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It's fascinating to me that the character of Nissa Revane has been around for over a decade, and yet this is the first time we've seen a Green/Black version. Making her debut way back in the Duels of the Planeswalkers video game, the original Nissa was a grumpy Elf Supremacist modeled after the Green/Black Elves from the Lorwyn block. Eventually, when WoTC decided to make her a more central character, they tweaked her backstory a bit to make her more of an elementalist tree hugger, and her Elf background took a backseat (as did her dabbling with Black mana).

Well, now we have a Green/Black Nissa, but it didn't seem quite right to go back to that OG Elf intent. Why? Take a closer look at Nissa of Shadowed Boughs—none of her abilities mention or seem to care about Elves at all, from either a mechanical or flavor perspective. 

What did catch my eye is the mention of +1/+1 counters that come from Nissa's Minus ability. We've seen such abilities on White or White/Green Planeswalkers before (paging half a dozen Ajanis), but we haven't seen them much outside of that, so it seemed like interesting design space. I also thought about the Scavenge mechanic from the Return to Ravnica block several years back, as it combines graveyard shenanigans with +1/+1 counters, and seems to complement this deck theme well. 

Let's see what's hanging out around those shadowed boughs:

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Nissa of Shadowed Boughs by Andy Hurst

'Nissa of Shadowed Boughs' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Andy Hurst

Event:

Rank:

Freeform (Casual)

Market Price: $9.62

Cards

Slitherhead

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.12

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/66460_200w.jpg

Scavenge {0} ({0}, Exile this card from your graveyard: Put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to this card's power on target creature. Scavenge only as a sorcery.)

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Tomb Hex

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/34454_200w.jpg

Target creature gets -2/-2 until end of turn.
Landfall — If you had a land enter the battlefield under your control this turn, that creature gets -4/-4 until end of turn instead.

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Nissa's Renewal

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.18

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/236674_200w.jpg

Search your library for up to three basic land cards, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle. You gain 7 life.

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Vastwood Fortification

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.11

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222155_200w.jpg

Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.

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Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.13

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222129_200w.jpg

Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager enters the battlefield with three +1/+1 counters on it.
Whenever another creature you control dies, if it had a +1/+1 counter on it, put a +1/+1 counter on Grakmaw.
When Grakmaw dies, create an X/X black and green Hydra creature token, where X is the number of +1/+1 counters on Grakmaw.

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Varolz, the Scar-Striped

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.48

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/67900_200w.jpg

Each creature card in your graveyard has scavenge. The scavenge cost is equal to its mana cost. (Exile a creature card from your graveyard and pay its mana cost: Put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to that card's power on target creature. Scavenge only as a sorcery.)
Sacrifice another creature: Regenerate Varolz, the Scar-Striped.

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Winding Constrictor

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.32

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/126369_200w.jpg

If one or more counters would be put on an artifact or creature you control, that many plus one of each of those kinds of counters are put on that permanent instead.
If you would get one or more counters, you get that many plus one of each of those kinds of counters instead.

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Moldervine Reclamation

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.26

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/236609_200w.jpg

Whenever a creature you control dies, you gain 1 life and draw a card.

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Feral Contest

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/34366_200w.jpg

Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature you control. Another target creature blocks it this turn if able.

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Loathsome Chimera

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.01

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/207056_200w.jpg

Escape—{4}{G}, Exile three other cards from your graveyard. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its escape cost.)
Loathsome Chimera escapes with a +1/+1 counter on it.

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Heroes' Bane

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212512_200w.jpg

Heroes' Bane enters the battlefield with four +1/+1 counters on it.
{2}{G}{G}: Put X +1/+1 counters on Heroes' Bane, where X is its power.

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Fertilid

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.06

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/226914_200w.jpg

Fertilid enters the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters on it.
{1}{G}, Remove a +1/+1 counter from Fertilid: Target player searches their library for a basic land card, puts it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffles.

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Wildwood Scourge

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.16

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215631_200w.jpg

Wildwood Scourge enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it.
Whenever one or more +1/+1 counters are put on another non-Hydra creature you control, put a +1/+1 counter on Wildwood Scourge.

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Twinblade Assassins

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/231268_200w.jpg

At the beginning of your end step, if a creature died this turn, draw a card.

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Broken Wings

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.01

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230182_200w.jpg

Destroy target artifact, enchantment, or creature with flying.

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Gilt-Leaf Winnower

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.01

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/227071_200w.jpg

Menace (This creature can't be blocked except by two or more creatures.)
When Gilt-Leaf Winnower enters the battlefield, you may destroy target non-Elf creature whose power and toughness aren't equal.

