Deconstructing Constructed – Lorwyn Aggro

States is coming!
Picking up from where we left off last week, I’ll be taking a look at a few of the aggro decks that are available in the current Standard metagame. To ensure a little diversity, I picked a deck that has been close to optimized, one that’s largely in the concept stage still, and one that needs to be refined a little more.

Picking up from where we left off last week, I’ll be taking a look at a few of the aggro decks that are available in the current Standard metagame. To ensure a little diversity, I picked a deck that has been close to optimized, one that’s largely in the concept stage still, and one that needs to be refined a little more. I’ve tried not to overlap with too much of what’s been written on this site lately.

R/G Aggro
We’ll start with one of the best decks in the format, R/G aggro. Although the deck loses some significant cards from the rotation in Stomping Ground, Kird Ape, Seal of Fire, and Char, the addition of 10th Edition and Lorwyn has helped ease the pain of the losses. First we’ll look at a current version of the R/G deck.

This version of the deck is based on Peebles list posted on Friday, but really you can trace the deck back to the ones at Dutch Nationals for almost all the normal card slots. As for some of the individual choices that look a little odd, I’ll go over them now.

Martyr of Ashes comes in over Magus of the Scroll because I believe for many States metagames you’ll likely see more R/G Aggro along with Goblins, W/G, and Kithkin to abuse with maindeck Martyr. If you expect differently – say, more along the lines of Teachings and midrange decks – then go ahead and run a different one-drop in this slot, but having a controllable Pyroclasm can be invaluable in certain matches.

Inner-Flame Acolyte spends much of its time as a way for your Keldon Marauders to deal ten damage in their life-span instead of the normal five. Meanwhile in the face of Pyroclasm or Damnation, you have a way to come back over for four damage while keeping a creature on the board. Think of it as a pump spell attached to a 2/2 dork, or a worse Reckless Charge.

As for Treetop Village over Keldon Megaliths, a quick discussion in my group about it went something like this:

Me: Thoughts on Treetop Village?
Mike: If you’re on the perfect three-land hand, it’s meh.
Me: Rest of the time?
Mike: The ones you hit 4-5? Godly.
Roxas: Sounds odd, but realistically a 3/3 trampler is just better than most of the men you’ll be playing at that point in the game anyway.

I agree with this basic analysis. Although Megaliths deals with the issue of the board getting gummed up with huge men, in other matches the extra damage Village can force through is amazing. This deck has a number of slots that you can optimize towards what you expect to see, and this is one of those slots. My playtest group prefers the extra biggies in the deck, where others prefer the maximum amount of reach after they lay everything on the board.

For a sideboard, the main recommendations I have are for Magus of the Moon and Threaten. Magus of the Moon is a pure bomb when many decks run 18-22 non-basics in their various decks. The downside is Village and Goyf get shut off if you choose this option, so another small point gets racked for wanting to use Megaliths. That said, typically if you curve out with Magus, it becomes very difficult to lose against the archetypes you want them against.

Threaten is a card that you’ll be jumping for joy to see against decks with any sort of fat. Against creatures like Thoughtweft Trio, Tombstalker, Tarmogoyf and others; Threaten is one of the few ways to force through damage short of burn. The real attraction is the fact that resolving Threaten can clear the way of pesky blockers allowing the small swarms of men you have to bash with impunity. It doesn’t take much to hold off the large numbers of 1/1s you have after the first few turns, and this is a way to extend the turn range these guys are viable attackers.

After those two, the sideboard is rather open with options. You can run Naturalize to deal with annoying enchantments like Militia’s Pride, Rites of Flourishing, and Oblivion Ring along with the usual artifact suspects, or go the specialized routes using Ancient Grudge to specifically target artifact mana in control along with totally invalidating Loxodon Warhammer. Tormod’s Crypt can wipe out Haakon decks with no fuss, leaving them with either a limited aggro strategy against you or shutting off a decision tree for the control player.

Special consideration should also be given towards Sulfur Elemental. Sulfur Elemental is a popular option as it can take care of Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, and two of them basically destroy the Kithkin decks floating around. Depending on the popularity of the decks, it could become a must-have in the board or a luxury choice. Pithing Needle meanwhile isn’t relevant in the metagame unless Desert gets some more love. However, if it does… well, consider how much damage a single Desert can do to your set of 1/1 minions. Or you could roll with… Manabarbs. Nice.

The deck isn’t the fastest, nor the most resilient deck in the format, but instead is a very sturdy aggro build that doesn’t rely on a few good cards to win the game (unlike most of the Doran builds) while having more reach than almost any other aggro deck in the format.

As far as matches go, you can race and otherwise brawl with almost any other aggro deck in the format. Gargadon gives you a trump card for the late-game that you can combine with your burn to make for some very uncomfortable positions. Even against decks like G/W or Goblins, which may be able to trump you on the board around the mid-game with various lords and better defensive creatures, this deck excels forcing damage though until you can win with a burn spell or two.

