Each player has a favorite color. You can be versatile in your play and be able to use a bunch of different styles of decks, ranging from aggro to control and everything else in-between, but players have style preference and in magic, style is defined by color. Blue fast decks exist, but that color is known for being on the slower, permission-based slower side. Red decks can have controlling features, but their identity is tied to blistering speed. For any style of play you can find a deck and, commonly, the colors that describe that player’s personality can be predicted just by saying their traits and points of attack. For me, it’s Green Ramp.
The best way to test where you think you stand in terms of your favorite color is to see what you draft with new cubes. Most of us don’t get to play many different cubes, and I’m only lucky enough through the power of the internet to experience tons of different builds, but I have indeed drafted a lot of different cubes. From power to unpowered, pauper to combo-only, there are a lot of different cubes that offer many styles of drafting. What could be considered a strong archetype in 99% of cubes can be absent from Joey Bluey’s 360 No-Red Cube, and decks within a set can only be found with the supported card and nowhere else sometimes as well. To a certain point you expect specific things when you hear the word ‘cube’—Recurring Nightmare, fast red decks, Jace the Mind Sculptor, etc.—but budget or selectivity or pure hate can eliminate cards from the pool before the packs are even made. I’ve picked early Stoneforges only to go over the list later to see that none of the OP equipment was included and I was passing on subpar equipment because I was waiting for other cards. Sulfuric Vortex picks have blown up in my face when a heavily support Wildfire selection arose in the packs. My friend Al’s cube for the longest time only had Steel Hellkite as the best Tinker option. Specific archetypes that exist within cards that are absent from cubes can eliminate entire, broader archetypes as a whole if they’re improperly supported.
Because of this, I find myself taking a more reserved approach when I draft cubes for the first time. Rarely do I find myself exploring aggressive strategies in fear of there only being a Mom for white one-drops, or Upheaval in a cube with awful artifact mana. (To be fair, I would still probably take an upheaval even with the knowledge of minimal signets.) Instead of going for the wild archetypes, I’ll draft something simple like “U/W control” where it’s easy to get the basic pieces to have the synergy but you don’t necessarily need specific cards to make it good. These decks tend to perform well in all types of environments, and after a few drafts with said cube I can figure out what the cube owner is trying to give me to play with and what options are best/ideal.
Green ramp is my favorite of these go-to archetypes. Attacking with massive creatures in cube is always cool. I love turning an Eldrazi or Woodfall Primus sideways on turn 5 or 6, way far ahead of where their mana costs say they should come out. Beyond the sweetness factor, it’s naturally strong, and the creatures you’re pumping out are often resilient to spot removal and require awful blocks to truly “trade” them off the board. But how do you actually trade with Wurmcoil Engine? How many scenarios end up with you ahead from dealing with an Avenger and his plant buddies? The cards exist, but not in excess, even in an environment like cube where removal is in abundance. Perhaps I enjoy hedging my bets by relying on cheating out big dumb things in foreign or known environments, or maybe I’m listening to the inner child who is playing out Godzilla in a card game, but I know where my bias lay and those pastures are green.
When drafting green ramp, it’s important to consider the composition of your deck when making your picks. There could/should be a formula for drafting green ramp. How much fat can your body hold? How many joints, little and big, are needed to support it? Do you splash? If so, is it for removal? Do you even care about interaction? Card draw? How heavily committed to the archetype are you? Big mana or medium mana?
Before we start answering these questions, there are cards every green deck needs.
Early Game Ramp: Your early game ramp is huge, no matter what type of green deck you’re drafting. (I am not a fan of zoo-style builds and generally make pretend they don’t exist, but even there it is probably fine to run some, especially badasses like Noble Heirarch.) They are the first jump to the next level and the quicker you are cheating the curve the faster you start winning. These elves and walls and even stones are why you can call it a ramp deck to begin with. You can’t just throw a bunch of expensive spells in a deck and expect to play them on the turn that coincides with their CMC. Your early game is not as important to develop as an aggressive deck’s is, but you can’t stumble for too long before decks are able to keep up with you, shut down your late ramp, or just straight up beat you before you’re actually developed and forcing you to make awful blocks with the cards that are supposed to be sending you further down the curve.
The first step in developing this ramp package is elves. For most ramp decks, these are by far the most important cards, and they’re the most important to have the most of. They don’t make as much mana or generate as much land-based card advantage as the 2 and 3 mana options do, but getting a presence on the board is the most important. Even if you don’t need their mana production, they can either attack or even trade against aggressive decks if you can afford to do so. Because your decks will have a lot of elves, green ramp decks have a lot of options for points of attack once they have all that mana. All the one drops have different value, too; some do exactly the same thing, but others have added bonuses and effects. I generally want 3-4 elves per ramp deck, more if my turn 2-3 ramp is severely lacking or I have skull clamp.
Joraga Treespeaker is probably the best overall one drop, and one of the stronger green cards overall. Often called the green sol ring, Treespeaker makes absurd amounts of mana at a minimal cost. Leveling up can Time Walk yourself as with a lot of the leveling creatures, but Treespeaker at least instantly taps for the investment you’re making on the mana so you can play off your natural curve. By turn 3 if you’ve only ramped up with Treespeaker you’re at 3 mana with next turn the potential for 5 or 6, which is quite a bit. Green is packed with game crushers at that spot, and with any other ramp or production you’re looking at 6 or 7 mana easily. The mana investment you make into the Treespeaker is not negligible, but the benefit you’re receiving is astronomical. Early in drafts I’d pick Treespeaker over just about ever top-tier ramp threat and mana producer in the color.
Birds of Paradise is another incredible one drop. At its base Birds of Paradise is a cool card. Since it’s introduction a long time ago, Birds has been the epitome of a good yet balanced magic card—powerful, but not game changing/warping; it has a unique effect that can be recognized by newer and seasoned players as great, and has been printed enough where it’s not exorbitantly expensive. While not as powerful as the Treespeaker, Birds of Paradise is more important in the base-green multi-colored decks. Birds fixes your mana early and since a lot of the time you’re splashing for removal it can be really important that you have a universal source of every color starting in the early turns. Birds of Paradise helps insure that you don’t hold that doom blade in your hand like a sucker until you scoop up those cards. Birds also has the added bonus of being one of the few green cube cards with flying, which can be really relevant when you start adding mana into the mix.