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Tainted Wood

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $1.06

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/236605_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {C}.
{T}: Add {B} or {G}. Activate only if you control a Swamp.

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Swamp

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.07

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215720_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {B}.)

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Subtle Strike

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.01

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/221938_200w.jpg

Choose one or both —
• Target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn.
• Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.

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Woodwraith Corrupter

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/13481_200w.jpg

{1}{B}{G}, {T}: Target Forest becomes a 4/4 black and green Elemental Horror creature. It's still a land.

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Vigor Mortis

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.24

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/66379_200w.jpg

Return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield. If {G} was spent to cast this spell, that creature enters the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on it.

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Unexpected Fangs

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.01

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212769_200w.jpg

Put a +1/+1 counter and a lifelink counter on target creature.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/212769/magic-ikoria-lair-of-behemoths-unexpected-fangs

Hazardous Conditions

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.02

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/123132_200w.jpg

Creatures with no counters on them get -2/-2 until end of turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/123132/magic-kaladesh-hazardous-conditions

Gluttonous Slug

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.06

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/191744_200w.jpg

Menace
Evolve (Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, if that creature has greater power or toughness than this creature, put a +1/+1 counter on this creature.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/191744/magic-modern-horizons-gluttonous-slug

Svogthos, the Restless Tomb

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/166933_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {C}.
{3}{B}{G}: Until end of turn, Svogthos, the Restless Tomb becomes a black and green Plant Zombie creature with "This creature's power and toughness are each equal to the number of creature cards in your graveyard." It's still a land.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/166933/magic-commander-anthology-volume-ii-svogthos-the-restless-tomb

Forest

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196606_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {G}.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/196606/magic-commander-2019-forest-301

Pelakka Predation

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.13

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/221852_200w.jpg

Target opponent reveals their hand. You choose a card from it with mana value 3 or greater. That player discards that card.

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Oblivion's Hunger

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.08

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/221937_200w.jpg

Target creature you control gains indestructible until end of turn. Draw a card if that creature has a +1/+1 counter on it. (Damage and effects that say "destroy" don't destroy the creature.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/221937/magic-zendikar-rising-oblivions-hunger

Grim Contest

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.08

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/95295_200w.jpg

Choose target creature you control and target creature an opponent controls. Each of those creatures deals damage equal to its toughness to the other.

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Deathsprout

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.41

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212307_200w.jpg

Destroy target creature. Search your library for a basic land card, put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/212307/magic-commander-2020-deathsprout

Scale the Heights

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.08

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222054_200w.jpg

Put a +1/+1 counter on up to one target creature. You gain 2 life. You may play an additional land this turn.
Draw a card.

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Moss-Pit Skeleton

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222088_200w.jpg

Kicker {3} (You may pay an additional {3} as you cast this spell.)
If Moss-Pit Skeleton was kicked, it enters the battlefield with three +1/+1 counters on it.
Whenever one or more +1/+1 counters are put on a creature you control, if Moss-Pit Skeleton is in your graveyard, you may put Moss-Pit Skeleton on top of your library.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/222088/magic-zendikar-rising-mosspit-skeleton

Iridescent Hornbeetle

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/222034_200w.jpg

At the beginning of your end step, create a 1/1 green Insect creature token for each +1/+1 counter you've put on creatures under your control this turn.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/222034/magic-zendikar-rising-iridescent-hornbeetle

Dreg Mangler

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.08

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/66302_200w.jpg

Haste
Scavenge {3}{B}{G} ({3}{B}{G}, Exile this card from your graveyard: Put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to this card's power on target creature. Scavenge only as a sorcery.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/66302/magic-return-to-ravnica-dreg-mangler

Winding Way

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.14

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/191774_200w.jpg

Choose creature or land. Reveal the top four cards of your library. Put all cards of the chosen type revealed this way into your hand and the rest into your graveyard.

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Nessian Hornbeetle

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.08

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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Back for More

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $0.09

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212053_200w.jpg

Return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield. When you do, it fights up to one target creature you don't control. (Each deals damage equal to its power to the other.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/212053/magic-ikoria-lair-of-behemoths-back-for-more

Nissa of Shadowed Boughs

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $1.44

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/221780_200w.jpg

Landfall — Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, put a loyalty counter on Nissa of Shadowed Boughs.
+1: Untap target land you control. You may have it become a 3/3 Elemental creature with haste and menace until end of turn. It's still a land.
−5: You may put a creature card with mana value less than or equal to the number of lands you control onto the battlefield from your hand or graveyard with two +1/+1 counters on it.

