From Right Field: It’s Actually Easy Being Green

It’s mean. It’s Green. But is it a winning machine? Chris puts his latest creation through its paces to see if mid-range Mono-Green beatings is a viable option.

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. They contain, at most, eight to twelve rares. When they do contain rares, those cards will either be cheap rares or staples of which new players should be trying to collect a set of four, such as Wildfire, Llanowar Wastes, or Birds of Paradise. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. His playtest partners, however, are excellent. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks “set in stone” or “done.” If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

I want to apologize to my faithful readers (Hi, Mom!) for missing two weeks ago. Hopefully last week’s official Ravnica preview (yes, it was a Wizards-sanctioned preview) made up for it. I tried writing something for two weeks ago, but it all came out as dreck. At first, I was going to write about my great MTGO 999 draft win. Really, though, who cares? I’ve won once in the last thirteen months. My last draft win was my final Mirrodin/Darksteel/Fifth Dawn draft. I’d been doing so badly in the last year, that I had only won one match in the fourth months prior to my 999 win.

Champions/Betrayers/Saviors drafts were not kind to me in the least. I would draft what I thought was a solid deck – only two colors unless I had Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama’s Reach, removal, nice mana curve – but I’d almost always lose in the first round to some deck that just ran better than mine.

Also, my opponents tended to play three colors with no mana fixing and still get one of each of the three lands by turn three. Meanwhile, I’d get only Swamps in my most-Red-with-just-a-splash-of-Black deck.

Then, I realized, no one wants to read about how I won a draft of nothing but Ninth Edition cards. Do you?

Okay, if you do, here’s the low down. Draft a White and Green deck with twelve fliers, two Rootbreaker Wurms, Master Decoy, Worship, two Warrior’s Honors, Rod of Ruin, and some Green weenies. Hold the ground, fly over for the win. Also, cast Worship against R/B opponents who are out of creature removal, and keep casting creatures.

Does drafting a bomb that shows up in six out of eight games make you a good Limited player? Clearly, the answer is “yes.” Now, if only I could draft more bombs and make them show up seventy-five per cent of the time.

I don’t like the phrase, so you can call me on it in the forum, but I know that the win was just dumb luck. How do I know? Because I took the packs I won and played in another draft the next night, drafting a much more solid deck. I was able to go mono-Red with Volcanic Hammer (two of ’em), Shock, Orcish Artillery, Anaba Shaman, Karplusan Yeti, and that was just the removal. Yes, a quarter of my spells were removal and half of those were reusable. I also had nice weenies of the Goblin variety (Mountaineer, Raging, Piker) and curved evenly up to Shivan Dragon. Oh, yeah, I had Threaten, too. The deck was just shy of looking Constructed, to be honest. If I faced this deck in a paper draft, I’d ask the judge to make sure that there hadn’t been any shenanigans.

Of course, I lost horribly to a U/B/W deck whose first three land drops were Swamp, Island, and Plains. In the first three turns. In both games. Of course.

“You Can’t Hide From Me! I Know Where Your Momma Keeps Your House Parked!”

All of that Ninth Edition stuff got me thinking about decks that use more of the Core Set cards. I was especially inspired by the fact that I had drafted a Llanowar Elves. There’s some serious mana acceleration available now. You can cast a second-turn Kodama’s Reach leading to a third-turn, five-mana spell. True, you could do that with Eighth Edition in the mix, too. You just needed a twenty-dollar rare (Birds of Paradise) to do it.

By the way, anyone notice the changes the Elves have gone through? For years, they were apparently tiny mole people, wearing wooden goggles with little slits in them to keep their eyes from burning in the sunlight. In Seventh Edition, they moved out into the woods, but slunk around in pairs because they were so fragile. Today’s Llanowar Elves is a beefy warrior who, judging from the new picture, should probably not plan on joining a Major League Baseball team any time soon. “Paging Dr. Palmeiro. Paging Dr. Palmeiro.”

Even after the rotation of Eighth Edition and the loss of Plow Under, I think mono-Green has the tools to be competitive. It might not be the control color that it was before, but I don’t think Green should be. Look at what Green might be worried about and what tools it brings to the shed.

Problem: Fliers, either big ones one at a time like Kokusho, the Evening Star, or swarms of weenie tokens from Meloku.

Solution: Arashi, the Sky Asunder. It can wipe out those hordes and Meloku, and it can’t be countered. Yummy.

Problem: Early life loss from weenies and burn.

