My name is Kellen Huber. As a Magic player I was very excited to buy my very first pre-constructed deck from the two player box set of Sixth Edition in 1999. I brought it home and started to go through the cards to see what the game was about. After putting together the two learning decks and having no one to play with, I decided to play solitaire games by going through games with different deck combinations. A few months and a couple boosters later, I bought a starter and tried to find a place to play. With no luck in sight I took a break from the game. It wasn't until I was able to play at my high school, after noticing a couple of other Magic players playing during their lunch breaks and after school, that I rediscovered the game. Unfortunately our Catholic High School banned Magic (since it had the whole demonic and magic thing going), and we had to stop playing or have our cards confiscated. During this time I found a new place to play at my store in Lauderhill, Florida. It was there I learned how to properly play and learn the game.
Anyway, enough with how I started in Magic. I'll let you know right now that, though I do build and play midrange, combo, and control decks, I am an Aggro player at heart. But since this is my first article, I thought I'd start things off with an Aggro deck that seems like it can float under the radar with your current meta. It's a Green and Red Aggro deck, since it's one of my favorite Aggro archetypes of all time. I was working on a similar list, but since that was put on the shelf for now, I will work within what I call a “development list phase.” It's within this phase of the development process that I go through the old Gruul archetypes that I want to play. Since I want to play an old school Gruul Aggro, I go through what was played back in the day. A basic list would look like this:
[deck title=Old School Gruul]
[Main Deck]4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Scab-Clan Mauler
3 Burning-Tree Shaman
4 Troll Ascetic
4 Giant Solifuge
4 Rift Bolt
3 Stonewood Invocation
3 Loxodon Warhammer
4 Karplusan Forest
4 Stomping Ground
2 Treetop Village
1 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
4 Magus of the Moon
4 Krosan Grip
3 Beacon of Destruction
4 Tormod's Crypt
After that I look through the deck list and consider options that I would take in the current Standard environment by creating a base list of each color I would use in the deck. I do this by going off the top of my head as to what cards would be used and then use Gatherer as my base resource for card information. I would then make a list of deck lists, without manabases, that I think would be good, and then proceed to go through each deck's mana curve. I want the quickest deck I can use since in my opinion, it has become a very controlling format. To explain my system in more detail I go first by the basic units of a deck: Removal, Staples, Utility and Base.
Removal is basically cards that do just that: remove creatures, artifacts, enchantments, etc. Staples are what most decks would use and employ in their main strategies. Utility cards have the ability to cantrip, ramp, or other effects that stabilize or alter board position in our favor, and/or also create card advantage. Any card a user would consider "tech" would also be considered under utility. I now consider base cards to be cards that are only occasionally used, maybe as a test run that can be used in your meta. So right now I'm first going to start with Green and precede on after that.
Acidic Slime - Deathtouch
Oran-Rief Recluse – Destroys flyer
Plummet - Destroys flyer
Slingbow Trap – Destroys flyer
Hornet Sting- Combat trick and low toughness removal
Turntimber Basilisk- Deathtouch
So far we have a small amount of creature destruction and that's normal for Green since the only thing Green really has with destroying creatures is the Deathtouch mechanic. The other cards are conditional due to our opponent needing to have fliers to destroy anything. So for now I'm going to ignore the removal portion of Green.
Vengevine – Awesome four casting cost creature with good power, toughness and recursion
Fauna Shaman – Good tool box to get our finishers and to get rid of stuff we don't need (or want in grave)
Avenger of Zendikar – Big body to boot and mass token producer that pumps the tokens
Birds of Paradise – Early drop mana producer plus evasion. Relevant with pump options and as blocker against flyers
Lotus Cobra – Multi-purpose ramp creature. Drop two lands to produce two mana to get our finishers faster
Primeval Titan -Big body to boot and ramps us faster
Llanowar Elves - Early drop mana producer and good creature type
Garruk Wildspeaker - Mana producer, token generator and pump effect, and it's a permanent that's hard to deal with in the current format
Here we have a fairly good amount of staples cards to use at our disposal; most notable is the interaction with Fauna Shaman and Vengevine. Also notable is Primeval Titan and Lotus Cobra for the nice ramp utility that those can give us. If we have a need to switch from an Aggro perspective to a midrange or Control we possibly could. For right now I'll keep this list in case we would have a need for it, however I would like to focus on an Aggro archetype.
