This entry is part 30 of 41 in the series In General

Grandpa (Eric)

By Eric, AKA Grandpa Growth

 

Hello and welcome back to “In General.” Over the last month we have been taking a tour through the Commander format, examining each color’s most important cards to identify key strengths and weaknesses. Once we can speak openly about the defining elements of a color, we can learn to how it shapes and influences our own personal Commander metagame. If you missed any of the earlier entries in the series you can catch up by clicking the links below.

White

Blue

Black

Red

 

This week we conclude the series by examining Green. Shoutout to this list on the blog “Commander Theory,”which is a great resource if you are looking for a concise listing of the most important cards in this color. It’s like a highlight reel for Green decks.

 

Green has by far the most diverse offerings of any color when it comes to excellent cards. If White can literally do everything, then Green can do most things, but always better…except Wrath. It is a copious cornucopia of awesome cards. Because of this, the article is going to go a bit longer than usual and I’ll only be giving brief treatment to many of these cards to conserve space and time. Let’s get to it.

 

Mana

Notable Cards: Noble Hierarch, Kodama’s Reach, Exploration

 

I had planned to make a series of “Yo momma mana” jokes here, but ain’t nobody got time fo dat. Green is the best at making mana in a variety of ways, some of which are better (read: more durable) than others. I’ve already talked about that extensively in other articles and I’m sure that I’ll talk about it again in the future, but to save space, I’ll leave it out here.

 

Strategically, having more mana means casting bigger spells and doing so more quickly. Spending more mana means doing more relevant things. This already puts Green at a huge advantage in most games; they can simply do more because they have more resources to work with. When you are up against a Green deck, expect to be behind. You need to disrupt their mana development as much as possible, but keep in mind that setting them back two or three mana is most likely going to leave you at parity. That’s a big game.

 

Try to attack the subtle sources of card advantage, the Cultivates and the Yavimaya Elders. Stopping those will really help put a ceiling on what the Green deck can do. It’s also important to be highly proactive and get to work quickly. Green decks can accelerate into the late game and you don’t want to left holding a knife in gunfight.

 

If you want to keep pace, you either need to ramp hard yourself or start treating mana creatures the way that Donald Trump treats immigrants: with barely contained hostility. Bolt every Bird. Strip Mine the Nykthoses. Nykthosi, Nykthosae? Jeez… I never thought that writing a weekly column about Magic would be easy, but I never thought that it would be this hard. [Editor’s note: the plural of “Nykthos” is “Nykthoi,” assuming Magic fantasy names follow standard Greek inflection for nouns ending in -os. Who said you don’t learn anything from Magic, huh?]

 

Fatties

Notable Card: Craterhoof Behemoth

 

This is where they are going with all that mana: to fat camp. You can probably remember losing a fair number of games to a giant Green creature. Hoofy, Gaea’s Revenge, maybe even Verdant Force if you go far enough back to Mark’s day. [Another Editor’s note: these were, in fact, the best days.] Green has the best creatures and more than a few of them fall at the top of the mana curve. The cards that make for great threats have potential for card advantage and are problematic to remove. So many awesome Green creatures fit this description that it’s pretty easy to build a deck full of only the choicest creature cards.

 

How do we fight this? Disruption. Even the mighty lion can get taken down by a thorn in his paw. A curve of Thoughtseize -> Grim Monolith -> Mind Twist is going to beat the vast majority of decks, Green included.

 

Restricted Tutors

Notable Cards: Tooth and Nail, Survival of the Fittest

 

Whether it’s grabbing extra lands, finding the right creature, or setting up for a combo finish, Green has fantastic access to its cards. If build it like you mean it, you can get 10+ high quality tutors into your Green deck. You can argue that games get a bit samey, but you can’t argue with results.

 

On defense, this is what worries me most about playing against Green. The right draw can put them back in the game with just one card. It’s tough to lock up games when your opponent can sack out and steal a win at any moment. The only solution for this is to be proactive, end the game as soon as possible, and try to have counterspell backup.

 

Disruption

Notable Cards: Plow Under, Stunted Growth, Loaming Shaman

 

“Whatchoo talkin’ bout Grandpa?! Green aint got no disruption.” Well, it might not have much, but what it does have is pretty brutal. Accelerating out a Plow Under on turn four and then using Eternal Witness to bring it back for a repeat offense is going to draw a concession from me 100% of the time. Green has ways to thwart counterspells, punish people for playing non-creature spells, remove graveyards, and even sidestep removal or discard. The key to using these cards effectively is that you must study your opponents’ decks and know what specific answers you need. People tend to overlook Green’s ability to be a meddling kid, because so many Green decks just use brute force. It doesn’t have to be that way. A dedicated Green mage can get your goat without playing any trolls.

