Mono-Green Aggro was very quietly one of the best performing decks of Dominaria Standard, and it arguably put up better numbers than the
various Goblin Chainwhirler decks that stole the headlines. Sure it didn’t
win as many paper tournaments, but there’s a good chance that was simply
due to the large number of players choosing to go with the red decks while
Mono-Green Aggro was mostly an afterthought. However, to many people’s
surprise, during the latest
banned and restricted announcement
from Wizards of the Coast, data was provided that showed the green decks of
the format, not the red decks, were finding the most success in Magic
Although I was surprised to read this at first, it started to make sense
the more I thought about it. The biggest hindrance to the success of the
green decks were the control decks with Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate,
but those decks weren’t very popular, especially later in the format.
Instead we saw Esper Control and Jeskai Control become the two successful
control variants, both of which splashed white for Teferi, Hero of
Dominaria and didn’t rely on sweepers. Therefore, Mono-Green Aggro variants
were actually performing really well under the radar on Magic Online
towards the end of the format.
This leads us into the release of Core Set 2019, where Mono-Green
Aggro gained multiple key pieces to help round out the deck, turning it
into one of the best options for week one of Core Set 2019
Standard. Not only was Andrew Jessup going 5-0 in league after league on
Magic Online, and subsequently
writing about the deck last week
, but then he also placed in the Top 8 of the Team Constructed Open at #SCGWOR this past
weekend. Andrew hasn’t been the only one finding success with Mono-Green
Aggro. Brandon Dempsey
won the Standard Classic
at #SCGWOR and three of the six decks finishing the swiss rounds at 8-0 in
the Magic Online PTQ this past weekend were Mono-Green Aggro, with another
pilot finishing ninth.
Clearly the deck is doing incredibly well right now, especially for how
little people were playing it before Core Set 2019 came out. To
determine why this is, let’s start by analyzing the new additions to the
deck and then talk about the strengths and weaknesses the deck has against
the current popular matchups in Standard. Afterward I’ll discuss what the
future may entail for Mono-Green Aggro, including innovations the deck may
go through. But first, let’s take a look at Andrew Jessup’s Top 8 decklist
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 3 Greenbelt Rampager
- 3 Rhonas the Indomitable
- 3 Thrashing Brontodon
- 4 Steel Leaf Champion
- 4 Thorn Lieutenant
There’s no fooling around here with a deck that’s essentially 32 creatures,
4 protection spells, and 24lands. The gameplan is to play big creatures and
attack, and if that doesn’t work, play bigger creatures and attack some
The heart of this deck remains the same with the two Dominaria
standouts leading the way. Llanowar Elves has traditionally been a strong
card throughout Magic’s history, but the card really shines in the current
Standard format that’s filled with high impact three, four, and five-mana
spells by allowing you to establish battlefield position before the
opponent, even when you’re on the draw. Even with Goblin Chainwhirler being
as heavily played as it currently is, Llanowar Elves is still such a vital
card to untap with on turns two and three that it’s still good enough even
if it gets swept up by the premier red three-drop.
Steel Leaf Champion is the best turn two play in the format, enabled by
Llanowar Elves. While other decks are playing 2/1s or 3/2s on their second
turn of the game, the 5/4 body of Steel Leaf Champion completely dominates
the battlefield in the early game and represents a quick clock by itself
that demands an answer. Chump blocking with small creatures is off the
table, since it can’t be block by creatures with power two or less, meaning
that making a profitable trade with Steel Leaf Champion through Hashep
Oasis and Blossoming Defense is basically impossible inside combat.
Backing up Steel Leaf Champion is one of the biggest “two-drops” in Magic’s
history. The raw stats on Ghalta, Primal Hunger are nothing to laugh at and
I’ve rarely seen an opponent without a removal spell for it survive an
attack or two from the Elder Dinosaur. Of course, Ghalta doesn’t help out
much against the decks that have sweepers like Fumigate to keep your
battlefield clear, but as discussed before, those decks are few and far
between these days. Cards like Steel Leaf Champion and Ghalta don’t
necessarily look flashy without having many abilities or enter the
battlefield effects, but the ridiculously high power and toughness on these
creatures allow them to win other creature matchups through brute force.
While still the heart of the deck, these three creatures have been around
since before Core Set 2019, so let’s take a look at the new
additions to the deck that helped fill it out.
