What do you get when you cross a scorpion demon, a bloodletting ritual, and a giant wurm? There are many possible answers to this question, but one of them is a black/green Amonkhet draft deck. Archetype breakdowns are often reserved for constructed formats, but in the three or so weeks that the draft meta has been developing online, it has become clear that Amonkhet is one of those golden formats where decks all have their own unique strategy rather than being a pile of the best beef in whatever colors you happen to find yourself in.
That means that in this format more than most, picking apart what archetypes each color combination has to offer can help you find your lane faster the next time you draft. For example, Stir the Sands is a great card, but it’s at its worst when you’re pairing your black with red, so picking Stir early might lead you to avoid that color combination. In each of the other color combinations, the card plays its own unique role: in U/B, it can either enable cycling synergies or act as a win condition for your control deck; in W/B, it triggers your Binding Mummy and Wayward Servant, even at instant speed; in G/B, it’s just a solid, flexible value play, which is one of the things this color combination wants to do.
G/B in Amonkhet comes in two flavors, and even though they share a lot of the same skeleton, their playstyles feel different a large percentage of the time. I think these flavors are best represented by the different things you can do with a single, specific common that both of them want to play- Soulstinger. The ‘Stinger reads a little clunky, and I undervalued it at first glance because it looked like just a 4 mana 2/3 with minor upside, but it’s secretly either a death-trigger Nekrataal at common, or a 4 mana 4/5 at common. Whichever way you’re trying to exploit Soulstinger represents which archetype you’re in.
Flavor #1: -1/-1 Counter Synergies
The first flavor is the -1/-1 counter synergy deck, and this is the one that’s trying to make your Soulstinger a 4/5. This archetype is a bit weird- it kinda feels like you’re switching gears between midrange and combo. All of Amonkhet’s creatures that put -1/-1 counters on things, with one exception in red, are either green or black. On top of that, most of them work by being really big for their mana cost, but forcing you to put some -1/-1 counters on that creature or another one you control. It’s a really nifty mechanic, and the set provides you with a few ways to exploit it.
One thing you can do is put creatures that are really good at taking -1/-1 counters into your deck. The best creatures for this are cheap, so you can curve them into your big dumb -1/-1 counter creatures, and they either have high toughness like Dune Beetle or get you extra value out of dying like Doomed Dissenter. Oketra’s Monument also does the trick really well- as I mentioned when I talked about the Monument a few weeks ago, the token trigger goes on the stack above the -1/-1 counter creature spell, which means you can dump all the counters on the token when the fatty enters the battlefield. When you pair these enablers with your enablees, your deck begins to become greater than the sum of its parts. Defiant Greatmaw is a really mediocre card on its own, but when you curve Doomed Dissenter into it, suddenly you have a 2/2 and a 4/5 on turn 3. That’s what I call doing it.
While you’re drafting -1/-1 counter synergies, you can also go deep on Nest of Scarabs. This really depends on getting enough copies of the enchantment, but you’d be surprised at how quickly and effectively you can assemble a massive army of insect tokens. I once even had Nest of Scarabs, Archfiend and Ifnir, and Merciless Javelineer out at the same time- now that was a beating. Once you’re committed enough to the plan, even jank like Benefaction of Rhonas starts to look like a viable option to find your “combo piece”.
Flavor #2: Grindy Value
You don’t have to go deep on counters at all when you’re in G/B, though. Circling back to the second flavor of the color pair, we have the archetype that sees Soulstinger as a grindy, 2-for-1ing roadblock that you can plop onto the board to slow down the game. This archetype is all about value, and the chemistry in this set is just right to make that value happen.
Amonkhet is an aggressive format with some really aggressive decks, so you want to make sure your early plays can get you past turn 6. Doomed Dissenter and Dune Beetle? They’re auto-includes here as well. Wasteland Scorpion is a gem in this archetype, too. When it’s effective, it’s super effective, and when it just doesn’t line up against your opponent’s board, you can always cycle it away.
In fact, you’re going to be cycling a lot when you’re value-style G/B- while you’re not playing as many cycling matters cards as your U/B friend across the table, you’re very interested in cards like Greater Sandwurm, Unburden, and Wander in Death, all of which you’re supposed to aggressively cycle if you draw them too early. Greater Sandwurm is a great finisher for this deck at common, as G/B is one of the decks that’s most likely to get to 7 mana to cast it, and the evasion ability makes it very difficult for smaller decks to chump block.
It’s even got great synergy with Wander in Death– you can cycle your ‘Wurm on turn 2 to grab a land or whatever else you need, and when you start to wish you had a 7 mana 7/7 in your hand, you get to Wander in Death back both the Wurm and also maybe a Soulstinger that died for extra value. For this reason, it is incredibly important that all of your G/B value decks have at least one copy of Wander in Death.
Cartouche and Trial synergies are also very effective here. Not only are the effects on each of the green and black ones very strong, but a grindy deck is most likely to get value out of something like Trial of Ambition. Fill out your curve with solid beaters and more 2-for-1s, and you’ve got a solid shot at 3-0ing your pod.
Next time you’re drafting Amonkhet and you find yourself leaning green-black, I hope you take a second and think about what that Soulstinger in your pool is going to represent. When you do, you’ll be able to focus your gameplan and make better picks.
Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/spellsnare_
Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/spellsnare