[Editor’s Note: Apologies to Adam and to readers for making you wait on the second installment of this series. There were simply too many Prerelease articles that needed to go up Friday and then it simply made sense to start it all back up today and run the last four articles for the rest of the week. Enjoy!]
If you have no idea what I’m writing about, you should look at this link to the first article in the series.
Middle and Late Creatures
Wood Elves suffers from the fact that, if you like Elves, you probably don’t really need Beacon of Creation since you’ll have enough puny creatures already. Still, Wood Elves is a great friend of Blanchwood Armor, and unlike Sakura-Tribe Elder, you don’t have to make any big sacrifices to fetch that extra Forest.
Status: Don’t bother with Wood Elves unless you’re obsessed with Elves in Green Weenie.
Yep, time to fry my credibility again… Eternal Witness is an amazing creature. In other decks. In decks that play more than a couple instants and sorceries. As I noted in my R/G Kiki-Jiki article, if all you want to do is recur a creature, you’d probably be better off just playing another creature. Mono-Green is vexed with curve trouble already, and considering that you nearly always want to play either Blanchwood Armor or Troll Ascetic on turn 3, you never really want to play Eternal Witness. Sometimes, you’ll crush Tooth and Nail or MUC by reviving Plow Under, but you’ll crush those two decks more often with a three-drop that’s threatening in itself. You don’t want to be running Eternal Witness just for the sake of your splash color either.
Status: If you’re playing enough instants and sorceries to make Eternal Witness good, you’re probably playing G/X Something or Mono-Green Control (in this case, you have my pity).
Isao, Enlightened Bushi:
Let’s look at is like this: Anyone who feels the need to run Isao is going to already be playing four copies of Troll Ascetic, meaning, of course, that Isao will be stolen by Vedalken Shackles and Troll Ascetic will be countered. Now, wouldn’t it just be better to run Gaea’s Herald instead? Unlike Isao, Gaea’s Herald slips under counterspells when you’re on the play and makes Troll Ascetic uncounterable. Gaea’s Herald is also of a useful creature type. And then, consider that Gaea’s Herald, which is so much superior to Isao, is unplayable in all but the most dedicated of Elf decks.
Dosan, the Falling Leaf:
I view Dosan much as I do Isao. Gaea’s Herald is better.
Status: It’s obvious to me at least.
Jamie Wakefield Lone Wolf tech might not have worked out, but the idea is clever enough. Slith Predator does the same job even better for fewer mana.
Status: Unplayable in all builds, you romantic, you.
Finally, our review of three-drops yields a real contender. Mono-Green might not have many methods of drawing cards, but assuming your opponent runs artifacts, the deck can rack up all sorts of card advantage. Obviously, everyone’s having nightmares about holding a couple of Viridian Shamans in their hand while the only artifact on the board is their own Jitte. There are two responses to this concern:
1) White Weenie, the worst of your major matchups, could be running up to 18 artifacts maindeck. MUC doesn’t play many artifacts, but those it does play you want to destroy. Just about every other competitive deck (including Mono-Green) is running the bomb equipment. Only Tooth and Nail will laugh as you try in vain to blow up its Sensei’s Divining Tops.
2) Maybe, you shouldn’t be running artifacts. Fortuitously for Viridian Shaman, for the first time in recent memory, Green isn’t bursting at the seams with three-drops. Blanchwood Armor, Sword of Fire and Ice, Eternal Witness, and Troll Ascetic are the only other options which will interest most Mono-Green decks.
Status: A possibility in Green Weenie and Medium Green. Elf-based Green Weenie will run Viridian Shaman even though it shares its casting cost with Elvish Champion and Wood Elves. Big Green wants to be doing other things on Turn 3.
Elvish Champion: ….
Status: Only for Elf-based Green Weenie. But then, you already knew that.
