Monomania - All Things Considered: Green
(Helix Pinnacle | Art by Dan Scott )
Jack of All Trades
Greetings, everyone, and welcome back to Monomania. In this article series we examine and analyze all things mono-colored in Commander, placing a heightened focus on ramp and draw packages. For about a year we’ve been challenging staples and misconceptions about the color pie. Today, we surge forward with our holistic examination of each each color on its own.
It wasn’t that long ago that green had several weaknesses. When I began playing 15 years ago, green couldn’t draw cards, had poor removal, and was best known for trying to win by playing large creatures and attacking the turn after. Now, it is one of the strongest colors in the game, and is the strongest color in EDH. Over the past several years, Wizards has made a concerted effort to bring green up to par with other colors by printing diverse removal, stronger options for card advantage, and accentuating what makes green fun in the first place. For the most part, I think this effort was well-directed and well-executed. The triumph of green’s ascension is that Wizards didn’t sacrifice flavor in the name of increasing power. Rishkar’s Expertise, Ezuri’s Predation, and the new Ram Through all fit perfectly into green’s color identity while also increasing green’s range. These cards all have restrictions in their application, but are very useful under the right circumstances.
Far from making green less interesting and homogenizing the colors, the expansion of green’s wheel house has made it more fun to play and more competitive in EDH. It also holds the title of my favorite color to play and also sports the highest win rate. Green does everything now, and it does it all well. For this reason, writing an article like this under 50,000 words is extremely difficult. I’ll try to survey the field briefly and assemble a decent list of effects at the end. Let’s get started!
Ramp is the reason that green is so good in Commander. Every ramp effect outside of the color, like Magus of the Coffers and Dreamscape Artist, is discussed with the phrase “good outside of green" attached. Knight of the White Orchid aside, there are few ramp options in other colors that can compete with green’s efficiency. The breadth of green ramp effects is also impressive. From dorks to doublers, green owns the entire spectrum of ramp effects.
First, let’s start with one of the most iconic cards in green—Llanowar Elves. Mana dorks are an essential part of green’s color identity and they have a place in commander. I like dorks, especially the ones that cost one mana, but put your ramp at risk to mass removal. While they are more fragile than other styles of ramp, mana dorks are usually elves, and elves form the base for a powerful big-mana engine. Elfball is a popular and potent strategy in EDH and can produce infinite mana very easily. The essential pieces of this ramp package are Priest of Titania or Elvish Archdruid, Umbral Mantle or Sword of the Paruns, and a bevy of elves.
Green’s most famous ramp options for EDH come in the form of spells, however. Cultivate is the third most played card in the last two years according to EDHREC. Kodama’s Reach is the ninth most played. There are dozens of effects like this available at most points on the curve. If you prefer your ramp effects at two mana, like I do, then choose from cards like Nature’s Lore, Rampant Growth, and Into the North. Just don’t try Farseek in your mono-green decks.
Other three-mana options such as Far Wanderings, Growth Spasm, Grow from the Ashes, or Harvest Season all have applications. In the four-mana slot, there are many effects including Explosive Vegetation, Circuitous Route, and Migration Path. At five, Hour of Promise is one of my favorite ramp spells for decks with important nonbasic lands. Sorceries like these are boilerplate green. If you don’t want to think too hard about your ramp package, you can stuff your deck full of these and you will never have any trouble.
Even in the realm of enchantments, green has some remarkable ramp options. Land enchantments are some of my favorites. Many of them provide great rates on mana acceleration, such as Overgrowth and Wild Growth. In addition to this, they can be enhanced with creatures such as Arbor Elf or Stone-Seeder Hierophant. Other enchantments, like Khalni Heart Expedition and Ordeal of Nylea will fetch lands from your library once a condition is met.
Finally, green is the home of mana doublers, probably its most powerful ramp cards. Vernal Bloom is amazing for mono-green, and should probably see play in almost every mono-green deck. Other options include Mana Reflection, Zendikar Resurgent, and Nyxbloom Ancient. I would mention Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger here as well, but I don’t want to see that card any more than I already do.
Now, after years of experimenting with the design space, green is one of the better colors at gaining card advantage. Although most card advantage in the color has conditions attached, they are efficiently-costed and have a high ceiling. Let’s look at a few of the card advantage packages available to the color.
The first card advantage package I want to cover, and my favorite, revolves around effects that draw you a card every time you cast a creature spell or a creature enters the battlefield under your control. In addition to the three cards listed above, this package includes The Great Henge, Zendikar Resurgent, and Path to Discovery. If you’re playing a high number of creatures with power three or greater, you could also include Elemental Bond, Garruk’s Packleader, and Kavu Lair. If you can stick one of these cards on board, and your deck is heavily creature-based, you should have no trouble keeping the engine running. If you manage to land two of them, you’ll be able to draw through most of your deck. I love this package in decks that already run thirty creatures or more.
