New sets come and go, and with them go the desire to make new, innovative, fun and competitive decks. While some decks are fun, others are innovative, some are competitive, and they're pretty much never new, it's unusual to see a deck that is all that in one. Unlike older formats like Extended, Legacy and Vintage, Standard has the problem of having only 5-7 sets to work with. The amount of constructed-playable cards in a set doesn't usually number more than 30 or so, leaving us only a couple hundred cards to work with at best and, because of that, lots of seemingly good ideas are quickly dismissed for becoming unplayable decks due to the lack of enough good cards (or good synergy between them). Then there are some stablished archetypes that can be improved by innovative and rogue card choices, creating unexpected situations for your opponents that can win you games sometimes. This article wants to cover the core of Greater Good decks, offering options to further improve this already good and stablished archetype.
Ninth Edition, bring the Good for the Greater
Efficient card drawing
never looked so Green.
Back in Urza's Saga, Land of Broken Cards, there was this little enchantment called Greater Good. It was used in some fun decks but saw little competitive play, being easily overshadowed by the overabundance of cards that were just way better than this good enchantment. Ninth Edition brings the card advantage back into Standard, back into Green decks, and as seen in the finals of last year's Worlds, it is currently the core of the best decks in Standard. Coupled with fatties like Yosei, the Morning Star, Kodama of the North Tree, Arashi, the Sky Asunder and more, this little enchantment really adds insult to injury. Attack with Yosei, damage on the stack, sac, draw five cards, discard three. Lather, rinse, repeat, as fatty supplies go. Yes, it's savage. Greater Good also shines against mass removal, where you can sacrifice your finisher and hopefully find another one in the five cards you draw. Coupled with Yosei, it's even a way to let your other creatures through and prevent your opponent from casting spells. But that's nothing new, as we saw a lot of that in the Finals of last year's Worlds. It's as good as the pros showed us.
Treating with Threaten
Now what happens when you start sacrificing your opponent's fatties to draw five cards with Greater Good? Things start to get nasty, yeah. Your opponent just tapped out to lay down Kokusho or Yosei. It's your turn next. You untap, pay , cast Threaten, targeting the Dragon Legend in question. You attack for five, then you sacrifice the nasty fatty to the even nastier enchantment, draw five cards, discard three, and get the effect for yourself: A 10-point life swing? Massive tapping plus untap phase skipping? I hear that's good, and it's even better when for 3 mana you have a very good creature removal for those dragons that, as a plus, lets you steal the graveyard-triggered abilities those legends carry. I think Threaten is the missing piece for Greater Good decks to truly shine. It's savage in the mirror, a matchup that usually comes down to ''who plays a fatty first''. With Threaten (and some decent maindeck enchantment removal we will cover later), there's more to the matchup than just speed.
There's more to Gruul
than multicolored fatties.
There's more to Gruul
than multicolored fatties.
And, without further ado, the comments on the card choices:
I believe there's nothing better right know in Standard than the above trio, mana acceleration-wise. Llanowar Elves is just plain better than Birds of Paradise in a deck capable of always getting the right colors of mana thanks to the basic land searching provided by the usual suspects from Champions of Kamigawa. Since we play only six Red cards in the deck, a lone Mountain to be searched with the eight land-searchers is enough. In addition, I choose to play four Karplusan Forest. Here's why: There's no doubt that the painlands are cheaper than Ravnica's duals. And in a deck that won't need Red mana right away like this one, the forest is more than enough. I usually take only 1-2 damage from it and that's fine.
The Creature Base
Kodama of the North Tree
Arashi, the Sky Asunder
Iwamori of the Open Fist
Yosei, the Morning Star
Ryusei, the Falling Star
I think Kodama, Arashi and Yosei are pretty straightforward. Every Green/White deck is packing those, and they're easily the best options to use with Greater Good. The unusual choices are Iwamori and Ryusei, and I'm going to explain why I chose them. Iwamori is very mana efficient, offering five power for four mana only, and a very relevant drawback in this deck: It will make your opponent commit and run right into the Threaten trap. The 5/5 trampler from Betrayers of Kamigawa offers a warm body and actually accelerates your opponent, something far more tolerable thanks to the 3 mana sorcery that runs this deck. The Red dragon legend is our reset button, providing a way to deal with untargetables like our own Kodama aside from abusing the legend clause. As a plus, it deals with tokens and such, and is another flying fatty for the deck. It's not as good as Kokusho, Keiga or Yosei, but fills a hole in this deck and plays its role nicely.
