Magic is always changing. From one week to the next, we keep our fingers on the pulse of the metagame, trying to see which way the best decks lean and move to counteract them. For many this is what keeps the game fresh and exciting. Sometimes control provides the best option, generally overtop midrange decks. Other times aggro seems to be the best choice. The current metagame generally seems to support devotion decks, U/W/x Control, and a handful of W/x Aggro decks.
As most of you know, the decks I favor generally don’t fit into either category exclusively. Often the decks I prefer utilize obscure interactions to
mess with defeat my opponents. Aggro generally has the least room for these fun interactions, but today I’ve got three decks that provide punch on the front end and fun on the back end for you brewers out there. Except for a couple of cards, there’s no overlap between them, so each should provide a different experience when you hop in the driver’s seat.
We’ll start off small with a redux version of a deck I talked about nearly a year ago. It proved to be one of my more successful concoctions, making Top 4 in an FNM field of about twenty. Although there haven’t been many changes to the deck I’m bringing today, there were more than I expected; Theros did a pretty good job of providing some nice multicolored options to line up with the Ravnica suite, and a couple monocolored cards solidified the deck’s strength.
Draw your swords!
- 4 Dreg Mangler
- 4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Rakdos Cackler
- 4 Deathrite Shaman
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 1 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
- 1 Tymaret, the Murder King
Boy, I miss Rancor. Can you imagine if that fellow was still around?
The creature suite is pretty self-explanatory. Burning-Tree Emissary, Ghor-Clan Rampager, and Domri Rade have been available for months now, and their presence certainly helps the strength and consistency of this deck. But some newcomers have important roles to play too. Xenagos, the Reveler makes Saber-compatible tokens, letting you get in there for four a turn even if they have removal every time. Tymaret, the Murder King is also a fresh face. I’d love to build a deck just around him, but that’ll be for another time. He’s a good size, he can toss your team at your opponent’s dome on that crucial turn, and he’s very difficult to permanently remove.
Varolz, available for about six months, has been drastically underplayed in my opinion. He’s very difficult to kill as well, he provides a free sac outlet, and he makes use out of every fallen creature’s flesh. What’s not to like? The land base is straightforward and without any colorless sources; except for a few three-plus spells and Civic Saber, there’s nothing colorless mana can pay for.
The sideboard holds a very crucial gem for aggro decks that can cast it: Thoughtseize. A novel’s worth of virtual ink has been spilled talking about the power of this little discard spell, so I won’t overdo it, but to be able to remove an imminent threat without losing tempo is invaluable for an aggro deck’s game plan. I believe the spell choices maindeck are more helpful against a wider range of decks, including aggro (where Thoughtseize is generally pretty poor), but against anything but hyperaggro, Thoughtseize is a game-winner.
Hellhole Flailer, a combatant in the original, is a great choice when you need power of flexibility. 4/3s kill a surprising amount of stuff, and your opponent can only take so many before they have to start chumping. It goes along well with Civic Saber too, allowing you to toss it at your opponent’s face for a third of their life total. Golgari Charm is the poor man’s Boros Charm, but it also deals with killable enchantments like Detention Sphere and any of the legendary artifact enchantments running around these days.
Polis Crusher, a 4/4 protected creature, follows the same suit, and its added longevity means it can take two or three enchantments and a lot of life away from your opponents over the course of its life. Rot Farm Skeleton, admittedly a bit deep, is a recyclable Civic Saber wielder that keeps on ticking. If your opponent is happy on burn or sweepers, it might be time to go loaming.
The Civic Saber deck is decidedly one-note, but often that’s what aggro is. If you prefer a no-frills face-beating approach to aggro, I recommend this one. Although this version remains untested, the previous iteration, which used inferior cards in many slots, did fairly well.
Next, we jump across the color spectrum to explore a block mechanic that had me excited from day one: heroic.
I’ve been playing a Block Constructed W/B Heroic deck (reduced from my very clunky Esper version) over the past few weeks online and have been unbelievably happy with how it’s done. When we translate this concept into Standard, we get several great spells that interact in exciting ways with these heroic creatures, so let’s get right in there.
- 4 Judge's Familiar
- 4 Phalanx Leader
- 2 Artisan of Forms
- 4 Battlewise Hoplite
- 4 Favored Hoplite
- 4 Fabled Hero
The creature department builds itself for the most part with one important Standard inclusion in Judge’s Familiar.
I know that this is a different format than Modern or Legacy, but Judge’s Familiar seems like the package deal for a deck like this. It’s evasive, it can be cast for either color (which really matters when you only have two dual lands), and it lets you develop your board worry free. Having an answer to stop an end-of-turn Doom Blade for the low, low price of zero is right where decks like this need to be to maintain pressure.
If you look at the rest of the spells, +1/+1 counters play an important role, so this little Bird can quickly swell from a Flying Men to a Wind Drake or an Air Elemental. For the rest of the heroic creatures, you’ll notice that nearly all grant +1/+1 counters. This is essential to stay relevant in a world with Desecration Demons, Polukranos, World Eaters, and Blood Baron of Vizkopas. You’ve gotta be able to get lofty to make a lasting impact these days.
In the spell department, I’d like to draw your attention to two critical enablers: Hidden Strings and Bioshift. Both of these target two creatures, allowing you to double the value out of your heroic creatures. Bioshift lets you save a soon-to-be crushed heroic creature’s counters, and if it didn’t have any, the heroic trigger will resolve first and allow you to move the freshly minted counter to another creature. Gods Willing is a staple in Block Constructed heroic lists, and it’s still great here, providing single turn evasion or protection from a powerful attack or a removal spell.