Thorn Lieutenant is a big upgrade for the two-drop slot which was
previously filled by less than stellar cards like Merfolk Branchwalker.
It’s the perfect road block against the decks that are trying to get under
you like Mono-Red Aggro. Bomat Courier and Earthshaker Khenra have a very
hard time getting through it, and even if your opponent uses a removal
spell on Thorn Lieutenant, you’re left with a convenient-sized blocker. The
removal-heavy decks will need to use a spell on the Thorn Lieutenant since
they won’t have a blocker for it, and afterwards you’re left with a small
creature for your trouble. If your opponent decides to completely ignore
the 2/3, late game it can become a 6/7 that demands an answer. Across the
board, Thorn Lieutenant has been a wonderful upgrade for Mono-Green Aggro.
Even though Vine Mare is just in the sideboard of Andrew’s deck, it has
likely had an even bigger overall impact on the deck than Thorn Lieutenant.
Previously, B/U Midrange would be able to combine various removal spells
with The Scarab God to overpower Mono-Green Aggro, which would produce too
many 4/4 creatures for the deck to fight through, but Vine Mare
singlehandedly solves this previously major problem for the deck. Not only
does it have hexproof, meaning that pile of removal spells won’t do the
job, but it also can’t be blocked by black creatures. Each token The Scarab
God makes is a black Zombie creature, meaning none of them are able to
block Vine Mare. The 5/3 body represents a fast four turn clock all by
itself in these matchups, and it’s usually less than that with the help of
Rhonas the Indomitable, Hashep Oasis, and Blossoming Defense.
Vivien Reid is another underrated sideboard card that has been incredibly
impressive every time I’ve seen it, just like I predicted it would be when
I ranked it the seventh best card
in Core Set 2019. It’s not only a removal spell for flying
creatures like Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and Lyra Dawnbringer, but there are
also plenty of vital artifacts and enchantments around the format that need
to be destroyed. For example, the best card Grixis Midrange has to deal
with Vine Mare is Torrential Gearhulk and Vivien Reid can destroy the pesky
artifact to allow Vine Mare to attack again. Pair this with the ability to
sift through the deck quickly with the plus ability, including being able
to help find more Vine Mares, and Vivien Reid can also do the work that
Lifecrafter’s Bestiary was doing before without the vulnerability to
These three new additions from Core Set 2019 have been perfect
upgrades for the deck, turning it into a tier one deck overnight from the
under-the-radar choice it was before. This doesn’t mean it’s perfect
though, and any deck that’s filled almost exclusively with creatures will
likely be exploitable if the metagame adjusts to it.
VS Red Aggro
These matchups are favorable for Mono-Green Aggro ever since Dominaria, which is the most likely reason the deck was so
successful in the Magic Online data provided.
The green creatures with four toughness match up well against both
the red creatures and removal spells, making it hard for the red
decks to win races.
- See above on Thorn Lieutenant.
The R/B decks are better suited for this matchup than Mono-Red due
to access to better removal like Unlicensed Disintegration and Hour
Soul-Scar Mage is a key card for the red decks to be able to shrink
the green creatures, especially when paired with Goblin
Chainwhirler and Glorybringer.
Hazoret the Fervent and Rekindling Phoenix can be problematic to
attack through which is one of the main reasons to play Hour of
Glory in the sideboard of Mono-Green Aggro.
VS Grixis Midrange
Previously B/U Midrange now Grixis to support Nicol Bolas, the
Ravager, was favored against Mono-Green Aggro, but the new
additions to Mono-Green Aggro have helped tremendously.
- See above on Vine Mare and Vivien Reid.
Hour of Devastation is a crucial sideboard card for Grixis for this
matchup, and Sweltering Suns’ stock improved greatly with the
addition of Vine Mare into the format.
Mono-Green Aggro wants to keep in all of their disenchant effects
after sideboard to be able to clear Torrential Gearhulk away for
While Heart of Kiran is weaker against the Fatal Push decks, it can
dodge sweepers like Hour of Devastation, can be crewed by the
planeswalkers that come in from the sideboard and can protect those
same planeswalkers from Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.
VS B/G Constrictor
Close matchup with the deck that has the more explosive draw
usually winning, but I like the Mono-Green Aggro side more overall.