Solution: Loxodon Warhammer. Okay, any color can use it. Green really likes Trample and lifegain, though. There’s nothing like swinging with a 14/14 Moss-Encrusted War Beast and having it stopped cold by a 0/1 Hilton token.

Problem: Umezawa’s Jitte.

Solution: Naturalize. Sure, there are about a thousand and six ways for Green to deal with artifacts. Give me the cheap, instant-timed “classic” here.

Problem: Ground stall!

Solution: Shinen of Life’s Roar. Like Arashi, you can’t stop it; you can only hope to contain it.

Cutting to the chase, I tweaked a mono-Green deck online and came up with a little deck I call Easy Beats.

22 Lands

21 Forest

1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers

24 Creatures

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

3 Shinen of Life’s Roar

4 Kavu Climber

3 Llanowar Behemoth

3 Arashi, Sky Asunder

3 Rootbreaker Wurm

14 Other Spells

3 Reclaim

4 Naturalize

4 Loxodon Warhammer

3 Kodama’s Reach

So far, the MVP has been – wait for it – Reclaim. There’s just nothing like getting exactly what you need from your graveyard. In one game, I was able to kill Jittes that my opponent cast on three successive turns by casting a Naturalize, Reclaiming it, casting Naturalize a second time, Reclaiming the same one a second time, and casting the same Naturalize for a third time. Let me take you through a few games I played on MTGO.

Hey! Mr. Hypocrite! Why All the MTGO Lately?

Yes, I’ve been playing MTGO a lot in the past few months. It’s a great testing tool, even though I don’t like putting money into fake cards. I know. I know. “Try Magic Workstation.” “Try Apprentice.” Don’t like ’em. Much like head cheerleaders, they look like they’ll be fun to play with, but, once you get down with them, they aren’t that great. True, they’re free, but you have to enforce your own rules, and that just wastes my time.

Typical Exchange for Me on Workstation or Apprentice

“I said I wanted to test for Standard.”

“This is my standard deck.”

“Rancor hasn’t been legal in Standard for years.”

“Whadya mean? I use this deck all the time. It’s my standard deck.”

“It may be your ‘standard’ deck, but it’s not a ‘Standard’ deck.”

In the time it takes me to explain to people why I don’t want to play against their deck on another system, I can finish an entire game on MTGO.

I guess I’ll stick with MTGO. I have a rod for anything “official” anyway.

In addition, a once-vibrant Knoxville Magic scene is dying. We used to be able to get twenty-five to forty folks for a regular ol’ Saturday tourney. Not a PTQ or GPT, mind you. Just Saturday afternoon Magic. In the past year or so, places have closed, others have moved to locations that aren’t near most of the regular players, and some just won’t stay open late enough on Fridays for us to complete an entire tournament. So, I don’t have much choice other than to use MTGO. I gotta play. I jones for this, man.

“Hi. My name is Chris, and I have a cardboard crack habit.”

“Hi, Chris.”

Game One vs. Mono-Green Beats

Once I tested and manipulated Easy Beats to this point, I loaded it up (version 4.0) and joined a game. He was playing mono-Green, too. My fist game with the final version, and I meet up with another mono-Green deck. It was comical. He proudly dropped a second-turn Troll Ascetic. For most decks, that’s horrible. I got a second-turn Kodama’s Reach followed by a third-turn Kavu Climber. The Climber drew me a Warhammer. I dropped it and Equipped the Climber the next turn. Having gained back the life I lost, I was content to hold my ground just like my opponent did. He cast a couple of critters; I cast a coupled of critters. A few turns later, the Shinen showed its lovely visage, and I was able to swing for the win.

Game Two vs. Mono-Blue Aggro-Control

I never know what to call these things. Blue decks that run fifteen or twenty creatures just don’t feel like true control decks. It also wasn’t very aggressive until it could drop Meloku and Keiga. Besides, it packed what I figured was twelve counterspells. It just couldn’t keep up. I gladly Channeled Arashi to kill all of the fliers. My opponent had a choice of two different Sakura-Tribe Elders on which to use Keiga’s ability. It didn’t matter. I sacrificed it in response. After the Behemoth came down and picked up the Luckhammer, that was all she wrote.