Noble Heirarch can be stronger than both of the previously mentioned dorks, but more often than not falls somewhere between the two. It’s not as good of a ramper as Treespeaker is, but seems to be a bit better than birds based on the exalted in combination with the limited fixing. Heirarch is straight up better than Elves in most all scenarios. Team attacks make her worse, but that scenario is rare and more often you’re considering the fixing aspect where Heirarch simply makes more types of mana. Your elf needs to make mana of a color to be considered cubeable (see: the awful Boreal Druid, which is still fine but really is so subpar to almost every other option) so obviously tapping for three different colors is good. Exalted seems like a tacked on ability but every point counts and there have been enough instances where that extra power and toughness makes a poor attack game winning or at least makeable. Exalted makes the Heirarch ideal in fast green decks, whether it’s more a midrange or zoo-styled deck. Playing a troll ascetic t3 and then attacking with a 4/3 hexproof regenerator is really strong, considerably stronger than the already-good attacking with a 3/2. If I’m already in UG/GW/Bant then I’m more inclined to take Heirarch over other elves, though having a Heirarch doesn’t automatically make me lean towards those colors.
Deathrite Shaman exists, and while he’s not at the power level of his stance in modern or legacy, he’s closer to there than he is to how well he does in standard. There are a ton of shuffle effects in cubes and with a full suite of fetches in addition to a terramorphic expanse, you will be able to make him a Birds of Paradise more often than not. Because of this, Deathrite Shaman can be the best overall in the decks where you can consistently tap him for mana because he does so much. It’s kind of insane that Deathrite was printed. People will often throw around “best creature of all time” and honestly it’s almost not even close. The amount of card that Deathrite gives you for paying not just one solid color but one color or the other is absurd. I mean, he’s an elf in mono black decks—that’s crazy! Deathrite is also awesome as premier graveyard hate, turning off reanimator, snapcaster, and regrowth effects with pin point accuracy while shortening their clock and lengthening yours at the same time. There are decks where you can’t justify maindecking him where you’ll have zero fetches, but you’ll find in those rounds that you’re bringing in Deathrite in from your sideboard against at least one deck that focuses around the graveyard.
Past elves there is a more diverse selection of green ramp. Some of it is heavy green, some of it has no green identity at all and is coincidentally good in the archetype. But you can’t rely on elves solely to ramp. The pointy-eared fellows are a jumping off points to pointier and bigger ears, things that tap for a bunch, and spells to put lands into play and hand. You need a healthy mix of both for most ramp decks to be successful; that is, both your elves and the 2-3 mana options.
The most powerful 2 mana ramp spell—and honestly one of the strongest in cube—is Rofellos, the card with the weirdest regards for it. Some players will first pick Rofellos over almost anything. Others want nothing to do with him, thinking that mono green ramp is an awful archetype or relying on forests is too much. To each their own, sure, but the amount of mana that Rofellos generates is too absurd to ignore. By himself, if you have three forests on turn 3, you can play anything up to 6 mana. In an unpowered cube that’s absolutely insane, and even around cards like moxen and such, that’s still quite a bit and can turn the gas on against most all decks. A 2/1 for GG is fine as is, since 2 power makes a huge dent over multiple attacks, so if you can only attack he isn’t useless, but you’re not playing him for that. The main issue with Rofellos is that you need to be heavy green, which can make an ambitious mana base or many splashes not easy, but there are two lines of thought when you’re making the Rofellos deck. One is that your fixing is going to come off your Tropical Islands, your Birds, your signets. The other is that you have no interest in interacting with your opponent and the only real interaction is saying how much you’re attacking for. Since there are few cards that interact with your opponent in green Rofellos dictates this style of deck; you can’t expect to be playing a bunch of off-color removal and what not if you need to have a high number of forests to make that Rofellos good. I’m hesitant to take Rofellos over other similarly-powered cards in early packs since I hate heavily committing early in cube drafts, but I have less of an issue in later packs with a strong green draft in the works or taking it over 1 or 2 other strong cards.
The recent Sylvan Caryatid has established himself as a stellar green ramp two-drop spell. Even though he only taps for one—most of the early ramp does, Rofellos and Treespeaker just spoil us—he is an amazing combination of a bunch of little things. Tapping for any color like Birds of Paradise is great for the same reasons as Birds is. Doing it a turn later sucks, but there have been many times hands and games have been derailed by an early piece of removal spent on a Birds. Sylvan makes this nearly impossible without burning a wrath or falling into the edict-an-alone creature situation. Hexproof allows you to get a little more liberal with your keeps too since something like a two lander with Caryatid and all other 6 drops looks more appealing since you are more likely to get to that curve and maintain the ramp structure that got you far ahead. Finally Caryatid has a big ol’ booty, and that booty stifles a lot at CMC 2. A big issue with a lot of the other early ramp is that they have really wimpy bodies. So much can kill something with 1 toughness, and not much can be killed by 1 power. Caryatid sits in the way of a lot of the early aggressive beaters, while the Hexproof doesn’t allow compromise to any early burn or removal. Though Caryatid has only been on the scene for a short period of time he has proven his capability in the field of cube.
Wall of Roots is also a baller, but for different reasons. The Wall of Roots is weird; situationally it’s very powerful, and there are other times where it’s not really doing much. Not having to tap and being able to activate the wall’s mana abilities immediately can be hugely relevant, whether it’s to cast another spell or activate an additional ability. While wall of roots doesn’t make extreme amounts of mana, it makes mana quickly and can do so turn after turn without much of a roadblock other than it eventually dies which is largely irrelevant. (In fact, I can’t remember the last time I watched a Wall of Roots die to activations. Not as rare as a sent-back Chain Lightning, but still close to Bigfoot status.) Wall of Roots is more fragile to removal than Caryatid, but so is everything and even then the red removal mostly just pecks away and requires a block or card disadvantage to do much. It really is so unfortunate that Wall doesn’t attack, but being able to block a ton of other creatures makes up for that and wanting something that makes mana the turn you play it to attack is a bit of a greedy request. Wall of Roots is awesome, ignore all previous shit talk.
