Core Set 2020 Set Review – Green

(Season of Growth | Art by Randy Vargas)

Seasons Change

Welcome back, everyone, to EDHREC’s Core Set 2020 review. Today, we’ll be rinsing through the green cards. Among them we have a lot of new, interesting considerations to make for our EDH decks. From a compelling Hydra tribal commander to an infinite mana combo, the green cards in this set seem pushed in terms of design and playability, especially for a core set. Hopefully this gives an indication about how future core sets will be designed and tuned. Without further ado, let’s get into it.


Mythics


Cavalier of Thorns

This Cavalier displays perhaps the most cautious design of the five in the cycle. Reach is the weakest keyword attached to the green member of this cycle, and the other abilities have some strange restrictions. The enters-the-battlefield trigger is the ramping effect of Elvish Rejuvenator blended with the graveyard-feeding of Mulch. This ability is certainly decent in Commander, especially because it has no restriction on what type of land can be put into play. However, in a deck where approximately 35% of the cards are lands, the possibility of revealing no lands in the top five cards will hover around 10% of activations. That 10% is not insignificant. The on-death trigger is essentially Noxious Revival that exiles itself upon resolution. This sort of recursion is powerful but it isn’t card advantage because it returns the card from your graveyard to the top of your library rather than your hand.

Even with all of these restrictions, Cavalier of Thorns has a couple of interesting applications. In reanimator strategies, this can be an efficient way to fill your graveyard while providing incidental ramp. With a 5/6 body at five mana, Cavalier of Thorns is a far stretch from a bad investment; consider this with commanders such as Jarad, Ishkanah, and Izoni. Be careful with your color commitment, though: this Cavalier has three green pips in its cost and may be difficult to cast for three-color decks that might otherwise want its abilities, such as Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. When all is said and done, this very well may be the least played of the Cavaliers.


Vivien, Arkbow Ranger

This iteration of Vivien has a high color restriction, similar to that of the Cavalier discussed above. In mono-green or two-color decks she will probably be right at home. In three-color-and-above decks, though, she will become clumsy to cast. Even so, she comes with a decent kit: the -3 removal ability is probably the best of the bunch, but the -5 tutor is also a welcome addition. However, you should ensure that your playgroup allows ‘wish’ effects or sideboards before you jam her into a deck; tutoring from outside the game is not allowed under the official Commander rules, and without her -5 ability, she becomes much less desirable.

Rares


Gargos, Vicious Watcher

Hydra tribal already had a decent home in Rosheen Meanderer decks, but Gargos offers an interesting new direction that is probably a better shell for Hydra decks. Many will bemoan the lack of red in this commander’s color identity, but very few of the most desirable Hydras are red. Savageborn Hydra and Apocalypse Hydra will be missed, but other than that, red only offers such kill-on-sight bombs as Balduvian Hydra.

As a mono-green commander, Gargos offers a cost reduction effect much better than the tap ability of Rosheen. A four mana reduction on each Hydra is no joke, and if you can cast more than one robust hydra in a turn, the net discount becomes ridiculous – two hydras means a total mana reduction of 8, three is 12, 16, and onward. Combine this commander with Elemental Bond, Unbound Flourishing, and Zendikar Resurgent for maximum effect.

Finally, Gargos’ other ability is extremely potent and is also a very good theme to build around: mono-green has trouble removing creatures outside of combat, and fight is remarkably effective at buttressing green’s weakest facet. It is absolutely worth making room in a Gargos deck for utility instants that target your creatures.

A quick search on Scryfall reveals some good effects that become incredible with Gargos on the battlefield. Withstand Death works beautifully to protect your important creatures. With Gargos it is also an instant-speed removal spell. Hunter’s Insight is a beautiful draw spell in a deck with imposing, trampling creatures; with Gargos it can also help clear the way of blockers. Ranger’s Guile, Heal the Scars, and Strength of the Tajuru also seem very strong with this commander, either providing protection or doing their best impression of a board wipe. Do you like mass land destruction? Who doesn’t? Using Natural Affinity with Setessan Tactics will kick-start the Armageddon.

