Today is Green Day! Let’s pop in some 90’s tunes and take a look back at some primeval Forests. What really got me into Magic in the early days was the artwork. A number of artists blew me away with their talent, and their style. I had no idea this kind of gorgeous diversity was ever going to be available like this in a card game. I remember the basics vividly. I started in Revised, and there were three of each basic available. Those 15 pieces of artwork were in my face for years, and I love them all. I especially love the Christopher Rush Forests. Mr. Rush has left us, and while that’s sad, I think he got to see first hand the impact his artwork had. He was an event regular, and fan favourite. RIP.
There’s an incredible air of mystery, and hidden things, and potential discovery in these Forests. It extended into the artwork for Safe Haven as well. I think it has a lot to do with these deep, dark trunks of trees, and other substantial shadows with lit edges. They manage to capture the spectrum of darkness-to-light that is the spectrum of life, and Forests. One of the reasons I feel Magic succeeded in those early days was because things like basic Forests were so beautiful and thoughtful. They could have been a green mana symbol on a green field, but instead we got to meet Christopher Rush, and John Avon, and all the others, and get their work into our lives, sometimes at the cost of asking the LGS clerk if we can just take it.
Forests, like all the basics, have come a long way, and spawned some interesting evolutions. Here are the mono-green lands you can use to diversify your ecosystem.
Castle Garenbrig got plenty of attention when it was spoiled, because it seems like the 6Gs it makes turns almost automatically into Primeval Titans in Modern. It just happens. The assumption was quickly ramping from 4 to 6 mana, but this card doesn’t do that. It ramps from 5 to 6, because you have to tap this land also. But that’s still awesome, and gets better when you consider the fact that it makes all green, despite what you put in. This is probably not a Prime Time Titan engine after all, but it can do tons of work in Commander. It’s a sort-of Sol land, and those are big time game. Omnath, Locus of Mana obviously loves this card, but so does Ezuri, Renegade Leader and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, as both have GGG in their activation cost. I find it weird that this cards says ‘six G’ and not GGGGGG. Anybody know why?
Gingerbread Cabin gets a lot of love from the Elf community. Several Elves, including the extremely highly played Wood Elves, go through your deck and grab Forests and put them right onto the battlefield. A few spells prefer to fetch Forests, too, and don’t care if they’re basic. Skyshroud Claim is the best at this. In mono-green, why not grab some utility with your Forest? Since Forests are so extremely fetchable, the Cabin has some play in multi-colour decks as well. You might wonder if it’s worth it to bother with a Food token, considering there are so few payoffs. A Food token is an artifact, a lifegain trigger, 3 life, a sacrifice, and something that taps. All of these characteristics can affect other cards and might be useful to you. This Food token is free with your Forest. How often do people turn down free Food?
The Green Giants
I’ve been covering the utility lands in other colours, and have mentioned that some things are ‘expensive.’ Expensive is relative. Nothing I’ve looked at so far is much over $100, even in foil. Gaea’s Cradle is way more than that, and on the Reserved List. Which is crazy considering how often I see it played. I do know why, though. Outside of Elfball decks in Legacy, Commander is just about the only place to play this absurdly powerful card. Copies of this will run $400 or more. The Judge Foil is over $1000. Even the non-legal 1999 World Championship promo card with the different backing will set you back close to $100. This lives up to that price tag easily. The only drawback is that it doesn’t produce any mana on an empty board.
In a vacuum, Gaea’s Cradle is probably too powerful for a format like Commander. But we don’t play in a vacuum. There are plenty of more efficient ways to make gobs of green mana, and we even have Growing Rites of Itlimoc that turns into the above land Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun, that’s actually better, since it can tap for G with no creatures around. Gaea’s Cradle seems to be a pet card of a lot of old-school players who have one (or more) and would rather play with them than part with them or shove them in a safe. Magic needs a home for cards like that. The price, plus the danger of damaging such a valuable card, plus newer cheaper options, will make Gaea’s Cradle what it needs to be in Commander: a fun powerful relic that doesn’t oppress too much. That being said, I feel like this is not something that’s cool to proxy outside of the kitchen table. You have to pay to play with this kind of power.
Dryad Arbour can be very confusing. Does this help?
No, because this is what the first printing looked like. If you opened a pack with one of these in it, what were you supposed to think? Granted the internet was around in those days, and there was enough sanctioned play that you could probably find a judge, even if you needed to go two towns over. But wow. What is this card? If you look up the price, you can see it isn’t much under $20. For an uncommon. What does it do exactly? Maybe the best way to think of it is like a Mishra’s Factory where creature mode is activated all the time. Maybe the other best way to think of it is to look at the specific interactions that come up regularly. This post is a great breakdown of those interactions. This card is played all over the Magic continuum, and if you can leverage one of the ways it ‘works’ it might be worth a pickup. If you’re looking to just casually toss it in a deck, it’ll probably be fine, but brush up on it beforehand, just so you don’t get caught by surprise with something you can or can’t do. Many boardwipes will kill it, but some only kill non-land creatures. Dryad Arbor is weird on purpose from one of the weird-on-purpose sets. We just have to accept it.
The Green Lights
It’s too bad Yavimaya Hollow is on the Reserved List, as this is a really cool piece of Commander tech that won’t break any games. Regeneration is one of the Alpha abilities from 1993 that was top-down design that never really got developed properly. The intent was a creature that ‘grew back’ from being ‘killed.’ You had to pay mana to do it, usually, which meant (pre)stack interaction. There were timing issues of course, because by the time something’s lethal, responding to it is troublesome, especially if the ability negates the lethality. Regenerating in advance is what we do now, preventing future destruction. A good rules breakdown is here. The new ruling kind of screws up the thematic sense of Regeneration that Garfield was going for, but it makes the rule playable. I’m glad it never got to be like Undying/Persist, where the creature goes to the graveyard and comes back, because there might have been a very bad mistake with that in those days. Did you know that Regenerating taps the creature? And removes it from combat? Top down design. It’s still an awesome ability, and something they can’t help doing every now and then. Having it on a land that also produces mana and comes in untapped is fantastic. Prices are closing in on $40, with foils costing multiple hundreds. Look in the damage binder for these, and hope for the best.
Wirewood Lodge has a specific creature type on it and only produces colourless, but breaks free of the ‘niche’ category because the creature type in question is Elf. Literally dozens of Elves are Commanders, and almost all are green. Ayara, First of Lochthwain is a recent non-green Elf, but the overwhelming majority is and has been able to run this card. Can you untap your Commander for profit? With an activated ability like Marwyn the Nurturer, or an on-tap ability like Emmara, Soul of the Accord, or even a combat-friendly type like Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen, having an untap outlet is obvious game. Obviously you don’t have to use this with your Commander. You can use one of the hundreds of utility Elves across Magic’s history instead. Luckily, this has been printed a few times, and you can probably escape with a copy for under $10, or even closer to 5. The Onslaught printing is the only foil, and is about $25-30.
Is Blighted Woodland really Explosive Vegetation stapled to a land? Is that anywhere close to on theme? I guess the land makes a drastic comeback. But yeah, this is a real card, and any deck that considered Explosive Vegetation should consider this. I dismissed this the first few times I saw it, but this is a legit staple. Coming into play untapped and providing mana in addition to casting a signature Commander spell should keep this in precons for years to come. Non-foils are cheap and plentiful. Foils are closer to $5 and while this is easy to print in precons, the theme of it might be a long time in coming again. Those foils might climb and keep climbing.
It’s amazing how good the Sultai (black/blue/green) cards in the Blighted and Memorial cycles are. Blighted Woodland is the best of the Blighted, and Memorial to Unity might just be the best Memorial. Green is a weird colour for card draw. In Commander it might be the best one, because of access to old cards like Sylvan Library, and leveraging how Commander scales with cards like Rishkar’s Expertise and Greater Good. Memorial to Unity is sort of like card draw. You might whiff, but you’re green, so chances are you’ve got creatures. You also have access to most of the cards that return lands from the graveyard, so the sacrifice aspect of this card can be part of some value engine. Memorial to Unity is one of those cards you do just ‘toss in a deck’ because it’ll probably be good at some point, and almost never bad. Foils and non-foils are cheap.
Oh dear, how high class are we now? Pendelhaven comes from the early days of Magic, before flavour text was flavourless Jace tweets, and has a Longfellow quote on it. Amazing. That’s a turn-this-card-around-and-push-it-to-my-opponents-so-they-can-read-it moment. Longfellow. Wow. Why doesn’t Wizards still do that? If anyone wants me to look into the classy flavour text from early Magic, that might be fun. In the meantime, Pendelhaven is a card, too. Functionally, it’s pretty obvious. Can you find reasons to slightly inflate your dorks? Sure. Combat! Removal! Fighting! a 1/1 Commander! It’s so easy, and Pendelhaven is a slam dunk for green decks with 1/1s, since it hardly even costs you a Forest slot to play. Pendelhaven has lots of printings, including several foil options. You can get a non foil for about $3-5, as it was in Masters 25, and the foil from that set will be in the $8-10 range, hopefully. The classic Legends printing is the most expensive non foil, at around $20. The Time spiral foil is about $30+. The FNM promo, which is foil but changed the art to something I feel doesn’t capture what the original did, is around $10.
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood (spoiler alert, it gets Ruined), loves when you make dorks. This card can be a massive power swing, and some decks can turn this sideways for some eye-popping moves. I use this in my Hapatra deck, which makes lots and lots of 1/1 deathtouch Sneks. I also put -1/-1 counters on things for value. Sometimes the two meet, and I put those counters on my Sneks. Amazing when they can either survive a round of counters, or take a second round for more triggers. I’ve had plenty of turns where I dropped 40 or more Sneks into play. Doubling their power by tapping one land is just amazing. It turns a borderline alpha strike into a serious one. There’s such a low downside for this card, that I recommend putting it in any green deck. Many decks will get amazing synergy, but most will just get an extremely useful little ability that scales so very well. This seems to be solid in the $2-3 range, with several printings. It has been in Commander precons and may again. Foils only come from Zendikar, and are probably not less than $10 these days.
Of all the Hideaway cycle, Mosswort Bridge probably has the easiest condition to play the free card. 10 power? Total? In a green deck? Can I just get that incidentally by playing the creatures I would play normally? Yup. This is easy. Is there a downside? Well, I’ve seen this card be a land destruction target, because nothing else presented any kind of immediate threat, and everybody could see how easy this is to pull off. What’s under there? Rampant Growth or Emrakul, the Promised End? If you’re the green player, it’s easy to show everybody what it was. Since green cards, including the Jund Cat Planeswalker Lord Windgrace, like to recur lands a lot these days, getting multiple triggers out of this is totally possible. The velocity of some of those strategies might leave this a little bit behind, though. Ghalta, Primal Hunger is the obvious ‘best Commander’ to play with this card, since she meets the condition all by herself. A powerhouse. Copies are cheap and have lots of printings, but the foil is Lorwyn-only and is over $20 for sure.
Do the Grandfathers play Commander? Do they know that a land that makes G, and comes in untapped, and gives any small buff to your Commander is totally worth playing? I bet they do. Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers isn’t quite as easy to use as Pendelhaven, but helps a different range of creatures do a little more. A number of green-identity Commanders have 6 power, which means a 4 turn Commander damage clock. Making that 7 with a little Temple visit cuts that down by a whole turn. If your Commander is green, you have an easy target for this, and a fun little option that costs your deck next to nothing to play. To buy, however, isn’t that cheap. You can probably get a non-foil for under $5. Foils are more like $20+. This hasn’t been printed since the one time in Champions of Kamigawa, and could easily be in a supplement or Masters set in future.
While Llanowar Reborn only does one thing once, it does it extremely well. The key part of the Graft mechanic that makes it so successful here is the ‘may’ move the counter clause. You can choose which creature gets the bonus, not just the next one, or something like that. Great for keeping a useful effect from being wasted on a Saproling token. Like many of these green lands, the effect is small but versatile, and hardly costs you a slot unless you’re counting Forests. Hard to imagine why not to play this, unless your lands are already all better. This can be blinked to reset the counter, and may keep the counter (and Graft ability) for itself if it gets animated somehow. This has seen a few printings, but copies under a dollar might be scarce. You might pay 2 or more if it isn’t printed again soon. The only foil is from Future Sight, and might be in the $50 range. Yikes. Hopefully we see a reprint in a Masters set.
Just a few entries above this, I mentioned how a Food token is all sorts of different effects and triggers, depending on how you look at it. So is Khalni Garden‘s delightful Plant token dork. Dorks can wear Equipment, chump block, be sacrificed, trigger ETB effects, and so on. If this was a Forest, it would be dangerous. As it is, it’s extremely functional, because it’s pretty much a Forest with a free creature. The better Plant-type gets, the better this is. This counts for a Plant token for Avenger of Zendikar’s purposes, too. Non foils are super cheap, but like many other utility lands, this has a single foil printing. This one is in Worldwake, and might run you $5. The Garden does see some play sometimes in Legacy Lands decks as a hedge against Edict effects. Crop Rotation grabs Khalni Garden at instant speed, and keeps Marit Lage safe without having to sacrifice a land, ala Dryad Arbor. Cool tech.
