Good Magic / Bad Manners or How to Belch your Way to Nationals

Magic: the Gathering Regionals Tech at StarCityGames.com!You think you’ve seen Goblin Charbelcher decks for Standard? Well you ain’t seen nothin’ like this!

In my last article, I made mention of a spicy Mono-Green deck that I had been working on for a while. With Regionals just around the corner, I thought now would be the perfect time to unveil it – both for slackers looking for a last minute fix and for those who’ve been struggling with their own builds. It uses six of the ten best cards in the format, it’s all Green, and it’s all mean, baby.

Before I get into card evaluation and breakdown, I should discuss the rationale behind the design since that colors everything you’ll read from this point. My last article discussed what I felt were the best cards in the format as well as what I felt were the defining themes of Standard. Without rehashing too much – Green is the best color and acceleration is paramount over anything else. Armed with this knowledge, I set out to design a Green deck that had strength in all phases of the game (early, middle, and late), a wicked mana-curve, and a slew of choices for the skilled player. What I came up with is a sort of an unholy blending of aggression and control that allows the pilot to tailor his game entirely for whatever matchup that comes his way. With a few exceptions, I feel like this deck is at least fifty percent against every major archetype in game one. Why am I so confident? Well, besides the above, it has a number of near auto-win draws that the other Green decks simply lack. Intrigued? Read on.

What I didn’t like about the traditional Mono-Green Aggro (MGA hereafter) builds floating around the net is that they were too singular in focus. Yes, they beat, and they beat hard. Some, like Joshie Green, even Forestwalk their way to freedom; a pretty wise metagame gambit for a deck full of terrible cards. I haven’t tried it so I can’t knock it, but I’m a man who likes a little finesse. I’ve also seen the Ten-Land Belcher lists, but once again – too narrow. I like to have a wide variety of options at my disposal, particularly in a grueling tournament like Regionals where this year a loss in the first seven rounds means No Nationals For You.

Above and beyond all else, this build of All The Good Green Cards.dec is fast. Twenty of the cards are accelerants. No, that’s not too many. It also runs the full complement of Sensei’s Divining Top along with fourteen shuffle effects (seventeen if you count Goblin Charbelcher as a pseudo-shuffle). As I explicitly stated in the Universal Truths [tm], I am a fan of giving the player as many choices as possible, and this deck surely achieves that aim.

4 Sensei’s Divining Top

Running any less than four is foolish, as there is never a time when you don’t want one of these working. Sadly, my little dreidel is soon to have Pithing Needle written all over it, I know. Sensei’s Divining Top is an engine unto itself in this deck, guiding your hand towards a control game or an aggressive game, setting up belches more powerful than the time I drank thirteen Coronas, blah blah blah. When deciding whether or not to break Sakura-Tribe Elder on the second turn after a first turn Top, take the time to evaluate your hand first. Unless you’re accelerating out to a turn 3 Kodama or Plow Under, you’ll usually be glad that you did.

4 Chrome Mox

Extra speed, anyone? This deck does not mind losing a card at all to get game-breaking fifth turn plays on the third turn. Chrome Mox is preferable to extra land in almost every capacity due to the inclusion of Goblin Charbelcher. Acceleration is the single most defining aspect of Standard – I can’t stress this enough. The other Green builds that get by with the usual twelve are one to two steps behind this deck in terms of mana development.

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Kodama’s Reach

Here’s the usual twelve that I’m talking about. I already discussed why shuffling + Top is a good thing, but the acceleration and land thinning present here does more for Mono-Green Belcher than for stock MGA as each one compounds on the other, building further towards inevitability. In layman’s terms:

More Thinning = Fewer Lands

Fewer Lands = Bigger Belches

Bigger Belches = Dead(er) Opponent

4 Rampant Growth

Rampant Growth deserves its own special section, since it’s been left by the road to rot ever since a certain Snake Shaman hit the scene. I futzed around with running three of these but after assessing the damage that a Pithing Needle set on Sakura-Tribe Elder could do, I switched back to four. Having four two-mana accelerants make it more likely that you’ll draw at least one and get to the four-hole quicker.

4 Eternal Witness

Broken card requiring no explanation. Next.

