Mr. Green Themes Looks At Invasion

Ah, Invasion! This marks my favorite time of year. This time last year I looked forward to Mercadian Masques and what cool new cards to add to my green deck. , , … all made it into the deck I eventually won States with. Now, with States right around the corner again, what sweet fruit…

Ah, Invasion! This marks my favorite time of year. This time last year I looked forward to Mercadian Masques and what cool new cards to add to my green deck. Groundskeeper, Dawnstrider, Saber Ants… all made it into the deck I eventually won States with. Now, with States right around the corner again, what sweet fruit will the Type 2 rotation bring us?

I always pore over the green cards first. While I’m not single-minded in my love of the color (I like the other colors, too), green is my first love. It’s the color that gave me my first thrill in Magic, and it’s the color that took me to my highest Magic finish. What does Invasion bring to the verdant side of life?

First of all, for all you naysayers who are bound to complain that cards are too pricey or too”slow,” remember that post-Urza’s Type 2 is a whole ‘nother ball game. Four and five casting-cost spells don’t have to immediately win you the game to be good. You’ll actually get to play against your opponent now. Sounds good to me. So quit yer griping and get shuffling!

Invasion fleshes out some nice themes for green, some of which have been touched upon before. Let’s look at them, shall we?

Green has always been the color of mana production. While Urza’s block emphasized mana acceleration to the extreme with Gaea’s Cradle and Priest of Titania, Invasion focuses more on mana diversification. In a set that emphasizes multi-colored decks like this one does, I’ve got to say that’s a major strength. Elfhame Sanctuary, Fertile Ground, Harrow, Nomadic Elf, Pulse of Llanowar, Quirion Elves, Quirion Sentinel, Quirion Trailblazer, and Utopia Tree. That’s nine green cards dedicated to multicolor mana development! With Birds of Paradise from 6th edition, green clearly becomes the most consistent base color to build a multi-color deck out of. My personal favorite is a reprint, Harrow, which was *almost* good enough to play back in Tempest but becomes much better in the new slower environment. It’s an instant, can get around Port problems and combines quite nicely with Groundskeeper. It’s funny how Groundskeeper just keeps getting better and better with each expansion.

A nominal theme of green is being the”creature color” and, while that wasn’t always the case in real life, more recent sets have held true to the ideal. Though Invasion isn’t exactly chock full of green fat, there are some standouts. Head and shoulders above them all is the Kavu Titan, simply because of his flexibility. He is literally two cards in one. Early on he’s your quick beats Grizzly Bear, able to slip through the counterspells and deliver a pounding while your opponent scrambles to control the board. Later in the game (but not too much later with a little mana acceleration), he’s a must-counter 5/5 trampler. The green Titan seems to be the best Kicker creature by far, and that’s how it should be. Other notable fatties include the Kavu Chameleon, a 4/4 beating that can get around Terror effects, Perish and Hibernation with no problem, and marches right along with the Crusade for a +1/+1 bonus (thanks, fellas!). Jade Leech’s drawback isn’t bad at all since he’s going to be at the top end of the mana curve anyway; I’d think about playing him as a fifth and sixth Blastoderm. Thicket Elemental is nice; a little expensive as a 4/4 for five, but if you have the extra two mana (and green’s the color to have it with), two creatures for one spell is pretty good card advantage, especially if you can combine it with stacking your deck effects.

Several years back, Jamie Wakefield and a few others worked on a deck called”Naturepotence” that revolved around green card-advantage cards and cantrips. It didn’t exactly shake the Magic world, but it did pretty decent in playtesting. I had a version that utilized Maro and the cantrips helped keep your hand full of cards. Well, Maro’s back in 6th edition, and now green cantrips are back, too. Aggressive Urge, Bind, and Kavu Climber aren’t exactly game breakers, but that’s not what Naturepotence was all about. Naturepotence was about constant pressure and tempo. It was about being able to do something every turn, pressing your agenda. So mix the cantrips in with other cards that keep your hand full and you’ve got yourself a beginning to a solid deck.

Once upon a time, there was a green creature with protection from blue that could not be countered. Azure mages cried as the verdant mages cheered for Scragnoth. Now, creatures with Scragnoticity are cropping up in Invasion. The aforementioned Kavu Chameleon cannot be countered and, at 4/4, is a fairly hale and hearty threat. Then there’s a little guy called Blurred Mongoose. For only 1G it’s not like you can’t sneak him out anyway, but you know he’s a sure thing whenever you draw him. And once he’s on the board, he can’t be targeted. So who really cares if you get a 2/1 out there? Well, after thinking about it some, he could be a nice”beatdown” creature in a control deck chock full of creature control. If you can clear his path of blockers and counter or prevent any non-targeted creature control, he could go all the way. Sure, he’s no Morphling (or Deadly Insect if you want to go back a little ways in Magic history), but I think he might have some potential in the right deck.

And speaking of Scragnoticity, what about the other spells that can’t be countered in red, Obliterate and Urza’s Rage? All in all, I think spells like these are going to prove mighty weapons against the expected drift towards dominant control decks.

With green’s ability to generate all colors of mana, it only makes sense to figure that the multi-colored spells that at least have green in their casting cost are going to be viable. Which ones stand out to me?

Frenzied Tilling – this spell reminds me of Plow Under; while it isn’t nearly as devastating as Plow Under was, Tilling can offer a very similar tempo advantage. Turn 1 Bird; turn 2 Port, Elf, and Port your land during your turn; turn 3, Till a land and thaw out one of my own. Turn 4 I’ve got six or seven mana to your two. This opener is not unreasonable for a deck built around this theme.

Aura Shards – So any creature I play after this hits the board can be an Uktabi or Monk Realist? I’ll take it! Should easily replace Tranquil Grove in any deck that packs ’em.

Voracious Cobra – One of the most impressively potent but under-rated creatures in the recent past, in my opinion, was Pit Spawn. Sure, he was a little expensive to cast in the Tempest environment, but being big and black, he was hard to remove. Add to that first strike and the ability to remove creatures it dealt damage to from the game – talk about a deadly one-two punch! Who cares how big that Lhurgoyf was, it was banished to the land of peaceful Erhnams. The Cobra has that same lethal one-two combo; he’ll eat Blastoderms and just about any other creature for lunch. As a red-green 2/2, he’s a little more vulnerable, but worth looking at for sure.

Noble Panther – In the future of Type II, 3/3 for casting cost of 3 creatures are likely to rule. Green will have Trained Armodons, Silt Crawlers, and Chimeric Idols. Splash white and now you’ve got Noble Panthers, too. For one generic mana you can add on first strike. Not a bad deal at all.

Aura Mutation/Artifact Mutation – Cheap, instant enchantment or artifact removal (respectively), and you get Saproling tokens for your troubles! The bigger the threat, the more tokens you get. With the removal of Powder Keg from Type 2, efficient token generation like these should be very effective. You’re going to at least get two to three little guys each time you destroy something. That’s three (or four) for one card advantage! I’m going to want four of each of these. Too bad they’re rare.

Rith, the Awakener – Speaking of Saproling generating, Rith can pour on the Saproling madness, too. Like the venerable Verdant Force of old, Rith can come on swinging while he makes little buddies to stay back and guard the home front. The new Elder Dragons are actually playable; six mana is not difficult to come by, and three colors should be easy for the new green to generate. Oh, and 6/6 through the air is pretty good beatdown.

Invasion looks to be a great new set, and I’m looking forward to exploring what the other colors have to offer. Have fun with it, folks! See ya at States.