“Little Kid Green” Magic No More: Mono-Green Devotion In Pioneer

Mono-Green Devotion’s place in the Pioneer MTG metagame is under threat. Will Corey Baumeister’s throwback build hold the key to thriving in your next major event?

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, illustrated by Jung Park

Hey, Pioneer fans, it’s me, Corey Baumeister! Today I’m going to take you on a journey through the past, present, and the future of one of the most dominant archetypes in today’s Pioneer format, Mono-Green Devotion. We’ll look really far back to when this deck was basically a joke to people, even a deck that would be categorized as “little kid green.” We will fast-forward to this deck being compared to Krark-Clan Ironworks as one of the format’s dominant combo decks, and then we will finish with what I believe could be the future of Mono-Green Devotion as we know it!

The Past

Since the bannings of Once Upon a Time (October 2019) and Walking Ballista (August 2020), Mono-Green Devotion has had to take on a wildly different gameplan. Comboing off is no longer an option. Naturally, the first place to go is specific aggressive strategies. Some decks focused on Collected Company. Others wanted to maximize powerful cards like Ghalta, Primal Hunger.

Either way, Mono-Green Devotion was lucky to be considered a Tier 1 deck through most of 2020 and 2021. The public enemies at the time were Mono-Red Aggro, featuring everyone’s favorite card, Goblin Chainwhirler, or Izzet Phoenix decks that had a ton of spot removal, so the devotion strategy just wasn’t easy to accomplish.

That all changed in early 2022, when I was commentating on a ManaTraders Series event featuring Pioneer. Mogged, a popular Magic Online (MTGO) grinder, showed up with a new take on Mono-Green Devotion that had me all giddy inside.

This list was really taking advantage of the dominance that Izzet Phoenix had over the format, and although Mogged ended up losing in the Top 4 to a combo deck (which was a rough matchup), he defeated Izzet Phoenix many times throughout the weekend.

We’ll now fast-forward to the present version of Mono-Green Devotion. We will, however, return to this shell to make some key observations later in the article.

The Present

Anyone who has been paying attention to Pioneer in the last six months or so has become very familiar with the explosive shell of the new version of Mono-Green Devotion that has been labeled “Mono-Green Storm.” Now, this is not the type of storm deck that is trying to finish your opponents off with Grapeshot or Mind’s Desire. It is, however, in the market for amassing a large storm count before it buries your opponent with an overwhelming battlefield presence.

Here is the version that the great Piotr Glogowski has been popularizing and is the stock version of Mono-Green Devotion…for now.

Now, before I talk about anything else, I want to start with the fact that Mono-Green Storm is very strong since the banning of Winota, Joiner of Forces. Winota was a tough matchup because it was just a bit faster. If you were on the play, it was going to be a close game; if you were on the draw, you had to hope for Karn, the Great Creator into Grafdigger’s Cage and that their draw played into your hate. Not a great ask in such a proactive/powerful format like Pioneer. With Winota banned, Mono-Green Devotion for sure has a seat at the Tier 1 table, alongside decks like Rakdos Midrange, Azorius Control, and Mono-Red Aggro.

A Fatal Flaw?

There is a flaw-though: the metagame is starting to figure out that Mono-Green Devotion, as currently built, is not an aggro deck. It is a combo deck, and the best way to attack other combo decks is with counterspells and hate cards like Grafdigger’s Cage to shut down the deck’s namesake card, Storm the Festival.

I believe this flaw will push it out of Tier 1 soon with the rise of skilled blue-based tempo decks like Mono-Blue Spirits, Izzet Prowess, and Bant Spirits with Collected Company. These matchups are bad, and these decks are on the rise. Just look at the last two Pioneer Challenges over the weekend and look at these shocking numbers.

That is nine decks out of 32 that are blue-based tempo decks praying they play against Karn, the Great Creator from Mono-Green Devotion. That’s scary to me because I believe this is just the beginning. Mono-Green Devotion is the second-most-popular deck right now on MTGO, based on the stats on MTG Goldfish, and I think the world will be prepared for this deck come qualifier season for the Regional Championship in Atlanta later this year.