At the 3 cost, there are a few options with Kodama’s Reach, Cultivate, and Harrow. Kodama’s Reach and Cultivate are for all intents and purposes exactly the same, and I feel it’s perfectly fine and can be considered standard to run them both. Since the green ramp deck is aiming for 3 mana plays off of a turn 1 elf, only jumping ahead one mana in play off the spell is still pretty big, especially since you’re essentially guaranteeing the land drop for the next turn. While Reach and Cultivate are spells with only one mission in mind, they do it well, acting as a very-specific type of Divination that gets you ahead on board and in hand. They’re easy to side out too, since you’re probably trying to drop your curve against other aggressive decks and it can be a waste of valuable time Reaching and Cultivating against the decks that are attacking you for a bunch.
Then there’s Harrow, which I personally like more than Cultivate/Reach but can be more dangerous. There is nothing suckier than getting your Harrow countered; most of the time this directly results in a loss. When resolved, Harrow is pretty huge. For starters, the landfall can be awesome is you have Lotus Cobra or Rampaging Baloth. (I’ll talk about Baloth later, one of the more/most underrated fatties in cube.) But even if you aren’t using it for those limited applications, bringing in two untapped lands opens up option for what you can do. While you’re technically only getting ahead one land, Harrow lets you add another play which can make your mana efficiency top notch. Being able to Harrow and play another elf or piece of removal in the same turn can open up your mana for a bigger play the next turn. Harrow is cool too because you can fix multiple colors on your board in the same turn through one card. There are times where you’d rather have the land in hand to play off of your cultivate, but Harrow caters to a deck that’s trying to do what it needs to do in a faster manner.
On the cheaper side there is Rampant Growth, Farseek, and pals. Are they good enough? How much of your ramp can not be creatures when they’re cheap? A huge bonus of green ramp is that you can attack with your guys; late top decks of elves are at least still bodies which can attack planeswalkers, defend attacks, and wear weapons. I think the cards are fine but are on their way out. The effect of fixing your mana early is good and can be well received, but I think the late game terrible draws of these cards make them on their way out. Hopefully over the coming years the two mana options will make these cards unnecessary.
The colorless options do exist, but I’m less inclined to sing their overall praises in an article about green ramp decks since they appeal to so many other types of decks. Esper decks with signets are strong. Black decks that ramp up with Coalition Relics and Worn Powerstones are strong. Taking signets doesn’t mean you’re forcing yourself into green, and it’s important to understand that while you’re drafting too. A first 3 picks of Rofellos, Signet, and Mana Vault doesn’t even mean we’re going to have one green symbol anywhere in our deck. Green may be the ramping color, but artifacts live by their own rules. (“Way of the Gun” blah blah blah something something something.”) Obviously power is power, but all of the signets are great. Mindstone gives green a cheap, easy ramp with accost efficient cantrip later on. Gilded Lotus is an awesome option in Eldrazi/Genesis Wave decks and is also great if you can draw a lot of cards or if you want to play a lot of expensive off-color spells. Still, these aren’t “green” cards; do not pass them if you are the only green player thinking they will come back. Signets and pals play by their own rules, and that rule is “everyone is chill.”(They are also bros.)
Mid-Range Ramp: There are two categories of ramp targets—the midrange items, and the big guns. For midrange cards I tend to cap at 5 mana because that’s the average of where a lot of hands will ramp you to by turn 3. The difference between 6 and 5 mana is huge, like every step in cost is, so it’s important to draw a line. There are certainly decks that have no interest in casting things like Myr Battlesphere and what not, so it’s important to keep the gas in two separate piles.
Thragtusk, to me, seems like the overall best card for the midrange decks for a ton of reasons. At the base, a 5/3 is a pretty big dude. It’s nothing absolutely crazy, but that’s 4 swings until death and in cube it’s not unheard of to do up to 5 damage to yourself through fetches and whatnot. Thragtusk dies to everything and has no protection, sure, but that’s his strongest suit—you can’t stop the other 3/3 from hitting the board unless you’re packing something like stifle or void slime. As a base-line value creature Thragtusk is nutty as is but once you start combining other tools he launches himself to one of the best creatures available. Upheaval? The board is empty except your 3/3. Recurring Nightmare? Here’s 5 life and a 3/3. Thragtusk can be abused so easily and when you do you turn all your opponent cards into bastardizations of their former selves. He only has a single green in his cost too, making him one of the best (and few) stellar green splash options. The ‘tusk is a must.
Deranged Hermit is another creature like Thragtusk that is best when you can abuse his ETB abilities, but that can be a bit tougher for him. Hermit makes a ton of tokens, and if you’re able to bring him back over and over with a Crystal Shard, Recurring Nightmare, or Venser (hey, cube is a land of excellent mana) then you will eventually bury your opponent under an army of Squirrels. Because of this, Hermit’s echo is a blessing and a curse. It’s great when you want to be binning Hermit or you plan to bounce him anyways. Making 4 bodies for 3GG is great, and if you can automatically bring him back again for cheaper or essentially free then the flood you’re creating should drown anyone. There are times where paying the Echo is not possible or it’s a necessary evil, and having to pay 5 then is really sucky, but if you do that, you still have 9 power on the board that’s ready to swing. On another note I think Hermit is criminally underrated nowadays. Players see the word “echo” and run for their lives, though guess I shouldn’t complain because that means I get to draft the card more.