Control decks tend to fluctuate in percentages due to the variances in removal and fat run in each. For the most part, the only decks I’ve had real issues with are those that could drop a huge creature in the mid-game like Tombstalker or Guile to just trump my board while backing it up with counters. It becomes very difficult to work around the control player’s defenses when they no longer need to invest resources in stopping every single thing you need to do. Suddenly Goyf and Acolyte don’t look so hot when they can’t simply brawl through defenses and demand some attention via Slaughter Pact or Shriekmaw. Despite this, you generally can handle a lot of what is thrown at you in the control match; thankfully, non-Blue aggro versus. Teachings is nowhere near as lopsided as it was in block.

Changeling Zoo
So what if you had a deck that had eight two-power one-drops, eight three-power two-drops, and was still running a set of Tarmogoyf? Seems pretty hot, right? Essentially that’s what Changelings allow you to do. By running a critical mass of the Changeling cards, you can effectively run a multi-colored manabase while taking less pain damage than most three color decks, and even less than R/G sometimes! Meanwhile you can also run the dozen or so really efficient men with a “reveal a tribe” drawback attached.

As far as the Changeling cards go, I feel there’s a nice selection to play with at the moment. Nameless Inversion and Blades of Velis Vel both do their jobs well, one being Last Gasp and the other an equivalent of a Gaea’s Might / Might of Old Krosa damage spell while also allowing Goyf and Goblin tokens to trade with whatever. The other slots were harder; essentially you have five choices to get up to 14-15 Changeling slots for the deck to properly function.

Mirror Entity

Avian Changeling

Changeling Berserker

Crib Swap

Woodland Changeling

Woodland Changeling was the first thought, as it provides another turn 2 drop and is realistically always going to be castable. The problem is just how weak the guy is from a curve and topdeck perspective. When you’re getting a better Watchwolf, a 3/1 evasive beater, Mogg War Marshal, and Goyf from your two slot, it’s downright pathetic by comparison. Avian Changeling suffered from some of the same problems, although evasion meant its effectiveness was higher because it could fly in a Goyf fight and not get killed by Martyr of Ashes (more on that later). Entity has the problem of being terrible if you don’t get to untap (And you never will against some decks) or if you’ve curved out and used a Gemstone Mine to do so.

Changeling Berserker is nothing special, but it can at least do a nice imitation of a burn spell and keep a dork in reserve against Damnation. On the other hand, you’ll only be able to cast Berserker some of the time, since the mana in the deck really doesn’t want to support four mana spells. Why can’t you have Shroud too, Berserker?

Crib Swap… I hate this card in an aggro deck. It doesn’t remove my opponent from the game, it leaves an annoying blocker, and its mana cost usually prohibits me from casting this and a creature on the same turn (Unlike Nameless Inversion, which rocks). On the flip-side, the card is still good for three reasons. 1. Changeling 2. Stops Greater Gargadon 3. Stops Tarmogoyf. For me, this means Swap is solid enough, since R/G is the front-runner for best aggro deck, and Tarmogoyf will be everywhere in control and aggro alike.

This isn’t Extended… you won’t consistently have all four colors by turn 3. However, often it won’t matter as it just means a single card is dead (or none at all depending on what sections of the deck you drew). The biggest downside I’ve found with the manabase isn’t consistency in the early game, but rather in the mid to late game where you have to dance through hoops to cast two two-mana spells on the same turn.

A rough list could be made like so:

8-12 one drops (Goldmeadow Stalwart, Flamekin Bladewhirl, Mogg Fanatic)

8-12 two drops (Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Tarmogoyf, Mogg War Marshall, Keldon Marauders, Oona’s Prowler)

0-4 three drops (Acolyte and the Changeling guys come to mind)

0-8 burn spells

4-8 removal spells (Crib Swap and Nameless Inversion)

21-22 lands (6-10 Lorwyn Duals, pain lands and Gemstone Mine)

I think Changeling aggro has quite a bit of potential and certainly the best curve starts of any deck in the format, but the deck really needs a finisher of sorts. Blades can do a decent imitation of a real pump spell, but unless you develop the manabase to run Psionic Blast, you still don’t have a good finishing burn spell. Although the concept is underdeveloped, it’s something to keep an eye on and work towards refining.

For a number of years and formats, Goblin deck construction has followed a few basic rules. You always wanted a certain “core group” of Goblins that was going to do the heavy hitting for you and give you the maximum amount of resiliency in the face of removal / bigger creatures. The synergy featured between the Onslaught block Goblins was outright ridiculous, and often you actively were decreasing the power of your deck by including non-Goblins / mana sources in the maindeck. Unfortunately for us, these Goblins aren’t even close to the power level of their older brethren.

Taking that into account, we’re much more likely to include burn and other solid creatures like Greater Gargadon into the deck to help make up for some of the lost power. There seems to be multiple ways you can take the deck from there:

Extend the “best overall creatures” to go with Tarmogoyf and focus on being a three color aggro with some Goblins synergy.
B/R Goblins focusing purely on Goblins / Gargadon and early beats.
A slightly slower B/R Goblins abusing the sheer number of Goblins you can make with sacrifice outlets like Gargadon, Nantuko Husk, Siege-Gang Commander, and Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician.

