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Owen’s a Win – Black Aggro, cont.

Did anyone mention Black Aggro yet? I have written about this deck in the past and I have to admit looking at the Journey into Nyx spoiler I am getting excited. This deck gets a huge new addition in the form of Gnarled Scarhide. This guy is completely busted! Scarhide is likely the single card that could push this strategy over the top. I already liked Mono-Black aggro as a way of getting under the formats pillars like Esper Control and Mono-Black Devotion. You have all the tools you could ever want in the form of Thoughtseize and Hero’s Downfall to clear a path and beat down. I mean just look at this lean set of 1-drops:

We have exactly what we could ever hope for: the old 1-drop into 1-drop, 1-drop hand. Plopping 6 power on to the table by turn two is the reason to play an aggro deck. In addition, these specific cards have been tested and proven to be the strongest aggressive options for black in Standard and there is no reason to deviate now.

This card is way too powerful to be in Standard. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t unfair, but it invalidates the opponent’s strategy, no strings attached, and it’s the single strongest answer to Supreme Verdict. I always get a good laugh when someone tells me how they always beat black decks with Blood Baron of Vizkopa or other such cards and I recall fondly games I’ve played where they draw multiple and I’m able to defend against it with Thoughtseize.

The 2-casting-cost creature slot has always been hotly contested in these lists, and I have to be honest there isn’t much that’s particularly attractive. Some people like Thrill-Kill Assassin, and I can get behind that. Some people prefer Rakdos Shred-Freak, which is an incredibly weak Magic card on its face, but has shown to be quite good in some hands. It’s likely too weak unless the format takes a drastic turn toward control decks. Pack Rat is the only standby for 2-drop black creatures, but for some reason hasn’t seemed to pick up steam in the aggressive builds, they just dislike having a 1/1 for 2 that requires effort to make effective. Pain Seer is the best option here, it adds a nice dimension to the deck without detracting from its core game plan. It’s your basic Grizzly Bears that can be a game winner when uncontested, you just Doom Blade every creature in its path and watch the card advantage pile up. It may be worth considering Spiteful Returned here, but in my eyes it’s the type of card that is slightly better than the other options when it goes completely uncontested and miles worse when the opponent plays any number of creatures.

Lifebane Zombie is another card that I would view as mandatory for a deck like this. I have written many times about the power of Lifebane Zombie and I feel no shame in repeating myself, this card is overpowered and it’s highly likely that it was a mistake to print it. As a 3/1 unblockable creature it’s already worth its price tag against many of the decks in the format and provides a good clean way to close out the game and pressure planeswalkers, coupled with its ability to simply look at the opponent’s hand—you rarely get 2-for-1’d by cards like Bile Blight or Detention Sphere. Add all this up with its ability to completely neutralize Blood Baron of Vizkopa and hose decks like Jund Monsters or Green/White Aggro, and he’s a slam dunk. I could even see playing this card if it didn’t have a Thoughtseize attached to it for free in half the matchups you play. If you’re relying on Polukranos and Obzedat as good solid threats to win you the game you’re simply playing an inferior strategy to anyone who decides to play with Lifebane Zombie. It’s that brutal and that commonly played.

This is the kind of card I have always been fond of. It’s incredibly powerful, provides the deck with much needed reach, and it’s a flexible threat that can be potent in the early or late game. There’s really never a bad time to cast Herald of Torment and it’s great on every creature in the deck. You may be pushing it by bestowing Herald on Pain Seer, but against almost any deck with the exception of Burn, this is still going to work out pretty well.

You may notice that every version of Mono-Black Devotion has always played four copies of Hero’s Downfall and for good reason, it’s the single strongest, no-questions-asked removal spell Standard. You have a creature? Ok, I have Hero’s Downfall. I have always been a huge fan of Hero’s Downfall and although the mana curve of this deck is lower, that is not an issue for me. You need to have at least one card in your deck that can deal with opposing haymakers like Polukranos, Desecration Demon, and Stormbreath Dragon. Oh, also Master of Waves, that card is unreasonable when uncontested and quite poor when it trades for a cheap removal spell. The next best black removal spell in Standard has got to be Devour Flesh, and this isn’t the type of strategy that prefers to gift the opponent with free life. That’s not the kind of business Tormented Hero is into.

This card has always disappointed me, but I never feel comfortable playing without it. It’s so strong when you use it to kill Nightveil Specter or multiple Pack Rats, but when the opponent has a creature that is too big to kill or no creatures at all then you feel a little silly. Admittedly playing only four Hero’s Downfall is not quite enough removal for a deck like this and you do want a little bit extra. Additionally, it is the best removal spell you could want against other aggressive decks, and those matchups are common. You also get a little added defense against Elspeth.

This is a card that is usually relegated to the 5th or 6th pick of a booster draft and left in the sideboard about half the time. Well, this isn’t the case for Standard, as often the next best thing to killing a creature is making sure it can’t block. Mogis’s Marauder isn’t really a card you want in your opening hand, but a card that works extremely well as the last spell you cast. Haste + make all your creatures unblockable is a unique effect that can deal 8 or 10 damage immediately. I like this card and I think playing two copies ensures that it doesn’t make your hands slow and clunky while also providing additional late-game punch.

I have to admit that the Master of the Feast in the sideboard are a bit speculative but I imagine they are total blowouts against Jund Monsters and the mirror. I chose to include him because he’s just enormous and it’s likely that he becomes a widely played card in Standard. I may even be reaching by only putting him in the sideboard. I could see a deck that just runs Master of the Feast and curves into Desecration Demon.

The rest of the sideboard is all the most effective sideboard options available. I always loved this deck because it dismantles Esper Control and UW—any deck with Sphinx’s Revelation in it is just at a disadvantage against you as a result of the quick clock coupled with 4 Duress and 4 Thoughtseize.

I have written about this deck many times but never actually played it in a major tournament and this fact saddens me. The last time I actually took the deck very seriously was about 6 months ago and I thought it was great, but just couldn’t pull the trigger in fear of having an inconsistent deck. Since then, I have seen similar decks succeed in Grand Prix across the world. I think it’s almost undisputed that it’s a strong deck that has earned its spot in the metagame. It doesn’t have the same pedigree as Esper Control or Mono-Black Devotion which dominate week in and week out, but there is a new set in the mix now. This should shake things up and I think between the additional Savannah Lions, adding Mana Confluence to Standard is going to drastically change things. All aggro decks just got a heck of a lot better. You can now safely splash Chained to the Rocks in your red aggro decks, or Boros Charm in your white aggro decks. Previously you had to just admit that you had a bad mana base and pray for good draws. This lead to good players staying away from these decks and instead focusing on Sphinx’s Revelation decks or one-color, devotion-based strategies and I for one can’t blame them.

Speaking of Mana Confluence. You could try to incorporate that card into this deck pretty easily. You could play even MORE 1-drops in the form of Firedrinker Satyr and while you’re at it you could upgrade Pain Seer to Spike Jester and Hero’s Downfall to Dreadbore. It’s ambitious and may end up proving unnecessary, but it’s worth a thought. Lightning Strike and Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch are other attractive options, additionally you get Mizzium Mortars which is a convenient answer to Blood Baron.

I am looking forward to a new world of Standard where people are actually encouraged and allowed to play decks that beat down but don’t play Thassa or Chandra’s Phoenix. If you weren’t playing Burn or Blue-Devotion then you were in big trouble trying to attack people. Now everything is different.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter

1 thought on “Owen’s a Win – Black Aggro, cont.”

  1. Pingback: » Silvestri Says – Journey 2.0

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