B/G hasn’t exactly been in the spotlight lately. Mardu Vehicles has emerged as the format’s “best deck,” and 4-Color Saheeli and Temur Tower are the exciting breakout decks at the moment. But it’s exactly because B/G is flying under the radar that I believe it deserves some attention this weekend.
Magic has a tendency to be cyclical, and the less people are gunning for a particular deck, the stronger it will be. Additionally, the more players encounter the frustration of being unable to beat Mardu Vehicles, the more likely they’ll be to turn back to B/G.
While it’s important to remember that Mardu vs. B/G is a very close, list-dependent, and skill-testing matchup, popular opinion has it that B/G is favored over Vehicles. This is part of the reason that we saw a big weekend for Mardu Vehicles at PT Aether Revolt followed by a big weekend for B/G at GP Pittsburgh.
The Varieties of B/G
Perhaps I did a poor job titling today’s installment of “The Deck To Beat This Weekend.” After all, B/G is not exactly “a deck” so much as a color combination that’s home to several different decks in Standard. We’ll cover several of the common builds of B/G decks, but there’s so much overlap and customization that drawing clear lines between the archetypes sometimes isn’t particularly helpful. The goal of this article will be to put you in the best position possible to feel good against an opponent who plays turn-1 Hissing Quagmire.
In my mind, there are 3 main styles of B/G decks, which can be distinguished by their choice of 1-mana green “fixing” card.
B/G Counters: Oath of Nissa
Ryan Hare, 1st place at GP Pittsburgh
Ryan Hare won GP Pittsburgh with a deck I like to call B/G Counters. It’s an aggressively-slanted deck that’s built to overwhelm the board with power and toughness as quickly as possible. Catacomb Sifter producing multiple creatures and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar’s ability to pump up the whole team are some hallmarks of this way of building B/G.
When this deck successfully sticks a Winding Constrictor, it’s virtually impossible to beat. As such, its choice of 1-mana green fixer is Oath of Nissa, which maximizes the chances of finding Constrictor early, and curving out in the best way possible.
B/G Energy: Attune with Aether
Robert Beatty, Top 4 at GP Pittsburgh
B/G Energy is the most aggressive and most synergy-based among the popular builds of B/G. It has a much lower mana curve (and land count). Its goal is to beat down quickly with potent threats and Blossoming Defenses to protect them.
Its choice of 1-mana green fixer is Attune With Aether, for the obvious reason of fueling its energy creatures.
B/G Delirium: Traverse the Ulvenwald
Anand Khare, Top 8 at GP Pittsburgh
B/G Delirium is the most controlling among the popular builds of B/G. Even with that said, it’s still well within the realm of “midrange” and not “control,” and there can be a wide range of styles within the B/G Delirium archetype. Anand Khare and Adam Van Fleet both reached the Top 8 of GP Pittsburgh with middle-of-the-road versions of Delirium, each just a handful of cards different from a deck I discussed here. But to see more aggressive or more controlling versions of B/G Delirium, you can check out Matt Nass (20th place) and Ben Rubin (12th place).
B/G Delirium is a purist’s midrange deck. The creatures can play either offense or defense, every card is individually powerful, there’s card advantage, and even a bit of a toolbox with Traverse the Ulvenwald. It gains these qualities by sacrificing explosiveness, but can still sometimes find itself with the strong Constrictor-into-Rishkar draws.
Its choice of 1-mana green fixer is Traverse the Ulvenwald. This is the weakest to have in your opening hand, as the first copy will typically just cycle for a basic land. But it makes B/G Delirium more powerful in a topdeck battle, since drawing Traverse on turn 10 will translate into finding the best creature in your deck for the given situation.
Fighting Against B/G
Beating B/G is no easy task, in part because it’s such a flexible and customizable group of decks. Just like Mardu, it will adapt itself after sideboarding to fight against your most predictable hate cards.
Beating B/G requires having answers to their enormous creatures, and then outgunning their already-impressive sources of card advantage.
What To Do
- Kill their creatures. This means playing removal that is not based on damage since their guys can get out of range of Shock and Oath of Chandra much too quickly. Fatal Push should be an automatic 4-of in all black decks, and cards like Unlicensed Disintegration, Fumigate, and Quarantine Field are other go-tos for fighting against B/G.
- Make their removal line up poorly. When you play against B/G, you should expect them to have 4 Fatal Push in their 75, and should expect Grasp of Darkness to be their next most common removal spell. This makes 5-drop creatures with more than 4 toughness very appealing. It might take a bit of imagination to find a great creature to fit this bill, but Torrential Gearhulk and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship are two obvious ones.
- Use planeswalkers. What B/G doesn’t have is great access to haste creatures and direct damage. Even Ruinous Path is awkward in a format of Vehicles, Torrential Gearhulk, and a quick tempo. This makes them quite vulnerable to planeswalkers. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar remains one of the absolute best cards in Standard, and other good options include Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Ob Nixilis, Reignited, and Ajani Unyielding.
- Good Deck Choices: G/W Tokens, Aetherworks Marvel, Jeskai Saheeli
What Not To Do
- Don’t fight them on the ground. B/G decks are the best in the format at generating unfair amounts of power and toughness. If you want to fight them with creatures, you’ll either need to fly over their heads, or pack a lot of hard removal spells.
- Don’t get cute. B/G decks are what I like to call “brew killers,” A lot of cool ideas that seem like they should be good against medium-speed creature decks simply don’t cut it against B/G. They’re simply too powerful and too punishing. They’ll kill your creatures, and then they’ll kill you.
In one sense, Standard seems ripe for the taking. If you can find a deck that beats Mardu Vehicles, 4-Color Saheeli, and the various B/G decks, you’ll be in fantastic shape. On the other hand, those decks are so flexible and resilient that such a task might be impossible. Follow the advice in this article, and you’ll be on the right track.