The Niche Players
Can we officially agree that in Commander, a vanilla 3/3 is not much of a threat? Beast Within makes the strongest case, as most times trading a 3/3 for something nasty is a huge swing. 3/3s get better with evasion, naturally, but even that isn’t enough to make some 3/3s more than a niche creature. Treetop Village, unfortunately, falls into niche. While we have the hallmarks of a great green card, what with the almost Forest thing, the Ape creature runs into too many obstacles. Being a 3/3 on offense means it needs help. Trample is a good start, but again, needs help. Low opportunity cost is mostly about cards that provide help without needing much of their own. While having a 3/3 on an empty board is great, your clock is not, and a topdeck is probably coming for you. On defense, this does trade with more creatures than a 1/1, but not enough to make it that much better. I still like it, and advocate playing it, but there are a lot of options, and this works best for decks that want an extra trampler specifically. It might see little use elsewhere. This has a lot of printings, and the prices are all over the place. The Duel Decks: Elves vs Inventors printing is by far the cheapest, and the various foil options are all quite expensive, with the Gateway promo and 10th edition set foil the cheapest at about $10+.
Sapseep Forest is not a great lifegain engine. What it is, however, is a reliable lifegain trigger. Being a Forest helps this a lot, and it provides yet another minor option that can be leveraged for value in the right deck. This is cheap, and has a couple printings. Foils are under $5.
Centaur Garden casts Giant Growth if the graveyard has some depth to it. That’s not bad at all. I have used this in my Xenagos deck off and on. With Xenagos, this can easily be 6 or more power added to a creature, which is great for a land. If you don’t have a specific application like that, though, the cost of tapping this for mana is less palatable. Decks that easily gain life can ignore that, and decks that want to hurt themselves can embrace it. Solid card, and would be less niche if it didn’t sacrifice itself. Odyssey is the only printing, and the non-foil might be had for about a dollar. The foil might be $3-5 or more.
Hashep Oasis is a lot like Centaur Garden. They’re soul sisters. Hashep is a little more friendly on the self-damage, can pay colourless costs, and can turn any Desert into a Giant Growth. The cost is a lot more though, and with effects like this, that can matter. Sorcery speed is the worst part, as suddenly your ‘Giant Growth’ isn’t a combat trick. I also play this in Xenagos, as I’m trying to stack power precombat, when sorcery speed makes no difference. Hard to say if any other deck specifically wants this, but it’s still an easy include. Cheap in all forms, currently.
While a G maker that comes in untapped and has an extremely user-friendly ability should be high up, Heart of Yavimaya is not. I have a copy of this, and it never makes my decks. Sacrificing a Forest for +1/+1 is tough to justify, unless you’ve got gobs of Forests. In which case, you’re probably tapping them for effects that outweigh +1/+1. This does not qualify as low opportunity cost, sadly. It’s not expensive, despite being a Reserved List card. You can get one under $5.
If I asked, ‘would you pay G at a random point in any Commander game to give a creature +1/+1 until end of turn, would you jump up and down? No? Turntimber Grove lets you do that, and takes up your land drop for the turn. Could be better than a Forest, but the impact is about as low as you can go here. Prices are very low.
Tree of Tales gives artifact-forward green decks another piece of ammo. Surprisingly not so cheap. Copies might be $2, and the Mirrodin set foil is probably around $10. Amazing for a card that’s banned in Modern and Mirrodin block.
For a very long time, this cycle of bandlands was laughable. Then it turned out that banding was never bad, just weird and complicated, and not a player in the powerful older formats where the cards are legal. Well Commander doesn’t hate banding, and plenty of Commanders do combat. Green is the most likely of these, and offers both ramp to offset the lack of mana production of this card, and Captain Sisay, the Legend-tutoring Legendary Commander, making Adventurers’ Guildhouse actually fairly playable. I don’t think this is in any way competitive, but banding has always been underrated, and might give you a surprise edge. This card is also a house of theme value. Anything about questing, adventuring, D&D, etc. can use this. This is slowly climbing, and might not be around $5 for much longer.
Desert of the Indomitable is a fine card draw outlet, and plays very well with green’s ability to recur lands. While the green payoff Desert is a bad Giant Growth, feeding this to it might save you a game or two. Who knows. Cheap all around.
Slippery Karst is the cycle for 2 green land. Want more? Okay, I looked up ‘Karst’ for you. It’s a hilly, rocky area formed by interaction with water, resulting in sediment deposits and underground sinkhole and cave structures. Sounds blue. But I had to look it up to figure that out, so it’s probably fine. This card has never been foil, but it has been printed a lot, and is nice and cheap.
Tranquil Thicket got printed in Modern Horizons alongside Wrenn and Six, and so foils are immediately close to $5 in some places. The set foil from Onslaught is up near $30, too. Because this only costs G to cycle, it’s probably the best of the cyclers, and should always be a choice for green decks.
The Questionable Mana Producers
Fertile Thicket should be good. Anything that filters lands out of your deck for you should be good. But this isn’t that good. I don’t know why you’d want it all, really unless you needed a basic on top of your deck for some reason. It ETBs tapped, you can only choose a basic land, you have to reveal it, the rest goes to the bottom, and the land doesn’t even go to your hand, it goes to the top of the deck. This might be broken if it filtered a land, even a basic, directly to your hand, so maybe it’s fo the best, but this doesn’t get there. Drawing a land next turn might mean you’ve fixed your mana, and it might mean you Timewalked yourself. Very cheap.
Havenwood Battleground, like the rest of the cycle, does a sometimes passable impression of a Sol land. Not terrible if you have a Crucible of Worlds and Amulet of Vigor, but you can probably do better than that with those cards. Still a worthwhile inclusion for all-in and budget decks. No foils have been printed, but there are lots of options for very little.
Hickory Woodlot sounds like it would smell delicious. Depletion counter lands are a tool for proliferators and all-in suicide decks, mostly. As with all the lands here that die for some reason, green is the colour of land recursion. The foil is expensive, but the non is not.
I feel bad for storage lands. Hollow Trees and company were a great idea in theory, like Mana Batteries, but turned out, like Mana Batteries, to be clunky. Even in a format like Commander, where the games go long, long might be ten turns. That means, for max value, you untapped on turn ten with this and a mighty 8 counters. Game winning? Maybe, but unless you play this on turn one and keep it tapped until turn ten, it will be less than 8. Green is a proliferate colour, so you can do that, but green is the colour of abundant mana, too, and this falls well short of many better options. Two ancient printings and no foils and this costs about a dollar. Save it.
I haven’t mentioned it so far, because it’s pretty niche, but some landfall triggers like land types. There aren’t many, but Zendikar is in out near future again, and we might see that make a return. Why do I mention it here? If we get a Commander that wants up to play Forests from hand, Jungle Basin bounces them while ramping a bit. It’s not efficient, but it can do it in mono green. This isn’t great, and there is so much spell-based ramp that taking a turn off to play this might set you further behind than the 2 mana payoff will help. No foils, three printings, all cheap.
Rushwood Grove is a slightly better Hollow Trees. Why? You can tap it multiple times in a turn if you can untap it, and you can use it for other things, like black mana with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, while Hollow Trees is still tapped down. Again, hardly worth playing. Green’s mana is better than these clunkers. Naturally, the foil is over $5. Non-foils should be under a dollar, though.
As with all these lands, I basically can only point to the weird situations where you’ve stolen an opposing permanent and need to pay an activation cost that’s out of your colour identity. Green mana is not just prolific, it’s also the easiest source of rainbow mana. Plenty of green creatures tap for any colour, and green is hardly a theft colour without adding blue, like with Yasova Dragonclaw. Timberland Ruins might be useful someday in doing a post-apocalyptic Zombies-in-a-shopping-mall deck, where all the lands are the wreckage of stores. Not expensive, but only one printing and the foils are probably over a dollar.
At the end of this green mile comes Vivid Grove. Like the rest of the Vivid cycle, it looks good in foil and helps fix your mana. This probably lives mostly in Simic decks that proliferate, but a budget option is a budget option. This has several cheap foils and a cheaper non-foil smorgasbord. Will definitely add some pretty to your deck.
So that’s green. I don’t feel queasy, or envious, or any more need to grab money than usual, so I think everything’s good to wrap up. I’m shocked at how green lands go from solid staples to almost unplayable with not much in between. I hope you found a staple you didn’t know about! Come back tomorrow for Red, and as always, thanks for reading!