Mono-Green Aggro❄ Is The Real Deal In Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard

One color, no worries: Dom Harvey is a fan of Mono-Green Aggro❄ for Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard. He shows how to attack your way to wins on MTG Arena.

Esika’s Chariot, illustrated by Raoul Vitale

Depending on who you ask, Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard has already degenerated into a ridiculous arms race. You can beat the people using Blood on the Snow to return Professor Onyx by looping Storm the Festival with Rootcoil Creeper, but you never get to do any of this because the broken deck is using the same Alrund’s Epiphany to take several turns in a row as you twiddle your thumbs. The verdict is in: this is an Alrund’s Epiphany format until further notice and its days may be or should be numbered.

Aren’t we forgetting something?

Esika's Chariot

I get that people were already sick of Esika’s Chariot — a mark of its quality, perhaps — but we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. If you played in a Standard tournament this weekend, you didn’t have that choice in the first place. Let’s look at the results:

Across these various events Mono-Green Aggro❄ had the highest win-rate and was thrashing the various Izzet decks that were being hailed as the next big thing. It’s hard to read too much into one set of results, though, especially when the confidence intervals are so wide and the sample is so small. What if the Magic Online results tell a different story?

Well then…

This data has to be placed in context too. Izzet was as dominant in the Sunday Challenge on Magic Online (MTGO) as Mono-Green❄ was on Saturday. Mono-Green Aggro❄ is overlooked in part because it’s a known quantity; other archetypes are still being figured out while the green machine is close to its final form and carries over from the previous Standard format. 

That said, decks like this rarely get the credit they deserve. When Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Nissa, Who Shakes the World had a stranglehold over Standard, Mono-Green Aggro❄ was one of the few other decks that could compete. Other than a brief period of hype with the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, nobody took Mono-Green Aggro❄ seriously last season — other than Kenton Stalder (Rumti), who stayed at #1 Mythic for months on end with it and capped off the season by winning a SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier

Don’t make that mistake this time. The results from World Championship XXVII next week will give us a clear picture of the top tier of Standard, but until then we can stick to what we know: Esika’s Chariot is the best card in Standard. Mono-Green Aggro❄ is currently the best Chariot deck and maybe the best deck in Standard. Let’s look at why.

Esika's Chariot

It’s really hard to find individual cards that line up well against Esika’s Chariot. Sweepers leave Chariot itself behind; targeted removal leaves the tokens and can be navigated around forcing the opponent to waste mana or use their removal on a lesser threat. The closest thing to a clean answer is Prismari Command, which still lets a token live and hits very few other creatures from Mono-Green Aggro❄. You can interact with Chariot on the stack via cards like Disdainful Stroke and Negate, but these are weak or literally useless against cheaper threats or anything that slipped through the net already. 

If you can’t interact with Esika’s Chariot, you have to go underneath it or over the top of it. Mono-White Aggro is the best way to go faster (and was Mono-Green Aggro’s❄ worst matchup according to this weekend’s results) but is more vulnerable to the red removal in decks like Izzet Dragons and Izzet Turns trying to go bigger instead. The Storm the Festival ramp decks that Brad Nelson and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa wrote about this week prey on slower creature decks but have trouble applying meaningful pressure before Alrund’s Epiphany takes over the game, and the blue interaction that does work against Chariot is also strong against your expensive payoffs.

Mono-Green Aggro❄ strikes the right balance. Your cheap threats run over opponents who can’t interact early, but none of that removal — even specialized tools like Burning Hands — lines up well against Esika’s Chariot, and Ranger Class can singlehandedly overwhelm anyone trying to trade resources without ending the game.

Werewolf Pack Leader Ranger Class

The initial 2/2 that Ranger Class offers is a weak body by itself, but the Level 2 ability ensures that any creature quickly requires an answer and lets your threats attack into similarly sized creatures against other green decks. Threatening to block Chariot with a four-power three-drop like Briarbridge Tracker is one way to break serve in mirrors (and a draw to Mono-Green Aggro❄ since Old-Growth Troll excels there). Ranger Class makes that even harder.

There are fewer tactical considerations with Werewolf Pack Leader; it’s ‘just’ one of the best aggressive two-drops of all time that’s also a fantastic draw later. Mono-Green Aggro❄ can’t realize its full potential the way Gruul Werewolves can but still leans heavily on it for the deck’s most powerful starts.

Old-Growth Troll

In a format full of eye-catching three-drops, Old-Growth Troll is a standout both with and against Esika’s Chariot. As a creature with four power it’s the ideal way to crew Chariot and get to attack with the Cat tokens or as a follow-up to a sweeper when Chariot desperately needs a driver. The 4/4 Troll token with trample gives you a target for Chariot’s ability that’s much more impactful than another 2/2 Cat, and creating this first token using the enchanted Forest at instant speed lets you immediately apply pressure after popular sweepers like Battle of Frost and Fire, Burn Down the House, or Blood on the Snow. 

Against other green decks, Old-Growth Troll is ideal for trading off with the other four-power creatures and plays well on both offence and defence. The threats in these decks are so good at applying pressure that stumbling early, getting your blocker removed, or just being on the draw can be enough to make you fall far behind. Once Troll dies, it ramps you towards Esika’s Chariot and Wrenn and Seven to let you catch back up while promising another large creature later. If you have the initiative, it’s tough for the opponent to justify trading off with their Briarbridge Tracker, as this immediately ramps you to your all-important four- and five-drops.