Umezawa's Jitte, Pithing Needle, Glare of Subdual and Greater Good are all extremely good and show up in decks everywhere. I chose the cards I think are the best and cheapest removal for those artifacts and enchantments. Pithing Needle can wreck our main card, Greater Good, and Jitte needs to stay down for our deck to take its time and work. I think that's the best removal avaiable for those cards, and because of that they make the maindeck (with additional copies in the sideboard).
Sensei's Divining Top
The first two are pretty straightforward, and the Top is efficient card selection to help us find everything we need. With eight shuffle effects and the card drawing from Greater Good, I think we can manipulate our library efficiently enough.
Hierarch and Fetters buy us time against fast aggro decks. I've actually been considering maindeck slots for the elephant, possibly taking off Iwamori and Ryusei. That could be a good idea since the Loxodon is really efficient in buying us time against those fast creature decks, to help us get our engine going. The White aura offers additional removal against artifacts and enchantments, as well as any annoying creature that shows up. Extra copies of Naturalize assures that artifacts and enchantments won't be a problem, and Worship seems random but, being unexpected as it is, can turn the tide in some matchups. To round the sideboard up, Defense Grid stops permission, allowing our deck to run freely and go nuts with card drawing and face-smashing.
Part 2: Matchups, changes, and an update
After tinkering with the deck a little on MWS, I learned two things:
- The deck wasn't winning against aggro. At all.
- The deck had a hard time against Eminent Domain.
It won't be necessary to go into the details of the matches because even though I played a lot, those 2 reasons above resulted in more game losses than anything else. But they can be fixed, mainly by doing two things:
- Improving the fatty quality (don't worry, I'll adress this in a moment.)
- Increasing the impact of Red in the deck.
Let's face it, big guys are cute, but they have to matter as well. That leads us to:
- 2 Iwamori of the Open Fist
+ 2 Yosei, the Morning Star
For starters, that was it. Four Yosei, baby, no less. That gives us ten creatures coupled with 3 of each of Arashi and Kodama North. And that's the stuff, as the White Dragon Spirit is actually very very good against control decks like Eminent Domain. Provided you get to the point where you can cast him, it's usually GG. The enchantment removal we already have in the maindeck coupled with more SB help address this matter nicely. But that's not enough, we had to drastically improve our removal too. The solution? Red:
- 2 Ryusei, the Falling Star
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 3 Viridian Shaman
- 4 Threaten (don't panic)
+ 4 Savage Twister
+ 4 Lightning Helix
+ 3 Faith's Fetters
+ 1 Sensei's Divining Top
+ 1 land
Can Golden bullets
The inclusion of Red as more of a main color rather than just a splash fills all the holes we had. Lightning Helix and Savage Twister are the kind of removal that gives Aggro fits, and Faith's Fetters is simply an all-star, really. With decent stuff to pull Aggro against the wall until you reach six mana for Yosei, those matchups are more than just winnable now. They became actually good ones for our deck. The SB contains the third and fourth copies of Naturalize as well as Leave no Trace, to help against Eminent Domain's auras. The deck ends up losing one of its signature cards, Threaten, to the sideboard (more on that later) but becomes surprisingly solid with the change. Of course, the manabase had to be completely remade, which brings us to the following decklist:
The sideboard is pretty straightforward. It has four more cheap ways to deal with Annex and the like, two of them also hitting stuff like the Jitte and Pithing Needle. Hierarch throws a monkey wrench in aggro's dreams of winning, and is key in winning against the Gruul deck. The rest of the board is Threaten, which comes in against pretty much everything that kills with 5/5 - or bigger - guys and Defense Grid, even though permission isn't something we will be seeing a lot (the blue decks are U/R Wildfire or the new U/R Aggro, mostly, but U/R Tron is gaining popularity day after day). Here's some matchup SB'ing advice:
You are bringing in eight cards, the Hierarchs and Threaten. Out goes Naturalize, as well as Kodama of the North Tree and Arashi, the Sky Asunder. This matchup is in your favor thanks to the winning trio of Lightning Helix, Savage Twister and Faith's Fetters. Threaten shines against Rumbling Slum and any dudes with Moldervine Cloak, specially if you have Greater Good active. I'd say it's 60/40 before boarding and 65/35 after, as all this deck needs is a good hand and a working manabase to roll over the Grull Clans very easily.
You're bringing in the enchantment removal when battling Eminent Domain, as well as Threaten for their dragons. Take off the four Twisters and the four Helixes and bring in Naturalize, Leave no Trace, and Threaten. You should be able to keep the auras down and play a fatty before Wildfire hits. Remember though that Greater Good is more important, as the ability to steal a Dragon Legend with Threaten, swing for 5 and sacrifice for 5 cards plus a nice graveyard-triggered bonus will win you more games than playing a creature just to have it Confiscated. I'm not gonna lie to you though, UR decks are our worst matchups and need to be treated like that. 50/50 is our best bet, and only after sideboarding.
Okay, so they don't have any auras, enchantments or artifacts you should really fear. Naturalize becomes suboptimal in this matchup and makes room for a couple of Threatens or Hierarchs. The removal you have will probably be necessary against the aggro versions, and against the more controlish ''bleed'' versions you should take off the Twisters for the life-gaining aspect of The Mighty Elephant. Threaten works nicely against decks packing Debtor's Knell and Dragons. Very nicely actually. 55/45 against the Controls decks and 60/40 against aggro, pre sideboarding, with numbers switching to 60/40 and 65/35 after. We can easily win against Orzhov if we play tight.
Enchantment and artifact removal is key. Thankfully, we have both. The Legend Clause will hurt here and you probably should side out the green legends. The matchup is all about Yosei so it should stay, and you should bring Threaten, Naturalize and Loxodon Hierarch from your sideboard. Side out the six green legends and the Helixes for those. It's a very difficult puzzle sideboarding against this deck, though, as they can go every possible route and surprise you. They can take out their enchantments, that's why you don't bring Leave no Trace (but bring Naturalize for the artifacts), or they can take their fatties out and try to win via token-production. Threaten and Savage Twister cover all that though, so just make sure all eight copies are in. I'm going to give this matchup a conservative 50/50 even though we have all the pieces to win against the Selesnya deck. It's just so very hard to sideboard perfectly games 2 and 3.
BUG, BWG, or other ''second turn Hypnotic'' decks
It's all about removal. Savage Twister takes everything away, while Lightning Helix and Faith's Fetters buy you time. I don't think there's anything to side out except Naturalize, but they are probably playing Jitte so you might as well leave them in (and bring more if needed). This is an easy matchup though, 60/40 or better both pre and post sideboarding. Just keep those Specters at bay.
Rounding up the Sideboard
Threaten wins a lot from the surprise factor of being in the sideboard: No one is going to be expecting it, and when it hits it's GG. The only flaw in the deck, or, to be more accurate, the only thing I'm not so sure about is Defense Grid. I don't see myself playing against MUC or counter-filled decks often enough for it to matter, but the Izzet guild is gaining popularity and there's enough stuff for a straight UR control deck with a good amount of permission to be born, so I feel Defense Grid is a necessary evil. It all depends on your metagame though.
I think this deck is a very fine choice for upcoming Standard tournaments, offering a twist on an archetype that's already proven successful. I've been testing the deck online on MWS and it's really a blast. It's fun, somewhat innovative, and pretty good to boot. Thanks for reading, and enjoy playing the game. If you have any comments, you're more than welcome.
Cheers! Until next time,