Well, this is certainly different.
In a field dominated by W/X Humans and Bant Company decks, Dan Ward took down an IQ with Mono-Green Aggro. The deck takes much of its inspiration from the Hardened Scales deck that emerged toward the end of last season, playing many of the same cards that use +1/+1 counters, including Avatar of the Resolute, Mangorger Hydra, Hangarback Walker, and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. What the deck doesn’t have is access to its old namesake card, since it rotated out of Standard with Khans of Tarkir.
WIthout Hardened Scales to ramp up the power level and leverage all these counters, the deck is more reliant on Nissa, Voice of Zendikar to take advantage of going wide with all these creatures, as well as Inspiring Call, which is very powerful in the many ground stalls that happen in Standard. Even with only two creatures on the battlefield, Call can act as a draw-two that also kills one or two of your opponent’s creatures when cast in combat.
Interestingly, rather than splash white, Ward has opted to splash some colorless cards in order to gain access to Warping Wail and Spatial Contortion as removal spells. Contortion is particularly nice because it can act as a pump spell of sorts, given a sufficiently large Managorger Hydra or Avatar of the Resolute.
The colorless splash also gives the deck access to several utility lands that a white splash does not. Foundry of the Consuls is the best of the bunch, but Rogue’s Passage is another way to force a large creature through a ground stall, and Westvale Abbey gives the deck a late-game trump, especially in combination with Hangarback Walker. A 24-land deck with nine utility lands almost never has to worry about flooding, which is a luxury the G/W Scales deck did not have.
The sideboard is limited, as expected given the narrow portion of the color pie this deck has access to, although I am surprised to see Plummet over Clip Wings, since the latter will rarely be worse and tags Dragonlord Ojutai and Ormendahl, Profane Prince.
I am also surprised to not see a copy or two of Evolutionary Leap in the maindeck. Having ways to sacrifice Hangarback Walker at will is very important, especially when the Thopters can threaten to end the game quickly in combination with Nissa or Westvale Abbey. Leap also helps protect Hangarback Walker from Declaration in Stone, Reflector Mage, and other such cards that make sinking too many resources into it a liability.
What this deck communicates to me is the so-far unrealized power of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. Nissa has seen some play in the current format, but its power level is such that it can carry a deck as the key element, and that has thus far not been realized.
Nissa comes down early and clogs the battlefield until it’s time to go over the top of your opponent with one or two activations of its -2 ability. This sequence is surprisingly difficult to plan against because Nissa singlehandedly recovers you from sweepers while eventually forcing your opponent to be aggressive in removing it due to the threat of its powerful ultimate.
Right now the format is dominated by a narrow range of decks, which means there are plenty of powerful cards that need a better home. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is certainly one. The narrative of the coming weeks will be whether the Pro Tour, #SCGStates, and other events can reveal new homes for these powerful cards that can compete with Bant Company and Humans, so we should all start looking.
- 4 Avatar of the Resolute
- 4 Servant of the Scale
- 4 Managorger Hydra
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 4 Endless One
- 4 Rot Shambler