Wanna Know The Secret To Drafting Green in Zendikar Rising?

When a “bad” color is underdrafted, moving in can be the right call. Follow along with Ryan Saxe’s latest trophy-winning Zendikar Rising draft.

Canopy Baloth, illustrated by Filip Burburan

I’ve said in the past that green is one of the worst colors in Zendikar Rising Draft. But I was wrong. Or at least that’s wrong now that green is underdrafted and the commons are misunderstood.

I’ve seen a lot of people take Rabid Bite and Gnarlid Colony above Kazandu Stomper and Canopy Baloth. Some people might even take Territorial Scythecat over them. In most scenarios, that’s incorrect. The Stomper and the Baloth hit hard, and are the top two green commons.

In this set, a 6/5 is the perfect statline. Five toughness dodges a lot of removal (although this doesn’t always apply to the Baloth). And there are very few creatures with four toughness or five power. This means that an attacking 6/5 is actually card advantage if the opponent doesn’t have one of the few hard removal spells (either it kills the opponent or they trade it for two of their cards).

Green is about deploying “chonky bois” in this set. Whatever the overarching synergies and gameplan in the deck, I’ve found most of the games in my green decks are finished by attacking with one of these two commons. And for some context, I have drafted these kinds of decks seven times so far, and I have a 79% win rate with them. So I’m probably doing something right.

What’s better between Canopy Baloth and Kazandu Stomper depends greatly on the way the deck looks. An aggressively slanting deck will always favor the Baloth, but I haven’t had success with aggressive green decks. In general, I prioritize the first Stomper over the first Baloth, but will take the first Baloth over the second Stomper. A deck with more modal double-faced cards (DFCs) may favor the second Stomper, especially if that deck is lacking top-end. Dodging removal matters a lot, even if six mana is a lot more than four.

Draft is self-correcting, and when one color is as underdrafted as green is right now, it becomes one of the best colors. In the draft below, my first three packs offer almost zero green options. Yet later on in the draft, there is green galore. I ended up wheeling Kazandu Stomper and taking a nearly mono-green deck all the way to a trophy! Would you make the same picks I did?

Pack 1, Pick 1

The Pack:

Utility Knife Deliberate Highborn Vampire Rabid Bite Sea Gate Banneret Roil Eruption Mind Drain Resolute Strike Tazeem Raptor Dreadwurm Scion of the Swarm Veteran Adventurer Vastwood Surge Ondu Inversion Mountain

The Pick:

My take!

I’ve been very clear about my stance on the modal DFCs, so I can’t fault anybody for taking Ondu Inversion here. Yes, it’s unlikely to hit eight mana in any game of Limited, but the fact that a land can be as impactful as this one is wild to me. Currently, I take Ondu Inversion over every common except for Roil Eruption and Into the Roil. Those cards are too efficient for what they provide and I think that consistency, efficiency, and power is worth more than what Ondu Inversion has to offer.

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

Roil Eruption

The Pack:

Spitfire Lagac Zulaport Duelist Nahiri's Binding Risen Riptide Relic Golem Synchronized Spellcraft Disenchant Tajuru Snarecaster Pyroclastic Hellion Skyclave Squid Pelakka Predation Moss-Pit Skeleton Attended Healer Forest

The Pick:

My take!

There are quite a lot of options in this pack, so let’s break it down into sections.

Relic Golem and Moss-Pit Skeleton are great cards in their archetypes, but quite poor outside of the specific color combinations. Given that neither of their archetypes overlaps at all with red, I don’t think you can justify taking either of them.

Synchronized Spellcraft and Pyroclastic Hellion are solid playables. If I were to take a red card out of this pack, it would be Pyroclastic Hellion. This card has skyrocketed in my pick order, where Synchronized Spellcraft has stayed in the card-I-put-in-my-deck-but-take-on-the-wheel camp. Hellion, on the other hand, I play in multiples in all of my red decks. It’s certainly in the discussion here.

Nahiri’s Binding hasn’t impressed me. It’s a fine removal spell, but it is the worst Pacifism or Arrest I can remember. It’s not splashable, there are multiple Disenchant effects at common, Into the Roil can yield blowouts, and it doesn’t remove creature types for party. Add in that I haven’t had much success with white, and I legitimately think I would take Hellion over it. Pack 1, Pick 1, I could see still taking Binding out of a begrudgingly bad pack, but following up Roil Eruption with Pyroclastic Hellion seems better to me.

But does Pelakka Predation compete? It does!

Pelakka Predation is a great modal DFC. It’s easy to think the effect is bad, but when Pelakka Predation has an impact on the game, it’s significant. I’m happy to first-pick a Pelakka Predation over Deadly Alliance, and if that’s the case, I should be happy to take it here over the other options in this pack.

Pack 1, Pick 3

The Picks So Far:

Roil Eruption Pelakka Predation

The Pack:

Makindi Ox Into the Roil Canopy Baloth Tajuru Snarecaster Grotag Bug-Catcher Vanquish the Weak Malakir Blood-Priest Shell Shield Inordinate Rage Paired Tactician Lullmage's Domination Makindi Stampede Island

The Pick:

My take!

I think many players will be enticed by Grotag Bug-Catcher or Vanquish the Weak. They are very solid commons and on-color with the current pool. However, both Lullmage’s Domination and Into the Roil are far ahead of those commons. This early in the pack, I think it would be a mistake not to take a blue card.

At this point, I haven’t gotten enough data about Lullmage’s Domination to know whether or not it’s better than Into the Roil. This also motivates my pick. I’m taking Lullmage’s Domination not because I think it’s better than into the Roil, but because I want to figure out if it is. My gut says they’re in the same league. Into the Roil is better in Simic for kicker synergy but Domination will be better in Dimir because of the mill subtheme.

As I mention above, I end up basically mono-green this draft because green is criminally underdrafted online right now. While the deck below may not look great, it played fantastic.