Explorer's Scope - Ramp and draw card
Garruk's Packleader – Card draw
Momentous Fall – Life gain and card draw
Pelakka Wurm – Life gain and card draw
Cultivate – Ramp
Harrow – Ramp
Growth Spasm – Ramp plus token producer that also ramps
Khalni Heart Expedition - Ramp
Nissa Revane – Lifegain, recursion, potential finisher with the right creature type
Primeval Titan- Big body to boot and ramps us faster
Realms Uncharted – Fixes mana and thins out the deck to get to our answers and/or finishers
Sylvan Ranger – Ramp
Arbor Elf – Conditional mana producer
Elvish Archdruid – Pump, conditional mana producer
Joraga Treespeaker – conditional/mana producer
Acidic Slime – Destroys artifacts, enchantments and lands
Naturalize - Destroys artifacts and enchantments
Natures Claim - Destroys artifacts and enchantments, opponent gains life
Relic Crush – Destroys multiple artifacts and enchantments with conditions
Slice in Twain -Destroys artifacts and enchantments
Terastodon – Destroys multiple permanent types but not creatures, leaves you or opponent good power and toughness tokens.
Nature's Spiral – Recursion
Vengevine – Recursion and Haste
Giant Growth – Combat trick and pump
Autumn's Veil – Protection: Blue and Black, alternative strategy to null counter spells for finishers
Might of the Masses – Pump, conditional requirements
Groundswell – Pump, conditional requirements
Vines of Vastwood – Versatile pump, conditional Shroud
Beastmaster Ascension – Pump, conditional requirements
Asceticism – Troll Shroud, regeneration with payment
Ok, now we're talking! These are a lot of utility cards we can use: lots of card draw, ramp, removal of artifacts and enchantments, combat tricks with pump spells and a bit of recursion to bring back our creatures or permanents. We have some good options for an aggro deck, but let's continue.
Mul Daya Channelers – Beater with a creature on top, mana producer with a land. Conditional
Overgrown Battlement – Multi-purpose mana producer
Nest Invader – Mana producer with token
Genesis Wave – Finisher with conditions
Rampaging Baloths – Big body and conditional token producer
Gigantiform – Pump enchantment with alternative ability
Nissas Chosen – Good two drop body, good creature type, recursion potential
Ezuri, Renegade Leader – Regenerator with payment, finisher with Overrun condition
Obstinate Baloth – Lifegain, temporal recursion with discard
Tajuru Preserver – Sacrifice prevention, good option against sacrifice abilities i.e., Vamps, Annihilator
Wolfbriar Elemental – good body, conditional token producer
Leyline of Vitality – Lifegain plus toughness
Leatherback Baloth – Big creature for three mana cost
Overwhelming Stampede – Conditional finisher
Fog – Combat Trick
Awakening Zone – Token and mana producer
Alright, so we have some very valid cards to use, however some might not have the effect we want for an Aggro deck. So let's take a look at what I would consider for our Aggro deck out of the current lists:
Avenger of Zendikar
Mul Daya Channelers
Vines of Vastwood
So far we have some good outlets to work with. Some are the staples which could go into the deck, and some seem like they're better in another kind of aggro archetype. Let's take a look at what our Red provides:
Arc Trail – Good multiple removal spell, conditional in situations where no creature is present
Burst Lightning – Quick burn plus removal, conditional extra damage with payment
Cerebral Eruption– One-sided Wrath of God, very conditional if opponent reveals low mana cost spell with larger creatures on board
Chain Reaction – The main red Wrath of God, almost as conditional as Cerebral but deals with creatures on the board and, conditionally, higher toughness
Chandra Nalaar – Multi-purpose permanent, more of a midrange or control card
Chandra Ablaze – Multi-purpose permanent, more of a midrange or control card, conditional finisher
Chandra's Outrage – Conditional removal
Combust – Conditional removal but overall in the current format solid removal
Comet Storm – Another Fireball-type card, multi-purpose removal with extra payment
Cunning Sparkmage – Decent removal of low toughness creatures or post combat
Destructive Force – Alright removal, better as utility
Ember Hauler – Good removal plus good creature type
Flame Slash – Good removal for Sorcery
Forked Bolt – Good multiple removal spell
Galvanic Blast – See Burst Lightning, conditional with artifacts
Koth of the Hammer – Produces beater, ramps, and finisher. Overall great card in the right deck
Lightning Bolt – Best removal spell Red has produced, always in the Red deck
Pyroclasm – Mass removal of small toughness creatures, post combat board wiper
Searing Blaze – Decent removal, conditional with extra damage
Staggershock – Recurring removal
Inferno Titan- Awesome recurring removal spell
Ok... wow, that's why Red in my opinion has the best removal in the game. We just have so many options to use. Mostly, these are all spells, which is ok: We need as much removal here as we possibly can since Green didn't leave us with much. Now, we still have plenty more to look at in the deck building process.
