Welcome to part three of my five-part article on the breakdown of popular cards and strategies you may find in your EDH metagame. Today, we’ll be going over red and green, arguably the least and most popular colors in the format, respectively. Whether you’ve just been punched in the gut by an Insurrection or Craterhoof Behemoth, it hurts, but it’s merely a flesh wound. A flesh wound of about 80 points of damage, but…a flesh wound, nothing more.
THE RED META
Swing, batter, batter, swing!
Red – the underdog of EDH, if only because aggro strageties (for some reason) are frowned upon in multiplayer EDH. Red is often looked at as the weakest color because of its lack of the most powerful effects in the format – tutoring, card draw and enchantment removal. Instead, red actually has some overlooked effects that, in some games, can be more efficient than the glitz and glamour most EDH players are accustomed to. Sure, you can draw your deck, get a million mana, and play some big bomb, but what happens when you get attacked for 24 points of damage?
It’s very unlikely a solidified red meta exists out there (though it’s not entirely impossible), but the color without a doubt has effects that are extremely powerful inside a mono-red shell or, more commonly, in a deck that uses red as a supplementary color. Red plays all three major archetypes – control, combo and aggro – extremely efficiently with the wealth of effects the color has at its disposal.
CARDS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Perhaps one of the most innocuous cards in red, Anger does two very powerful things for any deck looking to turn sideways – it is a creature that opponents will never want to Wrath out because it has value whether it’s alive or not (which is an underrated political weapon in EDH, one I feel more players should use), and it applies pressure to life totals while dead by making your opponents play around what could be in your hand. What more can an aggressive deck want? If Anger is a problem, the most tide and true way to deal with it is graveyard hate (Relic of Progenitus, Scavenging Ooze, Necrogenesis). The haste effect that Anger provides can be outdone by “freezing” effects (Blind Obedience, Frozen Aether, Urabrask the Hidden); alternatively, you can opt to cut Anger’s controller off Mountains (Wake of Destruction, Armageddon, Decree of Annihilation).
If it’s one thing red cards are really good at, it’s dealing damage. Whether it’s combat damage, spell damage, or ability damage, red can put out absurd combat phases or Fireballs. With so many variants, however, it’s difficult to really give a general idea of how to counterplay the diverse amounts you will face. The two outlined here are the creature-based damage spells that will almost always aim their abilities at creatures. To counterplay Flameblast Dragon and Hateflayer, shroud and hexproof are your go-to mechanics (Lightning Greaves, Asceticism, Privileged Position). Protection or prevention effects work wonders as well (Akroma’s Memorial, Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant, Mark of Asylum), but another way to prevent their damage is to prevent them from attacking outright (War Tax, Ensnaring Bridge, Peacekeeper).
One of red’s not-so-subtle abilities is to play with its toys, the artifacts that inevitably supplement a red-heavy deck who isn’t as concerned with turning its dudes sideways. Goblin Welder is at the helm of these shells, and this little bugger can be much more of a problem than most give him credit for. Granted, with Sundering Titan a thing of the past, he’s lost his childhood friend to play with, but he still has Wurmcoil Engine to party with, and sometimes Myr Battlesphere will join the party, too. Despite his power, he’s actually very easily dealt with. Notably, graveyard hate is powerful against him (Bojuka Bog, Rest in Peace, Loaming Shaman), and non-resource-intensive damage is the best way to kill him (Staff of Nin, Warstorm Surge, Pestilence). Versatile sweepers are powerful here as well (Austere Command, Merciless Eviction, Akroma’s Vengeance).
Everyone’s favorite not-so-subtle combo, now viable in mono-red thanks to Zealous Conscripts, these two normally just spit out infinite copies of something to smash face with. It’s dull, it’s boring, but unlike a lot of combos, it’s not in the least bit interactive. “Freeze” effects actually stop it the best (Kismet, Loxodon Gatekeeper, Blind Obedience), but negating the effects of creatures works just as well (Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Damping Matrix, Phyrexian Revoker). Alternatively, pillowforting works just as well because the creatures it infinitely creates have to – for the most part – attack (Ghostly Prison, Propaganda, Blazing Archon). If you want an incredibly cute way to beat the combo, Rakdos Charm will make them cry.
I’m going to take this opportunity to point out the obvious – play basic lands. Every time you play 8/8 nonbasics on turn 8, you are literally asking the mono-red player (hi, Alex!) to slam one of these down in the most triumphant fashion possible. Land hate is a douchey move, but honestly, if you get completely blown out by it, it’s your own fault. The counterplay to this is to play basic lands (Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, Forest) so that these cards hurt you less and less. I understand if fixing is an important thing for you (black/white players will lean on fixing more than anyone else), but if you’re playing green and you’re running 5 or less basics, unless you have a damn good reason, you’re doing it wrong. Every time you lose your lands to a Ruination, a puppy dies. Think of the puppies. Think of how much harassment and bad commercials from PETA you save yourself by playing basics. Use your brain and think, God damn it!
I could write novels about how much I love this effect.
But I could…
Aggressive decks in red do what few other colors do – beat you in the face with your own creatures. Have you ever stolen someone’s Planeswalker and ultimated them with it? Have you ever dealt someone 21 general damage with a general that isn’t yours? For players looking for spicy ways to smash face, look no further – this is the effect you always want. It makes for the best stories, it’s the nail in the coffin, it’s the political jackhammer – okay, okay, I said I wouldn’t write that novel. If you want to beat this effect (and please don’t, if only because I asked nicely), the unquestionably best option is to take back what’s yours (Homeward Path, Brand, Gruul Charm), but you can always opt to make your creatures not targetable (Swiftfoot Boots, Simic Charm, Spiritual Asylum). However, one way to be political with these effects is to give your opponent a good target to take, but prevent your opponent from attacking you by pillowforting (Elephant Grass, Koskun Falls, Sphere of Safety).
Much like the variants designed mostly to deal with creatures, the other Fireball variants will mostly be designed to deal damage to your face. Lots of damage. One could even say…Tons of Damage. The best way to prevent yourself from taking 80 million damage to the face from these is to give yourself hexproof (Witchbane Orb, Leyline of Sanctity, True Believer). The ultimate counter to these effects is actually to make them damage their controller by changing the targets of it (Redirect, Shunt, Commandeer). However, if the damage is as lethal to them as it is to you, copying the spell and making sure your copy resolves first is also an effective way to counter them (Wild Ricochet, Reiterate, Twincast).
GENERALS TO WATCH OUT FOR
“What do you mean its effect isn’t general damage?” – Jeremy Richard
Hehdit…Hedebt…Heedit…hedonism. I don’t even know. I’m pretty sure it’s “he-debt-soo-goo”, but I could be wrong. Freakin’ Kaimgawa, man.
He’s durdley. He likes having an uneven life total. He makes sure you don’t. He likes the word “double” a whole lot.
How do I stop Hidetsugu?
Because you don’t want to waste your Chaos Warp on this, but you might just need to waste your Chaos Warp on this.
A new contender has sprung up with the deck lately so I have fresh, ample experience to draw from. In my experience, the best methods are:
-Cut them off haste. This will be the common counter-theme for red. Hidetsugu is extremely scary with haste, but it needs to go around the table without it, and it has enough threat density that most competent players will at least prepare for the storm if they can’t stop it.
-Keep an uneven life total. It’s perhaps the most unique way to counter a deck, but because Hidetsugu rounds down, if you have an uneven life total, it can’t kill you. Painlands do work in this matchup, believe it or not.
-Keep them at an even life total. It’s that simple, they can’t win the game if their general kills them.
-Tuck Hidetsugu. Disrupting the strategy is key, but red, like white and blue, lack tutors, and Hidetsugu lists typically lean on their general (though it theoretically could do fine without him after one use of the effect).
-Artifact and enchantment hate is at a premium. Whether it be Lightning Greaves or Furnace of Rath, this deck can make its move in the blink of an eye, but luckily can be interacted with all the same. Whether they plop their combo down over the span of a few turns, or all at once, always be aware of what the Hidetsugu player is capable of if they keep their key pieces of the combo, and be prepared to interact accordingly.
Yo, dawg, I heard you like goblins, so we’ll give you goblins for your goblins so you can goblins with your goblins!
Krenko is like that obnoxious rich kid you went to high school with. No matter how much of a douche he is, everyone loves him because he has money, so naturally everyone hangs around him. And everyone does what he tells them to do, because they think he’ll sneeze out a $5 bill and by the grace of God it will waft slowly into their hands while an angelic chorus sings behind them.
How do I stop Krenko?
-Insert Nicki Minaj lyrics here- (I didn’t because I’m a nice guy and I value your brain matter. You can thank me later.)
Like Hidetsugu, I have experience against Krenko lists here and there. (Don’t ask me why I have experience with multiple mono-red generals – maybe this is all a horrible nightmare and I’ll wake up, it’ll all be over, and I can go back to playing Consecrated Sphinx again. Or maybe that’s the real nightmare, and this is its salvation! I just don’t know anymore!)
-Keep them off haste. This is more of a one-two punch of counter-mechanics tied in with the next point, but Krenko can be modestly described as “slow as balls” without a haste enabler.
-Disrupt Krenko. Unlike Hidetsugu, being a Goblin grants Krenko the immunity from red’s argument of lack of tutors; however, tucking it is still effective as smart permission players will just counter the Goblin Matron. This deck is incredibly general-dependent, but resilient in its ability to continuously apply pressure. Krenko will be worth the cost at 4 just as much as he will be at 16 – make sure to keep him down.
-Sweepers are at a premium. If a tapped Krenko untaps, you are in for some major hurt. Don’t let it happen. Cast that Wrath of God.
-Prevent them from attacking you. One of red’s biggest problems as a color is there are more Ghostly Prisons than Chaos Warps. If you do the math, goblins get sad. Laugh at the goblins for their ineptitude. Silly goblins. Ha ha ha.
-Artifact and enchantment hate is at a premium. Yes, a lot of Goblins attacking at once is really scary, but a lot of 1/1 Goblins attacking at once? A lot less scary, for sure.
Because Infect’s best in mono-red, am I right or am I right?
How do I stop Godo? Godo is actually quite a vulnerable deck when you get down to the nitty-grittys. He’s 6 mana, the first problem, has a relatively unimpressive body for combat, and gets incredibly difficult to work with when you have to pay 12 mana to cast him.
-Prevent them from attacking you. Ghostly Prison is even more effective when they have to pay two mana to attack you twice.
-Disrupt Godo. While tucking him is at a premium here, even killing him is just fine. Like I said before, despite being a powerful ETB, he has a frail body for lategame, he’s mana-intensive, and he’s slow without significant setup.
-Artifact hate is at a premium. Most Godo shells will forego Fervor or Urabrask the Hidden in favor of Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots. Bonus points to instant-speed artifact hate – if Godo suits up the Exoskeleton and goes in for the kill, removing Exoskeleton from the equation will remove Godo regardless of Darksteel Plate or whatever else prevents him from death. (Except for Nim Deathmantle – but you’d probably want to kill that anyway.)
-Keep them off haste. This is a trickier point to make if only because Godo can give himself haste just by entering the battlefield and tutoring Lightning Greaves, so making sure to keep instant-speed artifact removal handy is always really helpful. However, if you’re hard-pressed to do that, freeze effects like the ever-potent Blind Obedience will help keep Godo honest.
