As a color, Green holds an interesting position in Commander. In most metagames I've been a part of, Green-based ramp decks are the baseline of the format. If you're going to beat down, you have to do it before they stabilize with giant monsters. If you want to play control, you have to be able to consistently deal with a fast start from a green deck. In many formats, Blue is the base-color for many decks because of the power and utility the cards provide you. In Commander, Green tends to be the color of choice because it has the most consistent acceleration and some of the best utility cards in the format.
The problem that I have with Green-based ramp decks is that they're basically combo decks. You have to draw the correct proportions of ramp, threats, and utility in order to really be in a game. If you draw too few threats, you ramp into nothing, and if you draw too few ramp spells, then you just sit around not doing anything. Even if you draw the right proportion of ramp and threats, you can just lose to a stray Wrath of God or Swords to Plowshares. Now, the upside is that the vast majority of your combo pieces are interchangeable, and frequently your general is one of your "combo" pieces.
Most of the decks that I've seen run either Azusa, Lost but Seeking or Omnath, Locus of Mana as their Commander, since these two commanders allow you to build around being able to break fundamental rules of the game. They magnify the power of each ramp spell you draw, which allows you to raise the threat-density of your deck without compromising your ability to ramp up to obscene amounts of mana early in the game. The problem that tends to come up with these builds is the variance in power level between hands. You still have games where you just don't do anything, but there are also games where you draw the absolute nuts, and land a turn 2 [card Azusa, Lost but Seeking]Azusa[/card] into turn 3 Tooth and Nail.
Personally, I tend to prefer the inverse approach. Rather than using my commander as a ramp spell, I would prefer to use it as a threat. While this means that my deck is less explosive, it means that it will be more consistent. I can run as many utility spells and ramp spells as I want because I know that my Commander will be a threat that I'll typically have access to at any point in the game, ignoring tuck effects. There are quite a few commanders that can fill this role, like Kamahl, Fist of Krosa and Molimo, Maro Sorcerer; even Omnath, Locus of Mana can be built that way if you want to. My problem with each of these is that you're open to spot removal when you rely on these as your only threat. You can cast them, and if you get hit by a Path to Exile, you're out of luck until next turn and haven't gained anything.
That said, for this venture into mono-Green territory I'm going to try Verdeloth the Ancient. This gives you a threat that leaves a board presence, even when it gets hit by removal, and a mana sink that scales up in power over the course of a game, meaning that your ramp spells are never dead. The deck's plan is going to be to ramp in the early game, and then to cast [card Verdeloth the Ancient]Verdeloth[/card] every turn until it sticks, and start killing people. Seems pretty reasonable to me, right? So let's start with the ramp package:
- Kodama's Reach
- Explosive Vegetation
- Skyshroud Claim
- Oracle of Mul Daya
- Recross the Paths
- Primal Growth
- Far Wanderings
- Hunting Wilds
- Solemn Simulacrum
- Primeval Titan
- Reap and Sow
- Nature's Lore
- Deep Reconnaissance
- Khalni Heart Expedition
- Genesis Wave
- Search for Tomorrow
And here's the reason that I like having [card Verdeloth the Ancient]Verdeloth[/card] as a general. A solid fifth of this deck is comprised of ramp spells, and that's not even close to too many. A lot of decks have to limit the number of ramp spells that they can run, because each one is card disadvantage. This deck just doesn't care, because your general is your source of card advantage. You're going to cast [card Verdeloth the Ancient]Verdeloth[/card] a bunch of times in any given game, and so being able to pay the additional two mana each time you recast him, as well as being able to pump more mana into the kicker is going to be important.
The only really interesting choices here are the Thawing Glaciers package and Reap and Sow. Thawing Glaciers is a great card for a slower ramp deck. Being able to consistently make land drops is a very powerful ability, and when you find either [card Garruk Wildspeaker]Garruk[/card] or Deserted Temple, suddenly you get to ramp every time you activate Thawing Glaciers. Reap and Sow is particularly powerful in this deck because it can find the pieces of the Thawing Glaciers "combo" and because it can find some utility lands that are pretty important to the deck's functionality.
However, ramping doesn't do any good if you can't ensure that you'll be able to cast [card Verdeloth the Ancient]Verdeloth[/card] again if there aren't any Wrath of Gods at the table.
- Momentous Fall
- Cloudstone Curio
- Erratic Portal
- Greater Good
- Ashnod's Altar
- Perilous Forays
- Eldrazi Monument
So, even if other players don't do you the favor of killing [card Verdeloth the Ancient]Verdeloth[/card], you're more than capable of doing it yourself, and for value, even! The most interesting of these is probably Ashnod's Altar, since it lets you do some pretty unfair things, like cast [card Verdeloth the Ancient]Verdeloth[/card] for a large number, then double the amount of mana you put into his Kicker. Perilous Forays serves a similar role, but has more power over the course of a long game.
The two most powerful cards here are probably Cloudstone Curio and Erratic Portal, since these are cards that you can build around outside of your general, and get value out of them. Suddenly, I'm much less interested in cards like Krosan Grip, and much more interested in Mold Shambler. With all the ramp in the deck, I'm sure it won't be difficult to alternate between Eternal Witness and Acidic Slime a few times in a given turn.
Speaking of utility guys, let's go ahead and give the rundown of utility guys that we have available to us:
- Avenger of Zendikar
- Acidic Slime
- Mold Shambler
- Fierce Empath
- Brutalizer Exarch
- Eternal Witness
The purpose of these is to give you some generic answers, and some resiliency. Between Acidic Slime, Brutalizer Exarch and Mold Shambler, you've got a number of creatures that can answer any problematic permanents that you encounter. Fierce Empath gives you a way to tutor up whatever guy you may need at the time, and gives you some resiliency to tuck effects.
Oddly enough, Brutalizer Exarch is a card which hasn't received a whole lot of love from the community at large, yet is one of the best cards here. It does absolutely everything: finds you creatures, deals with problematic permanents, and gets bounced to do it all over again! These creatures with "Enters the Battlefield" effects are the primary card advantage engine of the deck, but even then you need some kind of back up. These are the cards that are going to help you dig for or recur any pieces you may be missing, or tutor up a specific answer:
- Time of Need
- Garruck's Packleader
- Regal Force
- Sylvan Library
- Green Sun's Zenith
- Chord of Calling
- Nemata, Grove Guardian
There's a couple of weird cards here, and a couple that just don't fit, but I wasn't really sure where else to put them, so here they are! Sylvan Library and Abundance are both quite good on their own, and let you draw 3 cards each turn in combination with one another, and are usually in most green decks I build.
Time of Need is another answer to tuck effects, since this deck is very light on threats, and also serves to find Nemata, Grove Guardian. [card Nemata, Grove Guardian]Nemata is a great way to overrun the board, and is there mostly to be redundant to [card Verdeloth the Ancient]Verdeloth[/card], and a second target for Time of Need.
Green Sun's Zenith is obviously a very powerful utility card in most green decks, but it's not the most exciting tutor in this deck. Chord of Calling, on the other hand, is actually just insane when you're casting [card Verdeloth the Ancient]Verdeloth[/card] for large amounts. Casting [card Verdeloth the Ancient]Verdeloth[/card] and then immediately tutoring up Regal Force just seems absurdly powerful, especially when you have the capability to bounce Regal Force any number of ways to do it again later.
So that's how the deck plans on ramping, answering various permanent, and setting on a dominant board presence, but it doesn't cover how the deck goes over the top to actually end a game. For that, we've got another set of pump effects and similar effects that let you get real big:
There are two subsets of cards here. There are anthems, and there are cards that let you double-up on mana. Caged Sun does a good job of both, but that's a little besides the point. Winding Canyons is an important card in this deck because of Sword of Feast and Famine and Nature's Will. With those, you can float mana, then allow the trigger to resolve, then tap out again and cast [card Verdeloth the Ancient]Verdeloth[/card] during your combat step. Both of these effects not only let you double the size of your Kicker, but also help to play around countermagic and removal, since you can either tap someone out or hope that they discard their answer.
Finally, we've got the mana base. Including the mana-producing utility lands that have been discussed in before, there are 45 mana-producing lands in the deck. Ideally, you'll have no shortage of threats, and so the best thing you can do is just make land drops every turn and keep casting your threats over and over. The plan, like most ramp decks, is pretty straightforward, powerful and relatively difficult to disrupt. As long as you kill the players with decks that are capable of attrition-ing you out of the game first, the deck should be fine at most tables.
And with that, the final list looks like this:
[deckbox did="a125" size="small" width="560"]
While this list certainly isn't as explosive or as powerful as a lot of the other mono-Green ramp lists I've seen, it is much more consistent and is more capable of winning a longer attrition-based game than other decks I've seen. Is this approach better? Honestly, it depends on the metagame. If you see a lot of Wrath of Gods and spot removal spells, then this is probably a better approach, since you have a built-in mechanism of dealing with those kinds of game states. However, if your plan is to race, then this isn't going to give you the kind of explosive draws that can race the faster decks in the format.
As always, I'm very interested in any ideas you have, regarding this deck or decks you'd like to see in the future!
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