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The Art Of Aggro With Shawn! (STANDARD)

We have a bit of a treat for you readers! Standard expert extraordinaire Shawn Yap has come on board to give you his tidbits on the Standard format. For his first article, Shawn fills us in on 'The art of AGGRO', successful deck examples from competitions around the world and what makes aggro tick.

Greetings! My name is Shawn, this will be my first time writing a MTG article. While I may not have as many achievements under my belts as compared to some of the more iconic names in New Zealand, I have been to known to take a few 1K tournaments under my belt over the last 3 years.

For my column, I will be writing about the various archetypes currently in standard along with some deck lists and samples to go along with them with explanations on how they work or play out.

In MTG, an archetype is a type of deck which fits a certain play style. They are usually classified as aggro, midrange, control and combo. While we could usually delve deeper in older formats into more specific strategies like storm, dredge etc, they will usually fall into 1 of these categories.

The typical goal of an aggro deck is to dish out enough damage to kill off your opponent in 4-6 turns. This is usually done by filling your side of the board in the early turns with high powered creatures to start dropping his total life points aggressively. Most aggro decks are simple to play, with very little interactions between cards, relying on sheer raw power of each individual card comparative to its cost.

Mono-Green Aggro
by Mason Lange
6th place at a StarCityGames.com Invitational tournament

4 Brushstrider
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Experiment One
4 Kalonian Tusker
4 Reverent Hunter
2 Scavenging Ooze
3 Slaughterhorn

Enchantment Creatures
4 Boon Satyr

2 Mending Touch
1 Ranger's Guile

Legendary Enchantment Creatures
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt

Basic Lands
19 Forest

4 Mutavault


While this deck does not contain any cards from Journey into Nyx, the core of the deck would not change much. The deck is fairly straightforward and easy to play, dropping aggressive low cost creatures each turn. There are ways to protect your guys from removal spells through use of mending touch for regen or ranger's guile for hexproof. Scavenging Ooze is good for making use of your graveyard, easily getting him into a 5/5 or 6/6 in the midgame, should you reach that point. The cost of making this deck is fairly low as well, with the only high value card being Mutavault. A great choice for beginners or someone wanting to play something straightforward and easy coming into the tournament scene.

Mono-Black Aggro

4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Tormented Hero

4 Pain Seer
4 Mogis Marauder

Enchantment Creatures
4 Gnarled Scarhide
4 Herald of Torment
4 Master of Feasts

3 Hero's Downfall
2 Ultimate Price


Basic Lands
19 Swamp

4 Mutavault

This is for the player who wishes to have more disruption on the field in comparison to the mono green aggro deck featured before. This deck is still highly aggressive, gaining even more tools from Journey into Nyx in the form of Gnarled Scarhide and Master of Feasts. This deck has more evasion, offering flyers in the form of Herald of Torment and Master of Feasts, which some midrange strategies have issues dealing with. Some of the enchantment creatures have bestow, which provides a form of pseudo haste and removal protection by having them bestowed and becoming a creature should they become removed. Other variations of the deck include adding red. Adding red to this deck gives you excess to more evasive,hasty spells and more reach in the form of Spike Jester, Exava, The Blood Witch, Madcap Skills, Mogis Warhound and Lightning Strike.

RW Burn

4 Chandra's Phoenix

1 Spark Trooper

Enchantment Creatures
4 Eidolon of Great Revel

4 Boros Charm

4 Warleader's Helix
4 Lightning Strike
4 Searing Blood
4 Skull Crack
4 Magma Jet
2 Shock

2 Chained to the Rocks

Basic Lands
9 Mountain

4 Mutavault
4 Sacred Foundry

4 Temple of Triumph
2 Mana Confluence

Instead of relying on creatures, this deck attempts to try and finish an opponent off through a flurry of red based spells to reduce their life total. Journey into Nyx brought in some interesting tech in the form of Eidolon of Great Revel, which punishes your opponents early game by making them take damage from using their cheap spells. This is especially relevant when your opponent is playing an aggressive, low cost strategy as each card they play will be costing them life, making your burn spells more effective. While this card also hits you from playing most of your spells as well, it does not really matter as long as your opponent hits 0 before you do! Spark Trooper and Warleader's Helix can help to offset some of the damage caused by it. Most decks do not have any form of lifegain in their first game, giving this deck a very high win percentage for their first game.


