If I were Jamie Wakefield, Green would be the first color I evaluate. All fellow green mages can rejoice, because it looks like green will continue to be a serious force in Standard.
Harnessing the power of Judgment requires looking at cards that were printed earlier – simply adding Genesis to R/U/G Madness or Phantom Centaur to R/G isn’t enough. You need to literally reevaluate spoilers card-by-card and build new decks from the ground up. Of course, this process is quite time consuming. I write this article so that you can take a shortcut in weighing deck design options and the potential of new cards. Hopefully this will help you design stronger decks and get a better grasp of the changing environment.
Judgment presents all sorts of new challenges. As I mentioned in my last article, each color will need to find answers to new threats, or at least enlist the support of another color to provide answers. For reference, here are the potential aftershocks I see from Judgment.
1) Deadly Enchantments
2) Creatures that are difficult (or impossible) to destroy with damage
3) Punisher spells that may be Constructed-caliber
4) Incarnations wreaking havoc from within the graveyard
5) Quiet Roar.dec appearing all over the place
6) The rise of white/green
In an unknown or changing metagame, I want to play a deck that can deal with all of the above. Let’s see what green has to offer in countermeasures.
Nothing is worse than being stuck in a lock. Remember Stasis? Well, Solitary Confinement also breaks a basic rule of the game – namely, that you can target and deal damage to a player. Thanks to the popularity of countermagic and Upheaval in Standard, I doubt Confinement can be broken in Standard. However, I’m sure people will try, so here’s how to avoid having to jump across the table and punch a control freak in the face.
These little dorks can easily slip under counters. When there aren’t any tempting enchantments to target, the Lyrists at least attack for an unimpressive one point of damage. The real fun starts when you combine the Lyrists with Genesis for recursive enchantment removal.
G, Sorcery, Odyssey Common
Each player sacrifices an enchantment.
Maindecking this card can cost you, because it can easily become a dead draw. But it’s more reliable than the Lyrists because you don’t have to wait for it to become active.
G/W, Instant, Invasion Uncommon
Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn
Destroy target enchantment.
If you’re playing or splashing white (for Anurid Brushhopper, perhaps?), then this is the main-deck answer. The flexibility is pretty outrageous. It’s pinpoint enchantment removal, a boost to push creatures out of burn range, and with an unblocked attacker it’s like direct damage.
If you want to get greedy, go this route. It’s narrower in use, but it also punishes enchantment-toting mages more. If you have Glorious Anthem in play, things only get better.
2GG, Sorcery, 7th Edition Uncommon
Destroy target artifact, enchantment, or land.
Four mana is a pretty big investment in an environment where Wild Mongrel is running around and madness spells are flying all over the place… But the Mold’s ability to wipe out enchantments is just the beginning. It’s also great against Cabal Coffers and Nantuko Monastery.
But maybe you want to take a different approach – to keep you friends close and your enemies closer? What if you want to woo Solitary Confinement rather than hate it out of existence?
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Solitary Confinement:
1G, Enchantment, Invasion Uncommon
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may search your library for a basic land card, reveal that card, and put it into your hand. If you do, skip your draw step this turn and shuffle your library.
Alone, neither one of these spells is stellar. But giving up a draw phase that you already don’t have (thanks to Solitary Confinement’s drawback) is painless. The Sanctuary assures that you keep developing your mana base, which can be used to power Deployment to draw business spells from your thinned library. Of course, using Deployment requires creatures. But green can generate swarms of little guys better than any other color, so that shouldn’t be too big of a problem. Think Chatter of the Squirrel and Squirrel Nest. And what do you know? Genesis is green, too, so you can throw that in as well.
Stepping away from enchantments for a while, let’s enter the more familiar green realm of creatures.
Creatures We Shouldn’t Forget:
The most obvious way of coping with phantom creatures is to hit them with removal spells. Obviously, that means that Green does not have a direct method of coping with them. But there are many indirect solutions. One is to simply play fatter creatures and pound away; the classic swarm tactic is another option. Bear in mind that trample works against the phantom mechanic similarly to the way it does versus protection from green. You assign lethal damage to the phantom (which is prevented) and direct the rest at your opponent’s head.
