Friday, March 18, 2011

Build With Me- Standard Aggro Part 1

Today, I decided I'd build a new aggro deck to play around with simply because I haven't played a true creature aggro deck in a long time (since pre-SSS Vampires).  But I want to do something a little different this time.  I'm writing this article with no preparation whatsoever.  I'm going to be building this deck right here and now, and take you through the process step by step; so you can see exactly how my thought process works when it comes to building decks.

Now, I'm also going to do things a little differently from normal.  Usually, when constructing a new deck from scratch, usually the builder will have a specific archetype in ming when they begin, like Elves, Goblins, Draw-Go, Sligh, RDW, etc. etc.  In this case, however, I'm going to take a different approach, and build from a plan.

What I mean by that is that most decks have a plan coming out of the gates- the player knows exactly what they want to do on the first four-five turns of the game.  For example, Cawblade decks want to go T1 tapland or Preordain, T2 creature, T3 sword, T4 equip and have disruption mana open.  Granted, this changes on occasion depending on the opponent, like wanting a T1 Spell Pierce against Kutholda Rebirth, but you get the general idea.  The term tempo is used more in limited, but also used more frequently and thus more recognizable for new players.  Tempo is the idea that you're doing something relevant with your mana every turn in the early game, much like having a plan only without getting into specifics since a limited deck is generally much less consistent.

Aanyways, my plan for this deck is that I want to drop T1 and T2 creatures, some form of hand advantage on turn three, and a wrath deterrent on turn four.  By wrath deterrent, I mean something that will give me an advantage if my opponent casts a sweeper, cards like Koth, Garruk, Gideon, Bloodghast, Vengevine, and to a lesser extent things like Bonehoard and manlands.  The idea is that if I can pull this off, it should be easy for me to beat through whatever disruption my opponent has.  For killing single cards, my hand advantage will shrug it off like they bolted a Squadron Hawk, and for killing the entire field I'll still have things to work with and keep up the pressure like nothing happened thanks to the T4 anti-wrath.

Now, at this point the deck can easily fit in any of the five colors.  White has some great aggro creatures, blue has the best for card advantage, black has some good aggro beats as well, some card draw, and some great disruption for the long game, red has great cards like Koth and Goblin Guide, and green gives me access to Lead the Stampede in addition to Garruk and Vengevine as wrath deterrents.

Why does this remind me of Lion King?

Now, the best way to figure out what's going in my deck is to just list out all the potential cards.  First, there's the 1-drop creatures.  This is important, because I need to have something that will put on the pressure early and yet won't be a dud draw later on in the game.


  • Ardent Recruit- Gotta love them 3/3s for 1, but I doubt I'll be able to run enough artifacts to make good use of him.
  • Elite Vanguard- two power for one mana, but that one toughness is a bit too relevant right now.  Seems poor as a later draw as well, but it's still a good card to keep in mind.  Nothing wrong with having a Savannah Lions.
  • Glint Hawk- Again, a powerful weenie, but I don't think I'll be running the artifacts to get him going.
  • Loam Lion- I've already mentioned Lead the Stampede, and that card makes the odds good that I'll have green in this deck, and so probably forests.  This card will become a strictly better version of Elite Vanguard rather quickly.
  • Steppe Lynx- A favorite in any white aggro deck as of late, and with enough fetches it's easy to see why.  I won't be running a one-color deck, which means it should be easy for me to have enough landfall triggers to abuse this card for all I can.
  • Student of Warfare- a cool card, but because I need a white source for every counter I add, and because I want to play a second creature on turn two, I'm probably going to pass him up.

  • Cosi's Trickster- Truly amazing card, seeing as the big control deck runs four Squadron Hawks and four Stoneforge Mystics, while the big aggro deck runs 4 hawks, 4 mystics, and a minimum of 12 fetchlands.  Even elf decks keep on shuffling nowadays thanks to Fauna Shaman and Green Sun's Zenith.

  • Fume Spitter- Not aggressive as the other cards on the list, but this guy is great later in the game for getting rid of or weakening a blocker to get your big guys through.  Something I wouldn't mind topdecking into in situations where I won't want to topdeck into the other one-mana toons on the list.  Also a great way of dealing with Cunning Sparkmage, and lets me stop attempts to equip hawks even after tapping down in the early turns like I plan on.
  • Guul Draz Assassin- decent in a deck without a ton of slots for removal, but for the same reason I don't like the Student, I don't like him.
  • Mortician Beetle- makes me wish Grave Pact and Cruel Edict, but in the current meta he's really not that relevant.  Fun against a Mortarpod, but that's about it.  Too bad the spawn mechanic died out quickly with the printing of Ratchet Bomb.
  • Pulse Tracker- One mana, two damage.  Better than an Elite Vanguard against players, worse against creatures.  Which one is better often depends on the situation.
  • Vampire Lacerator- the first guaranteed 2/2 on the list, the Lacerator seems like a great pick for what I want my deck to do.  Seems painful, but hopefully he can get the job done.  The two toughness will help me deal with a whole lot of things that one toughness just can't handle.

