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Raging Levine – The Green Monster

Did you ever see the movie WarGames? It came out in 1983 and starred a young Matthew Broderick. Broderick (as an 80s high school student, mind you) hacks into a NORAD computer and plays a game called “Global Thermonuclear War” with it, flummoxing everyone at NORAD into thinking Soviet missiles are bearing down on the US. Yes, apparently our entire defense system could be bamboozled by a kid’s basic phone phreaking skills. All Broderick wanted was to find out when some new video games would be released!

When I play against mono-green decks at Commander tables, I often think I know how Broderick’s character felt trying to play against the NORAD computer. My opponent has the massive nuclear arsenal, and by comparison, I have but a few measly toothpicks. It reminds me of WarGames specifically because of the famous quote from the movie: “The only way to win is not to play.”

People often feel this way when they play against mono-green decks. I think, though, that there are more options than we may perceive when we’re at the tables. Certainly, there are some heavy-duty weapons for those at the more competitive tables, but there are some more subtle tools as well. It also depends whether you want something that will hose green specifically or will have some splash damage against other decks. Let’s start talking!

DEFCON 5

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One of the best ways to beat the green decks without making everyone mad at you is by stealing their stuff. All that you’re doing is something that many Commander decks already have the capability to do. It’s not like you’re specifically gunning for the mono-green decks—except, of course, that you are gunning for them by including a few of these extra cards. For some hints, we need look no further than some of the cards in the new Commander 2013 decks. Let’s see what they have to offer us in terms of both old and new cards!

[draft]Control Magic
Djinn of Infinite Deceits
Mass Mutiny
Rubinia Soulsinger
Spinal Embrace[/draft]

There’s also [ccProd]Order of Succession[/ccProd], but let’s be honest, that card’s pretty atrocious. If you want an effect like that, the repeatable Djinn is a much better way to go. Assuming you have tokens or crappy 1/1s to swap around, the Djinn is a fantastic way to keep the green deck from getting too big. If you have ways to untap it and use it over and over again, you’ll be in good stead. [ccProd]Spinal Embrace[/ccProd] is the epitome of what you want to do with a temporary control effect against green—steal their creature, whack them with it, and then sac it. Black can help you use other control effects like this with cards like [ccProd]Disciple of Griselbrand[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Viscera Seer[/ccProd].

[draft]Memnarch
Merieke Ri Berit[/draft]

Sometimes you need a Commander that will just let you grab cards from the other sides of the table. Merieke lets you throw them away at will, while Memnarch is a huge mana sink—if you’re mono-blue and you have an [ccProd]Extraplanar Lens[/ccProd]/[ccProd]Caged Sun[/ccProd]/[ccProd]High Tide[/ccProd] on an [ccProd]Isochron Scepter[/ccProd]/other similar thing, you can really take whatever you want.

[draft]Beguiler of Wills
Cytoplast Manipulator
Empress Galina
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
Olivia Voldaren
Preacher
Simic Manipulator
Willow Satyr[/draft]

Of course, there are other repeatable effects you can use to frustrate your opponents and steal their big creatures. These are some of the best ones. Particular things to note:

• [ccProd]Beguiler of Wills[/ccProd] is an unusual card—the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Combining it with some green or white token generation is an obvious choice, but untapping it with cards like [ccProd]Thousand-Year Elixir[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Magewright’s Stone[/ccProd] might be better.

• [ccProd]Cytoplast Manipulator[/ccProd] really depends on the graft mechanic for its long-term success but can be used to grab a single creature on its own.

• [ccProd]Preacher[/ccProd] is a white card. White is pretty bad at this stuff unless you go back into the past or are willing to play cards like [ccProd]Evangelize[/ccProd].

• [ccProd]Willow Satyr[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Empress Galina[/ccProd] are hilarious.

[draft]Debt of Loyalty
Grab the Reins
Insurrection
Molten Primordial
Reins of Power
Slave of Bolas
Twist Allegiance[/draft]

As well as [ccProd]Catch // Release[/ccProd]

If you’re looking for some bigger, splashier one-time effects, these are some of the best ones. Sometimes all you need is one big turn to flip the dynamic of the table on its head and take out a troublesome player or win the game. Things to think about:

• [ccProd]Debt of Loyalty[/ccProd] is a great response to a [ccProd]Doom Blade[/ccProd] or Wrath.

