fbpx

How Mono-Green Food Is Preparing To Dominate Zendikar Rising Standard

Feast your eyes on Sam Black’s latest Zendikar Rising Standard deck: Mono-Green Food. Will it gobble up metagame share this weekend?

Trail of Crumbs, illustrated by Daarken

Throne of Eldraine is a really powerful set.  Yesterday I was discussing banned cards in Standard, and mentioned that if, when I first saw Throne of Eldraine, you’d told me twenty cards from this set would ultimately end up banned, and and asked me to guess which ones, I’d never have come up with Escape to the Wilds or Cauldron Familiar.  I’m not at all confident we’ve seen the last Eldraine card banned, and I don’t have any idea which one might be next.

Seriously, think about an early Top X cards list from Throne of Eldraine reviews — how high were those cards?

Anyway, despite two Food cards banned, it remains a powerful force in Standard.

In this week’s Zendikar Rising Standard What We’d Play Bryan, Ari, and I all recommended Trail of Crumbs with Yorion, Sky Nomad.  Standard is full of creatures, which makes Wicked Wolf appealing, and it brings Gilded Goose and Trail of Crumbs with it.  All of these cards have enters-the-battlefield abilities, so there’s a natural fit with Yorion, Sky Nomad.

The Food package is fantastic.  As the format leans toward midrange decks that can spend all of their mana every turn throughout the entire game, getting an early lead with Gilded Goose is an easy way to get ahead of mana, allowing your snowball to build more quickly than your opponent’s, and Trail of Crumbs is the card that lets you hang with blue decks in the late-game without running out of cards.

I think we might be able to do better though.

If everyone’s always spending all of their mana, what if we try to get ahead by having more mana than our opponent? Enter Mono-Green Food:


I’m not sure if Sean built this deck.  I’ve run into it a few times and saw a few tournament results with it using almost exactly this list.  I think this list is pretty good; almost there, but not perfect.

My biggest objection is Kazandu Mammoth.  It’s just the wrong card for this deck.  It should be Llanowar Visionary.

This deck has 25 lands without Kazandu Mammoth in addition to Gilded Goose and Wolfwillow Haven to help it get to three mana, at that point it can cast Llanowar Visionary, which helps ramp to your game-winning expensive cards and gives you enough material to make sure you can cast them.  Kazandu Mammoth is just a creature that attacks and blocks, it doesn’t add anything to the deck, and the land side is both horrible and unnecessary.  My discussion of the deck will assume the archetype uses Llanowar Visionary in place of Kazandu Mammoth.

With twelve ramp spells and four Castle Garenbrig, this deck can cast Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate or Feasting Troll King on Turn 3 surprisingly often, and Turn 4 consistently.  Both of these cards put the opponent under a ton of pressure and can easily take games by themselves.  Elspeth Conquers Death answers either, but at least both leave something behind if that happens.

Feasting Troll King was the subject of a lot of speculation and had a lot of decks designed around it when it first came out, but never really made it.  Cheating it onto the battlefield from the graveyard was too much trouble, and it was kind of pointless in the face of Oko, Thief of Crowns.  Several bannings later, Feasting Troll King has really impressed.  The trick is that the best thing you can do with it is just tap six mana and cast it, but really, it’s more like five because you really want Castle Garenbrig to be involved.

A 7/6 vigilance, trample five-drop that your opponent has to kill twice is no joke, but the Food synergies are a bit better than that.  If you can make Food, this is effectively uncounterable, and if you have Trail of Crumbs, it’s the greatest Mulldrifter ever.  It’s also a great fit in a format where a reasonable number of opponents are trying to mill you.  If you’re playing against Dimir, you know that you can just play to build up Food and wait for your opponent to find your uncounterable 7/6s for you.

The lands in Mono-Green offer a significant advantage — Castle Garenbrig is obvious but Gingerbread Cabin shouldn’t be underestimated.  I played Golden Egg and I was impressed with how good the Food was.  Food can be extremely valuable, and getting it for free on a land really matters.  That’s still not quite as important of the advantage offered by generally having all of your lands enter the battlefield untapped.  Every additional untapped land you have compared to your opponent is another mana you get to spend, and in tight games, it’s early to pull ahead by spending a couple of extra mana early.

So why is this the right way to build Mono-Green now instead of the traditional aggro build? The midrange Yorion decks are really hostile to traditional Mono-Green Aggro.  They just have so many cards that answer green creatures with value, so the aggression can’t make much headway.  Trail of Crumbs and Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate allow the Food deck to keep up, while Wicked Wolf gives it an edge against other aggro decks.  Feasting Troll King, especially with Trail of Crumbs, lets you beat cards like Doom Foretold that can pose a serious problem for the dedicated aggressive versions.

Comparing this to Selesnya, I think it’s worth noting that Skyclave Apparition has kind of become a victim of its own success.  As I just went over, people can’t really afford to play random three- and four-mana creatures that don’t generate immediate value because of the threat of Skyclave Apparition and Elspeth Conquers Death.  As a result, I’ve found myself playing a lot of games against blue decks where I have a hand full of these reactive white cards and I have to decide if I want to use one of them to exile Omen of the Sun to minimize my opponent’s value from Yorion, which is not what I put those cards in my deck for.

With the Mono-Green deck, I don’t have to stare at reactive cards while I wait for my opponent to cast Dream Trawler. I can just cast my threats and attack.  Sometimes my opponent exiles them, but that’s not a major setback because I’m good at finding more.

