Pursuing Perfection, Part 5: Mono-Green Commanders
Posted on June 26, 2021, 6:56 p.m. by Mana_Mythic_Legendary
Ah, my favorite color. Not coincidentally, my wife hates it. I love ramp, I love the utility, the pervasive value, and I even like the shortcomings because I feel they're sporting. At the time of writing this I have three mono-Green decks. My oldest deck is a Green deck. I have been watching Green so closely as each set comes out that I didn't even need to research the legends available in order to write this.
But enough squeeing about my preferences (for now). Let's talk turkey. Picking a best color is highly subjective: while I'd like to say that all five colors are equal in strength, it can't be said honestly. Black has the tutors and thematic viciousness to fight for the top. Blue's strength in control and draw make its long-debated position as most competitive highly secure. White and Red are solidly trailing the others. Where does this leave Green?
Green has a unique capacity to destroy (or fight) anything, but not all the thing: Beast Within and Acidic Slime are great, but unless you're an enchantment, artifact, or bird, then you don't need to concern yourself with Green boardwipes. The utterly absurd advantage that comes of Green's affinity for ramp is often shattering. However, all arguments for Green's strength are undercut by an unfortunate fact: if you can't smash face in the combat phase, you can't usually win. Helix Pinnacle. Epic Struggle. Against these two cards and the odd sorcery referencing some sort of windy calamity, the other colors have actual themes: Black has vampirism, Blue has milling, and Red has burn. Even White has a small but potent spread of alternate wins, generally tied to life totals.
However: a jack of all trades is a master of none, but ofttimes better than a master of one. Let's consider whether Green is a specialist or a generalist: Blue has control and draw, but Green has a fine well of draw effects to pull from, a true wealth of hexproof and... and whatever keyword they'll eventually assign to "can't be countered." The sheer scope of creatures with game-changing effects that Green can tutor, while comprehensive, isn't quite the same as tutoring anything (shut up, Black). That said, a well-placed Tooth and Nail can win the game just as readily. Green can't burn players but can fight any creature and Terastodon any party of super-friends. No, Green isn't a powerhouse on the stack or outside the combat phase, but the raw versatility of Green isn't something the other colors can readily match.
Personally, I can't comfortably argue that Green is the most competitive mono-color in commander. However, I will argue that it's the most generally capable, and like all the colors a powerhouse in the right hands. Whether my hands are the right ones isn't the question: Green is the color I'm most comfortable with, the color I feel most capable with, and my answer to the most important question in any game: "What are you happiest playing?"
Today, we discuss three most prevalent trends in Green. Chonks: the biggest beasts on the battlefield. Ramp: mana for days. Land: all the land (bear with me, I know those last two are rather close). As always, please bear in mind that our focus here is not necessarily competitive but rather on thematic, archetypical commanders.
There are a lot of ways to make creatures threatening. Artifacts like Coat of Arms or Argentum Armor, auras like Green's own Blanchwood Armor, and everything in between. Green has another approach as well, tending toward, rather than making creatures threatening, instead making threatening creatures. Just look at the Primordial Hydra (or pretty much any hydra). Other colors have their own fatties, to be sure, but until the Eldrazi came Green's only real rival for the Bigger-is-Better Belt was Blue's theme of large, typically overpriced fish (Colossi also bear mentioning). Colored kaiju tend to come with additional costs beyond mana once they reach a certain size, examples being Death's Shadow or Jokulmorder. The only cost Green generally asks is mana, and frequently at a discount. Hehehehe...
Sometimes you just need a hulk, and at a trampling 12/12 Ghatla is the hulkest legend there is, provided you don’t go poking around the Blind Eternities for plane-eating spaghetti monsters. Like a certain strange woman lying in a pond, you might never have to pay full price for this general. That is a great, beautiful, thundering apex predator of a wonderful thing.
I love Selvala, but do her grievous wrong: I rarely remember the card draw because of all that sweet, sweet mana. In justice, this magnificent beast would be cozy in the ramp section, but filling your hand by dropping one chungus after another, then getting what’s likely a full refund on the mana? That’s what I call incentive! I'd consider her for a commander any day, except... well, we're coming to that.
The original mama-bear brings a fine pair of goodies to the table: a discount for your hefties and overrun-lite on the charge for such big boys, ensuring they heft even more heftily. Arm & Hammer owe her an endorsement deal. Hefty!
Anyone with a pile of rocks can manage fast mana. Black and Red both have decent options. Green, though, has been the ramp champ for time immemorial. Since mana burn is a thankfully dusty memory, you can flood that pool to your heart's content without the risk of accidentally frying yourself. Whether your taste runs toward slamming lands down with Cultivate effects, boosting the output of those lands with Mana Reflection, or tapping dorks like Priest of Titania, glorious excesses of mana can be yours!
