When I first started looking into Mono Green Ramp in Pauper, the thing which immediately caught my attention was the sheer number of “put a basic land from your library onto the battlefield” cards which previously existed in things like Rampant Growth, its snowy counterpart Into the North, Search for Tomorrow, Harrow and many, many more. And this is all before considering other ramp enablers like Explore. I figured that somewhere in all if this, there had to be some really sweet, streamlined ramp deck, right?
But as it turns out, this is far from the case in Pauper, and the reason can be made rather clear upon reflection. In all other Constructed formats, the ramp cards all serve the purpose of bumping up your curve to drop some powerhouse bomb rare, which is ultimately the payoff for trading a card for a basic land (which does virtually nothing on its own to increase your board position). Then, when you do resolve your fatty, you can do all types of degenerate things such as making an orchid’s worth of plant tokens with Avenger of Zendikar or doing just one of the many unfair things Primeval Titan can do. In virtually every case, the end result is some card which comes down and immediately dominates the board.
But, as you can pretty easily suspect, there are no such “bomb rares” in a format of only commons, and this presents a considerable challenge to the traditional ramp strategy. Certainly there are a decent number of things which can be ramped into, such as Ulamogs Crusher or Aurochs Herd. However, the problem with all of the Pauper ramp targets is that they do not instantly command the board once they resolve, and so the traditional strategy gives the impression that you just wasted a ton of time and resources accomplishing virtually nothing.
This leads to one common mistake which occurs in many Mono Green Post builds. In short, it is to overemphasize the aspect of ramping and therefore have fewer things to play once you have tons of mana. More often than not, this is not in the form of the previously mentioned Rampant Growth spells, but much more frequently in excessive copies of Expedition Map and Crop Rotation. I will admit that there is some value in a copy or two of these cards to search out the deck’s namesake card, but the utility of these cards diminishes greatly with each additional copy. Sure, you can consistently assemble Posts that net make you 10 mana on Turn 5, but there is nowhere to go from there. The only card which even remotely resembles a “bomb rare” is Ulamog’s Crusher, but even when this plan goes perfectly, there is still the glaring possibility of being blown out by any type of removal spell (especially since green has no countermagic to protect it). And the fact that your deck will become weighed down with land tutors means that you have less deck space to commit to actually applying pressure.
Furthermore, the ramp options for Pauper (which will be looked at more closely in a bit) are only effective when you have a somewhat developed board, even if it is a stalemate. In such a situation, a stream of 4/4 tramplers or a Crusher can break the balance of the game in your favor. The early game must be focusing on stabilizing the board to at least a stalemate position. As the game continues, you should be able to develop your board at a much quicker pace than your opponent, eventually resulting in you breaking the symmetry and winning the game. This means that ramp strategies in Pauper must utilize cards which develop your board beyond giving you an extra basic. For example, things such as Overgrown Battlement and Wall of Roots ought to be favored over things like Cultivate.
What this amounts to is a much more consistent game plan that still sometimes has the capability of making unruly amounts of mana and promoting a blowout. However, when you do not open with double Cloudpost or double Battlements into a Crusher, there should still be a solid game plan. It is important to remember that unlike traditional ramp strategies in which the ramp is intended to lead to a clearly defined end goal, Pauper Green Post is trying to ramp in order to have more resources and develop at a faster pace than its opponent. Since the end goal is board development, it is important to consider card choices which will help with this and not simply to rely on an Ulamog’s Crusher to end the game single-handedly.
Having established a rough blueprint of how the deck should operate, let’s consider the following Mono Green Post list:
Mono-Green Post by Mike Radzwilla
Using this list as a foundation, I would now like to look at the three stages in which this deck operates and how the card choices fit into those stages. In some cases, I have included cards which are not in the above list, but may serve a similar function.
The Early Game
All of these cards essentially serve the same purpose and form the backbone of the deck, allowing you to develop your board and produce mana so that you can play more things quicker. Their size also makes them a solid opening play against most aggro decks, so they pretty much do everything this deck wants to do in the early game. The fact that they all have synergy with Battlement just makes them even more useful.
Although I just argued why these cards should not be included in the deck, their inclusion is useful as long as you don’t run an excessive amount. After all, the real problem with these cards is that they have diminishing returns, but this is not really an issue with only one or two. Additionally, there is a great incentive to grabbing a Cloudpost early, since it will allow you to develop at a much faster pace than your opponent. This is vastly different from the “basic” ramp spells like Rampant Growth, which give you only a marginal lead.
