Saturday 14 January 2012

Reviews: The A cube green creatures

Chancellor of the Tangle

Chancellor of the Tangle 1.5

The comparison for this dork is the Elvish Spirit Guide as the primary reason to play is for the mana boost. Although less flexible than the Elf the mana from the Chancellor does not cost you a card and the dork is more relevant if cast even if less likely. The first turn is most often when you want the mana boost. Sadly this card is very narrow and only really fits into elf style decks, green control and birthing pod decks. The soles reason for his remaining in the cube is his body which seems innocuous enough however when one considers the majority of the big threats in the cube this blocks and kills most and pretty much trades with the rest and can do all this while sending reasonably safely. This is one of the cards put in on a whim that actually proved most useful where not expected. They will print a bomb 7/7 at some stage and this will return to the B cube where it really belongs.

Acidic Slime
Acidic Slime 3.0

This has always been a go to card for green due to its versatility. The arrival of birthing pod and other control green cards have really increased the power of this little guy. Although expensive this is not a huge deal for green where as card advantage is. Replacing naturalize with this kind of card means that you never have dead cards in hand. The ability to go for their lands is very nice extra utility and the death touch offers a real tempo swing as it holds off most monsters well gaining you a very nice two for one. Mould Shambler is nice as it hits walkers but less useful with pod and recurring nightmare. Viridian shaman is also great but somewhat a different card. Grey ogres have little impact on board position and often the viridian shaman must be kept in hand as a removal spell for something really scary like a sword at which point is is less use than the naturalise. The slime is almost always cast if you have nothing else to spend your mana on and will have a much greater impact on the board simply due to the death touch. Many underrate this card while I was very tempted to give this a 3.5, it is often just the thing you need to smooth out a tightly constructed deck and offer answers in a form that does not hard the flow of the deck.

Deranged Hermit
Deranged Hermit: 2.0

The original one man army and one of the few earlier monsters not yet falling to the power creep. The hermit is still not an outstanding card finding a home in some birthing pod / recurring nightmare deck, UG opposition decks, elf decks or a RG agro deck at a push. It is still about as much power as you can get for 5 mana but rather fragile and dependant on the echo which can be a burden as you would rather be casting an overrun etc. Probably the best follow-up play to a Sarkhan Vol, a card not in my cube, I susupect the Hermit will eventually go the same way but for now he still plays his part. Many cards have been printed that are similar, in white especially yet despite the crusade effects in white the 5 mana cost of such cards makes them far less useful. Siege-Gang commander is the only real comparable card that I have in my cube but with the colour difference they end up in very different decks. The gang is the more rounded and versatile card and would relegate the hermit to the B cube if it were green but as it is not this observation serves little purpose...

GenesisGenesis 2.0

This is a slow card, very very slow, the name suggests it too, rather like thawing glaciers, which is another slow old card. Genesis finds his home in controlly rock deck builds with fauna shaman and survival of the fittest or in many coloured gifts ungiven style of deck. Green does not have great access to card advantage which is the main reason for this guy seeing play. With cube offering only a single copy of each card the value of tutor and graveyard recursion increases. Decks have less redundancy and so if you need a monster to do a specific thing it is likely you will only have a few that fit the bill in the deck, say for example gaining you life. The genesis allows decks to reuse effects meaning that you can potentially free slots for other cards. Quite frequently he gets cast as a 4/4 is not too shabby which does make him vulnerable to some white spot removal  but otherwise has a quirky kind of hexproof where your opponent is scared of sending him to the graveyard so either halts attacking or chump blocks or takes 4 to the face each turn.

Primeval Titan
Primeval Titan 1.5

I think this is the worst titan of the cycle in terms of the cube but I suspect I am overly harsh on the card. Beyond man lands the cube cannot support all the quirky lands that make the effect really powerful as has been seen in recent standard. The card advantage this offers is most akin to land tax, an effect with little synergy on a 6 mana 6/6. When green has reached 6 mana it tends to want to win in some way rather than getting yet more mana and while a 6/6 trample does get this job done I can't help but think a Silvos, Rogue Elemental does it better. If playing green the artifact monsters at 6 mana such as Triskelion and Duplicant offer much more than the Titan in terms of what the colour needs. The only homes I have seen for this card are extreme ramp decks and as part of a large Birthing Pod chain. His high power level does mean that he will find more uses with time but for now he doesn't serve enough desired roles.