Mono-green is also shockingly good at pulling off an enchantress strategy. Normally, we think that Selesnya and Bant are the enchantress colors. While mono-green does miss out on Mesa Enchantress and Satyr Enchanter, the vast majority of enchantress effects are available to mono-green. The three cards pictured above alongside Enchantress’s Presence, and Verduran Enchantress can form a great card advantage engine for any enchantment-based deck.
Finally, green also has plenty of miscellaneous draw effects to fill in the gaps. Rishkar’s Expertise, Soul’s Majesty, and Return of the Wildspeaker are all great in decks that place emphasis on big creatures or growing creatures using buffs or +1/+1 counters. Greater Good, Momentous Fall, and even Life’s Legacy fit into similar archetypes. Collective Unconscious and Shamanic Revelation are incredible in decks that want to go wide on the board. Finally, cards like Harmonize and Yavimaya Elder are just decent inclusions whenever you need another couple card advantage effects.
Not only can green ramp and draw well, it is also pretty good at winning games. Some of this should come as no surprise: big-mana has a way of ending games and green naturally honestly ramping into big mana. The most straight-forward outlet to win the game with big mana is Helix Pinnacle. Another, however, is a game-ending combo that is fairly easy to assemble. Glacial Chasm plus Squall Line is a guaranteed win given enough mana. Beyond the mana, however, green has many cards and a couple of combos that are good at ending games.
Green is the home of Overrun effects. While these cards are only effective in decks that want to go wide, they are extremely powerful in EDH. The most famous and most expensive of these is Craterhoof Behemoth, but there are plenty of variety in this area. Pathbreaker Ibex, Decimator of Provinces, Earthshaker Giant, Thunderfoot Baloth, and End-Raze Forerunners are all examples of these cards. While this is the most potent game-ending effect that green has, it also has access to many cards that can take over games on their own like Avenger of Zendikar or Nemata, Grove Guardian. But even then, a well-timed Overrun or an activation of Kamahl, Fist of Krosa can't hurt. In my enchantress builds, I can often squeak out wins using Nylea's Colossus or Destiny Spinner.
Green is by far my favorite color in commander. It has also performed very well for me in my mono-colored experiments. It still struggles with creature removal and especially board wipes, but this even creature removal is workable in green these days with fight spells and the absurd Ram Through. To me, green is compelling because it is the best color at playing fairly. Yes, there are combos, but the color can easily secure wins by playing threats and attacking with them. As always, now that we’ve looked at a lot of the cards we all know about, I want to use this space to shed light on a few of my underplayed favorites.
All of my picks today happen to be ramp options that deserve a little more love. Specifically, I want to highlight a suite of efficient green ramp that all costs one mana. Spending one mana to ramp one mana is an interesting break-point for this style of card in EDH. While Wild Growth and Utopia Sprawl aren’t Sol Ring, they do break even on mana the turn you play them and should be part of almost every green ramp package. Usually, ramp cards present the player with a trade-off: you sink mana this turn to accumulate mana each turn thereafter. You take a hit now to accelerate in the future. When ramp doesn’t have the initial downside, it is a perversion of how the game wants ramp to function. All of us have experienced the sensation of playing Sol Ring and being up mana immediately with no down turn.
One-mana ramp spells are one of green’s great advantages. I’ve come to include both Wild Growth and Utopia Sprawl wherever I can. While One With Nature and Caravan Vigil are much more situational, they each have their place. I’ve personally played One With Nature in Syr Faren, the Hengehammer and Caravan Vigil in Ayula, Queen Among Bears. Both cards performed beyond my expectations and deserve a spot in more decks. One With Nature is like essentially a Sword of the Animist and thrives in decks that want to stick creatures early and swing in.
Other underplayed gems include Silverglade Pathfinder and Cryptolith Rite for creature-based ramp effects. The pathfinder can essentially turn any card in your hand into a Rampant Growth, while Cryptolith Rite transforms all of your creatures into Birds of Paradise. In the same vein, I also enjoy Druids' Repository quite a bit. Made famous by Najeela, the Blade-Blossom, this enchantment is good in any green deck that likes swinging in with small armies.
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Anyway, what do you all think? Is green the best color in EDH? Do you think that green should be able to draw cards as it does nowadays? Is this the triumphant model for how to improve a color's viability for our format over the course of years? And, most importantly, what is your favorite ramp card in green? Be gentle if I missed a few things; this was by far the most difficult article I've had the pleasure to write for EDHREC. Tune in next time for our final article in the Monomania series, in which we will be looking through artifacts and lands. Until then, pick up as many copies of Ram Through as you can. Play Zendikar Resurgent in everything. Remember to EDHREC responsibly: always dig a little beyond the statistics. I’ll see you all on down the road.