1G, Creature – Kavu 2/2, Invasion Rare
Kicker 2G (You may pay an additional 2G as you play this spell.)
If you paid the kicker cost, Kavu Titan comes into play with three +1/+1 counters on it and has trample.
One of the most underrated green creatures around. Only two phantoms can stop a kicked Titan: Phantom Centaur and Sabertooth Nishoba. It’s the flexibility I love. The Titan is a fast drop versus control strategies and a fattie versus beatdown.
Playing it against bounce-happy decks like Tog is dangerous… But having three or four in the sideboard is ideal for showing beatdown decks what beatdown really means. The combination of monstrous size and trample shows all the phantoms except the Nishoba (which costs two more mana to cast) who is boss.
Roar of the Wurm
6G, Sorcery, Odyssey Uncommon
Put a 6/6 green Wurm creature token into play.
Flashback 3G (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)
The biggest creature to ever get cast from the graveyard is still very good – in fact, it’s even better thanks to Quiet Speculation and Anurid Brushhopper. But don’t forget Sylvan Safekeeper, either, which shores up the one greatest fear of Roar tokens: Aether Burst, and Repulse. The six toughness is perfect, since Phantom Centaur’s power is five.
And what about the new creature type in Judgment? How does green interact with it?
As if anyone has forgotten how good this card is. Judgment simply provides more fuel (flashback, threshold, and Incarnations) for this Hound.
GG, Sorcery, Torment Rare
As an additional cost to play Nostalgic Dreams, discard X cards from your hand. Return X target cards from your graveyard to your hand. Remove Nostalgic Dreams from the game.
Discarding Incarnations is as good – or possibly better – than casting them. So discarding them while putting the best cards in your graveyard back into your hand must be really good, right? Possibly. It’s something to think about. Just remember that drawing Nostalgic Dreams in your opening hand really sucks.
It’s not actually green, but the Gnomes are deserving of mention. They have been appearing lately in some spin-offs of Frog in a Blender that I’ve run into. While Judgment doesn’t feature any new madness spells, I envision a Fireless Fires deck that contains Wild Mongrel, Gnomes, and Anger. The Gnomes also provide an additional outlet for Rootwalla, Arrogant Wurm, and Roar of the Wurm.
But suppose Genesis is staring you down from the other side of the board…
Anti-Genesis (and Quiet Speculation) Tech:
If graveyard removal spells become very popular, you may need to protect your incarnations. Ground Seal does the job and replaces itself. A dead Genesis isn’t very impressive when it can’t target creatures in the graveyard. Unfortunately, the Seal affects your own graveyard, so plan accordingly.
Dwell on the Past
Target player shuffles up to four target cards from his or her graveyard into his or her library.
It’s ugly, but it works. Unless your opponent discards Genesis during your end step (which is, admittedly, very possible), you will always have a chance to Dwell it away before you start facing recursive threats. It may be card disadvantage, but it’s better than watching your opponent draw a card each turn and replay a creature of his or her choice from the graveyard.
Or imagine this: Your opponent casts Quiet Speculation on turn 2. You groan (just for effect) and watch as three Roar of the Wurms drop into the graveyard. Then you untap, Dwell, and shuffle the Wurms back to whence they came. But keep it quiet – this is super-secret sideboard tech (that’s why I’m posting it on the Internet).
Alright, let’s move on. I’ve been playtesting Quiet Speculation quite a bit and it’s pretty damn good; probably not broken, but still scary as hell. Now, I want to talk about a different Judgment threat, one that is more interesting and creative.
Fighting Versus the Punisher:
Zvi describes it as the mechanic that red has had to suffer throughout Odyssey block. In general, I agree. But the rogue has faith that Judgment twists on this concept may finally be viable.
Green doesn’t have hosers like Aegis of Honor and Harsh Judgment that turn the Punisher mechanic against its caster. Green should instead follow two strategies if the new Punisher spells prove themselves worthy of Constructed play:
First, green can simply win with better creatures, absorbing damage to counter punisher spells in order to preserve a strong board position (thinking in terms of Breaking Point). Red’s creatures can’t hold a candle to green’s, and cards like Call of the Herd allow you to easily recover from Breaking Point. Phantom Centaur is also a beating versus red. Even if you have to absorb five damage from Browbeat, attacking for five or more damage during your turn shouldn’t be difficult.
