There's an uncomfortable truth about Standard that's glossed over every spoiler season. All the hype surrounding new sets on social media and in articles, boasting about broken cards and providing endless decklists based around them, can make one think the new cards are all that matter. The reality is, Zendikar Rising will be just one small part of a much larger existing cardpool. Joining four other sets, having the distinction of being among the most powerful and heavily banned in the history of the game, the burden of proof is on the new cards.

Standard rotation does mean the metagame will be upended, and Zendikar Rising will play a major role in setting its course forward. The theory of power creep—cards continually improving as time goes on—suggests the new cards are even better than the last, and the release of a mechanic like the double-faced lands suggests this set will change the way decks are built. In addition, mechanics like Landfall and Party demand building decks dedicated to them, so will feature more than their fair share of new cards. I don't mean to sell the new set short, but it's important to keep it in perspective.

Don't forget about the broken and build-around cards that will remain in Standard, which will comprise the majority of cards in decks and drive the overall metagame. To name just a handful, cards including Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, Brazen Borrower, Bonecrusher Giant, Lovestruck Beast, Shark Typhoon, Embercleave, Winota, Joiner of Forces, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon still loom large.

Compared to individually strong cards, specific deck archetypes face a bigger challenge in surviving rotation. Rakdos Sacrifice for example, which loses critical pieces like Mayhem Devil and Priest of Forgotten Gods, will have a hard time making the transition. There's a reason why Mono-Red Aggro seems to exist in every Standard format, and has historically been a big player right after every rotation. It's a timeless strategy capable of seamlessly slotting in new cards to replace what it's lost.

This concept that general aggressive strategies don't require specific cards but can adopt the most powerful and efficient new printings, combined with the makeup of the current Standard metagame before rotation, point my eyes directly at Mono-Green Aggro as one of the most promising decks after Zendikar Rising.

Mono-Green Aggro Before Rotation

A look at the current pre-rotation Standard metagame on Magic Online shows that Mono-Green Aggro is the second-most popular and successful archetype, with almost 15% of published decklists. It even took first place in the most recent Challenge event this past weekend.

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Mono-Green Stompy by jankyb

'Mono-Green Stompy' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: jankyb

Event: MTGO Standard Challenge - 09/13/2020

Rank: 1

Standard

Market Price: $153.22

Cards

Gemrazer

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $2.29

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212071_200w.jpg

Mutate {1}{G}{G} (If you cast this spell for its mutate cost, put it over or under target non-Human creature you own. They mutate into the creature on top plus all abilities from under it.)
Reach, trample
Whenever this creature mutates, destroy target artifact or enchantment an opponent controls.

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Ram Through

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212717_200w.jpg

Target creature you control deals damage equal to its power to target creature you don't control. If the creature you control has trample, excess damage is dealt to that creature's controller instead.

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The Great Henge

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $25.55

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199361_200w.jpg

This spell costs {X} less to cast, where X is the greatest power among creatures you control.
{T}: Add {G}{G}. You gain 2 life.
Whenever a nontoken creature enters the battlefield under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on it and draw a card.

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Pelt Collector

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $1.30

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/176907_200w.jpg

Whenever another creature you control enters the battlefield or dies, if that creature's power is greater than Pelt Collector's, put a +1/+1 counter on Pelt Collector.
As long as Pelt Collector has three or more +1/+1 counters on it, it has trample.

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Barkhide Troll

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.17

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192560_200w.jpg

Barkhide Troll enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it.
{1}, Remove a +1/+1 counter from Barkhide Troll: Barkhide Troll gains hexproof until end of turn. (It can't be the target of spells or abilities your opponents control.)

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Scavenging Ooze

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $1.11

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215695_200w.jpg

{G}: Exile target card from a graveyard. If it was a creature card, put a +1/+1 counter on Scavenging Ooze and you gain 1 life.

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Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.20

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198578_200w.jpg

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Bonders' Enclave

Market Price: $0.98

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212685_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {C}.
{3}, {T}: Draw a card. Activate this ability only if you control a creature with power 4 or greater.

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Oakhame Adversary

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.39

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199301_200w.jpg

This spell costs {2} less to cast if an opponent controls a green permanent.
Deathtouch
Whenever Oakhame Adversary deals combat damage to a player, draw a card.

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Questing Beast

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $14.19

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198763_200w.jpg

Vigilance, deathtouch, haste
Questing Beast can't be blocked by creatures with power 2 or less.
Combat damage that would be dealt by creatures you control can't be prevented.
Whenever Questing Beast deals combat damage to an opponent, it deals that much damage to target planeswalker that player controls.