That’s why I wanted to bring you a version of Mono-Green Devotion that sidesteps blue-based tempo decks and trounces all over them.

Let me introduce you to the future of Mono-Green Devotion!

The Future

Corey Baumeister's Mono-Green Devotion

Remember when we were going to get back to talking about Mogged and his sweet deck from early 2022? Well, it’s about that time. Mogged found a deck that attacked Izzet Phoenix while still being able to compete against the rest of the current metagame with the combination of good strong creatures, Mistcutter Hydra, and the incredibly powerful Burning-Tree Emissary. It still blows my mind that green devotion decks don’t begin with four copies of the powerful two-drop, but it does make sense that the “Storm” version can’t use Emissary as well as this aggressive version.

So, on to the question that I’m sure everyone is asking, Why is this version better than the “Storm” version?

On the Positive Side

Let’s talk about the positives of my version before we come back to earth and discuss the disadvantages of my version.

Blue Tempo

First, this deck has a much better blue tempo-based aggro matchup, thanks to Mistcutter Hydra and being able to actually sideboard in some fight spells to contain the busted starts that these decks can produce. You are able to play powerful must-answer threats like Werewolf Pack Leader and Old-Growth Troll because they are just larger than most creatures in their decks. While they are answering those threats, you get to drop either Voracious Hydra, a clean two-for-one that dodges Spell Queller (most of the time) and forces an answer, or Mistcutter Hydra when you have a hunch they are holding up disruption for whatever you cast. I promise you, the first time you get to see the look on a blue mage’s face when you cast a large protection from blue hasty trampler is truly priceless!

The Pseudo-Mirror

Second, this version has a good “mirror match” in the “Storm” version. We are just faster, and we get to bring in a bunch of fight spells for their Elves. Not only that, Vivien, Arkbow Ranger is amazing against them. They are forced to Karn for Pithing Needle to contain the powerful planeswalker from getting Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, or the game ends on the spot. Even if they do get Karn for Needle, they wasted their turn not progressing their battlefield, and we can just attack Karn and cast another threat. Mono-Green Storm is not amazing at catching up when we are killing a planeswalker/creature on their battlefield each turn.

Mono-Red Aggro

Third, our Mono-Red Aggro matchup is much improved. Mono-Red can just get under the “Storm” version, and you feel helpless against them, especially on the draw. My version has threats that scale up the curve, and Voracious Hydra is a house against them. Choose the “double the number of counters” option all day and follow it up with The Great Henge and laugh your way all the way to the bank!

Combo Decks

Fourth, our combo matchups benefit from the metagame. Ascendancy and Lotus Field decks have always been very good against Mono-Green decks, doesn’t matter the version. They are just a turn faster, and instead of creating a gigantic battlefield, they just kill you. But, good news for us. All these blue-based tempo decks are really doing a great job containing these decks. Pressure and disruption are the recipe for success against these type of all-in combo decks. Also, we are just faster than the “Storm” version, and we can just be as fast as them when we are on the play. On the draw, we have a ton of Damping Spheres to completely wreck them!

The Downsides

Now let’s get to the bad news. This version is much worse against decks like Dimir Control (which just won a Challenge) and Azorius Control decks that have a ton of Supreme Verdicts and The Wandering Emperors. These types of decks just get to treat us like “little kid aggro decks” and just keep killing creatures every turn. That is unfortunately a good recipe to defeat us. Still, that is why we play a ton of Lair of the Hydra and Mistcutter Hydra, to catch them off-guard and make their turns as awkward as possible. The one card we just don’t want to see is Fatal Push. It hits all our X-creatures that we rely on for such a low cost.

Another tough spot is Rakdos decks that play Claim the Firstborn. There is not a lot of that floating around, but I have seen a few lists pop up from time to time. Those can be tricky, but we still have strong cards like The Great Henge and Old-Growth Troll against them, so I am less afraid of Claim. I just take out Mistcutter Hydras against them. I also think these decks are just terrible in general, and I don’t expect them to see much play.

If those last two types of decks are very prevalent, then it is time to devote your time to the “Storm” version of the deck, but if that is not the case, my version of Mono-Green Devotion is here to stomp the competition. Good luck on the battlefield!