Basic Forests in Modern

Humans tend to be creatures of habit and I am no exception to this. Since Modern has become too aggressive for slower interactive decks like Kiki Chord to be playable, I have been searching for something I truly enjoy playing. While I find G/B Tron amusing and powerful, it just does not scratch that same itch that playing a Green based combo deck does for me. There is something about playing out mana dorks and having meaningful combat steps in addition to combo kills that I really enjoy.

In one of the Magic chats I am a part of, several players had been talking about a newer Green creature deck that had been doing well recently — Human Company. At their recommendation I registered the following decklist in the MTGO PTQ where I finished in 22nd place out of 330~ players with a 7-2 record:

To start, this deck is doing some objectively powerful things. Cheating on mana is one of the best things to be doing in most formats of Magic and this deck is playing eight creatures that allow us to play out our cards ahead of curve:

Avacyn's Pilgrim
Noble Hierarch

Having these mana dorks allows us to combo kill our opponents as early as turn three with Knight of the Reliquary and Retreat to Coralhelm:

Knight of the Reliquary
Retreat to Coralhelm

While this combo is not as clean as simply making infinite Restoration Angels to attack with, it does allow us to deal twenty points of damage. Using Knight of the Reliquary we search our deck for fetchlands and more Forests / Plains to sacrifice. Retreat to Coralhelm untaps our Knight every time a land comes into play so we can keep filling our graveyard up with lands. While doing this we float mana from the lands we are sacrificing to eventually pump into a Kessig Wolf Run for a lethal attack. Because fetchlands generate two land drops, we can also use Retreat to Coralhelm to tap any potential blockers our opponent may have.

A turn three combo kill that can be disrupted by a single removal spell is not the reason this deck is objectively powerful, though. It is powerful because in addition to this very linear axis of attack, the deck also has a reasonable beat down plan that is actually how we end most games. In addition to Knight of the Reliquary providing a large body for beating down we also have two other threats that are great at attacking:

Champion of the Parish
Thalia's Lieutenant

Champion of the Parish gets fairly large fairly quickly — especially in conjunction with Thalia’s Lieutenant, which gives it two additional counters. Thalia’s Lieutenant is an exceptionally powerful card in this deck. Not only does it provide another creature that grows as we play out more creatures, but it makes our go wide strategy much more potent. Suddenly our unimportant mana dorks are attacking for relevant points of damage.

Next we have a couple of creatures that allow us to generate some card advantage:

Eternal Witness
Tireless Tracker

Eternal Witness can re-buy some of our powerful spells and Tireless Tracker serves as not only an additional large body, but also a means of generating some card advantage. We can generate a lot of clues in a single turn with fetchlands or Knight of the Reliquary activations.

The last human that is worth mentioning in the main deck is previous Standard all-star Reflector Mage:

Reflector Mage

This card acts as pseudo-removal that generates a good deal of tempo. In our deck that can often attack for lethal amounts of damage by turn four or five, sending a creature back to our opponent’s hand is often as good as removing it permanently. Reflector Mage also has the upside of being a creature - which means against decks like Death’s Shadow it does not get Stubborn Denial’d.

We round out our main deck with a couple of powerful instants:

Path to Exile
Collected Company

Path to Exile is hands down one of the best removal spells in Modern. It gives us an efficient means to interact with our opponent’s creatures when they get in our way or are attempting to race our board. Collected Company is the best way small creatures like this can generate card advantage and gain an edge against decks with sweepers in them. The most important thing to note about Collected Company is that cards that enter the battlefield at the same time “see each other”. This means that if you take two copies of Thalia’s Lieutenant, they will both be 3/3s after all of their triggers resolve.

Over the course of the PTQ, I lost a match to Death’s Shadow and Lantern Control, while I ended up beating another Shadow player, Robots, Storm, Tron, Abzan Midrange, {U}{R} Delver, and {U}{W} Control.

The Shadow matchup feels fairly close with this deck. Our Knight combo is not fantastic against them, but our go wide plan is something they often have trouble dealing with. In general I think we want to be conservative with our early attacks to keep their Shadows small until we can kill them in one lethal swing. I think we probably want one or two more ways to answer their large threats in the board as well.

The Lantern matchup felt utterly abysmal. We have a near impossible time winning through an Ensnaring Bridge, especially if they put a Pithing Needle on Kessig Wolf Run. We also only have two ways to kill an artifact in our 75 both of which are in the sideboard.

Speaking of the sideboard, I feel like that is the one thing that currently leaves a lot to be desired in this deck. Specifically these two:

Izzet Staticaster
Vithian Renegades

Felt mediocre even when they were supposed to be good. Modern is a format that is full of swings. This means when I put a card in my sideboard I want it to have a high impact when it is drawn. Izzet Staticaster and Vithian Renegades both create incremental advantage for matches that rarely come down to grinding each other out.

If I were to play this humans deck again it would likely be with the following sideboard:

Ancient Grudge and Creeping Corrosion are two additional “high impact” cards that help against decks like Lantern Control and Robots. Blessed Alliance is a flexible board card that is good against both Death’s Shadow as well as opposing aggressive decks like Burn. Finally, Selfless Spirit gives us a way to interact with cards like Supreme Verdict, while also giving us a third tool that can counter Red sweepers like Anger of the Gods.

While I enjoy the combat oriented game play, with occasional comboing, that the Human deck generates it does lack one thing that Kiki Chord had: Toolboxing. Toolbox decks in general have always had a bit of a rough time in Modern when the format is fast. The reason for this is because you generally pay for the flexibility a toolbox provides by paying additional resources to search for the thing you want.

That being said, there is still one Green Toolbox deck that I feel is competitive in Modern:

This deck has toolboxes, on top of toolboxes, on top of toolboxes. Tolaria West finds utility lands and Summoner’s Pact and Pact of Negation. Summoner’s Pact finds Green creatures; most importantly Primeval Titans. Primeval Titan finds utility lands; most importantly more Tolaria Wests. No matter which part of your toolbox you draw you can find the other pieces you need given enough time.

While this archetype lost some of its most explosive draws when Summer Bloom was banned, it is still capable of putting a Titan into play on turn two, and often does so by turn three. This allows it to tick the ever important box of “be doing something objectively powerful” that you want in Modern, while still offering us a variety of toolbox fun.

While the Amulet Titan deck is often explosive, the toolbox it offers also allows it to be fairly grindy. In Game 1, our first Titan trigger can find a bounce land and Tolaria West if we expect removal. This Tolaria West then turns into a Summoner’s Pact, which turns into another Primeval Titan. We can repeat this process until we run out of Wests or Titans. Post board against decks with more interaction like Death’s Shadow we can trade our some of our less impressive combo enablers like Sakura-Tribe Scout for more fair creatures that grind like Tireless Tracker and Thragtusk. If you have never made three clues in the same turn with a Tireless Tracker, bounce land, and Azusa, Lost but Seeking you are going to be in for a real treat.

Wrapping Up

If you are looking to play a Green deck in Modern right now, I think both the Human Aggro and Amulet Titan decks I talked about here today are excellent choices. They both have strong proactive game plans, while having a minimal amount of interaction to allow us to slow down opposing decks that might be a touch faster than we are on occasion.

What have you liked playing in Modern recently? Is there another powerful Green deck that I should consider trying out in addition to these two? Let me know in a comment below!

—Jeff Hoogland

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