Positive EV – Discussing Zendikar #3: Green, Artifacts, and Land

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Tuesday, November 10th – In their final edition of Discussing Zendikar, Manuel Bucher and Olivier Ruel take a lingering look at the whipping-boy of the format: Green! They share their personal Top 15 lists, and discuss some of the hits and misses in the selection of artifacts and lands…

Welcome to the final edition of Discussing Zendikar! Today, Olivier and I look at the Green, Artifact, and Land cards from the set, and rank the Green Commons/Uncommons in our customary Top 15 style lists. Without further ado…

Manu: Welcome to the final part of Discussing Zendikar, featuring Olivier Ruel!
Oli: Hey Manu! Hey everyone!
Manu: Today we are going to talk about the Top 15 for Green, before moving onto a discussion of the more interesting Artifacts and Lands.
Oli: It seemed that making some Top 15 lists of cards which differ in value depending on the colors in which they are played wouldn’t make that much sense. Therefore we’ll just discuss a number of cards on an individual basis later in the article. But first, let’s talk about Green cards!

1 – River Boa
2 – Grazing Gladehart
3 – Nissa’s Chosen
4 – Baloth Woodcrasher
5 – Timbermaw Larva
6 – Oran-Rief Survivalist
7 — Harrow
8 – Territorial Baloth
9 – Turntimber Basilisk
10 – Vines of Vastwood
11 – Baloth Cage Trap
12 – Oran-Rief Recluse
13 – Primal Bellow
14 – Mold Shambler
15 – Frontier Guide

1 — Nissa’s Chosen
2 — Grazing Gladehart
3 — Baloth Woodcrasher
4 — River Boa
5 — Oran-Rief Survivalist
6 — Timbermaw Larva
7 — Harrow
8 — Oran-Rief Recluse
9 — Turntimber Basilisk
10 — Mold Shambler
11 — Territorial Baloth
12 — Baloth Cage Trap
13 — Savage Silhouette
14 — Frontier Guide
15 — Vines of Vastwood

Manu: This should get interesting…
Oli: First, let’s be honest. I haven’t been drafting Green anywhere near as much as I’ve been drafting the other colors. Therefore, this is almost more a ranking of the cards I most hate facing than a Top 15 of the cards with which I’ve had the most success.
Manu: Fair enough! I actually tried Green in some online drafts, and the key to my success with Green has to be casting Nissa’s Chosen on turn 2. This is the reason why the Elf made it to the very top of my Top 15 list. With what kind of non-Green deck would you rather face Nissa’s Chosen than River Boa?
Oli: The thing is that Nissa’s Chose is better on turn 2, and River Boa better at almost any other time. Then, of course, in such a fast format you plan on casting it on turn 2 if you draw it anyway, but you won’t always be able to do that with the Chosen. I remember, for instance, my sealed deck in Kitakyushu. I was playing 9 Green sources and 2 Chosen, and I lost countless games in which I wasn’t even able to cast it on turn 2. So I think it is a little better than Boa if you play at least 10 Forests… otherwise, I’d go for the Boa. Also, for some reason I can’t explain, this card usually wheels, while Boa never will. The 2/1 is flashier, and people will often consider it a signal/ This won’t happen if you open and pass a Chosen.
Manu: But Draft is much different than Sealed! If you are playing Green, you often have a very Green base. You usually are not going Green unless you get forced into Green, and if you are, you are very likely to be heavy Green because the color is wide open. Therefore I like Nissa’s Chosen over the Boa. That Boa is the fancier card is definitely true, though!
Oli: Well, it definitely makes sense. It’s also the reason why we both have Timbermaw Larva that high, isn’t it?
Manu: Definitely. And if two-drops weren’t so important, I would have it much higher than Oran-Rief Survivalist. The card is just so unfair if you are able to start attacking with it.
Oli: As for Oran-Rief Survivalist… I like the card, but it is a very dangerous pick. Picking it early will encourage you to pick some allies maybe a little higher than you should, and when the good allies don’t actually show up, you’ve usually wasted many picks. But it’s still a Grizzly Bear, which is definitely more than decent in the format, and it will give you an awesome deck once in a while. One of the major differences in our two lists is Mold Shambler. How much do you like that card? To me, it’s a lot better in sealed deck than it is in draft, as you usually don’t have enough mana to kick it.
Manu: I don’t even look forward to kicking it. I just like the Hill Giant, as it stops a majority of attacking creatures… and that’s where I see the cause of Green’s main problem. The color needs to be able to get to the late game, where the power of cards like the two Baloths shine. When you get there, winning is not the problem. What gives you trouble is the journey there, though, and that is also the reason why Oran-Rief Recluse has such a high spot in my ratings. In any non-Green matchup, it gives you a lot of time to build up your board. I have to admit that my order is very frustrating if you are facing another Green deck.
Oli: It is usually not that bad, as A) there are usually only one or two other Green decks at the table, and B) they suffer the same as you, and attempt to be efficient in the early game with cards the Spider can block. Also, they should have at least as many dead cards as you do in the main deck. And concerning the Shambler, I must admit I don’t pick it highly enough.
Manu: Even if you compare my rating to yours, you would win the mirror match.
Oli: Well, if you’re referring to our placements of Territorial Baloth, I still don’t know what to think of that card. I generally consider it too slow for the format, but it could also be the common which gives you the strongest chance to win games on its own. I guess Plated Geopede holds that crown, but the Baloth is definitely close to the top.
Manu: Another big difference is that you seem to really like – or hate playing against – the combat tricks. Why is that? For me, they often just save my Grizzly Bear from trading with their Grizzly Bear.
Oli: I’m starting to almost like Green, but I still think it’s one turn slower than any other color in the format (except for Blue). Pump spells are not only combat tricks; they are also cards which can allow you to catch up on that one-turn delay. Also, I like the capacity of Vines of Vastwood to actually counter the opponent’s tricks.
Manu: Okay, that explains a lot of the ratings to me. While I focus more on blocking, where the combat tricks are mostly blanks, you want to race with the color, and therefore those cards have better applications.
Oli: It’s not really that I want to race. Green is not so suited for that. I want to keep that as an option in case my opponent doesn’t leave me a choice. But maybe I should indeed focus more on stopping their first wave.
Manu: Anything you want to mention before we start talking about artifacts and lands?
Oli: Nope, all’s good!