Obstinate BalothObstinate Baloth 2.0

Decent body that is pretty relevant in play and reasonably costed. The main reason for his inclusion in the cube is the life gain side of this card which can be very important for more control style green decks or against any red decks. He often finds a slot as a come into play effect dork in birthing pod, survival of the fittest and/or recurring nightmare style decks. The discard ability has recently got better with the arrival of Liliana of the Veil and Sword of Feast and Famine to a lesser extent, as previously only really wheel of fortune, mind twist and occasionally hymn to tourach ever gifted you the free baloth. Most of these effects being black they find themselves in the same deck as the baloth, not opposing it still rendering it pretty ineffective. Baloth is fundamentally in the cube as a utility monster, most of which tend to be 2/2 or smaller, so the 4/4 body is quite welcome and feels like free extra value on the card when building your deck with it.

Thrun, the Last TrollThrun, the Last Troll 2.5

Thrun is quite an immovable object but at four mana he is not that scary of a clock. The regenerate is most relevant as a potential threat and tends not to get used which is just as well as at two mana it is not a fantastic bargain. The un-counterable aspect is a small bonus but ironically blue is the colour best equipped to deal with this card. Phyrexian Metamorph and Phantasmal Image both work as effective spot removal for him while green and red lack any conclusive answers. White has only wrath and balance if its lucky while black has damnation and a shot at removing him with sacrifice effects. If you really want a monster to stick around Thrun is your man but generally if you want to actually get something done most other monsters have more to offer. Thrun becomes a lot more frightening if enchanted with Rancor or equipped with a Loxodon Warhammer and increases the value of those cards. This is particularly the case as his hexproof ability prevents you losing card advantage or tempo from the rancor or warhammer respectively to spot removal. Thrun is pretty good in isolation but doesn't really do anything special for any other cards and therefore gets a rating that is lower than his power level might suggest.

Vengevine 3.5

One of greens best all round creatures, big and hasty offering great aggression while tricksy and able to provide card advantage. Four mana is quite a lot but in green this is less problematic and also totally irrelevant if you can cheat him into play. Obviously great with Survival of the Fittest and other decks built around discard outlets but also better than most guys as just a four drop in your hitty deck. If you do then get him killed you hold back a small creature so as to be able to recur with the next guy you draw. As it only requires you to cast the spell for the recur trigger it is yet another threat on top of man lands that control has to deal with not using counter magic. The one thing I hate about this card is its rarity. This fits none of the criteria for mythic status as I accept it, which is begrudgingly at best. Bloodbraid Elf, Kor Skyfisher and from the B cube Horned Kavu are all good at triggering the recur on Vengevine solo.

Oracle of Mul Daya
Oracle of Mul Daya 1.0

I deeply dislike a four mana investment into a 2/2 body that doesn't always directly effect the board on entrance or departure. I would much prefer this to be a 3 mana enchantment effect. If you luck out and hit a few lands on the top of your deck this guy is becoming better than Solemn Simulacrum, if not you give information to your opponent and throw some tempo away in the process. Beyond Exploration there are few ways to get lands out from your hand faster in the cube and it was felt the archetypes abusing those mechanics require redundancy, and sadly with Fastbond gone this has been the most impressive option. I eagerly await a card to be printed that can offer what Exploration does  but cheaper more safely than the Oracle so that she may be cut. Whenever she is played it is begrudgingly at present which is no situation a cube card should frequently find themselves in.

Ohran Viper
Ohran Viper 2.5

I rather like the Snake, all the perks of a Shadowmage Infiltrator just trading fear for death touch, but all in one colour and a colour that has far less access to card draw at that. I find this often gets a home in green based control decks as it is great defensively and generally pleasing to attack with too. Either they block on walls or defensive dorks and put them in the bin for you, or they trade with something fairly large or you draw cards. The Viper is too slow for more aggressive decks which tend to prefer their card advantage to come with casting or killing the monster rather than the effects of the monster when active in play. Green is also the best colour to make fast three drops in which is another bonus for the Viper over the Shadowmage. The Shadowmage is better at drawing cards than Viper but is a weaker card for general use. Both are vulnerable to removal of all kinds but when the Viper gets hit it feels like less of a blow to your overall strategy.

