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The Commander Box: The Green Monster

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I enjoy the color Green. Everyone has preferences, and I’ll admit that the other colors certainly offer attractive features. However, I have no plans to stop playfully tormenting Joey of Yo! MTG Taps! about his love affair with Blue.

I should understand how he feels; I’d leave my wife if Green were to somehow become personified.

Ridiculous and absurd exaggerations aside, today’s Commander Box installment is something that was a tall order. Talking about the color you love—a color that clearly dominates the current collection of cards in the Commander Box—and doing so without lulling you into boredom, is a challenge I happily accepted.

Prepare for the hulking buildup of Green in the Commander Box!

Let’s Talk About Mana, Baby

Green is the color of mana. It can generate any color of mana, and in higher volumes, than any other color. Even factoring in all of the available artifact methods, Green is where your money should be for mana.

Mana-Flaring

Vernal Bloom, Heartbeat of Spring, Early Harvest

Whether you’re into a diversity of dual lands, or just a gathering of the basics, generating large amounts of mana is easy. However this isn’t where Green excels the most.

Basic-Land Fetching

Sakura-Tribe Elder, Seedguide Ash, Yavimaya Dryad, Silverglade Elemental, Wood Elves, Krosan Tusker, Yavimaya Elder, Civic Wayfinder, Borderland Ranger, Sylvan Ranger

These are just the creature portion of basic-land fetching. While Wood Elves can fetch any land with the Forest subtype, most of your digging will be for the basic variety. Creatures, as we’ll see later in Green, are vastly superior to spell-based sources. Getting to reuse, recycle, and even copy these makes a huge difference.

Let’s talk mana and Commander for a minute. Jules Robins shared a theory about mana in Commander—specifically, that you want it, as much as you can get, and as early as you’re allowed to gain it. His idea leverages the partial Paris mulligan to help ensure that you not only look like less of a threat (when you’re looking to relax playing Magic, everyone empathizes with a mulligan) but also hit your land-drops on time.

Intentionally flooding out seems awkward in theory. In practice, I’ve dominated games through sheer force of mana; when you have enough flowing, there is no amount of countermagic or Wrath of God casts that can stop you. As a side effect, good mana in an unturned decks lets the deck actually do its thing. It’s less about the total power of the deck and more about with the most fundamental part of Magic: When you have access to your resources, you can actually play the game.

Green performs this job the best. Bear that in mind as the mana-enablers continue.

Land Bursting

Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Oracle of Mul Daya, Burgeoning

If laying one land each turn isn’t enough, try laying two or three. These will let you leverage the extra lands you grab by dumping them down immediately.

Living Rocks

Birds of Paradise, Joraga Treespeaker

While Llanowar Elves and others can certainly be listed, unless you’re on some sort of Elf tribal Commander deck, the above cards serve this purpose the best. Birds get you any mana needed, but the Treespeaker is the real deal:

Turn 1: Forest; Treespeaker.

Turn 2: Land; level up Treespeaker; play a 2-drop.

Turn 3: Land; you have 5 mana and win the Magics.

Basic-Land Fetching, Again

Cultivate, Kodama's Reach, Harrow, Far Wanderings, Rampant Growth, Three Visits, Nature's Lore, Farseek, Into the North

These are the spell equivalents to the creatures listed above. While these are often better for immediate land growth and color-fixing, I find that creatures have a way of recirculating quicker. I still use these, but only if creatures don’t fit the bill or are maxing out.

Land Tutors

Reap and Sow, Realms Uncharted, Sylvan Scrying, Crop Rotation

Looking for Gaea’s Cradle, Maze of Ith, or Vesuva? You can find all this, and more, inside!

The Wacky

Gaea's Touch, Land Grant, Elfhame Sanctuary

These guys are a little different. Playing extra Forests, or getting a quick gg, is okay for a card from The Dark. Elfhame Sanctuary trades your draw step for a basic land tutor. And Land Grant lets you tutor for a basic land for free (Not a threat? Prove it by showing your hand.). I enjoy these cards, since they are the type of wacky but useful effects that are often found in Commander. (Pro tip: Elfhame Sanctuary with Landfall.)

The Boss

Primeval Titan

If you aren’t tutoring for, recurring back, or otherwise copying, stealing, or borrowing this Titan, you’re doing it wrong. I’m almost loathe to add him to decks, since I know, given any chance, I’ll gladly rip him out and dump him into the street. This guy isn’t the end boss, but the power-up you’ll fight to see.

Big Hit and a One-Timer

Beyond mad mana madness, Green is keen for something else: Naturalize. No other color can boast the number, and efficacy, of the Green machines that break the unnatural world apart.

