We’ve all heard it by now: green is awful in Battle for Zendikar. It’s the worst a color has been since black in Avacyn Restored. To some extent, there are obvious parallels: AVR black was an all-in gimmick strategy (sacrifice) that had little payoff and awful commons. BfZ Green goes a step farther and supports multiple unrelated strategies which revolve around a central mechanic and generally don’t work very well:

  • GUx Converge isn’t powerful enough. There’s not enough fixing nor enough rewards to really justify playing 3+ colors. The payoff rarely offsets the inconsistency, particularly when your opponent can slam an Eldrazi and ignore most of what you’re doing.
  • GB Sacrifice relies on sacrifice fodder (like [casthaven]Blisterpod[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Carrier Thrall[/casthaven]) that’s weak on its own and doesn’t have a ton of payoff even with cards like [casthaven]Bone Splinters[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Altar’s Reap[/casthaven].
  • GW Allies has a lousy curve and very limited payoff, particularly at common. [casthaven]Tajuru Beastmaster[/casthaven] is a powerful payoff card, but is expensive and rewards going wide with GW’s generally lackluster creatures.

Tajuru Archer

To boot, these green decks are worse versions of other decks:

  • If you’re going tricolor, Grixis lets you play the strongest commons of Battle for Zendikar, take the greatest advantage of Eldrazi, and rely on powerful, colorless finishers. It’s also an easy backup plan if you end up in any two Grixis colors and find yourself short on commons.
  • If you’re going allies, RW offers a stronger aggressive plan, a better curve, and better removal. BW offers a higher power level, more consistency, more ally triggers, and a lifegain backup plan.
  • If you’re going sacrifice, you’re… unlikely to have a good deck. There just aren’t that many rewards for sacrificing creatures.

Strength of the Tajuru

There’s one green deck that definitely doesn’t fit the bill of ‘gimmick deck that’s a worse version of a non-green’ deck: RG Landfall. [casthaven]Snapping Gnarlid[/casthaven] is a strong Magic card (and almost certainly green’s best common) and makes blister(pod)ingly fast starts possible. [casthaven]Territorial Baloth[/casthaven] is a sizable threat which can get under bigger threats like [casthaven]Ruin Processor[/casthaven]s (and it’s easy to wheel, particularly when folks avoid green like the plague). [casthaven]Unnatural Aggression[/casthaven] is lackluster in every other color combination, but strong when you’re beating down with [casthaven]Snapping Gnarlid[/casthaven], [casthaven]Valakut Predator[/casthaven], or [casthaven]Grove Rumbler[/casthaven] (even though green almost has no way to process creatures to benefit from the exiling). In short, RG Landfall is a powerful, fast aggro/midrange deck which takes advantage of green’s top commons (and is well served by green’s ramp).

Unsurprisingly, I’ve been impressed by RG Landfall and no other green deck. I’ve had fun with BUG, seen neat Abzan/WURG Ally decks, and excitedly played Bant Awaken/Converge, but all of them felt like (at best) controlled trainwrecks rather than draft archetypes I’m excited to be in.
Tajuru Preserver

Normally, when a color is considered ‘the worst,’ I try to draft it as often as possible. You’ll have almost no competition for top tier cards and get to wheel first-pickable on-color commons. However, if you’re drafting green, I don’t recommend this approach; there are so few cards worth picking up that you really should wait and see what wheels (only spending your early picks on [casthaven]Snapping Gnarlid[/casthaven]s and higher rarity cards like [casthaven]Tajuru Warcaller[/casthaven]). The color simply isn’t deep enough to support heavy drafting (on average).

I suspect that the maximum number of dedicated green drafters a pod can support is two (and perhaps that number is closer to 1.5). Any more than that and the few solid green commons get dispersed among inconsistent tricolor decks, weak ramp decks, and weak color combinations like BG. This is comparable to the appropriate frequency of black drafters in AVR draft. While I feel that green is stronger in BfZ than black was in AVR, it’s a small difference when you consider that green has few good commons, diffuse and weak synergies, and insufficient monocolor payoff cards at higher rarities.

Tajuru Stalwart

My last draft deck was a 3-0 primary green deck (which had great mana and essentially splashed black for [casthaven]Ob Nixilis Reignited[/casthaven] and blue for [casthaven]Clutch of Currents[/casthaven], [casthaven]Halimar Tidecaller[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Coastal Discovery[/casthaven]. It had five [casthaven]Snapping Gnarlid[/casthaven]s and three [casthaven]Territorial Baloths[/casthaven]. …it was also the only green deck at the table (and was playing one of the best mythics in the set). So while it going 3-0 is an interesting data point, it’s not particularly insightful (even if Tom Martell did just win a GP with the ‘unplayable’ color). It felt like everything went right in green and I opened a bomb rather than particularly insightful drafting.

Looking ahead, I encourage you all to critically examine statements about which colors are worst and which commons are best. I believe that these suppositions more often push players into forcing not-open archetypes and unbalance metagames than make for better drafts. However, green in BfZ may be one of the outliers (like black in AVR and red in Innistrad): outside of RG Landfall, it just does weaker things than every other color and with fewer quality cards. Hopefully Oath of the Gatewatch will counteract this.

That’s all for this week, friends. As always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash


Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner, improviser, and game designer (currently going for an MFA in Game Design at NYU). He has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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