4 Aggro Decks To Get You to Mythic for the November 2020 Ranked Season
Hello Planeswalkers from across the globe! We are experiencing one of the better Standard formats of recent times. After the bans of Lucky Clover and Omnath, Locus of Mana, most of the problematic cards in Standard are gone, and we are left with a powerful yet balanced environment in which there is no real absolute winner. Aggressive strategies are viable, midrange is playable, and controlling decks are also a reality; all signals that we have a healthy play field to enjoy.
Even though diversity is high, we are seeing the previously well defined archetypes have changed, and its starting to be a little more complex to understand which decks are “aggro”, which ones are “control”, and which ones try to stand in the middle. This is because many of the slow decks of the format play tons of creatures (even multiple one drops and two drops!), and at the same time, some of the faster builds have tons of mana sinks and card advantage capabilities. Anyone that is used to constructed formats where control decks were about counter, wrath effects and drawing, while aggro decks were about “one drop into double one drop”, could easily end up lost in the new Zendikar Rising Standard.
If you are one of those wizards that loves turning creatures sideways and have lost your way, don’t worry, because this article will guide you to the right path. With Dimir Rogues and Yorion piles dominating the metagame into the tier 1 territory, it appears that only Gruul decks are capable of filling the role of aggressors in this format. This is especially because it’s the only low-to-the-ground creature deck that is played in high level tournaments. It has a strong curve, the best equipment that Standard has seen in years, and the potential to close out games in one devastating attack.
This doesn’t mean it’s the only choice if you want to climb the ladder all the way up to Mythic, dealing those 20 points of damage as fast as you can. I think there are also other decklists that can take you there, and that is what we are going to share today. Without further ado, lets begin:
This deck combines different key abilities and characteristics, and has been called “Gruul Aggro”, “Gruul Adventures” and even “Gruul Landfall” at some point. Regardless of how you name it, it has clearly become the go-to aggressive deck of the format, and for good reason. This list is capable of applying tremendous amount of pressure to the opponent very fast, threatening to close out the game in a few turns, while also having the potential to play a longer game, combining removal spells with card draw engines, even in game one. I think one of the key aspects that makes this strategy so efficient is that, even if the opponent manages to stabilize in the early game killing all our attackers, we can still finish games out of nowhere in a single combat phase, with haste creatures and double striking monsters thanks to Embercleave. This means that we are not necessary required to curve out every single game and gain board presence early on in order to win games (as other aggro strategies have to do).
After game one, the deck can transform into a much grinder version of itself, adding planeswalkers and Ox of Agonas. In combination with Edgewall Innkeeper and The Great Henge, this will make sure you never run out of gas and give you the ability to even play a long game. You can make tons of trades with the opponent while still maintaining a solid aggressive curve to exploit if the game asks for it. The addition of some Evolving Wilds (originally included to have more Landfall triggers for Brushfire Elemental and Kazandu Mammoth) ended up improving the mana base a lot, compared to Gruul decks from the previous Standard format. Usually those lists had problems finding double green and double red early on. Sacrificing some speed with extra tap lands made it much easier to have access to those colors consistently. Let’s take a look at some of the key cards from this deck:
This tiny two drop grows incredibly fast, sometimes attacking for five points of damage out of nowhere thanks to Fabled Passage and Evolving Wilds. This creature is one of the main reasons this deck is so efficient at closing out games, and makes playing a total of 29 lands really worth it. The fact that it cannot be “chump blocked” is very relevant, meaning that your opponent will have to either take the damage, or use a big blocker to trade with a creature that cost only two mana, and even then it still wont be that easy for them to trade. For example, your five mana 4/5 Yorion dies against my two mana 5/5 haste thanks to my Landfall triggers!
I have said this many times on stream, and will repeat it again here: This card is just too efficient for its mana cost, and should be considered as a potential ban in the future. It’s not that the creature is broken or anything, but its the fact that its extremely efficient at what it does. Unless you are playing one mana removal spells and your opponent did not manage to draw any cards out of it (which, you guessed it, is not the usual scenario) you always end up trading down on cards and tempo against him, usually needing to invest at least two mana and a spell on a one drop that has drawn a card already. I think that, the fact that both Innkeeper and the Adventure creatures in this list are so good, will reduce the deck building possibilities in the future, because nothing that comes out will be able to surpass them in power level.
Winota, Joiner of Forces is a one-card combo. Decks that play this card usually have to be built around it in its totality, and for good reason. The abilities printed in this creature provide a brutal combination of pressure and card advantage, with potential to close out games on the spot, given that you managed to curve out properly and have a deck prepared to abuse its ability to its fullest. Many color combinations have been successful (Four-color builds with Neoform, Jeskai when Agent of Treachery was around, Mardu with Michael Jacob almost winning the last Players Tour, and some recent versions of Naya builds with mana accelerants). Nowadays, I think sticking to the two color alternative is the way to go, as mana bases in Standard are not particularly great, and this deck doesn’t seem to lack power level at all. Someone could argue that this is not a traditional aggro deck because of it is more combo oriented, but it definitely has the potential to win games playing creatures and attacking, while also having that strong finishing move.