Don’t gloss over trample either, especially when you can boost Troll’s power via Ranger Class, Inscription of Abundance, or Unnatural Growth. It comes up more than you’d think — the Izzet decks sometimes have to buy time with tokens from Alrund’s Epiphany or Burn Down the House, and Mono-Black Control❄ and Rakdos Control❄ want to protect Lolth, Spider Queen — but the most important application is letting you kill a Wrenn and Seven through other blockers once Blizzard Brawl swats away the Treefolk token. 

Blizzard Brawl

When the relevant creatures in Standard are roughly the same size and all run away with the game if uncontested, a one-mana spell that kills their threat while letting yours attack freely is incredible and lets you put together the double-spell turns necessary to come back from behind in these matchups. Blizzard Brawl is both a big draw to Mono-Green Aggro❄ and not even the best reason to embrace this wintry manabase.

Faceless Haven Snow-Covered Forest

Faceless Haven is the main reason to play any monocolored deck right now and is in contention for best card in Standard. Kaldheim is no Throne of Eldraine, but it sets the ceiling for this Standard’s power level; Esika’s Chariot and Old-Growth Troll on one side square off against Goldspan Dragon and Alrund’s Epiphany on the other. Mono-Green Aggro❄ isn’t the best deck just because it plays the most Kaldheim cards, but that’s a useful summary. Faceless Haven does what it always does here but can also crew Esika’s Chariot in an emergency (or a freshly played Haven can crew it to free up other pilots).

As flippant as it might sound, Snow-Covered Forest is a big reason to play this deck too. Even in formats with better fixing than this one, the allure of a clean, painless manabase where your lands enter the battlefield untapped is strong.

Lair of the Hydra

With this in mind, Lair of the Hydra isn’t the automatic inclusion it would be otherwise. Lair being your fourth land on your Chariot turn and not contributing to snow for Blizzard Brawl or Faceless Haven — which fills the role Lair is meant for anyway — is potentially disastrous. This is a major point of disagreement between Mono-Green Aggro❄ pilots; some accept the potential awkwardness and enjoy a manabase with eight creature-lands that laughs off removal, while others go for a more consistent and conservative approach. If you lean hard on Wrenn and Seven, having more useful lands to find with its +1 ability is a good tiebreaker. 

Kazandu Mammoth

The one flaw in this manabase is that a land-light draw with Faceless Haven can struggle with your heavy green mana requirements. Kazandu Mammoth is a welcome additional green source, and mana source in general for a deck with plenty of mana sinks, that can slot into your curve as a threat. Returning to the issue of sizing, a 5/5 Kazandu Mammoth is a great attacker in a field of four-toughness creatures and a perfect target for Blizzard Brawl.

Inscription of Abundance

Inscription of Abundance requires some setup but can cause devastating swings in combat against creature decks and the +1/+1 counters can put your creatures out of range of damage-based removal like Dragon’s Fire or Burn Down the House.

Unnatural Growth

Some winning Mono-Green Aggro❄ lists from this weekend made a bold statement with their inclusion of Unnatural Growth over Wrenn and Seven. Unnatural Growth increases your raw speed and makes blocking impossible if you have any real presence on the battlefield but is terrible when you’re behind and is vulnerable to Outland Liberator in the mirror. 

Jaspera Sentinel

Jaspera Sentinel tempts you with visions of a fast Esika’s Chariot or Wrenn and Seven but at a steep cost. Sentinel is a good enabler for Magda, Brazen Outlaw in those builds of Gruul Aggro and shined in the Adventures decks last season which had lots of cheap, expendable creatures to use that extra mana productively right away. In Mono-Green Aggro❄, Sentinel is distracting a two-drop or three-drop that really wants to be attacking to cast… another Jaspera Sentinel? Without the ideal conditions that were present before, Loam Dryad is a weak card, but one that might be good enough anyway. 

Lotus Cobra Tangled Florahedron

Lotus Cobra and Tangled Florahedron are more compelling as less demanding mana accelerants. Cobra is a more powerful card and can partly pay for itself (Turn 2 two-drop into Turn 3 Lotus Cobra + two-drop) but doesn’t help the land-light draws where acceleration is most important. 

Outland Liberator

Outland Liberator is not an impressive threat but can become one against reactive decks that don’t want to commit mana on their turn and offers some insurance against Esika’s Chariot. 

Snakeskin Veil

As a rule of thumb, Snakeskin Veil is incredible where Blizzard Brawl is at its worst. The Izzet decks usually need to resolve at least one targeted removal spell to keep up and a timely Veil can be game-ending. Even when limited to one colour, it’s easy enough to upgrade your threats for a given matchup, but finding the right interaction is harder and so Veil is a smart use of sideboard slots. 

Coming off an era of Standard defined by Triomes and Ultimatums, it’s easy to assume that you have to stretch into other colours to unlock the most powerful cards. Mono-Green Aggro❄ boasts the best threats, the best removal, and the best manabase. What else can you ask for?