Acidic Slime is personal favorite because he does so much. 5 mana for a 2/2 is a lot, but he has deathtouch which means he gets in for damage on a lot of boards and he trades with almost everything, big or small. The interaction Slime provides you though by always having an opposing card to destroy is huge. Cards like Indrik Stomphowler or Uktabi Orangutan are sometimes awkward when there is only your own signet and such as targets on the board. Slime can almost always hit a land, and if he can’t it means you just casted Armageddon and then had a Slime enter the battlefield, which means you must be winning. Note that I’ll still main deck Indrik almost always in these decks because a 4/4 is pretty sizable, but I’ve found Slime to be better a lot of the time.
Thrun, the Last Troll is an extreme badass who fits in all of the green archetypes that are midrange or less and is a fine sideboard option or 23rd card in the bigger-mana decks. A 4/4 for 2GG is a pretty good deal, and making him Hexproof and giving him regeneration is a bunch of protection. You can’t even counter him! When they changed the rules about legendary creatures they eliminated one of the few ways you could deal with Thrun 100% in terms of cloning him. He really is an unstoppable menace! I mean, he doesn’t have evasion or trample so he gets chump blocked all day, but it’s still an inevitability that’s tough to deal with. Hexproof also means that he carries equipment like a champ, slamming your opponent over and over while all they can hope to do is chump block the damage or have some kind of artifact removal, instant speed preferred. Thrun is less good in the green ramp decks since you’re looking to make something they can’t deal with and win off the back of that, and if you’re able to chump block over and over against Thrun then he’s not really doing anything. All the big green ramp targets either make giant armies in a can, have trample or other evasion, or deal with multiple permanents at once so that you can attack successfully. Thrun neither ramps you up or acts as a giant thing—he’s just big, which is plenty nice for the midrange decks.
Personally I like Phantom Centaur a ton because he is super resilient, really powerful, and all for minimal commitment from your resources beyond the initial casting cost. Protection from black guards against all the traditionally great removal and leave open only white as a stone-cold stopper. Burn is nice, but a fresh Centaur takes three different cards to burn him out. Centaur doesn’t get around for a ton of damage or leap over them, but he grinds away at fair and even boards. Like Thrun, Centaur gets silly holding equipment since he turns virtually invincible, forever removing counters that aren’t there. Phantom Centaur has fallen out of favor for a lot of players. They look at him and they see an older, boring card that doesn’t get featured in the MTGO cube, which is a fallacy, but that entire cube is a joke so there’s that.
With planeswalkers there are the Garruks, and they all deserve their own mention since they all fill such different roles. You can’t just throw them into any green deck all the time…well, you probably could/should, but you need to understand why they fit in those decks and what their roles/purposes are.
First there’s OG Garruk—Garruk Wildspeaker—and while he’s a fine ramp target in the mid-range decks, he’s better suited for big mana. Untapping 2 lands won’t necessarily do a lot the turn you play him, but it can be big for holding up spell mana or playing another signet or elf in the same turn. Your -1 activations can only occur for so long, but a stream of Beasts turns Garruk into a call of the herd with more activations or a level of life-gain, which seems like a card I’d enjoy playing for 4. This is the strength of planeswalkers—the floor of the cards are often incredible if you break down the scenarios in “magic card” style of text, and when you can go turn for turn your single cards becomes the equivalent of 2 or 3 total cards, giving you the equivalent of an Ancestral Recall in all these cards or better. Passed planeswalker should be the sign of a powerful pack or an open color since they are always amongst the best cards of that color. Even red, which has had the worst planeswalkers for cube, still have great cards that if given time take over games. (Ral Zarek and Ajani Vengeant are awesome and red, but the multi-color combination puts them in another conversation.) A Chandra, the Firebrand with no spells to copy still eventually blasts everything after pinging every x/1 and taking a small chunk out of their life. Recently cards like Koth and Chandra, Pyromancer have been printed and have helped out the section nicely. The point I’m trying to make is even if you’re not in big ramp, this Garruk is good for your deck in that it is still a stream of 3/3s that some turns will allow you to make multiple or bigger plays.
Garruk Relentless is better in zoo decks, but honestly he’s awesome everywhere. This is one of my favorite magic cards because it gives your opponent a tricky situation to get out of where the back side is much better than the already-great front side. His value is huge on so many different boards. Where nothing is happening on either side he presents an immediate threat in addition to the machine that produced it, giving your opponent two issues to deal with. When you’re behind he represent a stream of blockers, and if you’re lucky you can pop a creature off without losing Garruk to a swing back or burn. Once he’s Veil-Cursed, Garruk becomes a serious problem. 1/1s are nothing special but deathtouch is an incredibly strong ability, giving the wolves a pseudo-unblockability and the ability to trade with most all cube creatures. The tutors open your deck up while keeping mana available, and sometimes you would rather the sacrificed creature in the graveyard to begin with. Before you know it, you’ve either got a one-sided board of your wolves and their nothing or you’re activating a potentially massive overrun for miniscule loyalty. The biggest strength of Garruk is that he is so easy for so many deck to cast at a cost of 3G. He’s a cheap, resilient threat that gets demolished by Searing Blaze but can still be 3G: destroy target creature, gain 1-3 life” which sounds awesome. Green removal with lifegain? Sign me up. In my top planeswalkers list I put him at 6, which is probably around where I’d put him now, but in green decks and drafts he is a high-priority and constant all star.
Speaking of splashable, Garruk Primal Hunter certainly is not, but in a vacuum he is the best of the Garruk Bros. At 2GGG you have an effortless stream of 3/3s and because of that his other ability is at worst a harmonize. Instantly drawing after casting always means your Garruk is gonzo (unless you’re running Doubling Season) but if you’re casting “2GGG: draw 3-5+ cards”, that sounds incredible and totally worth it. Garruk’s ultimate is absurd and if you activate it you’re insanely far. Of course, Garruk is a lot worse on the green decks that are trying to splash a bunch or the straight-up 2-3 color decks that feature green since GGG is tough to ask of decks except the ones that are running a suit of elves and rampers. If you’re deck has nice splashes off of cultivates and dual lands than it’s more believable that his casting cost will be easier. Early in drafts I will often take another garruk over this one because the commitment to green is so strong. There are few cards in cube I’m willing to force myself into because cube is such an easy format to stay open in that there’s no need to force yourself onto the ship, even if that means sinking it. If it’s pick 1 pack 3 and I have 2 green cards and it’s between a great card in a new color or this Garruk, I’d probably stick with garruk here and commit to the archetype. If you can cast Garruk he’s worth it and takes over games quick.