The Forwards

Woodfall Primus, Terastodon, Brutalizer Exarch, Acidic Slime, Indrik Stomphowler, Wickerbough Elder

These guys pull their weight, and send it crashing right through annoying things. Green can handle artifacts, enchantments, and even those lands that get dumb, too. While “going infinite” with Woodfall Primus, Melira, Sylvok Outcast, and a sacrifice outlet is disgusting, dropping the big Primo (or any of the other surgical-strike missiles) is usually a good idea any time you can muster it.

Brutalizer Exarch actually serves double duty: It can “tuck” something annoying back into a library or tutor up another fatty. Neat!

The Defensemen

Beast Within, Krosan Grip, Bramblecrush, Mystic Melting, Desert Twister, Slice in Twain, Rootgrapple, Creeping Corrosion, Tranquility

These are the noncreature equivalents of the critters listed immediately above. Krosan Grip is the most useful, since Split Second almost positively ensures that you’re nuking the target (even a Sensei’s Divining Top). Mystic Melting will make many players ask to read it; they’ll smile when they finish.

The Shooters

Fierce Empath, Sylvan Tutor, Worldly Tutor, Summoner's Pact, Primal Command, Survival of the Fittest, Hibernation's End, Chord of Calling, Natural Order, Pattern of Rebirth, Tooth and Nail, Green Sun's Zenith, Defense of the Heart

The reason I’ve emphasized creatures so far isn’t just that Green’s creatures are often very good, but rather that Green packs the best diversity of tutors for creatures. Whether it’s to the top of the library, into your hand, or onto the battlefield, Green has few issues summoning the right guy at the right time. I could bore you with the relative strengths and weakness of each of these, but the result is usually the same: Your wish is your command.

#SickBrag of the Day: I picked up a foil Pattern of Rebirth when I thought it was a cute card that duplicated Naturalize in Commander—before Legacy players realized the same thing. Hurray! (Contrariwise, I failed to find a foil Kessig Wolf Run before Standard players picked up on how good it is.)

The Swarmers

Oath of Druids, Genesis Wave, Lurking Predators, Panglacial Wurm

These lack the finesse of the usual Green tutor, but that randomness (or surprise value, in the Wurm’s case) makes blunt-force trauma bearable. These are powerful and abusable, but more often, they’re random fun for the right deck.

The Coaches

Soul's Majesty, Harmonize, Masked Admirers, Cream of the Crop

Green has a few ways to dig up cards. Cream of the Crop is actually among the most busted enchantments for Green; add two parts big dudes and one part utility, and you’re essentially running an Impulse for five to six cards each turn. Card quality adds up in Commander.

The Penalty Box

Birthing Pod, Greater Good, Ooze Garden, Gutter Grime

Sacrifice outlets, as mentioned in the artifact rundown, are useful tools to fight the horrible things other players will try to do in Commander. Green’s outlets all come with great bonuses: card-draw, creature tutoring, or token-generation. I stapled Gutter Grime in here because as you iterate through killing your nontoken creatures, you’ll continue to grow an army twice over. (Add Parallel Lives or Doubling Season for best effect.)

The Equipment Managers

Eternal Witness, Genesis, Deadwood Treefolk, Regrowth, Restock, Reclaim, Nature's Spiral, Recollect, Revive, Praetor's Counsel, Life from the Loam

If you wanted to oversimplify Green, you could say Green does three things well: mana, critters, and recursion. While the power and value of buying things back from the graveyard is an obvious advantage in Commander, it’s this confluence of three—the trinity of the format—that makes Green into the big color on campus.

Eternal Witness, Genesis, and a sacrifice outlet are an engine unto themselves. Praetor’s Counsel may make you number-one enemy, but you can handle the heat if you dropped that bomb late in the game. Again, some of these function slightly differently from others, but they all work well to get the juice flowing.

The All-Stars

Thornling, Chameleon Colossus, Spearbreaker Behemoth, Vigor, Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, Primordial Hydra, Garruk's Horde, Silvos, Rogue Elemental, Forgotten Ancient

In a color filled with powerful creatures, these are the most powerful among powerful creatures. Indestructible, regenerating, self-doubling, mana-ramping, and even more abilities are all here. If you need a body to crush the opposition, these are the dudes to start considering. (Pro tip: Vigor is an absolute beating when you can lock him under Darksteel Plate or park him next to Spearbreaker Behemoth.)

Overtime

Berserk, Rancor

Sometimes, you just need to drop the hammer. Berserk was recently reprinted in From the Vault: Exiled, but you wouldn’t know that from the price. Blasting one of your biggest creatures in a furious few moments of glory is something I find exciting (and your opponents likely find deadly).

