Rejoice, Green fans! The time of reckoning is upon all those who would call our favorite style of Magic “infantile,”kid decks,” and “big and dumb!” After a weekend of Nationals around the world, Mono-Green Stompy decks emerged as a front-runner of the current Standard format.
Of course, this is but a mere delay of what should have been ours months ago. Dominaria set the tone for what was to come with both Llanowar Elves and the deck’s namesake, Steel Leaf Champion. However, the unfortunate emergence of a chainwhirling goblin pacified our dominance and turned us into a second-tier deck for a short while.
This month, the release of Core 2019 shifted meta-game enough to topple Goblin Chainwhirler down from his perch and bestowed upon Green enough new weapons to not only crush Red aggro decks on the spot but also strike fear into the heart of all Magic colors.
Mono-Green is now the deck to beat in Standard, and everyone will be sideboarding and gunning for us. Bring it on!
Why the hubbub?
Two Mono-Green Steel Leaf Stompy decks cracked the Top 8 at the Dutch Nationals, unfortunately falling short of our new foes who won the championship, Sai, Master Thopterist, Paradoxical Outcome, and Aetherflux Reservoir.
Players Thomas Hendriks and Nick Bresser both piloted the Steel Leaf Stompy to the Top 8 using two different takes:
- A faster version that ramps with Llanowar Elves and has Vine Mare in the sideboard
- A slower version that puts Vine Mare in the main deck and ramps with Servant of the Conduit
Their lists are out there, so if you want to copy them, you can go ahead and find them. I want to walk about the one I’ve been taking to Friday Night Magic.
Granted, I’m not quite playing the same deck the champions are playing, but I’ll point out the differences as they come. The best I’ve done at Friday Night Magic with my own deck is 4-0, sacrificing only a single game in my final match against Mono-Red Aggro that night.
(I also admit to being outdated and desperately need to update with the Core 2019 cards)
This deck is the only reason I’m playing Standard at the moment. Like you, I’m a Mono-Green kinda guy, and seeing Steel Leaf Stompy keep the rest of Standard on edge is pure Magic bliss for me.
Steel Leaf Stompy
At the heart of every Green deck for the foreseeable future, you’ll find a playset of Llanowar Elves. The card has been a staple of Magic: The Gathering since the very beginning, and reprinting the card with some new art is one of the main reasons Dominaria is the best set I’ve played with since getting back into Magic.
A 1-mana ramp dork is essential to the deck working properly. Grab a whole playset!
The deck centers itself on being able to cast big creatures quickly, and with a Llanowar Elves on turn-1, the options for turn-2 become just a little bit insane.
This is the other card that holds this deck together, so much so that the deck is named after it! Playing a 5/4 that essentially can’t be blocked until later in the game on turn-2 is a broken move that puts away most games with ease. Play a whole playset!
Big Papa Rhonas finally fulfills his destiny as the ultimate God from Amonkhet. Hazoret the Fervent stole that role from him for a year or so, but thanks to the Green creatures that have come out since Mono-Red’s heyday, blocking and attacking with Rhonas the Indomitable has never been easier.
A 5/5 deathtouch, indestructible, protection from mana flooding is the most absurd card in the deck. I play three, skipping on the fourth because I don’t want to flood on Rhonas. He’s one of the best cards in our deck, but because he is Legendary, only one of him can be on the battlefield at a single time… and he doesn’t leave the battlefield that often.
3/4 for three mana is a respectable stat, and the Naturalize ability tagged onto this creature does its work. With these Paradoxical Outcome decks crashing our parade, Thrashing Brontodon only becomes more important for removing Aetherflux Reservoir.
Unfortunately, rules don’t allow for an entire deck to be made of Steel Leaf Champions, so we’ll need to turn to other efficient beaters to back them up.
We don’t play with an energy sub-theme, but Greenbelt Rampager is still an efficient card, at its core being a 3/4 for three mana. It gets a boost in utility by being versatile with its casting cost, allowing it to be spread over multiple turns. If you’ve got an open mana at the end of your own turn, you can put it towards casting the card.
That puts into play an early 3/4 threat on turn-2 that not many aggro creatures can get past.
Not the best card in the world, but it draws a card and provides 2/1 for two mana, OR it’s a 3/2 for two mana. Merfolk Branchwalker dies to an almost anything in Standard, but card draw and aggressive stats for two mana are as efficient as they come.
Sadly out of style in most decks, but I still like this card. Two mana delivers a 2/2 creature and +2/+2 on your biggest threat or most evasive creature. In longer games, it comes back as a 4/4 and adds +4/+4 on your biggest threat or most evasive creature.
Speaking of which…
In this deck, Ghalta comes down as a 12/12 trample dinosaur for two mana far more often than you might think. Its supporting cast can get this done as early a turn-3! Ghalta simply rocks! It avoids Cast Down, can block any non-flying creature in Standard on the turn following its entry, and did I mention, it’s a 12/12 trample!
Few cards have been more threatening in the history of Magic when they hit the battlefield.
Heart of Kiran is a 4/4 flyer with vigilance for two mana, and it flies over most of Standard’s threats. We don’t need to worry much about crewing it either as the only creatures in our deck not able to do so on their own are Llanowar Elves and Resilient Khenra.
Another favorite of mine that is somewhat outdated in this deck. On its own, Verduous Gearhulk is an 8/8 trample for five mana, stats that have zero downside. Being an artifact opens it up to easy removal from Abrade and Naturalize, but we’re more interested in taking advantage of those counters than in the creature itself.
Usually, this will turn Steel Leaf Champion into a 9/8, Heart of Kiran into an 8/8, or Rhonas into a 9/9. Making Ghalta a 16/16 is possible but also slightly overkill, even if his natural trample ability pushes the extra damage through easily.
Steel Leaf Stompy isn’t a “go wide” style deck, so you’re likely going to drop all of those counters on a single creature. However, against a removal-heavy deck, it might not be a bad idea to spread them across a few creatures to ensure that Rhonas can attack.
And even after the counters have been put on another creature, Verduous Gearhulk is still a 4/4 trample, a respectable sized creature. The card is kill-more and not consistent enough for champs, but I’m still a fan of at least one in the deck.
Always. All day long. There is nothing worse that losing your threats to cheap removal, and Blossoming Defense’s hexproof effectively counters anything our opponents throw at us. And when it’s not countering removal spells, it can also push through those extra points of damage or even help win combat in the rare case that our opponent’s creatures can match our Green baddies.
Efficient versatility for just a single mana? Yes please!
I still prefer this in the build. Rhonas’ Monument makes threats cheaper, pumps threats already on the board, and ensures that damage gets through with trample. Best of all, it can come down on turn-2 with Llanowar Elves and start pressuring opponents immediately.
With the combination of a Merfolk Branchwalker and Verdurous Gearhulk, I’ve had Rhonas pumped up to as big as a 13/13 trample before on turn-5. Yikes! A Resilient Khenra can be cast for just one mana with Rhonas’ Monument in play, and that +2/+2 bonus instead becomes +4/+4 trample on a creature. Back-breaking!
On turn-3, the potential exists to attack with a 13/13 trample Llanowar Elves. Absurd! (The highest I’ve gotten to is 9/9)
Rhonas’ Monument isn’t quite consistent enough for a champion deck, but I can think of few more fun ways to catch opponents off guard and make them sweat. Come, join me and pray at the foot of our cobra God!
Perfect for our deck. Hashep Oasis provides Green mana early with minimal cost, and it can be traded in relatively cheap for more damage to push through. Fits in very nicely!
This card beats decks that targets your creatures with direct removal or Red decks that utilize Earthshaker Khenra’s or Ahn-Crop Crasher’s blocking abilities. Card draw is important in Steel Leaf Stompy if the game extends for many turns because a steady stream of creatures is necessary to keep up the pressure.
Shaper’s Sanctuary ensures that if you lose one, you’ll get it back quickly.
Likewise, this card not only helps you draw those creatures, it puts unnecessary lands at the bottom of your deck. Lifecrater’s Bestiary is best designed for long games against control decks because its draw ability can still be used even if the creature is countered.
It also combines well with Rhonas’ Monument for cheap creature plays and card draws.
Ajani keeps our creatures alive from board wipes, protects them from direct removal, and allows for blowouts if our monsters are ganged up on. This card sets up huge shifts of power in the game, and at least one should be kept around to catch an opponent off-guard.
This Nissa provides late-game threats to play against decks designed to haunt creature builds. She can help restore your big creatures that have been destroyed, and she provides both an untapped mana ramp or a 5/5 creatures every turn.
And that ultimate…whew. It won’t win the game, but drawing extra cards every turn is never a bad thing. Nissa’s emblem protects us from floods and keeps the threats flowing.
Somewhat outdated since flyers aren’t quite the threat they were when Dominaria first came out, but this provides versatility to get rid of both threats in the air and annoying enchantment removal.
- 3x Greenbelt Rampager
- 4x Llanowar Elves
- 3x Merfolk Branchwalker
- 3x Resilient Khenra
- 3x Rhonas, the Indomitable
- 3x Thrashing Brontodon
- 4x Steel Leaf Champion
- 2x Verdurous Gearhulk
- 3x Ghalta, Primal Hunger
How the pros roll
Blasphemers! Heretics! Professional Magic players steal from the almighty Green’s glory, dipping into Black to add a drop of dark magic to their strategy.
A playset of both Green and Black’s check lands and fast lands is enough to add the extra dimension to the deck while still allowing the Green mana to flow consistently. There is no need for any basic Swamps with these in the deck.
But what does Black have that Green can’t provide in the main deck?
Oh… how boring. What deck hasn’t this thing crawled its way into yet? Scrapheap Scrounger is indeed the most scrappy underdog in Standard, tempting aggressive players everywhere for that little splash of Black for two years now!
