Core Set 2021 Limited Set Review – Green
In this Core Set, Green’s stampeding all over the competition with an assortment of beasts so burly that even Garruk would envy their muscles. Truly it’s a strange day when a boar easily upstages a dozen cats in cuteness, but you probably shouldn’t pet anything here…these purr-edators are definitely playing to win.
Who are we?
Start with the White & Introduction link above, for all background information!
I’ve been enthralled by Limited ever since I began in New Phyrexia. With a particular fondness for flashback and cube drafts, I’ve drafted more sets than I can count on every platform through wildly different eras. On Arena I draft infinitely, having profited 30k or so gems from it at this point, and have made top 100 mythic frequently. Self-reflection and critical analysis are paramount to Limited improvement, and that theme features in many of my articles, and in each session of the Limited coaching service I provide.
I’ve played Magic off and on for the last 20 years. I just checked to confirm that and it blew my mind a little bit. I started with 6th edition and began playing ‘competitively’ with Odyssey. My handle is actually a really good Limited card from the Odyssey block. Anyway, Magic Arena got me back into the game, and I have been drafting infinitely since closed beta and have finished top 1000 Mythic nearly every ranked season.
We’ve expanded our system of pluses and minuses from last time. Any grade except S and F can receive them now, but C+ and C- are still most common and important.
- S: Ridiculous bomb: has a huge immediate impact on the game and threatens to dominate it if unanswered. (Luminous Broodmoth, Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate, Kiora Bests the Sea God)
- A: Very powerful card: approaches bomb status, pulls you strongly into its colour. (A+: Shark Typhoon, A: Auspicious Starrix, A-: Blood Curdle)
- B: Great playable: happy to pick early, pulls you into its colour. (B+: Lavabrink Venturer, B: Fire Prophecy or Farfinder in pack 1, B-: Rumbling Rockslide or Farfinder in pack 2)
- C+: Good playable that rarely gets cut. (Gust of Wind, Boot Nipper, Raugrin Triome)
- C: Fine playable, sometimes gets cut. (Excavation Mole, Glimmerbell, Neutralize)
- C-: Mediocre playable or decent filler, gets cut around half the time. (Savai Sabertooth, Convolute, Raugrin Crystal)
- D: Medium to bad filler, gets cut a lot. (D+: Frenzied Raptor, D: Serrated Scorpion, D-: Tentative Connection with no sacrifice outlets)
- F: Mostly to totally unplayable cards. (In most but not all formats: Blazing Volley maindeck, Inspire Awe, Field of Ruin)
Azusa, Lost but Seeking
I think this card is never worth it in Limited; you just won’t have enough lands to accelerate all that much with it, and it’s a 3 mana 1/2 so you’ve gone down a card once you run out of lands.
This card doesn’t add anything you didn’t already have (albeit slower) without it. So what you have here is a 3 mana 1/2 that will sometimes get you a 5-drop on turn 4 which is almost nothing, making this essentially unplayable.
Burlfist Oak attacks as a 4/5 and then gets even bigger if you do happen to have any card draw; it’s an amazing card in Simic decks because they have the most, but Green alone has Setessan Training, Llanowar Visionary, and Track Down at common (though I don’t think that last one is worth playing without several synergies). This can lead to some real blowouts with instant speed draw.
It’s less good if you’re not looking to beat down, but most Limited decks should be, especially in Green.
Not being able to block much the turn you play this is a notable drawback. However, I am loving the upside potential on this thing. Getting extra damage out of drawing cards is an exciting prospect. While UG is the obvious pairing here, it is still a 4/5 on your turn which is a great value for any deck trying to get aggressive with creatures. It triggers your 4+ power matters cards as well, making it a good choice for most Green decks.
Your opponents will be looking to block this with their 2/2s anyway, so the first line of text won’t do all that much. This does trigger your 4 power synergies and will usually gain a couple of life, but is never an exciting card.
This would actually be an excellent creature if only it read ‘must be blocked by all creatures if able.’ Global lure effects are great in Limited because you get the most favorable trade possible while every other creature you have gets a free hit. As it stands, Canopy Stalker is really bad. If you attack this has a high probability of trading with a 2/2, which is certainly not justified by gaining two life. It can be alright if your opponent only has a good X/4 creature on that board that you need to remove, but that is way too situational for my tastes.
