Ferox & Friends - Standard

This is an adapted list originally created by _LSN_.

I took this beast to #FNM a couple of weeks ago and dominated the field of 20 competitors. DBoe included. His Boroops-All-Spells deck put up an admirable performance but could not contend reliably with turn 2 Steel Leaf Champion. It's rare that decks can actually handle these big green variants. When you get off to the races faster than your opponent the game tends to end rather quickly.

The deck faithfully represents "jam all the good stuff about green creatures in the current Standard meta" into one deck, and top end it with Ghalta. Unrivaled Success! What the previous, and currently successful, deck lists out there was missing was some meaningful way to interact with the board or supplement an empty hand. Splashing white in the case of the deck list offers us some unique options that make Ghalta very scary indeed.

We have some interesting answers to problems in the meta here: ways to control flyers, ways to interact with problematic power cards, and most importantly a deceptive color combination that may lead our opponents to believe they are contending with commonly played green-white deck lists. That is until we drop a turn 3 or 4 Nullhide Ferox and are beating face. Nullhide Ferox is the best green creature in the Standard format - there, I said it. When combined with Steel Leaf Champion the Nullhide expedites a Ghalta to the board faster than you can say, "One-Two-Buckle My Shoe." So, here we go - Nullhide Ghalta.

It's About the Curve...

The annals of the history of #MTG are rife with big 'mean green engine" decks that quickly and capably overrun their competition. I am reminded of several gems that deserve mention (and when searched in Google as the anchor for a deck, will net plenty of fun lists to build): Primeval Titan, Kalonian Hydra, Craterhoof Behemoth, Stonehoof Chieftain, Sylvan Primordial, Moldgraf Monstrosity, etc. However, none of the aforementioned big beaters do quite what Ghalta, Primal Hunger does - in terms of efficiency. We see a reduction in Ghalta's mana cost based upon the sum of the power of the creatures we currently have on the battlefield. By now, you know this - Ghalta has a potential reduction in CMC of up to 10 generic (colorless) mana.

Just look at this curve?! Only matched perhaps by Boros aggro strategies - this curve looks and feels almost unstoppable. In a realistic scenario your opponent will likely completely disregard the Thorn Lieutenant, it probably won't be targeted due to abilities, or they are waiting for better targets for their removal. An ignored Thorn Lieutenant becomes a massive threat when 6+ mana is available later on. Steel Leaf does what it does: it demands removal, it bypasses chump blockers, and it generally nets us around 10 damage to our opponent's life total when played on turn 2. Even with Thorn Lieutenant and Steel Leaf Champion we still have an amazing 4-drop in Nullhide Ferox. This card is mythic in every sense of rarity classification. A 6/6 for 4 mana? With Hexproof? That gets put into play if my opponent makes me discard it? Holy Tin-Metal Roof, Batman! Talk about being mean and green.

"As patient and generous as life, as harsh and merciless as nature."

Let's take a moment to put things into perspective with these mean green builds, shall we? Any Standard environment where players have the ability to reliably cast a turn one mana nerd will produce decks that showcase said "mana nerds" in their builds. LLanowar Elves have been around since the Multiverse Big Bang. They are at this point ancient organisms, inextinguishable by the arcane, nor power, nor time. With Llanowar's, the turn two and turn three plays we exhibit create "back-against-the-wall" situations for our opponents to overcome. This card truly is best in class for our current Standard meta, and given reliable ways to convert green mana into other colors, the inclusion of this ancient nerd will certainly be continuously referenced until rotation.

Improve Your Image

We have some new additions to be thankful for with Guilds of Ravnica; arguably this is why our green aggro list is morphing into a green-white list, so as to reliably accommodate the cards we need to make us more competitive in the current meta. It is after all about making things harder, better, faster and stronger. Along the same vein as my previous articles and builds running Pelt Collector, what we get with this 1/1 elf is a reliable one-drop that grows when creatures with a higher power enter and leave the battlefield. In my extensive experience playing this card it almost always catches some type of early block during attacks or draws removal before it gets a chance to get out of hand.

