When formats are in their infancy, everyone wants to do everything. While I rarely dislike any format, I love exploring new ones. This one is no exception. After playing a pretty bad Junk ramp list for Hartford’s TCGplayer 5K, I quickly found Thragtusk, while being a ridiculous card, was not where I wanted to be.
Facing any deck also playing Thragtusk was miserable, and the “go bigger” gameplan that I originally had simply didn’t work. Jace, Architect of Thought either buried you in card advantage (which eventually led to a Tamiyo Moon Sage ultimate) or you would die to the faster aggro decks before you did anything relevant.
I could not fathom doing that throughout a tournament, so I needed to find a way to kill them quickly. Zombies was the obvious first choice, but I wasn’t sure if it fared that well against the white aggro decks because of Elite Inquisitor, Knight of Glory, Lyev Skyknight and Sublime Archangel. There was also another deck that when I saw it perform, I told the pilots “That’s exactly what I want to be doing in this format”.
Selesnya Aggro by Jackie Lee
I don’t think I could like what this deck did enough. The pure speed was nearly unmatched at the time, and with Strangleroot Geist, Ajani, Caller of the Pride and Rancor, you had a good amount of staying power against the control decks. The ability to have 12 damage at their face on Turn 3 is pretty attractive, and Sublime Archangel provides the much needed reach. This was definitely my leading deck choice going into States until Mark Brezinski endorsed this statement:
“Blue may be the way to go because of Geist of Saint Traft.”
It couldn’t have made more sense, either. Being able to cast a creature that the control decks can’t directly interact with, and can end the game by itself, is exactly what I wanted. If I could find a build that didn’t have to cast more than two creatures to threaten a large amount of damage, and disrupt their gameplan, then it should be pretty solid.
Azorius Aggro by Anthony Lowry
Andy Tan piloted 73 of this 75 to a Top 8 finish at New York States, knocking me out of contention in the process. My primary problem with the Azorius deck was my lack of preparation for the Unburial Rites decks. Two Rest in Peace is not enough, and I would have liked a third one, or maybe even a Purify the Grave.
The rest of the sideboard was also an issue. I had too many “do nothings” in War Priest of Thune and Oblivion Ring. The thought was to combat Detention Sphere out of the control decks because it’s much more important to have a board presence. It turned out I was overcompensating for that issue, and I should have just played some number of Faith’s Shield (Andy played one, and he said it was one of the best cards in the sideboard). That way I could cover more matchups, and help push damage though.
Looking back at that event, and at Morgan Chang’s and Andrew Denniser’s advice, having access to green would have been very helpful. Rancor gives control decks fits, while providing the much needed reach that I was lacking the whole weekend. Combining that with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben would have felt much more comfortable against the control decks. At the time, I wasn’t sure if just playing G/W was the answer, since Geist of Saint Traft was so solid as well. Until this masterpiece showed up:
Bant Aggro by Anthony Lowry
Everything I could ask for in an aggressive deck for this format is right here. There are super aggressive one-drops (Champion of the Parish and War Falcon), a single-card army (Precinct Captain and Geist of Saint Traft), and long reach (Sublime Archangel and Rancor).
Selesnya Charm is huge in this build because it’s basically a Titanic Growth on your double-striking creatures, on top of a removal spell for the problematic threats. You also have access to an awesome combat trick in making a knight with an attacking, unpaired Silverblade Paladin. Doing this allows you to sneak in first-strike damage, whether it’s on a creature, or having a safer way of dealing that last two points of damage.
The creatures are just about what you’d expect out of a U/W aggro deck. I didn’t play Loxodon Smiter, mostly because of the lack of Avacyn’s Pilgrim and Arbor Elf. Keeping the green splash as light as possible helps the consistency, and once you start going into mana dork territory, you begin to lose the identity of the U/W aggro deck. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I think keeping a sense of direction is important.
Never before have I been this fearless of a resolved Thragtusk. This build can deal so much damage out of nowhere that there’s a good chance they can straight up die if they tap out to resolve Thragtusk.
Faith’s Shield is probably the easiest and most efficient way of both pushing through damage, and protecting your creature(s) from Detention Sphere. It’s also a very effective combat trick, and is overall very flexible. In fact, flexibility is the big selling point of the deck. Most if not all of your cards can do so many different things in so many situations while still shelling out huge amounts of damage.
I don’t think I’d change much in the maindeck anytime soon. As for the sideboard, I’m 100 percent set on about 10 cards. The fourth Thalia, Guardian of Thraben has been pretty much the standard for me against control decks. Bonds of Faith is a great way of fighting Thragtusk, Zombies, and G/W aggro, while still being an efficient pump spell. Ray of Revelation is an answer to Detention Sphere and Oblivion Ring, and it allows us to play our own Detention Spheres. Doing this also gives us a much better game against the would be Entreat the Angels blowout.
The fourth Geist of Saint Traft makes the maindeck run a lot smoother. The main selling point of our beloved Geist was that you can run one out after another, dealing four damage in the process. This simply isn’t enough anymore, and you can often protect the Geists you do have in play much easier now. This allows us to move one of them to the sideboard as yet another hedge against the control decks, while adding even more flexibility to the maindeck, which is the ongoing theme.
The rest of the sideboard is in flux because I’m not sure if the Intrepid Hero/Rancor combo is worth having, or if the additional Selesnya Charm and Faith’s Shield is necessary. Rest in Peace seems like the best sideboard card I could play against the reanimator decks, but Purify the Grave may be another option. All of these are very reasonable cards to have in the board, so I don’t feel like I’m at risk of having totally dead cards in a tournament.
I strongly feel this is the way to go with the Humans archetype. Having access to super powerful and disruptive spells in all three colors was much easier than expected because of Hallowed Fountain and Temple Garden. I’m super excited to play this deck, and help evolve the archetype, and I’d love to hear feedback and suggestions.
Until next time, live life on the play.
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