Hello everyone! Today I want to go over a deck that in theory should be insanely popular but has been virtually non-existent: Monored Aggro. Although it feels weird to have a format without Monored, it’s not terribly surprising.
When you think of the best cards in Monored aggro you probably go to Anax, Hardened in the Forge, Bonecrusher Giant,
At the beginning of the format, I tried to make the best Monored deck I could think of and it looked like this.
Long story short, it did not perform very well. It lacked the power to punch through the other decks as I was playing very dubious choices like Shatterskull Charger and Roil Eruption, Even Flameskull which seemed really promising at first ended up wildly underperforming. I looked to see if anyone else made a better version, but I was completely unsuccessful in my search. With that, I scrapped the concept entirely chalking it up to being too bad to perform.
Then, I made an adjacent revelation. There is not a single deck in this format that has taught me more about the enigmatic nature of Standard 2022 than Rakdos Berserkers. Just by looking at the deck you would assume it was just not a great idea. The curve is ok at best, the card quality is sporadic, the concept a bit all over the place. Everything about this deck just screamed failed thought experiment, I didn’t think it would be terrible, but it would lack what it needed to compete. However, when I tried it, I couldn’t stop winning.
Berserkers taught me a valuable lesson about 2022 and maybe Best of One in general: if you have a good curve, some removal spells, and solid top end, the deck can be really good. With this in mind, I decided to revisit multiple decks that failed week 1 with a new understanding of 2022 deck building, starting with Monored. I made some changes to the core list with my guiding principle in mind to see what would happen.
Well, considering I’m writing this guide, you can probably guess. The deck performed very well. Going under many of the top decks in the format as the combination of a good curve, some removal, and great top end carried me across the finish line multiple times. With a few adjustments along the way, I finally reached a list I was happy with.
Let’s break the list down.
I really didn’t like this card when I first saw it figuring it was too weak for competitive play. I wasn’t completely wrong, but I was definitely skewed by the power level expectations of Eldraine and Ikoria. Zariel is only a 1 of, but has performed shockingly well in most strategies I play it in. Most of the time you’re using the 0 to help build a board, but if you’re in a position to +1, it feels really hard to lose that game. I have never even gotten to Ultimate it yet and it wasn’t because lack of trying, but every opponent has died on the second +1 activation. It just puts on way too much pressure to ignore and can absolutely clobber opponents out of nowhere if you’re holding onto multiple creatures.
Not the most exciting card in the world, but it gets the job done. Monored needs a solid curve and Charger helps to fill that role. It’s not an amazing attacker, but it can block extremely well, and will nearly always guarantee a few points of damage one way or another.
The better half of the 1 drop squad, Hall Monitor looks meek but performs really well. It allows you to get a few points of chip damage in early, then threatens to make combat really awkward with it’s activated ability later in the game. An important part of building aggro decks in 2022 is to have as many mana sinks as you can reasonably fit in, and Hall Monitor fits the bill perfectly.
When I first saw this card, I thought it was really good but awful against Bonecrusher Giant. I feel so vindicated to say I was right. This card has constantly overperformed in every deck it’s put in. It’s really hard to beat in combat and has an activated ability that will just kill most opponents if they let you use it. Furthermore, Berserker works extremely well with our cheap Burn spells as a means of taking out larger creatures which makes combat an even bigger headache for the opponent.
Like I said with Hall Monitor, you want as many mana sinks as possible and Intimidator isn’t shy about using your excess mana. Like many of the other cards in this list, it makes combat extremely tricky for the opponent as you can mess with their ability to stabilize in a whole slew of ways. Beyond that, it also just kills the opponent really quickly as it can come swinging in for 4 a turn. Intimidator isn’t as good as Dragonkin, but it’s still very solid.
The final 2 drop in the list, Magda rounds out our early game creatures. It generally performs decently as a means to trade with something and make a Treasure, but I’ll admit that it’s probably the weakest card in the current build. It gets stonewalled a bit easier than the other 2 drops and does have one toughness making it a bit of a liability against the ever popular Shambling Ghast and Eyetwitch. You have to be more liberal about when you decide to attack with it, but making that choice correctly can be a game defining decision. That being said, I also wouldn’t blame anyone for just cutting it for something else as it’s only even been ok and never amazing.
Ol’ Arni didn’t make the cut in my Berserkers list, but he does here. Berserkers functioned more as a midrange deck, but we’re looking for full velocity in Monored which justifies his inclusion. He hits hard, and has an activated ability to help him hit even harder. Even if you don’t get to use the Boast ability, I almost put in Hulking Bugbear before I remembered Arni existed so just a 3 mana 3/3 Haste is a fine stat line for this deck.
Blade Historian was a late inclusion as I was doing everything in my power to not cut Faceless Haven. It seemed wrong to get rid of Haven as it felt like such a cornerstone of Monored where Blade Historian could just be replaced by something else. Well, Den of the Bugbear is here to ease the pain. Although the mana is definitely a bit weaker now that I’m down to 1 Faceless Haven, Blade Historian is just way too strong to ignore. It absolutely dominates combat and has won me games that I had absolutely no business winning otherwise. I really wanted to play a version of Monored with like 6-8 creaturelands, but Blade Historian is so good it just isn’t worth it.
