Welcome back to our Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set review! There are a lot of cards to cover in green, so let’s get started!
Circle of Dreams Druid
Play this card with Craterhoof Behemoth. The mana cost on this card is way too restrictive to play it in any deck but Mono-Green. Elves and Hoof are the only two decks that have the density of creatures and the need for mana to include it. You’re not going to be able to splash this in another deck.
With all of that said, Circle of Dreams Druid is a fantastic card within its narrow scope. We already have a Gaea’s Cradle-esque effect in the format with Growing Rites of Itlimoc, but that card requires you to already have a lot of creatures. Even dropped on an empty board, Druid is mana acceleration and a body, and the upside it has is huge. One toughness means it dies to basically anything, but the card is a kill-on-sight threat; if you let a deck stick Circle of Dreams Druid, the opponent’s board will quickly spiral out of control.
Without cards like Fastbond in the format, Gladiator doesn’t care too much about cards that gain life on lands entering the battlefield; it’s simply a minor upside. That said, I’d be remiss to not give this card an honorable mention for its potential usage in one deck; Golgari Citadel. The deck uses Bolas’s Citadel and thus needs lifegain, and the second Class level lets the deck gain much needed life while clearing out lands from the top of the deck to maximize the cards cast and lands played from the top of the library.
The best thing I can say about this planeswalker is that she’s flexible. Venture as a mechanic offers variable options depending on the board state, meaning that you can tailor your dungeon based on whether you’re the aggressive deck or the defensive one. However, the mechanic is underpowered in most situations, and if you only have Ellywick using the mechanic, you’re unlikely to complete a dungeon by the time she gets removed. Her minus is good for finding creatures, but only gaining life on a legendary and needing enough creature density to minimize the chance of whiffing limits deckbuilding options. She’s likely to see testing in green-based Midrange, but time will tell how powerful the flexibility Venture offers is.
Froghemoth is a fast trampling threat that has growth potential and can ruin any graveyard synergies your opponent is attempting. The card is on the cusp of being playable, held back by its below-curve stats and reliance on getting a hit in before it can start growing. The card is simply too expensive at five mana to be worth playing in Aggro, where five drop cards (when they exist at all) are game-ending threats by themselves. This card could see play in Mono-Green Stompy, and as a substitute for cards like Nissa, Vital Force, but otherwise isn’t worth it.
Neverwinter Dryad is susceptible to removal like a turn one mana dork, and can only find basic Forests. That said, Gladiator is lacking in traditional Rampant Growth style effects at two mana; the closest we have is the recently added to the format Into the North. Neverwinter Dryad could see play in two color Ramp decks as additional fixing, especially since it can block a turn one or turn two threat and activate its ability. However, the inability to find other basic lands is what stops this card from seeing play in three color decks.
Recursive large threat with trample. Shoo-in for Midrange, right? No.
Ochre Jelly suffers from being perpetually below-rate in terms of its stats; played on curve, it will be weaker than other creatures, and the fact that it comes back only at the end of turn means that in the situations in which you’re relying on this card to block creatures, your opponent can remove it and beat your face in. It’s important to note that the token copy keeps on recurring, but it needs to be big enough to do so. The only deck I can really see this seeing play in is in the fringe Counters synergy deck, where cards like Winding Constrictor keep it coming back over and over, and creatures entering with counters on them are a bonus regardless of size.
A two mana 2/3 with reach is a solid statline in gladiator; above rate, but more defensively leaning. The card doesn’t do enough in the format for it to see play in Aggro decks, but perhaps as a budget option in Green/X aggressive decks, or as a meta option to deal with other Aggro decks/if flyers ever become a major problem. I’d still rather play Thorn Lieutenant first, but depending on the meta you could play both. The Pack Tactics ability will likely not come up in most cases, so I would largely ignore it.
