The Mysterious Disappearing Act of Mono Green Devotion
DarthJacen goes over the history of Mono-Green Karn and how it ended up in its current predicament.
There’s been a lot made about the power and consistency of Mono Green Devotion in Pioneer, including by yours truly. The deck (and various versions of Mono Green) have existed since the dawn of Pioneer, but the power level of those decks waxed and waned as more consistent decks littered with removal and interaction began dominating the format. It wasn’t until streamer Kanister popularized the addition of Pestilent Cauldron alongside Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner and Karn, the Great Creator – creating a combo that gained infinite life, generated infinite mana, and could mill out the opponent all in one turn – that the deck started seeing renewed success.
The first few weeks after the combo was discovered, the deck found traction in a metagame dominated by Azorius and Izzet Control. It wasn’t long until these control decks found themselves at the mercy of this Elvish Mystic deck and Mono Green appeared to be a dominant force in the metagame. However, much like with the rise of Izzet Control and countless decks beforehand, it was still too early to determine if this deck was a flash in the pan or a real contender.
We saw the metagame start to shift to try and answer Mono Green with various decks that had been pushed out of the meta thanks to the prevalence of control starting to rise. It was the rise of Winota, Joiner of Forces – which had previously checked Lotus Field Combo – that reemerged as a predator to the success of Mono Green Devotion. With a consistent and fast clock that could go around Mono Green and preying on the lack of interaction that the devotion deck ran, we saw a shift of power.
Quickly, Mono Green started to show up less frequently at the top tables as Winota, Joiner of Forces and various Expressive Iteration decks started to take their place well above the rest of the format. Other decks like Mono Blue Spirits and Mono Red Aggro that had aimed to punish Mono Green now also dwindled in place of Rakdos Midrange, which was looking to kill off Winota, Joiner of Forces and her many cheap creatures. This metagame continued until another major shift in the Pioneer metagame arrived. This time however, it wasn’t various decks rising to fight the top decks, but Wizards of the Coast itself stepping in to handle the problem.
Winota, Joiner of the Banlist
Winota, Joiner of Forces ate a ban in Explorer thanks to the dominance of the deck in best of one and the writing appeared on the wall for the card in Pioneer. On June 7th, 2022, WOTC banned Winota, Joiner of Forces and Expressive Iteration, immediately shifting the powers at the top of the Pioneer tier lists and returning us to a metagame nearly identical to the time before Mono Green’s combo finish was found.
Without its format predator, Mono Green started to find success, once again dominating the top eight and top sixteens of the Pioneer challenges week in and week out. This once again gave rise to Mono Blue Spirits and Mono Red Aggro; but as players continued to change their sideboards and optimize lines, cards like The Chain Veil and Skylasher entered the picture and further pushed Mono Green to new heights. With seemingly no matchup looming that could stop Mono Green, the narrative quickly changed into one asking if Winota, Joiner of Forces and Expressive Iteration had only masked another ban-worthy problem in the format.
Gusted to the Aether
With Mono Green firmly set as the top deck of the format, it was now time for the various other top decks to start to adjust their gameplan to see if green could be dispatched or if WOTC would come back around with a second round of bans. We saw several decks like Rakdos Midrange, Mono Red Aggro, and various Spirits decks look to attack green, but these weren’t the decks that ended up showing players how best to attack the deck. No, that came in the finals of the NRG Pioneer event in a weekend where green dominated and finished in the finals of every event that weekend tracked on this site for data purposes, it was the loss to Izzet Phoenix that showed the blueprint for how to take green down.
With a focus on early interaction backed up by large threats and interaction on the stack, Scott Pulera was able to take down NRG Lansing through Crackling Drake and Aether Gust. This quickly opened the door for others to experiment with the various shells of Izzet to attack green while still maintaining a strong matchup against the aggressive decks looking to try and get under Mono Green Devotion. We saw this continue to shake out as Izzet Phoenix began dominating the top tables of the Super Regional Qualifier on Magic Online while green started to slow down.
And Struck Defiantly
But, if there was only one major deck that could attack green, we could still easily see the format shift into a two-deck format where Mono Green Devotion could be a top contender. It was the addition of Boros Heroic back into the format that really helped bury Mono Green Devotion and fully halt the deck’s success. While Izzet Phoenix leveraged large flying creatures and interaction on the stack, Heroic leveraged Illuminator Virtuoso, God’s Willing, and Reckless Rage to kill green long before the deck could get off the ground. Filling a similar role to Winota, Joiner of Forces, soon Mono Green Devotion had a pair of tough matchups to try and handle.
Unlike with Skylasher, there wasn’t any nice clean answer to these problems for Mono Green, and we finally saw a weekend where this dominating force failed to put up a top 8 for the first time since Winota, Joiner of Forces was banned. The next weekend we saw one challenge with no Mono Green Devotion in the top 16 at all. This past weekend, we saw the deck fall out of the top 32 entirely.
That’s right: from having some of the most oppressive early numbers in the format to entirely absent from the top 32 of either Pioneer Challenge in just over a month. That is the magic trick of Mono Green Devotion. We’ve seen various other decks rotate towards the top of the metagame with Lotus Field Combo winning both challenges this weekend. Rakdos Midrange and Azorius Control continued to put up strong numbers as well. That despite all three decks being poor matchups into Mono Green Devotion.
Returning to a Natural State
Lotus Field added in extra Natural States, Boseiju, Who Endures, and Pithing Needles to the deck to help fight green on its own terms, while still successfully beating up on control decks. Azorius Control and Rakdos Midrange each took the approach to attack the decks like Heroic and Phoenix that pushed green out of the metagame.
With this open field of powerful decks in Pioneer, we’re seeing brews and oddities putting up strong finishes and Mono Green Devotion can’t poke its head out without finding some tough – if not outright disastrous – matchups. We’ve seen decks drop off the radar before and then explode back onto the scene (Lotus Field as mentioned just won both challenges after seemingly being absent for months from the top tables) but it does seem like we’ve finally seen the curtain close on the dangers of Mono Green Devotion dominating the format.
While I have greatly enjoyed the deck, I’m glad it doesn’t appear that WOTC needs to step back in to handle Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Karn, the Great Creator, Storm the Festival, or Cavalier of Thorns to bring better balance to Pioneer and, ultimately, that’s a good thing for the format.
That’s the tale of Pioneer’s latest boogeyman. I would recommend desleeving your Llanowar Elves for now, but keep in mind that as the meta shifts, green will be back, but hopefully not to the degree we saw immediately after the Winota, Joiner of Forces ban.
Thanks for reading and be sure to stay safe out there!