The Gangreen Gang

Todd looks at the powerful new green cards being added to Standard in Magic 2015, and starts brewing new decks based on previous builds he’s had a lot of success with.

Well now, that escalated quickly.

It has been quite some time since I actively wanted to play mono-green in a tournament, but the last few days of spoilers have been quite generous with the goods. Chord of Calling, a card that was outrageously expensive due to its power level in Modern, is getting a reprint for Standard. It never made too much noise when it was in Standard the first time around, but back then the creatures were a bit worse. I mean, no one wanted to tutor up a Watchwolf.

But things have changed.

I have something of a history with mono-green decks right before Pro Tours. From the OG Nissa Revane alongside Eldrazi Monument to Ol’ Dunny Dungrove Elder, I’ve even played Scapeshift into Cloudpost and Eye of Ugin with Amulet of Vigor. Ramping into gigantic monsters is fun stuff!

You can’t argue that I don’t go hard with mono-green when Ant Queen and Bellowing Tanglewurm start showing up.

But it has been some time since I got to use my twenty-something playset of Unhinged Forests, and I’m picking them up again. I don’t expect to put them down until someone proves me wrong. Nissa, Worldwaker is exactly what Mono-Green Devotion wanted, a threat at five mana that was actively good against control decks. But it is powerful enough that it could end up creating a whole new archetype. When we can start pressuring them with our lands instead of adding more creatures to the board, we make their Supreme Verdicts much worse. We also get to go huge against anyone without a ton of removal by generating four extra mana each turn.

I know what you’re thinking. Nissa isn’t all that good, right? She just makes your lands into creatures, or just makes herself cheap. Yeah, everyone thought Nissa Revane was bad too, until I ran wild on them with Nissa’s Chosen and Oran-Rief, the Vastwood. This time around, we don’t have to play Elvish Warrior to make Nissa good. Instead, all we need is Forest.

Five mana is not cheap, to be sure. The new Nissa is going to get stuck in your hand sometimes, but the vast majority of your deck is going to produce mana in one way or another. And once she hits play, she’s going to be sticking around for a while. Your entire deck is geared around protecting her from opposing creatures, and she can even put a 4/4 up to block if you have an extra untapped land.

And now, there are no Blightnings or Lightning Bolts to shut her down.

It is also important to mention that both of her initial abilities are +1, meaning you are always building towards her ultimate and always making her harder to kill. While her ultimate is probably overkill, her last incarnation was also a bit over the top too, so this is par for the course really.

Anyway, let’s go nuts.

Nissa Green

4 Elvish Mystic
4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Genesis Hydra
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
1 Arbor Colossus
1 Hornet Queen
1 Reclamation Sage

4 Chord of Calling
3 Nissa, Worldwaker
2 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
20 Forest
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Darksteel Citadel

4 Nylea’s Disciple
3 Mistcutter Hydra
3 Setessan Tactics
2 Unravel the Aether
1 Arbor Colossus
1 Sylvan Primordial
1 Phyrexian Revoker

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why no splash? Well, for one, having your lands come into play tapped is going to be pretty bad. All we want to do with this deck is ramp into ridiculous monsters or tutor for them via Chord of Calling. I will admit that this list is quite rough, and I’m not certain that Genesis Hydra or Chord of Calling are even worth it. But this is what I’m going to start off with and see how the deck feels before making changes.

It is possible we want a few more ramp creature like Sylvan Caryatid, but whenever I played these kind of decks in the past, they always felt like it had far too much air. I like the fact that Chord of Calling can be used early just to find another Elvish Mystic, or dig later for a Hornet Queen against Desecration Demon decks, or just give you more virtual copies of Polukranos. Being able to search up Nylea is also straight-up gasoline.

The tutor package for Chord of Calling is likely not optimal at this stage, but I think it gives us a decent look at where to start. Reclamation Sage can unlock your planeswalkers from Detention Sphere or kill off an opposing Underworld Connections when the games get grindy.

If you wanted, you could go a bit harder on enchantments and play Eidolon of Blossoms, but I was never really impressed by that guy in this style of deck. I get enough card advantage as it is out of the planeswalkers, and what I really want to be doing is attacking. Boon Satyr fit well into the deck, but I don’t think it is good enough without Eidolon of Blossoms as it doesn’t add to what you’re trying to do other than give you two points of Devotion.

Garruk, Caller of BeastsIf you’re wondering why there are only two copies of Garruk, let me explain. For one, the deck can be absurdly clunky when you have too many expensive spells at the top end. I’ve played with four copies of Garruk in the deck before, and he is very good, but this deck has far fewer creatures than previous versions after adding Nissa, Worldwaker and Chord of Calling. There will be too many Garruk activations that just net you a mana dork. That may be a flaw of playing with Chord of Calling alongside Garruk, but I am willing to try them together for a bit at the beginning.

A cute little trick with Nissa is that her “make a 4/4” ability can target any land, including Darksteel Citadel. There will be times where making an indestructible 4/4 wins you the game, but there will also be times where having a land tap for colorless instead of green will also lose you the game. For now, I’m willing to try out one, but I’m sure I’ll want to cut it when it screws me over for the first time. But who knows, maybe I’ll end up wanting more!

As you are probably aware, Chord of Calling doesn’t have to fit in solely mono-green decks. We can play it in other shells so long as we have enough sources of green mana or green creatures to cast it.

The Aristocrats: Act V (or something)

The Aristocrats was the breakout deck for Pro Tour Gatecrash. It revolved around small creatures that worked well together, generating a lot of card advantage and board advantage through sacrificing creatures. When we got another set thrown into the mix with Dragon’s Maze, Varolz, the Scar-Striped and Voice of Resurgence gave us an entirely new deck that did a lot of similar things as the original, but much better.

At one point, I would have argued that Junk Aristocrats was my favorite deck to have ever played in a Magic tournament. It allowed you to do some seriously ridiculous stuff, and I have literally never felt more powerful than when I had a Blood Artist in play. Being able to trade off creatures in combat while netting positive changes in life, as well as the “combo kills” via Cartel Aristocrat and Varolz, was just ridiculous.

Unfortunately, the rotation of Innistrad Block took away a lot of our goodies, but now we just might have enough tools at our disposal to bring back the monstrosity that was Junk Aristocrats.

Junk Aristocrats

4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Cartel Aristocrat
4 Xathrid Necromancer
2 Sin Collector
2 Scavenging Ooze
1 Pack Rat
1 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
1 Athreos, God of Passage
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
1 Archangel of Thune
1 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Banisher Priest

4 Abrupt Decay
4 Selesnya Charm
3 Chord of Calling

4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Temple Garden
4 Godless Shrine
3 Temple of Plenty
2 Temple of Malady
2 Llanowar Wastes
1 Caves of Koilos
3 Swamp
1 Forest
1 Plains

4 Thoughtseize
3 Bile Blight
3 Unflinching Courage
2 Doom Blade
1 Nyx-Fleece Ram
1 Liliana Vess
1 Dictate of Erebos

As you can tell, there is a lot going on here. This deck can slice, dice, and even has Pack Rat. Chord of Calling is quite a powerful Magic card, giving us more virtual copies of a ton of bullets that just smash other decks. Against control, we have more Sin Collectors and Obzedats. Against aggro, we have more Voice of Resurgence, Xathrid Necromancer, and Archangel of Thune.

My kingdom for a Shriekmaw, but I guess Banisher Priest will have to do.

There will be a few awkward draws with this deck that feature too many copies of your bullets, but having access to those bullets in game one against certain matchups will be fantastic. My only concern at the moment is that it might actually be difficult to cast Chord of Calling. We don’t have that many green creatures to help convoke it with, and we only have sixteen green sources of mana.

The good news is that our deck is resilient to a lot of removal from the black decks, and also fairly protected from Supreme Verdict thanks to Voice of Resurgence and Xathrid Necromancer. Unfortunately, we don’t have a ton of Humans to go along with Necromancer, but I feel like he’s probably good enough on his own.

The power level on individual cards in this deck is fairly low, but the same could be said for the original Junk Aristocrats. As you progress your board, you will find small synergies here and there that will make up for that lack of raw power. Your deck plays defense quite well, buying you time so that you have access to many different cards for specific situations with Chord of Calling. What you lack in power you will make up for with very specific threats or answers.

I am genuinely excited to cast Chord of Calling for Athreos in response to a Supreme Verdict. I am thrilled at the prospect of having a board of multiple creatures after they cast their marquee spell against you, and a full hand to boot… or just killing them.

I don’t know how deep I want to go with this deck just yet, but there are a plethora of options available to you. Chord of Calling is really changing the game on how we build our decks. Just look at some of the Birthing Pod decks in Modern, and you’ll see just how ridiculous Chord of Calling can be! While we don’t have any sweet combos to assemble, we can probably grind our opponent out regardless of the strategy they are trying to implement.

My one fear is Pack Rat, hence the Bile Blights in the sideboard. It will be the one card that can get way too out of control for you to deal with. We don’t have a sweeper or a great way to stop it once they start to make more than one Rat, which might mean cutting Selesnya Charm in favor of Ultimate Price or something similar. The versatility of Selesnya Charm is appealing, but it might just not be good enough. I do love the fact that it can kill Polukranos, which is a problem at times, or just be a creature after your opponent resolves a Jace, Architect of Thought and decided to tick down.

What I know is that this deck can be built a great number of ways. A shell featuring Courser of Kruphix is probably sweet, though it will be strenuous on the manabase alongside Cartel Aristocrat. Who knows, maybe Cartel Aristocrat isn’t even what this deck wants to be doing! There are so many possibilities with the release of M15 that I am, quite honestly, overwhelmed. The tools at your disposal are too numerous to count, and I’ve literally spent the last hour figuring out the last few numbers on cards I wanted to include in this deck.

While this Junk Aristocrats is virtually nothing like the Junk Aristocrats of old that I miss so dearly, lacking many of the graveyard-based cards of the archetype, I’m hoping that it will play out in many of the same ways. One major concern is the lack of Blood Artist with such a painful manabase, which is actually more painful now than it was with the “checklands” from Innistrad. Blood Artist was the main way to mitigate the early life loss from Ravnica duals against aggressive decks, but now we’ll just have to grind them out the old-fashioned way, I suppose.

And as for the manabase, I honestly don’t know exactly which lands I want to be playing. The number of dual lands at your disposal is very high, and casting your spells on time should be a priority, but Llanowar Wastes and Caves of Koilos might be worse than just having more Temples. It will take some testing and some time to figure it out, but I wanted to see if we could get away with playing a few.

Both of these decks are doing some awesome things in the current Standard metagame. Both have a lot of game against Black Devotion and U/W Control, but I’m not sure either is very good against Mono-Blue Devotion. That can be fixed, to a degree, but all three of those decks are tried-and-true while both of these decks are untested brews. I’ll be grinding out a lot of games over the next few weeks, testing for the Standard Open in Baltimore as well as the upcoming Pro Tour in Portland. I’m looking forward to seeing if my ideas are as good as I think they are, or at least trying to improve on them once I get a better feel for things.

But one thing is for sure, Chord of Calling came to change the game.