The stats on this card aren’t worth playing in a non-lifegain strategy due to the untap downside. With that out of the way, the card has powerful stats but no evasion. The splashy casting cost means it’s easy to cast in Golgari Lifegain, the deck that would want to play this; Selesnya Lifegain doesn’t really need this effect, and Abzan Lifegain has better cards to play. In that deck, it’ll be a formidable beater that can also block threats.
Unfortunately, Old Gnawbone doesn’t have a place in the format. She’s too expensive and slow, and she relies on hitting people to trigger her one ability. There are much better big stompy threats in green, and even Dragon tribal doesn’t want a card like this.
This card is one of the best lifegain synergy cards we’ve seen. It makes a treasure upon entering, so you’re immediately up mana for playing it for the next turn. The lifegain effect only occurs on your creatures, but it’s another copy of the effect for decks that care for it. It has homes in Abzan Lifegain, Selesnya Lifegain, or Golgari Lifegain, all of which have powerful cards thanks to both this set and Strixhaven. The number of times this card will curve into a four drop, or two Ajani’s Pridemate style two drops is pretty absurd.
This is easily the Class with the most raw power. The nature of the card means it’s pretty powerful no matter when in the game you draw it. It’s a body in the early game, and if you don’t have a three drop you can immediately turn your bear into a 3/3 by activating the second level. The final level makes it so that you’re constantly peering deeper into your deck, making it harder to run out of gas. This card is going to see play in green-based Midrange lists, and it might also see play in Green/X Aggro lists as a flexible threat that can become more potent in the late game, in return for losing some power and speed.
Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, cast Doom Blade. That entire bit took less time than the time you’ll need to cast this thing. Don’t play it.
Varis, Silverymoon Ranger
With on-curve stats, reach, and ward one making it hard to remove immediately, Varis is a solid threat. His condition for activating Venture is something you’re already doing in any deck playing him, and it’s an incidental upside. In the unlikely event you complete a dungeon, he also generates a token, something that can help edge out a board stall. Overall, the card is positioned to see play in Mono-Green Stompy and green-based Midrange (with the exception of Gruul, which likely has better threats).
Werewolf Pack Leader
Mono-Green Aggro and Mono-Green Stompy are the only decks that can support how painful the mana cost is, but two mana for a 3/3 is reason enough to play it. Then you get to draw a card if you attack with, for that deck, two creatures. And then you can pump it to make it even bigger and give it trample, which is huge (And enables some mild shenanigans with mutate, but that’s not the most relevant part here). This card is a beating and will kill people dead.
This card is another way for green decks to protect their creatures from targeted removal, but with a few upsides and downsides. The hexproof mode is going to be cast the most often. Unfortunately, unlike Blossoming Defense, it usually ends up shrinking the creature, making it awkward in the event the opponent is trying to use an effect on your creature after blocks have been declared, or simply in dealing damage. However, temporary buffs such as Prowess or pump spells don’t vanish, providing some utility. The other two modes have relevant uses. The five toughness the Spider mode grants allows the creature to dodge most damage-based board wipes in the format, while the Elephant mode allows a smaller threat (such as one with deathtouch) to push through more damage. The card might end up being cut, but I think it’s worth testing in green creature-based strategies such as any of the Green/X Aggro decks, or Green/X Midrange.
You Find a Cursed Idol
Cards that destroy enchantments or artifacts such as Return to Nature tend not to see play in the format, but this card is here for one fringe use; as a ritual and flexible option for decks that use Thousand-Year Storm, where the ability to make lots of treasures and Venture effectively turns the spell into a ritual for the deck.
You Meet in a Tavern
In the right deck, this card draws three or four cards consistently, while still having the flexibility to turn into a board buff. The only issue is the mana cost, but for a deck like Hoof or Elves, the more of these effects we get, the better they are due to how creature-dense those decks are. It’s slightly worse than Lead the Stampede for drawing cards, but the additional flexibility and redundancy is worth the extra mana cost.
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Writer for the Gladiator Blog and perpetual Green-Black Aggro player. He has a tendency to get distracted by random digressions about food.