Food will still remain a solid deck choice. However, if you’re looking to adapt to the current metagame and find a deck that’s exceptional against the creature strategies, Selesnya Yorion might just be the deck for you. I won’t fault you for sticking to Basics Forests, however, just make sure you throw a couple Chainweb Aracnirs into your sideboard as an extra precaution. 

As always, cheers.