Thursday 14 February 2013

Mono Green Control

Sylvan Library
Mono green control is one of my favourite archetypes mostly because it is all so pretty it makes playing with the cards that much more enjoyable. I have also just re-sleeved my cube which took six man hours of labour and seventy of my hard earned pounds and it has been fully worth it. I must take my hat off to the previous sleeves which have been on my cube for nearly ten years and saw tournament use prior to that and were still integral for the most part, just very very dirty. I have a fondness for mono colour decks because they are more challenging to build and are less likely to lose you games purely through mana issues. I am always trying to get new mono coloured archetypes, particularly for those colours with very few ways to go about making a viable mono cube deck. Green has for a long time been the colour with the fewest ways to go mono with Elves being the only tier one deck, and a very hosable one at that. Stompy or mono green agro if you prefer has never been better than a tier two deck which leaves only mono green ramp and mono green control. Both these archetypes have a lot of overlap both in cards used and in how they feel to play. The ramp version is more capable of winning games against tier one decks but is far less consistent and quite vulnerable to things like counter magic. Mono green control is a very consistent deck and has far less vulnerabilities and inabilities than other mono green decks however it has never really been better than tier 1.5 in the many years I have been trying to get it to work.

Birthing PodGreen has had an influx of interesting and versatile cards over the last few years making me convinced I can get a tier one build with a mono green control deck. I have tried many variations, ones abusing Life from the Loam for card advantage, ones trying to abuse Birthing Pod, some without many dorks at all, some trying to disrupt mana bases and even some that looked like tame ramp decks. This list is my most recent attempt and it felt by far and away the best version despite not really having any specific theme. As mono green control is not an archetype to have ever existed in a constructed tournament format there are no pre existing designs and so I have no real framework to start my build from. The trial and error method of testing is somewhat slow, especially in a diverse format like the cube. I am not entirely sure what it was about this list that made it feel so much more effective and powerful than previous ones as all its cards have seen play in previous mono green control decks and were fine and did their thing but didn't in any way leap out and say they are the key to making this archetype work. If I am honest I was building this deck more to look sexy than to be pure win. You can't really set out to build an archetype like mono green control and expect to be winning the event with it but you can feel extra good about it if you do.

This list was creature heavy as far as previous mono green control decks I have built go. I decided to include a Birthing Pod however not worry to much about making the most out of it. One of the Pod versions I did of this deck had a fairly deep creature chain from two up to seven and was really invested in getting value from the Pod however this really weakened the deck and made it more like a combo deck with no way of finding your combo card. You would get lots of awkward hands with too much high end and die to the first bit of tempo or disruption to come your way. The Pod in this deck was much more of a utility card than a win mechanism, I was planning on using it to shuffle my library, get card advantage and tutor up the odd answer dork with it rather than chain up into abusive fatties. This meant I would mostly be saccing the cheaper dorks in the deck and needed the most creatures in the two and three slots. The high creature count with an emphasis on cheaper utility dorks made the deck like ripe for a Skullclamp which goes a really long way to covering your card draw needs which green otherwise struggles with. Ohran Viper and Harmonize are some of greens better card advantage cards of which I felt I needed neither because of the viable Skullclamp and the high number of come into play effect dorks to supplement and fuel it. 

Wood Elves
Moving away from specifics about this list until after you have read it and back to the idea of mono green control as an archetype. As a control colour green doesn't have much disruption nor does it have much card advantage both of which are important in a control strategy. If you try and mimic other colours and how they contribute to a control strategy you will just end up with a really weak control deck with Harmonize instead of Fact or Fiction and Nevinyraal's Disk where your Wrath of God should be. You need to play to the strengths of the colour to be able to make a good deck out of it in whatever style of deck you are going. For green the thing it does best that you also want to be doing in control is increasing its available mana. Green has so many ways to get more mana efficiently that it should be your main way of winning games. In classic blue based control mirrors it is often thought that games are won in an attrition war over card advantage which is mostly true however you can also win an attrition control war with a mana advantage in much the same way. With the blue control decks generally making one land a turn and having a high land count means card advantage equates into a mana advantage and so you can look at it in either terms. As you are unlikely to win a card advantage war with a mono green deck against a control deck of other colours you should aim to really win the mana war while having cards to exploit that abundance. This means playing cards that you can usefully sink mana into to gain you some advantage but it also means you can much more easily afford to have a much higher mana curve than other control decks. Although green doesn't have great ways to deal with creatures and no way to effect peoples libraries, hands or the spells they cast and therefore qualifies as light on disruption green can deal with all other non-creature permanent types quite efficiently. With the number of artifacts, enchantments and planeswalkers decks play varying wildly you cannot really abuse an ability to remove them in green as you cannot play more than a couple of such effects in a main deck. All decks however make use of lands which green can also deal with fairly effectively and so you are more able to load up on some land removal cards. This not only gives you some effective and reliable disruption but has a great deal of synergy with your ramping to get a mana advantage. You do not need to play land disruption but without it you are basically an auto lose to decks like storm.

Yavimaya Elder
The other strength of green is really good quality dorks which provide most of your utility, card advantage, defence and threats. Green is far less afraid of tempo starts from agro decks than other colours as it is easily able to get a decent presence on the board. Green also needs worry less about dedicating slots to finishers as it generally has enough utility dorks to finish off games. While I said I have done versions with very few creatures I think they are inherently worse as they are not utilising one of greens main strengths to the best extent. My reasoning was to be more secure against mass removal which can be rather ruinous however it meant I was overly threat light and as such vulnerable to the removal and counter magic of other control decks. A better solution is to play primarily dorks which get you value upon casting or death so you are not losing as much to creature removal. The basic aim of the deck is therefore to focus on obtaining a mana advantage so as to cast higher powered spells and abuse abilities and effects from mana sinks. Then over power your opponent when they are feeling the strain of the mana disparity with your accumulated utility and value dorks.

Joraga Treespeaker
24 Spells

Joraga Treespeaker
Llanowar Elf

Wall of Blossoms
Sylvan Library
Elvish Visionary
Viridian Emissary

Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary

Eternal Witness
Wood Elves
Elvish VisionaryYavimaya Elder
Viridian Shaman

Dungrove Elder

Birthing Pod
Molten-Tail Masticore
Garruk Wildspeaker
Master of the Wild Hunt

Primal Command
Plow Under

Primeval Titan
Green Sun's Zenith
Primal CommandHurricane

17 Lands

Treetop Village
Dryad Arbour
Tranquil Thicket
14 Forests

Other cards I considered

Beast Within
Masked Admirers
Solemn Simulacrum
Thrun, The Last Troll
Llanowar Mentor
Chancellor of the Tangle

Wall of Blossoms
The observant reader may have noticed this is a 41 card list which is not a mistake but in fact something I do fairly frequently. I appreciate the logic behind having the smallest library possible so as to increase the average power level of your deck however there are other factors in play worth consideration. I have a memory of talking about this before but I can't be bothered to find out where and its relevant so you can have it again. Sometimes 16/40 land isn't enough but 17/40 land is too many. There are several solutions to this problem using things like cycling lands or Gitaxian probe to smooth the ratios however one solution is simply to play 17/41 lands. This is much more relevant in 40 card decks than with 60 card decks however in normal block limited formats the difference in power between you 23rd and 24th cards is usually pretty big, and the difference to the 1st card in your deck is a complete joke. In the cube this is not at all the case and all your cards are really powerful, it is a case of picking the most appropriate much more than the most powerful. Because of the power difference in block limited you rarely see the 41 card trick to smooth mana ratios however in cube it is far more acceptable and seen much more often (almost always by me...). The last cards I added were Wall of Blossoms and Tranquil Thicket which may seem quite odd given what I was just saying about mana ratios. I could have tinkered around with those two cards and had a 40 card deck with the correct number of lands however with the Birthing Pod the rations of not only your creatures but their converted mana costs as well also becomes highly relevant and to get that right as well as the land ratio I had to go to 41 cards.

Dryad ArborGreen Sun's Zenith is a decent card in this deck having decent synergy with the dorks included for Birth Pod as well as scaling well with your ramping. Without the Dryad Arbour trick it is pretty weak early and although I don't really like either card I had seen them used to good effect recently and felt compelled to give them another chance. I don't like wasting land drops on things that can be killed with and damage or creature kill spell and so if you draw the Dryad Arbour at any point it starts to look bad, worse for the lack of card quality and filtering in green. The addition of Skullclamp and the newest Masticore helped to make drawing the Dryad more palatable and Having Dryad makes the Zenith go from OK to really good. Again, I don't like adding risky or weak cards simply to power up other spells but the Dryad never hurt me and the Zenith was fantastic so the jury remains out for now.

Primal Command is a nice all round card for this deck, it gives longevity to your Birthing Pod and acts as an alternate win condition through being able to deck people in the really long games. It is just a two for one in some situations while in others it is redundancy for Plow Under or your life gain effects. Genesis is your late game security and a great mana sink. He isn't exactly a value monster in play but is still quiet large and annoying and gets the job done in play almost as often as he does from beyond the grave (or at least in it). The Pod and discard outlets make Genesis much better and having him in your deck makes you far less needy of other long term late game things to be doing. I wanted at least one good dork at six so as to make Pod and Genesis that little bit better and the Titan fit the bill best offering card advantage and quality on a decent body although Wurmcoil Engine would likely have been fine there too. It is more important having a big fat threat and it being on six that actually what it was in the end.

Viridian Emissary made the cut over Sakura-Tribe Elder because it is better with Pod and Clamp. Yavimaya Elder go the spot usually taken by Ohran Viper for the same reasons as Viridian Emissary. More immediate and reliable cards in hand also works much better with Molten-Tail Masticore. Dungrove Elder is a bit of a do nothing but is still pretty good in the deck. You cannot have too many slots given up to guys that serve only one purpose or offer no value beyond being a dork. Thrun, the Last Troll is in much the same boat and while being a good value threat, he is just a threat. Dungrove is better than Thrun against faster decks and scales well with the ramp effects in the deck but is not at all a necessity in the deck nor a card that is not without good alternatives.