If I’m playing Red, I’m playing Goldspan Dragon, and you should too. I’m not going to go into it much, everyone knows why this card is insane. Play it in every strategy you possibly can.
At first it was pretty contentious between this and Shock which one I wanted more of. I tried a lot of different combinations, but ended up right back at 4 Frost Bite. My main concern with Frost Bite is that it can be rotting in my hand against a creatureless opponent where Shock may have closed out the game. Although this isn’t an unfounded fear, it’s much rarer that this situation happens compared to my losing because I can’t remove an important creature. The 3rd point of damage doesn’t seem to come into play often, but when it does, you’ll never want to look back.
Just because I like Frost Bite more doesn’t mean I can’t play Shock! I decided to go with 2 as I don’t want too many cheap removal spells as getting glutted on them instead of drawing threats can be a huge issue, but I still want enough of them so I can have 1-2 per game. Shock will kill most small creatures and can be that extra bit of reach you need at the end of a game as well.
I was pretty low on these creaturelands initially as I thought Faceless Haven was just better, but I’ve been coming around to them with time. As I mentioned before, I am opting for these over Haven as I need the Red sources for Blade Historian, but even if that wasn’t an issue, I would still likely be playing 3 copies. It is costly to activate, but in most board states, this presents a pretty scary threat the opponent has to constantly play around. It’s really hard for the opponent to start chipping in if they’re one removal spell away from letting you attack with Den for free. Furthermore, having a lot of creaturelands is pivotal for making your control matchups excellent. You can easily run control opponents out of resources as they’re dedicating their removal to killing your creatures, but they run out when they have to kill your lands as well!
As much as I love Faceless Haven, I can’t justify going over a single copy. Casting Blade Historian on curve has been really important and I want to minimize the amount of times I can’t do that. Sure there will be games I have to play this as my 4th land, but the upside of having a 5th creatureland outweighs the few times that this needed to be a basic to cast Historian. The card is just great and cutting every copy doesn’t jive with me.
POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS / NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS
You can play this if you’re looking to play more 1 drops, but I think this card just kind of sucks. If you don’t have a land, it doesn’t do anything and if you have to play your land at an “inopportune” time, this can easily be rendered useless.
This feels like a mostly worse Fireblade Charger, but it’s still reasonable if you really want more 1 drops.
It’s rare I see this card in the discussion when Monored comes up, but I think it’s pretty decent. Having the flexibility of a meh burn spell or a meh land yields a surprisingly ok result. I don’t think the deck needs it, but it could be a fine 1-2 of.
I probably like this card more than I should, but I think it’s decent considering we’re chump attacking relatively often in this deck. It’s probably too weak, but it’s something to think about.
I was very close to trying to get this in Monored, but the deck just doesn’t play enough Goblins to justify it for me. That being said, this card is very powerful and it does fill the role of another cheap creature with a great activated ability for later in the game. You could build the deck in such a way to play more Goblins, but I’m mostly unhappy with the power level of most of the Goblins.
This card isn’t bad, but it’s certainly not great.
If Angels or Monogreen makes a big comeback in the meta, I could see these in over Shock. So far I haven’t felt the need for a 4 damage Burn spell but that won’t necessarily stay true forever.
In a similar vein to Spikefield Hazard, a meh land or a meh Fling can be surprisingly decent. I was considering going one copy of Fury, but most of the creatures are pretty small so I figured it would hardly be better than a Shock most of the time which isn’t a great spot to be in.
I like Arc Lightning as much as the next guy, but this is more so a Best of 3 card.
I’m a bigger fan of Tyrant than most and if you didn’t want to play Blade Historian or more Zariel, this would be a very reasonable replacement.
This is probably not the type of card you would think of for Monored, but if you played 25 lands, 1 Inferno would not be that ludicrous.
I love this card, but it makes more sense in a deck that doesn’t have as many mana sinks.
The poor man’s Smuggler's Copter. This card is actually somewhat decent, but we don’t play enough 1 drops to justify it.
TIPS AND TRICKS
Monored is predominately an aggressive deck, but I actually like chump blocking with Fireblade Charger more than chump attacking. Generally you’ll get more mileage out of Charger that way and it can give you a precious extra turn you can use to kill the opponent.
This tip is not just for Hall Monitor, but for most of the cards in the deck. Don’t prioritize using activated abilities over developing the board unless it puts you in an excellent position, you’re sandbagging a particular card, or you believe that they have a wrath.
The exception to the previous rule is Dragonkin Berserker. You should activate that ability over functionally everything else and even chump attacking to make the Dragon is generally a good play.
Remember that Arni Brokenbrow‘s Boast ability only counts other creatures, not himself. I know it’s on the card, but I’ve made this mistake a few times.
Blade Historian only gives attacking creatures double strike, so don’t block thinking that it will work out well.
Thank you for reading!