Colossal Dreadmaw is a fine ramp target; there are many other better high end options in this set, but this is the bread-and-butter one that goes well with Green ramp spells and triggers your 4-power synergies. Trample is a solid ability on a 6/6 body.
Colossal Dreadmaw ends up being a good value in Core Sets. The Trample makes it preferable to something like Vorstclaw. These have tended to go pretty late in draft the last couple formats, and if that remains true I will likely lower this rating, but these are worth prioritizing if they end up going earlier in M21.
I’m very fond of Cultivate – it’s a value card which ramps you and gives you free fixing. This is a fantastic way to enable your splashes; with a couple of these, the world is your oyster.
Cultivate is a really fun reprint. I actually love playing this card in Limited. It belongs in a ramp deck, but often you can build some synergy to trade in the hand land via looting effects, for example to gain some ‘real’ card advantage.
I think eventually it won’t be too hard to have a creature with 4 power in play in Green, and until then this is a solid blocker. I think the slower decks like Simic (which seems especially strong to me this set) will actively really want this card.
I think the hidden downside with this sleepy Dinosaur is it may encourage players to draft bad cards like Onakke Ogre. It is likely better to be patient with this and be happy to block for a couple turns. When the time comes the cheap 3/3 beatdown can commence. I like how this fits into a Green deck that wants to ramp and needs protection early.
This is a hugely efficient body with a colossal number of fantastic abilities, that will run away with the game by itself. You usually want to make 3/3s with it, since a 3/3 for 0 will be better than your average card when you factor in lands, but the option to draw cards or gain life is really solid upside.
What a freaking Beast. This hard counters Baneslayer Angel for crying out loud! Creatures don’t come much bombier than this.
There are a surprising number of Cats at common, and this is a huge boost to their power. Pridemalkin and Sabertooth Mauler are both good cards anyway and, if you’re in Selesnya, then Basri’s Acolyte is great too. Protection from dogs is also pretty relevant text this set, and the threat of being able to destroy artifacts and enchantments when dealing damage will often force them to leave stuff back. I think that all adds up to a pretty good card.
I want to get excited about Cat Tribal as much as anyone, but there are only three other Green Cats and none of them are particularly good. Basri’s Acolyte is great but acquiring Feline Sovereign is not a sufficient reason to force GW. The base rate of this card is below average, and a incidental synergy with a couple cards is not enough to save it.
It’s interesting to consider whether this effect is actually better than drawing a card on average – it clearly is when you have something great to get, but it won’t un-mana screw you and it won’t draw 4 or 5 drops which can fix your curve. There’s also a significant chance of missing (whereas you can’t miss if you draw a card), say if you only have two targets, which is a pretty reasonable number for a Limited deck. I straight up wouldn’t play this if I only had one target, unless that target was really busted. I think it is slightly better than drawing a card, but not much so.
At the end of the day, this is pretty close to a 3 mana Elvish Visionary; it is value and sometimes you will have great targets for it, but I’m not too excited by it in the average deck.
Fierce Empath will often fetch the best card in your deck for 3 mana and leave you with a 1/1 body just because. The value in that is insane. Some of the best creatures in the set cost 5 mana, but there are still plenty of great 6+ mana targets. I would feel more comfortable taking this early in pack 2 or 3 after finding a good target or two, so this rating isn’t necessarily p1p1. Ultimately I would love to have this card in any Green deck, even if I had to settle for Colossal Dreadmaw because I already drew my bomb.
I think this card will play a bit worse than it looks, because you won’t always be able to have things die at opportune moments, having to hold it up and not necessarily have something die will really suck, and you do need a good permanent in the graveyard, as with any card like this. That being said, it’s really good when it does work and it can get any permanent, so it still gets a low C+.
This card takes a little more setup than Green is used to, but it seems worth it. It ends up being Gravedigger most of the time, a flattering card to be compared to in the Limited format.
Planeswalkers are a bit worse in this set, because they’ve included a lot more removal for them like Secure the Scene, Finishing Blow, and Scorching Dragonfire, and I think Garruk is one of the weaker ones in the set, along with Teferi, but he’s still incredible.
The minus ability is good even as a -2, and nuts as a -1, though when you’re churning out Beast tokens, it’s probably not going be that for very long. If all you do is make two Beast tokens with Garruk for 4 mana, you’re still getting an incredible rate. This + isn’t that useful unless you’re very ahead – you don’t want to attack with your creatures nearly as much when you have a Planeswalker in play in Limited, since you want to be protecting them as best you can.
