Am I In The Right Block?: Drafting Four-Color Green In Onslaught

The two key components of the archetype are mana and explosive effects. This is very important to keep in mind during the draft, because some of the picks are not immediately identifiable. The basic premise behind the deck is to ramp mana quickly and cast large splashable or in-color threats. The deck has an extremely powerful late game, considering that you take Invokers higher and splash a lot of giant creatures – so if you get all of the tools, it is simply too powerful for regular two-color decks.

Well, it’s been a while. After the whole Boston ordeal, I was extremely upset and equally unsure about whether or not I would continue to play the game that I felt had screwed me over so badly for no discernable reason.

While I’m not sure I’ll ever know what actually happened that weekend, one thing I have realized in the meantime is that I love the game so much that I can’t just pick up and walk away. In fact, I’ve still been playing at almost the same frequency as before any of this ever happened. So since I’ve decided that I just can’t give up the game at this point, I see no reason that I shouldn’t be writing and sharing my strategy insights with the community. If you still have a problem with me, all I can say is get over it – because my position in the situation is certainly harder to deal with than anyone else’s, yet I’ve managed to put it behind me. I’m not here to talk about the past – so let’s get on with the strategy, shall we?

I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting lately, most notably dabbling in draft strategies that would normally be labeled as”Timmy, Power Gamer Magic.” Suffice to say, some of my decks have been downright silly. The type of drafting I am referring to reverberates back to the days of Invasion block limited. After numerous attempts, I feel that the three- and four-color green archetype is much more viable in this format than people are giving it credit for. The reason for this is that they haven’t tried it, so they don’t even consider it an option.

Let me clarify: I’m not talking about simply splashing those two Ascending Avens or Skirk Commandos in a Green/Black deck. The strategy I am going to outline is far different from any of the”normal” archetypes available in Onslaught Limited.

The two key components of the archetype are mana and explosive effects. This is very important to keep in mind during the draft, because some of the picks are not immediately identifiable. The basic premise behind the deck is to ramp mana quickly and cast large splashable or in-color threats. The deck has an extremely powerful late game, considering that you take Invokers higher and splash a lot of giant creatures – so if you get all of the tools, it is simply too powerful for regular two-color decks. I can’t stress enough that in order for this to work, you’ve gotta be getting at least a respectable signal of green from the guy feeding you, so that you’re guaranteed some good Legions green. The strategy can still work, as it has for me in a few drafts where the guy feeding me went green… But a lot of lucky things have to happen, and getting the Legions green is a big step in the right direction.

The overall goal of using this strategy is that the power level of your deck is two or three notches above everyone who is simply taking cards for their colors, and when it all comes together it really is a beautiful construction. The basic mechanics in Onslaught block are very receptive to this type of strategy. Morph makes splashing incredibly easy, especially when talking about creatures with powerful morph triggers or easy-to-splash morph costs (like Skittish Valesk). Also, maybe it’s just me, but I hate opening bombs that aren’t in my colors and having to pass them. This strategy lets you draft them as long as they’re not too color-intensive (like an off-color pitfighter, though sometimes even this is reasonable with Wirewood Channeler).

The easiest way to do this is probably to go through and list the core cards you should be looking for by category.

Mana Fixers

Explosive Vegetation

I realize it’s an uncommon. The fact of the matter is, you can still get your hands on one or more most of the time, since the other green drafters are taking good creatures over them. This card is single-handedly responsible for intriguing me enough to begin testing this archetype in the first place. Before Legions, the format was far too tempo-oriented to try something crazy like drafting four colors – and even though Onslaught Block drafts remain tempo-oriented, enough of a comfort zone has been created that this type of a deck can flourish.

Getting back to Veggies, the”Wirewood Elf, Vegetation” curve is the reason the deck exists in the first place, since Legions provides a huge number of mana sinks for such an incredible burst of mana so early in the game. When drafting this deck, take this card over anything that doesn’t read Gold-Plated Bomb on the label.

Wirewood Elf

The other half of”The Combo”, this guy is also crucial to ramping to the necessary mana level from which you can exploit your more powerful effects. I can’t recall losing a game where I’ve pulled the”turn 2 Elf, Turn 3 Vegetation” combo off. That statement alone is reflective of the need to draft these cards higher than normal.

A good example of this is actually from very recent memory. This past Tuesday during one of our weekly drafts at CMU, I was drafting this archetype and already had two Vegetations halfway into pack two. It was at that point that I was offered the pick of Snarling Undorak or Wirewood Elf. I took the Undorak, just like anyone else would do, without even giving it a second thought – and looking back on it, I am almost certain that it was incorrect.

This is the level of divergence that drafting in this mindset entails, as it possesses a completely different set of rules for you to follow during the draft. The majority of the decision-making should be made with regard to the status of your deck as a whole rather than mere card quality selections. I was lucky enough to pick up an Elf a few packs later, but I certainly would have rather had two to increase the likelihood of starting the game with a broken opening. In a nutshell, these top two cards are absolutely key to successful drafting of this archetype. If you can’t accept that and draft them accordingly, then don’t try this at home.

