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By: Necropotent, Steven Moody
Dec 22 2007 12:03am
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A Deck for All of Us

I'm not generally one for competitive Magic. Don't get me wrong - I love to draft and play in tournaments, and even when I'm not, I still play to win. "In it to win it." I just don't have the free time I used to have when I was young and single. I've got fond memories of playing in eight-man drafts, even though I rarely won. I remember winning my first constructed tournament playing with Rebels featuring Gaea's Cradle and Masitcore. But those are dreams long gone. Now I hop onto MTGO for a half-hour to an hour at a time, picking up a few casual games or finding myself at a two-headed table in the multiplayer room.

A couple of weeks ago, in a daily phone conversation with Basic Land, this new "mono green aggro" deck was brought up. He said it was lightning fast and dirt cheap compared to some of the other Standard decks going around. He fired off names of a few of the cards in the deck and I realized I had most of those cards - and could get the rest for pretty cheap. So I went home, logged on MTGO, and started piecing the deck together. I had some help from jamuraa and finally ended up with something that looked pretty decent:

MGA v.1

24 Lands

24 Forest

32 Creatures

4 Boreal Druid
4 Groundbreaker
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Primal Forcemage
4 Scryb Ranger
4 Spectral Force
4 Timbermare
4 Uktabi Drake

4 Instants

4 Stonewood Invocation

 

The deck is pretty cheap in terms of both money and casting cost. Only four spells at five casting cost and eight at four casting cost, the rest three or cheaper. For the most part, the individual cards are all under one dollar at MTGO Traders. At the time I wrote this article, Groundbreaker, at $1.26, was the only card over a dollar.

So what Mono Green Aggro (MGA) does, if I understand it correctly, is overwhelm the opponent using creatures with haste and/or trample and a timely Stonewood Invocation.

The real heart of the deck is Primal Forcemage. Groundbreaker's trample enables the +3/+3 to go straight to the opponent. The same works for Timbermare. Because everything else is tapped, Primal Forcmage is essentially hitting for an additional 3 damage. With two in play, things get really crazy.

The deck really utilizes its mana production. It's meant to go all out every turn and the 1/1's that add  mana help speed this process. Scryb Ranger's flash ability allows him some nifty combat tricks for a surprise blocker. On your opponent's turn, if they attack into your tapped creatures, you can flash the Ranger into play, bounce a Forest, untap a blocker and usually take out the attacker. He also is in for Spectral Force so that you can untap and attack repeatedly for eight points of trample damage.

Primal Forcemage

Not My Style

Pretty straightfoward, huh? This was the first (and obviously very rough) draft of the deck. I threw it together and took it to the tourney practice room without even the merest hint of a sideboard. Before I get too far into how it played, I think it's important to mention that "aggro" is not really my style. The term "aggro" refers to a deck style that tries to win as quickly as possible, focusing primarily on small, efficient creatures and spells that deal damage directly to the opponent. Personally, I find myself leaning towards the "combo" end of the spectrum. I like setting up and going off in one turn. I like playing a spell with storm and watching all those copies appear on the stack. I like bringing out really big creatures for really cheap. So to find myself behind the wheel of a deck which plays very differently from what I'm used to was a bit of a surprise. As such, I'm sure I have made and will continue to make terrible game play decisions with this deck. But the more I play, the more I learn what to do and when to do it. And to be honest, it's quite fun running at full-speed and seeing if your opponent can weather the storm or if he dies trying.

Initial Results

The first dozen games I played with the deck revealed some major flaws. I generally won the first game and lost the second two. This could have had something to do with my lack of knowledge about any of the decks I was playing against and/or the lack of a sideboard. I found that the deck burned out quickly. I would get a few creatures on the board, swing for big and then stop dead in my tracks. I also knew there were too many lands in it from the beginning, and this could have played a significant role in jamming things up. Mid-game often became a luck draw contest. If the top card of my deck was a Forest, Boreal Druid or Llanowar Elves, I lost. If it was anything else, I was looking pretty good.

Stonewood Invocation is a real enigma. I don't know if I love it or hate it. Sometimes I feel like it's the most overcasted, do-nothing card in the game. At other times I feel like it's so incredible I've just got to have four in the deck. Being split second is really handy. Giving a creature shroud really plays the role of a counter spell and can save it from Shriekmaw - a card I have encountered a lot. The deck invests so much in its creatures that it's important to be able to protect them or replace them easily. Since replacing them (via drawing cards) isn't really an option, you've got to protect your investment if you're unable to win the game. The problem with Invocation is that it has a relatively high casting cost and often you can't play it when you need to. For example, it takes seven mana to play Stonewood Invocation on a Groundbreaker. Granted, this allows you to attack for 12 points of trample damage, but it's an ideal situation, one that I have come across very rarely. To use the Invocation on an opponent's turn is even worse as the deck is designed to use all of its available mana on each turn. I believe it's in the deck for the kill, which is frustrating to me when my creatures are getting hammered and I've got an uncastable solution in my hand.

Propositions

The deck has trouble keeping up its own frenetic pace. In making some changes, I took a look at some cards that could help.

