Baloths Are Sneaky?

Whenever a new set comes out, a freakish occurrence spills into the Magic world. Players completely forget everything they knew before the metagame shifted. Or at least, it seems like writers live in that world, and the rest of us sit there wondering what’s going on. People discuss matchups that have already been discussed three or four hundred times before. I haven’t yet seen a name for this phenomenon, but I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar with it. Hopefully, I can avoid that. I am going to talk about a previously known archetype that never pushed above tier 2 in the previous format, but it’s been changed by Darksteel enough that it’s reasonably interesting.

Whenever a new set comes out, a freakish occurrence spills into the Magic world.

Players completely forget everything they knew before the metagame shifted. Or at least, it seems like writers live in that world and the rest of us sit there wondering what’s going on. People discuss matchups that have already been discussed three or four hundred times before. I haven’t yet seen a name for this phenomenon, but I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar with it. This is a conspiracy unleashed on you to make you read articles that had no work whatsoever put into them.

Hopefully, I won’t get too much into that. I am going to talk about a previously known archetype that never pushed above tier 2 in the previous format, but it’s been changed by Darksteel enough that the discussion should remain reasonably interesting.

This deck is Green/White Control.

You may now exit the building if there is no way you can be swayed to read about why Green/White Control, hereby shortened to GWC, is viable, improved or worth playing whatsoever. For everyone else, I’ll try to argue why you should consider this decklist.

Basically, Green offers many of the things White is lacking. White, as a control color, is pretty solid right now. It has a lot of the cards that player want to have. So what does Green offer? Well, it gives three primary, solid bonuses to a White Control deck.

The first is Rampant Growth, which acts as mana fixing for those pesky double symbols in a two-color deck, and acceleration. Have you noticed that Standard is pretty quick nowadays? Here’s a simple question for you: What’s better than an Akroma’s Vengeance on turn five against Ravager Affinity?

You can guess the answer. It’s quite possible to do it on turn 4 with some consistency, which makes that alone a pretty nice bonus.

The second is artifact removal. You might have remembered how Disenchant was ungraciously and needlessly stolen from White during one of the Color pie swapfests back in the day. Think about how many decks Disenchant would be dead against right now, in the maindeck. The list isn’t that long. Almost every deck has at least a few targets for Disenchant. Disenchant is dead. Long live Naturalize.

The third and final bonus is the ability to generate creatures who give you life at a cheap cost. While Exalted Angel is groovy and Staunch Defenders are cool, Pulse of the Tangle and Ravenous Baloth form a tagteam of endless blocking and life gain, assuming your opponent has the ill luck of having three creatures on the table, at a slightly more compelling cost of three mana and four, instead of five and six.

And seven eight nine. Sorry. I feel silly writing down numbers like that; you probably felt silly reading them.

Now think about how all three of those concepts apply when facing a Ravager Affinity matchup. Yeah, probably sounds either pretty decent or really good. You tell me.

Now, there are also things I don’t want to put in a GWC deck.

First and foremost is Troll Ascetic. I don’t know why people put this guy in their White control decks. Pulse of the Tangle appeals to me because it produces Beast tokens then return the card to my hand, Troll Ascetic sits on the board and cries”Please Master, don’t Wrath me!” And no, the Worship combo isn’t even that good. It might help you beat Goblins in an aggro deck, but in a match where your opponent gets some time to Skullclamp, it’s just going to lead to him casting Tendrils of Agony or Flamebreak. Then your Troll is dead and soon so shall you. Against every single other Aggro matchup, it’s usually bad.

Even White Weenie.

This does not compel me to run that combo in a control deck.

By the way, if you ever do run the Troll / Worship combo, please don’t talk about how you can’t use Windswept Heaths once you’re at one. Sure, it can be a bit finicky, but the simple process of gaining life then sacking the Heath works quite nicely. Try it sometime. If your opponent tries to respond, obtain flashcards explaining the interaction between the stack and paying costs.

Don’t respond to the Renewed Faith by snapping the fetchland though. Please.

Second is Story Circle. I don’t generally want to put Story Circle in any deck, barring maybe some versions of MWC (for the Circle’s ability to shut some decks down). But half the time, I think to myself,”Self, why am I paying WWW to prevent four damage, when I could just gain four off Pulse of the Fields?” It’s a fine card, but it’s probably just not worth it. Oh yeah and it’s totally dead against Ravager Affinity compared to Pulse of the Fields, which is just awesome. Pulse of the Fields isn’t in my GWC deck. Oh, never mind me.

Crazy man comparing cards here people. Move along.

