Amonkhet: 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, 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.
The pre-release is done and over with. I ended up participating in 3 different events, and afterwards I felt like I did a great job of evaluating the cards in limited this time. More so than I did in Aether Revolt which was a total “pooch screw” as some people might put it. I’m a little ashamed that it’s taken so long to get out my green article, but due to my work schedule it couldn’t be helped. I should be able to finish the entire series before release day on Friday so you’ll be ready to do some drafts or sealed tournaments over the weekend! Let’s take a look at what green has to offer.
If there is one thing green is good for, it’s beaters. Scaled Behemoth was an incredible pain in the ass during the pre-release. A 6/6 would be fine as a finisher, but a 6/7 hexproof creature? This thing is impossible to kill without losing a big chunk of your creatures to block it. I had the horrible luck of facing off against this with a Vizier of Many Faces copying it, and then when it died he made a copy again with the embalm effect. You also have to really worry about combat tricks or removal when going to double or triple block it. This card is dangerous in limited. It’s an amazing finisher that can win the game if your opponent can’t deal with its high toughness.
RATING: 4 Stars
You might not always get a chance to cast Greater Sandwurm, but just like with the Behemoth, if this card hits the battlefield it’s going to cause some incredible headaches for the person on the receiving end. It’s a great attacker, and you can also cycle it if it doesn’t look like you’re going to be able to cast it. And it’s a common? Holy crap. Sure it can be killed with removal or exiled, but I still think it has great value in a green deck as a finisher.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
Worst case you’re looking at a 4/3 creature for 4 mana with haste, but I think most of the time you’ll be able to pass those counters off on some weak creature you know longer need to bring it in as a 5/4 speedy croc. It’s not often that green gets anything with haste, in fact its incredibly rare. High draft pick and a must play for all green mages.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
Shefet Monitor is another versatile beater/finisher that would work great in a 3 color deck if you’re looking to splash a few cards. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t feel bad about paying 4 mana to draw a card and put a basic land into play to be used right away. Not only does it ramp you to 6 mana on turn 5, but if you draw it late game it can be very formidable.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
If you played in the pre-release, then you probably know how strong Edifice of Authority, Rhona’s Monument, and Oketra’s Monument can be in limited. Those cards alone are enough reason to play a Manglehorn in your sealed or draft deck. I don’t think it will be as effective as it would have been in Aether Revolt, but it’s still a good card to have in your limited Amonkhet arsenal. If your opponent isn’t playing any artifacts you can always side it out, but otherwise I think it’s worth having as part of the mainboard of your 40 card deck.
RATING: 3 Stars
The next batch of cards in green are the ones with exert. Some people don’t like the mechanic, but I love it. It means you have to carefully calculate what’s going to happen a turn or two in advance so that you don’t leave yourself wide open to a devastating attack. Bitterblade Warrior is a perfect fit for your early curve and his deathtouch ability on attack makes your opponent trade off with him early.
Watchful Naga is great for getting card advantage on an empty board, but otherwise I think you’ll have to rely on some combat tricks to keep him alive so you can take advantage of his ability.
The card that impressed me most of these three was Hooded Brawler. The biggest reason was that he became a 5/4 creature when exerted. I noticed that there weren’t a lot of creatures that could block it favorably, and most of the time my opponent either teamed up to kill it or just continuously chump blocked it. Sure exerting it is slow, but it’s a small price to pay to turn your average 3/2 creature into a 5/4 monster.
Bitterblade Warrior – RATING: 3 Stars
Watchful Naga – RATING: 3 Stars
Hooded Brawler – RATING: 3.5 Stars
While exert is powerful, having a lot of synergy with -1/-1 tokens can also be good in this format, especially if you’re playing a GB deck that can take advantage of the counters with cards such as Nest of Scarabs. Exemplar of Strength is basically a 2/2 when you attack with it the first time, and it only gets bigger as the game progresses. It seems like a great card to use with combat tricks such as Shed Weakness. If you need the life gain later, it shouldn’t be too hard to put -1/-1 counters back on it with cards like Ornery Kudu.
I don’t think I’d play Ornery Kudu as 2/3, so if you decide to play with it make sure you have some alternate targets for it to put the -1/-1 counter on so you can maximize your curve. It’s definitely a card that is worth more in a GB deck than in just a regular G/x build.
As for Quarry Hauler, it works great both in GB decks, and against them. Being able to remove a -1/-1 counter that was put on one of your own creatures, or add another one to your opponent’s to kill it is a strong effect. This also works with adding more loyalty counters to your planeswalkers if you have one, or taking a loyalty counter off if the other players is about to ultimate their’s. It also has a strong body that trades well with a large number of other creatures. If you can’t help but put a -1/-1 counter on your Ornery Kudu, Crocodile of the Crossing, or Baleful Ammit, Quarry Hauler is a great follow up.
