Time Spiral Draft – Green

He’s brought us Black. He’s brought us Red. He’s brought us White. Today? The Green cards. Ben takes us through his comprehensive common pick order, highlights some of the more notable uncommons in the set, and presents a workable and successful base-Green draft deck for us to analyze. When TIme Spiral was hot off the presses, the smart money avoided the Green cards. However, today’s Draft Investors aren’t so sure…

When Time Spiral first came out, I was back in Boston spending time with family, not playing in the Prerelease. When I got back on Monday, my roommates who had been playing the set non-stop for the entire weekend told me: "There is just one rule to this set… Don’t draft Green." We played a handful of small two-versus-twos in preparation for Tuesday night at the O, and this rule seemed to be supported. In every draft, one person would get their hands on all of the Green cards, and even with what looked like a good deck they would go down 0-2.

Come Tuesday, the people who hadn’t drafted before didn’t know to avoid Green, and so they got stuck with the color. Every one of them came out with a terrible deck. Fast-forward to about a month later, and Green/White was my favorite deck. The thing that I found was that we had been drafting the color completely incorrectly. When we first picked up the set, we were overvaluing the defensive cards, such as Penumbra Spider, Thallid Shell-Dweller, and Greenseeker. All of these cards are absolutely amazing in a slower controlling deck, but a base-Green deck can’t be slow or it will get outclassed. The only real late-game creature you have is Durkwood Baloth, so your deck needs to put the game away quickly.

Search for Tomorrow – No matter what your deck’s gameplan is, Suspending this on turn 1 is one of the best things that you can possibly do. Acceleration, color-fixing, and deck-thinning are all obvious qualities of the card, but what may not be so clear is that getting to four mana on turn 3 is such a big deal. An aggressive deck will either be able to start playing out its heavy-hitters or multiple small drops, and a control deck can start setting up its defense before the opposition really gets going.

Durkwood Baloth – The Baloth is your only real threat at common. There are plenty of other creatures that you can use to assemble a formidable offense, but none of them is as large as this man. If he were simply a 5/5 for six mana you would still pick him high, but what pushes him over the top is his Suspend option. It’s no coincidence that the two Green cards I value the most are the ones you can Suspend on turn 1.

Gemhide Sliver – The new Utopia Tree does just about everything important that Search for Tomorrow does. It color-fixes better than Search because you aren’t locked in to your choice, and it gets you to four mana on turn 3 just like the Sorcery. Unfortunately, if you play it on turn 2, then your two-drop won’t be attacking for 2. Other strikes against it are its fragility and its potential to backfire against a Sliver deck. Still, even considering those things, Gemhide Sliver will let your deck get rolling fast, and that’s just what you need.

Thallid Germinator – I have been pushing for mindless aggression in Green decks for most of this article, so why do I have a three-mana 2/2 so high up on my list? The simple fact is that his abilities are extraordinarily strong. Getting a 1/1 every three turns isn’t exactly the greatest thing in the world, but the tokens will annoy any deck that can’t get rid of a Thallid. The +1/+1 ability, on the other hand, will make combat especially annoying, since your opponent will have to play around the numerous tricks you might have as well as the ability to trade in 1/1s for power / toughness boosts. Also keep in mind that Sporesower Thallid is the perfect aggressive creature to follow this man.

Penumbra Spider – Just like Thallid Germinator, Penumbra Spider isn’t a terribly scary threat just by the numbers. Not many people will have trouble dealing with a 2/4, but again, the abilities are what sell the creature. Being able to block fliers will give you a solid gameplan against things like Cloudchaser Kestrel, Mana Skimmer, and Crookclaw Transmuter, and the Penumbra ability will make it so that you don’t need to worry overmuch about running into something your opponent may have waiting in the wings. Note that the token form of the Spider can block Corpulent Corpse.

Strength in Numbers – The closest thing that I can remember to compare this card to is Predator’s Strike. They have the same cost, and both give a power / toughness boost and Trample. Predator’s Strike had the added benefit of being able to save a creature from a Red removal spell and some Black removal spells, where the only time you can cast Strength is mid-combat. However, Predator’s Strike never gave a creature +7/+7, and with Green’s Thallid sub-theme, this isn’t so unlikely. Even if it’s only giving your Baloth +2/+2, Strength will still let you trample over whatever dork your opponent put in your guy’s way.