Readers may recall I mentioned an Ashling deck with 99 mountains in the red article. Sometime after seeing it, I noticed a copy of Sasaya in my collection. 64 lands and a handful of mana dumps later, I had a deck that either died quietly or detonated into splendid, jaw-achingly excessive victory (seriously, it’s always one or the other). Wakeroot Elemental, Helix Pinnacle, and Sprouting Vines are just a few of the fabulously facetious options available to this, my favorite kamigawan commander. Nothing will be the same after your first opponent gets smacked in the face with Killer Bees for absurdly lethal damage. I have this deck built, and adore it. However, my favorite, to which we are by degrees coming, is not Sasaya.
I miss Rofellos, but since he’s banned we might as well talk elves somewhere in here. Boy howdy are there a lot of good elves: the tribal synergy in ramp alone is good enough that they get played where other decks would play rocks, and there’s more than that up their pointy-eared sleeves. Rewarding oneself for playing elf-ball with the mana to make said ball bigger is just good sense. However, slapping something like Strata Scythe on her will get some fine results too. Enjoy that general damage, or the effects of Umbral Mantle. And, if general damage isn't your thing but elfball is, pour all that mana into Ezuri, Renegade Leader.
It's the simple things in life you treasure, and Azusa is nothing if not simple. There many ways to ramp, but doing so in the true green style means dropping lands faster than your opponents. Fill your hand, empty your hand, repeat. The raw advantage that Azusa represents is incredibly intimidating. Just be sure to bring a Horn of Greed so you don't run out of steam.
I acknowledge that this is somewhat under the "Ramp" umbrella. Again, bear with me. If you check the phrase "Search your Library" on Gatherer, Green has more cards than any two other colors combined, the catch being that most of those cards tutor basic land. If you consider a color's tutor strengths as thematic commentary (shut UP, Black), this suggests that Green has a lot to say on the matter of land. Whether tutoring, untapping, or animating and wrecking face a la mana base, no other color is as tied to the land as is Green. Just think on the implications of, say, Life and Limb and the aforementioned Coat of Arms (or any boardwipe, especially if Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth is out).
What's the opposite of a conniption? Whatever that is, I had one when they printed this glorious godsend to all green combo players. The sequoia-sized middle finger Ashaya sends to Cyclonic Rift is only the beginning. Consider that Kamahl, Heart of Krosa becomes Keywords-on-a-Stick with our girl out. Consider that anything which untaps lands now untaps your mana dorks too. Consider that Argothian Elder UNTAPS ITSELF. The only reason Ashaya isn't heading one of my Green decks is because, degenerate as she is, she doesn't have Partner, turn into a broke-ass enchantment, or... we're coming to that. Nearly there.
"Screw your boardwipes" about sums it up. Both Khamals can animate lands and buff them, but this one's wording is much, much meaner if you've got to teach some trigger-happy nuker a lesson.
One of my favorite Green cards is Constant Mists. There are enough other sacrifice effects in Green, as well as lands that drop themselves, that Titania can become a real menace in short order. Bring Glacial Chasm, a few effects like the Oracle of Mul Daya, and the all-important Crucible of Worlds. Trust me. It works. There's a guy in the local playgroup who does this with a most politely evil smile.
And, for my personal favorite:
Ok, is anyone who's made it this far actually surprised? Omnath is all that is Green, and I've been gleefully running this stompy monstrosity for over a decade. Who needs Voltron when you can simply turn on a glorious green engine of mana, throw out some trample (I prefer Nylea, God of the Hunt), and turn an opponent into so much paste? Don't feel like attacking? Save it for next turn! The banking mechanic alone would be enough: an early Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger is the best you can hope for if you're silly enough to let Omnath sit on unspent mana for even a turn. That he gets bigger with each mana in the pool is just a treat. A vicious, opponent-killing, delicious treat.
That's it for this round. Thoughts and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed it, and will come back next week for Azorius!
I only have one monogreen Commander deck, and it has Grunn, the Lonely King at the helm. I really enjoy the mix of theme and mechanic, and it seems a better King Kong stand-in than Kogla, the Titan Ape . So mark me down for Chonks!
June 27, 2021 12:37 a.m.
June 27, 2021 8:08 p.m.
Thank you! I always liked the idea of Isao.
June 27, 2021 8:45 p.m. Edited.
I also play Omnath, Locus of Mana , which is both a storm-like The Great Aurora -deck, and a deck with plenty of trample tricks to indeed turn people into so much paste. I prefer Gemrazer or Rancor for trample myself. Also, Beast Within and Terastodon to enable a lethal Ram Through even if the opponent doesn't play creatures ;)