Monday, August 24, 2009

Grim Tidings #11 - 5C Green Basics

(Contributed by John Kozlowski)

I have a lot of fun writing Grim Tidings articles. Some have been pretty entertaining to write, such as my highly detailed “How to Flip a Chaos Orb” dissertation. Sometimes, though I fear that I’m jumping in with an incredibly complicated subject without enough basic information to back it up. I have a tendency to reference old obscure cards that only a few people are familiar with

I thought it may be valuable to do a simplified color-by-color study of the value each brings to the format. What you can/should expect as you fill out your minimum 25 card selections, and consideration of when and why you might choose them. I’ll mention the obvious ones and then try to expand deeper into some of the hidden gems you may not be aware of.

Green’s Role
The color pie has bled a little in the last few years, and allowed colors to dabble in things they traditional shouldn't. But while every color contributes to the depth of the game, some obviously do better at particular apsects than others. If you want targeted creature removal or counterspells, don't look to Green. When we are talking about 5-Color decks, we assume the other colors will pick up the slack where Green falls off.

When l typically look at Green for a 5-Color deck, I look to fill the basic needs for Mana Fixing, Recursion. Of course it does a lot of other things too, such as card drawing, providing enormous trampling creatures or artifact/enchantment destruction, but those aspects are not generally my primary focus.

With this in mind, here are a selection of my favorite mono-Green cards, in no particular order.

Mana Fixers & Acceleration
There is a reason why Green is seldomly minimized in 5C decks: It has the best solutions to smooth your manabase than any other color, which is the critical element of every five color deck. If you cannot reliably obtain a source of all five colors by turn three, you are likely going to struggle. You’ll want to obtain at least two of your primary colors soon after to ensure your deck runs smoothly for the remainder of the game.

Green fufills this role better than any other color, so you will want to make sure you load up on mana-fixers in these slots. It has the only one-drop accelerants (outside of Sol Ring & Moxes.) I recommend at least 6-8 sustained mana-fixing sources in Green, (but you'll want to still pickup an additional 6-8 more in Artifact sources later on as you fill out your deck)

Birds of Paradise is the prototypical turn-1 drop. For one G, you get immediate access to all five colors on turn-1, as well as acceleration. With a measley 0/1 body, the Birds are certainly fragile, but it is not a mistake that the game designers have included it in every basic set since the game’s inception. I personally own eight copies of this card, due to its value and necessity.

Continuing Green’s mana fixing theme, I’ll mention Wood Elves. There are quite a few 187 creatures that fetch lands when they enter the battlefield, but Wood Elves is the best. The land actually comes into play (not just to your hand) and enters untapped. It also searches for a land with the Forest subtype, which includes Tropical Islands and Breeding Pools.

Avenging Druid is an obscure card from Exodus, that most people are unfamiliar with. It combines land acceleration with a nifty graveyard filling mechanic at the same time. Note the land comes right into play, so there is no delay in tempo. It also looks for any land, so you won’t accidentally lose your Maze of Ith upon resolution. Don’t be too upset about filling your graveyard with spells from your deck too, as it’s typically easier to access to cards in your graveyard than tutor them out of your deck. Best part of all? Avenging Druid is cheap! Only $0.10 at most online card sellers!

Even more obscure is Hunting Cheetah, from Portal: Three Kingoms. Hardly anyone even know this exists! Get an attack through, and then tutor your Forest to your hand. Note again, it the land only has to have the Forest subtype, not necessarily be basic (Hello Murmuring Bosk!)

Green is packed with all kinds of variants of Regrowth, and All Sun’s Dawn is the biggest of them all, as it recurs up to five cards in one single spell. In a 5-Color deck, you should reliably maximize it every time. The only downside of ASD is that it can’t recur lands or artifacts, but the plus is still very good.

I believe the best recursion spell out there Eternal Witness. As another 187 creature, you get two-for-one with this card. Easily recurable with many effects, the Witness sets up a lot of game ending combinations. If you don’t have an Eternal witness for your 5C deck, you really need to get this essential piece ASAP.

