Rancor's return to Standard makes me think it's a pretty good time to play a green aggressive deck, especially if you can find a good list before people adapt to the powerful new tool. Today, I'm going to try to find some of those good lists.
The most obvious application is using it with infect, and the next most obvious is using it with hexproof. I don't see any reason not to start with the obvious decks, since they're usually best.
Rancor Infect could be mono-green, green/blue, or green and anything else. To start with, I'm most interested in mono-green because I think it has enough tools and Inkmoth Nexus combined with a low curve makes supporting another color awkward. And if I don't play another color I can use Cathedral of War, which is really appealing.
I think that Wild Defiance gives me enough slow, powerful support that I can skip Livewire Lash. I'm motivated to do this because I want to play Viridian Corrupter main but don't want to find myself in awkward situations where I can't play it, because I'm playing it as a creature first and a removal spell as an afterthought/added bonus.
This also means I'm incentivized to try to avoid the artifact infect creatures like Ichorclaw Myr and Plague Myr and instead to focus on green creatures, which means playing Blight Mamba. I'm ok with this since I think it helps avoid some vulnerability anyway.
As a starting point, I'm thinking:
This build leans very heavily on Rancor for power, minimizing power increasing pump spells to maximize spells to protect your creatures so that you don't have to worry about something like a Vapor Snag in response to a Rancor. Additionally, I expect Cathedral of War to do some work to make up for a lower number of big pump spells. I think this more grindy approach works particularly well with Blight Mamba.
The sideboard offers a range of answers to beat opposing creature strategies as well as Bramblecrush as an answer to planeswalkers, which are ordinarily particularly problematic for infect strategies because their creatures aren't really big enough to kill a planeswalker. If Gideon Jura is popular, I could see a third Bramblecrush pretty easily.
Livewire Lash is at its best against control decks that can't deal with artifacts, either because their colors don't let them, like U/B Control, or because they don't expect you to have any. With Livewire Lash and Carrion Call against control decks, you should eventually be able to stick a Livewire Lash on a creature, which should usually win the game.
I hate not playing Naturalize main, but this deck really wants to focus on executing its plan in game 1. I'd probably have more Naturalizes in the board anyway, but Bramblecrush occupies some of that space. I could see Crushing Vines as an alternative, but I'm not interested in Beast Within because the 3/3 is a real problem to attack through.
I could also see a metagame where Tangle Angler finds a place in the deck, but I'm not ready to go there as a starting point.
The most substantial divergence from this deck that I could get behind would be playing Ichorclaw Myr over Viridian Corrupter to focus on maximizing the value offered by Rancor's trample, as Ichorclaw Myr is almost unblockable with trample. This would also open the door to playing some number of Livewire Lashes main. The primary reason I'm not doing this is that I expect a lot of Blade Splicers and Birthing Pods and both cards are very good against this deck (Birthing Pod gets better when you have no way to punish them for paying life every turn).
The next approach, as I mentioned, is to focus on hexproof so that you don't need to play cards like Apostle's Blessing to stick a Rancor. I'm pretty sure Rancor is the exact card I needed to make me want to consider porting my Block deck from Pro Tour Avacyn Restored to Standard.
A starting point for that would be something like:
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Invisible Stalker
- 2 Sublime Archangel
- 3 Wolfir Silverheart
- 4 Geist of Saint Traft
- 1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
- 2 Thrun, the Last Troll
Birds of Paradise helps cast Geist of Saint Traft on turn 2, allowing us to skip the extra two-drop (Strangleroot Geist, or Nearheath Pilgrim as I updated it to for Grand Prix Anaheim) which is also partially made up for with the addition of Mana Leak.
Thrun offers another hexproof body, and one that is particularly awesome with Rancor since his biggest problem is that he's easily chump blocked. The fact that we can also Spectral Flight him makes him particularly valuable here.
Sigarda, Host of Herons is included here where she was left out in Block because Razorverge Thicket, Seachrome Coast, and Birds of Paradise make her much easier on the mana. Also, she's better here than she has been in the past because Rancor allows her to get through opposing Lingering Souls.
Rancor and Mana Leak shouldn't really need much explanation. They're awesome spells that we can cast that didn't exist in Block. Mana Leak offers efficient interaction, which helps me get away from Dungeon Geists and allows me to keep a similar curve while adding Thrun, the Last Troll.
Sublime Archangel steps in to replace Increasing Savagery. She's more vulnerable to removal and less explosive, but she's also a threat by herself and seems awesome with all the mana creatures. It could be wrong to play her over Savagery and it definitely makes Invisible Stalker a little worse, but I think the threat of Phantasmal Image makes legends unsafe enough as creatures to invest heavily in that I'd rather have a card that doesn't mind so much if I get legend ruled.
Mutagenic Growth is in the deck for two primary reasons: first, it's an excellent countermeasure to Bonfire of the Damned, which is the most common answer to Invisible Stalker. Second, it's almost always awesome on Geist of Saint Traft, particularly with Rancor. If Geist of Saint Traft kills a 3/3 and lives in a way that doesn't cost any tempo, you're far enough ahead that you should almost certainly win the game.
Nearheath Pilgrim and Vapor Snag are more tempo friendly alternatives to the Tree of Redemptions and Garruks I played in Block to gain life and remove opposing creatures respectively, and Negate is a better sideboard card than Dissipate in a deck that doesn't have a lot of blue mana.
Nearheath Pilgrim might be a worse card for racing than Thragtusk; it just depends on what you expect to be facing. I feel like I already have a lot of five-drops, so I went with the cheaper option, but I'd definitely keep Thragtusk in mind. I think it will always be an excellent sideboard card as it's a nightmare for a lot of strategies.
A final deck that I'm interested in also takes advantage of infect with new offerings from M13, but this one can't capitalize on Rancor due to being a mono-black deck. Again, I think infect works best in mono-colored decks now that Inkmoth Nexus is joined by Cathedral of War, and black has several things going for it.
The most important new card is probably Duress, which helps a lot in a deck that really needed a good one-mana spell.
This list is based on the deck I played at Pro Tour Nagoya, which is where I came up with Dark Favor. We were using Piston Sledge, which I considered using here, but I don't think the ability is actually worth an extra mana, particularly since artifacts are a little more vulnerable than enchantments. It's possible, though, that Dark Favor is just a bad Predator's Gambit
I didn't just cut Piston Sledge for Dark Favor; I cut it for a split of Dark Favor and Homicidal Seclusion. Seclusion is awesome in this deck. It's extremely hard to race and automatically "reequips" itself. I think going to four Homicidal Seclusions increases the curve too much though.
Duress is an awesome card. I shouldn't really need to explain it too much since you've probably played with it before, but it's a particularly good fit here since, as mentioned when discussing the green deck, planeswalkers can be a serious problem. Here it can also clear the way to commit to a line of aggression that might otherwise not work.
Discard is at its best in aggressive decks because your opponent has fewer turns to just draw the card you were trying to keep from them anyway. If you play Duress on turn 1 in a five turn game, you get to see over half the cards they're going to draw that game, but if you play it on turn 1 in a twelve turn game, there's a much higher chance that whatever you needed to stop them from casting just wasn't in their hand at that point but is in it later.
Typically, this is kept in check because aggressive decks need all of their cards to focus on attacking in order to win a game quickly enough. But the explosive power of the infect mechanic means that you don't have to devote as many cards to killing them as you would otherwise, provided you can support the ones you have.
I'm not particularly sure about the direction I've gone here. I'm a little worried about the number of weak creatures and the lack of removal, and I wonder if Lingering Souls is too much of a nightmare for my 1/1 fliers if I don't have a crusader. I could see a more controlling version with Black Sun's Zenith and Skitheryx that probably doesn't play enchant creatures or Mutagenic Growth, but that's just a poison-leaning Mono-Black Control deck, which isn't really what I'm trying to build today.
Ratchet Bomb is in the sideboard to help deal with the Lingering Souls problem. Depending on exactly what cards people are playing I could also see Cower in Fear, but at a glance it seems worse at getting fliers through in the current metagame.
I don't think this is the deck for it, but as long as I'm discussing black cards in M13, I think I have to mention Disciple of Bolas. His ability just seems insane. He's best with Thragtusk, but in mono-black sacrificing a Geralf's Messenger is pretty awesome. It's not the play I'm looking to make, but if I have to pay four mana to gain two life and draw two cards, that's not the end of the world. His interaction with Homicidal Seclusion is interesting in that it doesn't work if you have any other creatures, but if you do that on an empty board you gain five life and draw five cards, which is pretty good. He's also generally awesome with exalted and Rancor.
M13 has a lot of interesting reprints and a few sweet new cards. At some point in the future, I hope to do some work trying to figure out how to use Gilded Lotus to cast Griselbrand, but this is all I have for now.
Thanks for reading,
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