The Enforcers

Tornado Elemental, Silklash Spider, Cloudthresher, Arashi, the Sky Asunder, Lignify, Tangle, Arachnus Web

Green may not have a plethora of ways to handle creatures, but it does a good job with the few ways it can. Anti-air superiority is Green’s greatest power, though I prefer the creature-based versions of spells over straight-up sorcery and instant versions. I’ve said before, in podcasts and in person, that I believe Silklash Spider is among the strongest cards in Green: Repeatable air wiping is great, but the Spider will also be able to block, both because of its size and the fact that its ability doesn’t require tapping. You win the combats with this guy.

And, if you’ve never experienced it, Tangle is just brutal in multiplayer. Careful and patient use of this will result in obscenities thrown (more than usual, that is).

The Goaltenders

Melira, Sylvok Outcast, Seedborn Muse, Brooding Saurian, Hall of Gemstone, Ohran Viper

These odd men out serve very distinct, unique purposes. Melira is the anti-counter, anti-Infect deck tool. Seedborn Muse is worth fighting a long, difficult battle to control. Hall of Gemstone is tech I was shown at Grand Prix: DC; it hoses most non-monocolored decks thoroughly and efficiently. Brooding Saurian is a nice way to rebuy everything of yours on the battlefield, and the Viper is a modern Green take on the classic Ophidian.

Token Appreciation

So, I lied. Green does four things well: Take the aforementioned three and add tokens to the list. I’ve enjoyed playing Rhys the Redeemed for years, so I can only pray that most of you enjoy tokens, too.

If not, too bad.

Fixed Volume Generators

Thelonite Hermit, Avenger of Zendikar, Nacatl War-Pride, Wolfbriar Elemental, Hornet Queen, Deranged Hermit, Mitotic Slime, Howl of the Night Pack

These sources of tokens are all limited—some more than others—but each of these will only give you a finite number of tokens. But don’t be deceived into lumping these too closely.

War-Pride can let you push insane amounts of damage through, and it can wipe out opposing token armies. Mitotic Slime is best friends with a sacrifice outlet. Hornet Queen dumps little Flying death, and it’s underplayed because of its size. Grab one and run with it! I’ve used Wolfbriar Elemental to win multiple games; mana is king, and this card is several armies in a can, provided that you have enough mana.

Unlimited Generators

Rampaging Baloths, Mycoloth, Master of the Wild Hunt, Ant Queen, Awakening Zone

Given time or mana, these cards will create an undeniable stream of tokens to march over the board. Rampaging Baloths is a personal favorite of mine, but Mycoloth can get out of hand quickly. Awakening Zone is a very powerful enchantment if you slip it down early; at worst, it’s a land-drop every turn; at best, it can empower something devastating (such as Ant Queen).

Anthems

Kaysa, Muraganda Petroglyphs, Concordant Crossroads, Gaea's Anthem, Overwhelming Stampede

Green, perhaps, benefits most from artifact-based global creature support, but that doesn’t mean its own share should go to waste. Chestnuts like Kaysa and Concordant Crossroads are certainly entertaining, but Overwhelming Stampede is just as stupid-deadly in Commander as it was in Limited.

Doubling Up

Parallel Lives, Doubling Season

While Doubling Season “interacts well” with planeswalkers and other counter-based mechanics, being able to run out twice the number of creature tokens is the primary benefit to both of these enchantments. Be warned, though, that each of these paints a very large target on you and shouts at the top of its lungs that you’re going to do something disgusting. While I may love laying my own tokens, I know plenty of players who despise seeing someone else with a swarming mass.

Songs to Remember

Skullmulcher, Khalni Hydra, Citanul Hierophants, Essence of the Wild

These are fine little cards that make tokens a real hoot to play with. Drawing extra cards, getting a free fatty, making a ton of mana out of nowhere, or making it possible to create 6/6 tokens forever aren’t the back-breaking game-crushers you might be after, but the funny, clever interstitials that make Commander fun.

The Planeswalkers

Garruk Wildspeaker, Garruk, Primal Hunter

While old Garruk can help generate mana, you’re only doing that so that you can make tokens or make an Overrun for the tokens you already have. New Garruk is obviously a token machine—one that can draw you cards to boot. These both feel like the fairest of planeswalkers, but sprinkle in Gaea’s Cradle or something unblockable-yet-huge, and you’ll have incredible powerhouses on your hands.

Rounding the Bases

Green is a color that shows up in so many great Commanders, such as Teneb, the Harvester, The Mimeoplasm, and Rhys the Redeemed. Since you can build an incredibly stable mana base on the back of Green spells, Green is often a primary component to five-color Commanders as well. If the Commander format had to choose a color to best represent what it should feel like, Green would be that color.

Whether you’re in it for mana and fatties, or destructions and tokens, Green will deliver it well. If you think I missed something, please share it below! I keep adding awesome things to the Commander Box document, so keep sharing the goods I overlooked!

Join us next week when we rock out to AC/DC!

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