Mono-Green Aggressive Evasion in Standard
By nagao on June 12th, 2006 · Filed in Standard (Type 2) · Comments not available just now
The current Standard environment has no lack of multicolor decks - the shocklands, painlands, bouncelands, and Birds of Paradise make it so easy to run two or even three colors in a deck without much fear of getting colorscrewed. For instance, Zoo, certainly a popular archetype, usually pays on turn 1 to get a Kird Ape, followed by paying the next turn for a Watchwolf. With this kind of environment, a card that could be overlooked in another set is now a threat - Dryad Sophisticate.
(And perhaps Ghost Quarter will start to gain popularity as well. While not always useful, the uncounterable disruption can be useful against urzatron decks, legendary lands, bouncelands, etc.)
Also available in Ravnica is a large amount of removal - Char, Mortify, Putrefy, Last Gasp, and the Nemesis Seals. Umezawa's Jitte, Shock, and Volcanic Hammer join in the fun.
And against this we have - Silhana Ledgewalker, Giant Solifuge, Kodama of the North Tree, and Shielding Plax, which brings a tinge of Blue card draw to Green decks.
As the prices of shocklands and painlands hit the roof, it is only natural that some yearn for a return to monocolor goodness. Indeed, it is my opinion that mono-Green aggro has a niche in the current Standard environment. This view was certainly shared by Alex Hughes who got 5th in the Seattle Regionals with:
Why run this deck?
You may ask, why not run Gruul or Zoo? Surely they have better creatures - Kird Ape, Watchwolf, Burning-Tree Shaman, Rumbling Slum... And, they have better spells, too! Char and Lightning Helix especially.
Well, one reason is that Giant Growth is a great combat trick, especially since it hasn't seen much play recently. With this, you can stop aggro, or at least stall it, until you get a Blanchwood Armor on Silhana Ledgewalker, which is nigh unstoppable, or Shielding Plax on Thran Golem, which is just a nightmare for your opponent if they don't have board-sweepers.
Another reason is that both your evasive creatures, and your pumping auras, and your pumping instants are all in Green. Of course having Red for burn is good, I'm not saying it isn't, I'm just saying that this deck is good enough mono-Green, especially when Blanchwood Armor becomes an uber-Moldervine Cloak.
The last reason is that you don't have to spend lots of money buying an expensive manabase. (And I'm considering running Ghost Quarter since there's not much difference between having and for this deck.)
Most importantly, though, when you really get down to it, this deck has incredible synergy - evasion with pump, untargetability with pump, combat tricks etc. Turn 1 Kird Ape, turn 2 Watchwolf, turn 3 Burning-Tree Shaman may look really impressive, but if you turn 1 Genju, turn 2 Silhana Ledgewalker, turn 3 Moldervine Cloak, you can hold off their attackers and put them on a short clock, which gets even shorter when you pump your creatures even more with Blanchwood Armor, et al. The starting seems weak, but evasion + untargetability is superb, especially considering their Shocks and Chars will be pretty dead (or aimed at your head, usually not their ideal play against an aggro deck).
Now that maybe you've been persuaded that armored elves have the potential to be better at destruction than a bunch of mad apes, wolves, and elephants, it's time to get down to business.
Don't be deceived, this looks very weak but can be really useful. Once you pump him, he can't be blocked by small creatures, walls, Silklash Spiders, etc.
Recommended use: With Shielding Plax and large doses of armor.
Note: Because he has Bloodthirst, play your other one-drops first, but if you don't have any in hand, just play him - it's very important that this deck does something every turn for the first few turns.
On its own, the Pit-Skulk is not a game-winning card. Or even a very useful one. Even I didn't understand the appeal of Skarrgan Pit-Skulk at first; I thought it was another Defiant Elf. But with the amount of pump in this deck, it's okay actually. One must realize that it's not meant to compare with other one-drops, as it is not useful on its own - in fact, the bloodthirst doesn't make much of a difference most of the time, and more importantly, it doesn't need to.