Caller of the Claw
Caller of the Claw 1.5

This is still greens best answer to mass removal effects although undying monsters may reduce the value of Caller in the near future. Green is often completely stumped to a mass removal as it loses both card advantage and tempo. Much of greens acceleration comes from guys too making them the most susceptible colour to mass creature removal. The Caller will just sit in your hand awaiting them to wipe your team and acts pretty much as a counterspell. He can also just sit there till the end of the game where you chuck him out end end of their turn, perhaps making one token or so, simply to have threat little bit extra to alpha strike them in your turn. At three mana it is hard not to broadcast when you have Caller but often this knowledge doesn't really help your opponent unless you tap out. The Caller sees most play in elf decks which are the most wreaked by mass removal, often working well with Wirewood Herald. It also sees play in heavy green based control decks and Recurring Nightmare rock decks but not often in very aggressive beat down decks such as Zoo. The slightly low rating is because Caller is an inelegant solution to a problem your deck has much like an Oblivion Ring often is. Archetype and colour weaknesses force you to play clunky awkward cards such as these. If there were no mass removal to worry about you could cut Caller and vastly improve your deck in card quality and streamlining.

Viridian ShamanViridian Shaman 2.5

Acidic Slime always seems to get a slot over this little elf for greater versatility and more relevant body. While functionally the same as Manic Vandal and a much more useful creature type the Viridian Shaman deserves a lower rating as it is less important to green as vandal is for red and sees far less play. At its best in combination with Wirewood Symbiote which only occurs in pure elf decks from the B cube. Generally if you are in green and know you are playing against a heavy artifact deck at some point you will throw this in as it will really help out in that match up and be fine the rest of the time. Otherwise you will not bother with this reasonably unexciting spell and opt for more versatile cards like Beast Within and Acidic Slime or more direct cards like Nature's Claim. She sees slightly more play as part of Birthing Pod chains but mostly for lack of more exciting options I think.

Eternal WitnessEternal Witness 4.2

One of the top ten cube monsters and likely greens best too. She is the corner stone of Gifts Ungiven decks and infinite turn combos and a staple of Opposition and rock decks. She will even find play in some agro decks but must be viewed as a very late play if so. She is one of the strongest signals a player can give you that green is open in a draft and should be taken note of. Recursion is much more powerful in singleton formats than ones allowing four copies of things and when it comes on the back of a guy that can trade or do other stuff it starts to become very appealing and abusable. I have seen Witness used in combination with Oath of Druids simply as a kind of tutor effect in a combo deck. If I had to find drawbacks with this awsome little lass the first that springs to mind is her lack of use early in the game and consequently weaker in opening hands. With the loss of power from the cube she has become worse both not being able to recur absurdly powerful cheap cards like Time Walk, Ancestral Recall or Black Lotus and also the lack of prominence from combo decks where she also frequently features. If your playing green and you are not a very aggressive deck you probably want a copy of Eternal Witness in you deck.

Wood ElvesWood Elves 2.0

A card that has survived the culling of the elf deck to the B cube in which they would often generate you mana upon casting. These are good for all the reasons that Nature's Lore is good, you can get non-basic forests and fix your mana and the land comes in untapped and thus allows you to spend more mana. Paying one more over Lore for the 1/1 body is much worse as a pure ramp card but as more generic card advantage, acting as a speed bump or providing utility in something like a Birthing Pod chain they are superior to Lore. Green has lots of options when it comes to this kind of creature and I feel Wood Elves is the strongest in the decks you tend to want those effects most, those being ramp based control. At three mana they are pretty slow ramp and will work best with the highest of mana curves among decks or those decks which slowly grind wins out by always spending lots of mana over lots of turns.

