In this article about Vilis, Broker of Blood, I mentioned how co-author Bob challenged me to build a mono-colored Commander deck, which was something I hadn’t done at the time. That deck is called Green Meanies, and I think it’s time I walked you through the sheer beauty (and brute force) of a deck helmed by Yeva, Nature’s Herald.
Yeva, Nature’s Herald is a great Commander for a mono-green deck made of “extra” cards. Flash means we can surprise-cast her at almost any time, and she gives our other green creature spells flash. That means we can play any creature-based strategy with the increased flexibility of instant speed.
We don’t want to be relying on our Commander to make the deck work; if one Swords to Plowshares can ruin our day, we’re going to have a lot of days ruined. With Yeva, her ability to give us instant speed creatures is a big bonus, but it’s not necessary for the deck to work. If we had a copy of Vedalken Orrery in the deck as backup we could feel even more safe. Yeva is simply a deck enhancer for whatever our deck is trying to do… So what exactly does this deck do? It’s rather straightforward: It does everything that green likes to do, it just does it at the end of someone else’s turn!
First and foremost, this deck ramps. Hard. We’re playing Llanowar Elves, Arbor Elf, Khalni Heart Expedition, Kodama’s Reach, Sol Ring, Hedron Archive, and many more. It’s very common for this deck to have access to six or more mana on turn four. With eighteen cards that five mana or more, and a few cards with X in their costs, we definitely want to be able to power these cards out sooner than the sixth turn.
One of the most absurd cards in this deck is Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. By paying two mana and tapping the shrine, we can add mana equal to the number of green mana symbols in permanents we control. A majority of our cards are permanents with at least one green mana symbol, and Yeva is one of many who have two or more. Simply put: Nykthos will produce a ton of mana for us at nearly all times. It’s not amazing in the early game, but by the time we’re into turn four or five, we should be able to net two or three mana from activating it. If we don’t find Nykthos naturally, we do have Sylvan Scrying to get it out of the deck. Once it’s active, the question naturally arises: What do we do with all this mana? Well first, we make sure we don’t lose it.
Upwelling is a very silly card. For a small investment of four mana, we can keep all of our mana, forever! This does benefit our opponents, but they’re not going to be playing a deck designed to make use of this card. That’s where we can gain the edge on this symmetrical effect: Nykthos will be gaining us a ton of mana, and since we won’t lose the mana we can stock up for a huge turn. With an Upwelling we can play three or four high-cost cards in a single turn, or dump all that mana into an X-cost card where x is twelve or fifteen (or over fifty)!
To add onto the silliness, Wilderness Reclamation can allow us to essentially double our mana in a turn. With Upwelling and Wilderness Reclamation we’ll have more mana than we know what to do with it! Tack on a Nykthos and we’ll be dreaming of a card that lets us win just by having tons of mana. It may sound far-fetched, but we’re not even considering the potential of Dictate of Karametra or Zendikar Resurgent (which are also in the deck) pumping out even more mana.
So what in the world do we do with this ungodly amount mana? I’m glad you asked:
They’re green, they’re mean, and they’re fighting machines. Green is the premiere color for “big f**k-off creatures”. Avenger of Zendikar, Pelakka Wurm, Terastodon, and so many more behemoth creatures make great ways to spend our abundance of mana. These creatures have big bodies, relevant effects when they enter that battlefield, and they create a momentum swing, which is exactly what we’re looking for. Luckily for us, we’ll be able to play these monstrosities much earlier than normal since we have so many ways to make obscene amounts of mana.
End-Raze Forerunners is a nice budget option for when we don’t have Craterhoof Behemoth, but the difference is surprisingly big. +2/+2 is slightly worse than an Overrun, but the added effect of vigilance is very useful in a multiplayer setting. If we dropped Avenger of Zendikar the previous turn, this buff will make our plant tokens into serious threats, especially if we were able to trigger landfall once or twice. However, it’s important to note that while End-Raze Forerunners have haste, they don’t grant haste to our other creatures. This is very notable, and it has been the reason why a few games have been lost in this deck’s history. We’ll go over some cards not present in this list, Craterhoof included, in the upgrade section of this article since this list was nearly 100% spare cards.
