If you have been reading SCG Premium this week, you've been blessed by Ari Lax and Patrick Chapin giving out their takes on some signature cards coming out of the Rakdos Guild.
You can read Ari's article on Judith, the Scourge Devil here and Chapin's article on Rakdos, the Showstopper here , but I'm here to talk about one of the little guys who can be seen tying things together in both.
You can take my word as someone who did stage crew for the theatre program at their high school that nobody has ever put on a spectacle without a supporting cast, and Gutterbones is the perfect example of that.
We've all seen it before. A really cool card comes out that looks like it has a lot of potential if the support is there, but the support never comes. In the last few years, we've seen less of this happening with cards like Diregraf Colossus and Cryptbreaker getting love down the line from things like Liliana's Mastery and Dread Wanderer, and I think Gutterbones could be the next piece of a larger puzzle.
I may be a little biased, as some of my favorite Standard decks in history are from black aggro decks, but Gutterbones is the kind of bread and butter card that really brings the archetype together. Black aggro is only about as good as its one-drops. It's been true since the days of Suicide Black strategies casting Dark Ritual into Carnophage and Sarcomancy, or Pulse Tracker and Vampire Lacerator in Zendikar Standard.
This is the foundation these decks are built upon!
Two power for one mana is a fantastic rate, and having so many cheap ways to add power to the battlefield in the early game gives us an early aggression that rivals that of Mono-White or Mono-Red Aggro.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself "Is this really all it takes? Print another Bloodsoaked Champion and suddenly Mono-Black is alive again? You can't be real."
Rude. The important thing is that Gutterbones is just another straw on the camel's back.
If you look at the other aggressive options that have been explored in Standard, each color really has its comparative advantages when you break it down.
- White Aggro: History of Benalia floods the battlefield, Venerated Loxodon and Benalish Marshal capitalize on a wealth of creatures, and Legion's Landing gives the deck resilience.
- Blue Aggro: Countermagic, card draw, Tempest Djinn, and cheap, evasive creatures.
- Red Aggro: Red Removal and reach, Goblin Chainwhirler, and most importantly, Experimental Frenzy giving the deck a more unfair axis.
- Green Aggro: Larger bodies like that of Steel Leaf Champion try to invalidate early creatures and pave the way for Ghalta to stomp on the opponent.
So, what makes the black aggressive decks different? What's the draw to playing them?
What if I told you that you could have a bit of all of it and then some?
The biggest draw for me is being allowed to play creatures that generate card advantage and capitalize on a low-to-the-ground curve. A consistent stream of pressure from your one-mana creatures keeps the opponent on defense and if Dark Confidant has taught us anything, drawing extra removal spells for a life or two is an easy way to win.
Spawn of Mayhem is another card I'm really excited to play with more. Owen Turtenwald talked late last week about some things that this card could do in Standard, and while this deck isn't full of spectacle cards to fully utilize the guaranteed life loss, Gutterbones certainly doesn't mind.
Really this deck will be happy so long as it's able to spend all its mana every turn preferably by playing two small spells or one big one every turn to bury the opponent in a pile of two-power attackers. Graveyard Marshal is a card I've been looking to find an excuse to sleeve up from the second I saw it previewed and when it comes to amassing a horde of the undead, it's a natural.
This deck got me thinking, with mana as good as what we have in Standard with all the shocklands released, why stop at 22 Swamps? How far can we get with a splash? Staying true to Rakdos, I went a little deeper to get to this.
When it comes to a splash in a deck like this, I took a "less is more" approach and only added in the hits. In a deck so obsessed with running its creatures headlong into the opponent, Judith seemed like a perfect fit, and Bedevil is a good answer to cards like Lyra Dawnbringer that might stand in your way.
Experimental Frenzy is no stranger to decks full of one-mana spells. Many of my friends who have been on the Magic Arena grind have sung the praises of a version of Boros Aggro with maindeck Experimental Frenzies to have additional resilience in a best-of-one setting. Here, I believe it will be similarly effective.
One of the things that will be very important as Ravnica Allegiance Standard begins to take a more defined shape will be finding the right balance and adapting to the format at large and finding the solid starting shells is a big part of that. The Boros Aggro decks we saw become the dominant aggressive option were a product of the Mono-White Aggro decks before them, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see more options derivative of that starting shell moving forward.
As a general practice for new Standard formats, it's a good idea to have a mental image what the first 40 or so cards you want to play in an archetype are and why. This makes it easier to shift around emerging ideas and find the balances in deckbuilding you're looking for to attack the format in the right ways.
So far this preview season, I've been very impressed by the depth being fleshed out for a lot of the archetypes in Standard--especially Rakdos. Gutterbones, Rix Maadi Reveler, and Bedevil all come to mind as out-of-the-box ready to play cards, and I can't wait to see more coming as we draw near to the release of the set.
I'll be at SCG Worcester this weekend, but my mind is also set on the Standard Open in Indianapolis at the end of the month. There's still a lot of cards to see, but for right now I'm hoping I get to keep my mind in the gutter and have my Swamps ready to go.