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Vivien, Arkbow Ranger

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $3.92

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192698_200w.jpg

+1: Distribute two +1/+1 counters among up to two target creatures. They gain trample until end of turn.
−3: Target creature you control deals damage equal to its power to target creature or planeswalker.
−5: You may reveal a creature card you own from outside the game and put it into your hand.

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Garruk's Harbinger

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.41

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215616_200w.jpg

Hexproof from black
Whenever Garruk's Harbinger deals combat damage to a player or planeswalker, look at that many cards from the top of your library. You may reveal a creature card or Garruk planeswalker card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

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Voracious Hydra

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $2.20

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192602_200w.jpg

Trample
Voracious Hydra enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it.
When Voracious Hydra enters the battlefield, choose one —
• Double the number of +1/+1 counters on Voracious Hydra.
• Voracious Hydra fights target creature you don't control.

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Shifting Ceratops

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192635_200w.jpg

This spell can't be countered.
Protection from blue (This creature can't be blocked, targeted, dealt damage, enchanted, or equipped by anything blue.)
{G}: Shifting Ceratops gains your choice of reach, trample, or haste until end of turn.

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Castle Garenbrig

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $3.46

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199288_200w.jpg

Castle Garenbrig enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Forest.
{T}: Add {G}.
{2}{G}{G}, {T}: Add six {G}. Spend this mana only to cast creature spells or activate abilities of creatures.

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Forest

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.22

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222825_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {G}.)

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Primal Might

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.33

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215456_200w.jpg

Target creature you control gets +X/+X until end of turn. Then it fights up to one target creature you don't control.

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Stonecoil Serpent

Market Price: $4.50

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199257_200w.jpg

Reach, trample, protection from multicolored
Stonecoil Serpent enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it.

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Ugin, the Ineffable

Market Price: $3.11

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/188862_200w.jpg

Colorless spells you cast cost {2} less to cast.
+1: Exile the top card of your library face down and look at it. Create a 2/2 colorless Spirit creature token. When that token leaves the battlefield, put the exiled card into your hand.
−3: Destroy target permanent that's one or more colors.

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In terms of metagame share, Mono-Green falls behind the Sultai decks in charge of Standard that form nearly a quarter of the field, but is nearly twice as common as the third-place Rakdos Sacrifice deck.  Like Rakdos, Sultai relies heavily on cards that will rotate out, and is unlikely to survive as anything resembling its current form.

Mono-Green, on the other hand, uses relatively few departing cards. A simple and straightforward strategy, the cards it does lose are just efficient creatures that don't fill any specialized role, and can be replaced by similar cards. As it so happens, luck is also on its side, because Zendikar Rising includes some fantastic new cards that are a great fit in the strategy.

Mono-Green Aggro After Zendikar Rising

The biggest loss Mono-Green must overcome after rotation is Pelt Collector. One-mana creatures are always at a premium for any aggressive deck, and Pelt Collector stands out as one of the best ever. Its ability to grow makes it hit harder than its cost would indicate, and typically attacks for  two damage on turn two, three on turn three, and potentially even more later. It's no surprise the card also sees play in Pioneer and Historic. It will be difficult for any new card to live up to Pelt Collector, but Zendikar Rising has provided a suitable replacement in the form of Swarm Shambler.

Swarm Shambler

Beggars can't be choosers when it comes to one-drop creatures—there simply aren't many of them—but Swarm Shambler doesn't leave one wanting. Like Pelt Collector, it can grow larger into a threat that hits harder than a one-mana creature should. Requiring mana to grow, and needing to choose between attacking or tapping to grow does mean it's significantly less aggressive and efficient than Pelt Collector, but it does have the upside of not being capped in its growth. Over a long game it'll be even more powerful, and won't run out of steam like a topdecked Pelt Collector with nothing to grow it.

Swarm Shambler also comes with a protection clause that plays back against opposing removal by replacing itself with a 1/1 token. As good as Pelt Collector is, it often finds itself as the first target for opposing removal. Swarm Shambler helps mitigate that and ensures the Green deck maintains some form of pressure. Add in the fact it can potentially protect other creatures with counters, and it's a strong role player that has a big impact for a one mana play. An overall downgrade from Pelt Collector to be sure, but certainly a welcome addition as a one-drop critical for the aggressive deck.

Swarm Shambler starts to look really good when you consider its interaction with another one of Mono-Green big pickups: Oran-Rief Ooze.