Manu: First of all, merely because they are not as complex as the artifacts… what do you think about the non-basic lands in general?
Oli: I like the dual lands a lot, even though if I could see myself having the RB one in the sideboard if I’ve too many Teetering Peaks. Concerning the common lands, I love Teetering Peeks. I think Soaring Seacliff is a good card to play if most of your creatures don’t fly (or if you have combos like Oran-Rief Recluse). Kabira Crossroads is almost a must-play, even though it’s a little worse than those mentioned above. The final two are nothing more than options, as their effect often isn’t strong enough to compensate for the loss of tempo they induce. I guess I’d only play them in a nearly mono-color deck. How about you?
Manu: I feel the same way, but I would never play the Green or the Black land. I think the bonus they grant is less relevant than giving your opponent an opportunity to Blastmine you with Goblin Ruinblaster.
Oli: One advantage of running 18 lands in pretty much every deck is that you can afford one or two enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands without it impacting too much on your mana. I’ve been playing the Black land, Piranha Marsh, a lot, and I have been globally satisfied about it. Even though it’s nothing spectacular, in a super stable deck it often is a little bonus. Concerning the artifacts, I’ve discussed them a lot with other people, and I’ve heard many contradictory judgments. Explorer’s Scope, for instance, is rather popular, while I think it’s weak in most decks. On the other hand, Stonework Puma is a card people don’t seem to like, while I think many decks should or could use it.
Manu: I really don’t appreciate Explorer’s Scope either. It can be fine in UW with lots of evasion and Landfall guys, but otherwise I’d rather keep my hands off that Equipment. Stonework Puma has been fantastic for me. Not only is he a great ally, you can also block any Intimidate creature with him. A more interesting card is Adventuring Gear. Sometimes the card is just fantastic, while in the very next game I want to throw it in the trash. Right now I try to keep my hands off the card, unless I am forced to do otherwise. Whenever I have a good draw, the card is fantastic. If I am struggling, the card is a blank.
Oli: Yes, Adventuring Gear is a card that’s extremely irregular. However, in an 18 land fast deck (meaning most decks in the format), it should be quite playable. I think the card is excellent in White, good in Red and Black, mediocre in Blue, and just bad in Green.
Manu: That sounds reasonable. I definitely have to try the card more in White-based decks, where I guess it must be fantastic. Another equipment that has really disappointed me is Blazing Torch. At the outset of the format, I was picking the card fairly highly. I was always main decking it, but nowadays I am almost unhappy to play the card. You often just lose a lot of tempo to kill an opponent’s Grizzly Bear, a guy that doesn’t even have a lot of impact on the board. You’d rather play another guy instead.
Oli: I see it as a good 22nd card, but not as a high pick anymore. The card is not anywhere near as close to a Disfigure as it may seem at first. To have it at its most efficient, you need many early drops, and when you have those early drops you don’t really want to lose tempo by tapping your guys instead of attacking with them.
Manu: Trusty Machete, on the other hand, is an equipment in which you can place your trust. The card is fantastic no matter what. A less “what you see is what you get” card is Khalni Gem. I picked the card fairly high at first, but I realize that it just doesn’t do a lot even though it has a fair amount of text. Now I almost don’t want to include the card in a non-Green deck anymore.
Oli: Also, most people have an answer to the card, at least in the sideboard. In one of my GP matches, an opponent of mine played Khalni Gem when I thought I was losing, I kicked a Kor Sanctifier on it, and I couldn’t lose anymore. If you add Mold Shambler, Into the Roil, and some sideboard cards your opponents will bring in if they have seen your artifact in the first game (such as Demolish and Relic Crush), you realize you usually don’t want to run that card at all.

Manu: This is all we’ve got for this format. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Thanks for reading!
Oli: Once again, my dear Manu, these discussions have been very entertaining and instructive. I hope it has been the same for everyone else!

Until next time…

Oli and Manu