Long story short I never play green.
My playgroup decided to make things interesting by mandating that each player build a mono-colored deck of the color that they use the least. In the past I've played red/blue red/white mono-black black/white and most recently red/white/blue. So of course I am assigned green. Now I know how green is supposed to be played from plotting and playing against a variety of green/x decks. But for some reason I couldn't come up with a good mono-green list so I turned to online forums for ideas. Unfortunately the only idea I got from them was that if you aren't playing Omnath Ramp then you are doing mono-green wrong. So of course here is me doing it wrong.
I've got a lot of staples in the deck but a couple of oddball things as well. I'm trying to run the deck like an aggro-control or a midrange deck as opposed to a straight up aggro or ramp deck. I'm trying to show that there is more to being green than just having tons of fatties.
Commander: Kamahl Fist of Krosa
- Paul Quagliato
I like a good challenge and mono-green is certainly that. You can build a good clean aggro green deck but it's difficult to design a green deck that has depth to it... Consistency sure but depth of play is hard to get with this single color since it is by far the worst at interacting with both spells on the stack and creatures in play a pair of major detractors when focusing on anyone's board besides your own. Kamahl is pretty good in this respect however in that he has the ability to turn one of the hardest-to-handle permanents (fancy lands) into the easiest-to-handle permanents (LOL 1/1 creatures). There is always a rattlesnake threat present—mess with my stuff and your lands get it—and a lot of play comes from the power of his Overrun ability.
I think to make this deck work however it's going to need to get a little bit meaner in addition to a bit more clearly focused. The occasional below-the-belt shot is perfectly reasonable when you're fighting from a disadvantage and having the ability to mess with someone like that does not create an obligation to do so. Green is excellent at handling noncreature permanents which should be focused on and also quite good at outclassing creatures that are in play even if it's not so great at killing them.
Working on the deck some of the additions were clear-cut (and yes a little predictable when reaching for that Winding Canyons) while other ideas bounced around a little more unconventionally; trying to figure out how to exploit Null Brooch to deal with spells on the stack was the focus of a good bit of early thinking and even as I write this I may still change my mind on it. The danger of playing empty-handed even if only temporarily is pressing at the back of my eyeballs like a migraine headache trying to tell me "It won't be that bad…"
One of the major things I see and want to change is your "Forests matter" theme. Dungrove Elder Gaea's Touch and Beacon of Creation are powerful when you're using only Forests but the restrictions that come from excluding other things cuts into that power in other ways. Gaea's Touch could be any of a number of ramp-y things after all while Dungrove Elder's just a really efficient dude. Beacon of Creation's an efficient token-maker but token making's not necessarily something you're actively pursuing efficiently or inefficiently. Anything it can do Avenger does better... Avenger does everything better than you. (Or so the song goes when Avenger of Zendikar is involved.)
Working on the lands once the shift to sacrifice the 'Forest matters' theme is made we pull out eight of them for replacement. We'll make the following additions to those vacant slots in your mana base:
Mystifying Maze – Self-defense is something green typically lacks and when having to pick a Maze of choice I go for the one that also taps for mana. I don't throw this one quite often enough into decks I don't think but being mono-colored makes this very easy to fit in as your color commitments are effectively zero and you can take colorless lands painlessly.
Winding Canyons – Gaining the flexible option to play creatures as instants is generally awesome but add that to a commander like Kamahl and suddenly mass removal spells can't be readily played even when he's not in play either. The Canyons add a lot of pressure in a good way to how your opponents are able to respond to you.
Temple of the False God – Two mana is better than one and in this case this is an easy addition once you stop being addicted to Forests. Considering how your four-mana slot is very likely to put two more lands into play you're talking about jumping from four mana directly to seven here a threateningly large number at minimal cost.
Thawing Glaciers – Slow grinding advantage-building is the name of the game as far as Thawing Glaciers are concerned and this gives you some small but meaningful advantage over the course of a game drawing about a half an extra card each turn if you let it work its magic. You have plenty of creatures and spells that can soak up extra mana your commander included so having an easy source of obtaining that mana is well worth the time it takes to do so. Time after all is often something we have plenty of on our hands in Commander.
