Deconstructing Constructed – Extending Your Aggression

Read Josh Silvestri every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Tuesday, October 7th – Today we look into the futures of some non-Zoo and non-Affinity aggro decks that could still potentially thrive in today’s quick Extended. Much has already been written about both of these decks in their previous iterations, and the metagame hasn’t formed enough to spend page upon page over some tiny changes and the no-brainer Shards additions.

Today we look into the futures of some non-Zoo and non-Affinity aggro decks that could still potentially thrive in today’s quick Extended. Much has already been written about both of these decks in their previous iterations, plus the metagame hasn’t formed enough to spend page upon page over some tiny changes and the no-brainer Shards additions. Instead, we turn to some alternative aggressive decks that can survive against the combo decks that abound.

Demigod Stompy A1
BGW Doran A2
GWU Aggro-Control A3
Bonus Affinity List A4

Demigod Stompy — A1

Deck Summary: Optimally, power out a Deus of Calamity, Demigod of Revenge or 8-10 piece Empty the Warrens on turns 1 or 2 via the Red Ritual effects and Chrome Mox. Alternatively, use Blood Moon or Magus of the Moon to ravage the opponent’s mana until you can drop one of your finishers or find Umezawa’s Jitte. Basically, Demigod Stompy is an Accelerated Red deck on crack.

To start: no, I have no idea who actually first created the deck, or if they basically just ported it from Dragon Stompy in Legacy. For me, that was the first deck I thought of when I originally saw the deck online (you can now find it all over M-L), except with Ancient Tomb obviously replaced by more one-shot accelerants. Anyway, the goal of the deck is rather admirable (getting something rather difficult to deal with down on turn 1), and it’s surprisingly more consistent than you might imagine at first glance. A turn 1 or turn 2 Deus of Calamity can be nearly impossible for certain decks to overcome, especially if on the draw, while other decks will still be rather inconvenienced by the 6/6 trampler. The same goes for having a horde of Goblin tokens early in the game. Barring Engineered Explosives or comboing out around them, most decks are dead on their feet against an early Empty the Warrens.

Demigod of Revenge, on the other hand, is much less exciting, at least for as much as a four-turn clock (starting from possibly turn 1) can be. It can be reasonably taken care of from most other aggro decks via Shrapnel Blast, Tribal Flames, Oblivion Ring or just plain old racing. Control and combo on the other hand generally just have to let the thing go to town, smashing face until slower measures can be implemented. Venser or Cryptic Command from Faeries, Damnation from UBx control, Putrefy or Death Cloud from BG and so on. It can be a huge annoyance and potential killer against a lot of decks, just not as much as Deus.

Anyway, the Plan B (or C) and turn 2/3 plays of the deck are basically just dropping Blood Moon effects to crush manabases. Considering the average number of non-basics in Extended decks, this is a pretty effective plan for a back-up, and can be used as the main plan of attack if the opposing deck has no good answer to it. Turn 1 Magus of the Moon can put some decks out of business before they’ve even had a turn.

Of course, there are a few glaring issues with the deck, most of which can’t really be addressed without turning the deck into something else entirely. The first is that there’s absolutely jack for a draw engine, so you are totally SOL if the initial burst and subsequent topdecks of your deck can’t get you there. You figure, with a good draw, that the opponent has to deal with two major threats (or a major threat and a Blood Moon effect) within the first three turns of play. If they can survive these, then you’ve got nothing left. Even an early Deus can be overcome via cheap blockers, Stifle, or Lotus Bloom. Empty the Warrens is a bit more difficult, but combo can race it and control will likely just drop an Engineered Explosives after boarding.

The second flaw with the deck is just the inherent risk in banking so hard on one-shot mana sources and mostly expensive threats. There are quite a few hands where you’re just one card short of having the nuts, which means you either toss them back or hope to get lucky on the draw step. Other times you are praying to various deities not to get hit by turn 1 Thoughtseize on the draw and just having your hand fall apart. Finally, the game 1 against quick combo is kind of atrocious, as not only do they have Lotus Bloom and Manamorphose to negate Blood Moon effects, they likely will also be taking between 0-1 life from lands, which means dealing 20 the legitimate way before they crush you. On the plus-side you get Trinisphere against combo post-board, which is pretty awesome against them.

Finally, this deck does have some issues with certain board cards. Runed Halo can shut down whatever card you just invested three cards to play, and Echoing Truth is a blow out on any major early-game play the deck has, save possibly a Blood Moon effect. Ultimately the deck is fun, but it seems a bit match-up dependent; other than Empty the Warrens, the value of your threats tend to fluctuate wildly based on the board resources of the other guy. This compared to Zoo or Affinity, where the main threats keep roughly the same value across the board, at least before boarding.

Doran — A2

Deck Summary: Pretty simply, disrupt the opponent early on, play a few huge guys and clear the way for them to beat the opponent up.

Ah Rock, nothing beats good ‘ol Rock! I needed a test build to throw up as the B/G/X deck of the format, and the beefiness of Doran, along with access to White combo stoppers, got the nod here. Against normal aggressive decks, you’ll be a bit outgunned in the early going, but between Smother, Goyf, Doran, and Jitte you can take control of the game if the opponent can’t Oblivion Ring or Tribal Flames all of your big creatures to death. For the most part this version is ignoring normal Shackles control and Tron as a major factor, because we need to make cuts to the deck somewhere, and I think control will have enough issues not dying on turns 3 or 4* in this format. Against combo, we have the maindeck double team of Canonist and Thoughtseize, perhaps not the grandest of anti-combo cards, but they get the job done game 1 without being dead everywhere else.