Tarmogoyf 3.5

I suspect many will doubt this ratings accuracy as Goyf is such a powerful card in every constructed format in which it has been available. The Goyf does nothing other than being big and cheap, which he does do much better than other monsters but is not all that useful in the cube. The other dorks which are just good bodies for the mana they cost are generally one mana or have basic abilities such as flying. Gofy has no evasion, no added value and does not do what you want from the one drop beaters. He cannot even be relied upon to be a certain size as you could with something like a Watchwolf ( I am not suggesting for one second that the Wolf is better than the Goyf). The cube also has many graveyard reshuffling  effects which reset the Goyf back to a 0/1. If you are playing an aggressive deck with green you will play Goyf, but your deck wouldn't really suffer at all should you replace him with some other two drop dork. In any other colour he would be far far more exciting in the cube, in green he lacks the support from aggressive one drops. I like cards to perform numerous roles when possible but the Goyf can only do one. When that is all you want then he is as good as it gets but those decks are measured by their weakest cards not their best.

Kavu PredatorKavu Predator 3.5

In light of the previous cards rating I am sure I am rapidly losing credibility so please allow me to justify myself. I was speaking of what Tarmogoyf lacked and concluded evasion and additional roles were the main issues with the card. This card has trample which is a great little bonus and has two additional roles over being a hitty dork. Firstly it shuts down a great number of real problem cards such as Zuran Orb, Baneslayer Angel and Thopter Foundry. Those are the main cards the Kavu is a counter for but there is a lot of incidental life gain in the cube which makes this a pain to play against. The second role for this guy is in combination with things like Nature's Claim or Grove of the Burnwillows so as to easily pump him yourself. Certainly Goyf is better in isolation but that is not how magic works, meaning the Predator is a more useful card. I highly rate this as of of the better aggressive two drop monsters in the cube as both fun, interesting and very powerful.

Lotus CobraLotus Cobra 3.5

Green has a huge number of really good two drops of which this is one. Two mana accelerating cards in green have to be really good to make the cut as they are competing with cards like Birds of Paradise. Cobra fits the bill well fixing any colour, having effect without need to tap and thus possibly on the turn of casting. He has a decent power to cost ratio making him viable in most deck types from agro to combo to control. If you could only get one mana per turn from this guy he would still be good and so his interaction with sac lands and other effects that can net you vast amounts of mana really push him over the edge and offer some great fun god draws. A rather weak body does make him a little vulnerable and so he is not always an auto include, particularly with the abundance of other options in green. Each performing slightly different roles you need to carefully work out what your deck most wants from its two drops and play the most appropriate. Mana is generally good but really cheap decks or mono decks or even against certain match ups it may transpire that other things are just more useful. A good all round card with good interactions and offering powerful starts makes the Cobra a popular and interesting card well worthy of its slot in the cube.

Fauna Shaman
Fauna Shaman 3.5

Oh look, another 3.5 rated two drop monster and not the last either. Obviously while they are all getting the 3.5 tag this relates to their power and playability in the context of my cube as it presently stands, it does not mean I think they are equally powerful cards. Even more to the point they are all much more suited to certain decks and dependant on what you are up against. I just thought I should make that doubly clear with this glut of equally rated cards. Anywho, onto the Shaman specifically, who is not an agro card, even compared to the Cobra despite the extra toughness. Tapping it and spending mana to gain an effect loses you valuable tempo. The only time this card is good in agro is when you have ways to abuse it so that you regain some of the lost tempo from playing it in the first place. This could be as simple as just Basking Rootwalla and a Vengevine but you do need the tempo specific synergies. It is quite nice with Quirion Ranger as well to get the double use from it and make it easier to recur a Vengevine. The most common places to find the Shaman are in Survival of the Fittest decks where she offers good redundancy for your engine, and in mid range agro control decks like the rock where she will go and find your answer monsters and silver bullets. A useful little critter than can bail you out of dodgy situations or gain the win in a static board position but does spend more time than you might hope for in combat and/or getting killed.

