In my Powered Synergy cube, green is perhaps the most different from what one would expect out of a normal cube. After seeing green mostly serve to ramp into big stuff in many cubes like the MTGO vintage cube, having the curve essentially stop at 3 mana can be a bit confusing. To clear things up on what this color should be doing, I’m starting my cube analysis exploring this color first!
There are three major archetypes to look for when playing green in my cube: Glimpse combo, Elves, and lands. Keep in mind that there is no hard rule that you have to be in only one of these archetypes, as there is plenty of overlap between all of them. Additionally, green makes an excellent supporting color for a variety of other archetypes such as discard, sacrifice and persist.
We’ll start with glimpse combo/Elves. This deck plays out like a storm deck a lot of the time, where your creatures are both the card draw and the mana. The objective is to cast a card like Glimpse of Nature, Rite of Harmony or Beck so that as you cast creatures, you are able to continuously refill your hand. You can do this non deterministically with a list full of cheaper creatures as a sort of value card draw, or combine it with an infinite combo engine. We’ll talk about the fair use first.
For the “fair” version of the glimpse deck, you want to keep your deck as full of creatures as possible. Ideally green elves for 1 mana. Your goal here is to keep a low land count to prevent drawing too many blanks in a row and running out of creatures, so keeping the curve low and fetchlands are a priority to make sure you’re constantly filling up on castable cards. Wirewood Symbiote and Elvish Visionary are two really important ones to look for in this, as the symbiote allows you to return creatures to hand and re-cast them for an additional card draw trigger and elvish visionary gets you an additional card when it comes into play, so you can keep digging deeper. This deck doesn’t always lean into the glimpse of nature combo, as it can often win the game fast enough playing a fair game. No need to splash a rite of harmony in the perfect elves list when you can just kill your opponent on turn three instead of going for combos.
The real power of these “glimpse of nature” cards begins to shine when you pair them with an effect that allows you to re-use creatures after you cast them, like the following three.
Each of these creatures has the ability to return itself back to hand after it has been cast, meaning you don’t need to worry about constantly hitting more creatures in your deck once you find one of these. They are great targets to fetch up with something like Finale of Devastation once you’ve started your combo turn.
I’m sure some of you might be wondering “How are we going to cast so many creatures in a single turn without running out of mana?” The key three enablers to look for are these
Aluren is the strongest and most general out of all of them. You just get to play all of your creatures with mana value 3 or less for free. Its really as simple as casting Aluren, casting glimpse of nature and bouncing shrieking drake to hand until you’ve drawn your whole deck. This card is a great signal to get into the archetype, as it makes all sorts of creature based combos much easier. Be aware that the ability is symmetric. If you aren’t able to make use of it right away, you might want to think twice before putting this enchantment onto the battlefield.
Earthcraft is another great option when paired with mana elves and shrieking drake in particular. It allows your creatures to tap for mana and it bypasses summoning sickness so they can generate mana the turn they come into play. If your deck is full of mostly elves that cost a single green, and you have a basic forest in play you are essentially able to cast them all for free. Similarly if you have shrieking drake and a basic island, it will always be able to pay for itself. Keep in mind, the ability only works if you have basic lands to target, so be careful with fetching up too many duals! This card also works really well alongside Aluren, since you can tap the creatures for mana after you’ve cast them for free. It turns the aluren shrieking drake combo into an infinite mana engine (and infinite cards with an active glimpse of nature).
Intruder alarm is a really interesting one. It probably requires the most support, but it also lets you go the biggest by far. It pairs particularly well with Earthcraft to mitigate summoning sickness, so your mana scales up as you get more creatures into play, but just having a few mana dorks in play when the turn starts works just as well. It also allows you to re-use other tap abilities, such as Emry, Lurker of the Loch for some really fun turns. Again, just remember that this prevents creatures from untapping during untap steps, so you can lock yourself out if you aren’t careful (and can be used to lock down opponent’s creatures in a pinch!).
The above two cards get honorable mentions as mana engines. While strong, they only work in the elves subtheme whereas the enchantment engines above work in a variety of shells. Birchlore rangers is great for helping you hit splash colors and heritage druid is more efficient at generating mana from elves. In particular, look for plays where you can get three elves and a heritage druid into play on turn 2. It’s a really great starting point for a quick combo turn. Both of these cards really like Nettle Sentinel, since it keeps untapping to assist in your mana generation. Speaking of Nettle Sentinel, that card also really enjoys a Paradise Mantle
These cards don’t set you up for infinite mana like the other ones we’ve talked about, but often getting 12 green mana is just as good. The key to these is to play as many creatures as you can before using them, so you get the maximal benefit from their mana generation! (In a sense, each mana elf that costs a single green is “free” with an untapped cradle effect in play). With the creature versions like circle of dreams druid, be on the lookout for untap effects like Quirion Ranger and Wirewood Symbiote for truly ridiculous amounts of mana.