For three mana, you get:
1) The source of MUC’s bad dreams. Despite not even being Bribery-worthy, Troll Ascetic is Hell on heels in this matchup. And let’s not even talk about enchanting it with Blanchwood Armor…
2) The cheapest Green creature that can kill Samurai of the Pale Curtain in combat and live to tell the tale.
3) A big problem for Mono-Red decks that don’t pack Flamebreak.
4) Three power, regeneration, and selective untargetability.
Status: If you’re not playing the most efficient non-legendary beater in Standard, you shouldn’t be playing Mono-Green. Unless, of course, you’re playing Elves though there are some who might say that, if you’re playing Elves, you probably shouldn’t be playing Mono-Green.
This is so very much worse than Troll Ascetic and Pulse of the Tangle. Still, it’s a Spirit.
Status: For fans of Kodama of the South Tree-based Big Green only.
Kodama of the South Tree:
Though Mono-Green’s three-drop slots are relatively simple to fill this season, its four-drop slots are more difficult than usual. There are number of possibilities here, many of which are powerful enough to warrant consideration but none of which seem quite satisfactory. I can’t claim to have ever attempted to make a dedicated Kodama of the South Tree deck. Green’s spirits just aren’t good enough for that. This Kodama is, clearly, quite a heavy hitter all on its own though, and if you just happen to be playing a few Spirit and Arcane spells, you might want to consider it. Its spiritcraft effect can be huge if you have out Insect tokens or some random Blanchwood Armored creature. The real problem with trying to base a deck around Kodama of the South Tree is that though dramatic, the creature’s ability is hardly worth playing a large number of substandard Spirits for. Also, while there’s no harm in playing a couple of copies of other powerful legends like Iwamori of the Open Fist and Kodama of the North Tree, Kodama of the South Tree’s deck-dependency really requires you saddle your deck with a full set of it.
Status: In decks with some incidental Spirits, this could be useful, but it’s not worth weakening your card choices for.
Fangren Firstborn has been labelled a win-more card by a number of commentators, yet I feel this is a crucial misanalysis. Many of today’s Mono-Green decks will include small creatures which yearn for power pumps. This isn’t terribly problematic if you’re taking an equipment-heavy route, but otherwise, Fangren Firstborn might be the creature for you. This Beast permanently pumps weaklings like Slith Predator and Birds of Paradise as well as larger creatures like Troll Ascetic and Kodama of the North Tree, which might otherwise become outclassed by opposing equipped creatures. Obviously, Fangren Firstborn is also wonderful with Beacon of Creation, but as both cards cost four mana, there’s a possibility that they’ll be mutually exclusive. The most common criticism of Fangren Firstborn is that its low toughness virtually ensures instant death against a number of popular decks; it takes just one hit from Umezawa’s Jitte, Sword of Fire and Ice, Magma Jet, Echoing Decay, and Shock to kill off the Beast. Certainly, in this regard, Fangren Firstborn is inferior to Kodama of the South Tree and the available 5/5 four-drops. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for a creature which must be killed before it gets the chance to attack. While Fangren Firstborn is risky, the rewards of boosting the rest of your team can be spectacular.
Status: Could be very helpful in Green Weenie and moderately helpful elsewhere.
On the opposite side of the four-drop debate is Karstoderm. Although Karstoderm is heavily played in Mono-Green, the reasons for this trend escape me. With most Mono-Green decks running Sword of Fire and Ice, Umezawa’s Jitte, and Sensei’s Divining-Top, this Beast’s suitability seems rather suspect. Furthermore, White Weenie plays a wealth of artifacts. Even though Tooth and Nail isn’t exactly filled with artifacts, it only takes a single Sensei’s Divining-Top to make life difficult for Karstoderm; the same is true for the resolution of Tooth and Nail for Kiki-Jiki + Sundering Titan/Darksteel Colossus. Yes, sometimes, Karstoderm will be, essentially, a 5/5 for four mana; that is, sometimes, it’ll be a great deal. But does Mono-Green really need a vanilla 5/5 for four mana? Once you hit the five mana mark, you’re no longer going to be swooning over the prospect of a creature that neither tramples nor helps out the rest of the team.
