Drafting G/W

Brad Nelson took a break from Standard to draft Innistrad online. After 50 drafts, he’s gotten a pretty decent grasp of the format. In particular, one of his favorite archetypes is G/W Aggro. Try it at the Draft Open in Kansas City this weekend.

Innistrad is finally online! I had to take a break from Standard after my depressing loss in the top four of States. The break involved doing 50 drafts in five days. I now have a decent grasp of the format and want to dive in with you guys.

I’m actually going to try something new this time around. Instead of looking briefly at the entire format, I want to dig deep into one strategy. An entire article about a single draft strategy might be a bit excessive, so please let me know if you enjoyed this. I’ll be coming back on Friday with more Limited information, so feedback is greatly appreciated.

G/W Beatdown

This is the most aggressive strategy in the format: quick creatures backed up with some removal. Travel Preparations gives this deck the ability to close out many games around turn six or seven, which is extremely fast for this format assuming both decks are interacting with one another.

Most G/W decks base themselves around the Human theme. There are a lot of equipment that give bonuses to the Human tribe, as well as cards like Elder Cathar that aren’t amazing without more Humans in play. However, you shouldn’t get carried away with the Human theme.

This is a very creature-type-themed set, but it is not about the bonuses for being a certain tribe. It’s more about how the removal works; the removal spells are often very situational and only work against certain creature types. Sure, there are a few cards that work better with their own kind, but forcing picks because of creature type usually will end badly. The best example of this is Unbreathing Horde. This card rarely is bigger than a 4/4, and you may end up wasting picks to accomplish this.

Green-white also has a huge abundance of bombs compared to most of the other strategies. The list is very long.

Kessig Cagebreakers
Mayor of Avabruck
Geist-Honored Monk
Mentor of the Meek
Gavony Township
Elder of Laurels
Mikaeus, the Lunarch
Garruk Relentless
Angelic Overseer

I know that these cards are rare/mythic and won’t show up every time, but if I open any of these in pack one, I’ll likely move to force G/W. Don’t be afraid of taking Gavony Township as a first pick. The card is absolutely amazing and well worth the risk of forcing a two-color strategy right from the beginning.

There are multiple ways you want to move through your picks when drafting green-white. I wish it were easy enough to just have a pick order, but this game has become far too complicated for that. Thus, I’ll just talk about every card that deserves explaining.

The only basic strategy of pick order that works is picking based on the cost of creatures. Two-drops > three-drops > four-drops > five-drops. The curve of this deck is very important. There are exceptions of course, but this rule will help with curving out even if the spells are not as flashy.

Ambush Viper

Don’t take this card very highly. It rarely is a high-impact card for the aggressor and sometimes comes back around. I never look back at drafts wishing I had taken one over something else. The only time I prioritize this guy is if my curve is high and my deck is not based on two-drops and Travel Preparations.

Avacyn’s Pilgrim

This is one of the backbones of the strategy. He creates tempo like no other. Being able to puke multiple guys onto the table and play Travel Preparations plus flashback on the same turn will close games quickly. He is also great when the curve is higher than you want.

Evaluate this guy accordingly. You don’t need too many of them if you have a very aggressive curve or if green is more of a splash. Don’t take this guy early over a better spell. Just don’t take a random dork over him.

Darkthicket Wolf

I take Darkthicket Wolf over more and more cards every time I draft this deck. This guy is the best two-drop this deck can have that doesn’t have a gold symbol. This card plays very nicely with Prey Upon and gets damage in through other 2/2s while still letting you play more guys. I take this creature over everything that isn’t a great removal spell or bomb.

Orchard Spirit

This guy gets much better with high numbers of Avacyn’s Pilgrim and Travel Preparations. I don’t like having too many of them without those cards.

Villagers of Estwald

This is the creature right behind Darkthicket Wolf. He is also very good with Prey Upon because 2/3 is the sweet spot for most early game use of the card. You’ll be able to get damage through with this guy with little effort, and in the late game, he gets an upgrade to deal with bigger boards. This archetype can end up with too many three-drops so I do take uncommon two-drops over this guy. But I never say no to a Darkthicket Wolf.

