Historic Mono Green Walkers: Showcasing the Best of Best-of-One
Hey folks! I wanted to show off a deck today that I’ve been tearing the Best-of-one queue apart with, and I’ve found to perform great against many of the common decks I’ve run into, from Mono Red to Rakdos Kroxa to Azorius Control. This is a ramp deck that seeks to produce a colossal amount of mana and then have Karn, the Great Creator swoop in and soak that mana into some of the best artifacts Historic has to offer, from brutal sideboard hosers we have access to in the maindeck, to unbeatable value engines and ways to gain insurmountable amounts of life. I based this list on one from Littlebeep (Aaron Gertler), a renowned deckbuilder known for creating the original version Standard Temur Clover deck that has been a permanent fixture for six or seven months now, taken down a pair of tournaments seemingly from nowhere, and is one of the best decks right now. He himself took inspiration from some lists in the Pioneer format, which are very similar (check out an example one here).
I adapted his list for best-of-one, which basically meant changing up the sideboard a little bit, but the fantastic thing about this deck is that there are a lot of tweaks you can do to the sideboard and maindeck if you don’t own some of the cards, or if you’d just like to try out different options. I suspect that even in best-of-three, a build of this has the potential to be one of the best decks in the format (it’s already great in Pioneer after all!), but it’s truly busted in best-of-one because you can dedicate your entire sideboard to Karn and Vivien’s wish abilities, and always have the right tool for whatever job you need (well within the Historic format’s limits; there are some good artifacts from Pioneer that it’s lacking). It’s also a blast to play, with so many options available to you and the ability to construct all sorts of nonsense board states with combinations of sweet and janky artifacts!
I would just use Littlebeep’s list in Best-of-Three for now, but my strategy advice and discussion of card choices should be useful reading anyway!
Table of Contents
- Let’s chat card choices:
- The wonderful world of Wishboards
- Swaps/Budget Options
- Closing Thoughts
Let’s chat card choices:
- Karn, Great Creator is the deck’s progenitor, allowing you to dump the colossal amount of mana the deck produces into all manner of expensive artifacts, while being useful early and mid-game, and allowing you to hate on specific strategies in the maindeck. Karn is so good that even if he instantly dies, your opponent may not be able to beat the artifact that best befits the current situation. While tutoring is certainly the main mode, all his abilities are relevant:
a) The + can protect him the turn he comes out if we have a Mind Stone in play that’s not being used for mana, and then later can convert the artifacts he tutors up into blockers when you need them, and colossal attackers to win the game with It’s a truly hilarious sight to see The Great Henge or Akroma's Memorial take matters into their own hands! This ability also hates on Mox Amber and other 0-mana noncreature artifacts – just + on them and they’ll die.
b) Karn’s static ability is also incredible against some decks, shutting down opposing Mind Stones and Chromatic Stars.Woe betide the occasional artifact aggro player you come across, because their Steel Overseers are 2 mana 1/1s while Karn is out.
c) We’ll get into the tutoring options in the sideboard section below!
- Vivien, Arkbow Ranger is quite a bit worse in this list than in the Pioneer decks, mainly because we’re running fewer big creatures like Jadelight Ranger, so we won’t be able to kill things immediately as often and our creatures won’t become huge threats as quickly. That’s for a good reason though – without access to Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, cards with lots of green mana symbols like that and Burning-Tree Emissary (which is banned, but we wouldn’t play it anyway) lose a lot of their lustre. Still, Vivien remains our best option in the 4 drop slot, blasting away annoying creatures especially in tandem with Voracious Hydra. Vivien threatens to ult the turn after she comes out, so in the later game your opponents will need to kill her on sight to prevent you from fetching up Craterhoof Behemoth or Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger.
- Nissa, Who Shakes the World doesn’t really need an introduction; she has been one of the best and most annoying cards in Standard ever since her release. Nissa often comes out as early as turn 3 in this deck, and that is the absolute nut draw because Nissa is often enough to just win the game by herself if they don’t kill her immediately – on turn 4, you have 10 mana available just off Forests, and it’s not hard for something like Karn -> God Pharaoh’s Statue to lock them out of the game from there. Sadly we don’t have access to Darksteel Citadel in the sideboard like the Pioneer lists, but Nissa making an indestructible 3/3 with our 1-of Cascading Cataracts comes up a lot – just be wary of Heartless Act, since the remove three counters mode can be brutal there!
- Karn, Scion of Urza is a 1-of I’m trying out because I was rather unimpressed with Llanowar Visionary and felt I was flooding out in some spots so I wanted a 12th walker. Karn’s constructs benefit from Karn, Great Creator, Food tokens from our Geese, and the 4 Mind Stones, and he’s a repeatable source of card advantage that can protect himself. I don’t think he’s super exciting, since the Karnstructs are usually 1/1s and his + is often worse than drawing a card, so consider this a free slot to try out other stuff, especially if you don’t own him!
- Voracious Hydra is our main source of removal and the only non-walker payoff, which you should be overjoyed to have. It’s an incredibly versatile card, mowing down small creatures early on – t2 Hydra can be brutal versus Llanowar Elves, Soul Warden, or Healer's Hawk, especially since the body sticking around is relevant for protecting your walkers and grows with Vivien – while going exponential and removing anything later on. Making a 10 or 12 power creature and forcing your opponent to have an answer comes up a lot against decks like Gruul and Mono Green Aggro which don’t have much removal, and Hydra dodges Solar Blaze, Justice Strike, and Heartless Act alike.
- Llanowar Elves is still one of the best cards in the entire format, is the card you most want to see in any opening hand, and powers out some truly busted draws.
- Gilded Goose isn’t worth the slot in a lot of other decks, but we have spare mana lying around often enough to be happy to have the extra mana sink and lifegain. Our walkers are powerful enough that even a one-shot way to ramp into them or into our better ramp cards is worth it. Don’t underestimate Goose’s body – it’s very good at stopping tokens from chipping away at your walkers, or chumping big fliers to buy them a turn. The Food tokens are artifacts, but that’s only useful with Scion of Urza – The Great Creator will kill them.
- Explore powers out our lands for Nissa and leaves us less vulnerable to sweepers. This is another of the format’s best cards, providing ramp at a cheap cost and replacing itself when not needed.
- Mind Stone is perfect in a mono-colour deck, being like an Explore that doesn’t require you to have as many lands in hand. You don’t want to crack this card until you really are out of ways to use your mana, and you should basically never do so end of turn – you only lose 1 mana next turn, and the information from your draw step may make you reconsider cracking it at all. Artifacts are useful with the 5 Karns. Having more colourless cards comes up against Ugin, the Spirit Dragon too, though this deck is pretty good against that card anyway.
- Llanowar Visionary is probably the card I’ve been least impressed with in the deck; it’s just a bit clunky and slow, and t1 Goose -> Visionary only gives us 4 mana on turn 3. Still, I like keeping 3 of them in since they improve the deck’s consistency, are better topdecks than the other ramp options, and having a useful body is great with Akroma's Memorial and The Great Henge.
- Castle Garenbrig can power out a 6 mana creature on turn 5, which is great with Voracious Hydra and Stonecoil Serpent, but not much else. It can be a bit awkward with Nissa, since its mana can only be used to cast creature spells and it produces the same amount as a Forest, but still well worth running 2-3 of.
- Elder Gargaroth is nigh-unbeatable for some decks, great when the meta is aggro-heavy, and bad versus any deck with lots of cheap removal. Control is having a resurgence in Historic with the Field of the Dead ban, but that’s more of a best-of-three than best-of-one affair. I suspect Gargaroth will always be good in some number in best-of-one, but if you do want to play this list in best-of-three then it’s a meta call.
- Cascading Cataracts gives us an indestructible 3/3 Vigilance land with Nissa, which can be devastating for some decks to get through, and turns on our copy of Golos in the sideboard while being fetchable by him!
The wonderful world of Wishboards
Best of the best
- Stonecoil Serpent is one of the cards I get most, for being so versatile – it can be played even if you have 1 mana, stops fliers and multicolour creatures in their tracks, is immune to multicolour removal spells and damage-based sweepers like Deafening Clarion, and tramples over any foolhardy chump blockers. It is a tremendous wielder of Shadowspear, despite its lack of arms, and best friends with The Great Henge, being good before or after it hits the board.
- Grafdigger’s Cage is a fantastic card in the current Historic meta, shutting down Uro and Kroxa, the Cat-Oven combo, Call of the Death-Dweller, Collected Company… all for 1 mana! It also mitigates a lot of the damage from Bolas's Citadel and Experimental Frenzy; they can play lands but nothing else.
- Shadowspear is the go-to card against aggro. We don’t always have great creatures to put it on, but there’s more than enough between Nissa lands, Karn’s +, Voracious Hydra, and Gargaroth. Lifelink allows us to race anything with Hydra especially. Turning off indestructible and hexproof is a situationally incredible ability, rendering Heliod unable to attack and Dream Trawler vulnerable to removal.
- Golos, Tireless Pilgrim fetching Cascading Cataracts gives you a fantastic mana sink as long as you have 8 mana available, is a good way to dig yourself out of mana screw, and Cataracts is still busted with Nissa.
- The Great Henge is a cheap thing to get when you have a big creature, will allow you to keep playing stuff that turn, and converts some of your ramp draws into card advantage.
