Too-Specific Top 10 – Forest for the Trees

(Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary | Art by Michael Sutfin)

Through the Woods

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Last Stand is the only five-color spell that can make you an army of tokens?)

In the last few weeks, we’ve been racing through the cards that care about a specific basic land type. So far, in looking at Mountains and Swamps, we’ve seen a trend where the best card for each basic land type has actually been a nonbasic land in the form of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. This week, that’s not the case! The best card (whether the statistics back it up or not) that cares about Forests is undoubtedly a card that is actually so broken it’s banned in the Commander format: Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary.

Whether or not you agree with that banning is a topic for another day, but there is definitely no doubting that everyone’s second favorite Elf politician is a powerhouse.

Another thing that we’ve avoided up til now with these basic lands matter cards is the cards that search for a basic land type. Up til now, I’ve stated Farseek as the example of why, but just to give you a clear idea of why we’ve been avoiding ramp and land cards in these particular top 10 lists, here’s a quick top 25 cards that have the word “Forest” on them without any other filtration:

  1. Windswept Heath
  2. Wooded Foothills
  3. Misty RainForest
  4. Verdant Catacombs
  5. Wood Elves
  6. Sunpetal Grove
  7. Woodland Cemetery
  8. Skyshroud Claim
  9. Rootbound Crag
  10. Nature’s Lore
  11. Krosan Verge
  12. Arbor Elf
  13. Song of the Dryads
  14. Nissa’s Pilgrimage
  15. Nissa, Vastwood Seer
  16. Jund Panorama
  17. Karplusan Forest (Okay, this one is kinda cheating)
  18. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
  19. Fortified Village
  20. Bant Panorama
  21. Utopia Sprawl
  22. Naya Panorama
  23. Grasslands
  24. Game Trail
  25. Karametra, God of Harvests

Given that it’s arguable that green cares more about Forests than any other color cares about its lands, it might seem a bit shocking that not one of the cards on the above list cares about the number of Forests you’re playing. Besides, the whole list is a bit… boring. We know that everyone is sneaking off-color fetches into their decks, we know that everyone is playing ramp spells if they’re playing green, we know that both of those effects are basically only utilized to get dual lands, and we know that everyone is playing as many Imprisoned in the Moon effects as they can ever since the tuck rule went away.

The list above isn’t how I like to engage with Commander, though. Minuscule changes to smooth out decks across the board can eliminate variance and pet cards, all in the name of eating our vegetables.

So, with that in mind, we’re going to go a little bit more strict with our filtering this week in an attempt to only get the cards that really care about the amount of Forests you’re playing, rather than just listing out more and more staples you already know about and see at your tables every day.


Top 10 Cards That Care About Forests

Criteria: Nonland cards that either count or specify “all Forests”, call for the sacrifice of only Forests specifically, or that otherwise trigger when a nonspecific Forest is tapped or enters the battlefield. As is tradition, all results are ordered by how many decks they are included in on EDHREC.

Note that this criteria has changed a bit compared to last week’s. This is because, when using last week’s terms for FOrests instead of Mountains, cards like Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord came up at the top of the list, which doesn’t feel true to the spirit of this competition. Similarly, cards that enchant Forests specifically, like Utopia Sprawl, also came in high on this list. Again, this doesn’t seem to be what we’re after. We want cards that care about the number of Forests, so to get a list that reflects that, we had to tweak some things. The only card this ended up eliminating that I’m actually a little sad about is Nissa, Worldwaker, but we will survive. In my heart, she’s number one on this list.

10. Dungrove Elder

Easily putting Nightmare to shame, Dungrove Elder is not only huge in a mono-green deck, but also difficult to deal with given the immunity to spot removal. Now if only there was some way to give things trample in green…

9. Keeper of Progenitus

A repeat from our list last week in the exact same spot, Keeper of Progenitus is your run-of-the-mill mana doubler for Naya colors of basic land types. While this makes it a little more limited than the more mundane mana doublers you see such as Heartbeat of Spring, it’s also slightly less likely to be a symmetrical effect because it is color specific. For many, that’s enough to consider Keeper of Progenitus despite its extra mana cost and frail creature body. The price tag being under a dollar doesn’t hurt, either!

8. Kalonian Twingrove

Just like Dungrove Elder was similar to Nightmare but probably better, Kalonian Twingrove makes you two creatures with power and toughness equal to the amount of Forests you control for the same cost as the old flaming horse! While you still have the same problem where you need to find a way to give them trample, the added benefit of being able to abuse an enter- the-battlefield trigger to make a bunch of 12/12’s that are only going to get bigger makes me wonder why I haven’t actually seen this option a bit more in mono-green decks. EDHREC currently has it tracked at 683 decks total, which seems a bit light given the upside here and relatively cheap cost (for green, anyway).

