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By: stsung, Ren Stefanek
May 09 2017 12:00pm
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Last week there was an announcement about 1v1 Commander on Magic Online. Starting on the 10th of May there will be a 1v1 Friendly League and 2-Player Queue available. The starting life total is 30 life and we have a new banlist that is meant for both multiplayer and 1v1. When I read that the banlists would be shared it made me feel quite uneasy and I was wondering why Wizards of the Coast decided to do that. I think that my experience with casual multiplayer and competitive EDH is similar to other players' experience (even though it may be from a different perspective). We discussed this matter often and we usually came to a conclusion that there should be two different banlists. Eventually WotC back tracked from that banlist, and there will be two list for Commander on MTGO.

If a player joined/hosted Commander games on Magic Online they most probably experienced many games that for some reasons weren't what one expected. Players were joining with a pre-constructed deck, a 1 tix deck, casual low power-level deck or a competitive deck. Some decks were meant for multiplayer, but some were clearly 1v1 decks that mostly played all the fast mana available to win as soon as possible. No matter what the player was playing they could simply play on a totally different level. Such games couldn't be enjoyed by either side. Some players take this badly, some do not mind but in general it costs each player time and this often leads to premature concessions. For that reason finding a group of players with similar power-level decks and mind set was something I'd suggest to a new EDH player.

This is something that is happening in real life as well and those who know me probably noticed that I do not get together with casual groups Even if I show up with a casual deck I'm just the first player targeted as a threat and if possible the first one to be eliminated (which often doesn't happen and that makes some players upset). For that reason when I found out that there is something like French EDH - a competitive 1v1 Commander - I decided to try it out. Someone actually invited me to a Duel Commander event where about 50 people gather each month. Since I had no idea what the format looks like (never played it before) and what the rules are I decided to go for a all-in combo deck. I played a reanimator deck that no one was ready for and it took me to the top.

At the event people played with competitive decks and each player tried to win the game. The most important thing is that everyone played on the same level, with the same expectations and everyone had fun. For that I really appreciated being invited. Later on French EDH events started to be run in Prague. I decided to participate in these events. Unfortunately these weren't that good. There were casual players that came to play with their multiplayer decks or other casual players with decks that they thought competitive but were hardly able to survive turn 2 Flash into Woodfall Primus. I remember clearly that my deck discouraged many players. No one wanted to be paired against me. The EDH players that participated in the events did not show up again and players that simply wanted to grind and win easy money started attending the events. Slowly competitive EDH players started to show up too and things got better. But for the casual players it was even more difficult to find other players with decks on a similar level.

We don't have competitive events on Magic Online yet, but the Leagues will start tomorrow and it may look similar. There will be players that are competitive and simply play anything for 'money' (for example the reason why Vintage players play Legacy, we don't have Leagues and we still want to grind sometimes) and there might be more casual players who want to enjoy some games of Commander. I can imagine that these players may actually struggle a lot in a tournament environment. When I played EDH on Magic Online I observed few things that do not happen in real life. First, players try to win the game as soon as possible without stalling which is actually good. This may have something to do with the 25 minutes timer. Second, people play the strong and mean cards. For example all the fast mana, tutors and cards like Mind Twist, Armageddon, Exsanguinate, Mindslaver or Emrakul. This is something people do not tend to play in paper. In general you could say that there are tendencies to go 'competitive' on Magic Online. This still doesn't mean that the players want to play the best decks available to them and win every single game. Many players just want to have fun and this fun can be easily spoiled if the banlist won't be restrictive enough. Banlist is in place so we could all enjoy balanced games and not worry about an overpowered card ruining our games. Sometimes the banlist itself is not good enough to keep the game in balance and sometimes it is too restricting and players get upset. This is something that happened in the French EDH community after too many cards were banned and life total changed to 20 from 30. Before talking about the banlist I'd like to talk a bit about the life total. Having a shared banlist can have the exact same effect on both groups. While the competitive players won't probably mind that much and just adapt their decks to the banlist the casual players will be left with no choice than just to follow and often suffer to those players that decide to play cards that should most probably be on the multiplayer banlist. There are many cards that create very unfun games in multiplayer but the cards can be answered or won't have such an impact in multiplayer.