Winding Constrictor is the most important card in the entire
matchup and it’s hard for B/G Constrictor to win with without it
due to sizing issues.
Rhonas the Indomitable and Ghalta, Primal Hunger are particularly
hard for B/G Constrictor to deal with, as well as Heart of Kiran
and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship in the air.
Although B/G Constrictor has a maindeck removal spell with Ravenous
Chupacabra, it’s easy to be prepared for with Blossoming Defense.
Thrashing Brontodon can destroy Walking Ballista and Verdurous
Gearhulk, clearing the way for Mono-Green Aggro to go over the top.
VS U/W Control
This matchup is heavily favored in U/W Control’s favor thanks to
Fumigate and Settle the Wreckage.
The onus is on U/W Control to produce sweepers early and often, as
all the creatures from Mono-Green Aggro hit hard.
Thrashing Brontodon and Vivien Reid’s disenchant abilities are
critical here, as U/W Control relies on enchantments as removal.
Lyra Dawnbringer can be very problematic out of the sideboard of
U/W Control, which is another place where Vivian Reid shines in the
Splashing red instead of black in Mono-Green Aggro will help out
this matchup tremendously, as you’ll then have access to Banefire
which can deal an incredible amount of uncounterable damage late
game after a Settle the Wreckage or two. An example of this could
be Matt Tumavitch’s sixth place list from the #SCGWOR
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 2 Walking Ballista
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Rekindling Phoenix
- 2 Thrashing Brontodon
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
VS Esper Control:
For the most part, this deck is a mix of the removal of Grixis
Midrange and the counterspells of U/W Control. Therefore, Vine Mare
and the planeswalkers will shine when they’re on the battlefield
but try to use other spells as bait for counter magic.
Playing sweepers is becoming increasingly more common for Esper
Control pilots since the release of Core Set 2019, so
don’t be surprised to see maindeck Settle the Wreckage now.
VS U/W God-Pharaoh’s Gift
Another tough matchup for Mono-Green Aggro because of the lack of
answers to Angel of Invention as well as Fumigate from U/W
An early Ghalta, Primal Hunger is the best bet to winning the race,
assuming you can dodge Fumigate.
Steel Leaf Champion is basically unblockable as long as there isn’t
an active God-Pharaoh’s Gift on the battlefield.
The Naturalize effects in Mono-Green Aggro are stretched incredibly
thin in this matchup, and more would need to be added to the
sideboard if you’d want to try to swing it in your favor, but for
now it’s probably not worth the extra slots.
VS W/B Knights
W/B Knights will try to set up “the wall of first strikers,” which
entails multiple first strike blockers looking to clog up the
From there, the plan for W/B Knights is to win in the air, most
notably with Lyra Dawnbringer but also with Resplendent Angel.
Ghalta, Primal Hunger is the most important card to fight through
the blockers W/B Knights provide. Consider saving Blossoming
Defense for it or Thrashing Brontodon if it gets removed by an
Rhonas is similarly important but is much easier to race with
flyers for the W/B player than Ghalta is.
Skysovereign, Consul Flaghip does a good job clearly a two-drop
Knight away as well as holding Lyra Dawnbringer back on defense,
but also can’t profitably attack through Lyra.
VS Mono-Black Zombies
A very bad matchup for Mono-Green Aggro, but it looks like the rest
of the metagame is holding Mono-Black Zombies back from breaking
Mono-Green Aggro struggles with Zombies’ ability to go large and
wide thanks to the various lords and token makers, and even Ghalta,
Primal Hunger can get brick-walled quickly.
Death Baron is particularly obnoxious for Mono-Green Aggro with the
deathtouch ability for all Zombies being impossible to race.
Mono-Green Aggro looks to be a tier one deck again with the additions from Core Set 2019, as well as favorable matchups against the other top
decks of the format. Although there are still some bad matchups out there
like U/W Control, U/W God-Pharaoh’s Gift, and Mono-Black Zombies, those
decks are on the fringes of the format and I wouldn’t expect to play
against them too much as of now. However, the more popular Mono-Green Aggro
gets the more likely you’ll see these decks pop back up in the metagame.
The time to turn ridiculously large green creatures sideways has never been
better, so until the Standard metagame adapts, go satisfy those little kid
urges you always have and kill your opponent with Ghalta!