Triton Tactics, also a double-target spell, allows you to surprise an assault or survive a burn spell. Ordeal of Thassa seemed to be more relevant than Ordeal of Heliod, which did make it in the sideboard, and it provides two +1/+1 counters off the bat if you swing. Other times it could just be a cheaper Divination. There’s very little to say about the land base except that I believe the twenty colored lands can sufficiently support the deck so Mutavault is able to sneak in.
The sideboard is geared to specific situations. Swift Justice, an exceptional combat trick, is even better than Moment of Heroism, a cute little trick from Innistrad that saw a bit of play. On Fabled Hero this gives a full four additional damage and life gain, and on anything else it allows you to trade for a better creature, trigger heroic, and gain life for just one white mana. Like Swift Justice, Ordeal of Heliod comes in against low-removal decks. Ordeal of Heliod solves two problems at once against heavy aggro decks. It makes your creatures big enough to make them stop attacking to block, and it buys you critical time to create a significant board and card advantage. Ten life is a lot, and although every match doesn’t need you to get a one-time ten-point swing, it’s there when you need it.
Swan Song is cheap enough to let you continue developing, and the 2/2 Bird it grants your opponent will get eaten by nearly every attack you send. For the deck’s biggest enemy, Supreme Verdict, Rootborn Defenses comes in. It is highly suboptimal, but that card has the potential to utterly flatten you so you have to be prepared. As for utility in dealing with noncreature permanents and most other spells, the deck needs to apply enough pressure to force them to be irrelevant.
Shortly before Theros’ release, a cutesy aggro deck made the rounds at my local shop and abroad. This deck was absolutely in it to win it, committing itself to pump tricks to inflict as much damage as possible in a very brief amount of time. It utilized bloodthirst and combat tricks to flatten your opponent, playing fearlessly into Searing Spear, Ultimate Price, and Devour Flesh. This R/G deck is gotten a bit of a tune-up and has been adapted to a G/W shell. Let’s rumble!
- 4 Fencing Ace
- 4 Dryad Militant
- 4 Slaughterhorn
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 4 Fleecemane Lion
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
This 21-lander acts with lightning speed and efficient creatures to thwart the enemy. With only eleven cards that cost three mana, this deck has a single purpose. In the creature department, Dryad Militant and Soldier of the Pantheon provide the initial pressure. Soldier is a good pump target against some decks because of the removal it avoids; although Abrupt Decay, Dreadbore, Warped Physique, and Azorius Charm aren’t as proliferate as they once were, you don’t have to worry about them anymore. Furthermore, it swings past common defenders like Frostburn Weird and Nightveil Specter. Either way, it’s a 2/1 for one, which is enough for most any aggro deck.
Fencing Ace benefits immensely from the +X/+X pumps. Although very unassuming, the Ace might just lock the game up for you. Voice of Resurgence is just too good not to include. The synergy is pretty wimpy, but if you "raise" your Voice and they have to kill it in response, you’ll be up an Elemental. Fleecemane Lion is a great Watchwolf, and its monstrous ability lines it up to be the premier target for your pump spells. Slaughterhorn, although listed as a creature, is really just Giant Growth number five through eight. I’ve played G/x Aggro decks where I’ve tried to cast him, but he’s just so darn irrelevant most of the time even on an empty board. Any creature can stop him, so there’s not much point unless you’re behind.
Giant Growth starts out the spell department for obvious reasons, and Warriors’ Lesson follows it up. I’ve really wanted to use this card since its spoiling; all the double-target spells like these are strong, but I loved Hunter’s Insight and want to revisit that fun. Remember, if you target your Fencing Ace, you draw two cards off his hits! It will already be difficult for your opponent to block, so giving you additional advantage in a hit can keep your hand stocked.
Ranger’s Guile is the Gods Willing of this deck, but it does provide a small bonus too. Sometimes all you need is to save a creature for a turn, and the power and toughness pump gives it a bit more versatility in my opinion when you’re trying to save your creature and smite your foe. Ajani, Caller of the Pride gets a good chance here. The ability to pump anything permanently and shot put a creature over a line of defenders (that’s how I picture it in my head anyway) gives him the nod over any evanescent pump spell.
The board adds color-specific answers that line up with the deck’s strategy. Hunt the Hunter is a pump spell stapled to a removal spell. This lets something as simple as a Dryad Militant smash a Burning-Tree Emissary and then slay the Domri Rade behind her or helps your larger creatures dissolve an Arbor Colossus or a Polukranos. Fiendslayer Paladin gives your creatures a shield so you can safely cast your pump spells against Mono-Black Devotion. Doom Blades be damned! The life gain and first strike are also helpful against a 2/2-intensive army.
Skylasher, cheaper and more efficient than Mistcutter Hydra, makes it in against mono-blue, allowing you to stop Nightveil Specter and slide past your foe’s Thassa to hit at Jace’s or Elspeth’s soft flesh. Or your opponent’s, I suppose. I played Skylasher pre-rotation and was really pleased with how well it played. If only it were a Spider. Brave the Elements? Well, I’ll let you decide what color this is best against and even if it is helpful. Except for Skylasher and Slaughterhorn, this will blanket every creature in the deck with a soft toasty layer of evasion.
I think there’s an aggro deck for every taste here, so I hope you’ll take one to bat with you. Of the three, I’d say my favorite to play is the heroic list; I just love when I feel like gears are turning and the deck is working as intended whether or not I’m actually winning the game. Nevertheless, each provides a different experience for the blood-crazed barbarian in you. Pick up your
axe saber and join the fray! Let me know if you give one a shot, and I’ll catch you all next week!
CaptainShapiro on Magic Online