Life Total

One of the things that makes 1v1 different from multiplayer is the starting life total. Most Magic players are used to starting life total 20. In 1v1 Commander the starting life total is 30 (40 in multiplayer). Those used to 20 life total know what they can do and what they shouldn't when facing a certain deck (let's say Burn). Higher starting life total makes things different and it is something people will have to explore and get used to it. It even makes some decks unplayable. If the starting life total would be 40, aggro decks would struggle a lot in 1v1. With starting life total being set to 30 it is possible to actually play aggressive decks and do ok. A burn deck though will struggle because red color did not expect to need to deal more than 20 damage. A higher starting life total makes the game easier for combo decks in general because they have more time till they are forced to combo off. For example Oloro, Ageless Ascetic's ability is so good that the player playing it does not need to be afraid of dying to an aggressive deck. On the other hand there is still something we call Commander damage. No matter the life total if a player is dealt 21 damage by a general he or she loses the game. Oloro allows the player though to abuse cards that make the player lose life (abuse life as a resource). There is a huge difference between a player playing Ad Nauseam at 50 life and a player playing it at 20 life (I wasn't the only one to come up with the idea to play Storm. The deck seemed to be impossible to beat till Oloro got banned in French EDH.)

I played against a creature deck and I didn't even care about how much damage I was being dealt. Sooner or later I'd wipe the board. The power of Oloro.





Ancestral Recall
Back to Basics
Bazaar of Baghdad
Black Lotus
Food Chain
Gaea's Cradle
Gifts Ungiven
Hermit Druid
Library of Alexandria
Limited Resources
Mana Crypt
Mana Drain
Mana Vault
Mind Twist
Mishra's Workshop
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Natural Order
Oath of Druids
Painter's Servant
Protean Hulk
Sensei's Divining Top
Serra Ascendant
Sol Ring
Survival of the Fittest
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
Time Vault
Time Walk
Tolarian Academy
Trade Secrets
Yawgmoth's Bargain


Fast Mana

We can see that Wizards of the Coast are well aware that fast mana can make the games very bad. If one player has access to Moxen, Mana Crypt, Sol Ring etc they get way too far ahead of the other player and for that I'm grateful that all these mana rocks are banned. This is not Vintage. In EDH we have 100 card decks and the access to fast mana is not that highly probable. Who gets fast mana first or in early turns of games gets far too ahead and the game ends quickly. On the other hand there is still plenty of cards that provide fast mana that are not banned. For example Ancient Tomb, Chrome Mox, Mox Diamond, Grim Monolith. These cards though often require a little bit of specialization so not all decks can play these cards without some kind of a drawback and may be fine in the format. But for example Azusa, Lost but Seeking will be happy that these cards are not banned.



Even though my deck was more of a competitive deck turn 2 Maelstrom Wanderer was too much for me to deal with


Combo Enablers

Some cards are clearly too good to be left in the format. For example Hermit Druid is a more of an one card combo. Protean Hulk can also mean game over even if it needs to die first. Food Chain is a card I used to play in Prossh, Skyraider of Kher so I can tell you what the card does. It kills your opponents that can't do a thing against it. Entomb is a one mana instant tutor. I'm not surprised that this card is banned but it is a bit strange since other instant one mana tutors are not banned. For example if Vampiric Tutor, Mystical Tutor were banned I could see this card be on the list too. Same goes to Gifts Ungiven. Doomsday is a card that I was actually surprised to see on the list. I understand that often if you can't counter it or discard it (may not happen, see instant tutors not banned) it is game over. Still there are ways to fight it since Doomsday decks usually kill with Laboratory Maniac. Survival of the Fittest can find and discard any combo pieces one needs so I suppose this is a good call. Still it feels little bit odd since you can tutor Buried Alive to get your combo pieces and it is not an auto-include in green decks especially in format that is actually fast. Time Vault and Tinker are cards that no one probably wants to see and Yawgmoth's Bargain is a card I still do not understand till today why it is banned. In a format where the starting life total is set to 30 it may seem even more overpowered than it is. But often one needs to go through way more cards than 30 to be able to kill. The card also takes time to cast and we have other cards that can help us in a better way. As a Storm player I'd rather play Yawgmoth's Will to recast spells I already played than draw cards with Bargain. I'm someone who has resolved many Yawgmoth's Bargains but in EDH or Singleton this card never found its way into my deck because it simply wasn't good enough and cost too much (black) mana.