There are so many different ways to win the game with decks of this style. Which ones to look for depends a lot on what enablers you have. In a heavy elves build, you should be looking towards Craterhoof Behemoth, Allosaurus Shepherd, Mirror Entity or Elvish Warmaster. These are best enabled through the variety of creature tutor effects like Finale of Devastation (which itself is also a win condition!). If you are unable to win on your turn, be sure to keep mana available (likely through an untap effect and Circle of Dreams Druid our bounce like Wirewood Symbiote) to activate your Warmaster/Allosaurus Shepherd and protect them from removal. If you have a strong enough elves build, sometimes you don’t even need to lean into glimpse combo at all.
The more combo-oriented builds that have access to something like Aluren or Earthcraft have a lot more win conditions available to them. With Aluren, one of the easiest and most reliable is Thassa's Oracle, so look towards this one first. Just be careful with timing your glimpse draw triggers so you don’t accidentally deck yourself! Otherwise, any of the storm win conditions work, like Brain Freeze or Aetherflux Reservoir.
There are also plenty of game winning creature combos, such as persist loops which you can include inside of your deck to win. I will link to more information about those when that article is finished. But cards like Altar of Dementia can definitely come in handy. You can also stack up a lot of Blood Artist type effects, and Infinite mana outlets like Walking Ballista are often useful as well.
Misc Role Players
Paradoxical outcome is a truly ridiculous magic card, and is a fantastic inclusion to most decks of this type that can afford the blue mana. Returning elves to hand for draw and to recast them for glimpse triggers is often enough to win the game on its own, but you can Outcome with something like Eternal Witness if you really want to go deep.
Two of the three glimpse effects, Rite of Harmony and Beck don’t actually require the creatures to be cast. They will trigger off of tokens as well (the same is true for Fecundity or Liliana's Standard Bearer). Combine these token creators with something like Earthcraft or Phyrexian Altar and you can go off.
For more unconventional mana generation, you can look to cards like the above three in a more graveyard-centric deck. Why tap your creatures for mana when you can throw them into the graveyard instead (or perhaps tap and then sacrifice them for double the effect)! Combine these with something like Rally the Ancestors or Second Sunrise for something truly spectacular. Throw in a single Blood Artist effect and you’re already got a win condition! Keep in mind, these cards often require a very different sort of deck. You wouldn’t want to include one of them on their own into an otherwise heavy green elves list as it will often just slow you down. The best place for these cards is in a list that leans more into black sacrifice, perhaps including cards like Diabolic Intent, Fecundity and Midnight Reaper.
Recursion is good, regardless of if it is returning cards to hand from play or into play from graveyard. If you’re lucky enough to find a Phyrexian Altar, Aluren or Earthcraft and a sacrifice outlet, then Gravecrawler, Relentless Dead and Nether Traitor can be excellent pickups for your deck!
Nobody said you have to be base green! In a pinch, artifacts can make a fairly decent shell for a glimpse style deck as well. Emry, Lurker of the Loch pairs really well with Intruder Alarm and the zero costed creatures like Hangarback Walker. You can cast them for 0, they will enter the battlefield to untap your team and die immediately, ready to be re-cast. Krark-Clan Ironworks + Scrap Trawler is a unique shell for this archetype, granting recursion and mana. Urza, Lord High Artificer can even act as an Earthcraft for your artifacts. Again, making this archetype work would require a substantially different deck than a normal monogreen elves build. Paradoxical Outcome is a great card to bridge the gap between the creature and artifact creature builds of this deck, especially if you happen to pick up a lot of moxen.
Ineffable Blessing is a silver bordered card that looks silly at first glance, but is actually a powerhouse in these types of decks. The key number to name with this card is two, as almost all of the important creatures have two words in their name, so often this will act as a permanent Glimpse effect. It is also just a fun card and makes you evaluate cards when drafting in an entirely different way! Also, choosing 1 lets you draw cards off of most tokens, which can be handy in a pinch.
Keep in mind, there are many different versions of this card, only the Number in Name and Flavor text ones are used in my paper cube.
