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Bringing Back Battleford Green


One of the very first notable decks in the early days of tournament Magic was Seņor Stompy, a Mono-Green aggro deck that was designed by Bill Macey and Paul Gallagher. Their deck matched undercosted large creatures with a little bit of disruption in the form of Winter Orb and some creature pump - at the time Giant Growth and Bounty of the Hunt, but other cards would serve in that role in other iterations. There were a number of aggressive Mono-Green decks that would come out around that time: Winnipeg, Battleford, and Gonzalez being three of the most noted.

Rogue Elephant
Bounty of the Hunt
Winter Orb

In the current moment, Green has notably been pushed by Wizards of the Coast. We've seen a swell of bans in Green that feel historic, and it is still possible we might see more bans from Green forthcoming, albeit most likely in the form of a gold card: Oko, Thief of Crowns. One thing that seems likely, though, is that the philosophy around the cards that have been created most recently is in line with Green being overpowered enough in the current moment to warrant exploration.

Oko's dominance has been clear enough in Pioneer that the most recent Magic: Online PTQ saw a slew of decks running the card, including the winner:

I've played against a lot of these lists in the last week or so, and one thing that struck me about this particular build is that it's boarded game, after adding in Lovestruck Beast, felt particularly scary to play against with my current favored deck: uw Control. Every time that I faced down a turn two Oko was rough, certainly, but it was the turn two Lovestruck Beast that I would rarely beat simply from the pressure of it.

This would be a problem that would be repeated with any huge creature on turn two. It so happens that with the acceleration provided by a few friendly Elves, there are a number of cards that can be scary in that way.

Lovestruck Beast
Steel Leaf Champion
Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig
Rhonas the Indomitable

These are some real monsters. Dropping one of these on turn two and following up with another on turn three can just be too much for many decks. Really, the only thing keeping us from running more of these cards is the diminishing returns of Legendary in Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig and Rhonas the Indomitable, or there could easily be an argument to run all sixteen.

With these cards as a base, here is the Pioneer Stompy list I like:

This deck looks back to the past for its inspiration in a few ways, and of the various Stompy variants of the past, it specifically exemplifies aspects from Shane Neville's "Battleford Green" way back from 1997. The concept of this deck was that you wanted creatures that hit very hard, but you also wanted the means to finish the game with evasion and direct damage. In this way, if your beefy brawlers get stopped up, you can still finish the game outside of the combat phase or by evading blockers.

Walking Ballista

Direct damage is hard to come by in Green, but thankfully we have the option of hopping into colorless with Walking Ballista. Walking Ballista is an all-time all-star of a Magic, and one of the reasons this is so is because the card is potentially able to win a game all on its own. There isn't much in the way of evasion, but Heart of Kiran can certainly play that role, with the Questing Beast and Rhonas the Indomitable joining in by sometimes providing damage through defense.

With all of the Oko out there in the world, it actually is important to be able to straight up kill an Oko in the early game. If you play a turn two five-power creature, and they shrink it on their turn two (except, of course Yorvo, the most powerful of Elks), following up with a pump spell on your creature is important to verify the death of that early Oko. In a deck running so many Good, Giving, Game (GGG) creatures, Aspect of the Hydra is an excellent pump spell, and can sometimes be grotesque in the amount of damage it can provide.

The curve for the deck wraps up on two four-mana Legends, both of which have haste and are likely to hit very hard, Questing Beast and Surrak, the Hunt Caller. Following up five power with four or five power in haste can be wickedly devastating and sets up many decks into a spiral of blocking that looks a lot like a one-sided The Abyss. A small handful of powerful 2-drops are also in the mix, just to ensure that the curve doesn't fall apart when your Elf gets killed on turn one.

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

I've seen other builds of this kind of deck that move all the way up to Ghalta, Primal Hunger, and while I agree that that card is wildly powerful, it is also erratic. It's best use is in games where the ground gets muddied up, and that is actually a fairly sparing situation for this deck. Even in the face of Oko decks, pressure is put on so strongly by the creature package, and the threat of death so imminent, it usually takes a combination of Oko and Wicked Wolf to begin to gum up the ground, and even then, keeping an opponent on the verge of death until an Aspect of Hydra or some other card like Rhonas or Walking Ballista finalizes a kill.

The only card that makes the deck that isn't seemingly dedicated to the killing of the opponent is The Great Henge, which gives the deck another path to victory on top of simply killing the opponent. If the game begins to go long, a copy of The Great Henge can turn things out of the realm of a grind into a landslide. This isn't a card I want in my opening hand, usually, but it is a great back door to taking over a game that is beginning to slide away. The effect is so good that not only are there a full set of four in the 75 (despite only two main), I also have a Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner as a sort of alternative The Great Henge in the sideboard to play against decks that are more likely to cause a grind.

Much of the rest of the sideboard is fairly self-explanatory. Display of Dominance, Heroic Intervention, Hunt the Hunter, Aethersphere Harvester, and Reclamation Sage all do obvious tasks. The more difficult one for many to wrap their mind around is Vivien, Arkbow Ranger.

Vivien, Arkbow Ranger

Vivien is primarily there for matchups where the damage-dealing ability is going to be relevant. Adding counters and trample to your creatures is incredibly relevant for ending games, especially on Syr Faren, the Hengehammer, Walking Ballista, and Questing Beast, but this is really just the added bonus that the card can provide. The real point of the card is to add creature removal to your deck against those matchups where you really feel like you need it. Be mindful that the "ultimate" ability at -5 loyalty is an aspect of the deck you truly want to have access to, and be certain to have at least one creature in your sideboard after bringing in Vivien. I personally find myself making use of this ability often enough, I tend to board out one Questing Beast or one Surrak, the Hunt Caller to have access to a haste creature (boarding out Surrak for this purpose only if I think it will dependably trigger), and one copy of whatever I think the best card against my opponent will be, after turn four or five or so. Syr Faren, the Hengehammer is a solid choice as well, as it can sometimes be a bit anemic without help, but becomes truly frightening in conjunction with Vivien, and can often be played in a double-threat the turn it is cast, potentially as a 4/4 that turn, and a 6/6 the following turn.

One thing I love about this deck is that it feels incredibly powerful, and yet, it doesn't seem to me that any of the cards in the deck are all that likely to get banned. Most importantly, it's fun putting such huge creatures into play so rapidly! If this kind of deck feels up your alley at first sight, you're going to love playing it!

- Adrian Sullivan

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