Rotation Preparation: Monogreen and More Beatdown


It is never too early to prepare for rotation. Upon the release of Zendikar Rising next month, there will only be five Standard-legal sets and, inevitably, a whole new metagame. Here are three monocolored beatdown decks that are rotation-proof and may be real contenders for the new Standard.

When the card pool shrinks, it's often a good idea to look at aggressive decks that only make use of cards of a single color. For quite some time, Monored Aggro was a tier-one Standard strategy. Monowhite made some waves recently, in particular because it proved to be quite good at beating Reclamation decks. Monogreen currently seems to outperform both.

The sets we're saying goodbye to are Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, War of the Spark, and Core Set 2020. This will likely straight-up kill off Monoblack Aggro and weaken the other three. Then again, everything gets weaker, so some monocolored aggro deck might actually come out ahead of the competition. Let's take a look at possible lists and figure out how likely is it for them to stay in the (relatively) high tiers.

Monogreen: The King of Fatties

lovestruck beast

The most versatile and most-played aggro strategy at the end of the cycle, Monogreen has tons of big monsters while also packing some serious early-game beaters. It won't be losing the former, but the upcoming rotation is sure to compromise the latter selection.

For starters, the deck is losing its only real one-drop, Pelt Collector, as well as most two-drops. Paradise Druid may not see play in every single monogreen list, but Barkhide Troll does. Removing one such piece of the puzzle is bound to weaken any deck. It's not a singular impact, though, but rather the loss of good one- and two-drops overall.

Because of this, I'm willing to start off with a Wildborn Preserver-Syr Faren, the Hengehammer split to see if any of these present a possible replacement for the Troll. Even with Barkhide around, these saw occasional play, so my guess is that their popularity can only go up in the future. They had always been serviceable cards, just previously outclassed, and both have decent synergy with the rest of the deck. For example, a counter-laden Preserver gives us another excellent target for Gemrazer.

We're in more of an awkward spot with regard to the one-drop. The best options are probably Wildwood Tracker, Gingerbrute, and Gilded Goose, none of them coming close to Pelt Collector. This slot is likely to become a meta call. Filling it remains important, also to trigger Wildborn Preserver later on. In a vacuum, a turn one Tracker makes the most sense, and both it and Gingerbrute (usually) remain 1/1 creatures at least, letting Lovestruck Beast smash away.

wildwood tracker wildborn preserver

Both Vivien and Nissa are leaving, too, but the newer planeswalkers also offer solid synergy. The new Vivien should help the deck go long(er), but Garruk, Unleashed is where it's at. His plus ability works well with both Syr Faren, the Hengehammer and The Great Henge, making it come down earlier. Like that's not enough, +3/+3 allows Primal Might to kill larger stuff for less mana, while trample makes it worthwhile to max out on the X.

syr faren, the hengehammer garruk unleashed primal might

Everything else stays the same main, meaning that Monogreen badly wants a good one-drop from Zendikar Rising and is fine otherwise. All things considered, the deck looks great and should prove a strong contender for the new Standard meta.

Monored: Losing Steam… -Kin


The loss of another one-drop, Scorch Spitter, is definitely huge, but this classic archetype is about to take some other losses of similar, if not bigger impact. Runaway Steam-Kin has become a mainstay in the deck, but it's about to run away. Its activated ability is so powerful that it makes running a huge amount of cheap drops feel a tad bit more comfortable. Due to its deck-defining nature, I wouldn't be surprised if Monored changes up at least a bit.

Tin Street Dodger is also leaving, so the one-mana slot again becomes a troublesome part of a post-rotation aggro deck. Weaselback Redcap doesn't seem all that bad as it works well with Fervent Champion, making for a turn two hit for 3 damage. Goblin Arsonist, on the other hand, is synergistic with Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, unlike Gingerbrute. But we've yet to see if it proves to be any good, hence the 2-2 split. When it comes to replacing two-drops, Rimrock Knight will have to do for now.

weaselback redcap goblin arsonist

Of all aggro decks, Monored loses the biggest amount of sideboard options, so coming up with this section of the list is the hardest part. It still has great finishers and removal, but the rest is lacking.

Scorch Spitter and Runaway Steam-Kin are huge parts of Monored Aggro, so this deck hopes that the new Zendikar set brings some playable alternatives to the table. Other than this and sideboard cards, some decent card draw that also happens to be fast enough wouldn't hurt. Spectacle was a great mechanic in this regard, and even though Skewer the Critics long fell below the radar, Light Up the Stage did not.

Monowhite: Hanging in the Balance

basri's solidarity

Save for Monoblack, Monowhite Aggro might be the most endangered post-rotation. This goes for all the variants: Auras, Lifegain, and even the new go-wide version. The latter did well against Reclamation and still never really broke through, which says a lot. One ought to take this with a grain of salt, though, as Monowhite is a pretty late bloomer that still managed to make it to the highest Arena ranks.

Unfortunately, white loses it all: a crucial one-drop, a classic two-drop, and a great finisher. In fact, it loses multiple finishers, as Unbreakable Formation is a Ravnica Allegiance card. All That Glitters is still around, but the loss of Hawk and Gods Willing might eradicate Monowhite Auras. It's debatable whether Selesnya Auras will be viable since Season of Growth leaves too. Lifegain tactics, unsuprisingly, will have a hard time because Pridemate will be no more.

Coming up with a comparably strong monowhite list is nothing short of impossible at the moment. Looking at the options, it becomes pretty obvious that Venerated Loxodon used to carry the deck hard. Because Glorious Anthem is a big one, we can't even fulfill Lurrus of the Dream-Den's companion condition, and even if we did, its effect would be questionable. I'm not so happy with the above, I just think there aren't many better options.

The deck does have cards that are tough to play against like Seasoned Hallowblade and Selfless Savior. It can still summon three creatures on the first two turns, follow it up with Anthem and Solidarity, and steal games that way. However, with just these two mass pump spells, it won't be as consistent and powerful anymore. Omen of the Sun isn't a good replacement for Raise the Alarm, but probably a necessity. Unless Zendikar Rising offers us cards that are capable of filling some of these holes, I'm much less optimistic about this one than I am about Monogreen and Monored.

Of course, when all is said and done, the competition should get much weaker too. Meanwhile, these beatdown strategies can only go down in strength so far. My prediction is that we'll definitely see decks with a double-digit number of Mountains and Forests again.

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