You CAN Play Type I #58: The Control Player’s Bible Part XXVI – Deck Deconstruction: Aggro vs. “The Deck”

There are two basic sideboarding options for an aggro deck. First, it can add threats and speed up; second, it can add control elements, moving towards aggro/control. The first option seems to be the most intuitive, but it’s actually the most difficult to pull off.

Strangely, there’s a dearth of news this week. It’s like everyone’s busy talking about the leaked Onslaught spoilers.

I think, however, that we have to give credit to Wizards for mentioning Type I in some of the Onslaught teasers. This time, we didn’t get the token,”Oh, and this must be broken in Type I!” – but got an emphasis that Type I is still a sanctioned format, if nothing else. Naturally, we can’t expect more because they don’t have anyone who really plays Type I and the larger reader segments would be unable to relate, but it’s a simple, low-cost way of telling people they still care.

I don’t know whose idea it was, but it was a small step in the right direction.

Deck Deconstruction: Aggro v.”The Deck”

Taking off from last week, we ran through individual slots in the structure of”The Deck” and went over which slots change against aggro. We went over how the post-sideboard structure generally changes into a control deck with more early-game removal at the cost of the less efficient though powerful spells.

This time, I’d like to do the reverse.

It’s easy enough to give you a list of sample aggro sideboard configurations, but it’s only easy for me. The sideboard is an extension of your deck, and consequently, an extension of your deck structure’s philosophy. The simplest example is that you shouldn’t board defensive cards in an offensive deck. Going deeper, however, you have to pay attention to how a deck will be structured and will thus play after sideboarding, without going into specific sideboard cards first.

This is even more important in a broader format like Type I where there are”standard” picks, but a person could very well pull something else from his binder. Also remember that some people can end up throwing together a sideboard right before the tournament or with what they remember from old Type II decks. A few times, you can actually be caught off-guard.

Thus, we need to devote a little time to deconstructing aggro sideboard philosophy as well.

Option #1: Faster

There are two basic options for an aggro deck. First, it can add threats and speed up. Second, it can add control elements, moving towards aggro/control.

The first option seems to be the most intuitive, but it’s actually the most difficult to pull off. Remember that all your aggro decks are designed around the most efficient creatures available, so the ones that should be in your sideboard are those that have certain conditions attached. Moreover, a sideboarded creature is hit by whatever is sided in against your existing threats, so it has to be a lot more efficient than your existing threats to justify itself.

Appreciate the impact of that last line in a format where a two-mana creature can be considered too inefficient.

Executing this first option isn’t as easy as it sounds, and it’s easy to screw up if you don’t understand your strategy. For example, can you do it by boarding Blurred Mongoose?

Blurred Mongoose




Invasion rare

Blurred Mongoose can’t be countered. Blurred Mongoose can’t be the target of spells or abilities.

I’ve seen some aggro players propose this on forums – but are you really speeding up your deck? So you see, you have to look beyond gratifying text like”can’t be countered” and”can’t be the target of” and understand how your changes mesh with your deck.

The cards for option #1

Rushwood Legate




Mercadian Masques uncommon

If an opponent controls an island and you control a forest, you may play Rushwood Legate without paying its mana cost.

In a format where one is a standard price, what beats the market?


The Legate was (“is” in Type I) a standard Stompy sideboard in every format, and fits right into one of the few decks that can actually push the envelope and turn up the speed. It makes it even more difficult for a blue-based deck to stop the initial rush. And because its real casting cost wreaks havoc with Powder Keg, it makes you love Pyroclasm in”The Deck.”

Again, there are hardly any”free” creatures that are effective and don’t result in severe card disadvantage, but the Legate is the gold standard for this first aggro option.

Hidden Herd



Urza’s Saga rare

When an opponent plays a nonbasic land, if Hidden Herd is an enchantment, Hidden Herd becomes a 3/3 Beast creature.

There aren’t a lot of other cards as efficient as the Legate, but this is another gem from Matt D’Avanzo of Neutral Ground.

Basically, it’s another fast Stompy threat, except it works exclusively against”The Deck.” (Legate works against mono blue, for example.)




Exodus rare

As an additional cost to play Hatred, pay any amount of life. Target creature gets +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is the amount of life paid this way.

Okay, so maybe not.

As discussed, very few decks can actually add still more efficient threats against blue-based control – and Stompy, with its speed and creature density, is pretty much it. This is because the other decks can try and speed up yet still have the opposing sideboard cards catch up to them, while the only simple way to truly break Stompy’s back is the very narrow Perish.

Ironically, the only decks that can afford to speed up to a one-sided assault are those that are built for extreme speed in the first place.

