Last weekend saw 16 players qualify for Mythic Championship V via MTG Arena. Their decks broke down as follows:
- 5 Vampires
- 4 Boros Feather
- 4 Bant Scapeshift
- 2 Kethis Combo
- 1 Mono-Green
While the first three archetypes were fairly ubiquitous coming into the tournament, the latter two were anything but. For Kethis Combo, that has begun to change subsequent to the breakout runs of Stanislav Cifka and Ondrej Strasky. But we haven’t seen much attention given to the lone mono-green deck to conquer the gauntlet. As it turns out, the deck and its pilot both have an interesting story to tell.
Qualifying for the Mythic Championship with Mono-Green
So who is this rogue brewer? Chris “Kavartech” Kvartek is a 22-year-old student from Massapequa, New York. In addition to his studies, Chris holds down a part-time job and a full-time competitive hobby. I use the word “hobby” loosely because you’d be forgiven if you thought Magic was Chris’s occupation.
After all, it’s been a busy year for the man after reaching the Top 8 of the Mythic Championship in London and narrowly missing a repeat performance at Mythic Championship Barcelona. The kind of narrow that involves getting your opponent to 1 life in game 3 of your win-and-in. Nevertheless, Chris was undeterred, as shown by his most recent achievement of qualifying for Mythic Championship V on Arena.
London and Barcelona were both Modern events, so I wondered whether that was Chris’s forte. He was quick to correct me.
“I’ve never really done particularly well in Modern, but I played so much War of the Spark Limited, I’d analyzed every card and I knew what I wanted to do in the format, and I love Limited! I feel like I get a big edge in Limited, and then kind of hobble by in Modern,” he laughed.
With a combined Limited record of 11-1 across the two events, this is no exaggeration. It quickly becomes clear that Chris has strong fundamentals. This isn’t a story about a guy who spiked some events. This is a serious Magic contender in the making.
But why now? What happened to trigger this breakout of performances? Before 2019, Chris didn’t have any premier results to speak of, and now he’s been able to chain together three in quick succession.
“Honestly, it’s really just been years of practice and losing,” he explained.
During the conversation, he regularly reiterates how much losing has helped him. What’s changed recently is his attitude to those losses.
“When I was younger, I was a little bit more immature, I would get frustrated when I lose. But if I play the game as well as I can, then why am I mad if I mulligan to 4 and then lose?” Chris also stresses the contribution of his teammate, Robert Lee, whose name you might recognize from the Top 8 of recent MagicFest Washington DC.
“People in my old playtesting group, I guess they wouldn’t really question me. So I would kind of just do my plays, use bad decks, and not do that well. He kind of came along and he called me on my bs.” Chris explained that Robert was instrumental in pushing him to play Humans rather than the “garbage” that he was playing before. Incidentally, Robert is also the person who pushed Chris to play mono-green in the MCQ.
“I was just gonna play Vampires because I like that kind of deck, and Sorin’s insane. But he was rank 1 Mythic with the deck for a couple of days and then he dropped down but was kind of perpetually in that range. I was watching him play, the deck kind of started off as a joke, but we won like 20 matches in a row. We realized that nothing really beats this except like Mono-Blue Aggro and I didn’t think anyone was gonna play that.”
With a smile on his face, Chris told me that he’s currently sitting in Gold on Arena. He didn’t have the wildcards to build the deck, so he tested on Magic Online instead and had to take a leap of faith in trusting his teammate when he crafted the deck on Arena just days before the event.
Mono-Green by Chris Kvartek
23 Forest 3 Barkhide Troll 3 Thorn Lieutenant 3 Voracious Hydra 4 Llanowar Elves 4 Paradise Druid 4 Pelt Collector 4 Steel Leaf Champion 4 Vine Mare 4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World 4 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger Sideboard 1 Voracious Hydra 1 Carnage Tyrant 1 Thrashing Brontodon 2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger 2 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds 4 Nullhide Ferox 4 Veil of Summer
Most sites have categorized this deck as a “Stompy” deck, but that isn’t really accurate. Sure, it starts with Llanowar Elves and plays Steel Leaf Champions. But the top end of the curve isn’t Nullhide Ferox or Ghalta, Primal Hunger–both of those are relegated to the sideboard here. This deck is primarily working towards the duo of planeswalkers: Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Vivien, Arkbow Ranger. It runs a full set of both, and Chris states the game plan clearly.
