The Philosophy Behind Aggro in Constructed

Written by Nameless1 on May 20, 2008

The Philosophy Behind Aggro in Constructed

by Nameless1

Hello, my Nickname in Magic League is Nameless1 [Bojan Stanic], and I recently won a Constructed Invitational on this site with an R/g aggro deck. When I am not playing Magic I am studying technical Informatics on the TU Vienna.  Unlike some others I wasn't interested in playing bigger events in Constructed IRL, nor did I have the time/money needed to invest in Magic to become a "pro." Still I have played aggro for a really long time and I pretty much always stuck to aggro decks because Control was not an option for me since I loathe long games and that is basically the game those decks are going to play. So back to my list that made the Invitational:

RG Aggro
Main Deck Sideboard
2 Rift Bolt
3 Flame Javelin
4 Incinerate
4 Tarfire
4 Kavu Predator
2 Martyr of Ashes
3 Greater Gargadon
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Tattermunge Maniac
4 Countryside Crusher
4 Tarmogoyf
5 Mountain
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Fire-Lit Thicket
4 Mutavault
1 Pendelhaven
4 Karplusan Forest
2 Forest
3 Riftsweeper
2 Sulfurous Blast
3 Pyroclasm
3 Loxodon Warhammer
3 Wheel of Sun and Moon
1 Dragon's Claw

PART I: Card Evaluations

That list got a lot of bad critics, therefore I want to explain my reasoning behind each card choice. I will start with the manabase and work myself forward to the burn spells.

Lands :

Basics :

5 x Mountain
2 x Forest

Nonbasics :

4 x Grove of the Burnwillows
4 x Karplusan Forest
4 x Mutavault
2 x Fire-Lit Thicket
1 x Pendelhaven

That's a total of 22 lands and Magus of the Moon really shouldn’t be an issue here ;). Of the 22 lands we have here a split of 13 red mana sources and 11 green mana sources. I am not counting the Fire-Lit Thickets as colored mana source since those lands make only colorless mana all by themselves and are useless when played on turn 1. That's why I am not playing a full playset of them because a hand with mutavaults and Thickets only is basically a mulligan. Speaking of Mutavaults: why would you play those lands over Treetop Villages? The reasoning behind this is that Treetop Villages slow you down too much, cost one more mana [and a green one to boot] to activate and are removed by the same removal that removes mutavaults too. Mutavaults produce colorless mana BUT are not coming tapped into play. This deck doesn’t skip its one-drop, quite the opposite so it hasn't the luxury to play Treetops. Grove of the Burnwillows is here to fix your mana even more and even though it gives your opponent life those lands can’t be left out cause of the 'Kavu pumping' ability. There is only one Pendelhaven in the deck because there are only six creatures that can get the advantage of that land and Karplusan Forest should be self-explanatory.

Now we are coming to the spell choices, the first part being the creature base:

1 Drops :

4 x Mogg Fanatic
4 x Tattermunge Maniac
3 x Greater Gargadon
2 x Martyr of Ashes

2 Drops :

4 x Tarmogoyf
4 x Kavu Predator

3 Drops :

4 x Countryside Crusher

As you can see, I am playing 25 creatures and the deck curves out at three. Does that mean that this deck is an early game bases aggro that runs out of steam quickly? Let's analyze the cards and see what role they play in this deck: Starting with Mogg Fanatic. Mogg Fanatic has been an more or less an 'All-star' in red decks since it returned to Constructed and he is here to do some early pressure and to occasionally kill important 1 drops [elves and birds come to mind] or simply go to the dome. Pendelhaven is played to boost the Mogg and the Martyr. Martyr is basically a utility board sweeper here that helps a lot against smaller creature decks but still keeps your important and bigger creature alive. I decided to play Martyr cause of added versatility and because he is some good against decks like Merfolk and other small tribal decks except faeries. A lot of players are still not sure what to think about Tattermunge Maniac, a Savannah Lion that HAS to attack every possible turn it is able to. That just calls for bad trades and 1's or 0's. The basic idea behind this card is to force damage early and in this case twice as much as a Fanatic. In the current Meta that is dominated by Faeries and Merfolk, Maniac is a good choice because he almost always forces 2-4 damage and then trades with a card. For 1 red or green mana you can't get more then 2-4 damage and sometimes you even have to give up an additional card in order to do so [Shard Volley]. Finally there are 3 Greater Gargadons in the deck that serve the mid to late game purpose and also are there to 'eat' the Maniacs. You do not want to play more then 3 Gargadons in this deck though since they are often suspended in turn 3, because you want to apply pressure in the early game and they are not even any good against Faeries and Merfolk [The reason why this deck is NOT only build to beat those 2 decks].

Only 8 two-Drops appear in this list of which Tarmogoyf should be the obvious choice. Kavu Predator is currently the 'weird' choice but the explanation of it is quite easy. The first thing that people tend to play or board in against aggressive red decks is life gain. This is why this card shines here and it obviously 'combos' with Grove of Burnwillows. Kavu is a card that can matter in the mid to late game too.

The deck curves out at 3 Mana with 4 Countryside Crushers. Why is this card better/worse than Boggart Ram Gang? Countryside Crusher is a card that fixes your draws. Basically you do not want to draw any more lands when you drop him. And that can be the case in this deck as early as turn 3. The only exception to this rule is if you do not have javelin mana up. Cleary Crusher combos with Greater Gargadon and is also a good mid to late game card. On the other side we have the Ram Gang. Ram Gang is a card that does well if dropped on turn 3 and is far more of an early game card than the Crusher. A 3/3 with haste for 3 mana is quite a deal by today’s margin. It probably has a place in a faster paced version of this deck that is made almost solely for the early game but the Crusher is simply better in this deck.

Finally we are coming to the noncreature Spells [Burn Spells]:

4 x Tarfire
4 x Incinerate
3 x Flame Javelin
2 x Rift Bolt

We have a total of 13 noncreature spells here. Here we have some quite obvious choices like 4 Incinerates. That’s the top deal you can get in the burn apartment these days [sorry, no life gain attached]. A play set of Tarfires serves the obvious purpose of pumping Goyfs twice and killing early manaproducers and/or blockers. Only 3 javelin are played in this deck because they are not always castable on turn 3 and you don’t want to be drawing multiples in the opener. 2 Rift Bolts were the last burn spells to add and I am not that much of a fan of this spell. You rarely want to be paying 3 mana for 3 damage at sorcery speed and only suspending it for R seems reasonable. Even then it often goes to the dome and doesn't keep the opponent from playing his creatures.

In the next segment we are coming to the Sideboard choices:

3 x Riftsweeper
2 x Sulfurous Blast
3 x Pyroclasm
3 x Wheel of Sun and Moon
3 x Loxodon Warhammer
1 x Dragon’s Claw

I am currently playing 3 Riftsweepers in the Sideboard because they do the job against all the Ancestral Visions running around but also can hit things like Gargadons, Cloudskates and Lotus Blooms. If the meta shapes up to be even more 'faerieinfested' this card could even become maindeck material with the obvious cut of Greater Gargadon. Next in line we have 3 Loxodon Warhammers. This card seemed really clunky to me at first but I was surprised how well it did in the mirror and against other decks that can't easily remove the equipped creature at instant speed. The Hammer is there to stay. Next we have the 3 Wheel of Sun and Moon. This card’s purpose was to deal with the Reveillark Combo Deck and with Project J. After some testing I find that Tormod's Crypt is simply better in this spot 'cause it doesn’t take speed from this deck that is needed to beat those combo decks. Dropping a Wheel turn 2 simply seems to be no option. Then we have the 5 board sweepers split into 3 Pyroclasm and 2 Sulfurous Blast. Those cards are fine against all the small aggro deck and also usable against faeries and merfolk. I played more pyroclasms here because I wanted to keep the curve low enough to matter and because Blast can sometimes be simply to slow against various token decks. Blast can still be put to good use against faeries [rarely counterable at instant speed] and occasionally may kill a Planeswalker. The last card was a random Dragons Claw that should be cut and replaced with something like Smash to Smithereens while also cutting another board sweeper.

PART II: Matchup Analysis

I will start this analysis with the most popular decks in constructed. Currently there is one 'best' deck in the format, faeries. As we all know faeries gets a lot of wins in by playing aggro that tends to win in the midgame and till then perfectly controls the board with creatures that are played mostly in the opponents turn. Faeries is the current aggro/control deck that always stays on top of the ladder. If you are planing on playing any bigger constructed events plan your deck with this deck in mind.

Matchup 1: Faeries (u/b but sometimes also u/g)

What game should R/g play against Faeries and how is it's matchup against this deck? As mentioned earlier Faeries is a deck that is aimed at taking the game to the midturns and winning from there. Our goal here is to put up enough pressure here in the early game so that the U/b deck has to play our game, in this case: the early. Mulligan hands with clunky cards like Greater Gargadon, Flame Javelin and Countryside Crusher. Hands with Tattermunge Maniac and Mogg Fanatic are the ones that shine in this matchup and get them to low life in the midgame so you can finish them off with some burn spells. One of the best cards in Faeries is Bitterblossom and it's rarely good news against any deck if dropped in turn 2. You goal here then is to keep the aggression up with your 1 and 2 drops and clear those tokens with burn like tarfire or fanatic. Force them to play their spellstutter sprites just for blocking purposes and don’t let it become a bad 2 for 1 trade. Also never ever get greedy if they play a Mistbind Clique in your upkeep burning the single faerie token since they probably planed just to champion the tribal enchantment anyways. If you don’t let them take over the aggro role that enchantment can be a good friend of yours constantly reducing their life while producing only chump blockers. The most important thing you have to keep in mind while playing against faeries is that you want the early game in this matchup. The rare u/G version often plays faeries only as a small backup plan and is basically a midrange deck that beats with fat creatures like Chameleon Colossus and taps out far more often so cards like Javelin matter far more here. This deck is even slower then the U/b list and can be beating even in the midgame.

Sideboarding against Fae:

You want to switch your deck here to a pure early game deck, so you have to take out the cards that slow your down or are generally not very useful in this matchup. So against the U/b version you take out 3 Greater Gargadons, 2 Martyr of Ashes, 3 Flame Javelin and a Crusher to board in the 3 Riftsweepers [nails their Ancestral Vision] and the mass removal effects like Pyroclasm and Sulfurous Blast. It's a similar plan against the u/G version just with the difference that Sulfurous Blast doesn’t play a key role here and Pyroclasm feels as the better sweeper to baord in. Burn their birds and Wall of Roots as soon as you can and only board out the Gargadons [still too slow], Martyrs and some Crushers. You need the Javelins against Chameleon Colossus.

This Matchup is favorable for you, as long as you can force them to play your game [early] and keep them from resolving their Visions. I didn't feel that enchantment hate was needed against their Bitterblossom since that card can play right into your hands.

Matchup 2: Merfolk (Mostly U/w and sometimes even MonoU)

You love fish and always wanted to play with Lord of Atlantis? Then this is the deck that was made for you. Merfolk basically is played in the Meta to beat the best deck Faeries. While does decks are similar in play style, Merfolk is still the aggressive deck that tries to control the board in the midturns. Merfolk gets it wins against Faeries because of Lord of Atlantis [islandwalk] and having more effective creatures doesn’t hurt the fish deck either. Your plan against fish is the same as against Faeries. You want your early game here and do NOT want to keep slow hands. Merfolk doesn’t play as much counters as faeries and so you can play your threats aggressively without worrying too much about counters. They key to wining in this matchup is to burn out their "Lord" creatures when the possibility arises [Tarfire shines here] and also the Bannerets should be binned as soon as possible. You do not want their 2/1 to cost only U and be better than your Maniac. Keep your Martyrs in the hand till the mid to late turns so that you can sweep the board with enough creatures on their side to net maximum card advantage.

Sideboarding against Merfolk:

Against Merfolk you basically bring in the same cards as against Faeries. You still need to board out the Gargadons, Javelins and to some extend the Crushers to change your deck to an early beatdown machine. After boarding try to get their visions with Riftsweeper and always put the board sweepers and the Martyrs to good use and you should be in fine shape here. Still be aware of the ‘Flashfreezes’ a lot of Fish decks tend to bring in against you and try not to walk straight into those counters. As before boarding try to handle their key creatures as soon as possible and the fish deck should crumble.

As against faeries this matchup is favourable and you shouldn’t have that much problems turning the game into your direction. Just remember to force them to play your game once again.

Outlook: Metagame

Theoretically we have a wide open metagame now. Basically you can play all the colors and a lot of decks. Everything is viable, theoretically. Still there is the one best deck faeries. Currently that deck is taking wins everywhere and every deck that you build has to have a game against Fae or you can start from the scratchboard again. No good matchup against Faeries? No deck. That's it. Besides the current metagame is dominated by aggro, so perhaps lifegain is a good option again? You need a good plan for the current metagame to be able to win, and that plan is to be faster then the fastest burn deck and token decks and still be able to beat Faeries. Or you can approach the meta by building a deck that crushes some specific decks and has a good sideboarding plan against all the other decks it has a problem with. Still I would say that the most important thing right now is playing a deck that you are simply comfortable with playing. Maybe that deck is just R/g aggro ;).

Matchup 3: Reveillark (U/w and only U/w)

Now we are coming to the ‘combo’ deck of the Constructed scene, although this one is often capable winning the game without the combo. Reveillark plays a lot of ‘187’ creatures [187 = Comes into play abilities] that mess up combat, board position and so on and seals the deal with Reveillark, that basically always nets the combo player a card advantage that a lot of decks are not capable defeating. Going into the combo Reveillark can get infinitive life or bounce all the opponents' permanents and still keeping its key creatures in play and then winning from there in short order. Your plan here once again is the early game and as against the previous 2 matchups do not keep the slow hands. Some ‘Llark players tend to play Wrath of God while other don’t so do not come into overextending positions where one Wrath screws up your entire game, but you can still overextend with Maniacs because their value radically decreases going into the later turns. In this matchup your burn should mostly go to their dome, especially if that Tarfire makes your clock faster by pumping up your goyf. You don’t have to worry here too much about counters since they only play a few.

Sideboarding against Reveillark:

The cards you can bring in here are the now 3 Tormod’s Crypts, 3 Riftsweepers and the 2 Smash to Smitheerens to destroy their acceleration in form of mind stone and still get 3 damage out of the deal. Riftsweeper gets their suspended Cloudskates and makes the deck faster and Tormod’s Crypt should be played as late as possible to remove as much from the grave as it can get. Try to activate it only when they want to get some cards back with Reveillark. Again you should board out the Gargadons, the Javelins and 2 Crushers. After boarding, you once again should pursue the early game plan and this means keeping hands with a lot of early game creatures and getting damage in as soon as possible. Try to lay Mr. Kavu in the second turn because often they will have the dreaded turn 3 Riftwatcher. Here the Riftsweepers are often simple bears and do not hesitate to use them as such, because keeping them just for a suspended Cloudskate often makes your clock slower, not something that you should be particularly fancy of.

Unfortunately Reveillark is a bad matchup for the aggro deck. It tends to improve after boarding, but not overly so. The good news is that Reveillark is currently not heavily played because it has a bad matchup against Faeries. Still playing tight should get you in some wins against this combo deck, just do not overextend, especially after boarding.

Matchup 4: Elves! (Often G/b but sometimes also monogreen [token and nontoken version])

Another aggro deck in the current Meta, what surprise. Elves achieves it goal by playing some great green creatures / accelerators and a smaller portion of black removal / disruption. Your plan against them is again to pressure them in the early and to get them into the single digits by the mid to late turns. You do so by burning their accelerators, lords and deathtouch creatures. It’s a matter of applying pressure and then burning their blockers to get a clear path for your beaters. Again Martyr can net a good card advantage here and can get a lot of their smaller creatures and Lords. Elves often play Garruk too, so destroy it as soon as you can. Under no circumstance it should come to the ‘Overrun’ counters range with a full creature board on their side. Against monogreen versions it is basically the same plan but without the removal you have to worry about. Still in balance their run better and bigger creatures that are hard to overcome in the early game so your game in that case is mostly the midgame where you have the creature advantage in big goyfs, kavus, gargadons and Tarmogoyfs. Against token versions of this deck you have to kill the small accelerants as soon as possible and take their gameplan with Martyrs.

Sideboarding against Elves!:

Against all versions you should bring in the mass removals and here the pyroclasms are simply better than the blasts, especially against token versions. If you want your midgame you should bring in your hammers too and if they have a similar plan simply bring in the artifact destruction. Against the removal heavy version you have to take out your gargadons and to some extend your crushers and rift bolts. Same goes for the token version, since they will have a lot of blockers for the biggies and those biggies slow you down to much there. Against the monogreen version [hybrid] you should keep your fatties because you can’t beat them in the early game. Boarding only hammers could be enough in this matchup while boarding out the 2 bolts and 1 tarfire. After boarding you should have a better take on all matchups. Use your board cleaners wisely and try to get big advantages out of it, but do not take to much risk here. Again laying Kavu turn 2 should do some good because some versions play Kitchen Finks and some lifegain between the main and side.

This matchup is favourable, and even more so after boarding. Burn their 4 Lords as soon and possible and try to win as soon as possible against the versions where that is possible. Here it is really important that you know your game plan after the few first turns and to know when you have to stall yourself into that mid to lategame, so you can win from there on.

Matchup 5: Mirror (often even MonoR with the difference in heavy burn or creature based)

The R/g Mirror is basically all about the mid to lategame. In the early game you exchange some quick beats and creatures to get into the midgame and here fatties often decide the game. Suspending a Gargadon on turn 1 is a good way to go winning the game. Basically your deck is made for the midgame so you should do just fine there. Another thing to think about here is that giving your opponent life with a Grove is often better than taking pain from the painlands. It’s getting a lot harder here against the burn version of the deck. These decks often only run 12 creatures and a lot burn. Try to get as little damage as possible from their creatures and force them to use their burn on your creatures. Do not ever lay a Goyf down before you can ensure that he has at least 4 toughness.

Sideboarding against the Mirror:

Once again boarding in the elephant hammers is a good way to winning. Lifegain tends to be good against burn, no? Still I would bring in some artifact destruction if I was expecting them to do the same or bring in some claws. Be careful about bringing in the hammers against the pure burn version since they can board in the Torments that you currently have no way of handling. And often those hammers can be to slow to matter there. Against the Mirror you can bring in the Riftsweeper, if they are also pursuing the Gargadon plan. The cards to board out here are the Martyr’s and the Rift Bolts. If needed board out a small number of Countryside crushers too. After boarding, the lifegain is key; if the opponent has no measures of handling it.

This matchup is even in the mirror [no really?], but it’s a favourable one if the opponent runs a lot of creatures that are only red. The matchup gets worse if he runs mostly burn, and the more burn he runs, the worse the matchup gets.

Between games: Thinking about Kavu

Having Kavu Predator in your deck with 4 lands that give your opponent life if used for colored mana make this deck a lot harder to play. Kavu is here for you to still have some game against opposing lifegain strategies that are common these days. If the opponent has the possibility to play a 3 mana creature that gains him life like Aven Riftwatcher, Kitchen Finks… you should always play Kavu on turn 2 over any other 2 drop you have. The hard part about Kavu is figuring out when you would want to give the opponent life with a Grove of the Burnwillows in play. Basically your Kavu grows bigger and nullifies the life that the opponent gained through the attack step. If you don’t have to fear any kind of removal this strategy can always be applied. It’s a different matter with the opponent having mana open for a removal and/or bounce spell. This is the time when you have to think about it more. The goal here is to make your Kavu big enough to matter but not too big that you get blown out by a bounce or removal spell. If the opponent only plays a lot of weenies you don’t have to have a gigantic Kavu. A 5/5 Kavu is probably enough. On the other hand you want your Kavu to be as big as possible against Monored deck for obvious reasons. Kavu alone can win you a lot of game if you are able to learn how to play with him. Consider even taking manaburn with the lifegain lands if it wins you the game.

Matchup 6: Manaramp [Mostly G/r but also played in G/w and G/b]

Manaramp decks tend to ‘ramp up’ their mana in the first few turns with spells like Wall of Roots, Into the North and similar. Then they use that mana to simply cast superior creatures in the form of Chameleon Colossus, Cloudthresher, Siege-Gang Commander and so on and simply win with them. Your plan against them is again the early game. Theoretically you try to get in your beats in as fast as possible, burn out wall of roots if they have blocked a creature of yours and lay Kavu on turn 2 because of the possibility of Kitchen Finks and sometimes even Primal Command. From single digits life you should be able to burn them out. Keep your Martyrs for their Siege-Gang Commanders and you could be winning. The versions with white in them are often playing kitchen finks but also mass removal in the form of Wrath of God. Same goes for the black version, the only exception being the black command and Shriekmaw. Do not overextend against the white or black version while overextending against the red version is something to do, because possibly the only mass removal you have to fear is Sulfurous Blast and it still wouldn’t wipe all your creatures. Still even against the manaramp decks you have the midgame fallback plan because a lot of your creatures matter even in the later turns. Especially against the red version they have often no means of removing those fatties besides burn cards like Skred and Incinerate. Plan ahead and once again make your Kavus matter.

Sideboarding against Manaramp:

The cards to board in here are the Hammers and probably the artifact destruction if you can expect them to board in hammers to [or perhaps they had even some in the main]. You can even bring in some Pyroclasms against Siege-Gang Commander. Riftsweeper is optional and can be brought in if they play Search for Tomorrow, but if you bring those in you have to board out your Gargadons. The cards to board out are the Tarfires and the Rift Bolts and the Gargadons if you board in your Riftsweepers, but you shouldn’t board out Gargadons against the black or white version. The plan after sideboarding pretty much stays the same with the exception that now you can expect even more lifegain from them, so bring in your Kavus early. Taking them into single digits till the midgame is a good way to win this matchup.

The matchup against the G/r Ramp should be even while you have an uphill battle against the other versions since they generally run more effective removal. Do not overextend once again there.

Various Matchups: Tribal Aggro

There are some tribal aggro decks out there that are not commonly played nowadays. Kithkins and Goblins are some of those and I will analyse those Matchups here. Basically against those aggro decks you want your midgame. As against merfolk you have to burn out their lords here and make your Martyrs to massremoval. Then simply lay down your bigger creatures like Tarmogoyf and Countryside Crusher. While you can lay a goyf as early as turn 2 against nonburn aggro decks, you should take care when you lay it against those playing burn. After boarding you have an even better matchup because you board out some massremoval and board out cards like Greater Gargadon and Flame Javelin. Basically you shouldn’t have many problems beating those tribal aggro decks so I won’t go deeper into it. Besides the 2 tribal aggro decks that matter nowadays are covered above.

PART III: Conclusion

So now we are coming to the final thoughts. If the Pro Tour would be tomorrow I would probably try this deck. It has good matchups in faeries and Merfolk and still doesn’t autolose against other decks in the format. You simply need to change your gameplan accordingly and to know when your deck is most effective in the early turns and when it is so in the mid to late turns. With decks like these you always have to do math, unfortunately ;). Always know when it is effective to burn out blockers and when then burn should go to the dome. Do not be afraid to trade burn 2 for 1 against the bigger creatures of the format if it ensures you a good attack step. If you know that your opponent doesn’t play counters than plan your burn spells accordingly and go to the dome. On the other hand do the same if you can expect your opponent to win the game next turn. Do as much damage as you can in the end of turn step with you burn spells and than hope to draw that missing burn spells that wins you the game. If you are always thinking how to get the most out of your spells it shouldn’t be to hard winning with this deck.

On the other hand you have a lot of possible variations for this kind of aggro deck. Are you a budget player and just hate Tarmogoyf? Then go monored and just play 12 creatures and the best burn spells available in the format. Or perhaps you are more the Kavu Justice type? Then simply add in white and Fiery Justice [you have to work a lot on a manabase here I can assure you]. Also this deck can be built in the same colors mainly for the early game with cheaper creatures and probably more burn. There are almost no limits here.


If you still happen to have questions about this deck or aggro in general you can always contact me on solidirc. Also I am available on MSN under the address namelessone at and on ICQ under the number 140113762. Thank you a lot for reading and have fun in the new Shadowmoor Constructed format.

Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

by Lynolf on 2008-05-20 23:49 CET

Good article Nameless1. It would be cool if people wrote more like this one. They are always interesting to read. :)

by kfcman on 2008-05-21 00:59 CET


So you're saying you have a problem with rift bolt because it often goes to the dome? I'm no expert, but i've heard that burn spells are good at doin that.

by Craze on 2008-05-21 01:08 CET

I wonder if anyone ever thought about putting a rating system on these articles. like youtube videos.

-5 is my rating

by Acid_Christ on 2008-05-21 01:14 CET

Burn to the dome = Aggro.

Burn to creatures = Control.

Even if your opponent goes "oh, there is a suspended Rift Bolt. Better not drop a creature and take 3." - What do you get? AN EXTRA TURN!

Good article non the less. Just my opinion on Rift Bolt is a little different.

"Mutavault > Treetop Village" = Death Rattle? Lol. Im just messin with you. Little drunk and nitpicking.

by bladerisen on 2008-05-21 01:23 CET

nice article

by dv8r on 2008-05-21 02:07 CET

well, I like this article and I think Craze and kfcman are essentially trolls and fail (especially in kfcman's case) to understand how to play aggro. you really DON'T want to burn your opponent for 3 damage on turn 1 or you would play spark elemental

good article, the quality of feedback on this site never fails to disgust/annoy me

by snoopster on 2008-05-21 02:13 CET

better than every other article on this site

by snoopster on 2008-05-21 02:14 CET

(and dv8r is right)

by coolcreep on 2008-05-21 03:15 CET

snoopster said:
better than every other article on this site

Umm, how about we playtest 300 card zoo vs. this pile aggro deck with a measly 60 cards. I bet zoo wins, the same way that article wins over this article.

by gypsy on 2008-05-21 03:20 CET

why is gargadon main you seem to board it out vs almost every matchup

by Zoom on 2008-05-21 03:20 CET

I noticed that you suggest boarding out gargadon in nearly every matchup. Should you just take him out of the main entirely to make room for more burn?

by sheamuffin on 2008-05-21 05:09 CET

+1 coolcreep.

by djanello on 2008-05-21 06:57 CET

Nice info; I'm actually surprised that you board out the crusher so often.

The loxodan warhammer i've tried, but it seems that my creatures always get burned out under it. Nowadays I just board in 4 dragonclaws. Might try it again sometime soon though.

Thank you for the article! It allows me to get a better insight in the mechanics of the game and how tourney winners play decks here in magic-league! wish there were more!

by RiQuSP on 2008-05-21 08:38 CET

I agree with dv8r, people should get some more credit for putting time and effort in doing something for this league and trying to be helpful.

Nice article, keep the good work up!

by Nameless1 on 2008-05-21 10:04 CET

Thanks for the appreciating.
@ Zoom : I board Gargadon out often against the matchups I want to transform the deck to a pure early game machine. There are still alot of 'random' matchups that are not covered here and some cards that can screw you up entirely like Tendrils without the Gargadon. The deck is made to have cards against more decks than just fearies [and against them Garga is really bad] and the 2 Martyrs just show that. Of course I have gone with 4 Bolts and probably more burn like Shard Volley instead the Gargadon, but that would be the default build more or less that I was not willing to play.
Boarding and transforming it to a faster version:
Basically if you do this, you roll the curve up from behind, so often the cards that are cut are Gargadon, Javelin and sometimes even some Crushers.

Best Wishes,

by Vedrfolner on 2008-05-21 10:33 CET

Very good article. Interesting how you change strategy based on what the opponent plays.

Personally, I want Gargadon only when it is to my benefit that a creature of mine goes to the graveyard. Mogg War-Marshall, Mudbutton Torchrunner, graveyard recursion, Grave Pact... you know, in a Goblin deck. I don't think it fits this deck. +3 Boggart Ram-Gang would be better because of the haste. But then you would have 7 3-drops and that is not good. Maybe +2 Rift Bolt, +1 Shard Volley?

Anyways, thanks for your effort and congratulations with your 1st place.

by stone_d on 2008-05-21 11:18 CET

Nice article, but I'm suprised to not see cryoclasm in the SB. Isn't that a better card against lark?

by Nameless1 on 2008-05-21 11:49 CET

Once again about the Gargadon : Personally I wouldn't cut him but he is easily replaced with more burn in a meta full of faeries and so on. I would recomend uping the curve with more 3 drops though...
As far as the Reveillark Matchup is concerned :
I tested Cryoclasm often and it always felt simply too slow to matter. The curent cards in the SB slot I am toying with against Llark are Crypt or Fearie Macabre...

by SaCu on 2008-05-21 13:03 CET

Wish this article had appeared before I played the GPT here with this deck.

Nice article :)


by CalebD on 2008-05-21 15:51 CET

Rift bolt is sorcery speed, where instant speed matters a lot vs. faeries. I'd even run lash out over it with the predominance of bb and wall of roots in the meta. Incinerating a blossom token for a maniac to get through is generally wrong if you're not dropping a second maniac that turn. However, lashing out a token for a maniac to get through can be a HUGE life swing without loss in CA.

Hitting a garruk token and the garruk w/ lash is also pretty sick, I wouldn't mention it if I hadn't done it a LOT.

You make some good points for vault, and I'll agree it's probably a better card here, but treetop has a lot of advantages in this meta. It avoids tarfire in the mirror and wins the manland battle against opposing muta's or that 2/1 faerie. Plus, trample matters a lot with all the bitterblossoms in the meta. As muta adds colorless, it's also a "luxury" in a deck full of one drops ;P.

Running more clasm's than blasts is pretty smart in regards to crusher shutting you off four mana. Something to consider is firespout, as this deck can easily create only colorless and green it can be a one-sided wog vs faeries for your gobblin dorks to swing for one more turn. It also wipes merfolks board even if they have double lord in place, and combines with a fanatic to take out 4/4s. Just a thought.

3 gargadon is the correct number for any deck not running thoughtseize, bitterblossom, dusk urchins, and damnation =P. I like how it turns sowers into 4cc 2/2s, but in this deck you're right in taking it out when you board in mass removal due to threat density, as well as the speed (which you mentioned).

A good article for a very well constructed deck, I have the feeling I'll be seeing your creations in the future.

by steaks on 2008-05-22 03:07 CET

I just wrote a very extensive comment but my browser just decided to erase it...


Gratz on the win, I really enjoyed the article.

I have some doubts/questions for you.

If one decided to cut Gargadon, what should replace it? More burn? Shard Volley perhaps?

What do you feel towards Boggart Ram-Gang? It just doesn't fit the deck? Are Crusher and Ram-Gang just incompatible?

I also ain't "sold" about the Martyr. Is it really that useful? How as it performed for you?
I really find it underwhelming. It's just a 1/1, it requires open mana and to keep spells in hand to use the abil and it may also hurt you. And doesn't even "scratch" faeries...

CalebD made a point there, I actually like the Bolts, but what do you think of lash out over it? With the gargas and Javeleens it can consistently win you the clash.

On to the SB,
I think that
3xLoxodon Hammer
3xFaerie Macabre
Are all a must in this exact numbers (perhaps cut one hammer or riftsweeper down?
The mass removal spells, which is the ideal number of each?
2xSulfurous Blast?
I'd really like to hear your opinion about Firesprout, as CalebD said, it can be a bomb, without hurting you, but i realize that it costs more then Clasm and doesn't hit at instant speed like Blast...
For last, we have 2-3 slots open, probably for enchant/artifact hate. What is, in your opinion the best card for this purpose? Naturalize? Seal of Primordium? Smash to Smithereens? (but then again, a random deck running Story Circle could stall us a bunch...)

I really like R/G aggro, i think it combines the most powerfull aggro cards in the format, and in my humble opinion, your version is the best around. Kuddos for that.

Well, I guess i wrote even more then in the first try =)

Looking forward to your reply.


by Nameless1 on 2008-05-22 11:31 CET

Thanks for the constructive comments.
The site logged me out when I was done writing the first comment so I will try to keep this shorter. It depends whatfor you want to use this deck. If you want to go solely with the m-l meta that is now almost only faeries and merfolk than I would go as far and cut -3 Gargadon -2 Bolt -2 Martyr and add in +4 Shock +3 Lash out. Tarfire is great in this meta and having 8 of the can't hurt. I wouldn't try running the Gang instead or with the Crushers because they slow you down more, and with a Crusher that is dropped on 1 Mutavault and 2 red sources it can't go too well.
As far as sideboarding is concerned :
I am currently running Naturalize in the Enchantment removal spot since it is an instant that fits your curve. You do not want to be tapping out for that clunky seal and smash should be run if you don't expect any enchantments to bother you at all. Also I am trying how Firespout works out, the only thing that bothers me is it's CC.
You can always change this deck to the configuration you like and to the meta you expect.


by Nameless1 on 2008-05-22 15:57 CET

Newsflash : Somebody took that decklist and changed 2 cards in the main and some cards in the sideboard to win a nationals qualifier somewhere in Russia i guess. Here is the link to his report [in russian] :

by CalebD on 2008-05-24 14:02 CET

I read through yesterday's pt coverage and there was a dude playing kavus with only grove to support it. Might be this deck, might not, but it'd be cool if it t8'd a pt, eh?

by steaks on 2008-05-27 14:27 CET

Yeah the deck that made day 2 on the pro-tour is pretty much the same.
The only differences are the absence of Martyr of Ashes and Flame Javeleen. And the addition of more Rift Bolt, Tarfire and the inclusion of Shard Volley (which personally i disagree with Gargadon in the deck you don't need the volley)
The SB is where you'll find the biggest changes, like Shusher, Threaten and Fulminator Mage.
Here's the link to the list:
I would like to ask Nameless1 what he thinks about this changes.

On another note, last saturday i piloted an almost exact version of this deck to a local small tournament. The only difference was that i couldnt get the gargadon and played 2 more Bolts, and 1 Shock.
I had the very bad luck of pairing against two Lark decks, and I lost both by 2-1. There was some bad luck involved, but even so, it's not that great of a match up, and i was planning on taking this deck to regionals, which doesn't seem a very good idea anymore... If we look at Hollywood, Reveillark will probably see very heavy play in upcoming regionals...
Once again,
Nameless1, what do you think of all this? What would be the best away to prepare against an heavy blink meta?
Also, most red decks at Pro Tour had Magus of the Moon, many of them Main Deck, it helps (a lot) against faeries and the new deck Waffo-Tappa played Quick n' Toast. Do you think it's worth taking a look into it?


by steaks on 2008-05-27 15:29 CET

"RG Kavu Predator
By Robert Dougherty
38th Place

2 Fire-Lit Thicket
2 Forest
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Karplusan Forest
5 Mountain
4 Mutavault
1 Pendelhaven

4 Countryside Crusher
3 Greater Gargadon
4 Kavu Predator
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Tattermunge Maniac

4 Incinerate
4 Rift Bolt
3 Shard Volley
4 Tarfire


3 Fulminator Mage
2 Pyroclasm
2 Riftsweeper
2 Sulfurous Blast
4 Threaten
2 Vexing Shusher

This deck is like the mono red decks that beat up Faeries. However, the two green cards and Pendelhaven in the maindeck make this a better deck. Tarmogoyf gets big fast with Tarfires, Crushers, and Shard Volleys. Kavu Predator is a good foil against Finks, Primal Command, and Bottle Gnomes. Pendelhaven makes your Fanatics bigger than theirs.

The key to this deck is learning when to start throwing burn to the dome instead of your opponent's creatures." Posted On 05/26/2008 12:11:56 by DeeBarizo in

Any comments? Specially about the timing when you stop throwing burn creatures and start sending to dome?


by Nameless1 on 2008-05-27 16:57 CET

Yeah, you are right. I just saw the deck now on deckcheck and he basically plays the same manabase and creature base i play now. My version has evolved now too. I still dislike Rift Bolts and Shard Volleys but I have added Lash out thanks to the growing popularity of Elves decks [and rarely you can even win the clash].
I have seen the deck now copied on some sides and sites [] and i can just wonder that they never mention the version here. Kinda makes me pissed.
Basically you can start throwing burn to the face if you can expect to win in like 2-3 turns just with the burn. Everything else should clear the path for your creatures to get through.
Sideboard has gone through a lot through and depending on your meta you SHOULD play the Magus between main and side. The other cards that should be in are Riftsweeper, Faerie Macabre, Naturalize and Firespout i would say.


by GregorClegan on 2008-05-31 19:02 CET

I actually dislike magus, we see a lot of decks playing slaughter pact main and or board as a way out, he's a 2/2 for 3 who forces some decks to show you an answer, but many decks can deal with him by floating mana and instant answer, by using slaughter pact or by paying the red mana to Firespout.

Magus is also much worse IRL where people are likely to play some basic lands because they don't have all their playsets. I mean my 'budget decks' in modern T2 cost $300, and that's with some of the lands cheapened to basics, you better believe lots of people will be running basics for budget reasons at regionals. 2/2 for 3 is just not good enough, particularly when 3 is a tight spot on the curve (compete with garg/crusher combo and some of the burn).

Note that magus also turns off mutavault, which seems counterproductive.

by Nameless1 on 2008-05-31 19:35 CET

I am still unsure about the Magus but it still seems to be the best shot against decks like doran and the 5 color deck. What other cards can really be sided there? Fullminator Mage? Besides if Magus sticks against the decks it is needed, chances are that you should be winning, Mutavault or no.

by Cla89ITA on 2008-06-02 14:44 CET

Very nice article^^ Compliments


by on 2008-06-03 06:29 CET

Really good insights about aggro in Standard and in general and an understandable really clear metagame breakdown. All I can say is "chapeau"!

Also congrats for the first place.

by Nameless1 on 2008-06-09 10:01 CET

Master Top4. Updated version is online.

by steaks on 2008-06-10 18:43 CET

After this master, and the Pro Tour. The list you used, is the optimal one? Didn't you miss artifact/enchant hate? No problems with RDW?
Gratz on Top4

by Nameless1 on 2008-06-10 22:09 CET

It's always hard saying that something is optimal. I have no idea if it is, but it seems pretty solid. Perhaps I should go back again to the original mana base. There weren't any problems against RDW. You do not even need to board at all, just if they have their own Gargadons you board in sweepers. Ench/art hate was not needed. If I remember correctly i won early against merfolk with him having 2 moats on green and red out. Although it sounds lame i lost in the top 4 to folk due to bad draws. Game 1 it was one land and game 2 like 10.

by steaks on 2008-06-24 14:39 CET

Was it you?

by Nameless1 on 2008-07-16 12:52 CET

Yeah, it was me but my deck still has 60 cards. It plays 3 not 4 javelin.

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