Arena B01, Level 2: Dual-Color Aggro

Welcome back to part two of my MTGA best-of-one metagame and deck building guide series. In today’s article, I’ll be focusing on dual color aggro decks. Part 2 builds on some of the basic concepts laid out in part 1: mono-color aggro, which can be found here.

In part one, I spent a lot of ink discussing and defending distinctions between BO1 and BO3 formats. I’m assuming that if you’re back for part 2 of a BO1 series that you are on some level interested in upping your BO1 MTGA game. I’d rather jump right into the strategy and I’m sure the majority of readers probably feel the same way.

Level 1: 1C Aggro Recap

Everything about mono-colored aggro aligns to make it the level 1 deck in the MTGA BO1 metagame:

  • These decks are easier to build in terms of rares and mythics required. No dual lands!
  • Preconceptions about how the BO1 meta works (linear decks will crush everything without sideboards).
  • Better mana means fewer losses to mana screw.

I think all of these factors make a lot of sense and are confirmed by what I have observed while playing Arena.

Level 2: Dueling with Duals

The “RDW is unbeatable in BO1” myth gets dispelled pretty quickly once you start playing your way through the MTGA ladder. Mono-color aggro decks are extremely effective for grinding through silver tier and lower because they are easy to build and most of the competition are work-in-progress-type decks.

As you get into gold tier, the dynamic begins to shift away from mono-color aggro and toward dual-color aggro decks. Once you hit gold tier there is a noticeable difference in the quality of opposing decks and the skill level of your opponents.

In particular, these more competitive opponents tend to have access to a larger card pool to build from and have better tuned lists, which is to be expected as you move into a more competitive environment.

The gold tier of the metagame is similar to what I’ve observed in the paper and MTGO metagame. I would speculate that a lot of people (myself included) approached BO1 ladder play from the perspective of trying to build their favorite Constructed BO3 deck pre-sideboarded.

While people tend to start their first Arena deck by building a pre-sideboarded Standard deck, I think it becomes clear pretty quickly that some tuning for the BO1 context goes a long way.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular BO1 2-color aggro lists:

Boros Aggro

Boros Aggro is just a White Weenie deck that splashes red for Heroic Reinforcements.

We all saw what WW could do and how effective it was at the Pro Tour—it has really held up in Arena. One of the concessions to a high number of sweepers has been the adaptation of Heroic Reinforcements, which gives the deck a hasty, burst damage element that really shines in an environment that is hostile toward aggro.

Another great aggro deck that has carved out a niche for itself on Arena is Merfolk.

Merfolk

Heidevolk le Gueux

I’m not a Merfolk expert. It’s one of the decks I still can’t build on Arena, but it’s pretty popular and I have a lot of respect for the archetype. It’s fast and effective, and has ways to protect its creatures from removal-based decks.

I mentioned that I thought the deck was sweet on stream and that I was thinking about trying to put it together, and the chat erupted “NOOOOO!!!!” I think the deck gets a bad wrap because it proved to be a poor choice in BO3 Standard. But when people can’t punish it with gratuitous sideboard cards, it’s formidable.

The downside is that it requires a lot of very archetype specific Merfolk cards that don’t overlap with other decks, many of them are rares, and many of them are from Ixalan, which we haven’t been able to Draft in months.

Selesnya Tokens

Sacratus

Selesnya Tokens is another powerful aggressive midrange deck that has seen its paper popularity translate into MTGA fame.

I really like Ajani in these white decks. I’ve found the card to be both sticky and high impact in an archetype that often doesn’t have great tactical plays against sweepers.

It’s a fairly popular deck in the gold tier and it tends to match up well against the mono-colored aggro decks like WW and RDW. If your plan is to beat somebody down I’m pretty sure that an army of buffed lifelink tokens is the nightmare matchup, which makes Tokens a great metagame choice.

Watch out for Selesnya pilots who main deck a singleton Settle the Wreckage. It’s actually pretty cute since they may be bluffing a March and actually have a Settle!

