Last week I talked about the top ten blue commons in Avacyn Restored and how I rank them in draft. The feedback I got from that article was positive, so I decided to continue on with it as a series. I talked about blue first, as I figured that would be the easiest to write about—its what I have drafted the most, and is easily near the top of the colors in the format. This week I’m going to continue that trend and talk about green. My perception of green has changed quite a bit since I started to draft this format. It is easily the deepest and most aggressive color in this set, and that alone should be a compelling enough argument. But, as I think you’ll see from my rankings, I think about the color a bit differently than most people.
1. Trusted Forcemage
2. Wandering Wolf
3. Borderland Ranger
4. Timberland Guide
5. Nettle Swine
6. Joint Assault
7. Geist Trappers
8. Nightshade Peddler
9. Wildwood Geist
10. Pathbreaker Wurm
First off is Trusted Forcemage, which I rank as the number 2 overall common in the format, behind Mist Raven and before Seraph of Dawn. This card is just brutal, and makes me wonder who is in charge of designing these cards. It’s actually BETTER than a 2G 4/4, and it’s a common. It’s a 3/3 for three that has more than 1 power worth of haste—letting a 2/2 run past an opposing 2/2 deals three damage and makes your creature bigger during future turns.
Turn two Wandering Wolf into turn three Trusted Forcemage is basically lights out. It’s really unlikely for an opponent to have Pillar of Flame in the first three turns and for my draw to dictate that I cast the Forcemage unpaired and ship the turn. If it dies to a Death Wind, then you eat their whole turn, so the only card in the format that can get value off of him is Human Frailty, and that’s an uncommon. Lastly, the Forcemage does some really wonderful things with Flowering Lumberknot and Joint Assault.
Wandering Wolf is next up, and at least for me, it took far too many drafts getting pounded over the head by him until I realized I should be taking him this high. My gut tells me Borderland Ranger is 50 times the card Wandering Wolf is, but in action the Wolf is just silly. He makes a joke out of defensive cards like Butcher Ghoul and Angelic Wall, and causes serious problems for opponents if you have any way to enhance his power at all.
My favorite cards to use with the Wolf are Timberland Guide, Trusted Forcemage, and the incredible Blessings of Nature (which, by the way, you should never be passing). Two-drops are out-of-this-world important in this format, and you really should be picking them super high. Consider it a signal if you see them late.
Borderland Ranger is next and it does pain me deeply to rank him this low. In our preparation for the Pro Tour I considered him basically the best common after obvious stuff like Mist Raven and Seraph of Dawn. Granted, that was wrong, but it should show you how highly I value this guy. I like him less in this format than in others—you always play two colors and basically never splash, since Death Wind is the only card worth splashing, and has single-color casting cost.
It isn’t all bad, he is still a 2/2 for three that does better than drawing a card when he comes into play. I also feel that a much higher percentage of games in this format than normal are decided by mana screw and missed land drops, so a good card that can reduce that is wonderful.
Timberland Guide should be high on your pick order before reading this. If it isn’t, then don’t worry: you’ve been doing it wrong, but I’m here to teach you how to do it right. If he was just a Grizzly Bear then he would probably be ranked exactly where he is ranked now, and when he is in your opening hand that’s precisely what he will be a huge percentage of the time, and that’s fine.
But don’t count out his ability; it combines flexibility with a cheap casting cost, allowing you to stay aggressive at almost any point in the game. With cards like Peel from Reality he can be extremely helpful at getting that off the ground, and can also sidestep the main problem with a card like Falkenrath Exterminator (which, as an aside, is very nice in red-green with Nightshade Peddler).
I feel I have already stressed the importance of two-drops so far, but it is important to note how much better a two casting cost creature can make cards like Trusted Forcemage and Triumph of Ferocity.
Nettle Swine reminds me of many cards in this format, like Fettergeist, Demonic Taskmaster, Trusted Forcemage, and Gloomwidow. The one thing all those cards have in common is that they are all undercosted and overpowered. You just get more than you should for the mana you invest—yes, it sucks when he gets Mist Raven’ed, but that’s about all that can punish him.
Green doesn’t have any other good four-drops really, so you will always take the Nettle Swine highly and play as many as you can get your hands on. I might even say it’s my all-time favorite pig. Almost no creature in the format can favorably trade with him, and the ones that can are Soulcage Fiend, which is unspeakably bad, and Gryff Vanguard, which costs more and doesn’t do well defensively anyways.
