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Magic: The Gathering – Three Modern Decks for your Inner Green Brawler

by Ron Duwell | May 19, 2019May 19, 2019 7:30 am EDT

Green is my forever. When reading spoilers for a new Magic: The Gathering set, breaking into new formats, or even just building cheap and casual decks for fun play, Green is always the color I turn to first for my foundation. My favorite Magic cards of all time are Green, my favorite decks always include Green, and today, we’re going to be talking about three popular options for those Green players looking to break into Modern.

In a format dominated by cheap cantrips, decks that bend the rules of Magic, and games that usually wrap up by turn-3 or turn-4, Green is usually at a disadvantage. This is because Green is the most “fair” color in Magic, meaning that you get exactly what you put into a Green deck. Green doesn’t benefit from storm abilities, it doesn’t get by on cheap card draw, it sucks at removal, and it has very few efficient ways of exploiting the weaknesses of the other colors.

Green likes straightforward Magic. Play big creatures and rumble! Not always the best strategy in Modern because if you are looking to win by playing that six-mana Carnage Tyrant, you’re going to be dead by turn-5 at the latest.

So instead of big and beefy, we need to look at Green with a sense of efficiency. How big can we get without paying too much mana. Hopefully, what will happen, is our opponent won’t be able to hold back a host of powerful creatures long enough to get their combo working or find their win condition.


Mono-Green Stompy is the best place for any Green player to start, just to get a feel for the format. This is best described as Green’s version of a Burn deck, only we play efficient creatures rather than Lightning Bolts and Lava Spikes.

This is a very aggressive deck. No need for ramp spells or anything fancy like that.  This is a deck that plays the best creatures for the cheapest possible mana cost. Trample is a must in this deck because we want to cause as much damage as possible, and a steady flow of creatures means we need to play as few noncreature spells as possible.

We have a few sub-themes going on as well. One of Green’s specialties is +1/+1 counters, so our creatures not only come down to the board cheaply, but they also get bigger cheaply. And lastly, we’re playing a devotion deck, meaning most of our spells well ONLY require Green mana. Expect to see a lot of forest symbols, and we’ll explain why when the card comes up.

This deck also works as a good intro deck because it is CHEAP! Dirt cheap! We only run Forests, so we don’t have to splurge on expensive fetch lands, and we even run vanilla creatures. You can put this together for $50 on a good day!

The Champ!

First and foremost, I give you Rancor!

Without question, this is the most efficient noncreature Green spell in the game’s history. Play this on any creature, attack for easy trample damage until that creature dies, get your Rancor back in your hand, play it on another creature, attack again… repeat until dead. Rancor’s only weakness is spot removal since it goes to the graveyard and doesn’t come back if it fails to find a target.

Every Green Stompy deck, be it in Pauper or Modern or any format, loves this card. If you want to be a Green player, you need at least four in your collection.


Our first one-drop creature is fairly controversial these days for this style of Magic. On one hand, we have the classic favorite, Experiment One, which is a much more resilient card thanks to its regenerative abilities. On the other hand, we have our most recent card, Pelt Collector, which grows faster once you start trading off creatures and eventually gets trample all on its own.

Both will get big over the course of the game thanks to our +1/+1 theme, so it really depends on the meta for your decision. If you’re playing against something like Path to Exile, White’s premiere removal spell, Experiment One’s regeneration doesn’t matter since it can’t regenerate from exile. On the other hand, if you are playing against board wipes, Pelt Collector dies much easier than Experiment One.

Since we are running four Rancor’s, which gives creatures trample, I usually stick with the Experiment One since that recursion can be more useful in straight-up combat. However, both are legitimate choices.

We also have one more one-mana drop, and don’t hold it against the card for having a hybrid white. We need a 2/1 body to evolve our Experiment One on turn-2 or simply come down early on turn-1 and be ready to start dishing out damage. Green has a few options for 2/1 creatures for a single mana, but this has the most relevant ability. Dryad Militant shuts down a good many graveyard dependent decks, like Dredge, and because it is part of our main deck, we’ll be ready for a solid matchup in Game 1.

Starting off with our two-drops, Strangleroot Geist is a rare case of Green getting a solid haste creature. Turn-1 Experiment One, turn-2 Strangleroot Geist is one of the best ways to dish out an easy four damage on turn-2. With undying, Strangleroot Geist also comes back easily, getting that ever important +1/+1 counter.

And our payoff for all these counters is Avatar of the Resolute. Between Strangleroot Geist, Experiment One, and Scavenging Ooze, this can often be a 5/4 for just two mana. Reach helps it block annoying flyers, and natural trample means it’ll be ready to hit players hard while still taking out blockers.

