I finished in the Top 64 at the Open in Columbus this past weekend. Last week, I told everyone I was putting down R/G Ramp and was most likely going to play something else. True to my word, I opted to play Mardu Green over R/G Ramp for three reasons.
I was wrong about that last point. I ran into eight mirrors across the weekend and lost to three of them. I've never played an attrition deck like this one, and the mirrors were extremely grindy but usually awarded the player that played correctly and boarded correctly. This deck is very powerful and has game against everything so I'd like to talk about it, my card choices, and possible additions or considerations.
Here is the deck I played to a Top 64 finish.
This list is pretty close to the one I talked about in my article after Oath of the Gatewatch got spoiled. The deck is fantastic, and if you love to grind your opponent to dust like Jund does in Modern, then you'll like this deck. Like Jund, it has game against everything except ramp. It can beat ramp just like Jund can beat Tron, but it's tough.
Again, the deck is in it for the long haul, but also has the "oops I win" games because you can cast four or more Siege Rhinos with the help of Kolaghan's Command or just raw-dogging multiple Siege Rhinos. I'm going to break the deck down card-by-card:
Goblin Dark-Dwellers: The reason to play this deck. This is currently the best Goblin Dark-Dwellers deck in Standard. I can't stress how good this card is. It's Flametongue Kavu, Mulldrifter, Blighting, Gravedigger, and Sin Collector all rolled into one. On top of that it has a better body than all those creatures too. It's not a 2/2 or a 4/2. It's a freaking 4/4 with menace. This card is fantastic and only threatens to get better the more cards get printed. I'd pick up my playset now while it's still only $3-$4. You could play only three Goblin Dark-Dwellers, but I think it is incorrect to do so unless you run Den Protectors maindeck too. Even with Den Protectors, I find it hard to trim on this card. Would not play less than three.
Siege Rhino: I don't really need to say much about this card. Battle Cattle has been a staple of Standard since the release of Khans of Tarkir. It's just so good, especially in multiples. It's strange to have a creature that is good against so many archetypes - control, ramp, midrange, and aggro – but Siege Rhino is. You cannot trim copies of this card.
Soulfire Grand Master: A fantastic card early and mid-game. It also helps you transition to the late-game, where it's almost unbeatable. It will bury your opponents in card advantage and life-gain. Soulfire Grand Master also mitigates the life loss on cards like Read the Bones and Abzan Charm. You could cut down to three copies if aggressive strategies die down, but I'd never play less than three copies.
Duress: Knowledge is power, and this card grants you knowledge. It lets you know what your opponent is working with, what to play around, and how to sequence your next couple of turns. However, it is not needed maindeck. In fact, if you expect a lot of Mardu Green mirror matches, it's downright bad, since the mirror is all about who can out-value the other, and Duress is not good at doing that. It's also an awful top deck in the late-game. It's fine as a two-of in the main but could easily see playing zero copies main deck, especially with the lack of control decks running around. Keep in mind, however, that this card does turn on spell mastery much easier.
Abzan Charm: The best card draw spell in Standard. It also happens to be one of the best removal spells too. We can't really overload on this card because of its prohibitive mana cost but it's a fantastic card to have in our arsenal. I would not run more than three copies of this card and would not run less than two.
Crackling Doom: Crackling Doom almost always hits the creature you want to hit and gets around indestructible, hexproof, and protection while damaging our opponent. I could see running three copies of this card but wouldn't really go any less unless token strategies really start to get popular.
Fiery Impulse: Lightning Bolt is extremely good and this is probably the closest we will get to it for a while in Standard. While it doesn't hit players, three damage for one mana is something this deck really wants. Having four copies is essential to beating the Atarka Red and Prowess decks. I would not play less than four copies of this card.
Kolaghan's Command: Thank you mother Kolaghan for the gifts and blessings! Kolaghan's Command is one of our best ways to two-for-one our opponents. People think I'm insane for running four but I just can't get enough of this card. I honestly could understand cutting down to two of these, but if I did that, I would replace it with Pulse of Murasa. More on that in a bit.
Murderous Cut: The first delve spell in any deck is basically free. The second isn't free, but doesn't cost much more than that. Murderous Cut is really good with Soulfire Grand Master mid to late game. I can see cutting this card completely, but I personally would always run at least one, unless you wanted to run a different delve spell.
