In the previous three articles of this series, we’ve considered every remotely viable Green card for Standard Mono-Green Aggro. Today, we’ll look at the deck’s splash possibilities. I’ll be making some pretty far-out statements, so it’s important to recall that splashing is, at best, an imperfect art and highly metagame dependent. The possible splashes will be listed by color rather than by card type. I’ll assume that most of you are following my advice and playing four copies of Birds of Paradise and four copies of Sakura-Tribe Elder. These, plus one non-Forest basic land mean that your Mono-Green deck will have nine sources of the splash color. In general, I’ll also assume that these splash cards are for the sideboard only as I don’t think that Mono-Green really needs any of them maindeck.
There are a few competing theories regarding splashes, and they can be summed-up as follows:
1) Choose the best cards
2) Choose cards with functionality lacking in the primary color, and
3) Choose cards on the basis of the metagame.
These philosophies aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, if you splash Magma Jet into Mono-Green while the metagame is filled with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker and Hokori, Dust Drinker, you’re fulfilling both #2 and #3. I only mention these philosophies in order to explain the extreme variety of cards that we’ll look at below.
Splashing for Cranial Extraction is definitely in keeping with philosophy #1. There’s no doubt that Cranial Extraction is more powerful in Mono-Green than it is in MBC and G/B Death Cloud. So, what cards are you interested in removing from opposing libraries? From MUC, you’ll be aiming for Bribery; from Tooth and Nail, Tooth and Nail; from White Weenie, Hokori; from Big Red, Flamebreak or Arc-Slogger; from B/G Death Cloud, Death Cloud followed by Kokusho; and from opposing Mono-Green, Plow Under. This is a long list though it’s worth noting that not all of these cards are strictly essential to remove. You’re well on your way to winning against MUC and Tooth and Nail if you can Extract Bribery and Tooth and Nail, but the other matchups would probably be better served by something threatening. That is to say, although Cranial Extraction will never be a dead card, if you have it in your sideboard, you probably shouldn’t bring it in against the majority of decks. Nonetheless, the two decks that it is best against also happen to be the two best and most popular decks in the metagame. It goes without saying that Cranial Extraction needs to be played prior to Tooth and Nail and Bribery in order to work (though clearly, Extracting three copies of Bribery isn’t that bad either). It’s true what people say about Cranial Extraction only setting back Tooth and Nail a few turns, but this assumes that the Tooth player has drawn her threat (Darksteel Colossus or Sundering Titan). More importantly, many Tooth and Nail decks won’t have the ability to hard-cast Kiki-Jiki, and against a deck full of artifact removal (including the Colossus-killing Molder Slug), a single Sundering Titan or Darksteel Colossus isn’t always going to do that much. MUC is more problematic since, by the time you can cast Cranial Extraction, most opposing countermagic should be online unless your opponent played Thieving Magpie (a bad idea against Mono-Green). In any case, Cranial Extraction will strike many players as a “must-counter” spell, and you can never have too many of those.
Status: This spell is a safe bet as it has game against the two best decks and can utterly destroy random, bizarre Combo decks.
Echoing Decay can remove Meloku’s tokens, Insect tokens, Hokori, and Kiki-Jiki. Its ability to take out all of White Weenie’s non-equipped creatures also shouldn’t be ignored. The question we have to ask here is whether or not Echoing Decay is better than Terror. Mono-Black Aggro is quite rare at the moment, as are non-Tooth and Nail artifact creatures. Echoing Decay is nifty, but I don’t want my splash cards to simply do something I could do without splashing (Umezawa’s Jitte and Blasting Station), only better.
Status: There’s superior splashable removal available unless tokens are rampaging in your local metagame.