Good but situational
- Akroma’s Memorial is the go-to in board stalls – it usually renders your opponents completely unable to attack, since all your blockers having first strike is a nightmare to get through, and at the same time allows all your creatures to beat down with flying and vigilance. If your opponent is playing Red or Black and you have creatures, this is lights out.
- God-Pharaoh’s Statue converts an early mana advantage into locking our opponents out of casting spells. Do be careful about getting this too much – if your opponents have plenty of mana or don’t have many cards in hand, it won’t do much and often there are more impactful cards you can get later in the game. The added upside of burning them out from a low life total can be a nightmare for slow decks.
- Meteor Golem is your staple answer to whatever ails you, as long as you can pay its exorbitant cost. Sadly it can’t hit lands (but Agent of Treachery can??) so it won’t stop Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin.
- Sorcerous Spyglass will shut down any annoying nonland permanent with an activated ability. Against Mono White, you often want to shut down Ajani, Strength of the Pride with this since you’ll win the long game against them but Ajani’s 0 will kill you immediately if they have enough life. Remember that if you name cards you’re playing, that will hurt your topdecks a lot – naming Karn in the mirror is not a good idea. You can stop Citadel’s activated ability with this, but not its more dangerous passive – go for Grafdigger's Cage or Meteor Golem instead.
- Transmogrifying Wand is one of our few answers to Phyrexian Obliterator, even several of them, and is well worth the slot. We have enough blockers that ground pounders aren’t nearly as useful as evasive creatures, and the 2/4 statline isn’t the greatest at pressuring walkers. Being repeatable removal is fantastic in some matchups, even with a downside.
- Platinum Angel can buy you a lot of time or be impossible for some decks to deal with. You still shouldn’t get it that much, unless the situation is desperate and you just need to stall. Most decks will have several ways of dealing with it, and if you’ve taken damage that takes you below 0 health, you’ll die as soon as they do.
- Perilous Vault is your “break in case of emergency” option. If you feel like the game is going to come to it, then start holding planeswalkers and payoffs in your hand in advance.
- Mox Amber will tap for mana as long as you have a planeswalker out, but you only really want to get it if you’re mana screwed or really need 1 extra mana this turn for some reason.
- Craterhoof Behemoth wins the game if you have a board.
- Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger is the generic best thing to get if you have crazy amounts of mana.
- Remember that Vivien can also get any of the artifact creatures. You can put more dedicated stuff like Shifting Ceratops in, and that’s worth it if you’re seeing a lot of Mono Blue Tempo, but against other decks that won’t generally be worth sacrificing Vivien for, and it’s pretty rare (and winmore) for her to live two turns without needing to minus.
- The only truly irreplaceable payoffs I think are Karn, the Great Creator (at that point, you should consider playing Simic Ramp or something, since he is the reason for the deck), Voracious Hydra, and Nissa. Luckily, they’re all rares!
- The 1 Karn, Scion of Urza I’m just trying out. You can replace it with the fourth Llanowar Visionary I removed for it or another green planeswalker like Vivien Reid/Vivien, Monster’s Advocate. I don’t think Garruk, Unleashed or Questing Beast fit this deck, but feel free to try them out as it’s only a 1-of.
- Feel free to replace some number of Viviens with Karn, Scion or any of the cards I mentioned in the first line. They’re good but not absolutely crucial to the deck. You can also replace Elder Gargaroths this way, but at that point you might want to add Lovestruck Beast or some other good card against aggro.
- Here are the runner-up artifacts you can replace some of the sideboard with or try out (especially the “rarely gotten” section):
a) Solemn Simulacrum is a good way to stave off mana screw, and has a useful body.
b) Icy Manipulator is a catch-all removal option, which can also annoy decks with tough colour requirements.
c) Soul-Guide Lantern is more graveyard hate, though sort of redundant with Grafdigger's Cage and might be worse than a second copy if you’re fearing maindeck artifact hate.
d) Chaos Wand is more cute than good, but a way to get card advantage if you don’t have the better options above (and somehow have this obscure rare).
e) Mirror Shield is cute with Platinum Angel; that two card synergy is hard to set up but will beat non-sweeper decks by itself.
f) Check out this Scryfall page for every common or uncommon artifact in Historic; it’s fine to replace some of them, but having the “best of the best” will give you a colossal advantage so you should craft them if you end up liking the deck.
I intended for this to be a quick showcase, but it ran on as my articles often do! If you enjoyed it, please let me know in the comments and I may do a follow-up if there’s interest with more strategic content, some analysis of building the sideboard for best-of-three, and discussing differences between the Pioneer and Historic decks more.
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Check out some of the site’s other Historic articles:
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