It might not look like it, but aggro decks are crushing Ravnica Allegiance Standard right now.
Yes, there are decks like Esper Control, Nexus of Gates, Sultai Midrange, and the various Nexus of Fate / Wilderness Reclamation decks in the format, but aggro as a whole is nearly 50% of the metagame. One of the biggest issues with finding a great Standard deck is that the decks are incredibly polarized.
If you want to play midrange, your opponents will go over the top of you with Nexus of Fate, Hydroid Krasis, or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. They can also go under you with the plethora of great one-drops that are available. Honestly, it doesn’t leave much room to maneuver. Other previously successful midrange decks, like Gruul, Boros Angels, and Rakdos Midrange are having a difficult time, and that includes the various Judith, the Scourge Diva decks out there.
Standard is pulling people in two directions right now. On one side, you have the midrange and control players who continually try to one-up their mirror matches by jamming an increasing amount of Thief of Sanities into their decks. Meanwhile, there’s also the urge to play as much cheap removal as possible to help against Mono-Blue and Mono-White Aggro.
People need to adapt to Mono-Blue Aggro, and Izzet Drakes will get caught in the crossfire. Things like Kraul Harpooner and Plaguecrafter will balloon in popularity. Although Izzet Drakes has a better matchup against Mono-Blue Aggro and Mono-White Aggro than Mono-Blue Aggro does, it’s worse across the board and certainly can’t handle that amount of hate.
That opens the door for Mono-White and Mono-Red Aggro because the cards that are good against Dive Down are not good against Skymarcher Aspirant and Ghitu Lavarunner. If you want to beat aggressive decks, you could do worse than Mono-Red Aggro. Spot removal, Goblin Chainwhirler, and Rekindling Phoenix will always be a recipe for success against aggro, but it needs massive adjustments in order to fight Sultai and Esper. The all-burn plan doesn’t work against Wildgrowth Walker, Moment of Craving, and Absorb.
What you need are persistent sources of damage. The normal Mono-Red fare, like Ghitu Lavarunner and Viashino Pyromancer, isn’t exciting considering how weak such cards are in combat, so I went searching elsewhere.
- 4 Shock
- 4 Tormenting Voice
- 4 Crash Through
- 2 Warlord's Fury
- 2 Risk Factor
- 4 Light Up the Stage
- 3 Carnival
- 2 Skewer the Critics
Ever since SCG Indianapolis, I’ve had this deck in the back of my mind and have slowly been refining it on MTG Arena when I get a chance. I’m finally in a spot where I can say that it’s probably legitimate. Thank you, Paul Spears!
You have a couple of different gameplans. The first is using one of the discard outlets to cheat out an Arclight Phoenix. The second plan is to chain spells with Electrostatic Field and/or Guttersnipe on the battlefield to deal your opponent a bunch of damage. Rix Maadi Reveler, Tormenting Voice, Risk Factor, Light Up the Stage, and the various cantrips ensure multiple triggers per turn.
You’re lighter on actual burn spells, which helps against decks that gain life. Arclight Phoenix, Runaway Steam-Kin, and Guttersnipe can deal large amounts of damage at a time. Aside from Arclight Phoenix, I’m not playing too many copies of each because I don’t necessarily want to flood on them. Not every deck in the format will give you enough time to assemble multiple Guttersnipes.
Honestly, the restrictions placed on Mono-Red make me more interested in Rakdos. If the burn spells aren’t cutting it and you need some heavy-hitting, hard-to-remove threats, Rakdos has them in spades. The only downside is losing Goblin Chainwhirler, but do you need it to beat aggro?
- 3 Siege-Gang Commander
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Rekindling Phoenix
- 2 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 3 Midnight Reaper
- 4 Rix Maadi Reveler
- 2 Spawn of Mayhem
There’s a lot I don’t particularly like about this decklist, but it is chock-full of power. Six five-drops top the curve of this beast, and while it looks like a pile of mythic rares, I’ve played some of my toughest matches against this deck in the last week.
Kitesail Freebooter is the perfect enabler for Spawn of Mayhem and is by far one of the scariest things this deck can produce. Why, then, are there are only two Spawn of Mayhems? The mysteries of Japanese deckbuilding… Regardless, I’ve been happy with Kitesail Freebooter in general. “Disruption, spectacle enabler, and blocker of 1/1 fliers” makes for a reasonable inclusion.
This deck will pressure you with giant monsters each turn. It’s not an elegant plan, but it’s a good plan nonetheless, and one that has given me many firm beatings thus far.
If you’re on the “I want to kill everything” end of the spectrum, there’s an option for you too.
If the Mythic Championship were tomorrow, I’d register this, for better or for worse. It’s not perfect but has game against every deck in the format.
I’m doing something more traditional, but the Japanese take has merit too. Assuming the plan of “giant monsters plus removal” actually works against all the aggressive decks, it’s probably better than being super reactive.