Woodland Sleuth

This is a very mediocre card. It looks like it’s decent, and you usually can trigger the morbid ability, but the body is just not there for a four-drop. I end up with one or two of these every draft, since they go very late, but I only use them as a sideboard card and bring them in when I need it. However, I rarely do.


Mulch is a very interesting card. It never is what you want when you’re getting the cards you want, but it’s amazing as a plan B. Mulch allows you to splash another color, which tends to be red. Brimstone Volley, Geistflame, and Harvest Pyre sometimes find their way into your pile, and you can add them if you need a few more cards to fill out the deck.

If you find yourself doing this, Travel Preparations loses a ton of value. I know it mills itself into your graveyard through Mulch, but the deck will probably have a low creature count. Too many spells can get stranded in your hand. Mulch works best in a high-removal-count deck with bigger guys.

Prey Upon

Prey Upon is the best removal spell for this deck. Your guys tend to get big, and it’s a cheap method of getting a blocker out of the way. It also deals with most fliers that are threatening a race. I take this over most cards throughout a draft. Don’t be afraid to take this card early in pack one.

One thing I’ve learned about this format is there are many cards that need certain conditions to be met. The best example is Makeshift Mauler, which needs guys to be in the graveyard.

There are also cards that are dedicated to enabling the situational cards (e.g. Armored Skaab). One of the biggest mistakes I find myself making in pack one is taking enablers and hoping to get the action cards later. This takes my deck down a path where it ends up doing nothing. The more I play this format, the more I find that your cards should just be good. Don’t theme out the deck too much. Sometimes, you’ll end up with a deck that’s beyond bonkers, but more likely, the deck will come out worse if you overvalue enablers.

Travel Preparations

We finally get to the card that makes it all possible. Travel Preparations is the reason to draft this deck. You can turn your random bears into a massive army. Most of the removal in the set really can’t do much when this card is initially cast, so it’s rare for the first attack to be thwarted.

If you guys watched my last draft, you would see that I value this card very highly. I take this card over almost anything early in pack one. I might skip it later in the draft if something is missing.

Spidery Grasp

This is the worst pump spell for this deck. I’ll sideboard it when appropriate, but it only makes the maindeck when I am very short on tricks. You need to have a few pump spells to help in combat, and sometimes this has to be it.

Abbey Griffin

One of the most mediocre cards that makes the cut more times than not. Just like Orchard Spirit, this card gets better when Travel Preparations and Avacyn’s Pilgrim are in high numbers. Build your own Serra Angel and find out for yourself.

Don’t take this card over a two- or three-drop. You will always have more four-drops than you actually want.

Avacynian Priest

This is a very strong card because it is everything we want. It is a removal spell, a two-drop, and a Human. Just because it starts out as a 1/2 does not mean it can’t battle with the best of them.

Chapel Geist

This card’s value depends on what color you are leaning toward. Obviously Avacyn’s Pilgrim helps out in the more green-based decks, but you don’t want to play too many cards that have two color symbols. I tend to take this guy almost all the time in pack one, but deeper into the draft, it starts to depend.

Chapel Geist really does it all. It’s a flier that gets around most of the other fliers and blocks most of the set’s early creatures. It is even a great target for removal when your deck has late-game bombs. It passes the Prey Upon power/toughness test.

Doomed Traveler / Midnight Haunting / Demonmail Hauberk / Mausoleum Guard

Mausoleum Guard and Midnight Haunting will always make the cut in this deck. The reason I bring these up is to talk about Doomed Traveler. Doomed Traveler is generally lackluster, but it’s great in a deck based around Demonmail Hauberk. This equipment is very good when it’s backed up by these white spells. Otherwise it’s almost unplayable.

You’ll never take Demonmail Hauberk early to force this strategy. It will just end up lapping around the table until someone is brave enough to get on board. It’s a backdoor strategy to keep in mind. Take Doomed Travelers on the wheel when you have this equipment; sometimes this will become a great portion of a deck.

Elder Cathar

Elder Cathar is a great filler creature. It doesn’t do to well in combat on its own, but the ability is what makes this card. Don’t take him over most of the other three-drops unless there is a very big Human theme going on.