Brave Naya

4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Dryad Militant

4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Fleecemane Lion

2 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Boros Reckoners
4 Ghor Clan Rampager

4 Brave the Elements

3 Selesnya Charm
3 Boros Charm
2 Giant Growth

Basic Lands
2 Plains

4 Mana Confluence

4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple Garden
4 Stomping Ground
3 Temple of Plenty
1 Temple of Abandon

Brave Naya is an aggressive white based deck. It features one of the most restrictive yet powerful cards in the format, Brave the Elements. That card can be used as protection for removal spells or evasion for your creatures to get some points of damage in. Featuring a large array of combat tricks, it will ensure that your guys will crush any blockers that your opponent has. The combat tricks also give your guys trample, making it an effective way to push damage across any blockers. It has a very painful mana base being a 3 colored deck, however, the amount of protection it offers your creatures and the sheer power it has more than makes up for it.

White Weenie

4 Soldier of the Pantheon

4 Boros Elite
4 Precinct Captain
3 Daring Skyjek

3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Lyev Skyknight
2 Ephara, God of Polis

3 Brave the Elements

2 Spear of Heliod

2 Dictate of Heliod
3 Detention Sphere

Basic Lands
8 Plains

4 Mana Confluence

4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Mutavault

This is another white weenie deck, which works differently from the Naya Brave deck. This deck has a better mid game strategy as Ephara, God of Polis is an excellent draw engine with Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Precinct Captain. This ensures that you almost never run out of threats to draw into. The multiple anthem effects help tokens generated to push the much needed damage after generating early board presence.

Generic Tips for Aggro Players

While I am unable to go deep into the various interactions that each deck has with the meta, I can however offer generic advice when it comes to playing aggressive decks.

1. Board out 1 land on the draw.
This is something that most newer players do not know when it comes to sideboarding when playing an aggressive low cost deck. Because of the additional draw, the difference between 22 and 23 lands or 23 and 24 lands becomes more negligible. In most scenarios, the aggro player would not want to draw beyond 4 lands in his approximate total of 4-5 turns. We would rather draw more gas than the land due to that. There are some hard numbers out there that help support this argument, but it would probably span more than the supposed length of this article.

2. Playing 1 turn ahead.
While all players should be attempting to play 1 turn ahead by estimating board states after their opponents next turn, this becomes especially important for aggro players. Over committing to a board is one of the worst mistakes that you can make, especially against other decks with some form of a board wipe. This can get more tricky in scenarios where combat maths is involved and your decisions can mean killing an opponent a turn earlier or figuring out his next turn's play.

3. Sideboard

While there are many ways to sideboard, generally, an aggro deck is going to be weaker post board with all the hate cards coming in. Sideboard strategies for an aggro deck tend to either lean on disrupting your opponent hate cards either through discard, counterspells or protection. The other way is to increase your reach via direct damage spells, or going for a more grindy strategy post board. Have a 2nd and 3rd game plan in mind when making a sideboard for your aggro deck.

4. Knowing your own deck
While most aggro decks may seem easy to play, the difference between a good aggro player and an average one is knowing what kind of hands to keep against various decks. Do not be afraid to mulligan if you think that hand would not work out well in your favor, especially if you are unable to put a relevant or good threat by at least turn 2 on the table.

With that, I do hope that this article brings some ideas or a better understanding of some of the aggro decks in standard. Look forward to my next article, which will be the midrange special soon! Do not be afraid to talk to me in store or send feedback on what you would like me to write about or if you need some help in deck construction.

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