Lightning Bolt – Best removal spell Red has produced, always in the Red deck
Koth of the Hammer – Good card overall in a mono Red deck
Arc Trail – Multiple removal
Pyroclasm – Mass removal of small toughness creatures, post combat board wiper
Kargan Dragonlord- Solid beater in a mono Red deck
Goblin Guide- Probably one of, if not the best, Red one drops besides Kird Ape
Inferno Titan- Awesome recurring removal spell, good body and Firebreathing
Alright we have ourselves some decent staples to use! The first couple of cards I'm going to look at are Koth of the Hammer and Goblin Guide. These are the typical staples that the Red deck uses, not only for the advantages they provide but for their overall power. Early drops are key to consider in an Aggro deck so Goblin Guide is something to keep track of. Our friend Koth on the other hand is more along the lines of belonging in a mono Red deck instead of the typical Green/Red Aggro deck. Inferno Titan seems to fit well into the ramp Aggro deck quite nicely and another card to keep track off. However I think a quick Aggro deck is what we're paced to find so lets continue.
Destructive Force- Land Destruction plus decent removal
Shatter- Destroys artifact
Mark of Mutiny- A Threaten that pumps the creature
Act of Treason- Another Threaten
Plated Geopede- Good solid early drop with First Strike, along with a conditional pump effect
Tunnel Ignus- Great against opponents early ramp effects and punishes them with damage
Bazaar Trader- A unique utility card that has some input, uses the current Threaten cards to our advantage in the current format
Kuldotha Phoenix- Conditional recursion, solid flier and haste to boot.
Kuldotha Rebirth- Able to give us three creature tokens turn one with an artifact, solid creature type
Here we have some interesting uses we can consider with our utility cards. The fact that we have at least a good amount of Threaten cards in the current format means we can abuse our opponent for playing big creatures with the use of Act of Treason and Mark of Mutiny. Plated Geopede seems like it would fit nicely into the aggro deck and needs to take note that in order to fully meet its potential we need ramp effects. Kuldotha Phoenix is an interesting card choice because it can be really powerful in the right deck. It can be revived when Metalcraft is online, and it has Haste and evasion with Flying. It's also got a good power and toughness so its hard to remove.
Lavaball Trap - Conditional alternative cost, land destruction plus removal
Manic Vandal - Good overall creature, destroys artifacts, and is a creature on board to attack and block
Goblin Ruinblaster - Destroys nonbasic lands with conditional payment, Haste creature with good creature type
Hoard-Smelter Dragon - Destroys artifacts and gains a pump ability from it, evasion through Flying, heavy mana cost
Spikeshot Elder - Good low casting creature that has ability to damage creatures and players with payment on condition of its power and toughness
Reverberate- Wild Ricochet or Reiterate anyone?