 

Recursion

Notable Card: Eternal Witness

 

A man on a segue. Green has some truly beautiful graveyard interactions of its own. It doesn’t have the most direct recursion engines in the game, but it certainly has some of the best. This allows you to double up on playing your best cards. If you felt somehow you didn’t win by casting Tooth and Nail the first time, try, try again. As if that weren’t enough, Green recursion often comes with extra value attached; in this case a 2/1 Shaman. I can always find something to do with an extra body in play.

 

Noncreature Removal

Notable Card: Beast Within, Creeping Corrosion

 

Hide your artifacts, hide your enchantments, ‘cause they removing everybody out here. Green has the largest and most powerful suite of non-creature removal spells in the game. Feel free to flex this muscle all over your metagame and shut down decks that over-rely on artifact mana bases. Since Green really has the market cornered on mana production, that means just about everyone else is a target.

 

This is an area where Green can actually be exploited somewhat by the other colors. If you build yourself a durable deck that doesn’t offer anything juicy to be removed by a Green opponent, you can generate some virtual card advantage. Every excess piece of non-creature removal that an opponent draws, but can’t use, is dead. Keep a low artifact profile and you won’t have to worry about your having your mana base disrupted. You can effectively deny one of the color’s key strengths by simply not offering a target.

 

Creature Removal

Notable Card: Setessan Tactics

 

Green’s selection of creature removal is much less impressive. Green has a very tough time dealing with opposing threats and often can do nothing without a creature of its own to fight with. This is one of the biggest strategic problems with “fight” as a mechanic. It’s usually put on cards that have comparable mana costs with other removal spells, but they have additional inherent costs. “Some assembly is required” because you need a decent creature in play before you can cast your spell. This also exposes you to a loss in card advantage if an opponent can kill your creature out from under your own removal spell.

 

As a result of Green’s shallow collection of playable creature removal, I generally just assume that they will not be able to answer a threat on my side of the table. Afterall, they can only cast Beast Within so many times per game. We can also create virtual card advantage with our board sweepers by leaving fight spells stranded in the opponent’s hand and no creature of their own to fight with. This is a big part of the reason that you see Green used in combination with White or Black so often. Green has a broad selection of useful abilities that make it an excellent choice for a complimentary color.

 

Tokens

Notable Cards: Doubling Season, Avenger of Zendikar

 

Token/Swarm is one of the most popular strategies in Commander. Green is the natural home for this type of deck because all of the necessary support is native to the color: pump effects, anthems and overruns, mana accelerators, and of course token production. With the rare exception of effects like Eldrazi Monument, these decks are incredibly weak to Wrath effects. As I have said before, I can’t fully endorse any strategy that can’t effectively counter or ignore a Wrath. There are many surprise victories to be won by being able to deploy an Avenger of Zendikar and give your new army Haste, but unfortunately, the cards necessary to do this just don’t compete well in terms of power level. If you’re paying full price for your expensive spells or if you plan to win by attacking for incremental damage across multiple combat steps, you’re kind of bringing a knife to a gunfight in Commander.

 

Incremental Card Advantage

Notable Card: Sylvan Library

 

Green has the ability to draw a tremendous number of cards. It can easily rival Blue or Black in card advantage. However, these extra cards typically come in smaller bits. Drawing more than three cards at once in Green can get extremely expensive in terms of mana, as we will see in a moment, whereas smaller increments are much easier to come by. ETB triggers, enchantments with triggered draw effects, or explosively vegetating are all great ways to produce extra cards one by one. Often times, you don’t have to pay much of a surcharge to get extra value out of your Green cards. Yavimaya Elder is both a commonly played card and a power common because it represents a cheap three-for-one.

 

Late-Game Card Advantage

Notable Card: Genesis Wave

 

G-Wave rarely produces an instant win in the technical sense, but it does produce a huge number of instant wins in the practical sense. The ability to suddenly gain masses of card advantage is a surefire way to closeout a stalled game. Luckily, Green has a nice array of cards that fit this description, including Creeping Renaissance and Praetor’s Counsel. Now, I don’t casually recommend playing expensive sorceries, as that’s a pretty fast way to lose most games, but the application for these cards is just as an important a consideration as their power level. You can never truly count a Green deck out, knowing that they can topdeck a game changer like this and completely flip the table. Unfortunately for Green players, this type of card offers little protection from cheap counterspells. If your primary game plan and your late game haymaker are both hosed by counter magic, you should consider diversifying.

