Why Green is Underrated in cEDH
Green doesn’t get a lot of respect from what I can tell in Twitter cEDH discourse. People seem to like Commanders like Tivit, Tymna/Kraum, Rograkh/Silas – those are three of the top 4 most played Commanders in tournaments, and while the fifth, Najeela, does play green, it’s a five-color deck, so it’s not exactly the point. I think Tymna/Kraum is presented as getting all the good cEDH cards, and that’s not really how it seems to me.
The biggest reason I like green is highlighted by what I think Tymna/Kraum is missing, and that’s resilience. The strength of Tymna/Kraum is that you can win quickly, and when you aren’t trying to win, you can build card advantage reliably. The idea is that this structure allows you to play “the right way” in any pod: wait until the right time to go off, then win. You can go fast if you need to because the pod is light on interaction or someone else tries to go too fast and fails, but you can also play a long game if that’s what the game calls for.
This is a solid approach that works well, especially for players who correctly understand how to choose their spots. Often, I see people try to go for a win at the wrong time, get stopped, and then almost completely give up, not just because they get stopped, but because their deck no longer has the tools to win.
In a green deck, I can test the waters, someone can stop an attempt to win, and I can shrug it off and try again later.
If you play Tymna/Kraum perfectly, that doesn’t matter, right? You don’t need to be able to try to win twice if you have the patience to only try when it’s going to work. Maybe, but I don’t think that’s quite how things play out. Sometimes it doesn’t look like you have time to wait, and sometimes something unexpected happens.
More importantly, there are other costs to having relatively few real ways to end a game. Sometimes someone targets you with Praetor’s Grasp, or, as I very often see, sometimes your only way to stop a win is to use Tainted Pact or Demonic Consultation to get a card that will save you, but then all your ways to win get exiled.
I hate to have to be precious with my cards. I don’t like the feeling that if I use something that I have a plan for, I might never be able to do that thing again.
With green, you get recursion. Eternal Witness, Endurance, Finale of Devastation, Noxious Revival, Regrowth, Colossal Skyturtle, or lots of other cards offer a way to get cards back from your graveyard. That’s important to me.
Outside of recursion, green is also resilient because its attempts to win are very low exposure. Exposure is a measure of just how hurt you are when something you do fails. For example, Thassa’s Oracle is high exposure–if the trigger gets Sifled after you exile your library, you lose. If your deck only has one real way to win the game, whatever that is is pretty high exposure.
In green, it’s easy to play a large number of different, nonoverlapping two-card combos that make infinite mana, for example. These are typically easily disrupted because usually they involve one or more creatures, but while the combo is vulnerable, you the player aren’t because your attempt to win was low exposure.
Another great thing about green’s infinite combos is that they usually involve combining two cards that are each independently functional cards that you can cast, they just do something even better when you have two of them. I hate drawing half a combo that I can’t do anything with until I find the other half or a card that I can only use at the end of a game like Final Fortune or Underworld Breach because it feels like I have to play most of the game down a card. In green it feels a lot easier to just use my cards.
Outside of that, I think Green has the most good tutors. This is a little subjective – it depends on which cards you like and what you’re trying to find. Personally, the only black tutors I like to play are Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor, but I know that Wishclaw Talisman, Imperial Seal, and others are both fairly popular even if I don’t like them. In green, I like Finale of Devastation, Chord of Calling, Invasion of Ikoria, Crop Rotation, and sometimes Green Sun’s Zenith, Summoner’s Pact, Worldly Tutor, Eldritch Evolution, Neoform (Blue/Green, but I’m probably playing Blue), Survival of the Fittest, and Sylvan Scrying. Green can only really search for lands and creatures, but it can also do most of what you need to do with creatures, so I don’t mind that.
The other advantage of green might be the biggest, which is the mana advantage it offers. This is headlined by Gaea’s Cradle. Mana creatures are nice. Birds of Paradise and Delighted Halfling especially, but Gaea’s Cradle is incomparable. It’s a low-cost, resilient massive mana boost that can also function as a combo piece. Cradle is the best green card by a wide margin.
Bloom Tender is another great mana creature, as is Devoted Druid, especially given the existence of the underrated Machine God’s Effigy, which is a great card by itself, unlike other cards that combo with Devoted Druid and also a clean infinite mana combo.
There are a few other kinds of cards that can give green a nice mana advantage, like Carpet of Flowers or Tireless Provisioner, or even cards that let you play more lands. Most of these are somewhat deck-dependent but can be pretty good.
Finally, I appreciate Green’s answers to artifacts and enchantments. Haywire Mite in particular deserves special mention since creature tutors can find it and it exiles, which means it’s an easy answer to The One Ring. Boseiju, Who Endures is another huge card here because there’s such a low opportunity cost to playing it, and Force of Vigor is a high-impact free card. I don’t personally play Manglehorn much, but combining removal with a decent stax piece that preemptively stops Dockside combos is pretty good.
Almost all of my decks personally are green, and I’m always hesitant to build a deck without it. For me, the reliable access to both my library and graveyard gives me a sense of always having access to my whole deck as a unit–there’s just a different feeling I get when I’m playing green, like a wholistic serenity that conveys a feeling of inevitability and sense of security. That feels like absolute nonsense when I write it, but when I just think about green decks, those are the feelings that come to mind, and incidentally, I appreciate that the design of the color of the whole of Magic’s history leads to me personally feeling that way about playing with the color because it seems appropriate.
With that said, let’s look at a list of what I consider the essential green cards:
1. Gaea’s Cradle
2. Boseiju, Who Endures
Much lower impact, but a real boon to every green deck.
3. Finale of Devastation
Cheap and flexible enough to be a great way to do whatever you want to do.
4. Chord of Calling
Convoke and Instant speed are both great here.
5. Delighted Halfing
With The One Ring as a great card to make uncounterable and Orcish Bowmasters punishing one toughness creatures, Delighted Halfling becomes the best mana creature for most decks.
6. Eternal Witness
Green can’t search your library for any card, but it can get any card from your graveyard, so in the late game, Eternal Witness effectively becomes a tutor, and as a creature, there are a lot of ways to reuse its effect.
7. Crop Rotation
Technically, it’s legal to find cards other than Gaea’s Cradle with this. That’s important to keep in mind if you already control Gaea’s Cradle, or sometimes if you have The One Ring. In either case, you’re probably looking for Minamo, School at Water’s Edge.
8. Veil of Summer
I don’t know what I need to say about this one.
I tried to mostly focus on the broadest aspects of green that most decks can take advantage of. There are a lot of other unique and powerful single cards in green that are great in certain kinds of decks. Strong hate cards like Collector Ouphe, strong synergy cards like Quirion Ranger, and niche combo cards like Food Chain.
To me, even when the game is about combos, the stack, and any other essentials of the cEDH experience, green is the color I value having access to the most after Blue.