Kenton ‘Rumti’ Stalder is a streamer and mainstay at the top of the MTG Arena rankings, reaching Mythic first in July, August and September. They’ve specialized in Mono-Green through that time, and with a new Standard format up and running, have joined us for a special guest article!
Bans are in and Mono-G is back on the menu! Mono-G performed incredibly well in the Omnath world and I feel like it’s positioned to do even better post-bans as Omnath was the only deck to really give it trouble. I spent all day on the ladder once the bans went live feeling out the new meta and refining my list and this is what I feel is currently best positioned in the heavy rogue/mill/rakdos meta:
This season I drove Mono-G from Platinum to Rank #1 Mythic in 8 hours on a 27-3 run to win the race to mythic. I’ve stayed in top #10 for most of the month and am currently sitting at #70 after playing 34 games post Omnath ban. I am sure that as the meta settles a few tweaks will be needed but I believe that these core cards are on the right path for where the meta is going.
That said, with an ever shifting meta I think the most useful information I can give you is some of the core principles of building a mono-green list. When building a mono-green list, you almost always start with The Great Henge because it is the strongest card available for any creature deck besides maybe Embercleave. Depending on how fast or slow the meta is you are going to opt for 1-3 henges and two is almost always correct.
When building a Henge deck you need creatures that will enable you to cast it at a premium discount. The most powerful enablers are 5 power creatures that hit the board on turn 3. This allows you to cast Henge on turn four which is often a game winning play. This list runs ten ways to enable a turn 4 henge in the form of 4x Kazandu Mammoth, 4x Lovestruck beast, and 2x Gemrazer (with a turn one/turn two mutate target). Ten is plenty but if the meta calls for four Gemrazers in the main again, twelve is better.
The other dynamic to pay attention to when building a Henge deck is your creature density. The more creatures the better but at least 27 is ideal. Before Zendikar Rising Mono-G would run between 24-27 creatures in the main but would have to give up a lot to hit that number. Since you need at least 24 or 25 lands to operate that left only 8-10 slots left for all other spell types. With Zendikar Rising, spell lands have stepped in to give us the flexibility to keep a high creature density while maintaining a reasonable land and spell count.
Kazandu Mammoth and Turntimber Symbiosis are reasonable plays on their own, and double as lands when necessary. This allows us to trim on standard lands and the result is a list with access to 27 creatures, 27 lands, 7 fight spells, 3 Planeswalkers and 2 Henges. This land/spell/creature density is fantastic and helps us consistently hit our land drops, have relevant threats on curve, have access to reasonable removal, and reliably cast our Henge. Whatever modifications you make to the list, make sure to pay attention to these ratios and any adjustments should be on purpose.
Now that I’ve talked a bit about the general principle of building a mono-green deck I’ll go into the specific card choices for this list.
Losing Pelt Collector to rotation was a big loss for sure but Swarm Shambler has done a lot more than I anticipated it would to fill those shoes. The biggest upside of Swarm Shambler is that it enters as a 1/1 counter creature which carries Gemrazer very well and gives us another reasonable way to get a 5/5 on three enabling a turn four Henge. Don’t forget that the tokens it creates grow Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig and ensure Lovestruck Beasts can keep attacking as well. Stonecoil is also something to do on turn one if you really need to but be mindful that in any matchup where you aren’t trying to kill your opponent as fast as possible you typically want to hold your snake for more value later.
The 2 drop slot is the weakest slot in Mono-G at the moment and that’s mostly because of the ubiquity of Bonecrusher Giant. That said, we can’t give up on the 2 drop slot all together as curving out is important. Post-Uro Mono-G was trimming back or cutting main deck Scavenging Ooze all together. Now with Kroxa and Mill being so heavy in the meta it’s time to put them all back. Fiend Artisan is by far the most quirky selection in the list and this choice is heavily influenced by the meta. Against mill decks it can often be a 5/5 or even an 8/8 for two mana and it can also tutor for a Scavenging Ooze when you really need to deal with a Kroxa or an Ox of Agonas or stop a Lurrus from recurring creatures. Finally, we run four Ram Through because the format is heavy on deathtouch and must answer creatures and Ram Through is the best way to deal with deathtouch by a mile.
I’m counting Gemrazer as a three-drop here because you are almost always going to want to mutate this. When you put it on a counter only creature it becomes a de-facto 4/4 for 3 with haste and allows you to attack in with a massive trampler. Mammoth and Lovestruck are there to help make a turn 4 Henge possible and Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig serves as a must answer threat that synergizes very well with swarm shamble and Gemrazer. The three-drop slot is an embarrassment of riches and these are the cards that make the list tick.