Silverchase Fox

This is the biggest example of the 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 rule. This guy is not that exciting. His ability will come into play every once and a while, but his true power is just being a bear. Being able to consistently curve out is important for this deck. You almost want as many two-drops as possible. This card does not go early, so you can freely pick them up.

Thraben Sentry

Nothing flashy about this guy. He is a decent spell when you need a filler card. Don’t try to get cute when drafting. He’ll flip regardless of how much effort you put in, but a few Prey Upons don’t hurt. Don’t play this guy if the deck is not littered with creatures.

Unruly Mob

Even though I want a ton of two-drops, I don’t want this guy. He doesn’t attack in the early turns and just sits around looking stupid. I almost never play this guy.

Village Bell-Ringer

This card is very weak. The trick rarely is effective, since they’ll probably not be racing you most of the time. Play this card if you need the extra body/trick but only if you are really hurting for playables.

Voiceless Spirit

This guy will always be good but never amazing. Almost every common removal spell deals with him, so he rarely holds a team back on defense. That said, I still end up with a couple in most decks, since you are looking to draft the bodies.

Moment of Heroism

This is the second best pump spell for this deck. I like having one or two in every deck, since getting through a guy is important. The life gain portion of this card rarely comes up, but of course it doesn’t hurt.


This card almost always blows. You want to be attacking, so maindecking this card is never optimal. I’ll board this in if my opponent goes bigger than I do or if they have a bomb that attacks.

Smite the Monstrous

This card is getting higher on my pick order with every draft. Dealing with the real monsters in this format is tough for this deck. The small guys get run over, but the big ones hold you back. Smite the Monstrous may be situational, but it is great for the common problems this deck faces. This can be taken over a Prey Upon in very specific situations in pack two and three, but I’ll almost always take the green removal spell over it in pack one.

Spare from Evil

This is a great sideboard card for certain matchups and if your deck has 16 or more creatures. They never see it coming, and it can end a game very quickly.

Bonds of Faith

This is simply the best removal spell this deck has. The Humans in this set are small and trade with your guys anyway. The downside is very negligible. This is one of the highest picked spells and for good reason. It can even be a pump spell on lethal turns.

Blazing Torch

The best part about Blazing Torch is walking right past Zombies in the self-mill deck. I’ll take this card when I’m in need of removal but not over any two-drop and most three-drops. It’s fine for what it is but don’t get sold on them. “Well, I need some removal” is not a reason to take this card over a good creature.

Overrated Uncommons

The surprising thing to me is that most of the uncommons for this deck are not that great. I took many of them over the good commons until I realized they were just worse. This is a list of trap cards.

Hamlet Captain

Hamlet Captain is a fine bear, but not much more than that. It is better than other bears and three-drops but don’t take it over a good pump spell or removal. Especially not over Darkthicket Wolf or Villagers of Estwald.


The green catch-almost-all is not exciting. I’ll board it in against a deck with good targets, but I’ll never maindeck this card. I’d much rather just worry about the red zone for game one.

Spider Spawning

It’s very difficult to get a deck that really wants this card, but I know this is not one of them. Sure, this is a fine card when you have to Mulch it up, but only then. Don’t splash this card just because you have 17 guys and an extra slot.

Cloistered Youth

This is a very strange card. Yes, it is a 3/3, and most of the time, that is great. But this card can just get me in trouble sometimes. The life loss is not something you can ignore, since many cards in the format deal with Unholy Fiend without removing it from play. I won’t take this card over many of the uncommons. This is, however, a two-drop so it does go decently high over more expensive guys.

Slayer of the Wicked

Kidding, this card is the absolute nuts.

Galvanic Juggernaut

This card tends to get me in more trouble than it is worth. It’s very big and can break games wide open sometimes, but being flexible is important in this format. It goes very high on the pick order if you have multiple Prey Upons, but that is about the only time. I’d much rather just have a cheaper guy or another Travel Preparations.

The most important thing to be worried about when drafting this deck is that not too many other people are in it as well. The signals include late Travel Preparations or even tabled ones. Many drafters don’t move away from their early picks so you can easily read signals to see if it is an option. Just make sure to not get blinded by an early pick and get stuck with a very mediocre version of the deck. This deck can support two drafters at most in a table. Move away from it if you only see terrible green and white creatures.

Brad Nelson