Monday 28 May 2018

Mono Green Zoo .dec

Steel Leaf ChampionOne of the issues with drafting Naya zoo decks in the cube is that you are really only as good as your mana base. I have also recently been going to town on culling gold cards from the cube as they simply do not get picked and played as much as the other cards. As such a lot of the more tempting reasons to go for a Naya zoo deck have gone. Why risk going zoo when you can just safely go red or white aggro instead? Well it turns out you can now very well just do zoo in mono green and have the consistency of the mono decks as well. Back in the day you needed the extra colours to make up for things green lacks and to make up the numbers in creatures of the right tempo and meatyness. Now artifacts and colourless cards can cover green for a dash of spot removal nicely while it fills the ranks of threats all by itself entirely appropriately. The last few years have not only brought us a bunch of new colourless removal options that are somewhat top tier in Walking Ballista and Sky Sovereign Consul Flagship but also just a tonne of really powerful and meaty green dorks. It has gone from Woolly Thoctars to Steel Leaf Champions. I wouldn't call this a deep archetype but it certainly has more than enough things to be picking up for it with several options for most slots and a good number of backups.

Arbor Elf24 Spells

Llanowar Elves
Elvish Mystic
Fyndhorn Elves
Arbor Elf

Oath of Nissa
Adventurous Impulse

Roffelos, Llanowar Emissary
Scavenging Ooze
Walking Ballista
Sylvan Advocate

Tireless Tracker
Jadelight Ranger
Thrashing BrontodonRhonas the Indomitable
Steel Leaf Champion

Thrashing Brotodon
Prowling Serpopard

Polukranos, World Eater
Sarruk, the Hunt Caller
Ripjaw Raptor
Deadbridge Golaith

Nissa, Worldwaker
Verdurous Gearhulk

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

16 Lands

14 Forests
Gaea's Cradle
Treetop Village

Jungle LionThe curve for this deck is a little above what you would expect for a traditional zoo deck but that is due to this having a little bit more ramp than a zoo list. You might have one or two one drop ramp dorks in a Naya zoo list with a couple of removal cards and a couple of threats. This list has little to offer in those latter groups and so packs a little more ramp instead in that all important one slot. This is why I have a bulge in the curve at 3 so as to increase the odds on following a one drop ramp dork with a solid threat. For every Elf I replace with a one mana threat I would want to replace a three mana threat with a two mana one for curve reasons. There is only a single one mana threat I would consider for this list with there not being that many really meaty threats low on the curve. Jungle Lion isn't what this list is about. Red and white decks have the removal to milk value from the small dorks, green ones have to simply outclass everything else and so Experiment One is the only one drop in mono green that can ultimately pack enough punch for what this deck needs.

Adventurous Impulse
Another thing that makes this deck good is Adventurous Impulse. Having access to cheap card quality that has a minimal tempo cost is a great way to further increase consistency. While Impulse isn't as powerful as Oath of Nissa it does the trick and provides that key redundancy. It has been a huge help in the various green decks trying to employ some ramp. Traditionally green plays lands, threats and ramp and dies when it doesn't get a decent blend of all three. Most decks only need to get a good balance of land and spells to be in with a shot but green adds that third element in and while it adds a lot of power it does harm the consistency. The increasing amount of good card quality in green is greatly alleviating that issue. This list is indeed somewhere between a green ramp deck and a zoo deck. It wants to ramp once but doesn't need that double jump that the more traditional mono green decks need. That again makes it more consistent and that is what aggro decks want to be. This deck still has bigger creatures than the other cube decks and so there is no real need for that extra ramp. I have thrown in Gaea's Cradle to this list but in practice you don't need it. It is a minor consistency hit for a much bigger payoff in potential burst starts. The same is somewhat true of Roffellos. You don't need his ramp but he will be able to do such brutal things if left unchecked that most players will deal with him instantly if they can. A two mana card that draws a hard answer away from one of your pricier cards is a win so Roffellos feels like a win win card. The actual cost of him is drawing him late where he has little left to power out or up. The other two drops this deck can employ offer way more threat in the late game. That being said, if you have any of the relatively numerous mana sinks then a late Roffellos can still do some scary things for you.

Rhonas the IndomitableAnother strength this deck has is in it's redundancy, it is almost RDW levels of purity with most of the cards being serious threats. Almost any one of the cards from two mana and up can win the game on its own. The card quality cards can find threats and even the mana dorks can be empowered with Rhonas or Creeperhulk. I nearly put in Wildspeaker for that extra Overrun but he is actually quite low tempo for what this deck is doing. There are not so many low impact dorks that you need to have loads of ways to buff them in the late game. Ideally this deck doesn't get to the late game! Ideally it crushes people with a turn four goldfish! Even so, it will and considering it is a worthwhile endeavor. Pendlehaven is likely a better way to add extra spice to the one drop elves!

Ballista is legitimately one of the best cards in the deck, it gives board control, reach, late game and all sorts of tasty jazz, much of which green otherwise lacks. It is the relatively cost efficient way that Ballista handles smaller dorks that is so unusual in a colourless card. Despite the deck being mono green I would argue that Ballista was the most important card in the deck and the biggest reason it is a viable new archetype. Before Ballista these kinsd of green decks would lean on Polukranos and Garruk Relentless for their weenie control. The former is mostly good for being a 4 mana 5/5, not for its costly ability to fight things once in play. While still a great card it is nice not being tied to it as removal more than a threat. Relentless is a good card but like most planeswalkers is not a great tempo play. This deck is aiming to win a bit quicker than the time you need to extract a good amount of value from most walkers. Better removal option available now include Sky Sovereign which is generally quite nice. It is flying and resistant to much removal making it highly appealing. On the downsides though it is a card that needs another card to do anything and it is in the five slot in which green has a disgusting depth of power to choose from. Molten-Tail Masticore is another decent card to afford some more removal and reach. It is a bit more demanding both on resources to sustain and mana to empower but it is still quite a beating. Things like Cursed Scroll simply feel far too slow and low impact for the way this deck is trying to win games. Jitte is likely better than Scroll but if I was going that route I would want far more things like Dungrove Elder, Thrunn, or Bristling Hydra. With the dorks in this list being so meaty it is more of a setback than usual when you eat removal in response to an equip and that is already one of the move devastating things to happen in a tempo battle.

Surrak, the Hunt CallerIf Ballista is the best card then Surrak is the second best. Lots of stats for the mana, haste to things following it and further to that, reliably having haste himself due to the high number of three drops that turn him on. Surrak is what makes the quick kills possible and he is to be feared. The number of haste or pseudo haste dorks green now has access to is another reason this list is viable and reminiscent of zoo. I didn't even feel the need to pack a Vengevine which has historically been one of greens best tempo plays. I didn't feel this list was wall positioned to exploit the recursion and elected for fatter or higher utiltiy four drops. Vengevine is actually small by this lists standard!

Strangleroot Geist not being in my list feels like an error at first glance but it was intentional. While it is a fantastic value aggressive two drop it is always on the small side. It is far easier to hold off freely or cheaply than the rest of the things in this list and that might make it a wasted card. Without removal to empower the smaller dorks you need combat tricks like Mutagenic Growth and Blossoming Defense but these lower your consistency and so I think you are better off just avoiding the smaller stuff. I also didn't run Tarmogoyf simply because this list is very poor at growing it. If your opponent does that for you then great, if it is a reliable 4/5 early ish on then it is going to be the best two drop you can run but if it spends a few turns as a 1/2 then it rather stinks.

Molten-Tail MasticoreOther good and on theme potentials for this list include; Rishkar although I avoided her just because she is only a good tempo play when you have at least one other dork in play. Chamellion Colossus. Leatherback Baloth, a card that is probably just better in this list than the Serpopard! Toughness for the win! You do need to stay away from colourless production if you are running the various GGG cards on offer. Nissa, Vital Force, Kalonian Hydra, Wolfir Silverheart, and even Whisperwood Elemental are all decent options in the deep deep five slot.

Ghalta is quite a silly card. In some respects it is rather win more but in others it is just so impossibly large that it just wins. It is a pretty east turn four play with mana to spare if you curve. Hit you for five with my Rhonas and pass with 23/22 of stats on the board, half of which tramples! Tempting though it was to Run Rhona's Last Stand I think the card is pretty shocking in cube. I just wanted if for the possibility of a turn 3 Ghalta! Probably Ghalta is what you would cut from this list but it is absolutely the best home for Ghalta that you can make in cube and it utterly crushes a lot of things! My inner Timmy is being a Ghalta apologist! Rhonas himself is actually pretty good. He is frequently active, hard to over extend with, empowers the smaller or non-evasive dorks and acts as a great mana dump.

Jadelight Ranger also deserves some credit for this deck's ascent. It is the most front loaded of all the green value three drops. All its value comes when it enters play and it has the highest stats (on average). More importantly it gives you scry and extra lands which is a big help in the aim of curving nicely. Jadelight and Impulse might seem like low impact cards compared to the rest of the list but they are the glue that holds it together (obviously along with Oath). They are the other key cards I would highlight. Surrak is obviously good and that is self evident when you play him. Ballista is obviously good as per its price tag and frequency of appearance in all formats! It is a little harder to fully appreciate the significance of the few easily incorporated card quality effects. They can look like easy cuts or off theme cards but for this list I see them like the rails in which the big green train of immense momentum runs on! 


  1. Very interesting read. I've been tinkering with a green stompy variant myself lately and came a similar conclusion. What are your thoughts on Channeler Initiate in this deck?

    1. Thanks Amnis. I like Initiate as a card but don't think it is a great fit for this list. It isn't attacking as a 3/4 until turn 6 which is both a bit late and a bit small. You also don't gain value from the fixing side of it. I almost prefer Whisperer of the Wilds for that double ramp potential. Generally I would rather just have more threats in that slot though.

      Having played with this list a bit more since publishing I would say that Sky Sovereign is probably a card you always want like Ballista. While this deck is very strong it does, as you would expect, struggle against some things it cannot easily remove.