Sakura-Tribe ElderSakura-Tribe Elder 3.0

This might have made the 3.5 gang if you could still put combat damage on the stack. It does at least make the card more interesting despite being worse. You have the sometimes difficult choice of trading with their 1 toughness dork or finding a land. Regardless of this downgrade for the card it is the best ramp card against any aggressive deck. Sometimes it will still scare of a valuable yet weak attacker while most of the time it will just be a Rampant Growth with a partial Fog attached. Unless you know you are not facing any aggressive creatures or have a specific need of a low creature count (say Oath of Druids from the B cube) this guy will be the first effect that puts land into play that you want for your deck. Will see play in almost any green control or ramp deck although the arrival of the Worldwake dual man lands has made the inclusion of basic land in 4 and 5 colour control much harder thus making this guy pretty unplayable.

Viridian Emissary
Viridian Emissary 3.0

I am a huge fan of this card I really wanted to give it a 3.5 rating but feel that you need to have certain cards in your deck to make this as good as it can be. As such it is slightly narrower than the other 3.5 green two drops. Against very aggressive decks or in aggressive decks the Emissary is better than Tribe Elder as it has a more relevant power and gets to deal damage and find land and not one of the other. With Birthing Pod, Recurring Nightmare or any other useful sacrifice effects the Emissary also trumps Tribe Elder. When you primarily want the rampant growth rather than the dork the unreliable aspect of that half of the card does hurt its playability. The card is just an all round safe card in the right deck. You don't care if it dies, you are happy to trade it or chump with it or even over extend with it. Most commonly found in rock or other black green builds where the most synergy with sacrifice effects exist. Also found in most midrange green decks too.

Wall of RootsWall of Roots 3.5

Both the best wall and the best two drop accelerator of coloured mana. It is cards of this quality in green that mean the artifacts that produce green mana specifically barely ever see play. This is usable on the turn you make it, it is still usable in your opponents turn. Over three of your turns including the one in which you make it you can have five mana from it. During this time it can act as a very effective blocker. A 0/5 is pretty hefty to burn or kill in combat and always feels like a waste to use dedicated removal spells on it, particularly if they have already had use from it. I play Wall of Roots in most non-aggressive green based decks. It is both acceleration for you and putting on the breaks for your opponent. Green based control decks have been getting better and better recently in the cube and Wall of Roots is a mainstay of these decks. Tribe Elder is a similar kind of card but only offers one block and takes about three turns longer to yield as much mana as the Wall can. While Tribe Elder is less vulnerable to mass removal this does not makes up for the advantages of having a body kicking around, even if it a 0/1. Cards like Opposition, Birthing Pod and Skullclamp are all better with Wall than Tribe Elder.

Overgrown Battlement
Overgrown Battlement 1.5

This is a much weaker card than Wall of Roots. It taps to produce mana and thus cannot block as well or be used on the turn it is made. To be anything other than a Vine Trellis, aka a bad Llanowar Elf you need to have other defenders which is doable but does make the card significantly narrower. Even just tapping for two a turn makes this pretty good, much more is very rare in the cube with a lack of walls but does make this very good. Most other things that produce multiple mana in the same turn are much easier to kill than walls. The two mana accelerators have to be quite a bit better than the one mana options in green and this ins't in the vast majority of cases. If you really want walls rather than good acceleration then this is one of the less weak options but that would have to be a choice based almost entirely on your match ups as a high wall count for the sake of it is not doing very much.

Wall of BlossomsWall of Blossoms 2.5

A fine card but green is rather spoilt for choice in two drops. Defensive spells complete with card advantage exists as do those which ramp or offer utility. Because of this Wall of Blossoms sees far lass play than Wall of Omens. Blossoms does appear in control decks and even some combo decks the most common home for it is with BG decks using Birthing Pod and/or Recurring Nightmare. In such decks the slot is given for being a 2 mana card that draws another when it comes into play for which green also has Elvish Visionary. BG Nightmare Pod decks can be control or agro and the choice of cantrip two drop rather depends on the decks angle. Visionary is also better if you are playing a Skullclamp. Wall of Blossoms also allows Overgrown Battlement to be more easily played in decks as you can freely include Blossoms without fear you are playing too many dead spells. Also very good in UG Opposition decks.