The Mid Game
Because this deck places so much emphasis on board presence and development, there is great value in “army-in-a-can” cards (that is, single cards which yield multiple creatures). The first on this list is Llanowar Sentinel. First, Sentinel is highly valuable in its versatility. Unlike the other cards in this “army-in-a-can” category, all of which have fixed mana costs, Sentinel effectively can cost five, seven, or nine (or three if you’re really desperate), making it just as useful in the later stages of the game as it is early on. This may mean that it is deceptive to include it in the “Mid Game” section, but very often, casting it for 5 is sufficient to hold down the board against aggro pushes, especially since attacking into multiple 2/3 bodies is difficult to do profitably, even for Myr Enforcers.
Furthermore, in addition to being an excellent defensive tool, the Sentinel is a huge asset in the control matchup, where the ability to spam several 2/3 attackers is often too much pressure for a control deck to handle. But in addition to these games where you can catch the control player off-guard with an army from nowhere, it also serves a huge role in baiting countermagic. Because its initial casting cost is only three mana (you pay the rest when each creature enters the battlefield), there is often enough mana available to bait countermagic with Sentinel (since it is typically a “must counter” creature) and then safely cast and resolve more essential spells after the opponent taps out. Certainly the idea of baiting countermagic is nothing new, but the fact that Sentinel packs such a punch for a creature with a converted mana cost of three makes him excellent at executing this plan. And, in line with this, a late-game Sentinel also manages to avoid Condescend quite nicely, which is incredibly relevant against U/x Post decks.
By this point you’ve heard me say how important holding down the board is for this deck. Of course a bunch of walls do a pretty good job of that, but all of this board development is more or less for naught against fliers. This creates a gap which Penumbra Spider fills perfectly.
Penumbra Spider’s primary function is therefore holding down the sky against White Weenie and Delver decks. But less obviously, the fact that it replaces itself gives it a considerable amount of value against most other decks, since it absorbs a decent amount of resources, being a 2/4 body that replaces itself. This is highly relevant against UR Post decks, since it is resilient against Flame Slash, the deck’s removal spell of choice, and also stops them from simply beating you down with Mulldrifters. The Spider is also in a very good position against Mono Black decks, since it blocks all of the 2/2 creatures the deck typically runs while also being resilient against removal (especially removal such as Doom Blade and Snuff Out).
In a way, Penumbra Spider plays out like the opposite of Llanowar Sentinel. While Sentinel gains value upfront in fetching more copies of itself, the Spider gains value in that it is very difficult to get rid of it without 2-for-1′ing yourself.
Serrated Arrows is an essential element to the deck if only because it’s a mono-green deck’s way of killing creatures and interacting with the opponent’s board, which is otherwise almost unheard of. Against the most aggressive aggro decks (Infect, Goblins, and Stompy to a degree), resolving this card is often enough to tilt the game very heavily in your favor even before you start dropping your Timmy creatures. There is very little more that can be said beyond the fact that it is an incredibly valuable removal spell, which gains even more value for a color which has no access to consistent removal.
The Late Game
By “The Late Game,” I am not so much referring to a specific turn but more to the point in the game where you have 8+ mana available and can play a bunch of creatures to completely dominate to board. It is possible to reach “The Late Game” on Turn 4, and these will be the blowout games where you develop at a pace your opponent cannot possibly keep up with. More often than not, though, this will not be the case. Typically, this is the point in the game where you start casting spells to break the board symmetry which was harped on so frequently up to this point. It is important to note, however, than even at this point, emphasis is still placed on development, not on resolving one big creature and riding it to victory (though this will work a fair amount of the time). This ensures that you don’t run into a random removal spell and have nowhere to go from there. For this deck, quantity is generally preferable to quality (though as always there will be some exceptions).
This card is essentially a big version of Llanowar Sentinel and fulfills the general goal of the deck, to keep playing creatures until your opponent concedes. Being able to replace itself puts an immense amount of pressure on the opponent, especially for decks that do not have the countermagic to stop the Herd from becoming a herd of Herds. Even so, this is a card that preys on the lack of board sweepers in Pauper, since there is never a reason not to keep running them into play. This card is essentially the green Mulldrifter (don’t tell Citanul Woodreaders), so there is no reason to not run these.
I know that this group may seem a bit odd at first, but they have similar functions in the deck in that they are both cards which represent quality over quantity. This means that while they are much more vulnerable to removal and therefore riskier (since you risk running out of things to do when it dies), it has a huge upside in that it will completely take over the game if left unanswered.
If there is anything which can be called a Titan in Pauper, it is Ulamog’s Crusher. If you are not hopelessly beyond on the board and your opponent has no immediate answer to it, you will most assuredly win the game. Fangren Marauder has a much more restricted use, but completely takes over the Affinity matchup and still grants a pretty sizable life boost in other matches when Serrated Arrows expires. Despite his potential power, I’m choosing to go without him in the current list.
In my opinion, these cards need to complement the “quantity” creatures. They act as an essential component because of the huge threat they present if left unanswered, and this adds a huge element to the deck’s power and explosiveness. However, putting all of your eggs in one basket (especially when that basket is named Crusher), is highly inconsistent. Furthermore, without a bunch of other creatures to hold the board, it is very possible for your opponent to simply race Crusher or Marauder.
And finally, the biggest threat Mono Green Post has to offer in my opinion:
So I know this may seem a bit anticlimactic, since a 1/1 Sprout is much less exciting than an 8/8 with Annihilator, but if the idea behind this deck is to stabilize the board and ultimately break the symmetry in your favor, being able to make several Sprouts each turn can get out of hand very quickly. This card alone makes an endless army (once again with the “army-in-a-can” idea) which makes it near impossible to race on the ground, and eventually can amass enough tokens to take the offense.
Furthermore, I have mentioned several times that one of the giant pitfalls of the deck is that it runs the risk of being incredibly anticlimactic in generating huge amounts of mana and then having nothing to do with it. Sure, it might be impressive to have access to 20 mana, but it’s much less so when you’re only using it to cast Expedition Map. But even in more realistic situations, you will sometimes run out of Aurochs Herds and Sentinels and Crushers to cast, and having a huge mana sink ensures that you never have nothing to do.
Additionally, Sprout Swarm is also able to do all of this at instant speed, which makes it an excellent tool against control decks, since you can swarm Sprouts during their turn, and, if they choose to counter it (often causing them to tap out), you have a clear path to resolving something bigger than a 1/1 token.
This is, in my opinion, this card is the most important in the deck.
A brief aside about blowing up land
One of the other hallmarks of Mono Green Post decks is their plentiful access to land destruction spells such as Thermokarst, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, Reap and Sow, and many builds of the deck make plentiful use of these. However, I believe that this is ultimately an inferior strategy to the one already presented. The first problem is that land destruction is only effective when it is heavily committed to, since very often destroying a single land is only a minor setback in tempo, and (especially for aggro decks) such tempo can quickly be regained. These types of tempo plays suffer from the same problems with the typical ramp spells in that it is difficult to see where it all ultimately ends. Sure, you can destroy all of their land, but then where do you go from there. The obvious choice is to play creatures and beat them. This means that you are ultimately committed to a diluted version of the “board development” strategy, and at this point you have a deck that is essentially trying to do two completely different things.
Additionally, there is a lot that can go wrong with heavy committal to land destruction. For starters, missing a beat and letting them play enough lands to resolve something immediately puts you very far behind, since their board will most likely be more advanced and you have nothing to interfere with whatever just resolved. Certainly there is some sadistic satisfaction in those lands where your opponent is short on land and you throw salt in the wounds and destroy what lands they do have, but these are very often games where you will wind up ahead anyway with a creature-heavy strategy.
As a counterpoint, land destruction is incredibly useful in Storm matchups where the land count is already lower, and it is therefore harder for the Storm player to recoup the lost tempo. Additionally, Storm players are more likely to keep one- or two-land hands, greatly increasing the likelihood of a blowout. It is also useful in the Cloudpost matchups, which rely much more heavily on having the mana to cast big spells than aggro decks do, so hitting a Cloudpost with removal sets them back pretty far, while it is only a slight tempo bump against other decks.
My verdict on land destruction is that it typically ought to be viewed as a tempo-advantage enabler, since that’s what it will most likely be doing. Tempo cards certainly are not bad, but a deck of tempo cards (especially ones which are not win conditions in themselves) will not be completely consistent. Still, I believe there is some maindeck space for them. However, a heavy commitment to land destruction is much more effective in the sideboard in the Storm and Post matchups.
And finally, the sideboard for this deck is admittedly rough, but the general idea is to hate on Storm (which is easily the deck’s worst matchup). Using the previous ideas of land destruction versus land, and considering green’s card pool, land destruction seems like the easiest way to interact with the deck. Beyond that, Moment’s Peace and Sandstorm are useful against hordes of Goblin tokens, and Moment’s Peace can also be swapped in for the maindeck Acid Mosses against more aggressive opponents.
As always, thank you for reading my article. Your comments, critiques, and suggestions are always welcome and greatly appreciated. Thanks!