* Or, say, turn 6 after an end-of-turn Gigadrowse.

Why Canonist over Gaddock Teeg? Two reasons. The first is that Teeg does very little to stop the Swath Storm combo from going off or simply killing it with a Grapeshot. Canonist at least requires the opponent to have a Lotus Bloom or Chrome Mox come into play first, while shutting down the non-Desire ways of winning the game in the meantime. The second reason is that Canonist can also be of use against decks that try to maximize mana efficiency either by not letting them get a one- and two-drop on turn 3, or stopping a Red Ritual chain.

The nice thing about this deck is the amount of power it can combine with the utility aspects B/G/W brings to the table. It used to be you had to give up powerful beaters in exchange for efficient dorks and spells. Now you get reasonably costed creatures that can end the game in a few attacks, and even more variety utility-wise from the last few sets. Kitchen Finks and Reveillark are both solid utility guys that can help out the aggressive / attrition matches, but they also have beefy enough bodies to be useful as attackers. The drawback of this deck is that it simply can’t break open the format, or really scare anyone with super quick starts. However, it can get you a whole lot of small edges in matches if you load it up with the right utility creatures, which seem like a bit of a rarity right now.

GWU Aggro-Control – A3

Deck Summary: A deck which harnesses the basic concepts of Faeries and some of the GWB metagame creature decks from last season; a few strong attackers backed by utility and counters.

I guess the alternate name for this deck would be ‘Hot Garbage’ or some derivative thereof. This is still in a rougher stage than the other two lists, since instead of taking existing lists and concepts and tweaking, I’m basically taking the Fae concept and rebuilding it from scratch. Why try something like this over Faeries? I couldn’t stand just how weak most Fae variants were to aggro, even with Goyfs, and some even running a few token Jittes. Even in its current form, I far prefer this build against anything with creatures in it, simply because it can steal, kill, and block the vast majority of men. Oh, and Ponder still ranges from somewhere between great and ‘it’s almost Brainstorm’ for this format. So that’s the explanation for that addition to compliment Ancestral Vision.

For some of the odder choices, Bant Charm probably sticks out the most. However, Bant Charm is one of the more interesting cards I found for the deck, being the swiss-army-knife of three-drops. It can do quite a bit for the cost, ranging from getting rid of almost any creature in the format, destroying pesky equipment like Cranial Plating and Umezawa’s Jitte, and even countering a spell now and then. If Putrefy can see play, this certainly qualifies. Otherwise I guess you could say I simply tuned one of the UG Faeries lists more against aggro by cutting all the cuteness.

Certainly I have more issues against control, but until I know how much give and take there is against Zoo, Doran, and Affinity, I’d rather have the maindeck more tweaked against aggressiveness. Combo almost certainly has more game against this as well, with fewer Stifle and hard-counters, but the addition of White means easy access to Canonist and Teeg, which means they get to go weep in the corner. In addition, the White splash allows for Kataki against Affinity, which is another small bonus.

You could also go the other route and instead run Black for Dark Confidant, Thoughtseize, and other cards along those lines. However, I wanted to try out the White splash first to really get a feel for how good some of the utility cards you gain from that splash are. I’m open to suggestions for the build.

Cantrip Affinity — A4

Deck Summary: Take Affinity, amplify the number of hands where you see the nuts, but lower the mulliganing ability, and you have this version.

This stranger than normal Affinity list comes from one of my buddies, who played Affinity non-stop for the last Extended season and jumped at the chance to try out some alterations for a variant. Even if you don’t like the deck, and it is rough, there are some ideas that may be worth exploring, so give it a once-over if you have the time. Here are some playing notes from Ben.

The variant started out when I noticed that I was only really winning with the broken Affinity draws, back in the old Extended season. I cut a bunch of cards for Street Wraith, then Manamorphose to increase those draws, which led to having enough non-artifact cards for Mox, so I added that for a speed burst.

Frenzy is probably the best card in the deck, followed by Atog. The sideboard is actually very loose right now, as it’s so hard to take things out of the main that you can really afford to play sideboard cards over. Typically these will only be for the specific, relatively narrow matchups where you really need the help. In general, Cranial Plating comes out if anything does, due to the speed of the deck and how often you see multiples of key cards. It’s also occasionally correct to cut Frenzy in matchups where you can’t get in with creatures, or when you can’t afford to go all in on a Frenzy that might be countered. You could also test Ethersworn Canonist in the Thoughtseize slot, but I’d guess that Seize is better/more flexible.

The biggest thing to remember while playing is to never miss a point of damage, since the whole point is to maximize that. Also, you’re always the beatdown. Always.

It’s also important to trust in the heart of the cards while making mulligan decisions: In general, it seems to be correct to err on the side of not mulling one-land hands with reasonable one-drop counts and an Atog (or similar). Be extremely careful to not break the deck while sideboarding, since basically every card requires every other card to truly be good.

That’s all for today! Best of luck to those who are actually enjoying the Limited qualifier season, and enjoy Shards!

Josh Silvestri
Team Reflection
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom