Unimaginative Deck Names – A Casual R/G Deck for Standard

Who here likes mana flood? I used to hate it, back when I played Pansy Salad, an 18-land elf deck, in the days of Onslaught Block Constructed with a collective cardpool between myself and my competitors that featured maybe two dozen rares total. Despised it; couldn’t imagine running anything that would actually put more land into play, certainly early because well, I had elves for that. And they did cool things, like tap to make an elf huge, or make everything else block them.

Who here likes mana flood? I used to hate it, back when I played Pansy Salad, an 18-land elf deck, in the days of Onslaught Block Constructed with a collective cardpool between myself and my competitors that featured maybe two dozen rares total. Despised it; couldn’t imagine running anything that would actually put more land into play, certainly early because well, I had elves for that. And they did cool things, like tap to make an elf huge, or make everything else block them.

It’s sad that I, as a full grown adult, was one of those eminently annoying elf deck players. And when I lost, I muttered, “If only I’d gotten my…

Guh. Bad times. Bad times indeed.

My first personal deckbuilding revelation came when I realised that, in order to play with those big fatties I liked the look of – but always lost before I could play – I’d best be looking to generate me some mana flood. Ironically, it was the elf deck that taught me that. It’d be turn 4, and I’d draw my third land – geeze! Manaflooded again! What could I do with all this mana?

I did some experimenting. If I played slower lands, but my cheaper spells killed stuff, or possibly put my opponent at a disadvantage, I’d find myself turns ahead, able to play with the fatties I liked. It was a slow, grinding process, and it involved playing Astral Slide at FNM along the way, as well as a few drafts. As soon as I realised how good Myr were, I was packing redundancy out the wazoo. Rampant Growth became a good friend, and I was finally striking out in my own direction.

When Onslaught was part of the party, it was time to pick a tribe and play it. My tribe of choice was Beasts. Fatties! They were bigger than other stuff, they hit harder, and you needed fewer of them to win the game than stupid goblins. And clerics maddened me with their lifegaining. Elves? Since I was playing elf mirror matches against players short enough to walk under a coffee table, I’d put the elf deck down. Nothing was quite so boring as a player who insists he can play it out, ignoring that both parties lack mass removal and are gaining 40+ life a turn. Maddening times, maddening indeed. Decree of Savagery? No blocks, gain a billion life, win by decking anyway. Bloody hell, it was a stupid mirror match.

Anecdote That Hasn’t Much Relevance
So, if Green was my flavor, then beasts were my only option. My first outing with an actual beast deck was courtesy of a… foolish, perhaps, but fun nonetheless, FNM that I’ve mentioned before. Featuring platinum hits Hunted Wumpus and Damping Matrix, I won in three games against an opponent who utterly outclassed me. I still don’t know how I won; the guy’s a serious Pro Tour competitor, probably the best player in the area now. Game 1, I’ve narrated already – a Hunted Wumpus came down versus a clear board and a hand bereft of countermagic, and finished the game in four short, sharp swings.

What I failed to mention last time is that a Damping Matrix came down before the Wumpus. With his only win conditions being Proteus Staff, Goblin Charbelcher, and Stalking Stones, the Wumpus was just doing things, as the academics say, “by the numbers.”

The second game, the Wumpus came down, but Akroma came down too. Embarrassing, that.

Game 3, however… game 3 featured some truly weird stuff. First turn Xantid Swarm, with everyone crowding around – the other matches having long since finished – and with everyone including my amazing competitor’s older brother and teammates watching, my opponent had to pick the card up and read it.

“What the hell does that mean?” he asked. Cluey guy normally. I think the potential of losing to an utter random like me had him on edge.

“It means you’re booooned.” His brother said, laughing.

That game took a while. I had plenty of time to build up my manabase. A Matrix was downed, in a postcombat main phase. A number of Growths (Rampant) and Vegetations (Explosive) were catalogued as my opponent discarded countermagic looking for Wraths. He had to get up enough mana to create one of his giant monsters – and while Akroma was fun stuff and all, he was only running one (who needs more?). Triskelion is just a 4/4 in those situations, and that’s not all that impressive.

When he finally found a Wrath, gritting his teeth as he failed to garner a single card’s worth of advantage, he slapped it down and lo, the board was cleared. God Was Pissed.

My hand at that point was chock full of fat Red and Green men. Tephraderms, Wumpus, and my lone Copperhoof Vorrac stared up at me, with a gleeful piggy grin on its gleeful piggy snout. MWO had created quite the manabase on the way to digging up his Wrath – he had something in the district of fifteen land and Talismans, and my little chips of burn earlier in the match had slowly nickelled his health down too. I grinned, and put down a Copperhoof Vorrac.

