Home»posts»PIONEER GREEN PRIMER: 1st NRG ST. LOUIS
Last weekend, Maxx Kominowski, Theo Jung and I won the Nerd Rage Gaming team event in St. Louis. I was in the Pioneer seat and played Mono-Green Devotion, Maxx played Modern UR Murktide and Theo played Legacy UR Delver.
I selected Green because I felt it was the best deck in the format, capable of producing turn-four combo wins as well as building an insurmountable board with hard-to-kill creatures and prison artifacts from Karn, the Great Creator. I had an individual record of 7-2-1.
The current iteration of Mono-Green Devotion broke onto the Pioneer scene in April of this year in the hands of MTGO players Kanister and McWinSauce. It’s a deck that seeks to use 1-mana elves and Wolfwillow Haven to ramp into defensive creatures Old-Growth Troll and Cavalier of Thorns.
You rarely win through combat; instead, you have a combo win, repeatedly using Karn, the Great Creator and Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner, to cast Restorative Burst (the backside of Pestilent Cauldron) to gain infinite life and mana. Once there, you cast the front side of Pestilent Cauldron, make black mana using Sylvan Caryatid, Reckoner Bankbuster, or Treasure Vault, and finally deck your opponent.
In the initial build of the deck, you needed 14 devotion to break even on mana (2 to activate Nykthos Shrine to Nyx, 4 to cast Karn, 3 to cast Kiora, and 5 to cast Restorative Burst). With the additions of The Chain Veil and Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset, it usually ends up being less because each Kiora you rebuy produces an additional Nykthos activation.
Green mulligans often and well. I will usually ship 7s that don’t have at least one piece of ramp and one payoff. Some exceptions to this include triple-elf or elf-Kiora-elf/oath hands, as those make enough mana that it is worth relying on our draw steps for a bomb.
Mulligans are matchup-dependent, so you’ll need to think about how your cards line up against your opponent’s gameplan. When I play against mono-red aggro, Karn is usually not a strong payoff.
We want to block as much as possible, so Old-Growth Troll is a great payoff against RDW!
There are a few different builds of the green, including Bant, GW, Mono-Green, and GB.
A recent addition is Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset. The idea is you’re able to combo from a lower base. Teferi, Karn and The Chain Veil means you have infinite life and loyalty to your walkers from 5 devotion. You also have Wolfwillow Haven draws where you can combo without Nykthos. A faster combo draw makes us better in the mirror (where goldfishing is what’s most important).
The white is for Portable Hole and Glass Casket to improve bad matchups.
In games against Mono-Blue Spirits, Heroic, or Mono-Red, casting Karn with only one or two mana floating and not being able to use its ability to impact the board is awkward because it’ll perish on the crackback. Adding a way to make it relevant when we don’t have a lot of mana is a great addition.
There are two opportunity costs of the splash: manabase and sideboard slots.
Mono-Red is really the only matchup where shockland damage will matter. All other beatdown decks kill in large chunks of damage. Drawing a shock instead of a basic was rarely punishing, so I determined the cost was low.
We also don’t have room for Voracious Hydras or Skylashers. I’m still not 100% sure which is correct, and going forward, I may play extra Hydras in that slot to help with the mirror and Heroic. For the NRG Showdown, I felt it was important to be able to remove Thing in the Ice.
Transmogrifying Wand is the next best option, but I have never been impressed with it because it’s often difficult to activate the same turn that I play Karn. For now, I am happy with the white splash, but I don’t think there’s a clear-cut best version.
One thing I enjoy about Green is I don’t have to sideboard much. It makes life a lot easier. Rather than give you a sideboard guide (bring in Voracious Hydra against creatures, Pithing Needle against Greasefang, and nothing in other matchups), I’ll break down what purpose each card serves.
Obviously a bullet against Lotus Field Combo, but also useful in the mirror. If you believe your opponent will get more use out of their Nykthos than you and you want to stop them from going off, Damping Sphere is the last defense.
Hitting land drops is one of the most important things in fair matchups. You’ll often play a Karn even when you know it’s going to die just to get land #5 or #6.
Heart of Kiran was first added to the deck to make the combo easier on paper. If you only had one of Kiora or Karn but you did have the requisite devotion, you could crew Heart multiple times, effectively sacrificing the planeswalker to rebuy it with Restorative Burst. It’s also good if you want to keep a planeswalker alive after a Thing in the Ice flip, or if you need a colorless blocker to survive Mono-White’s Brave the Elements or a Gods’ Willing from RW Heroic.
Not much to say about this one. It’s a great catch-all and also good when you need a colorless blocker against Mono-White.
Remember it can’t rebuy sacrificed artifacts! Creatures, lands and planeswalkers only!
I sometimes get Needle in the mirror, but it’s mostly for UW Control. The strategy against Azorius is to slam a big play every turn and make sure they can’t use their mana to draw cards. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is the most important card and we want to shut it down.
Another one that’s pretty self-explanatory. Remember that it becomes a 5/5 and can attack when you activate Karn’s plus ability.
