Since the creation of Pioneer, I’ve tried to find the perfect Mono-Green Devotion deck. The first few iterations the community found ended up breaking the format wide open, resulting in multiple bans across the first few months.
The feeling you get from exploring a new format, figuring out all the bells and whistles, is like opening a Christmas present. You don’t know exactly what you’re going to find, but the exhilaration you experience while figuring it out is worth more than the present itself. Discovery has long since been a cornerstone of humankind, and the joy we find exploring inside of our own little microcosm is unparalleled.
Finding new Pioneer decks and tuning them into powerhouses gave me such a rush. Making the finals of back-to-back PTQs and Top 8’ing another while cards were getting banned left and right out of my deck was wild.
I want to do the same thing for Historic.
Throughout the course of this article, I will be exploring multiple forms of Mono-Green, many of which people are already having success with. I believe there to be multiple viable Mono-Green decks revolving around different engines and payoffs. I know it might be hard to believe, but I think green might be one of the best colors in Magic. Turns out Llanowar Elves is a pretty good Magic card.
Historic is a largely open format with very little coverage, but that will be changing very soon. People enjoy playing Magic Arena quite a bit, and having an “older” format to switch to when Standard gets boring is a welcome breath of fresh air. Let’s take a look at our candidates and figure out which one might be the best of the bunch.
On Karn, the Great Creator
Before we get started, I’d just like to say that Karn, the Great Creator is an excellent Magic card. For four mana, you effectively get a tutor that can be used again on the following turn. The cost comes at the expense of most of your sideboard, but green decks have notoriously been bad at sideboarding. Often I see people cutting Llanowar Elves against an opponent with Supreme Verdict, only to realize that not starting on Llanowar Elves means they are playing a worse deck. I’ve personally found with green decks that submitting “no changes” when on the play is preferable to sideboarding out a bunch of your mana creatures for Naturalize or whatever. Suffice it to say that losing your sideboard when your deck does the same thing every game isn’t exactly a huge deal.
Karn, the Great Creator is a toolbox wrapped into a neat little package, but the entire concept of Karn revolves around generating a boatload of mana. In essence, Karn is like Diabolic Tutor. It can’t really go into every strategy, but it thrives when you have a way to cast, tutor, and use the same spell on the same turn. Why do you think Tron decks are the ones utilizing it in older formats? Why doesn’t Karn, the Great Creator show up in a million different Standard builds? It’s because generating a ton of mana isn’t easy, and you need to be doing exactly that if you want to turn Karn into a powerhouse.
The lack of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is concerning. Without Nykthos, I don’t know if Karn, the Great Creator should go into many builds of Mono-Green in Historic. It seems like the incremental mana generation isn’t nearly as important as having some sort of engine or battery at your disposal. With that said, some builds can and do generate enough mana to warrant some sort of tutor effect, and it just so happens that Karn, the Great Creator is the right Golem for the job.
Fast and Loose
If you wanna talk batteries, I can think of nothing better than Leyline of Abundance. Even without the free double pip for Nykthos, Leyline of Abundance is an easy and effective way to nearly double your mana. It turns Gilded Goose from Lotus Petal into Dark Ritual with summoning sickness. It makes Llanowar Elves absurd. It’s the mana battery the archetype needs to play Karn, the Great Creator.
Leyline of Abundance was an outrageous card in Mono-Green Devotion in Pioneer, which ultimately led to its ban. Is it too good? I don’t think so. I think much of the broken nature of the card came from giving free devotion. Without Nykthos, it’s simply good instead of too good.
The downside of playing Leyline of Abundance is that there’s a chance you never get to do anything with it. If your opponent just has a deck full of Shocks, your creatures never get off the ground and your Leyline ends up being a dud. It’s awkward and unfortunate, but that’s the price you pay for greatness. It’s an engine after all and engines need oil to function.
One of the best things about Leyline of Abundance is that it’s a self-fulfilling engine. Not many engines in Magic generate mana and give you the ability to use that extra mana. It takes away the strain of needing a mana sink to cement the advantage gained by the engine. It does this by having a weak but still effective mana sink attached to the engine itself.
My first build of Mono-Green Ramp goes like so:
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 2 Incubation Druid
- 4 Paradise Druid
- 4 Voracious Hydra
- 4 Gilded Goose
- 3 Llanowar Visionary
In an open format like Historic, people are trying all sorts of new stuff. Once the format stabilizes and archetypes are established, we’ll have a better understanding of which Mono-Green deck is the best. For now, exploring each and talking about their strengths is important because it’ll help us learn when and how to build our deck to fight specific metagames.
At the moment, Historic is the Wild West. Anything goes for now, but more importantly people are trying all sorts of new stuff. Because of that, it’s less likely for decks to be chock-full of removal. That in turn makes Llanowar Elves and company a bit stronger, which makes Leyline of Abundance better, which makes this version more desirable. Have you ever cast a first-turn Llanowar Elves that didn’t die? It’s euphoric!