Gargos may seem like a skin-deep commander that only wants to play big creatures and smash face, but with the right deckbuilding, it could be a surprisingly potent choice. Hail Hyrda.


Voracious Hydra

Now that we have a suitable, on-flavor commander for Hydras, Voracious Hydra seems like a snap inclusion for any Gargos deck. One of the main issues with Hydras is their lack of immediate board impact; this one plugs that whole in the ship. Similar to Gargos, Voracious Hydra has a fight ability tacked onto it, giving you the choice between making your big monster even bigger or removing an threatening creature from the board. Even outside of Hydra tribal, this card seems to have potential. As mentioned earlier, mono-green lacks straightforward creature removal; I would consider Voracious Hydra in any mono-green deck that is focused on having creatures on board.


Shared Summons

Yes, five mana for two cards is a suboptimal rate. Despite this, Shared Summons is still an exciting addition to green’s repertoire for a few important reasons: first, it is another tutor in green, and tutors are powerful in EDH; second, it tutors for two cards and puts them directly into your hand, ending up being net card advantage; finally, and most importantly, it’s instant-speed!

The most obvious comparison for Shared Summons is Tooth and Nail, a card infamous for its power and combo potential. While Tooth and Nail is extremely flexible and can drop a two-card combo directly onto the battlefield with no further support, Shared Summons has the edge on it in a couple categories. First, its base cost is five rather than seven. Second, it is an instant rather than a sorcery. The instant speed is worth more than it seems in almost any game, allowing you to selectively choose the most beneficial moment to play your cards.

I don’t think this card will replace Tooth and Nail by any means. It won’t even be near the same power level in most circumstances. There is simply a lot of space for Shared Summons to be good without being Tooth and Nail. It is a distinct effect and another incredible tool for green, especially in decks that aggressively pursue combos.


Wakeroot Elemental

This Elemental is a little too unwieldy to play without a very specific purpose. Played fairly, its high color commitment restricts it to mono-green decks, and its high costs make it difficult to extract any value at all. However, there is another side to this coin. There is very distinct combo potential when this card is placed alongside any land that produces more than five green mana.

In combination with any of these lands, Wakeroot Elemental has the potential to produce infinite mana. With six creatures on the battlefield, you can tap Gaea’s Cradle to produce six mana, then spend five to activate Wakeroot Elemental’s ability, then tap Gaea’s cradle again. Rinse and repeat until you have enough mana to close out the game. This will probably be a fairly powerful finisher for a variety of combo decks, but I expect this card to really shine at the top end of Elfball decks. Marwyn the Nurturer and Selvala, Explorer Returned already tend to stumble into infinite mana with Priest of Titania or Elvish Archdruid. Wakeroot Elemental can provide them another avenue to achieve that goal.


Elvish Reclaimer

Enter Elvish Reclaimer, the perfect card to accompany Wakeroot Elemental in those Elf decks mentioned above. In that style of deck, Elvish Reclaimer fulfills the Elf synergy, scales with the game, and fetches important real estate. Obviously, it can search for that Gaea’s Cradle, or it can even fetch a Glacial Chasm to make you immune to your own Squall Line.

Best of all, it may also have a place in the established pantheon of lands-matters commanders. Not only will Elvish Reclaimer fetch you an important land in these decks, it will also accrue some important value. Crop Rotation continues to be severely underrated in Commander, and a repeatable Crop Rotation on a body with a highly synergistic type line sounds like a powerful card indeed.