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Corpsejack Menace

Color Identity:B,G

Market Price: $1.41

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/166763_200w.jpg

If one or more +1/+1 counters would be put on a creature you control, twice that many +1/+1 counters are put on it instead.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/166763/magic-commander-anthology-volume-ii-corpsejack-menace

Algae Gharial

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.07

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/98832_200w.jpg

Shroud (This creature can't be the target of spells or abilities.)
Whenever another creature dies, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Algae Gharial.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/98832/magic-modern-masters-2015-algae-gharial

The Game Plan

The goal of this deck is to make as much use out of our +1/+1 counters as we can, while also using some tricks to boost our creatures past the opposition. As with any Green/Black deck, it's pretty great for us when things die, as they can provide fodder for Varolz (more below), strength for Algae Gharial, fodder for future escapes of Loathsome Chimera, or fuel for Twinblade Assassins and Moldervine Reclamation

Several of the early drops are ideal, as they can be useful early or late. However, a pair of the early plays should be deployed to the battlefield as soon as possible. The first is the Gluttonous Slug. Although its stats are not initially impressive, if it's one of our first creatures in play, it can grow to pretty fearsome dimensions. Menace makes it a pretty attractive target for Scavenge creatures. Winding Constrictor is another excellent early threat. We've got several ways to assign +1/+1 counters, and Constrictor here generates a sizable advantage, even if it only gets to assign a few extra counters. Those who played during its heyday in Standard can attest to its potency, even if we aren't playing with any of the Energy cards that gave it a boost back then. Corpsejack Menace (Downshift Alert! Thank you Iconic Masters!) provides a similar effect a little further up the mana curve. 

The removal here is fine, but not really all that impressive. We're certainly hoping that our creatures and their impressive array of counters can serve as removal-through-combat, as they can apply significant pressure. Deathsprout in particular is a favorite inclusion of mine, and it matches up flavorfully.

The Rares

Grakmaw is a basic rate monster; we get a 3/3 for 3 that can be bigger and can leave us with a spicy leftover if it's ever dealt with. Not only that, but it synergizes especially well with Nissa. If she brings The Maw back from the grumper, the counters added will contribute to Grakmaw's future shadow. Finally, it's from the same set as Nissa, which made me think that WotC's R&D department wanted me to play these cards together. Okay WotC. Ask (very vaguely and indirectly) and ye shall receive! 

There might be some games where we aren't able to get Nissa going or she doesn't show up, and we still have creatures dying. In those games, Varolz will shine. Making all of our creatures into Scavenge food is quite the mana sink, and turns most longer, grindy games into situations that are difficult to lose. Be a bit careful; there are several cards we're playing that get no mileage out of being scavenged (Fertilid, Algae Gharial, Heroes' Bane, Wildwood Scourge) but we also have great payoffs like our Hornbeetles, Corpsejack/Constrictor/ Scourge, Moss-Pit Skeleton, and Grakmaw that it all balances out. Lastly, don't forget that Regeneration is a powerful mechanic and we can save Mr. Scar-Striped without paying mana, which can allow for some very efficient turns. 

I'll be honest, I've never ever cast this card in a game of Magic. I don't think I've ever seen it cast either. Its stats aren't ideal, and I'm not at all surprised that multiple copies of these have been sitting in my bulk rare box for 15 years. However, it's a Black/Green creature that animates Forests into formidable creatures, and flavorfully it's hard to ask for a Rare that pairs with Nissa better than that. Sometimes in Magic, patience is a virtue, and I'm sure all the other Junk Rares in my bulk box would agree.

I wanted a Nissa-centric spell in this deck, and I've always enjoyed the Renewal. The lifegain is substantial, and although we don't have many landfall triggers, we do have Nissa herself! Flavorfully, the Renewal seemed to match Nissa's attempts to restore the land of her native Zendikar. 

Unsung Hero

My memories of the M20 draft scene are a little hazy, but I don't recall Black/Green being particularly good there. However, Reclamation is an absolute stud and can rapidly turn games to our advantage. Our deck here is primed to take advantage of the long game with recursion; what we're looking for mostly is to buy time for our potent threats to come online. Moldervine Reclamation ensures that we can keep the cards flowing and find that necessary time. Gain your life and draw your cards while churning through your creatures—they'll (probably) come back soon anyway! And even if they don't, hey, we're playing Green/Black here. The circle of life is the name of the game.