Insert Column Name Here – Choose The Right Aggro?

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Monday, March 17th – I’m trying hard to get a handle on what makes a good Sealed deck in the format, but what look like decent builds collapse underneath me. And today, I got a deck with cards I would have sworn would have been a raging aggro deck, only to find that the real aggro deck was buried beneath.

I’d read about the way some pros felt like they just didn’t “get” a new Limited format. They were chugging along on Odyssey, and then Onslaught came out and they couldn’t buy a win. There was something about the cards that just threw them, and suddenly all the lessons they knew had vanished.

That’s the way I feel about Morningtide. I’m not the greatest Limited player, Lord knows, but generally I don’t bomb out of a league. I do okay. But with the advent of this new set, I’m on a losing streak that terrifies me.

I’m trying hard to get a handle on what makes a good Sealed deck in the format, but what look like decent builds collapse underneath me. And today, I got a deck with cards I would have sworn would have been a raging aggro deck, only to find that the real aggro deck was buried beneath.

Let’s take a look.

Sealed Deck Pool
Ferrett Steinmetz
Test deck on 03-23-2008
Lorwyn Limited
Magic Card Back

Solid Playables: Ballyrush Banneret, Burrenton Shield-Bearers, Coordinated Barrage, Hillcomber Giant, Militia’s Pride, Order of the Golden Cricket, Veteran of the Depths, Weight of Conscience

You know, I’m on the fence about Burrenton Shield-Bearers — is it an automatic playable? At five mana, it’s about one mana too much for a 3/3. And its effect isn’t always groundbreaking. But it often allows you to pull out wins when you’re trying to win some sort of Kithkiny damage race, so for now it’s kind of on there.

Likewise, Graceful Reprieve. Seems like it’d be useful. Might be. I’ve played with it some, but haven’t used it well yet; it’s only really won me one game, getting back a Game-Trail Changeling when I needed it. The rest of the time, it got me back little weenies. I’m not sure whether this is good, or just looks good.

But hey, what about the overall cards? Well, we have some of the best “Tap a White merfolk to get an effect” cards, without any real tap effects. (If we only had Judge of Currents, we’d be golden.) And sending a 1/2 into combat is just suicidal, man. We have part of a good Merfolk deck, but not quite enough to leap into the water alone.

We also have a fairly strong Kithkin onslaught, but we are lacking some key cards like Surge of Thoughtweft. It’s not bad, but not great. We do, however, have some awesome quasi-removal in the form of the not-as-conditional-as-you’d-think Coordinated Barrage and the insta-wall enchantment Weight of Conscience. Not bad.

Solid Playables: Cryptic Command, Deeptread Merrow, Fencer Clique, Ink Dissolver, Mothdust Changeling, Stonybrook Angler, Vendlilion Clique, Waterspout Weavers

Wow. That’s… A lot of Merfolk. And none of them particularly good. Okay, the Mothdust Changeling can help us tap our White merfolk (as can Stonybrook Angler, if we suddenly get a yen to tap our own guys as opposed to locking down the opposition), but what we’re left with are a bunch of low-cost dorks without much of an effect on their own. Not good.

However, Fencer Clique actually reads, “Pay a blue: Significantly up your chances of winning target clash.” Which isn’t something you want to do all the time, but keep it in mind if you can’t afford that Lash Out to connect.

Overall? Weak, Blue. Very, very weak.

Solid Playables: Ghostly Changeling, Hornet Harasser, Nightshade Schemers, Peppersmoke, Shriekmaw, Thieving Sprite, Weed-Pruner Poplar, Violet Pall

Weed-Pruner Poplar is slowly becoming one of my favorite Sealed cards — it’s not overpowered, but picking off someone’s utility dudes one by one will often haul your fat out the fire in a long game.

What we have here is an okay color with a potent three-card splash. (Peppersmoke, Shriekmaw, and Violet Pall are all great removal spells). But I don’t think there’s quite enough here to run it as a main color, since the tribes are all over the place — Goblins and Treefolk and Faeries, oh my!

Solid Playables: Consuming Bonfire, Fire-Belly Changeling, Incandescent Soulstoke, Lash Out, Spitebellows, Sunflare Shaman, Tarfire, Tar Pitcher, Taurean Mauler

A lot of nice Red here to choose from, including the crazy Taurean Mauler. The Mauler isn’t invulnerable — an early Lash Out or Nameless Inversion can often take it down, and I’ve lost at least one game to a Weed Strangle that hit something large and then catapulted my opponent’s life totals into the stratosphere. Still, it’s immune from most out-and-out removal (Eyeblight’s what? Tarfire who?) and it has the benefit that if your opponent doesn’t burn a removal spell on it toot suite, he will generally fall to it.

Spitebellows is a strange card. I’ve never actually been happy to cast it. I always want to evoke it, killing something instantly, rather than waiting. I know there are situations I’d want to have it on the board, but generally that’s when I need a mega-blocker — which means I’m close to losing — or when it’s the only threat on the board.

That said, I want to do the fun surprise thing of Incandescent Soulstoking out a Spitebellows out at instant speed to really surprise someone in combat. Who doesn’t? But since the Soulstoke generally has a big target that says, “KILL ME NOW THX” because of all the Hostilities and Vigors and whatnots running amuck, that has yet to happen.

Is Fire Juggler a solid playable? I thought it was. Now I’m not sure. It’s certainly not a bad place to occupy in the mana curve, but do I always want it? Not sure at all.

Oh, and how about Roar of the Crowd? Certainly a potent effect. But four mana, and sorcery speed? I might not always want that. I’m going to have to play with it more before I can say.

