Welcome back to the Best Budget Commanders series! This is the final installment, and we’re taking a look at green: the color of nature, instinct, and the best mana ramp you can get your hands on. There’s much more to green than just mana acceleration, though — from spawning swarming armies of elves, to building tall, towering threats, there is always something powerful to invest in.
I’ll be showing you the best mono-green commanders, how to leverage their strengths to your advantage, and how to do it all on a budget.
Marwyn, the Nurturer – Elves
When you think of green creatures, some of the first that come to mind are elves. Everything about them is so quintessentially green: they’re a bunch of nature lovers that live in a commune in the woods, with a sense of togetherness and a distrust of anything that isn’t natural. Their united power is truly something to behold, and Marwyn, the Nurturer is among the best leaders to showcase their power.
No elves deck would be complete without a suite of mana dorks, like Llanowar Elves or Elvish Mystic. They are the bread and butter of every elf deck, and allow you to accelerate ahead of most opponents. Lord effects like Imperious Perfect are ideal for turning your smaller elves into genuine threats; just a couple of these will pressure your opponents into taking action fast. Reclamation Sage may be a Commander staple, but it’s most at home among its own kind. Every elf has a purpose, and when they work together, they are all but unstoppable.
Realmwalker is technically an elf, and technically an elf is the best kind. You will run out of cards quickly with the amount of mana you’ll be generating, but Realmwalker helps you maintain a steady flow of elves from your library. Beast Whisperer is a classic Elfball card, with every creature drawing you a new card. Lys Alana Huntmaster gives you even more value per elf, letting you really swarm the battlefield in the blink of an eye. When these are paired with your lord effects, you’ll quickly find yourself in a commanding position.
Marwyn is truly an elf of the people, who grows stronger when she sees her brethren flourish. This means she can end up tapping for a lot of mana, but there are ways to get even more out of her ability. You can use Timberwatch Elf to give Marwyn a quick shot in the arm, turning her into a monstrous creature with little effort. You can then use her ability to generate an absurd amount of mana, or simply attack for a surprise Voltron kill! Wirewood Symbiote is infamous for abusing tapping abilities, and there’s no exception here. You can use the tricksy insect to reuse Marwyn’s ability to double up your mana generation. This play is even better when you return a value elf to do so; Elvish Visionary is an excellent bounce target, for example. One of Marwyn’s best friends is Seeker of Skybreak, who gives you another way to untap her. When you pair these with cards like Beast Whisperer or Realmwalker, you can easily play out most of your deck before long!
You’ll need ways to close the game with your army of elves, and Return of the Wildspeaker can either grow your team to win or draw you a full grip of cards. Overwhelming Stampede will bulk out your tree friends to frightening proportions, and Leyline of Abundance not only doubles your elves’ mana but acts as a great mana sink to shorten your clock dramatically.
If you love playing with green creatures, and the idea of casting so many spells that your opponents think you’re secretly a Storm deck appeals to you, Marwyn, the Nurturer is the best choice for you!
Mowu, Loyal Companion – Counters/Voltron
Whether you’re a cat person or dog person, there’s no denying that Mowu, Loyal Companion is indeed the best boy. His ability to grow exponentially by using +1/+1 counters is extremely efficient, and can even threaten to eliminate a player in a single combat step when set up well.
You should look to make the most of Mowu’s ability to increase the number of +1/+1 counters; thankfully, there are plenty of repeatable options available to you. Retreat to Kazandu grows Mowu with every land you play, and Ivy Lane Denizen does the same whenever you play a creature. Naturally, Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter also works beautifully with his best friend, so you can include a flavor win in your build, too!
The best way for you to really grow Mowu to epic proportions is through the proliferate mechanic. Pollenbright Druid is a great single-use option, as it can produce a counter if you somehow don’t have any. Evolution Sage is another land payoff, proliferating from your land drops. This becomes particularly egregious in conjunction with Retreat to Kazandu, and is a great reason to run Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse in a monocolor deck. Karn’s Bastion is an easy include, too — not only is it easy to include utility lands in decks running one color, but a land is much harder to interact with than a creature.
It’s also important to keep your precious pupper safe. Snakeskin Veil is an excellent choice to not only blank your opponents’ removal, but to grow Mowu even more! You’ll also need removal for tricky creatures, and Mutant’s Prey is the best fight spell you can add to your deck. Just one mana for an instant-speed fight effect is incredible, and the +1/+1 counter requirement is completely trivial here. Finally, you need to be able to gum up the board to prevent your opponents from effectively launching a counterattack. Animation Module will churn out tokens to deter attackers, and can even use its secondary ability to effectively proliferate a single target.
When you need to close the game quickly, Hydra’s Growth roughly halves your clock every turn. This can snowball out of control in just a turn or two, and works particularly well with Rogue’s Passage to force your way through any standoffs you might encounter. Fireshrieker is another tool to dramatically cut down the number of turns needed to win, and fits very nicely here.
Mowu, Loyal Companion is a fantastic commander if you want to attack your opponents hard enough for them to really feel it. While it’s true that most dogs have a bark that’s worse than their bite, the same can’t be said for this good boy!
Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse – Cycling
If dogs aren’t quite your thing, you might find more in common with Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse. Her ability to make a small cat army in exchange for drawing cards is a potent power, and one you can easily take advantage of in green. Cycling is a mechanic that isn’t exactly famous for being in this slice of the color pie, but Jolrael makes great use of it.
The plan with Jolrael is simple: cycle cards as often as possible to generate cats, then activate her ability to grow your team (thanks to your full grip of cards). She is a tour de force when built correctly, and can win out of nowhere with little effort.
There are plenty of cycling cards available, but there are some that can gain you additional advantages. Shefet Monitor is a great ramp card that draws you a card, and Krosan Tusker is essentially a green, uncounterable Divination. They can also be played as huge beaters if the moment calls for it! Removal spells like Wilt and Dissenter’s Deliverance are ideal, as they give you the choice between casting a spell or getting you halfway to making another token.
Once you have enough cards with cycling, you can add a few incredible cycling synergy cards to supercharge your deck. Bag of Holding can store your cycling cards for later use, and can be used to loot in a pinch. Fluctuator dramatically reduces the cycling costs of your cards, often allowing you to cycle several cards per turn. The other key piece is Abandoned Sarcophagus; this allows you to replay any of your cycling cards, turning your graveyard into an incredible toolbox. This level of value is difficult for even the most value-oriented decks to contend with!
Your deck can’t quite function with just cycling cards, however: you need forms of raw card advantage to ensure your hand stays well-stocked for Jolrael’s ability. Staff of Nin essentially guarantees you a cat token from the Mwonvuli Recluse every turn, and can be used to pick off smaller creatures that may become troublesome blockers later on. Momentous Fall is a sweet card in this deck, as you can grow your team before casting it and draw even more cards from the sacrificed creature. Even if you just sacrifice a 2/2 cat token on an opponent’s turn, you’ll gain two life and draw two cards, which will trigger Jolrael and make a replacement cat! Harmonize is another staple that fits right in here, giving you a healthy bump in resources while making another token with Jolrael.
While Jolrael’s activated ability is often more than enough to win you the game, sometimes you need a little extra help to close the gap. Overrun grows the team, but most importantly gives your attackers trample, which can end a game there and then. You can use Beastmaster Ascension as a backup win condition in case Jolrael gets removed too often, or even in conjunction with her if you enjoy winning by miles! Finally, if you somehow can’t attack to finish the game (Ghostly Prison, Ensnaring Bridge, etc), Psychosis Crawler can convert your obscene amount of card draw into a deadly way to whittle your opponents down in no time.
This is my personal favorite mono-green deck. As someone that doesn’t usually play green, it feels like second nature, like playing one of my many Izzet decks. Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse is a fantastic choice for any player that wants to feel smart by drawing lots of cards, but still wants to win through good, honest-to-goodness combat damage!
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard – Toolbox
It’s rare that mono-green decks get the opportunity to be the control deck at the table, but Yisan, the Wanderer Bard may be the exception. You can build him in any way you wish thanks to his incredible ability, turning your deck into a menagerie for weird and wonderful creatures. The basic game plan is simple: develop your mana using an elves package, then use Yisan’s ability to fetch the perfect answer to any situation.
Your mana acceleration comes in the form of elves, so Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves are the perfect inclusions. Priest of Titania is the main reason to use an elves package, allowing you to generate an obscene amount of mana in no time. As it’s a creature, you can find it in every game thanks to Yisan’s ability. You can also include creatures like Scryb Ranger to either reuse Priest of Titania for more mana or untap Yisan to fetch another creature. Scryb Ranger can also lead to a number of shenanigans when cast from hand. If you activate Yisan when he has two verse counters on him, you can hold priority, activate Scryb Ranger to untap Yisan, then activate him again; this puts both verse counters on Yisan before you search, so you can tutor for two four-drops instead!
You’ll need ways to deal with anything that your opponents might have, and thankfully, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to tutorable creatures. Collector Ouphe can be stifling to some decks, and almost unbeatable against others; if you’re feeling less mean, you can search up a Phyrexian Revoker to shut down a tricky planeswalker or equipment. If you need to remove a creature, Kogla, the Titan Ape is a fantastic choice. Kogla can even protect Yisan in a pinch with its activated ability.
The excellent tutor targets don’t stop there. Eternal Witness is perfect when you need to recover a key piece that’s been removed already. Manglehorn can be timely against artifacts like Aetherflux Reservoir or Bolas’s Citadel, while also slowing down artifact strategies. As you’ll be playing out a lot of creatures, you’ll need to refuel your hand on occasion. Regal Force can draw you an absurd number of cards and pull you far ahead of your opponents. You can even tutor for it in response to a board wipe to mitigate your losses, if necessary.
There are many different angles from which you can approach winning the game, each with their own unique flair. Staff of Domination can be used in conjunction with Priest of Titania to generate infinite mana, then draw and play all of the creatures in your deck. If you want a quirky option that Yisan can search for, Gigantomancer will buff your smaller creatures for just a single mana each. Finally, if you prefer a Craterhoof Behemoth-style effect, End-Raze Forerunners is a fantastic affordable substitute.
Yisan is a phenomenal commander, with an incredibly high ceiling; they’re often considered powerful enough for cEDH, if built optimally. If you want a deck that you can continue to power up over time, look no further than this Wanderer Bard.
Azusa, Lost but Seeking – Ramp/Landfall
Green is most popularly used in Commander for its unmatched mana acceleration. From Rampant Growth effects, to cards that break the “one land drop per turn” rule, no other color comes close. What happens when you build a deck entirely around these effects?
Azusa, Lost but Seeking gives you access to one of the most powerful mana ramp abilities ever printed in your Command Zone, meaning you can really take advantage of both the landfall mechanic and other “lands matter” synergies.
Azusa is one of your primary ramp engines, but you still need more ramp spells to ensure smooth operation. Cultivate is perfect — not only does it ramp you, but it gives you an additional land to play with Azusa. Yavimaya Elder is another great way to maximize your additional land drops while also drawing you further into your deck. Courser of Kruphix is one of the best cards in this strategy; as most Azusa decks are around 50% lands, you’re poised to make excellent use of its abilities.
With all of these extra lands hitting the battlefield, it’s easy to gain additional benefit from them. Rampaging Baloths is a classic landfall payoff, often giving you upwards of twelve power per turn. Avenger of Zendikar is the perfect mid-to-late-game threat that rewards you for both having lands in play and playing more afterward. Scute Swarm from Zendikar Rising seems poised to join the others as one of the best landfall creatures in the game. Once it starts making copies of itself, it quickly becomes all but impossible to deal with — and even harder to keep track of!
Azusa’s weakness is also her strength: while her ability is incredibly powerful, it’s also extremely card-hungry. You’ll often find yourself low on cards in hand if you don’t plan for it, so cards like Seer’s Sundial are ideal to keep the cards flowing. Thaumatic Compass is another great way to fetch up forests to keep up with Azusa’s demands, and Ramunap Excavator can help you by reusing lands like Evolving Wilds or Field of Ruin. Excavator is particularly dangerous in combination with Ghost Quarter (or Strip Mine, if you have it), as Azusa can let you destroy several lands per turn with it.
Your landfall creatures should have no issue holding their own against even the beefiest battlefields, but there are a few more ways to leverage your lands to close any game in short order. Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar is a great win condition, and their ability can return lands to your hand so you can repeat any landfall triggers you may have. Sylvan Awakening weaponizes your mana base for an all-out attack, capable of wiping out all of your opponents in one combat phase. If that doesn’t work, you can always equip Azusa with Blackblade Reforged to win with a surprise Voltron kill!
This ramp deck is a strategy that’s “all-in” on one specific aspect, and is rewarded handsomely for doing so. If you’re lost but seeking a powerful green deck that will never miss its land drops, look no further than Azusa!
Green is arguably the strongest and most popular color in Commander, and it’s easy to see why. It’s larger than life, more flexible than an elf’s bow, and can just about keep up with blue for card draw. No matter what your personal color preferences are, there’s no denying the terrifying nature of green.
What do you think of these commanders? What’s your favorite mono-green deck? Let me know over on Twitter! This is the final piece in my Best Budget Commanders series; if you want to read the first four installments, you can find my articles on white here, blue here, black here, and red here.
Scott is an Irish content creator and the Head of Budget Magic for the Izzet League. He focuses on affordable decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, particularly ones that stray from the mainstream. When he’s not writing about his favorite decks, he can be found talking incessantly about them on Twitter and on The Budget Magic Cast.