SUMMARY OF THE RED META
Red is, for the most part, aggressive, through and through. Be on your toes against generals that have explosive turns, and don’t let yourself be caught off-guard; more than any other color, the red player will take your moment of tapped-out weakness and run with it. Keep up mana, save your reactive answers, and be sure to keep them off the fuel they need to keep their assault going.
THE GREEN META
For when your durdles just aren’t getting you there, put them on the Craterhoof Workout Plan! If you join now, we’ll throw in a free Avenger of Zendikar!
Green – the color that takes to ramping to another level. They ramp themselves silly until they have enough mana to throw into Kamahl, Fist of Krosa to send its 1/1 Saprolings at you for titanic levels of damage. Has a speedy early game in getting itself the mana it needs, a shaky midgame (the cards have to be there), and a frightening lategame. Even three creatures unchecked could mean death to a Triumph of the Hordes.
CARDS TO WATCH OUT FOR
A general post for the “utility 187′s”. Generally a powerful effect in the right meta, the ability to flexibly destroy permanents in green is not to be overlooked. Pairing any of these with Deadeye Navigator is very unfun times for your opponents. Stop them by making your permanents hexproof (Fountain Watch, Leonin Abunas, Sterling Grove) or have “save buttons” for the right permanents (Boros Charm, Faith’s Reward, Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer). If you want the ultimate way to stop these effect, though, look no further than Torpor Orb!
Another general post for the token generators green has; if green has access to multiple creatures, just expect an Overrun effect coming your way. The best way to deal with it is to bait them or play political with instant-speed sweepers (Ratchet Bomb, Engineered Explosives, Consume the Meek), though sorcery-speed sweepers work well just the same (Blasphemous Act, Chain Reaction, Phyrexian Rebirth). If all else fails, pillowfort up and be political about it so the token player won’t attack you (Ghostly Prison, Propaganda, Sphere of Safety). Remember, they’re the aggro player – as long as they’re not killing you, for the most part you should let them do what they want.
This is a common theme with green – it tends to repeat the effects it loves doing over and over and over again. This, however, is perhaps green’s most ubiquitous win condition – making all of its tiny dorks powerhouse beaters. Pillowforting is the most political and most powerful way to beat this effect (Ghostly Prison, Blazing Archon, Stormtide Leviathan), but using a Fog effect works just as well (Angus Mackenzie, Moment’s Peace, Spike Weaver). Static lifegain is a big deterrent to green’s “big combat step” cards, as they’ll usually want to kill someone with these effects (Venser’s Journal, Soul Warden, Exquisite Blood). Even if you’re the player this effect’s controller wants to kill, they first have to get you within range, which will often make them over commit to the board and thus be an easy target for sweepers.
Green has the tendency to get a whole whackload of mana seemingly out of nowhere. Cards like this help them out – usually there’s a curve to how these effects happen and on turn 4 you can find yourself staring down 8 or more mana and a huge fattie threatening your life total. If you have a problem with ramp strategies, the number one counterplay strategy is library lockout (Aven Mindcensor, Stranglehold, Shadow of Doubt). Punishing the number of lands that player plays is also effective (Tunnel Ignus, Zo-Zu the Punisher, Ankh of Mishra), but if all else fails, mass LD isn’t the worst counter to the strategy (Jokulhaups, Obliterate, Destructive Force).
GENERALS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Hobbies include gardening, turn 3 entwined Tooth and Nails, and having Eldrazi for pets.
Remember when Emrakul was legal?
Azusa can be best described as the “tryhard monogreen general”. She has one of green’s absolute best effects tacked on her – twice – and if left unchecked can crank out some serious business very quickly.
How do I stop Azusa? It’s difficult, not gonna lie. It’s douchey, not gonna lie. But if your meta has that guy in it, well, you have to deal with it to keep the board state honest, right?
-Disrupt Azusa. She’s a 1/2 without hexproof. This shouldn’t be rocket science, people. If you’ve played against an Azusa deck, you should be well aware of what disgusting shenanigans this is capable of. Tucking is effective here, despite green’s wealth of creature-based tutors (rather Azusa than Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre).
-Spot removal is key. You do not want those fatties in your face. Ready your Swords to Plowshares.
-Be political. This is key with the green players – they often waste their 187′s when they don’t need to, and attack for no reason. Make sure to negotiate if you’re not the priority target of the table.
-Disruptive utility creatures are great in this matchup. Mistmeadow Witch is just stellar at walling Eldrazi all day. Azorius Guildmage applies similar effect but can also stall Kamahl, Fist of Krosa extremely well. Dark Impostor can eat this deck alive if it has the mana to do so.
Mana. In and around my mouth. Mmm, mana.
Everyone’s favorite monogreen general. Flexible enough in its strategy, but often executed poorly. I personally will never understand why people lean on big mana things over just getting it in for 21, but I digress.
How do I stop Omnath? Omnath is one of the more vulnerable strategies in mono-green, so I’ll walk you through the obvious steps to take if you want to beat it.
-Stop them from attacking you. While pillowforting isn’t effective here because they’ll always have the mana to attack through Ghostly Prison, what is effective is putting up a different type of hurdle. Say, No Mercy or anything with deathtouch. The deck will never risk Omnath’s death in combat, but will happily get its kicks swinging somewhere else.
-Be political. If you’re not the hurdle for the Omnath deck, but your bad matchup sitting to your right is Omnath’s hurdle, break it down and let Omnath go to town. They’re an extremely valuable ally to have, given that when backed up, Omnath is incredibly difficult to answer. You can’t sweep an Omnath when your sweepers get countered, can you?
-Repeatable disruption is fantastic in this matchup. Aforementioned utility dorks like Mistmeadow Witch just wreck Omnath’s face. Green is not very adept at battling creature-based strategies (though it’s gotten a few tools here and there lately), so take advantage of that if decks like Omnath present a problem.
-Noncreature permanent hate is at a premium. Whether it’s Lightning Greaves, Asceticism or Gaea’s Cradle, this deck has its share of key annoyances that prevent you from disrupting Omnath. Blow them up!
Move over, Rofellos! Your days of tyranny are over! It’s time for Kamahl the Yavimaya Hollow to take over as the best Elf lord in EDH!
Oh, Ezuri. The face of the old green meta, the legends of 30+ Genesis Waves in my face. Those were dark days indeed.
I have altogether too much experience playing against this guy. 5 activations in one turn. A Nissa Revane ultimate. You name it, I’ve seen it splattered shamelessly across a board state.
How do I stop Ezuri? Like Omnath, Ezuri needs key pieces of its deck to go in its favor to function properly.
-Disrupt Ezuri himself. Ezuri’s combat steps are far less impressive when Ezuri himself is not a part of the equation. Tucking him is effective, but if you can constantly keep him down, Ezuri will be hard-pressed to pressure anyone.
-Sweepers are at a premium. Especially sweepers that prevent regeneration. Wrath of God has never been better than it is here.
-LD is powerful in this matchup. Gaea’s Cradle and Yavimaya Hollow are both incredibly powerful at making sure this deck clings to its advantages like a bad habit. If it’s not Acidic Slime that will kill them, make it a Tectonic Edge.
-Be political. “HEY ELF GUY BLUE GUY DRAW CARDS U KILL BLUE GUY FOR US K? TY ELF GUY“
SUMMARY OF THE GREEN META
Politics are key here. The green player is like a kid who got his new superhero action figure. When he’s done beating up Loki (Loki being the metaphorical translation of that one guy), break its arms off and then tell him he won’t amount to anything. Then tell him playing for ante is intolerable and for third-graders anyway and destroy him callously.
Well, I hope you enjoyed part three of five of my breakdown of the various metagames you may find at your local EDH playgroup. Next week, I’ll go over mulicolor cards and generals, which is where some of Magic’s most powerful effects lie. Until then!