Garruk is probably my favorite of the Mythic planeswalkers in M21. He does best when you are ahead on the board, but I like that the -2 ability protects him slightly when you are outnumbered. Even if you only get two beasts out of him your mana was well spent.
This card does trigger your 4-power synergies, but it’s such a bad rate that I wouldn’t play it very much even in the decks where that matters.
Jeez Garruk, you couldn’t have at least given this Trample or something? Creatures that trade down easily are likely to do so in Limited.
The Harbinger is an amazingly efficient card, but not close to a bomb – it doesn’t scale nearly as well into the late game, and it has hexproof from Black rather than protection so it won’t invalidate the most common strategy your opponents will employ, which is to block it. That being said, it is a crazy turn 3 play and if you can connect with it even once, it will be bomb tier levels of impact.
This is a phenomenal target for Rousing Read, the Flying allowing it to surprise with a hit and seeing 5 cards is extremely likely to net you a creature. Regardless of the archetype, Garruk’s Harbinger is well worth playing. The statline is already fantastic and the Hexproof from Black and potential for free cards make this a prized pickup.
Between Gnarled Sage, Colossal Dreadmaw, and Forgotten Sentinel (I think you’ll end up playing that card a decent amount to enable this strategy), there are three reasonable commons Green has access to which trigger this (see the full list here), but a couple of those aren’t great. Still, Red has a bunch more and Gruul will be where this card is at its best anyway, though with the right number of the cards above, it’s good in any Green strategy. Giving trample to all your stuff for free is some great upside, and can set up some huge swings.
One difference between this and Furious Rise that’s worth noting is that Furious Rise triggers end of turn rather than on enter the battlefield – this means you can stack counters onto your creatures or trigger it with cards like Burlfist Oak, which don’t work for this; I actually suspect Furious Rise will be slightly the better card for this strategy on that basis, at least if you don’t have a bunch of good cards to give trample to.
If this is your only turn three play, you should often just drop it – it’s usually not worth wasting 3 mana to potentially get the draw trigger and hurt your curve later on, unless you’re flooded or you only have one 4 drop creature and need to draw more, for example.
Garruk isn’t being stingy with the Trample here. That is just a bonus on this card, however. The draw with this one is, well, the drawing. The best part is it still generates value when drawn late as long as you have a powerful creature on the board. Most cards like this end up being mediocre due to games where you draw them after you’ve already played your enablers. I think Garruk’s Uprising will be a bit better, assuming it is in a deck with let’s say seven or more suitable creatures.
4/4 Reach for 5 is a reasonable statline. This has some upside in that you can sometimes ambush creatures with Opt or other instant speed card draw, especially in Simic, and if you can use Setessan Training or something to enable you to attack as a 4/6 Vigilance, that can make combat much more awkward for your opponents and help you win races, but I don’t think that effect is going to come up enough to strongly impact the grade. This is a fine common way to trigger your 4-power synergies too.
I think this will end up playing okay but it is definitely overpriced. The draw ability may end up being better than it looks if it allows attacks more often than not. Against a 2/2 and a 3/3, for example, you would be able to get in for four while maintaining blocks. I like that Green has some ways to incorporate Blue draw spells while still staying active on the board. This one may not be cost-effective enough unfortunately.
This kind of effect tends to be pretty situational for Limited – it just isn’t that common to have 2 mana up and for your opponents be casting a removal spell. The most common use for this will be attacking into your opponents and casting this to save one creature, which is fine but not especially exciting; it does have some 2 for 1 potential but in just as many spots, you won’t be able to offer good trades to your opponents anyway so this won’t help you.
This set does have an unusual number of 4/2s and 4/3s lying around to enable 4-power matters synergy, which should incline your opponents to block a bit more, so it won’t rot in your hand quite as much, but I’m still not excited for this card at all.
The base case on this card is a 1-for-1 protection spell, which honestly isn’t that great. Cards like Starlit Mantle or God’s Willing were playable, but not fantastic. What sets this one apart is the absolute blowout potential when played as a combat trick, especially if you are in a position to force a trick out of your opponent before playing this. Heroic Intervention is situational in that you are only going to win a game outright off of it once in a while, but I think the floor is good enough to want this in your deck for that potential.