Wirewood Channeler

Another important justification for the existence of the archetype, the Channeler is almost on par with Veggies. As I said, the previous reasons for the emergence of this deck as a competitor in the draft metagame are the slowing down of the format and the addition of enough mana sinks to warrant building your deck in such a way that it is acceptable to dedicate so many slots to mana fixing purposes. The reason he is slightly worse than Veggies is simply because he can be easily killed (though most people let him live and suffer the consequences because he looks pretty harmless). However, the important thing here is that since he exists, he provides redundancy and gives you more chances to get the fixer/accelerator you need from the draft. If you don’t manage to get a Veggies, there’s always a chance you can pick one or more of these guys up – they work just as well, and sometimes even better. Unfortunately, there is no replacement for the Wirewood Elf, which just helps reinforce what I said earlier about drafting him appropriately when you know you’re going down this road.

Krosan Tusker

While not on the level of importance as the above three, this guy will still serve multiple purposes in your deck and is always worth having. His two main functions are very clear: He either finds a land in one of your splash colors while drawing a card, or he’s a seven-drop for you to power out after the combo. As I’m sure you all know by now from Block Constructed, seven is the magic number for Wire Elf/Veggies or Channeler. Since you’ll usually be running multiple seven-mana spells, the Tusker is nice because it fills more roles than just a fatty.

Birchlore Rangers

Usually a fine addition, as most of these decks have a number of Elves already, this guy is nothing to get excited about. Sometimes he will help you out of a color jam, though, and he morphs, so he’s always a fine addition.

Blood Celebrant

Excellent for those times when the toilet paper runs out and the supermarkets are all closed. (I had to put a bad joke in here somewhere; it’s only customary.)

Remember, the basis of the deck is fast mana via Wirewood Elf and Vegetation or Channeler, followed up by fatties or good mana sinks.

Mana Sinks / Good Splash Cards

Smokepew, Flamewave, Stonewood, Glintwing Invokers

It only makes sense that these guys should be drafted in number; you can reach eight mana on turn 5. You do the math. Personally, my favorite is the Smokepew, but I have splashed for the Flamewave and Glintwing on separate occasions. The Stonewood is also particularly nice because it is an Elf for tribal and is good regardless of whether you can activate it or not. These are pretty self-explanatory.

Echo Tracer, Skirk Marauder, Aphetto Exterminator, Willbender

Like I said earlier, sometimes you crack open your Legions booster and there’s nothing for you. These guys provide incredibly powerful effects that aren’t hard on your mana, and are well worth taking even if you aren’t already splashing their color. Another thing I tend to see is lots of late Echo Tracers because of a lack of blue drafters – at which point I scoop them all up and splash multiples, which makes it that much easier to do.

Ascending Aven, Mistform Seaswift

Good fliers are hard to come by for some color combinations – and if you don’t have some Gournas to stop opposing air forces, splashing either of these is very reasonable.

Skirk Commando

This goblin is at the peak of its game in this archetype, as nobody will ever suspect it. Players block with less frequency nowadays due to Legions, and they will block even less against a deck like this, making this guy a prime candidate for your deck.

Cruel Revival, Solar Blast, Shock, Lavamancer’s Skill

All excellent splashable removal spells; don’t even think twice about taking them. For revival, it helps if you include some morphing zombies that you can get back, the best of which is the Haunted Cadaver because it has the same type of effect Skirk Commando does and it is unexpected. As for the Skill, since I usually end up splashing some Echo Tracers or other wizards with morph, there’s really no reason not to run it.

Macetail Hystrodon, Searing Flesh, Primoc Escapee

One of my personal favorites, whenever I draft this deck I always have at least one of these guys in there, and usually two. The haste is absolutely nuts when he comes out on turn 4, and it’s very hard to overcome. Flesh is a good finisher in the deck and is also unexpected.

Crowd Favorites

The most recent addition to this list, I splashed two in the draft I mentioned earlier from this past Tuesday, and even had a third in the sideboard. They are good for obvious reasons, and even harder to stop than Macetail. If you can, include two plains for the double-tap; it matters much more than you’d think and you can search both up with Veggies anyway.

Obviously, this list is just the tip of the iceberg and things are coming off of the top of my head. Let’s put it this way: I haven’t even begun to mention the rares that I usually end up splashing – bombs like Quicksilver Dragon, Chromeshell Crab, Rockshard Elemental, Bane of the Living, and Exalted Angel are the most popular from the decks I’ve had so far. The sky is the limit; just draft your mana fixers and you should have no trouble finding gigantic things to make use of your mana.

I want to do a walkthrough of a draft where I draft this archetype, so I’m going to try to keep tabs on my drafts until I can successfully force it again. Then I can write up another article so you can see the odd picks that occur when assembling a deck of this variety.

One funny story I have regarding my best four-color green deck is multiple turn 5 infinite kills in Limited using Aggravated Assault. The combo was Turn 2 Wirewood Elf, Turn 3 Channeler, Turn 4 Timberwatch Elf, Aggravated Assault, Turn 5 another random Elf and you can generate infinite mana and use the Timberwatch to pump all of your guys into the ozone and then declare infinite attack steps. Fun stuff.

Until next time, feel free to drop me a line if you’d like more specifics and hopefully I can cover one of my own drafts of this type soon.

It’s good to be back. (And good to have ya – The Ferrett)

Nick Eisel

[email protected]