Not a lot to go on here, mostly these would be considered for us as sideboard options to use against the current meta. Two noticeable cards here are Goblin Ruinblaster and Reverberate. I love destroying my opponent's manlands, especially if they leave their mana up to block one of my creatures. I've always been a fan of Wild Ricochet because the card will usually let you change the game state in your favor by either simply killing your opponent or taking away the counterspell that targeted your finisher.
Argentum Armor- Destroy permanents, expensive artifact and equip cost
Lux Cannon- Destroy permanents with conditional payment
Ratchet Bomb - Destroys all permanents with condition of number of charge counters, one time removal
Blazing Torch - Alright removal, although sacrifices itself for damage
Heavy Arbalest - Heavy mana cost with a draw back to dealing damage
Livewire Lash - Good Equipment, damage is conditional due to ability
Molten-Tail Masticore - Flame Javelin anyone?
Perilous Myr - Decent removal, needs to be sent to graveyard from the field to deal damage
Triskelion - Ok removal, in right deck it can be well developed, heavy mana cost
Tower of Calamities - Heavy damage to creature, too expensive to be played
Brittle Effigy- One time removal spell, exiles their finisher or threat
All Is Dust - Good removal spell, heavy mana cost, doesn't affect Eldrazi creatures or artifacts
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre- Destroys a permanents, expensive mana cost
So here we have a fair amount of removal that the colorless cards provide us with. I notice that here we have cards that mostly belong in a midrange or control deck, because the Aggro deck wants quick removal or a creature that provides us with a body at least i.e., Flametongue Kavu. Note that the only two cards that actually do it here are Molten-Tail Masticore and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. I think in my opinion that Molten-Tail Masticore is probably the best card in Scars of Mirrodin. Not only does it have a great casting cost, it has a good solid body with the power to boot, and its abilities are quite powerful. Its downside is not too bad in terms of using it in the right deck, it has the ability to kill a creature pre-combat or post-combat by either Flame Javelining your opponent's creature, or it can just target your opponents themselves by exiling a creature in the grave that did it's job. Not only that, but it regenerates itself which is what Aggro decks love to have: Remember Troll Ascetic? Unfortunately, the same praise cannot go to Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre so easily. Even if it has a good ability and is very hard to remove, the two problems I have with it is the mana cost and the fact that it's a legendary creature. It's expensive and you can't use the second one in your hand unless your want to lose board position. More likely Ulamog would fit well with the ramp decks instead of an Aggro deck.
Eldrazi Monument- Giving your creatures Flying, Indestructibility, and +1/+1 is good.
Everflowing Chalice- Artificer's mana ramp card
Lodestone Golem- Good stall card through adding mana cost to cards
Memnite - Good zero costing beater
Mimic Vat- Great card that reanimates creatures
Mindslaver - Take your opponents turn to deplete them of resources or put tempo in your favor
Molten-Tail Masticore- Flame Javelin and Regeneration
Ornithopter- Zero costing Flier
Wurmcoil Engine - Lifelink and Deathtouch? Along with putting two 3/3's out with one of each ability and a 6/6 is good in my book
Raging Ravine- Able to attack and gain more power and toughness each turn
Rootbound Crag- One of the only cards we have to consider as a Stomping Ground that's neither a Forest Bear nor a Mountain Goat
Copperline Gorge -One of the only cards we have to consider as a Stomping Ground that's neither a Forest Bear nor a Mountain Goat, also lets us play spells early on as one of our first 3 land drops.
Well, we have a fairly good amount of staples to use; some way too expensive and some about right where we might want to use. Again Molten-Tail Masticore is noteworthy, however I'm also looking at Wurmcoil Engine, Mimic Vat, Memnite, and Lodestone Golem. Some of these are midrange cards but can be used in some sort of ramping Aggro deck.