A cool thing with Crypt is activating it to target yourself so that you can get back any artifact that had been destroyed with Karn’s ability.
I usually use Bankbuster to make black mana to finish my combo turn, but you can also grab it against UW control or RB midrange if you want to draw cards.
Portable Hole is great against aggro, but it can also be useful against UW control to hit their Damping Spheres, Rest in Peace or Portable Hole.
The Chain Veil allows us to go infinite.
There are enough relevant 3-mana creatures, especially Greasefang and Old-Growth Troll, we liked having Casket over the second Portable Hole.
If I’m ever not sure what to get, Statue is my go-to. Taxing your opponents so they can’t double-spell you is obviously great when we’re against aggressive decks trying to cast a lot of cheap spells.
Great against one-for-one decks and low-to-the-ground aggro.
THE TOURNAMENT REPORT
ON TEAM BLASTER’S ORIGIN STORY
We were about to go to sleep after a medium NRG Minneapolis when Nam Dang asked if I wanted to team up for the St. Louis event. He said we could probably get Maxx Kominowski to play with us now that his semester abroad was complete, so I locked it in.
A few weeks later, Nam realized St. Louis, Missouri is far from Vancouver, and he probably wouldn’t be able to go, so we had to find a new teammate (spoiler alert: Nam did end up going).
We asked noted Devler specialist, Theo Jung, to team with us and he accepted on the condition he could play Modern Hammer. Shortly thereafter he made the finals of a Legacy Challenge with Delver and remembered why he’s the Delver messenger! We decided to call ourselves Team Blasters, after Nam’s love of Calibrated Blast.
I drove to the event with Bill Comminos and noted eternal enthusiast Adam Wasburn-Moses. These guys are always great to travel with, and this time was no different. I saw a sign for McDonald’s and Subway when we were stopping to grab some dinner and asked Bill which he’d prefer. He replied: “They’re all the same.” This became the ongoing joke of the weekend as we established that all roads, tournaments, Magic players, and food are ultimately the same.
When Theo texted his mom our top 8 picture, she replied: “They look familiar. All Magic guys are similar.”
ON SIMON, GARFUNKEL, AND BOOMERS
As a true Magic boomer, Bill always reminds us how young we are. About an hour out from St. Louis, we saw a sign marking a stretch as the Paul Simon Highway. I jokingly wondered if we would see the Art Garfunkel Highway on our way back Sunday night, and I was surprised when Bill didn’t understand the reference.
We asked if he had ever heard The Sound of Silence, and he asked if that was a song Disturbed covered.
ON COLD SHOWERS
Will took the first shower and told us the hotel didn’t have hot water. I tried every position, eventually pointing the handle directly at “cold.”
The walk to the event site consisted of Dom and Will making fun of each other for “not trying every position to get hot water” and “not knowing that ‘C’ stands for cold.”
ON ROUND 1 FEATURES
Round one we were paired against friends Matt Hoey, Sam Kuprewicz, and Joseph Bernal. I’m shuffling and Matt says we should wait to draw hands because we’re likely to be featured on camera. We wait until the round starts, draw hands, and begin playing.
Halfway through our first game, coverage approaches and says we’re supposed to be on camera. We wouldn’t be featured again until the finals!
ON TEAM DYNAMICS
We didn’t talk much during our games. Maxx chimed in on my games once after a pretty egregious punt, letting me know it was ok and to take time to collect myself for game 3.
Maxx did ask us to weigh in on his games once in a while but we usually just told him to do what he thought was right.
After we drew round 7 and locked up #1 seed, we went to get Popeye’s. I meant to order an 8-piece chicken nuggets, but I accidentally said tenders.
The cashier gave me a look, and I confirmed. I soon realized I was going to have way too much chicken but we all had a good laugh about my brain being fried.
ON HAVING IT
I played against Bant Spirits in the quarterfinals, and our match came down to my game 3. Spirits is a difficult matchup, and I mulliganed to 5. I kept a good one-lander: Elf, Elf, Forest, Cavalier, and Kiora.
On turn 2, I drew a Temple Garden, told Maxx I had it, and proceeded to win!
ON PIPER POWELL
Piper Powell is one of the best Magic players I know. She’s also one of the best trash talkers.
When she beat Dredge to make it to the finals, we hugged and she reminded me that in the last year, I have never once placed higher than her in an NRG event we were both playing in.
ON LOSS DISTRIBUTION AND LUCK
Theo and I both took a couple of losses in the Swiss, but Maxx and his Murktide strategy were undefeated.
After putting us on his shoulders on day 1, Maxx proceeded to not win a game in Top 8, showing that he really and truly trusts his teammates.
I’ve won Magic Online tournaments and LGS tournaments, but as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to win a trophy. I’ve also dreamed for a long time of doing a winner’s interview where I would get to shout out my parents and thank my dad for all the late Friday nights he spent parked outside the LGS. At the time I was too young to drive myself home and so he waited for me to convince everyone to split Top 4 so we could go home.
I’m glad dreams come true, and even gladder that now I have to go and dream some bigger ones.