Status: Contrary to popular opinion, this card is unplayable in every build.
The key question with Emperor Crocodile will always be, “How often will I get 2-for-1’ed?” Casting the Crocodile on turn 3 with acceleration will always be risky, but after then, you really ought to be able to depend on having another creature in play. Emperor Crocodile’s unpleasant side effect is that it’ll make you much warier of attacking with the whole team. Obviously, the later you get in the game, the less likely you’ll get caught without creatures. On the other hand, the later you get in the game, the less likely you’ll want a vanilla 5/5.
Status: Better than Karstoderm by a long way, but still not good enough for any build.
Iwamori of the Open Fist:
The comparisons to Hunted Wumpus are less useful than they may appear. For one thing, although Iwamori is, in itself, considerably better than Hunted Wumpus, a creature which saw some play in last year’s Standard, Hunted Wumpus was the beneficiary of Contested Cliffs. Unfortunately, Iwamori can’t deal with the Akroma, Angels of Wrath of today like Hunted Wumpus once could. It has been said that fast Big Green decks don’t have to worry about Iwamori’s disadvantage, since they’ll always be able to out-threat opponents, but is this really true? The only commonly-played legendary creatures that are, once in play, less powerful than Iwamori are Isamaru, Hound of Konda and Hokori, Dust Drinker. Sure, against MUC, the chances of your opponent plopping down a Meluko the Clouded Mirror or Keiga, the Tide Star aren’t huge, but are they really chances you want to take? Blanchwood Armor and Sword of Fire and Ice are great on just about any creature; you hardly need to be running Iwamori for their sake. Of course, we wouldn’t be talking about Iwamori at all if it didn’t have trample, a rare commodity these days.
Status: Tempting but incredibly risky in most matchups.
Kodama of the North Tree:
So long as we’re talking about trample, it shouldn’t be difficult to see that Kodama of the North Tree is amazing. Usually, a creature like this would be greatly enhanced by its untargetability. Seeing how easily White Weenie can block and kill it though I, more often than not, find myself regretting this Spirit’s abhorrence of equipment and enchantments. Nonetheless, it’s a 6/4 trampler for five mana with no drawbacks. The worst thing you can say about Kodama of the North Tree is that, against sideboarded MUC, you’re probably going to be seeing it on the other side of the table every other game to due Bribery. Still, the Spirit is much easier for you to kill in combat than other potential Bribery targets like Molder Slug. It’s true that, against other Aggro decks, Kodama of the North Tree won’t often last beyond a single attack phase, yet as with Fangren Firstborn, creatures which must be stopped tend to be pretty good to have. How many copies should you play? The thing to understand about Kodama of the North Tree is that, although insanely good, this creature adds nothing to the essential strategy of your deck. Limit yourself to two or three copies.
Status: Outside of Green Weenie, Kodama of the North Tree is excellent.
This is the rant that’s going to get me in the most trouble here. I love Molder Slug for the current metagame. Everyone (including most Mono-Green) runs artifacts. And if everyone jumped off a bridge? Yes, just about every creature in the game gets better when equipped with Umezawa’s Jitte or Sword of Fire and Ice, but at some point, we have to question whether or not “better” is good enough. Equipment works best in Weenie decks because, in these decks, the artifacts themselves are the stars; all those Lantern Kami and Skyhunter Skirmishers are really quite expendable. Even though you can play Green Weenie, it seems like a losing proposition from the start, considering that White’s early drops are so clearly superior to Green’s. In fact, when it comes down to it, if I wanted to play broken equipment in a deck with big creatures, I’d be playing Big Red. Big Red might not have many creatures grovelling to enter the three- and four-mana slots (the deck’s equipment slots, incidentally), but its five-drops are amazing. Oh, and if you play Big Red, you can also run burn. So, why are you playing Mono-Green?
Without equipment on the board, Mono-Green’s creatures are far and away the best non-legendary attackers in Standard. Take away all their weaponry and Lantern and Hearth Kami quiver in fear at the thought of a plain, old Troll Ascetic. And Molder Slug? At five mana, you get a beater which, in straight-up combat, stands toe-to-toe with every commonly-played creature outside of Tooth and Nail. That and, on the side, Molder Slug invalidates equipment, Chrome Mox, Aether Vial, Vedalken Shackles, Darksteel Colossus, Sundering Titan, and whatever random brokenness your opponent might happen to play against you. Combined with the artifact-removing Elves, Molder Slug emasculates a great many decks. White Weenie’s best chance is to stock up on artifacts in hand for the sake of a later sacrifice window in which it can get in a few hits with Jitte. Needless to say, this is hardly complementary to White Weenie’s gameplan.
Tooth and Nail, meanwhile, will only be able to attack with Sundering Titan or Darksteel Colossus half as quickly since, each turn, Kiki-Jiki will be occupied with making a sacrificial victim to Molder Slug. When I first tested Mono-Green, I started off with two copies of Molder Slug. Then, I moved up to three. Eventually, I realized that Molder Slug was the card I most wanted to draw in the majority of games. So, I cut my six-drops in order to fill out the Molder Slug set that went alongside Kodama of the North Tree, and I haven’t been disappointed. Unless you’re enchanting Rushwood Dryad against Tooth and Nail or Slith Predator against everything else, there isn’t any real comparison between Blanchwood Armor and the fantastic equipment, yet Molder Slug is so powerful in the current metagame that I’m very willing to leave artifacts out of my Mono-Green decks.
Status: If you aren’t playing Green Weenie or running equipment, put four of these in your deck. Now.
Once underestimated in now draft, now woefully ignored in Constructed, Fangren Pathcutter might deserve a place in Big Green. As mentioned previously, this isn’t a great time for trample in Green. Mono-Green plays many creatures (Troll Ascetic, Fangren Firstborn, Karstoderm, Emperor Crocodile, Kodama of the South Tree, Molder Slug, anything with Blanchwood Armor) which could benefit from Fangren Pathcutter’s “special stuff”. 4/6 for six mana might not seem so impressive, yet the importance of toughness greater than five in today’s Standard is often missed. As the metagame stands now, I would much rather have a 4/6 than a 5/5 (only against Arc-Slogger are Fangren Pathcutter’s power/toughness worse than Iwamori’s). If not for the extreme importance of Molder Slug and the attractiveness of Kodama of the North Tree, I would find a spot for Fangren Pathcutter in my Big Green decks. As it is though, unless you’re leaving out Molder Slug, have a terrible dislike for Kodama of the North Tree (I’m not always the biggest fan), or are running more mana than the landlord’s daughter, Fangren Pathcutter is simply outclassed.
Status: For Big Green only, and even there, it might not be ideal and should rarely be played in more than a couple of copies.
Jugan, the Rising Star:
A 5/5 Green flyer for six mana is going to attract attention whether or not it has any extra guf piled up on top. The problem is, I’m not sure that flying is actually better than trample in this White Weenie-influenced metagame; you’re not, after all, going to be using Jugan to block Leonin Skyhunter all that often. The “goes to graveyard” effect is undeniably nifty, but let’s be realistic: Assuming no acceleration and that Jugan dies during the combat phase in which it attacks for the first time, those +1/+1 counters aren’t going to be offensively useful to you until turn 8. Ugh. I’d rather play Fangren Pathcutter.
Status: Even Big Green has better things to do.
Its regeneration is prohibitively expensive, but it’s great with Blanchwood Armor. Of course, everything‘s great with Blanchwood Armor. At least, Fangren Pathcutter helps your other creatures as well. Rhox is, actually, a possibility if you have enough mana and are looking for Green evasion.
Status: If it sounds like I’m being tough on Rhox, you should note that I prefer it to Jugan.
Our two consciousnesses will meet again tomorrow on this self-same computer monitor.