And Scavenging Ooze is not really primed for our devotion theme, but it’s simply one of the best Green creatures ever printed. This powers itself up with counters easily, playing into our theme, and it also shuts down poor match-ups for the deck. Our creatures might be big, but none of them can rumble with a fully powered Tarmogoyf. Scavenging Ooze shrinks them will little effort. And recurring Arclight Phoenix can be a problem for our deck since we don’t want to leave Avatar of the Resolute back every turn to block, so Scavenging Ooze eats them right from the graveyard. Lifegain helps us against Burn decks, which deal damage faster than our creatures can.

In other words, Scavenging Ooze makes our deck competitive. It’s the most expensive card in the deck, but you’ll want one or two just to make sure we can hang with the top tier decks.

We’re capping our deck with three-drop creatures. Anything bigger is simply too slow. I just about cried when Steel Leaf Champion was spoiled in Dominaria. It is the perfect card for this deck, avoiding blockers, powering devotion, and yeah… 5-power for three mana is an easy sell.

Dungrove Elder and big, bad Rhonas find themselves in a similar position as Experiment One and Pelt Collector. At most, you’ll want only six cards that cost three mana in this deck, and with four of those spots going to a playset of Steel Leaf Champion, you’ll get just one or two spots for these guys. Dungrove Elder gets huge and is impossible to target with removal spells, but Rhonas is just dangerous as all hell. He is practically guaranteed to be able to attack every turn in this deck, he provides safety from flooding since his ability lets you use extra mana efficiently with a power boost and trample.

Both are solid, but I like Rhonas. He has more weaknesses than Dungrove Elder, but his payoffs are worth the risk.

Mono-Green Stompy is the only deck you’ll be able to run vanilla creatures and feel good about it. Since we only run forests, the weakness of their strict casting cost is of no concern to us. In fact, it helps us with our devotion sub-theme. Two-mana 3/3 is fine, but Leatherback Baloth is a 4/5 for just three mana. That’s a bit nuts.

Sadly, both of these cards have fallen out of style. Kalonian Tusker is not as strong as Avatar of the Resolute, and Leatherback Baloth just retired with the appearance of Steel Leaf Champion. Its only use nowadays is to jump in the way of Tarmogofys, which it can usually stump in combat. Otherwise, Steel Leaf Champion is simply the better option… which sucks because I love Leatherback Baloth.

I love this card a lot, but I don’t run any of these in this deck. I’ll write about my deck that uses them on another day.

If you can make this a 2/3 deathouch for a single mana, you’ve done exactly what this decks wants. Overpowered efficiency. The problem is that it requires expensive fetch lands to consistently get value out of, and the point of Mono-Green Stompy is to be a cheap deck. Sinking hundreds of dollars into this deck defeats the whole point of slapping this together for the point of learning.

Noncreature spells

Vines of Vastwood is a little bit insane. For a single mana, your creature gets hexproof, meaning you’ll be countering Lighting Bolts and Path to Exiles with ease and guaranteeing you’ll win combat. For the kicker price, +4/+4 is enormous, especially on a trample creature. This is easily the best combat trick in Green’s history, and we run a playset. It might even be our most powerful card!

And we have Aspect of Hyrda, which is a much more niche Magic card than Vines of Vastwood but also very powerful in our deck. This is where we get our devotion payoff. For a single mana, our creatures get +X/+X, where X is equal to the number of Green casting cost symbols on this battlefield.

For example, if we have a Steel Leaf Champion, Aspect of Hydra gives +3/+3. You with me? If we nail our curve perfectly and have an Experiment One, an Avatar of the Resolute, a Steel Leaf Champion, and a Rancor on this board, Aspect of Hydra gives +7/+7! Go back and count those symbols, I’ll let you figure it out.

Just know that the more devotion to Green you have, the better this card is. Pure efficiency and the only “unfair” card in our deck.

This is a generic removal spell for Modern, but we need at least one to clear our any pesky blockers. Phyrexian Mana gives us the versatility to cast spells with our life rather than our mana, so we trade four life to take out a big blocker, we are assuring that our damage gets through. Fair trade, though it is a bit unfair to include such a powerful spell in a deck of beefy Green beasts.

Our last card is a man land, meaning that it is a land that turns into a creature. Two mana for a 3/3 trample is an excellent rate, and having two copies easily undermines the downside of coming into play tapped. Treetop Village helps us by surviving board wipes since it is often not a creature when our opponent casts it, and it protects us from flooding, assuring that our excess mana can be used in some way.