This is Green’s one form of removal at common or uncommon, and luckily it’s a good one! It’s a bit inefficient as a sorcery but it does kill most of what you want to, and it has the Ram Through effect where your opponents’ creatures don’t get to deal damage back. As always, instant speed removal can blow this out, and especially Grasp of Darkness only costs 2 mana to do so. I think it’s going to be valuable for Green to pair with Black and Red this set, to shore up this weakness.
Hunt the Weak was a great card and this is strictly better as it allows you to bite instead of fight. While you do need a decent creature and must be careful not to walk into a 2-for-1 removal spell when using it, I love the tempo potential with cards like this. Hunter’s Edge can make life miserable for opponents that just played a creature (in range of yours) in an attempt to stabilize. This fits most snuggly in the GW +1/+1 counter archetype, but I think most Green decks want it, particularly if the other removal options are weak (UG for example).
This card is like Feral Invocation from M20, which was a solid card, and this one has counter synergy on top – White has a bunch of ways to give counters this set, that’s one of its main themes, and the one Green common removal spell in Hunter’s Edge does that too. Whenever you get to eat a creature in combat and get a permanent buff, you’re gettin gan maazing rate with this, but you do want to be cognisant of instant-speed removal.
This is basically an enchant creature spell with Flash. At worst you are getting +2/+2, and you get an extra counter for as many as the creature already had. Winning combat and keeping the counters seems like a good enough deal to me, and sometimes you will even trigger +1/+1 counter payoffs in the process.
Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse
Jolrael is busted with Llanowar Visionary, and a fantastic reason to put Setessan Training and Track Down in your deck, though ideally you have a couple of other synergies like Burlwood Oak for those cards. She also really goes off hard with Garruk’s Uprising and 4-power synergy, and is nuts in most Simic decks. Her second ability is quite winmore since, if you have a bunch of cards in hand late in the game, you’ve probably already gotten a bunch of Cats, but even waiting and holding lands in your hand from turn 6 onwards may well let you set up a gamewinning Overrun at some point.
Jolrael requires a decent amount of card draw effects to be worth it, but this is capable of winning the game by itself if you have them. Getting that in a 2-drop is pretty incredible. I would happily move into UG if I saw this p1p1 or p2p1.
Life Goes On
I don’t think there are enough lifegain synergies that are worth a card for this to be a card you should ever play in Limited. Here’s the list, and only Griffin Aerie is actually worth doing this; if you have 5 Griffin Aeries (an uncommon) then maybe you can consider this, or maybe there’s some rare I haven’t factored in, but regardless, I’m not rating for 1 in 100 decks and this is an F. To understand why lifegain is so bad in Limited, check out the comment I gave Nine Lives on this page, and that card gains far more life.
Giving up a card to gain life is almost never a good idea in Limited. Even if your deck is somehow Green and has life gain payoffs, this is unlikely to be your best option. The issue is life (and the game) goes on after you cast this, so you need to have a way to capitalize on spending a card for the effect or you are just losing with extra steps.
Ramp looks like it’s going to be extremely worth it in this set, especially in Simic, which has a wealth of good 6 and 7 drops available. But this card doesn’t really care, because it’s such a busted rate anyway.
Wow this card is amazing and easily the best Green common in the set. It furthers the game plan of most Green decks without even costing you a card. The main disadvantage of playing ramp is giving up cards in order to get to your bigger spells and this spell manages to thwart it. I am very interested in playing this card and I think it has the potential of making Green great again after a rough run of sets since Core Set 2020.
This card is a powerful attacker if you have a 4 power creature, and an okay blocker in general, but overall I’m not incredibly excited for it. The failcase when you don’t have a 4 power creature is really bad, and I don’t think that will be trivial for every deck. Additionally, Shock and Scorching Dragonfire are at common this set, and hurt this card significantly.
I don’t see a good reason to put Portcullis Vine in any deck; it’s a 22nd-23rd playable when you’re really desperate (I’d often rather play 18 land over it if I had decent high end), but it doesn’t block well and it does evrything at a bad rate. The best use of it is to chump block a 5/5 and sacrifice itself to draw a card, and that costs you a full 3 mana.
There is really no reason to play this, even if it can replace itself later on.
While this card only provides 3/2 for 3 of stats, I think it plays far better than an actual 3/2 for 3 – the 2 mana body will trade with 2 drops and you’ll still keep the +1/+1 counter, and the +1/+1 counter will set up attacks, 4 power synergies, and payoffs like Invigorating Surge and Tempered Veteran. Just being able to put it wherever you want is a huge deal, and Trample is not nothing either – imagine topdecking this late in the game and making your random 5/5 a 6/6 Trample which can attack immediately, or curving Dowsing Tyrannidon into this!
