Reflecting Ruel – Drafting Green In Zendikar

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Thursday, December 24th – In Zendikar Draft, Green has been labeled the unplayable option for many a month. However, as is the case in other formats, when a color is underplayed, people start playing it in their droves. Today, Oli examines the many archetypes open to the heavy Green drafter. Can the wobbly monsters power you through to the final table?

I’ve said countless times in my draft column how weak Zendikar Green can be. Not enough playables, too many high drops in an incredibly fast format, far fewer top cards than the other four colors etc. Yes, Green is weak.

However, what is currently happening is typical of what occurs in any format when a color is not popular: it becomes underdrafted, and therefore interesting to run. I used to think that even when underdrafted, Zendikar Green would not be good. I was wrong for two reasons. At first, I had no idea a color could be as unpopular as Green currently is. It seems like everyone jumped to the same conclusion as I did. And second, having much more experience with the other four colors, I definitely made some pretty bad picks the few times I had gone Green.

At the moment, we have reached a point when Green is probably as good as the other colors, probably even better than Blue. Now I’m accustomed with running Forests in ZZZ, let me share with you my thoughts on the different possible archetypes.


You don’t draft Green as a support color. The color is only strong when it’s wide open, and this is for two reasons.

A – Many cards are only good if you are dominant in Green. It’s the case of Nissa’s Chosen, Timbermaw Larva, Vines of Vastwood, and Primal Bellow.
B – If the color is “only” open, you will get as many cards as you would from another color, meaning you should get a lower quality of card overall.

Also, you should not overlook that out of the 11 Green rares and mythics, 9 are pretty good (Turntimber Ranger, Nissa Revane, Gigantiform, Lotus Cobra, Rampaging Baloth, Terra Stomper, Scute Mob, Predatory Urge, and Oracle of Mul Daya), when only two are not so good (Beastmaster Ascension, Summoning Trap). This means you have pretty good chance to open (or get passed) one of these.


Mono Green

As drafting Green should mean drafting heavy Green, it often happens that you end up playing it with no allied color. Also – and this is the other reason why drafting it when it is at all popular is not the brightest idea – Green doesn’t have much synergy with the other colors.

Let’s now have a look at the top commons/uncommons in Mono Green:

1) Timbermaw Larva
2) River Boa
3) Primal Bellow
4) Nissa’s Chosen
5) Baloth Woodcrasher
6) Grazing Gladehart
7) Territorial Baloth
8) Vines of Vastwood
9) Turntimber Basilisk
10) Savage Silhouette

If you manage to go Mono Green, Timbermaw Larva is probably the best common in the format. Then the two-drops (Boa and Chosen) are cards I would pick over it in the first two or three picks. Indeed, I’m not sure how much Green I am at that moment, and the Larva is not very popular; this last point is important, as people don’t see the 2/2 as a signal (when River Boa is a card which can make them want to go Green), and as it has good chance of wheeling. Then Baloth Woodcrasher is obviously the most powerful card once on the board, but it does cost a lot of mana in a format in which most games are already decided by turn 6 to 8. Concerning Savage Silhouette: the card has to be picked higher if you already have Turntimber Basilisk. The aura is pretty bad against Blue decks, but as long as you face Red and Green, it can win games on its own, as the 2-for-1 risk is extremely low.


Not an archetype I like, as White and Green cards don’t have much synergy in Zendikar, and as White isn’t made as a support color, which the Green allied color usually needs to be.

1) Journey to Nowhere
2) River Boa
3) Kor Hookmaster
4) Kor Skyfisher
5) Shepherd of the Lost Truth
6) Baloth Woodcrasher
7) Steppe Lynx
8) Timbermaw Larva
9) Grazing Gladehart
10) Nissa’s Chosen

Journey to Nowhere isn’t fantastic, and it’s probably not better than the average card on this list. However, one of the main points of splashing when you’re Green is to get removal, and the Enchantment is the best one White and Green can get. I like Hookmaster a lot here, because one of Green’s problems is that its development is usually one turn lower than most decks in the format. Hookmaster on turn 3 almost guarantees that tempo will be either under your control or shared. When I think WG, I think of a manabase such as 11 Forest and 7 Plains. Enough to make Timbermaw Larva a good card, and Steppe Lynx a pretty good card to have in your opening hand, but clearly not sufficient to go for Kor Aeronaut or Kazandu Blademaster. The Kor Skyfisher may be one of the best 5 commons in the format, as it usually gives you aggression in compensation for a little tempo. That’s the exact opposite of what a Green deck aims for. Depending on how aggressive the deck is, I may first pick the flyer (in a very aggressive deck), or pick it below any other card in this top 10 (in a mid range/high curve deck).


By far the most synergic association for a Green deck. Your goal will be to aim for Landfall cards, and cards to get land into play (Harrow, Khalni Heart Expedition). Then again, Green should be dominant but a 11/7 base should do.

