I Wanna Go Fast

This week CVM explores the possibilities of fast aggro in Theros Standard, taking a look at the monocolored options first then considering others.

YES! We’ve got the full spoiler. Brewers, start your engines!

“I wanna go fast!” — Ricky Bobby

Whenever we have the full spoiler for a new set, especially one that causes a rotation, I like to start brewing by looking at the aggressive cards. Normally the aggressive cards are much easier to evaluate than the midrange or controlling cards, which leads to decklists being put together faster and gives us a starting point for our testing gauntlet—if you can’t beat the linear aggro strategy, it’s back to the drawing board.

Theros is bringing something a little different to the table in terms of aggro cards. Combining with the currently available creatures from Return to Ravnica block, we now have six one-mana creatures with two power. That’s a lot!

I know what you’re all thinking; Experiment One is only a 1/1. I’m going to count him as having at least two power as a one-drop because we all know we rarely get beat down by 1/1 Experiment Ones.

With these six creatures, every color besides blue has access to two (eight in a deck) creatures that only cost one but can attack for two (or more).

Black: Rakdos Cackler and Tormented Hero
White: Soldier of the Pantheon and Dryad Militant
Red: Rakdos Cackler and Firedrinker Satyr
Green: Dryad Militant and Experiment One.

What does all this mean?

We need to be prepared to deal with an onslaught of cheap, efficient creatures, but we also have an opportunity to explore how to best utilize these creatures. Is it going to be best to stick to one color and just play two of them? Do we want to go two colors and play four of them? Which ones are best, and how can we take advantage of them? These are all questions that have been racing through my head ever since I saw the full spoiler.

With six different creatures spread across four different colors, there’s a lot of information to take in, so let’s start with the benefits and possibilities of staying monocolored.

The biggest benefit of staying monocolored is going to be the devotion mechanic and the respective God for that color. Since we’re going to be focused on aggression, the Gods who have a static or activated ability that will benefit that strategy will probably end up being best; however, if we can easily turn on their devotion, all of the Gods are formidable in the combat zone. Since going monocolored is going to lead us towards wanting to play the Gods and meet their devotion requirements, colors with good double-cost and triple-cost cards will be potent.

Another interesting conundrum is that if we are monocolored and aggressive, we want Mutavault, right? It’s probably a “yes”; however, being able to cast cards like Ash Zealot and Boros Reckoner are going to be very important.

Erebos, God of the Dead has a unique static ability that shuts off life gain for all of our opponents, which is actually relevant when we are trying to do twenty to our opponents as fast as we possibly can. Erebos also lets us spend our mana to draw cards when we have nothing else to do, which is something that most aggressive decks don’t have the liberty of.

Here is what a sample Mono-Black Aggro deck might look like. We get to take advantage of the two one-drops and the devotion we gain from Rakdos Shred-Freak. The token copies of Pack Rat also add to our devotion, and our three-drops (Agent of the Fates and Lifebane Zombie) help us get there too. Erebos, God of the Dead should be a creature most of the time that we cast it.

Unfortunately, I don’t that that mono-black gives us enough early aggression to warrant not playing another color, but I really like how Mogis’s Marauder helps us alpha strike for the win. I’d like to note that we may want some number of Gray Merchant of Asphodels as a finisher if it turns out that we have five-plus devotion most of the time. Draining for seven is a quick way to end games.

Heliod, God of the Sun’s static ability is something that’s probably not going to be of any relevance for an aggressive deck. We may want him simply to attack with and as something that gives us the option to still pressure our opponent after we’ve been hit by a Supreme Verdict or if we ‘re simply flooded, but that might not even be good enough or worth it.

Trying mono-white shows us that we are really lacking any real significant cards to take advantage of having a high devotion to white. Heliod, God of the Sun is pretty awesome when you get to attack with him, but outside of that he is pretty lackluster in an aggressive deck. I think that this is probably the weakest of the monocolored aggressive decks that we can build.

I do want to talk a little about how awesome Soldier of the Pantheon is though. The life gain is mostly irrelevant (will be awesome in aggro mirrors), but having protection from multicolored is very good. It’s a little tough to evaluate because we haven’t played with many protection from multicolored cards before, but lining it up against the creatures that will be brick walling us is pretty impressive.

He does come with a few downsides though since we can’t hit it with a Ghor-Clan Rampager or an Unflinching Courage, but that’s about it. It blocks all of the non-flying creatures from above too—that’s pretty good for only one mana.

Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] definitely seems like the best God for any aggressive strategy. One of the natural disadvantages of playing a lot of one-drop creatures is as the game goes on their impact becomes less and less. Purphoros allows our one-drops to actually do damage in the late game. His activated ability to pump our entire team shouldn’t be discounted either. It’s also important to note that Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] plays very well with his weapon, Hammer of Purphoros. Being able to attack with Purphoros the turn you play him is pretty big game.

I don’t think that we can play Mutavault in this deck, and it may not be right to even play Purphoros. The mono-red decks from Block Constructed leaned on the raw aggression of playing a lot of one- and two-drops with Dynacharge and just overwhelmed their opponents. Firedrinker Satyr seems awesome on paper, but I think once we start playing with it a little bit we will find the Jackal Pup drawback to be a bit too much. I’m still going to start out slamming him into the red zone, but that’s just my prediction.

Nylea, God of the Hunt is a little difficult to evaluate, but I think she’s going to end up being very good in a mono-green deck. She is a 6/6, which is a very good rate for only four mana, and giving all of our creatures trample works very well with her weapon, Bow of Nylea. Since the Bow gives all of our attacking creatures deathtouch and Nylea herself gives all of our creatures Trample, we only have to assign one damage to any blocker and the rest gets to trample over. Having Nylea, God of the Hunt and her Bow in play at the same time will make combat a nightmare for any opponent.

While I really like the combination of Nylea with her Bow, mono-green really is lacking something like Rancor or Revenge of the Hunted to efficiently push through damage. I think that this deck best utilizes Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, but even still it’s just a bunch of dudes.

Making monocolored decks to try to take advantage of the powerful one-drops was a very interesting exercise; however, we can see that there just isn’t enough there to make it worthwhile. We still have access to all of the shock lands from Return to Ravnica, and some of the one-drops are hybrid cost (Rakdos Cackler and Dryad Militant), which makes them even easier to cast using shock lands.

The Gods have awesome flavor and do some powerful things that we haven’t seen before, but I think that going monocolored to guarantee we have the right devotion isn’t worth it—especially if we can still turn them on and play two or three colors. I think that Rakdos Cackler is the best of the aggressive one-drops, and with Tormented Hero and Firedrinker Satyr we can put some pressure on fast. We even get Spike Jester, which is a card that I had high hopes for that just never panned out. Here is where I’m starting for a hyperaggressive deck.

I think this is a good place to start if we want to take advantage of the plethora of aggressive one-drops available to us. Our aim is to win the die roll (this deck has a huge advantage if it plays first) and hit as hard as possible. A few Thoughtseizes to grab a problematic Supreme Verdict, Sphinx’s Revelation, or blocker and a few burn spells and Dragons to finish it. I really like Mogis’s Marauder in this deck too, and if it turns out even better than I thought, we might want more. Because of the Marauder I want to try playing Rakdos Shred-Freak over Ash Zealot, which I think is probably fine. Gone are the days of a billion Avacyn’s Pilgrims and Arbor Elfs staring at us on turn 1. We still have to worry about some Elvish Mystics, but even then we can just keep bashing—as the Shred-Freak in all of us says, “Long hair, don’t care.”

For our sideboard, we probably want some number of Erebos, God of the Dead to shut off life gain from our opponents. We will want some more Doom Blades and Thoughtseizes and the fourth Lifebane Zombie. I also think that Peak Eruption is going to be an awesome sideboard card for decks that can afford to play it. Nighthowler is a card to consider for the sideboard against other creature-heavy decks.

As you can see, there are a lot of options for how we can build our aggro decks now that we have plenty of early drops. We just have to determine which midgame cards and ways to push through damage are going to be the best. Here are the awesome midgame cards and ways to push through damage that I could come up with:

I’m sure there are plenty more that I missed, but this will give us all food for thought while we brew away and get ready for the first week of Theros Standard next week!

I would really love to hear people’s thoughts on what directions we could/should go with all of these aggressive one-drops. Please let me know in the comments what you’ve been working on or what your ideas are—I love reading them all.

I hope that everyone has fun at their local Theros Prerelease this weekend! I know I will be playing as much as I possibly can to help prepare for the Theros Sealed PTQ season!

Just remember—if you ain’t first, that’s ok . . . since most Magic tournaments pay out to at least the Top 8!

<3 CVM

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