An Early Look at Aggro in Guilds of Ravnica Standard

With the full spoiler for Guilds of Ravnica out, we can finally start making better looking lists and have a better feel for what the format is likely to look like. My initial thoughts are similar to those for Ixalan—a handful of obvious power cards to work around and then a bunch of medium utility and build-around cards. We’ll see a massive power decrease compared to the past few years of Standard and a shift in what the midgame revolves around.

The mindset is still centered around snowball aggro, easy evasion (Heart of Kiran has ruined everyone) and good 4-mana planeswalkers. But looking at the big picture, the only planeswalker I can say for certain is going to be a major player is Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Meanwhile, there are real sacrifices for playing evasive threats, and nothing looks to be on the same level of Toolcraft Exemplar, Winding Constrictor, or the haste creatures of red.

It also confirms that Mono-Green Stompy is going to be a real deck, at least for week 1. When I first talked about the deck, I said that it was missing a good 1- or 2-drop to round it out. Well, with the full spoiler, we now know that Pelt Collector is a 1-drop with the equivalent of mega-evolve, allowing green decks to relive the days of Experiment One. This card, along with Llanowar Elves and Steel Leaf Champion, are big reasons why I’m so focused on being situated well against creatures for week 1. Teferi decks will take some time to iron out and are likely under equipped to deal with the bigger and better green decks.

If I take my previous sample list and do a few quick updates:

Mono-Green Stompy

We’ve gotten an upgrade in our 1-drop slot with Nullhide Ferox, where we previously had no other viable picks, and Kraul Harpooner, which feels like an easy upgrade over Merfolk Branchwalker, also has value later in the game against flyers. Right now, this is a deck I’d feel comfortable jamming in a tournament tomorrow. The next question is whether to stay small or if moving toward a more midrange build is worthwhile. Nullhide Ferox versus Vine Mare will also be determined by how many black creatures are actually around in this format.

So besides Stompy, what else comes together easily? Well, Boros is the other aggro deck getting some early press since it slants aggressive and its mentor creatures are solid. But most of the rough drafts run into the same problem the new red deck did whenever I tried to build a shell for it.

Yes, the Boros creatures are great when you curve out properly and can goldfish well. Except, unlike the red creatures we just lost, they are abysmal at attacking into blockers. This seems like a glaring issue when the other big aggro deck is Stompy, whether that be mono-green or with a splash. It’s going to have plenty of large creatures on curve that are better suited toward playing defense. For example:

You went turn-1 Hunted Witness, turn-2 Swiftblade Vindicator, turn-3 Tajic, Legion’s Edge?

Great! You did amazing. What did your opponent do?

Your line got completely brickwalled.

Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice can attack around the roadblocks and make your creatures big enough to attack while offering a trade—I can’t argue against that. But in the situations where you lack Aurelia or it ends up being removed, there’s just not a whole lot to do.

Every Boros deck I’ve seen is the same mish-mash of solid attackers that can’t attack into respectable blockers. Sure, if you get a couple of mentor triggers you’ll be doing fine, but the rest of the time a lowly 2/3 can stymie your board and you don’t have Chandra, Bomat, or Hazoret to play a long game with.

Boros has potential, but consider the common roadblocks, especially at 2 and 3 mana, and how many ways you have to get around them. This is doubly true on the draw, where mentor naturally gets worse, as does Tajic. Let’s not even get into how many of the posted decks fold at the sight of a Lyra Dawnbringer on the other side of the table. At least you have access to Justice Strike as an answer instead of being forced to play Fight with Fire. If I had a Boros deck I felt comfortable sharing, I would, but right now I’m still thinking about the best ways to get by other aggro decks.

Speaking of cards that were hyped up and ended up not seeing nearly as much play as they should have, where are the Ravenous Chupacabra decks at?

Ravenous Chupacabra looks like it can actually live up to its original billing as the subject of a Patrick Sullivan design rant, being able to take out the efficient green creatures, trade with a 1- or 2-drop, and be brought back later with The Eldest Reborn or Isareth the Awakener. Without going too deep into all of the various shells, here’s a straightforward black midrange list.

Black Midrange

Besides being equipped to demolish creature decks in general, what stands out here is the heavier reliance on 1-for-1 trades into The Eldest Reborn. Well, it turns out that when you lose all of the good life gain besides Vraska’s Contempt, it becomes harder to justify things like main deck Blood Fast. Orazca Relic is a compromise to get you to the 5-7 mana range earlier and allows you to cash it in for a bit of life later without costing a card. Again, maybe a splash helps enough here that it’s worthwhile to give up your sweet pain-free, no hassle mana base.

Speaking of which, as some people pointed out in my G/W Tokens article, you can easily do a throwback to Mono-White Aggro or W/B Knights. Goblin Chainwhirler simply made the deck a non-factor despite having a sturdy base—one that actually survives rotation and features cards like History of Benalia, which was a solid Magic card outclassed by the power level of the format. How hard is it to take a bunch of good 1-drops and Pride of Conquerer’s and see what happens?

Mono-White Aggro

Going wide and spending a turn to let History tick up to the pump effect is no longer the game-losing line it once was. Similarly, if the format is more creature-based and less race-oriented, then even if your early creatures get wiped, lines like History of Benalia into 1-drop and Loxodon the following turn look a lot better. You can also slow it down and take the Angel and Knight route. Losing Shefet Dunes is a big blow to this low-to-the-ground plan and may justify going bigger, especially because this is likely to run into many of the same issues as Boros if the metagame involves a bunch of bigger creature decks. Maybe the solution is to hybridize with the Pride as a backup plan?

Welcome to why rotation season is many a Magic player’s favorite time for Standard!


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