  • Dragonmaster Outcast- Really amazing lategame if your opponent doesn't have the answer, since the 5/5s he generates are just big enough to force chumps with Celestial Collonades.  Unfortunately, this deck should be winning already by the time I get my sixth land drop, so he really doesn't deserve a slot.
  • Goblin Arsonist- bad version of Fume Spitter.
  • Goblin Bushwhacker- An okay card, but effectively a two-drop that costs RR, since I'm never going to want to cast him for R.  Also shouldn't have a whole lot of ways of abusing his kicker, or generating RR for that matter.  Seems like a bad choice.
  • Goblin Gaveleer- Seems okay if I decide to use the Glint Hawks and Ardent Recruits, which I probably won't.  Still, felt like he deserved a mention.
  • Goblin Guide- Probably the best one-drop in the format.  Deals four damage by turn two, the only other creature that does that is Steppe Lynx with a fetch.  Also a great topdeck in that haste gives me an extra attacker (and attacking equip target).  If I'm running red, I'm running guides.
  • Spikeshot Elder- prolly not going for an equip package, and even if I do, the two red mana in the ability cost hurts.  I'm probably running three colors, after all.

  • Birds of Paradise- Not what I'm doing.  I'm perfectly fine with one less mana on turn two, and I'd much rather have the extra attacker.
  • Copperhorn Scout- don't think I care about Vigilance, but I might.  It depends what other cards I choose.
  • Ezuri's Archers- Two toughness is good, and killing hawks is good.  Also interacts with the scouts above.  I don't care for the one power too much, though.
  • Llanowar Elves- Again, same thing as the birds.  Sure, this guy can attack, but I'd want the birds for color fixing more than ramping me a turn, and the Llanowar Elves only add green.
  • Scute Mob- A little faster and thus a little better than Dragonmaster Outcast, but still too slow for my purposes.  I'll have better bombs available for when I get up to five mana.

  • Memnite- Okay, good for a metalcraft deck and decent with Vengevine but poor with everything else.
  • Signal Pest- Doesn't attack for damage on T2, and his psuedoflying is hardly relevant with Squadron Hawk dominating the top tables.
  • Flayer Husk- meh.  1/1 for 1.  Decent late presence, but bad early presence, and doesn't interact with Vengevine or Lead the Stampede.
So there you have it, a comprehensive list of aggro one-drops in Standard.  It looks like blue is out right now, since there's really nothing other than the trickster to make me want to run it.  Sure, Spell Pierce is awesome, but doesn't mix into my gameplan and screws with my tempo.  I'd rather stick to the more aggressive colors.

Before I rule out anything for sure though, let's move on to the second turn of the game.


  • Accorder Paladin- three power for one mana AND it pumps all your other attackers?  Great creature, only problem is the one toughness.  I really feel like any aggro creature right now needs to have either two toughness by default or some way to get that second point of toughness, since Squadron Hawk will just mess it up bad.  At least if you're attacking with another creature you still get some value out of it, but not much.
  • Kazandu Blademaster- a 2/2 with First strike and Vigilance is always nice, especially when coupled with a 'may get bigger' clause.  Too bad that WW may make it hard to play, but if I end up with enough of a white pool, I may still decide to run it.
  • Kor Skyfisher- normally a great card, but really screws up the plan for the deck.  Setting me off a turn may be enough for me to not want to run this card, but I want to play with it a little to be sure just because of how much sheer power it has.
  • Leonin Arbiter- locks down most decks, too bad it'll hose me over too if I run hawks, Lynxes, fetchlands, etc.  I'd rather not run this card.
  • Squadron Hawk- not as fast as I'd like, but it does have evasion and helps me out for a little if I didn't hit my card advantage on T3.  Unfortunately, filling my hand with hawks will be detrimental to a T3 Lead, and may often force me to discard even if I only pull a single hawk.  Still, he's all over the top tables for a reason, and has a bunch of interactions within other potential cards in the deck (read: green cards and swords), so it's probably going to find a home here too.
  • Stoneforge Mystic- That other part of Cawblade.  Also good for keeping hand advantage, and SoBaM serves as a wrath deterrent as well.  Can also run Bonehoard and Nim Deathmantle with great success.
  • War Priest of Thune- good for personal metas that see a lot of Luminarch Ascension, Journey to Nowhere, and Khalni Heart Expedition, but meh in most other situations.

  • AEther Figment- With all the two mana fliers flying around, sometimes the extra bit of evasion is a nice touch.  Also a good way od keeping the more annoying planeswalker at bay, and late in the game a kicked version can spell doom for opponents.  Much better of a card than people give it credit for.
  • Augury Owl- For a deck like this, Hawks are generally better, and then there's figment, and then there's creatures with 2+ power.  Not really sure where the Owl fits into this, but thanks to fetchlands, three mana draw acceleration and the search effects my other creatures produce, this card probably isn't relevant in what I'm building.
  • Coralhelm Commander- Much more likely to run this card than the levelers I've mentioned before, mostly because even though he's UU to cast, I'm not restricted to how much I can level him.  Of course, unless I have nothing better to do than add counters, he's prolly not going to get bigger than a 3/3 flier, but a 3/3 flier is still good.  Of course, just that he's more likely to see play doesn't mean I'm actually going to play him.
  • Oculus- Not as good as an Elvish Visionary, but I'll take what I can get.  too bad I can't block hawks with him.
  • Sejiri Merfolk- Mmmm...  This guy is just tasty.  Remember Knight of Meadowgrain, anyone?

  • Bloodghast- potentially hard to cast, but makes for a great wrath deterrent as well, so he has a good amount of versatility for the slot.
  • Vampire Hexmage- Again, it's the BB that kills me.  Great card otherwise.
  • Nantuko Sha... Okay, you get the picture.

  • Goblin Shortcutter- Meh.  Has a little versatility in that I wouldn't mind drawing him later in the game.  Could potentially surprise an opponent.
  • Goblin Wardriver- Why does this double-colored cost keep popping up in this format?  I think WotC's design team's been tapping a little too much alpha and not enough numeric.
  • Plated Geopede- Steppe Lynx's best buddy.  If I run red and white together, I'll run them both and have a good bit of synergy going.
  • Slavering Nulls- drastically overlooked card.  If I decide to run black, he seems like a good fit since I'll need a whole lot of black mana, but it doesn't look like that's happening.  Black does not belong in three color decks unless you're just splashing it for Doom Blade/GftT.
  • Tunnel Ignus- Unlike Leonin Arbiter, the anti-fetch creature, this guy doesn't hurt me.  However, he also becomes not relevant against hawks and mystics, so I'll board him in but he's not worth a maindeck.

  • Bramblesnap- Remember when I said there's ways other than elf tribal to abuse Copperhorn Scout?  I didn't?  Oops.  Well, anyways, this is one of 'em.
  • Fauna Shaman- and this is the other.  Great with Vengevine, great with Squadron Hawk, and will often force an opponent to crack a wrath effect early because they're scared of what he can toolbox (usually nothing in a non-tribal aggro deck).  Good with the Copperhorn Scouts too.
  • Garruk's Companion- alright, I'm getting sick of this.  Enough of the double-colored costs.  If I want to run a three color deck with a bunch of untapped lands, then I'm going to do that goddamit, and no amount of colored mana is going to stop me.
  • Nest Invader- pretty great card.  The spawn you make off the Grizzly Bears maked for a great chumper, a good sword target, an extra three damage off Garruk's overrun, and can always serve as that +1 mana if you really need it.
  • River Boa- mmm.  This guy serves as an unblockable creature against Cawblade, RUG, and UB, a wrath deterrent that can't die to Ratchet Bomb, Day of Judgment, or pretty much anything else as long as you have green mana open, AND he still serves as a two power beater/blocker in any other matchup.  Also, Copperhorn Scout.
  • Sylvan Ranger- will help me hit all these double colored costs, and gives new life to Geopedes and Steppe Lynxes.  Also searchable off Fauna Shaman if I can't get lands 3-4.
  • Viridian Emmisary- like Ranger, only more aggressive.  If my opponent knows I need the land, he'll be virtually useless.

  • Myr Sire- I see some serious potential in this guy.  Not only is he another wrath deterrent, but serves as a blocker for two turns against any land creature with a sword- something that your other creatures might not be able to do due to protection.
  • Perilous Myr- This is a surprisingly good card, a weak benefit off a sweeper, great with Arc Trail (etc), and will often serve as an arc trail himself.  Good way of getting rid of creatures with protection abilities.
  • Phyrexian Revoker- Just what I want to see, a Vampire Hexmage with more abilities that doesn't cost BB.  Revoker does so many things, it's impossible to really evaluate this card and not go on forever.
Interestingly enough, black and blue seem to have switched roles in turn two.  I really don't feel like black is strong enough any more and the disruption it offers can be replaced by Journey to Nowhere and Lightning Bolt/Arc Trail in the other colors.  And Blue seems decent, but its real power comes from four mana for a 3/3 flier and two mana for a 1/1 river boa without the regeneration bit.  So it looks like I'm building a Naya deck. With that in mind, let's go back over our card pool so far.  Here's what I'm thinking:

Loam Lion
Steppe Lynx
Squadron Hawk
Stoneforge Mystic

Goblin Guide
Plated Geopede

Copperhorn Scout
Fauna Shaman
Nest Invader
River Boa
Sylvan Ranger

Phyrexian Revoker

Now, obviously, that's more than we can fit in a single deck, so some cuts are going to have to be made.  There's not even any noncreature spells yet.  But it's a good start, and a good look at what we're using to win the game.  Join me next time, when I'll take a look at turns three and four and start to flesh out a real list.  Yo Mama will be waiting for you.

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