Genesis is another valuable Green recursion engine, that powers out dead creatures turn after turn. After Genesis’s beefy 4/4 body is killed off, it allows you to Raise Dead every turn for the low-low cost of G2. Its remarkable safer for your recursion engine to be safely hidden in your graveyard than in play, as opponents generally do not overload their deck with cards that can exile it. Good news for you and your newly sustained creature base, eh?

Green Card Drawing & Tutoring
Though it may not be readily apparent, the color pie has shifted over the years, and Green is actually quite strong at drawing cards. Simple spells like Harmonize or Wall of Blossoms are quite abundant through the color. They may not be as potent on the whole as those found in Blue, but Green is the arguably the second best drawing source out there.

I’m a big fan of this Ohran Viper. Not only does it psychologically divert my opponents from attacking me with its Deathtouch ability, it has card draw when I want to go on the offensive. Because of Deathtouch, most opponents will allow it through to save their defender, (so as long as long as they don’t have a power 3 or more), so your pretty much guaranteed to draw your extra card every turn.

Protean Hulk is the centerpiece of a very abusive combo (Flash), but even by itself, its decent. A 6/6 is pretty tough, but what you really want is for it to die. That way you can trigger the tutor effect for as many creatures with CMC six or less out of your library and put them directly into play.
§ Need quick mana? Fetch out a selection of six Birds of Paradise and/or Llanowar Elves.
§ Need creature kill? Fetch out a pair of Ohran Vipers.
§ Need Land Destruction? Fetch out Acidic Slime.
Combine the Hulk with recursion effects like Genesis or Eternal Witness, and you have the beginnings of a very nice recursion loop.

The best Green card of the entire lot, in my opinion, is Survival of the Fittest. I’ve mentioned it three or four times so far in Grim Tidings, but never really explained why. For a mere one G, you get a recurable tutor to get exactly whatever creature you need when you need it. For the exact same versatility you get out of Protean Hulk, Survival does the same for about 1/3 of the casting cost. If you have never played it, I highly recommend it.

Other Great Cards for Green
Berserk is a card you will find more frequently in the next few weeks. It is being reprinted in the FTV: Exiled set, and will certainly see play in 5C now that it is far more accessible. Berserk is a player-killing card, as it doubles the power of a creature, and gives it trample. It can be used defensively to boost your blocker’s power, or as a kill spell when you cast it upon your opponent’s attacking critters. Combine it with your indestructibles or regenerators, and its win-win for you.

Silklash Spider and Acidic Slime and are both excellent defensive deterrents. I find that multi-player 5C games tend to be long, and you need versatility and sustained defense to survive in them. Silklash Spider is strong enough to hold off one of the most offensive beaters in game, Akroma, Angel of Wrath. Likewise, Acidic Slime has Deathtouch, which combined with a strong targeted removal ability makes it incredibly useful to end prolonged stalemates.

Oath of Druids and Hermit Druid are playable, but a little narrow. If your deck isn’t Timmy-rific or greaveyard oriented, you may find these two cards a little underwhelming.

Panglacial Wurm is literally a hidden gem. Whenever you search your library, you may play the Wurm for its casting cost. Sounds pretty good, if you have an extra GG5 left lying around after your EOT Worldy Tutor.

Putting it All Together
So there’s my All-Star tour of the color Green. The next step is to apply this raw data and build actual deck. This may prove to be an interesting task actually, especially if I limit the cards to the familiar and commonly available Standard card pool. I've had this in mind for a few months, so what better time to start fleshing out the deck, color by color. For now, lets treat this as a brainstorming session, and get the ideas on paper. Once Lorwyn & Shadowmoor blocks rotate out, we'll have to reevaluate with Zendikar anyways.

Standard 5-Color Ideas - Green (32)

4x Birds of Paradise

4x Noble Heirarch

4x Great Sable Stag

4x Acidic Slime

4x Masked Admirers

2x Chamleon Colossus

2x Thornling

4x Primal Command

2x Garruk Wildspeaker

2x Shard Convergence

You never know, I may show up at next week's FNM with this new 300-card Standard 5-Color deck!

1 comment:

The_Magi said...

Little known fact, Birds of Paradise was not included in 9th edition, due to it's close inclusion in th Ravnica set.

I bet yopu will show up to an FNM with a 300 card deck, in fact I may do it too!

Thornling sucks, but only in so much as it isn't the best card.