Rofellos, Llanowar EmissaryRofellos, Llanowar Emissary 2.0

As two mana accelerators go this is about the most extreme in terms of potential. Best in mono green but still playable in any heavy green deck. Typically found in big green ramp decks, green based control and elf decks. His body is pretty irrelevant as he is almost never involved in combat and he would probably be a better cube card if he were a 0/2 as he is very vulnerable and desirable to kill. If he is cast early and able to tap for two or more the subsequent turn without being dealt with there is a very high chance you are winning that game.  It is the combination of his fragility combined with the restrictions he places on your deck if he is to remain good in it that stop him from having a really high rating. If Magic were like the WoW card game and you could only play mono-coloured decks then Rofellos would be one of the very best cards in the game.

Elvish Visionary
Elvish Visionary 2.0

This dork is just in the cube to offer redundancy for Wall of Blossoms and a great filler card for elf and Birthing Pod / Recurring Nightmare decks. When all you want is a body you can't go too far wrong with this as it is cheap and replaces the card it cost you. A 1/1 is far from exciting but you don't really care when it gets killed as you really haven't lost much and can get more done than a 0/4 wall does often enough. They still both chump and die to massive guys and often just negate a single small creature. It does see slightly less play than Wall of Blossoms as the decks it suits best are slightly less common. Elvish Visionary is not unlike Chromatic Star in the cube, a card of very low power and little impact on games but that really allows you to fine tune and smooth out decks. While they may seem a little out of place alongside cards like Balance and Wheel of Fortune I strongly believe they greatly enhance the quality of decks and games by their inclusion in the cube.

Llanowar ElvesThe Mana Elves 3.5

Fyndhorn ElvesGreen lacks high quality aggressive one drop monsters however it makes up for it with cards like this. Not only are there these two functionally identical cards but many other slightly different one mana creatures in green that tap for a mana. While not great in combat that is the secondary function of these cards which are mainly used to ramp mana without penalty earlier in the game than other colours can do so in order to gain a tempo advantage over the next few turns. These elves are staple cards of the elf deck and are all the better for having the redundancy. They also frequently appear in any green aggressive or tempo based deck from classic red green beats to blue green opposition. You can cut a land from your deck should be be playing enough of these types of card but to get full effect you want to continue making lands until you have reached the top of your curve. In effect this means you are losing a bit of card advantage to gain the tempo which is generally a fine thing to do. The icing on the cake is that when you have stopped needing the elves for mana they return to being of some use in combat. Either they trade off with small attackers or slip through unblocked for the odd nibble which is pleasant enough. At their best however they add to the various cards in green that provide an Overrun effect and allow you to promptly end a game out of nowhere. Rancor and equipment are other ways to make the transition from early mana source into late game threat easier.  Including too many cards like this in your deck makes you vulnerable to mass removal effects but this is easy enough to compensate for. You can play cards like Skullclamp or Recurring Nightmare to recycle them prior to mass removal or use them in combination with things like Winter Orb to shut people out of the game to some extent. It is the frequency of use the mana elves get that make cards like Caller of the Claw viable in the cube too. The mana elves are a cornerstone of what green does and will be one of the main considerations for having green in a deck. These two are the simple and reliable "no frills" options that set the mark for the other contenders wish to gain a cube slot. A test which cards like Boreal Elf and Arbour Elf fail to succeed in.

Elves of Deep ShadowElves of Deep Shadow 2.2

Fondly known as the blowjob elves which is somewhat self explanatory should you have The Dark version. These elves are always played over the Llanowar/Fyndhorn Elves in any deck that wants to use black mana as they act as both ramp and fixing in those decks rather than just ramp. The life loss is pretty irrelevant as it always is in magic. That said, there are not all that many different archetypes in black green that want mana creatures except the rock (which is arguably about 6 different archetypes depending on the build) and as Birds of Paradise is a better fixer and ramper the Elves of Deep Shadow are only there to offer redundancy to other better cards. This leaves them as rather narrow despite being of appropriate power for the cube, they don't even make it into the elf deck.

Avacyn’s PilgrimAvacyn's Pilgrim 2.0

While these may appear better than Elves of Deep Shadow simply because they do not cause loss of life they are not and probably rank as the least played one mana green dork still in the cube. This is for two reasons, firstly they are not Elves which is annoying as elf decks are often keen to splash white for Ranger of Eos and/or Stoneforge Mystic. The creature type is certainly minor but it is more significant than life loss and more relevant in GW than in GB. The significant factor is that there are even fewer archetypes in GW that want access to mana creatures than in GB and in those decks Pilgrim is 3rd choice after Bird of Paradise and Noble Hierarch rather than 2nd after just Birds. Still, despite many better alternatives a card that ramps, fixes and has a baord presence all for one mana is very good and would be a mainstay in any colour other than green.

