This week I planned on doing a Draft Walkthrough on the Fertile Ground strategy I outlined in my last article. However, it seems that I forgot to email myself the screenshot files, and since I’m home for the holidays that walkthrough must wait until next week.
Since I’m not doing the walkthrough this week, I want to outline another unusual draft strategy. The archetype I’m going to reveal is simply a GW Aggro deck that usually has no tribal focus at all. Most of you might initially wonder why this is such a big deal. If you’ve drafted Lorwyn enough you can likely agree that a lot of your early picks are made based on tribal concerns. Not so with the GW Aggro deck. This strategy was introduced to me by Chris Ripple a few weeks back at a PTQ. He insisted that it was a great strategy, but I couldn’t really see it, as it plays a lot of “junk” cards like Triclopean Sight and doesn’t look very powerful on paper. Chris went ahead and proved me wrong by winning the PTQ in Maryland this past Saturday, and he forced this archetype in the Top 8.
I’m going to discuss this archetype in a slightly different format than is usual for my strategy guides. One other thing I want to mention is that sometimes when drafting this deck you end up with some Elvish or Kithkin tribal effects, but you will almost never fully jump into a tribe.
If there’s one thing that defines the GW archetype in this format, it’s the tricks that it employs. Sure, Fistful of Force is picked early by anyone with Forests, but you can pick up other options very late that nobody else is looking for.
This is the big one. Yes, you should usually take Fistful over this, but optimally you’d like a mix of both. Since the idea is to be beating down you don’t want your opponent to be able to put you on only one card. This not only gives a permanent boost and Vigilance but it also has some nasty combos with the creatures this archetype likes to play. You can play it mid-combat and get another use out of your Kithkin Daggerdare, you can ambush any attacker by untapping one of your guys, or you can get another use out of that Kithkin Healer in a crucial attack step.
The Sight is a very tricky card and what makes it even better is that it is rarely played and therefore usually devastating. When you’re involved in combat, Triclopean Sight is usually only a small thought in the back of your head rather than something you always try to play around, like Fistful of Force. While this may change after I’ve publicly discussed the archetype, the Sight still has plenty of uses.
Fistful of Force
While this is the standard issue pump spell in the format, it has a habit of not being so “standard” due to Clash. I love this card because it’s good whether you win the Clash or not, but often if you do win it equates to winning the game, or at least putting your opponent very far behind.
Surge of Thoughtweft
Chris says that he really doesn’t like this card in the archetype and usually only plays it if he has a Cloudgoat Ranger. Since I’ve only personally tried forcing the deck a couple of times I can’t be sure whether he’s right or not. What I can say is that you can’t go too far wrong playing this card in these colors, as you’ll almost always have a Kithkin and you have cards like Gilt-Leaf Ambush to make it even stronger. One thing I do agree with is that the permanent boost of the Sight is likely better in the archetype.
Even in an aggressive deck like this one I don’t feel that this card belongs. You can’t even use the excuse of “Well, I didn’t get enough pump spells so I’m playing this instead,” for a number of reasons. First of all, if you didn’t get enough pump spells you shouldn’t be in this archetype! Second, nobody takes Triclopean Sights so you probably just weren’t picking them high enough. Whatever the case, the Stalactite is rarely going to be good in Draft.
Opening this card is certainly a reason to consider drafting this archetype. Casting this guy on turn 4 will usually be the nail in the coffin after a two-drop, three-drop start and your opponent tries to trade. Obviously this is a bomb and everyone is taking it, but it is at its pinnacle in this deck.
Resolving this should be good game almost always. Despite that, I still see it going around fifth or sixth in some drafts, and it makes me scratch my head. I guess it’s the same thing that happened with Tromp the Domains, where it took forever for players to realize how good it was, and I recall ranting about it on multiple occasions.
Neck Snap is alright in this deck as there are some blockers you really want to push past. Lignify is pretty terrible as it will still give your opponent a good blocker for your 2/2s. Oblivion Ring and Moonglove Extract are at a premium in this type of deck since it has few other ways of dealing with an active Silvergill Douser and the Merfolk tribe in general.
So what exactly makes this deck different from a typical Kithkin or Elvish aggro strategy? Well, since it doesn’t really care much about tribe, your most important concerns are getting enough tricks and having a smooth curve of men. I’m going to go through the curve by casting costs and then talk about some other bomb uncommons and rares afterwards.
The only other one-drop really worth talking about is Elvish Handservant, and his playability depends a lot on how many Giants you have. The Harrier is always going to be excellent, but he is even better in this aggressive strategy because he can create an opening for your alpha strike before your opponent has time to get set up. Again he has excellent synergy with Triclopean Sight for a one time Lead Astray, or simply so that he can attack and tap a guy before blockers every turn. Whatever the case, this is another card that I believe to be at the top of his game in this archetype.
One other thing I want to say is that Goldmeadow Stalwart will always be playable in this deck since a lot of the early drops happen to be Kithkin. So while you don’t care about being fixated on a tribe he will still be something you want to take highly.
For this slot it’s not so important which guys you get, but rather that you get a lot of them. The strength of this deck is curving out and crushing the slower strategies before they’re able to get online. Some good examples of run of the mill two-drops are Woodland Changeling, Kithkin Skirmisher, and Leaf Gilder. Then there are others that require more attention.
