Can we just take a moment and give a round of applause to the fine folks in Renton, WA who work on the best card game in the world. C’mon. Just take a moment and join me won’t you?
Why are we applauding? Well, it’s simple really. After having to wade through what can only be described as a horror show of a Standard format that was defined by Growth Spiral, Wilderness Reclamation, and Teferi, Time Raveler (who could have seen that coming!), we now live in a world where Mono-Green Aggro is far and away the best aggro deck in Standard and may in fact just be the best deck in Standard period.
I know. I know. This is impossible to believe. No deck with 21 Forests could possibly be the best deck in Standard, right? Well, when the powers that be ban almost every card that was good against your deck, I promise you that it is possible for Barkhide Troll and friends to be the best deck in Standard. So let’s start with what was banned and how it positively impacted Mono-Green Aggro, shall we?
Wilderness Reclamation Is Banned
As we all learned over the past two months, Temur Reclamation was the best deck in Standard by a fairly significant margin. Things got so degenerate that the trump to beating Temur Reclamation was to sacrifice some percentage points in your non-Wilderness Reclamation matchups; splash white for Teferi, Time Raveler, Dovin’s Veto, and Kenrith, the Returned King; and play 30 lands.
Does that sound ridiculous? Sure. Did it work? You betcha. Just ask Players Tour Finals champion, Kristof Prinz.
So why does this matter for Mono-Green Aggro? Well, as good of a matchup as Temur Reclamation initially was, once Mono-Green Aggro picked up in popularity and Wilderness Reclamation players figured out how to play/sideboard against it, all edge was lost. So much, in fact, that even that 30-land mess that Prinz used to trump opposing Wilderness Reclamation decks still did well enough against hyper-aggressive decks that Mono-Green Aggro was no longer a viable counter to the format’s best deck.
Now there are many reasons for this — Wilderness Reclamation decks were incredibly powerful in general; the combination of Nightpack Ambusher, Bonecrusher Giant, Elder Gargaroth, and spot removal was too much for Mono-Green to overcome; and so on and so forth. But the reality is…
Growth Spiral Is Banned
Any time Wilderness Reclamation decks started the game on Growth Spiral, Mono-Green Aggro was put at such a disadvantage that things simply felt hopeless. Yes, I’ve beaten Wilderness Reclamation decks when they had their perfect start of Growth Spiral + their namesake enchantment but those wins were happening either before Reclamation players learned how to play the matchup/had the necessary tools for the matchup or if I was getting rather lucky (which, my friends, is an important thing to admit if you want to grow as a Magic player).
Simply put, Growth Spiral draws felt unbeatable unless something really broke my way. Now, those draws and that entire ridiculous deck no longer exist.
Teferi, Time Raveler Is Banned
Was Teferi the hardest card for Mono-Green to beat? Nope. But was it something that I always had to spend a turn killing for fear of an instant-speed Shatter the Sky? Yep.
Clearly Teferi had a much larger impact on other decks in the previous Standard metagame than Mono-Green Aggro but it’s just one less annoyance for me to have to deal with.
Cauldron Familiar Is Banned
Speaking of annoyances, here’s the ultimate one. Now I will say that any deck that played Cauldron Familiar also played Priest of Forgotten Gods and that card is both still legal and still a major problem for Mono-Green. That said, just like Teferi being banned, Cauldron Familiar being ousted is just one less thing I have to worry about, which means that, ideally, decks that revolve around Priest of Forgotten Gods have gotten worse as a result which should bring down their metagame share.
So, what we have here are four cards that helped to shape the previous Standard format in a major way and ranged from a huge problem for Mono-Green Aggro to play against to an annoyance for Mono-Green Aggro to play against.
And now, they no longer exist?
So what does exist that we have to beat?
- 1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
- 3 Nissa, Who Shakes the World
- 1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
- 2 Narset, Parter of Veils
- 2 Teferi, Master of Time
So we’re talking about a ramp deck that doesn’t have Growth Spiral draws, doesn’t have Wilderness Reclamation draws, doesn’t have Fires of Invention draws, doesn’t have Expansion // Explosion to bury me with, has an unreliable sweeper in Extinction Event, and needs all of its stuff to line up perfectly every game to even have a chance to beat me?
No, but seriously, I’ve been farming Sultai Ramp on the Magic Arena ladder over the past three days, and if that’s now the best deck in Standard, life is good for me and my 21 Forests. For what it’s worth, there are two people who think Sultai Ramp is a pretty bad best deck and I agree with them wholeheartedly.
Now let’s get to the part you’re all here for:
- 4 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Pelt Collector
- 4 Barkhide Troll
- 4 Lovestruck Beast
- 4 Questing Beast
- 4 Stonecoil Serpent
- 3 Garruk's Harbinger
I’ve made a few changes given the drastic metagame shift that have taken place due to the most recent bannings, but if you want my card by card breakdown from last month, you’re one click away.
Peace Out Gemrazer
Cutting Gemrazer was a pretty easy first step. With Wilderness Reclamation banned and Witch’s Oven effectively banned due to the banning of Cauldron Familiar, there aren’t a ton of artifacts or enchantments to kill anymore. Yes, there will always be a few stray copies of Elsth peConquers Death; Anax, Hardened in the Forge; and Embercleave running around Standard, but none of those cards are taking up a large enough share of the metagame right now to warrant maindeck use of my favorite mutating Beast.
Hello Garruk’s Harbinger!
Am I positive this is correct? Nope. But if Sultai Ramp, with its numerous copies of Heartless Act, Eliminate, Casualties of War, and Noxious Grasp, is going to remain the top deck in the format, hexproof from black sure does look good, doesn’t it? Two other quick notes:
- Because Garruk’s Harbinger is a four-power creature, it’s one of the few creatures that can pump Pelt Collector to a 4/4.
- With a casting cost of three mana, Garruk’s Harbinger allows you to mix up your casting costs around Extinction Event.
I’ve found Garruk’s Harbinger to be pretty mediocre in a lot of matchups but it’s aces versus Sultai Ramp and that’s good enough for me (for now…).
Peace Out Ram Through
Temur Reclamation was such a good deck that you had to bend to its will, instead of them bending to yours. Therefore, given their inclusion of Nightpack Ambusher and Shark Typhoon, we had to play a removal spell that allowed us to interact at instant speed. With Temur Reclamation out of the picture, Nightpack Ambusher and Shark Typhoon are on a significant decline, which means goodbye Ram Through and…
Hello Primal Might!
In a vacuum, Primal Might is a much better card than Ram Through. However, Magic isn’t played in a vacuum, and given the dominance of Wilderness Reclamation strategies in the previous Standard format, Ram Through was the right tool for the job. However, the job has changed, which means the tools to get the job done also need to change.
The job, as it currently stands, is bulldozing through Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath; Hydroid Krasis; and animated lands from Nissa, Who Shakes the World. And Primal Might is really really good at doing all of those things.
Play four. Draw it a lot. It is awesome.
Ranger’s Guile Again? Really?
Yes really! When the perceived best deck in the format has a ton of spot removal, Ranger’s Guile is a perfect card for making the opponent look foolish. But it’s not only good against Sultai Ramp:
- Trumps Primal Might
- Embarrasses Elspeth Conquers Death
- Humiliates Casualties of War
- Kinda does stuff against Enter the God-Eternals (the 4/4 is still a bit of an issue unfortunately…)
I’m sure the metagame will shift to a point where Ranger’s Guile is unnecessary — mostly when Sultai Ramp stops being “the best deck” — but until then, be sure to screenshot those blowouts and tag me on Twitter.
Yeah. It is.
I’m not a rocket scientist, okay. I’m #6 on the Arena ladder. And you could be too. All it takes is sleeving up 21 Forests.