Kraul Harpooner at 4 copies mainboard addresses a number of the issues with big mean green strategies: our creatures stand 120 feet tall, but have short arms and can't swat down flyers. Thus, Kraul Harpooner answers a number of those "T-Rex's have a hard time doing push-ups" issues for us in being able to allow us to consistently swing in damage during combat step with our other creatures, and answer a Doom Whisperer or Niv-Mizzet mid-game using Kraul Harpooner's ability. This bug also has Reach by default and thumps blue flying Curious Obsession strategies. Knight of Autumn is why white has been built into the mean green machine. Magic players tend to gravitate toward value - Knight of Autumn has boarded the train to value town, arrived , and set up a general store for you to peruse its wares. This creature can gain us 4 life in a pinch, whack-a-mole an artifact or enchantment, or enter with two +1/+1 counters further guaranteeing our Ghalta plan succeeds. VAL-YOO.

Ghalta & Friends

The second half of our namesake is the big boy himself - Ghalta, Primal Hunger. I luckily went hog-wild with this card when Ixalan was first released and gobbled up 4 copies of the promo version (seen here). Winning two, and buying the others. Please notice for the sake of accuracy: the small arms. I think Ghalta may go down as one of the best green creatures ever printed. Sure, he dies to removal, but what doesn't get answered by the correct kind of removal or counter? The point is that, this green-white Ghalta list is better positioned than it ever has been with the addition of Knight of Autumn and Ixalan's Binding. We have more tools, and more answers to the types of opposition that previously confounded Ghalta's walnut sized brain. Ixalan's Binding is an incredibly powerful card, arguably better than Stasis Snare and Cast Out. You may say, "No, Jeremy, Stasis Snare and Cast Out have Flash." I would say, yes, but Stasis Snare was subject to its own Standard format, and hits only creatures, and Cast Out is a one for one response to a threat. Ixalan's Binding can be permanent mitigation of the threat. That is, rather, until Ixalan's Binding is destroyed. Enchantment removal is not common, and being able to snuff out the "playing" of a card form our opponent is powerful and effective.

Adventurous Impulse is the only utility cantrip I would play in green at the moment. Sometimes we need to dig, and it's a fine turn one play in the event we aren't dropping a super nerd. Ripjaw Raptor (Ghalta's little brother) has seen a smattering of Standard play, but hasn't really had its time in the limelight since we had Sweltering Suns in the format. In this list, the raptor serves three purposes: draw us cards, ramp Ghalta, discourage the use of Deafening Clarion by our opponents. Only 2 copies, but more is perfectly acceptable in your build.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

In our sideboard we have options in green-white. March of the Multitudes and Trostani decks feel and play very well - but we don't play those cards. We have some staples making their way into the additional 15 cards, and the reasons should be obvious:

Carnage Tyrant is a "win condition." Sometimes, you just need a replacement for the Ghalta threat, and the Carnage Tyrant does this perfectly for us. Lyra Dawnbringer will continue to be a threat until she rotates out, a win condition, and a way for us to stabilize in the face of decks that can reliably outpace our aggro plan (which is rarely the case). Vivien Reid has turned out to be a very surprisingly powerful planeswalker; it appears that being able to dig four deep for a land or creature on each uptick is pretty good. Who woulda thunk it? I've said it before, and I'll say it again, if you lose with a Vivien Reid Emblem in play - shame on you.

To flesh out the rest of our sideboard we have included some interesting options. I have chosen to include two copies of Assure //Assemble - it's an incredible powerful two-sided Instant that leverages green-white style mechanics to provide us with additional resiliency. Baffling End provides with responses to early game threats, and can be very taxing on an opponent who needs their Mist-Cloaked Herald, Legion Warboss, or Thief of Sanity to be attacking every turn. One additional Knight of Autumn for lulz, and one additional Plains to fix our mana curve when we begin sideboarding in additional white cards - sometimes we just throw it in and go to 61 cards in the deck. Sorcerous Spyglass is the obvious choice for Planeswalkers and nasty enchantments, use it liberally in the face of Teferi, Karn, and Dawn of Hope.

All in All...

I love this deck. It's powerful, competitive, and FUN. Sure the archetype of "mean green machine" may be getting stale, but adding in white to the mix gives us more flexibility and also gives us, passively, the potential to be more creative with our lines of play.

Take this for a spin! Until next time, "Land-Say-Go."