Molten-Tail Masticore
Master of the Wild Hunt and new Masticore  are both a little harder to get value from as it doesn't always happen when they resolve or die and are primarily just threats however they each do important other roles beyond this that Dungrove Elder does not offer. Green as we know is bad at killing dorks yet Master of the Wild Hunt for some reason acts like a red creature and can really lend a hand in this regard. He is also pretty much a planewalker when the game has stalled out and will win it for you in the end. I would almost always play Master of the Wild Hunt in green because he is both a very high power level and able to offer you something you struggle to get elsewhere. Masticore is a more extreme version of the Master, he can get killy right away if you have the mana and is more durable. On the flip side however he does not slowly power you up but rather steadily drains your resources and is therefore not such an auto include in a deck. You need a good number of dead dorks to use as ammo to make him worth playing as well as ways of keeping up with the discard costs as well as the mana to really abuse him. With this being a mono green control deck the latter can be assumed, with this being a Clamp and Pod version the former can be assumed as well. With Genesis and Yavimaya Elder and the Skullclamp I felt fine for having the cards to discard and overall qualified to abuse Masticore. Suffice it to say that Masticore was highly unfair, often just popping up and burning someone to the face for 12 ending the game on the spot. When he wasn't winning games in short order he was saving me from the clutches of death against all manner of creature based assaults. One of the best cards in this list but sadly not always a card you can play and when you do so needs to be done with careful building.

Plow Under
Plow Under is everything your trying to do, it is card advantage, mana advantage and savage disruption. With the ramp you play it is one of the high powered spells you are poised to abuse best. Sadly green has lots of great five drops with Genesis and Primal Command performing important roles and Thragtusk being unreasonably good and so it is hard to always get the Plow into the deck but it never disappoints when you do. Hurricane is an old school gem that does a lot of work in the deck and is well worthy of a slot. With your good defensive dorks, life gain and mana production it is an impressive finisher. On top of this it acts as removal for all the thing you hate the most - flying creatures. Not to mention the fact that it can kill off planeswalkers too. In the dream situation you are killing multiples permanents of theirs and nothing of yours thus getting tempo and card advantage alongside killing dangerous things.

The cards I didn't play are all excellent green control cards but in this list I felt other cards were more suitable or more necessary to what was going on. The Simulacrum is great but really just doing what your Wood Elves are doing but slower and more importantly in a slot where you can get a lot more power, in not as much value, for your mana. Thrun is one such card but apparently I was in the mood for Dungrove Elder and that was all I had room for in that department. Beast Within is a great great all round card that makes you feel incredibly safe however if you can get away without having to play it you will be better off for it and I was feeling greedy. With my Hurricane, Masticore and Master of the Wild Hunt I was not so afraid of dorks and it turned out just fine without the Beast Within safety net.

Dungrove Elder
Masked Admirers are a bit like Genesis in a way and while offering some advantages over him are overall worse in a deck with a selection of one off utility dorks. I did rather want another four drop as you can see from the number I still had on my short list however none quite made the cut and two (for Birthing Pod purposes) seemed sufficient if not optimal. With more tutor effects than normal as well I was less eager to have redundancy in the effects I most wanted. The final card I wanted to play but couldn't make work was the Chancellor who offers a surprisingly useful and strong body along with a nice early tempo boost. At seven however he is not something I will be reliably Podding into off a poorly supported chain from 4 upwards nor is it something that would be doing a lot for you turns two to about turn five. This list was also lighter on two drops than most of mine making his mana perk less useful.

This archetype is good fun, pleasantly different and surprisingly competitive. This list in particular performed significantly better than any other previous attempt and seems like a good starting basis to work with. I suspect the middle ground approach worked strongly in my favour as it means you have less niche support cards and more high power level things which is of particular importance when you are not expecting to draw lots and lots of cards. A big part of how you get ahead is a significant increase in card quality from your library as you thin out the lands within it. This obviously happens to a lesser extent if you have low powered or dead non-land cards in your deck.


  1. Hi Nick,
    I have found this page during my search for a green control deck.
    Great Idea.
    I'm a MUD palyer and I would like to mix some idea here.
    Do you think using chalice of the void at 1 and starting our cards to 2 mana ruins this deck ?
    Do you think with this meta is a black splash for abrupt decay necessary?
    There should be place for Karn Liberated or Oblivion stone?
    How should you update this deck today as a legacy deck?
    Thank you in advance


  2. wow, as I legacy deck I think playing mono green control is a move made of balls! You don't need black and it weakens a lot of your cards like Rofellos. I would play Karn or Ugin at least now in cube, the removal abilities are too important to give up. challice is interesting. it certainly could work (used with things like Elvish Spirit Guide) but I'm not sure you would disrupt enough of other peoples stuff to make that useful