Vintage Food for Thought – Concept Aggro Take 1

Tired of the combo-control grind and looking for some aggressive decks to play at your local Vintage tournament? Take these for a spin and tell us what you think in our forums.

After a number of weeks, I’ll finally be giving you some actual concept lists to play with. These aren’t top tier by any means, but just some stuff I’ve been working on that doesn’t completely suck. This article is going to concentrate on some conceptual Aggro decks and the goals I set for them.

To start, I may as well go over my basic definition of a concept deck. Basically it’s a deck that is built with a specific goal in mind and in theory it has the proper tools to accomplish that goal. It could be beating Control Slaver 90/10, not auto-losing to a popular set of hate cards, dropping a 12/12 into play on turn 2 consistently or any number of things. Just a specific goal in mind and the best attempt to accomplish it, as opposed to making a generalized deck you hope is good, but with no specific direction. After the theory stage, we see if the deck accomplishes its goal and if it does run the deck through a gauntlet. This is done to see if the deck can win in general and does more than just accomplish a goal.

Sounds pretty obvious right? I’m constantly surprised to hear about how many decks are basically just, “well here are some good cards or a cool combo, let’s make a deck!” But I digress… here’s a summary of the steps involved in creating a concept deck:

1. Figure out a goal for a deck to accomplish

2. Build the deck around completing that goal in the most effective and efficient manner

3. Test it to see if it actually works

4. Test it against a gauntlet to see how it can be improved past its base design goal

Then lather, rinse and repeat until it’s ready to go to a tournament or you feel it’s better to shelve it.

Now for what you’ve all been waiting for (Or not, maybe you just love seeing me talk about Mega Man), the concept lists.

Concept Deck #1:

Stacker 3

The disruption package for the deck is Sphere, Chalice, Pyrostatic Pillar and Crucible of Worlds. I picked these specific disruption pieces to maximize my odds on beating combo game 1, while not sucking against a general field. Sphere of Resistance and Chalice can still effectively disrupt and provide mana denial against a variety of decks and Crucible means your mana base and Wastelands are far more powerful. Pyrostatic Pillar is the objectively weak card in non-combo matches, but it can still be a very good burn spell for an aggro deck like this. The creature base is pretty standard, with the one exception of Razormane Masticore. That’s skipping ahead though, just look below for the explanation. The mana base is also rather standard with the exception of Ancient Tomb, which is like the cousin of the Workshop set. Running a couple of these generally means you either have a back up in case a shop dies or an alternative opening that isn’t slow.

So what’s the goal here? Basically the goal of Stacker 3 has always been to have an aggro deck with the tools to beat combo while having bigger guys than other aggro decks. Originally I accomplished this with having about 20 maindeck disruption spells ranging from Sphere of Resistance, Trinisphere and Chalice of the Void to Pyrostatic Pillar and other red-based disruption. Why did I care so much about combo? Because right after Trinisphere took the hit, people were crying and whining about how much combo would stomp everyone. Of course I never really believed that, along with a number of others. I was banking on the general public not realizing that though and instead switching to some crummy combo deck, preferably one they had little idea how to pilot.

The other big worry was that everyone was underestimating Workshop decks. I mean clearly without Trinisphere they’d be weaker, but I knew at least a couple of people would unpack all the weird 5/3-mirror stuff. And then the decks would have about 10-12 free slots to try to make up for the loss of Trinisphere. This facilitated the addition of 4 maindeck Razormane Masticore to completely dominate the Workshop mirror, because beyond Sundering Titan, they had no way to stop the new ‘Core. At this point I figured I was all set to smash the “new metagame”. As the best-laid plans often do, everything went down the toilet within a few weeks. Sadly the number of people who played combo at the various Vintage events stayed at about the same level. Apparently the sky was still blue like always and combo still was risky to play; despite Trinisphere being gone.

At this point the deck structure took a major hit and I had to revamp what I was going to do against CS and Oath. Not to mention the number of aggro decks, which suddenly decided to come back with actual plans instead of being crappy! Aggro always gets a bad rap; the fact is any deck packing 8-12 good hate cards is something to be concerned with. I also had to fix the original problem of the old Stacker 3 builds, i.e. a dearth of threats and card draw. As a result I cut many of the disruption cards to increase the initial threat count to 17 and then adding Sword of Fire and Ice for card draw and to increase the potency of my threats. Consider this, an equipped Juggernaut or Razormane can deal 9 to the opponent in a single shot, Su-Chi and Triskelion at 8 a piece.

The sideboard is, as always, mostly dependent on your metagame concerns. The only cards I would always keep in the board is Red Elemental Blast and Duplicant which are both amazing. REB does it’s usual “hur hur, I have my own counters now!” against CS, SSB and other control; meanwhile The Dupe keeps the Oath players honest. If they let Joblin Welder hang around so they can Oath, feel free to stick it to them by annihilating their entire game plan. As for my other choices, Lava Dart was to help against Welder abuse in case your stuff starts to die. Meanwhile Crypt means you won’t auto-lose to Dragon players who will generally ignore your other combo hate and destroy you otherwise and the last Pillar is to help against storm combo.

As far as matches go, as this is a mostly unfinished deck design; and testing is somewhat limited. Here’s what data I have completed though:


The match is very hand-dependent and it’s pretty obvious you have no easy solution to Oath preboard. The matchup comes down to resolving Chalice of the Void at 2 or Razormane Masticore. A Sword of Fire and Ice can also be very valuable to your game plan. Why? Because if they Oath up Ancient Hydra before Akroma, you can blow right through the opponents defense with a pro-Red guy and kill them. In addition, if they play a Forbidden Orchard, you can also equip the tokens they give you and beatdown for 5 with those! A good hand will simply have too many threats to stop and so they have to resolve Oath early in the game or die.