Nantuko Shaman – Suspending the Shaman on four mana appears to be the default option, and it’s certainly a strong one. However, you must keep in mind that if you don’t have another play for your third turn, you could do much worse than a 3/2. If you do have a play for your third turn, then Suspending the Shaman has a lot of great interactions, such as Storm in Green/Red decks, and Primal Forcemage in-color.

Ashcoat Bear – Every Green deck needs something to do on turn 2, and you don’t always have a Gemhide Sliver to kick things into overdrive. Because of this, you will be actively looking for good guys to start the attack on turn 3. The Flash on this Insta-Bear will sometimes pick off a 1/1, and sometimes ambush an x/2, but mostly you’ll just put him into play and attack on turn 3.

Spinneret Sliver – This Sliver is great against other Sliver decks, because the ability that it will grant them is likely to be irrelevant, and it’s a cheap body to piggyback their abilities. At the same time, it’s a fast, efficient guy to play on turn 2 to get your attack started.

Scarwood Treefolk – When your plan is to swing for the fences, coming in to play tapped isn’t a very big drawback. Of course, sometimes you won’t be able to play him on turn 3 on the play and the drawback will be significant. It’s because of this that he is as low as he is, but under a lot of circumstances, the Treefolk will be a high-quality creature.

Herd Gnarr – If you’ve built a standard Green deck, for four mana you’ll get a 4/4 attacker and a 2/2 blocker. That on its own would be good enough to pick and run, but sometimes things don’t work out like you would hope. He’s not the greatest topdeck in the world, but Thallids help out there. On the other hand, sometimes you’ll have something like Empty the Warrens, Ib Halfheart, or just multiple small drops to make him enormous.

Greenseeker – In Green/Black, where you need Madness outlets, Greenseeker is a lot better than this position might have you believe. The same is also true if you’re in three- to five-color Green, and really need the manafixing. In a normal Green deck, though, he’s just a 1/1 for one that will tie up your mana while thinning lands out of your deck. When that’s all he does, he’s pretty low down on the pick order.

Thrill of the Hunt – Thrill is so low because I’m treating it as a Green card. If you’ve got the ability to play the Flashback, its value rises dramatically, up to the point where you can pick it around the same place as Strength in Numbers. The fact of the matter is that it is a Counterspell for one mana against Red and Black decks, and when it’s not fizzling a Soot or stopping a Rift Bolt, it can trade men up or save guys in combat. When you can do that twice for one card, you’ve got yourself an incredibly strong trick.

Thallid Shell-Dweller – An 0/5 wall is certainly not going to further your aggro plan, but he does come with some bonuses that offset his lack of power. He’s a hard Thallid to remove (outside of Crookclaw), so you can actually count on getting a Saproling or two out of him. If you’ve got a Germinator or two in your pile, this extra source of tokens will help you break open the late game.

Wormwood Dryad – If you activate the ability, you’re essentially playing with a three-power unblockable creature, much like Viscid Lemures in Black. On the other hand, this man dies to almost every spell out there, from Grapeshot to Feebleness, and getting your three-drop killed on the cheap is exactly what you don’t want. The Dryad is the first card on this list that I feel a little embarrassed to have in my deck.

Havenwood Wurm – There will be some matchups where a gigantic trampler is exactly what you need, no matter how slow he is. Unfortunately, in most matchups he’ll just be too slow, clogging your hand while you get battered by the quick men that litter the format.

Savage Thallid – Five power for five mana is the right price, but you can usually rely on your five power staying in play for more than one attack. Unfortunately, this Thallid trades off with most of the two-drops in the format. If you do have a heavy Thallid theme, then he will rise from his current marginal status, but it would take quite a few Germinators and Shell-Dwellers to get me to include this man.

Aether Web – Tricks are tricks, and if you don’t have any others you will run this one. The bonus it gives, though, is very small for the cost, so it will usually ride the sidelines. The exception is when you need to be able to block your opponent’s Shadow or Flying creatures, either because you can’t race them or because their abilities are too strong to overcome.