What you do is slap a Shielding Plax on it (or on Dryad Sophisticate, works the same) when your opponent is tapped out (often happens with aggro decks on a tight curve) and then you can happily Blanchwood Armor on it, barring Pyroclasm and WoG. In fact, Moldervine Cloak or Loxodon Warhammer work just as well, normally. Once you've pumped up an untargetable, unblockable creature, your opponent is pretty much doomed. Even Keiga can't save them.
A classic. Decent, especially if you get manascrewed. Even if you don't need the mana he can be used as a blocker.
Recommended use: With Giant Growth, or better, Might of Oaks.
Birds of Paradise
If you have the money, this is arguably better than the above as it has flying, which makes it scary when armored.
Recommended use: With Cloaks and Armor.
Useful against aggro and combo, against decks packing removal and stuff it's just free card advantage once they nuke your graftee.
Recommended use: Flushed down the undersewers to pump an evasive creature, or as a bloodthirst enabler.
Disclaimer: Usually not very useful.
Genju of the Cedars
This is a turn 3 4/4, and it allows you to use your mana nicely when you reach topdeck mode. Compare with Viashino Sandstalker. Also, it allows you to draw enchantment removal away from your Blanchwood Armors.
Recommended use: This 4/4 beater doesn't need much help...
Note: Be careful, if you have only 3 mana sources don't be so quick to expose your precious Forest to combat.
Essential. It's really quite a gem: can't be hit by spot removal or be chump blocked (except by fliers). It is certainly one of the key cards in this deck.
Recommended use: Quickly Armor or Cloak it before it gets victimized by Pyroclasm, Orzhov Pontiff, or Night of Souls' Betrayal. Once it's pumped, nothing bothers it save Wildfire (sometimes) or Wrath of God.
Usually, a 2/1 unblockable for . When playing against monocolor (which is quite rare), can still be used to trade with x/2 creatures.
Recommended use: If it's unblockable, protect it ASAP. Shielding Plax against spot removal, and Moldervine Cloak against sweepers.
Note: Be careful not to be gung-ho when they haven't laid down a non-basic. Similarly, don't Ghost Quarter the only non-basic land left!
A solid 2/3 for . Doesn't have evasion, and not very useful against aggro. Its merits lie in the fact that is doesn't die to most sweepers.
A matter of personal choice, I feel that Genju of the Cedars is superior.
Shinen of Life's Roar
This can let your creatures through in a stalemate, especially channeled, but it's not as useful as you might think as your creatures are meant to have evasion anyway.
Green has rather few good creatures which cost three mana. Thankfully the Armor, Cloak, and Genju activation make sure you won't run out of things to do. Still, here are a couple for you to consider:
Dosan the Falling Leaf
Totally hoses counterspells and combat tricks. However a 2/2 for 3 mana is pretty weak, especially since it hoses your own giant growths against aggro. I say sideboard, if anywhere.
Isao, Enlightened Bushi
Do you really hate Blue that much? Despite not being counterable, it can still be Repealed. Its bushido and regeneration make it pretty defensive as most players would leave it unblocked when attacking. Also dies to the simplest of burn when you are tapped out. Again, only as sideboard at the very most.
Giant Solifuge is the only real option here. It's aggressively costed, untargetable, and haste makes for a nasty surprise. However, it has big weaknesses in that it dies to chump blocks, 1/x creatures, and even Orzhov Pontiff and the like. Definitely a metagame call.
For the sideboard, if you have space you could try Iwamori of the Open Fist. It's a 5/5 trampler for . Sounds good till you realize your opponent gets a free Legend, and a LOT of Legends are scarier than Iwamori. So, play this only when you are sure your opponent is not running Legends that will ruin your day.
This is the very top of your curve, and running more than 2-4 puts you in jeopardy as 22 lands and 4 elves can't always guarantee 5 mana.
Kodama of the North Tree
Giant Solifuge's big brother, this lacks the haste of the "christmas ant" but gets a huge body which only dies to Wildfire.
A budget alternative, it dies easily to spot removal, especially with all the artifact hate running around due to Umezawa's Jitte. However your opponent soon realizes his folly of leaving it alive when you cast Shielding Plax on it. KotNT is much better most of the time, but the golem is not without merits, for instance, against decks lacking removal.
Recommended as a budget alternative, or a sideboard option depending on the meta. Also, I think this gets a little better when KotNT and Jitte rotate out.
Arashi, the Sky Asunder
Currently a sideboard staple for most Green decks. It can pick fliers off one-by-one and its board-sweeping channel can't be countered except by Voidslime.
Disadvantages: Can't block flying creatures, channel can only be used once.
Other than this, the only option you have against fliers is:
A much better blocker than Arashi. Sure, Arashi can beat, but you can leave that to your evasive guys who should be nicely hammering your opponent.
Also, it can clear the board of fliers. Repeatedly.
Disadvantages: Can't beat, and can be countered.
Recommended use: After your opponent taps out to cast a Keiga or Meloku.
Makes any of your creatures a threat, and can be reused. A staple for the deck.
Can't be reused, but it's abusive once you get 4 or 5 forests out. Pretty much the rationale for mono-Green.
Protects any of your creatures against spot removal, Glare of Subdual, and the uber pointy stick of death. Also the only card draw you have. This is very very useful, however it can be boarded out against mass removal or pure aggro.
Actually, this is an equipment. I think it's too slow, but some have obtained good results with this. The life swing is certainly remarkable.
Note: Auras are more synergistic if you run the 5/5 flying first strike trampler.
This deck has loads of creatures. They like to deal combat damage. Need I say more? If you have it, run it. Sideboard against a meta heavy with artifact removal. It's no coincidence that artifact destruction is now often labelled as "Jitte hate".
Might of Oaks
A great finisher. Just be careful against removal.
Irritates any aggro deck. I mean, a Watchwolf wasted by a 0/1?
In some cases, can help you win the turn before your opponent gets board control.
I don't like this as I feel it is overcosted. But many run it for the card draw. Trample isn't synergistic with evasion, but you never know...
Other Stuff - Sideboard Options
Leyline of Lifeforce
This pretty much hoses control. Even if it's not in your opening hand, the 4 mana cost isn't very prohibitive; make sure you play it when they tap out.
Very useful in many situations, almost always an auto-include in the sideboard if not maindeck. This depends a lot on your metagame.
Life from the Loam
You don't run that much land, so side this in against Land Destruction (not so popular) or Wildfire (which is a real nightmare).
I don't like these - I'd rather be able to draw more threats from my library than have to reclaim threats from my graveyard. However some people like this card, especially for late game play (but you shouldn't have late game play for this deck!)
There are a lot of choices in this deck, and many of the calls are meta-based. Anyway, here's a couple of decklists to start you off...
(Note: If not for Umezawa's Jitte, Birds of Paradise are usually superior to Llanowar Elves.)
This is a race you're generally able to win. The evasion in this deck should make this deck slightly faster than typical G/R aggro or Zoo.
Turn 1: Genju of the Cedars
Turn 2: Silhana Ledgewalker
Turn 3: Blanchwood Armor
Turn 1: Kird Ape
Turn 2: Watchwolf / Thirsty Scab-Clan Mauler
Turn 3: Char (oh wait, they can't Char anything for now.)
You'll take some damage, but not much more than they would take from their manabase. They can't Char your Ledgewalker, and your reusable Genju should hold off the onslaught for your Ledgewalker to swing in. They can burn away your stuff, but you should have enough to hold them off. Giant Growth on tiny blockers works a treat here.
