On Lower Tiers: Standard Stompy
Another unsung monocolored hero of Standard has actually had its time under the meta spotlight, if briefly. Green Stompy is the best aggro deck in the format that can’t use Goblin Chainwhirler and has an amazing midrange game. Let’s find out what will happen to it after the looming rotation.
Green has always been synonym with creatures. Curiously though, the most successful green-based decks didn’t go down in Magic history because of their creatures, but rather because of the many green options to access the library and/or deploy resources in broken ways, with cards like Natural Balance, Natural Order, Aluren, Oath of Druids, Survival of the Fittest, Scapeshift, Green Sun’s Zenith, and Birthing Pod. But even back when green creatures, and creatures in general, were pretty terrible (mana dorks excluded), there were players trying to take the aggro route with Ernham Djinn or Blastoderm. Luckily, those days have passed, and green creatures are now a serious threat at each stage of the game.
The Standard iteration that's coming to an end next month had some magnificent green specimens for aggro strategies, especially after the release of Ixalan and Core Set 2019. This makes green players hopeful that the archetype will be salvaged when the Standard pool suddenly decreases to more than 600 cards.
One of the most successful green aggro lists in current Standard splashed black for a certain activation and had risen as high as second place in the meta in the middle of August.
Here’s the typical list, thoroughly analyzed based on what’s going away and what’s staying:
|4Hashep Oasis||4Llanowar Elves||3Blossoming Defense|
|4Blooming Marsh||3Greenbelt Rampager||3Heart of Kiran|
|4Woodland Cemetery||4Thorn Lieutenant|
|4Steel Leaf Champion|
|2Rhonas the Indomitable|
|3Ghalta, Primal Hunger|
|2Nissa, Vital Force||2Vivien Reid||2Hour of Glory|
|2Lifecrafter's Bestiary||2Aethersphere Harvester||1Skysovereign, Consul Flagship|
|2Thrashing Brontodon||1Vine Mare||1Blossoming Defense|
Primary Aggro Elements
Steel Leaf Champion from Dominaria is the creature that gave consistency to the deck. It’s the best card in the Triple Threats cycle, close to Goblin Chainwhirler. The Champion is an unparalleled stream of early damage, easily attacking on turn three, and ignoring chump-blockers altogether. His toughness frequently requires two pieces of red removal to be taken care of. (Of course, Soul-Scar Mage into Chainwhirler or Shock is going to hurt nonetheless.) He’s invariably the MVP of the deck, making the already impressive Leatherback Baloth completely obsolete.
But his comrades in arms aren’t too shabby either. At the same point on the curve, Thrashing Brontodon has the same high toughness and trades some power to double as a crucial utility player. Thorn Lieutenant is stealthily excellent as well, providing good protection against two-powered threats on turn two, always leaving a body behind when dealt with, then turning into a late-game threat, which means it’s not a bad draw in topdeck mode. Greenbelt Rampager is another Brontodon body for the same cost, but it can be paid over multiple turns, making it a backup first-turn play in case Llanowar Elves didn’t show.
Then of course there’s Rhonas the Indomitable. The green god is a monster on the battlefield, although he requires some setup, since a large share of our creatures aren’t able to awake Rhonas without his own help, and that costs mana. Still, the tactical value of giving trample to one of our beaters is invaluable, and deathtouch is actually important even on a big guy in this meta, allowing Rhonas to attack into gigantic threats knowing he will survive and they will not – unless they’re gods themselves, that is. But Rhonas is what you want on the battlefield to face his sister Hazoret the Fervent; another cycle where green and red won the mana wheel lottery.
After October 5: Fortunately, most of these creatures are staying. Unfortunately, Rhonas is one of those who are going away. He won’t be easy to replace, but the first option that comes to mind is Jadelight Ranger. Her tactical value is comparatively abysmal – She’s just a vanilla 4/3 at most, but she has good strategic value, getting lands in our hand or setting up the next draw.
The Rampager is also gone. Its skill set was somehow unique, but its role feels easy to replace.
Supplemental Aggro Elements
Scrapheap Scrounger has been sort of the go-to card for aggro builds, being a two-drop that swings for three and comes back. It’s the reason a Mono-Green deck like ours is incorporating black-producing lands. (Luckily, there happens to be two very good ones in the pool, Blooming Marsh and Woodland Cemetery.) It’s also the perfect crew for Heart of Kiran, another strong way to field an early source of impressive damage output.
All this said, Ghalta, Primal Hunger is arguably the card that characterizes this archetype the most. Steel Leaf Champion provides workmanlike damage, but Ghalta is the flashy, Timmy-like finisher, the presence you can’t ignore or survive for too long. If your development remains undisturbed, Ghalta is almost always able to drop by turn four, likely resulting in a win if not dealt with immediately. He’s a 12-CMC creature that counts as two mana on the curve. Of course, he shares with Heart of Kiran the flaw of being a bad draw on an empty board, unless we are so late in the game that you actually have twelve land outs, which is not a very probable outcome in the meta.