Oh, and if you haven’t gotten the message, Sunflare Shaman’s not great in the early game, but it can be pretty darned good as a one-shot effect in a late-game standoff.

Solid Playables: Ambassador Oak, Bosk Banneret, Everbark Shaman, Game-Trail Changeling, Gilt-Leaf Ambush, Hunting Triad, Incremental Growth, Lys Alana Huntmaster

I like Ambassador Oak a little more every time I play with it. It’s particularly spiffy with Bramblewood Paragon, natch, but getting two dudes for a cheap price — especially when I’d often be happy to have just a 3/3 for my mana-money — is golden.

And oh, a pair of Game-Trail Changelings — one of the nicest, beefiest Changelings in the set — is money, as they say. Plus, we have all sorts of ways of beefing power with Incremental Growth and Hunting Triad.

Say, is Woodland Guidance any good? I’ve never been able to decide.

What we don’t have is a lot of flexibility. We have late-game beef after turn 4, and… Well, that’s about it. Not a huge number of Elves to really make Lys Alana Huntmaster shine, though the double-Changeling certainly helps.

Hard to say.

…And The Rest
Solid Playables: Shimmering Grove, Veteran’s Armor

I thought that Divining Wand was superior to Veteran’s Armor. “I’ll draw cards!” I thought, stupidly. “And give things flying!” But as it turns out, Veteran’s Armor has such an impact upon the board that it’s an auto-include, whereas the Wand can sometimes hit the bin.

So How’d I Do?
Well, at first, I created a G/R/b aggro deck that looked like this:

1 Blind-Spot Giant
1 Consuming Bonfire
1 Fire Juggler
1 Fire-Belly Changeling
1 Incandescent Soulstoke
1 Lash Out
1 Spitebellows
1 Taurean Mauler
1 Tarfire

1 Ambassador Oak

1 Bosk Banneret
1 Elvish Warrior
1 Everbark Shaman
2 Game-Trail Changeling
1 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
1 Hunting Triad
1 Incremental Growth
1 Lys Alana Huntmaster
1 Oakgnarl Warrior

1 Peppersmoke
1 Shriekmaw
1 Violet Pall

1 Diviner’s Wand

(I told you I thought it was better at first.)

Unfortunately, this deck didn’t really have what it took… I think. I went 2-5 that night, but it was one frustrating night; in seven matches, I had seven mulligans to five thanks to seven no-land opening hands, one-land six-hands. I was about ready to pound a wall.

But even so, the deck didn’t seem to have what it took. It started out strong, but since it had no evasion creatures, the ground inevitably bogged down after I got folks down to a low life, and then they would whittle me to zero with their clever combat tricks. I could destroy some of their men, but they could also destroy mine… And unfortunately, my guys being dead hurt me more. It didn’t feel like a deck that could win.

Plus, I’d also left myself extremely vulnerable to mana-screw. Being from multiplayer, I tend to allow much more of a higher mana curve than I probably should, and the surfeit of top-end spells meant that the slightest stammer in mana spelt my doom.

And let us not forget the lack of synergy! I have a fair amount of Changelings in here, but enough to run Blind-Spot Giant by itself? Prolly not. Maybe I should have thought of Blades of Velis Vel.

So I tried a few other builds — an R/B build, most notably — that didn’t work either. Then I thought that maybe the problem was my early game. I wanted to have something quick, so I went with an early Kithkin assault that chained into a later-game stream of Big Ugly:

7 Forest
3 Mountain
6 Plains
1 Shimmering Grotto

1 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
1 Hillcomber Giant
1 Incremental Growth
1 Kinsbaile Skirmisher
1 Kithkin Greatheart
1 Lash Out
1 Lys Alana Huntmaster
1 Militia’s Pride
1 Tarfire
1 Veteran of the Depths
1 Ambassador Oak
1 Ballyrush Banneret
1 Burrenton Shield-Bearers
1 Coordinated Barrage
2 Game-Trail Changeling
1 Graceful Reprieve
1 Hunting Triad
1 Order of the Golden Cricket
1 Spitebellows
1 Taurean Mauler
1 Veteran’s Armaments

1 Weight of Conscience

This one worked a lot better — mainly on the basis of the rather ugly combination of Veteran’s Armaments and Militia’s Pride. You have to stack them correctly, but you can put the tokens so they’re in play and attacking before the Armaments triggers, giving you what’s often a +2/+2 boost on top of whatever other guys were already attacking.

This enabled me to hit so hard in the first five turns that the opponent was generally on the back foot by the time he recovered, and then my smashy-smashy guys came on line. Of course, now that it didn’t matter, I went 4-1. Greaaaat.

The Weekly Plug Bug
My new webcomic My Name Is Might Have Been looks, on the surface, to be a deadly serious comic about a man struggling to bring a post-nuclear apocalypse back to life. But last week, the truth was revealed:

My Name Is Might Have Been is really an attempt to explain the game of Rock Band.

That’s right! As my new signature line on my email says, it is “A webcomic about rock, the end of the world, and tiny plastic guitars.” But that doesn’t mean that we’re not trying to take it seriously — no, this is a story we want to tell that’s actually more than a cheap gag. We’re walking a fine line here, taking a ludicrous concept and giving it the dignity of a plot that we hope will rival a Hollywood movie.

Bizarre, I know.

Also, if you were a fan of my old webcomic, Home on the Strange, I should note that the last and final strip — the one that reveals what happened to the poor, socially-clumsy basket case Branch — is up today. God bless and God speed.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]StarCityGames.com
The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy