Deconstructing Constructed – Mono-Green: Now With Fewer Elves

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Tuesday, May 6th – I’ve been spending most of my time lately trying to create an aggro deck that was close to mono-colored and didn’t get blown out by Pyroclasm/Firespout/Wrath of God. Of course, I could just say that’s Faeries… I’ve played the deck for the past six months. However, the idea of playing against decks with a large amount of good hate every round is daunting.

I’ve been spending most of my time lately trying to create an aggro deck that was close to mono-colored and didn’t get blown out by Pyroclasm/Firespout/Wrath of God. Of course, I could just say that’s Faeries… I’ve played the deck for the past six months. However, the idea of playing against decks with a large amount of good hate every round is daunting. For example, playing against decks featuring aerial-only sweepers backed by Guttural Response or Vexing Shusher is exceedingly difficult. Similarly, when a deck like Elves can run twelve one-sided Wraths and still put a huge amount of pressure on you, sideboarding in answers like Flashfreeze just doesn’t sound as appealing anymore. Not to mention the mirror is quite upsetting when one player sees Bitterblossom and the other doesn’t. But I digress…

The hybrid cards allowed for a large amount of flexibility when considering mono-color strategies, since the idea of playing both colors in a deck is actually an illusion thanks to this type of card. What started with a standard-looking W/G aggro deck slowly changed into what was practically a mono-Green deck with a slight splash of Red to power up Firespout.

Today, I’ll be showing you my version of the Stupid Green deck and its choices, along with some testing results I’ve gathered over the past few days. Although I haven’t had the time to cover a significant chunk of the metagame, I picked decks that I feel are likely to see play. This means newer / more experimental decks like the Juniper Order RangerMurderous Redcap combo silliness or Enchanted Evening combo decks won’t be in here. The same can be said about the wealth of odd control decks that popped up after Shadowmoor came out.

This was the rough draft I used to test:

Stupid Green Draft 1

4 Oversoul of Dusk
4 Wilt-Leaf Liege
4 Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Wren’s Run Vanquisher (could become a four-of)
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Safehold Elite
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Firespout
3 Shield of the Oversoul (doubtful the full number is really worthwhile)
12 Forest
4 Horizon Canopy
4 Fire-Lit Thicket
3 Karplusan Forest
1 Pendelhaven (might be raised to two)

The deck is built around two principles. One is that all the creatures that are going to battle will be bigger stat-wise than the opponent’s guys in any sort of a fair fight. The second is that they have to be threatening post-Wrath or survive Wrath. Effectively, this is the opposite of Faeries. While my original deck was designed to be tricky and full of utility, this deck is designed to attack, play a land, and lay a creature every turn.

Quick Card Explanations
Cards like Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, Liege, Finks, and Llanowar Elves should all be obvious in this type of build. Oversoul of Dusk is expensive and probably won’t even come into play in certain match-ups. However, if the game is going to go long or you hit a bit of a land flood, you definitely want to see Dusk around. He’s immune to practically every spot removal, bounce, or Control Magic effect in the format, and Dusk typically ends the game in a few swings. Oh, and nothing in Merfolk, Faeries, and RDW (and almost nothing in decks like Doran) can block him. Dusk is best at home in a Mana Ramp deck, but he’s still quite impressive in this deck once he hits play.

Wren’s Run Vanquisher and Tarmogoyf are the two-drops I usually debate between. At first I wasn’t going to bother running Safehold Elite and simply run both, but two problems came up during this initial testing phase. One was that Goyf was commonly the same size as Cavaliers and that was it. There were a number of games against decks like Faeries and Elves where I couldn’t get it past a 2/3. Although the opponent will typically make it a good card over time, it’s terrible as part of a curve in this strategy. Vanquisher is always solid, but loses some of its value since it dies to every removal spell and couldn’t take advantage of Liege or Shield as much as I’d like. In addition, neither creature survives most sweeper spells.

On the other hand I had Safehold Elite, who obviously won’t boast stats like Vanquisher or Goyf. However, he has three valuable things going for him. One is that people will rarely target or try to remove him due to his persist factor. The second is that he shrugs off a sweeper effect or chumps twice (which can become a deciding factor in a racing situation). Finally he has much better synergy with Liege and Shield than the other two. Some decks have maybe 4-6 cards with which to beat a 4/4 flying indestructible creature, while some have none at all. So while Elite doesn’t stack up stat-wise, his intangibles contribute a lot to the deck.

