Too-Specific Top 10 - Can Green Cantrip?

(Abundant Harvest | Art by Iris Compiet)

It's... Pretty Easy Being Green

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Abundant Harvest is the only one-mana cantrip that can guarantee you a land?)

The color pie is ever-evolving, and by that I mean it's always shifting so that green owns more of it. Of late, that phenomenon has brought something to the color which had always been solidly blue: selective cantrips.

What is a selective cantrip, you ask? Given that I just made the term up, I'm not surprised you don't know! A selective cantrip is a spell that lets you look at or determine several options of cards, one of which you then draw. The most famous of these, Brainstorm, simply allows you to draw three cards, then choose two cards in your hand to put back on top of your library. Opt is a version we still see in Standard every once in a while, as its simple "scry 1, draw a card" effect is still great, but not quite as broken.

So then what about cards like Abundant Harvest and Adventurous Impulse? They fit the standard of having both a single instance of card draw and an ability to be selective about it. Granted, they're far from a brand new effect in green, given the history of spells like Commune with Nature (originally printed in Champions of Kamigawa) and Ancient Stirrings (Rise of the Eldrazi), but it does seem like they're starting to get better. They may even be getting to the point where they're starting to compete with traditional blue cantrips, which is an alarming trend. At least, it would be, unless you had a meme Simic deck that was just all cantrips:

Arixmethes, Slumbering Voltron

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Commander (1)
Creatures (19)
Instants (20)
Enchantments (13)
Sorceries (24)
Artifacts (4)
Lands (19)

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Alright, enough with the elaborate excuses to post one of my janky brews. Let's take a look at the green cantrip trend and see how far it's really gone!

Top 10 Green Cantrips

First, what is a cantrip? It's easy to say "a card that draws a card", and that's probably true, but Bookwurm doesn't really feel like a cantrip, does it? So, to further narrow it down, let's take a look at the origin of the word "cantrip".

*Clears throat, channels High School Speech class, and brings up the wikipedia page*

Cantrip is a word of Scots origin to mean a magical spell of any kind, or one which reads the same forwards and backwards. It can also be a witch's trick, or a sham. It is possibly derived from the Gaelic 'canntaireachd', a piper's mnemonic chant.

In the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, it is a type of minor spell that generally is the simplest and weakest kind available to learn.

There it is. In fantasy, a cantrip isn't a massive spell, it's a simple one. Generally, when I think of a cantrip in Magic, it's not just that it draws a card, but also that it's easy to cast. In the same vein, it needs to feel like a spell, not a creature or object (to my knowledge, no one has ever referred to Elvish Visionary as a cantrip). This gets us a pretty good idea of what we're looking for, so let's just skip the explanation and grind the rest out in our criteria before we get started:

Criteria: Green instants and sorceries with a mana value of 1 that draw or put into your hand exactly a single card without any additional cost, that do not also require you to discard cards. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Insist

(274 Inclusions, 0% of 292,609 Decks)

I'm not gonna beat around the bush. Insist might be the 10th best green cantrip, but that's only because our criteria only came up with 10 of them total. Still, for being the absolute worst green cantrip option, it's pretty good! Spending an extra mana to make your commander or game-winning creature uncounterable definitely has utility, especially when it doesn't actually spend a card. Can we talk about this art, though? Is that a bear or a werewolf? Werebear?

9. Commune with Nature

(287 Inclusions, 0% of 292,609 Decks)

Commune with Nature doesn't fit in just any deck, so which decks does it go in, exactly? Well, let's do the math!

Nevermind, I'm not gonna do that equation by hand. Let's just use a calculator!

If you play a Commune with Nature on turn one of a given Commander game, there are 92 cards left in your deck. So, using our handy-dandy calculator, let's see what our percentage chance is to pull one or more creatures given various sizes of creature menageries in our deck.

# of Creatures in Deck Creatures Pulled >=1 Creatures Pulled >=2 Creatures Pulled >=3 Creatures Pulled >=4 Creatures Pulled =5
10 44.5% 8.95% 0.846% 0.0355% 0.000512%
15  59.8% 18.5% 2.93% 0.22% 0.00611%
20  71.5% 29.7% 6.67% 0.741% 0.0315%
25 80.4% 41.4% 12.2% 1.83% 0.108%
30 86.8% 52.8% 19.4% 3.74% 0.290%
35  91.5% 63.4% 28% 6.73% 0.660%
40  94.7% 72.7% 37.6% 11% 1.34%
45  96.9% 80.6% 47.9% 16.7% 2.48%
50 98.3% 86.9% 58.3% 24% 4.31%

There's some really interesting data here, though we should keep in mind that these numbers will in all likelihood be slightly smaller, because your opening hand may contain a creature (especially if you're playing 50 of them). It's tempting at first to go by the first column and say that Commune with Nature is playable in decks with as few as 25 creatures, but if you really think about it, a 20% chance of just whiffing is not at all what you're going for. Plus, just cantripping is not good enough to warrant an inclusion in most decks. What you're looking for is actual card selection. What we're really looking for is an almost guaranteed chance of not whiffing, followed by a decent likelihood of actually getting to choose between a couple or even a few creatures.

