Superior Numbers - Cards Caring about Colors: Green

Lookin' back on the track for a little green bag

Welcome to Superior Numbers, where I try to do numerical analysis on cards and deckbuilding trends using a little bit of math.

About a year ago I wrote a column looking at some Commander cards that interfaced in some way with black cards, and I analyzed how statistically effective they were based on the cards in our database. It's something I've been meaning to revisit, and as it's spring, the time of growth, talking about green seems thematically appropriate. Or at least I think it's spring. I'm not 100% sure, since I can no longer leave the house in these post-Apocalypse (not the set) times. It looks like spring out my window, though, so I'm going to assume that's true.

Let’s take a look back at Magic’s earliest days, a distant time when it seemed like a good idea to print cards that functioned based on the colors your opponent chose to play, because having a card be either brokenly amazing or worthless depending on who sat down across from you was once peak design.

Questionable design or not, since EDH is a multiplayer format, it’s way less likely that you’ll get wrecked by an opponent’s color choice. You generally have three or four of them, anyway, which means that there's a much greater likelihood that one of them will be playing the color that boosts the strength of your cards.

Nobody is running any of the Swords of Things and Stuff in decks because of their protection clause, or at least not because of their protection from green clause. Still, it's there, and it's useful to see how often it impacts games. First, though, a quick reminder on how protection from a color works. The mnemonic "DEBT" is helpful here: Damage, Equip/Enchant, Blocked, and Targeted.

  • Protection from a color or trait prevents damage by sources with the specified color or trait, meaning all such damage is prevented.
  • Protection prevents the target from being enchanted or equipped by permanents with the specified color or trait. Or fortified, I suppose, but Darksteel Garrison is pretty rare, anyway.
  • Protection keeps a target from being blocked by creatures with the specified color or trait.
  • Protection prevents the object from being targeted by something with the specified color or trait.

For a full breakdown you can consult rule 702.16 to read the exact wording.

So how does that affect us?


  • Most popular in the last week
    • 6 of the top 10 are green
    • 10 of the top 20 are green
  • Most popular in the last month
    • 5 of the top 10 are green
    • 11 of the top 20 are green
  • Most popular in the last two years
    • 5 of the top 10 are green
    • 10 of the top 20 are green

That means that a creature equipped with Sword of Body and Mind or Sword of Feast and Famine is going to be unblockable by slightly more than half the commanders you're most likely to see. So how about non-commander creatures?

  • Most popular in the last week
    • 5 of the top 5 of the most popular creatures are green
    • 8 of the top 10
    • 51 of the top 100
  • Most popular in the last month
    • 5 of the top 5 of the most popular creatures are green
    • 8 of the top 10
    • 53 of the top 100
  • Most popular in the last two years
      • 5 of the top 5 of the most popular creatures are green
      • 8 of the top 10
      • 51 of the top 100

As with commanders, a bit over half the creatures you're likely to see can't block your bodies equipped with these two Swords.

Green grass and high tides forever

Additionally, there are another 17 creatures legal in the format with native protection from green, some of which actually see play, namely Mirran Crusader in 2,268 decks and Sphinx of the Steel Wind in an additional 1,823 lists in our database.

The same stats above apply to these 17 creatures in regards to the fact that they can't be blocked by about half the opposing bodies you're most likely to see in a pod, but it's not just blockers where protection from green is relevant. In the past week, two of the most popular instant-speed targeted removal spells are green: Assassin's Trophy and Beast Within. Both are in the top six in the last month, and while Trophy isn't present in the top ten list for the last two years due to being somewhat new, Putrefy takes its slot instead, giving green two of the top six during that time frame. Things fall way off the deeper you go, but the fact is that there's about a 40ish percent chance that a creature with pro green is going to be untargetable by the most popular targeted removal spells.

The stats are even better for Sphinx of the Steel Wind, which shrugs off popular artifact removal spells like Krosan Grip and Nature's Claim which show up in 31,940 and 18,886 decks, respectively.

The most popular targeted removal sorcery on EDHREC in the last two years? Decimate, and, you guessed it, it's green. Number three is also green: Hull Breach. Oh, and two of the top three targeted removal spells that are enchantments are also green: Song of the Dryads and Kenrith's Transformation.

And hey, Oko, Thief of Crowns is green, so you're safe from being Elked.

Pick up a flat rock, skip it across Green River

We've established that there are a LOT of green creatures showing up in pods. Are there any other cards that can take advantage of that?

Bereavement forces a discard whenever a green creature dies, so about half of the creatures that you're most likely to see cause an opponent to discard a card when they die. That seems useful, especially if you yourself aren't running green. That's unfortunate for Nath of the Gilt-Leaf decks running green creatures, but for anyone else that isn't afraid to make some people irritated with hand destruction it seems pretty effective for the 1B cost. It feels like a genuinely effective card depending on your strategy, but it currently only shows up in 26 decks.

Flooded Woodlands is a particularly brutal pillow fort effect, albeit in colors that generally aren't looking to pillow up outside maybe Oloro, Ageless Aesthetic. Losing a land for each swinging green creature is a steep price to pay, especially if there are still other opponents to kill after you get taken down, and most people aren't going to be willing to pay it for half of the most popular creatures in the format.

Mind Harness should be showing up in way more than 1/10 of 1% of Muldrotha, the Grave Tide builds. A single blue mana to be able to steal half of the most popular creatures in the game? And that's just the green ones. Technically it hits 63 of the 100 most popular creatures in the last two years and 13 of the top 20 commanders. It's a one-mana theft spell for 2/3 of the bodies you're likely to see show up. Yeah, it has a Cumulative Upkeep, but that still means it takes three turns to cost as much as Control Magic, and most theft decks sacrifice the target fairly quickly, rendering the upkeep almost irrelevant. Muldrotha can recast this for U while saccing the body. That seems like insane value to me.

Those are the three bangers that I found that care about green creatures, but they're certainly not all of them. Breath of Dreams is going to force a Cumulative Upkeep on all those green bodies. Dream Tides imposes a two-mana tax to untap any creature, but it just flat-out prevents green ones from untapping at all. High Seas makes those green (as well as any red) creatures cost one more to cast. Nature's Ruin destroys all green creatures, as does Perish, with the added caveat that they can't be regenerated, and lastly, Sphere of Duty prevents two damage from a green source. Most green sources are green, so, in effect, it prevents two damage from each green creature. You know all those green creatures that I talked about up top that fill out the ranks of the top five and top twenty most popular bodies in the format? Only 1 in the top 20 has power over 2, and that's Tatyova, Benthic Druid, who's a 3/3.

Green brings more than creatures to the table as far as permanents go, though, as easy as that is to forget, and a lot of those are popular, too.



What cares about all of that?

So if you want to, you got the green light

Hibernation returns all green permanents to their owner's hand. It's not Cyclonic Rift, but it hits slightly more than half of the most-popular creatures, slightly less than half of all enchantments, and a tad (that's a technical term) over a third of the planeswalkers for less than one half the mana cost, and 1/30th of the price in terms of dollars.

Insight is only showing up in 237 decks, but there are pods that it's going to do more work than a Rhystic Study, drawing you a card off of every green spell played. In addition to the numbers for Hibernation, 35 of the top 100 sorceries in the last 2 years are green, as are 23 of the top 100 instants.

Putrefaction forces a discard whenever a player casts a green or white spell, fitting nicely in with Bereavement, and Withering Gaze looks at target opponent's hand and lets you draw a card for each Forest and green card in it

Those three are probably the most generally impactful of the lot, but there are other options that might be worth running in a green-heavy meta with a lot of juicy targets. Deathgrip is an original card from Alpha and instead of drawing a card when someone casts a green spell like with Insight, you can instead counter it for BB. Dystopia similarly might be meta-dependent, forcing each player to sacrifice a green (or white) permanent during their upkeep, but there's a lot of green permanents that fit this bill, and that's even before we get to the white ones. Lastly, Essence Leak forces the controller to sacrifice the enchanted green or red permanent unless they pay its mana cost each upkeep. As with Dystopia, that's a fairly large percentage of cards before we even look at the red ones that it hits.

Everything's Gone Green


Thanks for reading! How many of you out there are running any of these color-specific cards focused on green or are interested giving them a look? I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and may your numbers always be superior.

Dana is one of the hosts of the EDHRECast and the CMDR Central podcast. He lives in Eau Claire, WI with his wife and son. He has been playing Magic so long he once traded away an Underground Sea for a Nightmare, and was so pleased with the deal he declined a trade-back the following week. He also smells like cotton candy and sunsets.

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