“The planeswalkers are insane, they’re getting you card advantage, get them out soon, buff up your creatures, make guys, and you just kill them super quickly or accrue more value. It’s definitely why Llanowar Elves is just unbelievable in the deck.”
Historically, Llanowar Elves has helped Stompy decks to play big creatures ahead of curve, and here the plan is to plant a powerful planeswalker as early as possible and just take over the game that way. While Nissa’s strengths are well-established at this stage, this is probably the most play that Vivien has seen since its release. A big reason for the success of this deck is the recognition of just how completely the card can take over games.
Vivien’s -3 ability adds much needed interaction to mono green. Combined with Voracious Hydra, you have a decent toolset to remove problem creatures like Deputy of Detention. Her “ultimate” comes online just one turn after you play her, and in some games you are quite ready to sacrifice her just to get out a Ghalta or Carnage Tyrant, which can completely take over games in certain matchups. Lastly, Chris says that in reality the +1 functions more like card advantage than you would think. This is reinforced by the pseudo-hexproof theme that the deck’s creatures carry.
All of the two-drops in the deck are tricky to target. Paradise Druid and Barkhide Troll both sometimes have hexproof and Thorn Lieutenant leaves behind a token when it’s targeted, which still amounts to card advantage. Meanwhile, Vine Mare is both fully hexproof and often unblockable–and if they can, that’s where the added trample from Vivien kicks in.
The deck is also well-placed to beat Esper decks, in large part because it has a whole host of planeswalkers in the mainboard, which is the usual way a mono-green deck would sideboard to beat a control deck. Chris points out that most of the current Esper decks don’t have many favorable ways to interact with this deck–board wipes are the only real chance they have of winning the matchup, and Esper players have recently been cutting down on Kaya’s Wraths.
“Especially post-board, Veil of Summer counters nearly everything they can do. You trim Pelt Collectors post-board because when you’re on the draw and they Thought Erasure you, you just Veil, and it kind of feels like you just win the game on turn 2,” he explained.
One of the main reasons that mono-green decks disappeared after the last rotation was that we lost our protection card in Blossoming Defense. While Veil of Summer is not playable in the mainboard, in the matches where it comes in it functions as a Blossoming Defense on steroids. It protects against almost everything decks of those colors can do to you, and draws a card while you’re at it.
The other matchups that Chris and Robert stressed were Mono-Red, Feather and Vampires. Chris believes Red is favorable post-board because they struggle to handle your bigger creatures like Nullhide Ferox and Ghalta.
Vampires, however, was his biggest concern for the deck.
“When you’re on the draw, they’re probably favored. The reason I don’t like Vampires is that it’s basically a Sorin deck. The best cards against us are Sorin and Knight of the Ebon Legion. But if they don’t have either of those, it’s hard for them to win,” he explained.
While it’s not great to struggle against the best card in the best deck, this is a position that every deck in the format is in. Staring down a Sorin is usually playing from a disadvantage. But when you’re not in that position, it’s quite easy for you to go over the top and the current removal being played in Vampires doesn’t interact very well with the threats this deck presents.
Chris described the Feather matchup in a similar way to the Vampires one.
When they do draw those cards, combining them with Reckless Rage and Gods Willing can be a nightmare for mono-green. Chris said that he found Feather to be sufficiently inconsistent as a deck and he didn’t feel too worried about it coming into the event.
Sure enough, both Vampires and Feather ended up being problems for Chris, almost eliminating him from the event,
“I went 6-2 the first day and I figured I wouldn’t make it to the next day. But I was 5th or 7th-ranked Mythic in War of the Spark earlier in the season so I got the email and made it to the second day!”
The next day, however, Chris played against five different decks and was able to beat all of them, being one of the first to qualify for Mythic Championship V.
Chris has graciously offered a comprehensive sideboard guide for the deck.
+ 1 Carnage Tyrant
-4 Vine Mare
-3 Vine Mare
+ 4 Nullhide Ferox
-4 Vine Mare
-4 Vine Mare
-4 Vine Mare
Chris will be participating in Mythic Championship V in California, as well as Mythic Championship VI in Richmond, which teammate Robert is also qualified for. I asked him if he’s aiming to qualify for the newly announced Rivals league.
“If I do well in Richmond and California, I actually might be able to get into the MPL,” he explained. Chris is currently ranked 7th on the Challenger board, with the top 4 Mythic point earners being promoted to the MPL next season. “I think I’m going to be able to quit my job soon!”