Option #2: Control elements

Aggro decks are generally about speed – but why would one add control elements and thus slow down? Well, speed is relative, and if you’re slowing down the opponent, you’re speeding up with respect to him. Most aggro decks can’t speed up the first way, but are well-equipped to do it this second way.

Remember that the added disruption isn’t looked at in a vacuum. You actually move from aggro to aggro/control, and maintain a steady beatdown while disrupting his solutions.

The cards for option #2

Red Elemental Blast



Beta common

Choose one – Counter target blue spell or destroy target blue permanent.




Ice Age common

Choose one – Counter target spell if it’s blue; or destroy target permanent if it’s blue.

This is the standard red anti-control spell, and is a given against Sligh, Stacker 2, German TnT, and all modern Zoo variants. Against mono-red Sligh, in fact, expect the full eight. However, don’t assume that a multicolored deck will have the same, just because you’ve seen at least one REB and at least one Pyro. This gets important when you try to use a little knowledge of probabilities to read a guy’s hand.

Elemental Blasts preserve the aggro deck’s tempo by trading for an early counters or hitting a card advantage spell. Remember, though, that against”The Deck,” not all the key cards are blue.

Null Rod



Weatherlight rare

Players can’t play artifacts’ activated abilities.

This is another fairly standard pick in Type I aggro, and easily maindecked. It was first seen in a widely circulated decklist when Yoshikazu Ishii played it in his mono-red Sligh in the 2000 Sydney Invitational. It’s unknown if Ishii was aware of the full range of its abilities – but even back then, Null Rod took a bit of understanding. At first glance, it looks like an anti-Mox card that becomes a lot more effective against artifact mana-heavy combo decks. So yes, it rounds out mana denial nicely.

However, it does a lot more for aggro players: It also shuts down key anti-aggro cards like Powder Keg and Masticore, plus Cursed Scroll.

Powder Keg



Urza’s Destiny rare

At the beginning of your upkeep, you may put a fuse counter on Powder Keg. Tap, Sacrifice Powder Keg: Destroy each artifact and creature with converted mana cost equal to the number of fuse counters on Powder Keg.



Artifact Creature


Urza’s Destiny rare

At the beginning of your upkeep, you may discard a card from your hand. If you don’t, sacrifice Masticore. 2: Masticore deals 1 damage to target creature. 2: Regenerate Masticore.

Oh, and Null Rod is funny in a few other situations, like against Illusionary Mask.

By the way, I’ve seen this brain fart a few times – so do remember that you can’t go to two counters on your Powder Keg to get rid of Null Rod.

Winter Orb



Beta rare

As long as Winter Orb is untapped, players can’t untap more than one land during their untap steps.

Winter Orb is a classic, famous in decks as old as the forgotten Forgotten Orb and even older ones. It’s something along the lines of Null Rod, but more generic, and is easily maindecked in any weenie deck against any mana-hungry deck (read: control). Just note that its effectiveness is naturally decreased against decks with Moxen.

In this series, we saw it as a Stacker 2 trick that interacts well with Goblin Welder, and works a bit like Blood Moon except it also hits mono blue. It can be used to tweak a lot of other archtypes including aggro/control, though, so be aware of it.

Seal of Cleansing



Nemesis common

Sacrifice Seal of Cleansing: Destroy target artifact or enchantment.

Tranquil Domain



Mirage common

Destroy all global enchantments.

Hull Breach



Planeshift common

Choose one – Destroy target artifact or destroy target enchantment or destroy target artifact and target enchantment.

Simply, expect most aggro decks to have some kind of enchantment removal. A number of control decks have key enchantments such as The Abyss and Moat in”The Deck,” Moat and Humility plus other engines in Deck Parfait, and Oath of Druids in Oath. Of course, these aren’t the only anti-aggro solutions, so no aggro player can afford to get bogged down by too many Disenchants.

Tranquil Domain replaces Emerald Charm in many cases because the extra mana sometimes pays off, especially against something like Parfait.

Goblin Vandal




Weatherlight common

R: Destroy target artifact defending player controls and prevent all combat damage Goblin Vandal would deal this turn. Play this ability only once each turn and only during the declare blockers step and only if Goblin Vandal is attacking and unblocked.

Now this looks like a Gorilla Shaman replacement in casual Goblin Grenade decks, and a laugh riot against someone’s casual Ensnaring Bridge/Grafted Skullcap/Null Brooch deck. However, it’s a piece of competitive tech I got from John Ormerod back in happy Beyond Dominia days.

