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Valuable Lessons – Seeing Red

Welcome back to Valuable Lessons. Today, we’ll be discussing the potential for aggressive gameplans in Theros Standard. [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] and [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] may be hurdles, but aggressive decks have overcome similar obstacles in the past and there’s no reason to discount them coming into the new Standard format.

[draft]Burning-Tree Emissary[/draft]

[card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] has been one of the most powerful effects in Standard for quite some time, but many people are heralding its fall from grace in the wake of [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] and [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card]. It’s worth noting that [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] works exceptionally well with decks that are going for devotion, but we’re not talking about midrangey decks that Emissary into [card]Zhur-Taa Druid[/card] today. [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] is the type of card that is always going to do really well against [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] decks, but [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card], [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], and [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] can all be averted if we build the right kind of aggressive deck.

I found this list floating around forums and thought it may have potential.

[deck]4 Akroan Crusader
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Firefist Striker
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Young Pyromancer
4 Dynacharge
4 Giant Growth
4 Titan’s Strength
4 Warrior’s Lesson
6 Forest
10 Mountain
4 Stomping Ground[/deck]

The deck has absurd draws, and if our opponent is playing creatures on their first few turns and not casting removal spells then it seems like this deck would be extremely difficult to beat. Unfortunately, the deck has very serious issues with a lot of cards that we can expect to see extensive sideboard play. [card]Golgari Charm[/card] and [card]Electrickery[/card] are pretty close to [card]Plague Wind[/card] for two mana, and that’s kind of brutal. [card]Izzet Staticaster[/card] is another card that seems extremely difficult for this deck to stand up against.

[draft]Overgrown Tomb[/draft]

I decided to take a look at what Rakdos has to offer. [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] may be difficult to cast out of a Rakdos deck, but [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card] helps a lot as a land that can cast [card]Tormented Hero[/card] or [card]Thoughtseize[/card] on the first turn and dump a [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] chain on the second.

[draft]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/draft]

[card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] is one of the best cards in a deck like this, it allows us to break through things like [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] without breaking a sweat. We’re already playing for [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card] and I think it’s probably worth it to splash the Rampager with a set of [card]Stomping Grounds[/card].

[draft]Thoughtseize[/draft]

Let’s talk about [card]Thoughtseize[/card] for a moment. We know that [card]Thoughtseize[/card] is a very good card, but it’s very difficult to [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [card]Read the Bones[/card] in the same deck unless we’re packing a healthy dose of life gain. [card]Read the Bones[/card] is probably a better tool for more controlling decks that need to find specific answers to the current board state. It’s hard to justify spending life and mana to deal with things that aren’t already attacking us. As a control deck, we’ll win the game by answering questions with answers that cost less mana and by drawing the right cards in the right spots; nothing does this better than [card]Read the Bones[/card].

In more aggressive or creature-based midrange strategies, Thoughtseize becomes a much more attractive option. Midrange decks with cards like [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card] or other hard-to-deal-with threats will be happy to [card]Thoughtseize[/card] away specific answers to these big threats. We can [card]Thoughtseize[/card] people and leave them with cards like [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] and [card]Doom Blade[/card], but strip them of [card]Selesnya Charm[/card] or [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] before we pull the trigger with Mr. Spooky.

When playing a hyper-aggressive deck like this one, [card]Thoughtseize[/card] is a nice tool for plucking [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] or [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] out of the opponent’s hand, but we can’t play too many copies or we’ll find ourselves with a lot of draws that have multiple [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s or [card]Thoughtseize[/card] alongside some number of [card]Madcap Skills[/card] and [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card]s. As an aggressive 1-drop-into-2-drop kind of deck, it’s important that the vast majority of our cards do the same thing. We really don’t want to pass on our second turn without at least 4 power on the battlefield.

