Dungroving In Honolulu

Todd Anderson got 17th place at Pro Tour Dark Ascension with his Mono-Green Aggro deck! Find out how his Dungrove Elders and Bellowing Tanglewurms did, along with an updated decklist!

There’s something Magical about Hawaii. For me, it signifies the first time I ever played in a Pro Tour. The Big Kahuna. The Center Stage. But times have changed, and so have I. This time around, I had a traveling companion in the form of Kali Anderson, who decided to tag along on another (4th?) Honeymoon. While I was busy testing for the PT during a lot of her extracurricular activities, she had Kaitlin Lindburg to keep her company. Besides, I’m pretty positive that I would’ve been sunburned beyond recognition should I have gone snorkeling with them, not to mention all the other fun they had.

The week before we left, Brian Braun-Duin and I decided that the best course of action as far as testing was concerned was to play the Mono-Green deck at StarCityGames.com Open: Richmond. We found that, while we’d be giving away any secrets we had, we needed to work out some kinks with the deck. Without a large group to test with, this was pretty much our only option: a trial-by-fire. Fortunately, the deck worked very well, and I ended up making Top 8 with a pretty sweet brew. While the final build was still a few cards off, I think it performed wonderfully.

The trip started out just fine. We packed all our stuff and hitched a ride to the airport from David McDarby. Brian Braun-Duin was coming too, since he had the good sense to win a PTQ a few weeks before I did. We were Honolulu-bound, and would reach our destination in a paltry 22 hours of travel. No big deal.

After connecting several times, having a few long layovers, and actually flying in the air around twelve hours, we finally arrived in sunny (it was actually night when we arrived) Hawaii: the place where dreams come true. The island where Hula girls wreath you with flowers as you step off the plane. Unfortunately, it looked like they had all packed it in for the evening, and we didn’t even get to see a single grass-skirt!

After traversing the city in our brand new rental car, we all decided it was high time to get some grub and shuteye. The time change actually put me into a perfect state of jet lag. I would be going to sleep around 1 or 2 AM and waking around 10 AM, pretty much the nut when you are planning on waking up reasonably early at some point in the near future.

It was pretty hilarious talking to people in Honolulu about the Mono-Green deck. Brad asked me why I decided to let the “cat out of the bag.” My only response was that, without a solid testing group, there was no way for me to work out all the bad card choices in a reasonable amount of time. In the past, I’ve tried to keep decks for the Pro Tour secret, only to have them be off by about ten or so cards, and this Mono-Green deck was no different. I’m very happy that I played it at in Richmond, and I would gladly do it again (and probably will in the future).

After doing some more testing with Michael Jacob and Gerry Thompson, Brian and I found a few glaring holes in our original decklist. We wanted Gut Shot, or at least some way to easily handle Delver of Secrets. Gut Shot allowed us to tempo out our opponents, since we were still able to play a Llanowar Elves or Birds of Paradise on the first turn. While not as powerful as Dismember, Gut Shot definitely worked just how we wanted it to. I might consider Dismember at this juncture, but Gut Shot was just awesome for me all weekend.

We also found that we wanted more Garruk Relentless and fewer Garruk, Primal Hunter. While Big Garruk was just fine, we used him almost exclusively as Tidings. While Tidings is a fine card in its own right, I’m under the impression that this format is dictated by tempo cards. Garruk Relentless can come down swinging, kill an important creature, and dominate the board if left unchecked. We ended up playing three of them in our final build, and it was a fantastic decision.

We also found that we wanted some more hate cards for Delver decks, and our best option was probably Daybreak Ranger (since we had Green Sun’s Zenith). While we couldn’t use his flip side effectively, due to our only red source being Birds of Paradise, we found that his ability to kill tokens and flipped Delvers was really sweet. Although we ended up playing two copies in the maindeck, I think I would have been happy with just having one. Corrosive Gale was also added last minute as a way to hose the Drogskol Captain decks, since we felt like those versions might end up being popular thanks to it making Top 8 at StarCityGames.com Open: Richmond (and GerryT thoroughly handling us in testing).

In our original version of the deck, I think we overvalued Strangleroot Geist just a bit. Geist, while powerful, was not all it was cracked up to be; I found myself getting a bit flooded with them on occasion. With two copies, we could draw one or Green Sun’s Zenith for one pretty easily should we need it to apply pressure. The correct number is probably three, but the deck is pretty tight on free spaces thanks to Green Sun’s Zenith and the corresponding bullets.

Kali also suggested Precursor Golem as a sweet answer to Mirran Crusader, since all of their answers generally come in the form of Fiend Hunter, Oblivion Ring, and Leonin Relic-Warder. Tumble Magnet was decent last week, but I wanted something that was more versatile, and Precursor Golem was also pretty sweet with Glissa, the Traitor.