Gorilla Shaman, a.k.a. Mox Monkey




Alliances uncommon

XX1: Destroy target noncreature artifact with converted mana cost X.

What you lose is the ability to sweep a lot of Moxen and Zuran Orb off the board immediately, before spot removal counters. What you gain is the ability to kill Powder Keg before it gets a counter and sweeps your end of the board. This is especially more gratifying against decks whose main creature defense is Powder Keg, such as mono blue.

Note that this isn’t quite a sideboard strategy, but an important maindeck tweak.

Mishra’s Helix



Urza’s Saga rare

X, Tap: Tap X target lands

Yes, it’s another Saga bomb – and quite the hit with Gaea’s Cradle in its heyday. In a format where cards like Tinker and Goblin Welder become a lot better due to cheap Moxen, you have to keep a running mental list of artifact silver bullets because you won’t know what are actually in the opponent’s library before that Tinker resolves.

Helix is one of Shane Stoots and The Funker’s most straightforward sideboard bombs. It can’t be Kegged or Monkeyed away, so your Dismantling Blow is the only real solution if it hits the board. Remember, though, that you can still untap and float mana into your draw step if you have some other instant trick you can pull: Otherwise, smile every upkeep.

Phyrexian Processor



Urza’s Saga rare

As Phyrexian Processor comes into play, pay any amount of life. 4, Tap: Put a black Minion creature token into play. Its power and toughness are each equal to the amount of life paid.

Still another famous Saga bomb from a few Type II rotations back. It’s basically The Funker’s uber-Jayemdae Tome against control decks that can’t do anything about their opponent’s life total. You normally pay life with an eye to how many turns it’ll take to kill an opponent, but you won’t be bothering with five or seven when you’re not taking damage and will make 10/10s anyway. Processor and the tokens aren’t easy to deal with, and things like mono blue have no solution.





Judgment uncommon

Flying. As long as Wonder is in your graveyard and you control an island, creatures you control have flying.

The Incarnations have cemented our German compatriots’ spot on the Type I map, and Wonder singlehandedly changes German TnT’s matchup against Moats and Morphlings in control. It does it at practically no cost, too, if Survival of the Fittest hits the board.

Again, Judgment also gave TnT Genesis (return a creature to hand every upkeep) and Anger (haste), and the latter removes your chance to kill Druid Lyrists and Goblin Welders before they do their dirty work, in addition to hasting the Juggernauts and Su-Chis.

And again, the book still isn’t closed on what the best anti-graveyard cards to use are.




Ice Age uncommon

Destroy all white permanents.

This is a classic red sideboard card that sees little use in Type I because anti-blue spells are better against control. It’s a great card for mono red against mono-white Deck Parfait and White Weenie, but these archtypes are seen as lesser threats. Anarchy kills Circle of Protection: Red in”The Deck” but Sligh can’t afford to devote sideboard space to hit just one or two”The Deck” cards. Red decks with white or green get more flexibility.

Black Vise



Beta uncommon

As Black Vise comes into play, choose an opponent. At the beginning of the chosen player’s upkeep step, Black Vise deals X damage to that player, where X is the number of cards greater than four in his or her hand. (Banned February 1996 to April 1996, then restricted since July 1997.)

This is a classic Zoo card that was taken out of the format due to sheer cheesiness. You don’t want to experience a first-turn Vise followed by a Strip Mine or two, especially with the Necrodeck out of the format. Despite its restriction, you’ll still find some players using it in Sligh and a few in decks with more choices. Keep cool and don’t waste spells for the sake of avoiding a point or two of early damage, and remember that Powder Keg and Gorilla Shaman do kill Vise.

Some aggro players do want this unrestricted thinking it’ll give aggro a shot in the arm. Me, I’ve played Stasis with unrestricted Black Vise plus Copy Artifact

Option #3: Hate

There’s a third option that I didn’t include with the other two, simply because the third option requires less thinking and far less insight into deck structures. Sadly, extreme hate strategies are the most common because they’re so deceptively easy to execute.

I say sadly, however, because these are often geared exclusively against”The Deck” and mindless aggro players forget that more than one control archtype exists. Given its reputation and even its hype, players of”The Deck” have to be skilled enough to handle an opponent sideboarding exclusively against them – but you have to admit that when these players come up short, it gives weird mono blue players opportunities to brag about weirder tech and strategy.

Here are the main anti-“The Deck bombs” people play with the expectations of winning with one stroke, deck philosophy be damned.