• It’s easy to think of what you want to steal with [ccProd]Molten Primordial[/ccProd]. Make sure to think a step ahead of that, though—what will you do with those creatures? I’ve seen players cast this, take stuff, think about combat, sigh, and pass the turn. Don’t be that player.

• [ccProd]Twist Allegiance[/ccProd] is great when you’re facing down a player with an insurmountable force (think post-[ccProd]Genesis Wave[/ccProd]) and the table will be better off if that player is just gone.

DEFCON 4

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Here’s another idea: if they want to ramp, fine! We’ll find ways to ramp back. Here are some cards that let us do just that:

[draft]Oath of Lieges
Tithe
Gift of Estates
Weathered Wayfarer
Land Tax
Knight of the White Orchid[/draft]

White has a serious number of ways to do this. Most of the lands end up in your hand, but at least you never miss your land drop and can thin out your deck. Eventually, most decks will start missing land drops, and you’ll be able to claw your way back into the game by simply making your own land drop every turn. Of course, you’ll need to back this plan up with removal or Wrath effects—otherwise, the green deck will just step on you.

[draft]Fellwar Stone
Darksteel Ingot
Coalition Relic
Chromatic Lantern
Izzet Signet
Mind Stone
Dreamstone Hedron
Sisay’s Ring
Guardian Idol
Worn Powerstone
Sphere of the Suns[/draft]

I can’t even begin to plumb the depths of artifacts that simply make some mana for you. These are a great way to keep up with ramp decks, as they’re probably focusing on putting lands into play instead. (Obviously if you can blast all lands or limit theirs somehow, these kinds of cards will serve you well.) You’re already playing these, though. What about cards that let you get your own lands?

[draft]Burnished Hart
Solemn Simulacrum
Surveyor’s Scope
Wayfarer’s Bauble[/draft]

[ccProd]Burnished Hart[/ccProd] is a great new addition to this team, as is [ccProd]Surveyor’s Scope[/ccProd]. The other two are probably in many of your Commander decks already.

[draft]Caged Sun
Extraplanar Lens
Gauntlet of Power[/draft]

These are pretty classic ones too. Make sure to be careful with Lens and Gauntlet! Snow-covered lands are a good way to keep your opponents off extra mana from the Lens if you’re willing to spend some money and not use your full-art basics.

DEFCON 3

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What else can we do besides simply steal and ramp? Well, we can limit our opponents’ ability to ramp. This is an oft-ignored method, but honestly, it’s a pretty effective one. You don’t even always have to target the one player specifically, although many of these cards punish the green player in a pretty targeted way.

[draft]Acidic Soil
Herald of Leshrac
Invader Parasite
Land Equilibrium
Overburden
Shattered Angel
Tainted Aether
Tunnel Ignus
Zo-Zu the Punisher[/draft]

Many of these are cards that sit and gather dust in binders or boxes. It’s worth giving them a try, as they will help you deal with the green menace. Thoughts on particular cards:

• [ccProd]Herald of Leshrac[/ccProd] is insane. That cumulative upkeep is truly hilarious. As long as you steal primarily from the green player, no one will care about him very much as he takes their lands and gets enormous.

• [ccProd]Invader Parasite[/ccProd] is like an [ccProd]Ankh of Mishra[/ccProd] that only bothers one player. Sweet! No table aggro.

• [ccProd]Land Equilibrium[/ccProd] is kind of a bizarre [ccProd]Oath of Lieges[/ccProd].

• Both [ccProd]Overburden[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Tainted Aether[/ccProd] are great for stopping big [ccProd]Genesis Wave[/ccProd]s.

Of course, these are all color-specific ways of doing this. How about some artifacts we can play in any deck?

[draft]Ankh of Mishra
Storm Cauldron
Ward of Bones[/draft]

Pickings are slim here. Additional thoughts:

• [ccProd]Ward of Bones[/ccProd] is a little iffy, as it doesn’t stop land from entering the battlefield in other ways.

