How to Play Black-Green in Standard

In the past year, I’ve struggled at Pro Tours. I tried to find something new for every event, and played decks like Devoted Druid Combo and U/G Karn to poor results. For this PT, I decided that while I would still make some attempts at brewing, I wanted to make sure to put a lot of effort into tuning and gaining experience with metagame decks.

After playing B/G at Grand Prix New Jersey to an 11-4 finish, I decided it was the perfect deck to tune. It’s highly customizable, and plays really interactive games.

Here’s the list Andrew Baeckstrom, the Kiefer brothers, and I registered for the Pro Tour:


When working on a customizable midrange deck, the first things to identify are metagame trends. The Standard metagame is slanting very aggressive. Cards like Cast Down and Wildgrowth Walker are good against mono-blue, mono-red, white-red aggro, and even Drakes. Hence the large amounts of both cards in the list.

Testing also identified Carnage Tyrant as a lackluster win condition against these aggressive decks. Enter Doom Whisperer. Doom Whisperer is cheaper, can block flying creatures, and can help dig for sweepers and the 6th land to cast Find // Finality. It also happens to synergize nicely with the life gain from Wildgrowth Walker.

Four Vraska’s Contempt were a nod to Phoenix, as I have found the most common way to lose that matchup is to lack enough answers for the Phoenix itself since you have the Drakes pretty well covered.

Some Golgari lists only play 23 land, but I prefer 24. The deck has pretty good mana sinks (especially if you play three Memorials), and the colors in the deck are not perfect, so every land helps. The colors are also why I would not recommend playing any Detection Towers.

When you’re working on a midrange deck, the sideboard is just as important as the main deck. Making sure that you can board out all of your weak cards and present a 60 entirely comprised of playables is imperative. A mix of high impact but narrow sideboard cards like Golden Demise, and lower impact, more flexible sideboard cards like Assassin’s Trophy is what you want.

Here are some thoughts on some of the more controversial sideboard options:

Four Duress is a must. There’s no better card against control, which is a tough matchup. It’s also reasonably effective against Drakes.

Some sweeper is necessary, and I think Golden Demise is better than Ritual of Soot. It doesn’t kill your own Wildgrowth Walkers and answers Adanto Vanguard.

It’s worthwhile to have something to exile Phoenixes in the sideboard, but it’s not clear what’s best. Blood Operative’s lifelink can help get you out of Drake + Velocity range, but Deathgorge’s life gain ability isn’t much worse there. The tiebreaker for me is that Operative is serviceable against control as a threat that you can return to your hand after surveilling with Doom Whisperer.

Once you have your list set up, the next step is to get comfortable playing the deck. Here are some tips and tricks:

  • I tend to bin a spell if I see one on the first Jadelight reveal since a card is generally worth more than a +1/+1 counter.
  • Doom Whisperer’s surveil ability is pretty tricky to use. Here are some thoughts:
    • Against aggressive decks it’s generally not worth paying the life unless:
      • You’re at a comfortable life total and really have nothing to play or
      • You are looking for a 6th land to play Find // Finality.
    • Against control in post-board games you often should just scry for a Duress to take Seal Away or Settle the Wreckage.
    • If your Doom Whisperer is about to die, that should push you toward surveilling.
    • If you don’t have a good play for your turn with your current hand, that should push you toward surveilling.
    • You can surveil over a Blood Operative and then pay life to return it to your hand.
  • Remember to attack with your big creatures before you cast Finality, even if you are putting the counters on that creature as it still does 2 more damage.

Here are the sideboard plans and general approaches to each matchup based on the list above:

Boros Aggro



This matchup is mostly about staying alive, but you can use your life total as a resource to some degree as they have no reach. Your random explore creatures are effective blockers, and Find // Finality and Walker can both be one-card wins. Demise means that you have enough Adanto Vanguard answers even when you board out Contempt.

Mono-Red Aggro



Unlike the mono-white matchup, in this one you need to save every life point you can. Frenzy is very powerful, but the pressure from Doom Whisperer means that they don’t have too much time to go off with it. Sandbagging Wildgrowth Walker and playing it with a Jadelight on turn 5 can be good since they have a lot of 2-mana ways to kill it.




This matchup is one of the trickier ones to play. While you need answers to their threats, a pure answer draw is going to give them time to set up their powerful Phoenix engine. You need to make sure to pressure them with Walkers and explorers while holding up removal.

Jeskai Control



Game 1s against Jeskai are really tough. You have tons of blank removal, and their cards line up really well against yours. Post-board you get to take out a ton of bad cards for much higher impact ones. Using Doom Whisperer to find the key cards is really important in this matchup. You want to use your life total as a resource, but you do need to be a little careful about Expansion // Explosion.

Golgari Mirror



This version of black green is a bit loose in the mirror. Doom Whisperer getting killed by Vivien is a horrible swing, and most other G/Bs will have more Carnage Tyrants. That said, careful play can help. Try to bait out removal with your other threats so that Doom Whisperer can come down and finish off games. Post-sideboard your deck is going to become closer to theirs, so just try to out Carnage Tyrant them.




This is also a tough matchup. Their good draws with Curious Obsession are going to be unbeatable, so just focus on winning the other games. Post-board you want your deck to contain as many cheap cards as possible to make their counterspells less effective.

Black-Green is a great deck to learn as it can be customized to work in just about any metagame. Remember to keep making changes to the deck as the popular trends evolve. Until next time, may you win all your post sideboard games.


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