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Verdant Variations in Standard

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Standard is currently home to a number of diverse approaches to Green decks. Sure, you can spread the battlefield with Bolas's Citadel or play eighty cards for main deck or sideboard copies of Yorion, Sky Nomad... But as bad as Aether Gust can be sometimes, if you're brave enough to weather that ubiquitous two, there are any number of approaches - and rewards - to the tapping of basic Forest.

While some of the decks I'll talk about today are technically Blue, they aren't really "Blue decks". For this one I decided to skip over the Bluer (or more controlling) approaches to Green - notably Bant Control or Sultai Ramp - in favor of some of those more characteristically on the themes of Ramp or effective creatures:

  • The Good, the Bad, and the Little Bit Cheaper in Simic
  • More and More Mono-Green StOmPy
  • THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT: The New Golgari Hotness

The Good, the Bad, and the Little Bit Cheaper in Simic

Two weeks ago, I told you I thought the most exciting new deck was Simic Ramp, as built by _SHATUN_. While I spent most of the time since then on Mono-Green decks, I have had the opportunity to check out Simic Ramp, and have drawn some conclusions around it.

For a refresher, here is _SHATUN_'s build from a couple of weeks ago:


I liked three things about this deck:

  1. It was built specifically for the potential transformation into Simic Flash. While you can make the argument that it can tweak in Mystical Dispute in a variety of matchups, all fifteen sideboard cards can essentially all some in at the same time. This meant Leafkin Druid at the two rather than any copies of Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. Leafkin Druid allows this build to hit a turn three Nightpack Ambusher or Frilled Mystic in Game 2.
  2. It was only two colors. I really admired the focus; with Mass Manipulation at the top, it could save a ton of lands that are otherwise devoted to Casualties of War.
  3. _SHATUN_ really seemed to know what cards they wanted to play. There are four copies of almost everything! The two-ofs (both referenced above) are extremely specific, and not commonly played in other archetypes.

After playing a bit with the archetype, I've come to a couple of conclusions.

First, the good. This deck is more or less the most powerful deck you can play in Standard. If Temur Reclamation gets an above average draw and you don't (i.e. your first acceleration is on turn three... You don't draw Arboreal Grazer; they draw Growth Spiral and you don't), you sometimes eat one or more copies of Expansion // Explosion and are never in it.

But if you get your stuff on schedule, you can wipe sometimes multiple copies of Wilderness Reclamation with a quick Ugin minus-four; and instruct these young Temur whippersnappers in the proper application of Hydroid Krasis.

Though Control is relatively popular, there aren't really an overabundance of permission spells in control decks. I won a game earlier tonight against a Grixis deck with literally every nightmare card... Thought Erasure AND Agonizing Remorse main deck! Bedevil for one of our relatively low number of big threats if they hit the table; and Extinction Event to punish us for following any number of different lines. Even MAIN DECK Cling to Dust to go after Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath (which I have been trying in _SHATUN_'s inspired archetype).

Opponent initially unknown, I kept a Ramp-heavy hand with Arboreal Grazer into Cultivate; but with only Ugin as a real payoff. The opponent made me discard it!

I switched modes into spending all my extra mana into Castle Vantress. I could either go for Cultivates or dig for a Hydroid Krasis. This game I searched every single basic land out of my deck before really starting to drop bombs; but jammed all four Jellyfish. And patiently. The last one was for x=16 knowing that my top card was Mass Manipulation and that I was going to cast both the same turn. Poor Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God.

In another game, this time against Esper, I mostly just waited around making lands; my opponent played down all kinds of Teferis and Ashioks and I just Ramped up to eight. Ugin cleared 3+ permanents multiple times, and on one particularly big turn, I stole a nine loyalty Teferi, Master of Time and another Planeswalker.

Ultimately the combination of having more land than your Control opponents plus generally bigger payoffs at the top can make them look positively mediocre. It really helps that these decks can't put a lot of pressure on you.

... Which brings us to the bad.

In matches where you don't know what you're up against, you can just lose with this one. For instance, a meat and potatoes lands-and-spells hand is usually going to lose to the average Mono-Green StOmPy hand; often on the fourth turn.

You have the most powerful equalizer in Standard... But it does cost eight mana. Without Arboreal Grazer (or at least Growth Spiral) to start, you're never going to be able to keep pace against a Mono-Green opponent tapping out every turn. I feel like the other aggro decks are less bad, but you don't generally have a lot of interaction against anybody unless you make a Planeswalker first.

So, on first pass with this one I didn't actually have enough wildcards to craft all the necessary Solemn Simulacrums. I decided to try a Llanowar Visionary in one slot to see how it performed.

I think Llanowar Visionary is just better than Solemn Simulacrum in this archetype! It comes out a turn faster, and can really exploit your outlier draws. For example, first turn Arboreal Grazer into second turn Llanowar Visionary. In any case, the Visionary is an outstanding three-five puncher. You can slide straight into Nissa, Who Shakes the World off this three!