3 Iwamori of the Open Fist

He wasn’t in the first incarnations of the deck, but since I’m expecting a fair amount of Red decks at Regionals, I think he’s gotta be in the mix. Red just has a hell of a time dealing with Iwamori, as he often takes two or three cards to dispose of. Add that to the fact that it’s highly possible to get this guy out on the second turn with a Chrome Mox and we have a winner. 5/5! If you read that another way, it sounds like this: Five/Five! On turn 2!

3 Kodama of the North Tree

Black decks, Red decks… meet Kodama. You have an appointment for face removal around turn 7. Please do not be late. He’s huge, he’s cuddly, he’s untargetable. I probably win more games on the back of this card than anything else. The simple fact is that ole North Side is either going to create a two for one in most cases or a large chunk of the opponent’s life total. I am all right with either outcome. I don’t understand why MGA decks have slept on him. Perhaps they’re too busy tying up their mana regenerating blocked Troll Ascetics? Baffling, to say the least.

4 Plow Under

One of the best spells to cast in the early game and absolutely necessary given the amount of Tooth and Nail in the format, MGB can cast Plow Under before any other deck in Standard. This fact alone makes the card itself “better” in this deck than others that can’t get it off as quickly. I thought Plow perhaps wouldn’t be as effective in the land of opposing accelerants, but it helps keep you ahead on tempo at the very worst.

3 Goblin Charbelcher

I confess that I was not the first man to think of including Goblin Charbelcher in a Green deck. I don’t know who it was, but I first copped the technology off of a random Japanese player that I played on Magic Online. His deck was built around a more stock Beacon Green core and did not have as many accelerants, but this is where I got the original framework to build around. If you are that man, kudos – you are a genius.

I once posed myself the same question you probably thought of when skipping my introductory paragraph to look at the decklist: Why even include Goblin Charbelcher, why not just beat with trampling creatures or Forestwalkers with Blanchwood Armor on them – doesn’t that get the job done quicker? Sure, sometimes. But it’s also never a surprise. Green decks win through the attack step; they’re not supposed to be able to go to the head. A lot of decks in the format, hell, a lot of players handle the attack step very well. However when confronted with the surprise value of Goblin Charbelcher, things change. Usually the opponents are still trying to contend with the creature pressure you’ve put on them or dig themselves out from being Plowed a couple of times. By then you’ve got a bunch of lands out, they’re at twelve to thirteen life, and it’s too late for them to handle direct shots to the face along with everything else.

The best reason is of course the most obvious: the deck’s lands are already being thinned in the name of acceleration and shuffling. Why not thin them in the name of damage as well? Goblin Charbelcher is also the card that wins the Mono-Green mirror, as the ground is all locked down with regenerators, insect tokens, and all manner of stalemate inducers.

3 Sword of Fire and Ice

I long debated whether or not the Jitte was mightier than the Sword, but when it was determined that the three spot in the mana curve was a little empty coupled with the number of times I looked at a Bird of Paradise and an empty, useless Umezawa’s Jitte on the board, I made the switch. I also saved a ton on my car insurance by switching to Geico. Naturally, Sword of Fire and Ice is also extra special vs. Red decks and helps the game one win percentages against decks of this color immensely.

2 Beacon of Creation

Sometimes there’s just no better weapon than a bunch of bugs. This deck only has fourteen Forests, so the Beacons are liable to be less than spectacular most of the time, but it’s still such a great late game card and fantastic for those rare times when the deck is on the defensive and Goblin Charbelcher becomes the only method of victory. It’s also cool that most decks packing Cranial Extraction will mistake you for Beacon Green and go for this first, only to be disappointed. This deck is just about as Cranial-proof as it gets, as the threat list is so varied.

Playing the Deck

I’m cramming to get this article to Ted in time for posting so I can’t say a lot about how to sideboard against them specifically or give any kind of hard and fast percentages. Just know that this deck is usually tons better when playing first, so win yo’self some die rolls. All kidding aside, Mono-Green Belcher has at least three or four combination draws that put the opponent in a severe hole. I don’t want to call them auto-win draws, but if you went first, they’re pretty close to it. They are:

Turn 3 Plow Under

Turn 3 Kodama of the North Tree

Turn 2 Iwamori of the Open Fist

Turn 3-4 Plow Under / Turn 4-5 Eternal Witness / Turn 5-6 Plow Under

With any of the above, it almost doesn’t matter what your opponent is playing as it’s unlikely they’ll be able to deal with such an early loss of tempo or a huge creature (or both). These are the best draws that the deck can produce. They don’t occur all of the time, but it’s safe to say that you’ll see your fair share of them of the course of a long tournament.

