If you’ve been jamming games of best-of-one on Arena, you’ll have had to slog your way through a huge number of decks. The ladder is filled with Mono-Red, Mono-Blue, and Mono-White, presumably piloted by players on the grind, hoping simply to get through as many games as possible as quickly as possible.
This can become tiresome pretty quickly, especially when playing aggro yourself, as so many games are decided by arbitrary factors like the die roll or who draws fewer lands. But given that such a vast proportion of the MTG Arena best-of-one field is linear aggro, this does open up ways to exploit things.
If you expect to consistently play against streamlined aggro decks more than half the time, which I don’t think is an unreasonable estimation of ranked best-of-one play, it’s worth going beyond just tuning your deck for the matchup. It’s worth building a deck specifically designed to prey on best-of-one aggro decks.
Today I’m going to look at two such decks, and how they can be best positioned against a format overrun with linear aggro while still not giving up too many percentage points against a wider breadth of other decks.
MTGO superstar _Falcon_ simply refuses to stop 5-0’ing Standard leagues with Selesnya Tokens. How does the deck stack up in best-of one? With infinite blockers, plenty of incidental life gain, and a proactive finish, there might be something to this list when going up against aggro.
3 Forest 10 Plains 4 Temple Garden 4 Sunpetal Grove 3 Emmara, Soul of the Accord 4 Tithe Taker 3 Venerated Loxodon 3 Trostani Discordant 4 Conclave Tribunal 4 Flower/Flourish 4 History of Benalia 4 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort 4 March of the Multitudes 4 Saproling Migration 2 Unbreakable Formation
Selesnya Tokens can still be a very aggressive deck—an attribute that comes in handy when paired against Teferi or Reclamation decks—but its hidden strength is being able to almost effortlessly fend off fast aggro starts. After flooding the board with blockers to soak up damage, it’s only a matter of time before a massive March of the Multitudes puts the game beyond an aggro player’s reach.
With some red decks shaving or even cutting Goblin Chainwhirler for a heavier burn component, this list and its squillion 1/1s are in a better position than ever. Additionally, white decks will have trouble punching through your chump blockers (and have no efficient removal to contest you going wide).
When paired against aggro, always drive toward setting up the biggest March of the Multitudes you can afford. This will defend you both when your opponent is playing to the board by enabling effective blocks, or when they’re on the burn-’em-out plan by buffering your life total. Ultimately, a post-March swing in conjunction with Flourish or Unbreakable Formation should be enough to put the game away.
The ability to pivot into a much more proactive and aggressive role against slower decks is one of the real draws to this list. Being able to curve Landing into Emmara into History—which is a pretty medium start—means that even if they have a sweeper on turn 4, you’ve got a flipped Adanto and a Knight token ready to go.
Saproling Migration scales nicely, and Unbreakable Formation is a terrific counter to Kaya’s Wrath or Fiery Cannonade. Additionally, you won’t even have hands bogged down by dead removal—Conclave Tribunal is still an excellent piece of interaction against noncreature threats, such as planeswalkers and enchantments!
This one’s a little more out of left field. I got so sick of dying to perfect aggro curveouts that I decided to see just how deep down the rabbit hole I can go. I want to play sweepers, sure, but I don’t want to then get burnt out after clearing the board—I want to end the game promptly. Additionally, I want threats of a decent power level to contest slower decks. Well, for better or worse, here’s where I landed.
4 Godless Shrine 4 Isolated Chapel 3 Orzhov Guildgate 7 Swamp 7 Plains 3 Tithe Taker 2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty 4 Seraph of the Scales 4 Resplendent Angel 1 Angel of Grace 1 Arguel's Blood Fast/Temple of Aclazotz 4 Moment of Craving 1 Cast Down 1 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper 2 Mortify 3 Cry of the Carnarium 3 Kaya's Wrath 2 Vraska's Contempt 4 Lyra Dawnbringer
This list puts two terrific anti-aggro cards to best use—both Kaya’s Wrath and Cry of the Carnarium are all-stars against the go-wide strategies of mono-colored aggro. But it still has a proactive game plan and includes plenty of incidental life gain, which positions it perfectly against aggressive decks of all kinds.
The creature suite is, with the exception of Tithe Taker, all Angels. This is in an effort to maximize the impact of Lyra Dawnbringer. Usually, casting her and getting in with Resplendent Angel or Seraph of the Scales is enough to get an aggro player to pack ’em up. All of the Angels have an anti-aggro bent, however—Resplendent Angel is an early blocker to keep back Viashino Pyromancer and white 1-drops, and Shalai, Voice of Plenty protects you from getting burned out (usually eating two burn spells in the process).
The removal suite is, of course, mostly geared towards aggro. Moment of Craving is the best answer to Adanto Vanguard, while Vraska’s Contempt is another way to buffer your life total. Despite the relatively high creature count in this list, Kaya’s Wrath is still an excellent card, especially when playing with afterlife creatures.
One thing to keep in mind when building decks like these is the critical importance of flexibility. Though designed to beat aggro, many of the cards in this list are still very useful against slower decks, such as Esper Control. Flexible cards are absolutely crucial in a best-of-one format.
Some of the creatures create a level of resilience against opposing removal (Tithe Taker, Seraph of the Scales) but the best way to contest removal-heavy controlling decks is to be careful and patient with your threat deployment. Most of the creatures in this deck can win a game on their own—particularly Resplendent Angel and Lyra Dawnbringer—so don’t pointlessly run extra creatures into sweepers—force your opponent to lose value by using a Wrath on a single creature.
This flexibility extends to the noncreature slots, too. While Cast Down and Moment of Craving are never going to be good against controlling decks, Mortify hits Search for Azcanta and Wilderness Reclamation, Vraska’s Contempt hits planeswalkers, and Tithe Taker can either block early or disrupt a controlling opponent’s instant-speed removal.
In a similar vein, Arguel’s Blood Fast and Kaya, Orzhov Usurper are designed to be good in any matchup. Blood Fast provides card advantage against control and flips for life gain against aggro, while Kaya provides (slowish) pressure against control and nukes an aggro player’s 1-drops. To put it simply, flexibility is worth a lot.
If you’re determined to grind rank on MTG Arena, you better come prepared for an onslaught of aggressive decks. Keep yourself in a position to beat out slower decks that look to go big. These lists might just be the key to doing that. Good luck to you out there on the grind!