Next we have a group of cards that are banned because it is being too annoying to play against them or because they are too powerful. For example Ancestral Recall, Library of Alexandria and Time Walk are way too powerful for this format. Cards like Humility, Karakas, Mind Twist, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale are too frustrating for many players to play against. I personally would like to see Humility, Moat, Oath of Druids unbanned but I can understand this decision. What I find strange is that Strip Mine is legal. Playing around Wasteland and then your basic land being destroyed with Strip Mine feels really bad. I never ran Strip Mine in my EDH deck but I was Strip Mined so often (not only in Vintage) and it never felt fair.

After this we have multiplayer-pointed bans. Biorhythm, Limited Resources, Painter's Servant, Sensei's Divining Top, Trade Secrets are the cards that no one would want to see in a multiplayer game. Again the reason for banning Top is not its power level but rather the time it takes someone to use it each turn.



There are also legendary creatures that seem too overpowered for this format. Wizards of the Coast banned these:

Arcum Dagsson
Braids, Cabal Minion
Derevi, Empyrial Tactician
Edric, Spymaster of Trest
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard
Zur the Enchanter

Arcum Dagsson is a powerful general. The deck can lock a player fast and there is often no way out but I wouldn't consider this deck overpowered. The general is certainly very powerful in an artifact deck but I could name generals that make the game way more unbalanced. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician is a general that makes way bigger mess of games. If you need lands to play spells this is not a general you'd want to face and that is also the reason why it is banned. Imagine Hokori, Dust Drinker in play with this general. Or even just card with Birthing Pod's effect or Bloom Tender. While Derevi might seem harmless it is very far from the truth. Edric, Spymaster of Trest is an elf and many players played Elf tribal out of Edric backed up with countermagic. With many creatures in play this deck could draw way too many cards. Erayo, Soratami Ascendant is a card that you simply do not want to face no matter the configuration of the deck that plays this as a general. Griselbrand is similar to Edric, it draws too many cards immediately after it comes into play. Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary produces a lot of mana and Elves certainly don't need more acceleration than they already have. Yisan, the Wanderer Bard is a similar card to Birthing Pod. If you've played against that card and found it overpowered you'd find Yisan even more powerful because that card can be untapped even more easily than Birthing Pod and can be played on turn 2 with relative ease. If not answered Yisan creates a huge card advantage that in few turns becomes lethal. Zur the Enchanter is general that used to be unbeatable. It was the deck to beat and may struggled. Nevermore is a card that was played to deal with bad matchups and the deck just needed to tutor two cards in order to win the game - Helm of Obedience and Rest in Peace. An Esper control shell could easily deal with any resistance trying to destroy or counter the general or one of the combo pieces.


There are actually many other generals that are either too annoying to play against or powerful. For example Oloro, Ageless Ascetic that I mentioned is a general that warps the game. It renders aggro decks completely useless and is an ideal general for Storm, Reanimator or Helm combo. Leovold, Emissary of Trest is very powerful card as well. Not only overpowered but also creates a very negative player experience. We all want to draw our cards and be able to play cards. Tasigur, the Golden Fang is also a very powerful card that provides card advantage and win condition. Both generals are in blue-black-green colors and allow for very solid rock decks. I will be very happy to play any of these but I'm afraid that Wizards of the Coast might change their mind about the banlist and ban some of these relatively quickly.