After a general idea formed around the above cards, I started wondering about potential weaknesses. First there was lack of removal, specifically for creatures. While I could probably fit some “fight” cards into the deck, I’d rather just Overrun my opponents than dedicate slots of the deck to removing their creatures at the potential cost of my own. The second potential weakness was card draw.
The reason Beast Whisperer, Primordial Sage, Soul of the Harvest, and Zendikar Resurgent are so good is the fact that they can turn a late-game Llanowar Elves into another potentially more meaningful card. If we’re generating sixteen mana in a turn, but we only have a card or two in hand, drawing Llanowar Elves feels really bad. If we control any of those three card draw engines, it won’t feel like the play of the game, but instead of a total waste it becomes a single mana redraw. If we spend our sixteen mana casting creatures, we’ll have built up a board presence and dug deeper to find other card(s) we need.
The Big Plays
I’ve been mentioning X cost spells quite a bit, but there are only a select few of them in the deck.
Genesis Wave is probably the best play in the deck when we have double-digit mana. Our mana curve tops out at eight mana, meaning if we can cast Genesis Wave with X equal to eight or more, we’re guaranteed to put every permanent we hit onto the battlefield. Obviously we want to make this number as large as possible to increase our odds of hitting good permanents, since the Magic gods could decide we should only flip lands, instants and sorceries (I’m not salty, you’re salty).
This is where End-Raze Forerunners is sad when compared to Craterhoof Behemoth: without haste, we just clog up the board and risk losing it all to a board wipe. Imagine casting a large Genesis Wave, putting twenty creatures including End-Raze Forerunners onto the battlefield. Now imagine only getting to attack with three of them, then your opponent casts Day of Judgment on the following turn. It hurts, doesn’t it? I’m still not salty, by the way…
Extending our Reach
If our opponents have the board locked down tight, or our creature assaults have been wiped time and time again, there is still hope for victory!
If attacking our opponents somehow isn’t going to win the game, we need to find another way to win the game. Remember when I said we’d dream of a card that let us win just for having lots of mana? There is one, and it’s green! Helix Pinnacle‘s hundred-counter goal seems very high for an average magic game, but this is no average game: This is a mono-green Commander deck! It’s not unusual for this deck to put forty counters on Helix Pinnacle per turn; that’s a three turn clock to victory. Since it has shroud, our opponents need very specific answers to deal with it. Bane of Progress and Merciless Eviction are the most common ways of dealing with it, but one answer in a deck of one-hundred is hard to find before time runs out. It’s not foolproof, but it’s very difficult to stop once we get set up.
As previously mentioned, this deck was made from spares lying around in a binder. Aside from Craterhoof Behemoth, what else can be done to make it even deadlier?
If you’re willing to pay for one, or already have one available, Sylvan Library is one of the premiere card draw spells in green and it’s an amazing pickup for basically any green deck. The only downside is that the deck doesn’t have much life gain to counteract the paid life, but all the additional cards you’ll end up drawing should more than make up for it.
Omnath, Locus of Mana most likely came to mind when I talked about Upwelling earlier, as it’s just three mana for a one-sided version of the effect. It’s limited to only green mana, but since we’re in mono green this isn’t really a downside. Omnath, Locus of Mana is a great pickup, and if you’re buying him you might as well grab Mark of Sakiko since we all know how that works out.
Rites of Flourishing is a great card, but might be too friendly for your local meta. Letting everyone ramp and draw might make you the table favorite, but it might also assist in your demise. Instead, you can run Azusa, Lost but Seeking and just play all of your lands! Turn two Rampant Growth? How about turn one Llanowar Elves, turn two Azusa, play two more lands, play Rampant Growth?
Speaking of Rampant Growth, it’s surprisingly not in this list. I imagine there was no spare one lying around at the time of deck construction, but it’s a staple ramp spell and an easy include. A few other cards to consider: Hornet Queen, for the swarm of blockers and extra devotion count; Seedborn Muse for fueling our flash shenanigans; Growing Rites of Itlimoc since this deck pumps out plenty of creatures; Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sima for getting those meanies out quickly and giving them trample upon attacking.
Squash the Resistance
Green Meanies has slowly become one of my favorite decks to pilot. While it has a ton of room to grow and be upgraded, its current power level isn’t too absurd and it has enough group hug effects to allow everyone to play Magic. I hope you see how much fun a mono-colored Commander deck can be, and join me next time when I build Captain Lannery Storm treasure-Voltron.