A latest addition to the maindeck after M19, Vine Mare is especially great against black because she can’t be targeted and can’t be blocked; she might prove to be underwhelming when facing decks with easy access to three-powered creatures because she’s easy to trade for and not a good blocker. She interacts nicely with Rhonas though, waking him up and not letting him easily go to sleep again. (Of course, Fumigate remains a concern.)
After October 5: Ghalta will still be around, which is great. Vine Mare too. But the artifacts will be gone, and those gave the deck a particular edge that will be lost: No more evasion, no more recursion. The quickest replacement for the Scrounger is certainly Merfolk Branchwalker, as she’s also a two-drop with a good chance of being a 3/2. She won’t recur from the graveyard, but she can block (she’s actually a great trader) and the strategic value of explore should never be underestimated.
It’s worth noting that we’re also going to lose Blooming Marsh, but we get Overgrown Tomb in exchange. The black splash is still on the table, though a Ravnica setting is more likely to generate a proper Golgari deck.
Llanowar Elves is the deck’s engine in the very early goings. A first hand with Llanowar Elves in it is likely to be a keeper. Thrashing Brontodon is the only piece of bona fide removal that’s featured in the main deck, due to being a solid beater when it’s not on “sacrificial for trade” duty against some white Oblivion Ring variants, some vehicle, a Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin getting close to transform, Aetherflux Reservoir, or God-Pharaoh’s Gift. It’s been a busy life for the Brontodon.
Blossoming Defense may also act as removal, in the classic Giant Growth-like combat trick way. But it’s mostly the road to victory for the deck, guaranteeing our prime threats won’t eat spot removal at a crucial time. Hashep Oasis is de facto Giant Growth, though very costly and sorcery-speed, so no element of surprise there. But you know, it’s a bonus effect on a land that enters the battlefield untapped, so nobody complains.
After October 5: The loss of the Oasis won’t be a problem as much as Blossoming Defense rotating out will be. That’s a card that does a bang-up job of protecting the deck’s creatures, and it’s not an effect that’s sure to exist in every Standard meta.
Mono-Green Stompy doesn’t have too many extremely specialized sideboard cards. Mostly, it sides more Brontodons against decks that particularly rely on enchantments and/or artifacts. The black splash allows for Hour of Glory (more reliable than Vraska’s Contempt due to its single black symbol) as a way to fight Hazoret and The Scarab God.
Parked Vehicles: Aethersphere Harvester is there to get some life against the dominant RDW variants. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is a finisher that jumps past a crowded board, especially in the mirror. (Green takes its flyers where it can.) It also supplies some degree of direct removal.
Planeswalkers on Call: Nissa, Vital Force is essentially a 5/5 with haste and indestructible. You can kill or trade with the land, but what’s the point? She’s good against control (surprise attacks, regrows countered threats) but also in general, so you can see her maindecked occasionally. Same goes for the new kid on the green block, Vivien Reid. Her overall package is kind of amazing – she functions as a wide-range removal, especially removing those pesky flyers, and in normal circumstances, she’s card advantage. We’ll see more of this gal going forward.
Finally, Lifecrafter's Bestiary is another strong card that misses a maindeck slot because it doesn’t impact the board right away. It’s usually sided against control decks as a way to come back after a sweeper or too many counterspells. Some lists also side Duress to be more proactive against such decks.
After October 5: This particular version of the deck’s sideboard is decimated. No more vehicles, no more Bestiary, no more Hour of Glory. And alas, no more Nissa. Her leaving the Gatewatch hurt Standard Mono-Green players as much as it hurt Chandra.
Also rotating out are Rhonas's Monument (which I personally used to get good results as it can build up inevitability fast), Prowling Serpopard (the bane of control), and Resilient Khenra (though it was mostly replaced by Thorn Lieutenant). The loss of Verdurous Gearhulk and Rishkar, Peema Renegade affect Golgari Constrictor more (then again, that deck is utterly and irremediably defunct), but they could have been good options for Stompy too.
On a lesser note, Nature's Way was a great card, but there’s still plenty of ways to turn creatures into removal in Mono-Green. (The Gigantosaurus variant will miss Cartouche of Strength though.) Also, Arborback Stomper was never really played, but it could have been a decent enough impression of Thragtusk to replace Aethersphere Harvester. I assume there will be new ways to gain life through a permanent, anyway. Maybe Deathgorge Scavenger will to come to the foreground, what with the graveyards bound to be weaponized more.
In summation, even when forced to make do without Rhonas and the vehicles, the archetype still seems to be in a good place, ready to surge through the meta at a moment’s notice. What does Mono-Green ask from Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance, then? Nothing too specific, I’d say. Mostly, more fast beaters, ideally more fast mana (a reprint of another one-drop mana dork would be super), and other good cards that play into its strengths and compensate its weaknesses. I’m not sure Impervious Greatwurm will be one of them.
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