So what to expect in a Friendly League? If casual players will decide to enter the League they will have to accept the fact that it is a tournament with paid entry and prizes to be won. Majority of the players entering the League will want to win and thus will enter with a competitive deck, that also means that the deck can be rather expensive (few hundred tix). Many of the players may not be EDH players though, so those will have to learn a bit about the format first. In this format a competitive deck can win quite soon. My deck was winning on turn 3-4 relatively often but many combo decks combo off on turn 6-7. If your deck is not ready to deal with threats and does not have enough answers to generals and possible combos you shouldn't enter the League if you are afraid to terribly lose and not be able to play some nice matches. I may be wrong but this is what I expect. The format allows for very strong and fast decks and those that wish to grind those Leagues will most probably equip themselves with such decks. There are also players that are waiting for a long time to be able to play EDH in a tournament and those will finally have the chance to play their competitive decks.

Powerful generals that you should certainly fear and respect are for example Vendilion Clique or Baral, Chief of Compliance (that can be polymorphed into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn), Geist of Saint Traft or Jenara, Asura of War (that can destroy all your lands or disrupt your game and win via Commander damage), Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Leovold, Emissary of Trest (that can simply control the game very well having access to the most powerful combination of colors in singleton format), Ezuri, Renegade Leader (elves can win the game on turn 4), Marath, Will of the Wild (the only general that can keep blue decks in check and win with some variation of Splinter Twin combo), Animar, Soul of Elements that can be surprisingly big by turn 3 or even Maelstrom Wanderer that can cascade into few Time Walk effects and win the game. There are other generals that can do very well and might be common. For example Vial Smasher the Fierce and Kraum, Ludevic's Opus are good generals for a control deck. But I would certainly watch out for Oloro, Ageless Ascetic. Because of this card I wouldn't even try to play a fair deck (meaning that the deck should be able to win the game on the spot or be able to deal 21 Commander damage). Leovold is crazy strong too. So that might also be a popular general. Breya, Etherium Shaper is also a very good combo general. She simply does everything and allows to play the best colors for an artifact deck + red which makes it even more deadly since cards like Pyrite Spellbomb or both Darettis can be played.

The format will have to evolve and it will take some time, but I would expect a very cutthroat environment. Since the banlist is not restricting much there is room for many decks and many interactions that will also be very strong. Be prepared and have graveyard hate, artifact hate and ways how to deal with annoying generals unless you are certain you can win faster. If you like a challenge and you want to try to build the best deck for this format, now is the time!

Happy brewing!

S'Tsung, stsung on MODO and @stsungjp on Twitter.


I'd like to note that there by Paul Leicht at Tue, 05/09/2017 - 16:55
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I'd like to note that there was a competitive 1v1 PRE on mtgo for years before this change took place. Not sure if it is still around but it was quite active. Not my cuppa but I know some people really enjoyed it.

Yeah, it was one of the by stsung at Wed, 05/10/2017 - 04:23
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Yeah, it was one of the things I was looking for but the event is not happening anymore.

Many Legacy and Vintage players are looking forward to this as well. But I'm not sure if that alone can keep the Vintage players online...:-/ probably not. So we will see what the announcement today will mean for us...

TNN by Rerepete at Tue, 05/09/2017 - 20:22
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True-Name Nemesis is loads stronger in 1vs1 than multiplayer.

By the way, I have yet to understand why they called it "friendly" league.

Because it's ostensibly a by AJ_Impy at Tue, 05/09/2017 - 20:57
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Because it's ostensibly a casual format as opposed to the ones like Standard, Modern, Legacy or Vintage.

"Friendly" refers to a by ArchGenius at Tue, 05/09/2017 - 22:04
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"Friendly" refers to a flatter prize pool, which would, in theory, be less appealing to more competitive players who could win bigger in the competitive leagues.

