G/B Energy Aggro was already a large part of the Standard metagame before Mardu Vehicles and Saheeli Combo pushed it down to tier 2 status. With Felidar Guardian banned, the deck that sported a pretty decent Mardu matchup becomes a lot more interesting. It didn’t get too many new tools from Amonkhet, but there’s one big one I wanted to discuss.
Rhonas the Indomitable is ChannelFireball CEO and President Jon Saso’s pick for one of the best cards in the set. It’s a 5/5 deathtouch, indestructible creature with a sweet ability, so what’s not to like? The fact that it can’t actually attack or block without a 4-power creature in play is a drawback, but that’s easily mitigated in deck building, right? The most interesting thing about this B/G Aggro list to me was that it played multiple copies of Rhonas and not a single creature in the list that has base power of 4 or greater.
Now this is a G/B deck, so that is a problem that we can solve. It doesn’t take someone with too much Standard experience to know how big the creatures can get in any deck featuring Winding Constrictor. The 2-mana Snake is only a 2/3, but that changes fairly quickly. Even what would have been a single counter will immediately boost it into 4-power territory. With lots of ways to add +1/+1 counters to creatures, you can build a massive team early in the game. At that point, Rhonas boosting power and granting trample will be key.
Rishkar, Peema Renegade is a great way to grow your team and give you a mana boost. Turn-2 Snake into turn-3 Rishkar leaves 8 power in play, and Rhonas can get in there while pumping these creatures and giving trample, making chump blockers useless.
Greenbelt Rampager is just a bit too small to turn on the green God, but does provide important energy on an early clock. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner also provides energy, as well as an outlet for energy stored to draw some cards.
Walking Ballista is still the big one when it comes to all of these counters. Adding a pair of counters to a Ballista can make for a ridiculous amount of damage. While spending 8 to make a creature big enough to immediately turn on Rhonas doesn’t sound like much of a deal, Ballista can steadily grow or wear counters with the best of them.
The one card that gains a ton of value with Rhonas is Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. Not only can Nissa make her own army, but she can pump your team to the size you need them to be. Turn-2 creature into turn-3 Nissa make a Plant token, turn-4 Rhonas and minus Nissa means that even without a Snake in play, you will end up with a 7/7 God that can attack on turn 5.
The only other new card to make the main deck is Manglehorn. It shoots down Vehicles, Dynavolt Towers, and Gearhulks while making them enter the battlefield tapped. This is important for an aggro deck that needs to mitigate blockers, but also means that Torrential Gearhulk can’t ambush your team in combat.
Attune with Aether provides some fixing and energy, while black has 2 high quality removal spells in Fatal Push and Grasp of Darkness to force damage through. These two instants combined with Manglehorn make Heart of Kiran look pretty unimpressive!
G/B Energy Aggro was heralded as a top deck going into the previous PT, but fell off a bit when the top two decks truly emerged. The banning of the Cat leaves lots of room at the top, and G/B is sure to make a bid for a spot.