This version is probably the most explosive of the bunch because it assumes your opponent will be doing their own thing and just tries to do its own thing a bit better. This one more closely resembles the Mono-Green Devotion decks we’re used to seeing, able to goldfish an Ulamog with ease. If you find yourself facing opponent after opponent trying to do weird, messed up combos, just send them packing with this heater. If you want something a little more consistent and/or insulated from removal, check out this build:
This version plays the game in a similar way, just a little slower. Instead of the explosive nature of Leyline of Abundance, we’re going for the more consistent version featuring Mind Stone and Wolfwillow Haven. Fewer creatures mean less exploitability, and no Leyline means we don’t get stuck with dead cards very often.
We’re playing fewer creatures because we’re not playing Leyline of Abundance, which in turn makes Vivien, Arkbow Ranger a bit worse. Decreasing the overall number of creatures means we’re less susceptible to sweeper effects too. Control decks often taunt us with mass removal, but this version almost laughs in the face of Shatter the Sky. So many planeswalkers mean our payoff cards don’t get swept. Our ramp being Mind Stone and Wolfwillow Haven means removal in general is just a lot worse.
Like Growth Spiral, I think you need a lot of raw lands to justify playing Explore. I’ve seen so many players choose Explore as their other ramp spell and they’re only playing 22 lands or something. That’s just not enough, and I don’t recommend playing it without building your deck the same way you’d build a Growth Spiral deck. There’s a reason Explore didn’t see play in every green deck when it was in Standard, and why every Growth Spiral deck ended up playing close to 30 lands.
I’d highly recommend trying Wolfwillow Haven instead. It’s been incredible for me in Pioneer so far, acting as an early Rampant Growth effect that doesn’t die to removal and comes with very few strings attached. Plus, with Llanowar Elves, it will occasionally only cost one mana because you get to use that extra mana right away. With Vivien in your deck, every body counts, which adds a bit of help on the back end to the sacrifice effect when you’re flooding out.
One of the most fun things about a new format is trying to find archetypes that exist in other formats. Historic has the tools to build a variety of decks, including fan-favorite Elves. Pioneer actually has fewer of these creatures at their disposal, as the Magic Arena team has been slowly incorporating more and more old cards onto the platform to give it a more distinctive feel. I always thought Historic and Pioneer were going to merge at some point, but more likely Pioneer will cease to be or incorporate all these added cards once it’s completely on Magic Arena.
Regardless, the Elven tribe has a lot of cool cards to play with on Arena and multiple builds for us to try. Here’s where I’m starting:
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Imperious Perfect
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Dwynen's Elite
- 2 Marwyn, the Nurturer
- 4 Elvish Clancaller
- 3 Paradise Druid
- 3 Allosaurus Shepherd
This build of Elves relies on the power of Collected Company to do a lot of heavy lifting. Creatures like Allosaurus Shepherd don’t do a whole lot unless the rest of the tribe is around. A mass of bodies starts to make it a bit more desirable, and there’s a lot to be said about that kind of mana sink when you have Collected Company lying around.
Marwyn, the Nurturer feels like a perfect fit here. It gets big and generates a ton of mana. What else could you ask for? I need to play a bit more but my gut says playing four copies of this card might be right. I’m currently afraid of drawing too many, and its effect is very similar to that of Elvish Archdruid, but my experience with the card has been nothing but positive so far.
This is likely one of the worst Vivien decks of the bunch, but the planeswalker is still a kick in the teeth. Plus, this deck can generate a boatload of mana, so having the Vivien into Ulamog package is quite nice.
A newer addition to Historic, Elvish Archdruid was the card missing from making Elves playable in Pioneer. Now that we’ve skipped over the step where we need to see it in Standard again to have it on Magic Arena, we just get to craft it and play Elves whenever we want! Elvish Archdruid is the backbone of the archetype, generating a lot of free wins whenever your opponent fails to interact with it. Untapping with Elvish Archdruid is pretty messed up and it’s the marquee reason this deck is powerful.
Another card in Historic that’s not legal in Pioneer, Imperious Perfect gives you all the Elven goodness you can stand in one card. Lord? Check. Makes more Elves? Check! Now all we need is Elvish Mystic and the circle will be complete.
I know we’ve talked about this one a little already, but I just wanted to touch on how excellent this card is for creature decks. It’s incredible. It can and probably will singlehandedly bring this deck into existence. In the future, Collected Company will do so much more than that. You don’t need me to tell you how good this card is, so I won’t. If you’re a newer player and haven’t played with or against it before, just know that Collected Company will always be the best card in a Collected Company deck. By design, the spells are naturally lower-costed, and the nutty hits will be the ones giving you six mana worth of creatures.
With Standard being mostly solved before rotation, Historic is about to have the spotlight thrust upon it. The Mythic Invitational is on the horizon and will be featuring the Historic format. I expect to see a ton of new brews running around. There is so little information about Historic online that I can only imagine what archetypes will show up! It feels like Pioneer all over again, because we’re just now hitting the right mark where it’s different enough from Standard to feel like its own format.
There’s gold in them there hills. Let’s get to work finding it! I’m expecting Mono-Green in all forms to be competitive. The Green Machine demands it.