Down And Dirty – Go Go Green Lightning: Green Aggro in Standard

Read Kyle Sanchez every Thursday... at StarCityGames.com!
Thursday, February 28th – While there are many aggressive options for the combat-loving mage, it seems that the whole Magic community has fallen in love with Obsidian Battle-Axe. The Japanese brought us the Green elf versions of the deck, and today Kyle brings us his own spin on the archetype. He thrashes it through some games against the other top contenders in the metagame, with pleasing results. Intrigued? Then read on!

Sometimes I get into the mood when I actually feel like writing something meaningful and useful to the general Magic populace, rather than some post-pubescent teen fantasy of Hooters girls massaging every inch of my body while pinching my nipples with jumper cables. Sure, the jumper cable story is more entertaining and involves several hours of applying ointment, but other than a good story, you can’t walk away more intelligent than you were before you clicked the Down & Dirty link.

Strangely, after reading that paragraph all my inspiration for writing one of those meaningful articles has completely vanished (as usual?). So it’s off to Hooters, homeys…

This deck is so exciting, but you won’t know exactly how exciting until you sleeve it up and play it for yourself. I’m not sure why the Japanese players excluded Garruk, since he enables some of the sickest draws and fastest kills in the format. I played a five-game set against an experienced Dragonstorm player the other day and took down four out of the five games, and we were pre-boarded! I’d send out a bunch of cheap huge dudes that hit quick and hard with Battle-Axe, or I’d go exponential with a Garruk overrun.

It reminds me of the Fires of Yavimaya deck from Invasion Standard, except this deck is clearly much more lethal. For one, the Fires deck of old seemed to curve around Fires of Yavimaya, with huge four-drops like Blastoderm and Flametongue Kavu, and the five-drop Saproling Burst to put the nail in the coffin. The problem with that strategy? The deck would often become too clunky and heavy-set to compete against quicker more streamlined decks.

One annoying fact about playing with this deck is the absence of Profane Command, which is hands-down the best finisher for a creature-heavy deck like this. Not only can you return your Vanquishers while killing their Flamekin Bladewhirl, but the most impressive feature is the ability to give all your creatures fear… except, of course, Chameleon Colossus. I had three in there for awhile, but I actually just never wanted to cast it. I’d rather add to the board, and there were a lot of situations where it’d just be sitting in my hand as a “win more” card, rather than pulling me out of a game I couldn’t have possibly won. The deck just doesn’t need it.

There is also a RG Warrior deck that has been seeing some amount of play that uses Countryside Crusher and Radha, which has sick synergies with Chameleon Colossus. The warrior deck also has access to burn spells… however, it doesn’t feel like the deck needs removal. All of your creatures are bigger and come in larger numbers than any deck can currently deal with. Against other creature decks you can completely overwhelm them by just playing all the creatures and attacking. Against removal-heavy decks without Wrath, like Mannequin strategies or RG Big Mana, you just have to avoid the usual pitfalls of getting your Perfect or Paragon killed before combat to radically throw off your math. And against Damn/Wrath decks, each of your creatures is sizable enough to warrant using mass removal, especially when you get the Axe going.

That’s one of the subtle beauties about this deck. It’s not an Obsidian Battle-Axe deck, its an Elf deck that just happens to shift into sixth gear when Battle-Axe joins the squad. The curve is almost too good. Eight one-drops, eight two-drops, eight three-drops, and five four-drops. It feels so elementary, but the truth is that very few decks can deal with the elf warrior onslaught in the current format.

One of the traditional answers to heavy creature decks has been Wrath effects, and to deal with those slow mass removal spells we have Garruk, who can produce an army while being completely unphased by the majority of mass removal. Obsidian Battle-Axe also makes your dooders amplified burn spells, and there’s Thoughtseize to strip away any troublesome pieces of cardboard that lurk in the opponents hand.