For testing purposes I ended up going with 4 Goyf, 1 Vanquisher, and 4 Elite. And yes, I realize that’s not optimal, but I felt Goyf was probably going to contribute slightly more and having a 9th two-drop is hardly a bad thing.

Firespout was a card that I was really excited to be able to run. Not only can I cast it against Faeries and have it do absolutely nothing to the ground troops, but in matches like Elves where I’d normally have a terrible match I could run it with the red option and come out of it looking good. Elves was an awful match due to the fact that it could safely play all of its men on the table and then simply Overrun to force a bunch of awful trades or overwhelm with numbers. With Firespout, they can do that, but in almost half the games they’ll be eating a pumped up Pyroclasm which pretty much always clears the board. Meanwhile half of my guys survive the blast either via persist or higher toughness. As a result you have a very creature-centric aggro deck that’s able to successfully run its own board sweeper spell, which is a unique selling point.

Shield of the Oversoul may be seen as more of a kiddie fun card than something that would go in a competitive deck due to the classic two-for-one problem auras create. That said, this deck does its best to alleviate it and make Shield a viable enhancement spell. Obviously if it resolves, it’s nearly impossible to rid yourself of an indestructible creature, with only Profane Command, Sower of Temptation or Oblivion Ring coming to mind as common quick fixes.

As for responses, the high toughness of the creatures at the three spot and above makes it difficult to deal with in response with a burn spell or Nameless Inversion. Plus it means tapping out on turn 2 or 3 becomes a nerve-wracking matter since you may want to represent the removal spell instead of tapping out and just letting the opponent resolve Shield. In that case even if the opponent chooses to represent the removal spell, you’ve gained tempo in the deal since your three-drop is unlikely to be killed by it and half your two-drops simply shrug off spot removal, making it a wasted spell if they do cast if for maximum mana efficiency. Simply put, Shield can create a near unstoppable creature or it can be used to bait a removal or offset the opponent’s tempo if he’s running a deck that fears it.

Moving on with the matches now… 10 games, 5 on the play and 5 on the draw to get a feel for how the deck would perform.

Stupid Green vs. Faeries
I played a stock Faeries list for the opponent. I figured the Green deck would need some assistance post-board to get the match a bit on the favorable side, but I wasn’t sure exactly how much would offset the tempo building and annoyances Faeries could throw at me.

Results: On the play, SGD won 3. On the draw, SGD won 2. 5-5 split overall

I was worried I wouldn’t get enough testing against Bitterblossom in this small sample size; I was wrong. I ended up playing against Bitterblossom in 7 out of the 10 games, including four of the ones which I was on the play. The card was probably the second biggest annoyance behind Sower of Temptation, but overloading it or resolving a Firespout turned out to be easier than I thought. Bitterblossom can rarely create enough creatures to trade and if they aren’t blocking early and often then the Faeries player can fall significantly behind on life and turn it into a liability. It simple terms, if Bitterblossom isn’t followed up with swing cards ASAP the deck gains little from it. Most of the games ended up finishing in one of two ways.

1. The Green deck would get a good curve out and crush the Faeries player before he could get established, since a single Cryptic Command or Sower of Temptation isn’t enough to turn the game around against a decent Green army. Even with Bitterblossom tokens blocking the biggest guy on my side of the table each attack, it became difficult to make up the ground difference. Firespout was another issue, since it would blow out otherwise successful Sower or Scion — blocking attempts to gain resources while the Faeries player was tapped out.

2. Faeries would manage to stall to the point where they could get multiple four-mana threats online. Once they took care of the large threats, this would leave the remaining creatures to fight stolen 3/4 or 4/4 monsters or Mistbind Clique while getting beat down by small fliers. With slower draws going second, it was also capable to get raced in the air while getting blown out by Cryptic Command. Firespout makes it possible to turn these games around, but they can take care of it game 1 if they have control already. The inability to deal with anything at instant speed came up as a big deal twice, including one where I simply lost to consecutive Mistbind Clique which knocked me out of the game.

The key post-board would be to get Vexing Shusher online so I could power out Firespout or Hurricane while nullifying Rune Snag, Spellstutter Sprite, and Flashfreeze. Blowing out multiple creatures with every removal spell means it only takes two or three of the creatures in this deck to get the job done.

Stupid Green versus Red Deck Wins
I went ahead and used Peebles build of the Red deck (essentially the same build I featured last week, but with Tarmogoyf maindeck) from his article last week as my opponent. Realistically I saw no way for the Red deck to beat the G/W deck barring a god draw… all of my creatures are better, and I have some life gain plus the ability to make one of my guys unkillable.

Results: On the play, SGD won 5. On the draw, SGD won 3. 8-2 in favor of SGD

So this ended up going per my expectations and I’d say it’s in large part thanks to no burn spell dealing over three damage except Flame Javelin. There are five guys in my deck that die to a burn spell, and eight more that will become smaller as a result of getting hit by one. Basically I just went ahead and let my Red opponent go nuts either trying to burn me out from 20 (he was never dealing more than 1-3 points of creature damage) or doing two-for-one trades I didn’t even care about, because the next threat I had was typically better than the one he killed. The two games I lost, one was due to a mulligan to five which I just couldn’t kill my Red opponent in time after I stabilized at four with Tarmogoyf and Cavaliers. The other was me getting pelted with three consecutive Shard Volley the turn before I would’ve killed him. These things happen.

Realistically nothing they bring in is all that scary. Your late-game uber threat of Oversoul is far scarier than Greater Gargadon, Martyr of Ashes or Firespout do little to you, and you are a far more efficient deck than them in this match.

Stupid Green versus Elves
I’m testing against Elves rather than a deck like Reveillark, because I know Elves can beat Faeries in a match while maintaining game against the rest of the field. On the other hand, Lark and G/R Big Mana have a heck of a time beating Faeries with slow sorcery speed spells as their mana game plan making them a rather awkward choice for tournament players. So I took a slightly modified build of Bill Stark Elves! deck and threw it against the other Green deck.

Results: On the play, SGD won 3. On the draw, SGD won 3. 6-4 in favor of SGD

Long story short, I drew Firespout in five games (six actually, but the draw was irrelevant in that one), and I won all five in which it resolved. It directly won three because it killed so many elves the opponent couldn’t recover from it. In the other two it cleared the way for my slower but larger elves to deal damage and not force me to face down an alpha strike the following turn. Coat of Arms is a double-edged sword in this match, since many of my creatures are elves (and larger ones to begin with). That said, I lost two games to Coat of Arms simply due to overwhelming numbers of the 1/1 buggers. The game I won in the face of Coat was when I laid Shield of the Overdusk on my Liege and proceeded to swing in the sky for 15. The remaining two I lost were off a mulligan to five and an Overrun destroying me.

Basically, in this match only Vanquisher will ever trade with your creatures, and the rest of the time you’ll just be mowing down the elvish hordes in trade situations. In addition they have to pick their poison in regards to actually winning the game. Either they lay a billion elves like normal and risk getting blown out by Firespout, or they lay 4-6 and then Coat of Arms / Overrun and go in for a kill turn. The second option is the more viable of the two, but also requires careful timing since if you don’t win the turn the Coat hits play, the Stupid Green player will likely swing in for lethal. Of course, with the increased Elf numbers in play, only two or three unblocked elves will likely be lethal damage.

This match seemed to favor the Stupid Green player slightly, simply on the pack of having maindeck Firespout, and if Elves! stays a completive deck (and I believe it should) an additional hoser such as Pyroclasm may be necessary.

I’d like to be able to add more matches, but I’ve only had a limited amount of time to test the current deck and just wanted the idea that it was viable in the first place. Besides, this type of deck would probably be a dog to a dedicated G/R Big Mana build, although I actually think the match-up against Wrath control decks is pretty solid from the few games I got in and how it looks on paper.

If I were to play this deck tomorrow, I think it would look something like this:

It tightens up the two-drop slot a little, and the extra air removal and counter-proofing ability by Shusher should come in handy against Faeries. Grip helps against any deck relying on costly enchantments as combo pieces, and Wheel of Sun and Moon shuts off most of the newer combo decks lurking about. Still, I’m sure this will end up a bit tighter as testing reveals refinements to make. With luck, I’ve given you some ideas about the potential of mono-colored strategies that aren’t of the traditional tribal or RDW variety.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom
Team Reflection

Top 5 for the week; and yes the easiest way to see these is via hilarious youtube clips.
1. IOSYS — Marisa Stole the Precious Thing
2. GLaDOS — Still Alive
3. Touhou Imperishable Night OST — Marisa Kirisame Boss Theme
4. Caramell – Caramelldansen
5. The Sweet – Ballroom Blitz