 

Utility Creatures

Notable Card: Seedborn Muse

 

This category is incredibly broad and diverse. The sheer number of great utility creatures that Green has to offer makes it difficult to give accurate generalizations of their typical abilities or usage. It could be the case that on any early turn, an opposing Green deck could be deploying a critically important piece of their strategic puzzle. Creatures like Fauna Shaman or Azusa, Lost but Seeking fundamentally alter the rules of the game for the player who controls them. Consider these cards an imminent threat, just as serious a traditional victory condition as a Titan. The ubiquity of these cheap and powerful creatures necessitates a certain level of removal in each of our decks. If your list is not well set up to deal with a multitude of early creatures, try Wrath of God. Keep in mind, though, that a delay of even one or two turns before terminating a utility can allow the opponent to accrue a significant advantage; you have to be able and willing to act immediately when the situation demands it. The game could hinge on your ability to remove a Priest of Titania before they get to tap it.  

 

Broken Nonsense

Notable Cards: Eureka, Fastbond, Channel

 

Most of the cards I mentioned right there are officially banned in Commander. If that makes you think the streets are safe from delinquent cards, think again. Green can easily rival Blue with its selection of rule bending cards and perversion of the mana curve. If you want to go infinite, you can do it. If you want to cheat huge things into play, you can do it! If you want to lock opponent(s) out, you can do that, too. You can even instantly kill multiple players. Now many playgroups will have various levels of restriction on these types of cards, but if you are in a competitive metagame, or you don’t know which side of the bed you just woke up on, emotionally prepare yourself to lose the game at any time. Remember though, you don’t always have to be on the receiving end of shenanigans. You can do it!

 

 

Dredgers

Notable Cards: Hermit Druid, Life from the Loam, Survival of the Fittest

 

One of those broken things that Green decks are pretty good at doing is turning half their deck over and putting it in the graveyard. In Commander, graveyard synergies are just as popular, if not more so, than token strategies. The best way to get after these decks is to stop them from setting up with various enablers. This can be quite challenging, though. First, you have to be able to accurately identify which cards are important in the match up. Are they playing Loam just as a high value mana fixer? That’s certainly powerful, but not what I would call oppressive. Another tricky bit is that all three of these cards I mentioned above work in very different ways. Survival can put a smaller number of high priority cards into the graveyard, while Hermit Druid could place dozens of cards into the bin all at once. You also need different types of answers to address them and, at best, any single card in Magic can only stop two out of three. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to any regular Commander player, but if you’re serious about disrupting your opponent, you need to have a way to stop graveyard synergies. Striking the proper balance is the most difficult part, because you won’t be able to accurately forecast what mix of creature, non-creature, or graveyard removal you’ll need unless you’re familiar with your opponent’s deck.

 

Overruns

Notable Card: Triumph of the Hordes

 

I’ve touched on this a bit in previous sections, so I’ll keep these comments brief. Overrun effects are an excellent way to steal wins on a locked board. As the Green deck, you should be able to establish and maintain a competitive board presence. As long as your opponent can’t interact with a spell on the stack, you can easily close out games with even just a handful of tokens in play. That line of thinking often ends up being a trap for many players, though. If your success in a game hinges on resolving a sorcery, you should prepare for disappointment. Waiting for an opponent to tap out or go hellbent will be a dangerous wager in competitive games.

 

Color Hosers

Notable Card: Choke

 

Nature can be one mean mother. It’s sometimes taboo to deploy targeted hate cards in a casual playgroup. It can also come at a high strategic cost in deckbuilding. Choke, as an example, is a must answer card against some Blue decks. Against other decks, even those which may also be Blue, it can be laughably ineffective. Even though Blue doesn’t have the ability to permanently deal with it once it’s in play, they can often ‘live with it’ if given sufficient time to prepare. Fetching different lands or prioritizing nonbasics to be played first can give the opponent enough mana to operate. It might hamstring them, but it won’t always be a death sentence. Hoser cards are best used when they are backed up by sufficient pressure. Luckily, it isn’t that hard for a Green deck to find a creature that they can deal damage with.

 

That was another long one, but we made it through to the end of another series. Share your thoughts in the comments below. What cards are most important in your Green decks? If you have any feedback on the series or ideas for future “In General” articles, I love to hear the community’s opinion.

 

-GG

“In General” is the place where I share my ideas on unconventional topics that are often only tangentially related to Magic. This column is a mixed bag where I collect and present ideas that don’t have a home anywhere else. If you want a column about strategy, psychology, design, economics, philosophy, internet culture, and referential humor, you have come to the right place.

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