This is correct in terms of by AJ_Impy at Wed, 05/10/2017 - 04:31
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This is correct in terms of what a friendly league is and the assumptions behind it. My comment above is more onwhy they deem this the appropriate framework for 1 on 1 Commander.

TNN is certainly stronger but by stsung at Wed, 05/10/2017 - 03:45
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TNN is certainly stronger but I doubt that a creature like that will be relevant. It will be more about creatures like Griselbrand...

as for 'Friendly' League it either means what AJ said or there might be a change to different League later. Wizards seems to start with more flatout prize structure first before moving on to something else. But since Pauper has also only Friendly League, EDH may stay that way too. (Legacy used to have only Friendly Leagues but were eventually changed to Competitive ones)

Anyway it is just a name. The decks in the League certainly don't need to be 'friendly'.

Thanks for this article.Why by MichelleWong at Wed, 05/10/2017 - 05:57
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Thanks for this article.

Oh yes, the sharks will come out to feed in these 1 vs 1 tournaments.

yes by laffyFleur at Wed, 05/10/2017 - 08:34
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agree ^^

Thanks for reading. Sharks by stsung at Wed, 05/10/2017 - 09:55
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Thanks for reading. Sharks will come out to feed in these events for sure. I was one such a person when EDH became a thing in paper but a tournament scene did not hurt the casual format EDH is. It killed Singleton though which is something I fear more than what other say (hurting EDH or casual players' community)

Yes, many players tried to compete in the events just to find out that the tournament scene is totally different from their expectations. But those players didn't stop playing EDH. They just figured out that 1v1 event is not for them and avoided those events.

Competitive EDH seggregated players in groups were people knew what to expect. We had the competitive players that majority of them was just non-EDH players coming for money, then we had EDH players that turned competitive (or were already) and then casual players that either preferred multiplayer or 1v1 (rare).

On Magic Online we have the same type of players that run into each other and make the experience bad for each other often. If the competitive players will start playing EDH Leagues the place should be a better place for EDH players in general. We could possibly have players regularly in tournament practice open play with competitive decks and more casual players in the 'just for fun' or other rooms. If the banlist will be the same there will always be some players that will abuse the good cards. But running into a competitive deck from time to time might show those people that at the level they want to play, they should abandon them. Some players probably won't like doing that but they should see why some cards were banned or should be banned. Running into a competitive deck was pretty difficult because the players didn't have place were to play and I think they should have that place. Many players like competitive singleton format but don't play it because there were no prizes to be won (or not good enough for those players). This is what hurts Vintage a lot. There are many potential Vintage players but won't play since the OP structure and prize structure is simply bad.

This is just my opinion and I may be wrong about it. But I wouldn't see this as a bad thing. What bothers me more is the not so restrictive banlist. I find the Singleton too restrictive but I can accept it easily. This banlist is very loose and I'm afraid that thx to all the sharks that will come the format will evolve fast into something many players won't want to play. We shall see though.

GL in the events!

agree w/you by laffyFleur at Wed, 05/10/2017 - 10:53
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i had a longer response but the site kept marking it as spam so I had to cut it down but it was mostly along the lines you say. i do think a more restrictive banlist (just to begin, the 1-mana tutors you mention above, which seem in many ways to defeat the whole purpose of EDH, are obvious candidates & on the Fr. banlist) would be good. but i don't mind the "sharks," as that really just means good players with good decks & those of us not quite at that level can use those matches to learn from. & i don't know where I would truly draw a useful banlist if we really wanted a highly variable format--there might be 100 cards or more that would have to be on that, & then I don't know how the format would even look. hopefully WOTC will keep an eye on it and try to keep it balanced. i'm looking forward to it even though I will probably get my head handed to me at least a couple of times ;)

^_^. Well, they listened to by stsung at Wed, 05/10/2017 - 12:01
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^_^. Well, they listened to our feedback so we are getting a multiplayer banlist back. How both banlist will evolve is a question but I believe that WotC can learn from its mistakes and will try to provide us with a format that will be balanced and good so we all can enjoy it.