Still, with how popular Sultai, Mono-White, and Mono-Blue are, a deathtouching Goblin Chainwhirler is a reasonable place to be. You have game against Esper thanks to your grindy elements, most of your removal not being truly dead, and the ability to sideboard in copious amounts of discard, card drawing, and Plaguecrafter, which answers all their threats.
The Goblin Chainwhirler / Status combo is real, but it’s not the only thing your deck has going for it, so you shouldn’t focus on it too much. I’m not playing many green sources since the vast majority of time you’re casting Status, not Statue, but having the out for Statue (and Finality) is quite nice. I started with more green sources and have slowly reduced them in order to make my manabase better and that trend might continue.
Moving away from expensive cards like Siege-Gang Commander will pay you dividends in basically every matchup that isn’t Sultai. You could even sideboard those cards if you like. However, I prefer The Eldest Reborn as my five-drop of choice in order to answer things like Carnage Tyrant and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Snagging a Vivien Reid or Ravenous Chupacabra on the last chapter is a bonus.
To survive against Mono-Blue, you need to lower your curve significantly, so the trick is finding the highest-impact cards that are cheap and still useful in the late game. Being able to play multiple spells in the same turn is how you will beat Mono-Blue.
As always, Nexus of Fate decks will prey on decks like these, but you can’t beat everything. After sideboard, you have a chance with Duresses and Legion Warbosses, but it’s not easy. Cindervines would be a huge help, but I’m not about to annihilate my manabase in order to cast a card that may or may not help against a bad matchup.
Thief of Sanity is something to be wary about from the Esper side, but thankfully Plaguecrafter covers it. The other midrange decks seem to be in a Thief of Sanity arms race, each trying to see who can jam the most copies into their maindecks in order to have an edge. That isn’t a great plan against all the aggressive decks, but hey, if you want to join the party, who am I to stop you?
- 4 Rekindling Phoenix
- 2 Dire Fleet Daredevil
- 2 Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
- 4 Thief of Sanity
- 3 Rix Maadi Reveler
This deck actually seems reasonable. Thought Erasure is one of the best cards in the format because of how versatile it is, but it’s probably not worth splashing for. Even though it’s easier to kill, Thief of Sanity is doing Theater of Horrors’s job much better but also isn’t worth splashing for. Getting access to countermagic out of the sideboard is huge, since now you get to interact on the stack, either by protecting your threats or stopping their Teferis and Nexuses from resolving. That’s probably the biggest upside.
It’s a shame that our best two-drops are Rix Maadi Reveler and Dire Fleet Daredevil, as I’d prefer something more robust, but it’s all we really have. They’re both serviceable early and scale well into the late game, so we probably shouldn’t be asking for more.
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager is a great card, but it’s not great in a field of Vivien Reids. I’m not playing the full four copies because Rekindling Phoenix is the stronger four-drop at the moment, but I’m willing to supplement those with a couple copies of Bolas.
You might be thinking, “Rakdos Midrange sounds great, but Grixis? Why? What about Jund?”
I got you.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 2 Carnage Tyrant
- 4 Rekindling Phoenix
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 2 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 2 Midnight Reaper
- 3 Rix Maadi Reveler
- 4 Growth-Chamber Guardian
You don’t need to axe the explore package, but I think it’s seriously overrated. Wildgrowth Walker’s best attribute against Mono-Blue Aggro is putting them on a clock, but any random Grizzly Bear does that. Why not play the best Grizzly Bear of all time in Growth-Chamber Guardian? Guardian also has the added benefit of being excellent against control, whereas Wildgrowth Walker is one of the first cards you sideboard out.
Jund gets access to the Find / Rix Maadi Reveler combo, which will allow you to continually draw cards and help you find whatever it is you need. Rekindling Phoenix is an ace against Mono-Blue and the Golgari mirrors. You even have Carnival and Bedevil as upgrades to your otherwise clunky removal package. With Rekindling Phoenix adding to the four-drop slot, I especially like Bedevil’s ability to replace Vraska’s Contempt.
Cindervines out of the sideboard is another nice touch. Realistically, Golgari has enough enchantment removal with Crushing Canopy, Thrashing Brontodon, Vivien Reid, and Vraska, Relic Seeker, but if we really want to hate on Wilderness Reclamation decks, we might as well do it as best we can.
If I were playing Grand Prix Memphis or an RPTQ this weekend, I’d highly consider playing Mono-Blue Aggro. It’s still powerful, and I don’t anticipate the metagame shifting very much. People will have better sideboard plans against you than before, but you’ll only lose a few percentage points and still have great matchups throughout the field.
Mono-Blue Aggro has some bad matchups in Izzet Drakes and Mono-White Aggro, but if you want to try to beat everyone, you should choose one of the many flavors of Rakdos.