I have to admit, it does everything we want in Steel Leaf Stompy and more besides. It attacks heavy for just two mana, it crews Heart of Kiran on its own, and it even comes back for more once our other creatures start getting picked off, providing a constant threat opponents have to deal with over and over.
Sure, it can’t block, but Steel Leaf Stompy is all about offense and bashing in hard and early. Likely, Scrapheap Scrounger will trade for something on turn-3, come back a few turns later, attack, trade, and come back, repeat, repeat.
That recursion ability can’t be countered coming from the graveyard either, and if your opponent counters it while you cast it from your hand, it goes into the graveyard, where it can easily come to the battlefield untouched. Blue and Black control decks have no answers besides Vraska’s Contempt, a card your opponent would rather save for Rhonas.
The professionals also add a host of fine Black cards to the sideboard as well.
Obvious win condition for drawn out games. Vraska creates a steady flow of blockers and decent attackers before dropping the opponent to the most vulnerable of life totals. Menace Pirates, creatures with the gift of trample from Rhonas, and even an extra Llanowar Elves on the battlefield can close the game at that point.
Vraska’s Contempt‘s double Black casting cost keeps it out of range for the consistent splash, but Hour of Glory still gets the job done. It doesn’t take care of Planeswalkers, but it severely punishes those who hold an extra copy of The Scarab God, Rhonas, or Hazoret in their hand for too long.
Even as just efficient removal, this is a good sideboard spell.
What we gained
What gives? What helped Mono-Green Steel Leaf Stompy get over the hum to become a tier-1 deck. Answers for Mono-Red in other decks help shift the meta-game in its favor, but Green also got three nice toys that boosted it beyond its potential in Dominaria.
These cards also provide answers to Green’s two biggest threats, Red and Black.
This is no Sylvan Advocate, oh happiest of creatures, but Thorn Lieutenant easily provides the necessary power to be a star support card in the current Standard format. 2/3 for two mana is always a value play since early attackers simply can’t get through it. It will swallow almost every early play in Standard and rarely die in combat before turn-3 or turn-4.
If an opponent tries to remove Thorn Lieutenant with a Lightning Strike or a Cast Down, it still leaves behind a creature. More importantly, against Red decks, Earthshaker Khenra is doomed if it uses its ability on Thorn Lieutenant since the 1/1 it generates can both block and kill it. Ahn-Crop Crasher might not die to the 1/1, but the block ability is as equally useless.
Resiliency is what Thorn Lieutenant provides, making the deck only slightly less aggressive. Heart of Kiran takes a hit since Thorn Lieutenant can’t outright crew it, but this impressive card replaces itself if destroyed, can’t be targeted or pushed around by aggressive creatures, and it protects from flooding late in the game by providing a 6/7 attacker fore five mana.
Players were waiting for a proper 2-drop to replace Merfolk Branchwalker, and this clearly can manage.
Ugh, hexproof. How I hate thee… unless you’re on my side, then we’re all good. Vine Mare can’t be killed by any piece of Standard’s removal, enough reason to drop a few in your deck. And since it can’t be destroyed by anything outside of a board wipe, Vine Mare also assures Rhonas will be able to block and attack every turn.
Against Blue and Black control decks is where you play or sideboard in an entire playset. Many of the Black creatures in those decks stand by helplessly because they can’t block Vine Mare, and The Scarab God won’t be able to drop any zombies in its path.
This is a blowout match-up if I’ve ever seen one, big enough to shake the makeup of the entire Blue and Black archetype.
Vivien Reid is the most playable of the new Planeswalkers in Standard, even if that means she’s only a sideboard option. She provides important card advantage in long games, and she destroys relevant flying threats, artifacts and artifact creatures, and enchantment removal.
That ultimate is just kill-more, but if you can get there, by all means. Have at it.
It’s not being used just yet, but with the emergence of Mono-Blue Paradoxical Outcome decks, this old-time favorite might find a home in sideboards down the road.
What we stand to lose
The present for Mono-Green Steel Leaf Stompy is looking great, but the Standard rotation this fall will leave its mark on the deck. Most notably, Rhonas the Indomitable is gone forever, leaving the game the same way he left Magic’s canon.
Scrapheap Scrounger will also finally rotate out of Standard, as will other cards currently being used: Heart of Kiran, Greenbelt Rampager, Hashep Oasis, and *sniff* Blossoming Defense. The sideboard loses Lifecrater’s Bestiary, Nissa, Vital Force, Heroic Intervention, Aethersphere Harvester, and Hour of Glory.
These cards make up a pretty large portion of the deck, but so long as Llanowar Elves, Steel Leaf Champion, Thrashing Brontodon, Thorn Lieutenant, and Ghalta, Primal Hunger remain viable, Mono-Green Steel Leaf Stompy has the strength behind it to survive for another season or two, depending on what Ravnica brings to us.