One of the challenges with Winota decks is being able to fit everything you need in 60 cards, that is, all the Human and non-Human creatures to enable your game plan, while at the same time having tools to interact with your opponent and play good games of Magic when everything doesn’t go our way and we have to pay attention at what the other player is doing. What makes this particular build phenomenal is that it manages to include many forms of interaction and removal without having to sacrifice the consistency of its main strategy: Bonecrusher Giant and Skyclave Apparition function both as Winota enablers and removal spells at the same time, and four copies of Shatterskull Smashing ensure you will always be able to remove blockers and deal with what’s in front of you. Let’s take a look at some of the key cards from this deck:
I consider this three drop to be the most impactful card from Zendikar Rising in Standard, as at this point it became almost an auto-include in any deck that has white, regardless of it being aggro, midrange or control (its synergy with Yorion, Sky Nomad is especially a great boost here) because of its efficiency and versatility. It can deal with any permanent of converted mana cost four or less your opponent plays, while giving you a body to attack and block with, that you are even not that afraid to trade, since you aren’t giving back what you exiled in the first place. In this particular deck, it works as a non-Human creature that removes any potential blocker out of the way, and present an enabler for Winota just before the turn she comes into play.
With so many rares and mythics included in this list, this little dog might get ignored at first glance, but when you start playing the deck, you will realize fast how much you want to have him in play as early as possible every single game. It is a one drop that will trade against a future removal spell, or make combat hard for your opponent, that can also trigger Winota’s ability, while protecting her from removal at the same time. Sure, there are some matchups in which creatures get exiled instead of being destroyed (Yorion decks being the most relevant) but even in those games the dog will still be a cheap body to enable a good Winota turn, and those decks also play some copies of Shatter the Sky in their 75.
Months go by, new sets arrive, cards get banned, metagames transform and basic mountains are still a thing. Contrary to what many people believe, I think Mono Red Aggro never actually lost its tier 1 status in this Standard format. What happens is, sometimes the most played deck in the field has a decent match up against it, and so it becomes less reliable, but as soon as no one plays the deck, people forget it exists, and suddenly you can Anax-Cleave everyone out once again. A fantastic curve, creatures that can deal tons of damage by themselves, and the cleanest mana base you can get, makes this archetype still a valid choice to rank up the Arena ladder.
What impresses me the most from this deck is the amount of reach it has: You don’t win the game against it simply by killing its one drop and two drop creatures, because Anax, Hardened in the Forge in combination with Embercleave can still win games of Magic all by itself. What also makes this deck very appealing to play is how fast games usually are, giving you the opportunity to play many games in less time that with other strategies, meaning you get the chance to rank up faster, and also learn how to play the deck faster than other archetypes, since you can easily accumulate tons of matches under your belt. For a more detailed run down of this deck, check out the deck guide here!
Let’s take a look at some of the key cards from this deck:
Anax, Hardened in the Forge
This might not surprise anybody, but it turns out this enchantment creature is still incredibly strong, and will hardly being replaced as the three drop of choice in every Mono Red deck until it rotates out of the format. With a tremendous strength in the offense, providing some sort of protection against removal for him and your hole team, and probably being the greatest Emercleave carrier there will ever be, Anax its responsible for many of the victories of this deck. The fact that its legendary status is not a problem has always been an amazing bonus (as the second copy will grant you 4 1/1 tokens when dying, which is far more than enough to justify playing as many copies as you can).
Blocking against this deck is always a nightmare, and that is because Embercleave exists. This piece of equipment is still one of the strongest cards in the entire Standard format, a threat that can still end games out of nowhere, and a card that brings a banning discussion to the table from time to time. You don’t have to play a specific set of creatures to make it busted, and it turns out this aggro deck has some units that abuse of its potential very well.
Mono White Aggro (Bonus)
I usually do not tend to recommend best-of-one decklists, but this one captured my attention enough to give it a try, and concluded that it actually is very good. We have solid creatures to curve out and start attacking early on, combined with great interactive options, and good late game value in the form of Lurrus of the Dream-Den, some Emeria’s Call and even a copy of Legion Angel that will let us make use of a small “sideboard” by tutoring the extra copies of itself. What stands out the most to me of this list is how efficient those eight one mana creatures are to protect the other key pieces; it will be hard for your opponent to remove Skyclave Apparition, Luminarch Aspirant or even Lurrus if you have so many little defensive minions on the board.
Apart from that, the deck executes a game plan similar to what Mono White Devotion or Lifegain decks did in the past. Even though we have lost one of the most powerful payoffs for the archetype in the form of Ajani’s Pridemate, the deck can still operate around lifegain synergies with Speaker of the Heavens threatening to create an army of angels, and Heliod, Sun-Crowned transforming any creature into a huge lifelink monster very fast. Definitely a deck I currently recommend if you don’t have time for tons of games with sideboarding and want to attack with tons of creatures. If you are interested in a BO3 version, check out this deck by Giruyama that won $2000 in the recent Arena Open.