The last is Mirrodin’s Core. I wanted to mention this one because it’s been discussed elsewhere. Mirrodin’s Core is a very interesting land. It also varies from being very good to very bad, depending heavily on the deck you’re looking to play it in. In many control decks, the second color forms a splash and isn’t utilized every turn. In GWC, you expect to tap out a great deal and won’t get time to charge up the Core until later on in the game, when its ability becomes slightly obsolete based on simply drawing lands. The deck has lots of turn 2, turn 3 and turn 4 action. Mirrodin’s Core, nifty as it may be, doesn’t quite cut it hereabouts.

Now, some cards on the other hand have nicely rising stock.

One of these cards is Ravenous Baloth. While the best of beasts has fallen on hard times as of late, he’s a friendly pick nowadays. He’s not particularly special against Goblin-Bidding and is only of average strength for his slot against control decks, but he is pretty damn nice versus Ravager Affinity. Block and trade with Myr Enforcer, gain four life. It’s like trading with an Enforcer and a Shrapnel Blast. Life is good.

It’s true that it can’t always trade with the Enforcer, but it’s very good in that match up. And that is one of the matchups pure White control is hurting against.

Another star is Exalted Angel. Gone are the days where flipping a turn 4 Exalted Angel is unbridled savagery, but she is still certainly a very nice card. Still pretty weak against other control decks, we forgive her because again, she’s good against Ravager Affinity, very good against random aggro decks, and solid against Goblin-Bidding.

The most important, however, is Naturalize. There are very few matchups nowadays where Naturalize is a dead card. Against any Aggro deck, they will possess at least a set of Skullclamps. Do you want to remove Skullclamp? Yes, yes you do. That is something you desire doing. Against Ravager Affinity, White Weenie and Slide decks, you will see a wealth of quality targets to make one with the greeny mossy goo of the Forest. Ever had a Ravager deck decide it would be a smart thing to sack a bunch of artifacts, then move it’s counters onto an attacking thopter in the hopes they’ll slip fatal damage through?

Ever seen the look on the opposing player’s fast when in game 1 of the match you blow that Ornithopter right out of the sky? It’s classic. Granted, you probably never will, since it seems likely we’re entering a season that involves maindecking artifact removal.

Alright, I’ve spent enough time harping on about why you should give this deck a serious look.

4 Ravenous Baloth

4 Exalted Angel

3 Eternal Dragon

4 Rampant Growth

3 Naturalize

3 Pulse of the Tangle

4 Wrath of God

4 Akroma’s Vengeance

4 Decree of Justice

2 Renewed Faith

4 Elfhame Palace

4 Windswept Heath

3 Temple of the False God

7 Plains

6 Forest

There’s a lot to be said about the variability of this deck list. That’s my personal preference, although a friend of mine, Justin Casier, put it together and was pretty happy with the following list.

4 Ravenous Baloth

3 Exalted Angel

3 Eternal Dragon

3 Solemn Simulacrum

4 Rampant Growth

4 Naturalize

3 Pulse of the Tangle

3 Pulse of the Field

4 Wrath of God

3 Akroma’s Vengeance

3 Decree of Justice

3 Elfhame Palace

4 Windswept Heath

8 Plains

8 Forest

Justin prefers the Pulse of the Fields to just the Exalted Angel and Ravenous Baloth for lifegain, but did insist that version of the deck was put together to be more anti-aggro than he’d like in a general field. It’s debatable which exact direction the deck should take, of course. I’m not going to argue with him.

My sideboard right now looks something like this:

2 Ivory Mask

3 Scrabbling Claws

4 Mindslaver

1 Naturalize

1 Oxidize

3 Circle of Protection: Red

I don’t like this sideboard and we’re still working on it.

You may notice I’m refraining from busting out the mad Damping Matrix”Tech.” With players running maindeck artifact removal and even more in the sideboard, Damping Matrix looks to be an ill-fitting response to the metagame. If the Damping Matrix comes down only to be removed, it doesn’t seem to get you anywhere – it cost you a turn and it will probably cost them less than a turn’s worth of mana to remove it.

You might disagree, at which point you can sub out the Ivory Masks for the Matrices. Don’t post in the forums you think I’m wrong, if you think you’re right, just go with your feeling. It’s a shaky decision either way – those Goblin-Bidding lists maindecking artifact removal make me leery of dropping the Damping Matrix down. That’s a choice you’re going to have to make. Ivory Mask covers you from Shrapnel Blast, Goblin Sharpshooter, Siege-Gang Commander and Disciple of the Vault. Damping Matrix deactivates the Shooter and the Gang while taking out Skullclamp and Ravager as well. Your pick. Skullclamp isn’t quite as much of a hassle when you have maindeck Naturalizes and the freedom to Akroma’s Vengeance on turn 4.

With Roland Bode’s version of Affinity maindecking Naturalize already this early in the season, it may well be that both Ivory Mask and Damping Matrix have already been outmoded by the evolution of the Ravager Affinity decklist. If people move away from Artifact removal, we may end up on better terms with Damping Matrix.

Bode Affinity

4 Arcbound Ravager

4 Arcbound Worker

4 Disciple of the Vault

4 Frogmite

4 Myr Enforcer

4 Naturalize

4 Pyrite Spellbomb

4 Shrapnel Blast

4 Skullclamp

2 Talisman of Impulse

2 Talisman of Indulgence

2 Welding Jar

3 Blinkmoth Nexus

2 Darksteel Citadel

3 Glimmervoid

4 Great Furnace

3 Tree of Tales

3 Vault of Whispers


4 Electrostatic Bolt

3 Phyrexian Arena

4 Pyroclasm

4 Stabilizer

Ivory Mask can go in against control decks as well, of course. If I was running Oblivion Stone, I might feel that Gilded Light would be better in the Goblin Bidding match up, since it can buy you a turn unhindered by Goblin Sharpshooter via responding to the Patriarch’s Bidding. I just don’t have slots for that, though. This is one of those decks where I wish I had a twenty card sideboard instead of fifteen.

Would you believe I’ve been considering Reap and Sow for the sideboard against control decks? In this format, people are running fewer and fewer acceleration lands (Urzatron, Posts, Temple), which tend to be the key to control on control matchups. For six mana, you can knock off one of their important lands while going for one of yours. In some situations, that’s stronger than Plow Under, since it permanently puts you ahead on mana advantage, while maintaining the same card advantage.

TwelvePost has shown me the way! Actually, I don’t think it has anything to actually do with TwelvePost.

If you want to maindeck Damping Matrix, you should probably just cut the three Pulse of the Tangle and go with them. It’s your pick! I will not argue with your Magic knowledge, since I do not feel there is currently a more compelling argument possible than fear of maindeck artifact removal, and that argument might be resolved by the time North American Regionals comes around! Let’s get wacky!

Anyway, the match up information… should probably get to that… I hate this part.

Ravager Affinity

Stated calmly, I am completely baffled watching this matchup. Originally I built the deck with the hope it should have a solid game against Ravager Affinity and Goblin Bidding, but it seems to have kinda gone the wrong way, with what appears in testing to be a rather favorable matchup against Ravager Affinity and not-so-good against Goblin-Bidding.

I can’t really explain the matchup in much detail because there isn’t much to say. You want to Naturalize Skullclamps, cast Akroma’s Vengeance early and often, and keep your life total relatively high. The game will usually go into the mid-to-late game if you win, where you will eventually prevail by beating them upside the face with an Exalted Angel or a pair of angel tokens.

Keeping your life up is important, since you want the freedom to cast Akroma’s Vengeance while Disciple of the Vault is on the table. You should not expect the Akroma’s Vengeance to win you the game – it doesn’t do that against Ravager Affinity, especially with versions floating around that have maindeck Welding Jars on top of the dreaded Darksteel Citadel. Look at it like a Plow Under, if you will. A very good Plow Under. Do you hate Plow Under because it doesn’t remove all of your opponent’s lands?

After sideboarding, you should bring in the Masks, which slows your opponent down greatly and makes two of their best cards dead, as well as the Oxidize and the Naturalize. Justin swears by Viridian Shaman, as it”takes out a Myr Enforcer and then a Frogmite,” but I find it cumbersome, as it can’t nail Blinkmoth Nexus with mass counters. That, of course, depends on the version of Ravager that rises to the top.

The match up is in your favor game 1 and game 2/2. This I’ve seen with my own eyes in a lot of matches, which immediately baffles me, given how much praise and worship people give to Ravager Affinity.

Goblin Bidding

My secret hope was that this match up could be made good by hammering away at lifegain and putting in anti-aggro cards. The problem is, Goblin Bidding is an Aggro-Combo deck. You don’t have too much trouble with the Aggro side of the deck, but the Combo side is more or less impossible for the deck to deal with. Patriarch’s Bidding isn’t hard for them to resolve and when it does, it usually ends game 1. You can win game 1, however, by simply having a decent amount of life when Bidding resolves and putting them on a fast enough clock. Bear in mind that you’re almost the Aggro deck in this matchup, so you have to put a lot of pressure on them to win it.

Naturalize Skullclamps blah blah.

An associate of mine swears by boarding in Mindslaver or keeping them maindeck in this matchup, since it can let you pick out a Bidding from their hand and bring back creatures from your graveyard. It’s also been discussed that Blinding Angel might actually be great in this matchup, since you could lock down their ability to attack, which will give you time to Wrath away their time. That works nicely if Ivory Mask is down, but Angel is pretty easy to kill with a Siege-Gang Commander.

Post boarding, the matchup still seems to remain in Goblin Bidding’s favor, but it isn’t quite as bad. If you get an early Claws mixed with a Mask, you can often bring down the amount of Goblins they bring back enough that Circle of Protection: Red will still work. Yeah, that’s a pretty limp game plan overall. It’s hard to really say, since while I win games against G-Bidding, I can’t put my finger on the best plan just yet.

Astral Slide

Pulse of the Tangle is pretty bad hereabouts, but everything else is fairly solid. Maindeck Naturalize means their best cards are victimized by what you can do, and your game plan improves game 1. Simply beat them up with creatures and hopefully you’ll be alright. Game 1 will usually go long unless it spills completely in one player’s favor.

After boarding bring in the last Naturalize (if it’s not already maindeck, which perhaps it should be) and windmill slam down those Mindslavers. Take out the Pulse of the Tangle and the Renewed Faith. If you want, you can bring in Ivory Mask, which turns off every Lightning Rift they’ve got until they go about removing it. I don’t feel personally great about that plan, but it might work against some opponents. Astral Slide is more the problem since it’s harder to get damage through when they keep sliding out your men.

It’s a little in your favor game 1 and then more so for game 2. Try to keep in mind they tend to have Obliterate, so once you have a reasonable amount of mana, try to keep one or two lands back in your hand so it doesn’t completely wreck you. Since GWC tends to search out a lot of its lands, this can be problematic.

Other W/x Control

As you are less than a pure control deck, even more so than Slide, you’re in a bad situation when facing down other control decks. Though initially you’ll accelerate out more mana, you lack long-term development in line with Cloudpost and so forth. This puts you at a disadvantage, especially since Naturalize can be completely dead in this matchup.

I am not altogether sure how good Mono-White and UWC remain in the modern format, though they do seem to be dying down. With that in mind it’s relatively safe to play this deck, but you will usually be at something of a disadvantage, especially against UWC, which has more anti-control cards than any other archetype.

The main suggestion is to understand you’re the Aggro deck, try to keep your threats steady, and hopefully you’ll manage to bring them down enough that a big, early soldier swamping will finish them off. It’s a harder matchup than I’d like, though, especially if they’re running Pulse of the Fields. Against Pulse, you end up having to mana burn, but this can be risky if they get a ton of early mana.

If those decks become a bigger part of the metagame for some bizarre reason, one should avoid GWC and go with a stronger anti-control deck.

Other Matchups

It’s hard to get really conclusive results for the various decks out there beyond these. There’s no uniformity to White Weenie decks, or Mono-Black decks from aggro-zombies to pure control MBC. Posting results of the sort would be pretty pointless, unless I want to extend this article by ten pages by posting all the various decks involved. I don’t, and Ted doesn’t want me to, either.


Green/White Control is the result of simply remembering the previous season’s decklists and then retooling them for the updated metagame. I’m pretty happy with the overall results – if I can nail down a solid game plan against Goblin Bidding, I’d feel pretty confident running this deck at Regionals, since it has a very solid game against Ravager-Affinity, which should comprise a large amount of the field. It’s also very solid against random aggro decks, often completely squishing anything that doesn’t have Bidding in it. It’s also the work of the think tank I work within, so I have to give thanks to Jarrod Bright, Matthew Kahl, Justin Casier, whoever else I’m forgetting, and a little to (the infamous) Phillip Samms and Filip Hajduk, who’s name I can only spell because I happen to have his DCI card on my desk.

You see, I’ve stolen his skin, and plan to play in Canadian Nationals by impersonating him.

Try not to dismiss the deck off-hand. Though I suppose it looks pretty simple to the eye, it’s a flexible and comfortable-to-play control deck that is a little stronger than it looks on paper. Anyone planning to play Ravager Affinity should get comfortable with playing against it. I’ve been told by an Affinity player this is the deck they least want to see sit down against them, except for maybe Ponza with twelve maindeck pieces of artifact removal.

Seeya next week,

Iain Telfer