While very similar to the glimpse combo archetype, Elves deserves its own small section to discuss the less “all in combo” variation of the deck. When I say “Elves” I mean both literally the deck running elves matter cards like Birchlore Rangers and also just decks that run a lot of small creatures and mana dorks, like Birds of Paradise. There is a ton of overlap between these decks and the combo versions above, but I just wanted to make it clear this deck functions perfectly fine without leaning too hard into the combo aspect of the deck.
For the all in elves builds which may or may not focus on glimpse of nature combo, these three cards when accelerated out fast enough can easily close out games in the first few turns. T1 elf, T2 elf, elf + Gaea's Cradle play out your entire hand is a very strong start. You can win as early as T3 with your Allosaurus Shepherd activation. Elvish Archdruid also just turns your team into an army so you can attack immediately and enjoy an abundance of mana the following turn.
If you aren’t playing for the combo or all in elves version of the deck, you’ll probably want to be running fewer 1 mana dorks (somewhere between 3-8 instead of the 10+ you might run in dedicated elves or glimpse combo decks) and more heavy hitters like the three creatures above. When accelerated out by a turn 1 mana creature these can get out of hand quickly and really start to pressure your opponent’s life total.
Interaction and disruption are key in any deck that is trying to play a bit more fair. Of all the disruptive cards, Pest Infestation is likely the best. The baseline of two creatures and a naturalize for 3 mana is good, but when you cast this card for 7-11 mana is where things really start to shine. Destroying 5 artifacts or enchantments and making 10 creatures is a game ending play. Also, don’t forget you can cast this to make creatures even without things to blow up! A good mental shortcut for evaluating this card’s token creation is that it plays like GX: Create X Pests with the small caveat that you can only make even numbers of Pests.
A major objective of these decks is to use the abundance of mana creatures in green to accelerate your game plan. Think of these mana dorks like moxen. Casting 3 drops on turn 2 or two 2 drops on turn three is a fantastic way to pull ahead. One good pairing for this list is with the red survival of the fittest archetype. A mana elf on turn 1 lets you play and activate survival on turn 2. The interaction between Anger and mana elves is also a great one.
You can also lean into a bant value/flicker archetype to get some extra utility from your creatures. One major downside of the flicker archetype is typically the high density of 3 mana plays slowing down the curve. Being able to cast those 3 mana cards on turn 2 can really help turn the tide for your favor. Collected Company and Aluren can be fun additions to decks going this direction as well.
Lands is a fun archetype that blends well into a variety of different strategies. It is perhaps one of the only archetypes that borders on true ramp in this cube, although for the most part you’re ramping for the sake of getting more lands into play rather than trying to gain access to extra mana sources. Nobody ever complains about getting extra mana though (at least since mana burn was removed).
The first and likely the most important part about playing a lands deck is having a way to get extra lands into play quickly so you can accelerate your gameplan. It is similar to trying to get to a place where you can cast multiple spells in one turn with a regular deck. Fastbond is the premiere tool for this ability as the number of additional land drops it offers is essentially unbounded (your life total does actually matter, but there are ways to mitigate this which we will discuss later on) but Exploration gets the job done as well.
These cards can accelerate you in a different way. Rather than allowing you to play additional lands per turn, these cards return lands that have been used back onto the battlefield. If you can set up a big turn where you sacrifice multiple fetchlands or cast Crop Rotation, suddenly Second Sunrise is essentially able to give you four or more additional lands in play. I go more in depth on the combo potential of these cards in my discussion on white archetypes in the cube, but it was worth mentioning that these do act as ramp in a pinch.
The best pairing for these acceleration cards is with one of the land recursion engines, Ramunap Excavator or Crucible of Worlds. These two cards allow you to play lands directly out of your graveyard, which paired with the ability to play multiple lands per turn allows you go to big with any effect that puts lands into your graveyard. Life From the Loam and Slogurk, the Overslime are also great ways to get value from the lands in your graveyard, and sometimes the fact that you can return the cards to hand is actually better (more on this later).
Fetchlands are key for this role since they put themselves into your graveyard while also growing the total number of lands you have in play. Think of these effects as the card draw of the lands deck. Often a quick Fastbond into Crucible of Worlds with a single fetchland can completely empty the lands from your deck onto the battlefield, getting you a substantial amount of mana and lands to work with.
