It seems fitting to follow up Thanksgiving weekend with a deck that's currently at the top of the Standard format: Mono Green food. Now, most players probably aren't super familiar with this particular deck (or how its matchups tend to play out). There are also a few common misconceptions I'll clarify. Without further ado, I present the truth about Mono Green food.

When Did Mono Green Food Gain Popularity?

We've been playing with these same food cards—Wicked Wolf, Witch's Oven, Trail of Crumbs, Gilded Goose, and to some extent Feasting Troll King—for quite some time now. However, Mono Green Food didn't actually become popular until quite recently, following the release of Zendikar Rising.

We can attribute this rise in popularity to a couple of factors. The first is that we had a Standard rotation and a new set coming in, which shook up the format significantly. As a format shrinks, the best cards in it will shine more, and the food cards have always been very good. There were also players who started to stream and promote the deck, which helped increase its popularity. This wasn't a conventional deck players initially gravitated towards, because it was essentially a new deck with old cards, which is somewhat of a rarity.

Mono Green Food Loses Momentum

After the initial surge in popularity, which lasted only a few days, the deck started to lose momentum. Players seemingly stopped playing it fairly quickly. But why? Well, looking back, it may not have been warranted to assume it was due to a specific bad matchup. At the time, the White-Blue Yorion decks were fairly popular, but even there the food deck has a fighting shot. It was more likely due to lack of confidence in the archetype, and other decks popping up in the metagame.

Also, players likely hadn't come to the best version of the Mono Green Food yet, or the best sideboard plans. As the format started to shift towards Gruul, though, the Mono Green food deck was in a great position, without many players realizing it. It wasn't until Ken Yukuhiro and Chris Kvartek brought the deck to the last MPL split that it fully resurfaced.

Mono Green Food Becomes the Most Popular Deck

It's a true rags to riches story in the end. At the moment, I think Mono Green Food is at the top of Standard, and a very strong argument can be made for it being the best deck. Let's break the deck down by matchup, and analyze why it has become so popular. Before I do that though, here is my current recommended list:

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Mono-Green Food by Seth Manfield

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

Created By: Seth Manfield

Event:

Rank:

Standard

Market Price: $293.70

Cards

Chainweb Aracnir

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206802_200w.jpg

Reach
When Chainweb Aracnir enters the battlefield, it deals damage equal to its power to target creature with flying an opponent controls.
Escape—{3}{G}{G}, Exile four other cards from your graveyard. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its escape cost.)
Chainweb Aracnir escapes with three +1/+1 counters on it.

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Feasting Troll King

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.26

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198776_200w.jpg

Vigilance, trample
When Feasting Troll King enters the battlefield, if you cast it from your hand, create three Food tokens. (They're artifacts with "{2}, {T}, Sacrifice this artifact: You gain 3 life.")
Sacrifice three Foods: Return Feasting Troll King from your graveyard to the battlefield. Activate this ability only during your turn.

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Sorcerous Spyglass

Market Price: $0.21

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As Sorcerous Spyglass enters the battlefield, look at an opponent's hand, then choose any card name.
Activated abilities of sources with the chosen name can't be activated unless they're mana abilities.

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Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.21

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

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Wicked Wolf

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.24

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When Wicked Wolf enters the battlefield, it fights up to one target creature you don't control.
Sacrifice a Food: Put a +1/+1 counter on Wicked Wolf. It gains indestructible until end of turn. Tap it.

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Tangled Florahedron

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.27

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{T}: Add {G}.

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Scavenging Ooze

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $1.24

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{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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Kogla, the Titan Ape

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.96

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When Kogla, the Titan Ape enters the battlefield, it fights up to one target creature you don't control.
Whenever Kogla attacks, destroy target artifact or enchantment defending player controls.
{1}{G}: Return target Human you control to its owner's hand. Kogla gains indestructible until end of turn.

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Bonders' Enclave

Market Price: $1.31

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{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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Ram Through

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.19

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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Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Market Price: $21.55

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+2: Ugin, the Spirit Dragon deals 3 damage to any target.
−X: Exile each permanent with converted mana cost X or less that's one or more colors.
−10: You gain 7 life, draw seven cards, then put up to seven permanent cards from your hand onto the battlefield.

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Witch's Oven

Market Price: $0.25

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{T}, Sacrifice a creature: Create a Food token. If the sacrificed creature's toughness was 4 or greater, create two Food tokens instead. (They're artifacts with "{2}, {T}, Sacrifice this artifact: You gain 3 life.")

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The Great Henge

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $54.43

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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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Vivien, Monsters' Advocate

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $7.74

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You may look at the top card of your library any time.
You may cast creature spells from the top of your library.
+1: Create a 3/3 green Beast creature token. Put your choice of a vigilance counter, a reach counter, or a trample counter on it.
−2: When you cast your next creature spell this turn, search your library for a creature card with lesser converted mana cost, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library.

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Forest

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.99

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({T}: Add {G}.)

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Crawling Barrens

Market Price: $0.31

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{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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Kazandu Mammoth

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.43

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

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Questing Beast

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $11.77

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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Trail of Crumbs

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.16

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198868_200w.jpg

When Trail of Crumbs enters the battlefield, create a Food token. (It's an artifact with "{2}, {T}, Sacrifice this artifact: You gain 3 life.")
Whenever you sacrifice a Food, you may pay {1}. If you do, look at the top two cards of your library. You may reveal a permanent card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.

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Thrashing Brontodon

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.08

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215915_200w.jpg

{1}, Sacrifice Thrashing Brontodon: Destroy target artifact or enchantment.