And then there’s Mutavault. The Japanese chose to run Treetop Village, which is completely wrong. It slows your draws down considerably, and often one Mutavault is all you really need to get the job done since hes a virtual 3/3 with Perfect in play. He can even sneak in hits with the Battle-Axe if the game goes long and bogs down. Mutavault’s true power is in its ability to sneak in relevant amounts of damage whenever you feel ready. Mutavault also works perfectly with Garruk, since Garruk’s untap ability gives you an extra attack with Mutavault, and with Garruk’s overrun it becomes a 5/5 trampler out of nowhere. It’s also an invaluable tool for battling the rising Wrath effect decks.

Now I’m gonna try and conquer the Standard format on MWS by playing matches against the most popular decks. I’ve already got an undefeated FNM under my belt with this exact list, and it just feels like the best deck in the format. It’s got lots of game against everything, and is much more fun than using a calculator to count up Pyromancer’s Swath damage.

Match 1 – UW Reveillark Combo

Game 1

I won the die roll and started out with Gilt-Leaf Palace, Mutavault, Llanowar Elves, Civic Wayfinder, Bramblewood Paragon, Thoughtseize, Garruk Wildspeaker.

My turn 1 Llanowar Elves met a Desert on the opposing side. I drew Forest then sent out Bramblewood Paragon and Thoughtseized into: Plains, Adarkar Wastes, Reveillark, Wrath of God, Mind Stone, Aven Riftwatcher, Venser. Given my aggressive hand and turn 5 kill with Garruk coming up I don’t see anything that can stop me other than Wrath of God, so it’s an easy choice. And he made the obvious play of Mind Stone on his next turn.

I drew Wren’s Run Vanquisher on my turn and sent out Garruk and the 4/4 Vanquisher, then bashed for two with Paragon.

He sent out Aven Riftwatcher on his turn, going up to twenty.

I drew Pendelhaven, played it and pumped Llanowar Elves. I activated Mutavault then broke Garruk and attacked for 22. He blocked someone, fell to 1 life, then gained two from Riftwatcher, going up to 3.

He drew, then conceded.


Sideboarding: +4 Extirpate, +1 Thoughtseize, -1 Wren’s Run Packmaster, -4 Chameleon Colossus

In came the cheap disruption spells, out went the clunky four-drops that clog up the deck.

Game 2

My opener this game after a no land mulligan was: Mutavault, Forest, Boreal Druid, Obsidian Battle-Axe, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Thoughtseize.

He started with Desert again, completely invalidating those pesky Elf beats that tend to add up. I sent out Druid, he played Island, and on turn 2 I put the Battle-Axe into play after having drawn land on my past two draws. He sent out Aven Riftwatcher on his turn, and he blocked my Paragon when I attacked on my next turn courtesy of Battle-Axe. I didn’t have a Black source, so I had to wait to use Thoughtseize.

He burned a Wrath of God on his turn, only killing Paragon and Boreal Druid. I drew Civic Wayfinder on my turn and fetched a Swamp before attacking for four. Thoughtseize revealed Reveillark, Mulldrifter, and two Body Double… however, my unfortunate opponent only had four lands in play. I took the Mulldrifter and crossed my fingers. He didn’t draw a land and just passed the turn.

I drew Garruk on my turn so I sent the Planeswalker out there then untapped some lands to play Wren’s Run Vanquisher. I bashed for seven, putting him to thirteen.

He drew another blank and quickly realized I could activate Mutavault and pop Garruk for lethal.


Match 2 – UBw Mannequin

Game 1

Opening hand: 2 Gilt-Leaf Palace, 2 Llanowar Elves, Bramblewood Paragon, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Chameleon Colossus.

He won the die roll and led off with River of Tears while I made an Elf turn 1. He trumped my Elf with an Epochrasite along with an ominous-looking Adarkar Wastes in play, meaning a possible Blink or Reveillark deck, or perhaps an orgasmic Blink/Mannequin/Reveillark deck?

Regardless, my turn 2 was set with another Elf and Paragon after drawing a tempting Obsidian Battle-Axe. This route yields more damage through Epochrasite.

Mulldrifter was evoked up in my business on his next turn, and he shipped the turn back. I drew possibly the perfect card — Mutavault – and sent the Battle-Axe and Vanquisher out there, smashing for six damage with Epochrasite blocking the Paragon.

His turn was spent playing an Island and passing the turn back, most likely holding a Venser, but Cryptic Command and Makeshift Mannequin are also relevant options. The real trick is putting him on the right four mana instant card. I drew a Forest for my turn and sent in Mutavault, Vanquisher, Paragon, and the two Elves. He Vensered my Vanquisher and blocked Paragon, taking four and putting him at ten. I just replayed Vanquisher and passed the turn.

He recoiled with a Shriekmaw, making my Vanquisher play look pretty stupid, but I just dropped Colossus next turn and sent him to four life.

Riftwing Cloudskate bounced Colossus and provided a chump blocker for a turn. He couldn’t draw another answer and asked for game 2 with sideboard.


Sideboarding: +3 Extirpate, +1 Thoughtseize, -1 Wren’s Run Packmaster, -3 Garruk

Garruk slows this deck immensely if they have a way to continually bounce him or attack him with pesky fliers. If I was at a GP or something I would definitely keep Garruk in, since most smart people would board Riftwing Cloudskate out in this matchup, but I can’t really afford to take that risk since just playing Garruk can flat out lose you games.

Game 2

Opener: Gilt-Leaf Palace, Horizon Canopy, Forest, Extirpate, Bramblewood Paragon, Chameleon Colossus, Obsidian Battle-Axe.

He led with Faerie Conclave and sent out Epochrasite turn 2, which attacked into my Bramblewood Paragon on his next turn before he dropped a Shadowmage Infiltrator. On my turn I ran the no risk bluff attack, which he didn’t block with his Shadowmage, and played Obsidian Battle-Axe. He attacked with all his monsters and made another Epochrasite.

Chameleon Colossus came down for the second time this match, this time being a 7/6 pro Black trampler with a hasty demeanor. Epochrasite tried to size up to him, but just got all trampled over, putting him at ten.

Shriekmaw evoked his sorry butt on the next turn, taking out Paragon. Then an attack from Shadowmage Infiltraitor, then a disconnect. He must have thought that my Colossus still had trample, but either way he wasn’t in good shape since my hand at the end of the game was Civic Wayfinder, Imperious Perefect, Extirpate, and Thoughtseize.


Match 3 – RG GreaterGoyf

Game 1

Forest, Gilt-Leaf Palace, Pendelhaven, Llanowar Elves, 2 Chameleon Colossus, Civic Wayfinder

I led off with Pendelhaven into Elves. He matched my Pendelhaven and I got an attack in for 1 on my next turn after drawing Imperious Perfect. He played Mountain and suspended Rift Bolt. I drew another Imperious Perfect and led out with Wayfinder to find a fourth mana source for the Colossi.

He Rift Bolted Wayfinder and played Keldon Marauders. Mutavault came off the top, and Colossus #1 hit play. He suspended Gargadon and attacked with Keldon Marauders. I blocked with Colossus since it was obvious he didn’t have Tarfire, and was happy with a Colossus for Incinerate plus Marauders since it cuts his chance to win this game down dramatically. He had the Incinerate and I followed up with another Colossus next turn, plus a Mutavault attack with another freshly drawn land.

He drew and played Treetop Village and shipped the turn back. I laid Imperious Perfect and sent the squad over for 10. He drew and conceded.


Sideboarding: +3 Shriekmaw, -3 Thoughtseize

I didn’t really have much for this matchup, which probably favors him if he doesn’t draw too many lands.

Game 2

2 Gilt-Leaf Palace, Mutavault, Boreal Druid, Bramblewood Paragon, Civic Wayfinder, Imperious Perfect

He started off with a Fanatic which sniped my Boreal Druid. Bramblewood Paragon traded for Incinerate, and Tarfire took out Imperious Perfect. He followed it up with a Goyf. Luckily I had drawn Mutavault, Shriekmaw, and Wren’s Run Vanquisher, so I wasn’t in much trouble. Civic Wayfinder found me a Swamp and I took a Goyf beat while he suspended a Gargadon and played Keldon Marauders.