So after adding Llanowar Visionary to this deck, is there anything else we can do to improve it? Well, let’s break it down:

Acceleration

I believe these are the clear best ramp spells for this deck.  Gilded Goose is obviously necessary if you’re playing other Food cards.  Wolfwillow Haven has impressed me because it only costs one mana the turn you cast it if you have an untapped land to cast it on, which has let me do things like play a Gilded Goose on Turn 1 and then a Wolfwillow Haven and a second copy or a Trail of Crumbs on Turn 2.  Llanowar Visionary is better than cards like Cultivate or Beanstalk Giant because you don’t care about fixing, you want an extra spell rather than an extra land compared to Cultivate, and you can cast it off Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate.  There’s a small chance Cultivate could be better in some metagames, but I currently think Visionary is right.

Tangled Florahedron is also available as is Lotus Cobra, but I think both are a lot worse than Wolfwillow Haven, and I’d rather have Llanowar Visionary than another two-mana accelerator because the deck is trying to ramp to five and doesn’t have much to do on three.

Food

Four copies of Feasting Troll King looks excessive for a six-drop, but it really is the focus on the deck.  Cutting it would be like cutting a Primeval Titan from a Primeval Titan deck.  All the Food cards are better the more of them you have, so I think you just maximize all of them.  I honestly think Fierce Witchstalker is a reasonable consideration for this deck if you can find room, and if white becomes less popular.

The Rest

If you want to play any other cards, this is the space that’s possibly negotiable.  You don’t have a lot of trampling creatures for Ram Through, but Feasting Troll King is about as good as it gets for targets, and that combination offers the deck a huge burst of unexpected damage that I really like.

This deck has a lot of mana, so you need to be sure you have some high impact cards you’re ramping into, and I think Vivien is the best fit since the deck has a lot of mana and creatures, so the ability to cast creatures from the top of your library is used well here, and it feels a little more reliable as a source of value than Elder Gargaroth, though it’s kind of appealing to have one Elder Gargaroth to search for with Vivien when you cast Feasting Troll King.

Scavenging Ooze is kind of the odd card out.  Cedric has firmly stated a belief that it’s the best green card in Standard, and while I’m a big fan of this position objectively, I have to admit that it’s nowhere near being the green card I’m most likely to play.  It’s a great card that can take over games, but it can also feel mopey and out of place.  I think it’s totally reasonable to cut an Ooze or two for a spicy Vivien target.

Potential Spicy Vivien Targets

The easiest way to lose to another green deck is if they cast The Great Henge.  This gives you an out that you can find with Vivien.  It’s not like there’s a shortage of other possible targets for it.

This is a strong card and a haste threat is often the exact thing you’d want to add to the battlefield with your Feasting Troll King if you have Vivien, but the squeeze of getting maximally punished by Skyclave Apparition and Elspeth Conquers Death is a real cost here, so it’s hard for me to justify playing it maindeck.

I like the idea of getting more Food and having another trampler, but the same issue that plagues Questing Beast still hits here, and the Food just isn’t enough to make up for it.

This one’s pretty straightforward.  If it lives, it does exactly what you want, but it certainly does die to Doom Blade.

The maindeck here is really tight.  You can justify maybe two flex slots without really changing what the deck does, or I guess you could decide to play Primal Might over Ram Through or something. The sideboard offers a bit more flexibility.

Famous Dimir Rogues hater that I am, I’ve been automatically putting a few of these in the sideboard of every green deck, but to be honest, I’ve been slightly underwhelmed.  When we combine that with the fact that we’re already punishing mill with Feasting Troll King, I think three of these is excessive.  Two seems perfect to me, but you can adjust based on how frequently you’re seeing Dimir Rogues.

It’s a strong green card that’s not great against everyone.  I’m guessing there’s some specific plan about exactly where you want to bring in all four, but I honestly don’t know when it is, so it’s hard for me to say this is the right thing to have here.  There’s no question in my my mind that I want at least one in the sideboard, and more isn’t a hard sell, but I’m not convinced yet.

Oakhame Adversary is unambiguously great at doing the thing that it does, and it’s not like there’s an abundance of cards I feel strongly about, especially since I think the deck’s tight enough to be hard to sideboard with, so I’m pretty down with these.  I wouldn’t be offended by the idea of trimming one, but I’d need to really believe the other cards are all important.

Same deal, right? Garruk’s Harbinger is good against specific opponents to bring in against them.  Makes sense to me.

If you don’t play one Thrashing Brontodon maindeck, it’s hard to imagine not having one in the sideboard, but I don’t know if you need access to a second.

It can’t really hurt to be able to go up to a full playset of Scavenging Ooze against people who care about the graveyard.

Other Options

Those are the cards Sean used, but what else should we consider?

If we know the opponent can’t answer it, The Great Henge is a reasonable consideration.  We don’t have five-power creatures to drop it on Turn 4, but it can still be a good tool later on.

We’re a green deck that can grind, right? Well, if we’re worried that we might play a little too much like an aggro deck if we don’t draw Trail of Crumbs, Mazemind Tome is a reasonable backup

Dual-purpose efficient answer to Soaring Thought-Thief and out to Dream Trawler, this narrow card’s actually very good at doing its thing. I like Run Afoul in Selesnya, but I think this deck has a better matchup against Dream Trawler in general, so I’m not sure it’s necessary here.

Between Ram Through and Wicked Wolf, I think the deck has enough removal, but you should always keep Primal Might in mind for green decks.

So how would I build it?