Battle for Zendikar: Playing to Your Weaknesses – Green
(NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
As for my rating system, I’ll be using a new format this time around. After a lot of feedback, I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. The system is as follows:
- 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
- 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective
- 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws.
- 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback.
- 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around.
Almost finished the main colors on time but needed a little bit more time . . . oh well. Green is pretty much what you’d expect it to be: big creature and lots of ramp. There are lots of ways to ramp into bigger creatures which means its cards will be very useful in playing colorless Eldrazi as well as activating various landfall triggers with it’s land searching cards. the only thing I really feel is missing are green’s giant monsters. There are a few, but not as many as you’d expect there to be. Even the Eldrazi in green are mostly for ramp only. It seems like the designers were so focused on pushing Landfall and Eldrazi that green seemed to have what made it “green” pushed out. Let me show you what I mean.
This is as big as green is going to get. Plated Crusher is a magnificent example of what I think green should be: High power level and trample for a lot of mana. Pelakka Wurm from Rise of the Eldrazi was siiiiick. It was trample, 7 life, and you got to draw a card when it died. Crusher? Well, he’s definitely going to be able to go head to head with a lot of the Eldrazi but in the end he’s just a big, dumb animal that gets around removal. Great finisher, but a victim of the power down Wizards is doing in their cards. I’d pick up one or two as my finisher in draft, and I’d absolutely play him in sealed. If you need a finisher in green look no further. Don’t be afraid to ramp into him with all of those Eldrazi Scion tokens.
RATING: 4 Stars
So how do we go from 1 to finisher as fast as possible? Well, if you’re playing green you have quite a lot of ways to do so. Our first path is using Eldrazi Scion to do so. Blisterpod is basically 2 creatures in one, and lets you be both aggressive or defensive early with little consequence. Play it turn one, trade with a creature the next turn, use the Scion token the same turn to ramp to 3, or save it for the another turn to power out a 4 or 5 drop early. There might be times where you can’t “pop” the blister, and in that case if you’re playing black alongside it use Bone Splinters, Altar’s Reap, or Vampiric Rites. Seems to have good synergy in those colors. Great fodder in BG Eldrazi ramp.
RATING: 3 Stars
Call the Scions is both a ramp and a token generator, which is pretty obvious. If you need to go from 4 mana to 6 mana on turn 4 play it and sacrifice the tokens to jump out ahead. If you need the tokens as blockers or as fodder for sacrifice you can do that too. Green doesn’t often get token creation this cheap so it’s a nice change. Good card for just about any green deck you want to play. It’s both versatile and function. Especially good in GB/G Eldrazi ramp.
RATING: 3 stars
Void Attendant needs some work to get it going, but once you have some creatures with Ingest making a pile of exiled cards this guy gets REALLY good. This is probably one of the best processors in limited as it gives you an almost unlimited supply of tokens if you’re playing cards like Benthic Infiltrator alongside it. This is one card that I think would shine in UG Eldrazi with enough evasive Ingest creatures. Great card in both sealed in draft. I’d take it high in draft if you can. It will be a great asset in both the early and late game.
RATING: 4 Stars
Brood Monitor is a bit higher on the food chain than the other Scion makers, but the pay off is great. For starters, you’re paying 6 mana for 4 creatures. These are bodies on the ground that can put a lot of pressure on an opponent, especially if you have ways to pump them up with a card like Ruination Guide. The other reason it’s great is that you’re going from 7 mana to 10 mana on turn 7. It used to be that the games in limited were over by then, but with a slower limited format the later turns could end up becoming rather important. An example would be playing Desolation Twin on turn 7, putting 20, TWENTY freaking power on the table in one turn. That’s quite a jump in power and can finish the game if you played an Ondu Champion the following turn and they didn’t have any blocker. It also lets you put down two lesser Eldrazi in one turn which can also have profound effects. This is a great card in limited and I would definitely pick it in draft if the rare was so-so.
RATING: 4 Stars
The other way to ramp is with spells. Sylvan Scrying doesn’t actually “ramp” you up a card since it puts it in your hand, but being able to look for ANY land card is a definitely plus. Grabbing a man land, a Basic Dual land, or one of the utility lands can come in pretty handy. It’s also great for making Landfall a bit more consistent. I’d play this if you’re playing any of the above mentioned lands, as well as if you’re playing any kind of landfall/Eldrazi deck. Hitting your land to play your big threats is going to be pretty important. Very functional in this format.
RATING: 3 stars
Seek the Wilds is playable in a similar vein to Sylvan Scrying. Again, no ramp is actually involved, but it grabs either a land or a creature for you (which could be an Eldrazi drone that gives you ramp) and filters out the other stuff you don’t need. This is great for later in the game when you want to dig to a creature or that 7th land. Versatile and useful in any situation, I’d play this alongside 2-3 other ramp spells if I was in a devoted ramp deck in limited. It’s solid in both sealed and draft I think. The only draw back is that you only look at 4 cards, but I think in limited you’ll hit one of those targets easily.
RATING: 3 Stars
Finally! Some ramp! Natural Connection isn’t a Rampant Growth or Farseek (M13), but at instant speed I’ll take it. This makes a great addition to any landfall deck on top of being good for ramp decks because it allows you to use your Landfall cards defensively whenever you want. Landfall combat tricks can be downright unfair sometimes, especially if your opponent plans on you only having a 2/2 blocker. If you’re in green you’re going to want to play this, so grab it from the draft pool as soon as you see it. I’d much rather have this than Seek the Wilds, but each has their benefits and drawbacks. Going from 3 mana on turn 3 to 5 mana turn 4 allows you to make some powerful plays. Don’t overload on ramp if you can help it, but if you’re playing GB/UG, G Eldrazi ramp, play it.
RATING: 3.5 stars
Gone are the days of one mana costing mana creatures. Even 2 mana costing mana creatures like Beastcaller Servant only ramp you into creatures. I mean, we had 2 mana costing mana creatures before (Sylvan Caryatid, Voyaging Satyr), and what was so bad about them? Why did ramp decks have to get further punished in this block? *sigh* Oh well. In this set you’re either playing sorceries to get land or playing this guy. It’s serviceable, and ramps you from 3 to 5 on turn 4, but I’m still a little disappointed in it. I’d much rather play Seek the Wilds or Natural Connection over this because of their versatility. Still playable in limited, but not as necessary to have I think.
RATING: 3 Stars
Moving away from mana creatures, lets take a look at one of green’s strong points: Landfall. When a color has numerous ways to get land out of your deck, you better believe it has good synergy with Landfall. Retreat from Kazandu is probably my favorite Retreat out of the entire cycle. White is close, but come on. Instead of getting a +1/+1 until the end of the turn, this card gives your creatures a permanent counter. It’s also great in match ups where life gain is important such as in a GB Vampiric deck. GR Landfall decks is obvious, but seriously if you’re in green you’d be crazy not to play this. I’d take this very high in draft and would be ecstatic to get it as a second pick. Don’t let this go around the table.
RATING: 4 Stars
Scythe Leopard and Snapping Gnarlid are your basic Landfall creatures. If you’re building a GR Landfall deck and need to fill your curve out these are good choices. You might think that the Leopard is better due to its speed, but in this format Gnarlid’s 3-4 power after its bonus is much better than the Leopard’s 2-3 power level (with something like an Evolving Wilds or ramp effect like Natural Connection). I played against some Naya and GR Landfall decks at the pre-release and Snapping Gnarlid was able to sneak in 5+ damage in those early turns most of the time. It was a pain in the neck. The Leopard is there if you have lots of good Landfall synergy, but otherwise just place Gnarlid.
Scythe Leopard RATING: 2.5 stars
Snapping Gnarlid RATING: 3 stars
Big dumb animals love Landfall. As far as raw power goes, you don’t get a better Landfall creature on both offense and defense than Territorial Baloth. If you ramp into it early, it can put your opponent on a very short clock. Red and blue will have a lot of trouble getting rid of it and it will just run over every creature in its path other than an Eldrazi. Great card to have as a 5 drop, fits well in GB ramp, GR landfall, and UG Eldrazi/Ramp.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
The Landfall card with the greatest potential is Murasa Ranger. It has a solid 3/3 body for 4 mana and if you don’t have anything to use your mana on when you play a land, paying 4 mana to make it a 5/5, 7/7, or bigger creature is a good investment. While cards like the Baloth and Gnarlid are good in ramp decks playing spells to grab your land (like Natural Connection), Murasa Ranger seems more at home in a ramp deck. If you’re playing green deck with a lot of Eldrazi scions, I think she’ll be a good fit. I don’t mean to see she’s bad in other Landfall decks, but being able to pay that mana for the bonus is important. I like the Ranger a little bit better than Akoum Shaman in red.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
Oran-Rief Invoker is probably the BEST mana sink in the entire game. She makes short work of opponents in long games once she becomes a 7/7 trampler, and gets around all sorts of removal (Aligned Hedron Network, Complete Disregard). I’ve lost to her twice in limited already, and I will definitely respect her in future events. I think she’s a good card to grab early in draft if you’re playing any kind of green ramp deck. She can single-handedly win a game for you.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
The last two creatures in my review are Allies. Green Allies tend to be a strange bunch. There are only a few of them in green, and they kind of feel out of place there. Overall the set is jam packed with abilities and I feel like there simply wasn’t enough space in this expansion to do any justice other than Devoid/Ingest, Landfall, and Awaken. Rally feels forced in green, and these are good examples. They both have powerful effects, but their casting cost makes them hard to play in an aggressive Ally deck. The Warcaller is 5 mana but with double green you have to be pretty devoted to that color to hit her on turn 5. You could play Naya or Abzan Allies, but she’s basically a win more card. The one toughness also doesn’t bode well for her either.
If I was going to play any of them it would be the Beastmaster, and that’s only if I’m playing a slower Abzan version instead of a fast Mardu or Naya version. I can’t really recommend these highly in Ally decks, but the synergy is there and if you need more power to push damage through these are the cards you want. I almost feel like you want these more in a Naya Landfall/GB Ramp deck as a stampede effect for your Scion tokens or Landfall creatures late in the game.
Tajuru Warcaller RATING: 3 Stars
Tajuru Beastmaster RATING: 3.5 Stars
Other Cards That Might See Play
- Broodhunter Wurm – decent power level and casting cost, but it’s vanilla with no special abilities. Solid but not great.
- Earthen Arms – great in an aggressive deck, and if I read it right you can put a total of 6 counters on a land when you awaken it which is downright mean to your opponent. Keep in mind it says “on target permanent” so you can play the counters on a land then use a cheaper Awaken effect the following turn.
- Eyeless Watcher – not as good as the other Eldrazi Drones, but it does give you 3 creatures for 4 mana. Good for ramping, bad against spells like Rolling Thunder.
- Giant Mantis – Another roleplayer. Great to have if you’re facing a lot of white and blue flyers. Stops quite a lot of creatures in the air. Flying is very hard to deal with in this format I think.
- Rot Shambler – I saw this showing up at lot at the pre-release I went to. Seems good if you’re playing an aggressive deck or using a lot of Eldrazi Scion token makers. Can easily become formidable if you sacrifice some Scions.
- Swell of Growth – this card got me a few times against Landfall decks. Pretty strong combat trick in that archetype.
- Unnatural Aggression – it’s removal, but only if you’re playing lots of bigger creatures. Not great if you don’t have anything scary like Eldrazi.
Coming Up Next
Lots of ramp in green, good way to get out your big Eldrazi, and also great with Landfall. It’s drawback is that there is little to no removal. Green loses a lot of powerful cards in exchange for numerous ramp cards and Eldrazi Scion making creatures. GR Landfall and BG/UG ramp seem like great archetypes for this color. It’s probably one of the best colors to supplement a pool heavy with large Eldrazi creatures that don’t need/have Ingest abilities. If you’re looking to hard cast a Desolation Twin or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, then green is the way to go.
How did your pre-release weekend go? Any good combinations/synergies that you found that I didn’t mention in this article? Please post any other information relevant to the topic down below if you could! Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll join me again for my next article on Battle for Zendikar limited. I’m finally ready to jump into Colorless and Artifact cards! Check back soon!