Again with the picking up, reading, swearing. The crowd were laughing, as many people made noisome pig grunting sounds. “Big pig!” was the call. Then, MWO asked, “Are you done?”


He untapped, and reached for his card.

“Ah-“ I said.

“Hey-“ At this point, the name should be changed to protect the innocent. So let’s say I asked Lucy Pinder. “Hey, Lucy, he can only play instants in his upkeep, right?”

“Yeah,” she responded, looking suspiciously like my opponent’s brother and a DCI judge of renown.

“And with, uh, this,” I flashed him a card. “Does this sacrifice the creature before, or after the spell resolves.”

Lucy clapped my opponent on the back and burst out laughing. “After.”

Grab the Reins, targeting you?” I asked my worthy opponent. If he had a manabase, I had a mana empire. He looked at his hand of quadruple Mana Leak, his life total in the low double digits, then did a quick count of all his permanents that were untapped – including a useless Proteus Staff that could do no more than pretend to be useful.

That was a 24/24 pig coming flying at his face. Even throwing all four Mana Leaks at the Grab wouldn’t save him.

He slumped, tossed down his cards and extended the hand.

You all still awake?

If you’re not, you should be. There was cheesecake.

Anyway. So then I went out and, determined to improve the deck I had, I made a deck that not only could handle manaflood, but could revel in it. A control deck, in Green and Red – fatties and removal, two loves of mine. I got more tools as Darksteel came out – including Fireball – but it never really came up to snuff compared to just plain old Tron. A shame! I did quite like the deck, and I would have enjoyed seeing it do better. But in a world of Affinity in Tier 0, even a Tier 1.5 deck is too slow.

So why did I relate this story?

Because the deck’s name was “G/R Beasts” or “G/R Beats,” depending on how many beasts I’d shoehorned into the build. No clever name. No stupid name, like, say, Freshmaker, Rabid Wombat, Freshmaker, White Wafo-Tapa, Freshmaker, The Masterpiece, or Freshmaker. No, I was at least boring. But boring is only a little bit better than stupid*.

No Use for a Name
This is a real concern to me. Making bad jokes with decknames is the begrudging lowest form of wit. Most editors forgive them, while they’ll actually carp and criticise in bracketing when the author otherwise opts to be too pun-ishing to the audience. Since subtle humor is one of the best ways I have at my disposal to be completely and utterly misunderstood, I have to use it at every opportunity.

Hyperbole’s good, too.

The longer I played, the more I realised you can’t do a lot about manascrew or mana flood in my favoured colors. You’d get some spells that rewarded late-game manaflood – Blaze being an early option – but it was rare to have a format that “rewarded” you to be busting mana out your ears.

The world of Eternal Witnesses, Fireballs, and Contested Cliffs is past – but we’ve got an era that’s probably even more conducive to this style of play than that time of bygone eras.

One of the first things that lured me into Green as a new player was its theme of growth. Feeling things get better over time. Sure, my opponent may bust his guts to get an early 2/2 creature that could fly, or had fear or something, but my dude started that good and was only going to get better… or so I thought. My initial forays into this – of piling auras onto creatures – proved to be more than a little bit foolish.

Thus spake the audience: Obv.

Still, the theme of growth and development has been one I’ve found very appealing. The power of Green isn’t necessarily as explosive as the other colors – but, provided it can survive in its adverse environment, the creatures the color brings to the table will outmuscle their opponents. It was with this in mind that I turned my eye to Earthen Goo.

I can’t make a secret of my opinion that the Gruul were short-sheeted compared to their setmates. I feel the Izzet and Orzhov really got the lion’s share of the power in their set. The best Gruul Card – Giant Solifuge – was a powerhouse in R/W and R/U decks moreso than in any other options, to hear tell from the Actually Good Players. Burning-Tree Shaman’s abilities were basically irrelevant, with his main lure being his lopsided body, a fine successor to the undercosted curve that was Kird Ape into Scab-Clan Mauler.

Don’t get me wrong. Heezy Street’s a great deck, and mad points to Herberholz for succeeding with it and all that. I haven’t heard major noise about “just playing G/R already” for a while now, since it seems the pure simplicity of the strategy has failed in front of better control strategies – or at least, that’s what I assume has happened. Maybe everyone just got bored or something. Hell if I know – big metagames aren’t my deal.