Shriekmaw took care of Goyf and I took a Marauder beat, putting me to 12.

Maw and Wayfinder connected for 5, and I sent Packmaster into play, championing Wayfinder. He had no outs to the Packmaster and quickly scooped em’ up.


Match 4 – RB Goblins

Game 1

2 Llanowar Wastes, 2 Llanowar Elves, 1 Bramblewood Paragon, 1 Imperious Perfect, 1 Chameleon Colossus

He led out with turn 1 Knucklebone Witch to my Llanowar Elves. Turn 2 he sent out Squeking Pie-Sneak, revealing another Pie Sneak, and passed. Paragon and another Elf came down on my side, and I took two from his fear Goblin and watched him play another Pie-Sneak, revealing another Pie-Sneak.

Chameleon Colossus hit the floor, and my opponent made the “= /” face.

He bashed me again next turn, played Pie -#3, and Paragon was overcome by a burst of Tarfire. I didn’t really want to mess around with Perfect so I just domed him for 10 with Colossus. On his turn he dropped Mad Auntie, but didn’t have a Red blocker for the Colossus on my next turn.


Sideboard: +3 Damnation, -3 Thoughtseize

With Damnation coming in I just feel unbeatable. One of the most common ways that Goblins beats up on people is by their opponents stalling remotely in some area. Be it a mulligan, mana flood, mana screw, awkward draw, whatever, Goblins thrives when their opponents suffer and Damnation gives me an extremely potent reset button to lean the game back my way.

Game 2

Mulligan into: Forest, Boreal Druid, Llanowar Elves, Civic Wayfinder, Damnation, Wren’s Run Vanquisher

A pretty good looking six-card hand, since it comes with a board sweeper to make up for any lost time spent trying to get the mana going. Still, its very fragile against the RB Goblins deck, but if I pluck a couple of lands off the top I’m gonna be fine.

He led out with a Mogg Fanatic and my heart sunk. You always have the weary feeling whenever you know your gonna get screwed out on a game. It’s just like when that kid at the PTQ, who is obviously too young to be experienced, goes a couple of turns with lethal damage on the board. For whatever reason he just doesn’t see it, and when he finally does a few turns later you still haven’t crafted a way to overcome the lethal damage. That surging pain from inside your stomach wants to set the kiddo straight and tell him how bad he is. But you can’t, because hes just a cute little kid.

Then he gets grabby and reaches for the match slip, really quick and confident, and forces a handshake by putting his dirty fingernails all up in your face, with a “good game!” to rub the salt in the gaping wound. But his grown-up teeth are just coming in, so whenever he smiles you’re faced with the cutest smile that has ever graced the PTQ scene, so you forgive him and go about your day… knowing that once he gets older you’ll know exactly where to find him.

I drew another Vanquisher, and I made Boreal Druid walk the plank. Fanatic happily attacked and lunged at the Druid, but then a replacement copy of Mogg Fanatic came down, and again my heart sunk once more.

The next few turns were seen playing draw-go as he bashed my face in with Mad Auntie and a pair of Knucklebone Witches, while all my lands were attending a Property Awareness meeting in the bowels of my deck.


My hand: Gilt-Leaf Palace, Mutavault, Forest, Llanowar Elves, 2 Obsidian Battle-Axe, Chameleon Colossus

My turn 1 Elves was matched by a Mutavault from the Goblin deck, and Battle-Axe hit the board on my next turn after I drew another Llanowar Elves. He played a Mountain on his next turn, and a Fanatic killed Elves. Garruk jumped into my hand, then Wayfinder jumped into play and pulled a Forest from my Library before picking up the Axe and cracking in for four.

Squeking Pie-Sneak showed up, revealing Siege-Gang Commander. I drew Mutavault and sent Colossus and Wayfinder at him. Pie-Sneak traded with Wayfinder, and he conceded on his turn after drawing.


