I spent about a month dwelling on how to rate Apocalypse cards, and gave a couple of simple rules. I’d like to move to a simpler yet more complex application: The Stompy deck. Players love this deck not because it is amazing, but because it looks simple and elegant compared to complex control decks. Besides, it uses very few rares and old cards, but can take down unsuspecting power Type I decks.
For reference, I wrote a comprehensive primer on playing mono green: This primer also contains the text and notes for all relevant cards, so refer to it if you are unfamiliar with the cards.
The humble compilation begins,”An old Magic joke: There’s a fifth color of Magic?” As this article will try to demonstrate, too many unsuspecting players think that green is a simple color, and throw in cards without knowing why they are using them.
I will be referring to a very interesting thread on the Wizards forums:
Basically, WildKarrde posted his”Suicide Green” deck last June 11:
Simple enough? In the last three weeks, I applied the Socratic method (keep asking and asking questions) on the younger regulars of the forum. I had fun and thanked them, and I hope I manage to name them all below.
See if you can separate myth from pragmatism, and address the points I raise below. Try to think about each point (in boldface) before you read the answers.
#1: Reaver said,”Add 4 Gaea’s Cradle”
Wildkarrde liked this suggestion. He said:”Gaea’s Cradle provides for a faster recovery. If your first wave of creatures get Earthquaked, once another creature comes into play, using Gaea’s Cradle makes it easier to regain lots creatures. Or if you need a swift ambush, simply use Gaea’s Cradle to double the amount of creatures that are in play. Not to mention that if you use a lot of Rogue Elephants which sac Forests, Gaea’s Cradle makes up what’s lost. Very good mana indeed.”
But I pointed out certain contradictions. To use Gaea’s Cradle effectively, you should have a lot of creatures in play. And using Elvish Spirit Guide and Vine Dryad, you can have three cheap green creatures in play by the first turn. Playing Cradle on the second turn, you will have four green mana ready. Thing is, assuming you went first, you will only have one card in hand.
Now, assume that this one card is an expensive one, to make Cradle worth it. Say, it is a Blastoderm. Great, right?
The problem, now, is what happens if you don’t draw the Cradle? In general, decks that rely on a single card are not very good. If you suddenly add four- and five-mana spells to a deck full of one-mana spells, you are being cruel to your mana base Â— and Cradle does not really fix the problem.
Even worse, unlike what Wildkarrde said, Cradle does not help you recover. Suppose an opponent manages an Earthquake on his first turn (say he had a Black Lotus). You are left with a single Forest in play, and a single Gaea’s Cradle in hand that will not produce mana. And by the time the Cradle produces mana, you will have no cards in hand, thus nothing to spend the mana on, anyway.
Later in that Wizards thread, I listed a number of Extended decks from Masters tournaments and showed that mono green decks of all kindsÂ—not just Stompy Â— did not hardly the Cradle. Older, slower Type II decks did, especially to fuel Deranged Hermit, but not the Extended decks.
Now, do you see why the Type I decks will not?
What does one mana on the first turn do, even at the cost of a card? It allows you to cast an extra creature, one you would have played on the second turn (thus the Time Walk analogy). It allows you to start attacking, and start playing Rancors second turn.
You lose a card, but Stompy decks are so inflexible Â— they can do nothing but attack Â— that they have no time to waste. Every turn that they play around is another turn an opponent can play a Moat or some other power card.
Since speed is the main strength of this deck, it just has to milk it. And, replacing Forests with Spirit Guides is usually alright because everything in the deck runs on one mana. By the time you play out your opening hand, one Forest will be enough to cast the things you draw every turn, as illustrated in #1.
On a related point, the same reasoning should tell you to remove Pouncing Jaguar. It is a first-turn 2/2, but notice that it forces you to pay an extra mana on the next turn when you may have just one Forest in play. Compare it to Elvish Spirit Guide, and you will see that it is a very awkward reverse Time Walk.
#3: Shadow266 said,”Llanowar Elves are good for this deck.”
He exclaimed,”You amaze me. They are great giving him more mana to cast creatures. They suck because all the Stompy decks use them, right?”
Again, think very closely. (Incidentally, Extended Stompy decks do NOT use Llanowar Elves.)
Say, you play a Forest on your first turn, then play an Elf. You do not attack the following turn, but play two one-mana creatures. Did you gain a turn?
Not really. This is Type I, and you have the cheapest green creatures Â— all one-mana Â— available anyway. You could have easily played a creature on the first turn, and two more on the second. It is not worth it to waste time on the Elf, too, since you will have more mana than cards, as already illustrated.