Here is the build we ended up with for the Pro Tour, finalizing our sideboard plans the night before.

Round 1: B/W Tokens

This matchup was pretty easy thanks to Sword of War and Peace and Bellowing Tanglewurm. He wasn’t able to race a second-turn Sword in the first game attached to a Llanowar Elves. In the second game, I stuck a Ratchet Bomb to destroy half his board and drew a Bellowing Tanglewurm to kill him the turn before he gained a ton of life with Vault of the Archangel.


Round 2: Wolf Run

When he started with a Turn 1 Birds of Paradise, I was pretty thrilled he didn’t play anything on the second turn. I used Garruk Relentless to shoot his bird, effectively casting Time Walk. I continued adding threats to the board, assuming he was some R/G Aggro deck with a lot of Huntmaster of the Fells in hand. When he Slagstormed away my double Dungrove Elder after I missed my fourth land drop, I sank back in my seat a little. I definitely wasn’t expecting that, though I maybe should have. Most ramp decks only play one Birds of Paradise, so I don’t think it would have been easy for anyone to put him on Wolf Run after casting the Bird on the first turn.

After battling against some Primeval Titans, I could have won the game if I had drawn my second Gut Shot to kill his lethal Inkmoth Nexus when I drew six cards with Garruk, Primal Hunter. Unfortunately, I bricked and we were on to the second game. This one was just as bad; he jammed Titan after Titan, and I could only try to race (which I did poorly).


Round 3: U/W Humans

This round I played against Mark Rankin. In the first game, I jammed an early Dungrove Elder, bashing in for four damage thanks to a Bellowing Tanglewurm on turn 4. I was then able to deal him eight damage in consecutive turns since he didn’t draw an answer. I used Birds and Llanowar Elves to chump block, buying me time against his fairly aggressive draw.

The second game, I suited up Dungrove Elder with a few Swords of War and Peace. He showed me the single Divine Offering in hand, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Later on, we’d become friends and many drinks would be had!


Round 4: R/G Aggro

Adam Reiser is a friend of mine, and I hated sitting across from him this round. He opened with some decent creatures, but R/G isn’t really able to handle Dungrove Elder. I eventually killed him after swinging over and over again through his blockers.

Game two was a little different, but mostly involved me racing triple Huntmaster of the Fells thanks to Garruk Relentless and Sword of Feast and Famine. Luckily, he never drew a Naturalize or Ancient Grudge.


Round 5: U/W Illusions

I was pretty confident in this matchup, since their only relevant threat is Delver of Secrets. When he led with Phantasmal Bear, I knew I was probably going to win. I jammed a Dungrove Elder early, holding back to keep from dying on the swing-back. I eventually slammed a Garruk Relentless, killing his unflipped Delver. This allowed me to churn out some Wolves and eventually take the game due to his Overrun ability on the flipped side. I did make a pretty crucial mistake in this match, choosing to Green Sun’s Zenith for Bellowing Tanglewurm even though he had multiple Phantasmal Images in play copying my Strangleroot Geist. I ended up still wanting the Bellowing Tanglewurm over the third Dungrove Elder though, which made it end up not mattering.

In the second game, I used a Gut Shot on his early Delver of Secrets and proceeded to jam threat after threat. I eventually put him in a position where he needed to draw Divine Offering for my Sword of War and Peace. He did, which put me in a slightly precarious position thanks to his Geist of Saint Traft. Luckily, he didn’t draw a Sword of Feast and Famine or anything, and I was eventually able to Abyss him out of creatures even though he had Moorland Haunt.


Draft #1

My first draft was pretty sweet, as I ended up in just the right colors. I drafted a R/W Humans deck featuring Champion of the Parish, Elite Inquisitor, and Increasing Devotion. On top of that, I had multiple Mausoleum Guards, Midnight Haunting, and Rally the Peasants. My only loss came to eventual Top 8 competitor Denniz Rachid, who had drafted a solid B/R Zombie deck with a ton of removal.


Draft #2

In the second draft, I got thoroughly handled by Shuuhei Nakamura after punting against his Havengul Lich. After that, my mediocre G/R deck was able to bash people to death with 4/4’s for 4G. It wasn’t pretty, but I had some combat tricks and people weren’t really playing around them well. I won a fake feature match against Marijn Lybaert where he flooded and I drew big monsters.


After surviving the drafts, I knew I could do it. Just five more rounds with a sweet green deck. Top 8 was just around the corner!

Round 12: U/W Delver

This matchup was pretty easy once again, since Geist of Saint Traft and Sword of War and Peace are both awful against me. Game one I had Gut Shot for his Delver and was able to land a few relevant threats.

