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Around the Wheel: Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury


I ended my last article with this sentence:

"Green is next week. What do you think? Creatureless?"

I was kidding. I swear I was. I even built a whole deck around Ayula, Queen Among Bears - this whole Bear-tribal thing - and it was super themey but pretty terrible.

But I got curious, and I started to think about it, and remembering we have a mono-color planeswalker commander for every color I decided it might be worth a shot. Here we go.

Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury

Let's agree on some ground rules.

  1. We can't summon any creatures at all. No Reclamation Sages or Eternal Witnesses, no Avenger of Zendikars or Craterhoof Behemoths. It's all Naturalizes and Regrowths, Beacon of Creations, and Overruns from here on out.
  2. We can make and even use tokens, but the card must do something else in addition to making tokens to be legal. Our Commander is the most obvious example here; her first ability makes a token. But we're not playing her because of the Elves she creates, we're playing her because she's not a creature and can be our commander.
  3. All other card types are legal. We've got to figure out some ways to win the game, of course, and incidental creature tokens probably can't be the only way. That will likely include some Artifacts and Enchantments.

Normally we'd talk about mana first, but a Mono-Green deck will normally win with, y'know, creatures, so we can assume that going in and work up to the specifics later. In this case, because we're pretty far afield from normal, let's start by looking at our various win conditions, then we'll see how we get to them.

  • The most obvious is some combination of tokens, probably with a Garruk Wildspeaker ultimate. Our Commander spits out little dudes, as do a number of other cards, everything from Splinter tokens (1/1 Fliers) right on up to 5/5 Wurms every turn or a whole bunch of 6/6s. If we can stick a big enough number and Overrun with Garruk, we'll probably kill someone.
  • Eldrazi Conscription is another way to use a token. It's great on just about anything, and can definitely be ridden to victory. It's worth noting we have From Beyond as a way to search out this card (or All is Dust, if a sweeper is what's needed).
  • Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage make for a neat, if well known, combo. (If you don't know how it works: Dark Depths has you put counters on it as it enters the battlefield, so it comes in with 10 Ice counters. Thespian's Stage, on the other hand, copies a land, but it's already on the battlefield. So you turn Thespian's Stage into Dark Depths. The Legend rule kills the original Dark Depths but the Stage has no counters, so we sac that too and make a 20/20 Flying Indestructible token.) That's a really good target for Eldrazi Conscription, by the way. And we have a few ways to search out any land, so if one piece is drawn naturally, we will likely be able to hunt down the other.
  • We're Green, so we can ramp like crazy, plus we make Llanowar Elves every turn, so we may as well run Helix Pinnacle. It's cheap, hard to kill, and surprisingly easy to get to 100. If you go in on it, though, make sure you're counting every single turn, because it's easy to get distracted by other things you can do and be too late to inch over 100 and just win.
  • A bunch of that mana can be dumped into a Genesis Wave. It's unlikely to win the game on the spot, but a Wave for 15 is likely to stick a couple of 'walkers plus a few big enchantments and artifacts which should get us close to one of our other win conditions.
  • Prototype Portal does a bunch of work for us. We can Imprint Mindslaver on it and, for 10 mana, take over someone's turn every single turn. We should be able to figure out a way to win with that.
  • We can also use it to copy Ugin's Nexus. We need a way to get rid of our Nexus, so Claws of Gix are necessary as well, but with those three cards we take infinite turns. We can definitely figure out a way to win from there.
  • Karn Liberated's ultimate ability is kind of our last win condition. It's not really one, but the only time I've ever seen Karn actually ultimate the whole table just scooped rather than restart the game with some of their best stuff on the other side of the table, so it'll probably cause a win.

So with that out of the way, what do we do while we're waiting to get a win condition together and actually win the game?

First is get lands. Lots of lands. We're running the standard 40, of course, but we've got plenty of spells that get lands and we've got artifact mana. We're going to make plenty of mana. That's good, because for something like Splintering Wind we're going to need plenty of mana. It's also nice to have lots of lands out for some of the Planeswalkers, because they care about how many lands we've got. When Nissa draws us 27 cards or Garruk makes us 33 6/6 Wurms, we'll be glad we have all those lands.

Second, we're going to draw cards. Skullclamp does nice work with all the 1/1s our Commander pumps out. Recycle is a nifty way to keep cards flowing. Staff of Nin draws an extra, Karn, Scion of Urza does a nice job of getting us extras, and Sylvan Library is a classic. Harmonize is great. We also end up making a lot of tokens, which is kind of like drawing cards because they work like cards once they're on the battlefield. If we're making two or three tokens a turn, we're going to be keeping up with the majority of decks.

Third, we have to answer problems. We've got a number of different ways. We can search up All is Dust with From Beyond. We've also got Nevinyrral's Disk as a way to blow up the world. Desert Twister is this wonderful old card that can destroy anything, as can Beast Within. Lignify will answer a really problematic creature. Contagion Engine should limit another token deck's ability to function, and Ensnaring Bridge will slow a lot of decks down, especially with Recycle out. Sandwurm Convergence is our Moat. Constant Mists is the Fog that keeps on giving; we run enough lands we can afford to sac a few to stay alive. Arboria is our Propoganda, and Elephant Grass is our close second. With a couple of Planeswalkers out we can just sit there and do nothing, safe in our little haven, or just put our mana into hiding in the Grass.

Finally, we're going to play with some superfriends. The idea is the 'walkers are all functional, but they also distract our opponents into not attacking us while giving us their benefits. Even if we only make a few tokens or draw a couple cards, it's worth it just to be able to keep drawing while we are at a reasonable life total and piece together one of our win conditions.

So we're kind of a pillowfort/Superfriends/have-fun-and-only-be-a-little-annoying Green deck. That doesn't run any creatures. It's weird, and it plays weird, but it's different, and certainly a curious way to go about Mono-Green.

There may be a faster version that goes harder in on tokens. If we actually ran several token generators at different CMCs and combined that with a variety of actual Overrun effects, we might be able to be relatively aggressive, though it would likely pale in comparison to a true token deck that uses cards like Avenger and Craterhoof. I'm not sure there's much more that can be done to build up defenses with this color limitation. There may be a combo or two which got missed that could be added, and in this particular situation, it's probably a good idea to run as many "I win" combos as possible, despite their reputations. I also wonder if there are enough 'walkers to justify The Chain Veil.

Oh, and this deck completely rolls over to Telemin Performance. 12 years of playing EDH and I've never once seen a deck play Telemin Performance, but it's worth noting that if that card gets pointed at this deck, we just lose. We could fight it by running an Elixir of Immortality and hoping we draw it before we get hit, or by running a Dryad Arbor and hoping we don't hit it before we get hit, but I'd rather not worry about it and just take the loss if someone is randomly running Telemin Performance and congratulate the other player for using such a rare card.

I have to say, this deck seems like it'd be a lot of fun to have in my box. It's different, quirky, plays some wacky cards people won't know, actually can win games in some surprising ways, doesn't just beat the snot out of every other deck it encounters, has some serious weak points, and is interactive and fun to pilot without taking 20 minute turns. All of those seem like good things and make the kind of deck I want at a table.

I'm not joking, I really did build an Ayula deck. It would have been soft but furry, with lots of Bears and Bear-related things, plus plenty of Anthem effects, but there's no way a random tribal deck can be as interesting as creature-less Green.

What else can we do with this? Any combos missed or cards which should absolutely be included in a spells-only deck? Please let me know in the comments, because I'm likely to really build this deck in real life and if there's stuff it should have I'd like to add it!

Next week: Azorius. My Little Pony, anyone?

Thanks for reading.

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