It's about as good as Solemn Simulacrum on defense, if you discount the fact that it comes into play a turn faster. Which leans in favor of Llanowar Visionary. Cultivate is probably the defining card of Simic Ramp in Standard, and Llanowar Visionary is basically a Cultivate that attacks for two sometimes; bravely chump blocks others.

Additional Variations:

  1. Main-deck Shark Typhoon - I was originally not sure about Shark Typhoon, but it is outstanding against Teferi, Time Raveler. The promotion to main deck in some builds is largely over Mass Manipulation. I think that is justifiable, but it does lower the ceiling RE: what you can really ultimately accomplish with the slots.
  2. Gadwick, the Wizened as a one-of - I really like this as an option against other big decks.
  3. I don't know that you have the room for the transformative sideboard. You kind of need to Negate a really small number of cards in Temur, and the originally submitted version didn't play any. If you Negate the first Expansion // Explosion, the game might be in hand before you have to deal with a second.

More and More Mono-Green StOmPy

While I was pretty glowing RE: EDEL's Nissa, Who Shakes the World build last week, even EDEL himself seems to have branched out into other versions of Mono-Green.

There are a couple of extremely specific builds that I think are worth talking about that have evolved over the past seven or so days.


This is largely the build I've been playing since PHIL_HELLMUTH posted second place in the Preliminary with it. It's essentially EDEL's build with two Vivien and two other Vivien in place of Nissa and The Great Henge main deck.

Nissa was really THE THING about the deck we talked about last week, but Vivien, Monster's Advocate can play a similar game of going wide with 3/3 creatures. I confess I've never really "gone off" off the top of my deck, but presumably you can. It's a little annoying that you "have" to play the 5/5 version of Lovestruck Beast off the top, but only a little.

I don't think this is the best Vivien, Arkbow Ranger build, and I do miss The Great Henge. Shifting Ceratops is a very good card, but Ranger's Guile was probably my most-used card from the previous sideboard, and that's absent here. I am currently playing two copies of The Great Henge in the sideboard. See more on that below.


If you want to maximize Vivien, Arkbow Ranger, I think this is a bit of a better home.

Obviously, a lot of these decks have similar setups, but the details on this one give good Viv.

Growth-Chamber Guardian
Crystalline Giant

Vivien, Arkbow Ranger lets you cheat a little with Growth-Chamber Guardian; or at least save some mana. If you use Vivien's ability to put a +1/+1 counter on Growth-Chamber Guardian instead of its natural ability, you can save the three mana and still search up another Elf Crab Warrior.

But it's more than that. You can usually only Adapt when there are no +1/+1 counters on a creature. Vivien lets you trigger the Squadron Hawk-like ability multiple times with the same copy. Why might you want to do that? What if you already searched once but the opponent stole the copy in your hand with a Thought Erasure, or countered it on the way down? Vivien lets you keep your engine humming without [successfully] playing an additional copy.

You can also break the Rule of Four. For instance, what if you shuffle a Growth-Chamber Guardian back into your deck with some kind of Aether Gust? Even a cousin with existing +1/+1 counters can help you search more than three times with some help from Vivien.

I did find Crystalline Giant kind of an odd add to the archetype, but at least you can manipulate some of the future counters by giving it a +1/+1 yourself. Really weird that you can waste a counter type on "reach" ... Especially if you already obtained "flying".

Like I said, I'm actually employing a couple of copies of The Great Henge in my otherwise PHIL_HELLMUTH sideboard. Oddly, I think Voracious Hydra would be best positioned in an EDEL model using Nissa, Who Shakes the World.

Up next, I guess?

THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT: The New Golgari Hotness

[JPSN54 from https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mtgo-standings/standard-preliminary-2020-07-17]


This.

THIS.

THIS is what I'm talking about!

I feel like JPSN54 got their hands on my dream journal and kind of mashed everything exciting into one deck list.

The most important aspect is four copies of The Great Henge. Which is odd for a deck with only three Lovestruck Beasts main... But at least the fourth is waiting in the sideboard.

It's okay, per our discussion a couple of weeks back about Rotting Regisaur, this is probably my favorite Reggie deck in the entire format. It's fast thanks to Gilded Goose, and it doubles up the setup for The Great Henge.

If this were only a StOmPy deck that lined up twice as many big 3-drops for twice as much The Great Henge action I would probably still be very excited to try it. But JPSN54 figured out a ton of other ways to get value. This is a fast 3-drop deck thanks to Gilded Goose. You know what else is good with Gilded Goose? Trail of Crumbs. And you know what's great with Trail of Crumbs? Cat Food combo.

I feel like you can utterly dominate some folks with one half of the deck and others with the other half. It addresses some of the lack of flexibility of the average (or even above average) StOmPy deck, though obviously lacks the most specific incentives of its Rakdos Cat Food cousins.

I do feel like Ilysian Caryatid is an odd choice; and I don't think I could play without all four Scavenging Oozes. Details aside, this is officially the most exciting deck now. Goes without saying that The Great Henge can more than make up for Rotting Regisaur's shortcomings.

LOVE

MIKE

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