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Born to Be Wild


With my strength gathered, it was time to return to Paliano and settle things with Grenzo. To be fair, I was the one who started this whole mess, but I was just petty enough to take it out on him anyway. The cloak his goblin cohorts ruined happened to be my favorite, after all.

I said my goodbyes to Anafenza and she gave a soft wave, mouthing the words good luck as she dematerialized back into the vastness of the Tarkir desert. I looked out across the dragon-spotted one more time before setting my mind to Fiora. I focused my attention to outer limits of Paliano and made the jump.

 . . . 

Sacred Wolf
Of course, I was not very familiar with the layout of The High City, especially the outer rim. I overshot the city proper and ended up materializing in a small clearing in the middle of the woods at the base of the towering pillars that held up the city. Well, this wasn’t ideal. It was hard enough to planeswalk precisely from out of plane, let alone within plane. I dusted off my cloak and turned to face the city so I could figure out a way to get up there and exact my revenge on that goblin menace. As I turned around, I came face to face with an Elf Woman…a single wolf by her side.

She spoke, “People don’t usually stray this far out of Paliano unless they’re avoiding the watchful eyes of the Murderer Queen, Marchesa.” She pushed her hat up and loomed in to have a closer look at me. “Though, it seems more like you’ve incurred the wrath of Grenzo judging by the tears in your cloak. Goblin claw marks, if I’m not mistaken.” The rather large wolf sniffed the edge of my cloak and began snarling, its lips pulled back to show its barred fangs. “Definitely Grenzo, then.”

“I suppose you could say he didn’t take kindly to a human wanting to join his merry band of raiders and looters.”

She looked me up and down and laughed, her eyebrows raising in bemusement. “You tried to get in on the rioting? You must have a death wish if you went to Grenzo in a bid to bloody Marchesa’s nose.”

“I’m not from the city itself. I may have gotten in deeper than I intended.”

“I’ll say. You don’t look like you’re from The High City or Trest. You must’ve come a long way to get yourself in the middle of this political mess.” She placed her hand on the wolf that had been eyeing me suspiciously since sniffing my cloak, stroking its head and calming it. “Perhaps it would be best to go back to where you came from before you truly catch the eye of The Black Rose.”

“Perhaps you’re right.” I looked up at The High City again, imagining the political battles being waged behind closed doors, the chaos among the nobility caused by Grenzo’s riots. The thought of it thrilled me. “Then again, maybe I wouldn’t mind being in the middle of all this.”

“Well, then you’re a fool.” She laughed again, hard and sharp in the quiet of the forest clearing. Then, she looked at me, more seriously than before. “But, I might have use for a fool like you.” She began to walk off into the forest, beckoning for me to follow with a casual wave of her right hand.

I stole one last glance at Paliano and thought that it would be easy to just go back to Kaladesh and reopen my P.I. firm. Things had probably died down since the Gonti incident, and it would be nice to feel at home again after all the adventure and danger. I looked back at the elf as she began to disappear into the woods and inhaled deeply before running after her into the clearing. Kaladesh could wait for now.

Well, here we are. The end to this cycle of Chroma Commander. Mono-Green. They say you should save the best for last, and in the case of Commander I’m fairly certain that Green may very well be the best. That’s an argument for another article, however. We’re not here to rank the colors in order of power and playability; we’re here to talk about Mono-Green in Commander and what Commanders really catch my eye.

There is no shortage of options when it comes to powerful or interesting Green Legendary creatures it turns out. It actually required a lot of thought to figure out which Commander I wanted to use for my foray into Mono-Green. Omnath, Locus of Mana is a pretty popular choice for Mono-Green, but I don’t feel there’s a lot of unexplored territory when it comes to making as much mana as possible. Plus, I used to have a U/G Kruphix, God of Horizons deck that let me play Blue in addition to Green, so Omnath doesn’t speak to me. I thought that Yisan, the Wanderer Bard might be a pretty cool option as well, but turns out that ground has been pretty thoroughly tread as well. This is where being a bit of a hipster when it comes to Commanders has its disadvantages.

I don’t even want to mention Ezuri, Renegade Leader. If I wanted to build a tribal EDH deck, Elves is not where I would start. However, there is an elf that stands out to me as being particularly thought provoking.

Selvala, Heart of the Wilds

According to EDHREC, the new Legendary creature from Conspiracy: Take the Crown has generated a lot of deck lists considering how long the set has been out. Turns out she’s interesting and popular. Now, it might ring a little false for me to talk about not wanting to use popular Commanders and then going and picking a popular new Commander to build around. I would usually agree, but this time I came up with a take on the deck that made things very interesting for me. But before we look at the list, let’s take a look at some of the deck names I came up with that ultimately didn’t make the cut:

  • It’s Not Easy Being Green (This was cut for obvious reasons. Green is awesome and being Green is one of the best things you can do in Commander. Plus, Kermit the Frog is Kenji territory and I don’t want to step on his toes.)
  • It’s All About the Green (I don’t know what the cross section of Magic players and Musical Theater nerds is, but I didn’t expect many people to get a reference to the Broadway production of The Wedding Singer)
  • The Green Mile (Not really a great reference. I don’t know what I was thinking for this one.)

And those were just the topical ones. I came up with a bunch for the other potential Commanders, but I feel like I settled on one that really fit the spirit of Selvala, Heart of the Wilds. So, without further or do:

”Like a true nature’s child, we were born, born to be wild.”

So, you might notice something different about this deck than the other decks I’ve made for this series. The entire deck is creatures and lands. That’s it. Not even any artifact creatures, either. And there’s a good reason for that.

One of the things I wanted to explore with the Chroma Commander series was capturing the essence of a single color in a Commander deck. That meant something different for each color, and I really wanted to take it to the extreme for Green. Green is a color I play often in Commander, so I wanted to do something that would really shake things up for me, and hopefully provide you with something interesting to consider. So, I made the decision to embrace some of Green’s color philosophy while building the deck.

  1. No artifacts: Green is all about the natural and hates artifice in all its forms. For me, this meant I couldn’t use any artifacts, not even artifact creatures, or risk invoking the wrath of Mother Gaia herself. I extended this even further and opted to exclude Eldrazi as well . . . with one exception since it has Green in the mana cost and I really like it. I allow a little cheat every once and a while.
  2. Only Creatures: This one is where I feel things go off the rails a little bit from conventional Commander deck-building. I made the choice to not include any non-creature spells in the deck because Green is very much the color of big creatures. If I’m gonna make a deck with only creatures and lands, chances are it’s gonna be Green.

Those were the two guidelines I gave myself when I started, and I think it led to some interesting and creative decisions. We’ll get to those in a second, but first I want to talk Selvala and the general plan of the deck.

The Mono-Green iteration of Selvala does a couple of interesting things. First, she rewards you with cards for playing the biggest and baddest creatures at the table. Lucky for us, Green is the color of the biggest AND the baddest creatures, which means we should often be the beneficiary of her card draw ability. Our opponents may get the occasional extra card, but that’s probably fine. I like a little element of Group Hug in our Commander who’ll end up helping us way more than it helps them (much like the original Selvala). Which brings us to her second ability, the one where she taps for an amount of mana equal to the greatest power among creatures we control. Yeah, that’s pretty good. Even if she’s the only creature you control, she taps for 2 mana in any combination of colors, and that’s likely to be much, much higher as the game goes on.

So, the gameplan is simple. Play big creatures, and play them often. Seems simple enough, so let’s look at the details.

Ramp for Days

Dawntreader Elk, Diligent Farmhand, Farhaven Elf, Fertilid, Frontier Guide, Joraga Treespeaker, Karametra's Acolyte, Krosan Tusker, Lotus Cobra, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Oracle of Mul Daya, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Ulvenwald Hydra, Wood Elves, Yavimaya Elder, Blighted Woodland, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and Temple of the False God.

Dawntreader Elk
Wood Elves
Karametra's Acolyte

So, even without Green’s normal cadre of excellent ramp spells (i.e. Cultivate, Explosive Vegetation, Rampant Growth), a Mono-Green deck is more than capable of producing stupid amounts of mana. I approached the ramp suite from the angle of trying to fetch lands more than play a lot of mana elves, because I want my mana production to be safer from board wipes. We have some good standbys like Wood Elves, Farhaven Elf, and Sakura-Tribe Elder, but we’ve included some creatures that don’t normally get the spotlight. Dawntreader Elk, Diligent Farmhand, and Fertilid all go and fetch basics from your library and are perfect for ramping. Nissa was my subtle way of sneaking a Planeswalker into the deck while keeping to my theme of all creatures and my need for ramp. I broke a little bit and included Joraga Treespeaker and Karametra's Acolyte as mana elves because they can produce more than your typical mana elf and I have a soft spot for the Green Sol Ring.

Drawing Cards

Abzan Beastmaster, Duskwatch Recruiter, Garruk's Packleader, Genesis Hydra, Lifeblood Hydra, Nessian Game Warden, Primordial Sage, Regal Force, Soul of the Harvest, and Tireless Tracker.

Duskwatch Recruiter
Nessian Game Warden
Regal Force

Now, I think it goes without saying that Blue and Black are the best two colors when it comes to drawing cards. Green wouldn’t be my first thought when it comes to third place, but there are a surprising number of Green creatures that let your draw cards. Duskwatch Recruiter is a godsend for this deck because it lets us dig for creatures whenever we’re high on mana but low on gas. That kind of utility is hard to come by in a color not renowned for its card advantage. A lot of Green's normal suite of card draw comes in the form of things like Garruk's Packleader, Primordial Sage, and Soul of the Harvest. Green rewards you for playing creatures, which is really going to keep the draws coming in a deck that is comprised almost entirely of creatures. Tireless Tracker is a nice newer addition as well, rewarding us for making our land drops and getting bigger when we want to start attacking. Add Selvala’s card draw into the equation and we’ve got a respectable amount. Who needs Blue anyway?

Trick question. I need Blue. Simic is my lifeblood.

The Tutors

Brutalizer Exarch, Fauna Shaman, Fierce Empath, Mwonvuli Beast Tracker, and Woodland Bellower

Brutalizer Exarch
Fierce Empath
Woodland Bellower

No color quite measures up to the quality of tutors that Black provides, but Green definitely comes in a close second. Even if we’re not using any of the incredible tutor mainstays like Green Sun's Zenith, Birthing Pod, or Tooth and Nail, Green has no shortage of Tutors on a stick that can pull out whatever creature we need. Brutalizer Exarch does its best impression of a Worldly Tutor in addition to some other utility of getting rid of a troublesome non-creature permanent. Fierce Empath fetches any of the beefy monsters we’ll inevitably need to close out the game. Plus, there’s a cool song and dance routine you can do by Fierce Empathing for a Woodland Bellower, casting the Bellower and searching for a value 3-drop. Or you can Bellower for the Empath and grab another big beefy duder. The choice is yours.

Fauna Shaman almost goes without saying, and there’s another entire angle of graveyard recursion you could pursue if you wanted. Black isn’t the only color that likes to play around with the graveyard. The Mwonvuli Beast Tracker rounds out our tutors with a pretty specific set of keywords to search for. I mean, it’s not like there are that many creatures with trample, reach, deathtouch, or hexproof in Green, right?

The Utility

Acidic Slime, Bane of Progress, Caller of the Claw, Elvish Piper, Eternal Witness, Gaea's Herald, Greenwarden of Murasa, Master of the Wild Hunt, Polukranos, World Eater, Reclamation Sage, Scavenging Ooze, Seedborn Muse, Stingerfling Spider, Surrak, the Hunt Caller, Terastodon, Thragtusk, Woodfall Primus, and World Breaker.