The new versions of Heezy Street that run heavy burn can be a bit trickier, but the Ledgewalker and Shielding Plax should save you. They can't keep mana open to burn and lay threats at the same time. It may be a bit difficult sometimes, but your deck has a smaller chance of being inconsistent than theirs.
U/W skies with Pride of the Clouds can be tricky, but it is completely hosed by Silklash Spider or Arashi. When i played the Spider my opponent stared at it, then stared at my Moldervine Cloaked Dryad Sophisticate, then scooped. Without his friends, Pride of the Clouds is one dead cat. For example, a Suntail Hawk, Lantern Kami, Mistral Charger and a now 4/4 Pride are in play. All it takes is to channel Arashi and suddenly your opponent is looking at an empty board.
Ghazi-Glare can be difficult once Glare is on the board, but again, the Ledgewalker and Shielding Plax save you. Try Naturalize from the sideboard. If you can afford it, Kodama of the North Tree is also your friend.
B/W variants that pack one-shot removal shouldn't pose much of a problem as they spend more mana to cast than your creatures, hence not gaining much tempo advantage. Have I mentioned Shielding Plax and Silhana Ledgewalker?
It's not for nothing that Ghost Dad and Ghost Husk performed the best at the recent Regionals. They are often very good, using aggro cards like Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Jitte, Ghost Council of Orzhova, card advantage through Dark Confidant, and discard to boot. Also, their Mortify can double up as enchantment removal against your untargetable creatures. But still, if you can get an untargetable beatstick by turn 3-4, you stand a reasonable chance of victory. Against discard you should try to lay down threats will leaving less useful cards in your hand.
Also to watch out for are decks with Orzhov Pontiff and Night of Souls' Betrayal. You have to play intelligently and conserve threats in your hand. Naturalize can help against NoSB. Genjus and Elvish Warriors are good here.
Combo vs Aggro matchups usually depend on whether the combo goes off first or whether the aggro deck can deal 20 damage first.
Hit hard and fast for a good chance of winning. However, without disruption it can be hard to race a well-tuned Heartbeat Maga. Try Naturalize for that extra bit of disruption. Perhaps Ghost Quarter as well if they run a lone Swamp. These decks seldom pack removal, so just power up your creatures as fast as possible and beat.
At best, they can flip turn 3. Even then, you should have a 4/4 evasive beater by then. Usually they only get their counterwall up by turn 5-6, by which time you should coast to an easy win.
In general, I find control harder to beat. However, this varies greatly due to the amount of different control decks in today's Type 2.
Roxodon Heirarchy shouldn't be that difficult as you can stop most of their spot removal with Shielding Plax and the Ledgewalker. They need about six turns to really trouble you with Kokusho, Gleancrawler, and the like. This deck can do a lot in six turns.
Fungus Fires, Gifts Ungiven, and Enduring Ideal are similar in that the first few turns are yours to play with before they can start getting board control. You must hit them hard and fast. But be careful if they pack Pyroclasm: in that case use one or two pumped beaters only instead of laying down everything at once. You have to find a balance between finishing them off quickly and not overextending.
The U/x control decks are the worst with all their permission and bounce. Spell Snare, Mana Leak, and Hinder make your first few turns a nightmare. This is a very, very difficult matchup, especially against U/R Tron decks and the like. Their game plan is generally to counter or bounce everything you do, then come out with finishers. Remember Leylines of Lifeforce, Isao, and Dosan will help you here. Also, Life from the Loam against Wildfire. This is very tricky, but intelligent sideboarding and careful play can get you a win. After all, they have to tap out sometimes. Also, Ghost Quarter helps against the Tron, and can be a major disaster for players without basic lands.
This deck has its good and bad matchups, like any deck. I just hope that this article can convince you that a monocolor deck can be just as good as its multicolored counterparts, and to give mono-Green a try.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
By nagao on June 12th, 2006 · Filed in Standard (Type 2) · Comments not available just now