7. Patron of the Orochi

At eight mana, Patron of the Orochi might look like one of those cards with huge upside that just never sees play because it’s an expensive card that doesn’t say “you win the game” on it, but that’s not necessarily the case if you’re playing more Snakes than the single requisite Sakura Tribe-Elder. If that is the case, then this legendary Spirit can be quite the beast in the command zone, as it can be played at flash speed, act as a sacrifice outlet, and immediately let you untap, tap everything, and then untap it all to use it again. If you were looking for your next sneaky-good hipster commander, you could definitely do worse.

6. Howl of the Night Pack

If Snakes aren’t your jam, however, Howl of the Night Pack is doing work for those mono-green Wolf tribal decks you’re seeing everywhere. Oh, you’re not seeing mono-green Wolf tribal decks all over the place? Yeah, neither am I, I suppose people just must think that making ten or eleven 2/2’s might not be that bad all on its own….

5. Orcish Lumberjack

By far the best off-color version of a “cares about a basic land type” card we’ve seen yet, Orcish Lumberjack is a powerhouse in ‘lands matter’ decks that include Gruul colors. Being able to tap a land for its normal mana, then sacrifice it for three more mana and replay it with a Crucible of Worlds or the like is ramp that other decks have to shell out Grim Monolith kind of cash for. Given that it instead costs a quarter, makes more mana, and that mana is colored, this is a heck of a deal that vaults Orcish Lumberjack up to one of the best one mana creatures in Magic in the right strategy.

4. Blanchwood Armor

Probably the first card that springs to mind when thinking about ‘Forests matter,’ Blanchwood Armor has been a Timmy & Tammy special ever since it was printed way back in Urza’s Saga, and for good reason. Being able to make a creature absolutely massive for a simple three mana adds up, even if life totals are sitting at 40 or more. Of course, it adds up even more when it comes to 21 commander damage….

3. Vernal Bloom

In similar fashion to Keeper of Progenitus, Vernal Bloom will have you paying an extra mana upfront to get a more specific “symmetrical” effect that might not help the rest of the table out quite as much as Heartbeat of Spring would. Vernal Bloom, however, is more likely to be only for you as it only cares about Forests, and is also much more resilient, being an enchantment.

2. Oran-Rief Hydra

While Landfall-specific decks might shrug a bit when it comes to a payoff of a couple of +1/+1 counters as opposed to say… 5/5 Elementals that Lightning Bolt things when they die, in mono-green, Oran-Rief Hydra can still get big fast, and doesn’t need something else to staple trample on to it. Looking at its EDHREC page, that actually appears to be the secret to its popularity as opposed to several of the other cards on this list. Oran-Rief Hydra sees play in the popular Hydra Tribal decks, ramp decks, and Landfall deck archetypes, meaning it is a lot more popular than just a single archetype.

1. Nissa, Who Shakes the World

If we’ll pay one extra mana to make our mana doublers less likely to help our opponents, we’ll pay two to make sure they don’t and add in a bunch of upside. A 3/3 with vigilance every turn would be worth five mana in a lot of decks anyway, but that it might eventually pay off by going to get almost every land in your deck followed by making them indestructible is just plain scary.

Oh, and did I mention you could do that last bit immediately with a Doubling Season in play?


Honorable Mentions

Since we gave the general Forests list at the top of the article a full top 25, and given how many cards there are further down in the depths that really do care about Forests deeply, we’d be doing a disservice to you to not give you yet another full 25 when it comes to the honorable mentions. A lot of it is basically Treefolk Tribal, but there is also some surprisingly spicy stuff further down the list. Lookin’ at you, Llanowar Druid. How did I not know about you?

11. Life and Limb
12. Timber Protector
13 .Beacon of Creation
14. Primal Bellow
15. Loam Lion
16. Traproot Kami
17. Baru, Fist of Krosa
18. Reach of Branches
19. Dauntless Dourbark
20. Ambush Commander
21. Llanowar Druid
22. Nessian Game Warden
23. Battlewand Oak
24. Last Stand
25. Staff of the Wild Magus

And one more, just in case you happen to be a Cat Tribal player:

There you are, Cat-folk. That one’s just for you.


What Do You Think?

And finally, what are your favorite cards that care about Forests?

Let us know in the comments, and we’ll see you at the table made from sustainably-sourced hardwoods.

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.