Read the Bones: I've had many discussions with many people I consider very good about choosing Read the Bones over Painful Truths. My reasoning is that Painful Truths can stress how you fetch early on and three damage is a lot. Early on we are digging for lands and Read the Bones has the potential to dig four cards deep, where Painful Truths cannot. Late game, we don't want lands and can dig deeper with Read the Bones. However, the final thing that drives me to play Read the Bones over Painful Truths is Goblin Dark-Dwellers. Read the Bones makes your Goblin Dark-Dwellers an insane Mulldrifter. I would not run less than one Read the Bones and can see upping the count to three. I would only run one Read the Bones if I ran three Abzan Charm.
Roast: As long as Siege Rhino is seeing play, I want at least two copies of this card in my deck. It's a fine removal spell that happens to be very powerful when combined with Soulfire Grand Master. The combo of these two cards against aggressive opponents can win the game on its own. Would not trim.
Painful Truths: You want this card against attrition matchups or where decks don't put a lot of pressure on you: control, ramp, or the mirror.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet: I could see running a copy maindeck. It's good against aggro decks and attrition decks if you can untap with it. Also happens to act as a better Anafenza, the Foremost against the Rally players. Would have one in my 75 somewhere.
Den Protector: Another Goblin Dark-Dwellers, in my eyes. I bring this in when the grind can get real! I want Den Protector against the mirror match and control.
Roast: Another card for Abzan decks to help stop their curve of Warden of the First Tree into Anafenza, the Foremost into Battle Cattle.
Virulent Plague: Mardu Green struggles to beat tokens. Do not leave home without this card in your sideboard. I would even bring this card in against decks that have Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, and Wingmate Roc.
Anafenza, the Foremost: Good when we need to get more aggressive, like against the ramp decks. Anafenza, the Foremost is also very good to have against the Rally decks since she will stop them from comboing us.
Ob Nixilis Reignited: Another card for attrition matchups, I could honestly see this card maindeck as a one-of.
Dark Petition: I would rather run one Dark Petition instead of two Virulent Plagues since Petition can also get us something else late game and you usually just need one Virulent Plague against the token decks.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: This was Chandra, Flamecaller at first, but I just wanted to stop the grind at some point and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon does that. I can see Chandra, Flamecaller easily replacing him if you so wish.
Ruinous Path: Mardu Green struggles with Planeswalkers, and this is the best answer we have to them. We could run Ruinous Path maindeck but it's just so bad against decks that don't have Planeswalkers. Might be worth it, though, since we really do struggle against Planeswalkers.
Transgress the Mind: I wanted three against ramp decks since they are hard to beat and I don't like Infinite Obliteration. Trangress the Mind is also decent in the mirror since it exiles cards so they can't be brought back with Den Protector, Kolaghan's Command, or Goblin Dark-Dwellers.
Pulse of Murasa: This card could very easily be a two-of, since the deck can struggle to hit early land drops. Pulse of Murasa can not only buy back a fetchland early on to ensure you hit your land drops but it will also bolster your life total, letting you progress into the late game. Your life total is relevant since we cast Read the Bones and Abzan Charm. Against aggressive strategies, the life will also matter.
Chandra, Flamecaller: I do not like this card maindeck but could see running up to two in the sideboard. Chandra, Flamecaller can easily close a game out, and her zero ability can rid your hand of lands and give you a lot more fuel. If she goes unchecked for a turn or two she will easily take over the game. Reminds me a lot of Elspeth, Sun's Champion.
Radiant Flames: Fine to have against token decks but would rather have Virulent Plague. I know it's a lot of life with Soulfire Grand Master but I don't want my Soulfire Grand Master to die if I have the option. Still worth considering.
Hallowed Moonlight: I believe Anafenza, the Foremost and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to be better against the Rally decks since you don't constantly have to leave two mana open. The Rally decks can also just beat you without casting Rally so this card isn't always great.
Utter End: I believe this card is a crutch but I understand the appeal of a catch-all. I wouldn't blame anyone for running a couple of copies in their 75.
Rakshasa's Secret: Mind Rot is a strong card against ramp decks, especially in multiples. If ramp is big where you are I would run some number of these in the board.
Infinite Obliteration: I hate these types of cards - they usually generate no value - but I can see the appeal of running it alongside Dark Petition to hit things like World Breaker or Goblin Dark-Dwellers.
If I were to play Mardu Green tomorrow, this is how I would build it:
That list has a 14-card sideboard, so you can fill the last slot with anything you want. I would consider Utter End/Roast/Read the Bones/Radiant Flames/Infinite Obliteration. I hope your grind your opponents to dust with this deck!
My next tournaments will be Modern and I'll be working on Tron and/or Eldrazi decks, so next week I will have one of those decks for you!
Thank you so much for the support and for reading.
Until next time,