Oran-Rief Ooze

As a three mana 2/2 on paper, Oran-Rief Ooze is easy to overlook on the spoiler. I haven't seen any discussion about it, but it seems incredible when you consider how it actually plays out. Its ability to put a +1/+1 counter on anything offers some options, but it's typically going to target itself. That allows it to add another counter to itself the following turn when it attacks, and that means it's actually a three-mana 4/4. It's on par with other threats available to the deck like Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig, but with a whole lot more upside.

Its ability doesn't just add a counter to itself, but each creature with a +1/+1 counter. That's not only Swarm Shambler, but the Stonecoil Serpent, Scavenging Ooze, and even Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig the deck already includes. That's a ton of potential value, and a curve like Swarm Shambler into Stonecoil Serpent into Oran-Rief Ooze will be incredibly threatening. And consider how great Oran-Rief Ooze will be in multiples!

Added to the new Swarm Shambler and the existing cards with +1/+1 counters the deck already plays, Oran-Rief Ooze has all the makings of a centerpiece for the post-rotation Mono-Green Aggro deck. It can be made even better by embracing the theme further with other existing +1/+1 counter cards, such as Nessian Hornbeetle. I also have my eye on the new Inscription of Abundance, which offers some decent utility for two mana and a lot of power when kicked.

Inscription of Abundance

Inscription of Abundance reminds me of Dromoka's Command, which was a big staple during its time in Standard. While not nearly as efficient, Inscription of Abundance does have the upside of kicker maximizing its power with all three modes. It's a solid sideboard option against other aggressive decks, and just might be brought over the top as a maindeck playable when you consider its +1/+1 counter ability synergizing with Oran-Rief Ooze.

All of these new cards are great, but none compare to the true gift Mono-Green Aggro has received in Kazandu Mammoth, which is among the best cards in Zendikar Rising. Featuring both landfall and the new double-faced modal ability, there are no other cards that so perfectly encapsulate what the set is about, or that match its power level and utility.

Kazandu Mammoth

The ability to be played as either a land or a creature is quite incredible on a Magic card, because it can take the place of a land in the decklist, but fills the role of a creature in-game. Kazandu Mammoth doesn't replace any specific creature, but rather a Forest, which helps jam the deck full of threats while not hurting mana consistency. This new card type is forging ahead in unknown territory, and it's a huge benefit for an aggressive deck needing to maintain constant pressure and is always at risk of flooding and running out of steam.

And what a form of pressure it is. Even as a vanilla 3/3 creature, Kazandu Mammoth might be a reasonable card, comparable to something like Treetop Village. With Landfall helping it function as a 5/5 creature, it hits as hard or harder than anything else available to the deck—or for that matter any other three-drop creature in Magic like Steel Leaf Champion or Wooly Thoctar. Mono-Green won't use lands like Fabled Passage to really get the most from it, but it doesn't have to. It may be the best card in the entire deck, and is a big reason why Mono-Green looks like a real top contender after rotation.

The Decklist

Here's the build I'd start with:

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Mono-Green Stompy by Adam Yurchick

'Mono-Green Stompy' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Adam Yurchick

Event:

Rank:

Standard

Market Price: $162.31

Cards

Nessian Hornbeetle

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.24

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/216607_200w.jpg

At the beginning of combat on your turn, if you control another creature with power 4 or greater, put a +1/+1 counter on Nessian Hornbeetle.

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Swarm Shambler

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.28

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/221897_200w.jpg

Swarm Shambler enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it.
Whenever a creature you control with a +1/+1 counter on it becomes the target of a spell an opponent controls, create a 1/1 green Insect creature token.
{1}, {T}: Put a +1/+1 counter on Swarm Shambler.

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Crawling Barrens

Market Price: $0.36

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/221959_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {C}.
{4}: Put two +1/+1 counters on Crawling Barrens. Then you may have it become a 0/0 Elemental creature until end of turn. It's still a land.

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Stonecoil Serpent

Market Price: $4.50

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199257_200w.jpg

Reach, trample, protection from multicolored
Stonecoil Serpent enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it.

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Oran-Rief Hydra

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.42

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/132336_200w.jpg

Trample
Landfall — Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on Oran-Rief Hydra. If that land is a Forest, put two +1/+1 counters on Oran-Rief Hydra instead.

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Garruk, Unleashed

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $1.91

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215609_200w.jpg

+1: Up to one target creature gets +3/+3 and gains trample until end of turn.
−2: Create a 3/3 green Beast creature token. Then if an opponent controls more creatures than you, put a loyalty counter on Garruk, Unleashed.
−7: You get an emblem with "At the beginning of your end step, you may search your library for a creature card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library."

