There comes a time in every man's life when he has to look himself in the mirror.
I've been on a bit of an aggro kick lately. I'm not sure if that's because I need to work on some of my aggression issues or because I just really like running people over in Magic. Hell, it could be both. Regardless, today I've got some fun in store for you. We're going to be talking about Modern, specifically the R/G Aggro deck that has been doing well on Magic Online.
I know that my past generally shows me as a control player, but there is basically nothing I hate more than relying on Nephalia Drownyard to win games. I like attacking. I want all of your creatures to die, and I want to beat you to death with a small horde of beaters. Whether the rest of the deck is full of counterspells or burn spells, I don't really care. I want to interact. I want to dominate my opponent. I want them to leave the game knowing that they've been beaten. Feeling like they've been ground into dust. I don't want to "topdeck" my way out of a game. I want every opponent to know they were outplayed, outdecked, and realize there was no decision they could have made that would have changed the outcome. That's my ideal victory.
Ok, so maybe I do have some issues to work through.
Perhaps playing all these aggressive decks has begun to take its toll (or maybe I'm just a little nuts!), but that doesn't matter. All that matters is that we have a pretty sweet Modern deck to talk about today. We're going to go over the deck, some of its matchups, and potential changes we could make to the list to make it better against various archetypes.
Oh wait—and we have videos too?
First off, let's begin with the deck. Take a peek!
For those of you without the time to watch the deck tech, here's the list!
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Experiment One
- 4 Flinthoof Boar
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Goblin Guide
- 2 Grim Lavamancer
- 4 Kird Ape
- 4 Tarmogoyf
Ah, there's nothing like the smell of a burning mage in the morning. I think Patrick Sullivan would approve. Don't you? This deck is pretty similar to the recently resuscitated archetype in Standard, Frog in a Blender. The addition of Burning-Tree Emissary gives us the ability to flood the board with power on turn 2; there is no denying the power of a "free card." While Burning-Tree Emissary is "just" a 2/2 for RG, the ability to chain multiples on turn 2 can be incredibly tough for any deck to deal with. Fair decks will undoubtedly have trouble dealing with an aggressive draw that opens on multiples, but you can even race combo decks by applying so much pressure so early!
This deck attacks from the most straightforward angle imaginable. It plays creatures (some have haste), and it removes anything in the way before finishing the game with an onslaught of burn spells or bloodrush. If it is goldfishing against a combo deck that doesn't really interact, you can regularly kill on turn 4. If they're taking damage from their lands, you can even get 'em on turn 3!
There are some interesting choices in the deck for sure. The most noteworthy inclusion is probably Burning-Tree Shaman (not Emissary, but we'll get to that), but his usefulness goes well beyond his ability to hinder combos like Splinter Twin and Eggs. Obviously, his ability is useful against a variety of decks. Everyone plays fetchlands, making the opponent take a little more pain in the long run. Most of the activated abilities in the format already cost the opponent a little bit of life to gain an advantage, and adding to that pain is important for a deck that is trying to deal as much damage as quickly as possible. Cards like Birthing Pod and Spellskite are much less attractive when a Burning-Tree Shaman is staring you down.
The fact that Burning-Tree Shaman has four toughness is also incredibly relevant. Lightning Bolt is the highest played card in the format since it is a versatile removal spell that can also help you race when the game starts to close. Along with things like Snapcaster Mage and Celestial Colonnade, Lightning Bolt being able to finish off the last few points of damage means a lot. The fact that Burning-Tree Shaman dodges the most commonly played removal spell in the format is sweet.
The other side of this coin is that Experiment One (and evolve in general) triggers off of both power and toughness. This means that playing with creatures with a high toughness is often beneficial as long as the original creature with evolve doesn't have a high toughness. Along with Kird Ape and Tarmogoyf, Burning-Tree Shaman will help pump Experiment One to Wild Nacatl status or even greater! While Experiment One is no Wild Nacatl, the fact that Wild Nacatl is banned and we're comparing the two should at least raise an eyebrow.
One notable missing card that is in most of the other lists is Rancor. While I talk about it briefly in the deck tech, I think it is important for you to know all the reasons why I cut it. While I ended up playing them in the PTQ this past weekend, I don't think they were very good or even needed. Rancor is seeing less play in Standard as a result of the same effect in Modern: removal is cheap, instant speed, and can cause some awkward situations. There are some decks that still play Rancor, but some people are even moving to Giant Growth because it is more of a surprise and can completely obliterate an unsuspecting opponent that is trying to "get you" during combat.
When Rancor is worse than Giant Growth, I think it is time to reevaluate it in older formats as well. With Lightning Bolt having so much popularity, Rancor is a risky bet. You're trying to force through extra damage...against what exactly? Shouldn't you just play more removal spells against the decks that Rancor would be good against? Searing Blaze is an awesome card for the deck and is useful in many more situations than Rancor.