Note that, against Tooth and Nail, you’ll need to have mana open for Terror (assuming you’re Bird-less) when Tooth and Nail is played. Otherwise, Sundering Titan will undo all your hard work before you get a chance to kill Kiki-Jiki. Since ordinary, born-in-Malmö creatures are not what Mono-Green should be concerned about, we can add Meloku, Arc-Slogger, Kumano, and a whole pile of Mono-Green critters to our list of Terror targets. Now, I’m uncertain that it’s significantly better Terroring Meloku than it is Decaying Meloku’s Spirits, but taking down Arc-Slogger is a damn sight better than annoying Hearth Kami when playing against Big Red. So, Terror is, almost always, preferable to Echoing Decay. It’s probably also better here than Red removal like Magma Jet, but we’ll cover that later. Because a spell like Terror is going to nearly always be aimed at the large, dramatic creatures, I have to question whether it’s useful in Mono-Green.
Although none of your creatures are, individually, as good as Meloku, Keiga, Kiki-Jiki, and maybe even Arc-Slogger, the net value of your creatures will be far higher than your opponents’. Yes, when facing an opposing bomb, I’d rather have Terror than almost anything else, but in these circumstances, your own powerful cards will still be powerful. Meanwhile, when facing an opposing Lantern Kami, I’d much rather have Kodama of the North Tree than Terror. The argument against including spot creature removal is double-pronged:
1) If each of your large beaters increases in value every time a new large beater is added to the decklist, it will usually be pretty silly siding in Terror and
2) You’re going to need those sideboard slots for something else.
Status: Terror might be worthwhile in Green Weenie but certainly nowhere else. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that Green Weenie shouldn’t be playing Birds of Paradise, thus making splashes difficult.
I know that you’ve probably been reading this series from the start and have wondered why there hasn’t been a single piece of savage tech since the first article. Well, fasten your seatbelt for this one. After testing for longer than the Tories have been in the opposition, since the days when the Democrats represented the working man, in short, for quite some time, I’ve come to the conclusion that sideboard splashes are overrated. Seriously, do you really want to weaken Blanchwood Armor and Beacon of Creation for the sake of Terror or Boil? I’d be happy enough going Mono-Mono-Green (that is, Green with no compromises) if not for the insane power of Okiba-Gang Shinobi. Against Tooth and Nail, Okiba-Gang Shinobi is about as good as Cranial Extraction. There are excellent chances of your getting a creature through unblocked on turn 3 or turn 4, and by that point, it’s quite likely that your Ninjas will hit Tooth and Nail or lands/land tutors, either of which will send Tooth and Nail into topdeck mode. Still, if it were only for this match-up, I’d prefer Cranial Extraction. It’s against MUC that the Ninjas truly shine. If I believed that my Cranial Extractions (naming Bribery) wouldn’t be countered, I might run those instead of Okiba-Gang Shinobi. That, however, would be wishful thinking. It isn’t wishful thinking to say that, the vast majority of the time, Okiba-Gang Shinobi acts as uncounterable discard against MUC. Though MUC has plenty of outs (like drawing into Bribery), a single hit by Okiba-Gang Shinobi early on will often grant you the win. Of course, it has to be noted that these Ninjas are absolutely worthless against most other decks. The only place I’d consider siding them in is against B/G Death Cloud.
[Interestingly enough, harbinger of weird tech Tom Chillemi, (he of the Phage vs. Life deck tech while playing The Rock in Extended), flashed me some Shinobis out of his deck at the LCQ at PT: Philadelphia. Adam isn’t the only bright person using the damned annoying Rats, though he’s the first I’ve seen write about it. – Knut, keeper of random info]
Status: My personal favorite splash card for the sideboard, Okiba-Gang Shinobi helps maintain the advantage you have against MUC and Tooth and Nail in Game 1. Even better if you’re playing Plow Under.