As it stands, I haven’t found the R/B/G Goblins deck to be any better than R/G, while managing to pack it in even worse to mass removal than the previous deck. The middle version seems to get the most press, but it lacks the outright power and consistency of Goblins from previous eras. The main problem I have with version two is how erratic the draws can be. Sometimes you curve out perfectly and have a Mad Auntie or Goblin King to make your mass of Goblins not suck, but other times you’ll have a two drop and then play something slow like Boggart Harbinger and wait around to do relevant things.

Plus some of those builds don’t even run Siege-Gang Commander. SGC is probably one of the best Goblins you have left, and one of the few ways to pack any sort of late-game into the deck. Unless you play on going balls out aggro, I can’t see less than three in other versions of the deck.

The last is by far the most experimental, but for those who have looked through the set, you’ll notice there’s a high quantity of Goblin creators along with the ability to run more than just a set of Goblin King. Plus the other incredible sacrifice outlets in Gargs and Husk last a surprisingly long time in this format due the increased reliance on either “non-Black” creature removal or burn. Both are big enough to smash through guys like Doran and Tarmogoyf, so that helps significantly. Here’s an example of a swarm style Goblins.

This is a good idea of what I’ve seen thrown around. The upside of this build over other Goblins builds is the plan of attack. Instead of trying to beat larger creatures by playing removal or doing lesser attempts at swarming, this drops the pretense and simply wants a bunch of Goblins on the field along with a lord or Ib. Ib is the forgotten Goblin out of many, but he allows practically any Goblin to trade a bunch of your insignificant men for any they deem expendable to block. Considering you have SGC, War Marshal and Ib’s own special ability, it stands to reason you’ll be able to create a new conscript army faster than the opponent.

Of course, I have yet to see any really amazing Goblin decks popping up, but it might just be a matter of finding the proper configuration. All have the fundamental problems of sweeper effects, but at the moment it seems like Pyroclasm and Wraths aren’t exactly as popular as Tarmogoyf, Gaddock Teeg, and other Green friends. So the door on Goblins is still open for now.

Blink Flare
And now for something completely different, a variation on an updated Blink / Solar Flare model, oh how innovative!

Sideboard cards likely include Aven Riftwatcher, Jace Beleren, Slaughter Pact, and possibly even additional Wrath effects. Mystical Teachings is another option if you’re faced with a slower deck match-up.

Yeah okay, so this isn’t aggro. Big whoop, wanna fight about it? The basic concepts in the deck are simple: get up to four mana, Wrath the board. Play a dork or three, preferably via Evoke – Blink so you can get some cards going without spending too much. Note that Careful Consideration is still solid and will constantly save your rear when you hit the later stages of the game.

To explain the six Wrath effects and use of early evoke effects, let me reference a quote from Megas XLR.

Jamie: Coop! Blow these guys up!
Coop: I can’t! They’re not the bad guys!
Jamie: That’s never stopped you before!

Terrific. You don’t care if you lay turn 5 Core to buy a turn or two to dig for a Wrath to gain control of the board. You don’t care if you burn through the evoke creatures quickly to either eliminate an early threat or dig for land. All you care about against every non-Teachings deck in the format is hitting the Wrath effect and following it up with something huge or some Blink shenanigans to gain an advantage and win.

Unlike other decks based around this model, the idea is to stabilize as soon as possible after the first Wrath. Razormane Masticore goes a long way by being able to slaughter nearly every creature commonly seen in the format without batting an eye, while doubling as a four-turn clock against control or swarm aggro. Venser is basically a concession to running Blink in the deck. The ability to bounce anything becomes useful when you start seeing Greater Gargadon, Oblivion Ring, and Planeswalkers running around.

Adarkar Valkyrie is here because it can play offense and defense and works well with the Evoke men. A four-power flyer can make racing messy in a hurry for many players, especially when she invalidates any removal that might be aimed at anything else in play. Tombstalker is here just to come down and smash some heads open, simple as that. I’m also considering going up to three simply because it does that job so very well.

Some might consider Teeg a major threat against the deck. I find you have enough solutions to him and the decks that play him for him to not be a huge issue unless they had an amazing hand in the first place. Simply put, for many W/G decks it’s Oblivion Ring or bust time when Razormane hits the scene.

The biggest drawback of the deck is the mana requirements to keep everything flowing smoothly. Thankfully LD is at an all-time low, so such greedy decks can exist in the metagame. Even if you don’t like this build, hopefully more decks will give consideration to the beast that is Razormane Masticore as I find it’s one of the most effective ways to battle the influx of aggressive decks in the format.

Next week will likely be a round-up of the Standard decks before States, so I’ll see you then.

Josh Silvestri
Team Reflection
E-mail me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom