Green’s Place In Shadows Over Innistrad Standard

Brad Nelson is ready for #SCGBALT! He feels that most are sleeping on what could very well be the most prominent and dominant color in the format! See the Forest-powered decks he has ready to go!

Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease April 2-3!

We are only one week out from #SCGBALT, where Shadows over Innistrad will be making its first waves in Standard. Almost everyone is talking about the hype around this set and how it’s going to impact the format which has brought us many cool and interesting ideas. As of late, I’ve been purely focused on what my favorite color is going to be doing amongst all the chaos that this “horror set” has brought upon us. Will green continue its dominance in Standard without Devotion or Siege Rhino helping out, or will the powers of good and evil push back against nature? Today we talk about the decks based around green that might just have what it takes to take home the trophy next weekend in #SCGBALT.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It’s safe to say these cards are ready for war. All four of these cards will define certain decks in the upcoming Standard format, and all pose threats that need to be considered when constructing a deck. These cards might not end up all being pillars of the format, but all will certainly be leaned on heavily in the first couple weeks of Standard and especially so at #SCGBALT, which will be my first event of the format.

It’s obvious to say that the color green won’t be able to put up a fight against these cards on its own. What we want to figure out by looking at these threats is what the best color(s) are to use along with green cards to attack the format in the best way.

It’s pretty difficult to know what’s going to be played Week 1. That’s why, instead of trying to pick one deck a week before #SCGBALT, I’ve brought five different green decks to the table that all attack different metagames. We’ll just have to figure out which deck is best after some more testing!

This dynamic duo is great at grinding out incremental advantage in a format where cards are constantly trading. This usually happens when attacking on the ground is the most common route to victory for most decks in the format. This combo is also one of green’s best ways to fight back against a controlling strategy full of removal and counterspells.

Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector can fit into many potential strategies, but the most common is in a green and white shell commonly known as G/W Megamoprh. These cards get pigeonholed into G/W Megamorph strategies simply because of how well they work with Dromoka’s Command. Deathmist Raptor alongside Dromoka’s Command can take down any creature, while the counters produced by one of the other modes can help a Den Protector become large enough to go unblocked in combat. The synergies keep getting better once we add Hangarback Walker to a deck, when we can fight any creature and spill a ton of Thopter tokens onto the battlefield.

The floodgates open once we add a white card to the deck. White gives the deck great removal in the format in Declaration in Stone, Silkwrap, and Stasis Snare. It also gives the deck two amazing mythic rares in the form of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Archangel Avacyn. A potential final product might look like this.

This deck’s potential is tied into how many decks exist that are also permanent-based, like G/R Eldrazi, Mono-Red Eldrazi, and G/R Tokens. Like I said before, Deathmist Raptor enjoys playing against counterspells, creature removal, and slanted aggressive threats. It doesn’t want to fight against other permanent-based decks, since Gideon, Ally of Zendikar doesn’t seem well-equipped to fight against a high density of creatures in the early turns; it already gets weaker due to Archangel Avacyn’s ability to one-shot it.

Archangel Avacyn is a pretty annoying card for G/W Megamorph to have to deal with, but it also might be the reason for a deck like this to be good. One of the easiest ways to deal with Archangel Avacyn is simply having good removal against it. Grasp of Darkness and Ultimate Price come to mind as spells many decks will be playing to deal with the legendary threat. This could result in enough midrange and control decks in the format to justify bringing back good old Megamorph.

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar hasn’t had much of a chance to shine in Standard thanks to trampling Siege Rhinos, the Rallying of Ancestors, and the Returning of Kozilek. The card did see some top-level play at #GPHouston when many brave souls choose to play G/W Hardened Scales, and even before that, Josh Utter-Leyton revealed his take on Atarka Red by playing four copies in the sideboard. Now, with the rotation, we just might be able to see more token-based strategies.

Decks like this are commonly considered to be “go wide” strategies in the sense that they exploit formats when creature removal is at their highest. This format has so many threats that completely take over the game if they aren’t dealt with that removal could potentially be at an all-time high. That said, decks like this don’t like that removal to be backed up by high-powered threats. A decently sized threat backed up by a Kozilek’s Return might be enough to keep the lights out for strategies like this.

G/R Eldrazi Ramp has made quite a splash ever since Battle for Zendikar was spoiled, thanks to the powerful duo of Kozilek’s Return and World Breaker. Not much has changed since then for this strategy, except it keeps getting easier for the deck to have decent ramp. Traverse the Ulvenwald is the newest inclusion to the deck to help out its consistency for explosive draws with turn 2 Ruin in Their Wake allowing the deck to play turn 4 seven-drops.

I don’t think there will ever be a time in Standard where this deck is considered a bad choice. It’s a powerful strategy when trying to dispatch midrange and more controlling strategies, but it has a tough time dealing with hyper-aggressive decks like Atarka Red. Luckily, it seems through all of my testing that hyper-aggressive decks haven’t been putting up good numbers. The only deck I would consider to be hyper-aggressive that’s been winning at all is Tom Ross’s Mono-White Human variant. This could potentially be a tough matchup without a strong draw or early Kozilek’s Return, but outside of that, I think this deck has a ton of promise. There’s really only one card from the new set that truly disrupts this deck’s strategy.

Oh, hi there!

A timely Archangel Avacyn will swiftly end a game thanks to her ability to protect every creature on the battlefield. Given the nature of decks like this, life totals are likely low when Ramp tries to turn the corner. That pretty much means that an on-curve Archangel Avacyn could be life-threatening each and every time when we weren’t gifted with the play. That’s not really where you want to be against the newest set’s chase mythic rare!

Delirium’s the newest keyword out of Shadows over Innistrad and it has a significant impact on how decks will get built. Both Mindwrack Demon and Traverse the Ulvenwald are powerful cards in their own rights, but both depend on the ability to get four different types of cards in the graveyard. These cards aren’t Constructed-worthy otherwise and will cause many losses.

The theoretical advantage to figuring out how to build these midrange Traverse the Ulvenwald decks is that Mindwrack Demon is the natural trump for Archangel Avacyn. It’s also impressive against most of the format’s removal, including Chandra, Flamecaller. The only issue is meeting its demonic request.

I’ve honestly been happy with decks like this except for one specific problem.

Jund doesn’t really have a great way to handle any indestructible creatures, which has made me consider trying a deck like this with a small splash of white instead of red. The only problem with that: the white cards we would be splashing for are comparable to the removal we already have except for being able to deal with this monstrous threat. Red also gives us Dragonlord Atarka, which is a pretty good closer in many situations.

Jund Delirium is going to have a difficult time beating dedicated counter/control strategies, but it should have a decent shot at beating anything going aggressive. Mindwrack Demon even gives a deck like this a shot in hell at beating Eldrazi Ramp, since it’s such an extremely quick clock. That and Pick the Brain just might strip them of multiple threats in their hand or completely eliminate World Breaker from their gameplan.

One of the newest hot decks on the market has got to be a deck I saw on Reddit that revolved around Cryptolith Rite. This strange enchantment didn’t get my attention the first time I read it, but I quickly changed my tune once I saw a list. This is my take on the strategy.

This deck is trying to accomplish a variety of different things, but all of them have the same enablers in common. The deck can try to get to five creatures with Westvale Abbey; spray the battlefield full of creatures for Nissa, Voice of Zendikar; or generate enough mana to cast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. All of these strategies help each other in one way or another, allowing a deck very much dependent on synergy to function.

The advantage of a deck like this is that it is quite difficult to disrupt without specific spells. The deck pours the battlefield full of creatures, which makes it difficult to attack through. Once the battlefield gets gummed up, the deck can invest a substantial amount of mana into Zendikar Resurgent, which forces the opponent’s hand into attacking, since that card will take over the game in a short amount of time. This can open the hole Westvale Abbey needs to get its lifelinking flyer online and make it almost impossible to race.

Now, the deck will have difficulties against mass removal spells backed up by Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, but what deck doesn’t succumb to that? Kalitas is the main reason for why I’m playing Ultimate Price and Gilt-Leaf Winnower in the sideboard. Truth be told, Gilt-Leaf Winnower seems like a pretty decent card in the new format. There are just so many creatures that will die to this card that I could see it getting more and more play, especially in decks that currently fold to a resolved Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.

I honestly don’t know what to expect out of these five decks, but this is where I am currently. There’s much more I want to understand about this format before #SCGBALT and I will do my best at learning it all over the course of the next week. Good luck in your own testing and I hope these five green decks inspire some of you to help keep green the most winning color in Standard!

Don’t fact-check me!

Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease April 2-3!