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Gilded Goose

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $1.63

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198394_200w.jpg

Flying
When Gilded Goose enters the battlefield, create a Food token. (It's an artifact with "{2}, {T}, Sacrifice this artifact: You gain 3 life.")
{1}{G}, {T}: Create a Food token.
{T}, Sacrifice a Food: Add one mana of any color.

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Castle Garenbrig

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $3.52

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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This is Will Pulliam's list from a recent SCG qualifier, and it's not too far off from most other versions of the deck currently out there. There are a few cards I want to highlight here. Witch's Oven is a must-have in the deck. I think it's debatable whether two or three copies is the correct number, but the card is a great way to generate food and protect your creatures. What do I mean by protecting creatures? Say your opponent tries to exile your Feasting Troll King. You can sacrifice it to Witch's Oven. Another situation that could occur is your opponent trying to steal a creature with The Akroan War, and you are able to sacrifice it in response. There are other times when you just want to sacrifice a Lovestruck Beast to get more food, so the card is extremely versatile, and a key inclusion to the strategy.

Outside of Witch's Oven, most of the cards are 4-ofs, with a couple flex slots mixed in. For the manabase we see a couple of Crawling Barrens, which is definitely a nice land to have access to, so I like the split there with Bonders' Enclave. The other flex slots are the single copy of both Vivien, Monsters' Advocate and Kogla, the Titan Ape. Both of these cards are extremely good, but you do have to watch your mana curve. After sideboard, we have access to more copies of both of these haymakers.

VS Temur Ramp

I'm going to start by talking about our deck in context of its very worst matchup. It is true that the Temur Ramp deck is favored against Mono Green food. Contrary to popular belief, though, it doesn't make things utterly unwinnable. While Food is an underdog, it isn't actually by a huge margin. It will be dependent on the Temur Ramp list, and if the Temur player gets a big advantage off of Genesis Ultimatum.

Every deck in this Standard format has a bad matchup, and that's why it is so much fun. I wouldn't say one bad matchup is a reason not to pick up the deck. After sideboard Questing Beast is going to come in here, as you do want to be the aggressor in the matchup. Sometimes there won't be enough time to grind out a longer game with your Trail of Crumbs engine because of the Temur player's ability to go over the top with Genesis Ultimatum into Terror of the Peaks.

Esper Yorion

I think Mono Green Food has a bad matchup against the Esper decks in theory, but that's not how it plays out. (This is why it's important to play the games and see for yourself, not just assume how a matchup will go!) The Esper deck has about a 40% winrate against Mono Green Food when looking at results from recent tournaments. Trail of Crumbs gives the Food deck a way to grind out longer games, and many of the threats the food deck presents are quite difficult for Esper Yorion to handle.

VS Dimir Control

Dimir Control has recently been surging in popularity, but it does not have a good matchup against Mono Green Food. This is a new deck that makes Mono Green Food look like an even better choice than it already was. Things play out similarly to the Esper matchup, although you don't have to worry about white removal like Elspeth Conquers Death or Skyclave Apparition. The Dimir deck is meant to target other slower decks like Temur Ramp and Esper.

Gruul

Gruul make for a good matchup against Mono Green Food—after all, it's also the original reason players started playing food decks so much in the first place. Mono Green Food has huge creatures, topped by Feasting Troll King, a card that fair creature decks have nearly an impossible time dealing with. Wicked Wolf also really shines in matchups where there are plenty of creatures it can take care of. Gruul can try to fight with The Akroan War, but Thrashing Brontodon or Witch's Oven can capably shut it down.

Dimir Rogues

I won't lie, this can be rather tricky. Part of evaluating the matchup will depend on how the Rogues deck is built. Do they plan to mill you out or take control with Zareth San? Those are two very different gameplans. The early game is often decided by which players gain the tempo advantage. Getting a threat down and being ahead on life is a very big deal. The food deck won't always have time to start activating Trail of Crumbs, as Dimir Rogues has the ability to put on the pressure surprisingly quickly.

Many players assume that this matchup is great for Mono Green Food. They might look at Feasting Troll King and see it as a signature creature that can come into play from the graveyard, alongside a host of really annoying green creatures that hit quite hard.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues with that train of thought. It's actually really tough to bring back a milled Feasting Troll King, because creating three food tokens can be a challenge. Also, the Rogues deck has answers to all your threats, so it's truly a tempo game to see if their answers line up correctly. Overall, I would say it's anyone's game.

The Reason to play Mono Green Food

There is a good argument that its worst matchup, the Temur Ramp deck, is becoming less and less popular. As new decks pop up to target Temur Ramp (like Dimir Control), Mono Green food looks like an even better choice. There are also still plenty of Gruul mages running around to keep Mono Green Food fans happy.

The Reason Not to Play Mono Green Food

At this point, it's pretty clear how good the deck is, as it has already fully established itself as the deck to beat. The Mono Green deck is also a ramp deck in some ways, so it can feel kind of rough when you do draw poorly with it. Sometimes you will draw more than one Feasting Troll King, but can't cast them early, and don't have a Castle Garenbrig.

The deck always wants to have a Gilded Goose to start the game with, as the card fuels the rest of the deck—not to mention it's the best way to get a Trail of Crumbs going. There are also going to be spots where you don't draw a payoff card, though I would say this happens less often than not having the proper ramp elements.

The Truth

Mono Green Food is a strong Standard deck that should be around for quite sometime in the format. It has good and bad matchups, so it won't always be the perfect deck choice. However, you will always have a decent chance to win, even if the opponent has come prepared to beat you. These food cards will see play until they rotate out of the format, as the value you can generate with them is pretty insane. Keep an eye out for this deck this weekend in the Zendikar Rising Championship!