The Green/Black Dilemma: Crypt Sliver!

This is the issue at the very heart of this dilemma: What is Green’s game these days? Paul would have you believe that aggro is every bit as viable as control. This dilemma is about far more than a simple two cards; it is about a general philosophy in this color combination.

Time to get serious; these articles need to get moving with Pro Tour: Yokohama just around the corner. Last week, we took a look at one of the emerging archetypes in the format; this week, we’ll analyze one of the old guard decks: Green/Black.

Kai, I think you did more harm than good with your words; Paul seems to be so infuriated with the last dilemma that he has gone out of his way to try and make me look bad by throwing my part of the dilemma all the way down to number 12 on his list. I would like to offer my condolences to Paul and his family, as he has clearly lost his mind.

Despite it being around half a year since Onslaught came out, I am still amazed that they switched Green and White. It is so interesting to draft now that Green is the defensive powerhouse – and it is especially interesting with Legions, as some aggressive cards were added in Green. This confuses a lot of players, such as my good friend Paul Sottosanti.

You see, this is the issue at the very heart of this dilemma: What is Green’s game these days? Paul would have you believe that aggro is every bit as viable as control. This dilemma is about far more than a simple two cards; it is about a general philosophy in this color combination. The other picks don’t diverge as much due to the limited number of cards available in Legions, but rest assured that the decision you make as to which of these cards is more important to your deck is crucial.

This brings me to another point: Often when discussing of these articles, the issue of common runs comes up. It is noted that certain dilemmas will never arise because they do not come in the same pack – but the lists, rather than a strict pick order, are more of a guideline on how to value the cards for your deck. There are always situations that arise where things can change. For instance, if your entire deck is soldiers, then Daru Stinger can move as high as number 1.

The new philosophy of Green/Black brings me back to the mother of all the dilemmas. Elvish Warrior seems, on the surface, to be an aggressive creature… And it can be. This powerful two-drop can be every bit the beatdown creature, but its usefulness goes beyond that. The entire format is based on 2/2s. His three toughness and the ability to be on the table before the first morph even when drawing first are essential. I know that I have hyped this bad boy enough, but I wanted to reinforce the fact that Green is control.

In fact, the only time it is safe to draft green beatdown, in my opinion, is with White or Blue. And despite these combinations gaining power, they are still at the bottom of the heap.

Crypt Sliver essentially does one thing in Green/Black, but it does it very well. He can stop early beats, and later he can hold off most of the huge monsters. Green is deep with large men. These guys do a splendid job of holding the ground in the late game… But Crypt Sliver sets you up to get to the late game. On top of that, if he is dropped turn 2 he generally gets better and better as the game goes on. You can start by shutting down their Glory Seekers, then later stop their Skittish Valesks. The Stonewood Invoker gets worse and worse as the game wears on until that glorious day when he becomes a bad Enormous Baloth (which, by the way, is completely shut down by Crypt Sliver).

Paul kind of glossed over this fact, but the uncommon and rare Black Slivers are also the best in their breed. Their abilities also become much better with a Crypt Sliver in play. I realize I am not breaking new ground by informing you how wonderfully Slivers work together, but as all three are very playable on their own, I figured they deserved special consideration.

Keep in mind that against Blue you will often have to side out the Crypt Slivers. Not only do they combo with opposing Mistforms, but they also don’t do as much good in the matchup unless you side in your Winged Slivers. (Which is really not advisable.) You may wonder why I value a card so highly if it gets sided out about one-third of the time; well, that is how much faith I have in it the other two-thirds of the time.

In my opinion, the only problem with putting Crypt Sliver so high on the list is that they are so freaking undervalued. Anyhow, here is the list:

  1. Timberwatch Elf
  2. Skinthinner
  3. Krosan Vorine
  4. Berserk Murlodont
  5. Sootfeather Flock
  6. Crypt Sliver
  7. Stonewood Invoker
  8. Needleshot Gourna (Moves up if you don’t have Spitting Gourna)
  9. Smokespew Invoker
  10. Patron of the Wild
  11. Goblin Turncoat
  12. Nantuko Vigilante
  13. Embalmed Brawler
  14. Gempalm Polluter (moves up significantly in Zombie-heavy decks)
  15. Glowering Rogon
  16. Hundroog (Hundroog! – The Ferrett)
  17. Vile Deacon
  18. Infernal Caretaker (moves up with multiple Skinthinner)

As you can see, the tribal and beatdown cards are lower on this list than you may expect. Green/Black just doesn’t have the tribal synergy of Green/Red or White Black. Dirge of Dread is nearly a must for this deck; however, the Murlodont can do very well as a way of punching through and why it is so high on this list.

When you build your deck, you are going to lay out the cards and realize that you have next to no spells. Sometimes, you will be left with a single Dirge of Dread in the spell pile; this is not uncommon. In a perfect world, our G/B decks would be inundated with Cruel Revivals and Swats, but that is rarely the reality. Black isn’t nearly as deep in removal as Red is, so when you are drafting it you need to make sure you are finding creatures that replace the effects of those spells you want. Skinthinner and Aphetto Exterminator are somewhat obvious. You also need cards like Severed Legion, Shepherd of Rot, and Gempalm Polluter to force through damage. Severed Legion has risen a lot with the underdrafting of Black.

On the Green side, you have three new pump creatures in Legions: Canopy Crawler, Timberwatch Elf, and Patron of the Wild serve as necessary combat tricks with the lack of removal. They also combo with the provoke in Green to create mock removal cards. Krosan Vorine is the prime example of this: Turn 3 Timberwatch, Turn 4 Vorine is usually enough to win a game, but the Vorine alone can act as a single piece of creature kill.

This way of drafting Black/Green may seem a bit radical, but give it a try. I think you will be happy with your Crypt Slivers. When drafted this way I truly feel that Green/Black is one of the most potent color combinations, but I say that with a caveat: Green is extremely overdrafted. On top of that, the card valuations are so close it is tough to know when the person to your right is drafting it. So while Green is a very powerful color, you don’t want to get cut in Legions, so be careful.

Ken Krouner

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