On the surface, GR is about beating your opponent senseless, making that player wonder where everything went wrong. Peering a bit deeper, you’ll see that GR is really about building your board and then maintaining that large board presence. The mechanic formidable clearly pushes this since your creatures go from mediocre to all-stars once you have 8 total power. Sabertooth Outrider is a great example of a creature that transforms from a reasonable-yet-replaceable threat to an absolute monster which is nearly impossible to stop in combat.
Maintaining a large board state is a lot harder than simply casting a bunch of big monsters. Your opponent will constantly interact with you and place a priority on keeping you off formidable. Planning a way to build up a board despite your opponent’s interaction is the key to GR. I’ve found there are 3 primary ways to keep your creatures intact to help hit that magical 8 power.
As we’ve been taught again and again, removal is a priority in Limited. This is especially true in GR, where it lets you clear away blockers and get early damage in without trading off your creatures. Twin Bolt and Epic Confrontation are both premium cards for the deck. More expensive removal is still appreciated, but cards like Sarkhan’s Rage are less of a necessity in GR than they would be in RB since you’ll have a lot of large creatures already at 4-6 mana.
Second, combat tricks help maintain pressure and keep your opponent on the back foot while helping maintain board presence. These tricks also often act as removal because your opponent will be incentivized to trade off creatures to keep you from getting formidable online, thus playing into your combat tricks perfectly. The best trick for the deck is Temur Battle Rage, but I’ve found Tread Upon to do a lot of work, and Kindled Fury is usually worth a slot in the deck although it’s a low priority pick since you can pick it up later in the DTK packs. Press the Advantage can be okay but you’ll generally want bigger creatures at that point on the curve, and the card works better in a GW shell.
Buy Time Early
Lastly, you can build up a strong board by skipping early attackers altogether. Glade Watcher is king—it puts a big body on the board for 2 mana and sits there while you accumulate power on the board. The next few turns can be used to play morphs or mana acceleration at which point your 5-drops can overpower your opponent. Hardened Berserker fits nicely into this plan because even though he’ll often trade off, which is something you’re trying to avoid, he’ll let you follow up with a big threat like Stampeding Elk Herd without ever losing tempo. Atarka Monument can also play this role and is one of the best Monuments because it helps ramp and offers a flying finisher in a color combination that can often have trouble closing the game when the opponent stabilizes.
Generally I find myself drafting GR after an early Epic Confrontation, Twin Bolt, or if I’m lucky, a bomb rare. However, I’ve also found that the deck is criminally underdrafted right now and it’s easy to switch into the deck later in the pack. Some of these key cards that can signal GR being open are Glade Watcher, Dragon-Scarred Bear, and Tail Slash (which often goes later in packs than it should because it requires some set up).
Many pro players believe that green is very bad due to its shallow card pool in Fate Reforged. This can be said of red as well, but fortunately both colors are very deep in DTK. I tend to have 17-20 playables moving into FRF and can then focus on picking up the premium commons like Goblin Heelcutter, Whisperer of the Wilds, and Bathe in Dragonfire before the packs dry up. Often you’ll only get 4-6 GR cards from FRF but this isn’t even that huge a problem since green decks are best at splashing bombs of other colors. For this reason you’ll often find yourself using later picks on FRF gainlands to solidify a splash to round out your deck.
GR Pick Order
Commons and Uncommons
Rares and Mythics (Better than Roast)
Cards GR cares less about than other archetypes playing red or green cards:
Let’s take a look at some example decks using our Draft Guide ratings:
A: Hits every mark of the archetype and has some extra power outside of the archetype itself (usually from strong rares and uncommons).
B: Reaches all the goals of the archetype and has a strong game plan that will lead to many wins. You should aim for this level when drafting (and hope that an A results).
C: There are some elements of the archetype in place, but there are some holes in the deck and it won’t be as streamlined accordingly.
D: The deck is more a pile of reasonable cards within its colors but doesn’t have a cohesive strategy.
F: A train-wreck—the deck just doesn’t work on a fundamental level.
Deck Rating: C
This deck is a textbook-definition C rating. The deck has some early pump with Kindled Fury and Tread Upon to try and save its early creatures for the Sabertooth Outrider’s formidable. The big problem is that the deck lacks focus and ends up trying to support its lackluster early game. While the 4- and 5-drops can win games on their own, there’s not a ton of surrounding support. Too much work goes into setting up the board here all while the opponent just attacks back. Looking back on the deck, I think it would have been stronger to remove the Smoldering Efreets and add a land plus Custodian of the Trove. These changes would make Tormenting Voice better since you can discard excess lands more reliably in the early game and set up the strong upper curve with a good defensive creature.
Deck Rating: C+
This deck cares less about formidable than many GR decks, but it has strong individual power at each point on the curve due to Glade Watchers, morphs, Aerie Bowmasters, and the 5- and 6-drop monsters. Winds of Qal Sisma got much better in the new draft format because decks are more interested in racing, and there are plenty of ferocious creatures to enable it. Additionally, the deck has a plan in the late game thanks to the Atarka Monument and Dragons. The Aerie Bowmasters really gum up the ground to allow for the deck’s late game though some more expensive morphs like Segmented Krotiq would certainly help improve this plan and are a missing piece of this deck. As a final note, Spidersilk Net has been a surprisingly reasonable sideboard card for me in GR against a deck with a ton of evasion, usually UW. It certainly isn’t needed in this deck due to the Aerie Bowmasters, but dying to fliers is one of the most common ways for GR to lose so keep this in mind in the future.
Deck Rating: B
Now this deck has a plan! 5-drop city is the place to be and with 4 ways to ramp out a 5-drop on turn 4, the plan is quite consistent. This deck forgoes early-game creatures and instead tries to overwhelm the opponent with a steady stream of 5/5s. Temur Battle Rage plays especially nicely here to keep a Hardened Berserker in play or deal roughly a million damage when targeting a face-up Krotiq. I really enjoyed playing this deck and it exemplifies a strong GR plan.
Deck Rating: A-
This GR deck fires on all cylinders, and has power to back up synergy. The early drops set up for a later game, but also easily enable Hewed Stone Retainers. The deck tries to avoid trading to enable a huge Shamanic Revelation which it achieves through Kindled Fury, Epic Confrontation, Dromoka’s Command, and the early Glade Watchers. Seismic Rupture might look out of place in a ground creature deck, but it plays very well here after an early Glade Watcher. Rupture also forms an awesome interaction with Humble Defector, who pairs equally well with Atarka Efreet. After clearing a bunch of the opponent’s creatures, Atarka Efreets can quickly end the game alongside the big monsters at the top of the curve. Collectively this deck hits on all the notes of a successful GR deck mentioned at the beginning of the article, and has access to all 3 methods of building and maintaining a strong board state.
Is there anything I missed about DTK’s GR archetype? I’d love to see in the comments! Also, join me for live draft action at http://www.twitch.tv/nealoliver88 where I’m live most weekdays throughout the day!