War of the Spark Set Review – Green

(Vivien’s Arkbow | Art by Zack Stella)

And I Think to Myself… What a Wonderful War

Welcome to EDHREC’s review for War of the Spark! If you’re like me, you’re over the moon after seeing the spoilers from Magic’s newest set. Despite being a heavily multicolored set, we still have hit after hit in the mono-colored cards. Let’s skip the formalities and jump straight to the cards!


Planeswalkers


Nissa, Who Shakes the World

If you’ve listened to Part 1 of the EDHRECast’s set review podcast for War of the Spark, many of my opinions of Nissa mirror theirs. Before we look at her loyalty abilities, Nissa is an asymmetrical Vernal Bloom for one extra mana. Yes, she’s vulnerable to attacks, but even so, that’s pretty powerful for the price of admission.

Nissa comes into play with five loyalty, but can immediately go to six loyalty by slowly turning lands into a stream of 3/3s. Note that Nissa’s first ability contains the word “may,” so we never actually have to turn our lands into creatures. For dedicated land-based decks, this a great addition alongside Waker of the Wilds or Embodiment of Insight. Her ultimate is reminiscent of Nissa, Worldwaker, and makes those animated lands a whole lot more threatening.

She’ll be solid in a good number of decks, mostly in mono-green decks looking for mana boosts. Omnath, Locus of Mana is happy for the help. Aside from that, you have to really enjoy animating your lands to make the most out of new Nissa.


Vivien, Champion of the Wilds

The newest incarnation of Vivien is one of my favorite cards in the set. She’s just an awesome bundle of abilities. First, she gives all of our creatures flash, like Yeva, Nature’s Herald. This is a powerful ability in and of itself, but especially at three mana. Her +1 ability is a little lackluster, but that’s perfectly okay considering she’s a three-mana planeswalker. Giving a creature reach and vigilance isn’t something to overlook. It gives a creature the freedom to attack and continue protecting Vivien.

However, it’s her -2 that’s the biggest selling point for me. Choosing a creature from the top three cards of our deck is great, but now let’s combine it with making that card immune to discard effects while also being hidden information. Not only that, but we can cast it as long as it remains exiled, even if Vivien isn’t in play anymore. If she is still in play, she can flash the creature in at a moment’s notice. Plus, even if you use her -2 ability and don’t find a creature, your opponents don’t know that, so you can exile some useless land but still make your opponents sweat, worried you might throw out a random creature at any time! As a total package, Vivien is a planeswalker I’m excited to see in stompy green decks.


Arlinn, Voice of the Pack

I’m thankful that Wizards decided to include ‘Werewolf’ in Arlinn’s text; there aren’t any other Werewolves in Ravnica, but this will come in handy on the day when we get a more Commander-focused Werewolf commander. I like Arlinn well enough, but I think she’ll be relegated to tribal decks. The ability to make a few 3/3s and to buff other Werewolves is great and all, but I’m worried that at six mana she comes down to late in the game to make a significant impact. However, I still like her, and I think she’s a fun inclusion to the tribe.


Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter

If you’ve read my article on Emmara, Soul of the Accord then you’ll know how I feel about the new Jiang Yanggu. I love these ‘my creatures can all be mana dorks’ effects, and I especially love that we’re seeing more of them. While it’s not as all-encompassing as Crytolith Rite (and we shouldn’t expect it to be), it’s still a really good effect. Careful using this in super-dedicated +1/+1 counter decks, though; once you have a lot of counters on something, you’d probably rather use it to hit somebody. This is more akin to Rishkar, Peema Renegade‘s style, and together I’m considering adding a +1/+1 counter package to Emmara to take advantage of them both. Never underestimate the power of turning creatures into mana dorks. Mana advantage translates into winning positions, and I think Jiang Yanggu will stick on the board longer than he should.


Mythics


Finale of Devastation

Hello, new green staple. Welcome to EDH. Green tutors have come in all sorts of forms over the years. Some tutor creatures straight into play, and others tutor to your hand, some have conditions, and some don’t. Variants include Chord of Calling, Traverse the Ulvenwald, Worldly Tutor, and Green Sun’s Zenith.