Tranquil Thicket Slippery Karst Blasted Landscape – Small easy additions that allow you to regulate your mana draws by cashing in drawn lands for fresh spells. The little things in Magic are so very fundamentally important in this format and having the ability to cash in a land for a fresh draw is very critical especially given how more than a few of your nonland cards focus entirely on putting lands into play.
One slot left was destined to be interesting because as I said green is very good at having the biggest beefiest creature in play...which means this last addition could cover one of its general weaknesses: removing creatures from play.
Arena – No it doesn't tap for mana but the chances are extremely good already that you're going to have too much mana rather than not enough when you start playing and in general I don't consider 36 lands to be 'too few' for Commander regardless. The benefits of playing this land are immense in the middle stages of the game when you can reliably pick off a creature a turn or even just keep someone's commander busy on the cheap thanks to the fact that it taps the creature as well.
This is a new addition to my list of 'favorite lands to get with a Primeval Titan' and in your specific case the obvious two-land combo would be Mosswort Bridge for a free spell and Arena for some free creature control action while we're at it. I've liked Arena in decks with a focus on equipment (like Neal's Godo Bandit Warlord deck from ages and ages ago) and green creatures are automatically 'like they're wearing equipment' because green creatures are just bigger.
Moving next to the artifacts there are a few key ones I think would work very well for you though I'll need to find some slots elsewhere in order to fit them in. Akroma's Memorial doesn't seem like it does that much for you or at least not much more than Concordant Crossroads does and at a significantly higher price. The other parts are pretty easy to reach for if you need them in a green deck except for flying. It's the flying and the haste that are special here and while flying's good I don't think it's actually that important for you to have here when a card that doesn't modify your creatures might serve your needs more adequately. Likewise Sword of War and Peace is a good Sword but I don't think this deck really needs or wants to be modifying individual creatures with an equipment buff.
With two slots out I have five to put back in and the other three will all be coming out of the spells section; I didn't want to touch the creature count lest I shave it too thin and deny you some of the action you want to get going.
Seer's Sundial – This is a potent little artifact card-drawer one that functions like a personal Horn of Greed with the risks mitigated (it doesn't share). Sure it costs more to use but in those middle turns of a Commander game when you have the spare mana but actually have to worry about running out of cards in hand that do something meaningful turning the lands you draw invisible and actually getting card-in-hand advantage out of a ramp spell is a really powerful effect. You could take this and go further—more than one deck of mine has included this fetchlands and Crucible of Worlds—but even without stressing it too hard this is really powerful and helps keep your green deck moving forward through the grindy midgame.
Mindslaver – Mindslaver recursion is a jerk move. Mindslaver once is absolutely awesome; just the right way to mess with that overpowered combo deck or whoever's in the lead and make the game more competitive by forcing what sometimes amounts to positional suicide upon the leader of the pack. You have so little with which you can interact with spells Mindslaver can help make up for that in spades either by wasting those difficult resources at your direction or even commandeering the assistance of a second player (whose strengths might be better suited to such disruption) to do the dirty work for you.
Umezawa's Jitte – Yes I remember how I said I didn't want equipment just for creature buffs. Jitte however serves many roles a key one of which is creature control (rather than just power-pumping effect). Jitte lets you pick off small creatures...and conveniently Kamahl allows you to turn problematic lands into small creatures letting you keep problematic opponents under pressure if 'just attacking' isn't working. You of course have non-jerk options too. And yes Jitte to kill up to two of an opponent's lands per turn is a jerk option...and in the rest of those cases you've still got Umezawa's Jitte online. Even without synergy with your commander Jitte lends you some much-needed creature control ability as that is typically what green decks are lacking most.
Powder Keg – Unlike Ratchet Bomb this doesn't care if the creature it kills started as a land meaning with Kamahl as your commander this can be quite a mean card indeed if someone needs a good spaying to bring them back down to manageable size. It also has legitimate uses too be it sweeping tokens immediately or growing to handle the midsized range of Swords and mana rocks but the option of a low blow should really keep the opponents away from messing with you. The threat of having that ability is actually just more powerful than actually doing it could ever be especially since unless you're spreading the real estate damages around you're just going to cripple one player and anger three.
