Table of Contents
Greetings! Good to see you! I’ve been waiting so long for some good company. You might wonder: why are we gathered here today? Well, the answers lie in a story…
Today I’m going to present you a deck that got me from mythic 88% to top #300 with an astonishing 80% winrate. That being said, Field was just banned and was an extremely favourable matchup, so perhaps it’ll end up dipping somewhat.
Evolution of the idea
Does anybody remember Chris Kvartek’s Golgari deck from Mythic Championship VII in December 2019, which got him into the top 8?
Kvartek popularized this two-card synergy: with Regisaur on board, we can play Henge just for 2 mana, which is a great advantage on its own and allows us to draw some cards to mitigate the dino’s discard clause. Lovestruck Beast is another 3-mana enabler for the Henge, decreasing the cost to 4 rather than 2, while being a good card by itself.
The Championship was held about 2 months after the Pioneer format was announced, so the idea of the deck soon reached it, but instead of using the weaker adventure package as a shell, a Stompy variant with more green emerged, with black only as a splash for Regisaur and removal; check out a sample list here. It featured some more beefy 3-drops like Steel-Leaf Champion and Rhonas the Indomitable, some early ramp in form of Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic, and perhaps most importantly, CoCo:
Another card that nets us a colossal advantage, CoCo usually gives us 2 creatures worth 4-6 mana and allows us to select those creatures, depending on what we need at the moment. Moreover, it works at instant speed, meaning that we can flash some creatures in after our opponent declares attackers without them knowing what blockers will they face, or after they cast a board wipe when their shields are down. CoCo also synergizes well with Henge, allowing you to draw 2 cards and buffing up both creatures!
The dream curve of the Pioneer list is: turn 1: Llanowar Elves or Elvish Mystic -> turn 2: a 3-drop -> turn 3: CoCo -> turn 4: win.
Amonkhet Remastered brought CoCo and Rhonas into Historic, so what are we lacking?
Pioneer has access to fast and pain lands, in this case Blooming Marsh and Llanowar Wastes. Together with Overgrown Tomb, that is 12 BG lands that can give mana instantly in the early game, which is crucial for a fast-paced aggro that needs to maintain tempo. We don’t want taplands in this archetype.
In Historic we have only Overgrown Tomb and Woodland Cemetery, so that’s 8 BG lands, which is a lot worse. Why is mana fixing so important in this deck? Well, to play Steel-Leaf Champion consistently on turn 3, we need at least 23 green mana sources* (keep in mind that mana dorks like Llanowar Elves also count as green sources to cast the Champion) and Rotting Regisaur requires 11 black sources. We already have 8 BG lands and could possibly play 3 Swamps, but each of those lowers the consistency of playing turn 1 Llanowar Elves and turn 3 Steel-Leaf Champion. Remember that you can’t play the Elves turn 1 with only a Swamp and a Cemetery! The situation is even worse when considering another great AKR card – Thoughtseize, which needs 14 untapped(!) black sources to be played consistently on turn 1. We could just delay it to turn 2 or 3, but then we usually have to play it instead of a creature, which reduces our pressure – a classic conflict of proactive and reactive roles. Considering that we also need many creatures for CoCo to work and our removal would have to be spells, I prefer to exclude removal from mainboard and concentrate on the proactive role in game 1, while bringing the removal in post-board. That’s what most Pioneer lists do anyway.
*all mana source requirements calculated according to mathematician and pro player Frank Karsten’s colored sources article. Some of the requirements should even be a little higher, because Karsten uses 24 land decks as a reference point and we play less than that, but that’s not that big of a deal and we can mitigate that with our mana dorks.
Four Llanowar Elves is an auto-include, but sadly enough, we don’t have Elvish Mystics. I recommend replacing it – the additional acceleration comes in handy and a dork that gives mana of any color would mitigate some of our mana problems, which Pioneer versions don’t have.
Please don’t even think about Gilded Goose. I tried it, but one-time acceleration is not what we need and by the time we can spend 2 mana on creating a food we usually don’t need any more acceleration. It’s also a 0/2, so that doesn’t enable Lovestruck Beast to attack. Sorry, no love for geese 🙁
Paradise Druid could be fine, it’s also not a 1/1, but conditional hexproof can help it survive hard times. I would include it if the meta becomes more removal-heavy in the future, but today I’d like to give you another, less common option:
It’s a 1/1 for Lovestruck Beast, gives mana of any color, and gets really explosive with a 4+ power creature, which our deck is full of! Producing 2 mana gives us more acceleration and helps to survive some land screws – with a turn 2 Caryatid followed by a turn 3 big creature, you can play turn 4 CoCo or Henge for 4 mana even on 2 lands. There’s also one totally busted opening – turn 2 Caryatid, turn 3 Regisaur, the Caryatid now gives 2 green mana for Henge and then the Henge gives mana for another spell. That’s 7 mana available on turn 3 – Modern Tron, eat your heart out!