Anyone who follows me knows that I’m not one to automatically include Questing Beast in my lists. I’ve gone on record saying that without the planeswalker text being relevant it isn’t necessarily an auto-include. However, in a meta where with a lot of low power creatures Questing Beast can often get in for critical damage and must be answered. Questing Beast also synergizes well with Garruk, Unleashed and can even carry Gemrazer to get through for dmg to face using the deathtouch and trample synergy. Garruk, Unleashed is often the best thing you can do against control decks on turn four as he diversifies your threat types, he provides long term value and almost always forces a 2-for-1. He also adds a ton of pressure to the board by allowing you to attack in when you otherwise could not. If we could find room for more we would, but one in the main right now is a nice bonus whenever you can get the chance to resolve him.
I’ve already talked at length about The Great Henge before this section so I’ll just say that when this is in your hand your mission is to play it as early as possible and once it is resolved proc it as much as possible before your opponent can answer it.
Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate operates similarly to Henge in a lot of ways and is stronger in some situations. Vivien is always good for at least a 3/3 on board every turn but can also allow you to cast creatures off the top of your deck which is a powerful card draw engine, especially when coupled with Henge. You almost always want to play the creature off the top of your deck over playing anything from your hand. You can always play from your hand later, take advantage of the draw! Additionally, you can use her -2 ability to tutor for a specific creature that you need right then which is typically an Ooze to eat a critical graveyard creature.
The reason we run two Henge and one Vivien instead of three Henge is because of how well they synergize together. Whenever you use Vivien to draw a creature off the top, you are also proccing your Henge and double drawing. You can also use Vivien’s minus ability to reshuffle when you have a creature in hand and a non-land on top of the deck with a lot of mana to burn, or to enable a triple draw if you play a creature from the top of the deck paired with her -2 ability. These two cards together form the most potent value engine in the format and if you untap with both of them in play you’re almost guaranteed to win.
Stonecoil Serpent’s flexibility is massive for making sure we are playing on curve. It pinch hits for a one or two drop, carries Gemrazer very well, and is still a great top deck in the late game. Protection from multicolor can be relevant once resolved and reach and trample are great keywords as well. Finally, it’s a great target for Gemrazer to mutate onto.
Primal Might, I argue, is the among best removal in standard and is absolutely the best removal available to green. It’s as much of a reach spell as it is a removal spell. We are often using it to tap out kill their biggest creature and get in for a large chunk of damage, if not lethal. Think of it as a Banefire that can hit both face and a creature. All that said, for the first time since Primal Might has been available I’ve opted to run only two of instead of four and instead run 4 of Ram Throughs. This is again a nod to the amount of deathtouch in the format and if that ever changes it’s back to four Primal Mights we go.
We play as the control deck in this match up. We run 6 forms of effective graveyard hate and as long as we can keep them off of their graveyard synergies, primarily Kroxa and Ox of Agonas, they can’t keep up with our superior card quality. Resolving a Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate or a Henge often closes the game. They will remove a ton of your creatures and that’s fine, be patient and find ways to out value them.
The Tormod’s Crypt are for exiling either your graveyard or theirs as the situation demands. Most lists run Lurrus, Agadeem’s Awakening or Call of the Death-Dweller. It is usually more important that you stop these from recurring critical creatures than you keep your graveyard clear. However, there will be times where their graveyard is under control and you can swing the game by shutting off their Drown in the Lochs, Thieves’ Guild Enforcers and Soaring Thought-Thiefs. This can be a very swingy match up but we definitely have the tools to win. We win by resolving a Henge or a Vivien and beating them down with value.
The mirror and Gruul match ups are very draw dependent and usually come down to who can resolve their Great Henge or Vivien first (or Embercleave in the case of Gruul). However, you can improve your odds of winning by making sure that you only block or attack when it’s favorable to your overall board state. Going down to very low life is fine if you are going to be able to stabilize the following turn and force a board lock. Avoid chump blocking at all costs as it will quickly snowball the game in your opponent’s favor.
In the case of a probable Embercleave attack, if you have the luxury, block in a way that leaves the most power on board so that you can use fight spells or Gemrazer to swing the board state back in your favor and stabilize. For the mirror, try to play around Oakhame Adversaries in the early game by only casting a green permanent when you can reasonably deal with a resolved Adversary. This means that while you usually prefer to play your Swarm Shambler on turn one, you should Hearts Desire or even Stonecoil Serpent instead.
I hope that you find this information useful while smashing faces with forests as Nylea and Rhonas intended. If you want to watch some gameplay of this list in action and how it evolves over time you can find me on twitch!