Game Six vs. Mono-Red Weenies

Skipping a few boring games against another mono-Green deck (another win), an Erayo deck (another win, thanks to Naturalize), and a true MUC deck (loss, big time), I got to face mono-Red. I was worried about the burn. It doesn’t matter what the ‘Hammer can do if there’s no creature to pick it up. S/he was good, casting Magma Jet on turns two and three to kill Llanowar Elves. However, I got a third-turn Elder (I was on the draw) which got me a fourth-turn Arashi. That kind of beef is hard for mono-Red to deal with when it’s not a dedicated burn deck. A couple of turns later, the Warhammer came down, and Arashi went all the way, gaining enough life to keep me out of harm’s way.

Game Nine vs. Mono-Black

Skipping some more games due to jank (won one, lost one), we move ahead to a mono-Black deck that wasn’t really Black Hand since it had Cranial Extraction and Kokusho but was heavily based on it. The first Extraction missed completely. He called Troll Ascetic. Right attitude; wrong position. Not knowing what the next Extraction would call, I cast everything I could. Luckily, that allowed me to get a Warhammer out. You know what mono-Black that doesn’t run Oblivion Stone can’t handle? Artifacts. When he went to cast the second Extraction, I Channeled Arashi in response, killing his Kokusho. The Hammer and the Behemoth gained back all of that life and then some. Horobi’s Whisper killed some of my Green men, but I made more. They all like the ‘Hammer.

Game Ten vs. Mono-White Samurai

You know what White creature is good when the game goes really long? Konda, Lord of Eiganjo. My opponent was playing G/W, and I couldn’t find a Shinen of Life’s Roar if I’d had a flashlight, an atlas, and MacGyver. I had the damage on the board to end the game, if only the Shinen had showed up. It didn’t. I lost.

Game Eleven vs. Rats

I worry about Rats, especially the Ninjas. I don’t need to leave Skullsnatcher unblocked on turn 3 just so that Throat Slitter can come down and kill the guy who should have been blocking anyway. So, I blocked with my Llanowar Elves. I don’t think my opponent expected this. I blocked everything I could. I lost a Climber, a Shinen, two Elves, and even a Behemoth, but I wasn’t letting anything through. Naturalize made Jitte a non-issue both times it hit. I was able to get the big, beefy Rootbreaker Wurm before s/he could get anything to deal with it. Somehow, Ink-Eyes never showed up. Thanks to that, I was able to win. I’m not sure I would have been able to otherwise. I would have had to keep creatures back to block a regenerating 5/4 that reanimates stuff from my ‘yard, and I didn’t want to face down a Shinen.

Game Twelve vs. Rats

This is the reason that I don’t like rematches. S/he must have done some pre-sideboarding because I got hit with discard that I hadn’t seen in game one, Dark Banishing, and – there she is! – Ink-Eyes. When Blackmail and Distress both hit big creatures and Ink-Eyes can steal them, there’s no hope. I took solace only in the fact that, had I also sideboarded, I would have brought in Scrabbling Claws… wouldn’t I?

There were a few more games before I called it done. One White Weenie deck cleaned my clock thanks to First Strike and Wrath. The flying weenies couldn’t stand up to Arashi, but none of my guys can stand up to Wrath. There was also another MUC deck that was a long, close match. Naturalize targeting Vedalken Shackles was countered enough times for MUC to win the game. All in all, though, I was happy. I won more games than I lost by a wide margin. I beat some decks packing hundreds of dollars more worth of cards. That really gets my rocks off.


Really, this is more about sideboarding, but David Bowie never did a song about that. I don’t think. Of course, you could switch Rootbreaker Wurm out for Verdant Force. Yeah, I’d do that… if I had any. I can’t wait to cast that puppy. Also, for the next few weeks, until Ravnica becomes legal and Mirrodin block rotates out of Standard, you could easily use Viridian Zealot instead of Naturalize. It’s another body, and the activated ability does the same thing for the same cost. Beware of Pithing Needle and Damping Matrix if you use the Zealot, though. They both stop the Zealot (presuming they name it when casting the Needle), but that’s what Naturalize in the sideboard is for.

As for the sideboard, I’d definitely go with Scrabbling Claws (as usual) for hosing graveyards. Some sort of growth effect like Giant Growth is needed to save creatures in the face of all of that burn. You may want to try Slate of Ancestry against decks that pack Wrath of God or other mass removal.

Whatever you do with this, remember to smile. And remember that Llanowar Behemoth can tap to make itself bigger even if it just came into play. (That’s a nice combat trick I learned. They never expect him to make himself bigger when he’s blocking. He can kill Yokura, the Prisoner even if he has summoning sickness. Heh.)

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. By the way, I call “dibs” on that.

Chris Romeo