When they need to actually tutor up Oath of Druids, you have time to play multiple threats. Razormane Masticore is the MVP, because you can shoot Akroma during your draw phase and swing. If they choose to block, Razormane trades with Akroma. And if you manage to equip SoFaI to it, you can simply attack into any creature they decide to play and come out on top. Against old Meandeck Oath builds you typically have a worse game because the opponent has more counters, against Chalice Oath however, Stacker has the advantage. They simply have more spells that don’t affect you as the extra counters would.

Post-board Duplicant and Red Elemental Blast tend to be your most valuable spells. You can cut the relatively ineffective pillars and crucibles for them; along with whatever else you feel is worth cutting. The Dupe helps keep Akroma (the biggest annoyance in the match) in check, while REB can help you force through your threats.

Control Slaver

The key things to keep track of are who has the Welder advantage and how close they are to resolving Tinker or Yawgmoth’s Will. Just play to keep the initiative on your side, try to get SoFaI into play and then hope you can beat them down before Will resolves. If you’ve ever paid attention to CS lists, you know that a resolved fatty gives them a short clock to work with. The match itself is actually about even when both players know what the heck they’re doing (I.E. Not running into Mana Drain, taking unnecessary Pillar damage, etc.). If the CS player is average though, you should run them over the majority of the time. Sideboarding is completely dependent on which type of Control Slaver it is; so use your best judgment (typically Lava Dart and REB are the best).


A horrible match, since all of your classic combo hate is worthless. Your only chance is racing game 1 and bringing in Tormod’s Crypt and doing the same in games 2 and 3. Lots of luck is required to win this match.

TPS / DeathLong

Play disruption, then play creatures and you are the winner. Honestly, all you went to do is get Chalice and Sphere down early vs. TPS and hope they don’t draw Rebuild in time to save themselves. It’s a horrible match-up all because they don’t mind going off on turn 3 or 4, which gives them a lot of time to find what they need. DeathLong on the other hand, tends to get smashed if Pyrostatic Pillar or Chalice resolves. If you can put any sort of pressure on them, it can severely limit how much they can do because of the life loss from Death Wish. Stacker will lose to TPS, but always had a decent DeathLong matchup and still does.


I haven’t had a chance to test against the janky-looking Uba Mask Stax builds. However I have played quite a bit of 5c and U/R Stax matchups and I can say that you have a good match. You play a lot of permanents so getting locked down isn’t a particularly worry early on. There are only three cards that matter in Stax match: Balance, Smokestack and Goblin Welder. Something like turn 1 Juggernaut / Su-Chi can put a lot of early pressure on the opponent. Chalice of the Void set at 0 or 1 on the first turn can also be highly effective in slowing the opponent down or shutting off one of their best threats against you.

The basic plan is to resolve a first or second turn threat or Chalice and then following it up with a Wasteland or Sphere to help slow the opponent down. Razormane Masticore and Triskelion are also incredibly effective against Stax, Trikey mows down Goblin Welder and is good direct damage; meanwhile Razormane Masticore just smashes any creature that isn’t Sundering Titan they play.

That’s all I’ve got, so now we move onto our next concept deck, Oshawa Stompy.

Concept Deck #2:

Oshawa Stompy Black

Card Breakdown:

The creatures are pretty standard for an Oshawa Stompy deck; Basking Rootwalla, Arrogant Wurm, Iwamori of the Open Fist and Wild Mongrel are simply efficient beaters. Meanwhile the utility in Mesmeric Fiend (essentially a fetchable super-Duress), Viridian Shaman and Squee is also excellent. Fiend helps the disruption package against control and combo, shaman is simply efficient artifact spot removal and Squee turns your Survival into a card advantage machine. Meanwhile the tutors are pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t bore you with an essay on why they rule.

The disruption package of Chains of Mephistopheles, Null Rod, Naturalize and Root Maze is too good to pass up. Combined with strips, the deck is highly effective at destroying opponent’s mana bases and limiting their ability to recover with draw. Black was added purely for the power of Chains and the various discard spells to help against combo.

This concept deck was based around the goal of making a deck that could abuse chains without running out of efficient threats. Essentially the deck is based on Suicide’s original disruption content; I just switched the numbers of discard and mana denial and added better creatures. You’ll note I don’t run Bazaar of Baghdad though, which was a staple in the original O. Stompy builds. I did this not only to run Chains, but also to make the deck quicker and the mana base more resilient to opposing hate. BoB simply wasn’t pulling his weight anymore and so I made the hard choice to fire him and rely more on Survival for my search engine.

As I mentioned before, my deck packs a huge amount of hate against the “top decks”. Root Maze, Null Rod and strips combine to annihilate slower decks mana bases. It isn’t a difficult thing to completely cripple what a SSB or Oath deck can do thanks to maze screwing up fetchlands and rod shutting off Moxen. Chains, Chalice, Sphere, Null Rod and Root Maze combine to completely destroy almost any kind of non-Dragon combo. This is one of the few decks I can say has a decent match against combo, despite running no counters. The deck has lived up to the goals I had set, but I have yet to test it in more than twenty real games or so. So I honestly can’t give an assessment if the deck is awesome or merely meh; instead I leave that to you.

And now for my fun stuff, no list this time, simply a mention of some music I’ve been listening to lately (Gogo random on Winamp!).

FF6 OC Remix – A Nightmare before Kefka

MOVE – Planet Rock

Angela – The end of the world

DJ Killer – Genocide

Jimmy Eat World – Polaris

Next time, I either muse on the Waterbury results or talk about more concept decks.

Joshua Silvestri – Vegeta2711 on the Mana Drain

Team Reflection

Josh dot Silvestri @ gmail.com