This guy is one of the main reasons this strategy is so effective. He’s essentially a two-mana Nantuko Disciple, since if you’re not crashing into the red zone you’re likely losing anyway. He’s not picked highly, but you should be taking him over a lot of things if you’re in this archetype and be glad to have multiples. As mentioned earlier, he has excellent synergy with Triclopean Sight.
While this guy may seem out of place since he is so tribally reliant, he is actually at home in this archetype. Being fine just as a 2/1 for two mana, he creates the opening for some seriously explosive starts with Woodland Changeling and Avian Changeling being very good for this archetype already. In my opinion this guy is even better in this deck than he is in a normal Giants archetype, provided you get some ways to turn him on.
Obviously there are other options available, like Knight of Meadowgrain and Wizened Cenn, and they are excellent in the archetype. The Cenn is almost as good as it would be in a completely Kithkin strategy.
The big names in this section are Avian Changeling and Kithkin Healer. I’ve already talked a bit about both, but I want to divulge a little more. It may seem counter-intuitive that a Healer would be good in a beatdown strategy, but the reason is because he makes it very hard for your opponent to trade. The Avian is basically the best creature this deck could ask for, as it’s cheap, turns on Kithkin Greatheart or other small tribal considerations, and has evasion. Chris told me he takes Avian Changeling in spots that would make me cringe, like over Lash Out or even Nameless Inversion, because he likes this deck so much.
While many of the creatures in this archetype are Kithkin, the beauty of the deck is that you can take and play anything that attacks well. This guy will be average to great depending on how many Changelings you picked up to power him. Whatever the case the deck often lacks good three-drops, and this guy is another way to have an explosive start which is the overall goal of the strategy.
Of course this is excellent here as well, since most of your guys will trigger off of it.
Gilt-Leaf Ambush is another card that I’ve already mentioned, but I’d rather have the Avian Changeling than any other common three-drop for sure.
When Chris and I were talking about this deck over AIM, he talked about one creature that initially made me raise my eyebrows.
This guy is like the Triclopean Sight of White creatures in that nobody ever plays it. I usually have at least two in my sideboard ready to come in for the Red matchups, but very rarely does this ever make my maindeck. Chris was adamant that he really likes this guy because you can mise wins off of the Mountainwalk, it’s big (as far as creatures in the archetype go), and it turns on the Greatheart.
Once we started talking about Hillcomber Giant I brought up this card since I was wondering what he thought of it. He told me that he thought it was unplayable unless you had no other options and almost never made his deck. I guess Mountainwalk is just that good.
If Mountainwalk is so good then I guess Swampwalk must be at least passable. This guy can let you win a race by gaining life off of your Changelings as well and power up Battlewand Oak. A fine man for sure.
While blocking fliers isn’t a primary concern, this guy is still a good attacker and big for his cost.
I really like this card in the archetype. After the first few turns a creature will usually come down that stops your Skirmishers and Woodland Changelings from attacking. This is where the Balloonist comes in and allows you to get through again. I’d happily pick and play multiples of this guy and I think he is absolutely crucial to success with this deck.
This will almost always be the top-end of your curve and you really don’t want too many of these. I’d say three of these guys will be the most you’d want, and two should be about average. Focusing on the early game and explosive starts is what really makes this deck tick.
If ever there was a five-drop that you’d want here it’d be this guy. He’s very good at finishing the job after your opponent has wasted his resources shoring up the ground. This is yet another card that doesn’t seem to be correctly valued among online drafters.
Board stalled? No problem.
I like to have one of these in my decks just for those times when all hope seems lost and your opponent has achieved control of the board. If this guy sticks he will surely let your team deliver the final blow, and he is absolutely unreal with Fistful of Force.
I’m sure I left out some stuff, but I tried to touch on all of the key players in this archetype. It may seem odd to draft a deck that doesn’t want to focus on a tribe, but sometimes pure aggression is better than anything else available. This deck certainly has trouble against the more controlling Merfolk archetype and similar builds, but in general favors well against the decks people tend to draft.
I was going to spend some time discussing all of the bombs you can open for this deck but it should be very obvious to all of you by now how good Cloudgoat Ranger, Mirror Entity, Purity, Vigor, Galepowder Mage, Epic Proportions, Immaculate Magistrate, Garruk, Ajane, and others are. Most of those cards are even better in this archetype since they are templated for aggressive decks to begin with.
To close the strategy guide I want to share the decklist that Chris Ripple used to win the PTQ last Saturday, as well as a list of the deck that I drafted online that split the finals of an 8-4.
First, Chris’s list.
3 Kinsbaile Skirmisher
2 Kithkin Greatheart
2 Kinsbaile Balloonist
2 Kithkin Healer
2 Triclopean Sight
2 Fistful of Force
This is probably a bit better than what you can expect on average with two copies of Briarhorn, but nevertheless you get the idea. Next is the deck that I drafted recently.
2 Woodland Changeling
2 Kithkin Greatheart
2 Avian Changeling
Fistful of Force
2 Triclopean Sight
2 Kithkin Daggerdare
Hopefully you enjoyed this strategy guide and will give the archetype a try. One thing I really like about the deck is that there are plenty of substitutes. It is easy to force the deck since you’re just taking guys for the most part, and a lot of the cards aren’t extremely desirable for other archetypes.
Feel free to pose any questions in the forums and I’ll be back next week with the Fertile Ground Walkthrough.
Soooooo on MTGO