Two things to note re: Garruks:
1) I don’t think Garruk, Caller of Beasts is good enough. If he put creatures in of any color he’d be a lot better, but it hurts that he takes the spot of one of those incredible creatures you’d want to cheat in. Sure you can do it for value, and you can draw creatures of any color, but this Garruk is a big-mana spell that only puts in a select number of big mana creatures. It also sucks that he can’t protect himself on his lonesome, and while this is less of a problem for a card like Jace, Memory Adept who can win you the game within 2 or 3 turns outright, you could miss or barely hit on a plus and then get your Garruk killed, making him an expensive/shitty draw 0-3, gain X life for 4GG, a card that barely sounds playable. And what if your opponent has the wraths and removal to deal with the creatures? Garruk doesn’t actually have a way to kill attached. There will be games where he’s insane, but I’d rather run another fatty which I can Show and Tell/Sneak Attack/Reanimate into play and then attack.
2) They’re all awful to fliers. Relentless is a bit better, but even to things like Vendillion Clique he’s just a doomblade for 3G. That’s good, but it’s a floor and you never want to be stuck sitting on the floor if it’s overcosted removal. If your opponent has a big flier or plays one then all these Garruks are pretty much sitting on their butts, looking up at the sky like suckers. It’s unfortunate there aren’t any playable plummet variants for cube.
There are other big non-creature spells at the midrange spot, with Plow Under being the premier and one of the best ramp cards. If you are behind then Plow Under can do nothing; that is unfortunate. But where you are hopefully casting Plow Under, which is around turn 3, is where it should be devastating without being too late to make it useless. Sometimes Plow Under is actually a Time Stretch for 3GG, since an opponent not only needs to draw any card to progress but needs the land to progress as well. Plow Under can screw up fetches and tutors as well, making those spells look sucky if they were sand bagged in hand. While you’re not developing your board with the Plow Under, you hinder them so much that you can come over the top in the next couple of turns. If you’re bouncing back comes into play tapped like man lands or bounce lands then you gain even more of an advantage. Plow Under is a card that a lot of players undervalue because they think of the worst case scenario where Plow Under does very little and any creature would be better, but there is a large majority of the time where Plow Under blows open deadlocked games into your favor or takes a minor lead and turns it into a crushing victory.
Natural Order is a funny one because by playing it in the midrange deck, you give yourself two options to either break open an early game with the natural order or deal with a flood or stale board with a massive late-game option. Other than aggressive green decks, I’ll happily put Natural Order in any green deck so long as I have a big green threat to bring in with it as well. Note that none of the options above are good enough for running Natural Order in my opinion if they are the best you can do—unless I have the most diverse tool-box of green creatures, I need to have a massive game ender to 2-for-1 myself in getting that massive creature into play, and even then value Orders seem awful if they don’t do much for you. Trading an elf and a card that could be anything else for my Acidic Slime and some artifact of theirs seems bad overall if they just doom blade it and then knock 3 of my cards out of commission for their 2. That line of play seems a lot worse for my opponent if that means a Woodfall Primus comes back into play or I’m left with a bunch of token on board still. There will be awkward hands where you draw both, and that sucks, but that still means you have the fat you can likely maybe cast since you are green, and you never know—perhaps they play a Liliana of the Veil and you have an easy discard in Natural Order. (A reach, I know, but all clouds have silver linings in cube.)
If you want to crush your opponent from another angle and don’t mind playing un-cards, Symbol Status is not only the best option but probably the best green card in your cube. Yeah I said it—SYMBOL STATUS IS THE BEST GREEN CARD IN CUBE. The baseline for power that Status represents is bonkers, able to make 4 tokens on turn 3 off of an elf. As a floor, 4 power spread across four bodies is fine. The further you go within the game, the sillier Symbol Status gets, making the card amazing in both midrange and big mana decks where it can be one of the sickest top decks you can hit. Of course, Symbol Status is only a card if you dedicated your basic land section to having as many different symbols as possible. There are some cube decks which run the gamut of symbols within their cards and having an overlap of a basic land with one of your drafted cards is devastating. That is not an overstatement, you cannot afford to have two of the same symbol from a basic to a drafted card because compromising a 1/1 can lose you the game in so many spots. In a powered environment where so many of the cards don’t have symbols, and considering that a lot of the duals are plain around there as well, there might naturally be symbol statuses that are weaker in typically ideal spots. Here is where the Symbol Status haters say “that takes forever! Not worth it! Waste of time!” I’ve never seen a player take more than 1-2 minutes figuring out their basics, and I play with some slow players. Un cards aren’t for everyone, which is fine since personal preference is a large component of cube inclusion, but if you allow some room for wiggle then Symbol Status is a staple at every size when properly supported.
Big Mana Spells: As I was saying before, I consider 6+ mana to be a big spell. While there are big things to do at 4 mana or less, the true game-enders start showing up around this spot. These spells are being casted off a Rofellos for full value, or a Grim monolith and the full suite of lands. These are the rewards for setting up your board while absorbing a few blows early, only to go over the top and crush your opponent.
Woodfall Primus is my favorite of the big mana green ramp spells. He does quite a bit and is a pain in the ass to completely deal with. 6/6 trampler is a big bad body, and the 5/5 version is nuts too. Being a persister with that awesome ETB ability of destroying a noncreature permanent, you can abuse him in silly ways too. Any bounce or blink and re-set the persisting ability, and combined with Recurring Nightmare? Fuggeddaboutit. Primus should be a high priority pick if you’re in the big mana deck because Reanimator, Show and Tell and Sneak Attack all want to play him. Other than white removal—the foil to most good green plans—it takes quite a bit to dismantle the Primus and for what he does he beats the hardest while dealing with the biggest issue. Though it sucks to play Primus, hit a land which turns out to be irrelevant in the long run since you don’t have better options, and then have your opponent do something like planes walker, swords to plowshares, pass turn. Very sucky.