It’s another example of playing a sideboard-type card in your BO1 aggro deck.

Izzet Drakes

Mattia Basilico, 4th Place at World Magic Cup for Team Italy

Izzet Drakes is another popular deck on Arena and there is a wide array of ways to build it. Some play Niv-Mizzet, some don’t. Some play Murmuring Mystic, some don’t. I feel that I could make that claim for a lot of the spells in the deck.

If you are packing Niv on Arena be sure to consider the Dive Down package. Golgari is a very popular choice once you advance beyond Silver and they are very good at dealing with a Niv but pretty bad at overcoming Dive Down protection. It’s sort of a matchup concession. Dive Down is also a nice combat trick with Crackling Drake that can often eat a big attacker or blocker.

Blanking a Vivien Reid minus for 1 mana is a huge swing.

As is the case with BO3 Standard, Golgari is an exceptionally popular choice on MTGA. I play against it a ton and also play with it quite a bit. It’s a really strong deck.

Most people play lists that look like pre-boarded BO3 versions of the deck, which is a fair choice since the deck is amazing. I’ve been tuning my version for a while and it’s a little bit rogue.

Golgari Aggro

Brian DeMars

I would never build a Golgari deck like this for BO3. There’s no reason to because I get to play 66% of my games with sideboard (which is where I’ll get a significant boost). In BO1 I really want to highlight the fact that B/G has access to diverse threats and can shift roles at the drop of a hat.

Golgari is a really interesting deck to play on MTGA because it has the tools in BO3 to beat almost everything with its sideboard. The reason that Golgari is the best deck in regular Standard is because it has such a powerful array of weapons at its disposal.

You can board into a B/G deck that crushes control. You can board into a B/G deck that crushes aggro. You can board into a B/G deck that crushes burn. You can board into a B/G deck with a bunch of sweepers to beat tokens. But focusing your B/G deck to play exactly one game is a little more tricky.

I’ve found the “random” fun-ofs to be extremely effective in Golgari. In particular, because the explore creatures help you dig to them in good matchups or bin them in matchups where they are not good. It’s basically the same as in Legacy where having lots of Brainstorms to manipulate your draws allow decks to play some situational cards.

I’ve tried to include lists that I think are fairly emblematic of the types of decks that are popular on Arena, but it goes without saying that people play a wide range of versions of every archetype.

Don’t be surprised to see a Duress or Freebooter in a Golgari deck, or a Settle the Wreckage in a White Weenie deck. These are things I would almost never expect to see in BO3 Standard. It’s kind of neat that the way to hedge and gain advantage is to try new and interesting tactics, and see what sticks!

It’s also pretty clear that with a new set on the horizon, things are going to be further shaken up. In particular, five new dual lands and a bunch of sweet gold cards are bound to bring the Gruul, Orzhov, Simic, Azor, and Rakdos to the forefront. Personally, I’m really excited to build some Orzhov decks as I think there are multiple strong bases in Vampires and Knights.

While level 1 of the metagame may be mono-color aggro, once you hit gold tier it’s clear that familiar 2-color aggro starts to see a huge boost in play. It’s a combination of card availability (a lot of the staples of Boros, Golgari, and Jeskai are featured in GRN) and more experienced players gravitating toward the powerful and familiar BO3 staples.

What is key is continuing to find ways to adapt these powerful archetypes to win more in a B01 context. There are a lot of really smart examples of that demonstrated in the article today. Things you don’t need to do in traditional Standard but play a significant role in BO1: Heroic Reinforcements, Settle the Wreckage, Tocatli Honor Guard, various Niv or Niv-less Drakes, or a broad 50/50 approach to building Golgari.

In Arena, it’s up to you to make the deck building decisions about how to position yourself against the field and which tactics to employ. You can’t just have a Golgari deck that beats everything after sideboard—you have big choices to make.

Stay tuned! BO1 control decks are next! Also, I’m interested in showcasing some of the more exciting competitive rogue brews that are running around. If you’ve got a nice one that you’d like to see featured in an upcoming article, drop it in the comments or DM me.

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