Green's Noncreature Evergreens
- Christian Tobehn
Green is best known for huge creatures like Force of Nature or Avatar of Might. These cards shaped the perception of the color for a long time. Recently green was blessed with powerful cards like Force of Vigor, Veil of Summer, and Once Upon a Time. But green always offered more than just big creatures.
Green Blooming in Vintage
In the past, we have seen a bunch of green cards that still shape the metagame of various formats to this day. There even are two Vintage strategies built around green cards, Oath of Druids and Survival of the Fittest, which we will discuss below. Recently Fastbond was unrestricted in Vintage and led to various new archetypes—Ziasbond and Crabshack. We will see whether or not fastbonding can continue to be a major strategy, but it sure looks like that.
Before we come to the list of the Top 10 green noncreatures, I want to give out some honorable mentions. This includes a few creature cards, albeit ones that are more combo pieces than actual creatures. Sorry, no Tarmogoyf here. Instead, we have great sideboard options like Choke or Carpet of Flowers hosing blue decks. Then there are unique creatures like Vengevine, Primeval Titan, and Golgari Grave-Troll, which enable special strategies in nearly all formats they are legal in. Green players also have access to the most efficient artifact and enchantment hate in Nature's Claim. Green Sun's Zenith is a super efficient creature tutor which had to be banned in Modern. Channel plus Fireball is an all-time great combo and Mirri's Guile is a widely overlooked card-filtering enchantment.
Top 10 Green Noncreatures
Our first card on the list is Berserk, a card that is very straightforward and arguably the most powerful pump spell ever printed. It can end games faster than the speed of light. A Giant Growth and a Berserk transform your tiny Llanowar Elves into an 8/8 trampler. In that context I have to mention the second contender for the title of greatest pump spell ever: Invigorate. These two cards enable the infamous Legacy Infect deck. You essentially make your Blighted Agent an unblockable 10/10—at the cost of only 1 green mana!—and win the game in just one attack. Though Berserk does not need Invigorate to be an absurd spell.
Regrowth is all about value and flexibility. It can bring back your win condition from the graveyard. It can fix your mana by bringing back a land. It can bring back a Wasteland or Strip Mine to throw a wrench into your opponent's plans. Bringing back cards from the graveyard is nearly always restricted to a specific card type. Black can give you creature recursion, whereas blue and red can bring back instants and sorceries. White normally brings an enchantment or artifact back to your hand—see Argivian Restoration, Argivian Archaeologist, or Auramancer. But Regrowth imposes absolutely no limitation on the card it gets back to your hand. It could even give you the opportunity to replay your Ancestral Recall or Time Walk. Regrowth may not be the flashiest card, but it sits at the very top of its field.
A green land tutor for only 1 mana, Crop Rotation can be the fifth or sixth copy of Gaea's Cradle or Serra's Sanctum. It can search for your Strip Mine or Wasteland to destroy one of your opponent's critical lands, and it can find the missing piece of the infamous Dark Depths-Thespian's Stage combo. Many years later, the bigger version—Scapeshift—also proved strong and, at times, probematic.
Natural Order is a busted, straightforward creature tutor and mana accelerator. 4 mana plus the sacrifice of a green creature pays for a Craterhoof Behemoth or a Progenitus and consequently the incoming death of your opponent. Welcome to Legacy.
Glimpse of Nature
Do you have a fetish for drawing cards? Then Glimpse of Nature is your card. If you want to draw your entire deck, combine it with the services of the old Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel. You like quick combo kills? Then you have to play Glimpse of Nature. Put it in a deck with enough Kobolds and other zero mana creatures like Memnite and draw yourself to infinity.
These two cards extend the rules of Magic, which usually allow you to play just one land a turn. Exploration ups this number by one, which already is pretty amazing. Legacy's Lands deck abuses this card in combination with Life from the Loam to make Wasteland dance and stomp all over the opponent's mana base. But Fastbond goes even further. Fastbond completely negates the basic restriction. Just play as many lands as you want, why don't you. When you also have Crucible of Worlds in play, you can sweep away all of your opponent's lands with Strip Mine. You could also get a million landfall triggers with Oboro, Palace in the Clouds. I'm looking at you, Hedron Crab.
Life from the Loam
I heard this card called "the green Ancestral Recall" and it isn't far from the truth. Well, it costs 2 mana instead of 1, but it has its own advantages. It's not just an insane card advantage engine. Life from the Loam is the glue that makes Lands decks super resilient and annoying. Even if it gets countered, it will return to your hand and put new cards into your graveyard the next turn. It is great to retrieve a Strip Mine with Regrowth, but there's nothing like the face of your opponent when you loam back multiple Wastelands.
Some people argue that this card is essentially a blue card. The effect indeed is kind of blue, but obviously Sylvan Library is green and I'm very happy that it is. Just enjoy it in your green deck. Even though the color pie got its basic framework in the first sets, irregularities were not uncommon. Take Unstable Mutation for instance. It's more black or green than blue. Back to Sylvan Library: it's a frantic card-drawing machine. It nets two extra cards every single turn if you want it to. The loss of life is not that tragic in the super fast lanes of Legacy and Vintage. In fact, there are strategies that benefit from a lower life total, for example Death's Shadow in Legacy or Mirror Universe in Old School. Either way, this card is always worth a copy in a deck with access to green.
Survival of the Fittest
Survival of the Fittest comes in on rank number two. Survival of the Fittest can discard a creature card to your graveyard and gives you a creature tutoring effect for that. Sounds totally fair and reasonable, right? No, not really. It can do two main things: solve problems by delivering the necessary silver bullets, for example Ingot Chewer to destroy problematic artifacts or Faerie Macabre to mess with the graveyard strategy of your opponent. Secondly, it's a combo engine. How about discarding Vengevines till you discard a Basking Rootwalla and finally tutor for Hollow One, which you cast for 0 mana? In this example, Hollow One would be your second creature spell and bring back all your Vengevines. This specific "13 power Vengevine chain" only requires 4 mana.
I have to mention Birthing Pod here, which is some kind of "fixed" take on Survival of the Fittest. Even this weakened version had to be banned in Modern, because it packed too much tutor and combo power.
Oath of Druids
Oath of Druids is probably the most busted card on the list—and one of the most budget-friendly ones, by the way. In the right build it is a tutor, some kind of reanimator or mana generator, and even a graveyard accelerator. While a Reanimator player has to do some hard work first to get Griselbrand into the graveyard via Entomb or a looting effect, Oath of Druids does it all on its own. The famous combo with Forbidden Orchard even gives the Oath player a land that produces every color of mana without loss of tempo or life.
Ramping. Tutoring. Drawing. Filtering. Dredging. Pumping. "Oathing" (there is no suitable word to describe what Oath of Druids does). That is a pretty diverse list of functions for a color that is so famous for casting hulky creatures.
In fact, green has the third most cards on the Vintage restricted list and the second and third most on the Modern and Legacy banned lists. It seems that all the really cool green cards get hit by the banhammer. Perhaps this is a reason why people recognize green as a one-dimensional color. Those crazy draw and tutor abilities, which are part of the green color identity, are always a risky venture when it comes to balancing—especially for Modern and Standard, as seen recently with Veil of Summer and Once Upon a Time.
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