Again, you want to attack quickly, and who needs more mana when everything costs 1?
(This explains why green is far less powerful in Type I. One of its key strengths is fast mana. But in a format with all the cheapest spells ever printed, AND Moxen to boot, who needs to waste time with mana acceleration? Combo decks, that’s who… And they won’t be using Llanowar Elves.)
First, we already demonstrated how Gaea’s Cradle can screw up the mana base of this deck. Let me elaborate: Since green has no card advantage to speak of (and you cannot use Survival-Squee here, really), pretty much the only thing it can do is use as few land as possible. Aside from Elvish Spirit Guide, Stompy decks usually replace four more Forests with Land Grant, which remove Forests from the deck. All this gives a slightly better chance of drawing spells later on, since the deck can survive on one Forest.
But are these”extreme finishers” good? They are most useful when you have more than three creatures in play. If you can keep them in play by the time you get the mana for the extreme finishers, wouldn’t you have won by then?
In other words, if the cheap solutions such as Giant Growth, Rancor and Bounty of the Hunt work, set aside the more expensive but harder to use fancy tricks. (But hey, I confess to enjoying Might of Oaks. With the original art.)
#5: Shadow266 said,”Add 4 Harvest Wurm”
I assume it was because of the prominent role this card had in the old Stompy decks. If you pay two mana and return a Forest from your graveyard to your hand, you get a 3/2 creature with no drawbacks. Shadow266 explained,”Harvest Wurm are really good because they are BEEF. and they also combo well with Rogue Elephant. By this I mean you play a Rogue Elephant and sack a land the next turn, if you have two more lands or if you have an Elf and a land in play, you can play Harvest Wurm and get the land back.”
This was the original Stompy deck:
SENOR STOMPY, BRYAN HUBBLE, 9TH PLACE, AUGUST 1997 TEXAS STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Rogue Elephant
4 Ghazban Ogre
3 Harvest Wurm
4 Spectral Bears
2 Whirling Dervish
2 Jolrael’s Centaur
2 Uktabi Orangutan
4 Giant Growth
2 Bounty of the Hunt
Other tricks (4)
4 Winter Orb
2 Heart of Yavimaya
The exact same deck was used by Svend Geertsen to make the semifinals of that year’s Worlds, beginning this deck’s rise in popularity. See the Harvest Wurms?
What other players do not see, however, is that the same deck had four Rogue Elephants and two Hearts of Yavimaya, which send Forests into the graveyard. And later on, decks added Mox Diamond to use the Wurms more reliably.
#6: Major said,”Add Scavenger Folk”
He simply explained that a deck needs artifact destruction; a very valid point. The reasoning is that Elvish Lyrist is good, so Scavenger Folk also gives you a creature that doubles as artifact destruction.
I would recommend just having Crumbles in a sideboard, though. Unlike Scavenger Folk, no alternative exists for Elvish Lyrists. However, I would rather have the one-mana instant Crumbles over Scavenger Folks that have summoning sickness and can be killed by the artifact that should scare them most: Powder Keg.
However, you do not have room to fit everything in, and adding artifact destruction weakens your punch. Another solution is to simply play carefully Â— two creatures at a time, maybe add a Vine Dryad Â— if you expect Powder Keg.
Notice that Scavenger Folk and Elvish Lyrist are almost identical… But they are not, because they handle different problem cards. Elvish Lyrist handles Moat and The Abyss, and I think it stands a better chance of getting rid of summoning sickness in time to handle these more expensive threats. There are other artifact threats, but Scavenger Folk would be hard-pressed against Powder Keg.
#7: Shadow266 said,”Add Quirion Ranger”
He explained, “The Quirion Rangers go well in decks like these because of Winter Orb they allow you to bring back a land each turn and replay it while you have the Winter Orb out.”
I agree that the Rangers would be good, but since the deck can run with one untapped Forest a turn, the Winter Orb trick is no longer as relevant (compare the deck to the 1997 original). (And another irrelevant trick is filling up the hand for Maro.)
The Ranger is amazingly flexible here, and gives land destruction and Stasis fits. It makes Spectral Bears more powerful, and turns the expendable Skyshroud Ridgeback into a surprise blocker that no one wants to trade with. Yes, Skyshroud Ridgeback can be nastier than obvious in this deck, since 2 turns is a long time for Stompy.
A deck as simple as Stompy can still pack a lot of tricks, so watch out for them… And consider which ones are really important to you.
#8: Shadow266 said, Stompy shouldn’t have trouble against fat blockers.
He explained:”T1: Forest, Llanowar Elf
“T2: Tap forest, play Rogue Elephant, play Gaea’s Cradle, tap Cradle and Elves, play 2 Rancors, Briar Shield
“T3: Forest, tap forest and Cradle, play Seal of Strength, Rancor, Briar Shield.”
This, however, is NOT how Stompy is supposed to play. One Swords to Plowshares from a control deck and the Stompy player concedes with an empty hand. This situation also illustrates why the Elves are bad. Imagine getting your Rogue Elephant getting a Swords in response to the last Rancor or Briar Shield? You lose practically your entire hand at a cost of one card to the opponent.
Shadow gave this reply in response to an opinion of mine; that casual Stompy decks would have trouble with casual decks with fat blockers (since we talked about casual Extended). Stompy would have to trade two or three cards to kill one blocker, and run out of cards very quickly. No problem if the creatures that get through and are pumped deal twenty damage, but if not…
#9: Shadow266 describes a Stompy mana curve where Cradle and Overrun can fit in.
I said that with Stompy and ten Forests or less, Cradle and Overrun would be useless. Shadow266 gave an alternative:”Let’s see, since I don’t play Type One. Cause if I did, I’d make myself buy all the Power Nine… So I don’t.
“Now the mana curve I’d have would be quite similar to the Senor Stompy decks; it has a steeper mana curve. I would use four of each of Llanowar Elves, Quirion Rangers, Rogue Elephants, Harvest Wurms, Rancor, Jolrael’s Centaur, Briar Shield, Symbiosis, Overrun. The land mix would be around twenty-two lands with four Wastelands, four Treetop Villages, two to four Gaea’s Cradles, and the rest would be forests.
“Is that a good answer?”
Unfortunately, this is not really a good mana curve. It has the classic idea of the curve, with a lot of one-mana plays and a few three- and four-mana plays. But this is very slow, and a control deck could easily wait for the three- or four-mana creature, Mana Drain, and tutor for Mind Twist, Morphling, or The Abyss.
The idea of a mana curve is not to have a lot of cheap plays and a few expensive ones. It is simply to use all your mana every turn. In Type I, because you have every cheap play ever printed, the curve flattens out, and in Stompy it stops at two. But if you try playing one, you will notice that you end up using your all your mana every turn for the first few turns, anyway. And again, having extremely cheap spells allows you to run very few land.
It is difficult to see, but all this still fits in with the classic idea of the mana curve, albeit in a Type I way. (In a red Sligh deck, for example, all your creatures and spells also cost one or two mana… But you have Cursed Scroll, which eats up three mana a turn. The mana curve here is to empty the hand and spend all the mana every turn casting the spell drawn and Scrolling. It’s still a curve of sorts, though a flat one.)
#10: Shadow266 says that he was describing Extended concepts.
He said,”Again, Rakso, I write that I do not play Type One due to the expense and the fact that I live in a small town so I have a much harder time getting those powerful Type One cards. I prefer to play Extended and Standard, as the cards are easier to get.
“So my version of Stompy works much better than it would in type 1.”
The deck Shadow266 described in #9 looked a bit like the original Stompy in 1997, but we showed that this deck structure is very much obsolete. But is he right that Extended concepts are different from the Type I concepts for this deck?
I disagreed. In the earliest sets, green ironically had lousy creatures. The creature color was shown up by non-green weenies like Serendib Efreet and pump knights. Only during the Mirage block did it pick up steam (if you check the history of mono green in the linked primer), and only with the Urza block did it get its best creatures.
In other words, for this specific deck, the good stuff is all Extended-legal.
This shows how important it is for a Type I player to trace histories and trends, especially since old Type II strategies are more thoroughly tested than Type I strategies. And as shown, it is important to know when an old strategy is ancient and not old. A Stompy deck that still has four-mana fatties? Ancient history, for reasons already discussed.
But this does not mean that there are no differences between Type I and Extended. Some Beyond Dominia regulars would prefer to run Stompy with Wasteland instead of Land Grant to slow down the opponent for just one more turn before Moat hits. Also, Rogue Elephant and other three-toughness creatures work differently in Type I where Lightning Bolt and other three-damage bolts are present.
So building a green deck is easy?
It’s not, but I hope you have fun anyway. It’s a cheap but fun Type I deck to start you off.
And, if your opponent tells you you’re not very smart because you’re playing Type I with Forests and the attack phase, you have ten questions to ask him…
Oscar Tan aka Rakso
Type I, Extended and Casual Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (http://www.bdominia.com/discus/messages/9/9.shtml)
Featured writer, Star City Games (www.starcitygames.com/magic.php)
Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance (www.magic-singles.com/cpa)