The wheel of fate never stops: seven devotion decks made the Top 16 of the SCG Standard Open in Dallas. But unlike Pro Tour Theros, everyone is well aware of Master of Waves now. The rest of the Top 16 was four control decks and five aggro decks designed to beat devotion or attempting to go one level higher and beat decks that beat the devotion decks.
I have been testing for the upcoming Grand Prix in Vienna the past few days and am considering many options, including the various red decks I talked about last week. However, there was a moment when I tried to remember the decks I used for previous Grand Prix events, and I realized that almost all of them were green based. G/W, G/R, Bant, Jund, Junk; the list goes on. What if green is just the best color for me? So I spent last few days investigating green options in the current Standard format and came to some useful conclusions, though they’re not as good as I hoped.
The first and most important thing is that green aggro decks are dramatically underrepresented in the format right now. That’s partially because green decks aren’t extremely good, but this may also be caused by the fact that nobody really works on them and there’s no good advocate for any of them. Okay, there is a person who instantly made G/B more popular. I caught Magic Online account "kibler" playing G/B about ten days ago, so I waited patiently for the subsequent article. It didn’t disappoint, and the deck’s fans are already online.
The primary problem with many green decks is that they lack red aggro’s speed so the opponent has more time to build up a defense. This also means that low drops like Experiment One become dramatically worse as late-game topdecks. Whenever you play against a removal-heavy deck, your creatures will die, so there should be a way to compensate for that lack of speed. In my opinion blue has nothing to offer, as U/G has been bad since U/G Madness, but the three other colors do have options.
Black offers two ways to solve problems: Thoughtseize and hard-to-kill creatures. White offers hard-to-kill creatures too, but building with Brave the Elements is a very different beast. It isn’t good against sweepers, but it allows us to go on the offensive through blockers like Master of Waves tokens and Frostburn Weird. Red is the strangest color to pair with green if we don’t go with the G/R Devotion deck. Red has neither hard-to-kill threats nor any kind of disruption. What red does offer is card advantage.
Domri Rade isn’t very popular, but the card is still insane, especially if we’re expecting a rise in control after so many devotion decks did well in Dallas. Another interesting thing red offers is Flesh // Blood, a risky card able to do a lot of damage with Ghor-Clan Rampager or Polukranos, World Eater. It seems that all three colors are playable with green and which one to choose mostly depends on the metagame and your personal preferences. So let’s look closer at our options.
Lotleth Troll; Reaper of the Wilds; and Varolz, the Scar-Striped are black multicolored creatures, which means that they’re invulnerable to both Doom Blade and Ultimate Price even without regeneration or hexproof. Having open mana each turn isn’t the best thing to do in aggressive deck, but G/B has a partial solution for this problem: Boon Satyr. Depending on what’s going on, you may spend your mana to regenerate a creature, to cast instant-speed removal, or to add pressure to the board. In the worst case of removal in response to Boon Satyr, you’ll just exchange one for one without losing any board presence.
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Dreg Mangler
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 2 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 2 Polukranos, World Eater
- 4 Boon Satyr
- 4 Reaper of the Wilds
I like Brian Kibler list a lot, though I would probably exchange Hero’s Downfall for Putrefy. The mana base isn’t this deck’s strong suit, and when I played with it, I suffered from not having double black a few times. The ability to kill Jace, Architect of Thought with Hero’s Downfall is sweet, but the popular instant is worthless when trying to deal with Whip of Erebos. Putrefy helps tame the mana base very well.
Another thing I like about this deck very is its ability to convert into a removal-heavy deck against other aggro decks. This was also the best thing about ISD-RTR Jund Aggro, which boarded in Olivia Voldaren and Doom Blade over Falkenrath Aristocrat. These days we have only Polukranos, World Eater, but it’s still fine in addition to the various removal spells and hard-to-kill blockers. I’m not sure if Gift of Orzhova is better than Nylea’s Disciple against Mono-Red Aggro, but it’s more versatile so I’m fine with it.
Another minor change I want to make in Brian’s deck is to add two copies of Mogis’s Marauder to the sideboard. Why? Frostburn Weird can be embarrassing. Looking at a bunch of Elemental tokens and an opponent at low life is embarrassing too. Mogis’s Marauder is a perfect way to solve stalemates against devotion decks, which are very dangerous since many blockers on the battlefield always threatens something unfair. Mogis’s Marauder seems to be a little bit better in here than Mistcutter Hydra against decks like Esper Control and Mono-Blue Devotion. It’s not as good of a topdeck on an empty board, but if you have some presence, it’s much harder to deal with since Hydra can be stopped with a single removal spell or Mutavault (which can’t block creatures with intimidate).