The only other downside is that Dungrove Elder does not benefit from this land, but that’s just another reason why I prefer Rhonas.

The Rundown

This is a great deck to jump into Modern with. It’s easy to learn, fun to play, and nothing feels better than blowing out an opponent with a trampling beast that has hexproof and +11/+11. For references on the various ways to build this deck, MTGSalvation has a long-running thread dedicated to this deck. Check if out!

Strengths: Easy, fun, CHEAP!

Weaknesses: Not overly powerful, often called the “weakest competitive” deck.


Our second deck might not be strictly a Green deck, mostly because it runs only two Green cards, but one of those Green cards in one of the most popular and beloved Green build-arounds in the game’s history.

Hardened Scales

Hardened Scales is the stuff of legends for Green players, and I got back into Magic right when it was dominating Standard. For a single-mana, this “do nothing” Enchantment almost looks like it would never make the cut in anything. It’s a terrible Limited Magic card, an awful top-deck, and needs other creatures to make it somewhat effective. However, at the time, players discovered that you can, indeed, build around Hardened Scales with efficient creatures.

Servant of the Scale, Managorger Hydra, and even our friend from Mono-Green Stompy, Avatar of the Resolute, were all legal during Hardened Scales’ reign. Over it rotated out, the Kaladesh block delivered a few necessary puzzle pieces to send this card into the realm of Modern, but not with Green creatures but rather… Artifacts. For those who don’t know, any deck that revolves around Artifact synergies are called “Affinity” decks.

Artifact Creatures

Our favorite creatures in this deck are a pair of relatively new colorless cards. Hangarback Walker was legal alongside Hardened Scales in Standard and played a huge role in its wild success. Now, it follows Hardened Scales as one of the most threatening creatures. With a single Hardened Scales in play, this card becomes a 2/2 for two-mana. When it dies, it makes two Thopters based on that… and it can only get bigger every turn, threatening to make even more Thopters when it dies.

Walking Ballista came to us later, outside of Hardened Scales’ Standard dominance (thank goodness), and this is equally destructive. With the ability to close out a game at instant speed simply by removing counters, some might not even bother putting up a fight against it. Again, it has the power to pump itself up, making it a huge threat with a Hardened Scales on the battlefield.

These Artifact creatures make up the rest of our curve. Arcbound Worker is simply a colorless Servant of the Scale, making it a better fit for our Affinity deck. It provides 2/2 worth of stats for a single mana with a Hardened Scales on the battlefield, and when it dies, it hands out three +1/+1 counters to another creature. Pure, efficient value.

Metallic Mimic, another all-star of its recent Standard run, and Steel Overseer are often seen as in contention with one another for the last spot here. Metallic Mimic can power multiple times a turn for free, but it only hits one creature type. This is wiser if you know how you want to win, whether its from Hangarback Walker’s Thopters or the infect gameplan, which we’ll get to later.

Steel Overseer is more consistent since it can power any kind of creature, regardless of its type. However, it can’t power creatures the turn it comes into play, making it a slower option.

Your choice, but you’ll want a playset of at least one in your deck.

Our final creature is the true champion of this deck. Arcbound Ravager gets VERY big in this deck. With an overload of Artifacts on the board, you can sacrifice them at instant speed and liberally gain +1/+1 counters. If left unblocked, if can grow from a 2/2 to a 20/20 with no time for an opponent to react… scary.

And even if they do react, killing an Arcbound Ravager means its counters go somewhere else. This card takes care of Hangarback Walker, easily allowing you to cash it in for Thopters, which again, can be sacrificed to make Arcbound Ravager bigger or attack alongside it for extra ping damage. Hardened Scales is the enabler, but this is the closer you need in this deck.


We do need a handful of noncreature Artifacts, as well. Mox Opal is the most powerful Artifact in any Affinity deck since it is free ramp. Play four… if you can afford them (I can’t).

Welding Jar is a free way to buy back the artifacts that you don’t want to lose, and it provides free fodder for your Arcbound Ravager.

My favorite of the bunch is Animation Module, which sadly never found a stride in Standard. For a cheap price of just one mana, this card essentially cranks out 1/1 creatures, which can be pumped by Metallic Mimic, sacrificed to Arcbound Ravager, or even just used to swarm around your opponent’s defenses and close out the game in superior numbers. Sometimes, you might use its other ability to power up a creature with a +1/+1 counter… but not likely.

Throne of Geth is our last Artifact, and it fills two roles. Proliferate, which is currently making its way back in Standard Magic, pumps our entire team by two or three +1/+1 counters, and it also provides an important instant speed sacrifice outlet for Hangarback Walker, should we want to jam in with Thopters the following turn.