There are a couple options if you’d rather diversify your threats, with Avenger of Zendikar surging in popularity lately and for good reason. Avenger is really solid and the detriment of not getting as many plant tokens if he’s cheated early is largely overplayed unless you’re doing something dumb like Show and Telling him off a Black Lotus without any lands. If you’re able to produce an Avenger with only 2-3 lands, there are many reasons why that could be really good. One is the fact that you’re making a 5/5 for 5GG on turns 2 or 3—that’s obviously very good. While 2-3 bodies is less than what is considered ideal and imagine for the cards best and average case scenarios, these plants still represent an extra 3-6 damage spread out between a bunch of bodies, delivering the beats with creatures that are bigger than what you’re typically facing that early in addition to having the original 5/5 as well. Avenger is best when you can follow up his entering into play with a land of your own so he might be better in the decks that can get him out early with a cheating effect like Natural Order/Show and Tell/etc. Avenger gets completely merc’d by wrath effects unlike Woodfall Primus and cards like him, but I feel the potential game-winning power finish that the Avenger can give you is worth running to give your fat a little body-in-a-can angle.
Primeval Titan, aka PrimeTime, is a great option that’s on the cheaper side while still beating. A 6/6 trampler for 6 is great, and if you’re only pulling out your run of the mill basics and duals, you’re still getting 2 mana and setting up a big play or multiples ones and you’re thinning your deck considerably. Prime Time is much better in decks where you have multiple great lands, like mana lands/strip mines/etc., to pull out since he acts as a finisher combined with a multi-specific tutor. That being said, what if you grab two whatever lands, they doomblade Prime Time, and you’re left sitting there with a couple of bad lands and nothing to show? What if you have no new or different plays from those lands? It’s not like every cube deck is full of utility lands and sweet lands that can double as spells. There have been plenty of times where Prime Time finds you a couple of whatever lands, eats removal, and that sucks. You need your fat to not get blown out by cheap spot removal, since that eliminates the point of spending all these resources cheating out the big creature when it in turn becomes for nothing. Yes, lands aren’t nothing, and there are a lot of lands that make the first activation from Prime Time worth it, but overall it is dangerous to rely solely on Primeval Titan. That considered, I actually like him a lot as the sole big spell in mid range decks since your opponents tend to have a bunch of other threats they need to deal with before you can afford to play him. Once he’s on the board, you start guaranteeing more gas for draw and soon your board is too much for your opponent to handle.
Terastadon is awkward, but when he’s awesome he’s the best card you can draw. You can set up so many different Terastadon situations that his power level varies so much. Can you race 3 3/3s? Can you afford to blow up your own land or two? There are times where you’re hitting something absurd like two opposing planeswalkers and your own extra land, mitigating any power comparison your opponent could’ve had against you or caught up with. I think the biggest mistake a player can make is destroying three of their own things in an attempt to over power their opponent. Unless you have your full suite of land and ramp on the board and you know your opponent has burned through all his sweepers, it’s too dangerous to do this only to get blown out the next turn. There are certain decks where a play like this is fine, such as mono red, but if you’re casting a Terastadon and don’t have at least 1 target against a deck like that then you would’ve won with any card. Terrastadon is also a very cheap card, going for less than a dollar last time I checked. (I apologize to any future readers if this card sky rockets for some reason.)
Rampaging Baloths is one of the more underrated cards, a card I’ve seen rip games wide open but is barely considered as anything other places. While he sort-of suffers from the detriment of not being sweeper proof and can be blown out by spot removal, that’s largely the user’s fault in the latter matter if you can’t set up a Baloth play followed up by a land. It’s worth it to consider him a 7 drop for this reason because Baloth really is so much more insane when you can set up that additional 4/4. Rampaging Baloth turns all your Cultivates into 8-power spells, fetches the same, and Harrow becomes an instant speed version. Rampaging Baloths is one of the few finishers that turns your other typically useless cards into additional threats. Like Avenger, Baloths is awesome when you can cheat him as well since you can usually set up at least a 4/4, which is still a beating when brought in early on against most decks.
An underrated option for a big-mana creature that is splashier than it seems is Hornet Queen. This card suffers from the tunnel vision that some players suffer when evaluating a card. They see that she’s a 2/2 and think “For 7 mana? That’s awful!” The see he makes 1/1s and think 1/1? What a small body! But Hornet Queen represents a 6/6 flier with deathtouch that only loses 1 or 2 power when chump blocked and for all intents and purposes trades with anything. (Are there any indestructible fliers?) The blinking effects produce absurd results when you now have a massive, flying army that attacks into any board and defends against almost the same. Hornet Queen does indeed suffer massively to wraths, but she combines so well with recursion strategies that she’s worth eyeing up.
Do all these guys seem cool, but way cooler if you could put them all into play at the same time? Then perhaps you want Genesis Wave. Or you don’t. It’s really tough to figure out how good the card is. Genesis Wave has the potential to actually win the game upon casting it, hopefully bringing in all permanents if you draft and design your deck correctly. But Genesis Wave often needs to be way more expensive to be worth it in a lot of decks. The worst is when you Genesis Wave for not enough to cast everything that rode in off the wave. If your curve caps at seven, Genesis Wave needs to be cast for a total of 10, making it the most expensive card in your deck. How much of your deck will be left by the time you can afford to do that? Will you ever be able to actually afford that? How many games will Wave be just a dead card in your hand? I have tried to force the Genesis Wave deck so much and most of the time I wish it was just a known commodity instead of it maybe hitting the majority of my good cards that are left in my deck.