In most decks this is filler but if you have some payoffs for the counter I would take it higher. 3 mana 3/2’s are not where you want to be, but if you can reliably trigger payoffs and give something bigger trample, this ends up being pretty decent.
This will kill almost anything you want to kill, and then give you a gigantic attack, possibly gamewinning with evasive units. It’s a pretty efficient rate too – for 1 mana, you cast Prey Upon, and for 3, you cast Savage Smash, and it just gets better from there.
I am all about this Green Fireball and am loving the possibility of it removing a key blocker and then getting through with your now mighty creature for a big damage swing.
If you can get just one counter off this, you’re doing pretty well, and then over the course of the game it’ll tick up into a greater and greater threat. In heavy green decks, this won’t be as good, and there’s some awkward dis-synergy where if you’re heavy nongreen, you want to play fewer green sources so you won’t be able to play this early as often, but you don’t really need to that much and this should be a solid card in most decks.
If your deck isn’t too Green the scalability of this is great. The glaring downside is being a dead draw late, but that is true for most 2-drops. In the +1/+1 counter archetype this is a priority pick.
+1/+1 doesn’t win most combats, and that’s what games of Limited revolve around. There just won’t be as many times where you have 1 mana up and your opponent is casting a removal spell as there will be where this card is rotting in your hand, and you’ll wish it was another creature. Whenever you make cuts in a Limited deck, you need to consider that you’re not gaining cards for free – if you want to measure how good a card like this really is, try to imagine whatever you would’ve replaced this with being in your hand instead, and consider whether that card would’ve been better.
Unless my deck had several important creatures I would not be interested in running a protection spell like this. The +1/+1 gives it a little flexibility to be used to win a combat, but it is better to run cards that are less situational.
Return to Nature
There are some high value artifacts and enchantments in the set (check out the list here) but they’re not all good targets for this card (e.g. Rousing Read/Meteorite) and there still aren’t nearly enough to be happy maindecking this. You should take this over garbage in best-of-three, as always.
Sadly, this card must Return to Sideboard after its main deck stint in Theros: Beyond Death.
Similarly, there aren’t enough Fliers to be maindecking this, even if there are some valuable ones. Additionally, it being sacrifice rather than destroy does hurt a lot of the time, since you’ll often be hitting a lower value target.
Another spell that is worth taking (late) if you are in bo3, but you can’t risk running this in bo1.
This says your end step, so you need to be attacking or have removal to make good use of this card but, if you can get just one counter, you’re getting a good rate and then it’ll be a frightening card that threatens to grow throughout the game. It’s not that hard to make creatures die in Limited, so this should be a solid common.
The ability is going to be pretty easy to play around for your opponent, so some of the time Sabertooth Mauler is going to be a Hill Giant. Only one creature needs to die for this to be decent so there is good upside here if you can force a decent trade with it in play (or use a removal spell). Overall I am feeling above average filler on this one.
Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest
I don’t think this Shrine is great by itself – it’s a pretty weak way to fix and ramp, since it doesn’t give you anything alongside it and costs 3 mana. Additionally the fact that Llanowar Visionary is in the set and is busted reduces the need for this (though that card can’t fix). That being said, it’s not a terrible card and will be a good way to splash your other Shrines and enable their synergies.
This is a pretty decent Shrine and probably second best after the Black one. The +1 mana ramp floor is reasonable and I really like the upside if there are more Shrines in your deck. If you are stretching your mana base to fit 3+ Shrines into one deck, this card should be one of them. Without other Shrines this is going to get cut from most decks, so the rating is highly variable here.
Creatures die all the time in Limited, and Scooze will become immense and gain a bunch of life throughout the course of the game. It’s also free hate against graveyard strategies; you can really mess up some of these cards! Scooze is great at any point in the game, so I’m inclined to give it a very high grade.
This is pretty similar to Jolrael, Mwonvoli Recluse in that it is going to sit on your board and do nothing for a few turns but has huge upside later on. I like this best in a deck that has some self mill, but playing a bear that can grow is more than fine in any deck.
Setessan Training is a reasonable way to enable the draw two cards synergies that Green and Blue have and buff up your 3 power guys for 4-power synergies, but it’s a pretty medium/tempo negative card by itself, and does open you up to getting 2 for 1ed by instant-speed removal, as with every aura.
