Welcome to the green segment of our Gladiator Jumpstart: Historic Horizons set review! I have way too many cards to discuss, so let’s stop wasting time and just go.
Aeve, Progenitor Ooze
Compared to other Storm cards available, Aeve has an expensive mana cost and a higher required Storm count to get going. Expect to “looze” a lot if you play this card.
Chatterfang, Squirrel General
Cry havoc, and let slip the Squirrels of war! Squirrel Tribal was a major theme of Modern Horizons 2, where this card originally comes from. While Squirrels aren’t likely to make the cut in our format, Chatterfang presents an on-rate body with evasion at a flexible mana cost. Three mana 3/3’s are the standard, and Forestwalk makes it much easier for Chatterfang to push damage against green decks. In addition, incidental token generation will now produce 1/1 Squirrels, which earns the general a slot in Tokens lists at a minimum. The final ability is expensive, but the ability to turn Chatterfang into a -1/-1 might come up in the event you run into a Toski, Bearer of Secrets.
However, the deck that would most like to play Chatterfang, Selesnya Tokens, cannot activate it without off-color mana from something like Indatha Triome. Overall, the card presents a lot of value with little downside, so it’s worth experimenting with in multicolor Aggro decks.
Chatterstorm is the first time we’ve gotten a cheap Storm card that produces bodies (Looking at you, Dragonstorm). However we don’t have many ways to exploit mass token generation immediately; the simplest win would be with First Day of Class, but that requires you to cast several spells and have the mana for it before First Day and Chatterstorm. Citadel Storm, the primary green variant of Storm, is currently formulated more around abusing Weather the Storm along with cards that trade the life for more mana, and this card struggles to fit into that list. While a deck running Chatterstorm to create lots of bodies to produce pressure will likely still work, there’s the question of if it is better than using our other Storm cards. The “fair” Chatterstorm only really starts seeing value once you have cast two other spells before it, and at that point you’re better off having a less situational card. Chatterstorm is one to keep an eye on, but as it stands we might not have the methods to exploit it.
Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan
One of the new exclusive planeswalkers, Freyalise is pushing Elf Tribal into the competitive scene. She can plus up to 5 loyalty the turn she enters, and what she lacks in versatility (you are only playing this card in Elves) she makes up for in raw power. Her +1 allows her to buff two Elves while also untapping one to allow for greater mana ramp. The fact that this creature can untap Llanowar Tribe, Elvish Archdruid, or Circle of Dreams Druid for even more mana generation is excellent. Seeking Elves is a great way to ensure you’re always drawing a body, and at -1 it’s cheap and easy to repeat. She threatens to ultimate after only two turns, and Regal Force is no joke. A 5/5 that likely draws you three or more cards? That’s how you close out a game.
Freyalise is a great boon to Elves, and one that fixes the deck’s main weakness. Nothing ends a game faster than spilling your hand of cheap Elves onto the board only for a board wipe to kill them all, and with Freyalise you no longer need to worry about that; not only does she dodge removal, but she provides you a constant stream of card advantage, and allows you to have powerful stats on the board without committing too hard.
This type of effect is backbreaking. Winding Constrictor is a powerful card if your deck has any counter synergies, and now we have an additional version of that for one less mana. I don’t anticipate the card showing up in decks with only minor counters synergies, but dedicated lists that have creatures enter with counters on them will see this as a powerful enabler. Whether it’s worth a card slot is up for debate, especially in singleton, but it’s worth testing, and it’s undeniable that an early Hardened Scales will spiral out of control in the correct deck. Expect it to see play in Golgari, Selesnya, or Abzan Counters strategies, and perhaps in Simic lists (taking advantage of the Adapt mechanic and similar synergies).
Destruction begets creation; this is the cycle of many things, and Lands decks are no different. We already have Roiling Regrowth in the format, but Harrow has the lands enter untapped; this allows the player to chain a turn three Harrow into something that costs two mana. Roiling Regrowth does have the benefit of sacrificing not as a cost though, which leaves it less vulnerable to counter magic. That said, this card is unlikely to see play outside of Lands decks; Ramp decks have better sources of acceleration. As a deck, Lands likes to put lands into the graveyard, and also wants multiple lands entering the battlefield at the same time. Harrow easily accomplishes both of these tasks, and does so at instant speed, allowing for interesting interactions with the Landfall mechanic.
It’s three Llanowar Elves in a trench coat. The best mana dork in the format, but in triplicate! Llanowar Tribe is a powerful card, but will only see play in non-Aggro Mono Green decks. The restrictive casting cost prevents it from seeing play in multicolor decks, while the stats aren’t so powerful that you’d be playing this in Mono-Green Aggro. However, in the specific decks it finds a home in, Llanowar Tribe is undeniably potent. Three mana 3/3s are on-rate, and they will beat your opponent to death, on top of dodging Shock and Prismari command. A turn two or three Llanowar Tribe massively accelerates your plays allowing you to play out a six drop on turn three or four, without needing to spend too many cards and risk being blown out by wraths. Drawing a comparison between this and Circle of Dreams Druid, we see that this card has a stronger base in both mana added and the size of the body.
Stalker is a dangerous early play; 2/1s for one mana are the bread and butter of Aggro decks, and this one comes with a great upside. The energy generation isn’t the important part of the card, even though it may result in minor synergies. No, it’s the fact that this card perpetually buffs creatures in hand. Attacking with this card pumps your evasive 2/1s into 3/1s, and your undercosted 3/2s into 4/2s. Thanks to that extra power, you push through damage much more efficiently, and allow some of your threats to trade up. Even in the event you lack a two drop in your hand, the card’s stats are worth playing, and in most decks you will still get value out of the power buff; it helps you trigger Pack Tactics much easier, and the perpetual power buff improves specific cards such as Resilient Khenra that have a greater effect the higher their power.
Nantuko Cultivator is a rare form of land cycling that will only see play in Lands decks. Four mana is a lot to simply rummage away lands and get a bad to mediocre body, so you’re not going to see a lot of ‘value’ Nantuko Cultivators. Instead, the decks that will play this are ones that want those lands in the graveyard; Crucible of Worlds is in our format, after all, and Nantuko Cultivator provides unprecedented graveyard setup while also making a powerful threat on the board to help protect against Aggro lists. You’re wanting to discard at least two lands to make this card on rate, but Lands decks shouldn’t have trouble with that.
This is getting out of hand, now there are two of them! This card, combined with Anointed Procession, has the potential to create a new value tokens list, but at present both cards do not look to have a home. Four mana enchantments that produce no immediate value are not positioned well in the current meta, but this set is also providing several token producers. Expect experimentation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s too slow.
What if Paradise Druid could draw you a card, and got better as the game progressed? While the additional type does expose it to removal such as Gemrazer, it also allows the card to slot neatly into Enchantress decks; those decks are already looking to play as many enchantments as possible in order to draw off of cards like Enchantress’s Presence and the new Sythis, Harvest’s Hand. In addition, the ability to produce multiple mana of any one color might help enchantment-heavy five color decks, the most notable of which is the oft-overlooked Shrines deck.
Bear! PUNCH! A Savage Punch that depicts an Epic Confrontation, truly the epitome of green. The specific power requirement for the buff means it won’t occur too often for decks running lots of big creatures; in those cases, it’s Prey Upon. However, decks that run 2/Xs in enough quantity can experiment with the card as a cheap removal and pump spell. Unfortunately, the card cannot act as only a pump spell; your opponent needs a creature to target, adding another restriction to the fight spell. It’s not as good as Primal Might, but expect to see experimentation in green based Aggro as a way to trade up with your smaller threats.