1) Living Tsunami
2) Grazing Gladehart
3) Nissa’s Chosen
4) River Boa
5) Windrider Eel
6) Timbermaw Larva
7) Territorial Baloth
8) Turntimber Basilisk
9) Harrow
10) Adventuring Gear

The deck is based on the Landfall mechanics, meaning it’s the only archetype in which Living Tsunami’s ability should actually be a bonus. As the deck clearly takes the advantage over any other from turn 5 to the last turn of the game, what matters the most is for you to manage to stabilize until then. That’s why cards like Grazing Gladehart, Nissa’s Chosen, and River Boa are so necessary. By the way, it is the only archetype in which I rate the 2/3 higher than the 2/1, as I expect to be tapped out most of the time and not have much mana to spare in order to protect my snake. Out of the many cards which almost made it to tenth place, Whiplash Trap totally depends on your deck. If you trust your deck’s ability to handle your opponent’s guys in the early game, and if you have guys that can turn the tables with a single punch (mostly Timbermaw Larva and the Baloths), then the card definitely has its place into the top 10.


When you’re Green Black, there are two options. Either you have many double Black spells and you probably go with 10 Forest 8 Swamp, or you only splash for a few cards, in which case you’ll go with 12/6 or 11/7. The latter sounds the most reasonable, as most good Black cards cost BB (Vampire Nighthawk, Hideous End, Marsh Casualties). However, if your draft opens with any of those cards, I’d highly recommend not going for Green as a second color, unless you don’t mind so much being the unstable and /or the less synergic deck at the table.

1) Marsh Casualties
2) Vampire Nighthawk
3) River Boa
4) Baloth Woodcrasher
5) Disfigure
6) Grazing Gladehart
7) Nissa’s Chosen
8) Hideous End
9) Surrakar Marauder
10) Territorial Baloth

Of course, these ratings totally depend on how much Black you already have. I put Hideous End this low because I feel the deck should have an 11/7 manabase, and one double-Black card already. If you have none, you can put it around fourth place. There is not much point about debating on that top 10 as it differs a lot depending on what you already have. If I can just give you a friendly piece of advice: as much as you can, avoid going GB. It’s not bad, but it’s just not good enough. The curve is not so good, and it has trouble casting its few Black cards, unless you splash for one Black mana spells (in which case Black doesn’t bring much to the deck) or if you’re playing about as much Black as Green (at which point Green is often far from at its full potential).


One of the best splashes for a green deck. To put it simply, red has everything green may lack: creature removals, early drops when needed (including the amazing Geopede), and even evasion as Bladetusk Boar allows you to put some pressure on your opponents in a different way that any green creature would (except, in the right matchup, for River Boa). Then you have two options again. You can just splash the very minimum (Boar, Geopede, Removals and possibly a couple of early drops), or run a much better balanced proportion of cards from both colors, adding red’s many two drops mostly. When Green is opened, but not super opened, Red is often the color you want to draft it with, as it is, with blue, the color which has the less good double colored mana drops, allowing you to change your mind at anytime concerning the proportion of both color you’re intending on splashing, without affecting too badly the quality of your deck.

1) Plated Geopede
2) Burst Lightning
3) River Boa
4) Punishing Fire
5) Nissa’s Chosen
6) Timbermaw Larva
7) Bladetusk Boar
8) Grazing Gladehart
9) Inferno Trap
10) Torch Slinger

The Top 5 reveals once again the importance of early drops in such a fast format. Either you want to be on the offense or on the defense, and either way you absolutely need to be able to pull some good plays in the first few turns. If this is pack three, and you have only three Red cards, Timbermaw Larva is close to being a first pick, but in the early draft I’d pick any card in the Top 5 over it without a doubt, maybe even over any of the Top 10. Torch Slinger barely makes it as, once again, RG often is a 12/6 or 11/7 deck, meaning it will often stay in your hand and do nothing. However, it is still appreciable that it can block Bladetusk Boar, one of the worst cards for a Green deck to face.

The Unmentioned

Trusty Machete: Between 7th and 13th place (approximately) in most of those archetypes, I chose not to put it in any of my ratings, as the point of this article is to know when to pick the Green card over a card of another color, and when to go for a second color when you’re Green. You all know the more aggressive you are, and the lower your curve, the better the equipment.

Baloth Cage Trap: It is a good card, no question. I’ve even been happy to first pick it in Green decks, but it’s just not good enough to be in any of those Top 10 lists: it’s quite expensive, and it is often slow on the draw. Also, the format is so fast that you can’t really wait for your hand to be empty to disguise it; you often just pass on turn 5, which makes it extremely visible.

Oran-Rief Recluse: Usually a little too slow to make it to the Top 10, but still an excellent sideboard card, not only against flyers but also against decks with many one toughness guys (such as RB or Mono Red).

Greenweaver Druid: I’ll only pick it highly if I’ve already picked four or more 5+ drops.

That’s it from me… Merry Christmas!