Time Bomb – Talk about going back in time to find this one... Time Bomb wasn't exactly a frequently played casual card in its original lifespan and I've never seen it ported over to Commander before. However just like Powder Keg it has the unique ability to threaten to maul an opposing mana base and some extra uses too. Here it cares about toughness rather than converted mana cost so you can finish off creatures in combat as an on-board trick but unfortunately unlike the Keg you'll never take care of another permanent type (except maybe maybe planeswalker). While narrowly focused upon one rather cheap-shot trick the threat of that trick is more potent than the use of it and is an important stick to be able to beat your opponents with that says 'look elsewhere.'
Moving onto the spells I want to cut out some of the Forest matters cards that are effectively precut in working on the lands and refocus the lesser recursion spells and weaker ramp effects as other cards.
Cultivate Kodama's Reach Recross the Paths – Semi-efficient ramp spells and either straight-up or potentially good for two cards each but the less-powerful cards that just focus on your mana production when you have too many cards that focus solely on mana production. It's not that Kodama's Reach is bad but too many things like this means not enough actual spells and Explosive Vegetation is better for your curve anyway.
Revive – A mediocre Regrowth is still pretty much a Regrowth given you're a mono-colored deck so the 'off color' issue is limited to lands and artifacts. However with Regrowth Restock and Eternal Witness already going and Genesis potentially letting you rebuy whatever creature you want over and over again the question is how important is Revive when you already have these other things. I don't think it's very important at all to have this redundant effect when you can have other more interesting things going on instead.
Green Sun's Zenith – There are plenty of interchangeable creatures going on so this isn't here 'just' for toolboxing. Primal Command Defense of the Heart Survival of the Fittest and Tooth and Nail all have the 'creature Tutoring' side covered pretty neatly already while we're at it. I'd be more prone to leave it as-is if it had been Chord of Calling instead because that lets you cheat on mana and interact on an opponent's turn but instead the Zenith is the fifth thing covering a fairly minor need.
Beacon of Creation Gaea's Touch – Admittedly the Touch is powerful ramp if you have it early and use the sacrifice option on say turn 3; there aren't that many ways to get seven mana on turn three after all. However the reliance on Forests as well as the focus on something you already are going to be doing well without needing that reliance both compel me to shave away your 'Forests matters' cards in favor of less tightly-bound slots.
Triumph of the Hordes – Sometimes I add this card other times I cut it; this time it's the latter. Kamahl already offers the Overrun option and has the ability to pump himself as well as others so that the magical pesky number of '21' can be achieved without too much trouble as-needed for those sorts of players who like to be at arbitrarily-high life totals. While this is a neat Overrun effect you can do better than that and have less of a need of the ability in the first place thanks to your commander so I'm comfortable shaving the slot.
Three get moved over to cover the added artifacts directly which gives us five slots left to fill; only one of these seemed to be truly interesting to me with the others being fairly typical green cards.
Harmonize – Card draw is something you have only infrequent access to as a green mage so when you have it you take it and you hold on tight. As I said not the most interesting addition but the lack of it in your deck was fairly conspicuous as it helps you refresh your hand after your establishing turns focus on building up your resources.
Explore – My preference over Gaea's Touch. Instead of being able to cash it in for mana you get your card's worth of investment back immediately meaning that it's the best ramp spell at the two-mana cost except for when you're sorely in trouble with a bad hand. Later in the game it is at the very least in and of itself invisible as far as your draw phase is concerned. Taking the stress of dead draws off your deck helps every little which way you can.
Skyshroud Claim ***SPOILERS!!!*** Ranger's Path – M13 has already been partially spoiled and in it there is another variant of the Explosive Vegetation type that you had already included a few copies of. With Veggies and Hunting Wilds on board it seemed clear to me that upgrading Kodama's Reach and Cultivate with Skyshroud Claim and this new version of that same old trick would be a considerable boon to your consistency and speed. Instead of suggesting a placeholder to fit in for the next two weeks til M13 comes out I'd say slot in this soon-to-be-released common directly and not worry about the fact that you can't quite get your hands on it yet.