White doesn’t offer Thoughtseize to deal with Supreme Verdict, but you still have Voice of Resurgence, Experiment One, and other resilient threats. Note that Experiment One is much more likely to grow to a 3/3 in G/W than in G/B, so it’s probably better there. However, there’s an important problem; if Brave the Elements is the reason to play white, having Experiment One, Boon Satyr, and Advent of the Wurm may be too greedy. Gods Willing can solve this problem, but this way we eschew the whole point of playing white. I like green decks very much, but if you want to maximize Brave the Elements, you better play Mono-White Aggro splashing for red or black. Ben Lundquist did a great job winning the Standard Open in Los Angeles with W/R Aggro:
- 4 Dryad Militant
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 2 Azorius Arrester
- 4 Boros Elite
- 4 Frontline Medic
- 4 Daring Skyjek
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
Robert Berni’s deck from Dallas Top 8 is one maindeck card away from Lundquist’s deck, which is pretty amazing. Robert also decided not to play Fiendslayer Paladin, which was a reasonable choice for a Top 16 without a single Mono-Black Devotion deck. That’s also true for Boros Elite, another card which is in my opinion underrepresented. Battalion is a very swingy mechanic since it’s easy to disrupt, but whenever Firefist Striker or even Arena Athlete are good in red decks, Boros Elite and Daring Skyjek could be here to allow Mono-White Aggro to be faster than comparable green decks. Personally, I prefer Orzhov Charm to Boros Charm in a field full of Master of Waves, but I have already strayed too far from my main topic.
So let’s return to green decks. The last option is G/R, and my example is obvious: the deck played by Matias Soler in the finals of Grand Prix Santiago. I submitted last week’s article before the beginning of day 2 of due to differing time zones, meaning I was unable to address the winning B/R deck, so I’m going to say a bit about it before going on to the G/R list.
- 4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
- 1 Thrill-Kill Assassin
- 4 Rakdos Cackler
- 4 Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
- 4 Spike Jester
- 3 Xathrid Necromancer
- 4 Tormented Hero
- 4 Mogis's Marauder
- 10 Swamp
- 8 Mountain
- 4 Blood Crypt
Luis Navas’ deck is very elegant and powerful, but I’d build it a little bit more aggressive. It still wants to be fast as Mono-Red Aggro, so I’d move Xathrid Necromancer to the sideboard in favor of Firedrinker Satyr and exchange two lands for Magma Jet (or even Titan’s Strength). Xathrid Necromancer is a fine card against Supreme Verdict, but I’d rather have Thoughtseize or an early creature.
- 3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Kalonian Tusker
- 3 Witchstalker
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
- 3 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Boon Satyr
- 2 Flesh
Witchstalker is an interesting card. I still dislike this 3/3 for three, but it makes Ghor-Clan Rampager reasonable in a field full of removal. Add this to Boon Satyr and a lot of mana in the mix and you have a reasonable Trained Armodon in Constructed. A lot of mana is an interesting proposition since, for example, G/B can’t afford to play both Sylvan Caryatid and Elvish Mystic due to their late-game quality.
However, Domri Rade allows you to play both and still have reasonable topdecks, which is great since you have access to much more explosive starts than G/B and even more than G/R Devotion decks featuring a full twelve acceleration cards. This allows you to have a higher mana curve and so many more powerful threats, which is important when you can’t protect them from removal. You simply play a game-ending threat fast, and if your opponent doesn’t have a removal spell right away, they’re in trouble. Even if the first threat dies, you can find another one very fast, and it will probably be more powerful than just a Dreg Mangler or Lotleth Troll with nothing to discard.
I like the zero copies of Scavenging Ooze in this decklist, as it’s hard to feed it without removal, but I really wish G/B could afford to play Kalonian Tusker. My tests comparing G/R and G/B showed me that black is better against Mono-Blue Devotion and Mono-Black Devotion because you have many more ways to deal with their threats and keep them off of their devotion. Red is similarly better against Esper Control, as you have six or even more planeswalkers and some of them can come down as early as turn 2 and win a game nearly singlehandedly. I like having Chandra, Pyromaster in the sideboard, but Matias’ Ruric Thar, the Unbowed is better in a world where control decks have about five ways to prevent it from hitting the battlefield.
I’m not fan of just two removal spells maindeck, but red doesn’t have ways to deal with Desecration Demon and Master of Waves anyway while Domri Rade helps in almost any other situation. I tried playing more removal, but it decreased Domri’s effectiveness dramatically. Mono-Red Devotion from my previous article is better for a field filled with Mono-Red Aggro.
It’s also worth mentioning that I was very impressed by the addition of Ember Swallower to that list. The card, while being surprisingly unimpressive against Mono-Red (I blame you, Firefist Striker!), is very good against both Esper and Mono-Blue Devotion, where they often lean on Cyclonic Rift. This means that it may be interesting to return to the old G/R Monsters lists featuring some copies of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx alongside Polukranos, World Eater and Ember Swallower as the deck’s main threats.
I’d like to end this article with a sweet G/U brew . . . but these colors unfortunately aren’t working very well together—at least right now. So let’s round up what we have. Green aggressive decks aren’t popular at the moment, and there are some good reasons for this. However, they’re solvable issues. I’m not sure how fast Standard’s wheel of fate is spinning right now, but if you’re going to play this weekend, I can recommend trying G/B if you expect the field to be full of devotion decks or G/R if you expect a more control-heavy one.
G/W isn’t as attractive right now, as Mono-White Aggro seems to be a better deck, but G/W could be a good choice soon since it is troublesome enough for control decks and is very good against Mono-Red Aggro. My advice is to wait for the appropriate rotation of the wheel of fate and do the best you can with some kind of green fatties in the meantime.
P.S. I test every new brew against a gauntlet containing the most popular decks. I must admit that the more I play against Mono-Blue Devotion, the moreI like it.