Leatherback Baloth | Chris Rahn
Have you ever experienced that curve-out before? If you haven’t, then go ahead and take my word for it: it’s beautiful. Especially when your deck does it, or something similar, in the majority of its games.
Mono-Green Stompy is an ultra-budget yet semi-competitive deck for Modern that excels in the realms of consistency and size. If you like swinging with beefy creatures over and over again, then this is the budget deck for you.
Let’s start with deck construction. This is the list I currently run:
Experiment One: This is a top contender for the best card in the deck. The games that you don’t feel like you could have ever lost always start with some experimenting on turn one. In this deck, it quite consistently grows to a 4/4, sometimes larger. That said, it is a terrible topdeck, unlike Wild Nacatl-esque cards.
Dryad Militant: This is a top contender for the worst card in the deck. With every set, I scour the green cards for a better 1 drop, but unfortunately none have come along. Of course, a Savannah Lions on turn one gets the job done fine, and its 3 lines of text are not irrelevant.
Strangleroot Geist: It is amazing how rarely this dies. People hate trading for it with anything, and by the time they could eat it they usually have bigger creatures to worry about. Haste is a powerful ability, letting you pile on the damage fast while serving as a sort of reach in a deck that otherwise has no access to it.
Avatar of the Resolute: Playing this on turn 2 is fine, if unexciting. After some counters (from Experiment One, Strangleroot Geist, Scavenging Ooze or other Avatars) have found their way onto your board, it starts to become pretty absurd. Trample is extremely powerful in this deck, and Reach comes up quite often. Can’t afford Tarmogoyf? Come play this. One important thing to note: if you play Avatar on turn two after playing Experiment One on turn one, Avatar will not see the counter that Experiment picks up from the evolve trigger. Experiment One will, however, count the Avatar’s +1/+1 counters when checking for the evolve trigger, so a 4/3 Avatar will let a 3/3 Experiment grow.
Scavenging Ooze: This is, in a vacuum, easily the best card in the deck. It is a little too slow for the deck to run more than 2 in the main, but those 2 copies do a ton of work in the longer games and when graveyards are relevant.
Kalonian Tusker: Yeah, it’s bland. Yeah, it’s mediocre. But it beats getting clogged with scoozes, and it still hits hard. It is on the list of cards that the deck wants to replace as new sets come out.
Leatherback Baloth: This card is unreal. It is extremely efficient, helping you to crush other creature decks thanks to sheer size. Having this at the top of the curve is what makes this deck great, never cut it.
Dungrove Elder: This brings the deck from slightly favored to very favored against control. When you have a threat that they can almost never stop, they are going to have a lot of trouble beating you. It is also great against midrange decks, and, with most draws, not too slow against aggro and combo. If your meta is generally pretty fast, without many grindy decks, then this might not be what you are looking for in 3-drops 5-7.
Vines of Vastwood: Who am I kidding? This is the best card in the deck, no contest. It helps to unload damage while adding an entirely new dimension to the way the deck plays. Instant-speed hexproof is a great way to blow opponents out. The less experience your opponent has against you, the more likely they are to hold that Path to Exile until combat, when you can Vines and hit them for extra damage.
Aspect of Hydra: Speaking of blowing people out, this is the card that my opponents have to read more than any other. I have given creatures +10/+10 with this card, and will do so again. It is a fantastic way to unload damage unexpectedly. However, it is bad when the board is small (either due to a low-creature draw or a controlling opponent) and bad against a lot of removal.
Rancor: This goes great on a Leatherback Baloth or Dungrove Elder and is great with our pump spells. It’s power is well known, but it is one of the more controversial cards in the deck, with some people swearing by their four copies, and others avoiding running even one. I find that the card plays well enough that you would want to run three; drawing one is great, but drawing two is pretty bad.
Dismember: Ah, Phyrexian mana, what a mistake you were. Green decks shouldn’t have access to “1: target creature gets -5/-5 until end of turn,” but, for the low low cost of 4 life, they do. I have run several different configurations of this card, but I find that, in the dark, this is likely the best mix. It is a dead card against some decks, and an indispensable card against others. Don’t leave home without at least two in the 75, but don’t get too excited about a bunch of mainboard copies.
The mana in this deck is a big selling point, both in terms of money and gameplay. Forests cast all of our spells and never cost us any life or get shut off by Blood Moon, and fortunately there is no Choke equivalent for them that sees any play. Treetop Village, while bad with Dungrove Elder and occasionally awkward on the mana, is important enough that I very much like running two. It is consistency and flood insurance, all in a very aggressively costed package.
