Growth. Nature. Self-Acceptance.
Green embraces the entirety of the natural world. The flora. The fauna. The importance of every living thing fulfilling its function in the circle of life. The green mage sees those that seek to alter this destiny as a detriment to the whole and encourages them to accept their natural role. They also see artificial constructs as an impediment to nature and seek to destroy them.
Mechanically, this means green does one thing well above all others. Ramp. "Ramp" is a slang term in Magic for being able to generate mana at a rate faster than the rules would typically allow. If it is turn four and you have the ability to produce six mana you are said to have "ramped your mana base". By producing mana faster than the other slices of the pie, Green is enabled to cast big, splashy creatures before the other colors can stabilize. This is made deadly by green's primary evasion mechanic - Trample.
Ramp makes green a very popular color in cube. Some draft it as a primary color and others "splash it" including only a few cards for support. It takes an experienced drafter to "read the signs" during a draft a determine if the color is "open" before committing to it. Be warned though, the high risk of drafting green can bring big rewards - even a cube this size has the potential to create a mono-green ramping nightmare if left unchecked. Ready to trample over your opponents? Lets's take a look.
Ramp is Green's greatest strength - and tying it to the growth in nature is a huge flavor win. In a small cube, the first way to integrate this archetype is by including creatures with a "tap for mana" creature ability. This is an efficient use of cube slots since these cards do double duty as late game blockers while giving the color the acceleration it so badly wants in the early rounds. Look to Llanowar Elves, Joraga Treespeaker, and Birds of Paradise to fill your "mana dork" slots. The second method of ramp is through spells and abilities that allow the player to search for lands in their library and put them into play or into their hands. Cultivate and Yavimaya Elder are my two favorites here; though some would put in Kodama's Reach instead of the Elder. Again I like cards in a small cube to do double duty, so Elder gets my nod. Rounding out this set of cards, Primeval Titan has this as an ability that triggers when it enters the battlefield and attacks. It also doubles as a curve topping creature green players can ramp into. Banned in some formats for sheer power "Prime Time" could easily slot in the cube just for its iconic reputation alone, and is a "must include" in all cubes.
Green's hate of all things artificial gives it access to very efficient spells and creature abilities that destroy artifacts and enchantments. There are an enormous amount of choices here and in a small cube it's really hard to make room for a lot of them, but two or three are critical to the color's success as they tend to be the only answer in this slice of the color pie for various types of cards. Acidic Slime, Reclamation Sage and Bramblecrush are my choices here, but if you grow your cube larger than 180 cards this it the first thing that should get more slots in green.
In green you can find just about all the tools that you need to build a solid deck. This is a result of Green's color pie shifting a bit more than the other colors over the history of magic, which makes picking iconics in green is a double edged sword. You want to include the nostalgic and powerful cards players will expect while keeping balance in the cube. This is difficult when creating a 180 card list, but here are my favorites.
Card draw is always a powerful (and required) inclusion in cube so it will come as no surprise that Sylvan Library makes the cut. A legacy powerhouse, the card sees play in almost every cube and many players will splash a forest just to run it. In a similar vein, our choice of planeswalker, Nissa, Sage Animist does it all - she provides card draw as well as ramp and a substantial token creature. She's the perfect choice for a small cube - so much value. Speaking of value, it should be no surprise that Primal Command is included. The command cards are a great cycle of toolbox cards that showcase their respective color's part of the pie. Looking to creatures, we have Woodfall Primus and Thrun, the Last Troll. Both of these choices represent the feel of Green's armies so well. They are hard to get rid of and the presence of either one on the battlefield completely changes combat math. Finally... it is hard to build a cube without Regrowth. This card has had a place in green decks since Limited Edition Alpha, and while the mechanic may not be exciting, it's a super powerful in the right hands.
Well that's Green. It's a color that is simple on the surface, but its flexibility and ramp make it a powerful addition to any draft strategy. Many players ignore Green when they first begin to cube. As the "big creature color" it seems like its "for the beginners" that just want the big splashy creature to hit the table. This is far from the truth in cube - Green has all the tools needed to be a deadly weapon all on its own and it only takes a few times getting steamrolled by "big green" before this sinks in with players. Over time you will find it a highly competitive color during the draft.
Join me next week when as we wrap up the series, tinkering with the gears and cogs of... the Artifacts.
This is a seven part, introductory series on cube. Here's how to catch up.
Travel Cubed (Introduction),
As always, if you want to skip ahead and start building, my entire list is up on Cube Tutor.