Get it? Wurms have scales, and your creature scales in size? Anyway, Scale Up is a potent buff spell, but one that gets worse and worse the bigger your creatures are at a baseline; becoming a 6/4 Wurm is less impressive when you’re a 3/3, especially at sorcery speed. However, decks that run weak creatures en masse love this kind of effect, especially since Overload lets you create lots of Wurms out of a weak board. And it is important to keep in mind that keywords and abilities remain on the card, allowing for flying, menacing, or trampling Wurms. Sorcery speed makes it less of a surprise, but lethal is lethal. I wonder what decks play large numbers of weak creatures and produce a lot of mana? Oh hello, Elves. Didn’t see you come in. This card should see some play in green-based Aggro decks that are as low to the ground as possible, preferably with evasion. Green Black Aggro might be a home for it, for example, with how many menace creatures that deck currently runs.
This card is part of a new infinite combo! Okay, it’s super fragile, but it’s true! Heliod, Sun-Crowned combined with Soul Warden results in infinite Squirrels with this card; every Squirrel that enters causes a lifegain trigger, which allows you to place another +1/+1 counter on Scurry Oak, creating another Squirrel, and ad infinitum, or until the timer tells you your turn is about to end. Obviously, this combo is very situational, but it’s worth commenting on as a potential strategy. That aside, Scurry Oak offers board presence in Counters decks. Evolve means that the card will be gaining counters by itself if you’re playing decently sized creatures that enter with counters, and each counter you choose to place on Scurry Oak will reward you with a 1/1. That kind of board presence is handy for Counters, which run the risk of single target removal and being chump-blocked by small creatures. For other lists, the card is likely too slow.
Even green removal draws cards now? When will it end? Green removal in our format tends to take the form of fight spells, and Skyshroud Ambush is one of the few that presents card advantage. Notably, the wording on Skyshroud Ambush means that your creature needs to survive the fight, not just trade, in order to get the value. However, the upside on this card is quite high, and in Mono-Green decks especially the card will be a great removal option due to cantripping. It’s not as good as Inscription of Abundance or Primal Might due to its lack of flexibility and having issues against larger creatures, but it’s likely to replace Ram Through in decks running this kind of removal suite.
I can’t believe they printed Demonic Tutor in Green! Lookout functions similarly to Elvish Visionary for Elf Tribal decks, producing a body to buff while searching out another Elf to continue your plays. In that list, Lookout is an automatic include for the sheer value it offers. However, Lookout presents an interesting possibility; depending on the deck, Skyshroud Lookout can be a 1/1 that tutors specific Elves if they’re the only other Elf in the deck (Prime Speaker Vannifar comes to mind as the most obvious example). Given the way Seek functions, you need to only play one other Elf for it to work, limiting its use in Elf heavy lists; the aforementioned Vannifar would only work in specific forms of Pod lists.
Proli-fear-ate might be a more appropriate name. Smell Fear will likely only fit in Counters strategies, but in those lists has a very high ceiling. Proliferate is a powerful effect in that deck, allowing for a board buff that also triggers counters synergies. Sorcery speed is painful, but the base case of removal is still handy, especially since Counters decks have much larger creatures than most lists. It might not make the cut due to other options like Inscription of Abundance being available, but it’s certainly worth testing.
Springbloom Druid is, like Roiling Regrowth, sorcery speed and makes lands enter tapped. However, unlike Harrow, Springbloom Druid isn’t as susceptible to countermagic, as the land sacrifice does not count as a cost.. Given those two cards only really see play in Lands decks, you might be surprised to hear that this card could see play beyond that. Specifically, in Bant Control variants, which are already playing Elvish Rejuvenator. Druid offers those decks another way to fix their mana (important for three color mana bases) while also providing a body to block with. Unlike Rejuvenator, Druid is much less susceptible to whiffing; it’s rare, but it happens, making the card more of a sure bet. A 1/1 isn’t usually trading, but it can block a non-evasive threat for a turn, and Bant has several ways to use the ETB effect again via cards like Cloudshift or Ephemerate, something that can’t be done with Harrow. And in Lands decks, this is just another copy of that effect; consistency is key.