The latter of those is the most apt comparison to our new Finale spell. Green Sun’s Zenith is currently played in a staggering 28,000 decks. It’ll take quite some time for Finale of Devastation to reach that level, but I think it has a shot. Both spells tutor directly into play, but after that they diverge quite a lot, which makes comparing them fun. Green Sun’s Zenith costs one green mana less to cast, but it’s limited to green creatures. While Finale doesn’t get shuffled in like Green Sun’s Zenith, it can search the graveyard, unlike Zenith. Additionally, Finale has an “overload” mode if we cast it for X=10 or more, where our creatures get +X/+X and gain haste.

You read that right, ALL of our creatures gain that bonus. Tutoring up a Craterhoof Behemoth typically ends the game, but this spell will leave no doubt in that matter. Green is infamous for ramping up to tons of mana, so of the Finales, this is the one people should be most afraid of. Green Sun’s Overwhelming Stampederhoof Behemoth, we’re so happy you could join our format, and we look forward to you ending tons of games left, right, and center.


God-Eternal Rhonas

WOOF. Now that is an effect. Rhonas, the Indomitable was one of my favorite Gods in the Amonkhet story, and I’m glad that his new card does him justice, even in death. He is still a 5/5 with deathtouch, but he’s now five mana rather than three. However, we get to see his old ability amplified. Doubling all of our creatures’ power and giving them vigilance is nothing to ignore. For a lot of decks, that’s a win condition in itself. Unfortunately, Rhonas doesn’t alter our board’s toughness, so we’re truly turning our creatures into glass cannons. However, I think Rhonas will see play in decks with a lot of beefy creatures, so they were likely to survive combat already.

As a commander, I think green probably has other options already, including the original Rhonas, famous for flinging fight spells around to clear away his opponents. I expect he’ll largely be used alongside other huge green game-ending pump spells in the 99, though. Pay attention to this slithery God; whenever you see the word ‘double’ in EDH, things get very crazy very quickly.


Rares


Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi

There are a host of keywords that make unkeyworded ‘guest appearances’ in War of the Spark. Makeshift Battalion, for example, has literal makeshift Battalion. Now, with Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi, we get to see Awaken as well.

This is a hard card to evaluate for EDH. Making a 9/9 for five mana isn’t anything to laugh at, but I still have my concerns. First, if we want to cast it as an attacker or blocker immediately, the spell will effectively cost six mana, since we don’t want to animate a land we just tapped for mana. A 9/9 for six is still good, but in my experience, the gap between five and six mana is pretty large. I think a deck that’s dedicated to land animation will immediately reach for this, as it’s one of the most cost-efficient effects for those decks; it’ll be best friends with Waker of the Wilds. This could potentially see play with Ghalta, Primal Hunger as well, but I can’t say for sure, as I don’t have a Ghalta deck. If you don’t like lands and just want a big creature, you probably have better options, like Realm Seekers, for example.

That said, you get bonus points if you use this spell to target Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree.


Planewide Celebration

This card is in that super-difficult spot between ‘priced correctly for what it does’ and ‘too expensive for what it does.’ First things first, yes, Superfriends decks will love it, though for the record, that’s true of a lot of cards in this set. Really, though, Proliferate four times? That’s incredible. There are going to be a lot of games where the table thinks the planeswalker deck is under control, but suddenly this spell comes down and says “add four loyalty to all planeswalkers you control.” For reference, just looking at planeswalkers and their starting loyalty, around 80% of walkers will be able to immediately ultimate after casting this. That’s terrifying.

Outside of Superfriends, this is tough, though. Do I really want to spend seven mana to get back four permanents? Do I really want to spend it to get sixteen life? Is seven mana worth adding just +1/+1 counters? It is worth four 2/2 tokens? Maybe not any of those modes specifically, but when you start to mix them up? Am I going to want to spend seven mana to cast any of the 256 customizable options that it provides? I don’t know. Seven mana is a lot, but I think this will always put in work. Definitely keep your eyes on it for dedicated planeswalker decks, though – people will ultimate out of nowhere if you’re not prepared.


Vivien’s Arkbow

I’ve been saving the best rare for last.

Vivien’s Arkbow was previewed in the first two days of this preview season, and even despite the rest of the amazing previews that followed it, it has remained one of my absolute favorites in the set. It’s a very modifed Survival of the Fittest, and I love that type of design.

Let’s break it down. First, it’s cheap. At two mana, we can play this early on its own, or we can play it and immediately dump our mana into an activation. Second, there is no colored requirement to the ability; we’re just paying X, not X and a green mana, so if we pay seven, we can still get a seven drop. Third, unlike Survival, we can pitch any card. That land we don’t need? That mana dork that’s not doing much? That creature we’re planning to reanimate later? We have all of the options. Lastly, it can be activated at instant speed! We don’t have a card we want to play on our turn? Well, the Arkbow can fire a shot in the dark before our next turn rolls around. For the combo-conscious members of our community, the Arkbow reads “tutor any creature in your deck into play” with infinite mana, which is at least worth considering.

Frankly, this is just an awesome design, and I’m excited to find a home for it. Like so many of the green cards we’ve seen today, this is great for stompy, creature-based decks, especially those that run out of steam but never run out of mana.


Uncommons


Bond of Flourishing

I always like cantrips even if they slip into the two-mana range. Not everything can be Ponder or Preordain (nor should they be). This is a nice effect – getting any permanent card is great, as they comprise five of the seven main types in the game (sorry, Tribal). Gaining three life is a cherry on top.

It’s a tiny cherry, though. Picking and choosing things at a delicate pace isn’t really green’s jam. Green smashes you in the face with card advantage – Rishkar’s Expertise, Greater Good, and so on – so while the art is awesome, the card itself just isn’t for us EDH folks.


Evolution Sage

This is one of the marquee green cards of the set. Landfall is always a powerful mechanic to see on a card, and adding Proliferate on top of that? We just double up on potential power. Let’s not ignore that this is a three-mana 3/2 as well. It comes down early and blocks well, and assuming you get a land drop every turn, it does a darn good impression of being Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice‘s little brother.

The most obvious interaction is of course with Lord Windgrace, who will assemble a frankly obscene number of loyalty counters. Even if he uses his -3 ability, he’ll recover at least two counters (more if any of the lands you recover are fetchlands)! We can even double up on Avenger of Zendikar triggers! Or we can add additional storage counters onto lands like Mage-Ring Network. Looking for ways to give out more Infect counters? Just play lands. Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons wants to put more -1/-1 counters on creatures? Play forests, poison creatures, make Snakes. And if you need a blocker for your Superfriends deck, he works there too.

Evolution Sage is bonkers, and bonkers cool. I expect it to be a mainstay in both Landfall and counter-based decks of all shapes and sizes for quite a long time.


Mowu, Loyal Companion

Following his interplanar travel companion, we have Magic‘s best boy, the goodest pupper, Mowu, Loyal Companion. Our very own DM Cross was so excited that he’s already wrote an article on him. Mowu stands out as an immediate Voltron general that benefits from +1/+1 counters. He’s an individual Hardened Scales, and with vigilance and trample, he’ll always be able to attack and protect us from attackers. Honestly, those keywords push Mowu over the top for me. I think in dedicated counter decks, Mowu offers a cheap and efficient beater that will demand an answer.


Nissa’s Triumph

This is interesting, but I don’t think will see play outside of Nissa, Vastwood Seer “Nissa tribal” decks, or potentially Borborygmos Enraged. EDH as a format has too many efficient and cheap ramp spells for a double-green spell that only grabs basic Forests. The upside of tutoring any three lands if we control a Nissa is very neat, but it’s unreliable. I think I’ll pass with my preferences.


Commons


Pollenbright Druid

This is a neat common. We’ve seen around eight variants of two-cost creatures than can put a +1/+1 counter on “target creature.” I don’t value that effect much, but what I do value is being able to Proliferate on a body for two mana. I think that trigger offers a lot of value for the cost – blockers that increase planeswalker loyalty are valuable, and it’s hard to beat good, cheap value.


Return to Nature

If you run Naturalize, you have no reason to not play this instead (unless you’re playing both). You get all of the same modes with additional targeted graveyard hate. This is just a solid card. The Split Second on Krosan Grip is of course phenomenal, but if you have more Meren of Clan Nel Toths than Sensei’s Divining Tops in your meta, this could save your bacon in very cool ways. If Naturalize can be included in 7500 decks, this can be in just as many.


Finale of Devastation

That’s going to be it for our green set review! With such a high density of cool cards in this set, there’s a lot to be excited about. Did I miss anything? Which cards are you most excited for from War of the Spark? What cards are you planning to put into your existing decks? Are you tempted to build a new deck to include them? Let us know, and thanks for reading!

Mason is an EDH player from Georgia, who is a self-proclaimed Johnny and Vorthos. His MTG career started with a casual lifegain deck with only a single win-condition. When not consuming MTG, he spends his time being a full-time student, an avid sports fan, and a dabbling musician. Mason can be found on twitter @K_Mason64