Sprout – As an instant-speed 1/1 for one, Sprout isn’t good enough to make the cut. Even if you have a couple of Germinators, you won’t be happy with this card. If, however, you’ve got a whole host of Herd Gnarrs, Thallids, and Primal Forcemages, you could do worse than an instant-speed 4/4 that gives one of your guys +2/+2 and can give any of your guys +1/+1. I just don’t think you’ll find yourself in that position… ever.

Glass Asp – His stats are worse than both Ashcoat Bear and Spinneret Sliver, and for the downgrade you have to pay an extra Green mana. Yes, he’s still a guy, and if you don’t have any at all you’ll be running him. Usually, however, Green decks have a lot of creatures.

Molder – The best common target you can hope to hit is Temporal Isolation, and after that your options go downhill fast. It’s a good sideboard card to have when your opponent wrecks you with Sacred Mesa or Stormbind, but it is certainly no more than that.

Chameleon Blur – If Molder is the sideboard answer to Stormbind, then the Blur is the sideboard answer to Tromp the Domains. That’s pretty much it.

Mwonvuli Acid-MossStone Rains are pretty bad in Limited, even if they come with a built-in Forest. People used to run Caustic Rain and friends in Ravnica, but that format included uncommon guild lands and common bounce lands. Hitting a storage land isn’t even close to as good as hitting the previous two.

Notable Uncommons:

Tromp the Domains – I caught some flack for not mentioning Firemaw Kavu last time, so I’m going to go right ahead and start with the big bomb this time. If you’re Green, this is the card you want to see; playing games that go "creature, creature, creature, creature, Tromp" is unfair, even if the Tromp is going off for "just" two points. When it goes off for three or four, there are very few ways your opponent will be able to win. I have literally no idea why people continue to get this card later than second pick.

Sporesower Thallid – A 4/4 for four would be very high up on the pick order if it were vanilla, but this man is clearly much more than that. On his own he pumps out a Saproling every three turns, but when he tag-teams with something like a third-turn Germinator, the game is going to be over very quickly. Pick it above any common.

Might Sliver – A regular Green deck will have a Spinneret or Gemhide Sliver or two kicking around, so your 4/4 for five will sometimes give a dork of yours in play a sizeable boost. Luckily, when you pick him early, you can move into the Sliver deck, at which point he goes from "strong creature with a potential bonus" to a bomb. If it’s late in pack three and you don’t have a Sliver Theme going, you should pick him around Gemhide Sliver and Durkwood Baloth. If it’s early or you have a ton of Slivers in your pile, you should take him over every common.

Durkwood Tracker – The stats on the Tracker are reasonable, so he’s a good pick in both aggressive and controlling Green decks. The ability on the Tracker, on the other hand, is amazing. At worst he’s a two-for-one or an expensive removal spell for something like Ephemeron, and at best he will hold off all the 2/2 fliers and Shadow creatures on the other side of the board. Pick him just below Durkwood Baloth.

Sample Decklist:

This deck is a little light on two-drops, and that was the biggest problem that I had with it throughout the matches. However, two Searches allow me to bring my bigger men in quickly, and a lot of them are pretty formidable on turn 3. Craw Giant may be a little silly, but he’s also gigantic and a huge problem for a non-Green deck. If your opponent is building on 2/2s and the like, he’ll just come down and win the game for you. Normally quadruple Green in the cost might be a problem, but with 8 Forests and 2 Search for Tomorrow, casting him wasn’t as hard as you might imagine.

If I could pick and choose cards to improve, I would rather not have Fortune Thief or Penumbra Spider in the deck, since they don’t really help with the aggro strategy. However, both are amazing defensive creatures, and when you have a 6/6 flyer in your deck, sometimes all you need to do is hold them off for a while. All in all I think this was a very solid deck.

Next time is the last article of this "series": Blue cards. I have been putting Blue off for as long as I have because of personal preference, but the color is powerful. Perhaps when I wrap things up here, I will write a little bit about Constructed, what with the upcoming PTQ season and all.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM