When we have a discussion on whether to call a deck "Green Dragons" or "Four-Color Dragons," it is clear that we have an interesting brew on our hands. In the last week or so, Joel Larsson has been tearing up the Magic Online leagues with Shaman of Forgotten Ways and Dragonlord Ojutai, and he is putting the concoction to the test at Grand Prix Manchester this weekend.
Joel Larsson, currently ranked 11th in the Top 25, is a 24-year-old Swedish professional Magic player who is best known for his win at Pro Tour Magic Origins. Due to his hairstyle and appearance, he received the nickname of "Swedish Kibler" after he played in the finals of Pro Tour Gatecrash in 2013.
This season, he made several deep finishes at Pro Tours and already accumulated 51 pro points as a result. This means that he already locked Platinum level for the next season and that he is close to qualifying for the World Championship this summer. But a few more pro points from this Grand Prix would help cement that invitation.
The ideal draw of this deck presents a turn-four Dragon, cast via Haven of the Spirit Dragon so that it can be recurred it later. Thanks to Krallenhorde Howler and Shaman of Forgotten Ways, plus Oath of Nissa to find them, the deck can ramp into a turn-four Dragonlord Ojutai consistently. With the perfect draw, it is even possible to play Dragonlord Atarka as early as turn four!
"The deck is super sweet," Larsson said. "I love it when a deck knits together in a strange way, with Haven of the Spirit Dragon and Oath of Nissa. But Shaman of Forgotten Ways is arguably the key card in the deck; it is really powerful."
Besides deploying powerful Dragons early, the deck is capable of grinding out opponents with green card advantage creatures and white removal spells. "I had been looking for a proactive deck with Tireless Tracker, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, and Duskwatch Recruiter, because those cards mean that it's impossible for anyone to out-grind you," Larsson told me. "I wanted a shell that does that, with a fair amount of removal and powerful evasion. Against Green-White Tokens and Bant Company, both of you draw a lot of cards and do a lot of things, but it's often a flier that wins the game in the end. The Dragons are perfect finishers."
"I got the deck from Marcus Angelin, a guy from Stockholm whom I know well. I'm not sure how he came up with it, but I believe he had been playing a lot with Green-White Tokens, and although he liked the Sylvan Advocate / Oath of Nissa / Dromoka's Command package, he didn't like Gideon all that much. He replaced planeswalkers with Dragons and arrived at a list that is very close to what I am playing today."
Given that his deck contained four colors, I asked Larsson if he had run into any mana problems at all. "Sometimes you can't cast 2 Dromoka's Command on the same turn, but that's about it," he answered. "With Haven of the Spirit Dragon, Shaman of Forgotten Ways, Evolving Wilds, and Oath of Nissa to find them, casting off-color Dragons is easy. Besides, most of the deck is mono-green."
If four colors is okay, then why not five? I greedily asked him if Dragonlord Silumgar was a consideration. Larsson shook his head: "I don't need more power, and it requires two colored mana that are not produced by Fortified Village or Canopy Vista. I would just run an extra Dragonlord Atarka if I needed more power. Dragonlord Atarka is really good right now."
Positioning, Matchups, and Sideboarding
The main reason why this was Larsson's deck choice this weekend was that he felt Green Dragons matched up very well against all black midrange decks. "Esper and White-Black won Standard GPs recently, and I think many people are going to play a black midrange deck this weekend," Larsson said. "I have a proactive deck that has a better grind and a better late game. They have to start the game by answering our threats and then sticking a threat themselves. But I have plenty of removal, and my deck never runs out of threats. The only way you lose if when they deploy a big threat, like an expensive planeswalker, and you don't have an answer to it." After sideboard, Larsson improves against them by most notably adding additional green card advantage creatures and Quarantine Field and by cutting Dromoka's Command.
"Bant Company seems fine as well in theory. We play many similar cards, and the matchup comes down to an attrition war that takes forever until someone finds a way to break open the game. My top end is better, and my flyers are great. I don't need to board much, just Lambholt Pacifist for Dromoka's Command."
"Green-White Tokens is a pretty close matchup," Larsson continued." I would board Quarantine Field, which I can protect from Dromoka's Command with Oath of Nissa, and maybe some other cards against them, cutting Den Protector and a few removal spells."
"Cryptolith Rites decks will be tough as I don't have a good enough clock. I need to kill their Eldrazi Displacer, so I add Tragic Arrogance and Declaration in Stone, cutting some slow creatures like Sylvan Advocate against them."
Tips and Tricks
As a final question, I asked Larsson if he could share some advice or interesting plays that we might not see right away picking up this deck. Here is a selection.
- If you fear that your opponent might play Archangel Avacyn, cast Dragonlord Dromoka first. If your opponent wants to play Archangel Avacyn that turn, then they have to do it in response, giving you full information.
- Hallowed Moonlight takes out an opposing Reflector Mage that is blinked with Eldrazi Displacer.
- If you have Tireless Tracker, you often want to play on turn four so you get a Clue token even if your opponent has a removal spell. However, this needs to be the right land. Evolving Wilds is perfect, but a Forest is good too. If you have an opening hand with Forest, Plains, Canopy Vista, and Haven of the Spirit Dragon, then it's intuitive to play Canopy Vista untapped on turn 3, but then if you draw Oath of Nissa, you can't go Tireless Tracker, Haven of the Spirit Dragon, Oath of Nissa on turn four. Instead, keep the Forest for turn four.
- Post board, after adding the double-white cards, use Evolving Wilds more frequently for Plains. Even if you don't have blue or red mana yet, an Island or Mountain is not essential because Haven of the Spirit Dragon or Shaman of Forgotten Ways can fix those colors.
- Don't forget that Shaman of Forgotten Ways has an 11-mana "ultimate"! It's a great answer to Ormendahl, Profane Prince in particular.
- If you're playing against this deck, you should generally kill Shaman of Forgotten Ways on sight. Even if no Dragon is coming out, Shaman provides a lot of mana to cast random creatures while lands are used to crack clues from Tireless Tracker or to activate Duskwatch Recruiter. Without Shaman of Forgotten Ways, the deck is quite clunky.