First, a card that a lot of people run in this deck: Horizon Canopy. It's in as a land so it doesn't occupy any other slots in the deck which should be devoted to creatures. It can be sacked after it's use has expired for an additional card. My problem with this card is that it's pretty pricey. Since it's a popular Standard card, we can expect the price to drop significantly in a few months. I just have trouble investing in a card like this. Maybe that's why I don't normally play Standard.

There's another card that might help with the mid-game dead draw problem: Ohran Viper. Now, Necro, you just got done smack talking high-priced Standard cards and you're going to suggest another one? One even more expensive? Yes, well, I already own four copies of this particular gem so I might as well try and make use of him. I bought him a few weeks ago when he was around $8. Looks like he's gone up in price since then - ouch - but he's an amazing card. Head-to-head he kills Tarmogoyf because of his deathly touch. He doesn't have haste or trample but if he stings you draw, which could be much more useful in certain situations.

Another card that my initial deck left out was Pendelhaven. This isn't solving any of the problems that I was experiencing in the initial run, but it does power up twelve of the creatures in the deck. It's good enough to include, I just missed it the first time around.

The final task is to create a working sideboard. I still didn't really know what was out there in terms of opposing decks so I didn't know what to prepare for. I knew Pithing Needle was a good sideboard card, in general, but other than that I was lost. So I turned to ozzymage for some guidance. His suggestions included Eyes of the Wisent, Quagnoth, and Seal of Primordium. I also considered Loxodon Warhammer (but didn't know how well it would do) and Mirri, Cat Warrior for the mirror match (kidding).

MGA v.2

22 Lands

20 Forest
2 Pendelhaven

35 Creatures

4 Boreal Druid
4 Groundbreaker
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Ohran Viper
4 Primal Forcemage
4 Scryb Ranger
3 Spectral Force
4 Timbermare
4 Uktabi Drake

3 Other Spells

Stonewood Invocation

Sideboard

4 Eyes of the Wisent
4 Seal of Primordium
4 Quagnoth
3 Pithing Needle

Adjustments

I dropped the land count down to twenty two. With eight creatures casting cost green (and each adding one mana) twenty four land was a bit much. I did end up taking the Stonewood Invocation count down to three, as well as the Spectral Force. Once again, I felt that Stonewood Invocation played too significant a role to be taken out altogether. At the same time, I couldn't deny that there were times where I'd reach a dead state with one or more useless Invocations in hand. To avoid that, I dropped down to three. We'll see how it plays out. I also felt that Spectral Force was an incredible creature but that at five mana it was too expensive for the deck. I dropped it to three as well and will watch the results. The four Ohran Vipers replaced two Forests and the aforementioned cards.

All I can do at this point is play it out. I'll return next week with some results on how the deck fared. Hopefully by that point I'll have a good idea of what the Standard metagame is like in the MTGO Tourney Practice room. I'm interested to see how well Ohran Viper does and what roles he plays in the deck. It could be that he's better off in the sideboard or out of the deck, altogether. Time will tell.

If you have comments on MGA featuring Primal Forcemage, I'd love to hear them. Also, if you'd like to see how your Standard deck of choice stacks up against that listed above, look me up on MTGO.

Until next time.

0 Comments

by Necropotent at Wed, 12/26/2007 - 13:06
Necropotent's picture

That sounds like a really cool deck. It seems to be, though, that with the Magi and Harmonizes, you are departing from the mindset of MGA and moving into a different strategy. Your deck sounds like it's more focused on setting up the board and winning, whereas MGA tries to win before anything is set up. Still, it sounds like these changes could make a deck that preforms better than MGA. I'd love to hear how your playtesting turns out.

by Necropotent at Wed, 12/26/2007 - 13:13
Necropotent's picture

After playtesting quite a bit, I decided it would be much simpler to post my conclusions on the deck rather than write out another article.

 MGA, in my opinion, doesn't hold up against most of the decks out there. Against mono-blue it really shines, which is to be expected, I think. Against Elves, it did really well, usually winning the first two games of the match on the back of a Timbermare. It also performed strongly against anything snow because of the "Pithing Needle + calling Scrying Sheets" shutdown mechanism.

 However, I found that MGA did really poorly against Rock and all decks running Wrath + Planeswalkers. Also, Goblins tore it to pieces. I think my biggest concern is it's poor performance against Rock. I never won a single game against that deck. Rock goes online too quickly and has too many answers to the threats in MGA. It has an answer for every problem I give it and usually rolls over me faster than I can keep up with.

After playtesting Ohran Viper, I had to take it out. It doesn't fit the deck. Horizon Canopy is a really good fit, if you can afford it. I can see sideboarding in Ohran Viper because in some situations he's really effective. But really, it's much better to have a beater than someone who's trying to draw more beaters. That's how the deck rolls.

by Necropotent at Wed, 12/26/2007 - 12:53
Necropotent's picture

Thanks for the comments. I really enjoy playing MGA, as well.

I tried giving the Allosaurus Riders a shot. I found them to be a bit counter-productive. It REALLY hurt to have to drop two greens from the paw, even if it did mean a first turn beater against mono-blue. I felt like I had terrific success against MU by just sideboarding in Eyes of the Wisent. That card is one of the best blue hosers I've had the pleasure of playing with. I don't think Quag is even necessary in the 'board if you're running 4x Eyes.

The Safe Haven tip was really smart. It's tough to find that extra 2 colorless, though the Boreal Druids help. But if you can attack and then put him away, Groundbreaker is really nuts. I liked it so much I decided to keep 3 copies in.

by Necropotent at Wed, 12/26/2007 - 13:01
Necropotent's picture

I found the Drakes to be almost just as necessary as the Forcemages. The Drakes can hit for 5 flying with a Forcemage on the table and I generally avoid playing them if a Forcemage isn't out there. Also, the Drakes have some staying power; I've payed the echo cost on several occasions because the opponent didn't have a flyer on the board to deal with them.

The Primal Forcemages cannot be taken out, at any cost. Decks I play against aim for the Forcemage above everything else, and rightly so. He works too well in conjunction with the other cards.

Harmonize and Loxodon Warhammer keep coming up as suggestions. What I don't think everyone understands is that the point of MGA is to deal 20 points of combat damage as quickly as possible. Harmonize is too slow. If you can't win with what's in your hand already, you're not going to win. With Harmonize, you basically lose a turn to draw 3 cards. With MGA, if you lose a turn you pretty much lose the game. The same with Loxodon Warhammer. It is nice to have your creatures bigger, but for a whopping 6 colorless mana, it's just too slow. You've got to be winning already for the Warhammer to be effective but by that point it's unnecessary.

I play tested Might of Old Krosa, liking it more than Intuition initially because of it's dirt cheap cost. However, I found it to be a dead card in most situations. It was much better to have a creature out there rather than *another* boost spell. Also, if my spell isn't giving my creature protection from Shriekmaw, it's pretty useless.

Sorry for the delay by Necropotent at Wed, 12/26/2007 - 12:45
Necropotent's picture

Sorry about not responding to any of the responses yet. I've been in SC on a 56k connection and I am simply 56k-incompatible. I'll try to get some replies up as soon as possible.

Sorry for the delay by Necropotent at Wed, 12/26/2007 - 12:46
Necropotent's picture

Sorry about not responding to any of the responses yet. I've been in SC on a 56k connection and I am simply 56k-incompatible. I'll try to get some replies up as soon as possible.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) 68.63.144.180 (not verified) at Sat, 12/22/2007 - 20:31
Anonymous (Unregistered) 68.63.144.180's picture

This article inspired me to play around with the deck a bit.  I got rid of the Boreal Druids in favor of Magus of the Vineyard, added a pair of Harmonizes.  I'm playing around with Gaea's Anthem and Heartwood Storyteller in the sideboard, which is pretty interesting at the moment.  I'm going to have to check out the safe haven now, that seems to have some potential.

by largebrandon at Sat, 12/22/2007 - 09:21
largebrandon's picture

I use to play MGA a few months ago.  One of my Favourite decks!  Some things that I had:

 I played anywhere from 2-4 of Allosaurus Riders.  Against some MU, playing it turn one is gg for you!  Also, try Safe HAven - it workes wonders with GBreakers

by urzishra (Unregistered) 74.214.249.213 (not verified) at Sat, 12/22/2007 - 13:12
urzishra (Unregistered) 74.214.249.213's picture

I like the sideboard... how have the Drakes helped you ? personally I like (Might of Old Krosa) as my pump spell in addition to the invocation.. mostly because the +4/+4 is awesome.. I would take out the conditional cards like Primal Forcemage only because of I don't think they are as useful as you say they are.. maybe I'm wrong. which is why the drakes are in the deck i suppose..

the deck really took a hit when the ledgewalkers left.. I'm surprised that you don't have warhammers in the deck .. they make the little guys threats on turn 3 if you don't have anything else... also.. why no (Harmonize) as it is the best card for drawing cards in green right now and it seems like a no brainer with everything else costing so cheap.. seems like 2-3 of those might be just what the doctor ordered

by Russell (Unregistered) 124.169.199.55 (not verified) at Sat, 12/22/2007 - 18:15
Russell (Unregistered) 124.169.199.55's picture

I have just put together a paper deck using quite a lot of these cards, I'm not sure how it will play but it looks good in my head! The big difference is the heart of my deck is 4x Stampeding Wildebeests, which let me bounce one of my echo creatures before having to pay the echo costs, and replay them again the next turn - which means they will have the bonus from Primal Forcemage again - attacking with an 8/8 Timbermare that taps down all the opponents blockers each turn is pretty handy, or even a 5/4 flyer for the low low price of G each turn. I also have Evolution Charm which lets me get my echo guys out of the graveyard, and Harmonize for card drawing. One cool trick in this deck is flashing in Briarhorn in response to the Wildebeest trigger, pumping a guy, bouncing the Briarhorn and then playing it again to give one of your guys +6/+6!