Exemplar of Strength – RATING: 3 Stars
Ornery Kudu – RATING: 3 Stars
Quarry Hauler – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Trial of Strength is in an interesting place. I feel like it’s better than the white one (not always playable), but not as good as the black or red one which can kill something. The beast token turns on Rhonas, and if you have a Anointed Procession in play you can get double tokens, but most of the time I think you’ll probably want to play another creature in its place. If you have a few Cartouches you’d like to play, it suddenly gets a lot better. Not a high pick in draft, but something I wouldn’t mind putting in that final 23rd card slot. If only it gave a 4/3 Beast, then I might rank it a little higher.
RATING: 2.5 Stars
My final two card evaluations are Synchronized Strike and Cartouche of Strength. It seems like this time around, green is lacking with any kind of removal. In recent sets we had cards like Prey Upon and other fight cards that helped green use superior creatures to their advantage, but in Amonkhet all we have now is Cartouche of Strength. Well, playing it alongside the Scaled Behemoth is pretty damn awesome and will kill everything (not to mention finish your opponent after 1-2 attacks with the behemoth), but outside of that interaction you always run into the chance of losing your targeted creature to removal. I still think the card is playable though.
Synchronized Strike, on the other hand, seems to be one of the best cards in AKH limited. It’s an amazing combat trick on defense, but even better if you’re playing an aggressive deck with Exert. It lets you attack and reset your creatures so you can use them again the following turn. Using it with Trueheart Twins or Glorybringer after their exert abilities are triggered so you can use them the next turn is incredibly powerful. I think it’s worth splashing for if you’re running a RW exert deck, but it would be really good in GR or GW exert as well. Being able to use your Tah-Crop Elite or Glory Bound Initiate 2 turns in a row can really give you the advantage.
Cartouche of Strength – RATING: 3 Stars
Synchronized Strike – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Other Cards That Will See Play
- Colossapede – good beater and casting cost. Vanilla, but will take down at least two other creatures before it dies.
- Defiant Greatmaw – I wanted to talk about this in my evaluations above, but again I had problems uploading the picture so I’ll just talk about it here. Great card for GB decks, and also as a plain old 4/5 creature for 3 mana on your curve.
- Giant Spider – You need to have cards to block those flyers or you’re going to die to them quickly. Giant Spider is a limited roleplayer that will see a lot of play in green decks.
- Gift of Paradise – it’s both a ramp card, and good for fixing your mana if you’re splashing for a 3rd color.
- Initiate’s Companion – good card for aggressive decks, but dies to everything.
- Naga Vitalist – I like the ability to make mana of any color your lands produce, but you won’t always need it. Like Gift of Paradise, it’s good for ramp, and also if you’re splashing a 3rd color.
- Oashra Cultivator – Another good mana fixing card that blocks for you, then turns into a rampant growth on turn 3 or later. Not a lot of value, but useful.
- Pouncing Cheetah – one of the more interesting 3 drops in green. Flash makes it great as a blocker, or to mess up your opponent’s math when blocking the following turn.
- Stinging Shot – this card should do a good job of cutting flying creatures down to size, at least most of the common and uncommon ones. Might have problems against the bigger ones. Very good SB card against UW flyer decks.
Coming Up Next
Green always has interesting creatures with versatile abilities, and Amonkhet pushes that theme further than it ever has before. There seem to be fewer vanilla cards with worthless abilities, and even those that are vanilla now cost less and are more playable in limited. Being able to cycle green cards gives the color access to some of the best card advantage it’s had in the limited format in recent memory. If you have great removal in another color but not a lot of creatures to finish the other player, consider using green as your second color. If you’re splashing for a 3rd color, you definitely want green as one of those colors as well.
The GB -1/-1 counter deck seemed decent at the pre-release and I think it could be strong in draft, but I would probably put most of my money on a GR aggressive deck using Exert and combat tricks. Between the two colors, there are a lot of heavy hitters and some of the best combat tricks in Amonkhet limited. I learned that the harder you can hit, the better your chances are of winning. Removal and making a lot of tokens are good, but if you can’t stop a 6/7 behemoth or 7/7 wurm you’re going to be in big trouble.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out my final article about multicolor, artifacts, and lands sometime before the release weekend! If you have any other suggestions or discovered some powerful combos/interactions during the pre-release, feel free to share your thoughts down below!