Yes, we do have one other Green spell.

All these lovely Artifacts you see? Ancient Stirrings allows us to draw them easily for a single mana. Originally intended to be used for searching up Eldrazi monsters, Wizards of the Coast obviously had no idea how efficiently this card would be utilized for cheap and destructive Artifacts in Modern.

It’s not just a staple of Hardened Scales, it a staple of most Affinity and other colorless themed decks.


Yup, we’re running special lands, and one of them is Inkmoth Nexus. Now, I know you can lose you a lot of friends by bringing this card with you to your Magic night with your buddies, but without it, Hardened Scales is simply a deck that wins SOMETIMES. With it, the deck is a legitimate contender. After all, when played at a Grand Prix, that edge might be the balance between you making it to day 2 or not.

Play all four, and don’t worry about feeling like a cheat. For those who don’t know, this “infect” staple essentially reduces a players life by half. With ten infect counters, the opponent loses the game… meaning you only have to do ten damage with this thing. Now, toss in some +1/+1 counters, make it big with Hardened Scales, and even note that proliferate can be used to pile on infect tokens as well… and you can see exactly why this card is so ravenously hated.

Oh yeah, it’s also a land most of the time and can’t be targeted by most removal spells. Have fun with that one.

Blinkmoth Nexus and Pendelhaven both give us cheap or even free ways to power our Inkmoths. Llanowar Reborn sacrifices speed for a free +1/+1 counter, which is a fair trade if you need to get the engine running.

And yes, most of the colored Artifact Lands are banned in Modern (and rightfully so since Affinity decks are WAY too powerful with them), but the colorless one is still totally legal. This serves two rolls in our deck: it can be sacrificed to Arcbound Ravager and it is also a nice target for Nature’s Claim if you need to gain cheap life against a Burn deck. Thanks to it being indestructible, it is a legal target and you can still gain that life without losing an Artifact of your own.

War of the Spark?

Profilerate is huge in War of the Spark, and while it is a long shot, I see two cards in the set that do exactly what Hardened Scales Affinity is looking for.

Four mana plus tapping this land itself to proliferate is a tough sell and probably too slow for Modern, but with some Mox Opals on the board, I can see this powering a team right before the kill. I want to see if this makes the cut since players were struggling to make Gavony Township a staple of Hardened Scales Affinity.

My wish is to make Green great again in Hardened Scales Affinity, and this card has a shot. It gets the engine running with a +1/+1 counter or it powers the engine if you team is already pumped up for the mere cost of two mana. I doubt it will require a playset but one or two in a Modern deck? Might be possible!

The Rundown

This is a beatdown deck, just like Mono-Green Stompy, but it requires a lot more finesse, skill, and attention to detail to pilot. With all of the sacrificing, the +1/+1 counters, and the Thopters flying everywhere, it’s just that much more fun than Mono-Green Stompy, as well.

See the thread for more ideas.

Strengths: Everything I love in Magic. Counters, synergies, fast-paced smash-mouth combat, Thopters, and yes, even a few Green cards.

Weaknesses: Gets destroyed by “Artifact Hate” sideboards, needs Hardened Scales in your opening hand to perform at an optimal level (meaning this deck benefits greatly from the London Mulligan rule), it can be a bit pricey with Inkmoth Nexus, Mox Opal, Arcbound Ravager, and even a Horizon Canopy if you want to go all-out. You’re looking at close to $1,000… a bit steeper than the $50 you paid for Mono-Green Stompy.


Alright, I was fine with running Artifacts, but we’re out of Mono-Green decks. We we’re going to have to splash, and while I am willing to splash just about any color with Green, White seems to be the one I do it with the most. Luckily, we have a perfect deck for Modern that is absolutely bonkers and not recommended for newcomers.

Hope you like nonsense because I give you…


Three (well… two) otherwise unimpressive cards that when used together become unstoppable! For years, Devoted Druid was an otherwise forgettable mana dork that ramped you two mana for a single turn… yawn. And when Vizier of Remedies came out for Amonkhet… yawn, nobody cares. In fact, some cards wanted -1/-1 counters in that set, and it was awesome. Vizier of Remedies was a “fun police” card to the max.

When used together… yeah, infinite mana combo! Because Devoted Druid’s second ability requires a -1/-1 ability for its activation cost, you can activate it, untap the creature, but not have to take the counter since Vizier of Remedies protects it. Keep on activating, keep on untapping, and you have all the mana you want!