(starts to wonder under what category all my Singleton and Commander decks will end up when I log in back to Magic Online).

Oloro by MichelleWong at Wed, 05/10/2017 - 19:08
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I intend to run Oloro as my Commander in the 1 vs 1 League, and my Oloro certainly intends to give the sharks a run for their money. I will run a very heavy "hard control" build with lots of efficient counterspells and card draw to keep the combos in check.

Yeah, I wanted to run Oloro by stsung at Thu, 05/11/2017 - 04:39
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Yeah, I wanted to run Oloro combo-control but first I want to play some of the combo decks and even if I terribly die I just want to have some fun with these decks since there is no other place I can play them.

It's been a long while since I enjoyed dying so terribly in Magic. It was so much fun.

Good luck and have fun!

I played in a league with by JXClaytor at Wed, 05/10/2017 - 22:55
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I played in a league with Prossh and just loved it. I may never play Standard again while this is a play option.

Heh Prossh sounds like fun, by Paul Leicht at Thu, 05/11/2017 - 02:05
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Heh Prossh sounds like fun, full combo I am assuming?

Food chain banned? by TheWolf at Thu, 05/11/2017 - 04:04
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I think Food Chain is banned though, right?

Yes, Food Chain is banned. by stsung at Thu, 05/11/2017 - 04:41
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Yes, Food Chain is banned.

The fact that someone plays Prossh doesn't mean they need to play a combo deck even though combo finish is certainly a good thing to have in this format but it is not necessary.

I built my Oloro deck, and by MichelleWong at Thu, 05/11/2017 - 09:46
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Stsung, your article inspired me to enter the league, so thanks for that. I built my Oloro deck, and gave it a spin in the League today.

Off to a good start:

My Emblem hair matched my Avatar hair, which is the most important combo to me. The Rest in Peace combo is just afterthought, because nothing beats the hair combo!

Hope to meet other players from the PureMTG Community there!

Nice! I was never fan of by stsung at Thu, 05/11/2017 - 10:34
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Nice! I was never fan of Narset but her emblem is a very annoying and she still draws cards (I was facing it more often than having it under my control) ! The matching hair is quite funny^_^. Looks good.

It is also time for my UWb Combo-Control before someone decides that Oloro should get banned, hehe. But well who needs a general, right? I'll just have to buy some random Esper colored card when that happens.

See you around!

nah it was just prossh and by JXClaytor at Thu, 05/11/2017 - 11:16
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nah it was just prossh and stuff like goblin bombardment and control spells.

Undefeated commanders by Sensei at Mon, 05/15/2017 - 00:18
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Day 1: · Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
· The Gitrog Monster
· Leovold, Emissary of Trest
· Breya, Etherium Shaper
· Narset, Enlightened Master
· Prossh, Skyraider of Kher
· Leovold, (again)
· Nissa, Vastwood Seer
· Zurgo Bellstriker
· Sidisi, Brood Tyrant

Day 2: Baral, Zurgo, Nissa, Nissa 2, Thrasios/VialSm, Animar, Tasigur, Tasigur 2, Thrasios/VialSm 2, Tasigur 3

Day 3: Tasigur, VialSm/Thrasios, Breya, Vendilion Clique, Baral, Titania, VialSm/Thrasios 2, Baral2, Nissa, Tasigur2

Day 4: Sidisi (Josh), Azusa, Nissa, Baral, Jace, VialSm/Thrasios, Jace2, Baral2, Tasigur, VialSm/Kraum

There is a lot more mono by JXClaytor at Mon, 05/15/2017 - 07:28
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There is a lot more mono green being played than I could have ever imagined I think.

Mono green became very strong by stsung at Mon, 05/15/2017 - 07:43
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Mono green became very strong and is the only deck that can actually win among the flood of blue generals. Strip Mine being legal helps that a lot.

Mono green became very strong by stsung at Mon, 05/15/2017 - 07:43
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Mono green became very strong and is the only deck that can actually win among the flood of blue generals. Strip Mine being legal helps that a lot.