Take heart, though… I’m sure that one day, Matt D’Avanzo will come up with some funny bit of sideboard tech and force people relying purely on hate to get brains. I’m sure there’s something already in print out there…

(Less experienced players will laugh and say that I’m trying to brainwash people into not sideboarding against”The Deck”… But that’s why they’re less experienced. A more cautious aggro player will realize that it’s a broad format, and devoting an entire sideboard against”The Deck” alone is trusting your day to your pairings instead of your skill. A sense of proportion when reading your local metagame is one of those skills beyond your deck and your play skill.)

The cards for option #3

Blood Moon



The Dark uncommon

Nonbasic lands are mountains.

Dwarven Miner




Mirage uncommon

2R, Tap: Destroy target nonbasic land.

Dwarven Blastminer




Onslaught uncommon

2R, Tap: Destroy target nonbasic land. Morph R (You may play this face down as a 2/2 creature for 3. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)

Flavor text:”Life is too short for something like a hunk of rock to get in my way.”

There’s nothing much to say, except a”The Deck” player caught in a bad situation by these bombs doesn’t have much to do. Against Blood Moon and without Aura Fracture out, you can only stall with Circle of Protection: Red to find Mox Pearl and your Disenchant effect. Against an early Miner, you hope for some removal on top of your library fast. Yes, mono blue doesn’t have these worries, though it’s structurally less equipped to deal with aggro.

You will lose to extreme hate, so just get a sense of proportion when you do.

Also remember that some aggro players will maindeck these bombs. For example, never untap needlessly against a red-based aggro deck thinking you can handle what he just topdecked anyway; it could be a Blood Moon.

Again, I frown at maindecking these without even knowing if”The Deck” is expected to make up half or even a third of your local metagame (and borders on ridiculous for casual online play). Blood Moon isn’t as bad against less multicolored control decks, and many aggro decks are red-based anyway. Miner is likewise less of a problem for aggro decks with a bunch of Bolts.

People who play against me online know I don’t mind, but it might be less fun for the other guy and less educational for you.




Tempest uncommon

Islands don’t untap during their controllers’ untap steps.




Urza’s Saga uncommon

Whenever a player taps an island for mana, Scald deals 1 damage to that player.

These aren’t extreme hate cards per se, but they’re along the lines of Blood Moon so I placed them here. Note that these hurt more control decks, though they don’t touch City of Brass, Undiscovered Paradise, painlands and Mishra’s Factory.

Scald is a bit of older tech recycled by Matt D’Avanzo in lieu of narrower Sligh sideboards. He had a story about an opponent getting three of them on him once, and he was actually to tap City of Brass against Sligh.

Price of Progress



Exodus uncommon

Price of Progress deals 2 damage to each player for each nonbasic land he or she controls.

Again, there’s not much to say about this except to keep Zuran Orb and Moxen handy. You can’t usually afford to hold back land early because you need mana to power Circle of Protection: Red while casting your other spells. This also means that you can’t afford to tap out end-of-turn and give him an opening to force Price and REB your Force of Will.

This isn’t really extreme hate either, and is still within the warped definition of fair by Type I terms. While it hurts against”The Deck” and is commonly maindecked by mono red Sligh, it also hits multicolored aggro like The Funker and German TnT. Hey, you have to give something to the default budget archetype that loses to White Weenie, right?

Flaring Pain



Judgment common

Damage can’t be prevented this turn. Flashback: R (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.)

Flavor text: “I don’t rub salt in wounds. I use sulfur.”-Maloc, lavamancer

Well, Sligh players use this new Judgment spell to clear the way for Price of Progress. Thing is, it’s useful almost exclusively against”The Deck,” which is the only archtype that relies mainly on Circle of Protection: Red (there’s Deck Parfait and its Story Circle, but it isn’t affected by Price).

Circle of Protection: Red



Beta common

1: The next time a red source of your choice would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage.

Thing is, if you want to fit eight REBs, Price of Progress and Flaring Pain, you just don’t have a lot left for the rest of the field. Your Sligh player may think he’s being creative, but you just wish he didn’t pray to take you down before he drops. (And no, he won’t listen to Oscar before he gets knocked out by the more conventional Sligh deck in the mirror.)

Well, that’s it for this week. Wish me a bit of luck… Final exams begin this week for me here in Manila.

Oscar Tan

[email protected]

rakso on #BDChat on EFNet

Manila, Philippines

Forum Administrator, Star City Games (http://www.starcitygames.com/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi)

Featured writer, Star City Games (http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/archive.php?Article=Oscar Tan)

Author of the Control Player’s Bible (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bdominia/files/ControlBible.zip)

Type I, Extended and Casual Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (http://www.starcitygames.com/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi?az=list&forum=DCForumID89&conf=DCConfID19)

Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance (http://www.casualplayers.org)