But what do you do with all that mana? Casting something big seems inconsistent, and it is. Instead, we’ll want to sink it into a cheap creature with a powerful ability. And for that, we have one of my favorite Magic cards since getting back into the game, Duskwatch Recruiter. With infinite mana, Duckwatch Recruiter allows you to dig through your deck, take out all the creatures, and play them all in one turn…

Broken, but yes. It works like a charm. Green efficiency… I LOVE Duskwatch Recruiter.

The CoCo!

Yeah, so we have a three card combo… not exactly consistent enough to pull off. We’ll need some ways to dig through our deck to ensure that all three make it to the battlefield.

Luckily, Green has three very efficient ways of getting cheap creatures to the battlefield. Collected Company (CoCo) is the namesake of the deck since it is the most powerful way, easily hitting creatures each time you cast it at instant speed. This card also ran alongside Hardened Scales back during their Standard run, and it made it big by summoning up cheap threats like Sylvan Advocate, Bounding Krasis, Deathmist Raptor, Den Protector, Spell QuellerTireless Tracker, mother-f*&#%ing Reflector Mage, and yes… even Duskwatch Recruiter. Man, that was a solid Standard run, wasn’t it?

In Modern, a single Collected Company of these can hit two of our combo pieces, and then it is off to the races if we already have one there.

Eldritch Evolution and Chord of Calling are also cheaper ways to summon up our missing pieces, meaning we’ll have eleven or twelve solid tutors to ensure it happens.


Alright! We’ve assembled our combo and have the entire world on our battlefield. How can we possible lose? Well, a board wipe? A storm of Grapeshots? We can still easily lose this game since we can’t attack until next turn. We need to win and we need to win now!

These three cards can help ensure victory once our army is on the battlefield. Craterhoof Behemoth might be a little silly, especially since it causes Collected Company to miss by a mile, but when it hits the battlefield and all of your creatures get +22/+22 and gain haste and trample… it’s also very silly. Not the most efficient way to win a game, but I love it.

Walking Ballista is also great since you can pump it infinitely at instant speed, remove the counters at instant speed, essentially winning the game at instant speed.

And a recent addition of Shalai allows you to pump your creatures to avoid something like a Blasphemous Act, and it gives itself, you, and the creatures you control more than enough protection to survive a Grapeshot storm. You can’t win this turn with Shalai, but chances are, you’ll survive until the next turn, making it the safest choice.

You’ll want at least two of these, just to ensure you can close the game right away if one gets countered.

On the other hand, Kessig Wolf Run can’t be countered, comes into play untapped, and can turn even a Birds of Paradise into a game-ending threat. You’ll need a way to get that Red mana, but once you do, this will win you the game, especially if Shalai is on the board and your opponent can’t target your pumped creature.

Rank and File

And sometimes, you just can’t find your combo. You’ll need to win the old fashioned away, by beating the crap out of your opponent with value creatures.

First and foremost, four of each here. Ramping on turn-1 means we can use one of your tutors all the more quickly. Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch are the best mana dorks in Modern, and they are exceptionally important. Birds of Paradise is also the only way we can get our Red mana if we don’t find our sole Stomping Ground.

The rest, mostly three drop creatures. Nothing above three mana will do though because Collected Company can’t hit it, and Eldritch Evolution and Chord of Calling will cost too much to bring them up. Some of my favorites are:

All solid, all pure value for three mana. Knight of Reliquary gets big, very big, and it helps filter out your deck so you won’t hit so many lands when you draw or use Collected Company. Most likely, you’ll call up your Kessig Wolf Run and call it a day.

Kitchen Finks has somewhat fallen out of popularity in Modern, but we still love it around here. Three mana for one of the hardest little twerps to ever kill plus 4 life? Not bad!

Renegade Rallier buys back your creatures, especially a combo piece should it sadly get bolted. Be sure to trigger his revolt with your fetch lands. Tireless Tracker is put card advantage tied to a creature that gets bigger. Great for games that go on too long.

The Ooze is back, filling the same roles it did before plus also going crazy with the infinite combo. Knight of Autumn does everything you need, obviously, and Eternal Witness buys back anything… ANYTHING you need.

The Rundown

Outside of Kessig Wolf Run, our land fixing is pretty standard for a two-color deck. Fetch lands, shock lands, a few value pieces, the usual. So let’s wrap this up! This is a fun deck but not a really competitive one. If we can’t find our three combo pieces, and it is likely we won’t, these value creatures have that much smaller of a chance of winning. Value can get your far in Modern, but you really need to win and win quickly…

Ah, whatever! INFINITE MANA, BABY! Check out the thread for more ideas.

Strengths: Infinite Combo is sweet, splashes well with Blue and Black for some excellent three color options.

Weakness: Combos are inconsistent and difficult to slap together.


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