Bind – Green doesn't get to mess with people's stuff very often. Sure it's not actually Stifle in green since it doesn't do anything about triggered abilities but countering activated abilities like Myojin activations Oblivion Stones or even just innocent-seeming stuff like a fetchland can be well-worth having. It's so hard to interact with sorcery-like effects in this deck that anything that can potentially do so is up for consideration and Bind is both efficient and replaces itself making it more than up to snuff. Alas I could not convince myself Null Brooch was fair game so this will have to suffice as the lone non-Mindslaver way to mess with things that go on the stack.
Moving on to the creature department I really liked most of what was going on here but wanted to work on the 'Forests matter' bit as it is yet incompletely purged and I wanted to streamline the deck a bit more. Artisan of Kozilek for example costs way too much mana to not have an immediately impressive effect upon the game but then it's possible I'm not imagining free Avengers of Zendikar and am an impossibly jaded mage in this respect.
Caustic Wasps – The repeating effect is nice but it's a three-mana Scryb Sprite so you shouldn't be aiming to rely on it. Another more consistent means to remove a troublesome (noncreature) permanent from play would be preferable because leaning hard on 1/1's is not a good idea when they cost an entire card to make.
Dungrove Elder – The 'Forests matter' side is the only thing making this really efficient and without it you're maybe going to get a one-mana discount on a copy of Thrun that doesn't regenerate. I don't see Thrun in this deck and don't especially think he is necessary (though he is so efficient he'd have to be good...) so the Elder gets cut without needing to look for a near-analogue 'upgrade' to swap him into.
Brawn – Gracing your creatures with trample is what your commander does and while this is a 'free' ability with Survival of the Fittest the rest of the time you're going to actually spend a card to do this and that is a sad thing to do.
Bellowing Tanglewurm – Passing Intimidate along to your creatures makes them harder to block but I'm not finding that a compelling enough argument to force the inclusion of the card. Your commander 'bypasses blockers' neatly enough by casting Overrun potentially repeatedly so this ability is not required.
Omnath Locus of Mana – The most expensive thing going is a stray Eldrazi and a lone Tooth and Nail everything else is actually pretty affordable and you have spells that put multiple lands directly into play as your ramp effect of choice. Without being your commander he's just a random bonus add and without something like Genesis Wave to really do something nasty with that mana he's not quite performing enough in this deck.
Farhaven Elf – The least-good mana acceleration dork gets cut and that would be Farhaven Elf. I don't think you need quite as many slots dedicated to this task as you had and want to substitute it with a card that is slower but can generate more than one land for your trouble making it more like Explosive Vegetation than Rampant Growth.
Artisan of Kozilek – Very expensive for not actually that much benefit—getting Eternal Witness and buying back what you need is going to be more direct and more versatile at earlier points in the game. The large body's great as an almost-free side-benefit but since that doesn't actually trigger off your Tooth and Nail effects as a comes into play ability but instead is a weird "when cast" trigger I'm not as happy to see him as I might otherwise be. Big dorks are easy for green to find and can have considerably more impact immediately if you try than Artisan does.
Fitting those last seven slots back in I put in the following:
Ulvenwald Tracker – "Fight Bear" is not actually a bear in creature type or casting cost but he certainly starts fights. Just like how Arena could give you a considerable amount of advantage over the course of a game Ulvenwald Tracker gives you that touch of creature removal that green otherwise lacks just for playing green creatures. He's new and thus shiny and interesting to me so he may not fully earn his keep going forward into the future but he's so full of potential I want to just explore it and see where it leads.
Fertilid – Not an interesting and inspiring card choice but it is an effective one.
Deadwood Treefolk – A gift that keeps on giving since it resurrects a creature not once but twice. Should any of that cardboard help bring him back suddenly you're able to play a very long grind as you mash resources against your opponents but even without that he's a solid (temporary) body and a significant bit of card advantage that should keep your position stable over the course of a game.