Match 5 – RG Big Mana

Game 1

Opener: Gilt-Leaf Palace, Mutavault, Llanowar Wastes, Llanowar Elves, Bramblewood Paragon, Wren’s Runs Vanquisher, Thoughtseize

I won the die roll and started out with Palace into Llanowar Elves, while he played Treetop Village on his turn. Another Paragon showed up, and a Thoughtseize revealed: Treetop Village, Snow-Covered Mountain, Wall of Roots, Skred, Cloudthresher, 2 Harmonize. Naturally I took the Wall of Roots to slow his draw down considerably, then sent Paragon into play. He played his other Treetop Village on his turn, which was probably a mistake since it makes his Skred almost a dead card.

On my turn I drew Garruk and played him, along with Wren’s Run Vanquisher after untapping two lands, and bashed in for 2 with Paragon. On his turn 3 he cast a Search for Tomorrow, fetching another Snow-Covered Mountain, and he used his Skred on the Paragon. Chameleon Colossus was my next draw, but I decided to just get in there for a ton of damage instead of adding to my board by saccing Garruk and attacking in for 16 with Vanquisher, Elves, and Mutavault, putting him at 2. He conceded on his next turn.


Thinking about this matchup while sideboarding, I’d assume this to be the biggest hurdle for Green Lightning. Not only do they have access to pseudo-Wraths with Sulfurous Blast and Pyroclasm, but they also tend to run maindeck Incinerates and Skred, along with the troublesome Wall of Roots. From there, Siege-Gang and Cloudthresher aren’t that frightening, but if any of their creatures pick up a Warhammer the game is all but over. It’s also extremely important to get Garruk out there as quickly as possible to invalidate as many of their plays as we can. They won’t be able to kill it without an Incinerate or Treetop Village, and it forces them to just trade Garruks and not add anything to their board.

Sideboarding: +3 Shriekmaw, +1 Thoughtseize, -2 Chameleon Colossus, -1 Civic Wayfinder, -1 other.

The problem with Colossus is that he’s just a big guy. Sure, he dodges some of their removal, but he is also far too reliant on Bramblewood Paragon being in play to actually connect with the opponent. It also feels like playing him would just be setting myself up for a Skred, especially if I try to use his pump ability before combat damage to take care of a Goyf or Cloudthresher. If this matchup becomes more popular I’d definitely find a way to include more Wren’s Run Packmasters in the sideboard/maindeck. I tried running 3 Colossus and 2 Packmaster maindeck at one point, but I kept wanting to draw Colossus and there is no room in the deck for more than five four-drops, so I just X’d a Packmaster for the Changeling.

Game 2

2 Forest, Boreal Druid, Civic Wayfinder, 2 Shriekmaw, Obsidian Battle-Axe

He started out with a Highland Weald, while a Swamp hopped to my hand and Boreal Druid came down. On his turn he suspended two Search for Tomorrows while all I had was a Obsidian Battle-Axe and a Thoughtseize drawn for the turn. His turn 3 saw another Treetop Village and a pass.

I drew a Garruk and sent Wayfinder out there to fetch a Swamp, and attacked him for four. Thoughtseize revealed: Loxodon Warhammer, Cloudthresher, Snow-covered Mountain, Skred. Warhammer presents such a scary late game outcome when combined with Treetop Village and an instant Cloudthresher, so Warhammer was really my only option here. It also shows a possible mistake that he made. If he had played Mountain into Warhammer, this game would be almost impossible for me to win, but he got greedy and opted to get a Cloudthresher mana out there instead, which is a passable decision since it also Fogs an attack from me for a turn.

I drew my last Forest in the deck for my turn and attack with Boreal Druid. My thought process here is that he’s low on cards and if I can take out the Thresher right now I’m gonna save myself a bunch of damage and give him a shot to win this game. I actually just tend to always make the most defensive move possible since I’m so used to having the rug pulled out from under me. The Boreal Druid is a very big tool in creating a lethal Garruk, but I’d much rather nip whatever chances he has to win this game in the bud.

He thinks for awhile and decides to send Thresher out there and block. I cast Garruk, untap two lands, and evoke Shriekmaw to kill the Cloudthresher.

Obviously he topdecked Harmonize, then passed the turn with gas in hand.

Imperious Perfect cruised into my hand. I attacked with Wayfinder, which he used a Skred on. I sent Imperious Perfect out there and the Axe jumped into her small greenish hands, and Garruk spat out a Beast token, setting myself up perfectly for a devastating Sulfurous Blast. Luckily he didn’t have it, but he made a Tarmogoyf and Wall of Roots instead, with Incinerate plus Skred mana left up. Perfect made a dooder at the end of his turn, but I left the Axe on Perfect to stop a Pyroclasm.

I drew a Mutavault for my turn and hardcaste Shriekmaw to take care of Goyf, then attacked with Perfect, the Beast, and an Elf token. He blocked the Perfect and fell to nine life. Instead of trying to go lethal with an Overrun I made another Beast token, since I would be able to equip the Axe to Shriekmaw and finish the game in two turns regardless. This play also keeps the numbers in my favor since he still has two Treetop Villages waiting to get frisky.

His turn was a complete blowout. Two Pyroclasms destroyed my field, and a hit to Garruck from Treetop Village meant I was playing off the top of my deck, but he had to use a mana from his Wall of Roots to make the whole play work so my Mutavault would be able to attack unhindered next turn.

I drew a Thoughtseize for my turn and saw a hand full of land and a Skred, then I attacked with Mutavault for two since I’m one mana short from equipping. On his next turn one of his Treetop Villages came over, putting me at 12. I drew a Llanowar Elves, played it, equipped the Axe, then traded with Treetop Village. I suppose he could have had a Cloudthresher, but I don’t really have much room to work with here.

His turn yielded him another Wall of Roots and he sent in with the Village again, putting me at 9. Wren’s Run Vanquisher finally showed up, with the Axe jumping to her hands and crashing in for five damage. The Wall of Roots saved his master the damage, and I shipped the turn to see what topdeck he could come up with. He drew, and shipped the turn back, boasting a hefty 10 mana.

I drew Horizon Canopy, played it, then sacrifice it to draw a Civic Wayfinder. I led out with the Wayfinder, fetched the last basic land in my deck, played it, then attacked with just the Vanquisher (who still had the Axe in her hand). If he has a burn spell I’m afraid of getting one-for-two’d, but if he has a Cloudthresher he can kill me on the return swing if I just bash out with all my dudes, which is why it was important to have a second chump blocker in case he also drew the burn.

He had the Cloudthresher, which put him to 5 and me to 7, and traded with the Vanquisher. He animated Treetop Village and attacked with it, signaling that he drew either a Skred or Incinerate. I took it and drew my last Shriekmaw, which was the only non-warrior creature in my deck. I don’t think I have much of an option here, as I have to put lethal damage on him to make him use his spell. I activated Mutavault and equipped the Axe to it, and bash in with both. He had an Incinerate so he took two, putting him at three.

He drew his card and thought for awhile before passing, which was probably a pause bluff since virtually any card he could draw would lead to an attack. A Gilt-Leaf Palace was on top of my deck, but I only had five lands in play so I just attacked with Civic Wayfinder without the Axe. He activated Treetop and blocked, which gave me a reasonable Shriekmaw target.

He drew for his turn and slammed down an irrelevant Cloudthresher before leaving.


I was going to put a Faeries matchup in here too, but our game went so long that my notes became a bit sparse, and there were chunks of game details that I couldn’t figure out.

Clearly these results don’t mean that the deck is the best in the format, but my goal here was to show you how the deck looks in action against several of the big contenders in the metagame. I’ve been on a bit of a hot streak with it lately, and its definitely a great deck to pick up and play at an FNM, Saturday tournament, or even a 1.5k this weekend.

We all bleed the same…


Top 5 Picks

1) Stars In Your Eyes – Armor for Sleep
2) Carcinogen Crush – AFI
3) For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic – Paramore
4) Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for My Valentine
5) Stop! – Against Me!

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