Before we get into potential alterations to the deck, let's watch some matches!
The Potential Changes
Deglamer is probably a card not many of you have heard of, and it is a necessity for a few reasons. While the "Disenchant" aspect of Deglamer is what you're after the most, there are a few problematic cards in Modern that you just can't deal with in any way other than either exiling them or shuffling them into the library. Deglamer does the latter, which is obviously inferior to exiling, but the fact that you can kill either an artifact or enchantment makes it much better than the other options at our disposal.
Wurmcoil Engine is the Black Death, and Deglamer is the cure that we've all been waiting for. I am honestly considering cutting the last Ancient Grudge for another Deglamer because it is that important for the Tron matchups. When they're on the play, a turn 3 or 4 Wurmcoil Engine virtually ends the game, but having a Deglamer handy can buy you a turn or two to punch through the last points of damage.
This is an argument I've had with myself on multiple occasions, and I honestly still don't know which one is right. I do know that Tron can easily function on just their Chromatic Stars and Spheres until they dig themselves out with an Oblivion Stone or Nature's Claim. Molten Rain is also an aggressive answer that slows down their development while dealing them damage. I think that in this particular deck Molten Rain can be solid in a variety of other matchups as well. You also need green mana to function most of the time, meaning that you'll likely need to draw a green-based fetchland before casting Blood Moon to keep from crippling yourself.
I don't think it is entirely out of the question to splash another color or two in the deck. If white were the color of choice, these would be my top considerations for additions to the deck.
Loam Lion is another Kird Ape that is probably better than Goblin Guide overall. The extra point of toughness will help grow Experiment One and provides you with more creatures that dodge Pyroclasm, which is commonplace in most of the sideboards of red-based combo decks in Modern.
While Path to Exile does give your opponent a land, I think it could potentially be better than Dismember. The four life loss in aggressive matchups is pretty miserable, but I'm not sure I want to give them a land either, so we're in a bit of a pickle if we want to be able to kill their Tarmogoyfs. Path to Exile is also exceptional against Wurmcoil Engine.
This would mostly be a sideboard card, though a good one against the various combo decks in the format. It isn't great against control since most of them play Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, and Electrolyze.
This card is pretty awkward when you're ahead in the race, but you don't really need it when you're ahead, right? Timely Reinforcements is quite powerful when your opponent is trying to do the same thing as you and you're falling behind due to a weaker draw or just being on the draw. The problem here is that you will likely need to take extra damage to fetch out Temple Garden or Sacred Foundry to cast it.
For me, this is the biggest draw of playing white. I'm a huge fan of this card, as it shuts down Affinity, Eggs, and even R/G Tron.
If I were to go this route, there aren't that many cards I would want to add. Blue is pretty mediocre without white since Geist of Saint Traft is probably the best threat. Without adding too many extra colors to the deck, here are the blue cards I would consider splashing.
Negate is a fine card that could help you out in a lot of matchups. R/G isn't typically known for its ability to interact with combo decks, so something like Negate could help you counter cards like Second Sunrise, Karn Liberated, and even Splinter Twin. You could also make an argument for Spell Pierce because you're a hyperaggressive deck and they'll be forced to play into it, but having Negate is invaluable against decks that "go big" like Scapeshift or Eggs.
While this would need a complete overhaul of the deck, Snapcaster Mage is definitely a blue card I can get behind in an aggressive deck. I've seen four- and five-color brews that use blowouts like Tribal Flames, and having Snapcaster Mage to rebuy it sounds awesome. While the decks are different, they function on a similar wavelength, which I think it is worth noting.
Just play Jund if you want to. I'm not going to go over that deck too!
Honestly, it depends on how you look at it. The mirror shows exactly what you put in front of it. I've been so used to playing control decks over the past few years that I actually forgot what it felt like to play aggressive decks. It definitely gets the blood flowing. At first, I felt a sense of shame in putting away my Islands in favor of Copperline Gorge, but I can safely say that I'm fine with that decision. I got to experience just how fun it can be to be the one pressing the buttons, impatiently waiting to see if the opponent can find the answer.
Newsflash: they usually don't have it.
I've been having a blast battling with Burning-Tree Emissary. The combination of nostalgia and power hit the nail on the head, and I couldn't be happier with the results. These hyperaggressive decks are just running people over, and it is awesome watching opponents jump through hoops just to keep up with you. While the removal is certainly there, they don't usually draw all of it!
I really hope you enjoyed this mixture of video and written article. It is definitely something I'm looking forward to doing more of, assuming that it was what you guys wanted to see. Whenever I play with an interesting (hopefully new) deck in a format, I'll be sure to try this article format again. Until next time, I'll be attacking for two.
Thanks for reading.
strong sad on Magic Online
@strong_sad on Twitter