Mold Shambler – Another way to kill pesky permanents that have made themselves a problem though admittedly this still does nothing for creatures. If you really wanted a Doom Blade effect you could reach for Spine of Ish Shah or Predator Flagship with a straight face but just handling noncreature permanents seems fine to me...neither of those come with a body attached and cost too damn much by comparison.
Steel Hellkite – Double-checking thankfully this reads 'nonland' so you can't use this as yet another nuclear option on the opponent's mana base but it is able to handle creatures fairly effectively while also assisting in subduing other permanent types and unlike Caustic Wasps isn't a pesky 1/1 while trying to do so. The further your access to removal for a certain class of permanent gets the more important the Hellkite is—black and red need him for enchantments green needs him for creatures but otherwise he's not as important if your needs are within the color pie.
Nacatl War-Pride – I saw Kessig Cagebreakers and I couldn't resist. If you want to talk about a potentially absurd amount of power coming out of nowhere Nacatl War-Pride is a fearsome monstrosity especially thanks to the blocking clause that comes attached to it and all of the tokens. Having this plus Kamahl's Overrun ability can deliver one hell of a knockout blow and even without you can deal a whole pile of damage clear blockers for your real creatures and wipe out a considerable portion of an opponent's board. I have not yet managed to be able to use this with a Relentless Assault-type effect but wish at some point to live that particularly nasty dream since the tokens still have the 'make tokens' ability...
Craterhoof Behemoth – Last but not least we add the new hasty Overrun monster potentially replacing Triumph of the Horde with a non-poison effect that can be every bit as lethal. When we're talking Plant tokens or spare lands animated by Kamahl Craterhoof Behemoth gives out an Overrun multipass in addition to being six plus X power of trampling hasty attacker as well. That you can Tooth and Nail for this plus Avenger of Zendikar gives you a spectacularly messy kill option off of not very much board presence at all and Behemoth is worth including for that if for nothing else.
Putting it all together we get the following (plus Ranger's Path):
- 1 Duplicant
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Steel Hellkite
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 1 Dawntreader Elk
- 1 Deadwood Treefolk
- 1 Diligent Farmhand
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fertilid
- 1 Genesis
- 1 Indrik Stomphowler
- 1 Kessig Cagebreakers
- 1 Master of the Wild Hunt
- 1 Mold Shambler
- 1 Moldgraf Monstrosity
- 1 Nacatl War-Pride
- 1 Oracle of Mul Daya
- 1 Primeval Titan
- 1 Rampaging Baloths
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Terastodon
- 1 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 1 Vigor
- 1 Wickerbough Elder
- 1 Wolfbriar Elemental
- 1 Wood Elves
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 Yavimaya Dryad
- 1 Yavimaya Elder
- 1 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
- 1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
- 1 Mimic Vat
- 1 Oblivion Stone
- 1 Powder Keg
- 1 Seer's Sundial
- 1 Time Bomb
- 1 Defense of the Heart
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Lurking Predators
- 1 Survival of the Fittest
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Beast Within
- 1 Bind
- 1 Krosan Grip
- 1 Mindslaver
- 1 Umezawa's Jitte
- 1 Explore
- 1 Explosive Vegetation
- 1 Harmonize
- 1 Hunting Wilds
- 1 Primal Command
- 1 Regrowth
- 1 Restock
- 1 Skyshroud Claim
- 1 Tooth and Nail
- 1 All Is Dust
- 1 Concordant Crossroads
Normally I'd just show you prices and go from there but in this case I want to reserve the option to talk about other variables I wanted to consider and thought I should bring to your attention. Some of these are pretty obvious but can have a meaningful impact if you exclude them either purposefully or unintentionally so I wanted to mention them as Mono-Green things of note.
Sol Ring is the most obvious one and with the new focus on having a four-mana accelerant that adds two mana to play adding Sol Ring gives you a powerful 'best draw' option that lets you rocket far far ahead of the opponents. Turn 1 Sol Ring plus turn 2 Explosive Vegetation and a land in hand for your third turn lets you start deploying seven-mana monstrosities far too soon and these are not bad capabilities to have.
I don't know if your friends challenged you to specifically play without a Sol Ring but of the two 'auto-adds' this is the one that has the most impact on your deck. Sensei's Divining Top would make your deck better it's true but the increment by which it does so in a game that you draw it is relatively small still. Sol Ring games will be pretty crazy for you so its exclusion should at the very least be intentional rather than accidental.
Once we start looking at what green can and cannot do it's worth asking how 'free' you want that mana base to be. A free dash of creature-kill is potentially available via Mouth of Ronom in your mana base but comes with the potentially expensive requirement of needing to find a bunch of Snow-Covered Forests instead of regular ones. It's an option worth having I'd say especially since Mouth of Ronom can make up for a tactical shortfall if you face a lot of blue decks that just want to stick Teferi or Azami and make you sad.
While we're talking about lands and blue decks a land which is either useless or amazing depending on the context of what your playgroup is using would be Homeward Path. If theft of permanents isn't so big of a deal with your playgroup by all means exclude it; you won't really notice very much that you have a basic Forest in its place. If however it's hard to hold onto your stuff because other jerks like to take it and beat you over the head and shoulders with them suddenly Homeward Path becomes a much more vital card to include in your midrange monster deck.
Genesis Wave requires addressing. I chose to exclude it feeling that there wasn't especially compelling reason to build up to a large amount of mana and try to explode the board; you either want to try and cast Genesis Wave for 10+ or not at all and Genesis Waves for 23 or 24 are not unheard-of in my particular neck of the woods.
It looked to me you wanted to win a bit more honestly with monsters and were also not dedicating slots to doubling mana production just increasing it with ramp spells—add a Gauntlet of Power and a Caged Sun or Mana Reflection and suddenly the question is not whether Genesis Wave should be included but "How could you possibly have forgotten about this card?" As is it doesn't really fit the design well and I can be content to exclude it—but it's one of those amazingly powerful green cards you want to consider in this format before deciding against it or for it.
Praetor's Council – See above save that you don't need a pile of mana to use this just to play a pile of cards. I think Praetor's Council would fit neatly in your deck at the very top of your curve and would be far better than say Revive was for you. However in this particular case I'm omitting it not because your design seemed like it wasn't built to support it but instead because I presume amongst your playgroup that its exclusion was intentional and most likely due to general boredom with the card being as bonkers as it in fact is. It's hard to lose a game in which you've cast this card but to many that's a perfect reason to exclude it so I am presuming this is intentional. If it's not roll the dice to cut any nonland card at random and replace it with this your deck will considerably improve. (Okay I lied...reroll on Primeval Titan.)
Edge of Autumn – Small things matter in this format. I thought you might want one more Rampant Growth effect but Rampant Growth effects aren't necessarily that interesting or useful so I assumed that the general balance was more-or-less correct. Nature's Lore is the better version of Rampant Growth and Three Visits the more fancily expensive version of Nature's Lore for those who need two copies (or just want to show off).
However Edge of Autumn might be ideal under the same logic that adding cycling lands was ideal: in the establishing turns in which you need it to be a Rampant Growth effect it is exactly that. Later in the game when you want to get a meaningful draw instead of some dumb spell that finds a Forest well it cycles and gives you another shot at that spell or creature you really needed to draw instead to keep the game flowing the way you want to. Little things matter and being able to cycle a minor ramp spell is worth considering when you're not really trying to get to the double-digit mana range.
With those notes as always for participating in this week's "Dear Azami" you'll be receiving a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com to start making improvements with. If you're feeling especially spendy a Gaea's Cradle would be pretty ridiculous to add to your Kamahl deck but it's no major sin to go without one at the incredible price tag it currently commands. Here's an itemized list of the additions made for your consideration:
|Temple of the False God||$0.75|
Next time around I suspect I'll be less prone to work on a mono-colored deck; mono-green wasn't exactly a ton of fun and I've broken down and rebuilt my mono-red Godo Bandit Warlord deck to fit in new cards this week as well so I'm looking for a good two-colored build I haven't seen before to whet my interest (preferably not red or green... maybe with a new Planechase commander?). Cassidy however is an equal partner in this column and prone to pick whatever catches his fancy...so send in whatever submissions seem interesting to you; after all there's two of us and moods change.
-- Sean McKeown
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