You only have to play Trusted Forcemage once to get a feel for how powerful it is. It is the undisputed number one common in green, so I decided to pick the brains of some pros who had pinned their hopes on it when drafting green in Avacyn Restored.
First I stopped for a chat with Jonny Magic. Jon Finkel was just making the final cut from a White-Green deck.
"When you're green, the most important thing is having a solid base of creatures. Look at this." He gestured to the middle of his curveL three Trusted Forcemage and two Flowering Lumberknot. "This is nuts. With this as a foundation, you know the deck is going to be good. Flowering Lumberknot and Joint Assault give you these draws that just roll your opponent."
"Once you have that base, the important thing is to fill in the spots where you have weakness. This draft, for instance, I'm playing Defang, which is pretty bad but solves a big evasive guy for me. I've got Call to Serve to go over a stalled board. One card I really wanted but couldn't get was Wandering Wolf. The only time I saw one was with a Trusted Forcemage."
Next on my list was the 2010 Pro Tour San Diego Champion Simon Goertzen.
"The thing about this format is it's fast. So green is all about the curve. You have Trusted Forcemage at the center of things, and you build out from that. In particular, I think you want your green decks to have one-drops, even Diregraf Escort. The aggressive decks are just too vulnerable to them. They play their Kruin Brawler or Thraben Valiant, they have to trade with this guy. It's actually why, when I'm drafting red, I don't like Fervent Cathar. I'd much rather have Riot Ringleader and Hanweir Lancer. Green has a bit of trouble with its twos, as Wandering Wolf is the only one you really want."
When there isn't much to choose from in the two-drop slot, Wandering Wolf becomes a key card for green decks that need early action.
I asked him about a Nettle Swine sitting in his sideboard. "You'll sometimes play that guy, but again, because of your curve, he's in competition with other four-drops. Here, I've got Havengul Vampire, Mad Prophet, and Druid's Familiar. The Familiar is obviously insane, but even the other cards are more what I want to be doing. They are fine aggressive creatures, and they do more in the late game. I'm also playing a Yew Spirit over Nettle Swine for the same reason. He can do more when it counts."
Lastly I talked to Hall of Famer and handsome devil Brian Kibler, whose blue-green deck had just eviscerated an opponent.
"To me, green is the color with the most impact. Blue is the best color, but green's commons all have a big effect on things. Green lets you pull ahead early. You want to build your deck with that in mind. I mean, that's why blue-green is the best combination: Green lets you get ahead, and blue helps you stay ahead."
"The other thing green really has going for it is its big creatures. With so little removal, fatties can just run free." Here I mentioned Lumberknot, and he paused. "Lumberknot is...it's really high-variance. You need at least six soulbond guys to play it, but realistically I don't like it without eight. It's also tough because it actually gets harder to play in multiples because each one needs its own pair. It's not like other cards where once you've enabled it you can just go. If you have three Lumberknots, you're going to get draws where the second one is just dead."
I asked him what he thought about green's tricks. "Well Joint Assault is really good, but the other ones are fine too. Snare the Skies and Terrifying Presence I don't mind. Sheltering Word is pretty narrow. It's really not a maindeck card. Although I did accidentally maindeck it once because I thought it was the fog."
So there you have it. The heart of the matter is Trusted Forcemage. Pick it early and often, but remember all the considerations that come along with it or you'll wind up with a stack of cards rather than a cohesive deck.