I have to disagree with Dave Meddish here, in part because I’m afraid that some players came away with the wrong idea from his article. He considered playing Spectral Shift as an answer to Hibernation, an extremely narrow use of the card. However, since he mentioned Spectral Shift first in connection with Choke, it concerns me that people will view a Spectral Shift splash as Choke insurance. Starting from the assumption that Mono-Green can be built in such a way that it has good chances against MUC, we might expect to win Game 1. In Game 2, however, it would be foolish not to expect your MUC opponent to side-in four copies of Bribery, and even though Bribery isn’t as bad for Mono-Green as many people seem to think, it definitely isn’t a card you want to see. So, in order to keep this key match-up favorable, you have to add a splash card to your sideboard. At this point, Choke comes to mind. Now, Choke isn’t exactly Boil, but it’s still pleasant enough; the only problem is, your opponent probably expected you to side-in Choke, so she sided-in Spectral Shift. How do you escape this sticky situation? Definitely not by playing Spectral Shift yourself! Spending eight sideboard slots (4 Spectral Shift, 4 Choke) on MUC alone is ridiculous (in the bad sense), especially when doing so decreases your deck’s threat density post-sideboarding. If, on the other hand, you simply chose not to run Choke, your opponent will still side-in Spectral Shift, just in case, and she’ll likely be left with dead cards in her hand.
Status: Choke is no more dangerous than Okiba-Gang Shinobi against MUC yet much more risky. Adding Spectral Shift to the mix is really going overboard. I also can’t imagine that Mono-Green will become popular enough to warrant Hibernation in sideboards.
Keiga, the Tide Star and Meloku, the Clouded Mirror:
In my book, absurdly powerful legends all amount to the same thing, so I’ll consider these together. Both Keiga and Meloku are easily splashable and offer Green something it lacks, flying power. If I had to choose one or the other it would be Keiga since the Dragon fits better with Mono-Green’s gameplan. Neither of these creatures are worth it though. Besides ever so slightly weakening Blanchwood Armor and, perhaps, Beacon of Creation, these creatures are, when it comes down to it, just a couple of extra fatties. Although none of them might be of the same quality, Mono-Green can already choose from Jugan, Kodama of the North Tree, Molder Slug, Rhox, Fangren Pathcutter, and any number of other monsters.
Status: These creatures add nothing essential to the deck. They’re “good”, but they don’t break open any particular matchups.
The scry isn’t enough. Although Magma Jet is clearly amazing in Red decks, the scry bonus is insufficient reason to run what is, in effect, a simple creature removal spell when we’ve already rejected comparatively more versatile removal like Echoing Decay and Terror. When you’re running so small a splash as we are, there’s always a risk that the mana just won’t be there for you. Are you willing to put yourself in the position of drawing Magma Jet without a Red source? Is Magma Jet really worth it? Cards like Cranial Extraction, Boil, and Okiba-Gang Shinobi win games all on their own. Magma Jet is just filler (good filler, but filler nonetheless).
Status: This is versatile, powerful removal, but that’s not what we’re looking for in a splash card.
If White Weenie is your big fear, Unforge might be an option. It’s astoundingly narrow and doesn’t do much against any other big decks, but hey, nearly-automatic two-for-one removal is tough to come by these days. White Weenie is a huge threat for Mono-Green, yet it feels more than a bit odd splashing Red for artifact destruction in a Mono-Green deck. If White Weenie is such a big part of your metagame that you’re tempted to run Unforge, you probably shouldn’t be playing Mono-Green.
Boil: Boil is far better than Choke and, at the same time, far more risky. Again, Mono-Green has the tools necessary to beat MUC. Playing spells like Boil just gives your opponent the opportunity to steal wins from you with Spectral Shift.
Status: It’s not worth it.
With Blood Moon, Sowing Salt, and enough land destruction to kill a large cow (if not a sacred one), Red has all the tools necessary to massacre Tooth and Nail. That most Red decks don’t run all of these tools is a testament to the fact that there are other decks in the metagame as well. Blood Moon is a bit more effective than Plow Under and Okiba-Gang Shinobi at disrupting Tooth and Nail, but it does very little against other decks. Furthermore, by turning all of those Cloudposts and Urza’s Lands into mountains, you make it quite easy for your opponent to hard-cast Kiki-Jiki. The hard-casting of Kiki-Jiki likewise makes it easy to search for more than enough lands with Sakura-Tribe Elder recursion.
Status: Inferior to the alternatives against a wide range of decks.
And tomorrow, we’ll have the long-awaited analysis portion of this series! Oooh!