If you’d like to do what Genesis Wave wants to do, i.e. put a bunch of things into play, I feel Eureka is the better overall option. Eureka often likes to play with UG since you protect your new team with counter magic and you’re able to keep your hand size large and able to empty for a drawn-late Eureka, but I feel that any deck that runs an excess of fat likes Eureka as a potential early game blow out. Unlike Show and Tell you can put Planeswalkers in as well, which is awesome. If you let them play out their team and then conclude with a Gideon, you have them probably running into a bad attack the next turn with all their gas. If they drop a bunch of normally-uncastable creatures and you can -1 off a JTMS you sandbagged, that should be enough to stay ahead. Eureka doesn’t need to you get way over the top of your creatures to be good as well, making Eldrazi and dumb, large things like them easier to justify without the full suite of cheat spells if your back up plan is solely hard casting the Eldrazi if you can’t Eureka them. I didn’t bother mentioning Eureka in the midrange section like I did with Natural Order because with Eureka there is more of an inclination to be playing things you normally never dream of casting, and multiples of them. Value Eurekas are good but easier to deal with; dropping in a Griselbrand, Woodfall Primus, and Ulamog is a tough thing to beat. With Eureka I’m more inclined to run these bigger, normally uncastable cards, whereas with Natural Order I must be sacrificing a green creature and bringing a green creature in, limiting not only my color selection but the actual top-end size of my creature. There are multi-colored green cards that get played—my brother play Empyrial Archangel and Hellkite Overlord which are awesome Natural Order targets, for example—but most cubes don’t run this and mostly depend on the single-color cards outside of a couple exceptions.
On the subject of Eldrazi: I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I love Eldrazi. If I only drafted decks which could consistently cast Emrakul over and over, I’d be content. For me, there’s no cooler feeling than playing one of these large, mythic legendary badasses and attacking in to demolish their board with Annihilator. They randomly have cool applications with and against cards like Survival of the Fittest and Sword of Body and Mind, and their surnames are sweet. Of course, Eldrazi have their issues. First, they are by far and large the most expensive cards in cube. Kozilek is considered cheap for 10, and while he’s good he’s definitely the worst one. (Though inherently better than Emrakul before they hit the board because 10 is so much more less than 15 for casting costs.) Second, it’s extremely tough to reanimate them without using something like Corpse Dance because they have that whole shuffle clause. It’s painful to run such a giant creature and know that they’ll never be animated from the dead, but I suppose that’s why they have that clause in the first place. (Of course they’ve printed Griselbrand since the Eldrazi, and the Griseldaddy is barely a fair card that can be reanimated, but whatever.) This limits your options to bringing them in to the legacy-style of Sneak and Show, or hardcasting them, which is still a lot to ask of the biggest big-mana deck. That being said, the more you support the “do dumb things” decks that like Sneak and Show, then the more appealing the Eldrazi become. Also do not forget that you can’t tinker out a Kozilek; colorless=/=artifact.
Green Color Combinations: Green pairs up pretty well with most other strategies since they all add a dynamic to green that it’s severely lacking: interaction. They have a select number of ways to deal with non-creature permanents, but if you stick a creature in front of them that can’t be blocked or outraced, the green deck is left sitting there like “err…” And while green has ways to deal with artifacts and enchantments and even planeswalkers, there are so many and there will be plenty of times where you’re left at a stand still with a bunch of creatures who can’t attack and you’re doing nothing. This is part of the reason I love planeswalkers, since after they are casted they naturally give you a way to work yourself out of a stalemate or bad board, but we’re not always blessed with a planeswalkers. Green pretty naturally combines with other colors, since green provides the big beefy threats that are often undercosted for what they are, and it allows you to fix your mana so either a splash or a heavier commitment to 1 or 2 other colors is easier. With each color green combines to make certain strategies stronger than other.
Green/Black(GB): As mentioned earlier, you need to prioritize big, fat green creatures you could need because reanimator will often steal them from under your nose. Why not account for that and draft reanimator yourself? Other than blue, green is the best color to combine with black in order to bring things back from the dead, and blue is really only better because of the large amount of card draw it offers. Without the mass amount of card draw, Green is great for the strategy, offering discard outlets, semi-tutors for creatures in Fauna Shaman and Survival of the Fittest, and the massive things you want to return. Unlike the UB or other reanimator decks, you’ll consistently have a way to cast the giant junk you might pull off an early draw, draw in an otherwise fine opener, or pull late in a close game. If given the option I prefer to go UB reanimator since drawing all those cards is so important when you’re trying to force in a big creature to make up for hands that are missing 1 or 2 of the big spots, but green can allow you to splash for any single color blue draw spell of which there is an abundance of, so BUG reanimator decks are a distinct possibility as well.
This will end up sounding redundant in some spots, but the GB midrange strategy is nice too. There is a ton of removal in black, clearing the way for you big green creatures to smash face for the inevitable victory. The discard black gives your deck is great for knocking out spells or permanents that might screw up your plan. A lot of the standard multi-colored GB cards that you see in a lot of cubes excel in the midrange strategies too. Pernicious Deed doesn’t seem like it’d be the best here when you’re playing elves and cheap-ish threats, but with that little bit more of mana than your opponent you can set up deeds that activate on the same turn and catch an opponent off guard, destroying any early game progress they may have made while you should have a just-above CMC creature left in play that you casted in the turn before. If you can afford to keep a deed in play a turn or two as well so you can drop a planeswalker in or play the planeswalker first and then the deed, you can selectively clear out what issues you may face early. Lotleth Troll is a beater that is good in reanimator but can be downright beefy and tough to deal with in the decks that can keep B open turn after turn. Putrefy is pretty versatile removal, and Vraska can count as the same. It would be awesome if Wizards printed a cubeable GB discard spell, but it would have to be outside of standard because Thoughtseize is annoying enough as is.
