Breaking Magic Ruts For The New Year: Grappling With Green

Chase Carroll tried building a mono-green Commander deck for the first time. How did they meet the challenges of exercising a new MTG muscle?

Raised by Giants
Raised by Giants, illustrated by Kai Carpenter

Recently on my podcast, Bad at Magic, my lovely cohost, EK, and I set out goals for ourselves to achieve in the year of our Lord, 2023. One of my goals was to brew more with one of my least favorite colors: green. I’m a red mage at heart (if it wasn’t blatantly obvious), and green’s color personality greatly clashes with my own, but I was determined to achieve new growth. New Year, new me, and all that jazz!

So imagine my surprise when I sat down to crank out a green decklist on my stream and I suddenly felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I’ve been playing Magic for over seven years, and yet I felt like an inexperienced player when I tried to take a stab at green…which prompts the question: why?

What Is Green?

Before we take a stab at my struggle, I feel as though we should analyze what green truly stands for in Magic. Green at its core is about growth, acceptance, instinct, and harmony. It focuses on nature and letting nature take its course. It values community and strength and is the most non-confrontational color out of the five.

Green is also considered one of the strongest (if not the most broken) colors in Magic. So what does the color have to offer in Commander? Well…a lot. Green has easy access to ramp, card draw, protection, removal, and creatures. It is the total package. Don’t believe me? Kodama’s Reach, Cultivate, Beast Within, Heroic Intervention, Shamanic Revelation, Eternal Witness, Reclamation Sage…the list goes on and on and on and on. Where other colors struggle, green thrives. 

Kodama's Reach Reclamation Sage Eternal Witness

So why don’t I like it? Well, as a red mage, I like confrontation. I enjoy puzzles and abrasive playstyles, and green just doesn’t fill that bubble for me. Out of all my decks, only two have green, and even then I only reach for one of them, which is my five-color deck (which barely counts if you ask me). I lean more towards red decks, with white being a close second, oddly enough.

One of my favorite things to hammer home as a content creator is that deckbuilding is a muscle, and unfortunately I’ve been skipping green day. In an attempt to brew what I thought was the easiest color, I fumbled quite a bit. But why?

Commander Shopping

The first struggle I came upon was choosing a commander. I thought it would be easier to start out my green adventure by brewing something monocolored. Whoever said brewing monocolored commanders is easy was wrong. Your options are extremely limited and you can’t supplement your deck’s weaknesses with another color. But silly little Chase just decided to forget this tidbit of information and took a stab at brewing some mono-green goodness.

Choosing the commander took forever. There are exactly 145 options for legal mono-green commanders. To be honest, I found this number surprisingly small. After scrolling through this meager selection of creatures, I was surprised that very few sparked joy. The major ones that stood out were Arasta of the Endless Web and Ayumi, the Last Visitor, but unfortunately there wasn’t too much for me to work with there, as both of these commanders heavily rely on your opponents.

Arasta of the Endless Web Ayumi, the Last Visitor

It took me about 20 minutes of searching before I eventually gave up and settled on Wilson, Refined Grizzly because I thought he was super-cute. For his background, I ended up choosing Raised by Giants because I was determined to stick with this exercise in gaining mono-green muscles. 

Wilson, Refined Grizzly Raised by Giants

Not Alone

I used to think green was the easiest color to build around, but I must admit, I struggled immensely with this Wilson build. Where do I go? How do I start? It seemed like I had so many options and yet none whatsoever. I felt constrained by the color and commander I chose. It was a new feeling for me, and it was uncomfortable. I deckbuild as part of my job, typically brewing a new deck once a week, so the fact that I didn’t know where to begin made me question myself. Do I need to run Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach if I’m in a monocolored deck? Would this be a creature-focused deck or Voltron? How do I win? These are questions I normally feel comfortable answering, but this time I was at a loss.

This is one of the many reasons as to why I am thankful I prescribe to the concept of collaborative deckbuilding. I was able to lean heavily on my viewers, who gave me wonderful suggestions that helped me create a balance between value and Voltron.

The deck was complete and a decent start in my journey of building up my mono-green muscles, but I hated how much I struggled with it. I began to ruminate on this experience before coming up with a few solutions.

Is Green Too Linear?

Green is seen as the easiest color to brew because of how supportive it is as a color. It has access to just about everything you need and can help elevate other colors when paired with them. Green, at its heart, also feels incredibly linear, which clashes harshly with my preferred play style. But is the color too linear?

I don’t think so. Any color can be straightforward and linear. A friend of mine, Carson, said, “It’s easy to build a good deck, but it’s difficult to build an ‘interesting’ green deck”, and I think that fits more closely with my struggle. I know it’s possible to build an interesting green deck, but it’s beyond my weight class at the moment. Another friend, EK, is essentially a powerlifter when it comes to green, brewing incredibly intricate pieces involving Primal Surge, Nature’s Revolt, and Apex Devastator. Is it difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.

Primal Surge Nature's Revolt Apex Devastator

The Start of the Journey

Despite the confusions and setbacks I had while brewing a seemingly simple deck, I don’t want to give up on my green journey just yet. Green is way outside my comfort zone, but everyone just starting out tends to struggle a bit. Deckbuilding is like a muscle, and right now I’m curling teeny five-pound dumbbells. If I work hard enough, soon I will be able to deadlift some gnarly mono-green Stax pieces. All it takes is a little bit of practice. Happy brewing, deckbuilders.