Leyline of Abundance

Leylines are tricky in Commander. While you more frequently reach a game state in which you can hard cast Leylines, the size of the deck makes it much more difficult to find a Leyline in your opening hand: it’s only one card out of 99. For a Leyline to have application in EDH, it must be a desirable card at four mana. This new green Leyline may be in that category. In decks that prefer to pursue wide boards of small mana producers, this can have be a significant ramp effect. It is finicky, however: after a board wipe, Leyline of Abundance will be a dead card on the battlefield. Its activated ability gives it some flexibility, but the cost of activation is extremely steep. Leyline of Abundance is likely most at home in Elfball strategies because they run a high density of mana-producing creatures and casually make infinite mana. With infinite mana, this card’s last ability can become a win condition.

This set of abilities – combined with the infrequent but explosive potential to double the mana produced by your dorks starting on turn one – makes it a decent inclusion, but only in specific strategies.


Nightpack Ambusher

This Wolf lord is innocuously potent. A 4/4 creature with flash that pumps your pack at four mana is already a good rate. In days long gone by, I would have suggested this card to the poor souls that built Ulrich of the Krallenhorde as their Wolf and Werewolf tribal general. But now, a new challenger approaches.

Now that we have a respectable Wolf tribal commander, Nightpack Ambusher has a perfect home, and I’m certain that this card deserves a spot in almost every Tolsimir deck there is. The Ambusher’s ability to generate tokens has a significant restriction attached, however: forfeiting your turn for a 2/2 token seems like a bad deal most of the time. If you want to turn this card into a value engine, consider playing it alongside effects that allow you to cast your spells at instant speed, such as Vivien, Champion of the Wilds, Vedalken Orrery, and Yeva, Nature’s Herald.


The Best of the Rest


Wolfrider’s Saddle + Howling Giant + Ferocious Pup

Along with the new Wolf lord, Core Set 2020 introduces a few more Wolves. None of these are particularly strong, but could be reasonable inclusions in Wolf tribal decks like the aforementioned Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves. Wolfrider’s Saddle only provides a 3/3 body for four mana, but it is an interesting riff on the Living Weapon mechanic. Even when the Wolf token dies, this Equipment provides ongoing value. Attaching this blocking restriction to a bigger creature can make combat more favorable for you.

Howling Giant costs a daunting seven mana but provides three bodies, two triggers for Tolsimir, and adds up to 9/9 in total stats.

Finally, Ferocious Pup is just adorable and can allow you to employ some emotional blackmail in your political tactics. All the above are suited for Wolf tribal decks, and not much else, but come on, the pupper is so stinking cute.


Season of Growth

I don’t know exactly what to do with this card, but it excites me in a way that few cards do. It is enigmatic, slippery, and alluring. There must be a deck in which this card will be a star. Of course, the first observation is that this would be an incredible addition to Feather, the Redeemed decks, if only it was in that commander’s color identity.

Because Season of Growth will trigger on all of your pump spells, it seems well-suited to Infect strategies. Among her robust skill set, Atraxa makes for an incredible Infect commander. Perhaps the most notable consideration for Season of Growth is with Enchantress commanders that lean heavily into an Aura subtheme, such as Uril, the Miststalker. While it won’t trigger on most non-Aura enchantments, it is an enchantment itself and will trigger Mesa Enchantress, Argothian Enchantress, and Satyr Enchanter. As such, also consider this with commanders like Tuvasa the Sunlit or Kestia, the Cultivator. Season of Growth has a little bit of mystery, a little bit of known application, and a decent power level. I can’t help but feel that we’re only scratching the surface on where this card can and should appear.


My Cavalier Attitude

With these green cards as testimony, Core Set 2020 doesn’t look like any old core set. So many of these cards ignite my imagination and send me spinning; I’ve even considered building a dedicated Gargos deck, even though I have no affinity for Hydras or tribal strategies in general. What do you all think? Are you excited by M20? Where are you going to put Season of Growth? What did I miss? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on down the road.

Steven Vincent is an ESL teacher located in Oaxaca, México who uses Magic as a teaching tool. He hasn't introduced his students to Commander yet, but he is inching them toward the format so that he has a play group and can more frequently sate his thirst for EDH.