Sideboards are the most important parts of Modern decks. There are so many powerful decks out there that pull the 15 cards in different directions. Building the right sideboard for your meta is up to you, so don’t just take this one and expect it to be perfect. I will go over my basic sideboard, as well as some other cards that are worth considering for your sideboard.
Thrun, the Last Troll: This is the ultimate control trump card. I usually win against Jeskai or Grixis when I cast this. It is also very good against midrange decks. Because my local store has a lot of control and midrange decks running around, I pack two of these, and would recommend others do the same if you are in a similar situation.
Prism Ring: This doesn’t have many homes in constructed, but this is definitely one of them. It is half the cost of Dragon’s Claw and usually gains about the same amount of life. I like only running one as too many of them gives the Destructive Revelry that Burn often boards in too many targets. Also, if they lose to it in game 2, they will almost certainly board in Revelry, but you can just board out the one Ring since you don’t rely on it very heavily.
Unravel the AEther: This is a Naturalize that effectively deals with Wurmcoil Engine, Batterskull, Sword of the Meek, and any artifact one might want to recur with Academy Ruins. It also kills artifacts through Welding Jar. I find that the combination of those things, as well as being able to hit higher CMC targets, justifies it over more copies of Natural State or some Nature’s Claim.
Natural State: This is the most efficient way to destroy the vast majority of pesky artifacts or enchantments that doesn’t give your opponent 4 life.
Scavenging Ooze: In addition to being great against midrange strategies, this is a great card to bring in against Snapcaster Mage, persist combo, Living End, and any other deck that relies on its graveyard.
Creeping Corrosion: If you expect to see any Affinity (or are just headed to a large tournament), you will definitely want one or two of these. They can swing postboard games strongly in your favor against the artifact aggro deck.
Pithing Needle: The needle does it all. It is an outstanding tool to have in any sideboard, but especially so in a mono-colored one. Here is a sampling of cards it can name: Nahiri, the Harbinger, Viscera Seer, Borborygmos Enraged, AEther Vial, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Liliana of the Veil, Expedition Map, Karn Liberated, Cranial Plating, Knight of the Reliquary, Spellskite, Inkmoth Nexus, Thopter Foundry, Ghoulcaller’s Bell... needle I continue?
Feed the Clan: Gaining 10 life for 2 mana at instant speed is pretty incredible against burn. That is about all that it is great against though, so if you don’t see a lot of burn than trim this for other, better cards.
Kitchen Finks: This is at least a reasonable card against everything but combo. You will always board it in against burn or zoo. Afterwards, it is an extra card for when you need to board out pump spells or Rancors against grindy decks. A pretty great use of a sideboard slot, playing 2 or even 3 isn’t a terrible idea either.
Dismember: An outstanding sideboard card for a green deck. You should pretty much always have at least two in the sideboard. I’ve already talked about this for the mainboard.
Choke: I have never been impressed with this card. It seems great, and I’ve tried it, but control decks run so many non-Islands that it usually ends up being mediocre. If you expect a lot of Blue Moon or Merfolk, then it is probably worth a slot, but I find that it is very much not worth it in an open field.
Beast Within: This is a respectable inclusion, and I run it from time to time. However, Pithing Needle tends to do what this does, only more efficiently. The biggest reason to run a copy or two is if you expect Tron, in addition to the usual suite of permanents that need their inner beasts released.
Obstinate Baloth: A little too slow. For me, that sums up all the reasons I don’t run the card. It is a little too slow for it to be great against burn. It is little more than a Rumbling Baloth against Jund or Abzan if they don’t play Liliana of the Veil before I hit land #4. I don’t hit land #4 on turn four often enough that I want this in my deck when I want to go fast. It isn’t a terrible card to play, but personally I don’t think it does anything well enough in this deck to be worth it.
Spellskite: This is one of the best sideboard cards in Modern. However, that doesn’t mean it is any good in this deck. Like other aggressive decks, Mono-Green Stompy can’t make much use out of an 0/4. While it is reasonable against Burn or Infect, it does so little in every other matchup that I would almost never play this card unless those were both very prevalent in my area.
Chalice of the Void: Chalice on 1 can shut down a lot of decks in Modern. Play it if you expect to face those decks. If you don’t, then don’t. The fact that it is good against Burn makes it a fine include for a large tournament as well, though keep in mind it shuts off a lot of your spells as well.
Gut Shot: I am a big fan of 1 of these in a sideboard, it is a 0-mana kill spell for Infect and Affinity. If you expect to see a lot of those, then this will serve you well. If not, then it is a slot better spent on better cards.