[draft]Madcap Skills[/draft]

[card]Madcap Skills[/card] may seem odd, but if we’re playing an aggressive deck with [card]Thoughtseize[/card] then this has to be pretty good. It’s also very exciting to suit up a [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] or [card]Tormented Hero[/card] with some Skillz off [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] on the second turn against black decks that are leaning on their [card]Doom Blade[/card]s. We attack for five on the second turn, (and deal an extra point if we used [card]Tormented Hero[/card]!) and pass with 7 power in play.

[draft]Firefist Striker[/draft]

In the past, decks like this have had a hard time dealing with blockers like [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] and [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], which is particularly gamebreaking. [card]Firefist Striker[/card] helps us bash through, but we can’t always rely on having it or the battalion necessary to trigger it.

[draft]Dreadbore[/draft]

Black/red gives us access to [card]Doom Blade[/card] and [card]Dreadbore[/card]. [card]Dreadbore[/card] lets us shrug off [card]Nightveil Specter[/card] and [card]Desecration Demon[/card], but the instant-speed of [card]Doom Blade[/card] may win the day. I’m going to try [card]Dreadbore[/card] for now, but it’s definitely something that can change.

Here’s how the deck looks when we mash it all together:

[deck]4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Stomping Ground
4 Blood Crypt
4 Swamp
4 Mountain
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Tormented Hero
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Firefist Striker
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
3 Madcap Skills
4 Dreadbore
3 Thoughtseize
2 Lightning Strike[/deck]

After some serious consideration, I decided that I wasn’t impressed with the power-level of this deck. We want our [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] deck to be consistent. It seems silly to play something with volatile draws when our whole plan is to prey on other players stumbling for a turn or losing the roll.

[draft]Fanatic of Mogis[/draft]

I’ve discussed mono-red before, but the deck is worth a second glance. There are a lot of cards we haven’t discussed because they weren’t revealed yet. [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] is a very interesting card that seems particularly strong against decks that want to grind us out with bigger monsters. Let’s try building an aggressive red deck that’s entirely permanent-based in an effort to maximize our devotion to red. I understand we could be casting [card]Purphorous, God of the Forge[/card] if we’re going for red devotion, but the card seems better in decks with [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card] or [card]Master of Waves[/card] than it does in an aggressive red strategy that wants to dump its hand before the third turn ever happens.

[draft]Foundry Street Denizen[/draft]

We definitely want 12 one-mana creatures in this deck. [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] and [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card] are the obvious choices, but we need another. I’ve experimented with [card]Legion Loyalist[/card] and I wasn’t particularly impressed. The card is good if we’re [card dynacharge]Dynacharging[/card], but I don’t think that’s the gameplan if we’re on [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card]. [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card], on the other hand, is a pretty reasonable one-drop for a deck that’s basically all creatures. We can pretty reliably make a [card]Savannah Lions[/card] out of our [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card].

[card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] and its usual buddies fill our two-drop slot nicely. [card]Gore-House Chainwalker[/card] and [card]Firefist Striker[/card] are definitely the most efficient two-drops for a deck like this. We probably want at least one more card that we can BTE into, so a single copy of [card]Madcap Skills[/card] should do the trick.

[draft]Hammer of Purphoros[/draft]

[card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card] is completely insane. The card continues to impress me in every game I draw it and it works beautifully with [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card]. This and [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] give us some very nice three-drops.

[card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] and other large bodies may still be difficult to battle through, so we can play some [card]Rubblebelt Maaka[/card]s to go over the top.

Here’s what the final list looks like:

[deck]4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Burning Tree Emissary
4 Ghor-House Chainwalker
4 Firefist Striker
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Fanatic of Mogis
3 Rubblebelt Maaka
1 Madcap Skills
2 Hammer of Purphoros
1 Mutavault
21 Mountain[/deck]

This is precisely the type of aggressive strategy that performs well in a new format. The deck is very focused, and all its cards are powerful in this particular setting. (Even [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card] is pretty reasonable here.) We should be pretty happy with this deck as it combines incredible early aggression with very strong reach as the game progresses and we start losing on the board.

Next week, I plan to take a look at control’s place in the new Standard. Feel free to hit the comments section and share your lists!

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