I made a very interesting discovery while burning through Drafts on MTGA. I was using the account we use to record Arena Boys, and so when a rare or mythic popped up I felt like we’d eventually play at some point, I would take it to avoid having to burn a wildcard later.
This is truly inexcusable conduct for anyone wanting to play serious Magic for winners, I know, but here’s the thing—I started winning with off-color rares. Yep, me—Riley Knight, the guy so dumb he doesn’t understand how Surgical Extraction interacts with Relic of Progenitus. I ended up sweeping Draft after Draft, snagging gems, packs, and stacks of rares each time. I couldn’t believe my luck, and was convinced that if this archetype could carry me to such giddying heights, there must be something to it.
The idea behind the archetype is a very simple one: draft a bunch of green fixing and black removal, then take all the high-powered rares that the bots are foolish enough to ship downstream. The fixing in War of the Spark is deceptively powerful, and it’s actually relatively easy to splash rares across 2 or even 3 colors.
Most of these decks have a proliferate subtheme, which helps to explain some of the key cards outlined below. By their very nature, B/G Raredraft decks are slow, and a snowballing mechanic like proliferate can serve as a critical backup plan in games you don’t draw your bombs (or, heaven forbid, your opponents actually answer them).
Before we begin, one final caveat: while I’ve had a lot of success with this archetype on MTGA, I’ve not tested it in the wild, against real-life human Earthlings. Its strength may strongly rely on the MTGA bots and their… unique… method of evaluating cards. The bots are so idiotic sometimes, I don’t reckon they’d be able to pour water out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel.
I’ll start by saying this: I’m not going to tell you to take stuff like Bloom Hulk or Ob Nixilis’s Cruelty. You already know to do that. Take good cards like these high—they’re still excellent—but outside of obvious slam-dunk picks, here is a loose list of priorities.
First up, fixing. Obviously. Centaur Nurturer is a great way to fix your colors and defend your life total, but the real MVP as far as I’m concerned is New Horizons. I will play as many as three copies of this card, especially when I’ve picked up plenty of 2-drops to make the most of the counter. Take both New Horizons and Centaur Nurturer as an top-level priority. Without cards like these, the deck doesn’t function.
You always want to get maximum value from New Horizons and for that reason, I tend to prioritize certain 2-drops directly after fixing. My absolute favorite is Snarespinner—you plop a counter on that bad boy and it’s going to block everything. Even without, Snarespinner is a first-rate defensive option, especially against opposing flyers. Pollenbright Druid is a card I also like to have to kick off proliferate nonsense, while you can’t go wrong with something like Lazotep Reaver.
I don’t know how everyone else feels about Courage in Crisis, but I absolutely love this card. It supports the proliferate subtheme supremely well, bolstering planeswalkers and Zombie armies, but one of my favorite line is to cast a Snarespinner on turn 2 and then Courage in Crisis on turn 3, then block everything forever until this deck’s superior late game can grind into gear.
Finally, there are a few key commons of which I always try to have at least one copy. Aid the Fallen allows you to rebuy your bombs should your opponent have answers (and they often do). Thundering Ceratok is the best way to push through a stalled board, especially after you’ve been proliferating for a few turns, and Vampire Opportunist has really overperformed as a finisher while also providing a warm (cold?) body for New Horizons. I always play one copy.
Rather obviously, all three black-green gold uncommons are insane and you should take them as soon as you see them, above almost everything but the very best bombs. Deathsprout and Leyline Prowler are exactly what this deck wants to do—kill stuff while fixing your colors—while Vraska is a stone-cold powerhouse. These uncommons are the real reason to play black alongside the obvious green.
When it comes to mono-colored uncommons, I’m not super high on any of the black ones. Some are generically good cards, and you should take them when you see them (Bleeding Edge, Vizier of the Scorpion), but overall the real heat comes from the green uncommons.
Paradise Druid and Jiang Yanggu are, once again, incredible ways to both ramp and fix your mana, like New Horizons and Centaur Nurturer. While a little fragile, both these cards can generally help to power out at least one or two cards ahead of schedule. Green also offers some incredible payoff cards in Evolution Sage and Mowu, Loyal Companion (Arlinn is also excellent). The proliferate subtheme in this archetype becomes so much more powerful with cards like these.
Finally, I’m not yet convinced by Firemind Vessel. You’d think it would be perfect in a deck like this, but unlike New Horizons, Centaur Nurturer, and Paradise Druid, the Vessel doesn’t affect the board and has felt like a bit of a liability. I’m ready to be wrong about this, but I don’t take Firemind Vessel very highly.
The Rares and Mythics
Here’s the beauty of the deck: you can play absolutely any card you consider worth playing. Open a pack 3 Oketra? Not a worry—slam it into your deck. All the powerful rares and mythics, even double-costed ones such as Sarkhan the Masterless and Finale of Glory, are playable in this archetype.
The principle reason for this is New Horizons. As a fixer that exclusively provides 2 mana of one color, it’s actually weirdly easier to splash Kefnet or Ilharg off New Horizons. Typically, a double-costed card is not one you’d look to splash, but in War of the Spark, that rule doesn’t really seem to apply when your deck is built to support doing so. Don’t see a double-costed card as an unachievable splash because thanks to New Horizons, it’s way easier than you’d think.
Double-off-color rares can be tricky, but cards like Solar Blaze and Ral aren’t on the same level as the real haymakers of the format, many of which, happily, are black and/or green anyway. Liliana, Enter the God-Eternals, Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi, Roalesk—these cards are all red-hot, and easily included in this archetype.
I generally take most huge bombs I see, regardless of color, as I’m confident the deck will be able to play them when built properly. This isn’t restricted to just rares and mythics. You shouldn’t hesitate to snag Prison Realm, Domri’s Ambush, or even Ral’s Outburst if you’re feeling really adventurous.
The ideal B/G Raredraft deck is, effectively, a removal-heavy proliferate deck that randomly slams an off-color bomb into play out of nowhere. To that end, you should play games out like you would with any slow, midrange deck. Use your life total as a resource, deploy removal intelligently, and gum up the board. If you draw your haymaker, great—ride that Oketra to victory. If not, proliferate away, bring the board to a standstill, and win with Vampire Opportunist or Thundering Ceratok.
Here is a short list of some tips and tricks to remember while playing:
- Landing a 2-drop before a New Horizons is a game changer. Even if it’s something innocuous like a Kronch Wrangler, having an early creature with a +1/+1 counter pays dividends later on.
- Generally speaking, put your New Horizons on whichever basic type you have the most of at any given time. This hardly ever comes up, but can be relevant when trying to cast multiple spells across different colors in one turn.
- You won’t always draw your bombs, and so you shouldn’t play assuming they’re going to come and bail you out. The proliferate subtheme is there for a reason—as a rock-solid plan B you’ll use more often than not to win games.
- On the topic of proliferate, you’ll get a lot of extra value from planeswalkers in this deck due to its ability to generate extra counters. Think carefully before burning the last counter off a Jiang Yanggu or a Davriel.
- This archetype tends to spawn very defensive decks with high-toughness creatures. Don’t be afraid, however, to use your life total as a resource. Centaur Nurturer can buffer it back up, and once you’ve clogged the board with mighty, juiced-up Snarespinners, they’re never getting through.
Finally, there’s one more important thing to cover about this deck. It is so much fun to play. Winning is nice and all, but slamming a turn 4 Sarkhan into play off two Swamps, two Forests, and a New Horizons is just the best fun. I very highly recommend you give this archetype a go. Not only will you rack up the wins, you’ll also expand your MTGA collection pretty swiftly!