Green/Red(GR): Adding red means green can really run the spectrum of what’s possible, not able to really play control but play anything from aggressive decks to midrange to bigger mana decks that want to utilize strong archetypal cards that are close to most efficient when combined with green. Depending on the make up of your cube the faster decks are either there or they aren’t with what you have in your green section. I’m not totally sure what I prefer; I like that green does provide a variety of 2/1s and 2/2s for G that add to your early-game collection of gas, but I also prefer to draft green decks that err on the side of more elves than Jungle Lions. Elves are fine in those decks, powering out any 3 drops you have as a curve topper, but it’s more efficient to be doing more damage since each turn you’re not putting your opponent closer to the red is another opportunity for them to stabilize. I don’t it’s necessarily better or worse to choose style over another for your cube, just a different flavor that the history of magic has offered owners.
Wildfire and Burning of Xinye give red a distinct archetype where you want to make an excess of mana permanents and high-toughness creatures and then cast of those two cards to presumably win the game with a position that dominates your opponent’s close to empty board. The best for this is when you can draft a deck with a ton of signets of mana produces like Gilded Lotus or Thran Dynamo, but the green ramp route is strong as well. While your elves will die a horrible, fiery death, Cultivate and the gang give you an excess of lands through the board and your hand, advancing you further ahead of your opponent to make the wildfire a nearly one-sided Armageddon. Facing a planeswalker with these cards can be tough since it can awkwardly sit in your hand unplayable if they have one out that you’re trying to deal with. No one said you can’t play your own planeswalkers, and if you’re playing red there’s a chance you have access to some burn. Wildfiring and then following up with a lightning bolt to their planeswalker after you cast the spell can leave your opponent bone dry and stricken of ways to win. I like to try and power out a midrange-to-large fatty that lives like Phantom Centaur or a titan and then cast the Wildfire, being able to deal with a planeswalker with whatever I have left if not just killing them.
The Wildfire deck is the strongest and most underdrafted deck in cube, and I understand why. For starters, it’s a non-aggressive red deck. Red can be drafted in slower decks, but a majority of the creatures they offer are best suited in the aggressive builds. The slower decks tend to take the burn but so do the fast decks. A lot of players tend to commit to red more for the aggressive angle instead of the go-big wildfire direction so Wildfire doesn’t interest them. Wildfire also is one of those seemingly symmetrical cards that confuse a lot of players. “Balance? Why would I want that stuff to happen to me?” There are a lot of cards that someone explained how it worked or show me in gameplay; Wildfire was one of those. I feel it’s more of a RG card than a Rx card in unpowered cubes without signets since the artifact mana choices there are much more limited and it really is so much better in the RG archetype.
Green/Blue(UG): Being blue is always good. It is the strongest color in cube, which is good and bad. When you have a lot of blue cards you should do well, but if a lot of players want blue card then that’s obviously bad. The multiple drafters happens the most in blue, especially in powered cubes where players are already splashing for high-pick power cards that are almost impossible to pass. In the UG decks in cube, you aren’t really diverging far from a mono-green ramp strategy since you often can’t afford to leave mana open for counter spells. Choosing to play your ramp spell or leave open a mana leak is a sucky decision to make. If I’m playing blue, I want to be using it for the bomby blue cards or the card draw to over run my opponent and hit my ramp and land drops with consistency. That being said, there are cards in blue that are best when they are with green since being combined with green offers them an ideal counter side to what those cards want.
Opposition is great when you can ramp into it early with a bunch of elves. While you play with your mana you tap theirs with your guys, keeping them off any progression and incrementally making your board tougher and tougher to over come. There are token produces like Deranged Hermit, Avenger of Zendikar, and the Garruks too, flooding the board turn after turn and locking out your opponent completely. Opposition is nice with white because of the tokens as well, but green’s early creatures go much better since they bring the Opposition onto the table quickly. At any point those elves can be used to cast something massive they won’t be able to deal with even if they did have all their mana left, giving you the win.
Upheaval wants a ton of mana; green makes a ton of mana. UG Upheaval could be my most drafted deck of all time because of this. Green gives upheaval all the mana to go over the top with a huge Upheaval and the elves and early aggressive threats that you can cast off that extra mana. If I’m green ramp and only partly committed to another color, I’ll switch over at nearly any point in any pack, with obvious late-pack-three-no-other-blue-cards exception. Even then, if I’m mono green ramp I’ll make the splash off of even 3-4 islands because it’s so good. Like Wildfire Upheaval is a bit of an unknown to new players but to a much lesser degree, since so many cubers know the deck and go for it whenever it’s in a draft pool. If you pass me an Upheaval, I will do the same.
Green/White(GW): Probably my least drafted of the green color combinations, but not for lack of quality, I feel white can do whatever it usually does with green added, but what is most important is that you have the white removal and take it over just about everything. Blue makes up for its lack of quality, permanent interaction by drawing so many more cards than your opponent and countering/bouncing enough of them that whatever they bring or stick is either dealt with or probably outclassed through quality or quantity. If white doesn’t have the removal, then the color combination really lacks the critical mass of card advantage to get ahead of most opponents, and because white removal is of such high quality and so easily splashed it’s not rare to see other players picking it out of your packs. You need to have your Oblivion Rings and Swords to Plowshares to fight off whatever they have since this deck is the most “fair” minus any typical large-green ramp or mass land destruction that the two colors present on their own.
Mirari’s Wake exists, but I have mixed feelings. If you’re supporting combo this is great, since all the extra mana is one sided and it makes an Empty the Warrens combo that much more lethal, reducing both the storm count necessary and the clock to win. White is generally awful in combo, however, so this would have to be a splash. In a cube with Eldrazi and Eureka support, Mirari’s Wake gives you all the mana to drop those way earlier than the turn their mana cost represents. Elesh Norn is a fatty you could power out, and she is awesome and totally screwing a game up. There are other things you can do with the mana as well, like try and go off with Sun Titan combos like with Yavimaya Elder. Wake is great with cards that make tons of tokens too, and green and white both have a ton of ways to make those. GW tokens is totally a viable archetype with the anthems in white included, though this can be your over-the-top answer and goes well with Increasing Devotion.
I hope this guide is a good start to looking at green ramp as a potential drafting archetype, if not gives you some new ideas to think about. Thanks for reading!