Quick sideboard analysis:

Creeping Mold

These come in against Tooth and Nail to break up the Urzatron and provide some extra backup against artifacts when just Naturalize will not suffice. I don’t love the card and have thought about cutting one for a third Naturalize, but that might hurt the Tooth matchup too much. I’m on the fence, here.

3 Troll Ascetic

Trolls are a mainstay for just about every other MGA deck, so why are they in the board, here? Quite simply, MGB has better things to do with its mana than worrying about keeping 3/2 creatures alive. The correct decision will almost certainly be to cast Kodama’s Reach over Troll Ascetic on turn 2 or 3 against any non-Blue deck – so why maindeck him? A lot of Tooth and Nail decks are now running Vine Trellis and a lot of Red decks are running Flamebreak so he loses a little bit of his luster in the beating department, too. Troll Ascetic isn’t as good as he used to be in light of these developments, but he’s still good enough to bring in against some Red decks and Mono-Blue Control (one on the second turn can still go the distance against MUC).

2 Naturalize

I’m getting a little more nervous about the prospect of losing to Rushwood Dryads with Blanchwood Armor on them, so this may go up to three copies depending on my paranoia level come Saturday. Naturalize is great in the mirror and against any decks which rely on equipment to power creatures. Oblivion Stone is another prime target for Naturalize, as Tooth and Nail decks will either have it straight up or in the sideboard in some number. That card wrecks you, so the hope is that you’ll be able to stunt their mana development enough such that they can’t cast it and pop it during the same turn. Often they’re under too much pressure and have to risk laying it out there for Natty Ice to come calling.

2 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

2 Dosan, the Falling Leaf

These cards are specifically for the Mono-Blue Control matchup, which you’re guaranteed to face at least once on Saturday, or more if you somehow get in to the draw bracket. Game one is not easy, but you have a slight edge in game two since it’s unlikely that they’ll side in their own Boseijus (you’re not playing Tooth and Nail, so why would they?) Dosan is obviously the best second turn play you could possibly have, as they have no answers for him short of Boomerang.

2 Rude Awakening

Rude Awakening is good against decks like B/G Control, MUC, or anything slow and random. I used to have these both main, then I cut one, and now I’ve cut them both. It’s a little too slow for a deck that only has fourteen land to be in the maindeck, but if you know that the game will go long, it remains a great finisher. It’s also great Extraction bait if you get a bunch of lands out early and glare threateningly at your opponent.


Some quick blurbs on the top seven decks you’re likely to face at Regionals, listed in order of probable frequency:

Vs. Tooth and Nail

Denying them the Urzatron is the most important thing you can do, so search for Plow Under and Eternal Witness whenever possible with Top. If you can not delay them in any capacity, expect to lose game one. If you can cast Plow Under on back to back turns or even recur it once with Eternal Witness, expect to win game one. Games two and three are better as Creeping Mold serves as a more final way of breaking up the Big Mana Engine. Oblivion Stone is really bad news so be sure to bring in a couple of Naturalizes if you see it. The best method of victory is via a quick Iwamori or Kodama backed by Plow Under. If you’re trying the Goblin Charbelcher plan and they’re not already at ten to twelve life, you’ve probably lost.

Vs. Red Decks of Any Persuasion

Vulshok Sorcerers are real pains as they hurt all of the small creatures present in the deck tremendously. Your main objective should be to get an Iwamori or a Kodama out as quickly as possible and then start serving it up with any creature bearing a Sword of Fire and Ice on it. They’ll be loathe to tap out if you show SOFAI early – when this happens, don’t equip a creature with under three toughness if they have mana open. Do something else and make them waste it. Should they get Arc-Slogger down, save Kodama for defense and then simply recur him with Eternal Witness. Plow Under is somewhat iffy here as it tends to be better vs. burn centric decks like Flores Red but weaker against decks with Slith, Hearth Kami, etc. Things get better as you add more untargetable blockers to the team and shrug off all of their useless land destruction. If you sense that you can be the aggressor with an early Kodama, take the opening and smash. Goblin Charbelcher is a little slow here also, so I tend to remove one of them along with a Plow Under and another random card for the three Troll Ascetics out of the board.

Vs. Mono-Green Aggro

There are so many different flavors of MGA that it’s hard to sum up how best to play against it. Goblin Charbelcher is the ace in the hole here but having equipment superiority and air superiority is also extremely important. There are few things better than an evasive creature equipped with a SOFAI in this matchup, so be sure you’re the one that has it. Obviously you’ll need to kill any Forestwalkers on sight and gang block their big creatures. Always remember that you are faster than they are, so use that speed to your advantage and take the role of the aggressor whenever possible. Oh yeah and Belch them for ten!

Vs. Rats

Most everything in this deck is annoying to you in some capacity. The discard rats are only mildly annoying, but Nekrataal, Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, and Umezawa’s Jitte are extremely so. They have Aether Vial so Plow Under doesn’t matter as much, and playing Iwamori is just asking them to play Inky for free. The best strategy is really to do as much damage as possible with your creatures (since Kodama still is really hard for them to deal with) and then go for the full on Belcher plan. They can’t do anything about it once it hits the table, and as long as you can keep the damage off, it won’t matter if you get Rat-locked. Watch out for Persecute out of the board, as if it hits even a somewhat full grip then you’ve just lost. I’d bring in Trolls as they block every Fear-less creature in the deck quite handily. A SOFAI-wielding Bird of Paradise can also put in a bit of work with any luck. Don’t let Kodama get double blocked with a pair of Nekrataals. This can be a rough matchup, but it all depends on how your opponents play. If they play to make you discard stuff in your hand and waste mana doing stuff like activating Nezumi Shortfang, then you’ll probably smash the hell out of them. If they play smart, well… you’ve got yourself a match.

Vs. B/G Control

You are the beatdown in this matchup, so you better do it and do it fast. Iwamori is another losing gamble here, as Kokusho, The Evening Star is probably the absolute worst card you could ever see on the other side of the table. If they don’t have Barter in Blood and only a couple copies of Death Cloud, then Kodama can do enough work to win the match on his own or at least get them to within Belch range. Don’t overextend into Hideous Laughter; try to get a creature equipped with a Sword and beat hard and often. Keeping them off six mana can be difficult but do it as long as you possibly can, as you don’t want to see the big Black dragon fall from the sky. Overall though, the matchup tends to be in your favor since they often take a bunch of damage which mitigates their ability to cast Death Cloud, and they of course have nothing for Goblin Charbelcher aimed at their face.

Vs. Mono-Blue Control

This isn’t a particularly favorable matchup for you unless your opponents tap out to cast stuff which doesn’t matter at all like Vedalken Shackles, Thieving Magpie, Bribery, etc. You have to force them to tap their mana and answer threats; playing around Mana Leak is useless because you rarely have enough lands to bait and then play something else or wait until you can pay for it. Just cast stuff and force them to have counterspells. Keep working the Top and it will find you good stuff, as these matches tend to go long. You have a much higher threat density than they have answers for, so just try to keep the pressure on and make them blow through counter after counter until you get that first Eternal Witness through… then things start to heavily turn in your favor. Getting a Sword of Fire and Ice down on the second turn is nearly as good as a Troll Ascetic against them, since it turns every creature you cast into a must-counter. As I hinted to before, bringing in Boseiju and Dosan will help to swing the tide, and an uncounterable Rude Awakening, a repeated series of Plow Under, or one big Beacon of Creation will often be enough to carry the day.

Vs. White Weenie

Getting attacked by lots of guys in the air is not my idea of a good time. Unfortunately, that’s kind of what White Weenie does. Hokori, Dust Drinker is often a death sentence, given the tap out frequency of Mono-Green Belcher. This is probably the worst matchup possible for you if they’ve built their deck at all correctly. Fortunately, it’s not a deck that I think a lot of people will be playing on Saturday. The one way I found to fix this matchup (Oblivion Stone) is no longer present in my sideboard, but if you live in fear of White Weenie, consider it as an option.

Well, that’s about all I can muster right now. The deadline is callin’ and Ted’s got the whip. I know there are some of you asking questions like “Why not run a single Mountain?” and “How could you not run the Stampeding Serow lock?” – I’ll try to get to these in the forums as time permits. I will be playing the above list on Saturday; best of luck if you opt to run it as well. If you qualify for Nationals, throw me some props. If you scrub out, you stink and I don’t wanna hear from you anyway. Juuuuuuuuust kidding. Seriously, I do feel MGB is the best blend of aggression and control from a Green-only list available. Watch out for those Forestwalkers and may all your belches be monstrous.


Jim Ferraiolo

Dobbs on MODO