The Aggro Decks Of Standard

Brad Nelson builds and tests a Naya deck around Daybreak Ranger, one of his new pet cards. He also tries to take aggro to several different places in Standard, in anticipation of a control-filled metagame this weekend at Indy.

This seems to be the big question on everyone’s mind. Not only is SCG Open: Indianapolis this weekend, but States is just around the corner. People are searching for the perfect deck to start battling with. Many of these people are interested in breaking the control decks, but I like to start out aggressive. More importantly, I want to flip me a Daybreak Ranger.

I brushed over this guy as a Limited bomb last week. I just did not think that flip cards outside of Garruk would be playable in Constructed. My opinion greatly changed this last weekend when I saw how powerful he was in Limited games. My mind started racing, and he seemed good in a wide variety of situations and archetypes.

The thing that impressed me the most about Daybreak Ranger was how inherently powerful he is against Pod decks. They run very few ways to deal with creatures, so wasting a turn to flip him rarely has consequences. Once flipped, this guy easily eats almost every creature on the battlefield undisturbed.

With acceleration, this creature might just get to flip from an opponent’s turn two. Most control decks do not have many things to do on this turn. They will either have Think Twice, Mana Leak, or a removal spell. If they decide to Think Twice to keep the Ranger from flipping, you get the opportunity to play around Mana Leak for a turn and continue to progress your board.

Daybreak Ranger also can kill a Consecrated Sphinx with the help of Dismember no matter what side is showing. This is somewhat relevant since most decks will have Dismembers, and they will probably be stuck in hand against most control decks. He is even not that bad in the late game, since he will most likely be a 4/4 most of the time, attacking and trying to steal the game.

The first place I put this guy was in Naya. It seemed like an appropriate place to start since G/W has so many powerful creatures as well as great mana.

The mana base is very rough, and I never ended up perfecting it. The mana gets much worse with more red lands, so I did not want to play many spells in the color. The only reason Inferno Titan is in this deck is for those situations when Garruk Relentless wants to search up a game changer; most other creatures in the deck don’t fit this role.

I also did not know whether Mirran Crusader was better than Blade Splicer but soon found out that the two creatures and easier casting cost made Blade Splicer a much better spell. They both deal the same amount of damage against control decks, but having two guys can help against the swarm decks in the format.

This list can make fast Daybreak Rangers and enough pressure to attack the Esper control decks popping up.

The first matches I played were against my good friend Jacob Van Lunen and his take on Humans.

We did not reveal what we were playing to each other, and the matchup was very lopsided. Naya easily destroyed Humans in countless matches, but we did learn a many things.

The first thing we found out is that this Human deck is very powerful against many of the control decks in the format. Humans comes out of the gate so fast that it almost always goldfishes a turn-four kill. Many of the control decks are still working out the kinks, and this fast clock is trouble.

Gitaxian Probe and Nevermore combo in a way that can shut down the mass removal spell in their hand. Even a blind Nevermore is very powerful since, there are many situations where there are only a couple spells that can get an opponent back into the game.

Even though Mentor of the Meek is a very powerful card, it has more value in the sideboard. Every other card in the maindeck wants to beat down, whereas it is trying to generate card advantage. This style of card fits post-sideboard games better, since those are the games where fast starts are more likely to get shut down. I would replace them with Mirran Crusader to increase the chance of fast kills in the first game.

I started to work on this deck after we played our first set of games and ended up really liking this list.

Going back to Naya, the deck was fine but nothing special. Interestingly, the white cards were very unimpressive outside of Oblivion Ring. Hero of Bladehold seemed like it would be very good, but it either had to stay back on defense or just die to a removal spell. Also an early Black Sun’s Zenith could leave it stuck in my hand, since the white base relies on the one-drops.

Daybreak Ranger was amazing when it flipped, but not having many things to do on my opponent’s turn was brutal. Dismember was about all I could do on their turn. Red removal was an option, but the mana base cannot support so many different colored spells.

The biggest problem this deck had was dealing with control decks. Many games it was able to race or put enough pressure on the board to win a game, but it could never come back from any six-drop. A couple turns of counters and removal spells into a Consecrated Sphinx would always put this deck in the grave. The deck did not draw well in the late game, since none of its cards are windmill slams, while others are useless one-drops.

If Naya was amazing, I would simply take out the Daybreak Rangers and move more towards a G/W tokens deck, but they also have the same problems this deck was having. I had to move onto a different color since white was not powerful enough.

Blue spells complement Daybreak Ranger perfectly since the easiest way to flip him is to neglect playing a spell for a turn. Adding instants will allow the deck to not only protect the Daybreak Ranger but also not lose as much tempo when giving up a turn of spells; counterspells become a great answer for the threats that Naya had trouble dealing with, and Snapcaster Mage is awesome. Everything points towards playing blue cards.

Most of the cards in this deck started as four-ofs. Skinshifter as well as Snapcaster Mage are very powerful cards in this deck, but drawing multiples was rarely a good thing. This deck operated much better when I drew one of each spell instead of multiples of any. Once I started playing fewer copies and more unique spells, my win percentage grew.

Azure Mage is a great threat for a deck like this. This format seems to revolve around Titans, Birthing Pods, and Control decks, which makes him a very good threat. This will change if there are more aggressive decks in the format, but I don’t think that will be the case.

Manabarbs is great in this deck, since there will be a couple good counter wars in the mid game to land this card. It has not seen much play in the last couple years but was a powerful spell against control decks. Flashback is, well, back, and many control decks use a decent amount of mana to get a threat into play. They also only have access to Oblivion Ring to get it off the table.

Arc Trail is one of the most powerful removal spells to fight against the creature decks in the format. Not only does this land a two-for-one any time you cast it, but it’s a great card to flashback with Snapcaster Mage.

My biggest concern with this deck is it still has a decent amount of kinks. I don’t know if it is a powerful deck or just a deck with powerful cards. This means it might just be a trap to spend too much time on, but I do have to say I like where I am so far with this deck. I don’t know if I’d take it into battle in a big event this weekend; I’d rather work on it for a couple more weeks leading up to States.

In the end I think that Daybreak Ranger is going to be a Standard staple in this format. I don’t know if I’ve found the correct shell for this card yet, but you’ll be the first to know once I do.

Moving on, I want to take a look at a couple aggressive decks I talked about a few weeks ago. I finally got time to play around with these strategies and see if they can make it in competitive play. The first of these is Puresteel.

Trinket Mage was very slow to impact the board and for gaining metalcraft. The deck just needed fast things to do, which meant Vault Skirge had to come back. This is not that powerful of a spell, but it has evasion and still can hold a sword.

This deck uses its early turns better than most of them out there. Many decks are trying to utilize Snapcaster Mage, flashback spells, and Birthing Pod to gain value, but all of them are slower than the engine of Puresteel Paladin. Many games, I got too far ahead in the early turns for anyone to come back.

I think this deck is going to be one of the better aggressive decks in the format because it handles mass removal better than most. It might not be the fastest deck in the format, but the power is there.

I am sad to say this, but this deck just does not cut it. In some games, it’s the best thing out there, but those games are few and far between. Many games just ended up with me having a couple bears in play while my opponent triggered some six-drop mythic rare.

Dismember might seem odd as a four-of, but it was well worth it. Killing blockers ends up being the only way to win some games, and being able to buy it back with Snapcaster Mage is great at killing someone quickly.

Molten-Tail Masticore is still the best thing to ever happen to this deck and makes me want to play this deck at FNM, but that’s about as far as it will get.

My main goal this week was to find the best aggressive deck for anyone wanting to beat down this weekend, but I fell a bit short. It seems that this time around, it is the aggro decks that need the most tinkering to find the best mix of spells, while the control decks are finding easy ways to win games.

I feel that U/B or U/B/W decks will be winning the fights this weekend, but that tide should turn once all the kinks come out of these aggressive decks.

Next week I’ll be talking about the SCG Open event that is being held in Indianapolis this weekend. I’ll be there commentating with Gavin Verhey, and it should be a good weekend to tune in.