Regardless! I find it fun that Coldsnap has brought a handful of cards that lean on the normal color alliances, thereby bolstering those color combinations that I feel lost out in the City of Guilds. Could Juniper Order Ranger be more obviously a Selesnya card in disguise? The Dimir couldn’t possibly love Krovikan Whispers, a card that conveniently sits in the mana curve by one of their best transmuters, could they? And what about the Gruul?

Well, the Gruul got Earthen Goo. It’s a trampler, it’s at least an elephant most of the time, and it’s not all that awful when it first comes down. Its cumulative upkeep is quite manageable. Unlike most cards with CU, it’s not that the Goo gives you too much up front in exchange for its eventual overwhelming costs, but rather expands upon your initial investment over time.

Sitting down and trying to make an Earthen Goo deck proved… astoundingly easy. It wants consistent land drops, it wants you to have a lot of mana over time, it wants you to be able to accrue more land if you fall behind, and it also wanted you to be running other threats. Yeah, I learned from Witchetty GWUB that three threats does not a deck make, silly me.

Is it worse to have a stupid name, or an obscure twofold pun that requires people to admit to having watched dubbed live action shows and Paul McDermott comedy routines before they can get it? Well, I don’t know. Regardless, here’s what we have.

This is one of many “Last Hurrah For Kamigawa” decks that’s coming up. I’ll miss Sakura-Tribe Elder when he’s gone. It’s a sad time, really. And Kumano, too – he’s going to be sorely missed, since he’s a fattie I only rediscovered once Kamigawa was well in its twilight years. How could I not love the spiritual son to Arc-Slogger? Oh, lords only know.

What’s In There
Every last one of your threats either is happy to live in manaflooded situations, or eases mana issues. Late Kudzu can be pitched to Allosaurus Rider, or just serve as mediocre chumps while they apply early pressure. Getting a curve of Kudzu into Elder/Into the North and Land, then Goo is often enough pressure to put away other decks. The best thing about the Goo is that it takes care of itself. It quickly outdistances removal spells that care about size, and even if you play badly and drop a Goo solo on turn 3, you still have at least three hits out of the guy.

Kumano is there to be a huge guy, and a utility burn spell. Turning off annoying things like Vitu-Ghazi, or dealing with death triggers, I really do like Kumano in this deck, just for being a fine, reasonably costed man.

Then, there’s just the Civic Wayfinder – who’s a good way to ensure more food for the Goo – and the Allosaurus Rider, who turns late-game Into the Norths and Sakura-Tribe Elders into a mana-free gargantuan. Of course, there are some games where you’ll pitch a pair of Savage Twisters on the first turn, make a Highland Weald, and follow it up with a Sakura-Tribe Elder on turn 2. 4/4 creatures that start the beatdown on turn 2 have won some games. But we still live in a world of Putrefy, Mortify, and less commonly, Wrecking Ball. If you can reliably hit land drops all the way up to your fourth mana source (so as to hit for 4, 5, and 6) then that’s not an awful play. But having the Rider suck down a Last Gasp or the like can be a real savage blow – they just ate three cards out of your hand. Quite embarrassing.

Of the threat base, the only one who’s an embarrassing topdeck is Kudzu – and you have to accept that, in exchange for solid, early game power, the Kudzu is going to have to be a little bit mediocre late. Plus, he still grows, just not as quickly, in the late game. That’s a problem, but not one I’m sure is worth fighting to overcome. Cutting the Kudzus means finding another threat to replace them, and no matter what alternative you take, Kudzus just do the job better. I mean, Boreal Centaur? I suppose you could make the argument that the Centaur lives longer before sucking down a removal spell. People shoot for the Kudzu like it’s… well, Kudzu.

For those who can’t afford Kudzu, the Boreal Centaur is unfortunately one of your better options, with Gruul Guildmage being another replacement for him. You can also run Selesnya Guildmage (who ‘grows’ better) or Golgari Guildmage. If you can’t afford Kumano, the choices are more limited – he’s really good, and he’s only worth half a ticket online, so it’s not like it’s a tragedy if you have to fork out a buck fifty for the guy.

I was running Stalking Yetis until I got Allosaurus Rider. Yeti’s cool. He’s not very good. You never bounce him, you just use him to eat a random 2/2 then swing for the fences. Your growing threats are better, and as a 3/3 dude, he just doesn’t offer enough. Since the Rider costs only 1 ticket or so, it’s not like this is an onerous sum to fork out.

If you cannot afford Allosaurus Riders, or you want to expand this to a more casual format, the Riders can be subbed out for Budoka Gardeners or even Molimo. Molimo doesn’t come down on turn 1, though. The Gardeners should flip pretty quickly in this deck if the game goes even middlingly long.

Skred is totally insane. I honestly am a little sad that it’s always overkilling creatures. Turns 1 through 4, Skred deals about as much damage as you could want, and by the time you’ve used an Elder or an Into the North, Skred will blow anything out of the water. Of course, as is the wont of such cards, there are three problem cards it simply can’t touch. That’s untargetability for you. Shame, really.

Savage Twister is there to be a somewhat ham-fisted card advantage engine. Twisting for one on turn 3 is a non-awful play, but it also lets you make truly huge twists. When I get an X-Spell, I typically imagine I want to cast it for as much as possible (otherwise, I opt for a cheaper version that’s got a fixed mana cost). Fortunately, of your creatures, only Kumano truly fears that – the Goo automatically hinders your Twisting for more than it can survive, and Allosaurus Rider can’t be killed by your own Twister unless an opponent wants to somehow help you along.

Is it worth running Pyroclasm, or Blaze, perhaps, as maindeck removal options? I found it not. Pyroclasm would be better in two or three out of ten games, and in those games, only one would be a game where Savage Twister wasn’t good enough.

What’s Missing
The most defining omission for a deck with this philosophy is Panglacial Wurm. The beautiful big wurm of Coldsnap fame fits my schema for this deck perfectly. He’s huge, for a start, and expensive, but he also turns late-game land-searching cards into something valuable. Into The North gains Kicker GG5, make a 9/5 eat-your-face token. He can close the game in two hits with only a little bit of assistance, and he’ll even deal three over even the fattiest of chump-blockers. If a North Side with a +1/+1 counter on it was an enormous threat, a guy with three more points of power and the ability to spring out of nowhere like a ninja should be better.

I even own the wurms! So why’s he not in there? My normal budget constraints aren’t a problem, since the Wurm’s only about .7 of a tix right now.

Well, the problem is that the Wurm has an annoyingly bad habit of turning up on turn 1 in sets of three. When I run two, I get to see two toothy grinners in my opening seven. Sure, they make great fodder for the Allosaurus, but that’d require me to see the Allosaurus in the same hand as the Wurm.

It’s an emotive argument. Statistically, even a lone Wurm should make late-game topdeck of land-searchers good. But he always seems to show up when he’s not wanted. If I had to cut something for a wurm, it’d be a Wayfinder, but then, I’ve never been an expert on contracting wurms.


Other cards that are “missing” are some of the snow-reliant or snow-assisting cards. Boreal Centaur, Boreal Druid, Rimescale Dragon and Rimehorn Aurochs all suffer from a logistical problem. That is, in this deck, they just suck compared to the alternatives. You could maybe fit in Phyrexian Ironfoot as a fatty who blocks 3/3s and has vigilance, but he’d feel sideboarded rather than main deck.

Scrying Sheets isn’t in the deck because it costs 7 tix each, and the best stuff it can get you in this deck is more of what you were already going to get. If Scrying Sheets just exists to dig you through manascrew or flood, you’d best not have a deck that already wants to end the game with, like, seven land left in its library total.

Curiously, I don’t want for Karplusan Forest, Stomping Grounds, or Gruul Turf in this deck. I know they’re there, and I even tested with Gruul Turf. I prefer having Skreds as a sick kind of instant-speed spitting earth, and Gruul Turfs will mess up that math and occasionally set you behind on tempo.


If you’re one of the lucky few with a casually atmosphered FNM firing up soon, in these final days of the Spirit War of the River of Souls, and you’re looking for something that makes gigantic monsters, crashes into the red zone, and costs you about as much as a McDonalds meal to build, give this little number a spin. It’s fun, it’s sometimes explosive, and it just feels inevitable.

Oh, and if you do, and you get paired versus Glare round 1, I’m very sorry, and what the hell was I thinking.

Hugs and Kisses.
Talen Lee
Talen at dodo dot com dot au

* Speaking of stupid, have I mentioned that Freshmaker is a stupid name for a deck? Because honest to god, it’s worth mentioning. They should give out Freshmaker Awards for Dumbest Fricking Deckname Ever. I nominate “White Wafo-Tapa”** as a nominee for this season’s Freshmaker, if that’s the case.

** Oh, and yeah, I’m not saying I could build a better deck. I just think it’s got a stupid name. Quoth Vinny Jones: “You can call me Susan if it makes you feel better.” Calling your U/W control deck White Wafo-Tapa does not make me feel better. It makes me feel like the deck has a stupid name.

Special Bonus Material: Essay Question (15 points): Why do all Green-Red deck names suck? For Example: G/R Beasts, G/R Beats, G/R Veggie Beats, G/R Aggro. [Frog in a Blender? – Craig.]