The Brothers’ War introduces many new enablers for aggro decks. Earlier this week, I participated in the Early Access event on MTG Arena, where I was able to try out five different aggro brews. I wanted to push mana bases to their limits and test out some of the sweet new cards. In this article, I’ll share my best-of-one lists along with my first impressions after playing five games with each.
Standard Boros Aggro by Frank Karsten
This deck was made possible by Battlefield Forge. The land enables an aggressive Boros deck as a viable competitive strategy in Standard.
The introduction of Monastery Swiftspear and Loran’s Escape inspired me to recreate the Pioneer Boros Heroic archetype in Standard. Even though Electrostatic Infantry is no Tenth District Legionnaire and Loran’s Escape is no Gods Willing, the similarities are striking, and many cards overlap.
My first impressions were excellent. The deck smashes! I would like another Kami’s Flare, perhaps cutting one Loran’s Escape (as drawing multiples is awkward) or one Angelfire Ignition (because it’s pricy and plays right into instant-speed removal). An extra Baird, Argivian Recruiter would be nice as well, since curving Kumano into Baird is one of the most powerful starts available in the format. I could see cutting either Antagonize or Take Up the Shield to make room. Regardless, Boros Heroic worked well and has promise.
Standard Azorius Soldiers by Frank Karsten
Where Boros Heroic gained Battlefield Forge and Monastery Swiftspear, Azorius Soldiers gained Recruitment Officer and Fortified Beachhead. Whenever an aggro deck gains both a nonbasic land and a one-drop, that’s always a great sign. And in a deck dedicated to the Soldier tribe, Fortified Beachhead is amazing.
These lands make it possible to run a white one-drop alongside a double-blue four-drop, which is how I arrived at Overcharged Amalgam. When I have four mana, I can now pass, activate Recruitment Officer if the opponent doesn’t do anything or counter something with Overcharged Amalgam. At two mana, the trio of Resolute Reinforcements, Protect the Negotiators and Valorous Stance puts the opponent in a similar bind. I also found during the games that casting instants or flash spells on the opponent’s turn is the best way to transform Brutal Cathar.
The deck worked like a charm. It has everything – good mana, good curve, good interaction, good cards, good synergy, good results. Yotian Frontliner is a bit of a derpy one-drop, but it fills the curve with the right creature type. I didn’t miss Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and I believe the Wedding Announcement + Overcharged Amalgam combo is superior. There was nothing I wanted to change.
Recruitment Officer, in a 60-card deck with 23 creatures costing three mana or less, will hit about 85 percent of the time. (this number captures the scenario where you set aside one Recruitment Officer from the deck, blindly exile any feasible number of cards representing the spells and lands you might draw, and then put the activated ability on the stack). This hit probability is good enough for me. Since the activated ability is mostly a bonus, I would already be happy with 16 creatures costing three mana or less, which would yield a 70 percent hit probability.
Standard Five-Color Jodah by Frank Karsten
Five-Color Jodah did not gain any noteworthy lands, as Plaza of Heroes and Secluded Courtyard already enabled a motley assortment of legendary Humans before The Brothers’ War. But Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard is an excellent addition, so I wanted to try him out. Ashnod, Flesh Mechanist is also important because it’s the first playable one-mana legendary Human creature to cascade into with Jodah.
The deck worked well, and I got try live the dream once with Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea: cast Jodah on turn four, untap and immediately cast another Human to trigger Jodah’s cascade. Even then, I probably didn’t need Gwenna to win that game, it’s an unreliable combo and it feels a bit win-more. To make her work, you probably need more creature spells with power five or greater. I would either add several Ao, the Dawn Sky or cut Gwenna completely. An extra Lagrella, the Magpie or Ertai Resurrected to have more interaction might be nice.
All in all, Five-Color Jodah was a fringe archetype in Standard before The Brothers’ War, it gained a few upgrades and it’s a blast to play. I’m not sure if it can do better than 50-50 against Esper Midrange or Grixis Midrange, but it’s a fun option to consider.
Standard Mono-Black Aggro by Frank Karsten
This deck was made possible by Mishra’s Foundry, which pays you off for sticking to a single color. It’s no Mutavault or Faceless Haven, but a creature-land can make every monocolor aggro deck better.
Since Mono-Black Midrange was a big player in Standard before the ban of The Meathook Massacre, I figured I’d start with Mishra’s Foundry in mono-black. Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor also looked appealing for a deck that starts to curve out with a one-drop on turn one and a two-drop on turn two.
While Gix was awesome, the other new additions all felt a bit lackluster. I don’t think I ever activated Razorlash Transmogrant or Misery’s Shadow, and Transmogrant’s Crown was rather slow (drawing two cards a turn by blitzing Tenacious Underdog from the graveyard was a nice engine, though). All of them would probably have been better as a Reckoner Bankbuster in the games I played.
Phyrexian Fleshgorger I never cast for the seven-mana prototype cost, and I’m not sure if it’s superior to Graveyard Trespasser. This may also depend on the metagame – lifelink will be more important against aggro decks and graveyard hate is superior against reanimation decks. Phyrexian Fleshgorger certainly wasn’t bad, though, even as a three-drop.
All in all, Mono-Black Aggro has gotten better, but perhaps other colors remain better at pure aggro. The black cards may be better suited for midrange, i.e., multicolor decks without Cult Conscript.
Standard Affinity by Frank Karsten
I loved playing Affinity back when Mox Opal was still legal, and Urza, Prince of Kroog got my brewing gears turning. Sure, it’s no Master of Etherium or Cranial Plating, but +2/+2 to almost your entire board is a massive boost. You just need a critical mass of artifact creatures.
Third Path Iconoclast creates artifact creatures, and to support him I looked for noncreature spells that create artifact tokens. This is how I settled on Yotia Declares War, Mindlink Mech, Kayla’s Command and Saheeli, Filigree Master. And even though Michiko’s Reign of Truth does not get boosted by Urza, Prince of Kroog, it has nice synergy with Third Path Iconoclast because you create the 1/1 artifact token before you count the number of artifacts and/or enchantments.
Mindlink Mech overperformed in the games I played, as copying the Third Path Iconoclast allowed me to create a bunch of tokens, and copying Phyrexian Dragon Engine allowed me to get in with a big flying double striker.
The synergies were a lot of fun to play around with, but ultimately the mana is a bit iffy, the one-drops are mediocre, and Urza was too easily removed. Perhaps the artifact stuff is too ambitious and running Third Path Iconoclast alongside Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Wedding Announcement might be better. That’s boring, though. Alternatively, an artifact-centric build without the white might be feasible. Splashing for Mishra, Claimed by Gix rather than Urza, Prince of Kroog unlocks Xander’s Lounge as a fixer, which could be the right way forward.
The mana in the new Standard unlocks a large variety of new aggro decks. The decks that I see as most promising are Boros Heroic and Azorius Soldiers. Both gained a one-drop creature and a nonbasic land, which is the holy grail of aggro improvements. I’m excited to see where the Standard metagame will go.