Garruk Wildspeaker: I really, really want to run this card, but as it turns out, boring old Thrun is just better in most cases. This is at it’s best against Jund or similar midrange decks, but even against those it will usually just trade for a Lightning Bolt and leave behind a 3/3. That’s fine, but you can do better. Against decks with counterspells, there is no better threat than the Troll. If you expected to see a lot of grindy decks, then a split between the two wouldn’t be insane, but I would generally prefer to just double up on the Trolling.
Back to Nature: This deck has absolutely no game against GW Hexproof. It just can’t win. If there are one or two copies of the deck running around your shop, then you may want to include a few of these. They aren’t terribly useful in any other matchup though, so I wouldn’t recommend taking any to a larger tournament.
Nature’s Claim: While giving your opponent four life isn’t as much of an issue in this deck as it is in something like burn, it is still a big enough problem that I would almost never choose it over Natural State.
Skylasher: I only mention this because I have seen a lot of decks run it: don’t. It doesn’t do anything special; it is under almost no circumstance worth a sideboard slot, and certainly not three.
If you don’t have $100+ to spend on this deck right away, I’ve got good news: you can get a very reasonable version for about half the price. Here it is:
This list, while giving up a lot of percentage against control decks, still has the stuff to compete at your local game store. In fact, thanks to Boggart Ram-Gang and the 4th Aspect of Hydra, it goldfishes on turn four significantly more often than its more expensive counterpart. Its mana, a very simple 22 Forests, is even slightly more consistent than one with two taplands. If you want to take this to Modern FMN sooner rather than later, then this is the list for you.
While this is not a complicated deck to play, it has some decisions that, if not made correctly, can really mess it up. The two key skills to learn for playing the deck are correct sequencing and utilization of pump spells.
Sequencing your spells in this deck is key to unloading the highest amount of damage you can with each hand. There are three factors to weigh as you decide what to cast first: mana cost, size, and the value of playing it now versus playing it later. Which factors you weigh more can depend on the matchup (against a combo deck, for example, you just want to unload damage as fast as you possibly can, whereas against a creature midrange deck you might want to optimize the size of your creatures), but in general it is correct to consider first damage output, then value, then mana. But they are all quite close. Here are a few examples for your education:
With a hand like this, it is almost always correct to leave that second human ooze behind. You get to play the first on turn 1, then Geist on turn 2, then Baloth on turn 3: that is pretty much the nut draw, and it will put your opponent under a ton of pressure right off the bat. You wish the second experiment was a pump spell or Rancor, but this will do fine.
The choice here is between playing Avatar or Geist on turn two. Anyone familiar with a deck like Naya Burn (Goblin Guide or Wild Nacatl on turn 1?) will be familiar with the correct play in this situation: the default is to play the largest creature first.
Not counting any pump spells: Militant > Geist > Avatar = 4 on t2, 4 on t3, and 7 on t4, total = 15 Militant > Avatar > Geist = 2 on t2, 7 on t3, and 7 on t4, total = 16
As you can see, it is a small difference, but it is correct to play the larger creature first, regardless of haste. However, if your opponent seems to be holding up something like a Lightning Bolt or Terminate, then it will often be better to play the Geist and force your opponent to either trade with a 2/1 or a 2/1 undying, or waste their mana and take 4 immediately. It is also better to overcommit into a sweeper with a Geist then with something without haste or undying.
How about this slight tweak on the above situation? Let’s see how the math lines up:
Experiment > Geist > Avatar = 4 on t2, 5 on t3, 9 on t4, total = 18 Experiment > Avatar > Geist = 2 on t2, 7 on t3, 7 on t4, total = 16
Not only is the damage output better when you play Geist first, but you board position ends up better, with a 3/3, a 2/1, and a 4/3 instead of a 2/2, 2/1, and 3/2. You even give your opponent the opportunity to kill the Geist and give you even larger creatures, though it isn’t particularly likely.
Sequencing the deck is not easy, and there are still several situations in which I don’t know for sure what is correct. The other key gameplay feature of the deck is using pump spells. You don’t use them the same way you do when playing Infect, but if you are familiar with infect a lot of this will be known to you.
Using pump spells is no simple art. Against some decks, it is just about math. If they have little to no interaction, you can plan when you will cast your pump spells to kill them. It gets interesting when they do have interaction. Against midrange and control decks, using pump spells correctly can make all the difference.
Against decks with a lot of removal, you usually want to board out Aspect of Hydra anyway, as it has little utility against any removal other than Lightning Bolt (if they are heavily reliant on damage-based removal, then it is likely good to keep it in). Sometimes you just have to go for it because, if you give the unblocked creature +8/+8, your opponent is dead. Forcing your opponent to have a removal is the correct play more often than you might be inclined to think.