Joint Assault falls under the same category I ranked Crippling Chill and Peel from Reality—it’s power level and overall value greatly depend on how aggressive you are. The more two- and three-drops you have in your deck, the better this card becomes. I personally like Joint Assault quite a lot. It is more important to have a good mana curve first and a couple tricks second, which is why all the cards above this on the list are creatures—that doesn’t make this card less powerful or important. It just means that you need to be careful of these things when and if you see a Joint Assault in a pack next to something like a Geist Trappers.
Geist Trappers is a card I simply like to have most of the time. I don’t love it, and would be cautious to play more than two, but he does his job well. He shines brightest against blue-white decks—outside of something like Eaten by Spiders, which is uncommon, green is very weak to fliers. Geist Trappers can provide not one, but two solid blockers for flying creatures and even defends well against flying creatures backed up by something like a Crippling Chill.
Because he soulbonds, I’ve had games where I continually trade off a creature for an opposing flier, then play a new guy and bond them up. In these instances you get more mileage out of him than you could ever expect. Geist Trappers has solid stats for his cost, and you get the same bonuses I mentioned earlier with cards like Flowering Lumberknot and Joint Assault.
Nightshade Peddler‘s value can skyrocket depending on what colors you are in. For example, I don’t love the Peddler in blue-green or white-green unless you have multiple Flowering Lumberknot. I will almost always play him in those color combinations, but know when I put him in my deck that he is likely to be marginal.
The Peddler is at his most powerful with Lightning Prowess, creating a small Visara the Dreadful. He also pairs pretty well with Falkenrath Exterminator, which is a bit harder of a combo to put together considering the Exterminator comes with some assembly required, but equally deadly when it all comes together.
The first time I read Wildwood Geist I thought it got +2/+2 only on an opponent’s turn, and I instantly dismissed it. Then when I realized it got the bonus on your own turn I thought it was awesome. Then I played with it, knew what it did, and realized it’s painfully mediocre. I have to believe he’s overall worse than a 4/4 for 4G—there are times when he doesn’t do what you want him to do, as opposed to a 4/4 which is always exactly what you expect.
I was routinely taking him over Geist Trappers as he is ‘bigger’, but that just isn’t correct. I find myself playing him more often than not, and that is fine, but he isn’t a card I particularly like at all. Luckily, you can get him pretty late, so you can pick him up just about exactly when you should.
Pathbreaker Wurm is last on the list because he is also disappointingly average. The problem with him is that he costs six mana, which is bad because a good green deck is an aggressive green deck, which will have a hard time making any six mana card worth the cost. The other problem with costing six is that you have to contend with Vorstclaw and Howlgeist.
Since all three of them are green six casting cost creatures, they aren’t really desirable and go pretty late in draft. It took me one or two drafts to realize that you should put a low priority on these cards—almost no matter what you do you will end up with one or two, and with any effort you have more than you know what to do with. He’s most useful when your deck already wants soulbond, as I’ve already explained.
Abundant Growth didn’t quite make the cut here, as in my experience there are almost no cards worth splashing. Color-fixing is pretty marginal since most decks are only two colors and play 18 lands due to a lack of playables. The only non-rare cards that are ever worth splashing are Death Wind and Homicidal Seclusion, and if you have these you can take Abundant Growth higher, but basically none of my good decks want this card.
I have mentioned Flowering Lumberknot a lot and I think he is very powerful, but he is only playable if you have 7+ soulbond creatures. This may seem like a lot, but what you invest is well worth it. He is enormous and the colors that green pair best with (red and blue) have reasonable soulbond creatures that you want in your deck anyways—like Wingcrafter and Hanweir Lancer.
I didn’t like the Lumberknot much before, but he certainly grew on me, and the first time I mangled someone with him I was in love. I have happily first picked him before, admittedly this was pack 3 and the pack was bad, but when he is something you want it is fine to go to great lengths to get him.
Terrifying Presence is playable, but not all that great. You should basically never take this over any card you consider good, and you can get them pretty late. Most of my green decks have one and it’s rarely impressive.
Well there you have green: the best of the best. I go into just about every draft hoping to be green, and look to take Wandering Wolf over cards of a similar or greater power level just based on my preference for green and two-drops. For example, I would take Wandering Wolf over Pillar of Flame and Gryff Vanguard, and I don’t feel like that is particularly close. Thanks for all the feedback last week, I urge you to keep that up since it’s one of the only ways for me to improve as a writer and give you what you want.
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