Why is this a green card? If you play this, expect the Mono-White player sitting across from you to fume a bit. Sylvan Anthem is worth experimenting with in Mono-Green Aggro and Elves decks; double green is a prohibitive casting cost for multicolor decks, after all. It’s less certain in Aggro, but the ability to provide reach via buffing creatures with trample is there, and scrying for every creature you play allows you to smooth out your draws and only grab dangerous threats. Whether it’s better than simply playing another threat is up for debate. Elves, meanwhile, plays plenty of smaller green creatures, and Sylvan Anthem is going to provide a lot more value in that case. Given Elves’ powerful mana generation, it’s handy to dodge lands once you’ve got your board going, and the fact that this works on tokens means that token-generating Elves such as Elvish Warmaster are going to be very happy.
Eternalize is a cheeky callback to this card’s predecessor, Eternal Witness. Bant Blink decks are positioned to take the most advantage of this card, thanks to the multiple effects that allow for recycling ETB effects; there is nothing more backbreaking than using Timeless Witness to return a Time Warp, and then looping Witness over and over to keep casting Time Warp for infinite turns. Eternalize is not going to be the primary reason to play the card, but it provides an uncounterable threat in the late game if it comes to it, and creates more graveyard synergies for Golgari Midrange.
Lotus Cobra already sees play in the format as a form of mana acceleration and a threat. But what if Lotus Cobra was slightly more expensive, and instead of adding mana to your mana pool it created two incredibly powerful token types? Tireless Provisioner is, even when played fairly, a powerful card. Facing Control or another slow deck? Treasure will accelerate your game plan or allow you to double spell, fixing your mana and enabling you to drop threats like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Elder Gargaroth much earlier. If you’re facing Aggro, Treasures still hold value, but the ability to create Food tokens is a game changer. A constant stream of Food helps stabilize any deck long enough to draw into the answers they need.
This card produces a lot of sizable bodies for not a lot of mana. The only real limitation for it is its speed; Aggro decks aren’t usually looking to play a four mana 3/3, even if it comes with another 3/3 the next turn. However, Token decks can use this effect to great value, since those decks love multiple bodies and have effects that only impact tokens. In addition, Rebound can help with avoiding board wipes; if you’re already applying pressure, there will be situations where your opponent is forced to wipe the board immediately, allowing you to get a 3/3 the turn after to keep up the pressure.
If my excessively long article detailing why people should be playing Witherbloom Command didn’t give it away, I’m a fan of modal cards. Verdant Command provides that flexibility at instant speed. The only real downside is that each of the effects is perhaps a bit mediocre (You’d rather the tokens didn’t enter tapped, or that you got to exile more than one card from the graveyard), but that’s par for the course in return for the flexibility you get. The targeted graveyard exile and countering loyalty abilities are the most specific forms of disruption this card offers, but even when they’re not coming into play the card presents a board presence, Raise the Alarm style, alongside life gain to help stabilize.
Winding Way provides powerful graveyard setup, card advantage, or both depending on the needs of your deck. In decks that care about filling the graveyard with creatures, choosing lands allows you to ensure you draw lands off the top while preparing the graveyard for future plays. In decks that instead care about creatures, and have a high creature density, Winding Way offers powerful card draw in return for some inconsistency. Decks like Elves that have high numbers of creatures can take advantage of this mode. Expect Winding Way to see play in various Midrange or Elf lists, or in decks like Sultai Lands that can take advantage of cards in the graveyard. Between Winding Way, Lead the Stampede, and You Meet in a Tavern we are approaching a critical density of card advantage effects that reward large numbers of creatures in deck construction, something that could result in the birth of an even denser version of Elves.
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Writer and Editor for the Gladiator Blog and perpetual Green-Black Aggro player. He has a tendency to get distracted by random digressions about food, especially pizza. Don’t get him started on why you should be playing Witherbloom Command.