Noble Hierarch
Noble Hierarch 3.8

Great little card although it makes me feel ripped off when I am playing black or red with my green spells and that I deserve a 0/1 battle cry dork that can tap for G, R or B! The exalted is generally better than having a power itself as you want to be tapping it for mana and having bigger guys attacking is more effective (particularly early in the game) than more smaller creatures of the same power. Exalted also scales well with ability dorks like life link. The only time I think that a Llanowar style elf is better than Hierarch is when you have a lot of elf synergy. Assuming you have no use for B or R mana Hierarch tends to even be better than Bird of Paradise although not always the case. Having a flying chump blocker or equipment wielder can be game winning. It is nice to have a green one drop mana critter get printed that is above the power level of the earliest as opposed to below them which all things like Arbour Elf and Boreal Elf were.

Birds of Paradise
Bird of Paradise 4.0

In my first cube list back in Mirrodin block this would have comfortably made the top 5 creatures list. These days it has been pushed quite a bit lower and is rather overlooked due to having being around in basically every format since the dawn of time, er, magic. It is still one of the very best things you can do with your first turn in a game of magic for a large number of decks. Bird is great in combo, great in control and great in aggressive decks. The lack of power is no real issue as the main purpose of the card is to tap for mana which you will find much easier to make use of with lack of colour restrictions. Having any mana colour with no drawback is massive and why you will find birds in lists of decks that other mana critters wouldn't get near (with the occasional exception of Hierarch). Having random flying thrown in to boot just adds insult to the power of the card having seen it coming in for the unreasonable kill with some thing like Rancor or just buying the required turn blocking some massive flier. Birds will always be a highly played card in the cube and I doubt we will see something strictly better any time soon but that still leaves room for plenty of great one mana accelerators and fixers.

Joraga Treespeaker
Joraga Treespeaker 3.5

While not quite the mana boost and reliability of the Sol Ring once this guy gets going he is pretty abusive. Assuming nothing kills him in response to the first level up you are really ahead as you don't lose out on making a two drop and basically do have a coloured Sol Ring online from turn three onwards. In many control decks Llanowar and Fyndhorn Elves reduce the average power level of the deck too much and are often not played while this guy still makes the cut. On the flip side aggressive decks rarely need such a late game boost and don't want the risk of playing him. Generally speaking it is what you are playing against that determined the power of the Treespeaker more than the deck you are playing. If they are playing Red Deck Wins he is the nut low as you can't often risk the tempo loss of trying to level. Against decks without cheap targetted  removal at their disposal this is one of the best ramp spells you can make on turn one. Mana is power in magic and this guy makes a lot for very little investment and is therefore very powerful.

Quirion RangerQuirion Ranger 3.0

This little utility critter is surprisingly powerful assuming you have the right cards for it to support. He is not the turn one play as he does little without other cards however as you can use his ability immediately he allows you to happily play other spells should you have them and drop this guy down only when you need him or have spare mana. The classic partnership is this and Llanowar Elf simply as a way to generate one or two extra mana (if you would miss a land drop) on a turn. While the ability is only permitted once per turn people often forget the fact you can still use it once in their turn too which can lead to surprise blockers or mana they hadn't accounted for. Mana critters are the typical synergies but any thing which taps creatures works well with Ranger such as Fauna Shaman, Opposition, Master of the Wild Hunt. She also works well with Winter Orb and other things that keep lands in check. The most abusive uses however are just with mana critters that tap for lots such as Joraga Treespeaker or Rofellos. Ranger gives you a lot of options and control over the game for very little investment and while not useful in isolation does really enable a lot of archetypes well, a bit like Voltaic Key.

Llanowar MentorLlanowar Mentor 2.0

This quirky little fellow is a lot like Quirion Ranger, infact they work very well together. In some respects he can be a little like Joraga Treespeaker too although a lot slower with bigger investment and bigger risks. He was rather a no show in most other formats for good reason however in the cube where he has all the very best cards to interact with and where being cheap is the primary thing for utility cards he gets a reasonable amount of play. Typically Mentor is used as a discard outlet as it is hard to find ones that are not pretty poor on their own and that are cheap and so often finds himself in decks with Fauna Shaman, Genesis, Vengevine, Basking Rootwalla and Survival of the Fittest. An advantage it has over many green discard outlets is that you can discard non creatures which is abusable with Life from the Loam but also just convenient. Wild Mongrel offers very little in return for your discards and non-reanimate strategies based around discard are too slow to every really be agro decks which the Mongrel best suits. Mentor is also quite nice when you either expect to have dead cards or want lots of tokens for Opposition, Overrun or Skullclamp and is a good card to help smooth out clunky looking mana curves. If you are not fearful of mass removal you can just go nuts ramping out token Llanowar Elves and have near double the normal mana output by the midgame although this is the least common use for him as previously mentioned it is risky.

Wild Nacatl
Wild Nacatl 2.5

About the best ratio of power and toughness for mana you can get on a dork and also the largest of all the one drops you can rely one. Sadly the Nacatl only really finds a home in the various incarnations of Zoo which range from 3 to 5 colours but always include the all important Naya colours. I have seen RG agro decks splash in plains basically just to power up this guy as it likely to best agro one drop you can make assuming you can guarantee both required basics. This is not too hard with duals, shock land and sac lands available however these are the most important cards in a Zoo deck and make it very demanding to draft. Very few monsters can tango with Wild Nacatl and survive or trade that cost two or less and so the tempo you gain from having this in play early is immense. If Zoo decks were more popular or less demanding on land requirements to be playable this guy would get a higher rating but as it stands he is one of the narrower cards.

Basking Rootwalla
Basking Rootwalla 3.0 

This is probably greens best agro one drop as Nacatl is more of a gold card and the rest are pretty rubbish. Various lions that can't block or things you lose control of when you are on lower life or things that destroy your lands are the other options green has if it wants one drops to do more than 1 damage. Rootwalla does require mana investments to deal extra damage which can be used to suit you and makes blocking a 1/1 Walla a bit trickier. It is the madness that pushes Walla over the power level threshold and gives it great synergy with a lot of cards. Typically with Fauna Shaman/Survival of the Fittest and Vengevine for extra value and ease of recurring. Walla is a little like Goblin Bushwacker in that you can make it on turn one if you need it for the tempo and curving however it is best when you can use it later in the game with other cards. Only the most controlling decks with green and discard outlets in them end up not playing Walla. With an appropriate outlet Walla effectively has flash which is a nice little trick.

Sylvan Safekeeper
Sylvan Safekeeper 2.0

The green Mother of Runes is one of the most undervalued invitational cards and a royal pain to play against.  Like Quirion Ranger or Basking Rootwalla it is not the best turn one play as it is most vulnerable when you are just starting your curve and cannot afford to lose land. Being a 1/1 does not really do much in terms of pressure and so you are best off holding Safekeeper in hand until you have spare mana or near the end of your curve. It has no summoning sickness on its protection ability and no restriction on activations allowing you to keep all your guys in play through spot removal. Although better at protecting your guys against spot removal it is weaker than Mother at forcing through damage and doesn't help you to equip or use combat tricks. Green also has fewer decks that want to abuse Safekeeper as stompy is distinctly tier 2 and RG beats often plays too high a curve. Zoo can't afford to throw away lands and so that leaves the niche, but still viable, agro UG, very agro rock or GW denial weenie decks in which it can see play. He is a little all in but then agro green strategies generally need to be as they have little reach. I remember having three dorks and three land having curved out pretty well and having a good tempo lead only to find myself facing off a Flame Tongue Kavu. I could simply let it target a guy and then save it but it would still trade for my best man and put me further behind in lands. The only sensible option was to respond to the Kavu by sacing all my lands and forcing it to shoot the only remaining legal target - itself. If you are playing a cheap agro green deck I recommend trying this guy out as he is a complete game winner often enough.

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