• [ccProd]Storm Cauldron[/ccProd] seems strange, because it gives land drops, but anyone who wants to cast something large will suffer from a severe case of discardinitis.

DEFCON 2

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Sometimes, you just have to blow it all up and start over. In this case, I’m talking about blowing up lands. A quick warning to all, though: Many players consider these cards supremely unfun. If your playgroup feels this way, consider talking about the cards or simply not playing them while finding another way to address the mono-green player if one such person/deck is dominating your games.

[draft]Natural Balance
Bend or Break
Burning of Xinye
Wildfire
Destructive Force
Cataclysm
Armageddon
Keldon Firebombers
Restore Balance
Balancing Act[/draft]

These are all cards that either blow up all lands or rebalance the lands in play somehow. Both red and white are pretty good at this, with green getting a little nod here and there. Words to the wise:

• [ccProd]Wildfire[/ccProd]-type cards allow players to keep some lands, meaning the game can continue to go on, while putting everyone on equal footing land-wise. People also get to keep their artifact mana. I think this is the kind of thing Commander players shouldn’t be that sad about. It’s a great counter to green without ruining the game. (And no, [ccProd]Cataclysm[/ccProd] does not go in this category. One land might as well be zero.)

• Similarly, [ccProd]Balance[/ccProd]-type cards do what they say on the tin and rebalance the board state to meet the needs of the table. The green player may end up with the biggest, baddest creatures, but at least they don’t have 100 of them now.

• [ccProd]Armageddon[/ccProd] effects are the least well-received of these. Be careful. I had to write a whole article about them, and I get crap for that article to this day.

If blowing up lands isn’t for you, how about keeping them tapped? There are plenty of ways to achieve that. This strategy, in my opinion, is worse than the above ones because it slows down the game to a painful pace. The lands are still on the table, reminding you that you could be playing Magic, but you don’t get to use them. Examples:

[draft]Stasis
Rising Waters
Static Orb
Winter Orb
Hokori, Dust Drinker
Embargo[/draft]

Some thoughts about the above cards:

• This is not an excuse to build a prison deck. If you play prison in Commander, you deserve what you get. (What you will get is no one to play against.)

• You can break the symmetry on these with cards like [ccProd]Gush[/ccProd], [ccProd]Tidal Bore[/ccProd], and so on. You can also exploit these with cards like [ccProd]Mana Web[/ccProd] to make sure everyone else taps out.

• These are some pretty extreme measures. We are at DEFCON 2 here, folks. Be careful with these. Seriously, people will get mad.

DEFCON 1

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Sometimes, you have to pull the trigger and really nuke someone. If you think your deck needs some silver bullets to pull out specifically against green decks, these are some of the heaviest hitters. If the green player understands his/her place at the table as the Archenemy, then he/she will likely understand why this is happening. If not, these will probably invoke a tirade.

[draft]Acid Rain
Breath of Dreams
Dream Tides
Eastern Paladin
Flooded Woodlands
Hibernation
Insight
Nature’s Ruin
Perish
Putrefaction
Withering Gaze
Wake of Destruction[/draft]

A few words about the above hosers:

• It’s really not worth including more than a couple of these in any particular deck. Being able to tutor for them might be good, or it might just make life suck for the Green player forever.

• Imagine what it would be like to have one of these cards played against you. Keep that in mind when you cast these powerful spells.

• I seriously had never seen the card [ccProd]Flooded Woodlands[/ccProd] ever before. That’s a weird one.

So we’ve gone all the way from some simple bullets all the way to Global Thermonuclear War. A dangerous game, no doubt. What are your favorite ways to beat green? If you’re the Green player, how do you end up losing, and what are the ways you compensate for that? Sound off in the comments, and join us next time for an article that is sort of the opposite of this one where we talk about land and how to use it. Also, watch my Twitter (@RagingLevine) for some announcements about MTGO Commander streams!

-Eric Levine
[email protected]
@RagingLevine on Twitter
www.facebook.com/RagingLevineMTG

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