If you have been playing any amount of competitive Standard over the past few weeks, you know how important M19 has been. The format has been revitalized despite what I thought was an underpowered set. M19 has been strong, fun, and very refreshing for what I feel like has been a stale format.
Stale is likely not a fair description of the format. Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks are both very powerful sets. Between the energy mechanic and the gods, the four sets have felt like they have been around for way too long. So much Heart of Kiran and The Scarab God in such a short period of time! Not to mention the Aetherworks Marvel and Smuggler’s Copter. The power level of these blocks is much higher than that of Ixalan block or Dominaria and they have unfortunately taken the lion’s share of attention. M19 has started to highlight what life may look like post-rotation, assuming we don’t get too many powerhouses in the fall.
But that’s an article for future Billy. Present Billy is writing about current Standard, which he has been playing a lot. I mean “a lot” a lot. He will also stop referring to himself in the third person. He promises.
With the PPTQ formats mostly being Standard, I have been playing Standard whenever I can get the chance. I admit that Sealed has never been a favorite of mine and I feel like I have a considerable advantage when playing constructed formats. I have been playing around Green-Black Snake for a long time. The combination of Winding Constrictor, Rishkar, Peema Renegade, and Walking Ballista seems like too powerful a combination to not play. However, the deck has lost some of its luster since Dominaria came out.
If you are a Magic Online grinder, you likely know that JeffCunningham has been rolling people with GB Constrictor for months.
JeffCunninghams GB Snake
While he manages to continue winning with similar lists, I have found Green-Black Snake and (my preference) Sultai Snake to be underpowered and very fragile. There are obviously free wins to be had off the back of Winding Constrictor but that card is very anemic without the appropriate supporting host of cards. Many of my games ended with a hodgepodge of spells that were very ineffective out of sequence. Compared to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Rekindling Phoenix, and The Scarab God, your deck lacked the raw power necessary to come back into games once you fell behind.
My big takeaway from the Constrictor decks was the power of Llanowar Elves. The card always led to the best openings and put opponents in awkward positions with their removal spells. If it survived, it was a easy way to cast Winding Constrictor and have mana available for Blossoming Defense. If it died, it allowed Winding Constrictor to survive and supercharge the rest of your deck. I decided pretty quickly that my next deck was going to take advantage of the power of Llanowar Elves. Enter Ghalta, Primal Hunger.
This is a card that I have been waiting to play with for a while. For those who haven’t realized, I really enjoy attacking. Trampling is probably my number two favorite thing. Number 1 has to be making my opponent audibly sigh. That’s what Ghalta does. She is capable on entering the battlefield as early as turn 3 and is surrounded by cards that are inherently powerful. Even if she doesn’t end the game (which she normally does), Ghalta must be answered which normally buys enough time for Steel Leaf Champion, Heart of Kiran, or Vine Mare to end the game.
Speaking of M19 cards, Vine Mare has been the best of a stable of cards to enter the Standard format. I initially overlooked Vine Mare as an option for Mono-Green but the card has ended up winning Best in Show for me. I’m not too proud to say I voted neigh on the card initially. Vine Mare has been absolutely impressive. The card is an absolute workhorse in the deck.
Okay, that’s the last one.
Both of Vine Mare’s abilities synergize with the archetype. Hexproof obviously has the ability to give the opponent fits. Despite having three toughness, Vine Mare cannot die to Lightning Strike or Wizard’s Lightning and cannot be a victim of Cast Down, Vraska’s Contempt or Seal Away. This provides some virtual card advantage by stranding removal in your opponent’s hand as well as “awakening” Rhonas the Indomitable with minimal danger of it going back to sleep.
The “can’t be blocked by black creatures” clause it what initially made me disregard the card but that might actually be the best part about it. To bring this into perspective, Vine Mare cannot be blocked by The Scarab God or any of his returned minions, Gifted Aetherborn, Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Nicol Bolas the Ravager, any eternalized creature, or anything returned with either God-Pharaoh’s Gift or Liliana, Death’s Majesty. For fun, remember that Hour of Promise makes black Zombie tokens. What I initially ignored has allowed me to gallop for so much extra damage. Between Vine Mare, Steel Leaf Champion, Rhonas the Indomitable, and Ghalta, Primal Hunger, “profitable blocks” are not often in your opponents’ vocabulary.
As much as I would like to continue my gushing love letter, I understand you would probably like a list to peruse. This is my most recent list where I lost playing for top 8 to eventual champion Orlando Lucas.
Billy Mitchells Mono-Green Aggro
As previously stated, the deck is capable of very powerful starts including turn 3 Ghalta, Primal Hunger. Your best starts will include Llanowar Elves and I recommend keeping the majority of hands that any combination of Llanowar Elves, Steel Leaf Champion, and any two-drop spell with at least 2 lands. You will win games by presenting threat after threat and Ghalta needs creatures in order to be most impactful. You will eventually draw the lands or spells you need. There are no forms of actual card advantage outside of Merfolk Branchwalker so mulliganing will hurt you more than other decks might. You are trading actual card advantage for raw power which I think is a great place to be in this current Standard format. Mono-Green quickly pressures your opponent’s’ life total, forcing them to deal with your creatures or die to the overrun of hooves and claws.
I hope you give this deck a try. If you do, I recommend cutting the Nissa, Vital Force for a second Nature’s Way. The deck has greatly increased in popularity and Nature’s Way is a trump card in the mirror as well as against Grixis Midrange.
Send me some snapshots of your turn 3 Ghaltas on Twitter. Happy stomping!
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