I like this Aura quite a bit for the UG archetype, but Setessan Training is likely to get cut from decks that don’t care about drawing multiple cards in one turn.
This is the kind of card you board in against small fliers, but don’t play maindeck – a 1 mana 1/2 is just too bad a rate. Sometimes if you’re really desperate for more flier hate in your green white deck that can put counters on it and make use of the body that way, you can main it, but it’s pretty ill-advised.
This is a fine option for your sideboard, but the only way to justify it in your main deck is if you are going wide with creatures and have little to no answer to Flying.
I wasn’t that fond of Snarespinner the first time; it attacks really badly, blocks ground creatures poorly and is pretty low-impact. That being said, Green only has one card for removal at common or uncommon, and White/Blue have more fliers than usual this set, so this will be a necessary evil in some decks. I wouldn’t recommend playing two of this card in game 1 – one is where you’re reasonably happy, drawing two is pretty miserable.
I consider this a low C, and could see moving it down to C-.
Here is another creature that serves as filler if you really need an answer to Flying. Esper colors are going to be bringing them though so I could see playing this in many of my Green decks. I still don’t think Snarespinner is very good, but I have been impressed how well it can shut down attacks or force removal from decks that are trying to get through with 2/2 Flyers.
This card will often demand removal before your opponents can attack into it (which Blue can’t do, but they might be able to rely on their other colour, though this also gives you some value against Red removal spells) and it blocks anything with 3 or less power extremely well. That’s just a fantastic rate and any Green deck that’s not really aggressive will want this.
Sporeweb Weaver is the best answer Green has to Flying, and while it is not the most exciting Rare, it fills a need and does it well. It is nearly impossible to get past without at least generating a life and Saproling unless you are willing to expend hard removal on it. Even though it seems geared to hate Blue and Flying, this will heavily disrupt any Aggro archetype.
The Brontodon has a great body with an nice activated ability. It scales better into the late game than most 3 drops, and every Green deck will be happy to have it.
I think if this wasn’t a Core Set I would be at a C+ on this Dinosaur, but the stats on this are looking really good in M21. It is too bad it doesn’t activate your 4+ Power payoffs, but there are quite a few relevant enchantments to shut down in the set.
This is a reasonable card in Limited, since it does win you most combats and sometimes kill your opponents, but it has the usual problems of being a fairly inefficient 2 mana trick and is very weak to instant-speed removal. It does give you some value off 4 power synergies that trigger end of turn, but I think that is only really Furious Rise. Against Green decks with a poor second colour for instant-speed removal, like White, or if you just haven’t seen them, I would consider boarding this in. It’s a high D+.
This is basically the same as Sure Strike to me, although it does trump that card head-to-head. Ideally your deck is flush with creatures, removal, and card advantage and doesn’t have more than a slot or two for tricks. If you must play them it is important to choose combat tricks that are well suited to your deck’s strategy. I like Titanic Growth best in a deck that is trying to beatdown with creatures. If you are trying to ramp into big threats there is more risk of this becoming clunky. You want to be in a deck where you are going wide enough to turn this into four reach damage to your opponent’s face just as often as using it to win combat.
Scry 3 is good, but there is some chance of missing on a creature and getting a land off this will be terrible in the late game. In the early game, this is really bad tempo. It’s a way to enable your “draw two cards per turn” synergies, but I’d want really a lot of those, probably in Simic, before I was willing to play this card. This is better than Adventurous Impulse, but that card is trash.
I am not taking Green Anticipate unless I am in dire need of finding ways to draw a second card on my turn.
This may be a C+, but it’s an S in terms of art! I wasn’t kidding around when I said a boar had stolen the show from all the cats in terms of cuteness (and I’m fond of cats myself!).
This is a solid 3 drop, since it will always be a 3 mana 3/3, but I think gaining life will be especially relevant this format, since Red is so powerful and has so much burn. Sometimes you’ll get a 2/2 flier off your Griffin Aerie, or recur your Silversmote Ghoul, or enable your +1/+1 counter synergies in Selesnya. It’s rare to choose the lifegain mode, but it represents a lot of versatility on a solid card to begin with.
Three mana 3/3’s are a fine rate in Core Set MTG and having the option to gain life is actually really great. When paired with White and/or Black there is direct synergy with gaining four life, and there will be times when you need some life in pinch and/or only need a 2/2 to block efficiently. Even if you choose 3/3 that comes via +1/+1 counter, making it possible to build synergy around that as well. Between this and Llanowar Visionary, Green has some excellent common options at 3-drop.
Warden of the Woods
A 5/7 Vigilance makes attacking ludicrously hard for your opponents, while still letting you make fantastic ones; many decks will actually have to remove this, and then you’ll get an easy 3 for 1. This is actually better than Spined Megalodon, since it costs 1 less mana for the same stats, and Vigilance is such a big deal here. I think I like starting at high B- since there are a lot of good 6s in the format to compete with this, especially if you’re in Simic, and it is still just a pile of stats which will have some weaknesses to fliers and being raced and such, but I could see moving up to B.
Warden of the Woods is an incredible uncommon. This is likely to come out as the top dog on the board, forcing your opponent into an uncomfortable situation. They really can’t remove it because that is giving up a 3-for-1, so they will need to accept the beatdown without being able to retaliate due to Vigilance. At least until they can assemble a reasonable stack block or produce at least a 6/6. If this is in my deck I want to dial up the combat tricks and ramp a little bit to help Warden of the Woods get there when I am lucky enough to draw it.
Ivy Elemental was unusually good in Ikoria, thanks to Mutate, but this has significant upside on top; there are enough ways to put +1/+1 counters on creatures in just Green that this ability will come up a lot. I suspect playing this as a 2 mana 1/1 and then curving out into Trufflesnout and Hunter’s Edge will often be a great line. Sometimes you’ll even be able to go really big with Quirion Dryad or Spellgorger Weird… All that doesn’t even factor in how good this is in Selesnya, since counters are one of White’s biggest themes.
This is one of only a few payoffs for +1/+1 counters and is relatively easy to enable. GW is going to be the happiest archetype to have this, but Green has some good ways to generate counters on its own. Normally cards like this are held and played late with a lot of mana, but it will often be better to play Wildwood Scourge early and grow it. This is doubly true when you have creatures that can grow alongside Wildwood Scourge such as Quirion Dryad.
In classic Core Set fashion, Green seems to have returned to its roots and decided to embrace what it does best: ramping up to giant beefy creatures and throwing +1/+1 counters on things, with tricks and utility options aplenty. Unfortunately, with renewed strength comes renewed weakness; while Green in recent sets has evolved to have a bunch of ways to get around its lack of removal, and has been doing weird stuff like blasting things for the power of its creatures in hand, it only has one removal option this set.
For that reason, I suspect you want to pair it with Black and Red a lot, which both have fantastic removal, though Red has better synergy with its 4-power theme, while Golgari looks like more of a good-stuffy deck and not an obviously great colour pair. White has great +1/+1 counter synergy with Green, and still has decent defence-oriented removal, which will be much appreciated. Green should also combine fantastically with Blue, which can best leverage its huge creatures with a medley of bounce effects and pseudo-removal options, benefits its “draw two cards per turn” synergies, and provides a huge range of great fatties for it to ramp to alongside its own offerings; I suspect this will be the most archetypal good midrange deck of the format, having solid early starts alongside a ton of value late, and splashing removal options from the other three colours.
Green has its range of solid commons and uncommons, but I suspect it’s a little less powerful than the other colours, though it’s close; it just has a few too many of its slots taken up by mediocre tricks and sideboard-only cards. However, it does seem like it will have a good matchup against Red, which has historically struggled against big creatures and lifegain options, and Red is one of the best colours overall; I think it will often have a rough time against Blue and Black though.
Green is a bit of a mixed bag in M21, sporting some of the best commons and uncommons but also containing more duds than any of the other colors. I think for this reason Green will be considered one of the weaker colors overall if not the weakest, but I would keep an open mind about drafting it. If it is open enough to collect up its gems, Green has a lot to offer. I would be most excited to pair it with Red to bolster its removal and supply some quality 2-drops. Solid creatures and good removal is the tried and true core set recipe, and with GR you have the ability to ramp into some quality threats and enable cards that care about four or more power. Black also appears like a good match with its removal options, but I am not sure the Recursion theme is coming through as strongly as I’d like in M21. Perhaps most intriguing is UG as it pays off drawing cards, something we haven’t seen out of this archetype in a while. UG is looking more dangerous in this set than usual despite needing to rely on tier 2 removal spells. GW Counters is looking a bit like the underpowered GW Enchantment decks of the past, and I think White would probably rather go wide with Red or gain life with Black.