The other plan is to fight fire with fire. Combine Browbeat with efficient green creatures in a build akin to Jay Schneider’s Frog in a Blender.
All right, that’s all I want to say about Punisher. Although Wizards has pushed the mechanic up quite a bit in terms of power level, I am uncomfortable with a spell that can’t be relied on to generate the effect that you need the most. A smart opponent will always make the choice that leaves him or her in the best situation. Let’s move on to something I consider much more likely (primarily thanks to Anurid Brushhopper), the rise of white/green and how to fight it.
Damn, this card is underplayed… And it’s not as if the color of earth and nature has trouble generating nongreen mana. Judgment’s card pool will make Deed even more powerful, since it destroys enchantments as well as creatures (and artifacts too – but who uses those anymore?). Plus, keep in mind that popping the Deed for zero will still destroy tokens from the likes of Battle Screech to Roar of the Wurm.
What’s that you say? Deed usually nukes your own green creatures as well? That’s why you play several copies of Genesis.
1GW, Enchant Creature, Invasion Common
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has trample.
Whenever enchanted creature deals damage, you gain that much life.
Since white/green decks don’t bounce creatures, the Cloak is particularly effective. And your own phantoms are very attractive targets. I hear creatures that trample, shrug off damage, and gain you life while attacking are pretty good.
2GG, Creature – Centaur Horror
Trample. Threshold – Possessed Centaur gets +1/+1, is black, and has””2B, TAP: Destroy target green creature.” (You have threshold as long as seven or more cards are in your graveyard.)
Suddenly, this overlooked Horror from Torment seems like a very viable sideboard option. I’d only use one copy or two, since it’s the expensive half of Call of the Herd before threshold. Still, the Centaur Horror succeeds where burn spells fail, slaying Phantom Nomad/Centaur, Anurid Brushhopper, and Nantuko Monastery.
Hey, it’s direct damage for green – what more can you ask for? Hurricane handles three quality airborne threats that Judgment serves up: Suntail Hawk, Battle Screech, and Commander Eesha. Of course all those creatures have a toughness of one or four, which means that maybe Canopy Surge may be more efficient. Then again, Glorious Anthem can throw that math off entirely.
Putting it all together in deck form:
You can’t do mono green. The reason is simple. Green has worse creature removal and disruption than white. So green teams up with its ally, taking advantage of the best gold creatures and the little creature removal and disruption spells white has to offer:
4 Anurid Brushopper
2 Mystic Enforcer
The mana creatures (Birds and Elves) ensure that you can a Brushhopper on turn 2; they also accelerate you into Global Ruin while at the same time breaking its parity. Sylvan Safekeeper protects Roar of the Wurm or any other important creature. The combination of Phantom Centaur, Roar of the Wurm, and Mystic Enforcer provides you with ten creatures that hit really hard, and all of them are ludicrously undercosted.
You’re probably wondering where Call of the Herd is. The Centaur replaced it. Trust me on this one. It gives red and black mages fits and makes a much more attractive target for Armadillo Cloak (coming out of the sideboard). Plus, playing with eight token cards seems like asking for trouble versus bounce spells and Upheaval. Another must for the sideboard is Wax/Wane.
Similar to the dilemma with white, green is really hurting on disruption. However, I was happy to find so many hidden gems that coped with cards that appeared unstoppable at first. The applications of Dwell on the Past, Ground Seal, and Possessed Centaur especially surprised me.
The mono-green days of Stompy are still far off, but I’m reasonably certain that white/green decks based around Anurid Brushhopper and/or Sylvan Safekeeper will become viable. Thanks to the Brushhopper teaming up with Basking Rootwalla, green can now give Upheaval a solid fight.
Next time I’ll examine red – but I warn you right now that it’s going to be pretty disappointing. Just imagine red "coping" with enchantments, creatures that shrug off direct damage, turn 4 through 6 Roar of the Wurm, and Incarnations in the graveyard?