Adventuring Gear- Pump equipment with condition
Basilisk Collar- Equipment that gives Deathtouch and Lifelink
Mox Opal - Mana accelerator with Metalcraft condition
Steel Hellkite- Big creature with flying that sort of Pernicious Deed's the board
Strata Scythe- Good equipment in mono colored decks for fast Aggro
Sword of Body and Mind- Good overall equipment, pumps, token producer, protection from Green and Blue and mills your opponent
Sword of Vengeance- +2/+0, Haste, First Strike, Trample and Vigilance seems pretty good for a equipment
Temple Bell- Lets each player draw a card
Trusty Machete - Pump equipment
Voltaic Key- Untaps an artifact
Sylvok Replica- Creature that sacrifices to destroy an enchantment or artifact
Temple Bell- Lets players draw a card
Tumble Magnet- Conditional usage, but allows user to tap a creature, artifact or land
Voltaic Key- Untaps an artifact
Nothing that catches my attention so lets continue on with the final deck list that I have made so far with what we have.
[deck title=Final List:]
3 Kuldotha Phoenix
4 Fauna Shaman
4 Beastmaster Ascension
3 Mox Opal
3 Kuldotha Rebirth
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Arc Trail
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Raging Ravine
3 Khalni Garden
4 Tunnel Ignus
3 Nature's Claim
2 Sword of Body and Mind
Reasons for card choices:
Ornithopter - It is a Flier that fuels the deck nicely, it can be tossed to Fauna Shaman to fetch Vengevine, add counters to Beastmaster Ascension as another way to finish off an opponent, and activates Metalcraft for Mox Opal and Kuldotha Phoenix.
Memnite - A very early ground beater for zero casting cost with a similar role as Ornithopter. It can be tossed to Fauna Shaman to fetch Vengevine, add counters to Beastmaster Ascension as another way to finish off an opponent, and activates Metalcraft for Mox Opal and Kuldotha Phoenix.
Vengevine and Fauna Shaman - The aggro tool box. In my opinion, most of the cards in the deck have synergy with these two. I can toss any creature to Fauna Shaman to bring out Vengevine or Kuldotha Phoenix, and also play each of our zero casting cost creatures to bring both of those back.
Kuldotha Rebirth- With all our artifact creatures and Mox Opals playing this card on turn one puts three 1/1's out on the field that can give us early damage as well as fueling a midgame Beastmaster Ascension.
Side Board Options
Staggershock- Damage to finish an opponent off or to clear the board to alpha strike.
Tunnel Ignus This is a meta call against the Valakut match up.
Natures Claim- A tech card that should be run in my opinion in most Green decks. Helps with the White Weenie Quest deck, along with decks running multiple artifacts and enchantments such as Wurmcoil Engine, Everflowing Chalice, Journey to Nowhere, etc.
Sword of Body and Mind - This card I admit is something of a meta choice, I have plenty of UW & UB Control decks alongside Mono Green Eldrazi ramp. This allows me to not worry about some of the problems that can occur during these matches.
Overall questions about my metagame:
How does this deck handle UW or UB control decks?
I think that this deck can be fast enough to handle these kinds of decks. It's better to not overextend the board so we won't lose tempo. Frost Titan and Jace, the Mind Sculptor are cards we need to look out for. Postboard we can bring in more burn and Sword of Body and Mind to deal with these decks. Usually you want to get out your low casting cost guys as fast as possible but keep a few in hand for Vengevine and Kuldotha Phoenix, and to play around counters so you can get Beastmaster Ascension out.
How does this deck handle GR Valakut/Eldrazi Ramp?
I believe this is one of the harder matchups we have to face. They can easily ramp into an Eldrazi spell or into the Valakut combo. We have Tunnel Ignus to face them, but we will have to wait and see. We need to keep them on guard by killing their Lotus Cobras and Oracle of Mul Dayas. Summoning Trap is something we can't do anything about but play around it. Our goal in these matchups is to kill the mana producers and Aggro out as quickly as possible.
How does this deck handle RDW?
Another one of our harder match ups. Usually in this match up we have to out Aggro them or play around each others Pyroclasms. Arc Trail is important here for us because most of the time it's in the Red deck's sideboard. It can give us an early advantage and get in without having to worry about blockers.
Thanks for tuning in and I'll see ya next time On the Hunt. I look forward to hearing from you guys on what you might have considered.
@cavemankellen on Twitter