Master of the Wild Hunt
Bane of Progress
Elvish Piper

If there’s one thing Green creatures are capable of, it’s utility. There’s a litany of options for us to pick from for any situation that may arise. Acidic Slime and the like will blow up any number of artifacts or enchantments that need destroying. World Breaker (our Eldrazi exception) will even exile that sucker so it can’t come back to haunt us. Master of the Wild Hunt and Polukranos, World Eater do their best impression of a Wrath of God in a deck that would very much prefer to keep our own dudes around. However, if someone else wraths the board, we have Caller of the Claw to rebuild in the aftermath. Greenwarden of Murasa and Eternal Witness are indispensable for re-buying important creatures. Gaea's Herald tells all the Blue players at the table to back off of our game plan, making all of our creatures uncounterable.

Pick and choose any of the other creatures in this list and it has a purpose. Need to kill a troublesome flier? Stingerfling Spider. Want to give your creatures pseudo Vigilance? Seedborn Muse. Need some extra life? Thragtusk. Opponent’s graveyard getting out of control? Scavenging Ooze. Want to cast your monsters for less mana? Elvish Piper. The list goes on.

The Anthems

Bellowing Tanglewurm, Brawn, Craterhoof Behemoth, Nylea, God of the Hunt, Pathbreaker Ibex, Thunderfoot Baloth, and Yeva, Nature's Herald.

Bellowing Tanglewurm
Nylea, God of the Hunt
Yeva, Nature's Herald

White may be the color of anthem effects, but Green is the color of Overrun, which is often just better for closing out a game. Luckily for us, Green has a lot of creatures that do an excellent impression of Overrun. Behold, Craterhoof Behemoth. Spawning its own catch phrase during the 2015 Community Cup (‘Hoof ‘Em courtesy of Maria Bartholdi from Magic: The Amateuring), Craterhoof Behemoth is the premier Green beatstick in Commander, often Tooth and Nailed for along with Avenger of Zendikar. We can’t do that in this deck (no Tooth and Nail), but The Hoof is just as proficient at killing people by himself. Throw in wannabe Craterhoofs Pathbreaker Ibex and Thunderfoot Baloth along with Trample and Intimidate granters Bellowing Tanglewurm, Brawn, and Nylea, God of the Hunt, and you’ve got yourself a combat party.

And what could make a Green deck even better? Being able to cast your creatures at instant speed! Thanks Yeva, Nature's Herald!

The Muscle

Avenger of Zendikar, Hornet Queen, Hydra Omnivore, Managorger Hydra, Omnath, Locus of Mana, and Rampaging Baloths.

Hydra Omnivore
Avenger of Zendikar
Rampaging Baloths

Everything left is just beef. Avenger of Zendikar is basically a staple in Green decks of all shades. Hornet Queen isn’t exactly beefy, but it does a fair amount of work beating down and keeping opponents back. Hydra Omnivore puts the whole table on notice that they’re past due for a beating and it’ll be served whether they want it to or not. Managorger Hydra may look unassuming, but it grows big in a hurry if it’s ignored. Omnath doesn’t get to headline our deck, but he’s still certainly deserving of a place in it. Saving our mana for us and getting huge in the process seems good to me.

And then there’s the first mythic I ever opened, Rampaging Baloths. I have a soft spot for this army in a can, and it turns out it is very adept at killing opponents dead by itself.

And there we have it. One Selvala, Heart of the Wilds deck, chock full of creatures and lands and nothing else. Turns out you don’t need artifacts or instants to have a good time playing Commander. Green can hold its own without the interference of non-creature spells. It certainly made for an interesting deck-building challenge, and I’d love to see other takes on a creature only build. I’ll have to put that in my back pocket for the future.

I hope you liked my little Mono-Green experiment! This is the last entry in this go around of Chroma Commander, though there could very well be more in the future depending on what options present themselves as new sets come out. Until then, leave any questions, suggestions, or comments below or find me on Twitter@ironmanphoenix. See you all next time!

—Robert Burrows

Take a look at the other articles in the series:

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