Vines of Vastwood, on the other hand, is great against any and all removal. While sometimes you will use it in the same way you often use Aspect of Hydra, to kill your opponent, you will usually attack with it available to counter a removal spell and do an extra 4 damage. People love holding up their paths and bolts to kill your creature on your turn, after you untap. It is correct against most decks, but most of my opponents get blown out two or more times before they stop.
Waiting to cast removal spells when you are tapped out grants some sizeable advantages as well. That means that your opponent either casts them on their turn, killing your cheaper creatures, or they wait, take damage, then kill whatever your best creature is at end of turn. Either of those situations is pretty good for you,
I have not played the deck’s matchups thoroughly enough to provide an authoritative sideboard guide for each. Instead, I will go over some general sideboarding principles and general guidelines for sideboarding against different archetypes.
With a deck like this it is very important not to dilute the deck with sideboard cards. If you’ve ever played Elves in a constructed format, you know what I’m talking about. The strength of this deck lies in its consistency, both in regards to curving out and applying pressure backed by pump spells. If you mess these aspects up, then (depending on the matchup) you can cause yourself a lot of problems. When sideboarding, you cut whatever cards are clearly bad in the matchup, then trim a few of the less powerful cards. The deck tends to trim a Dryad Militant and a Kalonian Tusker in a lot of matchups, and occasionally a Leatherback Baloth or Dungrove Elder, depending on what is important.
Sideboarding against aggro decks is pretty straightforward. Against decks like Burn, Goblins, and Zoo, Prism Ring and Feed the Clan are great. Against every aggro deck other than Infect, Kitchen Finks is at least serviceable. Against decks like these, you usually board out Dungrove Elder first, since it is your slowest card. Scavenging Ooze, while slow, gains life from the inevitably clogged graveyards and dominates the game if left unchecked. It also prevents opposing Kitchen Finks from persisting, so if you expect those out of the sideboard boarding Scooze in is usually good.
Against Affinity, you have Creeping Corrosion, Natural State, Unravel the AEther, and Pithing Needle. The matchup isn’t good pre-board and it isn’t good sideboard, but you get to take out your Dungrove Elders and Vines of Vastwoods.
How you sideboard against Midrange decks depends on what type of deck they are. Jund and Abzan are both Tarmogoyf/Kitchen Finks (postboard) decks, so you have to get as much mileage out of your cards as possible. Play to maximize the size of your creatures, and board in all your Thruns, Scoozes, Finks, and Dismembers. Board out 1-2 Dryad Militant, 1 Kalonian Tusker, and a mix of Rancors and Aspect of Hydras. Against decks like Grixis, however, you want to maximize your aggressive speed. They don’t have Tarmogoyfs to brickwall you, or Kitchen Finks to make you feel bad about your life choices. You still board in Thrun, the Last Troll and probably some Dismembers, but you don’t want to board out your aggressive creatures, as they are extremely important for getting under counterspells. Instead, you will usually board out all your Rancors. This depends on the type of Grixis deck (the less counters, the more you want to sideboard like you would against Jund), but overall you will treat them more like a control deck.
Speaking of control decks: board for counters. You want to be as fast as possible, while still having access to Thrun and Dungrove Elder. Pithing Needle is great against Thopter Foundry and Nahiri, the Harbinger.
Against non-interactive combo decks, you also want to maintain as much speed as possible (boarding out Dungrove Elders) while boarding in whatever relevant and productive interaction you have. Pretty straightforward. In these matchups more than any, it is key that you play to optimize your damage output and clock. Sometimes your thought processes will resemble those important for Affinity: you have to do the math of the situation, figuring out which plays close the door on the opponent as quickly as possible, or give you outs to end the game before the critical turn.
Modern’s premier interactive combo deck, Melira Company, is a terrible matchup for us, close to unwinnable. Pithing Needle helps shut down their combo, but Collected Company into Kitchen Finks is still a bad time.
Mono-Green Stompy isn’t the deck for everyone. In fact, when I first tried it, I doubted I would enjoy it much. I considered myself very much a blue control player. However, playing it has taught me a lot about my range, being aggressive, and variance in the game. With a blue deck, you feel like you have control over not just your opponent, but your draws as well, with cards like Ponder or Serum Visions. Control decks grant the user tons of flexibility. Aggro decks rely on their draws to dictate how the game will go; it is up to you to play the draws correctly. I have enjoyed doing this immensely: it has let me get a taste of actually play 100% correctly (and knowing when I don’t) that a control deck couldn’t. Plus, it got me into paper Modern at FNM for under $130.
That’s pretty good value, if I may say so myself.
Thanks for reading, I hope this was helpful to you! You can follow me on Twitter @CalebYarbrough1. Don’t forget to check back at 5 Color Combo for more great content every week!