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Inscription of Abundance

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.43

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222042_200w.jpg

Kicker {2}{G}
Choose one. If this spell was kicked, choose any number instead.
• Put two +1/+1 counters on target creature.
• Target player gains X life, where X is the greatest power among creatures they control.
• Target creature you control fights target creature you don't control.

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Kazandu Mammoth // Kazandu Valley

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.64

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222154_200w.jpg

Landfall — Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Kazandu Mammoth gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

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The Great Henge

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $25.55

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199361_200w.jpg

This spell costs {X} less to cast, where X is the greatest power among creatures you control.
{T}: Add {G}{G}. You gain 2 life.
Whenever a nontoken creature enters the battlefield under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on it and draw a card.

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Oakhame Adversary

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.39

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199301_200w.jpg

This spell costs {2} less to cast if an opponent controls a green permanent.
Deathtouch
Whenever Oakhame Adversary deals combat damage to a player, draw a card.

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Gemrazer

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $2.29

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212071_200w.jpg

Mutate {1}{G}{G} (If you cast this spell for its mutate cost, put it over or under target non-Human creature you own. They mutate into the creature on top plus all abilities from under it.)
Reach, trample
Whenever this creature mutates, destroy target artifact or enchantment an opponent controls.

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Garruk's Harbinger

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.41

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215616_200w.jpg

Hexproof from black
Whenever Garruk's Harbinger deals combat damage to a player or planeswalker, look at that many cards from the top of your library. You may reveal a creature card or Garruk planeswalker card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

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Castle Garenbrig

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $3.46

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/199288_200w.jpg

Castle Garenbrig enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Forest.
{T}: Add {G}.
{2}{G}{G}, {T}: Add six {G}. Spend this mana only to cast creature spells or activate abilities of creatures.

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Scavenging Ooze

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $1.11

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215695_200w.jpg

{G}: Exile target card from a graveyard. If it was a creature card, put a +1/+1 counter on Scavenging Ooze and you gain 1 life.

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Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.20

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198578_200w.jpg

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Bonders' Enclave

Market Price: $0.98

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212685_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {C}.
{3}, {T}: Draw a card. Activate this ability only if you control a creature with power 4 or greater.

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Forest

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.22

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222825_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {G}.)

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Primal Might

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.33

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215456_200w.jpg

Target creature you control gets +X/+X until end of turn. Then it fights up to one target creature you don't control.

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Questing Beast

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $14.19

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198763_200w.jpg

Vigilance, deathtouch, haste
Questing Beast can't be blocked by creatures with power 2 or less.
Combat damage that would be dealt by creatures you control can't be prevented.
Whenever Questing Beast deals combat damage to an opponent, it deals that much damage to target planeswalker that player controls.

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Zendikar Rising includes some other new cards with theoretical potential in the archetype, but I've left on the sidelines. 

Tajuru Paragon would seem to be perfect for such a deck, functioning as an aggressively costed two-drop, or coming in for five mana to create card advantage later on—think Den Protector. The issue is in its current form, Mono-Green Aggro just doesn't have the creature base to support its ability. If the deck could add just a couple creatures to hit, then Tajuru Paragon would be pushed into playability, but right now there just aren't options good enough.

Another possibility is Lotus Cobra, which has a decent body plus the mana acceleration of Landfall. As it stands, the body is a bit too small, and the mana likely too weak without fetchlands or another color to fix. Clearly it will be a big Standard staple over the coming years, but Mono-Green aggro probably isn't the place—save this one for the multicolor decks with Fabled Passage.

There are also a few reasonable green double-faced cards, but none really get the job done. The most powerful is Turntimber Symbiosis, but at seven mana, this is basically just a tapped Forest the majority of the time, and a major speedbump the rest. Khalni Ambush offers a solid fight ability, but again the tapped Forest is too much of a cost for an aggressive deck that wants to curve out. Tangled Florahedron just doesn't cut it, as the aggro deck really has no interest in the flimsy mana acceleration creature.

Mono-Green Aggro On Top Again

As we quickly approach Zendikar Rising, Mono-Green Aggro stands as one of the top decks in the format. It loses little from rotation, while gaining some incredible new cards. It's also in a great position to capitalize on the relatively unknown and unstable post-rotation metagame.  Time and time again, the best decks immediately after rotation are aggressive ones that can exploit the relatively untuned new decks many players bring to the table. Mono-Green Aggro fills that role perfectly, and with a deep pool of cards to choose from, will be able to adjust to the evolving metagame and survive as a pillar of Zendikar Rising Standard.