If fetchlands are the card draw, these three are the removal and disruption of the lands deck. Because there are only two cards with this effect in the cube, both of these cards should be taken at a premium. With a way to recur lands and a way to accelerate out your land drops these effects can completely deny your opponent the ability to make mana, locking them out of the game. Watch out for artifact mana sources like Mox Sapphire though, as these can get opponents out of your land destruction locks. Ratchet Bomb and Engineered Explosives are really strong in the lands deck because of their flexibility but also their ability to take out artifact mana sources from the opponent in mass. Cards like Knight of Autumn can be useful for similar reasons.
Field of the Dead is the premier win condition of the lands deck. The ability to make endless zombies can quickly overwhelm your opponent, especially if you have some of the recursion engines we discussed earlier. It’s hard to remove which gives the lands deck a real sense of inevitability. Titania Protector of Argoth is a really close second to field of the dead. When paired with some fetchlands or a sacrifice outlet like Squandered Resources she can have your opponent staring down lethal the moment she comes down. Take care in how you play her though, you often want to have your sacrifice outlets set up before slamming her onto the battlefield so you can create your army in response to any removal your opponent might have for her.
Molten Vortex is an unassuming card at first inspection, but with the right support it can be a total powerhouse. The best pairing for this card is Life From the Loam, although Slogurk, the Overslime is a close second. Both of these cards allow you to get back the lands you discarded at an extremely efficient rate so you never run out of ammunition. This card is excellent at controlling the board, since most creatures in this format are dead to a single shock anyway. Once the board is stabilized you can start throwing lands at your opponent’s face until the game is over. Living Twister plays a very similar role as Vortex but it is also able to pick up lands from the battlefield back into your hand, which can be useful if you need to trigger landfall or have extra lands sitting around and no sacrifice outlet to get them to hand with something like Loam. That five toughness is also very hard to deal with and he can block almost everything in the format with ease.
These might seem like a strange ones, but the lands deck actually has a lot of overlap with the sacrifice theme. Recurring fetchlands or strip mine creates a lot of sacrifice triggers, which these cards thrive on. The Gitrog Monster is great for a similar reason, all you need is a few triggers to bury your opponents in card advantage. One word of caution is that both Korvold and The Gitrog Monster are mandatory triggers, so if you are planning to use these cards as your win conditions you need to be wary about decking yourself.
Sometimes you just need to win the old fashioned way, with a banefire for 20 to the face. There are a lot of ways to generate infinite or copiously large amounts of mana in the lands deck and this is a great way to take advantage of that.
The easiest and strongest combos in the lands deck involve Fastbond with a recursion engine like Crucible and some way to overcome the life loss. Zuran Orb is the best option for this, as it also gives you a sacrifice outlet so you can gain infinite mana and life from repeatedly sacrificing and replaying a single land. Another option comes from Courser of Kruphix and using something like Strip Mine to destroy your own lands. If you tap the land for mana before you destroy it, you can then replay both lands and repeat the process until you have infinite mana. There are plenty of other variations on this theme, so keep your eyes peeled for new and creative ways to recur your lands!
Sometimes you don’t need to quite go infinite, a ton of mana will do just fine. Tap all your lands for mana, then sacrifice them to something like Squandered Resources for a huge burst of mana. Throw in a card like Second Sunrise and you can bring all of your lands back, tap them for mana and maybe even sacrifice them again! If you do this while you have a The Gitrog Monster out you can draw your whole deck at the same time! Hopefully with about twenty mana and twenty cards you can figure out how to win the game from there 🙂
This combo isn’t limited to just lands archetypes, but its recursive nature and color pairing makes it a natural fit. Use Grove of the Burnwillows to generate red, gaining your opponent one life. Spend that red on the trigger from Punishing Fire to return it to hand. The result is the ability to cast Punishing Fire every single turn and lay waste to your opponent’s creatures before eventually turning to hit their face.
It’s a bit convoluted, but if you have assembled one of the infinite fastbond combos discussed above it is possible to repeatedly sacrifice and replay grove of the burnwillows, getting you multiple punishing fire casts in a single turn. What a spectacular way to win that would be, with a punishing fire machine gun powered by an infinite zuran orb fastbond combo.
Green is largely the color of two things: lands and mana creatures. These cards are so generally useful that green makes an excellent support color for a variety of strategies. Treat mana dorks like slower moxen and fetchlands as sacrifice enablers/payoffs and you’ll headed in the right direction. There is a lot of creative room in this color, so I’m eager to see what crazy archetypes get brewed up. Perhaps a Sultai Ninjas lists using mana creatures as ninjutsu enablers? A green based artifacts deck? None of those are intended archetypes, but I’m sure there are some fun things like them out there waiting to be discovered.