In game 2, I mulliganed and basically bricked on lands for two turns, getting destroyed by a Vapor Snag on my Daybreak Ranger. The third game was back to form, where I drew another Gut Shot for his Delver and was able to slam Dungrove Elders until he died. When he tapped out for a Snapcaster MagePonder, I just Green Sun’s Zenithed for Bellowing Tanglewurm to seal it.


Round 13: Reanimator

This matchup is actually just embarrassing. He thoroughly handled me with Inferno Titan and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. He was basically a ramp deck that had Elesh Norn in it, which is pretty tough for me to beat. Alongside Wurmcoil Engine, there really wasn’t all that much I could do. After he sided in Ancient Grudge to brick my swords and had Inferno Titan to kill my mana producers, I was just dead.


While this loss eliminated me from making Top 8, I was still in contention for Top 25, but I had to win a few more. I became a little bummed out after this, but I needed to keep my head up and keep playing well.

Round 14: Wolf Run

Martin Juza was my opponent, and I headed over for another fake feature match. This time, we had one spectator at least. Brian David-Marshall wanted to bird our match, since he had done a deck tech with me the day before and kept a vested interest in how I was doing over the weekend. It helps to have people cheering for you sometimes.

After mulliganing to five in the first game, I was thoroughly destroyed by an Inferno Titan that killed two mana producers and a flipped Garruk Relentless.

The second game found me fending off removal and Huntmaster of the Fells while I jammed Garruks and made creatures. I eventually got through for lethal, though he lacked the essential Primeval Titan to really get anything going.

The third game had me playing a pair of Dungrove Elders while he sat with a Whipflare and Galvanic Blasts in hand. I was able to eventually get them out of double-Whipflare range, and continued attacking through his Huntmaster. While my hand was full of gas, I was afraid to overcommit to the board. After using Acidic Slime to remove his lone blocker, an Inkmoth Nexus, I swung through for the win. Again, he didn’t draw a Titan, but I still had double Phyrexian Metamorph in hand to punish him (and grow my Dungrove Elders in the process).


Round 15: B/R Zombies

This was a match where Strangleroot Geist did a lot of work. I was able to stabilize at a reasonable life total, and I eventually got to draw six cards or so with Garruk, Primal Hunter, putting the game away. Had it not been for planeswalkers, I would have easily succumbed to his recurring threats.

The second game had me jamming Dungrove Elders, racing his Geralf’s Messengers thanks to Bellowing Tanglewurm. Intimidate: much better than fear.


I ended up talking to Gerry, and he informed me that almost everyone could draw in the last round at 11-4 to make Top 25. While a win would grant me an extra $1500, drawing would qualify me for Barcelona and hand me a free plane ticket in the process. I ended up 17th, which is where I started when the round began.

Overall, I was very happy with my deck choice and its performance. I went 1-2 against decks I expected were bad matchups and just obliterated everything else. Going into the tournament, I felt like a lot of people would have some solid cards to help against me, but I faced very little hate on the weekend.

Almost all of my wins came from the hands of Dungrove Elder. He was just a gigantic monster that people didn’t really know how to deal with. Alongside Bellowing Tanglewurm, games just ended on the spot with me swinging for anywhere between six and eighteen damage. With Green Sun’s Zenith and Phyrexian Metamorph, I had as many copies of Dungrove Elder as I could, and I still wanted more!

Going forward, I think that people will be playing much more Wolf Run, and that is a very bad thing for this deck. While you shouldn’t expect to play it every round, I think that decks that pump out quick Titans are very tough for Mono-Green to beat. I only beat Juza because he drew no Titans in games two or three, which allowed me to race pretty easily. Huntmaster of the Fells, while a pretty solid creature, is not that great against Dungrove Elder.

As you read this, StarCityGames.com Open: Charlotte should be in the books. I’m probably putting away the forests for something a little more…Lingering. But for those of you clamoring for an updated Mono-Green list:

If Primeval Titan decks continue to dominate, then I would suggest scrapping this deck for now. You could morph it back into the older versions of Dungrove Elder-Ramp, but then it’s just something entirely different. You’re vulnerable to Wolf Run’s sweepers, and their endgame is just something you can’t match without completely changing the deck. With that said, I could see a resurgence of Dungrove Elder-Ramp decks, but that just isn’t what I want to be doing.

After the tournament, we went out for a celebration. Jeph Foster made things awkward as per usual, but in a hilarious way. GerryT drank quietly, poking fun here and there at all of our compatriots. Credit Card Games for shots went on deep into the night with me getting the brunt of the bill. After about nine Jaeger Bombs and an entire fishbowl full of alcohol, as well as a few hours of Rasta Music and dancing, we were spent. The gang lasted a few more days in Hawaii, but I can honestly say I’m glad to be home. It was a wonderful trip that I won’t soon forget, and I’m happy to have met everyone that made the trip amazing.

Thanks for reading!


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