With that in mind, I'd personally put the cutoff for Commune with Nature at 35 creatures. That gives you better than a one-in-ten chance that you won't just miss, with an almost two-thirds chance you'll get to choose between two creatures, and a 25% chance of getting to choose between three.

So there you have it. Play Commune with Nature if you're playing 35 or more creatures! Or, you know, if you just feel like it.

8. Irresistible Prey

(380 Inclusions, 0% of 292,609 Decks)

There are a lot of straight "draw a card" cantrips that I'm less than crazy about (and several of them are further up this list), but Irresistible Prey isn't one of them. If you just need to dig, it will always draw you a card. If you have a huge creature, it can act as a two-for-one when you swing in. That's a lot of versatility for a card that only costs one mana and immediately replaces itself. The only real downside is that there has to be a creature on the board for you to be able to cast this. Otherwise, this thing should be higher up this list, in my opinion.

7. Charge Through

(386 Inclusions, 0% of 86,333 Decks)

In every color but white, there is a version of Charge Through that aids a creature by giving it combat evasiveness and draws you a card for a single mana.

If you're in green and looking to cast some cheap spells on creatures and also to deal combat damage, then Charge Through is a fine option. Unfortunately, the list of commanders that want this effect is shorter than you might expect, only including Aeve, Progenitor Ooze, Anthousa, Setessan Hero, Gargos, Vicious Watcher, and Thrasta, Tempest's Roar, which already has trample. Still, there are a lot of commanders in multicolor that care about storming off, or about Heroic shenanigans, so far be it from me to say that there's not a place for Charge Through. Even with access to blue, I'm still playing it in the above Arixmethes deck.

6. Viridescent Wisps

(397 Inclusions, 0% of 292,609 Decks)

I would argue to my grave that Viridescent Wisps is just... not good. It doesn't provide any evasion, doesn't help save a creature in combat, possibly kills another creature in combat, and still requires a creature in play for you to cast it in the first place. If you're desperate for cantrips, go for it. Otherwise, there are just better options, so let's move onto those!

5. Ancient Stirrings

(657 Inclusions, 0% of 292,609 Decks)

Upon first read, Ancient Stirrings is one of the strangest cards I've ever encountered. Luckily, once you get past that first impression, it's both surprisingly simple and straightforward, essentially letting you take a land or an artifact out of your top five. A quick look at its art also quickly informs us that Eldrazi and Devoid cards are a great option as well.

Revisiting our old math from Commune with Nature, we know that to get a solid hit percentage on a single eligible card, you should be playing at least 35 of said eligible cards. That means that in just about any deck, Ancient Stirrings can find a land pretty much all the time, and also give you a solid chance at getting to choose between two of them. That's honestly already good enough in a deck that wants cantrips, but where this really shines is in a deck that plays your standard 37 lands and a whole slew of artifacts or colorless cards as well. For instance, in a deck playing 37 lands and 23 artifacts, you would have a 95.2% chance to choose between two cards, a 77.4% chance to choose between three, and a 42.8% chance of choosing between four. Those kinds of numbers put this card in contention with some of the best cantrips in the game, so if you're in the deck for it, check this one out!

4. Abundant Harvest

(910 Inclusions, 1% of 86,333 Decks)

Speaking of being in contention with some of the best cantrips in the game, Abundant Harvest! Sure, the sorcery speed hurts, but what other cantrip can guarantee you a land if you're screwed, or a nonland if you're flooded or are digging for an answer? Abundance may be seeing less and less play these days, but in this humble author's opinion, Abundant Harvest should be seeing more and more.

3. Commune with Dinosaurs

(1,359 Inclusions, 0% of 292,609 Decks)

Everything I said about Ancient Stirrings can be repeated for Commune with Dinosaurs, only for Dinosaurs instead of colorless cards. That makes it a very niche card, obviously, but Dinosaurs are anything but a niche tribe. Currently sitting as the ninth most popular tribe, Dinosaurs have 3939 decks on EDHREC, with several commanders and lords exclusively dedicated to the tribe. In other words, as much as it's not a generally great card, the popularity of Commune with Dinos is both earned and understandable.

2. Adventurous Impulse

(1,667 Inclusions, 1% of 292,609 Decks)

If you're looking for something a little less niche, however, then might I introduce you to the card that is, in my personal opinion, the best green cantrip that's ever been printed. Given that we've already done the math for that cantrips that dig five cards down, I'd be doing us all a disservice if we didn't also look at the math for a cantrip that digs three cards down. Going off of the "standard" 37 lands, let's look at how many creatures you also need to be playing for Adventurous Impulse to be worth it.

# of Creatures/Lands in Deck Creatures/Lands Pulled >=1 Creatures/Lands Pulled >=2 Creatures/Lands Pulled >=3
40 (37 Lands, 3 Creatures) 82.4% 40.2% 7.87%
45 (37 Lands, 8 Creatures)  87.1% 48.4% 11.3%
50 (37 Lands, 13 Creatures)  90.9% 56.6% 15.6%
55 (37 Lands, 18 Creatures) 93.8% 64.6% 20.9%
60 (37 Lands, 23 Creatures)  96.1% 72.4% 27.2%
65 (37 Lands, 28 Creatures)  97.7% 79.5% 34.8%
70 (37 Lands, 33 Creatures) 98.8% 85.9% 43.6%
75 (37 Lands, 38 Creatures)  99.5% 91.3% 53.8%
80 (37 Lands, 43 Creatures)  99.8% 95.6% 65.4%

If all you're looking for is lands, you're probably better served with Ancient Stirrings or any number of the "search for a basic land to hand" tutors, but your chances of pulling one with an Adventurous Impulse are pretty good no matter what. Plus, even in a creature-light deck of 13 creatures and the standard amount of lands, you have better than a 50/50 chance of having a choice between two cards. A more standard amount of 23 creatures + 37 lands gets that chance up to almost 75%, with more than 25% chance of being able to choose between all three revealed cards. As for a creature-heavy deck, this seems like a slam-dunk, although at a certain point you have to wonder why you aren't just going all creatures and sticking an Umori in there.

1. Veil of Summer

(35,371 Inclusions, 12% of 292,609 Decks)

My opinion counts for naught in the wake of the hordes and hordes of data, however, and Adventurous Impulse sees little to no play in comparison with Veil of Summer. This isn't entirely surprising, given that many of the top cards around EDHREC see decent play in both competitive and casual EDH. Veil of Summer is no exception, often acting as a one-mana Counterspell that also draws a card. A one-mana Cryptic Command does sound pretty amazing, honestly. The obvious downside is that the card does absolutely nothing unless someone is both playing blue or black and casts a spell when you have the card and the mana available. That's not a terrible downside in high-powered play, as the odds of seeing a blue or black player are very good, as are the chances of you needing to interact with all of their interaction.

At lower-powered tables, however, I think Veil of Summer is much less good, for two reasons. First, it's more likely that you'll see a full table without a blue or black player, since you're more likely to see both mono- and dual-colored decks from "bad" color combinations. Second, Veil of Summer isn't the kind of card a lower-power deck wants to play, since it doesn't fit the deck's theme or craft a cog in the deck's elaborate Rube Goldberg machine.

Honorable Mentions

I'm sure the first question on a lot of people's minds when they saw the title of this week's article was, "Why not just all the non-blue cantrips?" The answer is half that I really think the sudden phenomenon of green getting selective cantrips is worth exploring, and half that I didn't like the general Feather/Zada-i-ness of the non-blue list:

Top 10 Non-Blue Cantrips

  1. Veil of Summer
  2. Expedite
  3. Crimson Wisps
  4. Renegade Tactics
  5. Crash Through
  6. Defiant Strike
  7. Rile
  8. Warlord's Fury
  9. Bandage
  10. Overmaster

Close observers of the Arixmethes list above will notice that I not only included all of the cantrips I could find, but also that I cut the land count all the way down to 19 by heavily investing in basic land tutors as well. In case that interested anyone, I decided I'd supply a Top 10 for those options as well. There's only one problem: there are only six of those cards!

Top 6 Green One-Mana Tutors That Get a Basic to Your Hand

  1. Traverse the Ulvenwald
  2. Open the Gates
  3. Reclaim the Wastes
  4. Lay of the Land
  5. Caravan Vigil
  6. Attune with Aether

Finally, there are a few examples of cards that almost fit our criteria, but not quite that I felt at least warranted a mention.

Creature Storm decks of the world, take note! Glimpse of Nature will draw you a bunch of cards. Note over.

I actually really like Enter the Unknown in general. One mana to possibly draw a card isn't anything to write home about, but playing an additional land as well is great, especially at that rate, even if you end up having to settle for a Surveil and a +1/+1 counter.

Hey, Warriors' Lesson can draw you two cards for one mana! The circumstances don't even have to be that outlandish! That said, if you're not an aggro deck of some sort, it probably feels awful to get this card stuck in your hand when the board is stalemated.

Obviously Confront the Unknown is nuts in the Clue/Tri-Token deck. Outside of that, it's still pretty good if your deck cares about having artifacts in play. As a general cantrip, it's not really impressing anyone, though.

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

Finally, what's your favorite green cantrip? Have you added Adventurous Impulse or Abundant Harvest to any of your decks? How do you really feel about this whole green cantrip thing?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the stump we're using as a table. You know the one, right next to the tree of similar size next to it we can always cut down if we need another table.

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.