Ok, now we’re ready to create a mana base. I use 22 lands with 8 mana dorks and I don’t want more lands since they would weaken CoCo and Henge slightly. I decided on 1 Swamp as a compromise between black mana consistency and tempo; it may also come in handy with opponent’s removal spells that cause you to search for basic lands like Assassin’s Trophy or Settle the Wreckage. With 9 black lands and 4 Caryatids counted as 2 sources of any color, we should be able to consistently cast Regisaur on turn 3.
Our mana sources:
13 Forest (ANB) 112
1 Swamp (ANA) 58
4 Overgrown Tomb (GRN) 253
4 Woodland Cemetery (DAR) 248
4 Llanowar Elves (DAR) 168
4 Ilysian Caryatid (THB) 174
Introducing the party
Before analyzing our beefy attackers, we also want to know how many of them to play to consistently hit 2 with CoCo. Consistency in terms of probability and percentages has always been a bit of a subjective matter, so perhaps a magical-statistical authority can help us again? According to another great article from Frank Karsten, 22 creatures is the absolute minimum for CoCo decks and, with that amount, you have a 5% chance to miss completely, 21% chance to hit exactly 1 creature and 74% to hit 2 creatures. Karsten advised putting in more creatures than that, so considering that you usually want to get attackers rather thanmana dorks from CoCo, I put 22 aggressive creatures in this deck. Together with 8 mana dorks, it’s 30 creatures total, giving a 91% chance to hit 2 creatures. We usually have less creatures in post-board, but that’s the price for bringing in removal tailored to specific matchups.
4 Scavenging Ooze: We need some good 2-drops in case we don’t get Llanowar Elves or Caryatid in our starting hand. Some will say that 4 Scooze maindeck is too much, but I tested it before FotD ban and encountered a whole lot of decks that use graveyard synergies – Uro in any UGx, Lurrus decks like UW Auras, RB aristocratic decks or aggro that uses Kroxa / Earthshaker Khenra / Demonic Embrace, MonoR with Khenra and Grim Lavamancer, some control decks with Scarab God… I started testing with 2 Scoozes and went up to 4. The lifegain has saved me several times.
4 Lovestruck Beast: A 5/5 for 3 mana, just what we needed! Do keep an eye on your 1/1s, sometimes leave one in hand in case of sweepers like Languish. Remember that with Henge on board, each of your creatures gets a +1/+1 counter, so the only way to make a 1/1 is through this card’s adventure, Heart’s Desire.
4 Steel Leaf Champion: Another big bozo, this time with built-in evasion.
2 Rhonas the Indomitable: This card is awesome and I would play more if it wasn’t a legendary. It can’t attack or block on its own, but this deck is all about comraderie, so usually finding another 4+ power creature isn’t a problem. The activated ability is crucial for pushing damage with our other big creatures, and spare mana from Caryatids can give us more activations.
4 Rotting Regisaur: Our best dino friend needs no introductions!
3 Garruk’s Harbinger: Only 4 power? What are you even doing here? Ok, we’ve run out of good 5+ power 3-drops. Hexproof helps against black control decks and you’ll usually find a creature in the top 4 cards of your library (or even more than 4, if you’ve pumped it with Rhonas).
1 Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig: I play only 1 because it’s legendary and not that great compared to the others, but the fact that it grows with every green creature entering the battlefield helped me a few times vs aggro. Just remember that Lovestruck Beast’s tokens and Regisaurs aren’t green!
3 The Great Henge & 4 Collected Company: I think I’ve said enough about those two. I don’t play 4 Henges because it’s legendary and I really don’t want to draw multiple copies.
Ok, so we’ve got one free slot left for a non-creature spell. There are many candidates and what I chose is…
1 Driven // Despair: As a 1-of, I haven’t had the chance to play it that often, but most of the times I played it were a blast! I usually cast both parts on the same turn and swung with everything I had, including 1/1 mana dorks. With trample and menace it’s so hard to block and prevent damage from our attackers, and my opponents were discarding usually their entire hand and I was drawing 3 or 4 cards. It was crazy! I’m aware that it’s not that great when losing and trying to defend, so I side it out when trying to be more reactive.
Putting it all together
Expanding the roster
Here are some other options that might fit well into the deck:
- Ghalta, Primal Hunger: This card can change the tide of the battle, but on the other hand it’s not a 3-drop and it is mediocre vs control decks and expensive to cast. With FotD banned, I expect more control decks on the ladder, so I gave up on this one.
- Vivien, Arkbow Ranger: We could play it instead of Driven /// Despair and some Pioneer lists do have it. I don’t have enough experience yet to give you a decisive answer on which is better. Giving trample with +1/+1 counters and removing threats are both great options, but we don’t have any universal creatures in sideboard to fetch with her -5.
- Shadowspear: This would be a good choice if the meta gets more aggressive or UW Auras become even more popular – disabling indestructible and hexproof is huge vs them.
- Think carefully about which 3-drop you want to play, the biggest one is not always correct. Analyze opponent’s possible answers and think about future turns.
- It’s important to know when to play CoCo. Mostly, I play it on my opponent’s end step. Sometimes you do it main phase to allow a Lovestruck Beast or Rhonas attack, or opponent has tapped out and you try to avoid countermagic. You can also bluff having CoCo if you have the guts and can afford to leave 4 mana open. Opponents might attack you more cautiously if they’re afraid of big blockers coming out at instant speed. I remember a game vs MonoR, where my opponent didn’t attack with 2 2/2 Ghitu Lavarunners because they were afraid of CoCo. That time I did have it, but all I found off it was one measly Llanowar Elf…
- Sometimes after the first few turns, the board is stalled or opponent has got some blockers so playing another 1/1 mana dork doesn’t change that much. You can keep it in hand in case you topdeck The Great Henge to draw an additional card.
- If you have a Henge on board, you can play another one just to gain 2 life if you need it. In other cases, you can just leave it in case the first is removed or to discard it with Regisaur.
- With Scavenging Ooze on board, you sometimes have to enter full control or put a stop to get priority and exile something before opponent gets to play it. Examples: opponent has Lurrus on board and a 2-drop creature dies in combat during their turn, or opponent discards a card with escape to their Rotting Regisaur and plays it as the first thing in their mainphase. In these cases, you need to hold priority or it will be too late to exile the card that’s already being cast.
Danger! We’ve got company! No, not the collected sort!
To be honest, I played against so many different decks on the mythic ladder and my most frequent matchup was FotD, which just got banned, so it’s hard to write strict sideboard plans at this point. I also expect more control decks to emerge, because they were hindered by FotD before, so the meta will probably shake up again and again… I think we can do better just discussing the possible inclusions and exclusions and understanding the ideas behind them. One note to consider when making future changes to the sideboard – because Caryatid usually gives 2 mana and our curve is skewed towards 3-drops, some 2-mana answers might be preferable over 3-mana ones.
- 2 Heartless Act: Simple creature removal, feels like it hits most of the threats we need to address, but for me the discussion between Eliminate, Heartless Act,and Cast Down is not over yet.
- 3 Thoughtseize: Best discard we have; side in for control and combo matchups or MonoU.
- 3 Heroic Intervention: another tech for control matchups or anything that has removal we want to avoid, like Claim the Firstborn in RB Sacrifice. Shaper’s Sanctuary could also be in this spot.
- 2 Legion’s End: my removal of choice vs UW Auras, since it dodges indestructibility; might play more if there are more Aura decks on ladder.
- 1 Maelstrom Pulse: the best flexible, unconditional removal we have in these colors.
- 2 Thrashing Brontodon: for any pesky artifacts and enchantments. Some people play Reclamation Sage but I prefer the dino, because it’s beefier and is available as removal any time you have 1 free mana, not just at the moment it enters the battlefield.
- 1 Prowling Serpopard: For any deck with counterspells. There’s also Allosaurus Shepherd in the format, which protects all green spells, including CoCo and Henge, but it’s just a 1/1 and the activated ability is relevant only with Llanowar Elves (Champion is already 5/4), so at this point I prefer a 3-drop with 4 power.
- 1 Kraul Harpooner: It’s needed vs MonoU, UW Auras that use Arcane Flight / Cartouche of Knowledge, or even MonoB with their Spawn of Mayhem, Rankle, and Demonic Embrace. Might consider maindecking some of them, depending on how the meta shakes out.
- Notes vs Aggro: Side in removal, and usually you have to side out some 3-drops, depending on what exactly you’re facing. Vs MonoR, side out Harbingers, because they die to a single burn spell and Driven /// Despair, because it’s better when you’re the beatdown. Could also get rid of some Caryatids if they play Goblin Chainwhirler. Side in Brontodons when expecting Embercleave. I don’t like getting rid of Rhonas because deathtouch + indestructible makes him a perfect blocker. Vs monoU, you can side out some Regisaurs if they have Brazen Borrowers and/or Merfolk Tricksters.
- Notes vs Control: usually add Thoughtseize and Heroic Intervention. However, keep in mind that the latter does nothing against Languish or Extinction Event. Most of this deck is odd mana cost, so hold onto your Scoozes if opponent plays Event in their deck. You’ll have to cut some creatures – Lovestruck Beast is usually your worst one, thanks to its conditional attack. Harbingers are usually better because they earn card advantage and have hexproof from black. If opponent brings in Grafdigger’s Cage to counter CoCo, you could also shave 1-2 to increase the chance that their Cage will be just a dead card. Siding Brontodons to counter Cage isn’t that great, because you have to find them in your deck first, and the best way to do that is with… CoCo, which is useless with Cage on board.
I’ve been having fantastic results with this deck, as I said at the beginning. However, it might be only a matter of time before more people start playing it, or the meta adapts and finds some weak spots in our list. At the moment though, I would highly recommend it and expect you to have a good time on ladder! May your CoCos be at their very best!